Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a show with a heavily female cast and crew, a lot of Kimmy Schmidt is about coping with gatekeepers. Rich Upper East Side moms, sneering MRAs, bad boyfriends, worse husbands, snarky co-eds, the hydra-headed rejection machine that is the entertainment industry — Kimmy and friends hear a lot of “no’s,” and usually, their only fallback is to endure them with equanimity. “Broke and unappreciated” isn’t the bottom these characters have started from, it’s the water they swim in.
The prospect of Kimmy becoming an overnight millionaire seems poised to change all that. But just as the previous episode softened the show’s hard stance on whether abusers can become better people, this one suggests that the tugboat crew can only move forward when it makes its own luck.
At the close of the previous episode, Kimmy learned that Giztoob had been sold and the staff would be able to cash in their equity (which Kimmy assumes means they’ll all get horses). But now her excitement is dampened when she discovers the truth behind Giztoob’s success. In a sharp, funny riff on Facebook and Google’s recent misdeeds, Kimmy learns that hit game Nom Nom is actually monitoring everything its users are doing, from spying on them through their phone cameras to gathering data on their oral health. (“This is what everything on the internet does … If something is free, it’s probably watching you bathroom,” Zach tells Kimmy. “Not my Golden Showers app!” she responds. “It gives me digi-coins!”)
The shock is compounded when Kimmy realizes that hard-drinking, Instagram–hashtag-spouting C.H.E.R.Y./L. has been “source code-switching” all along, auto-adjusting her personality to the ad preferences of everyone in the office. In Kimmy’s case, she’s found she responds best to “broken, unstable personalities, like those of her birth mother and her fellow mole women” — even though Kimmy’s never told C.H.E.R.Y./L. anything about her past.
Disgusted by the prospect of taking Zach’s dirty money, Kimmy settles on a unique solution: blackmailing him to serve up ads for her Greemulax book to impressionable tween boys. If he doesn’t, she’ll release the sexual harassment complaints about herself that she covered up in the season premiere, torpedoing the deal. With no other options, Zach helps Kimmy break the internet, or at least the internet of pimply 12-year-olds Googling “Mom’s friend Karen no shirt.” Never mind that Kimmy still doesn’t really know what a website is.
Across the office, Jacqueline’s mired in her own career nightmare. She’s done well on the back of trust-funder Tripp Knob, whom she packed off to L.A. so she could have her apartment back. But he’s being courted by a sharky new agent (Zachary Quinto). Desperate to keep Tripp in her stable, Jacqueline tries to make herself look like a bigger name, conscripting the Giztoobers to play White Talent employees. (Mimi drops in to role-play as a belligerent junior agent, a fun riff on Amy Sedaris’s BoJack Horseman role.) But Jacqueline just can’t compete with bro-y Eli, who figures out her scheme and seduces Tripp with strip-club visits, tours of the Statue of Liberty’s vagina, and his Entourage–y catchphrase, “Ballers gotta ball.” (Jacqueline retorts with her own nonsensical creation: “Sweet Jimmy McCracklin’s, Mama likey.”)
Facing the grim prospect of having Titus as her sole client, Jacqueline hits on the idea of stealing an existing client Eli’s neglecting: Greg Kinnear, reprising his role as the world’s most lovable human. Kinnear’s desperate to get onto Broadway, despite Eli’s insistence that “it doesn’t pay, the schedule sucks, and the women are just body-hot.” So Jacqueline spills the secret Titus has already discovered: literally anyone can be in Cats.
Cats is apparently a fertile well for comedy these days, because Titus’s journey into its soft underbelly is one of the most gleefully batshit storylines this show’s ever done. It starts as a typical Titus tale of showbiz desperation — eager to prove to one of his young drama students that he’s not washed up, he decides to just walk onstage during the audience-participation portion of the play — and turns into something much, much weirder.
While Crazy Ex-Girlfriend used Cats’s infamous lack of a plot as a basis to create funny set pieces, Kimmy Schmidt brilliantly envisions it as an ever-evolving scam. Showbiz hopefuls driven to their breaking points wander onstage and never leave, inducted into a bizarre feline fraternity fueled by the endless loot dropped on the floor by old people and children. It’s a hilarious final evolution of the show’s riffs on the inner dynamics of cults, full of hissing, prowling dancers fighting over dropped iPhones and LifeAlert necklaces. Watching piles of Netflix’s cash get shoveled into something this expensive and thoroughly insane really makes you feel alive, you know?
Alas, Titus’s time as a Cat is short-lived, as spilling the secret to “Greg Cat-Near” violates the first and only rule of Feline Fight Club. But his determination is steeled by signing his first-ever stage-door autograph for an awed tyke. Will Titus finally break into showbiz for good, or will he be forced back to Alabama by the city impounding Lillian’s tugboat? All will be revealed in the next five seconds (or 105, if you decide to hit “watch credits”).
• Man, I am really going to miss watching Tituss Burgess deliver perfect jokes. “I am a triple threat! I can sing, I can dance, and I found a gun.”
• One more! Titus’s reasons why he’s destined to be in Cats: “I nap most of the day, I look cute in a cardboard box, I hate taking baths, most of my enemies are birds, my tongue is scratchy, Japanese people are obsessed with me, and I’m always on a couch or hiding in a deli.”
• I’m definitionally an “old millennial,” but this show’s propensity for making fun of commercials is the surest path to making me feel like a spry Gen Z-er. I had zero clue what Trivago was, much less why Tripp’s fake ad for it was funny, but here I am, Googling ads to understand a show I watch on an ad-free streaming service.
• While I’m at it, here’s a screenshot of Jacqueline’s funny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, ten-year plan for Tripp.
• I am unbelievably grateful to the writers for managing to sneak Amy Sedaris into every episode this season. “It’s an all-Hemsworth reboot of First Wives Club! No, Luke is Midler!”