DISCLAIMER: This recap of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 5 Episode 5, “The Pirate Queen,” contains spoilers. Proceed at your peril.
Tits up! “The Pirate Queen” is packed to the gills with humor and heart, as is the Maisel way. We finally get a flash-forward sequence featuring Joel, learning that he winds up going to jail in the ’80s. Midge never stops visiting him. Aw. Regardless of their marital status, it’s abundantly clear that Joel and Midge are soulmates. That final scene with Gordon proves it, especially since she took him to her favorite Joel spot and set firm boundaries between them. She deserves a medal for resisting Reid Scott‘s charms, even though Gordon’s persistence and the fact that he’s Midge’s boss are kinda gross.
“The Pirate Queen” is a standard, solid Maisel episode — not the best, but not the worst. It’s consistent from beginning to end, with Zelda’s wedding being an episodic highlight and Midge’s piracy incident.
Ready to delve into “The Pirate Queen”? Let’s get to it.
We open with a flash forward: It’s 1987, and Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) visits Joel (Michael Zegen) in jail. Midge gives him her headshots for his fellow pals behind bars. You know, so they can hang them on their walls and not do any funny business with them. In exchange, Midge shows Joel a photo of their granddaughter, Rose. I’m assuming she’s the daughter of Ethan and Chava. And she’s named after Midge’s mama. I’m not crying; you are.
Speaking of Midge’s mom, Midge mentions Rose would be rolling in her grave over the fashion crime Ethan and Chava’s daughter committed. Oh, my heart. So, we know Rose dies at some point between 1961 and 1987. Joel hopes to meet her in four to six months if he can get out for good behavior. I’m assuming he’s in jail because he tried to protect Midge. We’ll find out soon enough.
Now, we’re back in 1961. Joel and Archie (Joel Johnstone) are scoping out a Catholic school as a new location for The Button Club. Archie has Catholic school PTSD, but he claims it’ll be fine. Meanwhile, Joel flirts with a nun—that charming bastard. I’d flirt with him, too. What can I say? I became a Joel gal post-Season 1. Archie calls out Joel for obsessing about Susie’s involvement with the mob. He wants to ask Midge about Frank and Nicky; however, he doesn’t want to come across as the “bad guy.”
Next, Dinah (Alfie Fuller) and Maggie (Julie Klausner) are on a calling spree on behalf of Susie (Alex Borstein), who’s on the phone with Alfie (Gideon Glick). A handful of client hopefuls drop their materials off where all the other resumes go — in the neverending pile of unchecked materials. I love Dinah’s wisecrack about how that one woman’s resume will stand out because it doesn’t have dust on it like the others. Susie confronts Alfie about the llama he purchased while in Las Vegas for his show. The said llama is jacking up the hotel bill.
After her chat with Alfie, Susie tries to comfort James (Jay Will), who’s up for a plum starring role in a movie. So far, he’s still in the running, but he hasn’t heard back if he’s snagged the part. Maggie manages to get through to the casting office. While Susie makes her way to Maggie, she notices the long line of potential clients waiting outside her office. She makes note of who she’s rejecting and who she wants to sign. Business is booming over at Susie Myerson and Associates. Susie chats with who she thinks is in charge of the casting for this film but quickly learns it’s a producer named David Weston.
Midge wanders into Susie’s office and practically falls asleep, standing up. She’s exhausted from working her day job at The Gordon Ford Show and doing standup at night. Susie urges her to slow down; however, Midge insists she must keep at it. She has to stay sharp. Later, Gordon (Scott) calls Midge and the writers up to his office to chat about the show’s opening monologue for that evening. Mike (Jason Ralph) and George (Peter Friedman) are present, too. George attempts to persuade Gordon to consider mentioning a diaper product on the air, but the latter feels weird about it. He rejects George’s ask and declines the veteran producer’s desire for him to attend a boat event on the Hudson River with the executives behind said product.
Side note: I love this subtle exchange between Gordon and Mel (Michael Cyril Creighton). Gordon asks Mel if he wants to insert a Debbie Reynolds joke into the conversation. A tired Mel simply replies that he’ll take a “raincheck.” Reynolds starred in 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain. Hey, I think it’s humorous. After embarrassing George during the meeting, Midge pops by his office to apologize. She vows to make it up to him by participating in the Hudson River event herself. She’s a mother who’s used this diaper product, after all.
Then, Shirley (Caroline Aaron) and Rose (Marin Hinkle) help Zelda (Matilda Szydagis) dress for her wedding day. Midge whips out the photo album featuring stunning images from Rose and Abe’s own nuptials. They all start talking about sex on the wedding night and how Shirley’s Joely performed well … both times. Rose doesn’t want to hear any of Midge’s “nightclub talk.” Next, we see Joel, Shirley, Moishe (Kevin Pollak), Midge, Rose, Ethan and Esther sit in the Weissman’s apartment while Abe (Tony Shalhoub) plays the piano. He plays Chopin, which is perfect wedding music.
Zelda walks down the aisle to Janusz (Alexander Gemignani), who stands with a priest. I love that they’re getting married in the Weissman home with a small gathering. It’s sweet. There’s not a dry eye when Zelda recites her vows. When Janusz says his, Rose and Abe can’t help but latch onto a specific statement he made about Zelda never having to work again. Naturally, they disrupt the proceedings by asking if this means Zelda’s quitting. In true Sherman-Palladino fashion, comedic hijinks ensue. Midge and Joel also freak out because Zelda quitting her job leaves them without someone to watch their kids.
After the ceremony, Midge joins Joel out on the fire escape. They smoke cigarettes together. Joel asks Midge about Frank and Nicky. The conversation spirals into an argument, as Midge insists she’ll be fine and that the waste management musical was a one-time thing. Now, they’re square with the mob. (Well, except they’re not. But she doesn’t know this yet.) Joel vows to always protect her, no matter what. They share a kiss in the heat of the moment. Clearly, they still love each other. As much as I adore Mei, I’m also Team Moel. Jidge? I’m unsure of their official shipping name, but I’m now partial to “Moel.” After they smooch, Midge appears to want to continue their
kissing conversation later.
Next, Midge attends the boat party on the Hudson. We see George is there, too. She performs a killer set for the crowd, which they eat up. Side note: her dress is utterly adorable. Meanwhile, Dinah tracks down David Weston for Susie, who’s at a spa. Susie interrupts David’s (Bruce Altman) spa time to ask about James. Is he getting the part or not? After working her Susie Myerson magic (aka berating folks until they submit), David appears to succumb. Maybe. Perhaps she needs to break him down more. Of course, it doesn’t help that Susie talks shit about the movie’s script and claims that it would be better for her financially if David didn’t hire James.
Dinah and Maggie can’t understand why Susie took that approach. But, hey, at least she signed on the cabaret singer at the spa. Then, Midge notices one of the partygoers asserting himself onto one of the waitresses. The waitress rejects him, but he’s insistent. It’s straight-up sexual assault. Midge confronts the man and orders him to leave her alone. After the waitress flees, Midge inadvertently throws the man’s expensive coat overboard while trying to prove a point about not touching things that aren’t yours. The scene cuts to Midge being taken back to shore courtesy of the Coast Guard.
Later, Susie barges into Midge’s workplace to meet with George, Mike, Gordon and NBC’s law/PR team. Midge tells Gordon what transpired on the boat. The man claims she assaulted him, but Midge was merely protecting the waitress he was assaulting. Midge accidentally tossed his coat into the river — big whoop. However, that’s not the end of it. Apparently, the act occurred on international waters, so France has to weigh in. Oh, and because the man’s wallet was in said coat, Midge technically committed an act of piracy. Midge is a pirate on the high seas. Gordon and Mike erupt into fits of laughter.
Gordon places the blame squarely on George and orders him to clean this up. Then, he jokes about having a pirate on his staff. Admittedly, it is pretty funny. After George departs, Mike practically pitches a tent, claiming he wasn’t even this happy when his kids were born. Watching George tank his career is all the stimulation Mike needs. I love Jason Ralph in this role. The following morning, Susie gets a phone call from David Weston. He wants to offer James the part. However, Susie plays it cool, asking Dinah to inform him that she’s on another call. To celebrate, Susie asks James to perform his monologue for her. Aw. She daydreams about managers in the business gossiping about her success.
Next, Midge finishes a set and signs an autograph for a fan. Gordon approaches in his normie clothes. He claims he attended her show and enjoyed it. Gordon asks if he can take Midge out to dinner, an offer which she finally accepts. However, she picks the place, and we see it’s The City Spoon, her favorite spot to eat with Joel. This feels symbolic. Even when she’s not with him, she’s thinking about him. Gordon tries to put the moves on Midge again. Midge continuously sets firm boundaries between them.
Then, she explains why they cannot date. Should the news of their coupling become water cooler talk at the office, she’ll be scrutinized, not him. If she finally gets a slot on his show as a comic, folks will only wonder if she accomplished the feat herself or with his help. Gordon understands and backs off (although he still insists she won’t be on his show as a performer). He asks her if she’ll dance with him. She accepts. Good for Midge for setting those boundaries and only doing what she wants.
“The Pirate Queen” showcases the strength of this talented comedic ensemble. Alex Borstein continuously steals every scene she’s in, but that’s nothing new. Midge’s insistence in the final scene that she will perform on Gordon’s show makes me think this is what’ll launch her career to superstardom. She’s speaking it into existence. Manifest it, girl. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how we get to that point. I love the nonlinear storytelling format this season as we learn what the future holds for Midge, her kids and now Joel.
Is Zelda truly leaving the Weissmans, and does Abe understand the science behind the suction function on the vacuum? Will Gordon honor Midge’s boundaries? Can Archie enter the new location for The Button Club without going into a tizzy regarding his Catholic school days? Only time (and more episodes) will tell.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel streams new episodes every Friday on Prime Video.
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