Note: “New Tricks” is currently available to stream on AMC+; its broadcast premiere on AMC is June 20, 2021.
Money is tricky in any relationship. It’s not exclusively a sore point, but it easily can be. Do you combine money? Does each person contribute an equal amount? Is it a percentage-of-earnings situation, or does the amount fluctuate or deviate? Once a shared account is set up, does each person have access to the money, and do they check with the other person before withdrawing from it? And how often in a cis-het relationship is the person in charge of the money … the man?
In Kevin Can F**k Himself premiere episode “Living the Dream,” when Allison learned from neighbor Patty that Kevin had drained their account of years of accrued weekly savings, she was understandably shocked—and then enraged. Her reasoning for letting Kevin be in charge of their shared account might have been familiar to a fair amount of female viewers, I think: “’Cause I’m bad with money.” How often has Allison undercut herself in this way? Why diminish her own intelligence when compared with a husband who is obviously a moronic oaf? Why acquiesce to an irresponsible person something of such huge significance? Why give up your financial stability to someone who obviously acts impulsively, spontaneously, and while thinking only of himself?
The answer, which I also think would be familiar to many female viewers, is because that’s what the conservative patriarchy that dictates the cultural practices in this country and so many others tells women about marriage: It is sacrifice, and compromise, and surrender, and it’s all okay because that’s what love is and that’s what it takes to keep a man. We would like to think we’ve moved past a lot of that traditionalist thinking, but it’s difficult, isn’t it? Subconsciously, without meaning to, without wanting to, a woman might internalize some of that “Well, men are just better at x, y, and z” mentality once you’ve grown up in it, once you’re surrounded by it, and once people around you reinforce it. That doesn’t mean it’s correct, or right, or good to do so. But it happens, and it happened to Allison.
The Allison we meet in second episode “New Tricks” is changed. She’s Amazing Amy after the Cool Girl speech and the switch in Gone Girl perspective, the Amazing Amy who we know to have planned her revenge against her husband for spending her money and lying to her face. She knows something about Kevin that he doesn’t know she knows, and now that she does know, everything that Kevin does seems increasingly awful. The Bill Belichick hoodie isn’t an isolated incident; Kevin has been blowing their money on sports memorabilia for a while. In addition to all of his other immature qualities, it’s just too much — especially when the faux-sitcom portion of “New Tricks” treats every annoying thing Kevin does like a punchline.
He can’t pick his dirty clothes off the floor and put them in the hamper. He can’t cook himself breakfast. He can’t be nice to the new neighbors, instead immediately holding a grudge against them for being soccer fans. (He probably got all that prejudice from father Pete, who bemoans those “damn foreigners.”) He refuses to get a dog, although Allison wants one, because another living thing in their home would take away from the undivided attention that he thinks he deserves. Every quality is worse than the last! So when Allison stole the hoodie and started wearing it around? Yes, I bought that. And Allison retreating into a fantasy world in which she kills Kevin and finally has time to read a book and eat breakfast by herself — the little things that make life worth living? Yes, I bought that too.
What I’m less sure of, though, is the potential efficacy of Allison’s Oxy-overdose plan on the one hand, and the seriousness of her declaration to kill Kevin on the other. Allison is angry and betrayed, but does she have the attitude or the temperament to murder? I don’t think we know enough about Allison yet to determine her followthrough, although she seems committed to the setup. She’s certainly trying her hardest to get the Oxy pills she decides she’ll use to fake an overdose for Kevin, visiting her doctor (who is no help) and hitting up the cocaine dealer Marcus (who tricks her into a prostitution appointment from which Allison flees). And she certainly scoffs at the idea of just walking away from the relationship: “Leave. Like it’s easy?” Allison asks the librarian who questions the plot of the “aspirational” novel Allison pretends she’s writing about a wife who kills her husband. “Maybe she wants him dead, and he deserves it,” seems like an unshakeable ideology for Allison right now, driven by how convinced Allison is of her victimhood.
But: Think of her conversation with Sam, who doesn’t disagree that Allison’s circle of friends and her life outside of the house has gotten smaller since marrying Kevin. In his brief moment playing devil’s advocate, Sam asks something I don’t think Allison has an answer for yet: Does she just want to complain, or does she actually want to change her life? Does she have the courage to do something to separate herself from Kevin, a guy who pretends to steal his own furniture and commits insurance fraud so he can buy another, more-expensive Belichick hoodie? Something I wonder about in the long term is how Kevin Can F**k Himself will reconcile its presentation of Allison’s life through the lens of a sitcom with the potentially meta idea that she has to break free of the sitcom format to fully wrest back control of her life. Recall that in Peter Weir’s 1998 movie The Truman Show, Jim Carrey’s Truman Burbank leaves the TV production of his life by literally exiting the stage. “We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented,” said Ed Harris’s Christof, the creator of the show within The Truman Show. But when Allison rejects her reality, what will Kevin Can F**k Himself make her willing to do? And will Patty, now revealed to be Worcester’s secret Oxy dealer, be willing to help?
What Else We Could Be
• The book Allison is reading in her breakfast fantasy: Ulysses … by “Joyce Something.” I’m sure James Joyce wouldn’t mind the misnomer.
• Can someone try the “white-trash margarita” (yellow Gatorade, tequila, maraschino cherry) and report back?
• Oatmeal raisin cookies are good. That was slander!
• “More than our wedding, less than our car” is what Kevin says the Belichick hoodie cost him, and in searching online to see how much that monetary amount would actually be, I came across this news story about a guy who keeps an online database of every hoodie the New England Patriots coach has ever worn on the sidelines of a game. The Internet is a wild place.
• Oh, and how much a worn Belichick hoodie actually costs: In 2019, someone spent $4,404 on one at auction.
• Allison having to pay $75 for a doctor’s visit during which the doctor did literally nothing to help her? I’m not saying he should have written her an Oxy prescription, but he basically just scolded her for a minute or so and sent her on her way without even giving her a therapist referral for the future! Sounds like this country needs to do more than just pat itself on the back for providing “access” to health care!
• Allison’s aunt who works with her at the liquor store might low-key be the series’ worst character after Kevin. When she told Allison not to “let herself go,” for Kevin’s sake? Kudos to Allison for not slapping her right in the face.