I love that GLOW is so committed to making the Vegas setting come alive for the viewer that it’s created lore — in this episode, a number called “You Haven’t Lived Until You’ve Played the Fan-Tan,” performed by a queen (whose name, we will soon learn, is Bobby Barnes, and who’s played by Kevin Cahoon) in Carol Channing drag. This plays over a montage of the Gorgeous Ladies also evolving into jaded off-Strip veterans … and Russell’s first visit. In the afterglow of his and Ruth’s happy reunion, Russell volunteers to talk, but after their nightly phone calls, Ruth’s sick of talking. They do arrive at the topic of her eventual return and whether he’ll ever see her apartment, to which she says she’s been thinking about them getting a place together. Alarmed, Russell says that’s soon, but makes vague noises of assent until they’re both distracted by the sound of blasting disco — loud enough to intrude on Debbie getting railed by Chet the valet and send her to Cherry’s door to tell her to turn it down. (The wrestlers know Keith left suddenly, but not why.)
Sam’s still on a health kick and arrives sweaty for a post-workout production meeting. Debbie wants to talk about replacing Keith, but the conversation is soon derailed by the reveal that their room-service waiter, Steve (Murray Sawchuck), is actually a magician, and that Bash is an ideal audience.
Debbie can tell where this is going and tries to stop it, but now Bash has magic fever.
Cherry is appalled to learn that her voodoo-priestess character is going to be upstaged by illusions by Steve, the show’s new ref, but Carmen and a visiting Kurt show how Steve can make Cherry disappear and leave Carmen to fight an invisible opponent; Debbie urges Cherry to take advantage of the break. (Kurt: “She’s single now?”) Later, Kurt comments that he doesn’t know how Carmen doesn’t get bored doing the same show every night: “There’s no story lines. No drama.” He suggests that she come on the road with him, but she says her co-stars need her, adding, “Bring me back a T-shirt?” “Always do,” he replies. Love to get confirmation that Carmen’s souvenircore personal style is not a vintage-store affectation but rather a heartfelt family tribute.
Russell takes Ruth to a pawnshop, a favorite Vegas activity in that it offers so much evidence of “gambling gone wrong,” but that backfires when the clerk wheedles Ruth into trying on rings, and she covers the awkward moment by buying Russell a camera. She would probably rather be doing what Sheila is: trying to teach herself Miss Julie, having quit her acting class, in the hall outside Sam’s room. Initially annoyed by the distraction, Sam invites her in to read the father-daughter Western he told Ruth he’s writing in “Hot Tub Club” but refused to let her read until it was finished. If he granted Sheila this boon thinking she’d be less critical, he’s wrong, as she comments that even though the daughter is the character who actually knows what their relationship is, all she does is ask questions while the oblivious father gets all the good lines. Sam does not appreciate her fearless feedback, but Sheila still invites his: Does he think she really could be an actor? Sam shrugs, saying that he doesn’t think Miss Julie ever howled at the moon, before kicking her out to get through her notes.
The Gorgeous Ladies are on their way to Icons, the drag show, with Ruth and Russell about to peel off for dinner, when Sheila mentions the mini table read to Ruth.
While Bobby tries to do Barbra (in her first Best Actress Oscar look), Ruth quizzes Sheila about the screenplay until Bobby has to tell them to shut up, though it opens the door for Gorgeous Ladies–focused crowd work. Debbie gamely offers herself up, and Bobby knows all about her: “Couldn’t find a boy to take my bags up all week. I think there’s a nice couple from Tulsa still waiting for their car!” Turning to Russell, Bobby is aghast at Ruth: “Your boyfriend is only here for the weekend and you brought him to my show? Dear, go fuck this poor man.” As the crowd’s “Go! Fuck!” chant dies down, Bobby calls Sheila “the most interesting person in the room” and tries to engage her, asking where she’s from. Sheila is resistant, but Bobby deflects her deflection with sincerity: “This is real. This is deep. How long have you been a wolf?” “How long have you been Barbra Streisand?” Sheila shoots back. “Longer than she has,” Bobby replies. “Since I was a pup. When I was her, I could sing. As me, not so much.” But with this, Bobby releases
… Who has no idea the firestorm she set off telling Ruth how she spent her afternoon, because Ruth hasn’t gone to fuck Russell and, instead, is boring the hell out of him by obsessing about Sam’s screenplay.
Ruth aims for self-deprecation, calling herself a “crazy actress” but getting offended when Russell doesn’t disagree. He tells her he has a good handle on who she is, but that this weekend she’s been “fucking nuts” — suggesting cohabitation, shopping for rings, and buying him a camera she knows he can’t afford. “And you’re obsessed with Sam.” She denies it, and the fight has meandered into how much she should remember about his grandparents from their nightly phone calls when they’re interrupted by a pair of newlywed strangers who’ve spotted Russell’s camera and want him to take their photo, with their crappy camera, in the exact spot where they met three weeks ago. The forced break calms Ruth and Russell down; they agree that the distance has put pressure on the visit, that they can cut down to talking every other night, and that they had better heed “Barbra’s” order and “Go! Fuck!”
After the show, Debbie goes to Cherry’s room to say that, as her producer, Debbie needs to know if she’s getting ready to quit. The two get stoned and discuss Cherry’s baby worries; Debbie has a shocking admission to make, and when Cherry tells her she doesn’t have to whisper, Debbie screams into a pillow that she sometimes thinks about how much easier things would be if she didn’t have a baby: “A clean slate.” That’s not what Cherry wants — she loves being married to Keith — to which Debbie replies, “I had a baby to put something between my husband and the door, and guess what? Husbands will step over anything.” Cherry suggests relocating to the hot tub, but Debbie’s too high and has fucked every male Fan-Tan employee she would pass on her way there. As soon as she starts eating properly again, Debbie truly will be a proper legend.
Rhonda’s brought Bobby, out of drag, back to her suite to meet Bash, who’s passed out in his clothes, having been pitched by every performer who’s heard what an easy mark he is. When Rhonda leaves for refreshments, Bobby has a pitch to make, too: He’d like Bash to produce his show. Bash is interested in checking out Icons, but will have to be the early show, since he and Rhonda like to turn in early. “Yeah, so do my wife and I,” Bobby snorts.
Bash seizes up, and Bobby realizes he has misread the situation — Bash’s capacity to be honest about it, if nothing else — and he’s babbling about his son’s mother, “a very dear friend,” when Rhonda’s Champagne and canapés rescue him.
The next day, Bobby is in Liza With a Z’s white satin suit to perform “Say Yes.”
This intercuts with another montage — of Ruth and Russell saying good-bye, her face wistful as Bobby gets to the line “That handsome stranger you’ve longed to meet.” Eventually, we see that the showroom, which had appeared empty, does have someone in the audience: Bash, who waits for the end of “Say Yes” to say no, adding that his wife would be interested in voice lessons. “That’d be wonderful,” says Bobby bravely. As Bash leaves, we see that Sheila is also present, and when Bobby heads back to his dressing room to de-Liza, we hear a voice say, “Baltimore”: where Sheila is from. “I loved your show,” she adds, sitting next to him. Bobby sets his own disappointment aside to ask of Sheila’s wig, “How long has it been since you washed that?” Sheila takes it off, and Bobby sets it on a spare wig stand and gingerly starts brushing it. “Where in Baltimore?” I’m not sure how useful Bobby will be as Rhonda’s vocal coach; I’m very confident he can teach Sheila how to be both an actor and herself.