It isn’t often that I want to start a review with just a colorful and inventive string of expletives. Especially an episode of a show like A League of Their Own that I loved. But here we are. As it turns out, the only thing worse than the misery of everything going wrong is the agony of everything going right. And knowing it’s not going to last. Oh, yeah. And seeing people get beaten merely for who they love.
So let me get this out of the way, right now: Fuck anyone who thinks we should go back to that. (Or keep doing it, since heaven knows it still happens plenty today.)
Don’t Change Your Socks
When the episode starts, the Peaches are at risk of breaking up. The men in charge want to trade the best-performing players to teams they think have a better chance of going to the championships. From a business decision, that makes sense. But the Peaches aren’t just a team anymore. They’re family. And Shaw is determined to keep that family together.
Which is, I suppose, when I should retract what I’ve said before. Shaw really is a good coach. Not that I thought she wouldn’t be, but I was really rooting for Lupe to take charge. Particularly since I was expecting at some point that she really would blow out her arm, and I want to keep her around.
Maybe that will happen one day. But for now, Shaw is in charge, and it suits her better than she expected. She’s thoughtful. She pays attention. More than that, she cares. That last one is the most important of all. She gives heart to the other players. She believes in them and gives them all a moment to shine.
And because she cares, even Lupe – the player with whom she has had the most friction – comes around in the end. The Peaches believe in Shaw as much as she believes in them. When they win the game and run to hug each other on the field, it really does feel like they’re a family. It would be a crime for anyone to break them up.
So of course…well…we’ll get to that.
Don’t Change Yourself
While things take off on the field, things are smoothing out personally for Shaw and Max. Shaw is perhaps the first person to really see Max. Much as Clance loves her, she unintentionally wounded her when she called Uncle Bertie (Lea Robinson) a freak. Because Max is still figuring herself out, but she’s more like Uncle Bertie than even she’s comfortable admitting at first.
But Shaw sees her and accepts her for who she is. Not demanding she pretend to be someone else. It’s something Max desperately needs, and I really want to see this friendship continue to grow. Which doesn’t mean I’ve given up on seeing Max join the Peaches. However, I accept that baseball actually isn’t the most important story for Max right now. Her journey to find out who she is and to accept that person was beautifully – if at first painfully – developed this episode.
I don’t know that she’s there yet, but she’s taken the first steps. She’s not quite her mother, Toni (Saidah Arrika Ekulona). She’s not quite Uncle Bertie. Maybe she thinks she’s somewhere in the middle, and maybe she’ll find herself on a path she can’t even see right now. But she’s Max, and, as Greta would say, nobody can say that’s not real.
Don’t Change Teams
While Max took several strides on her journey, Shaw’s world was rocked when she followed Lupe to a gay bar. She did so thinking Lupe was trying to get traded to a team thought more likely to make the playoffs. But, once there, she had a revelation. It wasn’t just her and Greta. She’s not alone. Not even among the Peaches. She might not have grown up on a farm, but…is she really sure about that? Her naïveté is showing.
Anyway, it’s the first place she’s found where she can truly and completely be herself. No hiding or pretending. Of course, she wants to share that with others, so she makes a bet with Greta. If they win the game, Greta breaks her own rules and accompanies her to the bar. Once they win, Greta then convinces her friend Jo (Melanie Field) to accompany them, against her strong protests.
They all go to the bar, and things are going so well. They even find love – or at least it seems they might. At the same time, Max finds potential love of her own. It’s at this point that anyone who’s familiar with how tv stories work probably started getting a sick feeling in their stomach. Because things are going too well, and there are still two episodes left to the season. Something bad was going to happen to someone. It was just a question of who.
It’s the Peaches, as it turns out. The cops raid the place, breaking up the tableau of peace and happiness with violence and chaos. While Vi (Rosie O’Donnell in a brief but memorable role) tries to hold them off at the door, the patrons flee into the night. Greta and Shaw go one way; Jo goes another. The latter’s fate is unknown at the end of the episode, but the former are clearly traumatized by the experience and filled with regret. And I don’t have a good feeling about the latter.
Meanwhile, the camera flashes to Vi (and others) being beaten by the police. All because the world can’t accept who she loves.
It is definitely the best-done juxtaposition on the series to date. It’s raw and wrenching, the jarring transition from joy and total acceptance to violence and hatred leaves you sick to your stomach.
Ultimately, “Stealing Home” is the best episode of the series to date. It will likely stand as the most memorable episode of the season. Not just because we finally get to see the characters come into their own and embrace who they really are. But also because it – tragically and infuriatingly – shows the world the way it really was (and all too often is) too.
A League of Their Own is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.