Though the holidays have arrived, the Gorgeous Ladies aren’t in a very celebratory mood after the attack on the Libertine Ball. But Carmen is pressing forward, making everyone participate in Secret Santa (… and then choosing her own name; she switches with Ruth, who got Cherry).
Debbie is furious on Ruth’s behalf about Justine’s movie, ranting to Tex, “You have no control as an actor. You can drive 300 miles to audition for people you know and still not get the part. Or any part, ever. Which, you know, I mean, I can never say to Ruth because I know she won’t be able to hear it.” He thinks that’s why it’s smart of her to move into roles behind the scenes, then changes the subject to the TV network owner slow-playing Tex’s purchase offer. “Maybe he’s hesitating ’cause he knows you’re underbidding,” suggests Debbie. “I didn’t realize you were snooping,” Tex replies, with a bit of an edge. Debbie counters that she’s paying attention: “If I’m going to be your partner, shouldn’t I at least know what’s going on?” “You’re my girlfriend, not my partner,” says Tex, shaking his head at the idea that she’d think otherwise. Debbie, disappointed, says she was just trying to help. “And you did!” he assures her. “Those dinners would’ve been unbearable without you.” Debbie didn’t realize her function was “to look pretty and make dinners less awful,” and Tex explains, “You understand that my work can get ugly and ruthless. And I can get ugly and ruthless. And I don’t want my girlfriend — my future wife, if that’s where this is headed — near any of that.” Debbie nods, but we can see she’s thinking more moves ahead than he knows she’s capable of.
Bash and Sandy are wrapping up a meeting when he spots Paul at the bar, and tells Sandy she has to fire him, claiming a maintenance incident. Sandy doesn’t know to whom he’s referring, which is when he learns the man he thought was Joe the hot-tub repairman is actually “Paul, the gigolo.” Sandy gamely offers to “coax him” over to Coconuts, but Bash tells her to forget it and flees.
Also dealing with Paul fallout is Rhonda, who comes to Arthie’s room in tears, looking for Carmen, who isn’t there. She comes in anyway, and when she declines Arthie’s offer to talk about it, Arthie comments that when angry fans have hated Beirut, it scared her, but that the graffiti outside the ball made her angry — ready to fight.
Carmen is out talking Ruth into doing a take on A Christmas Carol for the last GLOW show of the year. Ruth is too depressed, but Carmen cashes in her Secret Santa gift … and suddenly the whole thing has come together, with costumes and props and a script, in a matter of, at most, days? It’s a Christmas miracle! I guess! Ruth is playing Zoya playing Scrooge as Debbie looks around backstage to get Bash to places. She finds him in his suite, too drunk to stand, and figures this is pure self-indulgence, until his drunken lack of inhibition starts him babbling: “She watched me kiss him. She watched me touch him. Joe — Paul, whatever. I thought, you know, maybe it would be okay, ’cause Rhonda was there too, you know. But it was so much worse. ’Cause I liked it. I liked it so much. And she watched me like it.” As we watch Debbie mentally putting the pieces together, Bash continues: “I’ll do it again, I mean, I know I’ll do it again! If we stay here.” He fears his mother will find out and that he’ll lose everything: “Can’t — I can’t.” Gently, Debbie suggests that maybe he can: “I mean, look at Liberace!” Bash rejects that suggestion, so she asks him what he wants to do. “I want to stay married to Rhonda,” he tells her. “And I want to be the son my mom wants me to be. I don’t want to die.” He falls into her lap, sobbing and begging her to tell him what to do, and given what a clown Bash can be, his inability to reckon with the trauma of Florian’s death and his probably quite accurate prediction of what he would lose if he owned his sexuality are devastating to watch. I don’t want to say it’s “ugly and ruthless” that Debbie immediately rushes into the opening this crisis has created …
… but that’s what she does. While Sheila plays Jacob Marley, Debbie’s backstage pitching Tex’s TV-network deal while Bash guzzles coffee; she explains that the owner judges Tex for his divorce, but would be much more receptive to the married son of a prominent conservative family. However, they only have until the end of the year to do the deal. Then they’re on: Debbie is playing Liberty Belle playing a mother narrating the story to Bash, her son, and introduces the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Dawn and Arthie as the Biddies), who proceed to wrestle Scrooge, while Carmen watches proudly.
In the wings, Debbie’s frantic pitching continues: Bash can sell his house at the top of the market; he can pull his money out of Rhapsody. Then they’ll just need a valuable asset for the network to achieve profitability — like when Ted Turner bought the Braves so one of his networks could broadcast their games. Bash, agog, asks how Debbie knows all this. “I’ve been attending a lot of business dinners lately where no one thinks I understand anything that they’re talking about,” she replies. Bash is ready to start making phone calls immediately, until Debbie reminds him that they’re in the middle of a show, which we see progress through all the story points we know: Tammé as the Ghost of Christmas Present, introducing Rhonda and Jenny as Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim; then Carmen as the Ghost of Christmas Future; and Yolanda digging Scrooge’s grave.
Erasure’s “She Won’t Be Home (Lonely Christmas)” plays over Ruth and Carmen’s finale fight, which ends with Ruth doing a backflip off the ropes onto Carmen that sends their co-stars in the wings into screams of amazement and delight.
Scrooge awakens with a new attitude and hands out casino chips to the audience before Debbie comes out to invite everyone to join in a “White Christmas” singalong. They’ve just started the second verse when the show room doors open to reveal Santa Claus, played by Keith, and I burst into tears because I may be too invested in the Bang marriage. Standing next to Cherry, Carmen whispers that she was Cherry’s Secret Santa: “I figured this was what you wanted.” Judging by the way Cherry leaps into Santa’s arms for a tearful reunion, Carmen is right.
Afterward, a glowing Ruth calls Carmen “the heart and soul of this team” and prepares to join the others for gifts, while Carmen looks wistful. Elsewhere, the recipient of her gift confers with Keith about where they stand. He needed to get angry, but he thought of her the whole time they were apart. He adds that he did meet a woman, and as Cherry braces for bad news, he says it was about adoption — hey, kind of like I suggested back in “Desert Pollen”!
Back in his suite, Bash and Debbie finish pitching the TV deal to the Howards’ financial managers, who confirm that it’s an amazing opportunity they all have to keep quiet. “Of course,” says Debbie, turning pointedly to Bash. “We’re great at keeping secrets.” Since she stole this deal from Tex, however, it will definitely mean the end of their relationship. (Aw, and just when we found out he may be a cowboy, but he’s not a homophobe!) Therefore, Debbie will need assurances from Bash. Given his current state, she has a lot of leverage.
Secret Santa gifts are exchanged: Dawn gets a bong; Tammé gets an airbrushed “Hot Tub Club” T-shirt I would absolutely wear. Stacey gives Arthie a box, and when Arthie stands to take it, she very formally announces, “I’m gay.” “Uh, yeah, we know,” says Stacey. “Well, I needed to say it out loud, and I should’ve said it sooner,” Arthie explains, turning to Yolanda to add, “I’m sorry.” Stacey says Bobby told her rainbows are symbolic of gay pride …
… which is why she bought Arthie a rainbow sweatband. And also a Playboy.
Rhonda returns to the suite and apologizes for lying about Paul; she just wanted to keep Bash interested, but things got out of hand. Bash tells her they don’t have to talk about it, but she wants to be honest: “Especially with you.” Bash feels the same way, but thinks Vegas is to blame for his being distant lately. But he knows what he wants now: “I want you, I want just you, and I want to go home — I want us to go back to L.A. Okay?” Rhonda is relieved, and there are a couple of chaste pecks and a hug. Then Bash pushes his luck, talking into her hair: “And I want us to start a family.”
Rhonda seems to know this can’t happen.
At the bar, Bobby runs into a clump of crying dancers and finds out from Sandy that Rhapsody is dead: Bash pulled his money out, and she still has 50 more people to fire. Bobby orders them each a tequila shot and promises to sit with her while she gets through this ugly, ruthless work. “Fuck ’em,” they toast.
In Los Angeles, Sam and Justine exchange gifts: He gets a nice button-down to wear on set, and she gets adoption papers, so that she’ll legally be his heir when he dies: “Which, you know, might be sooner than we think.” Justine signs, and both are happy, but as far as we know, the state of his cardiac health is still a secret.
And then we’re at the airport as everyone figures out where they’re supposed to go. Debbie asks Carmen if they’re on the same flight back to L.A., which is when Carmen announces that she’s meeting Kurt in Phoenix … and she’s quitting GLOW. She wants to wrestle, and she can’t do that in the show. Debbie begs Carmen not to make any big decisions right now: “We’re going to have some new opportunities to offer to you.” Since Debbie can’t say what they are, though, Carmen has no reason to change her mind, adding, “I didn’t tell the girls ’cause I didn’t want to ruin Christmas.”
Ruth and Debbie can’t debate whether Carmen was brave or stupid because Ruth’s flight suddenly flips from “Delayed” to “Boarding,” and she can’t miss her connection back to Omaha. And you know that part in the Fleabag series finale when Claire tells Fleabag, “The only person I’d run through an airport for is you,” and we all understood that theirs was the real love story all along? Well, now Debbie is running through an airport so that she can tell Ruth she’s changing Ruth’s life: Bash is buying a TV network, Debbie’s going to be president, they’re making a wrestling show with all new characters (because they don’t have the rights to the old ones), and they want Ruth to direct: “I’m going to build us an Eden, where we run the show, you and me. No more auditions, no more being at the mercy of these fucking idiots — we’ll call the shots.” Since Ruth doesn’t leap at this chance, Debbie goes on: “If being an actor was going to happen for you, it would’ve happened by now. How many times are you going to break your own heart? You don’t have to stay in Vegas, you don’t have to keep auditioning for people who don’t want you, because I found us an off-ramp that’s also — It’s a fucking catapult into our future!” Trying to be as brave as Carmen, Ruth carefully replies, “That’s your catapult, not mine … I don’t want what you want.” “You don’t want to be happy?” Debbie gasps. “Successful? Powerful? … Come on, Ruth! Make a move!” And she has to, now, because the gate agent’s about to close the doors. Ruth is going. “I don’t understand you,” Debbie breathes. “Yes, you do,” says Ruth. “Probably better than anyone.”
As Ruth departs Las Vegas and leaves her behind, Debbie gets the last word of season three: “Don’t —” If I might complete that sentence? “Don’t cancel this show like you have so many others, lately, Netflix, or I will personally show up there to wrestle as many network executives as it takes to make you act right.”