Does TV have a fledgling fascination with adult circumcision? Last Sunday, Veep’s congressional man-child Jonah Ryan underwent the procedure in a hospital at the behest of his prison-magnate-heiress fiancée. Now, the sixth episode of GLOW’s first season hinges on an 18-year-old Russian chess champion’s ceremonial bris, administered with vodka as anesthesia while dozens of family and friends celebrate with shots from an ice luge modeled after a giant knight piece. Hard to say which scenario is more improbable, but tip of the hat to GLOW executive producer Jenji Kohan, who wrote “This Is One of Those Moments,” for spinning a gentle satire of Russian customs into a running riff on the extreme devotion of Orthodox Jews.
To peel that back a bit (pardon the circumcision visual), Ruth set her sights on Gregory the motel owner, who is evolving into a quirky series regular. (It’s still hard to compartmentalize actor Ravil Isyanov from his recent KGB turn on The Americans.) Having been her ostensible muse for Soviet slayer Zoya the Destroya, Ruth corners poor Gregory — who apparently just assumed she and the other women were all ladies of the night — and insists on soaking up his essence like a sponge. Begrudgingly, he lets her tag along for his cousin Michael’s festive foreskin-snipping, and does his best to dissuade her from stereotypical notions of Russian peasants slaving away in gulags and pining for loaves of bread. It is not terribly successful. Ruth gets cozy with the ice luge and inevitably sidles up to guests, eager to see if they’ll take her at accented value as one of them. One thing leads to another, and at ailing Mitchell’s request, she serenades everyone with a song from Yentl, assuring Gregory that Barbara Streisand is a balm for all wounds and bridge across divides.
Ruth is still chiefly annoying. That’s no knock on Alison Brie. But Sam isn’t out of left field wanting her to tone down the Zoya shtick when he’s barely had his morning coffee. Nor is Gregory off base in finding her overeager and unwittingly insulting. And despite Sam’s protestations that Debbie suck it up and overcome her best friend’s betrayal, it’s easy to empathize with Debbie’s demand that anyone but Zoya the Destroya oppose Liberty Belle as a signature heel. (Side note: I love the characters’ ease with wrestling terminology by this point.) Problem is, Welfare Queen’s a showboat, Viking scares her half to death, the Terrorist is terrifyingly hyperactive, and She-Wolf won’t exactly bite at the opportunity. Perhaps more important, Sam is starting to see how Ruth, for all her irksome earnestness and poor personal choices, has a way of drawing extreme emotion from people. Maybe that explains how Mark fell for her in the first place. He also understands what none of her prior directors could: All that can-do emoting makes her a terrific villain. With a bit of coaxing, he finally persuades Ruth and Debbie that they’re ideal scene partners in the ring, a first step toward reconciliation, no Yentl required.
Justine, meanwhile, is feeling on the fence about punk-rock dreamboat Billy. Over diner breakfast, he has the audacity to tear into Sam’s reputation as a cult filmmaker, blurting out that, “Ripping off De Palma isn’t a genre.” Next thing you know, she disses his scene zine, Agnostic Toad, and they part ways in animus. Justine’s day doesn’t get much better when Rhonda spills the beans about she and Sam shagging (was Rhonda always this airheaded?), which prompts Justine to project her frustrations all over an unsuspecting Sam mid-urination. Sam, in turn, offers some mean words about toning down the stalker talk and working on her moves. Back at motel reception, all Billy can do is sulk and open his heart to Gregory, who merely suggests spending more spare moments giving oral sex (to Justine, not him) and less time talking. After all, that’s what his sometime lady friend recommends.
The cliffhanger, if you want to call it that, finds Justine stealing Sam’s camcorder, which he’d just used to capture Debbie and Ruth’s first bona fide bit of worthy performance as Zoya and Liberty. Generation X’s “Ready Steady Go,” a welcome, edgier choice amid GLOW’s neon soundtrack so far, speaks volumes about Justine’s intention when Billy Idol sneers, “I’m not in love with television / I’m not in love with the radio.” She’s bent on reminding Sam and Billy what rebellion is, though we’ll have to wait and see exactly how that looks and sounds. Good thing we’re ready, steady, go.
Apart From All That
• Lots of credit for the credible wrestling vocab goes to on-set fight coordinator and wrestling legend Chavo Guerrero Jr.
• No one charges a corner like Kia Stevens, a.k.a. Awesome Kong, a.k.a. GLOW’s Welfare Queen.
• More back and forth like what Ruth and Debbie improvise in the ring, please.
• Orthodox Jews and anyone else are fair game so long as it’s funny. Which lines like “I will lock you up with my completely covered legs” definitely are.
• Rough Toilet Paper is a keeper.
• Any character you’d like to learn more about soon? I vote Arthie.
• Sturgeon on rye? No thanks.
• The body slam Debbie takes from Viking audibly demonstrates how unforgiving that ring can be.