The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
It’s not easy being Abe Weissman.
We already know he’s a control freak. But when his fastidiousness collides with his being a parent — especially of two grown children who, we learn in “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” are both leading secret lives — well, not even tomato juice can calm his nerves.
Yes, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is still Midge’s story, but this episode, much like “Mid-Way to Midtown,” wisely turns its focus back to Abe, this time as he attempts to process his discovery that his daughter is “a foul-mouthed comic.” And while this revelation evokes some serious Dr. Houseman and Baby vibes, it turns out that Abe isn’t half as upset with Midge as he is with his son, Noah (Will Brill), who is apparently holding down a second job with the CIA.
Just like in “Midnight at the Concord,” Tony Shalhoub conveys so much of Abe’s pain and disappointment without even saying a word. This episode picks up immediately where the previous one left off, with Abe, Midge and Susie arriving back at the Weissmans’ Steiner Mountain Resort cottage following Midge’s smash stand-up set. The tension in the room is as thick as the muggy August weather as the two women silently wait for Abe to speak, which never happens. He drinks a glass of lemonade, then goes upstairs. Midge and Susie remain stock-still. We know they’re too afraid to move because we can see them standing there even as the cottage’s exterior shows a lapse from night to day. (When morning comes, Susie is snoozing peacefully on Midge’s lap and the possibly sexual dream she mentions about a beaver and an ice skating rink may just be the show’s nod to a certain fan fantasy. Susie has also named her plunger, BTW, because she’s “spending a lot of time alone up here.”)
While Shalhoub is an excellent wordless actor, he’s also pretty damn good with dialogue, as evidenced by his morning-after confrontation with Midge. It felt as if Daniel Palladino, who wrote and directed the episode, was paying homage to this famous Dirty Dancing scene (notice they both take place next to a lake and feature disappointed Jewish fathers and their headstrong daughters) while also making it 100 times better. Midge confidently states that she’s happy she’s been found out, because “I don’t want to hide it anymore.” But this is still 1959, and Abe is still Abe, so we’re not coming out of this with Midge’s father promising to be in the front row of her shows cheering her on. He insists on controlling the situation as much as he can — and for us 2018 women, it’s hard to swallow. Abe orders Midge to not breathe a word about her stand-up career to her mother “until I decide the time is right. I. Me. Your Father.” (It’s suggested Midge won’t be able to come clean to Rose until 1960 at the earliest. Happy Hanukkah!) And here we return to the ongoing problem of Midge’s being caught between independence and the security of Mama and Papa: She’s 27 years old, and yet she agrees to Abe’s conditions.
Later in the episode, the camera captures Midge in the reflection of the Steiner cottage window, decked out in her stage costume of LBD and pearls, while Abe is reading. He looks up. She looks at him. They say nothing, and she leaves for another gig (which we don’t see, because we don’t need to at this point). I get the sense that he’s taking the first steps toward acceptance of Midge’s career, as long as she follows his rule of “laying low.” But in all honesty, Abe has far more stressful things to worry about now than a daughter who tells jokes.
During a quick trip to Manhattan, Abe stops by his job at Bell Labs with Noah in tow, and we learn that he’s been riding his superiors hard to hire his son. In a scene that very likely features the funniest use of a door buzzer ever, Abe’s pomposity is punctured by a team of legal and security representatives who inform him that (a) the janitorial staff have a higher security clearance than he does and (b) Noah will never be an employee of Bell Labs because he’s “involved in a highly classified project for the United States government.” Rough news for a guy who just boasted to Noah about how he believes in diversity in the workplace by proclaiming, “I almost hired a woman!”
Maybe you should’ve hired that woman, Abe, because it ends up taking a female to lure the truth out of Noah’s dim-witted wife, Astrid (Justine Lupe). Though given how poor Astrid is the invisible Weissman family member, and will spill her guts over the mere act of companionship at a Tisha B’Av prayer service, this isn’t a difficult task for Rose. (Quick refresher on Astrid for those who are confused by her deal: She converted to Judaism, and takes all Jewish holidays as seriously as Charlotte York Goldenblatt does.)
So, let’s recap (within the recap): Midge is a comedienne; Abe knows, but Rose doesn’t. Rose and Abe know Noah works for the CIA (but they’re murky on whether or not he “kills people”). Abe is less angry with Midge than he is with Noah. Got it?
Time for the Steiner end-of-summer spectacular! There’s a cringe-worthy, cultural appropriation-heavy “Around the World in 80 Minutes” show featuring Susie in a ruffled shirt doing her best Carmen Miranda backup dancer impression. (Midge: “The rest of the world is going to get us for this one day.” Prescient girl.)
And while there is no Kellerman’s Anthem, there is a comic, who motivates Abe to try to open his mind to Midge’s profession. “Are you as funny as him?” he asks his daughter. Midge responds with a resounding “yes.” As long as Midge doesn’t join the FBI, I think there may be some hope for these two.
But the real sea change occurs at the end of the episode, when, after taking Midge for a spin on the dance floor, Joel announces that “it’s time we dance with someone else.” I’m praying that he means it, because I’m tired of the wash, rinse, repeat cycle of Midge and Joel separating and reconnecting. The difference now is that Benjamin has returned to the Catskills for Midge, and Joel has been watching their slow-burning romance from the sidelines. However, Joel has a sweet prospect in fellow Steinerite Leah (Molly Brown), allowing him to not turn away defeated when he parts from Midge and she walks straight into Benjamin’s arms.
Midge has moved on, and I’m glad Joel has, too.
More Maisel Musings
— May we all have friends who are as concerned for us as the Steiner staff was when they thought Susie went missing.
— I am dying to know how Abe found out about Midge’s arrests.
— Abe still suffers from grade-A sexism, but I gotta continue my fangirling over him for being the only person in the Maisel universe other than Midge to see that Susie is “clearly a woman.”
— And because no one tells a tummler with horrible timing to “get the fuck away from us!” better.
— If you’re keeping track: Zero visuals or mentions of Midge’s kids in this episode.