While Ruth takes off her show makeup and Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Cities In Dust” plays …
… we montage through months of prep and recovery behind her, from the 50th GLOW performance to the 200th, on December 4, 1986. Ruth wants to celebrate, but everyone has a date: Debbie with Tex, Carmen with an unnamed suitor, and Melrose with Paul, her sex-worker friend (and though she pays him now, he still hasn’t gotten her to cough up for that first night together). “Hi,” writes Ruth, in her latest performance report. “Are you even reading these? I miss you.” Hey, did Stacey and Arthie ever end up trading parts permanently? Is Tammé playing a manager now? What’s Sheila’s new character? Is it weird that we don’t know, or weird that I’m asking?
Bash and Rhonda have, since we last saw them, embraced their new status as millionaires: Rhonda’s dressing like Krystle Carrington, they’re building a lavish house in Las Vegas, and they’ve made a significant investment in the Fan-Tan. Sandy is excited to use some of it to update Rhapsody, maybe with a tribute to Old Hollywood! “Pardon my French, but fuck Hollywood, right?” It’s clear this is important for Sandy to do in memory of Bernie, the icon of elegance and class who taught her to put Vaseline on her nipples to make them look amazing, but the Howards bring Sandy outside to show her their idea for Bash Howard’s Rhapsody: showgirls who also do BMX stunts! Sandy tries to compromise: what if they just updated the music? Huey Lewis! But Bad Cop Rhonda’s been over the books and knows Rhapsody’s been losing money: “If we can’t make these improvements, we’re not sure Rhapsody is the right investment for us.”
Sandy’s choices are either to go along with this abomination or put 80 showgirls out of work, so it seems likely ramps are on their way in.
That night, Bash is brushing his teeth when Rhonda calls to him.
“Aren’t you cold?” Bash asks, confused. Rhonda tells him they haven’t had sex in two months. Perhaps with Birdie’s foreboding advice ringing in her ears, Rhonda asks if something’s changed. “Nothing’s changed,” he assures her. “I love you! And hey, I’d want to stay married to you even if we never had sex ever again. Okay?”
Rhonda’s going to have to broaden her seductive repertoire if she doesn’t want to end up living in her car again.
It’s (finally) time to check in with Cherry, who’s been self-medicating after Keith’s departure by playing craps, but now she’s into the casino for $5,000. She doesn’t want to pay it with her savings, nor ask Bash for a loan, so she has a week to come up with the money. Carmen, having been tipped off by Cherry’s favorite craps dealer, Rita (Tami Sagher), is waiting in the lobby when Cherry tries to sneak out in disguise.
Carmen invites herself along for what turns out to be a slot in a mud-wrestling event. (Denise, their dance instructor, told Cherry it was this or exotic dancing.) Carmen, worried that Cherry could get injured grappling with an inexperienced opponent, offers to get in the mud with her, giving their names as “Cheetara and Pumyra,” after the ThunderCats. To Heart’s “Barracuda,” the two have a muddy good time, Cherry emerging victorious … though we don’t hear what kind of purse she takes home for her victory.
Ruth has arrived at her 200th show with a powerful sense of ennui, which is not alleviated when Russell calls to tell her he just booked a job working on a movie, for two months, in Spain. She offers to come to L.A. that weekend, but his flight’s on Friday. He suggests she come to Spain for New Year’s Eve, and when she whiningly hesitates, he interrupts: “Don’t do this on the phone.” “I’m not doing anything,” she protests. But then they both just stay on the line, in silence; if she does (finally) end their relationship, we don’t see her do it.
Ruth also doesn’t find fulfillment where she formerly did: Sheila invites her to join her in doing a gender-swapped take on a scene from True West with her, but the longer they go on running it, the more Ruth loses confidence, particularly as her lines seem to parallel her own situation: “Lee’s got the right idea; he’s out there in the world, and here I am. What am I doing?” As Sheila moves around the ring where they’re rehearsing, Ruth notices she’s off-book; Sheila shrugs that she has a good memory, adding, “I love all the stuff that you’re doing with Austin. The self-doubt?” “I wasn’t acting yet,” mumbles Ruth.
With nothing better to do, Ruth accepts an invitation from Debbie to go out to Tex’s ranch and watch Debbie take a trial ride on a horse that Tex wants to buy her as a six-month anniversary gift. Nervous in the saddle, Debbie asks Ruth to distract her, so Ruth confesses her feelings of inadequacy compared to Sheila; she’s not even sure the benefit will happen, she says, since Sheila’s told her Bobby’s very disorganized. After Debbie’s ride, as they sip tea on Tex’s porch, Ruth pitches Debbie on finding a little theater in L.A. in the new year and doing a two-hander themselves, but Debbie thinks that sounds terrible. Maybe she’d be interested if they were 25: “But I want my life to get bigger, not smaller. And I don’t care about playing all the great roles.” Ruth can’t believe Debbie would be okay with Liberty Belle being the last part she ever played, but Debbie says she has other things on her plate right now. Ruth sneers that GLOW’s been on autopilot for months, and though Debbie keeps saying she wants to put together her own project, she hasn’t done it yet. Seeming to recognize how low Ruth is right now, Debbie declines to take the bait — a subtle moment that reminds us how far these two have come as friends since their season-one acrimony.
Ruth may be a levelheaded daughter of Nebraska, but evidently a little Los Angeles woo-woo made it through, too: She asks Tex’s driver, Bob, to pull over to a roadside trailer and ask the psychic for a tarot reading to determine whether she should do something else with her life. As with her phone call with Russell, this question is also left unanswered for the viewer.
The next morning, Bobby gets up earlier than he has “since the Carter administration” to meet Debbie in his dressing room. She announces that she’s found him a sponsor who’ll supply all the alcohol for the benefit, and tomorrow they can work on the budget: He needs a producer, and she needs something to produce. “Let me get this straight,” says Bobby. “You want to produce an underground AIDS fundraiser?” “It’s always been my dream,” she replies. Bobby: “You and Elizabeth Taylor.”
The only sign that Ruth got good news at her tarot reading is that she’s ready to resume work with Sheila the next day. First, she checks her messages; there’s one from Sam, who wants her to come read for a part in Justine’s movie. She’s still absorbing the impact of hearing Sam’s voice for, apparently, the first time in months as Sheila asks, “Ready?”
Ruth is ready.