By Nicholas Fonseca
Updated January 16, 2007 at 11:35 PM EST

Oh, happy day! Huzzah and hoooooooey! Sound the trumpets andblare the horns, folks, because Alice finally met the mysterious Papi last night. And she looked nothing like Alice’s super-whackpronunciation of the moniker would have had us believe. Nope. Papi proved to bea walking, talking parody of…hmmm…well, of something. Clad in a limodriver’s outfit (still don’t get it), pouting her plump lips into the air,bragging about her irresistible prowess with the ladies in some ridiculousaccent that sounded like it was born at the edge of Street and ‘Hood — look, ifPapi had been any more “ethnic,” she would have been wearing asombrero, holding a large bowl of tortilla chips, and offering us all atwo-for-one coupon good for purchase at the local Taco John’s.

Last week, I proudly admitted my love for The L Word. But I also reserved theright to criticize the show for what I see as its many (fascinating) flaws. Wecould spend hours discussing the fact that the show has wisely and smartlyreintroduced a major Latinacharacter. I could then spend more hours complaining that the series has yet tocast an actress of actual Latinadescent in either role. (Surely America Ferrera wasn’t arriving at auditionsalone all those years.) And we could discuss why a woman like Alice — who, as far as I can tell, has had ahealthy sex life — seemed so utterly intrigued by the fact that somebody on hersilly chart had actually boinked more people than Shane. But you know what?This isn’t grad school, and I’m no professor, so I’ll keep it simple:Irritating as she may be, so far I’m digging Papi. She’s brash,straightforward, and just arrogant enough to go in for the kill and bag Helena hours after claiming Alice as her own. She’s not playing by thegirls’ rules. She doesn’t particularly care that they have rules. So what’sPapi’s deal? Where’s she going at night? Who’s in her clique? And what is allof this rampant sex compensating for, if anything? I want answers. I wantbackstory. I want Papi’s stay with us to be more fulfilling than Carmen’s wildlytruncated, poorly handled arc.

addCredit(“The L Word: Paul Michaud”)

Papi has it easy. Thisepisode also saw the introduction of Bette’s new boss, Phyllis Kroll. Phyllisis married with children. She prefers smart slacks and strands of pearls. She’splayed by Cybill Shepherd. And since Ms. Shepherd has had a strange, strangeweek (wreaking havoc on ‘Today,’ wreaking havoc on ‘The View,’ wreaking havoc online),I’ll leave her alone until Phyllis’ story picks up next week. Rather,I’d like to talk about Bette’s eager new grad student/assistant, Nadia.Not ten minutes intoyour first class with new arts school dean Bette, she was writing “DeanPorter is HOT!!!,” drawing little hearts, and passing the note to afellowstudent. Oh, brother. Nadia is played by Jessica Capshaw, who neverreally registers no matter where you put her. (She’s one in a long lineof actresses known as That One Blonde Girl on Boston Legal.)At least Bette had the good sense to call Nadia on her b.s. duringtheir first meeting, telling her that the notion of L.A. as a culturalwasteland is an “outdated cliche.” It’s just unfortunate that producersweren’t astute enough to notice that the entire scene — which featuredNadia lustily telling Bette she had “nice arms” and ended with Bette’sown self-appraisal as she mysteriously smirked to herself — was anoutdated cliche. Of itself.

Maybeit’s too much to hope that Bette will find a mate who’s smart,talented, and mature enough to help her get over Tina’s weird, weirdpersonality transplant. At the very least, I’d like to see her get iton with someone far less irritating than Nadia. Besides, the irritatingmantel on this show is inhabited solely by Crazy Jenny. (It’s mymission in life to spread Mia Kirshner’s singular brand of weird aroundthe world, so here ya go.)And Jenny arrived at a pivotal moment last night when she received awritten bitch-slap from a journalist (hey!!) who duped Jenny intobelieving that an interview to promote her new memoir could turn into ano-cost therapy session. Jenny may be many things — a sum of her parts,if you will — but she’s not often smart. So when you consider that she’sbeen duped by a fellow lesbian who used both her sexuality and herJewish background to bond with Jenny…oh, it is on, all right! Ieagerly await round two of this fight.

Whatdo you think? Was Jenny’s reaction a fair one? Did Papi live up to yourexpectations? Do Bette and Nadia do anything for you? And what ofPhyllis Kroll? Are you eager, frightened, or some combination of thetwo now that Cybill Shepherd’s joined the show? Have at it!