‘Feud: Bette and Joan’ promotional image via FX.
The two mothers face heartbreaking difficulties in dealing with their daughters on the newest episode of Feud: Bette and Joan.
This week’s episode, though filled with as much campy delight as any other, was also surprisingly poignant, and gave us more insight into these women as actual human people than any episode has so far. We begin with Bette’s daughter, B.D., on set smoking. Twin teenaged girls dressed like adult dolls (complete wacky pastel bows) stand watching her, sort of in awe of her confidence. B.D., being her mother’s daughter, relishes in this attention, and starts teaching the girls how to smoke. Joan approaches like a silent, beautiful lizard and catches her in the act; she tells B.D. to stay away from her daughters, and that she’ll make sure her mother finds out about what she’d been doing. Parent JUST don’t understand!!!!
Joan takes the twins (and Mamacita, of course) to dinner, where the girls promptly ask their mother if they can take off their bows. Mamacita gives Joan a card to sign for her other daughter, Christina (THE “MOMMIE DEAREST” ONE!!!), who happens to be opening a play the next day. Joan tells Mamacita that her mother had never sent her flowers, and so she refuses to sign the card or send them to her daughter….until she sees how the play’s reviews are. After her v. telling and horrifying rant, she finally lets her twins go to the bathroom to take their bows off, but tells them not to come back looking disheveled. It’s at this point Joan does sign the card: “I’m so proud of you. Love, Mommie Dearest.” DUN DUN DUNNNNN.
Back on set, Bob Aldrich tries to find a new actress to play the neighbor girl, as the first one, you’ll remember, was fired for essentially being “too pretty” aka too threatening to the women. Bette appears glamorously and tells Bob that what had happened between them can’t happen again, and he promptly agrees. Bob’s daughter, who is helping with the script, returns some pages to him, and Bette tells her she’s doing a great job. She makes a joke to Bob about her own daughter taking the neighbor girl part, and Bob really takes to the idea. Big whoopsie on Bette’s part, tbh. Bette reminds Bob that Joan actually has a daughter who’s an actress, so the whole situation might make her mad.
FEUD: Bette and Joan — “Mommie Dearest” — Installment 1, Episode 3 (Airs Sunday, March 19, 10:00 p.m. e/p) –Pictured: (l-r) Jackie Hoffman as Mamacita, Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX
Minutes later, Joan seeks Bette out in her dressing room to her about B.D.’s smoking incident. Bette says that she has already told her daughter to stay away from the twins and that smoking is bad. She says all of this while chain smoking. Bette asks Joan how she keeps her kids so disciplined, and Joan recites her philosophy that children need to be kept occupied with tasks. Bette responds by inviting Joan out for drinks.
As they participate in the least casual happy hour in history, Bette thanks Joan for the advice about mothering, and tells her that she’s going to put her daughter to work- on the picture. Joan says she knows Bette is critical of her mothering, but admits that if she seems too harsh, it’s because she had a hard upbringing herself. She divulges that mother had sent her away to a convent, and starts recounting the terrible, illicit relationship she had with her mother’s husband at the age of 11. Joan tells Bette that she’d been okay with it because she’d just wanted any kind of genuine affection. Bette tells her that she should’ve been protected by her mother, but Joan defends her harrowing past, saying that the nuns she was sent to actually taught her some life lessons that made being there worth it.
Bette, then, begins recounting her own upbringing. She, took was sent away, but to a boarding school instead, and she admits that she was also was raised with tough love. Bette talks about her mother’s death, which was just a year previous, and tells Joan that her mother was her only true female friend. Joan responds, unsettlingly: “You’re lucky.” Bette takes that opportunity to remind Joan that the two of them don’t have to be friends, just allies. Joan responds by telling Bette that she’s going to get a nomination for Best Actress. Bette tells her that awards don’t matter, and that she’ll support the picture even if it means supporting Joan in the fight for Best Actress. So I guess this show is over, feud resolved!!!!! Lol jk literally not even halfway over.
Back at home, Joan calls Hedda while lifting tiny, tiny weights and wearing a black leotard, and asks her not to run a mean story she’d planted because she’s finally starting to understand Bette in the context of her as a single mother working in Hollywood. Hedda, unsurprisingly, is not pleased with her, and accuses Joan of going soft.
On set, Bette, who had, on first impression, had some issues with the man playing Edwin (Victor Buono), is now starting to take a liking to him because of his talent. Bette and B.D., who has been officially cast in the film, do line readings, and Bette seems thoroughly unimpressed with her abilities, but does a bang-up job trying not to let her daughter know. B.D., nevertheless, can tell Bette doesn’t think she’s talented, and Bette assures her that she’ll get better.
Soon after, Hedda runs a story claiming that Joan is going to be in the running for Best Actress, while Bette will compete for Best Supporting Actress. Bette finds out (duh) and confronts Joan on set (duh). Bette loudly tells Joan that she’s not going to share with her, and claims that she will be the first person to win three Oscars. Joan reminds her that they’re both leads. Bob reminds them both that there’s room for the two of them to succeed, and also that the film isn’t even finished so they shouldn’t be fighting about awards already. The women shout at each other and slam their trailer doors, and Pauline, Bob’s perfect and sassy assistant, asserts to him that maybe he did get to do another war picture, after all. **wink emoji**
On set after the weekend, Joan arrives again with her daughters to find a new cooler filled with Coca-Cola right next to her trusty ol’ Pepsi machine. As they film a scene where Joan is in bed passed out and Bette has to drag her out of the bed and across the room, Joan continually sabotages each take, forcing Bette to do the taxing scene over and over. They keep messing up each other’s scenes, watching each other from off camera as the other acts, and loudly making notes and quipping about the other’s choices. In the scene where Bette famously repeatedly kicks Joan’s character, she accidentally-on-purpose kicks her for real in her head, soon claiming that she’d “barely touched her.” After the final take of the scene where Bette had to drag Joan, we see Joan in her dressing room, taking a weighted belt off from around her waist. Yikes.
Later, Bette and Bob watch B.D.’s dailies, and both agree that she’s a terrible actress. Bette asks Bob what she should say to her daughter about the performance, and Bob tells her that since it’s her kid, she can’t tell her he’s terrible to her face.
Back at Bette’s place, Bette and Victor talk about her role in the gay community, and her legacy with gay men. They begin talking about parenting and children, and Victor says that his mother has always been supportive of him. Bette then begins talking about Margot, her daughter that she’d adopted who has a mental disabled. She tells Victor that she’s currently away at a school in Maine, and she admits that that’s why she’s doing this picture- to pay for her care. B.D. enters the room and asks to run lines because she wants to be good for her scene the next day, but Bette can’t bring herself to help, knowing how the girl will perform. She assures her that she’ll do her best, and tells her she should go to sleep.