Transparent recap: 'Rollin'
Maura struggles to tell her son the truth about herself, while Sarah rather recklessly does some coming out of her own.
The episode opens with Maura, packing up the family home, staring at an old photo of a child in limbo, caught in an awkward transition period between life’s chapters. And then there’s a photo of what I’m assuming was Josh’s bar mitzvah. Maura tells Sarah that her next job is to come out to Joshie. Sarah tells her father she’s proud of her dad for making the bold decision to be true to herself. Of course, she’s not really talking about her father, but trying to muscle together her own courage to come clean to Len and choose a life with Tammy. Tambor’s delivery of an aware father trying to respect boundaries with her adult child—”not my business, but…”—was played with just the right touch. “No, whatever, I mean I’m staying with Len,” snaps Sarah. “Why don’t you tell him what you want?” her father kindly asks. Which led to Sarah whining that she wants her husband to intuit who she is and what she needs without having to be told. “You can’t tell someone that,” she says, to a trans woman tasked with doing all of that to a rigid world.
Later, while sifting through an old crate of Josh’s, Sarah finds stacks and stacks of love letters stuffed into old cereal boxes, signed xoxo Rita. It turns out Josh’s woman on the sofa with the brothel-like negligee is the old Pfefferman babysitter. The ickiness of this, made more profound by the fact that their presumably illicit correspondence was safeguarded in kiddie cereal boxes, explains a lot about Josh. The boy, who stomped around much of the episode in child-like cuffed sweatpants, is just that, arrested in some fundamental way.
And so, grappling in all the wrong ways with adulthood, Josh is clinging hard to his fantasy of a mini Glitter baby. He interrupts the other Tinkerbell’s band practice, demanding to know the whereabout of his baby mama/potential soulmate. (If only he had that book of his sister’s in his back pocket, he would know he was yelping up the wrong tree.) “Oh my god, you weird, old, sad fellow,” says the Wonder Twin in the withering voice of the truly youthful. “Married? Are you living in a f—ing dream world?” “Are you such a fetus that you’ve never been in love before?” Joshie spits back, his cardigan puffed up with righteous emotion. “Like a million times,” the 17-year-old says. Ha!
Before he follows Kaya’s trail of glitter glue to Silver Lake, Josh has to get to those cereal boxes. Maura was pacing in her quickly emptying house, eager to unburden herself. But when Josh pulls up, she loses her nerve and reverts to her her retired professor’s outfit of button-down and shorts, the teeny ponytail back in all its meek glory. Josh, smelling Maura’s drugstore perfume on his Dad, is ever clueless, determined to continue seeing his father as the ladies’ man he fancies himself to be. “Who is she? You’re moving in with her?” he says. “Uh, it’s complicated,” says Tambor. (An Emmy nomination for this man, stat.) “I bet it is,” says his son, “if I can tell from the scent she’s younger than you a bit of a freak, am I right.” “She’s not a freak,” says Mort, defensive of lovely and gracious Maura.
But a life of secrecy can do a number on a person, hurtling them toward the shadows and margins where shame festers. There was a moving flashback to 1992 where Mort ducks into a magazine store, only to find Bradley Whitford’s similarly closeted character. (And if you haven’t yet binged on the first three seasons of The West Wing, you have such a treat in store.) Clutching bastions of girlhood Betty & Veronica and Ms., Mort drifts over to the adult rack. Whitford’s character steers him away from the Trans magazine, warning it’s last month’s issue. As both of their wives handle the bills, the possibility of a subscription is null. “You can stick it in an issue of Deck & Patio or Outdoor Living magazine,” says his new peer. Poor, poor Mr. and Mr.s Pfefferman.
And poor, poor Drug Mules, the hapless band of hipsters with the wonderfully ridiculous name. I used to fantasize that there would be no better job than naming nail polish colors. Now I think the greatest gig out there would be naming bands on Transparent. (A female punk band named Kitty Litter? A garage band named The Antibacterials? I’ll get better, Ms. Soloway!) Josh’s idiot boss—”I met them at South By and I just went eight balls,” he says in nonsense speak when introducing the Drug Mules—indirectly tells Josh he’s off Glitterish. Josh hurls a chair against the conference room window in a wonderfully anticlimactic moment. The Aeron chair thwunks meaninglessly against the window, the Drug Mules cower in fear, and like that, Josh is fired. On top of all that, Kaya later tells Josh that she’s already had the abortion.
Meanwhile, Sarah is ramming herself into a closed window. At home, Len has taken off a whole hour from work for her—if you just ignore his open laptop and mountains of files. “I don’t want you to be mad at me,” she whines, sounding like a frazzled child scared to admit she snuck cookies. She fesses up to her college affair with Tammy, then spills that she’s still in love with the woman. Len rebuffs this. He will not allow it. He will make an appointment with their therapist, who will make this all go away. “You’re not allowed to do this, you know,” says Len. “I don’t know how not to,” she says sadly back. I imagine a similar conversation long ago indirectly played out between Mr. and Mrs. Pfefferman. But now that Sarah’s messily freed herself up to be with Tammy, the woman won’t return her calls. On a drive-by she spots an idyllic scene of Tammy and Barb playing with their daughter in the well-designed home. And like that her snow globe idea of the life she’s supposed to be claiming comes smashing apart.
The only one having much fun this episode is baby Ali. Granted, her idea of being spit-roasted by the two pepper shakers didn’t pan out. The boys didn’t appreciate her idea of being the vessel through which they could have sex with each other while cooked on Molly. So she finds herself kicked to the curb, where a patient Armenian Uber driver endures her peaking in his spotless back seat. The sight of free candy, to say nothing of the bottle of water, uncorks her rolling sense of goodwill toward mankind. “That is so nice of you to go all the way to Costco to buy us these candies,” she gushes. “And I’m so sad about the Armenian genocide.”
While Josh mainlines seaweed and revisits the love letters of his youth (just how young do you think we’re talking here?) and Sarah furiously dustbusts the outline of her father’s bed, Ali swoons under the twinkling lights of her apartment courtyard. When her phone rings she happily tells her father that yes, of course this would be a perfect time to talk. Luckily for you and me, we don’t have to wait a week to see just how that conversation pans out.