Heels is a show that is not only unafraid to let all of its characters — save for Staci, maybe — be real assholes sometimes, but it’s also unafraid to call them out on it and make them face the consequences for it. Jack Spade is the real asshole this week. Sure, his emotions are all over the place after the high of a successful State Fair showing and the low of possibly losing his brother forever, but he has conversations with two of the women in his life that really give us a glimpse into this new path he seems tempted to walk down. Luckily, it seems those conversations help Jack save him from himself — at least for now.
The big question at hand is how the DWL will make use of its new forward momentum. They have a short window to capitalize on people’s interest in what they’re doing and need to use it correctly. Despite glowing reviews and a renewed enthusiasm, they haven’t made any actual money just yet. They need butts in seats and they need some good storylines to get them there. With Ace still MIA and a need to respond to complaints about how a valet could win the title belt, Jack decides that the first thing they’re going to do is announce that Crystal has to give back the belt due to a technicality. She can’t be the league champ.
Crystal is, understandably, pissed. She immediately follows him to get him alone and complains about how unfair this whole thing is. He doesn’t want to hear it. When she left the DWL after going off script when Ace was trying to replace her, she tearfully told Jack that she would do anything for the league. To him, it now looks like she has conditions. Listen, it’s not the idea that Jack wants to take the belt away from Crystal that feels so wrong — in fact, it could be a great plot point for the story. It’s the way that Jack dismisses her so callously. He’s petty and mean and simply makes the declaration as to what’s going to happen without explaining to anyone why it’s going to happen. So much of Jack’s issues with Ace last season stemmed from him believing he was the smartest person in the room and feeling like he didn’t need to take anyone else’s opinions seriously. He constantly believes he’s always in the right.
Truthfully, Crystal didn’t go about her complaints the right way, either. Thankfully, Willie is around to save this girl’s career before it even starts. Crystal is a newbie and Jack’s her boss. He just made her a full-time wrestler. He did seem genuinely grateful for Crystal’s quick thinking at the State Fair. Willie pulls Crystal aside and reminds her of all of this as she warns her to get her head out of her ass. What she needs to be focused on now is being prepared for when she does get put back in the ring. Crystal’s good, but she still has a lot to work to do. Wrestlers in the main event typically can go for 30 minutes straight, and Crystal is definitely not there yet. She barely has a gimmick yet. Willie’s tough and as unsentimental as they come (her comment about how ridiculous it is when these dudes give the heart hand signal or bow with prayer hands as a sign of thanks was just spot-on), but you can see that Crystal making it in DWL, a woman succeeding in this space, means a lot to her. If Willie has to set her straight and remind her that “no one owes [Crystal] anything,” she’ll do it. And so, Crystal takes Willie’s advice. She gets to work. Instead of once again tracking down Jack to apologize, she leaves a simple note with the belt. She’s a team player, and she’s going to prove it.
Jack’s issues with Crystal are wildly similar to the problems he’s having with his wife at the moment. Staci’s still staying with a friend, but she and Jack do have to meet up and head over to Thomas’s school to talk to his principal and the school district’s psychologist after Thomas broke a kid’s nose and got suspended. Jack’s vibe during this whole conversation is just so heated. The psychologist is worried Thomas’s use of violence could be a sign of some underlying mental health issues, and at the very least, the principal wants to make it clear that there is no situation in which it would ever be okay to punch another student — Jack doesn’t want to hear any of it. To him, sometimes fighting with your fists is warranted, especially if Thomas was being bullied. He’s, once again, wildly patronizing to the women who disagree with him. Staci tries her best to mediate, but it’s not great!
After they survive that meeting from hell and get Thomas unsuspended, Jack and Staci have it out in the parking lot. “You have one gear lately — confrontational,” she tells him after he continues to pick a fight with her when she tries to make him see how he was in the wrong. She doesn’t recognize this man he’s becoming. At first, Jack only gets more angry at her for saying that, but he has to admit that he understands exactly what she’s talking about. He confesses that he “disappeared the day [his] dad shot himself in the head.” He’s trying to keep it together — to take care of Ace, the DWL, and his family, but it seems like the harder he tries, the harder he fails. “I’m a disaster,” he says. No one disagrees. He promises to figure it out. Promises are all well and good, but it’s going to come down to what he actually does with this self-awareness.
Have hope, Duffy! Whether it’s this conversation with Staci or the one with Bill in which he genuinely offers help to grow the DWL (it’s very heartfelt, no?) — probably a mix of both — Jack gets an attitude adjustment. He and Bill come up with a great promo ahead of that weekend’s event in which Eddy Earl acts as President of the DWL Board of Directors and strips Crystal of her belt and declares a rematch between Wild Bill, Jack Space, and Ace, if he returns in time. It’s good fun and they make sure Crystal shines.
The Dome is packed come fight night. You can tell Jack so desperately wants Ace to show up — he’s been calling and leaving voicemails non-stop — but it doesn’t happen. The show must go on, though, and Jack, Bill, and Crystal put on a show, baby. Crystal shows up in the crowd and refuses to let them talk shit about how a woman can’t win the belt. She makes quick work of Wild Bill, who is taken off on a stretcher screaming “Witchcraft!” and “Burn her!” which is a perfect character moment. Crystal and Jack really duke it out, until finally, just as it looks like Jack is going to win, Crystal puts him in a triangle choke and he taps out. She makes her way up the ladder toward the belt as slowly as possible. “Have you ever seen a ladder match where someone climbs the latter with a sense of urgency or alacrity?” our new commentator Eddy Earl asks his partner Ricky Rabies (yes! We have commentators now!). It gives Wild Bill enough time to jump back in the ring with a neck brace on, mind you, and knock over the ladder — but this doesn’t stop Crystal. With the belt between her legs, she climbs across the rope to the balcony seats, and she wins the match. The crowd goes crazy. The Dome is hopped up on Crystal-mania. Jack and Bill gave the crowd the exact show they needed to.
Backstage, they toast one another for getting the job done. Bill acknowledges that it is a big deal for Jack to let himself lose to Crystal but knows both of their reputations will be just fine. “I once lost to Vanilla Ice and a Ninja Turtle,” he says. It’s a second successful showing for the DWL, and things are finally looking up.
So, where is Ace this whole time? Ace is off on an attempt at some spiritual awakening. Ignoring the dozens of voicemails from Jack, he decides to go off into nature. He is about as ill-prepared as you’d imagine. Even a comical stop at a camping store doesn’t do him much good since he refuses to buy hiking boots. He’s very aware of what’s happening back in Duffy, but he’s so angry at Jack that he can’t bring himself to even entertain the idea of going back.
He might change his mind soon. The night of the ladder rematch, Ace goes out to the edge of the cliff he’s camping nearby and he slips. He tumbles down, hitting a tree branch on the way before he lands. He has definitely broken something, it’s dark out, and there’s no one around to hear him screaming for help. Suddenly, Duffy might not look so bad.
• Well, it’s been a weird week for those of us who watch Heels.
• I loved the post-match moment between Crystal and Willie. Crystal is so grateful to Willie for looking out for her — she was right about everything. You can tell that Willie hates the emotional hug Crystal gives her but also kind of appreciates it.
• This episode, also written by Mike O’Malley, was so surprisingly funny, and I welcome a little more humor into the Heels world with arms wide open. From Willie and Wild Bill’s chat about Constance the State Fair Lady being a “dirty bird” to Ace’s back-and-forth with the camping store salesperson to Eddie and Ricky’s color commentary, I was laughing so much. Heels nailed the balance of tone here.
• There were so many good moments from our new commentators — Eddie and Ricky are a real dream team — but some of my favorites have to be Eddie’s comment when Crystal sets up the ladder: “Look at her, she’s been to a Home Depot before.” And this back and forth: “Like a young Nadia Comăneci.” “For anybody under 75 right now, he means Simone Biles.”
• Very happy to learn that Bill and Constance, the State Fair Lady, are super into each other and super into Bill’s mustache.
• “Raincoats always work.”