Transparent recap: 'Best New Girl'
“Mark, we’re mother-effing here,” Mort-not-yet-Maura says to his friend as they approach Camp Camellia, a cross-dressing camp. By the end of their time at the camp Mort and Mark will be calling each other c–ts, but there’s a lot before we get to that. The show has flashed back to 1994 showing us the Pfeffermans occupying the time that was supposed to contain Ali’s Bat Mitzvah. This episode is all about wish fulfillment or delusions of such.
Mort tells Shelly that he’s going to a conference, but he’s really headed to the camp, and when he and Mark arrive their faces are full of glee. Transforming into Maura and Marcy they go to a mixer where they meet a cross-dresser named Jackie and Jackie’s wife, Connie, who explains that wives are “tolerated” at the camp. There’s a euphoric scene of all of the cross-dressers dancing and Maura looking at the crowd in wonder. But the experience of Camp Camellia, doesn’t stay as glorious. Over a meal Jackie gossips about Ramona, who used to attend the camp, but was kicked out (or simply became unwelcome) once it was revealed that she was taking hormones and actually transitioning to becoming a woman. “We are cross-dressers, but we are still men,” Jackie declares. “We are men!” Marcy declares. Maura looks downcast. (Sidenote: Bradley Whitford and Michaela Watkins deserve awards for their performances as Marcy and Connie. Also, their presence in this episode made me miss Trophy Wife dearly.)
Later, when Marcy and Maura are lounging around and joined by Connie, Maura asks Connie about Ramona. “I miss Ramona,” she says. “What a hoot.” Maura keeps bringing up Ramona. Marcy declares, “that’s not what this place is for,” saying that “transvestites are not transsexuals.” Maura declares, “I don’t agree.” It’s clear that Mark is good at performing his masculinity while still wanting to become Marcy in a way that Maura is not. When Marcy and Maura bike to a pay phone to call home, Marcy gets on the phone, assumes Mark’s voice, and tells his son to “man up.” Maura does not want to call home. But there’s also an unrequited sexual tension between Marcy and Maura on Marcy’s point, Connie points that out. Connie and Maura decide to drink the day away, and Marcy, begrudgingly obliges. But Marcy grows progressively more peeved as Maura and Connie begin to tango, exploring a real sexual tension between one another. They tell each other they are beautiful, and Marcy tells them to get a room. Marcy wants to go to the camp’s pageant, but Maura asks her, “What are you my wife?” Marcy changes into a nice dress and Maura sends her on her way, even though, she says, “I just don’t want to be alone because I feel stupid.” Maura however, feels completely comfortable with Connie, who suggests that Marcy has a crush on Maura. They kiss, reciting “no penis” and “no vagina.”
Connie and Maura’s drunken revelry is interspersed beautifully with shots of 13-year-old Ali reveling with an older man on the beach. How did she end up there? Well, Shelly went to go stay with her sister Judy—they gossip about Mort’s preference for wearing Shelly’s underwear—leaving Sarah in charge of Bat Mitzvah delinquent Ali. Sarah, however, leaves for a protest, putting Josh in charge, who in turn goes off with Rita. “You guys are disgusting,” Ali tells Josh, as he leaves. (The casting of the young Pfeffermans is spot on.) Ali, therefore, is alone, when a woman arrives with supplies for the party that now isn’t. Ali and the woman start to chat, and Ali reveals that she didn’t think she could memorize it, and therefore said she didn’t believe in God. Ali’s moral crisis is actually insecurity by this account. Ali then proceeds to get up and recites her Torah portion beautifully, standing on the couch and performing for the woman. The woman later drops Ali off at a beach, where she meets an overalled man with terrible facial hair, who is flying a toy plane. She asks if she can fly it, and tells him she’s 17. He tells her no, but offers her a beer. She takes it, says, unconvincingly, “I love beer.” As Maura and Connie are tango-ing, Ali and the man rough house on the beach. Their interaction is most certainly sexual, with Ali grappling on top of the man. In a surreal moment, older Ali watches them, and the man goes over to kiss her, with younger Ali grasping at his shirt, pulling him away. Ali rides in the back of his truck screaming for him to go faster. The next thing we know, she’s been asleep. She asks him why he didn’t try anything. He didn’t think she was 17. She begins to confess that she’s 16, lowering the number until she reaches her real age, and then opens her mouth wide for a kiss. And that’s the end.
Though the show is about all of the Pfeffermans, “Best New Girl” highlights the commonalities between Maura and Ali, who are in some ways equally lost, unsure of their own identities. Maura, however, is becoming more certain. She wants to drive part of the way home still wearing her women’s clothes, even though Mark objects. “Hey, Mark, it makes me happy. I want to be happy for two more hours,” she says.