A couple of our couples figure out how their relationships may work, or not, in this episode. Let’s start with Rhonda and Bash: The former flirts with a cute BMX tech who offers to teach her how to ride a bike, and she’s just taken a tiny spill when Bash appears and reams the guy out for putting his wife in danger. Rhonda’s so electrified by Bash’s possessiveness that she hatches a plan with Melrose: Paul will come to the suite posing as a handyman, make a fake pass at her in front of Bash to trigger his jealousy, and thus trick Bash into sleeping with her for the first time in months. When Bash eventually makes it home, he’s too exhausted and pissy even to register Paul as a rival. But apparently this isn’t Paul’s first cuckold scenario, and he moves things along by saying that if he had a wife like Rhonda, he would never go out. Bash guesses Paul wants to kiss Rhonda, and gets involved, telling Paul he should, and assuring Rhonda, “Don’t worry about me. I love you. I want you to have everything you want.” He tells Paul he should touch Rhonda — he even tells Paul what she likes — and once Paul checks with Rhonda that he has her consent, they’re making out. Then Bash is behind her, kissing her neck, and Rhonda decisively moves all three of them to the bed. Paul kisses Rhonda. Bash kisses Rhonda.
Paul locks eyes with Bash, and then Bash kisses Paul, and then hands are making their way into underwear. That’s what I call keeping Bash interested.
Over in Ruth’s corner of the episode, the (ugly) mint-green suit she wore for her audition in the opening scene of the series premiere is back as an option for her to wear to her audition for Justine’s movie.
Sheila reminds her that it’s Bobby’s ball tonight, so Ruth has to get back in time for their True West scene, and when Ruth exposits how much time she’ll have between her audition in Los Angeles and their slot at the ball, everyone who’s seen TV before is pretty sure she’s not going to make it.
In the audition room, Ruth reads for the protagonist’s English teacher, and perhaps because Sam’s feedback is so warm, it takes her a second to realize that Justine’s “Thank you so much, Ruth” is her cue to leave. Sam catches her up in the hall to ask her for drinks when he’s done, and Ruth almost immediately disregards her obligation to Sheila; she can just get on the road after rush hour! Before they can meet back up, though, we get confirmation that Justine’s not feeling the Diane Chambers energy Ruth’s bringing to the role; she only brought Ruth in to read for it because Sam wanted to give Ruth the part without an audition.
Sam puts on his happiest face to join Ruth at the bar. She starts to ask how the rest of his day went, but then stops herself to compartmentalize (as Sheila had advised her earlier), put up a “brick wall,” and blurt, “I think I’m in love with you?” Suspicious, Sam asks, “Since when?” She recaps (leave it to the professionals) the end of “Outward Bound,” and further babbles that she didn’t call him because, as a Midwesterner, she respects people’s privacy, plus she’s also still with Russell, though she knows she has to do something about that. Finally, she asks, “Is it too late? Do you still —?” “Ruth, you’re … You’re a fucking nightmare,” says Sam …
… but then they kiiiiiiiiiiiissssssssssssssss — which I would enjoy much more as a payoff to so many episodes’ worth of sexual tension if I wasn’t also yelling at Ruth to GET BACK ON THE ROAD ALREADY. She doesn’t. Sam proposes going to his house instead, but the valet takes so long to bring his car around that he realizes he has to tell her first that she didn’t get the part; he would have hired her, but he has to do what Justine wants. Ruth is, of course, extremely hurt and disappointed, and smashes the brick wall she’d built between the personal and professional, spitting that if she agrees to go back to his place to talk, she’ll just pour her heart out about her career anxieties while he pretends to listen and then tries to get in her pants again. “Ten minutes ago you said you were in love with me, and now because I didn’t give you some stupid little part, like, I’m just like any other fucking Hollywood sleazebag?” he snaps. Ruth knows this isn’t fair, but she doesn’t take it back. Out comes his car. Sam asks if Ruth’s coming. Since the only power she has over him in this moment is to refuse, she does. Since he’s just as stubborn as she is, Sam stops trying to change her mind and leaves her to cry. Ruth, none of this would have happened if you had headed back to Las Vegas when you were supposed to!!!
Speaking of which: It’s time for Bobby’s fundraiser, the Libertine Ball. Debbie is in the middle of several triumphs — helping Bobby get the word out about the event with a spot in the listings of a local magazine; charming Tex’s cronies over whiskey and cigars. He asks her to come out with him for another such get-together on Friday, but Debbie says she has a “team-building” event that night with the girls, offering sex as a consolation prize that he is happy to accept.
The night of the ball, the Gorgeous Ladies look incredible.
“Everyone seems so free!” Arthie enthuses. Cherry definitely is — she’s officially out of debt.
And then the show begins: To the overture from Evita, six Speedoed pallbearers carry in a clear coffin containing Bobby, in full Eva Peron drag. After he’s opened the show, he joins Debbie in the wings to plotz about the size of the crowd: “There are people here I don’t know! And/or haven’t already slept with.”
Later, as two young men duet on “My Cup Runneth Over” (which Arthie is enjoying until she spots Yolanda canoodling with a date), Debbie spots Tex by the bar; he subscribes to the magazine where Bobby’s item appeared. “Is there a reason you lied to me?” he asks, gently. Debbie admits that she didn’t think he would approve. The hat being passed for cash donations makes it to Tex, who drops in his entire billfold, ignoring Debbie’s protests to say, “You know, I had a nephew. My sister’s boy. Good kid. Beautiful singing voice, like those two. He was 24.” Debbie doesn’t know what to say, but proudly takes his arm, happy to have been wrong about him.
Sheila’s turn to perform has been delayed as long as it can, and she has to fill the slot. She nervously takes the stage alone; since there’s no MC, no one introduces Sheila, and since she’s off-mic, no one hears her until Tammé shushes everyone. The time has finally come for Sheila to perform a monologue from Miss Julie; Sheila stuns the crowd (particularly Tammé, weeping) and earns rapturous applause …
… and then it’s time for the grand finale. Bobby returns to the stage to introduce his “very special guest, the woman, the legend, the rhapsody in diamanté: Miss Las Vegas Showgirl 1962, Sandy Devereaux St. Clair!”
I WAS NOT PREPARED for a reveal of Sandy in her full showgirl regalia. The Gorgeous Ladies, who’ve only seen Sandy in her Liz Claiborne separates, lose their minds — as they should, because she looks incredible. Onstage, Sandy and Bobby have the teasing banter you’d expect from veterans of their vintage. (Bobby: “Well, you couldn’t look more gorgeous if you were 25 years younger.” Sandy, after a beat: “Fuck you.”)
They’ve barely started their “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore” duet when Sandy suddenly asks if Bobby smells smoke. Thinking it’s a bit, Bobby parries that he thinks she’s having a stroke, but there is a fire at the back of the show room. Everyone runs screaming to the exits, right into a cacophony of homophobic graffiti.
Arthie and Yolanda have a charged moment staring at each other through the melée, but then Yolanda’s date appears and hustles her off.
Debbie finds Bobby alone, staring at some of the worst tags on the wall. “Well,” he breathes, “I guess we got the word out.”