It’s been eight months since President John F. Kennedy’s death, and John Glenn’s campaign for senate is in full swing, with Rene Carpenter along for the ride. Back in Houston, the ladies continue getting to know the new astronaut wives, and figure out how to deal with an over-obsessed Gus Grissom fan. And in Florida, another one of the original seven hears “You’re grounded” from NASA. Here’s how the Mercury wives and their husbands are dealing with the ever-changing dynamic of the Astro-life.
Annie & John Glenn
“In the Blind” opens at a rally for Ohio Senate candidate John Glenn, and the crowd seems to love him. Rene, speaking in Annie’s place, promises John will be the “American hero who will lead us into the new era.” But his candidacy comes to an abrupt end when he sustains a semi-serious concussion after falling while fixing a cabinet. “You’re not an astronaut, and you’re not a senator,” a concerned Annie asks her husband, “What are we doing to do?” Annie’s helplessness stems from her belief that “the men lead, we follow,” as she tells the other wives.
John assures Annie there’s an extensive market for washed up heroes, and in the spring, he starts a new job at RC Cola.
Rene & Scott Carpenter
Scott finds a new passion, too: ocean exploration. So he leaves NASA for Bermuda to head up their oceanography program. While the other wives think island life seems like paradise, Rene isn’t so sure. Rene thought she found her niche in the political world and proposes staying in Houston to pursue a career, but by the time Gus’ launch comes around, she’s settled into Bermuda with a home office (complete with a typewriter!) all her own.
Louise & Alan Shepard
Alan is also done with NASA, though not voluntarily. After Alan collapses at the Shepards’ house, a doctor tells Alan he might have an inner ear disorder that would prevent him from flying. Not wanting to hear that, Alan has Louise keep his sickness a secret, until he breaks down again—this time in front of all the astronauts, their wives, and NASA at a banquet.
With Alan’s medical issues no longer under wraps, NASA grounds him. After an attempt to drink away the fact that he can no longer fly, Alan stops at a bar. But when he starts to feel his symptoms flare up, Alan heads out, only to be recognized by a couple of everyday dudes who recognize the first American in space and want to share a beer. Physically unable, Alan tells them he’ll pass, but the men interpret his noncompliance as pretentiousness, and a back alley fight ensues.
Louise comes to Alan’s rescue and calls Marge for help. Lady Louise apologizes for acting cold as Alan’s illness has unfolded, but also the wife of a grounded astronaut, Marge understands.
Betty & Gus Grissom
When Alan’s flight is scraped due to his grounding, Gus takes his spot. While chatting about the Gusmobile over cards with Jo, Trudy, and Marge, the ladies take a break to watch hot new astronaut Ed White (Matt Latner) arrive home from his run and comb through the mail. A perky Betty’s disposition quickly changes when she realizes her fan mail isn’t from adoring space lovers, but a woman threatening to take better care of Gus than she does.
Gus tells Betty she has nothing to worry about, but when the stalker shows up to NASA headquarters claiming to be Betty, Deke assigns a secret service agent to protect the Grissoms. However, no one tells Betty about the agent, so she believes she has a stalker of her own. Gus clarifies that the men in black are around because he’s drawn the attention of “the craziest Cookie in the jar,” as Deke called her.
Also at NASA headquarters, Gus tries to do a nice thing for black astronaut Edward Dwight (Ray Fisher) by introducing him to a young adoring fan to keep him motivated. But the kid tells Captain Dwight that NASA will never put a black man in space, and Gus’ good deed is shot to hell.
A few months later, Gus is headed up to space in a Gemini mission with John Young, and Ed White is up next. Betty confronts his wife Pat (Alexa Havins), who is basically the lamest of all blankets and tries too hard to show little emotion. “You can be scared, you know,” Betty tells Pat. “You’re allowed. We all are.”
Jo & Wally Schirra
Jo has also been spending time with Pat, and doesn’t understand her fake composure, either. When Pat refuses a cocktail at a daytime card game with the wives because she doesn’t day drink, Jo points out, “Half your life is in the day!” The Astrowives are becoming more like The Real Housewives of Houston each week.