GLOW Recap: Patriarch Games

Photo: Erica Parise/Netflix


Perverts Are People, Too Season 2 Episode 5
Editor's Rating 3 stars

After a season-and-a-half of holding in her anger at Ruth for sleeping with Mark, Debbie finally loses the moral high ground by scolding Ruth for turning down network head Tom Grant’s advances and blaming her for G.L.O.W. being exiled to 2 a.m. “The one time you keep your legs shut, we all get fucked” is clever writing, but it’s also pretty damn vicious, and Ruth would be well within her rights to regard Debbie’s words as a betrayal on par with bedding your best friend’s spouse.

Ruth’s harrowing encounter with her bungalow-perv boss is the second prolonged, painful, uniquely female experience we’ve watched her endure, following her first-season abortion (a scene that, not shockingly, miffed some anti-abortion pundits). It’s also an explicit dramatization of what Harvey Weinstein’s victims have recounted, down to making us confront the complicity of passive participants — in this case Glenn. It’s a drastic tonal shit from episode four, which was poignant at points but also broadly comedic. Here, it’s hard to say what’s more horrific: the dread of knowing what Ruth didn’t, seeing it play out to patterned form, watching Ruth’s face go ashen as Debbie admonishes her for being selfish and a prude, or seeing how — even as strong, in-control Zoya — the whole incident takes her completely out of character.

These moments are ultimately why Alison Brie, no stranger to playing smart-but-subjugated women from her Mad Men days, is GLOW’s lead. And she is every bit as believable bouncing from hopefulness to humiliation in “Perverts Are People, Too” as Debbie is callous and cold during their chat at the gym.

Cannily, episode writer Rachel Shukert and director Claire Scanlon offer the flip side to this thorny issue. Back at the Glowtel pool, Melanie and Rhonda take uncomplicated delight in the attention of their “intellectual sexual-predator fans,” whose affection occasionally comes punctuated with a dick pic. Although Sheila represents something of an in-between — she doesn’t say no to Melanie’s idea of a meet-and-greet, but she’s deeply unsettled by her admirers’ fervor (including a male She-Wolf impersonator) and embarrassed by both male and female gaze. Perhaps the distinction with Rhonda’s rambunctious suitor and Melanie’s autograph-signing brainstorm is they’re ultimately controlling the dynamic and can keep whatever distance they like. Ruth, however, is tricked and trapped, and lucky to get out of the situation without a fight.

The other big struggle emerging is apparently an internal one for Bash. Does he love Florian, or does he not? (Also, should we be referring to him as Florian or simply Flor?) Does he simply admire wrestlers’ outward projection of strength and self-confidence, or does he admire their physique and flamboyance in a more literal sense? Does he feel at home at gay-club Shenanigan’s (not “an Irish place, like Bennigan’s,” as Carmen soon realizes), piqued by bartender Eric’s overtures, or is he simply on a quest to find Florian, who’s disappeared like Nemo after yet another of Bash’s bounced checks? It’s as confusing to us as Bash, though it feels as if his childhood butler Gary (what kind of butler is named Gary?) — like all good de facto caretakers of spoiled rich kids — has some kind of insight into his sensitivity.

That story line sort of sails in from another dimension, but over in the land of impossible sweetness, i.e. Cherry and Keith’s unconquerable marriage, we get a glimpse into what unwavering support and healthy and permissive sexual kink look like. The latter takes the form of Black Magic, Cherry’s voodoo priestess role-play persona. Alas, what choice does Keith have but to dial her services and stir his wife out of her post–Chambers & Gold rut? This is only after he has calmly listened to her problems and politely eased off on the bedroom initiation until she was in the mood. What a man.

Unfortunately, this halfway half-hour of season two is predominantly about men with less of a soul and spine than Keith, whether it’s cowardly Glenn, mildly misogynistic Sam (who’s overdue for a character-deepening episode), or the big baddie Mr. Grant. (Honorable mention to Patrick O’Towne for pulling his sponsorship after somehow opposing the ladies’ PC PSA on teen sex.) Though witnessing how women who’ve been battling back against a stacked deck their whole lives can mistakenly tear each other down is hardest to watch. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that perhaps Ruth will reinterpret Debbie’s advice about having to “pretend to like it until you don’t have to anymore” and decide to will the dominant male hand of G.L.O.W. into submission.

Apart From All That:

• K-DTV must-sees apparently include The Fishing Hour and Fielding and the Mouse.

• Sam’s water/respect principle also applies to diners.

• Patty O’Towne/Patio Town never gets old.

• LOL to Glenn’s “It was a different time.”

• Boo to Glenn on everything else.

• Melanie is quite the entrepreneur.

• Knew that closing Patio Town location portended bad things.

• Hopefully Elizabeth Perkins comes back as Birdie soon.

• Even for this show, the Waitresses’ “I Know What Boys Like” is a tad on the nose.

• Don’t we all wanna be the next Ellen Burstyn?

GLOW Recap: Patriarch Games