For just a few hours, Rockford, Illinois, turned into a Technicolor Oz for Carson and Max. Look, the Wizard of Oz metaphor woven throughout “Stealing Home” is not subtle, but it does encapsulate much of what our leading ladies must feel as they each walk into their own, not only safe but joyous, queer spaces for the first time. It feels like a dream. It feels like there’s just no way it can last.
Carson’s face when she first follows Lupe and Jess into the secret gay bar near the movie theater (showing The Wizard of Oz, of course) calls back to the face she made as she walked onto Wrigley Field for tryouts in the pilot episode. The similarity feels right here: For a while in this episode, all of Carson’s baseball and romantic dreams are coming true.
Beverly informs Carson that Mr. Baker wants to trade some of the Peaches’ best players to the two teams that seem like sure things for the championship series — he is hoping to secure more interest from other MLB owners for next season and wants to showcase the best talent in the league. Since the Peaches would have to win all of their next nine games to make it to the playoffs, they’ve already been written off. While Beverly will try to postpone handing over a list to the board (“I thought you didn’t care about baseball.” “I don’t. I care about you all.” I mean, it’s fine. The chaperone didn’t make me cry or anything), Carson isn’t ready to just give up. Shirley does the math, and they have a 1-in-18 chance of pulling this off. And that’s not zero, okay?
The Peaches start winning. Like, a lot. I’m not going to use the word that starts with an S, ends with a K, and has “trea” in the middle, but everyone realizes that’s what’s happening here. Maybe it’s because Maybelle’s keeping a picture of that soldier with the gray tooth in her bra. Maybe it’s all of those rousing pregame speeches. (Which is your favorite? Maybelle’s “Let them taste your chowder!” is great, but Jess’s “Let’s fucking go!” really cuts to the chase.) Or, you know, maybe it’s just talent, but the Peaches keep winning. By the time they reach that final game in which a win will put them into the championship (and prove to Mr. Baker and his nephew that they’d underestimated them all along), they are spinning out over pregame rituals, but after they take a breath, even they know that, deep down, Greta’s speech is true: “I don’t believe in luck. I believe in us.” The Peaches win. As if we ever doubted them. We sort of win, too, because this episode has more baseball in it than all of the other episodes combined. (More of this if there’s a season two, people!)
There’s a lot to celebrate, and Carson wants to do it at the secret gay bar with Greta. The first time Carson goes there, it’s to track down Lupe when she suspects she’s trying to get traded. Instead, she discovers that not only are Lupe and Jess also gay but Jess has known about Carson and Greta for a while. Lupe, on the other hand, is blown away by this news: “The height! The height! Who does what?” Lu is the best, and I am constantly going back and forth between giving her or Clance the title of Best Character on this show.
Carson, in awe of the whole thing, gets a very condensed lesson on queer identity. She learns what butch means, which is a very exciting time for all involved. Jess explains that probably 35 percent of the league is queer — including the batboy. Carson meets the bar owner, Vi (Doris Murphy … er, Rosie O’Donnell), who explains that although she and her wife have had to move around a lot to stay safe, they’ve had this bar for six years. They got married here. They seem very happy. Carson’s eyes are now wide open to the possibilities of what her life can be. She wants Greta to come with her to the bar. Greta doesn’t think it’s safe but eventually agrees that if the Peaches make the playoffs, she’ll do it. So that night, after the Peaches’ big win, Carson, Greta, and a begrudgingly convinced Jo head over to party among their people.
Carson isn’t the only one who is beginning to see new possibilities for what her life could be. Max is spending a lot more time with Bert and Gracie, which, to be honest, only makes her feel more confused about her identity at first. She has spent so much of her life with her mother trying to mold her in a certain way, and when Bertie shows up with a bespoke suit for her, the gesture is nice in theory, but Max can’t help but feel like he’s trying to define her as well.
Max pays a visit to the one person she thinks might have some idea of how she feels: Carson. She finds her in the Peaches’ locker room after a game and opens up about how everyone wants her “to be a certain way.” Carson tells her about the bar and how there were all types of people there, and even then, she felt unsure about where she actually fit in. “There’s no version of myself that makes sense for the world,” Max heartbreakingly tells her. All she wants is to sit in silence with Carson in this empty locker room — it’s maybe the one moment when she does feel like she belongs.
Then, finally, we get to see Max take steps toward defining herself: She puts on part of Bertie’s suit, but adds her own silky shirt and a full face of makeup, and heads over to a party at Bert and Gracie’s house. She explains to Bert that she’s a mix of both of them, then proceeds to have a great time at the party making out with some woman named Es.
The joy of being allowed a few hours of being fully oneself is felt, too, by Carson, Greta, and Jo at the bar — but their night out doesn’t have such a happy ending. At first, Carson and Greta get to hold hands in public and dance together, Jo gets hit on by a woman who tells her she’s “the most beautiful person” she’s ever seen, and it seems like a great button to their big win on the field. But it all goes to shit, fast. The bar is raided by the cops, and as everyone scrambles to get out, Jo is separated from the other two, who end up running into a late-night showing of The Wizard of Oz next door to hide. We cut back and forth from a shaken Carson and Greta catching their breath to Vi and her wife getting beaten up at the bar. It’s chaos. In the theater, Greta won’t even let Carson touch her. “We never should’ve gone there,” she tells her. The illusion of Oz is completely gone.
Dirt in the Skirt
• When Bertie drops the suit off for Max, Max does everything she can to push him out the door. Max is so embarrassed and scared about what Clance might think, and maybe for a good reason? Once he leaves, Clance hugs Max and tells her that it’s not her “fault” that her “Aunt Bertie is a freak.” Max winces at the word. It might be as bad as Max yelling at her uncle to get out because she’s “not like” him. Will Max ever be able to come out to Clance?
• Oh, I almost forgot Shirley’s banger of a pregame speech: “We are strong! We are courageous on the field! We are not afraid of the inevitability of death!”
• Poor Esti: She’s the youngest of the bunch (Still a teen!), and she gets left behind when the her fellow team members head to the movies. When they return, we find her trying to learn a few English words to tell them how left out she feels, but it doesn’t work. Even worse, Lu, the only one who speaks Spanish, is growing tired of being paired up with Esti just because they’re the two Latinas on the team. She’s over being Esti’s translator.
• “I didn’t like when they used all that color. I get enough of that in real life.” Between lines like this and her sincere concern when Esti goes missing — it’s Jess who convinces Lu that they need to look for her — Jess is making some moves on the character-ranking leaderboard.
• Okay, De Luca the Bazooka is a great nickname for the best hitter in the league.
• They’re really keeping up the whole play-catch-and-have-a-catch joke, which I’m assuming is a nod to another beloved baseball film, Field of Dreams.
• Clance goes off on The Wizard of Oz, and you know what? She’s not wrong. Dorothy is kind of the villain. If only Clance knew about Wicked.
• Out on a (secret) date, Greta and Carson begin to talk about what happens when the season is over. Greta and Jo are headed to California so Greta can try her hand at becoming a movie star, and Carson will probably head back home to Idaho with Charlie. One thing Carson knows for sure: She’ll be back if the league is still going next season. “There’s no way I wouldn’t come back,” she says.
• Carson is experiencing a lot of personal growth during this baseball season — Greta takes her out for her first slice of pizza. She is forever changed.