Bomb Girls – 2.01 – The Quickening

Betty McRae and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Betty McRae and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Previously on Bomb Girls: calamitous events left out heroines berefit, struggling to cope with the changes in the world around them, the loss of life as they knew it, and the redefinition of their identities. Also, Pearl Harbour happened.

Gladys- last seen getting ignobly booted from the factory after Lorna put her name on a pregnancy test- is back at work, hoisting bombs and saluting the cameras like the best of them. Okay, she’s not actually at work yet- she’s at home, where her parents have cottoned on to the fact that having a daughter in the war effort makes their company look that much more patriotic. Gladys- who, as you’ll recall, has a flair for the dramatic- couldn’t be happier, and cheerily informs her parents that she’ll be out partying with the girls tonight rather than coming home for dinner. After all, “at Witham’s, we’re with ’em!”

Over at the boardinghouse, a somewhat more sombre Betty is also getting ready for work, fixing a jaunty new cap on her head (see above) and gently pressing a kiss to Kate’s picture before leaving. I . . . seem to have a chunk of dust in my eye. And we’re not even five minutes in!

At the factory, the girls are preparing for a surprise inspection from Chinese and American allies. “Why are the Chinese and Americans coming here?” Gladys wants to know. None of your business, now get back in line! She’s not terribly put off, though- she’s too busy chatting to Betty (who’s still affectionately calling her “princess,” aww) about how she can’t read half of James’s letters because they have to go through the censor before they reach her. Betty reasonably points out that James is still in boot camp, and probably won’t get blown to bits until at least the front lines. Uh, Betty, did you ever meet James? I would not put it past him to drop a grenade on his toes and blow the whole base sky-high before he ever left Montreal.

Before Betty joins the line, Lorna calls her aside for a private chat- Mr. Aikens recieved a letter from . . . ugh, Pastor Rowley, aka Kate’s failure of a father, accusing her of untoward advances towards his daughter, Marion. Who never worked at the factory under that name. Which you should know, DICKWEASEL, because you tracked her down while she was using the name Kate. Betty and Lorna’s conversation goes a bit like this:

Lorna: So, you gay?
Betty: Nope nope nope absolutely not, nuh-uh!
Lorna: Good enough for me!

Your husband would never stand for this shoddy detective work, Lorna.

On the factory floor, Mr. Aikens- ugh, I was hoping he’d dropped a bomb on his foot over the break or something- is showing the Chinese representatives around while Betty and Gladys actualy explain how the work is done because Mr. Aikens doesn’t know jack shit about it. Gladys chirps happily that her fiance is in officer’s training, and she snarks that surely women in China work in bomb factories as well? Well they did, until the Japanese bombed the factories, Gladys.



(Although in total fairness to her, I went through three years of WWII history in high school, and I didn’t know that either. Canadian history education is less about global perspectives and more about beating you over the head with a giant stick that reads “DIEPPE” on it until you’re unconscious.)

Lorna watches over all this proudly, until Marco sidles up and asks her why she’s still in the factory when pregnant women aren’t supposed to be around the chemicals. Lorna practically stomps on his foot to get him to shut up. He’s gonna show up under her window playing “You’re Having My Baby” on a boom box any minute now.

Suddenly everyone’s drama is interrupted by the air raid siren- there’s an unidentified aircraft flying overhead, and everyone hightails it down into the bomb shelter. Betty switches off the production line, but I can’t see how it’s really going to matter if a bomb hits the factory.  Meanwhile, Gladys, figuring she might as well not die a virgin, chats up the Chinese representative by asking him what his name is. It’s Kai Lo. “Really? What does that mean?” “I don’t know what does ‘Witham’ mean?” HA! Gladys just got told. (Although for the curious, “Kai” means “triumphant ” and “Witham” means “somebody from an area called Witham.” What? I spend a lot of time on Behind the Name.) The new guy, Ivan, apparently also doesn’t want to die a virgin, so he tried cuddling up to Betty. Yeah . . . good luck with that. But as it happens, no one is getting laid in the bomb shelter, because the whole thing was a false alarm. Back to work everybody!

In the canteen during tea break, one of the other girls asks Betty what the deal is with her and Ivan- is she “staking a claim?” Putting down a prospector’s flag? Hungry for his goulash? Gladys starts laughing at the very idea because silly girl, Betty’s not into dudes? Betty’s like “YES. YES I AM. PUTTING MY FLAG DOWN RIGHT HERE. MMM, BREAK ME OFF A PIECE OF THAT. SHUT UP GLADYS,” and flounces off. It’s good to know that no matter the situation, Gladys will always have her foot lodged in her tonsils.

Some of the other girls are gossiping merrily about Gladys having been “up the stump,” and taking a trip to someplace called Chestnut Street to take care of it. Lorna overhears, and looks troubled. Edith wants to know how Bob feels about her working in the factory, what with the baby and all, and Lorna admits that she hasn’t told him. After all, they barely got by on just his pension, and when she leaves work, their situation will be pretty dire. Also, there’s the small fact that the baby is going to come out looking like Marco. (Does Sheila’s paycheck not go to the household expenses?)

Gladys catches up with Betty after work and tells her excitedly that she has a gig canvassing for the Red Cross that night at the club, and does Betty want to come? Betty says sure- she’s going to be there on a date with Ivan, and wants Gladys around so she can make a quick exit if she has to. Gladys agrees happily, because Gladys is cool.

At Casa Corbett, Lorna is peeling potatoes and telling Bob about the daycare that’s been set up at the factory for women with young children. Bob doesn’t give a fuck because he’s figured out that Lorna is pregnant and knows it ain’t his. Lorna tells him that he’s wrong, and fortunately the conversation gets cut short by Sheila coming in to tell her parents that she passed her medical exams with flying colours. Bob, because he hates anyone having fun ever, tells Sheila that it was probably just because they have spaces to fill. Bob, you suck. I bet Marco would be a supportive dad.

At the Jewel Box (wait, not the Sandy Shores? Did they close down?) Betty is on her date with Ivan, arguing about that timeless Canadian pasttime, hockey. Ivan insists that the Maple Leafs are going to win. Wait, he’s dating a lesbian and he’s a Leafs supporter? Oh Ivan, you poor sucker. Gladys is out on the floor taking a turn with Kai, because James isn’t around and let’s face it, Kai is way hotter than James anyway. Gladys is curious about the conditions in Japanese POW camps, but Kai puts her off and tells her she doesn’t want to know. I know very little about what those camps looked like, but from what I do know- Gladys, you are far better off not asking. Gladys reads between the lines and figures that she should use her canvassing position with the Red Cross to throw a giant party to raise funds for prisoners! And she can use her parents’ house! This is gonna be great and will in no way backfire!

Rejoining Ivan and Betty at their table, she sends Ivan off for drinks and asks Betty if she wants to leave. Betty does not. Gladys presses the issue- surely she doesn’t really have feelings for Ivan?- and Betty snaps. “This is what girls do. They date boys. And they don’t get arrested, and they keep their jobs, and they don’t have the whole world thinking they’re deviant freaks. Don’t go telling me where my goddamn heart is.” And then she decides it’s time to go home and asks Ivan to take her. Ouch.

Vera stops by Lorna’s house to ask for a favour- she’s not feeling very settled in the office, thanks to the other girls snarking about her scars, and she wonders if she can get her floor job back. Lorna tells her to stick it out and ignore those assholes, but she has a question- what’s this whole “Chestnut Street” deal? Not that she personally needs the help, but she’s got this friend, see, and she should probably check the place out for her. Vera’s no idiot, but she doesn’t press the issue and offers to go with Lorna to see what’s what.

At Chestnut Street, the woman ushers Vera and Lorna in and explains how it works- she’ll give the pregnant girl tea that will induce a miscarriage, but she needs to examine her first to make sure it won’t make her sick. Lorna balks at the idea, but the woman is very clear on the fact that she’s not handing out the tea unless she’s sure the girl will be okay. Lorna takes off, and Vera goes after her.

Vera follows her out and explains: “She gives you a bunch of herbs, and you boil it down in a put of water. It tastes real bad, and you feel like you’re gonna heave or burst or both. You cramp real bad, and you bleed it out. And this girl- tell her not to be afraid. Because she’s the one who has to live with it, whichever way it goes.” Damn. Can we give Anastasia Phillips an award for this scene?

Back at the boardinghouse, the other girls are whispering excitedly because Betty’s got a maaaaaaaaaaaaan in her room. Betty, who’s several sheets to the wind at this point, grabs a nervous Ivan and goes to town on his shirt and suspenders. Ivan’s a nice guy though, and stops her before it goes any further, saying that they’ve both had a lot to drink and he wants their first time to be something they can both remember. Aww. You’re a sweetheart Ivan, even if you do need to find a different girlfriend who might actually want to have sex with you without getting plastered to do it.

The next morning at Gladys’s place, she pitches her idea for a fundraising party to her parents, enthusing about showing the world how much women contribute to the war effort and hinting that it wouldn’t be bad publicity for Witham Foods either. She knows that’ll hit her parents where they live, and they agree on one condition- she has to appear representing the family, not the factory. If she wants workers to be present, they need to be the other workers. Gladys agrees The other factory girls are a bit more skeptical when she pitches the party to them, but they figure hey- free champagne! Who doesn’t love free champagne?

Betty tried to get to the party that night, but can’t find a taxi anywhere. Suddenly something much better than a taxi pops up- it’s Kate! Singing for the passers-by and asking them to throw money in a hat! Betty creeps up to listen to her, grinning happily because she’s just so happy Kate’s okay. “Okay” might be a relative term though, because once the songs’s over, Kate starts shouting about how they’re all gonna burn in everlasting hellfire because God’s in a bad mood thay day or something. Betty charges in and tried to get Kate to leave with her, but that gets nipped in the bud when Kate’s awful dad shows up and starts yelling about Betty being a tempting demonic Jezebel. Betty insists that he’s a lying liar who lies and did she tell you that she has a BOYFRIEND now? So everything in that letter is totally not true! This is the first Kate’s heard of a letter, but before she can process this, her dad shoves Betty and Kate insists that she run away before her dad hurts Betty. Betty doesn’t care if Pastor (“””Pastor”””) Rowley hurts her, but she does care if he hurts Kate, which he most likely will if she doesn’t take off. So she does.

At the party, Gladys enters in a red dress, to the raised eyebrows of her coverall-clad co-workers. Embarassed, she explains that her parents insisted on it, but they have an even more unpleasant surprise in store for her- the ad campaign featuring her is debuting at the party tonight, complete with giant blown-up posters and cals of Witham foods everywhere, and they’re using the occasion to angle for a contract with the Red Cross. Opportunism what?



Gladys is rightfully furious- though Kai Lo, who’s in attendance, clearly thinks she looks bangin’- but her dad just shoves a speech into her hand and tells her to present the cheque. Silly girl, did you think you were here to have opinions? Now lie back and think of canned corn!

Betty comes bursting in late, telling a snarky Carol to “shove it, powder puff!” and grabs Gladys, insisting that they have to go save Kate right this minute. Gladys can’t leave, which Betty really does not want to hear. She sneers at Gladys for being a shitty friend and her parents’ puppet and storms back out to get Kate on her own. Way harsh, Tai.

Back at the abortionist’s, Lorna isin for an appointment, and the woman examining her tells her she’s just in time- the baby’s going to start kicking any day now. She hands Lorna a bag of tea and gives her the instructions, adding that she sees plenty of women who “shore up their loneliness and wish they hadn’t” with a gentle smile. I like this woman. I hope she sticks around.

Lorna goes to Marco’s before she goes home, needing to explain the situation to him- it’s not that she doesn’t care, but she can’t afford to have a baby right now. Marco just wants to know if she’s okay, and they share a hug. Aww.


Still a better husband than Bob.

Back at the party, Gladys hops up onstage with Kai’s encouragement (“Hey, you know what Confucius would say.” “I have no idea.” “Yeah, neither do I.”)  to give the speech her dad prepared for her, but gets about three lines into it before tossing it aside and giving a speech of her own. She praises the efforts of the factory girls, and announces that they’ve made six thousand dollars for the Red Cross, three thousand of which came straight out of Witham Foods’ bank account! Gosh aren’t they generous! And of course, having announced it now, they can’t very well take it back. In the audience, Kai applauds. Far be it from me to encourage adultery, but would it really be so wrong if they made sweet, sweet,  international love?

Kate is back with her father, warming her hands over a trashcan fire, and asking probing questions about where her mom and brothers are. He insists that of course she’s in a sanatorium in North Bay and totally not rotting under some floorboards or relaxing on a beach in Cuba with a boytoy named Fernando. And they can totally go see her, once they’ve raised enough money! Just then, Betty shows up intent on dragging Kate away by her hair if she has to. Kate’s dad starts yelling, but Kate has had it up to here and finally snaps. She tells her dad he’s an awful human being and a shitty husband and father and her mom probably ran away just like she’s going to, SO THERE. He tells her that her mother’s actually dead, but she’s done with listening to him. She and Betty take off up a fire escape, and he runs after them. There’s a scuffle, and I’m sure you can guess what happens next. I’d post a screencap, but this totally deserves to be seen in full-motion glory:




Betty freaks out and insists that they go get the police, but Kate is beyond giving a fuck, and just throws a tarp over the body and takes off. Um,  Kate? Sweetie? Honeybunch? If the police find a dead body just lying under the fire escape, they’re going to assume that he just fell. If they find a dead body covered with a tarp, they’re going to assume someone put him there. Isn’t this approach going to cause more problems than it solves in the long run?

Lorna arrives home late and sets the teabag down on the kitchen table. Before she ca do anything with it though, she pauses and puts a hand to her stomach- the baby’s started kicking. “It’s all right,” she says softly. “I feel you.” And then she pushes the teabag onto the floor.

Gladys, having gotten out of the party, arrives back at the boardinghouse, intent on helping Betty find Kate. But surprise! She’s already here! Hugs are shared all around, and all three girls flop down on the bed to chill out after a long day of parties, donations, and manslaughter. Over Gladys’s head, Kate and Betty exchange a significant look. And that’s it until next week.