The transient response of the tropical cyclone boundary layer is studied using linearized and nonlinear models, with particular focus on the frictionally-forced vertical motion. The impulsively started, linearized tropical cyclone boundary layer is shown to adjust to its equilibrium solution via a series of decaying oscillations with the inertial period 2*π*/*I*. In the nonlinear case, the oscillation period is slightly lengthened by inwards advection of the slower-evolving flow from larger radii, but the oscillations decay more quickly. In an idealized cyclone with small sinusoidal oscillations superimposed on the gradient wind, the equilibrium nonlinear boundary layer acts as a low-pass filter with pass length scaling as {\textendash}*u*10/*I*, where {\textendash}*u*10\ is the 10-m frictional inflow. This filter is absent from the linearized boundary layer. The eyewall frictional updraft is similarly displaced inwards of the radius of maximum winds by a distance that scales with {\textendash}*u*10/*I*, due to nonlinear overshoot of the inflowing air as it crosses the relatively sharp increase in\ *I*\ near the eyewall. This displacement is smaller (other things being equal) when the RMW is small, and greater when it is large, including in secondary eyewalls. The dependence of this distance on {\textendash}*u*10/*I*\ may explain, at least partially, why observed RMWs are seldom less than 20 km, why storms with relatively peaked radial profiles of wind speed can intensify more rapidly, and why some secondary eyewalls initially contract rapidly with little intensification, then contract more slowly while intensifying.