Astronaut Wives Club Recap: Love and Loss
Wifeys, were you caught off-guard by the seemingly carefree title of this episode, "Rendezvous," as I was? Were you expecting secret meetings, perhaps of a sexy nature? Instead we get a dose of reality and a reminder how dangerous the space business is, with a steady drumbeat of death throughout the episode, culminating in poor Betty answering the world's saddest knock on the door.
The episode opens in a conference room full of 30(!) astronaut wives from Gemini, Mercury and Apollo and a couple guys from NASA going over the next mission phase, including the first-ever space rendezvous between two space vessels, which may or may not be notable just because its the first time we'd done something that Russia hadn't done first. Who can say! I'm not a rocket scientist.
And just in case we forgot that the 60s were sexist, the meeting ends by telling the wives not to expect their husbands to do anything at home, not to distract them from their work (with the sex) unless they come home horny, in which case they need to sex their husbands like it's their job. Just kidding, it is their job!
The remaining members of the club (minus Rene and Annie, whose husbands have moved into safer careers based on the ground) invite new wife Pat over because Jo notices she is pregnant and trying to keep it a secret, distracting everyone with garish mixed prints. Pat mentions that her situation isn't nearly as bad as another Astro Wife, who is caring for a son who has both Down syndrome and cancer without her husband, who hasn't been home in weeks.
Before we know it, two astronauts have died in a jet crash, and Pat is sent to the home of Marilyn See (formerly known as the one with air conditioning) to keep her company—but not break the news—until someone can be sent out to notify her officially. The world's least enthusiastic discussion of Dr. Zhivago follows. This hot mess is followed by NASA ignoring Marilyn's calls about retrieving her husband's things from his office and eventually by Deke turning her and Pat away when they show up at the gate without a visitor pass from her dead husband.
This treatment of the widows unites all the wives, led by Betty, Jo, Pat and Marge, who demand things like a military-style system for death notifications, real time updates on their husbands' missions and the freedom not to have to hide their pregnancies.
Meanwhile, Louise and Trudy have flown to Florida on their own mission: to find the astronaut who is shirking his duties at home (as Alan assures her its not work keeping him in Florida every weekend). They find him not at the hotel but playing house with a blond and her son because he says the stress of seeing his son with cancer is too much for him. There is yelling, but it doesn't seem to matter much—there's more than one way to lose your husband to NASA.
When the Bank of Baytown calls, Louise worries that Alan has lost their money in bad investments. Nope: the investments did well, so he bought the bank. Trudy and Gordo bicker about her part-time gig flying other wives around the country, but Trudy shuts his complaints down with the best retort ever: "You've been in orbit for a week. I think you can handle carpool and laundry."
Time passes, Gemini flights give way to Apollo, Pat's pregnancy becomes a bouncing baby, all seems to be good until Jo hears about an accident during pre-launch tests. Gus and two other astronauts are killed, a fate confirmed with a knock on the door. Poor Betty, who will never take that trip to Paris with Gus. It's a sad day for the club.