At the start of episode 6, Midge continues to wow party-goers with her jokes, an entire crowd gathering around her as if she were a prophet. Later, at the same party, Midge meets Randall, a fellow comedian, and the two start to engage in some improvised comedy routines, featuring Ayrolf Hitlerberg. Watching late 50s parties, I started to become nostalgic for a time I am far too young to ever have actually experienced. Look at all those happy young people, drinking, laughing, sharing stories and music, without a need to take selfies or text people elsewhere. The pre-social media age seems incredibly liberating.
Next, we have a great scene, which parallels the previous episode, with Susie walking into B. Altman’s to the same of tune of “I Enjoy Being a Girl” that played when Midge first got her job. While Midge is slim, elegant, and delighted to try everything (as an introvert, I honestly don’t know where Midge gets all her energy!) Susie is compact, rough around the edges, and deeply cynical. She doesn’t enjoy being a girl; she barely enjoys anything. And yet, her heroic gesture of seeking Midge out in person to try to make amends after their fight is deeply affecting. She may be too much of a tough cookie to apologize (“So, you’re sorry?” she says to Midge) but she clearly took the first step in reaching out and re-connecting.
Meanwhile, Abe receives a visit from two recruiters from Bell Labs, who offer Abe the opportunity to work for them. While Abe feigns disinterest, when he comes home to excitedly announce his new opportunity, the audience learns that this has been a lifelong dream, and the family plans a dinner to celebrate.
Can we take a moment to talk about the hilarity of Hollywood’s portrayal of professors? Not just in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but shows ranging from Transparent to Agents of Shield, professors all seem to be incredibly well-to-do, with offices the size of studio apartments filled with stacks of books, leather couches, and impressive artwork. Midge grew up very wealthy, not simply middle class, and I’ve been trying to figure out if this implication is that the family has inherited wealth, or if professors in the 50s were supposed to be incredibly wealthy, or if this is fantasy in the same way that every person on a TV show about New York City has a ginormous apartment.
Back to the plot: Rose is convinced that the reason Midge is dressing up and going to parties is to snag a new husband, when really it’s a way to for Midge to hone her act. While Midge is delighted to be the center of attention at these “gigs” Susie is less impressed by Midge’s “party circuit” — she wants Midge performing on stage. Apparently, so does Randall, who stops by B. Alton to see if Midge is interested in becoming a comedy duo. He invites Midge to chat further at the deli (which is apparently where all Jewish business transactions take place) and introduces Midge to his agent who expresses a lot of enthusiasm about the pair, though the way that both of them think of Midge leaves a much to be desired (“Sometimes a charming, funny guy with a cute, dizzy broad on the arm is a good sell”).
Susie not only thinks this is a terrible idea (which is true), but is deeply hurt that Midge has met with and been courted by another agent. While I was sympathetic to Susie’s hurt and reasoning, I also bristled at Susie’s decision to stake her territory by sneaking into the new agent’s office and telling him directly not to contact Midge, since it seems like something that Midge should do herself. Later in the episode, Susie’s tough love pep talk leaves Midge in tears (“Just drop this doe-eyed Bambi bit…If you want to be a comic, you are going to need to grow the fuck up right now!”) and may have ended by bringing them together in a hug, but also struck me as a little manipulative. Midge’s party gigs may not be official or making any money, but they absolutely helped give her confidence and a sense of her identity as a comic. Susie may be a supportive figure in Midge’s life, but she is also being pretty condescending to a woman who has had a profound personal crisis.
This is the first time in the entire season where we actually see Midge cry. Certainly, we have seen Midge cope with considerable pain—a philandering, unsupportive husband, a move back home that is hard and humiliating, and a general sense that she feels lost in a world that only ever valued her as a wife and mother—and yet, she has always retained a cheerful outlook, refusing to let anyone see that she is suffering.
The scenes leading up to Midge’s tears illustrate the profound social pressures that shape Midge’s reaction to crisis perfectly. At Abe’s big night out to celebrate his new professional success, the family (including Midge’s brother, Noah, and his wife, Astrid) see Joel out to dinner with Penny at the same restaurant, and end up leaving abruptly. Joel runs after Midge in an attempt to reconcile with her, but, as he does, he notices that Midge is no longer wearing her wedding band. “You should go back inside,” Midge tells him. Rose is still certain that Midge wants Joel back, and tries to comfort her by telling her, “Trust me—that girl is on her way out,” but Midge’s true comfort comes when Noah tells her, “You’re the funny one—you’ve always been the funny one.”
Episode 6 ends with two important plot points:
The first is that when Abe is signing his paperwork with Bell Labs, he learns that his daughter has been arrested a few times, a fact that has obviously spooked him (does he even know his own daughter?) and that he is unsure of how to broach with either Midge or her mom. The second is that the boys from the record shop found a recording of Midge’s initial drunken foray into comedy at The Gaslight. They don’t know who the mystery comic is, but they agree to dub a hundred and see where it goes. I don’t know for sure, but my guess is that “Mrs. X at The Gaslight” is about to go 50s viral.
- “I wonder if there really was a general Tso” Oh my God Penny Pann. You are boring and DESERVE SO MUCH BETTER THAN JOEL.
- Astrid is trying so hard to be a member of the tribe with all those giant mezuzahs, gefilte fish, trips to Israel, and exclamations of “Shalom!” and “ L’Chaim!” I get the feeling that if Joel were to marry Penny, he would have a lifetime of this same type of innocent-yet-annoying pandering.