“Goodies” sees the Mercury 7 find fame and eventually fortune, but not all of them are equally equipped to deal with either.
This recap of The Right Stuff season 1, episode 2, “Goodies”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
We open The Right Stuff episode 2 with a press conference that’s pretty revealing about how our main characters differ. Case in point: Happily married John fields the questions with humor and enthusiasm. Alan, on the other hand, is sweating buckets when asked about his wife and just about manages to stammer out that he doesn’t have any problems at home, which isn’t even what was asked. When Trudy opens the front door to see reporters assembled on her lawn, you can’t imagine this fragile dynamic is going to hold.
It’s the kid who gives it away. When Michael Turley, a Washington Star reporter, asks Alan’s daughter what her favorite thing about her dad being an astronaut is, she replies, “That we’re all back together.” Oops.
This level of public attention is annoying Bob, who apparently has a people problem. The people like these guys, and the people read papers — the people also vote. Like everything, it’s a money matter. It makes the world go around, after all. Project Mercury is already a month behind schedule, and various setbacks threaten to set them back two or three more. Even housing the astronauts is proving difficult.
The man in charge of PR is John “Shorty” Powers, and he explains that if the astronauts don’t win the hearts and minds of the American people, Congress is going to cut their funding. Cue montage! John in particular stands out during the publicity tour, very much becoming the face of the project in the eyes of the public. Alan, though, is always lurking in the background, looking shifty and bitter. The Mercury 7 attend events all over the country. In Akron, Ohio, John is cornered by Leo DeOrsey, a lawyer and an agent with plenty of opportunities to provide. Like it or not, these men are celebrities now. And the future is coming on quick.
The press attention isn’t doing Gordo any favors, for obvious reasons. Mike Turley won’t stop hanging around on his lawn and following his daughter around, asking her questions about Mom and Dad. When Gordo confronts him, he makes some rather unsubtle hints, and Gordo socks him in the mouth. But he’s worried about how Trudy is going to handle all this when he leaves since she doesn’t have the same vested interest in keeping their split a secret.
To keep up appearances, Gordo and Trudy go to John’s house for dinner, where Gordo tells the story of how he met Trudy, apparently also a pilot. It’s a strong retelling and even gets Trudy teary-eyed. Eventually, the men go outside, leaving the women to bond. They discuss the press attention: “Nobody minds a quiet woman,” says Annie, when asked how she handles it. She has plenty to say, though, and sometimes wouldn’t mind a quiet man. Meanwhile, the men discuss the same thing, especially Gordo punching Mike, whom Shorty has apparently had to pay off. Gordo makes a fair point — the longer this goes on, he and the other guys like him, none of whom “went to finishing school”, are going to start doing more harm than good by being in the public eye. John calls Shorty and tells him that Leo DeOrsey might be the solution to all their problems.
What DeOrsey proposes is an exclusive arrangement with Life magazine: “You let Life in, you keep everybody else out.” The deal gets them money and fame, and a degree of protection. It’s dough they can spend and publicity they can control. Trudy is initially skeptical, but Gordo insists that, on top of the money, they get to write the story. Maybe they can even get her back in a plane. That night they kiss, but it doesn’t go any further. One step at a time, I guess.
The Mercury 7 arrive at Hanger S at the Center for Human Space Exploration — a hanger without any planes. Alan is immediately interested in Second Lieutenant “Dee” O’Hara, the program’s nurse, who is nowhere near as susceptible to his charms as other women tend to be. Nobody is impressed by the sleeping arrangements, but Alan is able to arrange some swankier digs on NASA’s dime. Loudon Wainright from the magazine goes to see him there. They discuss their mutual wants — Alan wants to go fast and to be left alone. He suggests Loudon makes him sound heroic and good, like John Glenn, though perhaps not so boring.
Gordo’s daughter, Cam, isn’t responding well to all this meanwhile, and while she’s out cycling she closes her eyes and ends up running into a car. When Trudy presses her about what she was doing, Cam denies it. There’s clearly a burgeoning subplot here, and it’ll be interesting to see where it’s going.
At least Alan’s enjoying himself. He starts balling out, buying Corvette’s and riding around with random women, which you’d think would be a no-no. But with Life magazine’s money and heroic storytelling, he’s free to live more or less how he wants — at least for now, anyway. The final shot of “Goodies” is Alan accelerating the car as a launch countdown plays in the background. Now, there’s a sign of things to come.
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