This A League of Their Own recap contains spoilers.
When Carson Shaw wakes up to the sound of her husband returning from war, thumping on her Rockford Peaches dorm room door, she’s surprised. When he says he got her letter, the one that said she wants to play professional baseball and also have a threesome, she’s shocked. When Greta hops up out of Shirley’s bed and swaggers over, talking about, “I go where I please, I do what I please, and I don’t say please,” Carson is so astonished she almost faints dead away on the spot, but also she starts praying not to die because Greta’s saying it’s okay to want things, and then she and James — Bill? David? No! Charlie! Right, her husband, Charlie! — are descending on Carson’s neck like a couple of hungry vampires. “Carson,” Greta breathes. “Carson!” Greta moans. ‘CARSON!” Shirley yelps, shaking Carson in her bed.
Carson startles awake from Baby Queer Starter Dream No. 27 to see Shirley pacing around the room in shambles because Carson was having a night terror! And now her night terror energy is all over Shirley! Which, you know, isn’t Carson’s fault or anything, she’s obviously the victim of the night terror, but now Shirley’s day is off too!
The way to fix this problem, Carson decides, is to just call Charlie and find out if he got her letter and figure out what the letter actually said and also to stop being gay. She hops into the phone queue where all the other wives are talking about how a day without hearing from their husbands is like a day getting their guts trampled by rhinoceroses. Carson, who wouldn’t think about Charlie at all if her subconscious would just leave her alone, says, “Same with me. Rhinos. Just. Yeah, same.” When she finally gets Charlie on the horn, he says he’s in Ireland on some kind of army vacation before he heads home to Idaho. Which is a LIE! He’s actually in some kind of army INFIRMARY! He says being shot at by Nazis has helped him realize he wants to have a better life with his wife, including more adventure and passion. Just wait’ll he gets home and she’ll see; it’s gonna be so romantic. Carson’s all, “So… not like platonic marriage partners Darcy and Elizabeth then. Cool. Cool cool cool.”
Across town, Max is having a lot more success with her fella, Gary, who has gotten her a job at the screw factory. She needs to not look like a woman to at least get in the door, so after a whole evening of, once again, rounding the bases with Mrs. Turner, Max tucks her hair up into a newsboy hat and asks her girl if she could pass as a man. Barbara and the Browns are crooning in the background, talking about “There’s so much… I wanna do for you…” while Mrs. Turner gets her clothes and stockings fixed back into place. She says Max is too soft to look like a man, and Max — wearing a white tank top with an unbuttoned blue work shirt pulled over it, smiling like the goddamn North Star — says, softly, “I’m not soft.” Mrs. Turner’s got to get to the church consecration, but when she stops fiddling with her earrings and looks over at Max in that hat, her eyebrows raised, the way she’s leaning, Mrs. Turner says, “Oh. I’d say you were a stud.”
The first time I watched this scene, I just sat there, wide-eyed, my hands over my mouth, trying not to scream, waiting for Shirley to wake me up. But no. It’s real. It’s a real thing that’s happening. Imagine Max Chapman looking at you like that in the dark. Imagine her turning the full force of that smile directly onto you, and not melting into a puddle of glitter and swoon. Truly the Lord has blessed Mrs. Turner. Surely His goodness and mercy and unfailing love will follow her all the days of her life.
At church, Max helps her mama pass out the programs and plot her ascension to Head Usher. One of the deacons’ wives thinks she’s got it in the bag, but I guess that’s because she’s never met Mrs. Toni Chapman, the capital “B” Boss of Rockford, Illinois. Guy and Clance are late for church and she’s mumble-yelling at him about going on a sex strike. Toni chides them, affectionately, about punctuality being a virtue. And then a whole other church lady has to shush Max and Clance in the middle of the sermon! Max is explaining that she’s going to work at the screw factory during the night, and the salon during the day, and then talk her way onto the baseball team in her spare time. Clance goes, “You turn into plastic man while I wasn’t watching?” Max says, “You know I don’t know who that is!” And Clance snaps, “He stretches out, obviously.” Clance is less worried about Max working herself too hard and more concerned about Toni finding out. Max clocks the preacher’s wife making eyes at her up there in the pulpit, licks her lips, says, “She don’t notice everything.”
Carson decides to deal with her burgeoning gayness by ignoring it and focusing on the other main problem in her life: The Peaches are terrible. They’ve got the worst record and worst attendance in the league. They’re still getting paid, though, and when Sarge passes around their first checks — “May I suggest purchasing war bonds, ladies? It’s a prudent and patriotic way to invest!” — everybody flips out a little bit. May says she’s going to buy a fur coat. Jo thinks Greta should send her check home to her mom as a fuck you. Lupe does send money home to her family, with a photo of her and Dove she cut out of the local newspaper. Jess says, “I don’t trust paper money!!!” before listing all the sinking boats she’s been on to Lupe. Carson says she’s going to put hers into savings because Charlie wants to buy a house. She does spend a little bit of her money on groceries, though, because she decides the best way to get through to Dove and encourage him to coach them is to make him a pie. Jo and Greta think the pie is the most ridiculous thing they’ve ever seen — she brings it to him, uncovered, in the dugout — and they waste no time mocking her mercilessly for it.
Dove remains the worst. He gives an interview to the newspaper that’s supposed to be about Lupe, but becomes, of course, all about him. The only time he mentions Lupe is when he starts making up racist nicknames for her like The Spanish Striker and Margarita on the Mound. Every time he calls her Spanish, Lupe flinches BECAUSE THE SPANISH WERE THE COLONIZERS, but she doesn’t say anything about it. It seems like maybe Dove’s the first person to believe in her, which is really just about believing in himself, and she’s wrecking her arm trying to learn to throw his stupid forkball. Lupe does wonder if maybe she needs a few games off, but Dove tells her she’s just tired. Carson asks Dove to rest Lupe, but he won’t. Carson asks Lupe to ask Dove to rest her, and Dove ends up benching Carson instead. He even makes Jo run a hundred laps when she tries to talk to him man-to-man, and tells him it’d be cool if he started actually coaching them. Lupe says Dove is the only one who cares about her, which isn’t true, and would be a horrible fate!
And that’s how the Peaches, minus Lupe, end up sneaking out in the early morning and late at night to practice by themselves. It’s not all hard work, though: Greta and Carson find time to lie in the grass together and stargaze and make mollusk jokes. Jo’s getting worried because Greta is NOT being careful, so she keeps trying to find ways to stop her and Carson from, like, climbing all over each other in front of the whole team. But they keep sneaking off to make out anyway! Well, to makeout and then for Carson to push Greta away and say “Stop! I”m normal!” and then to makeout some more and then for Carson to push Greta away and say “I’m not like you! I have a husband!”
Between the baseball, the lust, and the gay panic, Carson’s sympathetic nervous system must be absolutely frazzled. She should talk to Shirley about getting on some kind of adrenal supplements or learning to meditate or something. Carson tells Greta she wants to be only friends, with none of the kissing, so Greta invites Carson to chaperone a date she has with a Peaches fan. Sarge was meant to do it but she — *shuts door* — becomes “indisposed … menstrually” right before the date. Which is a shame, because Sarge had been told her conversation skills were adequate. Shirley also agrees to go on the date because it is a profound honor to make sure things don’t get sexual.
Max’s man disguise lasts juuust long enough for her to get into the screw factory. During orientation, the two racist bitties who wouldn’t give her an application ask her to take off her hat, like some kind of evil villain reveal. The plant manager is like, “I don’t give a fuck. Can you lift 50 pounds and handle some casual second degree burns?” Max says as long as the burns aren’t on her pitching hand, absolutely — and then, under her breath as she breezes past the bitties, “Guess you were hiring.” With Gary’s advice in mind, Carson fibs her way to a job with the welding crew so she can get in good with the factory baseball team star. I can’t remember his name. I’m going to call him Beef. Gary doesn’t think Max can swallow her pride long enough to make nice with Beef, and he’s almost right. Max nearly claws her own face off lying to him about how she was just intimidated by him because he’s a better baseball player than she’ll ever be. But of course Beef believes her, and once he finds out she’s a great welder (because of course she is because Max is literally the best at everything), he “lets her” start doing her work and his work too. Beef even requests a move to the day shift for both of them.
Max tries to tell Toni the news, late one night after work, but Toni surprises her with the news that she’s renamed the salon Max and Toni Chapman’s, and she’s even bought a glowing neon sign to honor the occasion. She’s noticed how serious Max has gotten, and she wants to show that she’s serious about Max too. Instead of coming clean, Max picks a fight with Mrs. Turner and ends up blowing up their relationship. Max might be willing to risk everything to play baseball, but Mrs. Turner isn’t willing to risk her whole life and reputation for Max’s sports dreams. The thing that finally coaxes Max to come clean is the Holy Spirit. Toni gets up at the revival to offer testimony, and while she’s talking about how the Lord’s hand has guided her steps, even though hardship and uncertainty, Max runs out of the tent to the edge of the woods and nearly vomits. Because she’s sure God is guiding her steps too; why would He have given her this gift and this unquenchable desire if He didn’t want her to play baseball? When she tells her mom she got another job, Toni doesn’t yell, doesn’t reason, doesn’t cry — she just goes silent. Which is way, way worse.
Clance also has a secret. After she passes out at church, Guy tells Mr. Chapman that Clance has been acting real squirrelly and he thinks she’s pregnant but doesn’t want to tell him because she’s afraid he won’t be a good dad. Mr. Chapman gives Guy an egg from the refrigerator to keep safe. He puts it in his pocket and even brings it to church with him! It’s too adorable! Guy is the only man I love! Clance finally tells him she’s not pregnant, actually, that a draft letter came for him, and he has to report for his physical in two days, and then he’ll be shipped off to fight a war for a country that doesn’t even value him as a full citizen. They sink down onto the floor together and hold each other close and I am not prone to caring about straight couples so don’t you dare do anything to hurt this man, you writers, I swear to god.
A side note: I’m not sure Max should ever get pregnant. When she’s trying to convince the factory bosses to let her stay, her first plea is, “I’ve got eight kids and I’ve gotta feed most of them.” I love her so much.
Greta’s dinner with the baseball fan — chaperoned by Carson and Shirley — is the best date I’ve ever seen or heard of in my life. Sarge described him as “a man with a shirt,” for starters. It opens with Greta flirting like a clown, yanking on his hair, and devolves into Greta and Carson getting passive aggressive with each other about him right in front of his face. He says he’s a veterinarian, which Carson says hardly qualifies as an actual doctor, before storming off to the restroom to fume. Greta follows her in and starts barking about how she’s the one who said she just wants to be friends and act normal and whatever. Carson goes, “You want me to say it makes me jealous? That I have feelings for you? I do!” And Greta says, “Finally!”
However upset Carson and Greta are about the date, it’s nothing on how Shirley’s feeling. She’s pacing around the bedroom when she gets home, fretting about how she was left alone with this man for no less than eleven minutes. “There’s was energy, there was transmission, there was eye contact, and I was alone,” she says. “I’m dwelling in the ambiguity right now and I’m wound up.” (Shirley, are you sure you’re not a lesbian? That’s the gayest thing anyone’s ever said.)
Finally, Carson can’t take it anymore. She’s thinking about Charlie coming home from war, and how he wants to be more than friends, and how this baseball dream could disappear at any second, and how Greta could be gone that fast too. She walks almost as speedy-quick as she ran to the train that first day, directly to Greta’s room, breathing heavy and ready to smooch. She stops short when she realizes Jess is in the room too, and makes up some elaborate story about a rash, which actually interests Jess way more than the lesbianism pulsating off her teammates. Carson takes Greta to the shed and smashes her up against the wall and smooshes their faces together.
This time, Shirley doesn’t need to shake her out of her dreams. Carson Shaw is wide awake.
Every episode of A League of Their Own is streaming on Prime Video. Editor in Chief Carmen Phillips and Senior Editor Heather Hogan will be trading off recaps, one a day, every single day, for the whole first season. See you back here tomorrow!