Bomb Girls – 1.02 – Misfires

Previously on Bomb Girls: runaways! Secret jobs! Dancing! Infidelity! Spies! And most importantly: lesbians.

A new day has dawned on Victory Munitions, and the male workers are…setting off bombs? Huh? I mean, the dialogue tells us that they’re “testing” the bombs, but I don’t get how this is supposed to work. If one bad bomb = every bomb in the batch being tainted/malfunctioning, then I guess I could see it, but the way they’ve got it set up here, they’re just firing off bombs at random and hoping that they find whichever one isn’t working. I think Lorna just sent them out there to play with machinery to get them out of her hair.

Back in the factory change room, Gladys’s friend Carol—who, if you’ll recall, is still sticking with her office job—is freaking out about getting in trouble with Gladys’s parents if they find out what their daughter is up to. Gladys just rolls her eyes: “Don’t be such a girl!” You ever get the feeling that Gladys is totally that friend who made you buy beer for her in high school?

Over at the hospital, Vera is getting her bandages removed, and… yeah, that’s a nasty scar right there. Lorna and Edith are visiting, bringing with them a wig that everyone at the factory paid for, but Vera isn’t having it: not the wig, not looking at herself in a mirror, and especially not visits from the other girls. She just wants to shut herself away at the hospital and never see anyone. Lorna and Edith frown.

Over at the factory, some douchebag working on the bomb testing (seriously, what) is hoping that Vera, now missing half her scalp, will “get off her high horse” and agree to go out with him. Marco politely tells him to shut the hell up, but the real cosmic justice comes a few seconds later, when a bomb goes off in his face. We salute you, bomb.

Taking one for the team.

The girls in the factory hear the noise and take off to help, but a shellshocked Marco comes stumbling through the front gates warning them away—it could still be dangerous. Lorna pulls the girls back, seeing a different kind of danger: “We built a bad bomb.” Well, shit.

Back on the assembly line, the women are speculating what went wrong. Edith points out that the working conditions—never being allowed to leave the production line except for lunch—might be making them sloppy. Kate adds that having the chemical fumes in their faces makes it hard to breathe. Betty just wants them all to shut up before they get in trouble with the boss.

Over in the changeroom, Lorna’s been tasked with sponging all the grime and blood off Marco. An ambulance was called, she tells him, and took Archie (dickbag) off to the hospital. Marco is clearly in the throes of survivor’s guilt, and clutches a St. Christopher medal as he breaks down and cries. Lorna pats his back awkwardly.

After the shift, in the women’s changeroom, the ladies are getting into their street clothes when the factory manager—you remember, the one who sent Lorna out of his office in the last episode—comes barging in. The women shriek and try to cover themselves, but he’s too busy snarling at them about the bomb. Dude, seriously? It took out Archie. You should be thanking them. But no, he keeps blustering all “retaking tests” this and “factory inspection” that until Gladys pipes up to tell him that maybe the way he’s running the factory is the problem. In fact, she and the other girls were talking about it earlier! Right girls? Girls…?

The factory manager’s face is expanding like an overinflated balloon, so Betty and Edith jump in to do damage control—no sir, they certainly never complained about his policies, it’s just ladies chattering, you know how it is—and turn on Gladys once he’s gone. Gladys protests that she was just trying to help, but Edith snaps that she, unlike Gladys, has a family to support, and they have no income to rely on if the factory kicks her out. She and the others stomp off, leaving Gladys looking like a puppy who just got yelled at for peeing on the rug.

sad puppy gladys

"But... I was helping...?"

Edith confides in Lorna about the test re-taking and how her home life is kind of going to crap. She doesn’t want to tell her kids that their dad isn’t coming home (reasonable enough) so instead she’s been forging letters and claiming they’re from him (um, what?). But she doesn’t know what to write or how to make it sound realistic, and she knows Lorna’s husband was in the first war, so maybe he could…? Uh, no. No, this is a terrible idea and will inevitably blow up in your face, much like that bomb blew up in Archie’s. But Lorna, apparently not willing to talk Edith out of it, reluctantly agrees to take the proposition to her husband. I give it three episodes before this bites both of them in the butt.

Meanwhile at Witham Manor, Gladys and her family (plus her fiancé and Carol) are dining with some of James’s friends, trying to make contacts and gloating about how much money the war is going to make them. They go on and on about how the soldiers overseas aren’t actually doing anything aside from “loafing around the English countryside” until Gladys tells them to fuck off and storms away from the table. Just like every Thanksgiving at my house! Ahh, memories.

Her mother stomps up the stairs after her and demands to know what “entitles [her] to act like an impudent brat.” Gladys snaps that there’s clearly no place for her in the conversation, but her mother lays out exactly what she’s expected to: laugh at their stupid jokes, smile vapidly, and do whatever it takes to get them that contract, so MOVE YOUR ASS DOWNSTAIRS, YOUNG LADY. God, this woman is terrifying. You expect her to break out the “no more wire hangers!” routine whenever she’s on screen.

Marco drops in at the hospital to visit Archie and deliver some homemade food, but he’s out cold in the bed. On his way out, he passes by Vera’s room, and steps in to say hi. Vera still isn’t wild about having visitors, but Marco does at least get her to smile a bit by joking about his mom. He’d also like to apologize for distracting her on the line, but she shuts that line of thought down before he gets a sentence out. She at least eats the cannoli he brought, though.

At the factory the next morning, the testing has started, complete with ominous background music. Gladys almost drops a tool into one of the bombs, but quickly hides it behind her back before Lorna turns around. While Marco quietly argues with the inspector, Lorna pulls Kate aside—her file is missing a security clearance. Kate smiles uncomfortably and promises to bring it in tomorrow, while the audience can clearly see her “oh crap” expression.

Afterwards, when the shift is over, Kate sits behind the building attempting to calm herself down with a cigarette. That’s not the kind of smoke you’re meant to use, Kate. Gladys drops by to bury the broken tool and tries to defend her actions the previous day—“I was only trying to help.” Kate is gentler than Betty and Edith, but she still shuts the other woman down: “No one put you in charge. And no one wants a Joan of Arc to lead us into battle.” Gladys frets.

The test results in are the next day—all the women on the line passed. The manager refuses to accept that, and insists that the one with the lowest test score gets the boot. Lorna tries to argue that one of the men could have made a mistake, but to no avail; the lowest score is out. And that’s Edith. Lorna goes to give her the news, and Edith understandably flips out. She blames Lorna for her getting fired, points out that she won’t be able to get another job with “faulty bomb maker” on her resume, and storms out. You know what these women need? A union.

Over at the boardinghouse, Kate is trying to put together security papers to give Lorna, but it’s not going too well—her hands are shaking too badly, and she eventually tosses the paper across the room with a cry of “Darn it all to heck!” You watch your mouth, young lady. Kate’s G-rated cussing draws Betty into the room, and before you know it, Kate’s spilling about her problems. Her mother was able to get the false birth certificate, but she couldn’t afford the security clearance too, and Kate’s afraid that if she can’t provide one, she’ll have no choice but to go back to her father. And I think we can all agree that that isn’t a good idea. Betty agrees, and fortunately, she knows someone who makes fake security papers. She warns Kate that he might want something other than money in return (EURGH) but Kate’s too desperate to listen, and practically drags Betty off by her hair.

Over at Gladys’s place, her father is throwing a tantrum over James’s buddy meeting with the competition when Gladys walks in. Gladys tries to suggest that maybe they don’t need the business of a guy who clearly doesn’t care about their soldiers, but her father shoots her down before she can even finish a sentence. Surprisingly, her fiancé sticks up for her: “She reminded us why we’re doing this.” But her dad doesn’t want to hear it, and gets up in her face, accusing her of just being in it for the attention and “not being a team player” until Gladys finally has enough and storms out. This family makes Lorna and Bob look functional.

Up in her room, Gladys tears off her dress, berating herself for being ”useless” and “stupid” until something catches her eye. She grabs an empty hatbox off her shelf and starts gouging the top with scissors. At first I thought she was trying to metaphorically stab her dad—hey, I’m in—but then she grabs some paste and starts gluing something onto the side. It’s an art project!

At the hospital, Vera’s apparently been given the job of passing out meals, which takes her into Dickbag Archie’s room. He compliments her on her looks, but as soon as she’s out in the hall, he laughs to a fellow patient that she “looks like she made out with a cheese grater.” Vera huddles against a wall and cries. Is there a reason the bomb didn’t blow this guy’s head off?

Kate is now at the studio of the guy who’s going to make her security papers, and it seems that the price isn’t quite as bad as I thought—he wants to take pinup pictures of her. Kate, however, looks massively uncomfortable in a red bathing suit, and panics when the camera’s on. “I’ve never even worn one of these before!” Betty hurries in to do damage control, and reminds Kate why she’s doing this. “New name, new job, new life. Okay? Don’t look at him, just look at me.” And sure enough, staring at Betty is all the confidence Kate needs to toss her hair and beam for the camera. Betty beams right back. These two are ridiculously cute.

Betty's happy face

enamoured,— adj: in love; captivated; charmed

Warning: this section of the recap deals with child abuse, so if that’s triggering for you, you might want to skip to the next paragraph. At the boardinghouse afterwards, Kate quickly locks herself in the bathroom and studies herself in the mirror. She’s a new person now, but how it she going to deal with that? Before she has a chance to, she turns around and we cut to—oh, god. It’s clearly a dream sequence, but none the less upsetting, as we see Kate being repeatedly plunged into a bathtub, choking and gasping for air whenever she’s allowed to resurface for a few seconds at a time. Her father has one hand around her neck and a Bible in the other, hissing about “all men shall stone her, and so shalt ye put evil away from among you.” I’m not a Christian so I have no idea what he’s quoting, but I still feel pretty safe in saying that Jesus did not endorse this. And then Kate wakes up in bed with a scream, and clutches her pillow trying to calm down and stop shaking. Oh Kate.

At the factory the next day, everyone is buzzing about Edith being fired when Gladys shows up with her arts and crafts project from the previous night—a suggestions box. She explains that it’ll be anonymous, so nobody can be blamed for mouthing off, but Betty and Hazel roll their eyes and stomp off into the factory. Kate gives her a tiny smile and a shrug before following, and Gladys sighs.

Inside, Marco is taking his findings to the factory manager—the reason the bomb misfired is because there was too much amatol in the mixture, and that’s not the women’s job. Whose is it? The alcoholic man who the manager refuses to fire. He insists that the problem is the women on the line—”yappy dames who think darning socks sets them up to fight a war”—but Marco sticks to his guns. The manager doesn’t want to hear it, and slams the door in his face. Oy.

On the factory floor, Gladys finds the suggestions box that she left in the changeroom is now sitting on a trolley—and has been stuffed with suggestions by the men working the floor. Some of the more “charming” ones include “stop wrapping your hands around those bomb caps and wrap them around my—” Gladys grabs the paper away, looking disgusted, and rejoins the line. Hazel and the others are ready to just shrug it off—it’s the reality of the job, and hey, the guys weren’t mouthing off at them. But Betty’s had enough. She throws her gloves down—literally—grabs a pen, scribbles down a suggestion, and holds it towards the other girls. “Who’s next?”

The other girls look at each other anxiously for a second, but one by one, they leave the line and head for the suggestion box, where Betty’s handing out slips of paper to write on. Kate and Gladys are the last to leave their station, just as Lorna shows up to ask what’s going on. She thinks they’re playing with fire, but Betty lays it out: even Lorna couldn’t save Edith’s job. And they want to have a say in how they do their work. Lorna takes the box away, but it looks like it might not be over yet.

Up in the office, Lorna plunks the suggestions box down on the managers desk and reads a few off to him. Discouraging the men from harrassing the women. Allow bathroom breaks. Ventilate the factory properly so the workers aren’t choking on fumes. These are all pretty basic suggestions for the working world we live in now, so it’s a little shocking to hear how little of it our grandmothers took for granted. The manager doesn’t want to hear it, but Lorna dumps all the suggestions on his desk and storms out.

Back at her house that night, Lorna is trying to write Edith’s letters while her husband offers criticism: the information she’s putting in would never pass the censors and also her handwriting “looks like a poof’s.” Charming. Also, as it happens, her husband knows the man who actually fucked up the bomb the other day, and apparently Marco gave him what-for about drinking on the job. Lorna grabs her coat and heads out.

Down at the Sandy Shores, Gladys and her fiance are kicking up their heels when James’s business contact walks past. James grumbles about how they got ripped off, and Gladys provides some helpful advice: “He acts like he calls the shots because you told him he does. It’s time to show him your moves.” Hey! That’s the moral of the episode!

Elsewhere on the floor, Lorna corners Marco and accuses him of protecting the man who wrecked the bomb. Marco protests—he’s just as much a persona non grata as she is at the factory, and his words don’t carry any more clout than hers. Lorna makes it clear that she’s going to tell her girls who was really responsible for the bad bomb, which impresses Marco enough to…move in and kiss her. Hey! Lorna pulls back quickly and says that she’ll just pretend that never happened before quickly skedaddling off—but not before Marco promises to get Edith’s job back for her. Lorna nods quickly before rushing away.

Elsewhere-elsewhere, Kate checks out a barrette being sold by a vendor, but sadly turns it away—she hasn’t got the money. The photographer did cough up her security papers, but he’s also keeping the pictures, and she’s still a bit shaken up over it. Gladys arrives to compliment Betty on handling the suggestion box earlier, and Betty compliments her in return. The beginnings of a friendship? Could be. Meanwhile, James (the fiance) has taken Gladys’s advice and corners his business partner—he has other contacts, and he’ll be happy to take his money elsewhere if he doesn’t sign. Seems like a victorious day all around.

At the boardinghouse that night, Kate and Betty pore over the pictures, and Kate really does look gorgeous in them. Betty, grinning, produces something else for Kate—the barrette she was checking out at the dance. Kate beams and hugs her—”I am so lucky I met you.” Betty also has a proposition for her—maybe her nightmares would get better if she slept over with Betty…? Smooth McRae, smooth. Kate declines (“I think I’ll have better dreams now”) but still pulls her into one more hug before leaving for her own room. Betty settles back onto her pillows, checking out the photos like a kid with a crush, which…she pretty much is.

She's so dreamy.

At Lorna’s place, she arrives home to find her husband also having problems with nightmares. She wakes him up, and he tells her he copied out Edith’s letters—with firsthand war experience (presumably what was occupying his dreams) he can make them sound realistic. Lorna crawls into bed beside him and pats his hand. She’s clearly still preoccupied with Marco, but anything can happen—tomorrow is another day.