Friday 5 April 2013

Bomb Girls - You could ease a loneliness.

Bomb Girls: 2x08 The Fifth Column.

You can fool some people some of the time but you can’t fool all people all of the time.
Party Line ended with a collective effort to commemorate James’ death, a shared moment of companionship to overcome grief and counter the horrors of war with a gesture that celebrated life. In The Fifth Column, the characters mostly face their struggles alone – and each one is lonely in a way. They are different kinds of loneliness. Lorna faces the emptiness of her house now that her two sons are off to war, her daughter is living elsewhere while going through nurses’ training, and Bob is helping with the harvest. Betty is happier, more enthusiastic than we’ve ever seen her at the beginning of the episode, glowing and giddy, but is then brutally reminded that she isn’t allowed to be open about any of it, that she can’t share this happiness with the world. Gladys is probably not really lonely, but goes off on an adventure of her own, one that forces her to keep secrets from her friends. Sheila tries to explain to her mother that she is dealing with the uncertainties of war, a rapidly changing world that grows scarier every day, by being with someone who takes her seriously and cherishes her, even though it’s a relationship without a future. Kate is probably the epitome of loneliness on the show (and I still believe very much that she recognized it in Betty almost instantly, that shared loneliness of keeping secrets to stay alive) – she assumed a false identity to escape an impossible situation, is perfecting her performance of normality every day, is still struggling with her past, the trauma of her abuse and the way her father died, and the only person who knows her secrets and could share her burdens is with somebody else. Each of them fights it differently and with different results.
It only seems fitting that the exciting, adventurous story this episode involves Gladys blowing the cover of an actual spy and accidentally uncovering someone else’s secrets. While Hitchcock’s Saboteur fires up the collective imagination about conspiracy plots and enemies infiltrating the home front, Gladys finds herself in the middle of a spy movie. She’s approached by a red-haired woman in the women’s room of the Jewel Box, who rather awkwardly asks her a series of questions from “do you have a mint” to “what can you tell me about the super-secret government project at VicMu?”, and then Gladys spots her at the factory the next day, but she pretends to be somebody else. Gladys takes her concerns to management and finds out that the man who was sending over champagne-based drinks at the bar is now running the new security protocol and is a Brit named Clifford Perry. After Vera encourages her to go on a date with him to help her deal with her grief over James’ death, she’s promptly driven right into a Hitchcock movie of her own, and finds out that both the red-haired woman and Clifford Perry are part of some kind of secret intelligence agency that gathers information about potential enemies trying to infiltrate crucial infrastructure (the titular “fifth column”). The very things that she despises about her upbringing, all the things that she tried to get away from by working the line at VicMu, seem to make her the perfect potential spy: she observes people and realizes what their stories are, their motives and their agenda. She was trained to “animate” guests, to be “companionable”, to “draw out” the host, which means that she knows how to gather information – and how to interpret it as well, if you think about it, it’s all Adele Witham ever does. Perry asks her to go back to her “regular life” and “make sure that no one suspects anything” – and then to wait for his call. Later, she tells Vera that they are probably never going to hear about the red-haired woman again (“I can’t believe that’s the end of the story”, Vera says, because to her, this is still very much like a movie plot) – except sometimes, those “snoopy redheads” maybe have black hair and are people you know very well. 
Betty: They look at me, they see a girl who’s crossing lines.
In Gladys’ case, uncovering secrets and keeping them is vital to the war effort, which isn’t just about battles won or lost anymore, but about science and technology. For others, secrets are much more personal. Betty has taken the brave step; she is with Teresa now, and happy because she no longer feels like the only person on the planet with all these feelings, but she also learns, quickly and harshly, that the world has not changed with her. There is an invisible line between acceptable and inacceptable behaviour (and the episode so brilliantly contrasts these things – Betty dancing with Gladys, which is innocent and fine, and Betty dancing with Teresa, which may be too much, too obvious, for a suspecting audience – Betty and Teresa secretly holding hands at the movie theatre, which means so much, and Vera grasping Gladys' hands when the movie gets exciting, which nobody would second-guess or wonder about). Teresa is very conscious of that line, because she’s walked it much longer than Betty has. They can dance in public, but they can’t kiss. They can walk arm-in-arm down a dark street, but the best way to deal with drunken men harassing them is dismiss them, walk on more quickly and hope they won’t follow, that insults is all they will hurl. 
Teresa: I know how it is. You’ve got something going the first time in your life and you want to shout it from the roof tops.
Betty: Aren’t I allowed to be happy?
Teresa: Just because there are women everywhere, you think nobody notices us, Betty?
Betty: They don’t, Teresa.
Teresa: I will not risk my career. Not even for you.
Teresa isn’t a coward, or betraying Betty in asking her to be careful. This is about survival – the same way that Kate’s behaviour is, pretending to be someone you’re not because the world is geared against you. The disheartening thing here is that the actual war will last three more years, but Betty and Teresa’s struggle will last a lifetime. 
Teresa has the best intentions – she is protecting herself and protecting Betty when she tells her to keep their relationship a secret, not to provoke the disgusting men on the street, be subtle with her public displays of affection, but there’s a different side to it as well. Clifford makes this argument about the great war they are all waging, that it doesn’t take one act of great heroism, but thousand, ten-thousand, small ones: Betty and Teresa’s struggle to be recognized, to be able to live openly and not to lie about their identity, will be won the same way. Thousands of small acts of bravery, of risking to get beaten up in the streets by good-for-nothing layabouts, and mocked for your scars, and picked out of a crowd as too different to belong. 
Lorna: It is despicable. Here we have decent, hard-working women, who are giving their all for the war effort. And yet they can’t walk this city’s streets without interference from goo- for-nothing layabouts. It’s a disgrace. I hope, on the behalf of all of us, that you gave those beggars every bit as good as you got.
Betty: I certainly did my best, mam.
I understand Teresa’s desire to be protective and to protect herself, because it’s a  life she has built, a career that has only begun and that wouldn’t have been possible even a couple of years ago, but it’s Betty’s bravery in the face of adversity, a bravery that shouldn’t be necessary because all she ever wanted was that house for herself and that person to share it with, all she ever wanted was to live her life openly and freely and not to lie about who she is, that will bring about the change that will allow future generations to live a better life. This is what makes Betty McRae special: she can’t just walk away from this fight, even if it comes at a very high cost. 
Reggie: All we get is a little livin’, a little lovin’, and a whole lot of death.
It’s hard to imagine how it must have felt, living in 1942, when the outcome of the war wasn’t sure at all and catastrophic news delivered by the news (the number of lost soldiers in the Dieppe raid adjusted daily). Sheila Corbett works in a hospital where survivors of the raid are pouring in, bearing grisly tales of a badly planned and badly executed campaign. She knows that the future isn’t certain, and she is growing up under these circumstances, being very aware of the transient nature of life during wartimes. Vera is the one who puts it into words – “all those boys who lost their lives in Dieppe. Put off living until tomorrow. They have no tomorrows left.” Lorna finds out that Sheila is in a relationship with Doctor Patel, and is concerned about their different cultural backgrounds, because Lorna imagines that her daughter would only be in a relationship if she had long-term plans (and I quite like the implication that Lorna is very aware of what the girls at the factory are doing but somehow imagines that her daughter lives in an entirely different world). She’s shocked, and only decides to talk to her after seeing Saboteur (a movie about a woman and a strange man who turns out to be a villain) – and Sheila and Dr Patel quite bluntly explain to her that both are quite aware that their relationship isn’t long-term, because he will marry a girl that his parents have arranged for him to marry. Lorna doesn’t understand, because when she was seventeen, she married a man she wasn’t sure she loved, a man who came back from the war changed, and this has been her life all these years. 
Sheila: When you were my age, you were married with three children.
Lorna: And I didn’t know a damn thing. Don’t waste your affection, Sheila, don’t throw your youth away at a man with no future to offer.
Sheila: I don’t care about the future. Whatever happiness life has for me, it might only happen now. […] We are together now, and everything else, everything else could change. Just let me be happy, and try, try to be happy for me.
Lorna: You can’t ask a mother to sit and watch someone hurt her child.
Sheila: You’re gonna have to, otherwise you’re not gonna have me in your life.
Lorna: Well… how could you have changed so much overnight?
Sheila: It wasn’t overnight. You just weren’t paying attention.
Which is a whole lot of bravery on its own, saying that Lorna can either accept her the way she is or not have her in her life. Sheila doesn’t even seem particularly angry over the fact that she’s always been the child who got the least bit of attention; but it’s how it is, it’s what allowed her to grow into someone so different from Lorna, yet so similar (because she works at the hospital to help others, she focused on her work, and proud of it). 
Sheila leaves, but Lorna makes a decision, and invites Reggie to stay in her empty house – which is a beautiful gesture on its own, in a show where so many characters make substitute families because their biological ones are lacking.

And then there’s Kate Andrews loneliness to consider. Ivan is busy because engineers are rare (and Ivan is a distraction, so without Ivan, Kate has to find other ways to distract herself from all the thoughts and feelings that inevitably return when she doesn’t). Lorna recruits her to help the soldiers at Sheila’s hospital who have just returned from Dieppe, and obviously not very enthusiastic about spending another afternoon with Betty and Teresa, she accepts. She is wary at first, because the horrible tales the soldiers tell her of the failed raid, the senseless violence, the blood of friends, trigger memories that she isn’t ready to deal with, but then she meets a Private, who, since returning from the war, hasn’t spoken a word, has retreated into his own world. Lorna told her that she could “ease a loneliness”, but more profoundly, more importantly, she is starting to ease her own loneliness once she realizes that she can be of help here, even if it is just by reading him those part of the newspaper that don’t mention the war (the weather report, sports). 
Dr Patel: They need to know their sacrifice has meant something.
Kate: What is he doing in there?
Dr Patel: He needs rest, and someone like you letting him know it’s safe to come out.
“In there” – in his head, in his own little world where he feels safe – it’s a fiction of safety, that is very different from Kate’s (because Kate is performing, the opposite of retreating into yourself and not communicating with the world), but it hits close enough to home for Kate to realize that this is someone dealing with severe trauma, which she is also doing, and maybe, if she can soothe him, she will one day be okay (and then there’s also the other meaning of “safe to come out” that works on a whole different level). It gets even more intense when she realizes that he is from the same region as she is, and she starts to imagine his family maybe resembling her own, his life maybe not being that different from hers. And then she starts talking about music.
Kate: I bet your mom chords on the piano, your dad on fiddle, and all the children, they sing? That’s what we’d be doing at my place. It was rough times, but it wasn’t always bad. I had my voice taken away from me once too. You can get it back. Someone is waiting for you. Someone needs you. There’ll be better times.
This is what she knows to be true, because she needs to believe in it so desperately; that someone is waiting for her to be herself again. I think Kate is very conscious of the fact that regaining her voice (literally, when she started to sing again, first in Leon’s choir, then truly, for herself but to Betty, at the fundraiser) was only the first step, that she is still changing and growing braver. She whispers it in his ear after checking that nobody is overhearing them because this is HER, this isn’t some performance. This is her truth; this is her loneliness, but she still believes that things will get better. 
Later she sings to him, a song called There is a Balm in Gilead. 
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.
Remember what Vernon made her preach on the street before Betty found her, before she broke free, and how different the meaning of these lines are. It’s the promise of healing, of getting better, rather than the hateful, vengeful preaching of a fanatic. The song isn’t just about the wounded – it’s also about healing “the sin-sick soul”. There isn’t a line about condemnation or hell, and this isn’t her father’s religion, but her own faith. She is helping the soldier to feel safe again after the horror of war, but she is also confirming that she herself is starting to accept herself by reclaiming music and religion, all the things her father tainted with his violence. And they all listen in awe.

Random notes: 

It’s such a great little detail that Lorna has obviously compensated for the loneliness in her house by baking (look at the kitchen counter in the first scene with Sheila)! I also really like that she has that in common with Betty (the knitting!), resorting to domestic tasks when facing a situation she doesn’t know how to handle.

I would love to hear from people who are more literate than me when it comes to Hitchcock movies. 

I think Kate flees the scene to watch the singer “stage-side” because she’s not too eager to watch Teresa and Betty dance (even though she’s trying to be really civil – she asks Teresa if she’s been here before, smiles a whole lot). Kate DOES know about Teresa, doesn’t she?

Did anyone else cringe when Gladys called Kate “Katie”? It’s CATCHING!
Lorna: I’m not sure that’s a day shade, dear.
Also, a rather lovely moment when Lorna switches her vest with Sheila for the sole purpose of having something of hers, of being able to cuddle something that smells of her daughter. 

And she brings her THE TEDDY BEAR THAT she’s slept with all her life, there couldn’t possibly be a better symbol of Lorna not quite realizing that her daughter was growing up all that time that she was concerned and pre-occupied with other people.


The scene when they invited Lorna to sit with them at the movie theatre kind of reminded me of how it feels like to meet a teacher at a bus stop or at a doctor’s office, knowing you’ll spend the next minutes together and regardless of whether you like them or not, it’ll still be painfully awkward.
Betty: That Priscilla Lane is ringa-ding-ding.
Teresa: What happened to “I know what I like”?
Betty: Well I still do but I’m not dead.
When I say “Clifford Perry” out loud it sounds pretty much exactly like Tahmoh Penikett when he is pretending to be British. 

I tried to do research on Canadian Intelligence services and this seems to be closest to being relevant to the story.

Vera totally realizes what’s going on between Teresa and Betty in the aftermath of the gruesome attack – I’m pretty sure Kate knows by now, not entirely sure about Gladys (since she’s constantly distracted by other things). 

Betty’s “Gotta move on sometimes.” (aimed at Gladys) was pretty painful, considering that Kate was RIGHT THERE.

A really nice moment, when Betty walks into the factory after being beat up, fearing Lorna’s reaction, she’s surrounded by support – and Kate puts her hand on her shoulder, in an episode where they’ve probably been further apart than ever before (to face the cruelty of the factory, because whoever shouted “Who did you try and kiss” at her I’d like to personally punch in the face.) 

I’m not entirely sure how to interpret Kate’s reaction when the Private is picked up by his wife – she seems to be both sad that he really does have that someone waiting for him (and maybe Kate isn’t that sure), and maybe concerned that he isn’t completely recovered yet, that she won’t be able to help him further if he leaves, and maybe just realizes that she’ll eventually have to find something else to distract her from all the things she doesn’t want to think about. “Remember Gilead, Davey”.


ami said...

Your Bomb Girls reviews are addictive and oh so delicious. I feel like you unwrap episodes as if they were luxurious chocolates and your masterful eye for parallels and underlying themes has me in awe.

And I'd like to give you special credit for your understanding of Kate. What a magnificently introverted character - the real Kate only comes out to play for mere moments! I loved your idea of seeing her as three people: Marion, Kate & Katie.

Throughout out her time with the soldier, all I could think about was 'how lonely do you have to get - even when you're constantly surrounded by friends at work and ladies in a rooming house - that you can only speak truthfully to a nonresponsive soldier?'.

Anonymous said...

Lovely job as usual

-Lady Canuck

Anonymous said...

I like it when Betty said "They look at me, they see a girl who’s crossing lines."

I think that in that episode, they are all crossing lines; Lorna bringing that Teddy bear to Sheila, which crosses the personal/work line; Sheila dating Dr. Patel; Betty dating Teresa and being out about it, and Gladys digging in the spy issue.

On the other hand, there is also the healing theme, when Kate is singing about it. She sings it to Davy in the hospital, where all these soldiers are actually in to heal their wounds, and at the same time Betty is being wounded herself, and will need to heal. However, I might be overanalysing but I get from that whole scene, that at the same time that society is putting their efforts at helping the wounded soldiers (who are considered the priority and first class citizens in the society), society itself has a lot to mend, such as the good-for-nothing layabouts that beat Betty up.

cathy leaves said...

@ami This is one of the best compliments I have ever gotten, and it comes with a super astute chocolate metaphor, because this is how I feel about the show (it's layers of layers of delicious chocolatey goodness - so like... a chocolate onion - which is also fitting because it sometimes makes me cry). If I do the brilliant writing and acting and lighting and costume department etc. even a bit of justice, I'm entirely happy.
And I've started to feel really protective of Kate recently. She is just incredibly fascinating to me (the other characters are as well, but Kate maybe a little bit more). And all her scenes this episode... the fact that she leaned in and basically whispered these personal things into his ear because she works so hard to pretend someone else... I'm just really invested in her happiness.

@LadyCanuck Thank you so much for your encouraging words and for being the most reliable researcher of historical facts, reading your essays on tumblr adds so much to my enjoyment of the show!

@Anon Yes!! I think maybe the line that Kate crosses is her very own when she shares all those things about herself (and it's almost like she is reclaiming bits and pieces of Marion's identity without being forced into being her). And I don't think you are over-analysing, it fits so perfectly - Kate is learning to be a healer (and has wounds of her own that need to heal) and Betty is the fighter who isn't looking for a fight but constantly forced into that position by the walls that society puts around her (and has literal wounds by the end of the episode). It also felt to me like the episode was making a general argument about the destructive nature of violence, both in war (the supposed senselessness of that attack) and back home (maybe with a hint of growing frustration over the fact that Betty especially but also all of these women are working to win a war that is about freedom but are still not considered equal - at least that's what I got from Lorna's speech).

Anonymous said...

Awesome analysis as usual. As for Kate's sadness over losing Davey, I think it's in part what you mentioned, but also something deeper than that. As you mention, Kate has constructed a very elaborate fiction for herself, and I think maybe she was starting to do the same with Davey. I could see Kate as possibly already imagining a romance with this man-- standing by his bedside and helping him heal step by step, until she breaks the spell and then, who knows? And wouldn't that be just perfect for Kate, to love a man who cannot talk back, who is a blank slate upon which she could project her own fantasies? Which is why, when Sheila breaks the news, Kate's response is simply, "...His wife." The subtext there being: "Of course, he has a wife... How silly of me... I hadn't even thought of that." She is embarrassed. She is also happy that there was someone waiting for him... But maybe she is a bit sad that it couldn't be her, and that he couldn't free her from her waiting. This does not change the fact that she truly had genuine sympathy for him and investment in his well-being. That's how I read it anyway-- it's the only way that line and its delivery makes sense to me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your recaps! They enhance my enjoyment of an already great show. I only started reading them last week but I'm definitely going to go back and read over your earlier ones as well.

hubert said...

I struggled terribly with Teresa this episode and for me the character is lost.

From being open-minded, unflappable, sweet she became unencumbered and harsh. It's hard (if not impossible) to love and to root for somebody who has all the answers, who's figured everything out, who gets annoyed/pleased but not happy/sad.
I felt that one minute she is passive (easy going, whatever Betty wants) then next she's agressive and lays out the rules of the land (that she and Betty inhabit). One minute she chases Betty, cajoles her, the next minute she relegates Betty to being a mere distraction, something to make the time between assignments pass easier. She seems to be going from one extreme (ready to ship out if Betty doesn't want to have fun) to the other (ready to do ditch Betty if she doesn't conform to Teresa's rules) instead of inhabiting the space in between.
I needn't have worried last week about Teresa's heart being broken, the woman exists with her brain only. I should have worried instead about Betty's heart. Brave, honest, sweet Betty. Betty who sees the thing with Teresa (the embodiment of the thing with women) as a 'miracle', just to then be brutally put in her place by Teresa. Made to come out of the closet, made to believe that love and happiness is possible for her and then thrown back into the closet and told that 'I'm not going to sacrifice my career for anybody, not even for you'.
That is classic passive-agressive: there was no need for that to be said, Betty never asked. Just that Teresa had to say it because Betty needs to learn to stay in the box that Teresa designed for her. Putting Betty in harms way (by dumping Betty just after Betty punched a guy trying to save Teresa - what if the guys returned?) and hurting her (kicking her with words after she's just been kicked with fists) are lengths that Teresa doesn't hesitate to go at to teach Betty that lesson.

Whether the encounter with the layabouts could have gone a different way is highly debatable. Are women asking to be harassed just because they walk home alone (or with a female friend) and in a (short) skirt? Are they considered not to be keeping their head down and their business to themselves when they do that? Was Kate asking to be abused by her father when she stood up to him, instead of keeping her head down?
I've been in a few situations like that and the truth is that there isn't a right or a wrong way to react. Agressors will do what they have it in them to do independent of what you do. Sometimes keeping walking works, other times it doesn't. Sometimes standing up to them is what works, other times it doesn't. And anybody who says that you can tell which one works by quickly judging the situation at the time is lying, It's like saying that you'll know if the bomb in front of you is a live one or not just by looking at it.
It's a terrifying situation, it comes upon you out of the blue - or to be more specific out of the darkness of the night. Whatever plan you had to deal with situations like these goes out of the window. If you ever had to struggle with the force of a man you already know that no matter how brave or super fit you are you have no chance if the man has it in him to attack you (biology and testosteron work against you). It is a volatile, unpredictable, fast changing situation and you rely on your instincts (so you might end up throwing a punch for example). You don't have time to think about what will it mean if you react one way or the other.

hubert said...

but it’s Betty’s bravery in the face of adversity...that will bring about the change that will allow future generations to live a better life

This is a very important point.
If NOTHING else, this should have made Teresa react totally different than she did. Especially coming from a soldier. If you yourself, for whatever reason, don't rally to a cause then let others do it, respect their struggle and don't punish them for trying. There wouldn't have been any progress in the world, any freedom if everybody kept their head down and their business to themselves. Besides, Betty was not trying to start a revolution, she was just, FOR ONCE, letting herself be happy, carefree (on the dance floor). Couldn't Teresa let Betty have this moment (even if it meant giving something from herself). How will Betty have the courage to be open, to express her feelings with anybody when it seems that whoever she's with she's made to feel that that is a terrible sin? What would Teresa have done had it been her that Betty tried to kiss in public, I wonder?

The people who want to hide something at all costs are as intolerant as the people who want to show it at all costs (like people nowadays who want to out everybody, always, regardless). In the middle are people like Betty who try to live their life (in public and private), be who they are whilst at the same time not trying to throw this in anybody's face. Which is why nobody bats an eyelid at Betty being interested in women (well, except for Kate, but that is for other reasons). They don't even need to know for sure (it's only Leon and Kate that know for sure) because they see the matter of who she thinks of when she dreams of her house as private a matter as who they think of when they dream. It's just normal stuff. The younger generation are quite tolerant of each other and also living their lives without making a big deal out of that (out of the conventions or taboos that they break). Vera when she picks up soldiers on the street, Gladys when she has her 'affairs' with men, Sheila with Dr. Patel, Marco with Lorna, they all tread that golden middle between living your life as much as you can and not living it because you're putting as many limitations as you can on yourself.

Consider the delicacy and patience Betty has for Kate's process and then compare it with the lack of delicacy and patience that Teresa has for Betty (and this is a woman that claims to know how it goes!). Is Teresa really trying to protect her career or is it more that she can't do relationships on equal footing? She seems to be ok when she's doing the chasing, but not ok when Betty takes the initiative. And on that note, is her situation (soldier going from assignment to assignment) something that suits her perfectly because that way she doesn't have to deal with the give& take of normal relationships (where it doesn't always go your way).

hubert said...

I thought Betty's remark 'Gotta move on sometimes' was meant for Kate. When she met Teresa Betty really thought that Teresa is somebody with whom she can move on. (which makes Teresa's harshness and insensitivity even worse). It took Betty a very long time to be brave enough (for herself) to say to Kate that she doesn't want to dance anymore. It's not that she closed her heart to Kate but she thought that that's what Kate wanted and the right thing to do: to move on. But she didn't do this in a vacuum, she did it in part because Teresa came bearing gifts of promised freedom and happiness.

She's the hero here, trying to do right by everybody, relieving Kate of her love, trying to give her love to Teresa, trying to still be a friend to Kate (despite, evidently being pained by the whole Ivan thing). Betty could be forgiven for thinking that Teresa's presence does not bother Kate at all, why would it since Kate made it so 'clear' that she doesn't want that from Betty. Now, Betty knows what her instincts tell her, but at face value, she is doing right by Kate.

Kate, sweet sweet Kate is in total limbo, drifting. Vera has Marco, Gladys has her men (and her family, however screwed up that is) but she doesn't have Ivan. That relationship is empty and worse, it seems to even be pulling her away from being with the girls. There's also another reason why she's not with the girls: when she was with them she was with Betty all the time rather than with the girls all the time. Vera is as comfortable and close with whichever of the girls she happens to be with (even Lorna). Gladys and Betty too. For Kate it was only Betty and there are reasons for that. But it does leave her doubly lonely now.
Ivan is all keen to put the picket fence around her (including when it comes to her singing, as previews from next episode show). So she has nothing. The memory of how safe, happy and free she felt with Betty must be in her mind all the time.

re Private Davy leaving the hospital with his wife: I think Kate didn't expect that his wife was going to come (so soon). I also got the impression that the girls were needed at the hospital because the wounded soldiers didn't have family or the family couldn't (yet) come to the hospital. Davy wasn't an assignment (like the first soldier), she picked out Davy (probably because ). At first she is puzzled by him, not recognising in him the same locked in state that she was before escaping. But she gets it the minute Dr. Patel says that what Davy is doing in there is resting and waiting for somebody like her to let him know that it's safe to come out. Charlotte Hegele is her usual awesome but subtle self in this scene because the expression on her face says pain (remembering how that feels), seriousness (like any other time when it's something to do with Betty) and hope (that she can help Davy).
We see her leave the ward and in the very next sequence we see the other four (Vera, Lorna, Betty, Teresa) walk out of the cinema. Which reinforces the feeling that she is isolated from them.
So I think it's also that the time with Davy gives Kate some mooring, some respite from the drifting, some world of her own to inhabit. With Davy leaving the respite is over. She has to go back to the world of Ivan and not Betty, but Teresa.
I also think that she worries if he ready to go home, if he is healed (he doesn't seem vacant anymore but he's still not speaking). It probably makes her ask the same question about herself and she probably would have liked to spend more time with him as a healing process for both.

hubert said...

wikipedia says that A Balm in Gilead 'is a well-known traditional Black-American spiritual'. So possibly something she learned from Leon and it makes me wonder if it's foreshadowing that once again it will be Leon, the singing with him (but in the bar this time), that will get Kate out of her current rut, give her her voice back again. Being with Ivan has also pushed Kate away from Leon and she needs Leon, he's the only friend she's got.

I couldn't get into the spy storyline (yet another man pushing Gladys into a direction and an annoying man at that). I'm sure more will be revealed because for the moment I don't understand where this is going, what was the need fot it. Whilst at the time everybody in allied countries was obsessed with spies, the reality is that in Canada they during the war there were very few (if any) spies. Like in the UK there were women that worked in transcribing and deconding enemy messages but not in spying on Candians. If anything, Teresa could have done intelligence work amongst other things, as this article explains:
And if it's not historical backdrop, is it just plotline for Hitchcook reference? What does it do for Gladys?

cathy leaves said...

@Anon This is a really great way of reading the scene between Kate and the Private, but I would argue that the fiction that she is creating isn't about being with the Private, that she is seeing herself in him, and imagining herself getting better (but the person who is waiting for him is that much closer, that much more available, than the person that is waiting for her). They were both traumatized by violent event, they both lost their voices (he his actual voice, Kate the voice that she expresses herself with). So I think the person that she is projecting on the blank slate is herself (Kate herself, not Marion, not Katie).
I've also probably not accurately expressed how amazing I think this scene is, if my interpretation of it is correct, because is Kate saying that she is growing and becoming braver because she knows that someone is waiting for her? She is CONSCIOUS of this (conscious, but she still whispers it like it's a secret!).

(btw I'm really sorry that the comment function on blogspot doesn't allow for a more orderly discussion, but I've been here so long that I don't really want to switch)

cathy leaves said...


I understand your concerns about Teresa, and I won't try to change your mind about her, but maybe I can explain my process when thinking about her before writing the review:
Consider that they are in 1942, and not looking back upon themselves (like we do, like the writers do). There is no reason for Teresa to believe that the world will grow more accepting within her lifetime. Now, even in countries were gay people still struggle for acceptance (or for their very survival), as long as they aren't entirely cut off from the rest of the world, they are conscious of the fact that things are different, and better, elsewhere, that things have changed in other countries. In 1942, Teresa isn't. There is no place where things are better, there is no reason to believe that things would get better, so a realist like Teresa (and I think that's the profound difference between her and Betty) would try to arrange herself with the circumstances, and live the happiest life she can while making all these terrible, awful compromises. For all she knows, this is all she can ever expect out of life - she can have her career in the military as long as she keeps her head down, leads an unsuspicious life, keeps her affairs casual and secret (and I'm convinced that Teresa falls in love in spite of herself, if she does). I think that Teresa truly believes that this is the best possible life that she can lead, and assumes the same of Betty. This is why she is so harsh - because she believes that if Betty doesn't learn this lesson, she won't make it (Teresa would respond that it's not HER box, it's the box that already exists within society, and anyone trying to live outside that box pays a price that Teresa considers too high to even consider). And I completely agree that this seems in part arrogant, because who is Teresa to think that Betty can't live her own life and make up her own mind, but this is just what some people, if they have or believe themselves to have, more life experience, do. And when Betty does something she would have never ever done, she is shaken. I think Teresa learns something this episode, she changes.

(and a little personal interlude: growing up in Austria, the "who would you have been / what would you have done" has always been a very present thought, and to be honest, I just don't know. I wouldn't dismiss the possibility that I would have been much more like Teresa than Betty.)

Because Betty is not a realist, she dreams of sharing a house with someone she loves, she despises pretending to be someone she is not (see Bringing Up Bombshells - even if she occasionally does it if doesn't cost her so much, like whistling when they talk about Clifford Perry).

cathy leaves said...

And now specifically about the assault: I really, really didn't want to give the impression that I believe that are women are asking to be harassed by walking home alone - this is Teresa's frame of mind. It's not about being female, but being as invisible as possible, not drawing any kind of attention so as not to arouse suspicion (walking on, not talking back, hoping nothing terrible will happen). Do you really believe that Teresa would have left Betty alone if she had thought that she was in danger? I think she just utterly misread the situation, being so much more cautious about being found out than actual physical violence (that guy was dragged away by his friend, my interpretation was that Teresa thought that the situation was over, and that they had gotten into it in the first place because they were TWO WOMEN walking home together, and Betty got so defensive because the guy insulted Teresa, I think she would have reacted very differently to the whole episode if she had been alone).

What I got from this is that Betty and Teresa are too different for a long-term relationship, but I really don't want to speculate about where this is going (in part because I don't like being wrong :). Teresa might be falling in love in spite of herself, with someone who is utterly different from her, maybe reconsidering some of her ideas about what kind of life is possible in this place and time. Or she might ship out.
And yes, I do agree that "Gotta move on sometimes" was meant for Kate. We the viewers have the tools to read Kate in all her contradictions, but Betty really doesn't. She doesn't have a reason to believe that her feelings are reciprocated (or the insights that we have into Kate and Ivan's relationship, to realize that it's merely a performance for Kate, a distraction). It's all so darn tragic and romantic...

cathy leaves said...

About Kate's loneliness: I DON'T KNOW. The thing is that being away from the girls and in the hospital somehow made a more genuine, non-performed version of Kate appear that we haven't really seen in a while, and from Gladys now also using "Katie" I'd say her spending some time apart from the group is maybe a good thing, because being amongst these soldiers somehow made her be more like herself than being with her friends, with whom she has to pretend (but in general it's just sad and tragic that she HAS to pretend in the first place, and that's her loneliness). I really can't wait for the next episode, from the preview it seems as if Kate's about to make a leap rather than taking small steps.
And I love that there is this subtle but recurring theme about Leon changing her relationship with religion (she probably picked up that tune at his church). It's really admirable, the strength to reclaim something that Vernon tried to poison.

And Gladys... hm hm. I was very cautious about this storyline at first before Clifford started to point out all the ways that being a good upper class girl has prepared her for a career in spying, which is kind of great, but I would have liked to see Gladys for once not changing/getting an insight via a recently introduced male character. As far as believability goes, wherever they take this storyline (and the ending implied that she IS waiting for that phone call), I'll allow some creative freedom (since the show has been so good about historical accuracy). It would be a story about government secrets and spies, after all (but I think you could have just found the explanation for the otherwise inexplicable accent - if most intelligence work originated in Britain, it would make sense that Clifford Perry had to be British). Also, I really do believe that they just had a lot of fun with the Hitchcock references as well.

hubert said...

Let me say first that I totally agree with what you've said in the review. It's just that I also had the thoughts that I wrote about, in parallel.

I also did think that perhaps Teresa is falling a bit in love (that's when everything becomes more sensitive) but not sure. In those days, especially if you were invested in your career with CWAC (which meant the possibility of being shipped somewhere else at any point), you had to be careful about falling in love (so kill it early), you had to stay unencumbered. But by the same token the best that you could do was to live fully every moment of whatever happiness you had otherwise the war would have killed not just bodies but spirits as well. It's a tough balancing act.
Maybe because I'm a dreamer like Betty that I wanted from Teresa to not be so good at compartmentalising, to worry about her career but love Betty anyway (or throw caution to the wind anyway). A bit like Diane does on The Good Wife with her guy. I also wanted her to be a good, altruistic person, worthy of Betty's love, to be a kind, altruistic, thoughtful person. She's like a mature guy being the first for a young virgin girl: you want him to be delicate, thoughtful, perfect for the young girl. To be loving and caring but to not stifle the girl's new found freedom in the brave new world of adulthood/sexual beings. When Teresa first appeared I thought she would use her perceived freedom of spirit and previous experience with girls to make Betty's entry into this world a sweet, liberating one. Rather than to deliver harsh lecturing. It wasn't even sassy lecturing, 'girl, listen to me, you've gotta be more careful' type, it was annoyed chastising.
After Betty is saved from being dragged in the car, they're in the bathroom and Teresa says ' This is why you need to be more careful' and then kisses her on the forehead. When Betty responds 'What was that for?' she is still upset over the previous night and Teresa's reinforced suggestion/reminder that the best way is to keep your head down. When Teresa says that the kiss is for Betty being a hero Betty responds that she's not trying to be a hero, she's just trying to live her life. The issue is still there between them and it's a fundamental one. Betty perceives what she does/did as her trying to live her life, ordinary things. Equally, when she was standing up to Vernon and protecting Kate from him she wasn't trying to be a hero, she was just trying to give Kate the chance to live her life. Teresa believes that these are extraordinary things, things that one doesn't do normally. Kate has a better rapport with Betty's heroism even tough she's more inclined to keep her head down as well. She allows Betty all her heroism, she wouldn't want her to be in any other way.

One of the themes of the show is the meditation on who is the right person for everybody. Gladys is about to marry James but it's Gene that she finds more in common with and is excited about (so perhaps it is indeed guilt that is making her long for James). Yes, Gene ends up disappointing her but it still seems that on a basic human level she connected more with Gene than with James. Kate thinks that Ivan is what she needs & wants only to be reminded that it is actually Betty (despite all the struggles). Lorna is married to Bob but it's Marco (the man she was so berating and even tried to have him imprisoned) with whom she has the connection, the chemistry. Betty will come to think that it's Kate that is for her (despite all the struggles), not Teresa.

The irony of Teresa being spooked by Betty drawing attention to the two of them is that Betty's other secret is far more dangerous for Teresa's career if it was ever found out (by the likes of Agent Cliff). Teresa of course has no way of knowing this but if you look at it from Betty's perspective how many deep secrets can one keep before they lose all sense of who they are?

hubert said...

re assault: I was just echoing what Betty also says the next day to Gladys before the start of the shift. You said nothing wrong in the review. We all have to believe that we have some power and control over our safety (otherwise we'd go crazy). When that safety is shattered by incidents like the ones with the layabouts we even think initially that we must have done something wrong (hence Gladys' first reaction and Teresa's the previous night). A lot of women blame themselves when they get attacked (wrong time to be out and about, wrong street, wrong time to be a bit drunk, etc). Equally the agressors will use whatever you do or not do as a justification to themselves of why they assaulted you. But the truth is that they assaulted you because they can't do any better, because your rights mean nothing when it comes to their needs.

Yes, I'm all for Kate growing and discovering herself when away from Betty, if she can't be with Betty. And the hospital with the wounded soldiers is, like you say, a good place for it. I was struck by how quickly Ivan wants to put the picket fence around her (somehow I think with Betty he wouldn't have even tried, knowing that it won't pass and not just because she bats for the other team). So I'm happy that Kate does realize that any attempt to deprive her of freedom of choice (whether it's from a nasty piece of work like Vernon or from a nice guy like Ivy) should be resisted. Betty has given Kate the protection without telling her what to do, demanding things from her. Kate leaves and comes back to Betty of her own volition. Betty is neither possessive nor prescriptive, she's a generous soul even when it's not to her benefit (I wanted Teresa to be the same). Remember the scene in ep.6 when Betty arrives with Kate at the bar (so that Kate can have her dance with Ivan!) - watch her face when they get there and Ivan looks at them.

I wondered about the spy story because I found myself at a loss trying to understand whether Gladys goes from here (I think she is at a loss about this too ). She's another one that has lost her mooring, is drifting and has to find an island to call home.
In contrast Vera is not drifting, she is on solid ground, developing a career and having fun in the meantime. Whenever the war ends and however the postwar is like I have no worries about Vera. Lorna is also on solid ground, she's got her career as well, plus Reggie in the house to take care of and Bob away working on saving their marriage. Betty is on solid ground: she's gaining new freedoms every day, she's got the house to think of and the times have to catch up with her rather than the other way around.

estherambhac said...

I would add that in the dancing scene when they dance, it's just an exposition of Betty and Teresa's relationship. Betty is happy and careless, and she dances in this very same way, however she has never learned to dance (she taught herself on the icebox door), and so Teresa says, that she will have to lead that so-called dance.

I don't mean that Teresa is dominant or anything, I just think that Teresa is there to teach Betty, as she is a better learned dancer.

cathy leaves said...

The debate about heroism reminds of that quote from Brecht's Galileo Galilei: "unhappy is the land that needs heroes" - heroism, taking risks in the face of adversity, but at the same time, the very need for heroism is a symptom that something is wrong in a society (and it won't change unless people take risks and expose themselves to potential danger). Kate understands, because she knows that the prize to pay for staying and keeping your head down is sometimes too high (and she admires Betty for her more obvious bravery, but how brave is it to leave behind everything you know and start an entirely new life without anything to fall back on?).
Also, that one time when Betty was prescriptive - telling Kate not to perform with Leon - it took her about half a day to realize she was wrong and apologize for it! I agree, it is about "the right person", but the great thing the show does is that "the right person" is whoever allows the characters to grow the most, I think, to become more like themselves in a way.
And gosh, don't remind me of Betty's bigger secret. This is where the season is heading, isn't it?

@estherambhac: Thanks for bringing up that moment, I realized almost as soon as I posted that I'd completely forgotten to mention it. That's a great observation. Also, Teresa knows how "things are done" - how to dance correctly, how to behave without arousing suspicion, but Betty is teaching herself how to live (and I really loved that icebox line!), she is learning and growing all by herself, and she judges by her own moral compass (it still amazes me, that moment when she didn't even hesitate for a beat after Kate told her that she had assumed a new identity and needed forged papers).

Anonymous said...

* A whole lot of DEATH.

Brilliant as usual.

cathy leaves said...

Oh thanks (that makes a whole lot of sense). My ears and brain weren't too reliable last week.

Tv_gal55 said...

A little late in the game, but here to play nonetheless. A few quick comments, first I adore the BG discussions here. I have to read each episode a day at a time, because there is so much I want to take in and absorb from yours and everyones comments that I want to relish them all one at a time. Here's to hoping we have more seasons to pour our hearts over!

About Marion/Kate/Katie. I find it interesting that its Ivan and Gladys who call her this (and wouldn't surprise me if Vera called her this as well). Not Betty or Kate herself though. I think it says more about Gladys and Ivan's impervious positions to Kate's closed off exterior. They see Kate as "Katie" this innocent, giggly bright eyed girl who seems so fresh and new to the world. But, really, she's much more experienced than they ever realized because all she ever lets them see is the light, happy Kate. And they understandably latch on to the more childish nick name. Only Betty gets to see the real Kate. The way her voice changes an octave, an edge slips into her expression, and there is a subtle, yet strong glint of resilience in her eyes when she lets her mask slip. That's when Marion and Kate mix and become one. Her name has such a strong meaning to her and I think its poignant that Betty is the one who has fought the most to help her keep it, both in S1 and S2. Poor Gladys thinks she knows Kate, but I also think she realizes that Betty and Kate have a connection she can't seem to penetrate. She just doesn't realize how deep and dark that connection has become recently.

I also loved how the writers set up the parallel between Kate's loneliness and Betty's giddy new-relationship high. I loved how Kate tries to get Betty to do what they do best and spend time together by going the hospital, but is then disappointed when she's rebuffed by Betty. When Lorna assumes she has plans too, Kate's quick dejected look towards Betty is so cute. Charlotte Hegele kills me with her subtle glances!

And then at the end, Kate's beautiful song is overlaid with Betty's terrifying assault scene. Somehow, even though its a Betty/Teresa scene, its still a Betty/Kate scene. What a beautiful, tragic counterpart. Kate's song is so pretty, yet its got just a hint of sadness to play perfectly to Betty's scene and give it an almost slow motion terror as it unfolds. Once again, Kate's singing is used poignantly for Betty as she becomes the one who becomes the abused.

The scene at the end with Davey confused me as well. Another Kate scene where I wanted to reach in and grab her and go What are you thinking right now?! You're face tells me so much, yet so little!! I'm going to go with that Kate latched on to Davey as a way to keep the loneliness at bay and to see his sudden turn around to the point his wife comes to take him a way snapped Kate back into reality again. She's once again alone. She whispers for him to remember Gilead, a song about healing, which is also a reminder for herself as she is still healing. And, of course, the next scene is a scene where Kate, Gladys, and Vera stand tall and walk in with the bruised, broken Betty. Helping to make her wounded pride whole again. Beautifully, poignant.

As you can see, like yall, I have a special place in my heart for Kate Andrews and feel protective of her. She's so complex, yet subtle. You have to really pay attention to her and look for the small things, where as Betty, she has such an outwardly emotional personality that her feelings are constantly rolling across the scenes. They are a good balance. Sometimes its frustrating when you just want to hear what Kate is thinking, but I also love her glances, touches, and, of course, those eyes!

cathy leaves said...

I'm really sorry, I completely missed your comment. I love everything you've said here. Thank you for pointing out how Betty and Kate's scenes are overlaid - so that their connection becomes apparent even when they aren't with each other.
It's great looking back at this now, a couple of months later, because I still very much feel like this was an incredibly well-crafted relationship, a complex one, and I can't wait to find out how it continues.