The Astrofamilies have arrived in Houston, where Wally Schirra is set to be the next man in space, and there’s hope for NASA to unground Deke Slayton. Houston is also home to the nine new families prepping for the Gemini missions, along with a Junior League, Spaces Tours, and messy barbecue food. “Liftoff” opens with a vintage clip of President John F. Kennedy declaring America will win the Space Race, but it’s not long before JFK has Americans fearing for their lives ahead of what he believes may be a nuclear war with Russia. Let’s see how our space couples are feeling about all these life changes…
Marge & Deke Slayton
Deke has adopted a strict diet in hopes of regaining flying privileges, and since Marge believes in “suffering in solidarity,” she partakes as well. And that means means no sex, laughing, or conversations longer than 3 minutes. But Marge thinks she has a better solution: send Deke to Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson’s cardiologist to clear him for takeoff. While LBJ’s heart doc thinks Deke is fit to fly, and the six other astronauts stick up for Deke in a NASA hearing, Deke’s appeal to get ungrounded is denied. Just because he can’t fly a rocket doesn’t mean he can’t manage those who can, apparently, so NASA makes Deke Chief Astronaut, overseeing the Gemini crew. And according to Deke, that means Marge can serve as boss among their wives.
But Marge has already assumed that role, shutting down one of the New Nine wives’ suggestions to rotate launch party hosting duties, and putting her cigarette out in their meatloaf cupcakes (which probably would’ve made it to the launch party had Pinterest existed in 1962).
Jo & Wally Schirra
Jo, on the other hand, yearns to fit in with the New Nine wives, and more importantly, the Houston elite. She lands an invite to a fundraiser gala hosted by the Houston Junior League and brings along the other Astrocouples. Just as the guys get their bow ties into place, Kennedy announces a nuclear war with Russia may soon be underway, and the men offer to deploy in defense of their country. Duncan insists the astronauts ignore the potentially life-threatening news and attend the party anyway. “Show the world that nothing scares an American hero,” he says. But the astronauts pass on the gala in favor of drinking on the NASA headquarter’s patio.
Jo isn’t fazed by Wally missing the gala though, since she’s busy trying to impress the Junior League members in hopes of earning a spot. Unfortunately playing the perfect Navy wife doesn’t grant Jo a bid, and she soon come crawling back to the Mercury wives. Rene and Betty are quick to forgive, and extend an olive branch in the form of chainsaw to cut a hole in Jo’s fence.
NEXT: One of the other wives proves she too knows how to operate handheld machinery
Trudy & Gordo Cooper
Gordo discovers Trudy has tools of her own, except hers are meant for more personal, indoor use. He finds what Trudy claims is a handheld personal massager in her drawer, to which he later adds a creepy picture of his face. I guess that’s Gordo’s way of taking Deke’s advice not to “concede to the power tools.”
But Trudy and Gordo continue taking small steps to sleeping in the same bed. Trudy even leaves the Junior League gala to wait home for Gordo, and Gordo can’t help but drunkenly gush over his wife.
Louise & Alan Shepard
Meanwhile, Louise continues to grow closer to Max than her own husband. Max brings his depressed New York attitude to Texas—”You’re a walking encyclopedia of doom,” Louise tell him—and continues to make Lady Louise uncomfortable with his affection toward her. “Do you do anything at these things besides watch me?” Louise asks him at the party celebrating Wally’s successful launch. “No, not really,” he admits.
Max then shows up to the Junior League party under the guise he’s covering the event for Life, but while dancing in a horse stable with Louise, admits he didn’t want to spend what could be his last night on earth by himself. The two discuss past lovers, and Max concludes he may be able to lure Louise away from Alan. Louise also reveals she had a sister who died, and now she and Alan raise her niece. Her daughter and niece happened to find condoms in Alan’s “go bag,” packed in case of a national emergency, and I’m not sure he’ll be using those with Louise…
Betty & Gus Grissom
When a school bus filled with Astronaut-crazed ladies on a “Space Tour” spot Betty Grissom mowing her lawn with curlers, it’s clear the astronaut wives truly were the Kardashians of the ’60s. But Betty doesn’t play the role of a social-climbing selfie queen, and proves just how down-to-earth she is throughout “Liftoff.” Mowing the lawn isn’t exactly the most “housewife” of tasks, and the group falls silent when Betty asks how much money the Junior Gala fundraiser will bring in. And when Betty grabs a floral arrangement from the gala at the end of the night, Jo shoots her some major side eye. Rene agrees the high society rules are ridiculous and grabs an even bigger flower arrangement on her way out.
But Betty ultimately gets what she wants: a backyard passageway allowing the wives to avoid tourists and media by walking between each other’s houses in the yard. Sometimes the wives have better ideas than NASA.