The Space Race takes a solemn turn.
Credit: Cook Allender/ABC

With two of the Mercury Seven astronauts grounded and two others out of the space business, the Gemini and Apollo wives start to steal the spotlight. “Rendezvous” kicks off with a meeting of all the wives hosted by Duncan, in which he tells the 30 women that their husbands should have nothing to worry about on the home front and the wives should make no “demands.” “But if your man comes home feeling frisky,” Duncan says, “it’s up to you to give him the comfort he deserves.”

With that sound advice, the Astrowives tackle a handful of Gemini flights, and learn about the darker side of the Space Race:

Louise & Alan Shepard

Following his diagnosis with Ménière’s disease, Alan has been earth-bound, assisting Deke at NASA headquarters. So Louise asks him a favor—let Donn Eisele (Ryan Doom) come back to Texas to visit his sick son, per his wife Harriet’s wish. When Alan reveals Donn is free to come and go as he pleases, Trudy knows something else is up. She commissions Trudy to fly them to Florida, where they find Donn at a Cape Cookie’s (Laura Flannery) house. Donn admits he won’t come home because he can’t deal with his son’s illness. “I can’t stand to watch Matt in pain, being poked and prodded. Listening to him cry is excruciating,” Donn says. “I feel useless.”

So the two surrender and leave useless Donn in Florida.

Meanwhile, Alan reveals he casually bought a bank, because why not?

Trudy & Gordo Cooper

Trudy is full of sass this week. In addition to confronting Donn Eisele with Louise, Trudy stands up to Gordo when he protests to her flying her friends. “I’m not asking for your permission. I’m just letting you know,” she tells him before taking flight with a fellow wife. Trudy also has Gordo handle the chores while she’s down at the Cape with Louise, even though Gordo insists he “doesn’t do laundry.” “Honey, you have orbited the earth,” Trudy responds. “I’m pretty sure you can handle carpooling, meatloaf, and laundry.” Agreed.

Marge & Deke Slayton

Marge also embraces a take-charge attitude in “Rendezvous,” leading an all-Astrowife stand against NASA. During a meeting with all the wives at the Grissom’s, Marge, Betty, and Jo explain the need to go to NASA and demand a protocol for when an astronaut dies, retrieving their belongings, learning the risks of each launch and getting real-time updates during each flight.

NEXT: The wives might need those demands met sooner than they think…

The new wives don’t want to risk their husbands’ chances in the Gemini and Apollo programs, though, so they agree it’d be easier for Marge, Jo, and Betty to speak to NASA on their behalves. But after Deke denies Marilyn See (Nora Zehetner) from gathering her husband Elliott’s possessions following his death during a plane crash, all the wives show up at Duncan’s door to request better treatment. His response? Send those ladies back to the kitchen. “I know it must’ve been hard for you to take time out of your busy schedules to come down here,” Duncan says condescendingly. “So I assure you need to get back home to get started on dinner.” Cool sexist comeback, Duncan.

Marilyn & Jim Lovell

During their plea with Duncan, the wives also asked that NASA celebrate pregnancy, rather than see it as a reason to deter an astronaut. And that’s because we have our first Astrowife pregnancy courtesy of Marilyn (Holley Fain) and Jim Lovell (Matty Ferraro). Though Marilyn tried to hide her growing belly from the other wives, her husband, and NASA, everyone (except the space program, for now) learns of the baby-to-be by the end of the hour.

After being sent with Jane Conrad (Haley Strode) to keep Marilyn See company before NASA delivered the news about her husband’s death, Mrs. Lovell breaks down to Jim under the pressure of being an Astrowife. “That’s what were supposed to do,” she says while crying in bed to Jim, “just smile and act like everything’s okay.”

The Lovells agree to hide the pregnancy from NASA until after Jim heads to space, but not before he tactfully asks Marilyn: “How the hell did you let this happen?” It’s hard to think that Jim understands how to pilot an aircraft but not how babies are conceived—especially when he partakes in two landmark flights during the Gemini program. He and Frank Borman (Jon Abrahams) engage in the first space rendezvous with Wally Schirra and Tim Schafer, and not long after that, Jim and Buzz Aldrin close out Gemini by setting a record for extravehicular activity in space.

Jo & Wally Schirra

Like Marilyn, Jo does her share of comforting this week as well, helping Betty, Marge, and Annie Glenn buy groceries for Marilyn See and Jeannie Bassett after their husbands die tragically in the crash. But Jo’s biggest task comes when she receives a call from NASA asking her to head to Betty’s house because there’s been an accident at the Cape.

Betty & Gus Grissom

When Jo shows up early for cards at the Grissoms’, Betty’s instantly on edge, but Jo reminds her how the wives ensured NASA would inform them immediately in case of emergency. Soon Betty gets a ring at the door from NASA’s Dr. Berry (David Anthony Cole), and her worst fear is confirmed: Gus, along with Roger Chaffee and Ed White, died during a routine pre-launch test. Gus had expressed trouble with the capsule earlier, and postponed his and Betty’s trip to Paris in order to make sure the aircraft was ready for the first Apollo mission. Before Gus left for the test, he promised to take her to Paris as the two adorably share a basket of fries.

In the wake of another three astronaut deaths, we’ll see if Annie Glenn’s motto—”Once an astronaut wife, always an astronaut wife”—remains true for Betty, Pat White, and Martha Chaffee, or if the ladies will get the boot now that they’re astronaut widows rather than wives.

Episode Recaps

The Astronaut Wives Club
2015 tv series
  • TV Show
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