'We pay boatloads of money to baseball players to essentially play a kid's game. And in exchange, we get the power.'
Is it me, or is Mike Lawson becoming more of a Zach Morris every day?
On tonight’s episode of Pitch, the ghost of Mark-Paul Gosselaar present reminded me a whole lot of the ghost of Mark-Paul Gosselaar past. He’s endearing, popular, and slick, yet he keeps doofing it with the girl he likes — Amelia — who’s far more advanced at playing hard to get than Kelly Kapowski ever was. She certainly wins the zinger contest in this episode: When Lawson sends a sports car to her office to make up for her vehicle getting vandalized in his driveway (an episode he jokingly calls “groupie on groupie violence,” much to Amelia’s non-amusement), she lays into him: “Don’t apologize for calling me a groupie by treating me like one.” Wait, she’s not done. When Lawson assures her the car is just a rental from his dealership, not a gift, she fires back: “Unlike most of the women that you sleep with, I’m solvent, and old enough to rent my own car.”
That, right there, is a once-in-a-lifetime comeback. It’s basically the Cubs of comebacks.
Oh, and speaking of real-life references: Sports fans, I just can’t with the Katie Nolan explainers anymore. It’s not her fault. FOX signs her paychecks, and I don’t expect her to turn down good side-gig money. But really, do we need to see her setting up what’s going on in MLB-land every single episode? Especially when we’re going to have Oscar, Ginny, Eliot, Blip, Lawson, a new friend named Butch, Tommy, and Josh Peck (as a bumbling assistant) re-explaining, in their own special ways, what the trade deadline is all about? Give her and the rest of the cameo-making sportscasters the week off. I shouldn’t be seeing more of Garbage Time while watching Pitch than I should the show’s actual coach.
So like I said (and Katie said, and everybody else said): Episode five of Pitch is all about the trade deadline. It’s the Moneyball episode. And actually, I think it nailed the tense agony of trade culture even better than that movie did. One of the cardinal rules of 21st-century TV is you want to avoid, whenever possible, showing a bunch of people on their phones — i.e. the way everyone always looks in real life. But sometimes you have to show a bunch of people on their phones, because that’s where the news of their fate is rooted. Pitch does a good job of making men sitting in chairs with their heads down feel like something happening.
The trade deadline puts everybody on edge. Oscar is racing around like a hamster, trying to shave the budget and cement a championship roster. Lawson and Amelia struggle with the realization that they’ve gone and gotten themselves into a relationship. Ginny has nothing to worry about when it comes to her own job security — the Padres would never put their publicity princess up for sale — but she’s afraid Blip and his family will be shipped off, leaving her lonely. As for Blip… What a surprise, Blip is nervous and snappy. The series is starting to sag under the weight of its constant Blip-woes. I would say “I bet this guy could mope even at Disney World,” but we’ve already seen him mope at Disney World.
And don’t forget Eliot. Eliot…is walking somewhere with his guitar. Ask for character development, and ye shall receive. It’s a start. Where’s he going? An open mic night? A jam sesh with his best bros from USC? We’ll get to the bottom of this someday.
When the deadline finally passes, Blip is safe — but Tommy is gone for good. Sad-face Mets hair emoji! That came out of nowhere. But someone relatively central had to go, I suppose; a Pitch episode about trades where no one gets traded would be like a Game of Thrones wedding where everyone chats politely, then goes home alive.
NEXT: The problem with Ginny is…there are no problems with Ginny
If I have one complaint about Pitch right now, it’s that Ginny’s drama always feels a little safe, a little low-stakes — and this episode is the perfect example. From minute one, we know she’s not in danger; the rest of the episode could basically be re-cut as an Entourage-style dramedy, all about the dudes furrowing their brows and trying to solve work problems while growing as people. (Oscar is Ari, Lawson is Drama, Blip is Turtle, and whatever they’re calling Kevin Connolly on Pitch is E. There is no Vince. Or wait, maybe that Butch fella is Vince? He kept getting jerked around about his job. It’s like Medellin all over again.)
The point is: Pitch needs to move past its Ginny-as-untouchable-sensation phase. You know how it felt strangely satisfying, watching Oscar dress her down for making demands about Blip? That’s a sign the show needs to take her down a peg. Even as the lone woman in professional baseball, you can’t be an underdog if nothing ever really goes wrong for you.
Of course, that’s a problem pertaining only to the ghost of Ginny present — the ghost of Ginny past has certainly seen her fair share of pain. This week’s flashback had me yawning from the start: Ginny’s being oversensitive about Blip’s potential trade because her bestie left town when they were young, blah blah blah. The kid’s dad was a drunk, yada yada. Kinda lame, I thought. Will I never learn? Will I never understand that the second I let my guard down and decide the show’s being boring, that’s exactly when I’m gonna get Fogelman-ed? Bam: It turns out the bestie’s dad was the drunken driver who killed Ginny’s dad.
The final moments of the show hint that I may not be complaining for long about a lack of real Ginny issues. The first thing she does after learning Amelia and Lawson are dating is ignore a call from him, looking shaken. It looks like Pitch may be gearing up to go after Ginny’s real vulnerability — not her lack of velocity, but her fear of clubhouse love.
Episode Grade: B