The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who love Las Vegas and those who abhor it. I belong to the first group, and only because I follow a hard-and-fast rule whenever I visit: Indulge in its offerings for a few days and then get the hell out.
I think this is sage advice for Midge and Susie as well. On the surface, everything in “Hands!” — which marks the midpoint of the season — is wrapping up on a high note: Midge has tailored her sets to fit the Vegas crowd, which has resulted in her audiences roaring with laughter on a nightly basis. Susie, meanwhile, has plenty to celebrate too, with Sophie Lennon’s Broadway debut no longer a pipe dream but an actuality.
The choice of the closing-credits song, though, suggests otherwise. Upon listening to the lyrics of “Where Evil Grows,” an early-1970s track by the Poppy Family, I don’t think it sounds like something one would play to indicate that everything is hunky-dory. Maybe it’s to signify all the temptations of being on the road — like, I don’t know, getting so wasted you remarry your ex-husband before the ink is dry on your divorce? There’s also a part of me that wonders if Susie is demonstrating early signs of a gambling problem, but I’m not ready to double down on that theory yet. Let’s just say something dark is lurking beneath the surface. Whatever it is, the Maisel characters may have already left it behind in Vegas. Or not. Time will tell.
A lot of the episode is structured to juxtapose Midge’s carefree touring lifestyle against her parents’ living hell with Moishe and Shirley. While Midge and Susie blow off steam with Shy and his crew by re-creating the drag-racing scene from Rebel Without a Cause, Rose and Abe are being subjected to 5 a.m. wake-up calls and the scent of schmaltz with their morning coffee. There’s no way this living arrangement will last (Abe: “This has been the longest month of my life.” Rose: “We’ve been here a week”), but the Weissmans’ torture is worth it if only to watch poor Zelda (Matilda Szydagis) sit in Shirley’s kitchen with nothing to do.
The Abe-hanging-out-with-beatniks arc is starting to get a little stale too. I get that Abe has been cast adrift and needs a purpose, but trying to occupy the district attorney’s office when your pseudo-proletariat comrades can’t even agree on a date is more stress-inducing than having the TV and the radio on simultaneously.
“Hands!” also continues its exploration of the ups and downs of management, so much so that I’m having trouble seeing Alex Borstein’s performance as supporting-actress-level anymore. Susie’s new subplots are just as compelling as those involving Midge, if not more so. Although Susie may need to up her ego-stroking game when it comes to representing Sophie Lennon, she deserves a bonus for the way she organized that Miss Julie production into being with little more than a Katharine Hepburn impression and a complete ignorance of theater superstition. Well, that and irrefutable evidence that the name Sophie Lennon draws such large crowds that Miss Julie will be a “smash” with even a fraction of the comedian’s fan base in attendance. Now all Susie has to do is convince an unreasonable Sophie that she’ll be sexually attracted to her leading man, Gavin Hawk (Cary Elwes!). I have a feeling that making Susie graphically describe Gavin’s butt is only the beginning of Sophie’s ludicrous demands.
With Susie back in New York uttering the name Macbeth with abandon, there’s no one around to stop Midge from making impulsive decisions — like inviting Joel out to Vegas. Yeah, it’s futile to argue against these two hooking up anymore. If Maisel is going to put in this much effort to ensure that Midge and Joel keep sleeping together, then I’m going to sit back, sip my martini, and let the chips fall where they may.
Joel has a blast at Midge’s show. They play slots. They drink cocktails. They steal Kim Novak’s napkin. The rest of this story line could write itself. They wake up hungover in Midge’s bed with foggy memories of visiting the hotel chapel. The rings on their fingers and photographs commemorating the occasion of their nuptials corroborate their suspicions. Maybe Daniel Palladino (who wrote and directed this episode) is going for a Sweet Home Alabama approach: “If they stay married, eventually they’ll realize they belong together!”
I credit Midge for seeing the hilarity of the situation, even working her second wedding to Joel into her set that night. But what’s the fun if the two of them are getting along all the time? That’s the cue for the insecure schmuck version of Joel from season one to pay Midge a visit, thus destroying any good-guy cred he has built up since then: He accuses her of sleeping with Shy and slutting it up in general, because he noticed a pair of boxer shorts in the bathroom. (“They’re Susie’s,” Midge deadpans.) He also laughably panics over how this clichéd Vegas getaway will impact his budding relationship with Mei. Apparently, Joel thought an invitation to join his comedian ex-wife in Las Vegas meant sharing brisket out of a Pyrex and an early night in separate rooms.
Go back home to the kids, Joel. You do not get to make those kinds of moral judgments on your ex-wife. Excuse me, wife.
This could not be a better moment for Susie to return to her “No. 1” client’s side, because now she needs to arrange Midge’s second divorce. Trust your intuition, ladies (and the tour schedule). It is so time for you to leave Las Vegas.
More Maisel Musings
• I don’t have much confidence that the Weissmans will get back on their feet soon if they’re still paying Zelda out of their limited funds to sit around the Maisel house all day.
• I’d give Tony Shalhoub his next Emmy for this show on his delivery of “Moishe elbowed me with his elbow, his big, bony elbow” alone. He can take the most mundane line readings and turn them into comedy gold with the slightest inflection.