TRANSPARENT recap: "Why Do We Cover the Mirrors?"

Wow, does this show have Emmy nominations or what?  This episode was the last of the first season, and I am anxious to see the second season.  But, first, as with most season ending episodes, we saw seemingly everything fall a part.  To a large degree, the title summed up the central theme.  At a Shiva the mirrors are covered because as Rabbi Rachel explained to Ali, “it’s about being free from vanity….just letting us be.”  And boy, many of the layers of vanity for the family were stripped away.  Josh received a shocking surprise.  Ali was obsessed by her lack of being.  Sarah made a decision to move on, even though she clearly missed a certain body part of Len.  Maura ripped away the covering of the truth that many parents fear.   Well, not quite everybody, Shelly, as always, seemed to recover her bearings pretty quickly after Ed’s death.  But despite all of this, they all were seated at a round table at the end of the episode sharing a meal, though Maura’s final words summed up the day covered by the episode, “oy gevalt!”


Funeral preparations

As the show opened we saw Ed’s body being ritually prepared for burial as it was wrapped from head to toe in white cloth, while the Pfefferman kids and mom prepared to go to the funeral.

Ali dressed in a suit in front of a mirror by herself.

Josh and Rachel had spent the night together at Josh’s house and despite Rachel’s plea to not say anything, and ebullient Josh was all, “I want to tell everybody

Sarah and her kids left the house in matching black and white.  Tammy went in a different car because the Shiva was to be at their house and doubtless it was her job to get back to open the house for the Shiva.

Sarah picked up Shelly in a black limo.  As she approached the limo in her edgy voice exclaimed, “I’m coming, I’m coming.” Sarah noticed Shelly was carrying a gallon of mustard, “What’s that stuff?”  Shelly explained it was mustard, sweet ‘n low and stirrers, “just in case.”


Shoveling dirt

The hearse arrived and the pallbearers gathered to move the casket to the gravesite.  Two more people were called for to help carry the casket.  Len and Tammy jostled and squabbled with each other as they joined the pallbearers.   When the casket arrived at the site, Rachel began the funeral service.  In the background a white limo arrived and out stepped Maura and Davina.  Meanwhile, Shelly wanted to know if Sarah had ordered the cole slaw, and asked “Both kinds?”  Maura and Davina stood at the back, while others turned and looked and whispered.

It was now time for each of them to put a shovel full of dirt on to the casket as it rested in the grave.

Shelly was first, “see ya, Ed.”

Len and Sarah were together with their shovels, when Len said, ”Can I ask you a question?  Can I be buried next to you and Tammy?”

“Sure, if you want,” answered Sarah.

Maura and Ali stood next to each other as they placed their dirt into the grave.  Ali noticed that Maura was wearing a Star of David pendant.

“Nice Star of David.  How long have you been into Judaism?" asked Ali in a sardonic voice.

“For awhile now” was Maura’s reply.

Ali, still aggrieved about her cancelled Bat Mitzvah as we were reminded repeatedly in this episode, ironically said, “who knew?”


Cutting the tie in two

Syd was also at the funeral and it remained to be seen if Syd and Ali were going to become an item.  Ali was trying to cut her tie in two because of an old Jewish tradition.  Syd gently took the scissors and cut the tie in half, which was followed by silence. 

Then Ali suddenly asked Syd about her relationship with Josh, “Did he ever tell you he loves you?”

Syd coolly replied, “you know how a serial killer wants to see it in your eyes that you know you are going to die.  Josh wants to see that you love him and that you have never met anybody like him.  It’s crazy….Just a total mind fuck.”  Syd continued to have a treasure chest of truths about the Pfeffermans.

Ali’s real problem with Syd was that she had lied to her about her relationship with Josh.  Ali was jealous.  She also told Syd she did not have to come to the Shiva.  Ali had chosen to remain alone as she cut Syd and her tie in two.


Sitting Shiva

The mourners arrived from the funeral and Tammy tried and failed to get everyone’s attention twice before resorting to a more assertive method, “thanks for coming,” as she tried to get everyone seated in a circle to share memories of Ed.  She turned to her right and invited the woman sitting there to start.  The best she could muster was that Ed made Shelly happy, but she didn’t know him very well.  The need to share memories passed to the next person.  She simply stated, “pass.”  Then the butch cop from the condo stood and explained he had prepared something and began a seemingly endless reading.


Action in the laundry room

A laughing Len and Sarah went to the laundry room and closed the door.  After discussing the virtues of the suit he was wearing.  Sarah said she was glad he was there. 

To which Len replied, “it is kind of weird being replaced.”

Sarah purred, “you’re not replaced.”

Len suggestively asked, “you miss anything?”

“Yes” was the reply.

“You miss my cock,” suggested Len.

“Sometimes,” was Sarah’s response.

That was followed by a conversation about the virtues and faults of plastic cocks and the advances that had been made in the making of dildoes.  Twice Sarah knelt as if to give Len a blowjob, but both times he picked her up. 

Finally he said, “I love you and I don’t want it to be a secret,” and left.

When Sarah left the room Tammy was outside and asked if Sarah was all right because, “you have a funny look on your face.”

Sarah bluntly replied, “I think we should get married.”

Tammy started to laugh.


Covering the mirrors

Ali and Rachel were covering the mirrors with sheets.  After Ali asked why and Rachel explained why they were covering the mirrors.  Ali began to complain that she really didn’t know about Judaism and that her Bat Mitzvah had been cancelled. 

Rachel earnestly replied, “we all make mistakes.”  She then began to tell Ali how wonderful she thought Ali’s family was.  Rachel suddenly blurted out, “I love your brother.”

Ali face wrinkled and her features seemed to recede as she gave Rachel the most awful look.  This was followed by her saying, “I think Josh has a fucked up relationship with women.”  Rachel wanted to know if there had been a lot of them.  She had just had her heart shattered.  She made for a hasty exit from the Pfefferman house.


What happened?

Josh followed Rachel as she fled the house explaining that she had to go to another funeral because, “she had double booked.”  Josh caught up to her and pled that he loved her and wanted to have babies with her. 

Josh closed with, “I have never loved anybody before.” 

Rachel answered, “fuck you.”

“Wait, what happened?.... Somebody told something to you?  Was it Syd?” begged Josh.

“Why would Syd say anything to me?” was Rachel’s response.

Josh tried again, “Rita?”

“Wow! How many are there?” as Rachel’s anger boiled over.  She moved more rapidly to leave.

Josh shouted after her, “Who cares?  I fucking love you.”

Josh went back into the house to investigate who had talked to Rachel.  He approached Rita to which she responded “who’s Rachel?”  A bit of sparing followed and concluded with Rita remarking that by his tone Rachel must have been his “latest conquest.”


Josh, meet your son, Colton

A tall young man lurked in the background behind Rita and slowly began to walk up and joined Josh and Rita. 

She said, “do you want me?”

Colton began, “I don’t know how to say it.  So, I’ll just say it.  Rita’s my birth mom.  So, I guess that makes you my dad.”

Rita closed the conversation with “yeah, this is our son.”

Later Josh and Colton were seated outside at the house and Colton was trying to do what I expect many adopted children do and find a sign that he had inherited something from Josh.  After explaining that he lived in Overton Park, Kansas, Colton offered that he liked sushi and nobody in Kansas was a sushi fan.  Josh answered yes that he liked sushi. 

Colton longingly answered, “then maybe I got that from you.”

Josh replied about this being “terrible timing.  I’m really fucked up.  I’m fucked up all the time.  I’m not sure you are going to like me.”

Colton replied that basically not matter what happened he would like him.

Josh had finally acknowledged what a wreck he was in terms of who he was and his insecurity.  He constantly sought that reassurance from women, as had been clearly shown in his serial girlfriends.


Ali learns about Camp Cameilla

Shelly was surviving Ed’s funeral and the Shiva just fine.  In fact, she was over it all. 

Speaking to Ali she said,  “I haven’t seen most of these people in years.  Now I am reminded why.”

Ali had come from her earlier discussion with Rachel about Ali’s lack of Judaism and the cancellation of her Bat Mitzvah.  “Nobody let’s a 13 year old make that decision.”

Shelly calmly revealed the truth, “your father wanted to go to dress-up camp that weekend.  Camp Womanwanka.”

Ali was nonplussed, “what?”

Shelly explained that it was  “some camp in the woods where men dress-up as ladies.”

With anger rising in her voice Ali responded, “You’re telling me I didn’t have a Bat Mitzvah because dad wanted to go into the woods and dress-up like a woman?”

“That and you’re a spoiled brat,” Shelly replied coldly as she walked off.


Ali confronts Maura

Ali strode into the living room where Maura had been holding forth about how much she had appreciated everyone during her recent transition.

An agitated Ali sat down very firmly and seemed to make herself as large as possible.  “Hey dad!  Mom tells me you cancelled my Bat Mitzvah because you wanted to go to some camp in the woods.”

Maura gently tried to reassure Ali that was not the case.  “No.  Not at all.  I let you cancel it.”  Never mind that Maura was thrilled at using Ali’s feelings as an excuse to cancel it.

Ali continued, “I was 13.  Nobody lets a 13 year old cancel a Bat Mitzvah,” as she repeated for the umpteenth time the language the caterer had used in response to the cancellation at the time.

In a move of parental manipulation, Maura went on, “I respected you.”  Ali was not buying it.   Maura added, “Don’t be so self-centered.  There’s another world out there.  All me.  All Ali.  All my feelings,” as Maura sank to mockery and manipulation.

“I’m the one who is self-centered?  That’s rich….Who needs guidance in life?...What on earth would I do with God?”  Ali shouted at Maura, in an equal effort to manipulate Maura.   There were weak efforts to calm Ali down, but then she stuck the dagger into the heart of her family.

“That’s our religion!  Secrecy!  I’m giving you money to go to college, but don’t tell anybody.  Why are you always pushing money on me?” accused an outraged Ali.

Maura rose in an outrage and anger to match or even exceed that of Ali shouting, “Because my beautiful girl.  You cannot do anything!  You have so much more to say now.  You didn’t have anything to say, when I gave you loans.  Which by the way are not loans because you don’t pay back dick.  Not one cent.  I’m paying for your life.”

Ali began to throw bills from her wallet at Maura yelling, “I don’t need or give a shit about your money…don’t fucking scream at me any more.”

Maura in a calmer, yet ironic voice began a new subject, “I have a question.  Now that you aren’t on the payroll any like me?  If I didn’t give you any money would you even talk to me?” 

For a transparent this is sometimes an open question, but I rather suspect that most parents share this doubt about their children at one time or another as they leave the nest and become their own people.  Many of the painful doubts in a parent-child relationship had been exposed.  Was it just an economic exchange?  When should parents offer guidance and when should they step away?  Do you throw the fledgling out of the nest so you can get on with your own life, or do you continue to gather sustenance for the fledgling until it decides it can fly on its on?

Ali stormed out of the room with Josh and Sarah in close pursuit, as the kids stuck together.  Shelly moved over to gently console and comfort Maura as the parents remained on their side.  Ali was then shown walking down the street by herself.  He had chosen to be alone, first with Syd and now with Maura.


Mustard is the answer to all your problems

Yet one more time, mustard played a key part in the day of the Pfeffermans.  From Shelly bringing the gallon of mustard with her, to her insisting on putting out more mustard at the Shiva, to now it would welcome Colton into the Pfefferman family.

Shelly and Maura were sitting at the table at the house that had been the Pfefferman family home.  They were eating the left over cole slaw, both kinds, with the serving utensils and discussing the quality of the slaw. 

Sarah joined in and said, “Tammy and I have decided to get married.”  An excited Shelley responded “oh, a wedding!”

Maura added, “You didn’t ask me but I approve.”  So, now she played the father card of asking permission of the dad to get married.

Sarah politely, “thank you.”

Colton walked into the room and Josh motioned him to sit next to him and have some chopped liver.

Colton had one problem, “I don’t really care for organ meat.”

Shelly had the solution.  “It’s not organ meat.  Put some mustard on it and you’ll like it.”  Ah yes, the parental lie of disguising the problem to keep the kids quiet.  She then added, “who is he?”

After tasting the mustard covered organ meat Colton said it was good, but he had one more need.  “I usually do a prayer before I eat.”

Josh quickly added, “we’re Jewish man.  We don’t do that.”  Colton insisted that they all hold hands around the round table.

Ali appeared in the room with the family calling her “Ali, Ali McNally,” which we can assume was a childhood nickname, as Ali was again reduced to the youngest member of the family and a fledgling.   Everybody in the original family was in their place, at their table, in their home, except for the interloper.

Colton insisted, “It is far more powerful if we are all connected.”  Everyone held the hands of the people next to them to complete the prayer circle.  Colton began thanking God for the usual things in a blessing: the food, the people, the day, and then he closed out with, “In Jesus name we pray.”

As the pictured darkened Maura was heard to say, “Oy Gevalt!”  There is not a clear easy English translation of oy gavalt.  It is something to the effect of imploring God to aid you in your woe.

Now all we have to do is wait for the fall and the new season to see:

 if Josh patches up his relationship with Rachel, and what is he going to do about Colton.  Not to mention Bianca is waiting for him to launch her music career;

if Ali comes around to a full relationship with Syd, and finally finds direction in her life;

if Sarah and Tammy get married and/or will she form some kind of new relationship with Len.

if Maura and Shelly are new BFFs in their old straight world.  What other adventures await Maura as she continues in the LGBTQ world?  How will her two lives come together?  And what about romantic relationships?

For the Pfefferman family there are many questions about identity, gender and sexuality yet to be resolved in sunny Southern California.




See also:

TRANSPARENT recap: "Best New Girl" (season 1 episode 8)

TRANSPARENT recap: "Looking Up" (season 1 episode 9)

TRANSPARENT recap: "Why Do We Cover the Mirrors?" (season 1 episode 10, finale)



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