‘Reservation Dogs’ Writer Tazbah Rose Chavez on Why Girls’ Trip Episode ‘Is a Historical Moment Within a Historical Show’

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you haven’t watched “Wide Net,” Episode 5 of FX’s “Reservation Dogs” Season 2, now streaming on Hulu.

FX’s “Reservation Dogs” continues to be one of the funniest shows on TV, breaking storytelling ground with its largely Indigenous cast and crew.

It is representation that both Native Americans and non-Natives alike have been craving to see on TV — multi-dimensional roles within the Indigenous community.

This week’s episode, “Wide Net,” is written and directed by Indigenous director Tazbah Rose Chavez. It follows Sarah Podemski’s Rita, who takes a girls’ trip with Bev (Jana Schmieding) and Teenie (Nathalie Standingcloud) to the Indian Health Services Conference, and their attempts to snag men and bust moves at the conference dance floor.

The episode is a game-changer for audiences in terms of how it spotlights its female cast, with Schmieding calling it a celebration both on and off-screen: “It was extremely liberating because as a fat woman I never get the opportunity to use my body on screen or stage. It’s a beautiful meditation on the resilience and excitement of Indigenous sisterhood.”

Adds Standingcloud, “This is a dream come true for all of us. I can’t wait to show this to my grandkids and say, ‘Look what I used to do.’”

Speaking with Variety, Chavez discussed the significance of the episode.

Let’s discuss the dance floor scene where the ladies dance to Brandy.

I don’t know, a single Rez Girl who grew up in the ’90s and who did not go out back with their boombox and listen to Brandy, TLC and all the girl groups. We would make up the routines and dress like them. We would be in our rural communities with our boomboxes, and that’s what the cold open is — it pays homage to that time in our lives. It’s a recreation of memories that I have with my cousins in the neighborhood.

Later in the episode, they get to live out their girl group fantasy. It’s their way of coming back together and showing their friendship despite losing Cookie. Each generation of Rez Dogs has had somebody they’ve lost, and they’ve dealt with it in different ways. So, for these women, when they’re in the club, and they come out, that’s their homage to Cookie and the ultimate thing of letting loose. If I could not be a mom, if I could not be a receptionist, and if could not have any responsibility, I’d be in a girl group.

Can you talk about the discussions you had about what was important to show in the episode?

We always knew going into Season 2 that we wanted to have an aunties’ night out and [see] who these women are outside of the rez. In the writers’ room, we thought about where this could take place, and because they work in an Indian Health Clinic, there are these conferences that happen. We love conferences — that’s our Vegas and our Cancun.

It was great to have the other women writers in the room, Devery Jacobs and Erica Tremblay, pitch in the creation of this. But when it came to directing and executing, for me, I wanted people to see our joy and our humanity as women and people who like to dance, who like to have sex, who like to go out, who are funny, who drink sometimes, who take edibles sometimes. That’s the reality. That’s not to say every Native woman is that, but so far in our representation, we haven’t been able to be that yet. We haven’t been able to be free, to be funny, to make mistakes and steam our vaginas. This is who they are. We do have our cultural aspects, we do have our traditions, but this is a major way that we are bonded together in our sisterhood.

What does it mean to have the episode out there and for the world to see this?

I feel really excited and proud of all the writers, the actors and all the departments that contributed to this. To me, the important thing is seeing our joy, our laughter and our agency as women. One of the storylines in there is that Rita doesn’t choose a man. In the end, she chooses her sister and she chooses her cousin. We always talk about coming from matriarchal societies, and we have such a hard time in the patriarchy. I feel like as a Native woman, I love an episode where there’s not a man in the end.

This episode, to me, is a historical moment within a historical show, where we’re pulling off the cover on who Native women are. I don’t think people realize how funny we are. I hope it changes our context in America, and not only in America’s mind but globally, about who we are. I also hope that within the industry, it changes the perception of casting and storytelling and that these are the kinds of stories that can be told by Native women, performed by Native women and directed by Native women, and that these stories are viable and they’re interesting outside of a non-Native audience. I hope that this brings forth a lot of change and a lot more opportunities for Jana, Tamara, Sarah and Natalie, and that they can go on to be cast in bigger projects. Someone put them in a musical.

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