[For Transparent “The Book of Life” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
The Book of Life Yom Kippur brings atonement to the Pfeffermans as Sarah attempts an amends to Tammy, Maura struggles to communicate with Davina, and Josh tries to make peace with Raquel. This all culminates at Syd and Ali’s while they’re deep in a spiritual crisis of their own.
The wonder of “The Book of Life” is real, baby. This episode charges forth like fun electricity in a wire for many reasons. Numero uno is the remarkable and joyful addition of a new character the “Jewish Santa” Buzz, who Shelly falls for upon sight. Everyone who meets Buzz gets a similar love surge because he’s delightful, all heart, and just what the Pfeffermans need on this day of atonement. It’s Yom Kippur and that means they fast until sundown and make amends for wrongdoings as well. Then at the end of the day there’s a blessing and a big feast as all is forgiven. This forgiveness is signified by getting your name put into God’s “Book of Life” a sort of ginormous “Yellow Pages for those who atoned”. Your name in the book grants you another year alive so it’s a pretty major deal.
The Pfefferman Yom Kippur kicks off with Sarah at Tammy’s work attempting an apology. But it seems Tammy has entered the critical second stage of relationship grieving, Brutal Sarcasm, and Sarah’s sincerity falls on walking-away ears. The whole scenario puts Sarah in such a foul mood that she spends the rest of her fasting day toking it up with Doctor Pot and screwing him on the love seat in his office. Yes, he’s really a doctor with an office and everything. Then Sarah gets “too high” and a little flaky while he’s going down on her. She rants about how she wants all these things he’s not doing sexually, no offense. And Doctor Pot (probably because he’s Doctor Pothead) reacts with such a calm and chill affect that it’s clear he’s really not offended at all. He gets it that this is all about Sarah and her issues. Time for Dr. Pot to give up on the whole Sarah shebangs shebangs and time for Sarah to hit the Yom Kippur feast party Ali and Syd are throwing for the Pfeffermans.
Meanwhile Ali and Syd are at odds because Ali responds to Syd’s questions about her night with Leslie with queer theory textbook lingo instead of being real and talking like a partner. Syd says, “Listen to yourself. You’ve been queer for like thirty seconds,” but Ali isn’t listening because she’s on some weird “open brave” high brought on by her recent trek into lesbianism. Or maybe, more realistically, Ali’s just hot for teacher and can’t admit that she’s not really cut out to be a good girlfriend right now. Luckily, though, Ali easily hosts her family and Syd’s for a fantastic Yom Kippur feast, even giving a heartfelt blessing in Raquel’s absence.
Speaking of Raquel, Josh attends synagogue with Shelly and awkwardly approaches Raquel in her back office just to say his mom bought tickets in July and to warn her he’d be in the audience. Raquel’s deadpan with, “Duly noted,” so Josh’s nerves crank up a notch and he says he’s also just wondering where they stand and what to tell his family. Raquel replies, “We’re over,” and the great ship that was all of Josh’s love and hope floating and chugging along on a steamboat sea voyage sinks like a lead boulder. He’s done for the day. The irony here pounds like big bass drum because Josh is usually the happy sprite in the family while Shelly plays the bitter Betty role. But it’s Shelly’s turn to giggle all day because she meets the glorious Buzz at the synagogue door and becomes instantly smitten. He’s flirty and sweet, talking right to Shelly’s heart in exactly her language. It’s a dream come true for a battered old shrew.
Meanwhile Maura gets a taste of what it’s like to be a woman around Sal. He comes into her room early in the morning when she’s just waking up and makes plastic surgery recommendations for her transition. Sal says he’ll be happy to help with whatever she needs and then as he leaves adds, “Maura you still got some good years left,” in that patronizing tone every woman on earth has heard a zillion times. But it’s all new to Maura who’s indignant that Sal was “talking about her body”. Sal is pretty gross the way he talks to her but Maura doesn’t handle it gracefully either. She brings it up to Davina right away. Instead of focusing on herself and how she can learn to manage and maybe eschew this sort of nasty macho man talk about one’s private spaces, Maura goes on the offense and says Davina could do much better than Sal. Davina’s reaction wins the award for the best part of Maura’s episode storyline because Davina doesn’t play, baby. She knows who she is and takes no shit. If Maura doesn’t like Sal maybe she should find a new place to stay, Davina says. It really brings out the beauty in Davina to see her stand strong and tell it like it is. You gotta love her. Maura learns that her life may not match many of the transwomen she encounters but she still needs their support and friendship. So, it’s a whole new world for her, this transition, not just a whole new identity.
In the final phase of “The Book of Life” the Pfeffermans come together at Syd and Ali’s for the feast after fasting all day. Shelly and Buzz ride the elevator up to the apartment with Maura and it’s clear Shelly’s already quite taken with Buzz. She introduces him with a list of his accomplishments and says he used to be an astronaut. Then Buzz explains that, actually, he was merely an attorney for NASA on a single patent case… but he does own a rock from the moon. They all have a chuckle over that and then Buzz asks,”So, how do you gals know each other?” At the feast table Ali gives a spontaneous blessing preamble about “The Book of Life” which warms the cockles of all except, of course, the giggling stoned Sarah. When it’s then noted that Raquel isn’t there to do the blessing Buzz steps in and does it perfectly, further impressing the already adoring Shelly. At the third mention of Raquel’s absence, when people murmur that maybe Josh isn’t eating because he’s waiting for her, he makes an announcement. They broke up. The baby wasn’t viable. It’s over. His news hits the table like a deadbolt’s thick thud after a door slam. And then the wailing begins from the end of the table. Shelly weeps that it’s her fault for mentioning the baby and the evil eye at Sarah’s wedding. She killed the baby. She is bereft. This understandably pisses off Josh who’s like, “This isn’t about you,” but then Buzz activates his lovable Buzz powers to save the day. He puts his arm warmly around Shelly and says exactly what she needs to hear. “My mother was just like you with the kina horas and the evil eyes and the spit spit spit and you know what? It’s all just bullshit. Good stuff happens. Bad stuff happens,” he’s what this family needs in this moment. He really is the Jewish Santa Claus. Then Buzz tells her he’ll drive her home after dinner and that’s it for Shelly, she’s head over heels. A man her age who can drive at night? She’ll never let him go.
In the final scene Josh goes to a supermarket solo and starts crazy binging on the deli slices and bread in an out-of-control frenzy of self loathing reminiscent of Meredith Baxter Birney’s Lifetime Original bulimia movie. He shoves that food in faster than he can possibly chew. There’s no love in gluten, Josh – haven’t you heard?