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The Pfefferman’s all experience their spiritual journeys on a treadmill. Lots of movement without ever actually getting somewhere. Even as Josh completes his cross-country pilgrimage and stands at the doorway of his son’s home, all he’s succeeded in doing along his journey is alienating another would-be companion. Inside, before Josh can get too settled in, Colton preemptively declares he’s made peace with Josh and his decision to send Colton back to his adopted parents. He says he’s prayed on it and worked through his feelings. But despite the language of healing, it’s obvious his hurt still lives very close to the surface. That night, as he lays on the floor of his son’s bedroom, Josh tells him, “I love you”, and receives a curt, guarded “I know” in return. Colton has witnessed first-hand just what Josh’s love is worth and isn’t going to open himself up again any time soon.


Back in L.A., Vicki joins Maura for a visit to her mother who is now in hospice and largely unresponsive. That Vicki has chosen to come along shows how their relationship has deepened since “Grey Green Brown And Copper,” when she told Maura she wasn’t ready yet to be visiting people’s parents. After a somber visit, discordantly punctuated by beeps from Bryna’s electronic poker game, they all head back to her house for Chinese food. Simon, Bryna’s adult son, is still living at home, where he seemingly spends most of his time playing a video game called Galaxy Chronos. His detailed description to an uninterested audience about the different avatars you inhabit in the game world is a sort of fluffy little side thought about the ways we all long for an identity outside of ourselves. (Though Simon’s assertion that he “always prefers the wizard” is more of a joke about those whose sense of identity is defined by escapism instead of the hard, difficult reality of being trans.) Maura may be invited back into Bryna’s home, but familiarity isn’t acceptance. For Maura and Bryna, trans identity is just another layer folded into their decades-long bickering, and old resentments, barely contained at the best of times, flourish when watered with prodigious amounts of jug wine. Money, the responsibility of looking after their ailing mother and who is or isn’t an asshole are well-worn arguments between the siblings. For Bryna, Maura’s gender confirmation surgery is just another manifestation of the selfishness that has always defined her. Vicki’s insistence on comforting Bryna after the fight leads to a fresh argument between her and Maura. Vicki is fed up with Maura’s self-centeredness and Maura concludes that the two must simply have different world views; defined, in no small part, by Vicki’s lousy tipping policy.

For spiritual evolution, we have to look away from the Pfeffermans and toward Raquel. Like all searchers experiencing a spiritual crisis, Raquel is receiving visions. At her home that night, her vision is a demon taking the form of Sarah, who gleefully provokes Raquel to bone Duvid. His sensitivity, so welcome in temple, and no small part of what attracted Raquel to him in the first place, becomes a real liability when trying to instigate passionate sex. Duvid wraps every touch in a request for permission wrapped in a little prayer (as instructed by the Birthright Camp he just attended) and Raquel, feeling buried beneath prayer and ritual, is desperate for some unscripted passion. She tells him to knock it the fuck off, and the two make love.

The next day Sarah’s continued selfish obliviousness in response to Raquel’s confession finally causes her to break. It’s the cathartic freak-out Raquel has been building toward this entire season. Raquel is suffering a real crisis of faith while Sarah blithely dances a dilettante’s approach to Judaism. For her, a means for purpose and affirmation all without any of the actual introspection. “It’s not finding yourself by crawling through your belly button and out your own asshole and calling it a journey!” Raquel proclaims about Sarah’s spiritual journey. It’s a satisfying, and often hilarious diatribe, even if at the same time it stings with the pain Raquel has been internalizing for so long. It’s been said often, but I don’t think it can said enough: Kathryn Hahn is just the best. She’s capable of such versatile, but deeply-felt emotion that she makes any scene better with her presence. It’s satisfying for the audience to have her as the medium through which we can express our own frustrations with Sarah.


Back in Kansas Josh attends Sunday service. Jay Duplass frequently imbues Josh with an expression of bemused remove. Archetypal hipster that Josh is, it could easily read as cynical or condescending, but it never fully comes off that way. He is a person without ritual or guidance, and always seems legitimately interested in those who do, even though he himself doesn’t share an iota of it. At church watching his son preach, he sits quietly, eyebrow slightly raised, right until he stands up in answer to Colton’s call for anyone in the audience who wants to accept Christ as their savior.

That feeling of alienation, of being alone and without purpose is a common reason people turn to Jesus. In Catholicism, Mary is referred to as the mediatrix—the path through which you must follow to find Christ. Josh warps that convention by using Jesus as the means of reaching his son, to receive the blessing and unconditional love he lost when he cast his son out of his life. It’s difficult to imagine this conversion will stick, even the sincerity of it in the first place. Like gum that has lost its flavor, Josh is quick to spit out any experience in his life that no longer brings him immediate satisfaction.


Stray observations

  • Could there possibly be anything less sexy than having your areola compared to a relief map?
  • “15 percent is when they stab you!” Maura dismissing Vicki’s defense of always tipping 15 percent.
  • Leonard Cohen, who rarely strays far from my mind at any given time anyway, has been especially present since his death last week. As Maura sat beside her mother’s bed and the hollowness that surrounds her final days, she mutters “So this is what it all comes down to.” It reminded me of these lyrics from “Story Of Isaac”: “When it all comes down to dust / I will kill you if I must / I will help you if I can / When it all comes down to dust / I will help you if I must / I will kill you if I can.” Granted, in the song, it’s a warning against letting demagogues masquerading as the righteous fool you into committing state-sanctioned murder, but an Old Testament parable of familial sacrifice sure seems appropriate for the Pfeffermans.

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