The new set of episodes premieres on Amazon Friday

By Ariana Bacle
September 21, 2017 at 02:14 PM EDT
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The Brady Bunch might not be what comes to mind when you think Transparent, but The Brady Bunch is what you’ll get with season 4 of the Amazon dark comedy — well, kind of.

This season sees Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) and Ali (Gaby Hoffmann) heading to Israel and encountering someone they never expected to see. Overwhelmed, they call the rest of the Pfefferman family for backup.

“It’s like The Brady Bunch going to Hawaii but much more serious,” creator Jill Soloway tells EW, laughing. “Much more silly, much more Transparent. I think in many ways, Transparent is this kind of dream project where I get to salute all my favorite family shows.”

“It brings Maura all the way back to her beginning,” Tambor adds of this “huge revelation.”

But although there are changes afoot, the five are still the same old Pfeffermans. “I go to the market and people come up to me and start talking to me about the show,” Tambor says. “They say, ‘This is just like our family.’ We are the Pfeffermans around the Thanksgiving table, bickering, laughing, and crying over the coleslaw.”

So before we sit around the table with them in the new season, premiering on Amazon Friday, let’s see where we left off with each member — and what’s in store for them.

Maura (Jeffrey Tambor)

Jennifer Clasen/Amazon Prime Video

At the end of last season, Maura discovered she couldn’t have gender confirmation surgery because of a heart problem. Feeling defeated, she threw her shapewear away and wondered where to go from here. Now, she’s teaching again — and learning more about herself, in large part thanks to that mysterious person she finds in Israel.

TAMBOR: “One thing about being Maura, she’s the ultimate survivor. I think even on the ship, she just made a move real fast. [Laughs] She threw her Spanx in the garbage. She just said, we have to go another way, and you’ll see what she does this year. She gets a little rock ’em sock ’em with finding some stuff about finding family and origins that is a very, very pithy and very, very beautifully done.”

SOLOWAY: “Maura really realizes that she’s still trans, she’s still a trans woman, and surgery and hormones don’t necessarily make her who she is.”

TAMBOR: “Last year, Maura met a gentleman named Donald [John Getz], and so more shall be revealed this year. And the actor playing Donald is a wonderful, magnificent, and the scenes are beautiful, they’re really great.”

Shelly (Judith Light)

Jennifer Clasen/Amazon Prime Video

Season 3 concluded with Shelly’s powerful, emotional performance of Alanis Morisette’s “Hand in My Pocket” in what was a liberating moment for the character. 

SOLOWAY: “Shelly starts taking improv classes. Shelly is a sort of very small, Jewish woman who is obsessed with dieting, but when she’s improvising, she gives birth to a large, loud, Italian man with a huge appetite named Mario. And he comes out in her improv classes, so Shelly gets to be a performer and find her voice and also give birth to this male, masculine, macho side of herself. It is hilarious. And when we were filming, Judith was working on a play with Al Pacino so I think there is some Al Pacino in there.”

Sarah (Amy Landecker)

Jennifer Clasen/Amazon Prime Video

Feeling lost after her dominatrix abruptly ditches town, Sarah seeks comfort in her ex-husband, Len (Rob Huebel) — although his attempt to dominate her doesn’t leave her satisfied.

SOLOWAY: “She and her husband Len, they are sort of a little bit back together, and also, she is either bisexual or a lesbian or queer, depending on how you want to frame her, so she and Len come up with a solution for how they can be married but also allow Sarah to explore her sexuality.”

Josh (Jay Duplass)

Jennifer Clasen/Amazon Prime Video

After Rita (Brett Paesel) dies, Josh visits their son, Colton (Alex MacNicoll), in Kansas to tell him the news — and seriously consider staying there. Colton tells Josh he doesn’t want him to, leaving Josh feeling aimless and hurt.

SOLOWAY: “I wouldn’t say that his life gotten fantastic, but we definitely start the season where he begins the little road to healing, learning who he is, and trying to get to a place of wisdom and healing. He’s really working on himself. He enters into the world of recovery, of 12-step.”

Ali (Gaby Hoffmann)

Jennifer Clasen/Amazon Prime Video

Leslie (Cherry Jones) is out of the picture, and Ali’s on her way to having a personal breakthrough.

SOLOWAY: “She’s trying to figure out where she wants to be. She describes it by saying that anxiety is a feeling of not knowing if you’re in the right place. And I think she’s on her own gender journey, she’s on her own journey just trying to understand the binary and how it exists not only in the world and in Israel, but also in her body, and I think she starts to realize that the simple labels of male or female don’t really work to help her understand who she is.”

TAMBOR: “In the first season, Ali and I meet in the den and I write a check for her, and I say something to the effect of, she and I are connected in a very, very special way. I actually say one of the funniest lines I’ve ever had: I say we share the depressive gene. [Laughs] But what happens to that relationship this year, I can only define as electric. And Gaby’s performance is through the roof. It’s electrifying. It’s remarkable and very modern and very 2017.”

This half-hour drama by Jill Soloway follows the lives of the Pfefferman family, where nothing is as it seems.
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