Welcome to a special retro edition of Mistresses!
Karen’s asking “What is a podcast?” like Downton Abbey‘s Dowager Countess getting befuddled by the concept of a weekend. April’s sounding out the word “transgender” like a kindergartener staring down a three-syllable word on the blackboard. And Kate’s biological clock is ticking so loudly that she can’t hear how ridiculous it sounds when she gets swoony over phone calls from an iPhone contact tragically known as “Taco Guy.”
Hey, at least Joss continues to fight the patriarchy at home and at work.
And also, Karen’s in full, ferocious monologue mode — and it’s pretty much the best thing to happen on TV all summer (even if she has to get accused of activating a “zombie tribe of whores” in order to unleash the sex-positive lioness within).
Did I just type the phrase “sex-positive lioness”? Oh don’tcha know I most definitely did. It’s an essential part of recapping Season 4, Episode 5 (aka “Lean In”). So let’s get to it!
TRANS LABYRINTH | April’s Season 4 arc has been somewhere between Dopey and Sleepy on the Seven Dwarves’ Scale. But this week, like a good Merlot, it’s full bodied and complex and worth a repeat visit. Michael apologies over an al fresco dinner for his unexpected kiss (couldn’t he have done it by phone?) but April quits her gig as his interior decorator when she realizes he’s sorry for the circumstance of the smooch (right after his separation from Theresa) moreso than the lip lock itself. She lies to Marc that she got fired, and it backfires when her live-in love shows up at Michael’s (overstep much?!), asks for Michael to rehire April and then punches Michael in the face when he learns about the real reason for the professional parting of the ways. April is righteously appalled when Marc comes home acting all wounded and grouchy (“I don’t go for macho crap!”), but things go from “Roy-G-Biv” to Crayola 64 Pack when Michael finally tells April he’s transgender — and that his attraction to April/punchout by Marc are all part of his first authentic experiences living as a man. This twist puts Marc and April on more solid footing — “I could be jealous, but I choose not to be — becuase I trust you. The question is, do you trust me?” April asks Marc, while noting his in a band with his own ex — but there are clearly other questions not being addressed. Did she ever feel any feelings for her wealthy client? Was there some part of her that wasn’t upset by Michael’s tipsy display of affection? Is Marc really the man for her at this moment in her life?
April winds up offending Michael at a visceral level during a subsequent meetup in which she suggests she can resume her work on his house because “I would never date someone who’s transgender.” Michael’s response – “Get out of my house, April. NOW.” — feels earned, and yet at the same time, dude is barking up a tree that’s already got Marc in the mix. On some level, he wants April to cheat (or dump her lover) — and it muddies the waters beyond the idea of whether or not she’s rejecting him merely for being transgender. It’s a not-as-easy-in-reality-as-it-is-on-paper look at a social issue that’s all too often (and all too ridiculously) reduced to the choice of a bathroom. (Ugh.) Is April attracted to the man in front of her — especially since in a lot of ways he’s more mature/right for her than manchild Marc? And on the flip side, whether or not it’s hurtful to Michael or rooted in her own upbringing, is it a commentary on April’s character that she’d dismiss a potential mate based on the difference between his gender identity and assigned sex? Does she need to apologize or feel bad for dismissing the idea of dating someone who’s transgender? (To my mind, April’s commentary about Michael’s “female part” is probably her most egregious comment.) In any event, here’s hoping Team Mistresses continues to explore these questions plainly and truthfully — since it’s a lot more interesting than Lucy’s high-school love life or Marc’s rockstar aspirations.
SEXUAL PERSONAE | Karen’s sophomore book ideas — involving far too many children and not nearly enough wah-chicka-wah — fail to impress her high-powered agent Barbara. (Ditto for her cringe-inducing, shoulder-shimmying exclamation of “I can roll!”) But things get even more uncomfortable after Barbara gets Karen booked on shock jock Jason Hughes’ podcast “Love Chat,” and he accuses the sexpert of setting back the women’s movement by 100 years — with little to no punchback by Dr. Kim. Joss convinces Karen to make a return visit (even/especially after Jason shows up at Karen’s office and sleazily declares that all she really wants from life is “a husband, security, and someone who can give you another child before your eggs dry up”). Karen’s followup finds her in delicious, take-no-guff mode, and she brutally schools Jason, interrupting him with a dismissive speech ending with the edict, “I’m not here to amuse you. I’m here to educate you!” (Yassss! Someone’s been listening to Beyoncé’s Lemonade! #ImWithHer) Alas, though, Karen’s dressing down of Jason leads to her getting fired by Barbara (since Jason is her longer-term, more lucrative client). When Barbara justifies her not-entirely-Steinem-esque stance, Karen goes for the kill shot: “In order for your soul to be compromised, you need to have one.” (Look. Karen’s dealt with Elizabeth Grey. This Barbara chick is, by comparison, not in the least bit intimidating. Anyone who’s read Unleashed has to know this.) In other words. Dr. Kim is gonna be just fine. But who the heck is the unseen person showing up at her door at episode’s end. I’m praying it’s Elizabeth and a bottle of vodka, but the smart money’s on Jason. Or maybe her baby daddy Alec?
MIXING BUSINESS AND PLEASURE | Joss and Harry grab dinner at an invite-only eatery with Jonathan and his wife, but it doesn’t take long ’til Joss is champing at the bit to dish the Iranian businessman’s public-relations strategy for the hotel-restaurant he’s building for her fiancé. Her ideas are actually spot-on, but when they get home, Harry describes the evening as being “so… undignified.” (This from a guy who almost gave it all up for a fish shack on the beaches of Melbourne!) The next day, Joss (in a fetching two-towel motif) argues why she deserves the job as the publicist for the join venture, but Harry’s one step ahead — having already agreed with Jonathan to hire Joss. The only trouble is he gets testy (again!) when she plays it a little loose on his official bio. Once again, it’s Jonathan who convinces his new pal that he’s overreacting — and then obliterates all bad vibes by having a motorcycle delivered to his business partner’s living room. (Is this OK for their floors though?) It’s all feeling as sweet and rich as a flourless chocolate lava cake, but there’s an undercurrent of
dishonesty tiny fibs creeping into this relationship* that’s making me uneasy. (*Joss/Harry, not Harry/Jonathan, for what it’s worth.)
HOW ARE WE FEELING ABOUT THAT FOURTH MISTRESS? | Kate finds coworker Randy in the least Maison Sur Mer position you could possibly fathom: Hooking up in the stockroom with a married dude. Randy declares her reaction a little “judge-y judge-y” — later advancing his character past the world of botched candle orders and into real human territory when he bursts into tears about his desire for marriage and kids and a life of love — but it turns out maybe Kate wasn’t being 100 percent honest regarding her recollection of running away from a married-but-separated guy she met/rejected at a taco truck. I mean, if she fled the scene in a gust of indignation, how are her digits programmed into her cellular device? And when will she learn his government name?
What did you think of this week’s Mistresses? Should we be worried about Joss and Harry (and/or April and Marc)? Sound off below!