I Am Cait Series Premiere Recap: 'I Just Hope I Get It Right'

Instagram, Twitter, Kanye West and the specter of Kris Jenner’s tabloid presence all play their expected roles in the premiere of I Am Cait, E!’s new docu- series following Caitlyn Jenner’s brave, scary and sensationally well-coiffed early months living her life openly as a woman.

It’s the less-anticipated appearances, though — specifically, by Caitlyn’s 89-year-old mother Esther and especially Catherine Prescott, the mother of a transgender teenager who tragically took his own life — that make it clear why Jenner is embarking on her third chapter of public life. Previously known as Bruce when winning the 1976 Olympic gold medal in men’s decathlon, Jenner then found renewed fame playing husband and dad on E!’s Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

In April, she revealed she is a transgender woman who goes by the name Caitlyn, and while I Am Cait is ostensibly her reintroduction to the public, it’s clear Jenner wants the show to be much more.

The opening moments of I Am Cait occur as Jenner’s glamorous, headline-making Vanity Fair cover hits stands, and while the morning is filled with positive media reports, primping sessions and congratulatory phone calls from her kids (Kim calls to share the news that Caitlyn’s Twitter account is on track to break President Obama’s record for the most followers added in a 24-hour period), Caitlyn quickly reminds viewers “it’s not this way for everybody” — especially those without money, privilege and fame.

And not even those things can shield Jenner from a serious case of nerves as she prepares for the first time to meet her mother Esther and sisters Pam and Lisa as a woman. “Oh, God, here we go,” she exhales, hands tapping the arm of her chair, face clenched with tension as the three women who’ve known her for her entire life — yet in some ways never known her at all — stroll up her driveway. She even frets until the last possible second about whether to sign her mother’s birthday card as Bruce or Caitlyn (thankfully choosing the latter option in the end).

Below, the five most compelling takeaways from the hour:

* The most honest interactions in the premiere seem to be between Caitlyn and Esther, an octogenarian who clearly adores her child but is grappling with how to make sense of the fact that Bruce is now Caitlyn — and reconcile the fact that she’s never been let in on her famous child’s innermost secret. While a visit from gender-identity expert Susan Landon is perhaps informative for viewers, Caitlyn and Esther don’t truly engage in real talk until they’re all by themselves. As Esther wracks her brain trying to figure out which relative Caitlyn resembles, her daughter betrays a hint of exasperation: “I think I look like myself, mom.” Esther, for her part, finally admits that she finds it, “so difficult to think of you and say ‘she’ or say ‘Caitlyn’ when I want to speak to you,” and also recollects a lifetime of feeling like Caitlyn pushed her away, an accusation Caitlyn doesn’t dispute. Why not have mom stay for a week or a month or however long it takes them to reconnect? It’s hard to say. But the visit — at least what we see on camera — ultimately proves brief, with Esther headed back to the airport by the end of the hour.

* Caitlyn’s teenage daughter Kylie first “meets” her in an accidental FaceTime call as her dental-surgery anesthesia is wearing off. The exchange is strikingly casual and void of angst — “You’re not scaring me. You look pretty!” Kylie coos — and later, the kid stops by with turquoise hair extensions for Caitlyn to try on. Yeah, it’s alarming when Kylie learns her grandma was married at 17 and earnestly responds “Kinda like me!” — to the uninitiated, she’s reportedly dating 25-year-old rapper Tyga — but somehow the parent-child dynamic here is strangely reassuring.

* There’s a certain loneliness in Caitlyn’s life — and not just because of the stark, striking imagery of her isolated hilltop home and its barren beach setting. Her admission that stepkids Rob, Khloe and Kourtney haven’t “met” her as Caitlyn, and the fact that her own sisters interact with Kim and Kanye more like starstruck fans than relatives by marriage come off like little nagging cracks in the otherwise “it’s all gonna be OK” facade I Am Cait presents.

* Caitlyn is pretty damn funny — and there’s no finer evidence in the hour than her gleeful idea to plot a “Who Wore It Best?” tabloid feature by wearing the same Tom Ford dress as ex-wife Kris. Her horror over some of Bruce’s discarded outfits — ones she and sister Pam peruse as they discuss Esther’s emotional state — are pretty choice, too.

* Finally, there’s Caitlyn’s visit to the home of Kyler Prescott — who committed suicide at 14 despite parental and classmate support — that hits home hardest. “We don’t want people dying over this,” Jenner urges, early in the episode, then adding of her own public role in the transgender right struggle, “I just hope I get it right.” And while her tearful reaction to a conversation with Kyler’s utterly graceful mom, and later to a balloon-release ceremony in young Kyler’s honor, arguably have more value as PSAs than they do in terms of genuine celebreality revelation, they’re nevertheless right-minded, gripping and ultimately necessary interludes. In the end, even if you feel a little dubious about a Kardashian dynasty brand extension, it’s hard to take too much issue with a woman courageous enough to be the very public face of what might be the last unexplored human-rights frontier in our nation’s history.

Your turn. What did you think of I Am Cait? Grade the episode in our poll below, then sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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34 Comments
  1. Connie says:

    I thought it was really good, the only thing I didn’t care was all that soft lighting or whatever it was that I’ve noticed on other shows, other than it was great!

  2. LADY_in_MD says:

    The talk with Esther and the therapist is something I hope people watched and took away a better understanding of what it’s like for a trans person
    Seeing Esther grapple with how to even acknowledge her own child was heart breaking but I’m glad to see Caitlyn has a good support system and her family is being open and honest

    • Tennisnsun says:

      Kait is lucky to have a Mom like Esther. My heart went out to her as she strugged to understand it all. I have no doubt she dearly loves Kait and will support her unconditionally.

      • LADY_in_MD says:

        Me too but I can understand Esther’s struggle I have two friends who have transitioned and while their parents were supportive it took time to get there and I’m sure Esther is getting there 😀

  3. Cc says:

    It was fabulous. So much more substance than any other Kardashian show.

  4. maria says:

    I thought Caitlyn was to the point, told it like she felt and made her point. she’s coming into her own and yes she is more open, honest and full of life……. love her!

  5. brooke says:

    Kendall is Caitlyn’s daughter with ex-wife Kris, not step child as stated in this article.

  6. abz says:

    The Kardashians are all trash and I have no love for them and never watched any of their shows, but I was curious to check this one out. It’s definitely eye-opening. I’m glad for Caitlyn that she is accepting herself. It’s hard to imagine what that must feel like to hold a secret like that for that long and feeling unable to be oneself. The show didn’t do anything to change my opinions of the Kartrashians, but I hope this can open some minds and lead to more tolerance and acceptance.

  7. Ninoska says:

    Why I be impressed with a circus that the media and press and even Bruce Jenner had made over his transformation to a woman when biologically and genetically HE IS STILL A MAN!!! WHat a roman circus this transformation had done to the press and media. Like it is a BIG deal!!! Who really cares about his transformation? I mean honestly who cares???? My dad was right when some years ago he told me that since in the USA money is reltaed to anything, to make money out of anything, he may had been not so wrong when he told me back then that the US citizens to have money they could sell even the ashes of a relative just to make a buck!!

    • Greg says:

      I don’t think anyone needs to reply to this mess of a comment, as the lack of education in your opinion and grammar speaks for itself.

      • Leia says:

        if you still have X and Y chromosomes you are still genetically male. Until science can change that she’s still a man, baby, gene wise. Oh and she is responsible for some else death and refuses to talk to the police. Keep up the good work E! Your trash TV is as great as ever,still trash. Perhaps the victims family should get a chance to respond. Give them a show about the stages of grief.

    • It’s a tricky one. I have 3 trans friends, one of whom is very proud to be a trans man and talks about it all the time. The other two just like to be identified as women and try not to draw too much attention to the fact that they are trans women. As you can imagine, the trans man is very excited about anytime the TV draws attention to trans people but the ladies are more liberal and wish people could just make their own decisions in life and not make a big deal about the trans thing. You’re probably right in saying this show is all about money but I’m sure a part of Caitlin is also doing it because she wants to raise awareness for trans people because that will happen whether she likes it or not. Is this show going to encourage people to be more tolerant or is it just going to continue a culture of putting people into categories and labelling them? Time will tell I suppose. I dream of a world where people can just be or do whatever they like without having to wear labels and join minorities. Having said that though, I don’t think there is anything wrong with making money, as long as Caitlin realises that by being so public about it all, she does have a responsibility to the trans community beyond saying “I’m trans. Look at me!”

      • This comment is perfect, it describes exactly how I feel about this show. I dream of that world too, for instance, I’m gay and I hate that everytime I make a good friend I have to come out to them, it’s annoying because straight people don’t have to say “Hey, I’m straight” when they meet someone, I just wish we could date whoever we want and be whoever we want without people caring or judging

    • Yolanda says:

      You must be Eastern European, That would explain everything.

      • Butters says:

        I don’t agree with Ninoska, however you are being just as rude and ignorant as Ninoska.

      • lechatnoir says:

        I thought he was lol! but its an established fact that in most of eastern there is no “shade of grey” when it comes to sexuality/gender identity . That whole place is backward as hell.

    • tvjunkie says:

      How this gets more press than illegal immigrants going around murdering people is beyond head scratching. So is the fact that Obama and most liberals seem to support the murders and don’t care about the victims and yet most of the press doesn’t report on that either

  8. Erika says:

    Im dissapointent that Caitlyn doesn’t worried about Kylie’s controversal things like plastic surgery(a la lips),vulgar fashion,disturbing selfies on social media,not getting education and datting an 8 year older than her age rapper in CA,where its illegal when you 17.Thats true and shame on Caitlyn.

  9. colig says:

    i feel like i need a shower already. ick!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Car crash TV at it’s ‘finest’. Man, I feel like a woman…

  11. Buck says:

    Can we stop paying mind to this attention whore? May I remind everyone that this persons negligence killed a woman! Give Laverna Cox a show. She’s a better example of TG and hasn’t killed anyone.

  12. Angus says:

    It’s not a woman, it’s a (very rich and getting richer) man wearing women clothes. Nothing more, nothing less. Anybody that thinks otherwise is BSing themselves. Just like he and the whole Kardashians clan is doing to you, BSing you.

    • LADY_in_MD says:

      Can I ask you are you straight? Male or female?
      If you wake up every morning knowing you are a straight male or female than why is it so hard to understand that someone else wakes up feeling different? Your brain and body work one way and her’s another why does that bother you so much?

  13. Bob Backus says:

    I have no problem with her doing what she wants, just have a big problem with the absolute lovefest going around her and then saying “Caitlyn Jenner’s brave, scary….” It’s neither brave nor scary for a famous person to do this and then get overwhelming support for it! NOT BRAVE OR SCARY AT ALL. Now for a regular person, someone who doesn’t get thousands telling him/her how great, and brave they are, it is a scary situation. When you’re alone and have no support system then it’s a story. When the toughest thing you have to face is a mother than loves you but doesn’t understand the decision, it’s not scary. It’s as if it was a decision to change your views on religion or politics from the family’s century old stance. Try making any decision only to have everyone immediately shun you and ignore you for the rest of your life. And, by the way, gender change or sexual preference is not braver than other choices in life. Families reject offspring for many choices and they are all equally brave. This gets no special preference. Morons can get pissingly angry over sex preferences, gender changes or ridiculous small things like political changes. I’m just sick that these changes get better press and are “brave” while other changes that get the same anger as the first two are hot enough copy. Before any morons react, nope I’m not jealous of her or her press, and couldn’t care less about what anyone thinks about my choices. Not all thought comes from a basis of jealousy, except for those simple minded folks.

    • Jane L. says:

      There’s no question that being rich has it’s advantages. But have you lived in the public eye? How do you know it’s “not brave or scary at all” to have paparazzi in your face when you leave the hospital after having gender reassignment surgery, especially as you’re being ridiculed and scrutinzed by total strangers in the press and social media. Instead of isolating herself and letting people talk trash about her and the transgender community, Caitlyn is taking control of the conversation by speaking out about her story while also making an effort to put all of the transgender community in a positive light (as a celebrity she knows that she’s representing more than just herself). That is much braver and scarier than trying to go through a gender transition in private.

  14. Dmac says:

    I don’t have a problem with her being who she was always meant to be, what I have a problem with is her attitude that who she was back when she was Bruce doesn’t have any merit on who she is now and that’s just not the case.
    In Vanity Fair Bruce’s first four children admitted that he was an absentee and uncaring father most of their lives and they are hoping that Caitlyn will be a better parent. She was very upset when they brought that up and when they admitted that they didn’t want to be on her reality show because they thought it would turn into just another exploitive E! Program and they have been hurt enough by him and his new family. She couldn’t seem to grasp how much pain she caused them nor did she seem to care.
    Bruce wasn’t a particularly nice person when it came to his first four children, nor does he seem to take any responsibility for who she was back then. Bruce was selfish husband, a rotten father and a classic narcissist and that doesn’t just go away with a gender change. I saw a bit of that last night when she was with her mother, who I thought took it amazingly well under the circumstances and yet Caitlyn didn’t seem satisfied with her mother’s response to her new daughter.
    I guess what I am trying to say is are we praising her before she has proven herself? I keep reading things on here and other sites about her bravery, how heroic she is and yes, I watched her speech on ESPN and she says the right things, but she shouldn’t get a free pass on her past behaviors nor be called a hero until it is earned. She can’t accept the spotlight and then turn around and become exasperated when it shines on not so flattering character traits. I think we are building her up to be something that she isn’t, or isn’t right now and that’s seems wrong to me.