There's a little Bruce left in Caitlyn Jenner, Kim Kardashian observes on the most recent episode of "I Am Cait," and it appears that Bruce was kind of a tool.
The fourth episode of the E! docu-series, which follows Jenner's transition to life as a woman, doesn't have the celebratory escapism of the trans-girls road trip that anchored the previous two shows, focusing instead on some hurt family feelings sparked by Caitlyn's Vanity Fair interview and addressing, rather bluntly, the "freak factor" that comes with the transgender territory.
The episode starts once again with Caitlyn waking up in the wee hours and talking to the camera sans makeup. This morning, she's freaked out by a bad dream.
"I had this nightmare that I was in a parking area and there were so many paparazzis around me that I couldn't get out. And they're, like, taking pictures. And just, it was like, horrible. Absolutely horrible," she says. "And you know that those pictures are going into the rags, and they're going to write their own stupid little story, and I don't want that. I got a much bigger message to get across."
Perhaps the nightmare was inspired by Cait's visit, shown in previous episodes, to the Human Rights Campaign's San Francisco office, where less advantaged trans women shared their real-life horror stories about beatings, death threats and sex work?
It's all relative: Those women didn't have to face Kim Kardashian.
"Uh-oh, it's trouble in town....," Caitlyn singsongs as Kim shows up in Malibu. She knows Kim wants to speak her mind about family fallout from the Vanity Fair interview. Caitlyn also hopes she'll get a chance to defend herself. It turns out she's pretty good at being defensive, we'll soon see. "So, am I in trouble? ... How can I be in trouble? Sweet adorable little thing like me."
Says Kim: "You still have a little Bruce in you. I thought Caitlyn would be a little kinder."
Seems Khloe Kardashian sent Caitlyn a nasty text message defending her mother after Caitlyn said less-than-flattering things about Kris Jenner to the magazine. Kim explains that's how Khloe talks to everybody, emphasizing "it's not just you," and that Caitlyn needs to realize "there's some things you said that you might not realize were hurtful." Things such as Kendall and Kylie Jenner being a distraction, and the implication that if Kris had been more accepting of Caitlyn, they might still be together.
"And that's the most unfair thing in the world to say ...," Kim declares. "If you are a woman now, she is not a lesbian. She does not want to be with a woman. That's not fair to ask."
(Among Caitlyn's quotes to VF: "A lot of times she wasn't very nice. People would see how I got mistreated. She controlled the money ... all that kind of stuff," and "She became less tolerant of me. Then I'd get upset and the whole relationship kind of fizzled." There's a reference to how "all the family issues" would have been a distraction had the Jenner children decided to participate in "I Am Cait." And as to the reasons for the Jenners' marriage ending, "Twenty percent was gender and 80 percent was the way I was treated." Meanwhile, Kris told the magazine that her ex didn't tell her about the gender dysphoria until after the divorce. "It was," Kris said, "the most passive-agressive thing I think I've ever experienced.")
Khloe "doesn't know anything about my side of the story," Caitlyn says, flexing those defensive muscles. She tries to explain how the relationship with Kris changed in the final years, making then-Bruce feel unneeded.
But Kim isn't having any of it. "You said, 'Oh, Kris mistreated me.' It sounded like she beat the ... out of you. You could have had a little respect ...," she says. "You've got the fame, but you're losing your family. ... You look amazing, it's your time. But you don't have to bash us on your way up."
Caitlyn thinks everyone, "especially Kris," is reading too much into every little word. Kim says the thing to do at this point is to mend it all, show a unified front and move on. But how?
"You think a tweet?" Caitlyn proposes with no sense of irony whatsoever.
Kim approves of the idea, saying a public acknowledgment of, well, something would improve everyone's spirits.
(The resulting tweet, sent June 12: "Reading the VF article reminded me of the love & good times Kris & I shared for so many years. Wouldn't trade that time for anything!")
"But I can't apologize unless they come out here", says Caitlyn, who apparently has no phone, or doesn't know how to use one, because she tells Kim to have Kris call her.
Then it was time for more fun stuff, like figuring out what to take to a slumber party at new gal pal Candis Cayne's house. Bring on the hot-pink shortie nightie with the neon yellow trim and matching hot pink shortie robe -- or perhaps simply the white PJs?
Hair-and-makeup gal Courteney acts as consultant, suggesting to Caitlyn, "Maybe you go with black because you're feeling a little naughty" about spending the night with Candis, who everyone wants to set up with the former Olympic champion despite Candis' revelation last week that she is more attracted to men.
"Don't even go there. Get your mind out of the gutter," Caitlyn chides.
"It kind of sounds like fun," the former "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" fixture says of the sleepover idea, "but I have no idea what goes on. I don't know if I'll be comfortable."
Courteney then spills 100% Authentic Girl Secrets, revealing that slumber parties are magical events where girls have pillow fights, tell ghost stories and "compare boob sizes." Sigh.
The dishiest the sleepover gets is when Caitlyn reveals that she worries about someone approaching her and how would she handle that. When Candis asks if she'd consider going on a date with someone, Cait blushes and simply can't answer. Too much! Too soon! So, back to the safe zone that is dress-up -- and the ladies head for Candis' closet to try on outfits. Unfortunately, Caitlyn tries on the gold-seqin mini. Again, sigh.
Shockingly, there's not a pillow fight in sight.
The doorbell rings and it's Jen Richards and Kate Bornstein, author, performance artist and gender theorist. "You and I share timelines," 67-year-old Kate points out to 65-year-old Caitlyn. "We go like this," Kate says, making gestures that look like strands of DNA intertwining.
"So, you've joined the club. Your mind must be fried," Kate says after Caitlyn wraps up a short soliloquy about all the love and goodness she's seen so far in her transition. Cait says she's learned so much in the last month, six weeks, and it's been a "fun journey."
"Have you been dealing well with the freak factor? 'Cause that's a fact," states Kate, a voice of experience who underwent sex-reassignment surgery from male to female in 1986 before redefining as a "gender outlaw" a few years later. "We are freaks to a lot of the world."
"Um," Caitlyn says, "I really feel like what we're really trying to do here is kind of normalize this as much as we possibly can."
"Wellllll," says a relentless Kate, "part of the reason you want to is 'cause you don't want to be a freak."
"And who does?," Kate continues, finally giving an inch. "That's what stopped me for years and years from moving forward."
Caitlyn admits, "You are going to have that segment of the population that going to say yes, this is the biggest freak show I've ever seen, and especially for me to do something like that."
Kate suggests getting through it all by "owning the freakdom, with heart. And going, 'Yeah, I'm a freak, and I love you, and I won't hurt you, and I won't be mean to you, you have my word on that.'"
Incidentally, Kate takes time to address viewers about the difference between a person who's accepting and one who's an ally. To be a transgender ally, she says, a person should ask what the trans person needs and figure out how much of that he or she can offer -- because what might be needed more than supportive words is something along the lines of a bodyguard.
"Ask. Don't assume you know," Kate says. "Don't assume everybody's big issue is gender-free bathrooms. It's not. And for some people it is the most pressing issue. Ask. That's the first step of being a good ally."
Kate follows up that bit of wisdom with a pearl specifically tailored to Caitlyn's well-publicized coming-out.
"One word of warning: You're entering an adolescence. You're going to go through everything you went through in adolescence before," Kate says. "It's going to happen again. This happens whenever someone takes on a new identity. It's all about, 'Oh my God, they're looking at me ... oh no, they're looking at me, what am I going to do?' And we learn to get through adolescence."
Keep in mind, they're all, in theory, at a slumber party. So, point taken. But only Caitlyn spends the night -- in super-cute jammies, no less. The white ones. Unfortunately, the next morning, Caitlyn floats out Candis' kitchen door in a shirt that reveals a good bit of midriff. What was that about a second adolescence? Shh. Nobody tell her she's 65.
Moving on from the slumber party, things get serious again as Caitlyn talks to an expert about the issues she's having with her family. Khloe's less upset about the transition, she says, than about things that were said about her mother in the Vanity Fair article. Caitlyn says the girls haven't had a chance to see her other side and appears to conflate her family's acceptance of her transition with their acceptance of her behavior as a human being. The expert says it takes time -- possibly more time than Caitlyn would prefer.
But enough about the family: Caitlyn moves on to a program at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles that helps families of transgender kids. There, she crosses paths with Chaz Bono, who became a man legally in May 2010 and is a program facilitator.
"We get to see through the kids the transformation that happens with the parents" as the moms and dads work through transition-related issues, Chaz says, "and suddenly the kids are doing so much better, the families are doing better. They're happy, they're healthy. A different kid emerges."
A little while later, back in Malibu, a different Kardashian kid emerges: It's Khloe, she of the "tough" text messages.
To break the ice, Khloe asks about Caitlyn's purse, which turns out to have been a gift from Donatella Versace herself and is not yet available in stores. The conversation turns to fake lashes, eyelash extensions and Khloe's lower lashes.
Caitlyn takes a moment to tell Khloe about the things she's learned in recent weeks, including big problems such as trans homelessness, "the people on the streets."
"Aw. That's not good," Khloe says.
"Enough of that," Caitlyn declares abruptly. It's time to talk about those text messages.
Khloe explains that she and her sisters are there to support Caitlyn in her endeavors, but that doesn't mean Caitlyn gets to drag their mom through the mud. Especially with Kylie and Kendall in the picture too.
It's here that Caitlyn gets defensive once again, apparently about messages she sent telling Khloe she didn't know what she was talking about.
"You don't know," Caitlyn says. "You don't know. To be very honest with you, if she would've been OK with me ... "
"OK with you transitioning and still being married to her?," Khloe asks.
"Not so much the transition, just living with it," Caitlyn says. "She just had to be OK. Instead, I constantly had to hide myself. I wasn't able to talk about it. Then once I got out to Malibu [when they separated before divorcing], and went our separate directions, I said, here I am, my age, and I've got the same problems I had when I was 10 years old. What the hell am I gonna do with this? Am I going to continue to hide? I'm sick of that."
"I didn't think it was, like, a hatchet job on your mother. I have no issues with her," she continues.
Separate from their conversation, Khloe notes to the camera, "Caitlyn kind of -- she's allowed to have her own feelings but she's very one-sided, and I don't think that's fair. There's so much I could say but it's a losing battle and I'm just over it. At the end of the day, some things Cait just won't understand, and I don't want to fight anymore."
Speaking of Kris, Caitlyn says, "Honestly, I wish she would call, you know? I'd have her out to the house," Khloe says she'll pass that along, because once again it appears to be too much for Caitlyn to pick up a phone and make that call herself.
Then there's one more thing about Vanity Fair: "When I said that the kids were a distraction, you're taking it in the wrong context. A distraction from who I am, yes; it doesn't mean that I use them as a distraction. It was a distraction from my soul," Caitlyn explains in a way that explains essentially nothing other than the fact that this is all about her.
Caitlyn says she has no malice in her heart and soul, and Khloe says their methods of communication have diminished. How could they fix this?
Group text messages! A short lesson in group texting ensues, albeit not before a bit more gloating about that straight-from-Donatella purse.
Because, as Caitlyn says, if you can keep the communication open, you can get through anything.
As long as someone else, it seems, picks up the phone first.