A WRESTLING CAPSULE EPISODE FOR THE GODS (GLOW EPISODES 8 & 9 RECAP)
Episode 8 - The Good Twin
We get to see an actual episode of the G.L.O.W. within the show, and it’s like an 80’s fever dream. I can totally imagine my teenage self watching this on Saturday nights at 1 a.m., hanging out in my best friend’s basement bedroom, cracking up and wondering what the F we’re seeing, quoting lines like “Mickey Rourke, a-ooga a--ooga” and rolling my eyes at people not cool enough to get it. I’ve now watched this episode twice, and stand by my opinion that this is 34 minutes of brilliance. At first glance, it’s a combination of wacky oddball sketches catering to a late-night audience of drunks. But once I adapted to its goofy sensibility and caught all of the Easter egg callbacks, not to mention the wish fulfillment happening left and right, this episode rises near the top of my list of favorites. I can easily imagine Sam, Bash, Debbie, and Ruth sitting down with the cast and delivering the news that they plan to wrap up the season on their own terms, “setting the weirdos free,” and then asking the women exactly what they’d like to do in these final episodes carte blanche, with this being the result.
How to even sum this up?? Ruth creates a good twin to complement the evil Zoya, Chekhovian sisters from someone’s 80’s acid trip. Olga, the titular good twin, crosses the Atlantic Ocean by goat and embraces America. She’s determined to help Liberty Belle get her daughter back from her evil twin, so she can stay in America forever (and hopefully see CATS someday).
Rhonda gets to ride a horse after begging Sam for one in the first season. Brittanica brings Thomas to life with the help of Black Magic, and the sketch is equal parts Weird Science, Mannequin, and The Little Mermaid as she must give up her brain in order to get the main of her dreams. We get a return of season one’s G.L.O.W.BOT. cameos from Bash and Justine, and eventually Brittanica gets her brain back by inserting a floppy disk between her legs (we’re well past the point of worrying about offending the mothers of America).
Liberty Belle leads a Jane Fonda-esque Griefcersize class, using aerobics to work through trauma. It’s a perfect touch to film the sketch in Debbie’s living room, still lacking all furniture since her anger-fueled impromptu estate sale. Poor Savannah Rose is locked away in a safe (I love that they are still using the young girl that Ruth had randomly plucked out of the audience on a whim; hopefully she got a SAG card for her return appearance).
Seeing what each woman chose for their final storylines is a glimpse into their psyches. Arthie finally gets to branch out from her detested Beirut character and ballroom dance in a dream sequence with Yolanda. Melrose shoots an MTV-style music video about makeovers. Sheila accompanies Olga’s goat to CATS, after which they get drinks at a bar and end up in her hotel room. After the goat make a pass at her (with hilarious hooved puppet legs), Sheila growls a threat, and the scene ends with her alone in bed, eating a hunk of meat right off the bone. YES, THIS IS A THING I JUST WATCHED ON MY TV.
And Carmen, my forever fave (more Carmen in season 3 pleez), leads the cast in a “We Are the World”-style charity single, “Don’t Kidnap”. The chorus is goofy parody brilliance: “Let the childroom go and play, the ones you’ve got, let them get away.” And I LOLed at Bash and Sam’s cameos, sheepishly shuffling onto the set dressed in trench coats and ski masks.
Justine appears in the final scene as an evil nurse, and we’re brought back to the real world, where a couple are sitting on the couch, watching G.L.O.W. “Justine?” they say aloud in disbelief. The credits begin to roll, and the screen flashes with “Directed by Sam Sylvia.” The woman’s face flashes with anger, and I’m pretty sure we’ve just met Justine’s mother.
What I love best about this episode is that it captures a perfect balance of authenticity, homage, and celebration of ridiculous 80’s television. It brought back memories of watching Kentucky Fried Movie at junior high sleepovers and a room of very confused preteen girls saying “What IS this??” It’s parody that truly loves the form that it’s sending up, made with joy rather than snark or condescension. The same can be said for this show as a whole.
Episode 9 - Rosalie
In the penultimate episode, we jump between three storylines. First, we check in with Ruth, Justine, and Sam, who are hanging out at Sam’s house for family dinner night. The easy banter and conversations about classes are a marked difference between earlier this season, when Justine was barely showing up to school and Sam couldn’t care less that his teenage daughter was roaming Los Angeles on her own. Ruth sleeps over on the couch, and is still around in the morning when the household is awakened by angry knocking on the front door. It’s Rosalie, Justine’s mother, who Sam hasn’t seen in 17 years. (The morning after their one-night-stand, Sam’s last words to Rosalie were “I fucking hate eggs, that was fun,” then he gave the Black Power fist and left.) Ruth convinces Rosalie to let Justine have one more night in L.A. and let her attend winter formal. This may border a bit on TV tropes but I don’t care, because I love me a school dance scene. A gym decked out in streamers with the Thompson Twins blaring through the speakers is guaranteed to give viewers nostalgia of high hopes, palm sweat, and broken hearts.
Meanwhile, the cast of G.L.O.W. is hanging out the motel, preparing for the final week of shooting and making their future plans. Rhonda gets a visit (and marriage proposal) from her #1 stalker/fan, a young man that the women have nicknamed Cupcake. Tammé and Sheila plan to take acting classes together. Jenny is submitting an application to the Limited. Rhonda decides that maybe she should fill out a job application too, and the following conversation reveals that she’s been staying in the U.S. illegally. Jenny advises her to swing by the British consulate for a visa so she can get a real job: “Not everyone is as dumb as Bash. The Limited is serious.”
In the third storyline, Bash and Debbie are on a secret mission to save G.L.O.W. They’ve driven to Anaheim for the Western Cable Show trade show, where they’re hoping another network will pick them up. Upon arrival, they realize they are woefully unprepared; Bash brought a suitcase full of VHS tapes but no monitor, VCR, or signage. Ahhh, Bash. He’s so adorable and enthusiastic and so, so dumb; he’s like a human goldendoodle you just wanna pet and shush affectionately. Debbie’s ready to throw in the towel and get drunk, but Bash has an idea: “Have you seen Muppets Take Manhattan?” Like Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo, Bash’s plan is to start a whisper network, so he and Debbie get to work walking through the conference, talking loudly about G.L.O.W. being an in-demand hot property, hoping that an eavesdropping exec takes the bait.
That night, Sam, Ruth, and Rosalie attend Justine’s winter formal as chaperones. Justine and her boyfriend Billy are all angsty about her return to Sacramento, so they come up with a super dumb plan to run away to New York. Sam notices Justine about to sneak out of the dance. He confronts her and calls over Rosalie, and in the following conversation, he proves that he’s fully embracing his role as Justine’s father and actually gives her solid advice: don’t run away with a boy just to piss off her parents, and don’t do it just to please Billy. Be your own person. Justine actually listens, then glowers her way out of the gym to get stoned in the parking lot. I love this moment of growth from Sam where he shows he’s capable of being a parent and that he cares about Justine’s future. I can totally picture him as the kind of dad who insists on playing Frank Zappa records for your boyfriend, saying “THIS is music, not the crap you kids are growing up with.”
Ruth is sitting on the bleachers when Sam comes by to ask her to dance. He’s feeling emotional because he knows Justine has to go back to Sacramento with her mom. Ruth’s also melancholy because her injury will keep her out of the last episode, so when Sam asks her to dance, it seems like a sweet gesture. Of course, as soon she hops her way onto the dance floor, the music changes into a slow song. This is another trope, but I’m onboard because the show has been pointedly exploring their relationship: are they good friends, artistic partners, or something more? To be honest, I don’t want to see them get romantically involved; they’re both fascinatingly flawed yet lovable characters but they seem like they’d be a disaster together. Ruth seems to realize this right as Sam goes in for a kiss, and she hops away towards her crutches. As she flees through the gym door, she glances back at him wistfully, and I get that familiar aching feeling in my heart that I always get during dance scenes. I can’t even think about it for long before the palm sweat starts building up.
Ruth takes a cab straight to Russell’s apartment for a big “I choose you” moment, and they finally kiss. I don’t think this is the last of the story between Ruth and Sam, but I’m happy she’s found a kind (“consistent” as Ruth puts it) man who seems to genuinely care for her. This may be Ruth’s first smart decision when it comes to men, and I like seeing the growth in her character as well.
Back at the GLOWtel, it’s like the last day of school, but instead of watching movies until the final bell, the women are ripping monster bong hits. My favorite is wholesome, sunny Carmen, who enthusiastically shouts “I did a drug!” Rhonda storms into the party and begins packing a suitcase. After visiting the British consulate on an expired visa, she’s been ordered to leave the country within 30 days. Carmen may be high AF but manages to come up with a wacky solution: Rhonda should marry her #1 fan, Cupcake, for a green card. The wedding can take place in the ring and will be the perfect finale for G.L.O.W. (Bash has been dying to do a ring wedding, after all.) Rhonda obviously does not love the idea of marrying Cupcake, but the dreary alternative of returning to Bromley solidifies her decision to go through with it.
And in the final storyline, Bash and Debbie sit at a bar in Anaheim, throwing back drinks to mourn the end of G.L.O.W. Suddenly, Bash’s massive Zach Morris cell phone rings, and it’s a producer interested in the show. Their Muppet whisper network plan might pay off after all! However, the next time the phone rings, it’s to deliver tragic news. A doctor in San Francisco calls Bash to inform him that Florian has passed away, and Bash was listed as his next of kin. Bash immediately shuts down, much like he did at Shenanigans, unable to process this news. The doctor says the cause of death is “Technically, pneumonia,” and warns that Bash may have a hard time finding a funeral home willing to take the body. It’s clear that Florian had AIDS. The show hasn’t been forthcoming on the details of Bash and Florian’s relationship; it’s obvious that they were longtime friends and possibly more, but we’re not sure if those feelings were ever consummated, or if Bash has always kept his emotions buried away and shut down when anything got too real (just as he does at the end of the call, quickly referring the doctor to Florian’s mom and then hanging up to absolve himself).
The 80’s were such a different time, when teased bangs, Reaganomics, and male-only ghostbusters ran rampant. With the current wave of pop culture set in the 80’s, we’re reminded of how real--and how terrifying-- was the threat of the AIDS crisis. Bash’s fear, pain, and loneliness in this final scene break my heart, and the song choice of Genesis’ “Man in the Corner” perfectly captures the deep-rooted sadness in his character. Perhaps all of the childlike enthusiasm he puts forth is a shield to cover the pain of not feeling free to be his true self. With only one episode left to go, “Rosalie” ends on an palpably emotional note.