Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
It may seem strange that anyone would have to learn to be more selfish, but that’s precisely what Kimmy struggles with in this episode. After failing her GED test because she spent too much time helping Dong, now she’s lost her beloved job at the Christmas store for helping Jacqueline. While the former effort was at least admirable, the help Jacqueline needs is more indicative of her inability to function without an armada of maids.
Since she’s also no longer paying Kimmy, it’s not surprising that things finally come to a head in “Kimmy Drives a Car!” after Jacqueline snaps a front tooth on a biscotti (an interesting callback to last episode, when Kimmy compared herself to the same “super hard” cookie). With her posh dentist’s office refusing to take her for three weeks, Jacqueline’s mortified — after all, as Mimi Knassis puts it, “Teeth are the boobs of the mouth.” Then she ends up gluing a press-on nail into the open gap, leaving her in no small amount of pain. “This is worse than childbirth,” she tells Kimmy, “and Buckley initially tried to Alien his way out of me.”
She’s at her wit’s end — but Kimmy is, too. “So I’m just one bad tooth away from turning into you!” Jacqueline sobs after being turned away from a cut-rate dentist whose main qualification is not snitching. “You know what, Ms. White? Maybe you should turn into me. Because I appreciate people,” Kimmy responds.
It’s a well-deserved retort. Jacqueline doesn’t appreciate Kimmy, or anyone else. Her selfishness calls to mind Jane Krakowski’s other egocentric Fey/Carlock character, Jenna Maroney, but with one key difference: Jacqueline isn’t as rigidly written as Jenna was. She may be just as vain, arrogant, and deeply insecure, but she’s also capable of real kindness. Since Krakowski can go as big as this show requires, it’s easy to forget she’s just as capable of subtlety — she masterfully underplays the scene in which Jacqueline apologizes to the receptionist she had freaked out on, giving her the Louboutins off her feet. (Of course, she recommends them so that the patients “will wonder whose husband you’re sleeping with … it’ll drive them insane.” After all, she’s still Jacqueline.)
Also learning a lesson about selflessness is Titus, who voluntarily makes himself and Kimmy homeless so that he can Airbnb their apartment for the $80 he needs to buy himself a box of capes. Lillian, understandably, is furious, saying that the short-term lodgers will undoubtedly be hipsters, “and that means gentrification.” (“God, I miss the old days, when the longest word I knew was friggin’ Giuliani!”)
Sure enough, the new arrivals aren’t the promised “nice couple from Texas,” but Bob and Sue Thompstein (Evan Jonigkeit and Zosia Mamet), stereotypical Austin millennials with merged surnames. “What do you two do for work?” a horrified Lillian asks them, correcting herself when she receives blank looks. “I mean, can you believe that you get paid to follow your bliss?” Turns out Bob’s a sneaker artist, and Sue does digital outreach for South by Southwest — while they may be two more bit characters in a long line of televised under-35 urban clichés, at least UKS resisted the temptation to make them unemployed moochers.
The Thompsteins have their sights set on taking over Mabel’s, the decaying soul food joint around the corner that mainly serves up food poisoning (the “F” in the “Soul Food” sign is a failing health-inspection grade). Aside from its usefulness for bikini-season prep, Titus isn’t sad to see it go, but Lillian, whose late husband (Kenan Thompson) proposed to her there, definitely is. “Someday, you’ll be that crazy old kook who doesn’t want things to change, and who clings to the past, and who pees a little during long speeches,” she tells Titus. “And when that day comes, I hope it’s not too late to save the things you love.” It’s a poignant reminder that even the places in a city that don’t add much value to your life — like, say, a truly terrible restaurant — might have some hidden significance to others.”
That speech, much like Kimmy’s to Jacqueline, manages to jar Titus out of his complacency. With Lillian unable to dissuade the Thompsteins by suggesting they’re likely to get stabbed (“Babe, did you hear that? People still get stabbed around here.” “I can’t believe we beat the gays to this neighborhood!”), Titus dons a beard and a beanie and utterly nails the hipster affect needed to pretend the back of the restaurant is a secret underground speakeasy. (When Sue attempts to guess the password, he witheringly responds, “Oh, my God, are you trying? Eww.”)
The twist, true to the millennial ethos, is that the move unintentionally has the opposite effect: The next day, a huge line of hipsters waits to access to the nonexistent speakeasy, and the gentrification drum beats on. Like with last episode’s Living Single joke, I felt both immediately put on blast and very deserving of it, which is exactly what good satire should do. Keep it up, show.
- I’m not sure what kind of weird deal UKS worked out with Mentos where they’re allowed to show the product and use its jingle, but not use its name. But the extended parody is better than a standard ‘90s nostalgia trip. My favorite parts: Bunkered Kimmy and Donna Maria holding up a clothespin and a spoon instead of Mentos tubes in the closing montage, and of course, the surprising-yet-inevitable disaster of Jacqueline’s tooth-Mento falling right into the receptionist’s open Diet Coke.
- I also love the recurring gag of Kimmy’s incredible ‘90s stand-up voice, and how everyone she tries it on finds her unbelievably hilarious, despite a lack of actual jokes. Ellie Kemper really is a gem.
- “NEED MONEY?” the Airbnb app asks Titus. “Do I! ‘Cause my roommate is trying to get fired and it’s only a matter of time until I take a weird stand about something at work.”
- Perhaps as a coda to last season’s courtroom riff on John Mellencamp, we learn from Kimmy’s learner’s permit that her full name is Kimberly Cougar Schmidt. She is a true Midwesterner. (Bonus points for the subtle implication that Uber is so negligent about background checks that they’d hire Kimmy as a driver.)
- Every Amy Sedaris appearance is better than the last. “I got the stamps! Unlike my ex-husband, they’re forever” — followed by hysterical laughter and sobs.
- Jacqueline, on Malcolm X Boulevard: “I’m standing on a street named after a rapper, I guess.” Kimmy: “Malcolm the Tenth was a black pope!”