With the fifth episode of Lessons in Chemistry, we are finally at that point in the story that we had been looking forward to from the beginning. We have to applaud the show for creating such an engaging narrative while taking so long to get to this point. Everything about this story, especially the confrontation between Elizabeth and Phil in this episode, is fantastic, and this is the recap of it.
Why does Elizabeth agree to do the cooking show?
Elizabeth thinks the offer of the show is utter hocus-pocus, and she doesn’t care about it until she brings it up to her friends, who tell her that TV offers good money. Also, Elizabeth is still trying to work as a scientist. When she sees that Boryweitz and Donatti at Hastings are still working on her research, she is filled with rage. Elizabeth has applied for a job at Philips, where she may work as a scientist when she is not selling Tupperware, and they are happy to call her for a third interview if she can get them some references. Having no choice, Elizabeth goes back to Hastings to meet Donatti, only to find that he has been replaced by Boryweitz.
Boryweitz apologizes to Elizabeth, but we realize that it is hollow when he refuses to write Elizabeth a recommendation letter and instead asks her to come back to Hastings, but only as a junior chemist. He promises to give her ‘second author’ status on the research paper released, but Elizabeth is not happy with it. Everything that Boryweitz currently has is because he stole Elizabeth and Calvin’s research, and after all this, he still doesn’t want to let Elizabeth get her due credit. He would prefer to keep stealing from her after offering her scraps and keeping her in the shadows, undermining everything she ever worked for. Elizabeth doesn’t want any of it, and she simply walks out of his office. That means that Elizabeth has to either convince Philips to give her the interview without a reference or go back to selling Tupperware and working from her homemade lab.
During this time, Madeline gets into trouble at school because she protests her teacher by saying that humans are animals. Madeline speaks rather scientifically, as she has been taught by her mother, and that often creates disruption in class. Madeline’s teacher is furious, but thankfully, instead of asking Elizabeth to censor her child, she asks for Madeline to be transferred to a private school that may align better with her intellect. It wasn’t lost on us that it could also be her way of getting rid of a student she wasn’t able to keep up with.
Elizabeth sees the merit of Madeline going to a private school, and she is pondering the increased expenses of it. That evening, when Walter comes to pick up Amanda from Elizabeth’s house, the topic of the TV show comes up once again, and Elizabeth tells him that she wants to be an equal partner in it. However, Walter tells her that she would have complete creative control since that would be her show. This is the first time that Elizabeth would be in charge of something without having to fight for it. That is what excites her about the job, and she agrees to come on board.
Why is Madeline struggling with her mother’s job?
Madeline is at a very tender age, and she has always been used to having her mother around her. Ever since the assignment of making the family tree was given in the class, Madeline has been very curious about her father. While Elizabeth had told her everything, Madeline still wanted his presence and missed not having a father figure in her life. Not knowing anybody on her father’s side and not being in touch with anyone from her mother’s side made Madeline feel that she and her mother were all alone and they only had each other. Now that her mother had to spend more and more time away from her, Madeline had started feeling lonely. Also, since she was going to a new school, she did not have her old friends, and that added to her feelings. Madeline finds out some things about her father, and Father Wakely at the church helps her narrow down where her father studied. That is one clue that Madeline has, and she will probably try to investigate further. Wakely is acting like a gentle friend and mentor for Madeline, and while it is not wise to call him a father figure, perhaps adults other than Elizabeth looking out for Madeline may help her feel less alone.
Is Elizabeth’s cooking show a success?
Being on set is an entirely new experience for Elizabeth. People are bringing coffee for her, and she gets to decide how she will run the show, which is what she has been wanting to do for a long time. But the process is not without its hiccups. Elizabeth hates the pastel set, and she doesn’t agree with Phil, the studio head, that she should smile and talk about frivolous stuff to ‘make the men feel good.’ According to Phil, it is the men who have the money and the spending power, so even a cooking show that is of actual material value to women should be tailored according to the male gaze. He absolutely hates that Elizabeth is talking about pH value and other science and would rather have her giggle and be silly, which plays to the male fantasy of a housewife. Walter doesn’t agree with Phil, but there isn’t anything he can do since he doesn’t know what the alternative is. He asks Elizabeth to try and be something more than a scientist. It may be an important part of her, but it isn’t the entirety of her identity. She needs to tap into the other aspects of herself to make herself likeable on stage.
The show is preponed, and what was supposed to be a rehearsal is the actual show, which is being aired live. Elizabeth is informed by Walter that this could be a trick to axe their channel, which is suffering from poor ratings, and Elizabeth realizes that at this juncture, she literally has nothing to lose. Therefore, she gets on the set and says exactly what she pleases, though this time, she includes her identity as a caretaker and a mother and the importance of domestic labor, which is often overlooked. Needless to say, the reactions are mixed. The men are complaining about the lack of ‘sex appeal, while the women address how they finally feel seen. Phil is furious at what Elizabeth has done, but at the end of Lessons in Chemistry Episode 5, when the phones are ringing off the hook asking for Elizabeth and the details of her recipes, Phil has to acknowledge that they have hit the jackpot, and for once, it would serve him well to think about the women instead of the men.
While Elizabeth’s new job has put some distance between her and her daughter, the women are more than happy, as everything Elizabeth says feels empowering to them. The chemistry of cooking has been extended by her to life itself, and women absolutely love her for it.
Lessons in Chemistry was always going to be a great show, and might we add that Elizabeth confronting her detractors with sound logic is our favorite in any episode? We wish we could watch her give us a formula for that courage and audacity. Our lives would be infinitely better for it.