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It took me way too long in my rewatch of this episode and season (as well as in writing about it all) to realize what must be the biggest reason there’s barely any wrestling in season three of GLOW. It was right there in front of me too, as I technically even mentioned it in the most “wrestling”-heavy episode of the season, “Freaky Tuesday.” I’m not talking about the narrative or the character reasons for it either: As I’ve gone on and on since day one about how big of a deal it is that the actresses of GLOW take actual wrestling bumps in the first place, I ignored the fundamental reason why it’s such a big deal that the actresses of GLOW take actual wrestling bumps. Notably the wear and tear on one’s body, one that comes with the territory of being a professional wrestler—as it’s something you just keep on doing, save for injury and retirement—but not the territory of being an actor. Especially an actor doing this for a successful television show that keeps getting renewed, not a movie where they can move on once the shoot’s over. These women have done two seasons of television where they consistently took wrestling bumps, only to stop during hiatus, and then start back up again for filming, which is definitely badass but also extremely unnatural.

(If you’re ever thought that taking a fall in a wrestling ring feels like falling on a mattress—and that it’s as simple as doing that, without having to take any proper precautions when landing—you should probably know that it’s not.)

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Ultimately, I don’t know if any television show is worth having its acting talent go through what trained professional wrestlers willingly go through, even in a comparatively short-term basis. Even weekend warriors have more consistency in their wrestling schedule and training because wrestling is what they’ve set out to do in the long run. That can’t be said about the likes of Alison Brie and company, as impressive as they’ve proven to be in the ring on GLOW. The alternative would be for the series to up the stunt double play, but while that would certainly provide more wrestling for the show, it would also take away from the specialness of the in-ring stuff (and the specialness of the aforementioned Alison Brie and company performing it), whether the series splurged for the visual effects to make it look like the actresses were doing the work (as I believe Fighting With My Family did when it came to Tessa Blanchard wrestling for Florence Pugh) or not.

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Strangely enough, it was this episode’s mud wrestling scene that made me realize all of this. As Carmen notes that it won’t be safe wrestling (even mud wrestling) with untrained novices, all I could think about is the GLOW actresses’ actual wrestling training. In my original viewing of “Keep Ridin’,” I was disappointed with the series for going so out of its way to avoid professional wrestling that it did mud wrestling instead. But then I realized that I could never hate on any wrestling scene that essentially boils down to “It’s a shoot, bro,” which is exactly what Carmen pitches when she tells Cherry they should go “old-school,” catch-style wrestling (going for the actual pin on each other, as sloppy as it is).

Hopefully this is the actual reason for the lack of wrestling, as it then suggests GLOW season three is just a temporary in-ring break for the actresses before a fourth season where wrestling is back in the foreground. Despite how frustrating the lack of wrestling has been—which has increased as the season refuses to even show the “sloppy” and “autopilot” version of G.L.O.W. now—this would at least would be a good reason for it. If it’s not though, then I have no idea what this season’s doing on this front past my initial criticisms of the story. Because getting the G.L.O.W. out of GLOW is the last thing that should happen on this show.

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As for “Keep Ridin’” itself, it actually ups the greatness of the “Freaky Tuesday” Tamme opening scene with its very ‘80s music video opening. (I mean, I still have “Send Me On My Way” stuck in my head though, so what do I know.) Not only does it function to show how much G.L.O.W. monotony and repetition has even gotten to Ruth—the one who tried to defend the repetition in the first place—it allows for the season to jump all the way from the summer to the winter, right before G.L.O.W.’s contract with the Fan-Tan ends.

In those months of G.L.O.W.:

  • Debbie has yet to produce anything, despite always talking about wanting to produce something other than G.L.O.W.
  • Bash now has two productions at the Fan-Tan, as he’s taken over Rhapsody in the wake of Bernie Rubenstein’s death. He and Rhonda—who has truly become his partner in business, as he trusts her to look over the books and also say the things he won’t during meetings—have bought a house in Las Vegas. They make a great team.
  • Cherry has filled her loneliness void with craps. And now she owes the Fan-Tan $5,000. She won’t touch her savings, because Keith will know, and she won’t ask Bash for help, because she doesn’t want anyone to know.
  • Carmen is actually dating! Only, we don’t see her date, and her story ends up being in service of helping Cherry with her issues. Yes, it’s a good friendship thing—girl power and all that jazz, as GLOW doesn’t need to be about men—but I feel like you can’t go from having Carmen have a heart to heart with Rhonda about wanting to date to having her finally dating and then not follow up on it at all. There are definitely steps missing.
  • Melrose, on the other hand, is “dating” (yes, she pays him) Paul from “Desert Pollen.” I also would have loved to know what inspired her to go with that arrangement, especially considering she still hasn’t paid him for that first time.
  • Ruth hasn’t broken up with Russell, even though he’s definitely afraid she’ll do it over the phone here. All they do is argue about her not being home in Los Angeles anyway, and now he’s going to Spain for two months. Poor Russell is unfortunately just kept around at this point to add to Ruth’s pile of things she hates about her life.
  • No idea about Tamme playing Welfare Queen as a manager though. Or even whose manager. Or what Sheila’s role in G.L.O.W. is without being Sheila the She-Wolf? Is she Liza?

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Ruth is definitely in a rut at this point in the series, even though Ruth’s natural setting is “rut.” (“Ruth.” “Rut.” I get it.) The opening scene (set to Siouxsie and the Banshee’s “Cities In Dust”) isn’t just a cool stylistic choice and a quick passage of time (from 50th show to 200th), it’s also meant to show how much Ruth believes everyone around her is moving fast (not just Debbie, as usual), while she’s stuck in a loop. (Though, I’d argue they’re all stuck in a loop based on that opening scene: After a while, the footage in the background is very much the same footage on a loop instead of completely new footage the whole way through the segment.) Some of the girls have guys they’re excited about dating, unlike Ruth. Sheila is actually focusing on her acting (and proving to be really good at it), unlike Ruth. Before, Ruth could at least take pride and joy in her work in G.L.O.W., but now she—of all characters—doesn’t even realize they’ve just done their 200th episode until they look at the performance reports. She’s not even writing the performance reports for herself, she’s writing them for Sam, who’s not even there. Things are hard for her, just like they are for everyone else… but Ruth’s perspective doesn’t allow her to see how hard things are for everyone else.

Debbie, surprisingly, doesn’t call Ruth out for that when she decides to throw Debbie’s producer inaction back at her. But that’s also because Debbie doesn’t need to do that. Yes, Ruth’s judgment is exactly the kick Debbie needs to go on to produce Bobby’s charity ball, but she doesn’t give Ruth the melancholy of knowing she pushed her to move forward in her life even more. (Even a season ago, Debbie would’ve made sure Ruth knew just how much she was going to do this to spite her.) Especially as Ruth is so determined to keep looking back and comparing herself to others, still, even after Debbie tells her to stop doing that. Even after years (and seasons) of being told she needs to stop doing that. (And even a season ago, Debbie would’ve made sure Ruth knew just how much she was going to do this to spite her.)

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It’s understandable for Ruth to question if she’s wasting her life and if she should just give up on her dreams, but “Keep Ridin’” doesn’t exactly answer what her dreams truly are at this point. Her acting aspirations are the stuff of youthful dreams, her romantic aspirations are… not Russell. As for G.L.O.W., she says enough times that it’s on autopilot. So what does she want? The episode ends with her getting her message in the form of Sam finally calling her (and leaving a literal message) about a role in Justine’s movie, but talk about a hollow victory. There’s not even the illusion of Ruth attempting to set forward and make something for herself at this point. Was Sam really the only one keeping that spirit alive for her? Because if so, that’s a depressing realization, at the very least. Because the bright lights of Vegas have only worked to dim Ruth, a character who was already dim to begin with. There is no more light in Ruth, until the final scene, which allows her to keep riding’... on a path she should really just move on from.

Ruth has always been a very relatable lead character—and a fascinating one for Alison Brie to play—simply due to how sad she is. Those first two seasons, it came in the form of her low self-esteem and her bad decision-making (still very much here) and her desire to fit in somewhere after completely ruining her friendship with Debbie and having an acting career that was going nowhere. She was also the type of person who always made excuses as to why things were the way they were in her life, never really trying to move forward (again, still very much here). Ruth is impressive in how real of a character she is, because she’s such a fucking mess. That doesn’t always make for the most fun viewing experience, but you can’t say it’s unrealistic. The storyline with Sam this season has only drawn that out more, which technically sucks—yeah, that’s the technical term—but is, unfortunately, extremely realistic. As is her frustration that she’s not moved forward the way all of her colleagues have. 

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While Ruth continues to repeat the same patterns and do absolutely nothing to change things (as much as she hates them), Bash and Rhonda appear to be evolving into what’s actually a Las Vegas power couple, unfortunately for Sandy. In fact, Bash and Rhonda are downright thriving in Vegas as an absolutely well-oiled machine, with Rhonda making good on her promise to prevent Bash from being taken advantage of, which is actually a pleasant surprise after the reveal that Bash would be getting his whole trust. Sort of. There’s actually something scary about how precise and good they are at this, as their interactions with Sandy—who clearly thinks she can outsmart them and get the Rhapsody show she’s always wanted—show that these two know exactly what they’re doing, even when they technically don’t. Bash’s attitude toward Sandy during her Rhapsody pitch is rude and dismissive, leading to the reveal of his ludicrous BMX Babes idea as though it’s genius… but it also comes from a place of Rhonda realizing that Rhapsody is actually a money pit that needs a complete overhaul. In fact, while Bash is kind of a douche toward Sandy, it’s Rhonda who’s actually the bad cop, the one who speaks up when Bash isn’t into an idea, the one who brings up the hard numbers when Sandy tries to push back on Bash’s idea. Bash’s initial steamrolling through Sandy’s ideas is actually their attempt at massaging their way around it for Sandy, before Rhonda goes with the hard facts.

But while Bash and Rhonda are a force to be reckoned with in the streets, that’s no longer the case in the sheets. Finally, the honeymoon phase is over, and they’re no longer having a ton of sex. In fact, they haven’t had sex in months. And while Bash is perfectly fine with that—and very good about playing dumb about that, as there is no way he doesn’t know Rhonda is trying to seduce him—Rhonda clearly is not. I mean, it was to be expected. Maybe not to Rhonda, but she’s doing her best to keep him interested, as Birdie told her to. It’s just not working.

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I think, ultimately, “Keep Ridin’” is another set-up episode, albeit one that’s loaded enough to almost stand completely on its own. Ruth’s sadness as a character is both alleviated and amplified by that final answering machine message from Sam—alleviated because she gets the sign she was looking for that she’s not wasting her life and amplified because I’d like to think we all know that the chances of any G.L.O.W. Girl making the transition to serious actor are slim, but especially for Ruth. (Sheila has the leg up of now being so dissimilar from her original She-Wolf persona, at least. And Cherry’s brief transition was from syndicated wrestling show to syndicated TV star who couldn’t even act.) “Keep Ridin’” has ultimately been the hardest episode for me to write about, because the more I think about it, the less I know how I actually feel about the Ruth of it all. At least the comedy is there, but this is also a pretty serious GLOW episode that relies on seasons of build as fuel, and it’s just a lot to take in. It’s an episode that really likes its metaphors for what Ruth (who has just devolved in all of this Vegas G.L.O.W.) and Debbie are going through... while also having mud wrestling.


Stray observations

  • Melrose: “Mmm. I’m just such a big helper is, I think, a thing that people don’t really realize about me.” We don’t see Melrose at the moment she’s saying the line—we’re focused on Ruth in her seat—but this is her talking about cutting the 50th show cake and handing out slices. Now, keep in mind, Ruth actually gives Carmen the knife to cut the cake—but Melrose has decided to cut it herself with a hair pick.
  • Carmen: “With your prostitute boyfriend?”
    Melrose: “Shut up. I pay him, I control the terms, and I’m happy. Don’t judge.” Agreed—don’t judge. But I would still love to see how this all came about. Did it happen during Sam and Justine’s Hollywood adventures?
  • Russell: “Okay, so you know this director, Menahem Golan, who directed The Apple, about the evil recording company and Adam and Eve?” I’m surprised Russell’s the one who brings a Cannon Films reference into GLOW and not Sam.
  • Russell: “Hello?”
    Ruth: “...I’m still here.” I really think Liz Flahive, Carly Mensch, and Sascha Rothchild’s script (as well as Lynn Shelton’s directing in this episode) really captures Ruth’s misery, too well. Ruth’s resigned response to Russell’s “Hello?” is only just the beginning of this episode.
  • Ruth: “It’s like everyone’s movin’ on with their lives, and I’m doing performance reports.” For Sam. She’s doing performance reports for Sam. I guess it tells us everything about Ruth being in love with Sam, that her entire life screeches to a halt because he’s not there. Nothing good, unfortunately.
  • Bash: “Sandy—pardon my French, but fuck Hollywood, right? I mean, who wants a classic face-lift? And what does that even mean? You still look old, but better?”
    Sandy: “well, yes. That’s the idea.”
  • Bash: “It’s Bash Howard’s Rhapsody, featuring BMX Babes!”
    Rhonda: “‘Cause that’s his brand! Girls doing something you thought only a boy could do.” Really, it’s a decent enough brand—though I kind of think BMX Babes is Bash’s XFL—but I feel like it also requires the Fan-Tan to have an entire face-lift too.
  • Well, it’s been six months and Randy still likes to scream when he’s not in the hallway. Poor Jenny.
  • Debbie: “Do you want to come see a man about a horse?”
    Ruth: “Don’t make fun of my play.”
    Debbie: “I was not talking about your play.” Seriously, Ruth is like a kicked puppy in this episode. And not even in the fun way.
  • Ruth: “I think Sheila might be a good actor. Better than me.”
    Debbie: “It’s not a competition, Ruth.” They’ve been having this conversation since season one.
  • Ruth: “I know things have always moved faster for you, but I wish we could just go back to LA and find a little theatre and do a play. We could do True West, you and me. We could do ‘Night, Mother.”
    Debbie: “God, that sounds awful. What? It does! I mean, if we were 25, fine, but I want my life to get bigger, not smaller. And I don’t care about playing all the great roles. I mean, it’s not realistic.”
  • Carmen chose Thundercats names (“Cheetara” and “Pumyra”) for her and Cherry at mud wrestling, because Carmen is too pure. Also, while Cherry didn’t want anyone to know about her money issue, she did go to Denise for help on what she should do. Mud wrestling was Denise’s idea. Stripping was Denise’s other idea.
  • Bash: “Nothing’s changed. I love you. And, hey, I’d wanna stay married to you even if we never had sex ever again. Okay?” Oh, Bash.
  • Ruth: “Don’t spend a lot of time in a casino.” This is Ruth’s terrible excuse for her very terrible tarot card shuffling. It’s… hilarious. And Ruth calls Debbie her “friend” in this episode… at the fortune teller’s, not to Debbie herself.
  • Debbie gets the idea from Ruth to produce Bobby’s annual winter fundraiser, but it’s not until she talks to Bobby—already setting some things in motion—that she even realizes it’s an underground AIDS fundraiser. Betty Gilpin’s “Yah.” as Debbie pretends she knew the whole time is priceless.

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