Listen up, Pose fans, the night has finally arrived: the AIDS Cabaret Benefit is about to start! But first, a few things: our episode begins at, where else? A ball. But while Pray Tell is tending to his emcee duties, he suddenly begins to feel strange, and then faints on stage. We next find him in the hospital surrounded by Blanca and Nurse Judy. It turns out that he’s experiencing AZT toxicity, which according to Nurse Judy generally goes away.
If you all recall, after Candy died, Pray decided to give AZT a chance (especially at the behest of Blanca and Nurse Judy). Pray’s biggest fear was that the medication would only make him sicker. Low and behold his current state, and you can imagine he’s not exactly wanting hugs from either of his visitors. He demands the right to throw a tantrum and asks them to leave.
Pray ends up with a roommate in his room who has pneumonia. Hours later, the man has a heart attack and dies right in front of Pray. Belligerent himself overseeing his roommate die, a nurse injects Pray with some kind of sedative and he proceeds to have some pretty vivid dreams involving Candy, who offers him a “way out” from the world by way of some poisonous pills. Pray refuses and is next met with another vision: this time of his step-father, or rather, the man who abused him as a child. It’s a difficult scene and Pray essentially forgives him for his awful actions.
Finally, a nice dream: Pray sees his old boyfriend Costas (who passed away in season one from AIDS complications), who’s there to escort him to the AIDS benefit. Suddenly we see Pray in a beautiful outfit, complete with a top hat and train. And when the spotlight hits, we hear Pray sing “The Man That Got Away,” originally sung by none other than Judy Garland in the 1954 version of A Star Is Born. Extremely solid choice for the cabaret, plus who isn’t head over heels for Judy?!
Meanwhile, Blanca’s been having to deal with getting the talent for the cabaret and continues to strike out. But she does end up acquiring one strange addition to the night’s line-up: her landlady, Federica (played by the incomparable Patti Lupone). But would Federica actually do anything out of the goodness of her heart? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
Once the night of the cabaret arrives, Blanca and Pray have a talk…by which I mean Pray is pissed at Blanca and they both argue a bit until they realize they love each other too much and eventually crack smiles. Pray agrees to go check out the cabaret, and Blanca sets off to host. It begins a little melancholy, with a slow tune sung by Nurse Judy, but then Federica takes the stage and does a bang-up job. But she’s also up to more than that, as moments later we see her on the phone with her son, who is boarding up Blanca’s nail salon while Federica keeps an eye on her. It’s pretty wretched, but then this is what we all get for trusting that one.
Elektra hits the stage afterward, and while her presence is there, her ability to hit all the right notes definitely is not. Still, A for effort and all. And finally, Blanca puts on her own performance and does a phenomenal job. It only gets better when Pray finally shows up and joins her on stage. If you ever needed a musical episode where all the music actually fits and improved on the story, this would definitely be it. The benefit ends with an added surprise: Blanca goes public about her HIV status. It’s a step forward in destigmatization and she goes on to remind all of them that the first letter in HIV stands for Human. They must always remember that this is what and who they are. Thank you for scenes like these, Pose writers!
Blanca’s high from the benefit is cut short when she returns to her nail salon to find it boarded up. But when have we ever seen Blanca stay away from a challenge? The next day she stages a protest right outside calling Federica out, and Pray makes sure it’s well attended. Blanca also shares that she’s already looking into taking legal action against Federica, so we’ll have to wait and see how that pans out next time.