In the penultimate episode of “I Am Cait,” two names loomed large: Bruce Jenner and Kris Jenner.
As the eight-part E! docu-series cruises in for a landing, the meeting between exes Kris and Caitlyn is being positioned as a major payoff in next week’s finale. And why not! Our heroine Cait will, as promised, go up against her ex-wife, whom we’ve been led to believe has ignored her transitioning former mate -- father to two of her girls -- for the past year.
Not a call, not a peep, nothing. Kris hasn’t even met Caitlyn. And when she does, she’ll probably do something lame, like notice Cait’s shoes, or bring a box of cookies.
But first, because this is Cait, we have to take a trip to that walk-in closet for a little bit of girl time, this time with stylist Jen Rade, who’ll create the look for the ESPY Awards appearance that we’ve been waiting for since the series’ first episode.
“The bottom line is, I really need a professional to kind of coordinate everything,” explains Caitlyn, whose seemingly full-time hair and makeup staff simply isn’t enough. “And actually, she does Angelina Jolie, and I just love her look. Very casual, very elegant.”
Jen arrives and Cait immediately takes her to the closet, where Jen approves of everything she sees and remarks that Caitlyn has “a bit of a hippie” in her.
“I like just kind of blending in,” the former Olympian says, only to be reminded by Jen that that ship sailed long ago.
After all, high heels put Cait “around 6-foot-9.” Still, never fear: Her “level of skill” in stilettos is “professional,” she explains to Jen, who’s likely thinking about her client’s million-mile walk onto the ESPYs stage. Caitlyn notes that she’s been wearing heels for a very long time.
Jen doesn’t have to worry about a red-carpet look, however, because Caitlyn will parachute in during a commercial break and flee out the back door immediately after her speech.
“I don’t want to be out there in the media where they’re asking me stupid questions,” Caitlyn says, scoring points for outing the majority of all red-carpet questions as, well, stupid. Which they are.
“All they’ll have is that image on stage ... I can control my message.” Jen is onboard with limiting what the media have to “work with.”
Indefatigable assistant Ronda Kamihira has something more difficult to work with, however, and that’s how Caitlyn sees herself at the country club. Because weeks into her transition, Caitlyn still sees her golf self as Bruce, at least when it comes to signing up for the par-three course that will carry Sherwood Country Club through nine months of construction on the main links. And Ronda’s the one who gets to wrangle the paperwork.
“At Sherwood, we’re still doing the ol’ Bruce thing,” Caitlyn informs her minion. The membership, she says, is under the name Bruce.
“I don’t understand why you’re putting Bruce down as opposed to Caitlyn,” Ronda prods. “I mean, really? ... Why can’t you go in fresh as Caitlyn? What are you going to do, wear your hoodie, and pretend you’re not ...? Are you going to wear a skirt?” Ronda is not giving up, because Caitlyn is being fairly ridiculous.
What it comes down to is that Caitlyn’s not ready to deal with it all -- which pretty much means the locker-room situation. She hisses through clenched teeth: “Let’s just put Bruce down, it’s fine.” The rest will come later. After all, tomorrow is another day.
Or maybe not -- because pal Candis Cayne isn’t buying what Caitlyn’s selling. Forget the conservative nature of the club, forget the women in their 70s and 80s who might not want a trans woman in their locker room. “You can’t play both sides of the fence anymore,” Candis says. “You’re way beyond that. Come on. There’s no excuse. Just sign your name as Caitlyn from now on and move on.”
Yup, Cait -- Bruce is gone. That happened.
The 65-year-old then gets a lesson in legal name and gender changes from the mouths of babes, or at least the mouths of tweens and teens. Chandi Moore, never shy to call Caitlyn out on her crap, leads a group of trans kids who have struggled with lives in which their legal identity doesn’t always match their public presentation.
Traffic stops, in particular, can go sideways. “I get all those messed-up questions,” Ethan explains. “Like, you don’t need to know what I have underneath my clothes.” Another teen shares an incident in which officers started asking how much her wig and implants had cost, and whether she’d had bottom-half surgery or not.
Suddenly, freaking out the folks at the country club falls into perspective for Caitlyn.
But Holly, a member of the youth group, has a positive message for the “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” veteran.
“I just want to say thank you so much for the work you’re doing. It’s reaching a lot of people. I never thought that in a million years that my father would reach out to me, and he sent me an email a few days ago and he told me he wants to get to know me as Holly, and that’s such a big deal to me,” she says. “Thank you so much. I never thought it would happen.”
The “few days ago” Holly references would have been right around the time “I Am Cait” fired up on TV. A bit later, the year-plus legal process to change a person’s name and gender marker in California will be explained to the star of the show, who will decide it’s time to get that ball rolling toward the “golden ticket” identifying her as her new self.
Kudos received from Chandi’s gang, Caitlyn is back to freaking out about her ESPYs speech, which will be five to six minutes long and, she says, the most difficult thing she’s ever done. The kids are onboard, for the most part, and she’s rallying her sisters and her mom to attend, even though the “ornery old gal” has gone and broken her hip. How dare she! Caitlyn will be devastated if Esther can’t make the trip.
But Esther does make the trip! What a gal! And her wheelchair comes dangerously close to running over her newest daughter’s pedicure as she crosses the threshold! So many firsts! Caitlyn’s sisters are noticeably less tense than they were in the first episode of the series, and everyone’s invited to the ESPYs!
Everyone except, well, Kris Jenner. She doesn’t call, she doesn’t write, she doesn’t answer Caitlyn’s calls ... and Caitlyn didn’t invite her.
Cue yet another tease to the Big Kris Meeting that we can only pray actually happens before the series runs out of episodes. We have memorized every wrinkle in the ruching of the pale-blue body-conscious dress Caitlyn will be wearing when she opens her front door and meets her ex for the first time in this new presentation.
Then reality (TV) intrudes, and it’s time for a dinner party at Geoffrey’s in Malibu, where the miso braised tofu costs five bucks more after dark than it does at lunch but Esther’s misplaced pronouns cost her only a teasing reprimand from Candis as the trans girls meet the family. It goes swimmingly. And yes, 89-year-old Mom can’t help but call Caitlyn “Bruce.” Old habits and all that ...
The next day, Caitlyn slings her crossbody bag into place and heads out for the awards show in her normal position, reclining sideways across the back seat of an SUV to hide from the paparazzi. “This is quite comfortable,” she says. “Got my little pillow.”
Cait’s not the only one who’s dolling it up for the ESPYs: Chandi and Candis are enjoying the red carpet, with Chandi in a special gown designed by Candis’ costumer. They have a moment, where Chandi is overwhelmed that someone would do something nice for her. Caitlyn, of course, simply makes do with Versace, send over by Donatella herself.
The images from the ESPYs are familiar -- Caitlyn a tower in white onstage, voice cracking as she says she was most afraid of hurting her family, with shots of the Kardashian and Jenner kids, and of course Diane Sawyer -- but the behind-the-scenes insight is fresh.
“I’m standing there, all Caitlyn, totally out,” she says in an after-the-fact interview. “I feel so unbelievably vulnerable.” (Which is touching, actually.)
And poof, the ESPYs are over. Hmph. That was easy?
Of course it was, because the Real Challenge is going to be Kris. Did we mention that Caitlyn and Kris haven’t talked for a year now, and they’ll be meeting in an upcoming episode? Because they will meet, the promos tell us. And Caitlyn will be wearing a pale-blue dress and cropped white sweater. And she’ll put out a cheese plate. And Kris will bring cookies. And there will be uncomfortable pauses. We have it all memorized.
But wait! Before the Big Kris Meeting rolls around, it’s time to bag on Kris a little more for never letting Caitlyn decorate her own home when they were married. Looks as if a massive team of interior designers is also part of the gender-transition process -- at least for reality TV stars.
“Kris and I right now, I learn more about her by reading stuff online,” Caitlyn grumbles. “When Kris and I separated, it was as much her idea as it was mine. And we mutually decided to go our separate directions.
“She went out and found the house for me. She went out and decorated the house. She was ready for me to get out of that place.”
Nevertheless, maybe it’s time for Caitlyn to reach out and call Kris -- who of course hasn’t set up her cellphone voicemail yet. “Call again later. That’s my life,” Caitlyn pouts.
Gal pal Jenny Boylan is luckier by far -- her wife, Deedie Finney Boylan, stayed in their marriage after Jenny’s transition. Caitlyn explains that she “certainly was open about this” with Kris early in their marriage, but suspects Kris “never thought it would come to this.”
“Probably, knowing me, I downplayed it,” Cait admits to the Boylans. Kris has said they never discussed the possibility that a transition might happen -- so why not cut to archived footage from “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” that shows the future Caitlyn making Kris show her ugly cry face when she hears the brutal truth. Jenny then explains that Kris may never feel about Caitlyn the way Caitlyn would like Kris to feel.
Deedie, a social worker, explains in an interview that while trans people get “really giddy” as they move into being their true selves, the rest of the family can be left in the dust trying to mourn their loss and figure out what just happened. It doesn’t mean someone who chooses not to stay with a trans partner wasn’t a “good enough” spouse, Deedie says. Clearly, Deedie hasn’t heard all of Caitlyn’s opinions about Kris.
Thank heavens, Kris finally picks up the phone when Caitlyn reaches out again, because the suspense was killing us, and the exes decide to meet.
“Kris can be very strong. Very opinionated,” Caitlyn says, painting with that broad brush once again. “It’s kind of nerve-racking. But I just have to do it.”
The audience is then left to wonder how many people helped Kris get ready, as we travel back into Caitlyn’s closet, where Jenny phones in a what-to-wear consult as makeup artist Courtney and assistant Ronda take up their positions, ready to spring into action to make Caitlyn and Caitlyn’s hair and Caitlyn’s makeup happen.
So yeah, pale blue dress. Cropped white sweater.
“Look at you! Nice shoes!,” Kris exclaims as Caitlyn opens the door.
Cookies. Cheese plate. Awkward silence. “So?,” Caitlyn asks.
To be continued. Finally.