Okay, back to Gladys’ secret mission. Gladys thinks Berman is an improbable Jewish Nazi, and the factory girl was a spy because she was German. Gladys I love you but you’re wrong about everything. The factory girl was just depressed and Berman isn’t a spy, just a man with incredibly…long…pauses…between…words.
At the Jewel Box, Betty and Kate are enjoying a quiet drink when they are rudely interrupted by Head Spy Davis, who sends Kate a card inviting her to dinner. But Kate knows she needs to put in some time with her friend so she listens while Betty tells her about her dream house. She had her little pamphlet with the model she’d chosen and she took it to the bank, but they turned her down (why didn’t we get to see that scene?). Apparently a felonious lesbian seemed like a bad bet for a home loan, so they are refusing to help her out unless she can come up with half the down payment herself. And Kate is like, “oh well, back to the boarding house I guess” but Betty won’t have it. Her voice shakes with the injustice of it all when she says “I need a house, okay? Because I deserve it. Because it is my haven, and that ain’t no crime.” That word, “haven,” makes me think of young Betty McRae, who grew up rough with too many brothers, finding the word “haven” in a book in one of her few quiet moments, and making that word into her dream house. Back in season two I said that Betty put all her forbidden feelings in the Secrets Cage, but now I realize that isn’t true. She’s put them in her haven, a little house in her imagination where who she is and what she wants can finally be safe. And you’re goddamn right she deserves that haven to finally be real.
Gladys is forced to accept that it is unlikely that Berman is a Nazi—for one thing she is getting a crush on him and we all know she has impeccable taste in men—so she goes to Clifford’s office to see if he just dropped any clues on the floor. Of course he did, because he was a terrible spy, and that clue was a picture of Mrs. Helen Buchinsky.
Finally on the scent of something real, Gladys interrogates Ivan, and of course wresting the truth from his guileless visage is considerably easier than taking candy from a baby. He’s just like “Yep, she came up to me at a bar, listened to my whole life story, and proposed marriage a month later. She has no parents or ties to the community to confirm who she actually is.” Well he certainly has a type. Gladys takes this information to Head Spy Davis who in turn takes it straight to Helen Buchinsky because (surprise!) they are In Cahoots.
He gives her a pen called a firefly, which, much like the show Firefly, will self-destruct and explode after two minutes. Its target: Gladys Witham-Hastings
Out on the street, Betty runs into her old boxing promoter and adversary, who try to coax her back into the ring. The lady boxer also gives Betts a playful tap that suggests that the two of them engaged in some gloves-off tussling a time or two.
Back at Vic Mu, Lorna whispers menacingly in Gladys’ ear that she knows those bullets aren’t for self-defense. Gladys menacingly replies “You overestimate your reach and influence” which is one of those awful truth bombs that maybe you meant but you didn’t mean to say. But Lorna replies, even more scathingly “You’re no better than all those men who dismiss us.” I kind of love it when these two go all Batman vs. Superman on each other, just so long as they go back to being on the same team at the end of the day.
In the cafeteria (I want that Don’t Throw Things sign more than I have ever wanted anything in my life) Marco reads a letter from Vera to the whole team. Afterwards Helen insists that they all write back to her with her special shiny new pencil. What she actually physically does is HAND AN EXPLODING PENCIL TO A HUGE BUNCH OF BYSTANDERS IN THE MIDDLE OF A BOMB FACTORY. God, you are all so bad at spies. You deserve each other. I will say that the ticking clock conceit worked nicely and terrified me as everyone passed around the pencil. The surprise is kind of spoiled when Helen tenderly kisses Ivan and is like “I was pretending about everything else but I do love your little chipmunk face. You deserve better than three women with ulterior motives.” Dude, Bomb Girls movie, you gotta stop telegraphing these deaths ten minutes before they happen.
So, right before the explosion, Kate goes up to Ivan and asks him to be friends, and Ivan is like sure, because everyone has to be a saint right before they die. Those are just the rules. Sure enough, he picks up the pencil right before the factory is rocked by a low-budget explosion.
Cut to: the hospital, where we see that Ivan is dead (unsurprising, since no one thought to put a bandage on him in the ambulance).
Kate is also injured and Betty runs to her side in anguish, because you cannot make yourself stop loving someone. If you could this world would have a lot more sense and a lot less magic.
When Betty steps out, Helen Buchinsky pokes her head in just to tell Kate that Ivan’s death is totally and completely her fault. If she didn’t have magnetic eyes and a voice you have to lean in to listen to then Ivan never would have been in that canteen.
Her tirade makes Kate take a long, hard look at the elephant in the room of this entire show: they make bombs. The fruits of their labor have killed countless Ivans and frankly, Kate it tired of juggling the moral complexity of it all. Betty holds her hand and strokes her forehead and promises—like she always promises—that she will protect her.
Over at the Hedley, Berman and Gladys finally figure out that Head Spy Davis in a bad guy (they figure it out because he basically tells them because they are all graduates of the Inspector Gadget School of Espionage). They come up with an immediate plan to arrest both him and Helen. JUST KIDDING THEY TRADE GERMS.
Determined to keep Kate from ever experiencing another moment’s sadness, Betty returns to the ring to throw another fight. But Marco busts in at the last minute and tells her he bet on her, and if she beats the odds and wins, she’ll have enough money to buy her house. This should be a satisfying scene, but it falls flat because:
1.It’s thirty seconds long. You barely have time to figure out what’s going on before it’s over.
2. Why Marco? Like, re-write this scene in your head with Gladys (Betty’s best friend) showing up to give her the money. Or better yet, Kate. Instead we have a character with whom Betty has only ever interacted a couple of times riding in on a white horse.
Anyway she wins, yay Betty and yay Betty’s house.
Back at the factory, Lorna gets fired. Wait, what? Lorna gets FIRED? JESUS, DON’T WE HAVE ENOUGH GOING ON WITHOUT THIS TWIST?
Way, waaaay more importantly, a soldier shows up on the factory floor and hands Marco a telegram. According to the War Department, Vera Burr’s ship was sunk by a U-boat and she is dead.
Nope. No. Sorry, Vera Burr is not dead. Let me tell you why Vera Burr is not dead: because if she were dead, it would be a travesty on par with the fate of Naomi Campbell. Like Naomi, Vera Burr is unique in all of television: kind, intelligent, unpretentious, vulnerable, brave. And she likes sex. Vera was written to be a woman who likes sex without needing to be punished for it, and without it meaning that she is somehow damaged or slutty or wrong. You don’t kill someone like that just to tug on our heartstrings. You don’t kill them at all because we need them so badly. So as far as I’m concerned, Vera is currently sitting on a life raft with a sail made from lingerie, and she is coming home. Lest you think that I have finally lost it here at the 4000 word mark of this recap, check out this quote from Adrienne Mitchell: “My whole thing is that things happened overseas and they never find the bodies,” she hints. “You never know! You never know. She might not be completely gone…”
Of course, the characters can’t read that quote, so they sob and grieve accordingly. Kate sings over the tragedy, which is appropriate, since singing has always been how Kate accesses the part of herself that is whole and undamaged. Charlotte Hegele is exquisite in this scene; I wish she had more to work with.
At the boarding house, Betty shows up with a bill of sale for her brand new house, and she tells Kate that there’s a room there for her.
Betty: I mean, our rooms will be right across the hall from mine, so if you have a bad dream or whatever, I’m just right there.
Kate: Oh Betty, I want to sing!
Betty: ME TOO.
Kate: No, like as a career.
Betty: Oh. Yeah. Me too.
Good. Kate should sing, and Betty should have her house, and they should be friends. I was really afraid that this movie would just toss McAndrews at us to shut us up. I’ve seen that kind of patronizing, fandom appeasing thing before, and I want more for these two. Also, the fact that they leave it in the air increases the chance for more movies, which I am totally in favor of.