Episode 4 entices a social life for Beth and a heartthrob for her mother in a chapter that sees challenges, missed opportunities and tragedy.
This recap of the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit Season 1 Episode 4, “Middle Game,” contains significant spoilers.
We recapped every episode — check out the archive.
Episode 4 begins with Beth in a Russian language lesson — she’s serious about dominating the world. A man asks her if she’d like to hang out — he recognizes her as the co-champion of the US Open. While at a party, she rings her mother and tells her she is partying with college students and asks her to go to bed. The fourth episode sees Beth coming out of her shell more and slightly struggling with her social life while attempting to dominate the world of chess.
Beth likes to party
Beth ends up hooking up with the student from class — he dry humps her, and it’s clearly not the experience she anticipated in her head. The next morning, the students leave her a spliff — she cleans and tidies up for them while drinking and smoking. Beth lets her mother know she will not back for another night and that she’s been with a boy.
Mrs. Wheatley has a lifelong pen pal
Beth graduates and her mother is proud. She gets her a gift that is an expensive watch. Beth tells her one of the tournaments is in Paris. Mrs. Wheatley tells Beth about a pen pal she’s always had named Manuel and they are meeting him in Mexico airport before the tournament.
The mother wants Beth to relax
The Queen’s Gambit constantly shows Beth as being unable to relax and relying on replaying chess plays in her head. “Middle Game” sees her mother markedly making a point about her moves.
Mrs. Wheatley is smitten with Manuel. She tells Beth that chess is not all there is and she can also live and grow and that she should relax a day before the tournament. Beth explains that she is against a grandmaster and needs to study. Her mother tells her she performs well with intuition, and she suggests that she should relax. Beth agrees to go out and free her mind.
What about the Russians
While Mrs. Wheatley enjoys Manuel, Beth storms through the chess tournament. She also enjoys the hotel and hanging out with her friends. At the tournament is the Russian Borgov — you can sense Beth fears this one. The next day, Mrs. Wheatley is a little downtrodden that Manuel had to leave for business, so Beth comforts her.
Her first Russian
Everything about the Russians in the story comes with anticipation — you can sense the fear emanating through the screen.
Beth plays against a Russian boy named Georgi in the tournament which lasts a long time. After five hours, the Russian boy asks her to seal her move. Afterward, Georgi asks Beth about American movies. The next day, Beth has to continue playing Georgi — she strangely walks away while waiting for his move and then comes back and makes her move, then walks away again. This irks Georgi the more she does it. Georgi finally resigns — it was clearly a lesson Beth’s original teacher taught her — respect the game and resign if it is over. Beth admits to him that she’s never been to a drive-in cinema before. Georgi says he wants to be champion at 16. Beth suggests that if he wins a championship at 16, he will have nothing to do with the rest of his life. He’s confused, and Beth tells him he’s the best she’s played. As she walks off, Georgi says, “Until you play Borgov”.
Afterward, she finds her mother playing the piano for an audience. They agree to go to eat somewhere. When Beth looks at the tournament board, she realizes she’s against Borgov — the nerves kick in. In the elevator, the Russians talk to Borgov about destroying her — Borgov highlights that she’s an orphan and losing isn’t an option for her so she will fight as she has nothing else to live for.
Bergov versus Beth
Like in the previous chapter, Beth’s weakness seems to be herself — she plays the player rather than the game, and it is her undoing.
The game kicks off, and it is tense. Meanwhile, Mrs. Wheatley is in her hotel room. Beth notices that her mother isn’t in the audience and gets irritated. She has to resign. Afterward, she admits she couldn’t help but feel that she’d already lost; she was surprised by how unimaginative his moves were — as she tells her mother this, she realizes she isn’t moving. Mrs. Wheatley is dead.
Afterward, Beth is shocked, and she asks the doctor if she can have any tranquilizers. The hotel manager tells Beth that her bill will be paid for her. From her hotel room, Beth rings Mr. Wheatley and tells him that she’s dead and she’s not sure where to bury her. Mr. Wheatley tells her that he doesn’t want to be involved and gives her some quick advice regarding the house. On the plane, Beth orders a drink and toasts to her mother on the empty seat next to her. You can sense she is going to be self-destructive from here.
The Queen’s Gambit episode 4 entices a social life for Beth and a heartthrob for her mother in a chapter that sees challenges, missed opportunities and tragedy.