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All it takes is a “Freaky Tuesday” for GLOW to put wrestling front and center again

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There it is—the pure monotony of G.L.O.W. going from a weekly wrestling show to a Vegas stage show. With “Freaky Tuesday,” it’s no longer just a series of comments but an actual dilemma, one that promises to become even greater by the end of the episode.

The closer this season got to dropping, the more I realized that, because of the nature of G.L.O.W. as a Vegas attraction (unlike the real-life G.L.O.W. TV show), that would mean the girls would be doing the same show over and over again, every night. That would also mean, unfortunately, there would be much less of the girls working together to build matches or new bits of the show for the audience to see. Because, as we’ve seen this season, the show is all the same stuff we’ve seen from them before, just condensed into one big show. So the question became how the series would keep things new and fresh when it came to showing things, especially in the ring, when things weren’t new and fresh. The answer this season has given has been to double down on not keeping things new and fresh, instead highlighting just how repetitive and boring things have gotten. It’s to the point when even the slightest change excites the G.L.O.W. Girls and to the point where everything else is simply soul and body-crushing. That’s what leads us to “Freaky Tuesday,” the closest thing GLOW season three can even get to capturing the magic of season two’s show-within-a-show episode, “The Good Twin.”

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At the halfway mark of the season, “Freaky Tuesday” is the turning point, as it turns what was supposed to be a visible goal post for these characters (just three months doing this repetitive show in Vegas) into even more of a nightmare (as their run gets extended to the end of the year). Perhaps before the Vegas show started, they’d have been much more excited over this news, but the combination of being bored, stranded, injured, away from their babies, etc. has sucked all of the excitement out of this world. Every conversation the girls have about the G.L.O.W. show is framed through the context of when it will finally be done, so when Debbie pushes to continue with the promised end date for the show, it’s not just because of her own needs. No one wants to be here anymore, and it’s not just a matter of them being homesick.

Except for Bash, who fits comfortably in the heel role in this episode after merely taking a brief detour in that world during “Say Yes.” This episode is not the first time Debbie has told Bash she has her baby in mind during all of this, but it is the official moment he goes from even almost pretending to care to just ignoring her feelings, in retaliation to her own “fuck you” to him in the form of the “Freaky Tuesday” G.L.O.W. show. (Besides giving the girls something to remember the show as a goodbye, her pushing this version of the show is clearly her attempt to force Bash’s hand by blowing it up so it doesn’t continue on. Instead, it just sends an already pissed off Bash over the edge.) Then when Debbie has the ability to call Bash out for everything he’s been doing in Vegas instead of focusing on the show and the girls, he still ends up winning. It’s not just a shock to Debbie but all the girls when he comes back at her with the power play, when he simply tells her to “feel free to get the fuck out.” As Sam points out, Bash was the one who originally brought up the Three Musketeers descriptor—citing “all for one” when he says that—but the episode ends with Bash finally dropping that illusion and saying “my” over again until he lets everyone in G.L.O.W. know that it’s his way or the highway. And if they have a problem with that, they can go back home to Los Angeles, because G.L.O.W. is staying in Vegas for the entirety of 1986. Debbie tried to challenge the childish Ken doll who gets distracted by shiny things, and the Ken doll actually won.

On the one hand, Bash is obviously in the wrong for how he approaches all of this. But on the other, he’s spent this entire season trying to prove he can hang with the real producers of Vegas, and Debbie’s desire to stop the show from going on spits in his face. Neither of his producing “partners” take him seriously, even though they never had any problem taking his serious money. But he’s only thinking of himself in this, no one else, which is the issue. I’ve been writing since season one that, for all of their flaws and imperfections, Sam and Bash are still the two men the G.L.O.W. Girls can pretty much always trust to look out for their best interests in this world. Bash has now betrayed that trust because of his own career aspirations, despite being the one to really explain to them how empowering this world of women’s wrestling could be in the first place.

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Bash also proves he’s not as dumb as he is by pointing out that he’s well-aware Sam’s got nothing on his plate here in Vegas, that he only keeps Sam around to vote in his favor (to continue the producers boys club union that has really only existed in Bash’s mind), allowing him to chill in his hotel and work on his screenplay. While it was kind of funny to witness Bash trip over himself to become a hotshot producer in this town, “Freaky Tuesday” finally shows that he’s actually succeeded at that, unlike Sam (who does nothing) and Debbie (who has the whole “lady producer” thing as an obstacle), as he throws his weight around because he’s the money mark who actually ended up having a successful lady wrestling show. What’s worse about his decision to say yes (finally) is that, while he does it the way he does in large part to spite both Sam and Debbie, he doesn’t ask any of the non-producer talent G.L.O.W. talent how they feel. He has no idea that Tamme is hurt, even though he walks in to make his announcement while she’s being tended to by Debbie (who feels terrible for not realizing Tamme was hurt, both as a producer and a worker) and Cherry, and he doesn’t even stop to notice. Because as you can tell from the commentary on, he’s seething about tonight—only, in this moment, he gets to have a win over Debbie (who continued to rub in her last-minute decision during the show).

As for the real show itself, it was actually only a matter of time before GLOW had to draw off of Kia Stevens’ real-life wrestling career as Awesome Kong (aka Amazing Kong or Kharma). Because while playing a wrestler for a TV is, of course, less strenuous than actively being a wrestler, it’s kind of hard to ignore the fact that Stevens originally retired (which she has since come out of) because of back problems. As far as I know, she didn’t go the wine and pills route to deal with it, but she—like Tamme—wouldn’t have even been the first wrestler to do it. As much as, creatively, the G.L.O.W. Vegas show doesn’t do much for the girls, that doesn’t magically undo or lessen the damage of wrestling bumps. (Which, by the way, is why it’s always been amazing that the actresses on GLOW actually do take wrestling bumps.) While the series has dealt with injury and the concept of unsafe working, it’s a whole different story when it comes to safety not preventing natural wear and tear. And it’s even more natural to highlight the wrestler’s mentality—that still exists today, to a lesser extent but still a large one—of working hurt, even when it’s far much more than just “hurt.” Besides Carmen, the characters on GLOW don’t even necessarily know the culture of professional wrestling enough to know how pervasive this is, but considering how much pride they all take in it—because, at the end of the day, they still are real professional wrestlers, even if they’re not making towns up and down the territories—they naturally still live these fundamental truths.

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GLOW immediately shakes things up—while G.L.O.W. simultaneously shakes nothing up—with its opening sequence in this episode. In fact, it’s essentially a Groundhog Day opening to a Freaky Friday episode. By the end of this opening montage, you never want to hear Bash—in his awful announcer voice that he just keeps doing, as the real-life David McClane continues to do, by the way—say “Bash Howard Productions proudly presents … It’s G.L.O.W.! The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling!” ever again. (And this is before Bash even goes full megalomaniac.) The montage starts with Tamme in obvious pain, but you know, she’s able to manage, and it’ll be fine. Until it’s progressively not, and wine and pills come into the stretching mix. Then there’s not even really a stretching mix. “It’s G.L.O.W.!” Airplane spin. “It’s G.L.O.W.!” Pills. “It’s G.L.O.W.!” Repeat. Until it gets too hard. Kia Stevens can obviously play that pain well, not just because of her own back issues but because professional wrestling is playing that pain (while also hiding actual pain). And that pain, set-up and established in “Desert Pollen,” is brought to the forefront here in a creative and (at first) fun way that GLOW’s third season has very much needed: a Freaky Friday (on a Tuesday) scenario.

It’s always fun to watch the G.L.O.W. Girls wrestle. These aren’t five-star matches—and while I brought up the actual actors bumping, that’s something that exists far less by this point in the series, though Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin still have to carry the load of good wrestling as Zoya and Liberty, or vice versa—but they’re entertaining, because they’re the culmination of these characters we care about’s hard work. And it’s hard work which informs what and who these characters are, for better or worse. Since we’ve already seen the majority of their Vegas act from the first two seasons worth of matches—though I’m still bummed we didn’t see Carmen’s match with the disappearing act—the excitement and entertainment here come from seeing all of them play each other’s roles. Which is also something they’re very familiar with, as they’ve watched each other over and over and over again in these roles.

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The way the G.L.O.W. Girls approach their colleagues’ characters speaks volumes in a way that’s been missing without these wrestling bits. Arthie, of course, jumps at the chance to play anyone but Beirut, and she absolutely kills as a Beatdown Biddie. (Tamme has the smart idea to be a Biddie in the first place, because of her back, but even that ends up being too much work for her in the end.) Cherry plays Melrose and immediately mocks everything about her whole persona—not just the character but the person—because they’ve always butt heads. (“What up, bitches? I’m 50, but I act like I’m 19. Let’s fucking party!”) Melrose ends up as Fortune Cookie and plays it even more offensive than it already is—certainly doing a lot more than Jenny does—despite the fact she’s taken over her friend’s role. We don’t see Rhonda as Machu Picchu, but we do know she switches it to a British explorer, and it’s so very Rhonda for her to only be able to play a British character. Yolanda also takes Black Magic and gives it Latina flavor, which is now the second time she’s done that to a Cherry character. Dawn’s version of Junkchain has some impressively white “breakdancing” moves while Stacey’s Beiruit is “[chanting gibberish].” Reggie—forever an enigma—can’t play Liberty Belle (despite originating the role), panics about a gimmick change, and ends up playing a nun.

But it’s no surprise that Debbie and Ruth are as good at playing each other’s characters as they are, even though Debbie makes Zoya a much more sexualized character and Ruth makes Liberty Belle… Judy Garland. (Carmen is actually surprisingly good as Welfare Queen.) And it’s not just that they are at a point where they can play these characters well, it’s that they’re at a point where they can make this switch immediately and not have there be any drama surrounding it. In the first season, Debbie didn’t even want Ruth to play the main heel to her babyface because she didn’t want to work her at all, and now she’s letting her play her character as one last hurrah.

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Much like Keith going back to Los Angeles, I imagine that a large part of Sheila breaking out of her wolfy comfort zone this season isn’t just in service to the character and that the actual actor themself also has a lot to do with the change-up. But Gayle Rankin certainly deserves the opportunity to prove that she can do much more than “just” be Sheila the She-Wolf, especially when you consider that the GLOW cast and crew may be just as aware of Netflix’s pattern with shows after their third season as the rest of us. (I do have a theory that GLOW will be renewed past this season though, due to the Jenji Kohan of it all—despite it not “really” being a Jenji Kohan show—and the fact that Orange Is The New Black just ended.) So while Vegas allows Sheila to go outside her comfort zone and express herself in new ways, GLOW season three also allows Gayle Rankin to finally show her range, even more than Sheila’s evolution has allowed before. Which is how we get Sheila the She-Wolf’s amazing—and extremely well-received—Freaky Tuesday transformation into Liza Minnelli. I don’t know how else to describe it other than pure joy, pure camp, pure Vegas, pure G.L.O.W., pure GLOW.

As is the whole show, as the girls get to have fun again. And on that level, I understand to an extent why this season wouldn’t want to show the regular Vegas show. Because that would just be to show the girls miserable and bored during the part of the show that’s supposed to be a safe haven from all of that. The wrestling is supposed to be the cathartic release from all of the drama and mess, which is exactly what Marquita J. Robinson’s “Freaky Tuesday” finally provides for the first half of season three… before Bash ruins all of it. GLOW doesn’t necessarily have to have more in-ring components to function well as a series, as long as it doesn’t forget to address the culture of professional wrestling, especially for the women in this era. But one of the issues of this season has been the telling of how this Vegas show has been a repetitiveness (albeit, a popular one) mess instead of showing, which is why “Freaky Tuesday” is an oasis in the season three desert.

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Stray observations

  • I recently had the pleasure of meeting Kia Stevens during the TCA press tour a couple of weeks ago. (She was in attendance as Awesome Kong, for TNT’s All Elite Wrestling panel.) That was when I learned that she’s actually aware of the book that I wrote on women’s professional wrestling, because a fan at a wrestling show asked her to sign it. As someone who’s been a fan of this woman as a wrestler for well over a decade and now gets to also be a fan of her as an actress, you can imagine how much that meant and means to me.
  • By the way: I wrote a book on women’s professional wrestling.
  • We only met Bernie Rubenstein for a few seconds, but he’s dead now. And Sandy’s devastated about it, even though they never had anything more than a professional relationship. (Tell that to his daughters.) Also, Sandy’s married!
  • Bash: “What is there to discuss? This is everything we’ve ever wanted.”
    Debbie: “The fact that you think that there’s nothing to discuss, that’s why we need a discussion.” Bash then throws the fact that Debbie has been sleeping her way through the Fan-Tan back at her, calling all the men she’s sampled “amenities.”
  • Justine: “Billy sent me some lame demo tape, which is like one long, desperate take-me-back plea.” First of all, I hope those two crazy kids make it work. Second of all, Justine is here! On spring break. And pretty well-adjusted, honestly, which is nice to see. She finally finished her screenplay, as promised, and she has Sam read it. Sam then has Ruth read it, to confirm that he’s not “crazy” on his thinking about it. She thought he wanted her to read his script (titled Paterfamilias) but nope. So that’s going to continue to drive her mad.
  • Sam: “Yeah, I’m not your fucking butler, you know? You can’t pay me to be your friend, or to agree with you, or to tell you how fantastic all your ideas are.” This is the original moment that strikes a nerve with Bash, because while Sam is making a point (and even a point about Florian, who he was obviously aware of), he has no idea just how loaded that statement is. He (and everyone besides Bash) probably doesn’t even know Florian died at all, let alone how.
  • Sandy: “Not a good time, Debbie, if you couldn’t tell. Imagine how you’d feel if Bash died.”
    Debbie: “I’d… Well, it’d be very tragic, given how young and handsome he is.” It really is impressive just how much Debbie doesn’t like Bash (and how much generally eager-to-be-liked Bash doesn’t care).
  • Dawn: “Last time we listened to you and Cherry about switching characters, it did not go well.” Never forget.
  • Ruth: “Also, it’s our job to do the same show. And it’s through the repetition that you find out more about your character.” NERD!
  • Justine: “My dad’s in the show.”
    Sandy: “My father figure died this week.” I’d just like to point out, this episode makes a compelling argument for Geena Davis in a Sandy Devereaux St. Clair spin-off.
  • Jenny: “Oh my god. Why is she doing that voice?”
    Sheila: “Isn’t that the same voice you do?”
    Jenny: “No, it’s not. It’s not the same voice, Sheila, okay? She’s a white girl doing that voice.”
  • Zoya Debbie: “Oh darling, I’m your daddy now.”
  • Liberty Ruth: “Oh, my back! My number one asset when farming!”
  • Bash: “Wow, what a gripping show tonight, folks. … Let’s hope it ends soon.” It’s worth rewatching the G.L.O.W. show just to listen to Bash’s commentary. He is so fed up.
  • Melrose’s mind being blown that Carmen’s mother is black and her father is mixed is one of the most realistic moments of the series. Well, that and Yolanda being the only one to realize Carmen was mixed (as they all most likely assumed they were both “the Latina ones”).
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About the author

LaToya Ferguson

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Despite her mother's wishes, LaToya Ferguson is a writer living in Los Angeles. If you want to talk The WB's image campaigns circa 1999-2003, LaToya's your girl.