“Hey guys, I’ve got an idea! Let’s take the only couple the audience might be kinda invested in and ship one of them off to San Francisco for no reason and don’t really give them a satisfying farewell of any sort! Also, have everyone do a different accent again — that was fun! Also, let’s take what should be two huge plot points and just kinda shovel them into this one episode, which is going to cover some REALLY vague amount of time but at least six months. Also, toss in some half-hearted but also ham-handed stuff about civil rights at some point — make sure you just go ahead and cover Gloria Steinem and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the same montage, okay? Also, let’s have Kennedy get shot with three minutes to go and then just end the episode with a BBQ!”
In short, yet again, although this episode had some good scenes in it (Trudy and Gordo’s Hawaiian reunion was effective enough that it caused me to delete a line in my notes that read, “every dramatic instinct this show has is wrong;” Sam Reid, the dude who plays John Glenn, is really naturally sympathetic and does a lot with the little they give him), this show is…really a mess. I actually really REALLY feel for the writers. There is no way this wasn’t an incredibly difficult job — the scope of this series is immense and it is crazy — and I am sure everyone on staff had the “can’t we have them AT LEAST KISS?”/ “NO THESE ARE REAL PEOPLE” argument time and again and are all probably discussing the challenges of this show in therapy. I have moved from being frustrated by this series to wanting to buy all the writers on staff a drink.
Let’s run down the major plot points and then get to the outfits, shall we?
John and Annie Glenn: Continue to be perfect saintlike people with nothing to do other than be strong and do right for America. John does testify in front of Congress that he is worried that women shouldn’t be astronauts because they don’t have the appropriate test pilot training, but if this isn’t a kind of salient point, the show doesn’t do a great job explaining why not. (John notes that although the women have a lot of flying hours, there is a difference between test pilot training and flying a commercial plane, which seems true?) There is a lot of this in the Trudy/Gordo plot, obviously, but it seems (per the show) that the women who were agitating to become astronauts argued that they did better on all the testing that the male astronauts underwent than the men did, and thus wanted to be considered to become astronauts along with them, using this as a way of testing out of the “have to be a test pilot” portion of the requirements. I don’t know the answer to this and I am literally asking: Why weren’t these women arguing that they ought to be allowed to be test pilots also, as a first step toward being tossed into the pile for Astronaut Consideration? Did they try and just get denied? (I should note that I am old enough that I remember when Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, and the fact that it took until 1983 is amazing in a bad way. I am highly Pro Female Astronauts; I just had a hard time following this, because as usual this show doesn’t give you enough background and then basically seems to gloss over something that ought to be the A story for an entire episode.)
Louise and Alan Shepard: Louise decides she wants Alan to be faithful to her and asks him for that, thanks to Important Lessons She Learned from Max Caplan: Reporter, who is moving out to San Francisco to be groovy, who she never kisses nor wishes a meaningful goodbye. MC:R, in fact, tells Louise, “this isn’t how I wanted to say goodbye to you,” which is interesting because HE’S FICTIONAL so he could have at least given her a dramatic and angst-y speech if this show wasn’t worried, I assume, about getting sued by a variety of Shepards? Also, MC:R, YOU’RE A WRITER. WRITE HER A BEAUTIFUL LETTER. Also: WOW that was frustrating, although both actors really did try their level bests. Also also: this show has conceived of Alan Shepard as a cold, cold man who has no feelings and sleeps around, so we never really get why Louise is still so sprung on him. He doesn’t even notice when she’s colored her hair! YOU CAN DO BETTER, GIRL.
Trudy and Gordon: Gordon has to manually land his space ship and it’s looking REAL BAD, apparently, and he’s almost sure to die…but this moment of intense emotional and dramatic tension resolves itself over a commercial break and we’re told about his miraculous perfect landing via news footage. When he arrives in Hawaii, however, Gordo gives all the credit for his safe arrival and his abilities as a pilot to his pilot wife, Trudy, which is awesome. Also awesome is that he takes her out in a military plane after the disappointment of the aforementioned failed congressional hearings and they basically reenact that scene in Top Gun where Maverick does an unapproved fly-by of the base. (This makes Trudy the Goose, which is better in all things except the question of longevity.) She apparently agrees that Gordo is being awesome, and makes out with him in front of a bunch of reporters, which was actually totally satisfying because AT FREAKING LAST SOMEONE MAKES OUT ON THIS SHOW. We also meet one of Trudy’s best friends, who is in town to testify in front of the congressional hearing (…in Houston? What…is happening? Or do they all fly up to DC, and Best Friend has stopped in to see Trudy to…for….reasons? Whatever) about the aforementioned Wonderful Ladies of Space question, and I really wanted her and Trudy to be secret lovers, but alas it is not to be.
Betty and Gus: It’s really hot in Betty’s house right now.
Jo and Wally: It’s also hot in Jo’s house. So they start visiting a Gemini Wife every day because she has A/C. Don’t worry, at the end of the episode, Nameless Gemini Wife Played By Nora Zehetner does get invited to the BBQ of Togetherness in a Time of National Sadness, so I guess air conditioning and intense historical tragedy brought people together.
Rene and Scott: Rene has decided she wants to be a journalist, and the editor of the newspaper she pitches is all sexist and patronizing but ALSO makes the wise point that, uh, the only clip she has is one article, about herself. He tells her to write him 20 stories. So she does, which is awesome and excellent, but she also acts as if it’s not realistic for the editor to not want to hire some lady with ONE clip. I hate it when shows like this make me sort sympathize with the sexist jerkweed. Anyway, Rene is about mid-speech to Jerkweed about how his sexism has helped her find her voice when a dude pops into the restaurant to announce that Kennedy has been shot, with like FOUR MINUTES TO GO IN THE EPISODE. HOW ARE YOU JUST TACKING THAT GIANT HUGE MASSIVE MOMENT ONTO THE END OF THIS? At the very least, make it your episode out! WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS SHOW? (If you want to figure out how to handle the JFK assassination without actually having to have your characters react to it as it happened, see Mad Men. Also, make it your episode out and open the next episode a few weeks later.) Additionally, Yvonne Stahovski’s accent is all over the place — she is both Brooklyn and British in ONE SPEECH and that’s just…I don’t even get it, because her accent on Chuck was flawless. Her wig might be a scootch better this week, though?
Marge and Deke: Are still on the show.