Well, what do we have here? It looks like things may be turning around for ol’ Max Chapman. Although, is pointing that out kind of like saying the word streak in the middle of a streak? Have I just ruined it for our girl? Here’s hoping not, because things are really looking up.
Let’s count Max’s current blessings: First, she wakes up from Bertie and Gracie’s party looking hung-over but quite satisfied. She spent the night hanging out with a hottie who called herself Es. Now, Bertie won’t let this stand — he asks all the other party stragglers for more intel. It turns out Es is Esther, and she’ll be at the screw factory that day for the big baseball game against Red Wright’s All-Stars team. When Max shows up there, she quickly learns that Esther isn’t just a baseball fan — she’s the star pitcher for the All-Stars. Yep, she’s basically living Max’s dream. Things get a little heated when Clance starts bragging about how Max is a star pitcher, and while there is mostly contempt in the sparring between Max and Esther, there’s also definitely a little flirting. “Real pitchers let their arms do the talking,” Esther tells her. So Max takes a baseball and throws it across the room. “Loud enough for you?” she asks. So, yeah, heated both ways!
Speaking of Clance, not to keep harping on it, but the amount of time A League of Their Own has spent building up this friendship is really paying off in episodes like this one. It’s easily the richest friendship on the show. It’s so lovely to see that both of these women support each other in what they love, even if they don’t understand it. Sure, Max is the protagonist, so Clance supporting her love of baseball isn’t a surprise, but the show sets aside moments for Max to show Clance how proud she is of the comics she is drawing (even if the neighborhood kids don’t understand their more subversive elements).
When Esther calls up Max to take her spot on the mound after she learns that Max has never had a fair shot at getting a spot on a team, Clance pushes Max to do it; she believes in her. But then, even in the middle of the chaos of Max going into the game for the All-Stars, she gets in a few words praising Clance’s work. Or, even more emotional, after Clance realizes how much it must hurt for Max to see Esther living out her dream, she tells her not to give up on baseball. She can’t bear the thought of watching Max “walk through life like something’s missing.” The sentiment spurs Max to take the first step toward coming out to Clance. She tells her that her Uncle Bertie is “not a freak” and that she’s going to be spending a lot of time with him. She tells her that even though she doesn’t know exactly what her life will look like — marriage to Gary (or anyone, really) isn’t in her plans — that Clance shouldn’t worry about her. Clance takes it all in and says one of the loveliest things she could ever say to Max: “I’m always gonna worry about you because you’re mine.” Max might repeatedly talk about not having a team of her own, but she’s actually always had one in Clance.
Okay, fine, maybe I’m crying thinking about it right now and crying thinking about how you just know there’s going to be even mushier conversations between these two before the end of this season, because guess what? Max finally makes it onto a baseball team. A real, professional baseball team. When she takes over for Esther, she smokes the Screws. That night, after sneaking a kiss with Esther, Red Wright offers her a position on the team as they head out on the road for a few months. “Yes! Take me now!” she screams out. It’s not, like, the least embarrassing way to accept the position, but, hey, all of her dreams are coming true. Can you really blame her?
Things are looking much less, um, peachy over with the Peaches (you know what? Be thankful it took me seven recaps to use that pun, okay?). After an agonizing night spent waiting for word that Jo is okay following the raid on Vi’s bar, the police bring her back to the house. Her face is cut up and bruised, and she can barely walk on her one leg. Beverly explains to Carson that she used her own money to smooth everything over with the police — usually they print the person’s name in the newspaper “to protect the public” — but Jo can’t stay in Rockford any longer. She is being traded to the South Bend Blue Sox (their opponents for the league title). The entire team (minus Shirley, who is spiraling) is devastated to lose Jo. We get a heartbreaking moment between Jo and Greta in which Greta offers up running away as an option, but Jo is tired of running whenever things get messy or scary. She finally feels like she’s the star here, not Greta, and she is not giving that up. She gets to play ball, and she’s really good at it — she’s not running. Now, as great as this scene is and as great as D’Arcy Carden and Melanie Field are (separately and together — their chemistry crackles), mostly this scene just makes me mad that we didn’t get more development within their friendship. This scene could’ve really been a gut-punch!
Before Carson can wrap her head around not just losing Jo but how that loss and the guilt surrounding it has sent Greta into a meltdown, in walks Charlie Shaw. Truly the worst timing. But listen: It’s hard to feel anything but empathy for Charlie. Back at his hotel, things hit the predictable beats: First, things are awkward between the reunited husband and wife. Carson hides in the bathroom at one point, which is, you know, a choice. They take a breath and remember how to get into their old, comfortable banter. They’ve been best friends since they were 6, after all. But it doesn’t take too long for Carson to discover that Charlie did in fact get her letter and just never told her. We learn that she wrote about not being able to “remember the last time [she] was happy” and how she thinks something is “wrong” with her. He confesses something, too. As suspected, his stop in Dublin wasn’t some vacation; he was put on medical leave for “effort syndrome” (which would now be considered a sort of panic disorder or panic attacks). Both of them know they need to make changes for their own happiness, and when Carson says that she wants to continue playing baseball, even if it means postponing having kids, he says that of course she should do that: “You’re a baseball player. You should be playing baseball.” Charlie seems very nice, and you just know that he’s going to get his poor little heart broken when he finds out Carson is in love with a very tall redhead!!
Speaking of that redhead, Greta bolts after the one-two punch of Jo’s leaving and Charlie’s showing up, and Carson has to track her down at the train station to give her a rousing speech about how the team needs her to stay. It’s just one more week. Carson is being asked to make a lot of speeches these days! She has one more to go: Back at the house, with Greta in tow, she finds a room full of down-and-out Peaches. Today was chaos, but tomorrow they’ll focus on winning this championship. “Let’s unravel those Sox,” Maybelle adds. The Peaches are in it to win it now.
Well, most of them. Carson finds Shirley up in their room, livid after discovering a good-bye letter Greta had left for her. She knows all about their relationship now. As if Carson needed another fire to put out.
Dirt in the Skirt
• One downside about having such a deep bench of supporting players is that we get small tastes of characters who are sometimes more compelling than our main ones. Take Lupe and Esti’s story line in this episode, for example, one that only makes me wish we could spend more time with both of them (Roberta Colindrez, especially, is such a standout in this ensemble). Lu and Jess find Esti sitting at the train station in an attempt to run away. She’s lonely and miserable. She feels like a ghost. She agrees to come back, but only if they teach her how to drive. When they wind up in a minor accident, Jess tells them she needs to walk to a nearby gas station for help and leaves them to it. Eventually, Lu admits that the reason she sometimes acts so cold toward Esti is because … wait for it … Esti reminds her of her own daughter — a daughter she had when she was just a teenager and whom her parents made Lu give up. It’s a quick scene but does so much work.
• Oh, and, yes — of course Jess made up the whole thing about needing to go to a gas station because she wanted Lu and Esti to work things out. If there’s a season two, we really need more details on Jess.
• Speaking of big reveals, Maybelle has one of her own: She tells Shirley that she has multiple children at home. It’s why she has been living it up so hard — it’s her only chance! And like a good mama bear, Maybelle tells Shirley to fucking grow up already with the Jo-being-gay stuff: “You gotta learn to take people as they are.” For now, Shirley is ignoring that advice.
• When Max asks Esther why she would fake an injury to let Max play, she responds that, at first, yes, she looked at her as competition, as someone who could take away everything she has worked for, but then she realized that Max isn’t “the one doing the taking.” She’s in a position to help a Black woman get her shot? She’s going to help her however she can. It’s a standout moment of the episode.
• To test Max’s skill set, Red Wright launches a ball at her, and she easily catches it bare-handed — a scene you may recognize from such films as, say, A League of Their Own (in the movie, it’s Dottie who catches it to prove her mettle).
• Maybelle tearfully saying “my Josephine” as Jo walks out of the house breaks my tiny little heart!!