The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
If the last two episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel were the season’s low point, then I’m thankful “How to Chew Quietly and Influence People” comes close to being its high point. Everything about this episode is just, well, better: The Shy Baldwin story line received respectful closure (I have some issues, but overall, I think it was done well), and the series’s narrative arc is gaining momentum.
I’m happy that Midge’s financial situation continues to be a problem for her. These are the obstacles I was hoping for at the start of the season, and it’s a relief to see that she can’t hide behind a bunch of useless Tupperware prizes like gumball machines (that’s right, machines plural) in place of cash forever.
It is also good to see another career face-off between Midge and Rose. True, it is a rehash of the one they had in the season-three finale, but that just goes to show how similar they are after all. And how they might be each other’s best allies in the future.
So Rose landed a huge client, Solomon Melamid, an industrial tycoon with lots of “homely” relatives in desperate need of a matchmaker. (“A large, sad family is a cash cow, and I want to milk it!” says Rose, as I wonder if it’s possible to both cringe and do the Meryl applause GIF simultaneously.) But if Mr. Melamid finds out that her daughter works at a strip club, then it’s bye-bye, cash cow.
What Rose can’t seem to grasp throughout her argument with Midge is that both she and her daughter want the same thing. They love their jobs and they don’t want to sacrifice anything that pays them well and gives them a purpose. When Rose tells Midge that she “could be on the verge of something very big here,” Midge reminds her that she is too. Rose is on the verge of something, all right, but it’s not necessarily good: She receives an ominous, exquisitely scented, handwritten note at the end of the episode, with a one-word message: “Stop.” I think the word is getting around about her success, and perhaps other matchmakers see her as a threat.
In other subplot news, Susie spends the episode interviewing secretarial candidates, although I don’t know what she needs more — a secretary or a course on hiring a secretary. Susie’s main management task, however, is rehabbing Sophie Lennon’s image. A colossal challenge when you consider that Sophie gets exhausted after hailing a taxi. The plan is to get Sophie on a late-night talk show where she can open up about her “nervous breakdown” and win over the public again. A hilarious meeting at the Stage Deli between Sophie, Susie, and Mike Carr (Jason Ralph, Rachel Brosnahan’s real-life husband), the booker for the Tonight Show–esque Gordon Ford Show, ensues. Susie sells the hell out of her client, and we’re treated to brilliant comedy nuggets like this one:
Mike: “I heard about you being on Sullivan.”
Sophie: “He was leaving his wife.”
As for breaking the rules of what’s acceptable on TV in 1960 America? Susie pitches Sophie’s guest spot as the antithesis of boring, predictable plugs — something that certainly hasn’t changed about most late-night appearances in 60 years. That, and this could be huge for Gordon Ford’s ratings.
Sophie is booked, and despite initial nerves, she nails it. Her raw honesty charms Gordon (Reid Scott of Veep), who bumps his other guest to keep Sophie on-camera. To celebrate, Susie buys herself a six-pack and finally hires a secretary.
Now it’s time to discuss the real reason we’re here: Midge’s long-awaited reunion with Shy Baldwin at his wedding. I’m proud of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for ultimately examining the dark underbelly of Shy’s success, and I’m relieved Midge acknowledged she was in the wrong during her ill-fated Apollo set. The thing is, I’m scratching my head over when and how Midge came to this epiphany. What I also can’t ignore is, until she and Susie are escorted into that creepy war room, Midge’s apology was still mainly about her and what she learned, not how it hurt Shy.
For reasons that elude Midge and Susie, both have been invited to Shy’s lavish wedding at the Plaza Hotel. They attend, awesomely messing with the cater-waiters and getting drunk on a revolting Scotch-and-gin-and-cherries cocktail they create on the fly call “Sweet Revenge.” Eventually, Midge notices Shy heading to the restroom, and since she already knows his preference, she follows him into the ladies’ room. They make stilted small talk; Shy reveals that his PR team created the guest list and he has bought his new wife, Monica, a house in Beverly Hills. A house he doesn’t expect to live in much. Midge asks after “the gang,” as in Shy’s band, none of whom are in attendance, including Liza Weil’s bassist Carole Keene. Shy gives a boilerplate response: “I wanted a new sound.” “Sounds” to me like they knew too much.
Once Midge and Shy stop doing the awkward dance, Midge delivers a pitch-perfect apology, completely owning what she did to him. I still have no clue how the hell she got here, because there has been nothing about her behavior to suggest that she has learned her lesson, but since this is The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, it’s best if we keep our expectations low.
It’s really the next scene that delivers the biggest impact, reminding us that for every career struggle endured by the fearless women on this show, a single day in Shy Baldwin’s harsh reality is much worse.
Before Susie and Midge can leave the reception, two security guards take them into a side room, where Operation Straight and Narrow is in full swing. Think of it as Hollywood’s answer to conversion therapy. Leading the white, male pack is Lou, a.k.a. Shy’s “other” manager. As predicted, Midge’s jokes about Shy put his career in jeopardy, and if the crooner wanted to maintain his celebrity status and star in the new Billy Wilder film, he had to not only get married to a woman but get rid of everyone who knew him well. That didn’t just mean his band, oh, no. Reggie, who apparently wasn’t absent from his client’s wedding due to This Is Us scheduling conflicts, got the ax too. And a huge payout.
Speaking of payouts, that’s why Midge and Susie were invited to the wedding. Lou and his cronies know about the night in Miami when Midge helped Shy after he was assaulted. In exchange for $2,000, they want her to sign a NDA promising she’ll never publicly reveal what happened on that boat. It’s enough to make Midge’s skin crawl, and she flat out refuses. Susie, ever the devoted, albeit starving manager, tries to go along with her client’s decision, but the more Midge refuses Lou’s offers, the higher the bribe becomes. By the time the number reaches $12,000, Susie is not so willing to decline that kind of cash anymore. I can’t blame her: That “shiny, Nazi Mercedes” money could fix a lot of problems for both her and Midge.
Midge sticks to her principles, walking out of the Plaza with little more than her dignity and a few extra gift bags (Susie basically pulls a Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids). Does my renewed respect count? She notices a forlorn Shy smoking a cigarette as she gets into a taxi, and I can only hope she now understands that his fame has come at a terrible price.
It’s time to close the chapter on the Shy Baldwin story anyway, because there’s another celebrity with a damaged soul who needs Midge’s attention right now …
More Maisel Musings
• Midge wearing an arm sling — matched to her ensembles, of course — was a nice touch. It’s a cute reminder of her onstage tumble at the end of episode four.
• In what world does a person notice Jimmy Stewart and Sidney Poitier talking and comments on how only Stewart is a snack? What is Poitier, chopped liver?
• “When you think Reggie, you think Westchester.” Susie cracking jokes at my home county’s expense is a personal honor.