Sometimes you have to break a foot to fix a friendship. Or move a story forward. Or in this case, both. Not since the Korean Armistice Agreement has there been such an anticipated standing down as we witnessed between Debbie and Ruth in this season-best seventh episode. Things wisely picked up where the preceding half-hour left off, with Ruth writhing in pain after Debbie — tipsy and high on coke — inadvertently (we think) tore some part of her lower body into shreds. It was her foot, as it happens, and Debbie clarifies that she actually heard a pop and a tear (no snap or crackle, sadly). After untold hours in the ER, an attending doctor confirms that she suffered a clinically precise fracture and will be MIA for a couple months.
The fate of Ruth’s in-ring abilities for G.L.O.W.’s final four first-season episodes was never really a source of suspense. Zoya the Destroya’s Cold War with Liberty Belle was clearly on ice, and the world would simply have to wonder interminably whether Savanna Rose was safe in her Russian home. But Ruth’s detour to Valley General (in retrospect, Melanie was probably right preferring Cedars) creates the perfect static environment for writers Liz Flahive, Carly Mensch and Sascha Rothchild — along with director Sian Heder — to stage Ruth and Debbie’s ultimate confrontation while making room for the show’s entire ensemble to revolve around their drama. (It should be noted that former Nurse Jackie executive producers Flahive and Mensch are rather at home within a hospital’s walls.)
Continuing GLOW’s semi-regular tradition of musical numbers and montages, several lead and secondary characters take turns entertaining Ruth while she awaits X-rays, with Kimmy Gatewood and Rebekka Johnson getting yet another chance to show off their comedy-duo chops as misfits Stacey and Dawn (who, in a kind of fantasy crossover, I imagine casually dating Summer School’s Dave and Chainsaw, statutory concerns notwithstanding), this time improvising a ventriloquist act. But Cherry and Keith steal the moment by debuting their previously bedroom-only Black Magic voodoo act for Sam and Ruth, much to their approval.
“Nothing Shattered” is as much Sam’s story as Ruth and Debbie’s. After standing up on Ruth’s behalf after her #MeToo moment and generally softening his edge of late (being a new dad of an angsty teen will do that to you), Sam rises to the occasion by aiding Ruth — whom he hearts — and rallying affection in his troops. He even opens up to Arthie about fearing hospitals because he let his mother rot in one. That more than earns him a share of her vending-machine snack. His admiring crush on Ruth still feels a bit off, and has the makings of her next interpersonal conflict (Sam, it seems, would not take rejection well). For now, however, Russell is still in the picture, playing Romeo by carrying her out of the ring and helping rush her to medical help. Since Sam catches it all on camera, it would be prudent to work into Zoya’s onscreen angle when she’s healthy enough to come back, but he doesn’t much care for the swarthy cameraman (he and Debbie both), so their Moscow on the Pacific saga may have to wait.
One cast exile is being welcomed back ashore, at least, as Ruth convinces Sam to rehire Reggie (Ruth herself is temporarily reassigned as Sam’s creative other half). Or as he reasons, “Bring the Viking back to the sinking ship.” Though in case there are any questions about who GLOW’s principals are, we get a closing sequence of Ruth, Debbie, Sam and Bash slow-walking (or wheeling, in Ruth’s case) down the Valley General corridors, strutting out into the harsh sunrise to — in Sam’s phrasing — “do whatever the hell we want to do, set the weirdos free and see what the fuck happens.”
It would seem, then, that Debbie’s downward spiral has been averted and 17 episodes of tension between she and Ruth has finally boiled over and simmered down. Besides, if the two decide their tensions over years of mutually advantageous friendships and singular hurt is too much to store away and get a tad too real again in the ring, Sheila will always be there to literally lick their wounds.
Apart From All That:
• Thanks to Cherry referencing Joe Theisman’s infamous leg fracture, we can deduce that it’s late November 1985 as of this episode.
• Melanie is fast becoming my favorite character.
• Man, Bash really is a wrestling mark.
• I envision Sheila as a future entrepreneurial businesswoman.
• When will Arthie get to transcend her gimmick?
• We finally know what Ruth’s deal is. It makes it easier to root for her.
• So is Bash gay? Does it matter?