Note: “We’re Selling Washing Machines” is currently available to stream on AMC+; its broadcast premiere on AMC is June 27, 2021.
The message of the Mills Brothers’s song “You Always Hurt the One You Love,” which plays during the closing credits of third episode of Kevin Can F**k Himself, “We’re Selling Washing Machines,” is fairly straightforward. In 1944, over two repeated verses, brothers Donald, Herbert, Harry, and John Jr. laid out the thin, vulnerable line between love and pain. “You always hurt the one you love / The one you shouldn’t hurt at all,” often “with a hasty word you can’t recall.” Cherishing someone can slide, through mendacity, ignorance, or neglect, into taking them for granted. When Ryan Gosling’s Dean sang the song to Michelle Williams’s Cindy in Derek Cianfrance’s film Blue Valentine, that romantic gesture during their first date was really a harbinger of doom. Relationships start, and relationships end, and sometimes their dissolution is an inevitability of our inherent selfishness: “If I broke your heart last night / It’s because I love you most of all.”
How did Kevin and Allison fall in love? Kevin Can F**k Himself hasn’t given us the backstory of its central pair yet, and although I’m not yet antsy about it, I am increasingly curious. It had to have been after Sam left town, and seemingly after Allison graduated high school. Did any of her high-school friends have an opinion? Did anyone from swim team meet Kevin alongside Allison? Did they stay in Worcester, too, or did everyone flee as Sam did, and leave Allison to the sinking quicksand of small-town gloom? Is that when Kevin materialized, and what did Allison see in him? Stability? Domesticity?
Maybe we’ll never get an answer to this, because it’s not exactly typical for sitcoms to really explain how that guy ended up with that woman. But I ask because Kevin Can F**k Himself has intentionally dropped a few lines of dialogue already about how impossible it feels for Allison to leave Kevin, and I would love to know what brought them together now that Allison so desperately wants to break them apart. Remember when librarian Judi (Phyllis Kay) asked why Allison’s imaginary romantic novel protagonist didn’t just divorce her husband instead of killing him? Walking out the door seems easy, but not when there’s so much weight on your shoulders. And in “We’re Selling Washing Machines,” we see that this sense of inertia has claimed Patty, too.
She may be “one of the boys,” as Allison so derisively calls her, but Kevin, Neil, and Pete insult and dismiss her, as they do Allison. Neil relies on her to do everything for him — pick up his prescriptions, take care of his deep-fried-turkey burns. And even the guy she’s kind of dating, Curt (Sean Clements), treats her like a moron. Who makes conversation over how much salad costs? Does he really think that Patty doesn’t know what “bon appétit” means? “I can’t do anything alone,” he says to Patty as she grimaces through his bagged-salad-on-a-plate cuisine. The fact that he anticipates sympathy and pity sex in response to this horrible attempt at romance, rather than the weariness and disgust such a blandly self-effacing statement actually inspires from Patty, is the masculine presumption that Kevin Can F**k Himself is devoted to dismantling. What the series is suggesting as its replacement isn’t quite clear yet, but making Allison and Patty allies is an essential first step.
“We’re Selling Washing Machines” begins four years ago with an explanation for how Patty got into Oxy dealing. After Kevin stole a gigantic banner advertising a Kevin Hart stand-up show and he, Neil, and Pete ignored Patty’s suggestion to use “towing winches to do a pulley system” to hang it off the McRoberts’ house, Neil ends up with a broken leg. While picking up his Oxy prescription, Patty — who we learn also lives in the dank, gray single-cam place that we know Allison does — is approached by pharmacist and former high-school classmate Terrance (Robert Najarian) about selling generics. Soon Patty is running a sort of Robin Hood operation, providing Oxys to the people who need them (mostly women), using her salon as a front, and hiding the cash payments in a hollowed-out library copy of Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha.
When Allison asks Patty for the Oxy pills she’s now decided she’ll use to poison Kevin, Patty can tell something is up. She’s accustomed to seeing people in pain — at least, the physical kind — and Allison doesn’t fit the description. But whatever desire Patty has for companionship quickly overwhelms her curiosity about why Allison needs these pills, and the realization that Allison is also miserable serves as a kind of reassurance. That’s not to say that Patty is friendly; she still refuses to engage in Allison’s arm patting or joking around. But during that burger détente, the two women lay out their feelings about each other. Patty resents how Allison “can make nothing to do with you all about you” (a very meta sitcom complaint, no?), while Allison points out that Patty has never stood alongside Allison against Kevin, Neil, or Pete, not even in a superficial display of girl-power solidarity.
With all of that out in the open, the two women move very slightly toward something like friendship, and Annie Murphy and Mary Hollis Inboden have good contrasting energy. Allison trusts Patty with her “beachy waves” and her admission that she’s going to see Sam at his eight-year-chip AA meeting, and Patty comes clean about how she barely tolerates Curt. But Allison isn’t fully honest with Patty about why she needs the Oxy pills — not when Patty seemed scandalized by Allison’s “He’s married!” complaint about Sam. Instead, she swipes Sam’s AA story about his rock-bottom moment, telling Patty that she needs the Oxy to repay a guy from whom she stole some pills during her Coke-caine bender. Is it duplicitous to manipulate Patty, and to persuade her to travel to Vermont for a re-up? Absolutely. But Allison isn’t hoping for a new future anymore. She wants one, and she’ll do whatever to get it.
Actions have consequences, though, outside of the sitcom space. Allison calling the cops to complain about Marcus caused the whole Terrance bust that now has her scrambling for pills and lying to Patty. Patty’s phone call to Terrance, and the fact that she was in the pharmacy when the bust happened, could attract the attention of the cops who were pointedly looking at her as she sat on the sidewalk with Curt. Neither of these women is just who they seem to be. Sam said to Allison, “You’re the most self-controlled person I ever met,” which might not be true now that she’s planning her husband’s murder. “I thought I knew your whole thing,” Allison admitted to Patty, whose drug dealing seems to be inspired more by compassion than by greed. In this moment, they’re allies, and they might need each other to climb out of their despair. But if Patty learns what Allison’s true plan for that Oxy is, how long does her goodwill last?
What Else We Could Be
• A nice set design detail: In the four-years-ago scene, the coffee table in the McRoberts’s home was noticeably different from the now-taped-together Pottery Barn table that Allison so loves. Also, was Allison wearing low-rise jeans? A throwback!
• I’m sorry to this show, but no one does the “Men pee in the shower?” storyline better than Seinfeld.
• I did not enjoy looking at the burnt pig and I hope they got it out of the backyard. I also do not believe that Kevin, a moron, would come up with the punny “Piggy Stardust” name.
• “We all know you can do math,” Patty snipes at Allison when the latter knows that three days are 72 hours, but, shouldn’t Patty be okay at math too if she’s counting all these stacks of cash? Drug dealing requires a certain amount of accounting, Patty! You have to keep the count straight!
• You could not pay me enough money to watch the Kevin character recite every line of Good Will Hunting. Truly, that sounds like my hell.
• That was a great little Annie Murphy smirk when Allison realizes she started a fight between Kevin and Neil about the chili.
• A true sign that Kevin is a monster: He thinks that Kermit hid from Miss Piggy. Incorrect; their love was pure and passionate and Kermit would never!
• Sam’s wife Jenn (with two n’s!) really was a glowed-up version of Allison, wasn’t she? And the fact that she didn’t know who Allison was probably was the salt in the wound.
• Some great work from multicam editor Joe Fulton and single-cam editor Dan Schalk this episode: the Sunday-morning scene when Kevin practically skipped out of their bedroom door in multicam and then we saw the sighing Allison fall back in bed in single-cam; Allison walking out the back kitchen door in single-cam and then being assailed by Kevin and his pig in multi-cam; and the Allison/Patty scheming scene in single-cam to Neil and Kevin’s chili reconciliation in multicam were all well-done technical exercises that drove home the tonal differences of these approaches.
• Curt tells Patty that he can’t eat healthy alone; Kevin tells Allison that he can’t roast the pig alone; men are tiring.