For a show whose lead character was deeply traumatized, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmist has a complicated way of actually talking about trauma. Last season, it offered the occasional grim joke about Kimmy’s PTSD, from screaming night terrors to the time she tried to “take things to the next level” with Logan by shoving him down and semi-assaulting him. I personally loved those flashes of pitch-black humor, but the showrunners seemed to move away from them as the season progressed — the Reverend Wayne trial could have been a showcase for some bleak revelations, but instead, it stayed light and goofy, complete with not-so-scary Jon Hamm as the villain. The focus was on keeping Kimmy strong, not exploring her vulnerabilities.
Now, we’re seeing indications that UKS will make a serious run at addressing Kimmy’s trauma, thanks to the introduction of Keith (Sam Page), a studly Army Ranger who hits on Kimmy at a bar, where she’s ordered cocoa and chicken nuggets with plenty of ketchup. After immediately recognizing that she’s been through some shit, Keith bonds with her over missing out on so many Christmases she’s forgotten the words to Christmas carols (“Jinky bongs, jinky bongs, jinky Halloween, hey!”) and not knowing modern slang.
But when Keith joins Kimmy at Jacqueline’s big fund-raiser, they both find themselves getting unexpectedly set off by Mimi Knassis — who’s pretending to be Sia, complete with too-long bangs — crashing into a table. Keith drags Kimmy down to protect her from what he thinks is a bomb, and she, clearly having flashbacks to Reverend Wayne, starts fighting him off. She tries to play it off, but Keith knows better. “You’re in denial!” he tells her. “You mean the river in Egypt?” Kimmy responds. “Well, then you’re in a different river. You’re in the Euphrates, because you-fraidy a bunch of stuff!” Kimmy is just as fraidy, though. Between this and her ongoing mystery burps, the seams are starting to show. I’m excited to see how the show will find laughs while addressing what’s really going on.
Lillian doesn’t appear in this episode, and Titus and Mikey get a small but sweet plot involving Mikey’s propensity to talk too much (which turns out to be a combination of trying to keep up a first-date persona and not having much of an outlet to chat in an industry full of loud equipment including, as Titus describes it, “the digger thing, and the smushers, and the crashy-balls.”) Their minimal roles leave the door wide open for a big dose of Jacqueline, via her long-awaited Upper East Side gala for Native American causes — which is about to get overshadowed by Deirdre Robespierre’s gala for lupus awareness awareness (another supremely Fey-Carlock joke).
I continue to be underwhelmed by Deirdre, and by Anna Camp in the role. The character concept is perfect: I dig the idea of an alpha-mom who’s so bored by being the queen of her domestic kingdom that she’s outright begging for an equally savvy comer to take her on and be “the Raphael to my Michaelangelo … the Lululemon to my Fabletics by Kate Hudson.” But Deirdre’s cheery attitude doesn’t seem to conceal raw desperation as much as it does utter hopelessness. (“Ooh, are you here to kill me?”) For the competition to be any fun, both women should really want to win, but Deirdre actually seems to want a loss. Camp is extremely likable, but this character needs to be more than that.
Jane Krakowski, on the other hand, continues to deliver a master class in blending sharp wickedness with genuine pathos. If I were her agent, I’d be looking hard at this episode for her Emmy tape. She can nail trenchant observations like, “Men find funny women disgusting,” and her devious recruitment of an army of side-pieces to steal the rich old men from Deirdre’s gala for hers was done with such a commanding sneer (and in such a fabulous dress) that it was hard not to cheer.
Krakowski beautifully renders the scene at the episode’s close, when Jacqueline realizes that not one of the rich dudes she’s managed to lure in gives a crap about her cause. After suggesting that the Native Americans got a raw deal when they sold Manhattan to the Dutch for $24, she gets an immediate snapback from a Wall Street type — if that $24 had been invested at a normal rate of return, it would be worth quadrillions today. (I wish I could say that I found such an arrogant response to be funny, instead of achingly realistic.) “Ten thousand years running and you don’t care about anyone but yourselves!” Jacqueline says. The response: “Hey, how’d you know the Goldman Sachs cheer?”
- Down in the bunker, Kimmy basically invented the Snapchat face swap — with her mind — so she could tolerate Reverend Wayne as he blathered on about his movie ideas. Turns out he’s actually M. Night Shyamalan: “So it’s about a village where you think it’s in olden times, but it’s in now times. I have another idea where the bad guys are plants, but Marky Mark is there.”
- Pristine-looking Deirdre telling Jacqueline at the salon that she “just had twins yesterday” is hysterical.
- Love the old dude who thinks Turtle Island is “that private island where people like me go to dress like turtles and do stuff to turtles.” On colonization: “Sounds like it’s the Dutch who got screwed … like a turtle caught in a sex net.”
- There’s Yuko the robot again, moving seat cushions at Deirdre’s gala. They’re really getting their money’s worth on that costume.
- Jacqueline, to a statue of Christopher Columbus: “You tried to destroy my people, and yet we memorialize you right in the middle of Broadway, as if you’re some sort of M&M’s store.”
- I’ve said this in just about every recap, but Amy Sedaris is a goddamn national treasure. This was her best episode yet. On screwing up the invitations: “I was trying to do it fancy, like how they do in England, where lift means elevator and fanny means chooch!”