Bomb Girls – 1.05 – Armistice

Previously on Bomb Girls: infidelity, infidelity, MORE infidelity (it’s becoming a bit of a theme) HAZEL MACDOUGALL GAVE YOU THE CLAP, queer representation, and Betty and Kate. In bed. Together. Remember that? I sure do.

In the factory changeroom, Gladys is being buried in an avalanche of letters from Lewis. Remember him? Gladys was under the hopeful impression that he’d forgotten about her, but no, she just got THIRTEEN letters all at once. “When a solider’s mail comes, it comes in spurts,” Betty says helpfully. The letters are too blacked-out by the censors to make out much, aside from how desperate Lewis and his company are for decent food. While Kate squees over the “romance” (“I dream of holding you in my arms again.” Oh Lewis.) Gladys frets about how she’s supposed to write him back while staying true to James. Yes, that is a pickle, isn’t it?

Lorna has a day off, so Marco decides to drop by her apartment—with tomatoes! Well it’s more practical than flowers, I guess. Lorna freaks out about the neighbours hearing, but Marco points out, not unfairly, that a) they can’t say boo about a supposed grocery deliverer bringing food (I think I saw a porno like that once) and b) if he thought he was actually hurting Lorna’s marriage, he wouldn’t have shown up. He’s got a point. Especially as Bob is apparently spending his wife’s day off at the legion hall.

So they get down to it—or would, if the doorbell wasn’t ringing. Lorna stashes Marco in the dining room and hurries to answer it, only to be greeted with someone from the army with a telegram for her. Oh nooooooooooo. Marco tries to tell her that it could be anything, but she’s not so sure, and insists on waiting for her husband to open it. He offers to stay and make sure she’s okay (aww) but she sends him away and settles down to wait for Bob.

At Casa Witham, Gladys’s mother rushes out to greet her with exciting news—the army is handing out a rations contract in the next twenty-four hours, and Witham Groceries is in the running to get it! While Mrs. Witham plasters on a terrifying smile and goes to serve the guests. Gladys bumps into James, who explains that her father’s buttering up the army people talking about his “experience” in the first war. Hands up, who thinks Ritchie Rich over here was actually on the front lines? Yeah, that’s what I though.

Gladys takes this about as seriously as I do.

At the hospital, Vera and Archie are chilling in Vera’s room, playing cards. Archie—who’s looking rather pale and sweaty—wins, but Vera jokes that she has no use for the lost money anyway, “where she’s going.” Archie tries to tell her that she’ll be out of the hospital in a few days, but that’s not what she’s talking about—she’s almost up to fourty pills and counting. Archie looks disturbed, but says nothing. Archie. DO SOMETHING. I know you don’t want to betray her trust and that’s great, but when someone is planning to kill themself, trust comes second in line to keeping them alive. She might not thank you for it, but she won’t be thanking anyone if she’s dead.

Back at Gladys’s place, she and James, with their newfound understanding of the fact that Gladys actually has a sex drive, have snuck into the kitchen to make out. Making out, however, ends up getting postponed when Gladys finds some disgusting spam meat lying on the counter—apparently part of the rations they’re selling. Apparently there are some “kinks” they need to work out, but until then, who’s going to complain about crappy rations? The soldiers? No, but Gladys is. She’s been reading the letters from Lewis, and she refuses to stand by and let them send crap overseas. James agrees to fix the problems before they send off any more food.

At Lorna’s place, Bob still hasn’t shown up, so she falls asleep on the couch. When she gets up, he’s there—snoozing in his wheelchair “reeking of drink,” but he sobers up right quick when she tells him about the telegram. Finally she rips it open, and it’s the opposite of what she was afraid of—one of her boys is getting a military medal for “courage and utter disregard for personal safety.” Or in layman’s terms, he risked his life to pull someone else out of danger. Lorna and Bob are in tears, but for different reasons: Lorna’s overjoyed that her son is safe and a hero, but Bob—who lived through the first war—knows exactly what that medal is worth, and tells Lorna as much. Lorna, thinking he just doesn’t care, storms out. These two are fucking heartbreaking.

At the factory, Kate comes dashing up to Leon to compliment him on his singing at the canteen dance and wanting to know if she’ll ever be good enough to sing with a band. “Let me know when you find one,” says Leon. Meanwhile, Betty creeps along behind them to make sure nothing untoward is happening. Yes. That is her only reason.

Betty McRae: international woman of mystery

Inside, Marco catches up to Lorna, wanting to know what happened with the telegram and if she’s okay. Marco, you are such a PUPPY. She tells him, and he’s more relieved—at least, outwardly—than Bob was, expressing that relief by running a hand up and down her back. Well that’s a good idea that will in no way get your asses caught, Marco. Lorna walks off, but they can’t quite stop grinning at each other like little kids who just successfully filched from the cookie jar. This is going to end so badly.

Up in the office, the manager’s got some bigger problems—yet another girl has turned up pregnant, and is thus getting the boot. Wait, did I say the manager has problems? I meant the girl who is presumably on her own and will soon have a baby to support. Jesus. But Mr. Atkins has some other things in mind—he wants Lorna to give a speech at Armistice Day, since her son won that medal. The irony of celebrating Armistice Day when their country’s just jumped headfirst into another war seems lost on him.

At Gladys’s house, James pops into her room while she’s getting dressed, so she ducks into a walk-in-closet to finish pulling her dress on. While she does, he starts poking around in her underwear drawer—er, hiding a surprise in there for her—and ends up finding a surprise of his own: Lewis’s letters. Well SHIT. He pockets one and takes off.

At home, Lorna is ironing a dress for Armistice Day and rehearsing a speech while Bob looks on impassively. His ideas about how to “celebrate” are a bit more aligned with mine: he thinks they should drag the bodies of the teenaged boys who got sent over the first time out into the street so everyone can see what they did the first time around. Of course, he’s also drinking gin at about four in the afternoon. Lorna is this close to snapping, and tells him that he ought to be grateful for the life they’ve had since the first war ended. He scowls that she has no idea what the war did to him, and that does it. “Because you’d never tell me! I asked, I hinted, I tried, and finally I gave up.” Bob says—well okay, yells—that no decent man would burden his wife with that happened over there, but the gist of it is, he never really came home. Lorna pretty much completely loses it at this, and screams at him that a halfway decent parent would be able to let go of what happened long enough to be proud of his son. And, because it wouldn’t be a Lorna/Bob scene any other way, she storms out.

Over at the rooming house, Betty, Kate, and Gladys are having a much better evening—Gladys brought over some bottles of champagne.

Gladys, are you by any chance familiar with the phrase "getting slizzered?"

Kate and Gladys celebrate girls’ sloppy drunk night by dancing until Betty gets fed up and suggests that they go out to see Leon and his band. If she’s trying to get Kate’s attention—and let’s be honest, she probably is—it works, and all three of them head out the door. Well, after Gladys gets twitchy about the time and Betty not-so-subtly suggests that she stay behind. She’s trying to organize a DATE, Gladys. GOD.

Back at her father’s house, James is still—not unfairly, let’s be real—stewing about the letters he found. What IS unfair is him taking it out on the soldiers overseas by going back on his promise to Gladys and signing the contract before they’ve fixed the food problem. James! I was just starting to like you!

Gladys, of course, knows none of this, because she is still partying down at the jazz club with Kate and Betty. Also, some woman at the bar totally hits on Betty.

How YOU doin'?

Betty, trying to subtly get rid of Gladys, asks her to go get some drinks at the bar, but it backfires when Kate offers to instead, and stops by to talk to Leon. Betty leans against the wall and pouts. Pretty soon, she says, Kate will be off traipsing the country with her jazz band, and where will Betty be? Alone. In her room. Probably listening to a lot of Ani DiFranco. “You’re lucky to have such a good friend,” Gladys says gently, which I think is code for “you’re lucky to have such a good friend who clearly wants to put her tongue in your mouth.”

At the hospital, Archie’s taken a sudden and drastic turn for the worse—he’s got sepsis, or blood poisoning, and is running an extremely high fever. Vera comes running when she hears, but she can’t do anything. Sheila explains that they’re “managing” the pain he’s in, but considering that he’s thrashing around in bed crying, I doubt they’re doing the most spectacular job. Vera looks troubled.

Betty and Kate arrive back at the rooming house, drunk off their gourds and consequently falling all over each other. Betty suggests that maybe next time they can just go with each other, and Kate enthusiasically agrees—Leon said maybe she can get up on stage next time! Isn’t it great? Betty nobly refrains from scowling until her door is closed.

Gladys arrives home and pulls off her dress, going to stuff her slip back in the underwear drawer before she goes to bed. While she’s in there, she pulls out the letters to Lewis, only to discover that she’s now one short. She takes it better than I would, but that’s probably because she’s still a bit tipsy.

At work the next morning, she tells Kate and Betty about the missing letters, but they’re not much help—Kate suggests telling James that she was just “patriotic,” but Betty says that no fiance will understand that much “patriotism.” She’s got a point. Apparently James hasn’t said anything yet, but they’re having dinner together that evening. Gladys fervently hopes the factory will blow up before then.

At the hospital, Archie comes rolling into Vera’s room, only to find her flopped out on the bed, apparently passed out. I freaked out for a second, but she gets up when he pokes her, explanaining that she was up late the night before, and has no intention of committing suicide before he leaves. Aww. Also: ARCHIE. DO SOMETHING. But he only has the chance to hand her a flower before falling out of his chair, groaning in pain. “You’re gonna be all right,” says Vera. “No he won’t,” says I.

At the rooming house, Kate is bouncing up and down in front of the mirror, practicing her singing when Betty walks in. She’s burbling with news about how she’s gonna sing in front of everybody and the band will play for her, and won’t it be GREAT? Betty doesn’t see it like that. Betty, in fact, thinks that Kate should drop the whole club idea entirely because “you make one little mistake, they’ll tear you to shreds.” That’s not really fair, Betty. I know you’re consumed wth terror at the idea of Kate embarking on a cross-country, jazz-singing, sex-having tour and leaving you behind, but she’s expressed no inclination to do anything like that. Besides, that’s no reason to squelch her dreams before she ever gets up on stage. Kate agrees with me, and stomps out. Well, who could have forseen that going badly?

Also having a bad night is Gladys, who just got picked up by James in his car. She thanks him for the new earrings he bought her, tactfully not mentioning that he left them in the same drawer where he found Lewis’s letters. James doesn’t mean to let her off that easily, and throws the letter in her face. She tries to explain about how Lewis needed someone to care about him, but James, still angry about the whole Hazel thing, doesn’t want to hear it and kicks her out of the car at her place. Something tells me she won’t be able to find a sympathetic ear with her mother.

At the hospital, Archie is still confined to bed, and getting worse by the hour. Vera tries to encourage him, but he knows his number’s up. It’s not the dying that scares him—it’s the loss of choice in the matter, of dying in horrible agony. He begs Vera to help—she has the pills after all—and she agrees, stroking his hair. She’ll bring the pills over after there’s no chance of the doctors walking in on them.

The factory is all decked out in Union Jacks for the Armistice Day celebrations, and production has been suspended for the ceremony. Lorna is there, wearing a new dress, while Marco stares adoringly at her from behind the podium. That’s not new. I imagine a good 50% of his day is taken up with staring adoringly at Lorna.

Hey Lorna, you're so fine. You're so fine, you blow my mind.

The factory manager shows up to compliment her on her dress and ask if her family is there. No, apparently they were “busy.” Bob, you ASSHOLE. Luckily she has someone to distract her, as Marco pulls her into a corner to kiss her. She has to hurry away quickly, but promises to find a place where they can meet up later. Yeah, I bet she will. Boom chicka bow wow.

As it turns out, Bob HAS shown up—well, Bob and Sheila. I imagine he didn’t really want to explain to his daughter why they were missing her mother’s big day. As the bagpipes blare (Is that something they do in the States? Or is it just a Canadian thing?) Lorna steps up to the platform, just in time to see her husband in the audience. She handles it pretty well, going on with her speech, but adding that she herself knows about sacrifice—she’s lived with it for twenty years, and while she doesn’t quite know what he went through, she understands why he’s so bitter. But she’s glad he did, because if it weren’t for him, she and her family wouldn’t be there at all. A few people in the audience choke up. I’m not ashamed to say I was one of them.

At the hospital, Archie’s worse, but Vera’s there with him, gently helping the pills into his mouth and putting a glass of water to his lips to help them go down. As he swallows, she tells him she knows what Lorna did back when she was admitted to the hospital—how she fought for Vera to get proper treatment. “She called me a soldier. I liked that. Suppose I still do. That’s the two of us, Archie—we’re soldiers on the home front.” And, as a finally punch to the heart, she helps him swallow the last pill, kisses him gently, and curls up next to him as he drifts away to sleep.

At the factory, Lorna meets up with her daughter and husband, both of whom are surprised at the speech she gave—it wasn’t the one she was practicing. She apologizes to Bob, saying she didn’t mean to embarass him, but he assures her she didn’t, and takes her hand. Is this episode trying to KILL me?

At the jazz bar, Kate hovers anxiously at her table, watching the band onstage—just in time for Betty to show up. “I’m a clod,” she offers by way of explanation, but it’s all Kate needs to light up like a Christmas tree. She explains that she hasn’t been called up yet, but just as she says it, Leon announces that they have a new singer for the night, and invites her up to the bar. Kate freezes for a sec, but at Betty’s gentle push, she hops up onstage and starts singing Billie Holiday’s “I Wished On The Moon.” As she sings (and let me reiterate, Charlotte Hegele has a BEAUTIFUL voice) we see what the other characters are up to—Gladys is in her room writing a letter, though we don’t see to whom. Vera, at the hospital, watches Archie’s body being wheeled out, holding the now-empty pill box to her chest. Lorna, at home, looks at herself shyly in the mirror, holding her dress up, and for a second we see a glimpse of what she might have looked like when she and Bob were first married.

Back at the bar, Kate’s finishing up. “I looked for every loveliness, it all came true/I wished on the moon”—she raises a hand and points to Betty—”for you.” If you watch this scene carefully, you can pinpoint the exact moment where Betty’s heart stops.

That one. Right there.

James is pouting in his apartment when he hears a voice from the other side of the door—Gladys is there, reading from her latest letter to Lewis—one telling him that she has a fiance whom she loves and wants to be with, if he’ll take her back. James opens the door and lets her in, but he’s not quite ready to forgive and forget—his affair with Hazel was one thing, because he didn’t care about her, but Gladys did care about Lewis. She counters, wanting to know why he showed Hazel so much of himself that she never got to see. “What are you afraid of?” That the person he showed Hazel is “all he really is.” Gladys steps in for a hug. “That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

Hugging turns to kissing, and they make their way to the couch, where James shimmys down to Gladys’s knees. She wants to know what he’s doing. “Told you I learned a few tricks,” he says, grinning. And then he goes down on her. AW YEAH.

The next morning finds them snuggling happily in James’s car, out on the lakeshore. One last thing, though—Gladys’s letter to Lewis? James doesn’t think she should send it. After they talked things out the night before, he agrees with her that Lewis needs to feel safe in the fact that someone back home cares about him. There’s also a plan they need to hatch.

At the Witham’s, Gladys invites her parents into the dining room for a luncheon she and James are hosting… of spoiled food. Haaaa. Her father glowers, but she assures him prettily that if the food is that bad, it’s only about ten minutes to the hospital! Right, James? He nods enthusiastically. Her father is ready to storm out, but James points out that he has as much say in the way they handle their food as Mr. Witham—and he won’t sign off on tainted products. He does storm out at that, Mrs. Witham on his heels, and James and Gladys giggle together at the victory of pulling it off. You know, I think they’re going to be okay.