PEN15 season 1, episode 6 recap: Posh


PEN15’s sixth episode opens Anna and Maya’s eyes to the reality of racism all around them. They quickly learn that racism is sometimes more subtle than they think it is.

This episode of PEN15 opens with Anna and Maya setting up for a group project at Maya’s house. In preparation for people coming over, Maya cleans up and hides away anything she thinks may be embarrassing in her living room.

A brief aside from Anna: She hopes the group takes their project on osteoporosis seriously because it’s what her grandmother had and her father hasn’t been the same since her grandmother dealt with it.

Before the rest of their group arrives, Shuji and one of his friends walk through on their way to see Castaway (again). Anna thinks Shuji is hot and Maya is attracted to Shuji’s friend, Evan. Both boys, of course, think the two of them are odd and they leave.

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Once the other three girls (Becca, Connie, and Stevie) arrive for the group project, they sit awkwardly in Maya’s living room. Maya offers them a small bag of Cheetos for them all to share. Becca asks Maya if she has any ham and the three girls start laughing—Anna and Maya don’t know why that’s funny. Becca says it’s an inside joke.

They finally get down to working on the project. Anna’s idea for the project is that they’re all going to dress up as the “old spice girls” who can’t sing or dance because they have osteoporosis, but they drink milk and become strong.

As they dole out parts, both Connie and Maya want to be Posh, but Becca says Connie is going to be Posh. Connie says Maya looks more like Scary.

This cuts to them outside, dressed in their Spice Girls outfits, ready to record. Even though Anna volunteers, the other girls decide Maya should be the “servant” character who brings them all milk because she “looks different” than they do—because she’s tan.

Becca also calls Maya “Guido” because he’s a gardener and Mexican and Maya’s tan. Maya is clearly uncomfortable (as is Anna), but she plays along.

Then, when they are set to start recording, they don’t let Maya in front of the camera. She has to record and be behind the camera. They record their project with the four girls start as the old Spice Girls, Maya bringing them their milk and then Maya jumping in at the end to drink milk and join them in the final dance.

Later at dinner, Anna and Maya talk about and act out what they did for their project for Maya’s mom (Yuki), Shuji and Evan.

Shuji and Evan both point out that the character that Maya played was racist, with Evan, who is black, noting how weird it is that she was the Maya was the servant for her white friends. Shuji accuses Maya of being ashamed of being Japanese and Evan calls out Anna for making Maya play that role.

Later, Maya looks in the mirror. She stretches her face to make her eyes wider and then narrower. She gives herself the middle finger in the mirror.

Anna sits down at her computer and goes to Ask Jeeves and starts doing research on racism. After reading through sites on the KKK and Martin Luther King Jr. (among other things), she lands on a website that talks about staged car crashes that are used to make teens more aware of the reality of drunk driving. She prints that page.

Maya walks down the hallway at school and comes across three Korean students playing in the hallways. She tries to speak to them in Japanese, but they say they don’t speak it. She shuffles away.

Anna, now noticing race more than she has before, goes to the principal’s office because she wants to report that she’s been noticing racism in society. She wants there to be something like the staged drunk driving scene to bring attention to it.

But the principal blows her off on PEN15, saying that he can’t tell students who to hang out with and that things like this usually “work themselves out.”

Anna decides to take things into her own hands. She goes to talk to the drama kids and starts to work on a plan. Anna then goes to class and tells Maya that she’s sorry and she has a surprise for Maya later.

Later, Maya goes to her locker and finds a paper on it that says “I am Japanese.” The drama students, as part of Anna’s plan, start to make fun of Maya. Maya is clearly hurt by what they’re saying. Then Anna comes out and tells the group of students, who have gathered to see what was going on, that this was an example of the racism she’s seeing in the school.

Then two boys who aren’t part of the skit come up and actually start making fun of Maya, including a variety of racist stereotypes. A teacher comes out and the boys run away. When Maya brings the paper on her locker to the teacher’s attention, the teacher asks who put it there.

The blame falls on Anna, which hurts Maya. The teacher pulls Anna away before Anna can explain what she was trying to do. The teacher is going to get the principal and call Anna’s parents.

In a sit down with the teacher, the principal and Anna’s parents, Anna tries to explain that she was trying to bring attention to the racism she saw from the other girls. None of the adults listen, calling her a know it all and saying she’s just pointing fingers at others. Her parents start arguing and Anna is given detention.

Anna says she’s not going to eat until racism is over.

Elsewhere, Shuji is brought to Maya who is sitting on the stairs. She starts to cry as he comforts her. He takes her to a secluded area where he and his friends are smoking weed since she’s having a rough day. (She doesn’t participate.)

The custodian comes up to Anna, who is standing in front of her locker, and asks Anna why she’s at lunch. She explains that she’s on a hunger strike. Jan, the custodian, offers Anna a sandwich (because ending racism will take a while), but Anna declines.

Back with Shuji and his friends, they tell Maya that she needs to put Anna in check. Maya tries to defend Anna (saying she’s a good person), but Shuji says that Maya doesn’t know what racism is. They explain to her that racism isn’t always really obvious. Maya starts to think back and remembers all the little things people have said to her. And then she throws up.

They come to the conclusion that Maya needs to stand up for herself and beat up Anna.

Maya, Shuji and another of Shuji’s friends walk up to Anna, who is sitting in front of her locker looking at herself in her pocket mirror. As they approach, all Anna can see is Maya dressed as a ham (she’s really hungry).

Nervous, Maya awkwardly says she has to beat Anna up and tells Anna to come with her.

They go back to Shuji’s secluded spot and Maya puts up her fists. She can’t bring herself to punch Anna, but they do eventually start having an honest argument. Anna explains that she just wanted people to see that Maya is more than just “Asian” and she thought she was celebrating Maya’s heritage. Maya tells her that Anna can’t understand what she’s going through, which Anna agrees with.

Anna says she should have stood up for Maya and shot down the Guido idea and fought for Maya to be Posh Spice. They seem to have come to an agreement, but Shuji’s friend still wants Maya to punch Anna.

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Together, they start to pretend to fight and joking around. They hug as the boys boo in the background. Bored, the boys leave.

After school, Anna and Maya sit outside and Anna checks in to make sure Maya is ok. She is, they’re friends again. Shuji comes to sit next to them and Anna apologizes to him too. He accepts and they joke around as the episode ends.

A post-credits scene shows Maya singing and dancing in her room dressed up as Posh.

What did you think of this episode of PEN15? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.