“I think my vagina just swallowed itself.”
The midseason episode opens with Cherry still trying to teach Melrose how to be a functioning human being with a work ethic or something, a feud that I certainly hope we’re going to do something with, for both character’s sake, rather than have it all be for “womb goof”. Also it’s our midseason episode, so this is a longer recap, folks.
Debbie gets a lot of time this episode, thank god. As it turns out she’s really funny, exhibiting this in a scene in which she shows a big network executive, Glenn Clintnick (I can’t find the spelling, it doesn’t seem to be listed on IMDB, the point is that it sounds like clit, sweet lord) things she’s worked on and planned by fighting no one. And also the ground. Explaining wrestling is strange, regardless of how you do it, and while I rarely demonstrate things physically, I found myself laughing a lot as someone who tries to write and talk about wrestling for everyone.
Later she’s cutting promos to herself in the mirror (#relatable), but also to her baby Randy. The show doesn’t waste time constantly establishing her as a mother, but it also doesn’t allow the audience to forget the dual roles she’s juggling here. We meet her mother and presumably her stepfather. “It’s nice you have a choice,” her mother responds to Debbie proclaiming she actually wanted to be there for her kid and that’s why she gave up her career. This is a glimpse into where Debbie came from, not a traditional home. It makes us wonder about her path to Soap stardom, to marriage, to giving it up to focus on being a mother and wife. As a matter of happenstance, Ruth comes into the diner and plays it off expertly when Debbie’s family asks her to have a seat and catch up. For all the shithead she is, Ruth understands she’s done wrong. She’s still submitting, as Sheila taught her, tail tucked between her legs, and it’s more than just performative. Ruth clearly loves Debbie a lot. There’s a friendship at the center of it all and I’m glad the show reminded us. It could stand to do that a little more often.
Sam and Bash are meeting with Glenn in the office above the ring, “They’re going to be wrestling with their own female stereotypes, metaphorically, and I think that’s something that’s going to really resonate with female audiences. And guys, well guys, let’s be honest, they’re gonna watch because girl’s wrestling is fucking hot.”
Sam does not understand sponsors and is embarrassing the hell out of Bash as they discuss Patio Town. Patio Town is a new business and would foot the bill for the actual airtime part of the equation. This doesn’t fit Sam’s idea of himself or of GLOW, clearly. I expect this crisis to go on a while.
Sense of entitlement rears its ugly head in Ruth as she goes to the front desk to fix her tv. “We’re guests at this hotel,” she proclaims, despite being here primarily to train, and not paying for any expense related. The In Soviet Russia meme is reborn in the front desk clerk, who also seems to function as maintenance, manager, and operations, and she sees an opportunity to use a culture as a gimmick. The wheels in her head are turning and even if she is sort of being an ass it’s exciting to see her go to work, rather than just spout of tired theatre tropes.
Sleepover vibes continue this episode with Dawn and Stacey bleaching their mustaches, getting high, and I half expected them to do a rendition of “Sandra Dee.” Their silliest call is to Melrose, “You have aids… in your butt.” Fun is only for Melrose, however, and she responds by answering the phone preemptively by screaming “cunt” for the rest of the episode, and yelling into the parking lot for them to get a life. Justine has a crush on the pizza guy and he’s a real 80s teen heart-throb. “Head Over Heels” by Tears for Fears plays as pizza babe moves in slow motion in his cut off shirt, artfully tousled and teased hair, and a lazy choker. It makes you look at him the way you looked at John Bender in Breakfast Club. Arthie sees Justine suffering, as she’s DOING HOMEWORK. A real hero. Arthie assists in the hook up, ordering yet another pizza when Justine is too nervous to give the babe a call. Letting them know she’s going to study and will be back in exactly 45 minutes, Arthie and her bouncy, high ponytail, Huey Lewis and the News Tee, bounce away, a true cupid.
Debbie sense she’s failing at this whole wrestling thing and is insecure about Ruth getting closer to Sam on the business end. She uses Ruth’s absence to go to Carmen for help. “The problem is you think wrestling is stupid,” Carmen says and when Debbie says, well it is, she responds, “I prefer exaggerated. I mean, that’s the point.”
After an anecdote about her brother she asks if Debbie has ever been to a real wrestling match. She hasn’t. And guys, they go to wrestling, and it is GREAT. Clearly going through withdrawals from drugs, alcohol, and attention seeking behavior, Melrose tags along. Carmen convinces them all to stay for the main event match. Former WWE wrestler Alex Riley is a guy who goes by the moniker Steel Horse, our good guy. He goes up against Mr. Monopoly, a brilliant 80s villain played by absolute babe Joey Ryan (he’s a swell guy, give yourself the gift of that YouTube rabbit hole, wrestling fan or not). I was shocked by how much I enjoyed Alex Riley, who is, I guess, named Kevin Kiley Jr? He always came off as an absolute douche of a human but here his good guy gimmick was beyond believable, and even behind the scenes later he was still an okay dude. Carmen’s anticipation and face when he enters on a motorcycle sells his hero status. There’s purity in wrestling and it’s usually found in the audience. If you ever find yourself at a show, look for sweet people and children. They’ll tell you all you need to know.
Carmen is explaining that each match in a feud is like another chapter, filling Melrose and Debbie in on the heat between Steel Horse and Mr. Monopoly, “Turns out, they’re actually half brothers and-”
“That was his plan all along to ruin Steel Horse’s life in order to get revenge on his father who abandoned him… oh my god,” Debbie is having a moment. “IT’S A SOAP OPERA! THIS WHOLE THING IS A SOAP OPERA! I UNDERSTAND HOW TO DO THAT!”
But it’s more than just her connecting with her gig… she’s now seeing a genre she worked in and presumably loves in an even more over the top style, with much more physicality than a camera close up allows, and live stunts. It’s a moment that wrestling fans pray fall over their friends that they’ve forced to come to their Royal Rumble party. She’s overwhelmed by it all, she’s screaming, she stands, she has the time of her life rooting for her guy. He rips off his shirt and we’re privy to the female gaze… Debbie trying to remember how to breathe… In the wrestling world we call this marking out.
This scene got me a little teary eyed because I’ve never seen wrestling portrayed as such a consuming, exciting experience before. Women are often lauded by the 18-35 white male demographics as only capable of fangirling and swooning, of not understanding the story, and so we often perform to prove the opposite, hyper focused on story. In a poorly lit performance hall in the 1980s, Debbie gets to do both. The moment isn’t cheapened because she realizes that this hero comes with abs and the ability to bedroom throw her. It all feeds into the same frenzy. This scene is beautiful. The camera is on Debbie or else watching the match from her shaky perspective, surrounded by the chaos of other fans. This show has managed to capture what it feels like to be a face in the crowd.
Ruth FINALLY shines by taking a chance and embracing that she’s a heel, interrupting the ribbon cutting at Patio Town with, “Nyet, Nyet, stop this disgrace…” Just as Rhonda knows to cheaply be a babe, she is learning to cheaply take shots at America. Wrestling classics. Later she’s riffing in the car with Sam and Rhonda,“Foster’s Freeze. We have same place… Ice Cream Gulag. There you go in, it’s so cold.. .you die.” Sam tells her it’s too bad she can’t do it for real because a Russian has to “fight the All American hero and Debbie’s not even talking to you.” Sam has also been getting him some, we reveal, after Rhonda invites him to come with her to “wee”. It gets weird talking about it with Ruth, but he knows he’s a monster of knee jerk defensiveness and ornery loneliness, what his ex’s cognitive behavior therapist calls, “a flaw in his conflict style”. Refreshing to have a dude be open about being insecure and shaken, even if he is a piece of shit.
Carmen uses the Goliath’s Daughter card to get them backstage to talk with Steel Horse about his fantastic match. He recognizes Debbie, something she seemed wholly unprepared for as she breaks into vulnerable giggles as he tells her, “new Laura can’t act for shit.” He clues us in to the relationship between face and heel, a “partnership”, that makes each other look good. It’s too meta and too in depth to pull quotes from. Watch it, guys, rewatch this scene. Fantastic stuff.
“Debbie, don’t make me be the rules person, I’m not emotionally equipped for it,” Melrose calls as it nears curfew, and Debbie makes a choice. She tosses Melrose the keys, and tells Melrose and Carmen she’ll take a cab home. She gets her some. Cherry catches her for her 5am run. They bond, woman to woman, and they really are the adults here. Both have husbands, lives to live outside of themselves. There are wonderful lessons on intimacy, on love, sexuality, and change. Cherry shows Debbie kindness and a sort of mercy, but still makes her go in and change to promptly do a 5k. I hope we see more of this pairing.
Our episode closes with Debbie, exhausted and sweaty from her run of penance calling Sam, “I’m all in, but if you want me to be the star I need a great heel. Find me one.”
Face: Debbie and Cherry
Heel: me, for writing such a long recap (sorry)
Do I Wish I Could Go Back To 8th Grade And Plaster My Locker In Joey Ryan 5x7s: Yes
Marc Maron Moment:
“Porn you can watch with your kids. Finally.”
“What kind of person do I seem like?”
“An okay person.”
“You mean like bird baths and shit?”
“I always have time for condiments.”
“What are you doing?
“For me, self esteem, hello.”
“Russians: Best Villains Since the Nazis.”
“The horse was steely, exhaustingly steely. Steely enough that I’m dreading having to pee.”
Rating: A for Aaaaaaaah, They Really Get It