We are cross-dressers but we’re still men
The year is 1994. Mort Pfefferman tells his wife Shelley there’s an emergency Cold War conference he has to attend (but really he’s sneaking off with his friend Mark/Marcy to a cross-dressers’ getaway). Shelley takes this opportunity to stay with her sister and gossip. This is the same weekend Ali was supposed to have her bat mitzvah but canceled it for her lack of faith. We see Sarah begins her journey into political activism and bisexuality. And Josh is not-so-secretly sleeping with his babysitter. We knew all of this from previous episodes but finally delving into the past of these characters is quite something.
Throughout this episode there is a sense of liberation for every character. Mort and Mark can finally embrace being Maura and Marcy. As soon as they arrive at Camo Camellia they are greeted by men in dresses and Maura feels right at home. The more of the camp they explore, the more it seems like a dream. It’s 1994 and Maura has seemingly found her place in the world.
Back home, Shelley, on advice from her sister, considers giving into to pleasure and thinks of cheating on Mort. She doesn’t particularly like Mort’s stint into being “kinky” (wearing her underwear) and thinks maybe it is time for her to get what she wants. As for the Pfefferman kids, they’re all out there exploring their sexuality in one way or another: Sarah with girl she meets on the bus, Josh and the babysitter, and Ali with a man she meets at the beach.
This is a weekend of liberation but it’s questionable whether it was a happy one. It’s once again Maura who takes the most noticeable hit. The freedom she has at Camellia is tainted when she hears a transphobic conversation among the patrons. Some of the men discuss a past incident where one of their own was caught injecting hormones. In a place like Camellia one would expect acceptance and understanding, but instead the men are disgusted. Almost as if a chant, they repeat the words “we are men” over and over as if anything other than “men” is beneath them.
Adding insult to injury, when calling home, Mark (while dressed as Marcy) tells his son to “man up” and “not take any bullshit”. It is here Maura realises these are not her people. Marcy is not the ally she thought. Camp Camellia turns out to be a place for heterosexual men in dresses, nothing more. As a final act of defiance, Maura decides to drive back home in her dress and wig much to Mark’s horror. This could be the inevitable falling out between the two.
As great as it is to learn more about the Pfeffermans history, by the end of the episode it’s actually sad. Maura has sacrificed so much of herself out of fear and responsibility. The other Pfeffermans have not made easier either.
It’s near the end of the first season and there’s still a lingering sense of impending doom. Maura has been through so much already. We can only hope there’s a light at the end of this season. She needs some happiness. If her family will not provide it to her, hopefully her new friends will step up.