Warning: Spoilers ahead for GLOW season 3.
It’s Hot Girl Summer, and GLOW season 3 seems to be in on the vibe. Why else would the Netflix dramedy supply us with its horniest scene to date: a sigh-heavy threesome between Bash Howard (Chris Lowell), Rhonda Howard (Kate Nash, tackling her first-ever sex scenes this season), Las Vegas gigolo Paul (Nick Clifford), and Paul's teeny patterned briefs?
Although Twitter is bound to be thirsting over the “Libertines” hookup, there’s more to the story than some very hot group sex. It’s a breaking point for Bash’s repressed sexuality. It’s the evolution of Bash and Rhonda’s unique marriage. And, it’s the reason Bash’s portrayer Chris Lowell is able to give his best performance yet in finale “A Very Glow Christmas.” Just ask Lowell.
“They don’t skip anything. You really see the way that this unfolds. Which is so fascinating, because I feel like, especially with threesomes, they’re so overblown in all capacities,” Lowell tells Refinery29 over the phone.
“All you ever think about is the erotic sex itself. But what’s so much more erotic and scary is the conversation that has to happen to lead to it. Like, who kisses first? Who initiates it? To see those questions being answered is what makes that scene so intense.”
In “Libertines,” Bash is technically the one who kicks off the threesome. Earlier in the episode, Rhonda realizes jealousy makes Bash more affectionate. So she hires Paul to pose as a hotel plumber named Joe. When Bash gets home, “Joe” is supposed to hit on Rhonda, inciting Bash’s passions. Yet, everything goes sideways when Bash returns to the Howard penthouse just a little buzzed. Rather than throw Joe/Paul out of the suite, he tells “the plumber” to start kissing Rhonda. From there, the trio ends up in bed together, allowing Bash to explore his often hinted at interest in men. Bash and Paul make out before sliding their hands in each other’s underwear.
Who knows what happens after that?
Even Lowell was surprised by how deep GLOW goes into Bash and Rhonda’s threesome. “I knew that’s where it was headed, but I had expected it to be something like, you start to see the beginning and then the three of them go inside the bedroom and close the door,” the actor says. “And then when I got the script, I was like, Oh. My. God.”
Oh my God is correct. That’s why the close-knit series brought in an intimacy coordinator for the explosive sex scene and one prior in the season. “For those scenes to be effective, it takes a great deal of risk and trust to really lean into those mannerisms or gestures that normally only the most intimate people in your life ever see. And normally they don’t even see it because all of your eyes are closed,” Lowell says with a laugh. “But again there’s no better environment to shoot a scene like that than this one where the sex scenes aren’t gratuitous … They’re related directly to the character development.”
It’s that development over season 3 that even makes the threesome a believable jump for Bash, who seems to have started ignoring his sexuality long before we even met him. This is someone who may not have even understood the level of his feelings for his best friend Florian (Alex Rich), Lowell points out. But, Vegas strips away many of Bash’s hang-ups over the Howards' months-long stay in the city.
“This happens all the time on jobs, when you’re shooting, when you’re away from your home and your reality … that you become a little more uninhibited because in general you’re a little more unmoored,” Lowell says. “You don’t have those reminders of the life you built or are trying to maintain or whatever. You’re kind of out in the wild. I think it allows you to take risks that you otherwise wouldn’t take.”
In Bash’s case, these include risks like a threesome with his wife and a random sexy plumber — a situation Lowell swears Bash wasn’t expecting when he walked into his penthouse.
Then you get to “Libertines” followup “A Very GLOW Christmas” and see the aftermath of that much-needed sexual leap. It’s messy. At the beginning of the episode, Bash learns “Joe” isn’t a plumber at all — he’s Paul, the Fan-Tan Hotel's in-house gigolo. Within seconds, Bash has tossed Rhonda out of the penthouse so he can wallow in guilt and embarrassment. GLOW floorshow leading lady Debbie Egan (Emmy-nominee Betty Gilpin, a “a fuckin’ goddess” of acting, to quote Lowell) finds Bash drunker than drunk in his apartment.
“I don’t want to die,” Bash chokes out, delivering an emotional gut punch.
“It would be a disservice for Bash to have one homoerotic experience and then wake up the next day and be like, ‘I’ve figured it out! I’m gay and I’m so happy with this decision!’” Lowell explains, reminding us the character is living in “a very homophobic” 1985-ish America. It’s a country under the siege of the AIDS crisis. “He’s got miles to go before he sleeps.”
That fact is what brings Bash to his lengthy, drunken, and emotional confession to Debbie: He’s not upset with Rhonda for secretly hiring a gigolo, he’s ashamed of her seeing how much he enjoyed his time with that gigolo. And he knows he'll keep going back for more if he stays in Vegas. “The fact that the person who’s such an intimate part of his life was a witness to this act is even more difficult for him to wrap his head around it,” Lowell adds. Although Rhonda and Bash were “scared shitless” of their quickie wedding at the beginning of the season, they create a solid loving partnership by the finale, the actor says.
“It’s maybe not a romantic love. But it’s so genuine,” Lowell explains. “It’s going to be really interesting, after the events of the third season, to see how this is going to play out — what their relationship turns into.”
Now Netflix just has to order GLOW season 4 so we can find out.