A man is feeling overlooked! Someone tend to him posthaste! Julia and her show receive a positive review in the Boston Globe, which throws Albert Duhamel of “I’ve Been Reading” semi-fame into a tizzy. He demands better guests for his show.
Hunter Fox, the head of WGBH, visits Julia on set and tells her to mention the other shows next time she’s interviewed. Julia tries to tell him she wasn’t interviewed and had no input in the article, which she has only just learned about. Hunter absorbs absolutely none of this and ends up telling her she should apologize to Albert. A! polo! gize! to! Albert! Julia exorcises her feelings with some vigorous whisking.
Sidenote: Before Julia is given a talking to for no reason other than The Patriarchy trying to uphold itself, she brings in petits fours for the crew, which is the most American Girl Samantha-doll thing imaginable. This is silly, because Julia is a Molly.
Julia is going on a trip to her alma mater Smith College, located not too far away, in Northampton. Before she leaves, she asks editor Judith to find a guest to appease Albert, to which Judith agrees. I cannot forgo mentioning that Julia also refers to Albert as “the Elvis of eggheads” in this episode. Julia is working on a second volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Knopf, and Blanche Knopf is not keen on publishing it. Because this is a gentle show and I want to minimize any stress you may feel about the outcome of this disagreement, there is a volume two, but it was not published until 1970. Blanche encourages Judith to spend time working on her serious authors, and I shake my fist at the literary world.
Prior to leaving for Smith, Julia attends Paul’s art opening at Avis’s friend’s gallery. Sylvia Plath and Thornton Wilder are there?? Paul says to Wilder, “What a joy it is to have you in our town,” and I wonder how much Wilder got sick of that joke. Paul sells his first painting at the show (to his sensei, who is also there), and, afterward, at home, he and Julia waltz around their bedroom and harmonize to “I Could Have Danced All Night.” Their marriage is sometimes iffy but primarily very cute and supportive!
At first, Julia’s trip to Smith goes swimmingly. She’s on a panel where everyone has questions for her, and, afterward, she and her old friends drink wine on a porch (this show really promotes sophisticated porch drinking, and I am here for it). Another woman walks in, and no one seems to remember her at first, but they invite her to join them. Her name is Iris Wallace, and she and Julia used to play basketball for Smith together, so the two go for an evening walk. While talking about her life, Iris mentions that she “has someone” and that someone is a she. She also says that if it weren’t for Julia, Iris doesn’t know if she would have found her.
This causes Julia some intense confusion, and Iris reminds her of spring break their senior year — when they went skinny dipping while the other girls were doing something else and then fell asleep on the couch under a blanket. Julia’s only reply is that memory can be so fickle. Is now the time to talk about Julia Child’s homophobia? It definitely existed! David Hyde Pierce addresses this in a recent interview, and, although Julia Child eventually came around and became an AIDS activist in the 1980s, it’s good the show isn’t skipping around it. Clearly, in the show, this memory disturbs Julia, and she comes back home early after telephoning Paul — when he calls her the Patron Saint of Omelets. Is this detail relevant to the homophobia plotline? No. Necessary to include in this recap? Yes.
While Julia is gone, Avis has been her stand-in at rehearsals. While they’re figuring out the mechanics of a cooking show on television, the crew has to solve problems like how do we get a shot of the inside of the bowl without a person’s pesky head getting in the way? This involves a very excellent comedic scene for Bebe Neuwirth, and the problem is solved when she opens her compact to powder her face and Russ realizes mirrors exist.
They install a mirror above the set! And then they can film the shot in the mirror! Genius. Figuring all this out for the first time must have been so hard. I love how Russ continues to discover helpful mirror workarounds and generally be Good Russ, because Grumpy Russ was killing the vibe. When they’re done filming, he carefully cuts out the Boston Globe article and saves it, which is so cute! See, Russ? All you have to do in life is settle and things will go your way. I’m sure there’s a lesson here about blooming where you’re planted and dealing with life’s realities while seeing the positives of your situation.
Editor Judith gets John Updike to guest on “I’ve Been Reading,” and I am once again reminded of the giant hole in my literary knowledge when it comes to male American authors of the mid-twentieth century. There’s only so much “would you like to hear about sex from a male perspective” one can take, and I’m all set for this lifetime. But this is post–Rabbit, Run Updike, so he is a catch for “I’ve Been Reading.” If anyone wonders about the book he’s currently working on with Judith, it is his 1968 novel, Couples, which is about — wait for it — sex.
Alice has been making calls to stations around the country during all of this, trying to sell them syndication rights to The French Chef. Everyone says no until San Francisco says yes. Hunter finds out and yells at Alice for a while about how she overstepped her lack of authority, then completely changes course and says this could be a game changer. Excitement! Everything’s coming up WGBH.