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Grace And Frankie wants to talk to you about masturbation

Grace And Frankie
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The ménage-a-moi has arrived on Grace And Frankie, and it’s got glow-in-the-dark control buttons, a soft-grip sleeve, easy-to-adjust angles, and a quiet buzz. The purple prototypes of Grace and Frankie’s first vibrators instantly become a great prop in the world of this show, and Grace and Frankie waste no time before trying them out. It gets the job done, and Grace and Frankie both wake up with a pancake breakfast after a night of multiple orgasms and zero arthritic pain. The episode starts from this fun and happy place. “Orgasms and pancakes with all the fixings? Best day ever!” Frankie declares, and I’m inclined to agree. But once the episode gets into its central conflict, everything starts to feel less organic and more like an episode of television trying to set up the pieces.


After self-testing the product, Grace tells Frankie it’s time to bring in a focus group to get some outside opinions. She asks her friend Arlene to bring over some friends, neglecting to tell her anything about the product, and Arlene shows up with her prayer group. It’s a classic sitcom setup, with Grace and Frankie having to tip-toe around the buttoned-up church ladies before finally just coming out with it and talking to them about masturbation. They leave in a huff, and Grace wonders how they’re ever going to reach their target audience when much of their target audience doesn’t want to talk about sex and masturbation.

While Grace and Frankie do occasionally use euphemisms for orgasm and sex, it’s usually for comedic effect. They’re far from ashamed of discussing their bodies and desires like these other women are. Grace admits that she used to be one of those church ladies, but we’ve seen her grow beyond the buttoned-up days of her recent past. Though Grace probably wouldn’t admit it, Frankie’s presence in her life has definitely been a big part of her evolving sense of sex positivity. As it turns out, Arlene ended up taking home one of the vibrators, and she returns at the end of the episode to collect more for her prayer group, who apparently called her to tell her they were interested. I like the suggestion that even religious older women do indeed masturbate, which tracks with Grace And Frankie’s inclusive outlook on human desire. But because we don’t see this shift in the women’s attitudes, because it all happens off-screen and with very little explanation, it’s tough to swallow. It feels very convenient for the plot. Grace raises all these interesting questions about shame, but the episode doesn’t actively engage with them. Instead, the church ladies just admit they want to use vibrators, and everyone moves forward. It’s too neatly wrapped up.


At the insistence of their friend Peter, Robert and Sol audition for a local production of 1776. Their subplot here interestingly gives new meaning to their cute but fluffy subplot last episode. Suddenly, Sol’s erratic dance moves and Robert’s Pirates Of Penzance singalong turn out to have been foreshadowing this precise moment. But even though the episode ends on a nice note for Robert and Sol, with Robert securing the leading role and Sol pledging to fulfill the role of supportive husband after not landing any parts, this storyline is stilted. I think that largely has to do with Peter. Supporting characters on Grace And Frankie are usually marked with distinct quirks, and that’s certainly true for him, but he’s so wholly obnoxious that he’s a jarring presence on this show full of imperfect but endearing characters. His line about Wal-Mart greeters is particularly bad. Maybe the show is offering a critique of a specific kind of wealthy white person (as it sometimes does with the main characters even), but Peter just doesn’t work, and he seems more one-liner than character.

For a while, that’s how Brianna felt, too. Even though she has always been my favorite non-Grace/Frankie character on the show, Brianna was mostly good for jokes and little else. Not only do the writers seem acutely aware of that this season, but the character’s storyline within the show reflects it. Mallory literally accuses Brianna of being a mean joke machine. She no longer wants to put up with Brianna’s digs at her family. It’s a genuine revelation for Brianna, who startles when Mallory says there’s something wrong with her. It weighs on her for the rest of the episode, leading to a great scene between her and Grace where Grace more-or-less confirms Mallory’s accusations. Grace and Brianna have a similar coldness to them, and both are sort of disturbed by Mallory’s four kids. If anyone can give Brianna useful advice on how to open herself up more, it’s Grace. She pushes Brianna to be nicer to Mallory’s kids, and the sisters don’t necessarily fix everything between them in the end, but Brianna does make earnest attempts to be better. Of all the characters, Brianna’s emotional arc in this episode is the strongest. She’s evolving but in a way that feels right for the character.


Stray observations

  • Frankie picks all the peas out of her fried rice.
  • The purple vibrators have been a huge part of the season’s promotional campaign, so it was exciting to finally see them on the show.
  • Brianna promises to impart all the wise lessons she was taught by Frankie to Mallory’s children when they grow up, including how to roll a tight joint.

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