As the title implies, “Kind of Bleu” is an episode about important realizations, as well as disappointments. It starts with Midge waking up on a lawn chair to a group of synchronized swimmers practicing in the pool. The idyllic and beautiful routine is disturbed when Midge somewhat angrily and absent-mindedly throws a beach ball towards them, causing the whole ensemble to come falling down into the water. Not the end of the world, of course, but also a moment that causes a perfectly organized routine to end with a suddenly violent splash.
I was struck by how much Midge wanted to impress her parents throughout this episode, both of whom have been pretty blunt about their disgust for her comedy. At least Abe has gone to see Midge perform a number of times; Rose refuses to even admit that her daughter is the opening act for Shy Baldwin, preferring instead to make up a story that Midge is in charge of costumes. After learning that the family won’t be able to go to The Catskills this year (between Abe and Rose having no money, and Midge being on tour, it wouldn’t make a heck of a lot of sense) she tries to persuade Joel to bring the kids to Florida as a kind of family trip. Really, she is just feeling a little lonely and, perhaps, a little nostalgic for the way things were, especially since Susie is in New York working with her other client.
Midge is generally pretty self-absorbed, but in“Kind of Bleu” she is actually relatively responsible, helpfully setting her parents up with her in the hotel and trying her best to make sure they have a good time. She also works to befriend Shy, who has had a big temper tantrum and “fired” his whole band due to stress. Together, they go for a sail on his impressive boat and bond over their desire for a creative life and the meaning of being famous. Midge choosing to reach out to Shy, rather than join the rest of the bandmates, including Carole, is an interesting one, and perhaps born of vanity more than responsibility. She always takes great pride that she can fix things, even though, as in the case of her friend’s wedding last season, her actions often just lead to more trouble.
But her friendship with Shy is genuine, mostly because she treats him like a person, rather than a celebrity she wants to sleep with or get an autograph from. She even brings a houseplant (which she names “Fred”) as a gift. At first, these moments of connection may even seem like a budding romance, but, in the end, its clear that Midge’s tenderness towards Shy is not because she has a crush. When the rest of the band assumes that Shy hasn’t shown up because he is blowing them all off, Midge goes looking for him and finds him in his boat beaten up badly. After seeing that she is truly concerned about his well-being, Shy comes out to her and asks her to keep his secret, which no one in the band knows.
He also tells her his real name, which he hasn’t even told his close friend and manager, Reggie. “You’re going to be just fine, Dwayne,” Midge tells him, and she means it. One of Midge’s best attributes is that she is very, very loyal.
If Midge is solid and responsible in this episode, Joel is the exact opposite, acting like a petulant child after he learns that Mei helped pull some strings in order to ensure he got his liquor license. Hoo boy. Mei, you are right to walk away. Joel is still nursing some serious wounds from the end of his marriage, and his insistence that he needs to do everything alone in order to do it right is a definite clue that he is not ready for a real relationship anytime soon. Even his attempts to stop Archie from cheating on Imogene are a disaster, as they get into a brawl that wipes out an entire nightclub.
Likewise, Rose is a hot mess this episode, which is kind of amusing, but also seems really out of character. She drinks at least 20 martinis and then starts to dance like a school girl calling out to Shy that she wants to marry him. Abe doesn’t seem to care all that much, since he is so deeply absorbed in recapturing his activist days. Again, Abe’s transformation from buttoned up professor to wanton Marxist feels thrown into this mix of plots in a way that isn’t purposeful.
Of course, the funniest screw up of all is Sophie Lennon who does everything humanly possible to win the title “diva.” She complains about everything, refuses to move or talk for hours, eats nothing but jello, and, eventually, ends up screwing her co-star after proclaiming her hatred of him for days. Who knows how that final performance will turn out?
In the end of “Kind of Bleu” Midge has the realization that the glamorous life that she imagined Shy leading is actually quite lonely. After all, he may be wildly successful, but he has to constantly hide his sexuality and pretend to be something he is not. Moreover, all the while Midge was enjoying the glory of the Fontainebleu, she never even considered the fact that Shy isn’t even allowed to stay in the hotel.
Racism and homophobia aren’t issues that Midge can waive a magic wand to fix, or incorporate wryly into her comedy act, which has been her go-to way to deal with sadness, anger, and trauma. Perhaps this is why, the final image that episode 6 leaves us with is not Midge at all, but Abe at his desk, writing to try and make change.
- Midge’s swimming lessons worked! Susie is back in the pool with her very own swim cap!
- Midge’s “clean” comedy act for her parents was still pretty racy for the times, right? I would have thought she might have avoided all sex humor after the last time she performed for her father!
- Awww! Susie kept in touch with the mob friends who tried to kill her. And now they are teaming up to bully other people who are just trying to do their jobs. How sweet.