Episode 6 of The Queen’s Gambit begins with another lesson for Beth as Alice tells her how to survive in the future. This inevitably sees us cut forward to Beth and Benny driving together, playing mental chess and practicing their Russian on their way up to New York.
Eventually they make it to their run-down accommodation but it’s certainly far cry from what Beth has been used to at the Wheatley household. Still, she settles in with her blow-up bed and Benny’s telling shoulder touches.
Benny’s friends arrive not long after and as drinks start flowing, Beth tellingly chooses not to touch the liquor. At least not yet anyway.
Instead she starts playing Benny and the others at speed chess. This time though, Beth completely outplays them and manages to bag herself a fair amount of money. “Well kid, I think you’ve got it,” He says, impressed with her wins.
On the back of this, Beth winds up sleeping with Benny. Afterward, he gives her some advice about how to beat Borgov. Only, she’s not happy that he’s thinking about this now – especially given it’s literally moments after they finished making love.
We then cut forward to Paris 1967 as we see Beth preparing for her rematch with Borgov. Between games she continues to read up on tactics and play styles. Eventually this sees her through to the final with the Grand Master himself. Only, Cleo shows up and invites her out for a drink.
There, Beth admits that her real lost love is Townes whom she continues to think about to this day. This catches us up to the moments at the start of episode 1, as we see Beth preparing for her rematch with Borgov while Cleo sleeps in.
She’s clearly not thinking straight though and constantly drinks water to try and drown out her hangover. As she does, she draws on fragments of Benny’s influence from the past.
Borgov’s constant stares are unnerving too and eventually Beth is forced to resign once more. Rumours that Beth was drunk (well, hungover) spread on the back of this though, as she starts to descend and heads back to Lexington.
Beth’s lawyer, Dick Chennault, rings and it turns out Allston has changed his mind. Beth is no longer welcome in the house and he’s decided to sell up.
When he heads over to confront her, Beth more than matches him. She calls Allston out on his bluffs about selling and agrees to buy the house off him. Only, him denouncing her as his daughter is a tough price to pay.
Beth receives a call from an organization known as Christian Crusade who are happy to pay for her plane ticket across to Russia and compete with the USSR. They believe it’ll be a win for Jesus over the communists. Beths gets on the phone to Benny after this offer, where he too encourages her to take up the deal.
Alone, Beth continues her downward spiral, drinking wine from the bottle and heading out to drink whiskey on the rocks. Back home she receives a call from Beltik but ignores it in favour of dancing, drinking and reliving painful memories from the past.
Eventually Beltik arrives at her door and calls out for Beth. He’s worried about her but she’s distracted by a call asking to come in for a photo op at Henry Clay High School.
Beth shows up but she’s clearly not of sane mind. Her eyeliner is uneven, she’s not thinking straight and smells of booze. As fate would have it, she runs into Anette Packer – the first person she beat in that tournament all those years ago. She’s hung up her chess-board now and moved on to greener pastures.
Heading outside for a cigarette, Beth runs into Beltik again who admits that he’s worried about her. He’s assistant manager in the supermarket she’s been frequenting and admits she needs help. The one thing that really hits home though is when he mentions his Father and how he was a drunk as well.
It hits hard, sending Beth home where Jolene suddenly shows up at the door. If there’s one person who knows about destructive behaviour it’s her!
The Episode Review
Beth hits rock bottom and it’s a difficult pill to swallow (no pun intended). A lot of this episode reminds me of those destructive moments in It’s All Gone Pete Tong. There’s a good portion of that movie where the protagonist flies off the handle as an alcoholic and eventually loses everything despite his amazing DJing talent.
In a way, this episode encapsulates all of that struggle and it does so in a way that’s as raw and hard hitting as it is visually striking.
Beth’s trip down memory lane brings with it a view of all these people who have moved on with their lives beyond chess. It really hammers home how do-or-die this is for our young prodigy.
Chess is all she’s known and the looming USSR competition may be her last opportunity at redemption. Can Beth steady the ship before everything capsizes?