Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Beneath its cheery color palette, reams of jokes, and buoyant score, Kimmy Schmidt is a show about not getting what you want in life, and finding ways to be okay with that. Kimmy herself may be the eternal optimist, but all four of the leads do what it takes to preserve their faltering self-worth (or if that fails, self-delusion) when it turns out their dreams are always just around the corner. But what if those dreams came true? What would they sacrifice to get them?
That’s the question posed by this episode, which gives Titus and Kimmy their closest shots ever at the things they crave most: fame and a loving family, respectively. In Titus’s case, New Yorker harassment-buster Ronan Farrow (as himself!) has finally gotten wise to the Mr. Frumpus scandal and wants to do an interview. Turns out the pervy puppet has a type, and it’s guys who look like Titus. Not only did he make a move on Lillian’s late husband Roland back in the ’70s, he’s also taken Titus’s mortal enemy, Coriolanus Burt, to the casting couch.
As Coriolanus decides to go public, Titus dithers, unsure if he wants to be defined by the one horrible day he was forced to touch a puppet phallus. Lillian wants him to avenge Roland, and Kimmy also thinks it’s the right thing to do. But after watching Coriolanus’s reputation get dragged through the mud by Fox Kidz commentators, Jacqueline warns Titus that he should stay mum. Plus, there’s a sweetener for Titus’s silence: Coriolanus has lost a big commercial gig as the first black Dairy Queen, and Titus has been asked to fill in, rivaling Reba’s KFC ads by declaring half-price Blizzards throughout his kingdom.
The dark arts of White Talent don’t stop there. Even as she encourages Titus to cover up Mr. Frumpus’s indiscretions, Jacqueline’s facilitating a few for Kimmy, who’s been asked out by a nerdy Giztoob graphic designer. Kimmy’s not really interested in Josh, but his adorable helicopter parents (Mark Linn-Baker and Joanna Gleason) are another story. Bursting with all the unconditional love, board games, movie nights, and trips to the Olive Garden that didn’t figure much in Kimmy’s troubled childhood, the Hoffmans prove seductive. And with their grown son unhappily living at home and largely ignoring them, they’re equally happy to have a surrogate kid around. Before long, Kimmy and a nice suburban boomer couple are in a full-blown “threesies” behind their son’s back.
It’s a straightforward affair story line, with hot games of Scrabble and hard-core jigsaw-puzzle sessions in hotel rooms standing in for sex. But it gets a boost from the evident glee of all three actors, who are clearly having a blast with the silly material. Gleason and Linn-Baker go for broke on some solid bits of baby-boomer-parent parody (“Kimmy doesn’t roll her eyes at our jokes, or when we can’t remember the name of that TV show, the one we like?” “Madam Secretary!”) And Ellie Kemper is always at her funniest when Kimmy’s overactive superego short-circuits and she acts out. Of course, that superego wins out in the end, as Kimmy realizes that her parental paramours are never going to leave their “marriage” to their son. But they’ll always have Putt-Putt.
Titus also ultimately does the right thing, dumping the Dairy Queen gig to give an interview and back up Coriolanus’s story. (Mikey, along for moral support, tells Titus he’s “the bravest guy I know, braver than my buddy Gino, who ordered the niçoise salad at a titty bar. He died.”) Not being the first to come forward does cost Titus, though. Unlike Coriolanus, he doesn’t get to attend the “shorts-only” solidarity Tonys — a clap back at the all-black-outfit Golden Globes — as a spotlighted victim of harassment. Coriolanus also gets the Dairy Queen gig back.
Though it’s played for laughs, Titus’s #MeToo moment may actually be one of the more accurate depictions of what coming forward is like. For every Coriolanus who’s become famous for speaking up, there are a dozen Tituses whose corroborating stories fade from memory far faster. This second tier of victims might get some measure of justice, but they don’t get back the missed opportunities, like Titus’s lost chance at Sesame Street, that started the whole situation in the first place.
On the upside, Titus does once again have Mikey’s admiration — and he’s starting to screen his boyfriend’s calls while they’re together. It might not be the best Titus can get for his trouble. But it’s still pretty good.
• Always good to see C.H.E.R.Y./L., who, when Jacqueline isn’t forcibly erasing her memories, is forcibly erasing them herself by getting “white girl wasted” and puking up confetti.
• Titus answering the phone “Go for Titus, stay for drama” is extremely on-brand, but maybe not as on-brand as his having saved Mikey’s name in his phone as “Construction otter.”
• Honestly, there are too many great Titus lines in this episode to list. One of my favorites: “It’s career suicide, and you know how I want my career to end: falling off the top row on Hollywood Squares.”
• Fatherless Kimmy used to tell people that Ronald McDonald was her dad “because of the red hair … but then I got a cease-and-desist letter, and a coupon for a free McRib.”
• Mikey has reason to worry that the rumors are true about Mr. Frumpus: He’s “one-quarter marionette.” Justice for Pupazza!