Pose Premiere Recap: Gin and the Juice
Pose jumps forward for its third and final season to 1994 – and OJ Simpson isn’t the only one running away from anything.
The first hour of the premiere on Sunday caught up with Blanca and the gang: She has a new boyfriend named Christopher, played by Jeremy Pope; Electra’s S&M dungeon is attacked by the cops (“F-King Giuliani, F-King with my goddamn coin”); Dad finds success as a talent agent and Angel is jealous that his attention is elsewhere; and Electra’s former protégé Lemar founded Khan’s upstart house and sweeps the balls with a vicious, confrontational energy.
But Pray Tell has changed the most: he’s become a smelly drunk who meanders through his moderating duties and sneaking gulps from a bottle while working as the Chanel # 5 sprayer at Macy’s. He’s tired of going to funerals of friends he’s lost to AIDS – “How many of those are we going to have to go through?” – and to lose hope that a cure will keep him from meeting the same fate. Another protégé faces this fate, Cubby, who is on the verge of death in the hospital and is being looked after as a nurse by Blanca. And then the world stops as the pursuit of OJ Simpson begins.
Blanca invites the whole family to watch while Pray Tell scolds drunk, “If white people love you, you will become raceless.” (Elektra thinks OJ is innocent; when she went to his games, “he couldn’t take his eyes off me.”) Angel and Lulu join the party … but they sneak hits from a cracked joint. (Uh-oh.) As Pray Tell keeps getting sloppy, Damon pulls him aside to share his anonymous book on alcoholics, but Pray Tell hasn’t: The world is awful, he says, and he just wants some having fun. Blanca calls them all to the table for dinner and announces that she wants to revive the Evangelista house to keep Lemar’s house from throwing the balls away. The others hesitate at first, but Blanca gathers them together with one of her inspiring speeches – “We rose from below and became stars” – and they all finally get on.
Blanca admits to her doctor friend Christopher that she wants to study to become a nurse … and he wants to introduce her to his parents. She freaks a little thinking that they are going to judge her, but she’s done and ready to see her – if she gets a call. Cubby is running out of time, so she and the gang gather by his bedside and share stories with his mother. Right after Cubby dies, Lemar shows up late and is rude to everyone, resulting in Pray Tell slapping empanadas right out of his hand. That’s it: House Evangelista will play House Khan in the next ball in honor of Cubby.
At the ball, Evangelista sweeps the judges’ voices, led by Elektra, who struts her things in a towering golden headdress and cloak. You win, and Blanca is a good sport that welcomes House Khan’s efforts and donates the prize money on Cubby’s behalf. They are celebrating with dinner in a Chinese restaurant – and Christopher comes for the first time to meet Blanca’s friends. In addition, Blanca takes the plunge and applies for the nursing school.
The second class belongs to Pray Tell (and Billy Porter): he quickly turns down, drinks and pops pills, and Blanca thinks he needs intervention. She brings in an expert who asks the gang to write all letters to Pray Tell, telling him how his drinking affected them. (Blanca adds that she “already lost” Damon, who relapsed and left town to live with his cousin.) Rehab costs a lot – $ 2,500 for a month – but Elektra charges that when they sweep all the prizes at the next ball that could pay for it. So she goes into dominatrix mode (in her natural state, of course) and gets the Evangelista house in shape, drills Ricky into his dance moves and selects the perfect couture dress for Angel.
However, Angel and Lulu have trouble giving up the crack habit and their loved ones begin to notice: Daddy tells Angel he can’t marry her if she’s still smoking, and Elektra pulls Lulu aside and tells her to keep her head straight . Meanwhile, Blanca finally has dinner with Christopher and his parents, and it’s going well – until Christopher’s mother starts asking questions about children and Blanca picks up on the subtle shadow that is thrown in her path. (She also doesn’t tell them she’s trans.) Also, Pray Tell visits a sick castle that keeps a few sleeping pills “for a rainy day” and dreams of getting a room in the plaza and taking them all. He offers some methadone to Pray Tell: “It’s a nice craze.”
House Evangelista is the big winner of the ball. Pray Tell earns 10 seconds across the board for his fierce en Vogue lip-syncing … but the party is cut short when Castle collapses in a fit and has to be carted away in an ambulance. At the family dinner, after Pray Tell said he was drinking wine “for the antioxidants,” the others say they arranged a short break for him. Really, it’s rehab and you can pay for it with the prize money. Pray Tell seems open to it at first, but when they start reading their letters to him, he becomes defensive – and mean. When Angel answers, he says to her, “If I wanted advice from a crackhead, I’d go out on the street and ask for it.” And when it’s Blanca’s turn, he grabs that Christopher is only with her because she’s an “HIV” charity case. “When he storms out of the apartment, a full Elektra yells:” Let him drink! “
However, his tough facade crumbles when Ricky grabs and threatens to move out if Pray Tell doesn’t get help. First, Pray Tell belittles him and tells him that no one will ever love him like him. But when Ricky reaches the door, Pray Tell picks up his luggage and sobs: “Everyone is leaving me … you have to stay.” Ricky leaves, however, and while Angel promises to clean up Dad before their wedding, Blanca has another uncomfortable encounter with Christopher’s mother. (When Blanca comes out as a trans, Christopher’s mother says her husband is a psychiatrist: “He treats trans.”) Blanca goes out and Christopher supports her and tells his mother that he loves Blanca and they will lose him if they do do not accept them.
Pray Tell takes small steps towards sobriety and fixes fences with the Emcee Council, but realizes that Castle is not with them. Pray Tell finds him in a room in the plaza … but he didn’t take the pills. He wants to live, he screams for Pray Tell and Pray Tell too. Finally broken, he admits to Blanca: “I drink because I hate myself and I hate myself because I drink.” He doesn’t want to feel like this anymore and she drives him to the rehab center to the rigors of Mariah Carey’s “Whenever You Need a Boyfriend”, exchanging “I love you” before he goes inside.
Give the pose premiere a grade in our poll (think of an “A” as 10s across the board) and write your thoughts in a comment below.