Well, now we know why The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel crew was so tight-lipped about Milo Ventimiglia’s much-touted appearance this season: because it amounted to little more than an elaborate tease.
The Gilmore Girls alum finally shows up in this episode as a charismatic, dog-loving guy Midge habitually “bumps” into in Central Park while walking Ethan to school. Their regular meet-cutes turn into sex in Milo’s apartment, which turns into Midge discovering she is the “other woman.” Yep, Milo’s character, who is never given a name other than “Handsome Man,” is married, and his wife (Billions’ Sarah Stiles) has the unfortunate name of, you guessed it, “Angry Wife.”
Basically, Ventimiglia’s casting is less for our enjoyment — Midge’s affair with America’s Dad is over before the episode’s five-minute mark — and more to give Midge material for the episode’s third act. I’m sure I’m not alone in my disappointment with this creative decision, but this isn’t the time to start introducing brand-new characters anyway. As the penultimate episode, “Ethan … Esther … Chaim” is understandably more concerned with setting up the narrative for the series’ typically packed season finale. That and giving Marin Hinkle a magnificent comedic showcase.
Since I’m more interested in the state of Rose’s career than Midge’s, I am happy to see this episode makes good on the Manhattan Matchmaking Mafia’s threats to make things uncomfortable for the Weissmans almost immediately. While tobacco shopping, Abe is accosted by matchmaking bosses Gitta (Jewish contingent) and Molly (Irish contingent), and good God, they’re not just intimidating but downright frightening. They know the names of Rose and Abe’s grandchildren (hence the episode title), and Gitta apparently was taught a Torah passage that my teachers must’ve skipped over in Hebrew School: “Fuck with me and you die.”
Rose’s daughter’s career isn’t faring much better, but before Midge can tackle that challenge, Joel needs to inform her Ethan and Esther are getting a sibling. I am impressed that Midge isn’t too judgmental with the news, though she could tone down the barrage of questions. Midge finding out Mei is pregnant serves to inform the audience how out of his depth Joel is with this situation and how this story line is heading for a sad conclusion: Not only has Joel still neglected to tell his parents about Mei (or the pregnancy), but there’s a good chance she will get a residency out of town, and Joel states for the record to Midge that, because of the Button Club, he won’t leave New York. More importantly, Midge calls Joel on the fact that he’s clearly not happy about the baby.
At Susie Myerson and Associates, Susie gives her client the straight talk: Midge’s refusal to do opening-act gigs is hurting them both. Midge’s only steady job is at an illegal strip club, which means Susie can’t send people like Gordon Ford Show booker Mike Carr to check her out. After her latest Sophie Lennon–related disaster, all Susie can offer Midge is a headlining gig in Zagreb, Croatia (though wasn’t it known as Yugoslavia back in 1960?). It’s a five-week residency, but since the electricity is turned on only once a week, it means Midge needs to fly back and forth. To Eastern Europe. Weekly. In 1960.
Midge says no to Zagreb, which doesn’t sit too well with Frank and Nicky. The two mobsters — and Susie’s kidnappers turned landlords — have been hanging around the talent-management office an awful lot lately, even suspiciously taking notes on Midge’s reasons for turning down the Croatia gig. We know these two will come collecting from Susie one day, and it stands to reason she really doesn’t grasp how much of a cut of her business they’re going to take. Until then, Frank and Nicky need something more interesting to do, so Midge, having learned Joel barely knows anything about his baby mama, asks them to investigate Mei. Christ, Midge!
Susie has bigger worries than Midge in this episode because her other client is ready for his first major performance. Alfie, the bizarro dude Susie met in the season premiere, may be “an undiagnosed schizophrenic,” but he is also a superb magician and hypnotist, proving yet again that Susie has a natural flair for discovering untapped talent. The whole Weissman clan is in the audience to show support, including Midge’s brother, Noah, and his wife, Astrid — which doesn’t bode well. Alfie selects Rose as an audience participant, and before you can say “Ethan … Esther … Chaim,” Rose is hypnotized into delivering a masterful Midge impression. To Midge’s intense horror, Rose recites, word for word, her daughter’s extremely blue Wolford stand-up set from the night she was in attendance. We get TMI about Noah’s teenage masturbatory habits, Rose’s flirting prowess, and a slew of insults about poor Astrid. But the audience loves it, which just goes to show Midge can play an unfunny room like the Cherry Lane Theater.
When Alfie snaps Rose out of her hypnosis, she’s oblivious to what just happened. But while it was delightful to watch Hinkle so expertly embody Rachel Brosnahan, the real point of this subplot is to move Midge and Rose toward allyship. Following the show, Midge confronts her mother for spying on her at the Wolford, at which point Rose reveals that Midge’s tawdry workplace is no longer relevant because now that Abe was threatened, she’s had to discontinue her matchmaking services. Midge doesn’t even ask about the circumstances and implores Rose to follow in her footsteps and not give up. She knows what a positive effect matchmaking has had on her mother, and even though Rose doesn’t feel she’s a “fighter” like her daughter, Midge reminds her that their career journeys are quite similar: “Mine just involves more naked women and dick jokes.”
As Midge arrives home, she’s waylaid by Frank, who informs her he’s backing off on the Mei surveillance. It’s never a good sign when one mob family deems another mob family “dangerous.”
Even though Susie can’t book Midge right now, at least Midge manages to score herself a sweet gig doing stand-up at a “Wives for Kennedy” event. She gets the lead from her Wolford colleague Gloria, whose father just happens to be a senator (go with it), and word on the street is Jackie Kennedy needs a comedienne for her ladies’ luncheon.
At first, everything goes swimmingly: Midge seamlessly wins over her audience — including Jackie herself! — by doing a cute set about how unattainable standards for women will be if Mrs. Kennedy becomes the first lady. Could this be the big break she’s been waiting for? Of course not, because we needed a reason for this episode’s “Handsome Man” affair. Despite her clean and subdued act, Midge accidentally hints at a “story for another time,” and when the ladies urge her to spill, sigh, she does.
So she recounts every sordid detail of her hookup with the unnamed married man, which only makes her audience gasp — and Jackie weep. To be fair to Midge, I don’t think John F. Kennedy’s marital infidelities were common knowledge 60 years ago the way they are today. But how many times do I have to say this, Midge? Learn to read the room.
While Midge is busy getting herself banned from all future political fundraisers, Susie attempts to fire her unflappable secretary, Dinah. It is a very stupid decision. Okay, I get that it’s unprofessional to babysit two kids at the office even though Dinah never let her charges interfere with her secretarial duties. At the same time, it’s infuriating Susie couldn’t see that Dinah is quite literally Superwoman. (You do not fire someone who tracks down and returns a dress left behind at a married man’s apartment.) Over chicken and waffles, Susie starts breaking the news to Dinah just as a young comic named James (Jay Will) takes the mic. Susie, who knows raw talent when she sees it, is enthralled, just as Dinah knew she would be. Before long, Susie has acquired a new client, and Dinah remains employed.
We also get a quick Lenny Bruce fix this episode! Our beloved doomed comedian shows up on The Gordon Ford show to announce his upcoming Carnegie Hall show. Now we know what Midge will be up to in the season finale …
… That is, if Moishe survives the news that Joel is dating a Chinese woman — and that they’re having a baby. Last we saw of Midge’s insufferable ex-father-in-law, he was at the Button Club, collapsing at his son’s feet.
More Maisel musings
• I wouldn’t be too hard on Abe answering “Mazel tov” to the priest’s “body of Christ” prompt. When my Catholic-raised husband attended synagogue with me for the first time, he almost crossed himself as he got up to use the restroom.