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'Funny Woman' Recap: Episode 5

Daniel Hautzinger
Brian sits at a desk looking at a newspaper while Patsy stands next to him
Brian tells Barbara to stay at home out of sight while she is suspended from her show. Credit: Potboiler Productions and Sky UK Limited

Funny Woman airs Sundays at 9:00 pm on WTTW and streaming. Recap the previous and following episodes.
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Barbara’s hot mic incident has gotten her suspended from her sitcom and earned her a lecture from the executive Ted Sargent. The television station’s press team will explain her absence as the result of a sudden illness. Her agent, Brian, gets her a fake doctor’s note and tells her to stay out of sight. The press, who are camped outside her father’s house in Blackpool, can’t know the truth. George is sympathetic towards Barbara, while her aunt Marie is accusatory.

Clive, of course, will face no consequences. The rest of the sitcom’s team is furious at him for ruining their hit show by getting Barbara suspended. Lashing out, he brings up Bill’s homosexuality as well as Tony’s confusion about his sexuality and difficulties in bed with his wife – something Tony told Bill in confidence, which Bill then drunkenly shared with Clive.

And then Clive turns on Dennis, revealing something everything at the station supposedly knows but Dennis: his wife Edith is sleeping with her producer. Dennis tries to punch Clive; the writers try to intervene to protect their star’s face; everyone is drawn into a brawl. Bill pulls a knife, then puts it down when everyone freezes – and his ducking leads Clive to sock Dennis in the face.

This is the state Barbara finds her team in when she visits the television studios, despite having her access revoked. She has been convinced by Marge and Diane that her dismissal was unfair and that she should demand her job back from Ted. Diane gave her a wig and her own pass to get her into the station, but the guards eventually realized her story didn’t add up and gave chase.

Dennis noticed Barbara in the building and stopped her from barging in on Ted. He promises that he will talk to Ted on her behalf. As the guards catch up, Clive redeems himself somewhat by misleading them and letting Barbara escape.

Diane has her own work issues: she reads through viewer comments on the news show on which she appears, and finds one complaining that she’s Black. She also feels like she is not taken seriously, being forced to report on fashion rather than the topics she wants to cover.

Barbara’s disappearance from public life affects Marge’s workplace at the department store. Some of the nastier clerks ask Marge for gossip about Barbara and disparage their former coworker. Marge defends Barbara and dumps a bowl of pudding on one of their heads.

Marge is gaining confidence through her women’s workshop, which invites the homebound Barbara to join in when Marge hosts a meeting. One woman announces that she has left her husband – and her children. Her account makes Barbara think of her own mother, who walked out on her and her father, leaving her Aunt Marie to become a surrogate mother.

Barbara’s mother has noticed her daughter’s fame and written to her agent. Brian tells his wife and assistant Patsy to throw out the letter – Barbara doesn’t need the distraction. But Patsy secretly keeps it.

The team sets about making a show without Barbara. Clive manages to painfully squeeze out an apology, which the others accept. They’ve been given a plot by Ted: Barbara is away, and Jim is hosting a political counterpart from India. Dennis has found a Sikh actor to play the new role. But when he praises him to Ted, the executive says he wanted the popular white comedian Spike Milligan to play the character – he was born in India, and does a hilarious impression. If you want me to consider bringing Barbara back, you’ll hire Spike, he tells Dennis.

Dennis suffers further humiliation when he attends a cocktail party thrown by Edith’s producer and lover at her behest. Did you want me to see you with him, he asks his wife when they return home. She tells him she hasn’t felt passion from Dennis in years, and asks if he’s still in love with her. He pauses too long, so she says that she and the producer are in love – and there’s plenty of passion. Later, she tells Dennis he’s a coward for not admitting his real feelings.

Barbara’s not afraid to take risks. When Bill and Tony want to sneak her out, she accompanies them to an underground gay club that Bill knows, where they dance and take drugs. Barbara finally sees Bill with another man – and Tony, too. Tony later explains that his wife encouraged him to try things out, since they have their difficulties – and he has now realized that he is bisexual.

After that taste of freedom, Barbara travels in disguise back to Blackpool and her father’s house. George welcomes her while Marie lectures her. You’re just like your mother, her aunt tells her. You don’t know the sacrifices I made, giving up a chance at my own family, to raise you. And it seemed worth it, until Barbara blew everything up by being suspended from her show.

Back in London, Brian meets with Clive. The reporter who showed photos of Clive with the show’s costumer to Barbara is threatening to publish them unless they get a great story: Barbara and Jim getting engaged. Such an event would probably also lead Ted Sargent to allow Barbara back on the show. Clive says he wants an engagement to be genuine; he’ll win Barbara back on his own terms. He has already told the costumer that he misses Barbara, and learned from everyday people that they want him to treat Barbara well and help her recover from her “illness.”

Dennis also decides to make a bold move after acquiescing to Ted and letting Spike Milligan play an Indian character on the show. After it tapes, Ted tells Dennis to hire Spike full-time for the show, and not to bring Barbara back. He even accuses Dennis of being unprofessional and allowing his feelings for Barbara to cloud his judgment.

Dennis insults Ted and walks out, saying his resignation letter is already written.

In a cab to the train station, he removes his wedding ring. He buys a bouquet of flowers and arrives in Blackpool – only to run into Clive at the train station there. Clive sets off to George’s house, where Barbara opens the door to find Clive kneeling with an engagement ring and photographers snapping photos and awaiting her answer.

Dennis gives the flowers away and gets on a train back to London.