It’s more than poignant that “Live Studio Audience” is dedicated to the memory of wrestling legend Chavo Guerrero Sr., father of GLOW fight coordinator and renowned third-generation superstar Chavo Guerrero Jr. The talents Chavo Jr. inherited were evident as Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Sydelle Noel, and the GLOW team finally show off what they’ve absorbed in a monthlong crash course leading up to filming.
In this episode, GLOW stages its first-ever show in front of a live audience at fictional Chavo’s Gym, which we learn Bash bought outright as part of the unfathomable $600,000 he’d already sunk into production before cameras even rolled. The upside is that a “respectable” crowd of 20-to-30 oddballs descend on Chavo’s bleachers to see what spectacle Sam and the women have in store. The heartbreaking reality is that Bash’s mother has cut him off, and he has no idea how grit, determination, and sponsorship money from Patio Town alone will bring this thing to life.
Bash confesses the truth to Carmen outside the venue, shortly after she flees her opening match in the throes of a panic attack. It’s the second sweet scene these two have shared, and there’s reason to believe there might be a real love connection here, unlikely as their pairing might be in any other TV show. Part of what Bash likely admires about Carmen is her tight-knit family, whom we spend more quality time with this episode. Where else were Ruth and Debbie to turn for real wrestling training leading up to their big main event than Carmen’s brothers, the Lumberjacksons? Once the boys were done downing Pringles on the porch, they were happy to oblige.
The subsequent montage is fairly routine stuff as a time-compression device, but wrestling fans will watch pridefully as Ruth and Debbie take their lumps learning the finer points of flying cross-bodies and properly leaning into clotheslines. At one point, Debbie flashes a satisfied smile that’s hard not to peg as a candid moment of Gilpin’s adrenalized glee. Plus, there’s the consistent comic relief of how closely one of the Lumberjacksons resembles Ken Marino in Wet Hot American Summer.
In general, “Live Studio Audience” is an episode with plenty of feel-good peaks, from Cherry and Tameé upending their stereotypical tag team by recasting Stacey and Dawn as Klu Klux Klan antagonists, to Rhonda winning over Sam, the roster, and those in attendance at Chavo’s with an anthemic rap. (Said rap also allows Kate Nash to playfully reference her real-life musical pedigree and gives me an excuse to direct everyone’s attention to Jackie Stallone’s emcee skills in the original GLOW theme song.) Hell, even Justine gets down with the beat, which is completely inconsistent with her character, but all bets are off once Rob the Goth and his coven start actively cheering an earnestly patriotic Liberty Belle.
The only buzzkill arrives right as Ruth and Debbie, in total Liberty and Zoya (or “Soya” as the errantly spelled call sheet lists it) mode, are about to launch into a few minutes of brawling. There, staring on aghast is Mark, who through a bit of sleuthing managed to track down Debbie to the gym and discover what she’s been up to. (Gregory, who apparently loves inviting strangers to strange events as his guest, is partly to blame.) It’s an irksome interruption, and not just for Debbie. Rich Sommer is almost too good as jerky Mark, and the rush of Debbie and Ruth clicking in the ring was a shame to have spoiled. Alas, GLOW — as with other projects from Jenji Kohan — features some requisite drama alongside its carefree comedy. Soon enough, Mark will be out of the picture and Ruth and Debbie can reconcile their differences.
Circling back to Justine, the provocateur behind GLOW’s other pressing intrigue, it turns out the camera she stole didn’t travel far. In a transparent attempt to frame Rhonda, whom she is jealous of over Sam, Justine placed the camera in her adversary’s locker. If we’re being honest, the revelation doesn’t provide terribly sensational resolution to that mystery; though, it theoretically introduces more subtle conflict into Sam and Rhonda’s relationship, which is a disaster waiting to happen. But at present, the closest any of our fearless female grapplers has come to absolute jeopardy is Sheila’s fixation on the game show with that very name. If Bash can pull his act together, as Sam keeps Debbie and everyone on course, their slightly exploitative but oddly inspirational endeavor might make Saturday mornings great.
Apart From All That
• Mark isn’t wrong about wanting to know where Debbie and Randy are. But he’s still a dick.
• Still hard to fathom what either woman saw in him.
• Orin from Parks and Recreation > Rob the Goth.
• Bash = fake-smoking alert.
• Keith is such a great character in every way.
• Oh, were times as innocent as Ronald Reagan, Jesus, and Larry Bird.