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Catching Up with 'Lip Service' Episode 2: Recap and Review

Catching Up with 'Lip Service' Episode 2: Recap and Review

 Lip Service follows the lives of six lesbian women living in Glasgow, Scotland. Already being hailed as the “British L Word,” the six-part drama has been described as “a bold new drama in contemporary Glasgow. Lip Service creator, Harriet Braun, says she hopes her latest drama is authentic to lesbian viewers and their lives.  Braun says it was important to her that the main lesbian characters Cat, Frankie, Lou and Tess, played by Laura Fraser, Ruta Gedmintas, Roxanne McKee and Fiona Button respectively, came across as authentic to a lesbian audience. Here's a recap of the second episode.

While we realize Lip Service has already aired a few episodes in the UK, we've just found a UK-based writer to expound on the relevancy of the show while offering a blow-by-blow recap! We'll be caught up soon for those of you who are watching weekly but for those of us across the pond, it's great to know what's happening with this break-out show for the BBC. Thanks A.P.!

The second episode of the BBC’s lesbian drama Lip Service commences in Lou’s (Roxanne McKee) boudoir of unilateral pleasure. When Tess (Fiona Button) attempts to guide Lou to the notion of reciprocity Lou conveniently realises she has to get to work. They discuss Tess’ career (or lack thereof); Lou begrudgingly agrees to help Tess become a runner on her daytime TV talk show on the condition that Lou’s closet door remains firmly closed. While Lou showers Tess puts a battery-operated implement to good use and finishes what Lou failed to start. 

Tess returns home still experiencing afterglow, but Cat (Laura Fraser) is less impressed by Lou’s pillow princess practices and suggests that Tess invite Lou for dinner with Cat and Puppy -- my name for James Anthony Pearson’s loyal Ed -- to prise open her closet door, or maybe just leave it slightly ajar.

Next up, Tess starts her job as a runner a.k.a. dogsbody subject to the whims of others. Lou introduces her as ‘an old school friend’ and Tess feels the first pangs of insecurity over Lou’s affiliations with the opposite sex.

And to make things even more complicated, Lou lays down the law of no affection in the workplace, even in empty rooms. Not only is her closet door shut but she has erected an electrified perimeter fence. Tess’ insecurity drives her to distraction and the accidental destruction of a wedding cake. The production manager screams blue murder at Tess but the incident endears her further into Lou’s affections. 

Later, Tess, Puppy and Cat prepare dinner for Lou but Tess can’t find the nuts for the trifle (surely an act of divine intervention, only Hundreds and Thousands should grace the top of this underrated dessert). When Puppy finds them (so much for divine intervention), Tess exclaims, “I love you, you’re a genius,” another crack forms across Puppy’s heart. Alas, Lou calls and cancels due to ‘exhaustion.’ Tess is devastated, but even more so when she discovers, the next day, that Lou lied and was out drinking with her colleagues.

A devastated Tess then picks up an interviewee for the show, a child psychologist, from the airport and finds her drunk and incoherent. At the studio the child psychologist passes out, face first, into the armrest of a couch.

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Tess agrees to impersonate the comatose professional but only because Lou will not cope if they go live without a guest. The ruse collapses when callers ask for advice with their children, she offers truly Tess-tastic advice (see end of article). Here endeth her career.

Unwilling to be taken for granted Tess confronts Lou about her lying and cowardice. Lou concedes and cries, but, in her defence, her drinking with the crew was to numb her guilt over cancelling dinner. Tess softens and reconciliation is affirmed by an exchange of the ‘I really like you’s which are characteristic of early dating.

Back at the boudoir of unilateral pleasure things get decidedly bilateral. Admittedly, during this scene, I was preoccupied by Lou’s long fingernails (finished with a French polish). Let’s hope her induction covered the relevant safety issues concerning the sporting of talons in a lesbian relationship.   

On to Cat’s story – she accompanies Frankie (Ruta Gedmintas) to her aunt’s funeral in spite of the grotesque scene she witnessed in the last episode -- Frankie copulating near a corpse -- her reasoning being that she wants to desensitise to Frankie’s presence. One would think the macabre tableau in the funeral parlour sufficient for releasing oneself from another’s emotional hold – apparently not.

They arrive late for the funeral; Frankie’s presence is not well received and her uncle stops Frankie from participating in the throwing of soil, so she defiantly picks soil from the ground and throws it onto the coffin.

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At the wake Frankie finds she is conspicuously absent from the family photographs and her cousin explains that her aunt sent her photo album to the solicitor handling her will. No one knows the identity of the recipient. Frankie becomes drunk and belligerent, making a show of pocketing a whole tray of Forrero Rocher because she’s unlikely to get any inheritance.  Personally, I think the cutlery would have been a better choice in terms of functional longevity. Easing her pain the only way she knows how, Frankie shifts into lecherous mode and turns her attention to Cat (the relevant reveal being that Frankie and Cat had tattoos done together). Cat’s protestations are unheeded until a well-placed elbow knocks Frankie away. Frankie’s uncle drags her out; they argue in the corridor and he claims her aunt never loved Frankie as much as her own daughter. Frankie responds with a succinct “fuck you” and storms out. 

Cat attempts to help Frankie but ultimately fails because Frankie is on the warpath and Cat is an easy target. Cat eventually says, “Do you know how much I missed you? Now I wonder why I bothered” and walks off on the verge of tears.

If that weren’t enough drama, a teenage boy steals Cat’s mobile phone; she gives chase, catches him by his hoody and repeatedly slaps his arm demanding the return of her phone. The scene cuts immediately to Cat being escorted through the police station by two policemen. She is protesting her innocence when detective sergeant Sam (Heather Peace) walks up the corridor in the opposite direction and their eyes meet.

Cat is in the interrogation room railing against the injustice of having to answer to an allegation of assault when it is she who is the victim.

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Sam enters and takes over the interview. What follows is a charming and amusing interaction between them.  Sam playfully mocks Cat over her previous comments on police brutality; Cat is sent into a peak of hysteria and delivers a lot of revealing information at the speed of light (including the fact that she likes Sam). Taking it in stride, Sam tells Cat the boy is a repeat offender so Cat will not be charged. Cat calms down, thanks Sam for her help and apologises for berating her over her early departure from their date because “it isn’t a crime not to fancy someone.” Sam replies,  “I never said I didn’t fancy you.”  They arrange another date and viewers everywhere give a collective ‘ah.’

Jay (Emun Elliot) shows Frankie the anniversary present he has bought for Becky (Cush Jumbo)– an expensive necklace, but Jay fails to entice Frankie to open up about her emotions. He talks about being in love with Becky and Frankie redeems herself by not belittling him for his monogamous u-turn.

Next, Frankie visits the solicitor of her aunt’s will, who refuses to disclose the name of the recipient of the photo album.  Frankie enlists the help of a workman in the office by insinuating sexual favours will follow. When he delivers the information she deflates his expectations. The photo album is intended for Annie Cawthorne. Naturally she goes to Annie’s address on a council estate; the flat is empty and deserted, save for some lifting weights and a bag. A young man enters the flat, sees Frankie and runs. Frankie chases after him but doesn’t have Cat’s determination of apprehending people. The mystery continues...(but I’m already bored. Is there a whiff of adoption in the air? Perhaps). 

Frankie tries to call Cat but Cat’s phone has been inadvertently put through the washing machine, courtesy of Tess. Frankie asks Jay for Cat’s new address, he gives it to her but tells her not to go today as she has a date with Sam. Frankie feigns nonchalance and promptly shows up on Cat’s doorstep.

Frankie wants to know whether Cat ever heard her aunt mention Annie Cawthorne. While the question is genuine her timing is a blatant attempt to derail Cat’s plans with Sam. Cat quickly realises Frankie’s less than honourable intentions and rebukes her for her past and current failings. Then Cat lays their past to rest even though Frankie cannot offer any rational defence for her actions; she wasn’t ready for a relationship even though she pursued Cat. I would offer the following reason: Cat is one of Frankie’s many toys and no one else can play with her.

While Cat goes on her date Frankie prowls the streets for an instrument of escape – a woman.

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On the date, Cat talks about architecture and her fastidious nature, both in and out of work. Sam points out that she looks anxious. This opens the gateway to more intimate and honest conversation and Cat voices her date-related fears around small talk, flirting and having been absent from the dating game for some time. She becomes more relaxed when Sam recounts her sartorial dilemmas and near mishap before their date. Cat compliments Sam’s shirt, a flirtation Sam encourages by offering herself as a test subject for Cat to hone her flirting skills. Then Sam moves onto the important question -- why the absence from dating? Cat gives her a brief and sanitised version of the situation with Frankie. She professes to be over Frankie, and I’m hoping, with all of my naive TV viewer optimism that this is indeed the case. And I ask the TV gods to not show my optimism to be misplaced.

Meanwhile, Frankie is on the hunt, she spots a target but aborts the chase when the prey’s date shows up.

Back to Cat and Sam, Sam says how glad she is that they’ve given themselves a second chance. Cat expresses relief because she is in desperate need of the loo but feared that if she went Sam might not be there when she returned. They laugh and Sam says she’s “”not going anywhere.” A second collective ‘ah’?

Back to Frankie on the prowl – she is scoping out the female potential in a bookshop. She spots someone who looks like a younger, hotter version of Mystic Meg. She realises that the dark stranger is shoplifting books, discretely putting them into a presumably bottomless pocket inside her stylish black trench coat. As she turns around she in confronted by Frankie whose expression says ‘I know what you’re up to’. They hold each other’s gaze…it’s almost a standoff, and the woman walks out. Frankie is intrigued.

Frankie tracks down the mystery woman, who is sitting in a cafe reading her spoils, presumably Frankie followed the scent of perfume. She walks in and sits down at mystery woman’s table. No ‘excuse me’, no ‘mind if I sit here?’ -- that would be too conventional. They talk, and mystery woman is as aloof as Frankie and not particularly dazzled by Frankie’s charms. Mystery woman is a thief with morals, stealing from the ‘haves’ and not the ‘have nots.’ Frankie draws a Robin Hood comparison and enquires whether there is a maid Marion. Mystery woman says a maid Marion would cramp her style then she introduces herself as Sadie (Natasha O’Keeffe). Frankie has met her match. 

We then follow the parallel trajectories of Cat and Sam, and Frankie and Sadie. This is where the programme exhibits a glimmer of genius. Frankie and Cat take their respective dates to their respective homes.

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The footage flits between both couples sharing a drink, exchanging personal information and ending up in bed. But the nature, the essence, of what they’re doing drastically diverges. Frankie and Sadie are players; Cat and Sam are not. Where Sadie slinks around the flat – Sam is polite and stands nervously, not knowing what to do with her hands. The information exchanged between Frankie and Sadie is superficial; it’s done more as a formality while they consume their drinks. Sam’s personal storytelling is humble and amusing; Cat and Sam are getting to know each other. 

Finally, Frankie asks Sadie “fancy a fuck?” Sadie replies “always.” Sam, having told a story where she lacked bravery as a bobby on the beat, musters up the courage to say, “I can be brave sometimes,” and walks towards Cat and kisses her.

While Cat and Sam are still kissing in the kitchen, Frankie and Sadie are already in the bedroom in the full throws of fucking, strapped and canine-style; it is fast, rough and seemingly endless. 

When Cat and Sam eventually make it to the bedroom it is a slow and intense affair. The genius is in showing the chasm between sex without emotion and sex with emotion (which is entirely distinct from the type of sex depicted).

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When the excitement is over Frankie offers to call a cab for Sadie, but Sadie has no money and asks if she can stay the night. Frankie says, “Yeah, whatever,” but her tone and body language read, “please go away.” Sadie, for all her player traits, looks disappointed and a little surprised by Frankie’s coldness.

When Frankie wakes up Sadie is is Becky’s expensive necklace. Frankie sees her money has also disappeared.

By contrast, Cat wakes up to Sam kissing her shoulder. Sam asks about Cat’s tattoo and Cat replies she was talked into getting it. When Sam asks by whom, Cat pauses and rolls over to face Sam, and, after another pause, smiles and says “no one important” -- they kiss.   


This episode was brilliant (tedious photo album investigation aside). I am starting to wonder whether Lip Service is attempting to redress the appeal of the lesbian cad through the character of Frankie, mainly because all of her sex scenes to date portray her in a bad light. In the first episode she treated the death of her aunt as if she’d just heard a weather report -- even though she showed genuine grief after the fact -- the second scene had her having sex next to a corpse and abandoning the woman afterwards, and now with Sadie, she shows her customary post-coital indifference and rejection. Perhaps the programme is trying to show a more realistic side of the loveable cad, specifically that they’re not all that loveable. If this is indeed the intent, then perhaps basing Frankie on Shane was worthwhile.  

Juxtaposing the evening between Cat and Sam versus Frankie and Sadie was, as already stated, a stroke of genius. The music accompanying the sequential scenes was reminiscent of John Murphy’s In the House in a Heartbeat, minus the desolate atmosphere, which was one of many ingredients that helped elevate the tension.  And ‘tension’ is the key word here. If something is inevitable then hope of success and the risk of failure are necessarily absent, but tension requires hope and risk, therefore inevitability produces a lack of tension. For Frankie and Sadie sex was inevitable, consequently there was no tension. The converse was true of Cat and Sam, and the tension between them was electric. The subsequent sex scenes distilled the disparity.   

Tess-tastic Lines:

Tess impersonating a child psychologist:

“Yes, well, advanced literature can be extremely stimulating to the young mind [4mongths old]’s’s like people in comas, isn’t it? They don’t they’re listening...but they are.’

‘Some kids are just brats aren’t they? And there’s not much you can do about it except may...except maybe uh boarding school that would...or a really scary nanny.’

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