Season 5′s Lez Girls storyline focused on several themes in Tina’s life: her work, her need for a confidante, and her relationship with Bette. This final section about S5, and the three scenes chosen, will concentrate primarily on the last two.
The new confidante for Tina comes in the form of Sam Makavejev, the film’s director of photography. Sam is clearly smitten with Tina, and she is introduced to the audience while asking Tina for a special piece of equipment for her camera. Tina tells her no at first, and then asks Sam what she will get out of the deal if she approved this request. Smitten Sam says, “My undying love and devotion.” Swoon. Sam is a refreshing new presence on the show: she’s cool, she knows how to court a woman, and she is blessedly free of any noticeable baggage.
Of course, Tina cannot help loving Bette, so Tina’s easy rapport with Sam remains confined to the boundaries of friendship. Tina needs a confidante, and hopefully Sam will continue to play that role in Tina’s life.
The scene in Sam’s trailer is especially poignant, as it shows the women at cross purposes. Tina tells Sam she would like to have dinner with her during the week, and Sam retreats, telling Tina she wants to take a step back. Tina immediately realizes that Sam knows about her affair with Bette, because she was the only one who noticed their loaded interaction at the Jodi dinner party. Tina is taken aback, but she then confides in Sam how surprised she was with the affair, because both she and Bette felt they were through.
Tina has been like a pressure cooker with her secret and her guilt, and she needed someone not somehow involved in the situation to let off steam with. This guilt is one reason she kept bringing up Jodi with Bette, along with her worries about hurting Jodi. Tina never meant to intentionally sting Sam with her confession. In her need to find release here, she wasn’t thinking about Sam’s feelings – only her own. Sam is visibly uncomfortable – rightly so given her still strong feelings for Tina – and she cuts Tina off in mid-sentence. She tells Tina she feels sorry for Jodi because Jodi’s a great girl. Tina’s reaction to this jab was like she just scraped her face against a cement wall in the dark. Sam was hurt, and she intentionally stung Tina for what she saw as Tina’s insensitivity in confiding in her. Although they were at cross purposes for that moment, Sam later seems to have in some way started to reconcile her feelings for Tina and put them aside, and tries to pick up where they left off in their budding friendship.
What was very noticeable and appealing about this friendship is how easily they communicate with each other: no pretenses, no hidden agendas, no game playing – just straightforward camaraderie. It stands in contrast to Tina’s communication problems with Bette.
Thankfully, things are changing for the better between Tina and Bette as well. Bette has shown some growth too, and that can only be good for Tina. In many ways, Bette was lovely with Tina this season: respecting her, listening to her, praising her work, and finally looking with Tina with pride again. It was a look Tina had been missing for a long time, since they lay in bed together discussing the birthing tank in Season 1. Perhaps most importantly, Bette made a very noticeable effort to connect with and support Tina at work. Bette visited Tina on location and at the studio more than once, and told her the film will be a success because Tina is producing it. Tina seemed both surprised and touched, and also unsure how to react. Perhaps she had longed for, but never expected, to hear those words from Bette.
Bette has not always felt this way or supported Tina in her movie career. As recently as the opening episode of this season, we are twice reminded of how Bette hates the movie business. So this unsolicited and strong support from Bette is just one thing Tina needed to hear from her. As far back as S1, when Tina tells Jenny she’s thinking of going back to college to switch careers, we know Bette’s dislike of the movie business has an impact on Tina’s self-esteem. Bette’s effort to change in S5 was a big step, and it bodes well for their rekindled romance.
Every scene described thus far could be one of the three scene highlights for the season. They were all highlights, so the scenes we discuss next have been chosen at random.
Season 5, Episode 5: “Yes, I am.”
This is a favorite Laurel and Jennifer scene from the season … one among so many marvelous ones. The physical and emotional reactions these two actresses display with each other are always something to behold.
In this scene, Bette storms out of the pot brownie party after being grilled by Bella, who plays ‘Bev’ in the film. The actress had indiscreetly – and in front of Tina, no less – asked Bette why she cheated with the “plumber.” As Bette is walking towards her house, Tina overtakes her and somberly apologizes for the unpleasant questioning.
Bette confesses to Tina that Bella wasn’t wrong, that she still has no answers to her “whys.” She still doesn’t know why she cheated on Tina. It is clear that Bette is ashamed and unhappy with herself about this fact. Such an answer was unexpected, both for the audience and for Tina. The hurt and pain of Bette’s infidelity come flooding back to her, as if she were still in Bette’s bedroom opening up that email from Candace and seeing the a picture of them in bed.
What happens next between Tina and Bette is a lesson in how two people can dance around their true feelings for each other. Laurel effortlessly utilized body language and facial expressions to convey Tina’s physical reaction to Bette’s honest confession. She pauses, closes her eyes for a second, then opens them and looks at Bette with her head tilted. She gently shakes her head at Bette as she closes and opens her eyelids, looks down at her shoes while she quickly gathers her thoughts for the right words to say. Tina looks back up at Bette, and in a soft and unconvincing (to the audience) voice, says that what happened between them the other night cannot happen again.
Tina uses the word cannot instead of “will not.” She’s not closing the door on Bette, but what Bette hears is that “it will never happen again.” Bette is crestfallen at Tina’s words, but she thinks that’s what Tina wants, so she goes along with it. Bette too responds to Tina in a soft voice that betrays her feelings of rejection, shaking her head, looking down dejected. She halfheartedly agrees, and says they just got caught up in the moment. Tina hears Bette’s hesitation. Bette hasn’t convinced herself that she doesn’t want another kiss and more from Tina. Tina hears this, and resists – because she doesn’t know what it will mean if she gives into her passion for Bette. She’s still not sure or trusts Bette fully yet.
They both look at one another then, Tina knowing Bette wants her and it looks like she will relent. But, then Bette cannot help but test the waters again and with head bowed, eyes lowered to the ground, she says in a feather-light voice looking slowly up at Tina, and shyly asks, “Are you, are you sorry that it did?” An eternity seemed to pass as Laurel and Jennifer play the beats brilliantly, while Bette and the audience are awaiting Tina’s answer. They look at each other, Bette shyly, Tina trying to be steadfast, and both waiting for the other to “show her cards.” Tina gently says yes, she is sorry the kiss happened between them. What she doesn’t say is what it is about the kiss she regrets: the circumstance. Bette is with Jodi. She’s waiting for Bette to say “I want it to happen again.”
As they begin to walk past each other, Tina decides to take a big chance and “show her cards.” She asks Bette if she is in love with Jodi. Bette is now afraid because she didn’t think Tina was going to confront her with that question, and she didn’t want to bring Jodi into the conversation. Bette slowly turns around to partially face Tina, and in the worst imitation of someone trying to be honest, but perhaps is just lashing out in hurt instead, Bette says she is in love with Jodi. Bette and the audience know she’s not, but Tina hears otherwise.
It is often the silences and beats between Laurel and Jennifer that lend an air of authenticity to their scenes, and this is once again the case here. The audience feels as if they are peeking into a conversation between an actual couple, and that’s part of the magic these acting partners are able to weave, seemingly effortlessly.
In the final part of this scene, Bette lies to Tina by saying she is in love with Jodi. Tina looks at Bette, her face rid of all pretense, and Bette’s answer is like a sucker punch to Tina’s gut. Laurel uses her body to convey Tina’s emotions, and when she walks away from Bette, the camera focuses entirely on Tina. Her shoulders are hunched over, her walk is stilted like her legs have suddenly been filled with lead, and her head slightly down. It’s the physical reaction of someone’s body when she feels rejected and wounded. Tina took a chance and “showed her cards,” and she lost. She staggers away, feeling Bette’s rejection completely. It was a truly remarkable piece of acting and remains one of the more memorable and brilliant turns this season.
This was the reason Tina continued to throw caution to the wind and decided to live it up at the party, Bette or no Bette.
Season 5, Episode 10: The Campsite Reveal
The gang rode bicycles as Team Dana, in honor of Dana and breast cancer awareness. Once they are settled at the campsite and night has fallen, they decide to play a game called “I Never.”
Tina, like Kit, is not part of a couple. Bette is sitting beside Jodi. The only other person who knows about Tina and Bette is Kit, who is sitting on Bette’s other side. All during the time they’ve been at the campfire before they start playing the game, Tina and Bette steal longing glances at each other.
These glances become more intense and meaningful as the game progresses. As they are playing the game, the “I never cheated….” scenario is posed, and after people sip or don’t sip their beer, they have a conversation about what constitutes cheating. As in any group of friends, you will find a variety of answers, and these friends are no different.
Tasha says she thinks even thinking about cheating with someone else is cheating, and most everyone disagrees with her. Then Jenny asks everyone to raise their hands if they think kissing is cheating. Thus begins a turn of events that spirals headlong into unmasking secrets, and the stolen glances between Tina and Bette become unintentional but agonizing, open wounds for the secret holders and the one from whom the secret was being kept.
Everyone but Bette raises their hand. Tom, Jodi’s interpreter, notices that Bette is the only one who hasn’t raised her hand and asks her why. Bette says, “I don’t know. I think it’s a trap to judge. I mean I think there are different situations and you can’t really…..” She’s interrupted by who else but Alice, who jokingly but pointedly says, “Oh my god, that’s such a non-answer.” She then looks over at Jodi and indiscreetly says “Bette is a big old cheater.” To which Bette looks at her, shakes her head, forcing a smile and says “Alice”. Shane then chimes in telling Alice to give Bette a break. Tina sees where this could lead, and immediately tries to move onto the next topic. Alice won’t let up: “Bette, come on. You were a giant cheater. It was a phase. I’m not saying you are now, but you know you cheated on Tina, you cheated on me.” Alice is oblivious to Bette’s uneasiness, and continues: “You cheated. There was a lot of cheating.” Alice looks for confirmation from the gang. We see Tina’s look of disbelief at the disaster unfolding. No one says a word.
Alice has not had the last word on this, and keeps hammering her point home: “Right, you guys, come on, you saw it. She was a ginormous cheater. Ok, leave me alone (speaking as Bette). Sorry.”
Then Jodi turns to Bette and jokingly says, “Were you?” Bette looks at her helplessly. Jodi again jokingly asks, “Were you cheating on me?” and laughs at the prospect. Bette laughs nervously as Tina looks at both of them in horror, that their secret affair is going to be exposed in this way. This was Tina’s worst nightmare coming true. Earlier in the day, Tina asked Bette to agree not tell Jodi that they were fooling around even before she and Jodi broke up. Tina didn’t want to hurt Jodi, and she didn’t want people to think less of her for having an affair with Bette behind Jodi’s back. Tina looks like she’s going to be sick, and abruptly leaves, unable to listen to the revelation. Bette looks at Tina with sympathy as she leaves.
Alice calls after Tina, and Jodi looks to Bette, still smiling, to find out what’s going on. Bette is speechless, almost paralyzed, with a look of guilt on her face. Jodi shakes her head, asking “what?” and still Bette is paralyzed. Jodi then realizes that Bette cheated on her with Tina. Jodi feels not only betrayed, but humiliated by the way she found out about her cheating. Much as Tina was when their friends discovered that Bette was still seeing Candace, and told Tina that Bette wouldn’t call until she got Candace out of her system. Bette has come a long way since Candace. She didn’t want to callously hurt Jodi, but unfortunately because she kept putting off telling Jodi, circumstances forced the masks to be shed.
This was a superbly written, directed, and acted scene.
Soon afterwards, Alice and Shane join Tina in her tent. She’s sitting alone, drinking her beer. She’s been crying and her eyes are red. Alice and Shane ask Tina what’s going on. Tina, angry and upset, exhales and pushes away an invisible foe with her hands as she says she doesn’t want to talk about it. Alice cuts to the chase and asks Tina if she is having an affair with Bette. Tina answers quietly, “maybe a month.” Alice wants to know why Tina never told her, and Tina rightly calls Alice out. “Because you have a big mouth.”
Alice asks if they are getting back together and Tina continues to lose her temper. “I don’t know! I don’t know what the fuck we’re doing.” She’s lost, guilty, confused and angry … angry at herself as well. She looks hopelessly at both Shane and Alice. They both shake their heads and say incredulously, “this is crazy.”
The scene then takes a turn towards the humorous as Shane, who is infamous among the group for knowing all, says “I never saw this coming.” They all take a simultaneous drink from their beer bottles and provide the audience with another priceless, laugh-out-loud moment.
The next time we see them, they’re back in serious mode, as Shane reminds Tina that Jodi moved across the country to be with Bette. Tina looks like she wants to fold up like a cot and fling herself in a corner. The guilt on her tear-stained face is simultaneously striking and touching. Tina defends herself and what she says is true: “I never wanted it to happen this way. I didn’t even want to come on this trip. I didn’t want it to happen….” Alice can’t help herself once again and asks Tina point blank: “Are you in love with Bette? Again?”
Tina is a woman on the verge of breaking down, and she does. Tina cries as she confesses, “I’ve always been in love with her. And I feel like an asshole that I’m doing this to Jodi but I just want her back. And I’m scared because I’ll probably fuck it up, but I have to do it, you know. I can’t help it. It’s something I can’t help. I want to be with her.”
Alice and Shane comfort and support Tina, as they have for months. They tell Tina that she and Bette belong together. That they always have. It’s true.
Then Tina, while still in a confessional mood, says something that has startled some – but not all – when she admits: “I fucking hate women.”
There is no proof in the text of the show that Tina was ever hurt by a man, not like a woman (Bette) hurt her. Tina’s relationship to women is to some extent as uneasy and mistrustful, as Jenny’s relationship is with men, and we hear her admit it in the tent. There is a part of Tina that feels in some way about women as Jenny feels about men. It may not be as strong a feeling as Jenny’s about men, but it’s there.
What we observed in Tina this season during her affair with Bette was that she was hesitant throughout. She’s still not sure about Bette in terms of what she needs from Tina, and if Bette will be true to her. Will Bette revert to her tendency to destroy what is good in her life, as she confessed to Tina in the elevator? Tina’s still taking a risk getting involved with Bette once again. It’s not that she doesn’t love Bette as much as Bette loves her. In fact, Tina loves her like crazy. She cannot help it. As the audience has seen, Tina has grown tremendously as a woman, and she is in a much better place now to deal with Bette’s destructive tendencies. Tina is also afraid of being consumed by her love for Bette again, and this is apparent when she tries to slow Bette down in the season finale, both in the car and by the pool. In 511, Tina also tells Shane that they are not going to do anything until Bette sorts things out with Jodi. Tina is trying to deal with her relationship in a more mature way.
Season 5, Episode 12: Tina stands up to The Man (and the woman)
As discussed in the previous section, Tina really came into her own as the boss in her work this season, although her journey was fraught with compromise and Diva Jenny. Like her renewed relationship with Bette, it was a showcase for how much Tina has grown as a person.
The scene we previously described from the finale was the culmination of all that Tina had gone through as producer of Lez Girls. From the adversarial relationship with Jenny that settles into a genuine bond, to the new friendships she forged and the respect of peers, crew, and talent that she won.
In the finale, Tina fights a new battle. She stands up to the marketing people and then to William, Aaron and Adele for wanting to change the ending into a triumphant heterosexual love story.
Not only is Tina her own woman professionally, but the anger and passion with which Tina defended the depiction of gay love as triumphant over the Hollywoodized, heterosexualized betrayal meant more coming from this particular character, because of her recent history. She stood up for what was right and she lived up to her principles. Tina triumphed as a human being. She won, even if she won’t get the ending she fought for. What’s more, she did it in front of the very people who meant the most to her: Bette, Kit and her friends.
This scene was the ending to a very satisfying season for those of us who have really liked the actress Laurel Holloman and her body of work, from the time she graced our screens as Randy Dean to her current incarnation as Tina Kennard. We hope next season is as good as this one for Tina, and that she is written with as much passion, complexity, humor, sexiness and fun as she was this season.
Thank you to Laurel Holloman for her splendid work on TLW, and thank you for a brilliant S5. Here’s to a grand S6. May it be as rewarding for you to play as it was for the audience to watch you don the complex persona of Tina Kennard.