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The L Word: Know when to hold 'em

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Did anybody else notice that last night’s episode of The L Word — which just happened to air against the Oscars and probably garnered a total viewership of 12 — managed to get in a few sly movie references? You know what I’m talking about; anybody who watched that bizarro opening sequence with Jenny and that damn dog had to be reminded of the final scene in Carrie. And anybody who’s not fast-forwarding the supremely discordant Helena’s-a-gambler! scenes (hey, isn’t the poker craze so 2004?) was probably in the midst of an Indecent Proposal flashback last night, at least until Catherine started screaming the most famous line from Jerry Maguire — “Show me the money!!” — before burying her head in Helena’s crotch and leaving me to ponder aloud, “What in the…?” Is anybody else discombobulated by Catherine? Doesn’t she seem to have wandered onto the set from a David Lynch movie… or a Twin Peaks rerun… or that orgy scene from Eyes Wide Shut? What’s her point? Why are we here? I’m having a James Stockdale moment. (Fast-forward to 07:14 for a good time.)

This was a confusing episode. Suddenly, Tina’s cozying up to Bette again, presumably because she’s jealous of Jodi Lerner. Or because she’s not getting any from Henry. Or because she realizes that she’s been in a bitter mood for the better part of the last two seasons. I’m not sure what’s up with that, or what’s up with Bette’s strange, invasive demands that Jenny sell the film rights to “Lez Girls” to Tina’s company alone because they’re friends. That’s all fine and well  — tit-for-tat is what keeps Hollywood running — but is this even any of Bette’s business?

Pam Grier finally got a chance to chirp more than the single”Sistergirlfriend, you my boo child!” she gets thrown each week. Thatwas nice, huh? The angry person over in wardrobe could stand to stopdressing her like a bag lady each week, but at least we got a goodold-fashioned blowout from Kit, who finally confronted Angus. Wellplayed, screaming at him right in the middle of your performance at ThePlanet and then following up with a tongue-lashing at Bette. Not sowell played: Getting tanked on mojitos and letting Papi lick yourbosom. Messy!

Oooh, speaking of wet bosoms: damn! Everyone was going to town lastnight. Shane and that chick played by Kristanna Loken (please tell meI’m not the only one having trouble remembering Paige’s name) spentmost of the hour screwing in a car outside The Planet. Fine. Hot. But Ihave a big ol’ bone to pick with the person who shot the much-awaitedconsummation of Tasha and Alice’s pretty little tango. Why, friend, whydid the whole entire scene look like it had been shot in a tomb? Thesong was great, the dialogue was funny, the steamy factor wasoff-the-charts. But I was looking at a blank screen and hearing nothingbut slurping and moaning. I felt like a pervert.

All this silliness aside, though, I’d be remiss if I didn’t commend The L Word for casting such a strong group of actresses this season. Year 4 is a strange time for any show; it’s when the actors — and the characters they portray — haveinsinuated themselves into viewers’ lives, so any new additions have towork that much harder to make an impression. I was initially lukewarmon Marlee Matlin’s Jodi, but she’s proven to be a fascinating study ofa strong, proud woman, and last night’s breakup discussion with Bettewas heartbreaking. Cybill Shepherd has been reliably loopy as poor,troubled Phyllis, Kristanna Loken is bringing a steady energy to herrole as a love interest for our newly tame Shane, and Javina Gavankaris camping it up nicely as Papi. But I am besotted with Rose Rollins’fine, understated work as Tasha, and am so pleased to see LeishaHailey’s Alice with a new partner as equally perect for her as the lateDana. Writers, keep doing big things with Tasha. Rollins is more thanup to the task.

What about you? Do you love Tasha? Was Papi preying on Kit —or justdoing what came naturally? Should Jenny sell her rights to Tina’s filmcompany? Will Bette be able to stay away from Jodi? And shouldn’t Kitjust work through her man troubles by figuring out where Ivan is andbringing him home to play house?