I could barely form the thought, “I absolutely loved that episode of GLOW,” before I saw the episode’s writing credit. Then with that realization, I actually said to myself, “That makes the most sense ever.” (Please note that I censored myself in this story. For the children.) “This Is One Of Those Moments” isn’t just a Barbra Streisand-inspired episode title: It marks the first and only GLOW writing credit for executive producer Jenji Kohan. Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch have impressively found a way to created and recreated a special, fascinating world with GLOW, featuring characters that we’d already latched onto before the season even hit the halfway mark. But there’s something about Kohan’s direct participation that officially guides the series and its characters right into the perfect position, like replacing a relatively bright light bulb with an even brighter one. For the rest of the season, it’s back to the usual suspects in terms of writing, but this right here is the the turning point. It makes sense, too, as Kohan’s guidance facilitated Flahive and Mensch when it came to helming this show. And despite oft-mentioned overall problems with Weeds and Orange Is The New Black, I don’t think anyone would truly argue that Jenji Kohan isn’t a very capable writer.
I’m realizing now though that this praise probably won’t help much in getting people to stop calling this “Jenji Kohan’s show.”
This episode also marks the point in the season where it becomes obvious that Debbie’s understandable grudge against Ruth can’t possibly be her trump card forever. The old “you either die a hero…” conundrum and all that jazz. Debbie even finally admits that she enjoys “watching [Sam] make [Ruth] feel like shit,” but with the way Sam and Ruth are now on the same page, she doesn’t even have that to fall back on anymore. There have been flashes of her leading lady, “diva” side coming out, but “Debbie Does Something” addressed the aspect of that attitude that was due to a lack of full understanding and appreciation of professional wrestling. Here, there’s certainly far less ignorance, but she’s essentially trying to place a square peg into a round hole to avoid what she absolutely knows she has to do.
Sam: “One’s too hot, one’s too cold. Goldilocks, why are you fighting the inevitable?”
Debbie: “Because she fucked my husband!”
Sam: “Oh, so what? That’s life.”
Sam continually says he doesn’t want Debbie to turn into him, so while he and Ruth have mostly gotten on the same wavelength, it’s still Debbie he tends to compare himself to. Even though he was never a mainstream success the way Debbie was and he finds babies boring (even Randy). He’s right though, when he points out Debbie needs GLOW and that her behavior is turning into the type of martyrdom that will get her nowhere. If this is how things went for her on Paradise Cove, then it explains even more than the original double-edged sword of just being a smart woman who wasn’t complacent.
Still, this self-imposed ignorance and stubbornness on Debbie’s part at least leads to the delightful images of her versus all the heels who are just plain wrong for her. Once again, GLOW provides the audience with short but sweet character-defining beats that remind us how these characters don’t just stop existing once their part of the story is offscreen. When it comes to Reggie, that’s especially important, because it would be such a waste if her feelings about having the Liberty Belle gimmick taken away from her never came to the surface. (She’s still the character we know the least about, but in a way, that possible writing weakness can be a strength for the character. At least in the short run.) And honestly, it’s pretty cathartic to see her throw Debbie—the first thing we ever learned about her is that she can throw things—as a result of that pent up anger. Especially with the way Debbie behaves for most of this episode. These interactions also confirm what we already knew about Tamme’s Welfare Queen character: that it’s the perfect flurry of comedic gold and absurd tastelessness. Arthie’s… defensive wrestling approach to the terrorist Beirut character is a quick laugh, while Sheila’s aloof existence finally allows Debbie to experience the awkwardness Ruth goes through on a regular basis, as she can’t even get the She Wolf to “bite” when she perfectly sets her up for.
In fact, the characters’ stories don’t just stop existing even when they’re in the background, as GLOW finds a way to make sure the ladies are always doing something in the gym when the focus is off them. Sometimes it’s as simple as Cherry coaching while Dawn & Stacey work on flashy tag team maneuvers against Tamme and Arthie; other times, it’s as masterful as Tamme doing Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair poses in celebration, for the entirety of Debbie and Sam’s conversation about why Tamme’s not the right heel fit. There’s rarely a wasted motion in GLOW, which hardcore wrestling fans should appreciate, as that’s an integral aspect in the very concept of wrestling psychology. Cherry is right: All these women put in so much work that they don’t deserve to just be in service of one other woman.
“This Is One Of Those Moments” is great from the second it opens with Ruth, still pushing the heck out of her Russian character (now called “Zoya The Destroya”), going through the entire choreographed match she planned for herself and Debbie’s Liberty Belle (but mostly for herself). A match where she makes sure to remind everyone that Debbie will win, not just because she’s the good guy, but: “because you’re… blonde.” The way Alison Brie delivers that line (and this is right after giving an impressive physical performance) is confirmation that Ruth is not even going to try to fight the “moderately attractive” and “color of shit” comments anymore, because she knows it’s all just so stupid. The rest of the episode is Ruth at her fullest theatre kid level, to the unbelievable point of singing the aforementioned Barbra Streisand song from Yentl to a ballroom full of Russian Jews. I can only imagine, all those GLOW recaps and reviews that were quick to call Ruth an ‘80s Rachel Berry must have simultaneously joined together to sing along.
As tends to be the case with these two former friends, Ruth is also on her own mission of self-discovery, only in the form of a wrestling gimmick that she’s not even sure she’ll be able to use anymore. It’s sad but expected that Ruth chooses to make a day off another day of work, but since work ends up meaning getting vodka drunk and performing for a captivated crowd, she gets another small win out of this situation. Also, like most—if not all—of Sam’s proclamations of G.L.O.W. come out half sincere, half spin-doctor bullshit*, Ruth’s promises to Gregory that she doesn’t want to create just another “Boris and Natasha” Russian stereotype don’t feel all that genuine, even though she’s clearly putting in the work. It’s just that putting in the work involves her continuing to put on the fake Russian accent in front of the real Russian party goers and bringing up gulags and nesting dolls. Plus, knowing that the Zoya The Destroya gimmick is inspired by the real G.L.O.W. gimmick of Colonel Ninotchka—and that Alison Brie studied that character specifically instead of working with a dialect coach—a nuanced take will never be the end result. Sorry, Gregory.
Then there’s the Justine of it all, as the kid has the displeasure of finding out her new boyfriend, pizza boy Billy, thinks Sam is a hack director and that Rhonda is sleeping (as well as having sex) with Sam. It’s all a very weird form of teenage angst, as Justine mopes about her idol selling out (after all the times she’s defended his work), and it culminates in Justine stealing Sam’s camera in an act of rebellion… and real life heel work. In a world of adults, it’s not the strongest plot, but at the same time, it does provide gems of exchanges like this:
Billy: “So he’s a double hack. A hack of a hack. fucking perfect.”
Justine: “You know, I’m sure when people read your zine, not everyone thinks it’s art.”
Billy: “Hey, Agnostic Toad is fucking awesome. I don’t care what people think of it.”
Teenage punk rock love probably isn’t what anyone signed up for when it comes to GLOW, but any time you can call out faux depth (teenage or otherwise) with a good sense of awareness, there’s humor to be found. Of course, we continue on with Justine’s own side of that “depth,” as she calls Sam a “sellout;” though, to be fair, if he actually were using G.L.O.W. as just a casting couch situation, he would very much deserve to be called out. Then she ends the episode stealing his camera, which I suppose is how you rebel when you’re a teenager wrestling for your fallen idol, while Billy Idol sings over the scene. I’m not exactly sure how that works, really. The solo Gregory/Billy scene at the end of the episode (it’s the penultimate scene of the episode!) doesn’t really work as much as it hopes to—Gregory’s girl problems is a runner that already had to contend with a forced bris and a drunk Ruth who really didn’t learn any lesson about actual persecution— but it’s a weird type of scene that almost makes sense when it’s in the context of something as weird as the concept as the real G.L.O.W. In fact, I’m still slightly worried GLOW will eventually go to some really weird places to capture that spirit. Until then, some things works, and some things don’t. “This Is One Of Those Moments” is an episode where most of those things work, very, very well.
- * Obviously Sam goes into all of this knowing that Debbie/Ruth is the right pairing, but he’s also intentionally making it abundantly clear to Debbie that the alternative is worse. When she throws the star argument at him, it’s the most passive he’s ever been, glaringly so. I mean, think about it: He’s a director, so all he really needs to do is direct Arthie not to run around the ring. But he doesn’t, for good reason.
- Zoya The Destroya’s moveset: The Hammer & Sickle, Rough Toilet Paper, The Bread Line, The Potato Soup (“Eat it! Still working on names.”), Vodka For Breakfast
- Gregory: “It’s a family function.”
Ruth: “Families love me!” Even she doesn’t buy it after she says it.
- Debbie’s issue that Welfare Queen got all the cheers as the fun heel to her uber babyface? She would not be able to handle wrestling in 2017.
- A great Rhonda moment (aka a Rhonda moment) is the fact that her character trait for Britannica—you know, her brain—is naturally punctuated by sticking her breasts out. And apparently now she wants a horse, which would actually turn her into a G.L.O.W. hybrid of Zelda The Brain and Godiva.
- Rhonda: “Well I think he’s just trying to butter me up for a big part in his next movie: Mothers & Others.”
Justine: “Mothers & Lovers.”
Rhonda: “No, I think it was Others. I sort of read it.”
Justine: “He let you read it?”
Rhonda: “Well Sam read it to me. You know, I was sleeping and I’d wake up and doze off again, and then he was reading, reading, reading. His voice is quite soothing.”
- After last week’s pang of jealousy as Sam bonded with Ruth over her sponsor-saving Russian character, watch Rhonda’s face as drunk Ruth goes on about her Orthodox Jewish character. She absolutely loves how much it’s tanking. It’s a little petty but understandable and also a reminder that enough care and attention is put into how these characters think and feel, even when the episode’s not about that.