It’s not often a scripted show gets a real-life villain. But in Pitch’s second outing, Garbage Time’s Katie Nolan cannot stop making it weird for Ginny and the Padres.
A few days after Ginny’s historic first win, “Ginsanity” is in full swing and Nolan is the voice of it. No matter where they go, the team can’t escape TVs, and Nolan is seemingly always delivering a Ginny-related zinger: “Guess some of those big strong men don’t like a pretty little girl getting more attention, huh?” she says, vamping on a clubhouse screen. “Aww, are the big boys on the Padres crying?” she taunts from a TV over the teammates’ heads at a bar. When Ginny asks the bartender to change the channel, a sports-news anchor played by JoAnna Garcia Swisher demands that as the ranking “It Girl” athlete, Ginny should weigh in on a sexual-assault scandal. And Jimmy Kimmel called: He wants Ginny on during the Padres’ series in LA.
Nobody hates the hype more than the woman at the center of it. Roughly half of Kylie Bunbury’s lines in this episode involve her insisting “she’s a ballplayer” and that she “just wants to be one of the guys.” Thanks to Ginsanity, it isn’t working out well. Ginny’s search for a seat on the team bus makes Forrest Gump’s trip to school look warm and welcoming. Most of her teammates are acting like overcaffeinated cats in a box — jittery, constantly bumping up against each other, and ready to claw at the slightest provocation. (You have to wonder if guys would really take having a girl on their team this hard.)
Then comes the tipping point: Somebody digs up a two-year-old clip of manager Al calling Ginny, then a minor-league sensation, “easy on the eyes.” It instantly goes viral and Al, for his part, can’t figure out exactly what he did wrong. “The world kinda passed me by when they made the Internet,” he tells Ginny by way of an awkward apology. And I catch myself thinking, Aww, poor Al. Did you see him and the pitching coach playing cards on the bus when everybody else was on their smartphones? Give that cuddly old-timer a break on the sexism stuff! Then I remember it doesn’t matter how much I loved The Wonder Years — I must admit that not knowing how to get on the Wi-Fi doesn’t really justify rating the looks of a 21-year-old.
To make matters worse: After issuing his statement of regret to the press and taking a few questions from reporters, Al inexplicably backtracks and jokes “Can we just go back to talking about how pretty the girl is?” Don’t blame him! The world is full of confusing things like Twitter and Bumble and Microsoft Word 2016. How’s he supposed to remember to treat a woman with equal respect?
Al’s bout of bad PR spins emotional reactions out of every character. Ginny immediately says…wait for it…that she just wants to be one of the guys, and asks Amelia to release a statement pledging her loyalty to Al. But Amelia demands — in the name of Ginny’s position as a feminist icon — that she not support her skipper too publicly. Meanwhile, Oscar has to gear up to fire Al and throughout the episode looks like he’s about to vomit sushi, Tums, and Pellegrino everywhere.
The only one seemingly undaunted by Ginsanity? Lawson. The publicity gush gets him disgusted with his teammates — Ginsanity “sucks, because we’re losing in front of sold-out crowds!” he snaps — but brings him closer to Ginny. When they both show up to work out early, we get to watch a good old alpha-dog gym-off: The pitcher and her catcher try to outspeed each other on the treadmills and lash the battle ropes around like maniacs. We learn two things: 1) Ginny and Lawson are more alike than they suspected, and 2) Neither has seen that Eastbound and Down episode where Kenny Powers snorts, “I play real sports. Not trying to be the best at exercising.” But maybe the real reason Lawson isn’t getting worked up about Ginsanity is that he’s distracted. While in LA, he tells Ginny, he has to swing by his ex-wife’s house to pick up his things.
NEXT: Feelings alert!
This is when Pitch begins to reveal itself as a Dan Fogelman character drama, not a fictional 30 for 30. If the pilot was all about revving the show’s sports engine, episode two is when all the feely backstories kick in. Quickly, we see how Amelia and Ginny met (Amelia quit her job after getting dumped in her fertility doctor’s office, and Ginny became her fresh start) and why Oscar doesn’t want to can Al (they go way back; Al bought Oscar his first suit and the fact that Oscar has surely turned that suit into car-wash rags so it doesn’t make all the Tom Fords in his closet uncomfortable is irrelevant). For her part, Ginny finds her voice on Kimmel, eschewing the pre-planned girly “clubhouse redecorating” bit to say that indeed, she believes “We need to teach all boys it’s wrong to rape.”
And Lawson! Lawson isn’t just some scotched-up playboy after all. When he makes it over to his ex’s, we get a big glimpse of the heart beneath the bravado. He lays it all out on the table: He misses her and wants her back. According to his boxes, he also happens to be the one guy on earth who fought to get their wedding album in the divorce. Here’s the best part: Lawson’s ex is none other than Swisher’s sportscaster. That’s right: Just when you think Fogelman used up all his twist potion on This Is Us, he comes along and is all, Oh, you thought a dead dad was the best I could do here? LOL! Check this out, sports fans. For her part, Garcia Swisher plays the whole “I’ve moved on — or have I?” thing beautifully. What is she thinking about as she stands there in tears? Is she channeling the way she felt when Nick Swisher had that floppy zebra mohawk? I say maybe.
This brings me to the potential romantic story lines the show is starting to hint at. Put simply, they’re going full All My Children on the possibilities. Anyone could hook up with anyone at any moment. Lawson and his ex could get back together. But we see Lawson sit down next to Amelia at the hotel bar that night, prompting her to close her laptop (a clear power-lady green light). And wait! Doesn’t Oscar openly have the hots for Amelia, too? And weren’t Lawson and Ginny totally pre-vibing over her mountains of protein at breakfast? Plus, I’ve still got a sinking feeling Blip is going to confess his love for Ginny at some point. He stares wistfully after her like a guy who almost got cast in The Hills. Meanwhile, his sweet wife is busy chasing down a replica of his lost lucky shirt on eBay, then letting it marinate in a bag with her mom’s pot roast to get the old smell right. I mean, I’m all for doing nice things for each other in a marriage, but poor Evelyn’s antics are verging on resetting all the progress for women Ginny’s made. Who knows: Maybe Eliot’s purpose will present itself in the form of meeting her needs.
While this mess of potential matches might seem nuts, it points to the heartening reality of Pitch: It can carry our interest even when Ginny isn’t on the mound. After all, pitchers don’t pitch every day. So, as one commenter put it perfectly last week, this show will “live and die on the ball club drama, not the gimmick.” So far, I’d say it’s living well. And if I may make a prediction: It seems the bushier Mark Paul Gosselaar’s beard is, the more emotional highs and lows an episode will have. By the season finale, no doubt, we’ll be dealing with a full-on Brian Wilson.
Now that you know more about where the Pitch gang came from, whose story lines are you into — and which ones are already making you roll your eyes? Which love connection would you buy? And is anyone else experiencing a little fatigue with the “real broadcasters on a fake show” tactic?