Cowboy Bebop Recap: Are You My Mother?

Cowboy Bebop (Netflix)

Galileo Hustle
Season 1 Episode 7
Editor’s Rating 5 stars

Cowboy Bebop (Netflix)

Galileo Hustle
Season 1 Episode 7
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
Photo: Geoffrey Short/Netflix

For a little while, I was worried “Galileo Hustle” would reduce our heroes to idiots just to keep the plot going. When Whitney, Faye’s adoptive mother and a noted hustler, shows up at the start of the episode begging for help, there’s no reason for Faye to trust her. And once she meets the rest of the Bebop’s crew — despite Whitney’s efforts to manipulate them with a sad story, amateur chiropracty, and a bowl of homemade dumplings — there’s certainly no reason that Spike and Jet should fall for the con she is obviously pulling.

Which is why it’s both a relief and delight when Spike and Jet see through her by the 15-minute mark. A good twisty caper requires relentless pacing and relentless surprises, and “Galileo Hustle” delivers plenty of both.

From the start, Faye only agrees to help Whitney because Whitney vows to finally give Faye her Identikit — the box containing whatever information has survived from the life Faye had before she emerged from cryo-sleep with amnesia. All Whitney wants in return is help getting away from her husband, a notorious arms dealer who calls himself the Iron Mink. Faye is too smart and too jaded to trust Whitney, but she’s also desperate to find out anything she can about her past, so she agrees.

Spike and Jet are another matter entirely. It’s only been a few episodes since Faye settled into the Bebop, and it’s not at all clear that the guys fully trust her yet — and given the near-constant string of betrayals that preceded her joining the crew, why would they? So when Jet runs a quick scan of Whitney’s face and discovers an impossibly long rap sheet, it feels like confirmation of his worst fear: Faye really was a con woman all along, and they’ve once again been duped.

At this point, the episode is no longer about whether Whitney can pull off a galactic version of The Sting; it’s whether or not Spike and Jet, having felt the sting of yet another betrayal, will rally around Faye when she needs them most. And after a little hemming and hawing, to Faye’s evident relief, the answer remains yes. Spike and Jet agree to serve as a diversion for the Iron Mink’s crew while Faye and Whitney slip off to recover Faye’s Identikit.

Both ends of the story end up being extremely satisfying. The Spike-Jet diversion is mostly just goofy fun, but it also delivers the show’s cleverest and best-staged fight sequence to date, with Jet cheerfully watching his 8-year-old daughter’s dance recital while Spike fights an entire gang in the distant background of the frame.

Meanwhile, Faye and Whitney resume their mother-and-daughter scam routine, successfully stealing a car from a flustered valet and zipping off to a warehouse that purportedly contains Faye’s Identikit. As Whitney lavishly praises Faye as “clever, tough, and audacious” and insists she really did love her like a daughter all along, it’s impossible not to anticipate the next phase of this con, where Faye softens toward Whitney just enough for her adoptive mom another knife in her back.

Which is why the cleverest twist in “Galileo Hustle” is that — at least as far as Whitney and Faye are concerned — there really isn’t another layer to the con. When they get to the warehouse, Faye opens her Identikit and finds a VHS tape containing the only surviving record of her life before cryo-sleep. Unfortunately, the Iron Mink shows up, having planted at least one undiscovered tracker on his wife, and holds the pair at gunpoint.

But just when it looks like the Iron Mink might fire, Faye steps forward and defends Whitney as her mother, warts and all. And that’s when Whitney steps forward and utters the safe word. As she and the Iron Mink start making out, it becomes clear that this purportedly life-or-death attempt to flee her deadly husband was something else entirely. I’ve complained in these very recaps that this show can be too predictable, but I have to admit: I definitely did not expect that Whitney’s actual motivation in this con was an extremely elaborate sex game.

As the happy couple keeps doing their very weird thing, Faye finds one more way to prove herself Whitney’s daughter, spiritually if not literally. As she steals Whitney’s ship and blasts away from the warehouse, even Whitney can’t help but appreciate it: “That’s my girl,” she says to the Iron Mink, smiling.

But while Whitney is, and will always be, some kind of mother to her, Faye once had a birth mother too. And when she returns to the Bebop, she sits down to watch the video and meet her for the first time.

I’ve enjoyed much of Cowboy Bebop’s first season, but this was the first time this show has really moved me. In the video, the adolescent Faye — anticipating the cryo-sleep to come — cheers for her future self while standing in front of a childhood home Faye can no longer remember. As her child self demonstrates a now-missing talent for playing the piano, Faye’s birth mother, unseen but holding the camera, offers a few gentle words of support.

It’s not much, but it’s enough. Faye breaks into tears, in part because the video offers a reminder of everything she has lost. But watching alongside Jet and Spike, it’s also a reminder of everything she has gained — not the family she’s been seeking all along, but a family just the same.

Stray Bullets

• In our Syndicate subplot: Vicious and Mao head to the Eunuch vineyard and talk him into their plan to take down the Elders. Later, Julia sneaks off to see Mao one-on-one and pitches her plan: Let the Elders kill Vicious so she can run away without the Syndicate chasing after her. It’s hard to gauge where Mao lands on this, but it certainly feels like Cowboy Bebop is setting up an endgame where Julia replaces Vicious as the Syndicate’s big bad. We’ll see how it plays out — if the opening credits are any clue, there’s at least one confrontation between Spike and Vicious in front of a big stained-glass window left before the season’s end.

• “Galileo Hustle” replaces the traditional “SEE YOU SPACE COWBOY…” closing text with “EASY COME, EASY GO…” — pulled directly from the original anime episode “Honky Tonk Woman,” which marked the introduction of Faye Valentine.

• Faye follows up her previous pitch for a shower-bath-shower with a pitch for double dinners, and honestly: another great idea.

• This time in archaic technologies that somehow made the leap to outer space: Playboy magazines, VHS tapes, and at least one bottle of Earth wine.

• And while we’re on the subject, headlines on that Playboy cover included “College Shootball” and “Fucker Hunt.”

• Chalmers is right: Peonies instead of lilies really are more wow for the Woo.

• This one seems like a pretty good substitute, but I definitely wouldn’t object to someone posting Whitney’s official roast-pepper dumpling recipe.

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Cowboy Bebop Recap: Are You My Mother?