You just called me a goddamn wolf.
We are five weeks away from filming, per exposition, and Sam Sylvia and Bash Howard got in on that Florida kilos action with a weekend in Palm Springs to solve all their problems. Again, per exposition. I appreciate that the show is never quite malecentric. Thanks, show. The cocaine told them to move all the girls into the same hotel, essentially creating wrestling summer camp, or wrestling whatever season it is in LA camp. This is an actual childhood and adulthood fantasy of mine, so I was all for it. Welcome to The Dusty Spur.
Fourteen women head to the hotel, revealed to us in yet another great montage. Melrose is still the worst, packing things into her limo. Carmen roughly makes a human shaped pillow pile under her comforter, complete with shoes, adorable and confusing. Rhonda has been living in her car and I can’t wait to learn more of her story. Jenny maybe robs a sleeping family member, maybe just feels that pearls are the appropriate adornment for becoming a pro wrestler (my aesthetic). Arthie has the most notable sequence: She’s smiling, a backpack and a duffel bag in tow, as she kisses a wrestling watching matriarch on the head and heads out. She did mention previously that everyone in India watches wrestling. I love Arthie and a potential glimpse at pro wrestling fandom outside of white people nonsense, especially in the wake of a world where people seem to think that non white, non male fans are new or for pretend. I hope we learn more.
Sam and Bash have instituted a curfew and a no drugs policy (…will people stop being polite and start getting real?). Our gal Ruth packs her things and has her Audrey Hepburn poster hung above a hotel Queen in no time. Her roommate is Shiela, our mysterious wolf woman, who does really charming stuff like leaving roadkill in your bed if you piss her off by talking too much. I feel ya, girl. Ruth, for all of her faults, is determined and mostly unphased. She’s in this for a long haul and her only focus is finding her character after her “Homewrecker” gimmick read terribly like porno in last episode’s screen test montage. But she can’t escape the homewrecker angle in her personal life. Debbie, with infant Randy in tow, moves into the Dusty Spur as well because Mark is a huge asshole in addition to being an entitlement wielding adulterer.
Notable roommates for the time being are Carmen (Britney Young), who is if you’ll recall our legacy, and Rhonda (Kate Nash). Carmen has grown up in a house of men (and ALL wrestlers to boot). She has little experience being around other women, so she apologizes for staring at Rhonda:
“Are you staring at my tits?”
“I am. I’m sorry.”
…but Rhonda doesn’t mind at all. In an incredibly sweet scene, Rhonda offers to share her lotion, explains how it stops the aging process in its tracks, and demonstrates the right way to apply it. I don’t know if I just badly want it or if Carmen is coded as queer. We’ll see, I suppose.
Sam Sylvia continues to be our unlikely father figure, almost stripping down to jump in the pool with his girls at their urging and teasing, but Cherry ruins everyone’s fun (someone has to, bless her) by reminding them that they have training to do. That doesn’t stop the general sleepover vibe at the hotel, the women piling up in Cherry’s room later that evening, with Cherry’s husband, Keith (Bashir Salahuddin), to watch one of Sam’s films. The tape somehow has Sam’s dating video recorded over a chunk of it so we see him ask for women under 30 who don’t nag and some of the women find it strangely endearing that he says he’s cute, he’s lonely, and perhaps most importantly, that his “cock works great”. This is yet another example of Sam Sylvia being an icky person, but being so genuine and vulnerable that no one can hate him. I’m not sure what’s good writing and what’s Marc Maron being unnecessarily charismatic, but here we are.
We meet Carmen’s family! It’s because they are Not Happy™ with her choice to pursue pro wrestling. Sam defends her, waltzing up to Goliath Jackson like a man taller than Goliath Jackson, “You can’t talk to her like that… no, it’s not fine. You can’t just come into my gym and disrespect one of my actors. I know you’re some big famous giant, but you’re an asshole, and you wear oversized diapers for a living.”
It avoids getting Varsity Blues, Papa Goliath saying that “nobody respects the lady wrestlers, sweetie… it’s like the midgets. You’re a sideshow,” valid points and valid concerns for your progeny. But as a wrestling fan I’m left to wonder what The LumberJacksons (noice *high fives writers*) do in their scene to make it safer and better for women. Wrestling is hard, man. Goliath wants Carmen to have a job where she’s respected, wants her to live a normal life, which to him means finding a nice man and settling down. When the family takes it outside, Bash tries to run to the rescue, because this show refuses to give us a villain. He plants a kiss on Carmen and holds her hand, whispering, “I understand the shackles of family expectations, your father’s got nothing on my mother.” Carmen rolls with it, and tells Goliath they’re in love (hello, fan fiction prompt from heaven), to which Goliath responds, “You wanna wrestle? You need to know how to sell. You’re both terrible.”
I love Carmen potentially being coded as queer, especially since a show from OITNB minds has had zero LGBTQ representation thus far, but if this cheesily turned into something more I’d be super into it. I’m a sucker for a love story. Also, you guys, Carmen is 25? She looks 17, blessings upon her.
Special note to Tamme as Wellfare Queen, and the shows look at the struggle between creator/director and actor. Particularly when one person is coming from a place of privilege and the other is not. I’m sure he’s supposed to remind us of any B movie director from the 80s but for me he’s a friendlier Tarantino. He might have an impressive aesthetic and a great ability as a director, but maybe everything he’s done isn’t his place.
“It’s commentary on an existing stereotype. It’s sort of a “fuck you” to the Republican party and their welfare reform, race baiting shit.”
“Yeah, but will other people know that?”
At the end of the day, well-meaning or nah, Sam doesn’t get it. And he’s overstepping his bounds. His ideas of satire and middle fingers read as jokes and as a white man in charge he’s never the one suffering the brunt of it.
In the end protag (or antag?) Ruth is struggling with who she is, per usual. Everyone else has something, even if it’s bad, and she’s just… Ruth. It bothers her that she’s Ruth, not something representative or otherworldly, and damn, ain’t that meta? People around her are excelling at blending into the exaggerated world of professional wrestling. Cherry, Sheila, and even Rhonda are all naturals in this world, meaning that they’re a bit bizarre in everyday life. Perhaps it is the writer’s intentionally casting a modern light on things, but as a lifelong wrestling fan I’m overwhelmed with how wrestling it is, without making me feel stupid for loving it, without alienating an audience that has never watched wrestling in their lives, or has never taken it seriously.
Face: Bash, I can’t believe it
“Goliath Jackson… I’m a huge fan! I’m a GOLIATH fan!”
“I’ve worn this, or some version of this, every day for the past five years. It’s not a costume. It’s me. And what I do in the morning, what I put on, what I wear, it’s not for you. It’s for me.”
Tamee: Do you trust him or is he just another racist, white director?
Keith, matter-of-factly: He’s more sexist than racist.
Was There Enough Cherry?: No
Marc Maron Moment:
“Sure, or rehab. Probably more like rehab.”
Brodus Clay and Carlito as Carmen’s brothers, The LumberJacksons
…& since I made my review of the pilot surprise-friendly, yes, wrestling fans, that was John Morrison as episode one trainer Salty “The Sack” Johnson
Rating: Baby’s first A