Coping with a loss is never easy, but challenging a national department and seeing your loved one’s death splashed across the front page of worldwide newspapers in the process tends to worsen the situation. Gus’s funeral reunites the Mercury Seven, each of whom are experiencing rough times of their own. With Gus possibly being blamed for his own death, Betty attempts to uncover the real cause of the accident, while fellow widowed astronaut wife Pat White struggles to change out of her pajamas most days.
Here’s how the original space families attempt to move past all the tragedy:
Rene & Scott Carpenter
The best looking Mercury Seven couple returns this week, but it seems that the last time we saw Rene and Scott also marks their most recent encounter. Scott, who’s been exploring the sea, suggests visiting Rene and the kids in Houston, and offers to crash with the Glenns since their marriage has taken a nosedive since Scott left NASA. Rene assures Scott he can stay with her—they are still married, after all—but he’ll been sleeping in the den.
During his stay on the sofa, Scott catches up on Rene’s newspaper columns and says he finally understands why she stayed behind. “I wondered if maybe this whole writing thing was just an excuse,” he starts, before admitting to Rene that her writing is “so you.” Of course it is, Scott! How many 1960s housewives took up careers as an excuse to ditch their husbands? Especially since, as Rene puts it, “If careers were easy, we probably wouldn’t be the only ones trying to have them.”
Following Gus’s tragic passing, Betty’s full-time job becomes making sure NASA gets to the bottom of the accident that caused his death. At the end of Gus’s televised funeral—at which President Lyndon B. Johnson (Sean McGraw) tells Betty, “Your husband was a good man”—an alleged coworker of Gus’s (Blake Lee) slips Betty a phone number to call to learn more information about her husband.
Before meeting up with the mystery man, Betty and Deke comb through Gus’ finances and discover a $75 purchase at a jewelry store. Deke assures her it was an anniversary gift, but for a second, Betty seems to think Gus might’ve had a Cape Cookie of his own. Upon retrieving Gus’s gift, she finds it’s a gold pin, which Jo tells her the men receive after going to space. Still filled with questions, Betty meets up with Gus’ “coworker,” who identifies himself only as an engineer with North American, the company responsible for building the capsule in which Gus died. He reveals that he wrote up a memo detailing the issues with the capsule, of which there were many. Betty rushes to tell Deke and Alan of her findings, but without any concrete details, they assure her the truth will come out in the Congressional hearings.
At the hearing in D.C., Betty barges in on a listening of the tapes from Gus’ test launch — his final words. Then a North American exec reveals he knew about the problems with the capsule, but suggests Gus actually caused the accident when he kicked a wire attached to the gas. As a result, NASA reveals it will continue with Apollo as planned. Disappointed that no one actually listened at the hearing, Betty urges Deke and Alan to defend Gus. So at a party honoring the sixth anniversary of Alan’s space launch (“Who’s ever heard of a sixth anniversary party?” Rene exclaims.), Alan turns the podium to Deke, who uses his Chief Astronaut powers to declare that Gus was not in fact responsible for the accident. In fact, he says everyone—NASA, North American, and “anyone so set upon beating the Russians that they lose sight of who and what we can lose at home”—except for Gus, Roger Chaffe, and Ed White are to blame. Even stalwart Duncan got teary-eyed at that one.
Satisfied, Betty finally stops having illusions of Gus and is headed to Paris with fellow space widow Marilyn See, who advised that making new memories without her husband helped her move on.
NEXT: NASA changes its mind