In this episode, Tiphany returns to her hometown for her 10 year high school reunion, Mia finds a swimming coach that tries to whip her into shape and Auti gives her dog a bathtub scrub-down.
SPOILERS AHEAD ****
Episode 8 begins with Tiphany and Mia dressed to the nines (at a bar) and pulling up to a white linen table to have a chat. They get bright pink martinis and Tiphany shares that her 10 year high school reunion is coming up (and that it is on the same day as her injury anniversary. Bad timing!). Mia tells her she now has to go, if only not to let it be something that holds her back.
But Tiphany is having some doubts because she got injured her senior year of high school, and really doesn’t like how it feels when you come back around past classmates.
Mia also doesn’t like it, saying what they must think when they see her, “Oooh yeah looks like she still isn’t walking.” Mia and Tiphany toast to “full circles.” I love how these women have other women in wheelchairs to push them.
In the next scene, we’re brought to Angela and Tiphany’s house where Tiphany is busy packing for her trip back to Lodi, California for her reunion. Tiphany does an impressive job of stacking half her closet plus a Kaboodles on her lap (love that Angela makes sure she packed that; every model’s secret weapon). And she’s off, rolling out of the house and doing an impressive wheelie while she’s at it to get over the lip at the door (“Good lord you’re good,” compliments Angela). Tiphany giggles and they say they love each other before Tiphany takes off.
She packs all of her things into her white Ford mustang, and an overdub begins with Tiphany talking about how she wasn’t the best role model before accident. “Before my accident, I was very rebellious,” she says. “I was a party girl. From my small town, I did it big. I was the girl in every party. I enjoyed craziness. Drugs, alcohol sex; everything that had to do with being crazy, that was me.”
Tiphany opens up about her injury story and talks about how her injury happened. She was at a wake-boarding tournament. “We were all just running around,” she says. “I was completely intoxicated and I think I took ecstasy too.” After the event, she got into a vehicle with two of her friends on a two lane highway, but were hit by an oncoming car going 130 miles an hour driven by one of her friends who was three times over the legal limit. All of friends were pronounced dead on the scene, including Tiphany.
She was in a coma for three weeks. After waking up, she realized the extent of her injuries when she couldn’t move her legs. She talks about how she got back into the party scene after coming home from the hospital, because that was what she was comfortable around. But after a pivotal moment where she ended up in the hospital from drinking too much and taking too many pain meds, she decided she shouldn’t mess up her second chance and moved to LA.
In the next scene, we finally get to see Angela roll out in her power wheelchair (finally!) as she, Mia, Auti and her dog head out to the liquor store (awesome sauce). “Sometimes I use my power chair,” says Angela, as she pulls Auti from one of her push handles down the street. “Watch out for potholes!” Auti screams. “Sometimes I’ll use my manual chair when I want to feel strong in active, but when I want to get somewhere fast, the powerchair comes out.” The girls head back to Angela’s for drinks, where Mia pulls glasses out of the cupboard using a tongs and shares with the girls she’s looking for a serious swimming coach. She’s also wearing an adorable red pea coat with matching knit hat that I absolutely covet.
“My goal is to be good and to compete and see where it goes,” Mia says about her swimming. She says she found a local nonprofit that helps disabled swimmers get better, and admits she’s afraid to have someone judge her stroke (which she hasn’t had since she was 15). Mia also shares how she’s afraid to go back to something she to use to love and have it be different.
In the next scene, Tiphany pulls up to her family’s house and they come out to greet her. “Coming home reminds me of who I once was,” she says. They eat a grilled dinner after she arrives, and her dad shares with the camera how difficult it was to parent her when she was a teen. He asks Tiphany if she’d like to visit the accident site with him (he admits he’s been avoiding the accident site for the last 10 years; driving 7 miles out of his way each time to avoid it). “I never really dealt with the fact that we were so close to losing you,” he says. “I want to go out there and try to embrace it and try to let it become something positive instead.” Awesome dad!
In the next scene, Mia arrives at the pool and says she’s trying to find a swimming coach with experience coaching Paralympic swimmers. She meets her coach Ken (nice firm handshake girlfriend). “I want to know what I’m doing wrong so I can correct it,” she says. When she gets in the pool, Mia talks about how it’s different now that she’s paralyzed. “It’s interesting feeling a different dynamic, swimming now.” “Now without the propulsion of my legs it just feels a lot more strenuous,” she says. They do backstroke work and Mia admits how she’s now afraid to take on water. “I never felt that way before.”
After the coaching session, Ken says her stroke needs a lot of work and that it’ll take her at least nine months to 1 year to get her technique down. Newfound respect for adapted swimming anyone? Underwater video footage of Mia swimming shows just how difficult it can be when your legs don’t move (I found this very interesting). He tells her she need to start training 3 to 4 days a week for some upcoming meets. “Really??” Mia asks. “I was completely shocked. “I honestly don’t know if I’m ready for all of this so soon.” “I don’t want to be shown up,” she admits, and shares how she doesn’t want to lose since when she was able-bodied she won all the time.
Next, we’re back in Lodi, California for the reunion. Tiphany is getting ready in the bathroom with one of her closest friends growing up, Gina. “We grew up a block from each other,” she says. “Since this is the anniversary of my accident, I just wanted her support.” They head out to the car and Tiphany admits that she’s worried about showing up because she doesn’t want to be known as “the drunk girl in a wheelchair” (which she became known for after her injury). Ouch. Honesty hurts.
They show up and the venue site isn’t accessible. Tiphany gets carried up three flights of stairs. “Oh great,” she says. “Things got off to an awkward start.” Once she arrives, she rolls in and people start saying hi. Kisses and hugs abound, and Tiphny ends up having a great time. “Everyone just took me for who I am.” She gets several numbers (from both friends and guys) and gets to have a long chat with Roger, a fellow classmate and volunteer firefighter who was on the scene of her accident. He talks about how hard it is to see her and how hard it was to be on the scene of the accident. “Everyone in there will ever know how difficult it was,” he says. Tiphany says she feels comforted knowing someone she knows actually saw the accident, if only to reassure herself how serious it was. Tiphany gives him a hug. “I realized my accident didn’t just happen to me. It affected a lot of people.” SO powerful.
In the next scene we’re brought to Auti’s house where she’s washing her French bulldog in the bathtub. Mia arrives and brings up her meeting with the swim coach. “It was a bit depressing,” she admits. ” “In that moment I realized it’s not the same. I don’t think I anticipated it being this hard.” Auti says she’s proud of her. “You always put up boundaries stopping you from taking the next step,” she says. “That is kind of hindering you from greatness.” Mia ends up deciding to start training for the meet. “At least I’ll know I did it,“ she says. Again, the girls show how important like-minded friends are in this life.
Finally, Tiphany and her dad get into his truck to visit the site of her injury. Her dad breaks down on the way there. “Driving back to the injury scene was like driving back to the moment that my life changed forever,“ says Tiphany. “Knowing that I hurt my family with my childish, reckless ways hurts.” They pull over by the sign, “Drive to stay alive” off the two-lane highway where injury happened, and have a moment of silence for the girls that were killed.
“We got precious cargo back,” Tiphany’s dad says, when she talks about how difficult it must been for the other families who lost their daughters. She feels guilty, they pray and they hug and Tiphany begins to cry.
As she drives away from Lodi, she talks about how great it is to drive away this time, (versus the last time when she drove away to escape to LA). “Being home in Lodi was the most emotional weekend ever.” “Driving away from my hometown, I felt a sense of peace and comfort, and I felt really, really optimistic. When I first left years ago I was escaping, like the guilt I was feeling. And now leaving, I feel there was a lot lifted off of me.”
Talk about an intense episode. Returning to the site of a traumatic injury is never easy, not to mention going to your 10 year high school reunion.
What did you think of the episode? Have you returned to your injury scene?