Episode 4 of The L Word 👩🍳
"Provocations is intended to do just that—provoke."
I’m rewatching The L Word from the beginning and writing about it as I go. This is a recap of episode 4. If you haven’t already, please go back to episode 3 and read all the responses to the discussion question: how did you first watch The L Word? So many of you wrote about being closeted or freshly out and going through incredible lengths just to find some queer representation. Thank you so much to everyone who shared a story. I love to hear from you :)
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Episode 4 is called “Longing” and it begins with some dykes we haven’t seen before. I forgot that some episodes of The L Word open with a random little vignette! These vignettes are set in the past and often depict people having gay sex and/or making art. Some connect to the main plot, others are just for fun (there’s one where a lesbian is possessed by a demon and it causes her to cheat on her girlfriend). In today’s vignette, a photographer is bossing a model around, and then walks up and kisses her. The model just stands there like a mannequin. This show tries so hard to be erotic and Female Gaze, but it often just seems joyless. That room looks cold!! Instead of being turned on, I wish they would put some clothes.
(autobiographical note: I’m writing this at the Detroit airport and everyone is trying to kill me? No one wants me to be a writer?? The woman next to me is watching a video called “20 minute scalp massage” without headphones and the music is instrumental Taylor Swift. Someone else is FaceTiming with a small child. “Look how many teeth you have!” I’m going to file a complaint with the newsletter police.)
Now we’re back to the CAC, a small LA arts organization where Bette is a diversity hire. Bette is pitching an art show called Provocations. She shows the board a gay painting (Flagellations by Delmas Howe) and tries to hype them up because Provocations is gonna put them on the freakin map. The board members are normies, so they’re not into it. One guy, Franklin, goes behind Bette’s back and books a more palatable show called Impressions in Winter. Bette is furious. She vows to get Provocations to the CAC, at any cost.
Alice is sleeping with Bad Ex Gabby again. Gabby is a big jerk. She’s emitting red flags left and right, but Alice is too horned to care.
Tim and Marina cross paths at The Planet. She challenges him to a game of pool. To be honest, it seems like Marina gets off on infiltrating their relationship? It’s hard to tell what her deal is. Maybe she’s jealous of Tim? The only thing I’m certain of is that Tim is totally clueless. When his Nokia block phone goes off, he asks Marina to answer it. It’s Jenny calling. She’s totally unmoored by hearing Marina’s voice—all she wants is to forget Jarina ever happened and marry her sports boyfriend, but how can she? Marina is overwhelmingly European and omniscient.
(Airport update: my flight has been delayed an hour. I just tried to get a little Starbucks, but the line is stretching around the Popeyes and the Hudson News. I also saw some dyke-alikes in serious cargo pants taking turns using the bathroom and watching each other’s luggage. I wanted to talk to them, but they were all business. Typical.)
Lacey continues to stalk and slander Shane. She passes out anti-Shane fliers all over West Hollywood. She even fliers Milk Bar when Alice and Gabby are there. They just laugh about it. It’s 2004, let Shane be an ethical slut! The L Word is obsessed with monogamy as healthy and normal, but also a big sacrifice. This carries into Gen Q in lots of strange ways, like Micah’s tortured relationship with the married man.
Bette goes on a mission to talk to Peggy Peabody. Peggy is a has-bian (that’s a former lesbian) billionaire art collector who owns the pieces in Provocations. Bette doesn’t have an appointment with Peggy—she runs into her in the hotel lobby and is mistaken for an art dealer. It’s okay though — they both love art and experience attraction to other women. They talk about a lesbian photographer who photographed the same woman for 15 years (presumably the mystery dykes from the beginning of the episode). Then Bette has a spiritual experience while looking at some art in Peggy’s private collection. Peggy observes that Bette is experiencing Stehdhal syndrome and then Bette defines what that is for the people watching at home. Zzzzzzz, this dialogue is so boring. When does Peggy’s hot daughter Helena show up?
Shane confronts Lacey about her Riot Grrl-inspired smear campaign in the nicest way possible. Lacey’s defenses drop immediately. She confides deep abandonment issues, including a dead parent and a sister who tragically moved to West Covina.
Cut to Shane, Pooh Bear-ing in Lacey’s bedroom. She looks lost and sad, like she just had sex she didn’t want to have. She pulls on her pants and moves towards the door. Lacey starts to whine and beg her to stay, but Shane is like “we had an agreement.” They talk a little bit and the implication is that this is like, a last goodbye sex? Payment for Lacey to stop harassing Shane? This scene is super sad. Shane, don’t set yourself on fire to keep your toxic exes warm!!!!!
Everyone wants Alice to break up with Gabby. Shane tells her that Gabby is sleeping with another woman. Alice doesn’t want to believe it, but she ultimately makes the decision to give Gabby the heave-ho.
Dana and Lara Bar go on a dinner date. There is lots of blushing. Dana is nervous! Lara is nervous! They’re both so into each other.
Jenny goes to Marina’s office. Ostensibly she’s there to end things, but she also wants to get finger banged against an espresso machine. I know this is 2004, but it’s a real ethical gray area to sleep with someone who tell you how conflicted and confused they feel all the time. I am once again asking, what is Marina’s deal??
Other Stuff That Came Up for Me:
Has anyone seen Lip Service, the surprisingly watchable British knock-off of The L Word? There’s a character who’s like Shane, except Scottish. She also does a sensual photoshoot and ends up fingering the model. Here’s the first episode as a grainy YouTube video with Spanish subtitles.
Jenny is going to need Tim’s health insurance if she wants to be a writer.
Discussion Question: what L Word character, living or dead or Gen Q, would you want to sit next to on a plane?