Bash kicks off his storyline with such panicky micromanaging of Rhonda’s look that we know before he opens the door that his mother, Birdie, is in town. Rhonda does most of the talking because he’s on vocal rest, though he does whisper that he’s sorry he didn’t tell Birdie about his marriage sooner. “No, I’m fine,” shrugs Birdie. “I mean, what mother doesn’t want to learn from American Express that her son has married a new cardholder.” Only when Rhonda mentions that if she wasn’t so desperate for work she never would have met Bash does Birdie realize Rhonda is in the show. Abruptly, Birdie announces that she’s going to take Rhonda shopping. Bash tries to go with them, but Birdie promises not to bite. Get it in writing, my man!
Evidently, Debbie did have a moment of clarity in the desert, with assists from Ruth and Tammé, and brought Randy to live with her at the Fan-Tan. His presence is encouraging improvisation from everyone: Debbie’s posted up in the hallway to work on a room-service tray because all Randy wants to do is run up and down the hall; when he disappears around a corner, Dawn and Stacey cheerfully bring him back. Jenny finds Debbie there and approaches her with a very well-researched pitch: Since she’s been comparing notes with costumers on other Vegas shows, she feels it’s reasonable to request a 13 percent raise in consideration of her wardrobe work. Debbie tells Jenny she’ll look into it, and thanks her for bringing it to her. I fear a day is coming when Debbie will no longer be good cop to Bash’s dictator, but for now, interactions like this are lovely, and show how Debbie is asserting her authority as a producer while also maintaining her sisterly affection for her co-stars.
Meanwhile, in a high-end fitting room, Birdie tests Rhonda with two nearly identical Republican dresses, asking which she’d pick.
Rhonda knows she’s being steered toward the Oscar de la Renta, but goes for the Chanel knockoff that’s cheaper, and that she actually likes better. While Birdie assesses her, Rhonda blurts that she didn’t marry Bash for the right reasons; she did it for a green card. She assures Birdie that she has come to love him since then, though he’s so innocent that she worries about everyone who’s after his money. Birdie squints at the idea that Rhonda herself is not, so Rhonda tells her that when she found a bunch of unopened checks in their suite and asked Bash why he hadn’t deposited them, he said he didn’t know how; Rhonda did it for him, putting all his paychecks in savings so he won’t spend it. Birdie realizes Rhonda is sincere, and successfully protecting Bash from his worst financial impulses.
Bash is, at that moment, sitting in the hot tub writing checks and drinking tea, so Debbie puts Randy in the hall to wander while she raises Jenny’s request with him. Bash responds in writing: “Fine with Jenny raise, not wasting my voice on this.” Debbie realizes Bash isn’t speaking for medical reasons, and she takes advantage: “You are a dickhead, and I don’t trust you anymore, and Sam may have run off to L.A., but I am still here, and I brought my fucking kid, so there is not a single day I will not be in your face, and I HAVE VERY STRONG VOCAL CORDS!” If Bash decided to write a scathing note of reply, it’ll have to wait, because that’s when Debbie sees the elevator doors close on an unattended Randy. Little man’s very confident for a newbie walker, and ends up on the casino floor, where he’s scooped up by our old friend, Toby Huss, from “Hot Tub Club.” Debbie comes through seconds later, following the sound of Randy’s screaming, and reclaims him, babbling apologies and explanations. Not-Toby recognizes Debbie from his flight; Debbie remembers him well enough to know he’s shaved his beard since she saw him last. She offers to buy him a “thank you” drink, but he counters with an offer of a “you’re welcome” dinner.
Rhonda having convinced Birdie that her heart is true (or possibly just that Birdie would not be able to bribe her into a divorce, which is where I assumed things were going), Birdie arranges a conference call with the Howard lawyer and business manager. Bash assumes Birdie’s cutting him off, but in fact, Bash’s marriage has triggered the dissolution of his trust, and Bash is now a $40 millionaire, free and clear. Better start smurfing some of that money into savings for his own sake, Rhonda.
Debbie and her date get to know each other over a Benihana-type grill: His sons are all grown now, and while he knows he missed a lot of their childhoods, he speaks warmly and respectfully about their mother. With regard to work, he describes himself as a dabbler: He made money mining materials used in radios, and transitioned from that into “media,” buying small radio stations. Debbie calls herself a dabbler too, lowering her voice to tell him about her wrestling: “Mostly I’m just staring down the barrel of life, wondering what the hell I’m aiming for, Tex.” “You know my name’s not really Tex, right?” he comments. Debbie, laughing in embarrassment, wonders how she made that up; he guesses it’s the hat, or the accent, but says he’s actually from Wyoming, and that his name is James Joseph McCready — J.J. to his friends. “Can I still call you Tex?” Debbie flirts. “You can call me whatever you want,” J.J. purrs. After dinner, Debbie invites J.J. back to the Fan-Tan for a nightcap, but he’s a gentleman with plans to keep courting her, starting with another dinner the next night. One kiss later, it’s on, and we leave Debbie on her bed, smiling to herself.
Looks like Chet’s going to be parking his own car from now on, if you know what I mean.
Bash and Birdie also have … well, as sweet a goodbye as they can. Rhonda either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about high-Wasp conventions and lurches forward to impose a hug on Birdie, thanking her for everything, including for “making Bash.” Birdie, intensely: “Keep him interested, however you see fit.”
Rhonda is left to ponder what Birdie didn’t say.
While all this is going on, Sam and Justine are the ones having a Hollywood homecoming: Whereas “Freaky Tuesday” coincided with her spring break, now it’s her summer vacation, and Sam has arranged several meetings for her to pitch her screenplay to producers. The first is too sexist, suggesting Justine make her protagonist a boy and cast Michael J. Fox. The second is too angry, still wounded by all the abuse Sam put him through when he was starting out in the industry. Sam leaves this encounter in such a foul mood that Justine is ready to quit and just shoot it themselves, guerrilla style, but Sam says her screenplay is too good — better than anything he’s ever done or ever could do — and that she can’t squander her “one opportunity to be great or just not mediocre.”
Time for the third meeting, which in some respects is just right: Sam lets Justine pitch the story herself, which is when we learn it’s semiautobiographical: It jumps off from how she got to know Sam, but then focuses on how she made friends with the nerds in the A.V. club — sweet weirdos, not pervs trying to hook up with prom queens. Her friends were trying to make little movies in a town where everyone else is trying to make big ones, which led her to think about how strange it is to grow up in L.A. At the end of the pitch, the producer tells her, “We love it. We’d love to do this with you.” Sam’s instincts were right!
While Justine’s pitching, however, the camera pans around her until Sam is visible and, as the sound drops out, we can see him clenching and releasing his left fist, not making a fuss. However, afterward, Justine is eager to celebrate with Sam, and Sam is focused on getting her away from him so that he can call an ambulance. In the hospital, he learns that he did, in fact, have a heart attack, and is annoyed to hear that what he’ll need to do to prevent another one is … everything he’s already been doing for his health since Ruth pointed out how much older he is than she. He has to stay in the hospital overnight, but declines to have the doctor call anyone for him, so that when he slinks back home the next morning, Justine is furious and worried — more so when he passes off his absence as a bender. She complains about her bad night with Billy at a crappy club, where she spent an hour helping a strange girl look for her purse. Sam says she should put it in her movie. “Our movie,” she corrects him. Sam doesn’t know what she means, and she gets angry again that he checked out in the last meeting and missed her telling the producer she would only make the movie with him if Sam could direct it. “You don’t have to bring me with you,” he tells her. “I’m dead weight.” But Justine insists that they will work on it together: “Or at least until we both get found out and fired.”
Now Sam’s ready to celebrate: He pours them each a belt of something brown — his last for a while, one hopes — and toasts, “Let’s make a fucking movie.”