Bomb Girls – 1.04 – Bringing Up Bombshell

Previously on Bomb Girls: spaghetti, thievery, infidelity, more infidelity, and jazz.

I’ve got to gush for a sec before I start the recap—this is one of my favourite episodes. Not just of the show (although that is also true) but of TV in general. This is some good shit, you guys. It’s not just that the acting is spectacular (although it is) or the writing is amazing (although it also is) but the plot and theme is one that almost never gets explored on TV, and it damn well should. I got teary at more than one point in this ep, not going to lie.

Tissues ready? Okay, let’s go.

The blue shift at VicMu is almost over, and everyone is all aflutter—they’re about to make the factory’s millionth bomb, and they want to get the honour instead of those red shift snots who come on after them. Not only that, but they’re making a newsreel about the home front, and whichever shift makes the millionth bomb gets to be in it. Marco’s back, and making hearteyes at Lorna full-time as she jumps onto the production line to help those bombs get built. The film crew is already shooting up in the office, but the director, Russell Joseph, is busy griping to the manager about having to film through the window rather than working on the floor. The manager points out, sensibly, that the factory could easily blow sky-high if a spark from the camera caught the bomb chemicals, but Joseph keeps whining until finally he gets permission to film on Sunday, with dummy materials.

Meanwhile back on the floor, it’s nine ninety-eight… ninety-nine… and a million, just as the buzzer goes off! Everyone jumps up and starts cheering and hugging. Gladys takes the opportunity to slap Betty’s ass while she goes in for a hug.

The femmeslashers see all, Gladys.

After the shift, Kate and Gladys are on their way out, when Hazel—who’s on the red shift now—walks by. Gladys is set to ignore her, but Hazel stops and calls out that Gladys is a thief for “stealing” the millionth bomb (lul wut) and if she thinks her marriage is gonna be so happy, why’d her fiance cheat on her? Gladys looks about ready to cut a bitch, but Kate pulls her away before things can get ugly.


At the afterparty/movie night, a newsreel about the war overseas is playing, but Kate’s more interested in moseying up to Leon to ask about singing lessons again. She wants to sing like Billie Holiday! Leon says she won’t know how until she’s “loved and lost like Billie” but Kate doesn’t see it that way at all—she listens to the record and hears a woman singing about how she doesn’t deserve to be judged because “we all have our secrets.” That’s my girl.

Russell Joseph is also moseying up to people, although his motives are, I dare say, slightly less innocent. He wants Gladys to be the poster girl for his movie and also to go out to dinner with him. Gladys shoots him down flat, and heads over to commiserate with Carol—it’s not that she doesn’t want to be in the movie, it’s just that she’s still not technically supposed to be working the floor, and it would be rather difficult to hide this fact from her father with her face up on movie posters all over Toronto. While this conversation is taking place, Lorna finds Betty at the back of the theatre and has an offer to make—Joseph is still after an actress. How about it? Betty doesn’t think she’s movie material, but Lorna says she’s the best worker at the factory, and Betty can’t help but be a little proud of herself.

At the factory after hours, Lorna patrols the storeroom and catches Marco chatting up one of the floor girls. Not cool, man. Lorna feels much the same way I do, and sends the girl away before shaking her head sadly at him. He protests that he was just “distracting himself” from the kiss he’s been thinking about all day. Lorna coldly tells him she won’t be played for a fool.

Outside, Gladys is steaming about James and Hazel and compares them to Cary Grant and Joan LaFontaine in the movie they just watched—she’s just like Joan’s character, and if she doesn’t confront James, they’ll end up driving off the road in a suicide attempt! Or something. Betty, like me, wants to know what the hell Gladys is on about and why doesn’t she just talk to James if she’s so upset? Well… if she did, some… other stuff… might come out…

Like, did he have a car?

The whole story comes out, but Betty and Kate speak for the audience when they insist that Gladys will do herself no favours by dragging this whole thing out. She has to go have it out with James. So she does! I love when TV characters actually move forward and take action.

Over at James’s apartment, a very unhappy-looking Gladys knocks on the door and starts yelling at him about Cary Grant and Joan LaFontaine. James, like the rest of us, hasn’t the faintest clue what she’s on about. Gladys finally comes out with it, and asks James if he loves Hazel. He assures her it’s not going to happen again, but Gladys, crying, insists that it’s not enough—what kind of reassurance is that? What does it say about their relationship that he’d do something like this if he didn’t even have love as an excuse? Oh Gladys. He tries to tell her that she’s “making a mistake” by “digging it up” (oh you ASSHOLE) and Gladys, finally having had enough, storms out.

Lorna takes the manager—Mr. Aikens—down to the storeroom, complaining about how the floor girls and the men get up to “God knows what” down there on picture nights. His response is to throw some condoms at the male workers to make sure nobody gets knocked up, but Lorna insists that there are vulnerable young girls working the factory floor who need more protection than condoms. It’s kind of hard to argue when they find a slip lying over one of the crates.

At a nondescript doctor’s office, James is getting a kindly lecture from a physician—he was rich and well-connected enough to get his hands on penicillin (wait… what?)—but next time he may want to use a condom to avoid contacting gonorrhea. Again. AHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. HA. HAAAAAAAAAAAA HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. *sniff* HA. Oh man, this is priceless. James grumps about being “humiliated” by the lecture. Well then don’t go around sticking your dick in people without checking their medical history, dumbass! He whines that he was just trying to “prepare himself” for his wedding night but the doctor just smiles wisely and says that women may be more “sophisticated” than James thinks, a possibility he dismisses out of hand. Ha. Good luck with that, James. And then he takes his pants off and bends over so the doctor can stick him with a needle, because this show loves me.

Russell Joseph is still stuck on the idea of Gladys as his factory girl, and the manager is ready to force her to take the role if necessary. Fortunately, Lorna—with support from Carol—steps in. Gladys is lovely, but the story of a rich socialite is not one the majority of women going to see the film are going to identify with. “The average girl isn’t going to look at her and think ‘that’s me.'” Joseph insists that he knows how to sell the war so Lorna can keep her mouth shut, but she points out that he’s well-versed in selling it to men, not women. And men don’t really know what women want to see representing them, do they? *COUGH* Joseph finally gives in and asks Lorna if she has a suggestion. “Mmhmm,” she says triumphantly.

The face of "you just got owned."

Leon is still working in the storeroom when Kate approaches him. Leon tells her to scram, but Kate tells him that she knows she’s not “like him” but “I don’t give a hoot.” Heh. Leon gently tells her that he really can’t afford to be seen with someone who sings from her throat and they banter about singing techniques and breath control… until the manager walks in just in time for Leon to point out where Kate’s diaphragm is. WHOOPS. He didn’t mean anything by it, but the manager chases them both off. Oh sure, you’ll keep people from hanging out in the storeroom NOW, will you? Jackass.

Lorna enters the changeroom at the end of the shift with some exciting news- Betty’s the new poster girl for VicMu. Betty thinks it’s a “practical joke,” but Gladys and Kate are practically bubbling over with excitement for her. “You wait, Betty,” Kate says, beaming. “They’re all gonna see what I see. A hero.” I make an extremely undignified squeaking noise.

Up in the office, the manager’s changed his mind—he agrees with Lorna about keeping the men and women apart (I imagine the inside of his head looks like this right now), and he wants her to write a code of conduct for the workers to follow. Well that’s not ironic at all!

Back at home—home being Lorna’s house—Edith’s made a casserole to thank Bob for the letters. Bob tries to tell her that this letter-writing business is a bad idea (me: “no shit!”), but Edith thinks telling them the truth would hurt worse. Bob wearily aquiesses and asks what the kids would like to hear about. They’re big into kites at the moment, apparently. And then Lorna arrives home just in time to find another woman sitting at her table with her husband. The husband who, if you’ll recall, has been emotionally and physically shutting her out for the past twenty years. Awkward.

Gladys and James are at the minister’s for a pre-wedding counselling session, which doesn’t seem like a terrible idea, given… everything about them. Gladys wants to get the hell out of there, since James apparently hasn’t absorbed any of the minister’s lessons. He protests that he was doing it for the experience, but Gladys wants to know why he couldn’t have just asked her if he wanted to try out the beast with two backs before they walked down the aisle. He protests that he would NEVER ask such a thing! Never! Girls who go all the way before their wedding get around! And sometimes when a girl gets around and a guy gets around with her, well…

Hazel MacDougall gave you the clap???” Gladys hisses. No matter how many times they say it, it’s still hilarious. James argues that he puts up with her working at the factory, so why shouldn’t he get to “make a mistake?” Gladys is disgusted. As am I. Next scene!

At the factory on Sunday, everyone is all abuzz to be starring in the movie—except Betty, who looks massively uncomfortable in a uniform hanging open to show her clevage, makeup all over her face, and freshly manicured nails. She does perk up a bit when Kate arrives to tell her she looks like a movie star. Lorna, like Betty, is Not Happy with this, and thinks it’s disgusting that her girls are being tarted up for the camera—or more specifically, for the men behind the cameras. Have I ever mentioned that I adore Lorna?

Over at another set—a house—Betty still looks and feels deeply stupid grinning at the camera. She argues that she DOESN’T live in a nice little cottage, she lives in a rooming-house—but who’s gonna sign up to work at VicMu with the promise of a dorm room? Pfft. (Speaking as someone living in a dorm room right now, they’d be fine so long as they neglected to mention the damn kids and their music being blared at seven in the morning.) Gladys trots in to fix her makeup—remember being a kid and having that one friend who always wanted to do makeovers at slumber parties? I feel like Gladys was that kid—with Kate in tow to soothe her nerves a bit. Kate admires the house, dreaming about living there one day, and Betty confesses that she’s been dreaming about it too—though she’d need someone to share the house with. Hint, hint. Kate gets it right away: “You’re on.”

Betty's mentally writing "Mrs. Betty Andrews" in her notebook as we speak.

Over at a park—I didn’t catch where, so I’ll just assume it’s Alexandra—Edith and Bob are giving Edith’s son Skip a kite-flying lesson. (Her daughter is apparently at the movies seeing Dumbo because apparently the kid hasn’t got enough to cry about.) Edith thanks Bob again for his letter-writing, thinking his letters to his own sons must be a great comfort to them—turns out he hasn’t actually written any. You ever get the feeling that Bob kind of sucks as a husband and father? Just a thought. Edith tells him that she sits up at night thinking about the things she never said to her husband, and Bob shouldn’t be waiting to lose his chance.

At Gladys’s house, James shows up wanting to talk. Gladys points out they already tried that, and it didn’t work out so well. She has no interest in becoming her parents—apparently her father sleeps around while her mother comforts herself with some Mother’s Little Helper. Yikes. James starts whining about how nobody sees him as a man because he’s not in uniform and sleeping with Hazel made him feel manly and boo hoo. Gladys asks what he’d do if she was the one who slept around and he responds “don’t make me answer that.” Oho.

At the factory, it seems the movie’s coming along nicely, and they already have a cut to show the workers. Betty laughs, embarassed, as the film rolls (“there’s my back!” Kate gasps) and the narrator extolls the many virtues of Betty the Bomb Girl. Betty smiles awkwardly along until the narrator explains that Betty’s not just fighting for her county—she’s fighting for her husband! And once he comes home, she’ll be glad to return to her “wifely duties.” The men in the back laugh and catcall, but Betty isn’t laughing anymore.

There is absolutely nothing funny I can say about this.

As the credits roll, Lorna tries to comfort her, but Betty’s not interested. “Shows you what a freak I am. They had to make up a whole set of lies about me.” Lorna tries to tell her that she’s a hard worker and nobody cares if she has a husband, but Betty shuts her down: “Nobody wants to be me, Mrs. Corbett. Nobody.”

Betty goes to confront the director about how he essentially Photoshopped her out of the war, but he brushes her off. Lies, he explains, are what people want to see—love and war. And, he says leaning in with a disgustingly sleazy wink, he can tell she “does her part” at the factory every day. This is where my jaw dropped open. It was horrifying enough that Betty was erased from her own story before, but the fact that he knew what he was doing and did it anyway makes it all the more sickening. Although sadly, completely realistic. Betty shoves him and runs out in tears.

Up in the office, Lorna is printing off her new rules list when Marco walks in to check them—and her—out. He tells her that there’s nothing wrong with people finding some comfort in each other, and Lorna’s attempt to resist giving in to temptation is failing fast. He takes her hand and tells her she’s beautiful, and that’s the last straw. It’s a terrible idea for any number of reasons, and yet…

If you're mentally playing the Sims kissing music, I completely understand.

Down at the afterparty, Gladys has decided she’s had enough of staying straightlaced and sober while James goes out and cheats on her, so she’s partying it up with Russell Joseph. Gladys, I fully support telling James where he can stick it, but couldn’t you pick a better rebound? Although really, she seems more interested in the booze and bong. At least she retains enough clarity to call James for a ride home rather than trying to drive, and he’s less than pleased to arrive and find her three sheets to the wind. She played strip poker! And met bohemians! And “ladies of the night!” Jodi Balfour’s drunk acting is hilarious, by the way. But she has some more serious concerns on her mind: she met one woman in there who’s “fallen” by society’s standards, but seemed pretty happy from Gladys’s viewpoint. “Are you telling me you’re unhappy?” James wants to know. James, have you not been paying attention to this episode, AT ALL? Gladys informs him that she’s finding it kind of hard to breathe on this pedstal he’s got her on, and she’s going to hurt something when she falls off. Before he can respond to this, Joseph shows up, and James does what I’ve been longing for someone to do all episode—beats the crap out of him. Yes! Sweet justice! Dealt by one of the scummier characters, but yes!

Back at the roominghouse—hold on, I need to cap something.

That noise you hear is thousands of fangirls screaming all across Canada.

Anyway. Back at the roominghouse, Kate doesn’t get why Betty’s upset—she thought she was “great” in the movie. But it wasn’t Betty, and that’s what stings. Kate wants to know if Betty would ever really want to be the girl Russell Joseph put on film, and Betty admits that she sometimes does—or rather, she wants to want to be that girl. To be “normal.” (This is where I broke out the second box of Kleenex, by the way.) Kate doesn’t care. “You don’t need everybody liking you. Just the ones that matter.”

At Lorna’s house, Lorna arrives home late to find her husband asleep at the kitchen table, a letter at his elbow. She picks it up to read it, but it’s not for Edith’s kids—it’s for his own. Lorna starts to cry, and when he asks why, she snaps that it’s too late to try making amends. It’s too late for a lot of things.

At James’s apartment the next morning, Gladys arrives to get changed for work and ask something of James—she wants him to get penicillin for Hazel. James wants to know why she cares and why they can’t just “put it behind them” but Gladys insists that they have to make things right first.

When Lorna gets up the same morning, she finds Bob already up, making a kite at the kitchen table. It’s not for Edith and the kids, though—it’s for her. He thought maybe they could head out together. Lorna initially resists the idea, but it’s hard to say no to reconciling with her husband, even with the years of unsaid things between them. So out to the park they go.

Lorna flings the kite up in the air and runs after it, but a hole in the ground snags her, and she takes a tumble. Bob calls after her, but she’s not worried—she stares up in awe at the kite, drifting up in the sky away from her.