So late in the season, it might be surprising that GLOW does an episode with absolutely no wrestling. Especially after the disaster that was the wrestling match in “Live Studio Audience.” Sure, we have Sam’s verbal visualization for what the G.L.O.W. pilot will be like, but even the short amount of gym time in this episode only features weight training and sword handling.
The thing is, despite all the flimsy finishes and the KKK—or maybe because of the latter—“Maybe It’s All The Disco” confirms fairly early on that Sam considers that preview show for G.L.O.W. a success. He has some directorial notes, of course. Less sword, more anger for the Fortune Cookie gimmick; possible claws for Sheila The She Wolf; no KKK stuff for Junk Chain, Welfare Queen, and the very impressionable Beatdown Biddies. And from what we saw in that episode, you could possibly also add, “Machu Picchu shouldn’t have a panic attack” and “Liberty Belle should hit the finish.” As “Live Studio Audience” confirmed with its bitchin’ Stan Bush training montage, in GLOW’s simplest form, it’s an ‘80s sports movie about a ragtag bunch of ladies. So now’s not the time for anything resembling the finished project; it’s time to see how far we’ve come.
Here, Debbie is on the verge of taking a giant leap… only it’s backwards and possibly into the the arms of her jabroni husband Mark. While “Live Studio Audience” just went full tilt on the real Mark, “Maybe It’s All The Disco” has him do everything he can to show he’s not such a bad guy. And there’s a fine line between finding how terribly awkward and pathetic Mark is here amusing and simply becoming angry that Debbie is even giving the guy the time of day. He talks about all the progress he’s made in changing, even though there clearly wasn’t a giant time-lapse between the wrestling preview and now. He had divorce papers written up in some bizarre powerplay, trying to besmirch the good name of Burt Reynolds in the process. We’re basically at the point where, if GLOW doesn’t end with Debbie leading the G.L.O.W. Girls in a “Love Is A Battlefield” prostitution liberation dance in the season finale, then I’m not sure I know what any of this is really for.
Alright, that’s not completely true, as there is obviously a compelling story about Debbie being at odds with truly going for her independence (which, to be fair, does still involve being a mother) and being the good wife, especially because of the era in which it’s sadly much less acceptable to do the former. But do you know how hard it is to watch a show with such badass women and not see them all take a slime like Mark down, inside or outside the ring? Intentional or not, while Sam has been surprising in how relatively decent he is, GLOW has created quite the typical sleaze bag (who pretends he’s on the talent’s side) wrestling promoter in the form of Mark.
Mark actually does have a point in his favor when he reveals he kept count of how many days passed before Debbie touched him or even asked how his day was (42 days), and Betty Gilpin’s reaction as Debbie realizes this was before she was pregnant or with mommy brain really lets that sink in. The problem, however, is how he chose to handle it—cheat, blame Debbie, continue to pursue Ruth after the baby was born. And then he chose to get therapy only after all the mess instead of suggesting they do it together back in that 42 day phase. He brought divorce papers to her job. For any shades of grey there are with him, he definitely finds a way to regularly darken it all up.
Unsurprisingly, all of this happens while the rest of the episode features a big group bonding mission for the other ladies, as Jenny throws Sheila a birthday party. What’s worse, Debbie not even having anything to do with the festivities or Sam asking, “Who gives a shit?” about Sheila’s party? The answer is Sam, in one of his more intentionally hurtful moments as of late.
The ladies sync up their periods (and give me memories of the week leading up to my senior prom), and from that point on, they’re throwing tampons at each other, Melrose is constantly singing about it (the song is still stuck in her head at the drugstore), and even Justine is getting in on the laughs. Wolf spirit aside, there’s something very honest and relatable here, both in the amount of effort Jenny (with sidekicks Stacey and Dawn) puts into the birthday party and in Sheila as that friend who constantly resists but eventually gives in. Despite how very different each of these women are, GLOW does a terrific job of depicting them as the type of friends who came together for a certain cause and stay together because they’re the only ones who can relate to each other. Even Justine, a picture of teen angst and “nobody understands me,” embraces the fun of having tampons thrown at her and rollerskating (and howling) with a wolf girl. In fact, despite the menstrual sync up, this episode doesn’t even try to pull any of that “their time of the month” crap. No one is at each other’s throats at any point of the episode, and Carmen’s atypically nihilistic demeanor is only the result of an M.I.A. Bash (and being the keeper of his secret re: his lack of funds).
With GLOW in general, you still get your mild tension, like with Melrose/Cherry, Rhonda/Ruth, Justine/Rhonda, and even Debbie/Cherry, but it’s always the type of thing that can blow over—even without official resolution—because that’s how these things go in real life. And yes, I am including Debbie in this group friendship, despite her constantly being on the outside (not even looking in): She’s basically that friend who may have boy problems (Carly Rae knows the one), but when it’s crunch time, she’s there for you. If anyone knows that, it’s Ruth—but she messed that all up for herself.
However, if Melrose were to cut a wrestling promo on how Debbie’s a lazy part-timer, who could really blame her?
During all of this, as Debbie finds herself questioning whether or not to “repair” her family, Ruth finds out she’s having Mark’s baby and decides to have an abortion. Or as they call it in Riverdale, “an appointment.” Half of Ruth’s story in this episode is dedicated to her determining for sure if she’s even pregnant, but for anyone waiting for the question of whether or not she will keep it or tell Mark, that never comes. It’s not a matter of if she’ll have an abortion, it’s a matter of when. Because as Ruth tells Sam: “It’s not the right time. Not the right baby.” Plus, it would be out of character and honestly pretty regressive for Ruth to keep (or really even consider keeping) the baby at this point in time. Hopefully the irony’s not lost on anyone that a show set in the ‘80s and specifically depicting the struggles of women in that era portrays the abortion for exactly what it is—a clinical procedure—without making it a heart-wrenching debate. In fact, the science experiment known as an ‘80s pregnancy test takes up more time in the episode, and Ruth at least gets more things done there (cutting her bangs, tweezing her chin hair, cleaning the motel shower). When it comes to Sheila’s birthday, Sheila tells Jenny not to “make a fuss” about all of it, and a lot television knowledge dictates that this episode will instead make said fuss about Ruth’s abortion plot. But really, that’s almost an afterthought, which is far less sad than it sounds. This might be “the episode where Ruth gets an abortion,” but GLOW absolutely doesn’t make that define Ruth or the episode. That means something, and the episode makes a lasting point with the tile image of blue skies ahead.
- This is a Stray Observation instead of in the review proper, because, like with the episode, this very concept messes with the flow of things. Brooke Hogan’s (she’s the one who shows Sam and Ruth around The Mayan venue) acting doesn’t inspire memories of her father’s acting, but that’s because it doesn’t inspire anything at all. This is a show with plenty of wrestling cameos—Brooke Hogan does surprisingly have experience in the wrestling industry—but something has been gained from all of them. In fact, while Alex Riley wasn’t a fan favorite in WWE, his work as Steel Horse was integral to Debbie and a non-wrestling audience understanding how the whole heel/face dynamic works. Mark (the man, not the wrestling concept) controversy aside, he’s at least an integral part of the story for now. Hogan is a blemish on this episode, despite such a small part. In a series where everyone fits in terrifyingly well when it comes to the era, Hogan sticks out in a way where even Melrose—who spends 50% of her scenes here singing about her period—would ask for more subtlety. Also, as we know GLOW takes place in our reality-adjacent and that Hulk Hogan is the man at this point, it’s kind of ridiculous no one addresses the fact that this woman looks exactly like a female version of Hulk Hogan.
- Sam: “I like George Lazenby. At least he’s the right age.”
Rhonda: “What are you saying? Roger Moore is, by far, the best Bond.”
Sam: “Nobody thinks that.”
Rhonda: “Well I do. You haven’t even seen A View To A Kill.”
Sam: “Yeah, well, I saw Moonraker and there was a pigeon that did a double take.” This conversation is obviously the real reason Rhonda dumped him.
- Sam: “Sheila, you ever thought about claws, maybe? Could be interesting.”
Melrose (worried): “That sounds dangerous.”
Sam (duh): “Yes. It’s gonna be dangerous.”
- re: the KKK thing. Little did Sam know, Cherry and Tamme were both: 1. Ahead of the curve, and 2. At least not in a position where they were actual recognizable faces in professional wrestling.
- Jenny gets really into birthdays because of the lack of celebration back in Cambodia, and I’d say that explains a lot about her and what I’ve considered a Valley Girl-esque style (and even why she stayed at the G.L.O.W. audition). She wants as much as the “American” lifestyle as possible, whether it’s birthdays or television (all Murder, She Wrote, all the time) or working on her tan. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. Also, Jenny is such a force of nature I sometimes have to stop to remind myself she’s played by Ellen Wong.
- Florian: “Last night was breakfast for dinner night. And I was the only one who ate it.” That is officially the saddest short story in the world.
- This episode teases Melrose possibly catching Ruth buy the pregnancy test, but luckily, it’s just a tease. At this point, I don’t think Melrose would tell anyone about a possibly pregnant Ruth out of malice, but there’s no way she would keep it to herself. As Ruth reminds Sam, these 14 women talk—about everything—and I can’t imagine a version of this where Melrose tells just one person and it doesn’t eventually get to Debbie. And the moment Debbie finds out, everything’s over.
- I don’t know that I’d say Ruth is Sheila’s best friend, but Sheila definitely feels a sense of safety with her. Also, in case you need a reminder that Sheila is very much aware that she’s not an actual wolf, her plan to run away to the “woods” involves taking her blanket and toothbrush.
- Do you want to know a stupid thing to cry over while watching a television show? A birthday cake with a candle that has the person’s age in wolf years. And yet. “Wolves die young.”
- Rhonda’s emotional intelligence continues in this episode, as she dumps Sam before he can dump her and pretty succinctly explains his entire problem—that he just doesn’t want to be alone but is also too paranoid for his own good. (His venue trip with Ruth also confirms this.) Also, the dating tape from “The Dusty Spur” comes back into play, as it turns out that (unlike Stacey), Rhonda actually acted on the fact that “he’s cute, he’s lonely, and his cock works great.” And she really wasn’t looking for anything from him other than relationship validation. Things like the horse or a part in Mothers & Lovers may have made it seem like she was expecting things from him… But as she points out, she would’ve wanted the horse even if they weren’t shagging, and as for the movie, Rhonda told Justine she thought he was buttering her up to eventually ask her to be in it (not the other way around).
- The Sam/Ruth friendship is very good, and I think GLOW knows that… to the point of teasing a romance that (hopefully) will never happen. Otherwise the “TRUE LOVE” poster perfectly framed in the shot of Ruth checking into the hospital is just too on-the-nose for this show. They obviously at least grow from them both denying they’re a couple at The Mayan to him saying he’s her husband at the hospital.