Welcome to Christmas in June. It’s not a miracle. It’s Pose. The holidays mean different things to different people. Damon has high expectations. Christmas was the only time of year he was allowed to swan around the house in a costume without fear of the switch. It’s not gay if it’s for a Jesus. Feeding on his excitement, Blanca creates a new House of Evangelista tradition. Each child gets one special present under the tree from Mother. The boys burst into chatter. Lil’ Papi starts listing his wish list. Only Angel stands alone. She doesn’t want a gift to commemorate the season. Her Christmas memories poke rather than caress. At age six, Angel’s father took her shopping. Spying a pair of red, patent leather pumps, a tiny, broken piece of her psyche clicked into place. She might not understand much about this crazy world, but she knew she needed those shoes. Quick as a flash, she stuffed them into her sports jersey and lit out for home. She almost got away with it, too. When her parents found the shoes, her father slapped her. Angel knew it was because of what she stole. From that day forward, he never treated her the same. I mean, what little boy cries over a patent leather pump? Fa la la la, la la la.
The spectre of AIDS hangs heavy over the Pose universe. Blanca’s HIV status influences every move she makes, from creating a legacy to righting all the wrongs. Tonight, we meet loved ones who are further advanced in their disease. Pray Tell’s boyfriend is in the hospital for pneumonia. He’s scared. There are only so many times you get to walk out alive. Pray Tell fights the fear by lashing out at a nurse too ignorant and scared to care for her patient. He knows it’s mere distraction. He’s been down this road so often, he’s almost used to it by now. “How are we supposed to get invested in someone if they can be gone a week later?” Just down the hall, the Dean visits a former student. He’s been ravaged by the disease. He dances in his hospital gown, broken in body but not spirit. “It’s Christmas. I’m the Prince.” The Dean sees the future fading before her eyes. Instead of holding their hands as they face the world, the Dean is burying her students. She’s been down this road so often, she’s almost used to it by now.
The Dean decides Damon is her chance at redemption. If she can keep him focused and on-task, he might survive long enough to succeed. Long enough to care about. In a fit of tough love, she kicks the wunderkind out of class. If he wants to dance, Damon needs to raise his expectations. It’s her or the balls. Blanca answers that volley. She bristles at the implication that her world is lesser than. She’s a good Mother. She looks out for Damon and always puts his interests first. The Dean grimaces. Balls are instant gratification, distraction. Dance offers the entrée into normal society that Damon won’t find elsewhere. Isn’t that what Blanca wants for her son? The best? Blanca is beside herself. Damon, her pride and joy, her first born son, is one week away from permanent expulsion. Loaded with tokens and a bus pass so he’ll never be late again, Damon learns his punishment: no balls for a month. When he finds out that includes the Snow Ball, Damon turns into a petulant teenager. A child’s first “I hate you!” is a right of passage shared by parents around the world. Tonight, Blanca is just another exhausted mom telling her kid, “Well, go and hate me in your room.”
Stan tries to keep all of his balls in the air. Angel is a queen in her new apartment. Everything is new, pretty, pink. They make love for the first time and it’s the romance of the Century. Until Stan grabs a condom. Angel is his dirty little secret and she won’t befoul his home. On the work front, Stan is killing it. The execs love his proposal and he gets to pitch straight to the big man himself. Stan is so excited he doesn’t notice his creepy boss Matt. You can get away with a lot in the Trump organization, but going over your boss’ head leads to retribution. Since one betrayal begets another, Matt tries to seduce Patty. She turns him down (“Weird. You’ve kissed all those models and beauty queens and you’re still not very good at it.”), so he drops innuendo about Stan’s affair. All the good will Stan bought with the dishwasher is squandered. Happy wife, happy life. Forget about it.
Elektra appears to have it all. A rich Daddy to cater to her every whim. An all-entry pass in straight society. And complete domination over the House of Abundance. It’s almost too good to be true. When a treatment center opens, based on the principles of the doctor that helped her through transition, Elektra finds out she’s a candidate for gender confirmation surgery. Within the year. As long as she can pay… With the promise of completion captivating all of Elektra’s attention, some of her truth slips out. Daddy isn’t quite as generous as we’ve been led to believe. Any extras, like surgery or the House, are entirely on her shoulders. So you can see how she’s forced, much like Robin Hood before her, to rob the Salvation Army bucket. In classic Christmas video caper style, the House of Abundance distracts, tackles, and runs. All to a throbbing beat. With $2300 in their pockets, they dream. This will be the Christmas to beat all Christmases. Elektra agrees. She hands it all to the treatment center. “You can sign me up.”
Category is: Stone Cold Face. Angel is an ice Princess. Elsa at her wedding. 10. 10. 10. 10. 10. Blanca runs straight from the Snow Ball to check on Damon. It hurt her to banish him but she has responsibilities. To her relief, he gets it. “You’re a good mother,” Damon tells her. The lower case M is implied.
The holidays are rife with tradition. Stan practices a classic suburban Christmas: kids opening presents followed by their parents fighting. Patty accuses Stan of cheating. Not only does his boss deny working Stan strange hours, their daughter told her that daddy bought two gifts at the jewelry store. “You’ve been lying to me.” On the offensive, Stan thrusts a gift at her, revealing a necklace and bracelet. Patty breaks down in tears and apologizes. Christmas is saved. Across town, Eartha Kitt croons about her Santa Baby while Angel makes cookies. Stan promised he’d visit so she’s giving Christmas one last shot. As the shadows lengthen, anticipation turns to waiting. He’s not coming. Angel’s tradition is crying alone.
The House of Evangelista celebrate Christmas together. The boys are giddy. Pray Tell is the Grande Dame. And Angel is broken hearted. When Blanca dumps the flaming turkey out the window, they turn to my people’s tradition: Chinese food. Blanca hands out gifts. As a new recruit, Ricky is genuinely touched to be included. Lil’ Papi gets a leather jacket. Damon, a backpack and socks. Ricky gets a watch and Pray Tell an Instamatic camera. Blanca explains, “You adjusted my focus and now I see in color.” Angel doesn’t want to play. She didn’t ask for anything, doesn’t want anything. Like Stan with his wife, Blanca makes her open her gift. Red, patent leather pumps. For the woman she is. The House gifts Blanca a heart of gold. “…because that’s what you are to us,” Ricky explains. “Our heart.”
Next week: Everyone lives on borrowed time, starring
Chris Keller Elliot Stabler as Elektra’s Daddy.