“New Patty” is currently available to stream on AMC+; its broadcast premiere on AMC is July 11, 2021.
In Ridley Scott and Callie Khouri’s 1991 fuck-the-patriarchy classic Thelma & Louise, Susan Sarandon’s Louise has a line that she delivers with resignation, resentment, and a little bit of rebellion: “You get what you settle for.” Her best friend Thelma (Geena Davis) settled for a husband who treats her like crap. Louise herself settled for an on-again, off-again relationship with a guy who treats her well, but is mostly not around. Each woman has been sexually assaulted. Each woman has been taken advantage of. Each woman’s identity and personhood has been diminished by men. And each of the best friends would rather drive off the edge of a cliff and topple to their deaths than be judged, locked away, and punished for the crime of being a woman in a woman-hating world. “I can’t go back. I mean, I just couldn’t live,” Thelma says, and they don’t — but at least that refusal is on their own terms.
I thought of Thelma & Louise often during “New Patty,” which shoves Allison a little bit aside to make space for a deeper look at Patty’s life, but then brings the women back together again for a determined alliance. Each of the preceding four episodes has built Patty up bit by bit: First she was just one of Kevin’s sycophants, then we saw her own dislike and frustration with the group, and finally, in last week’s “Live Free or Die,” it seemed like she and Allison had really made inroads. That episode ended on a cliffhanger — what would Patty say to Allison’s admission that she plans to use those Oxy pills to kill Kevin? — and “New Patty” quickly picks it up.
Overall, I thought this episode was a better combination of the drama/sitcom format than “Live Free or Die,” with a more seamless integration of the Kevin-laugh-track elements that then contrast against the Kevin’s-offscreen-action elements. Oh, he made a childlike diagram of the ways that Patty and Allison betrayed him; how funny! Oh, he called Patty’s boyfriend Curt and smeared her reputation, just like he did Allison’s; how unhinged! Kevin’s behavior is not going to change, and I was pleased to at least see that some other people in Worcester — like Curt — realize that Kevin’s behavior is destructive, selfish, and narcissistic. And I think that halfway through this season is about when Allison should begin working toward her goal of killing Kevin, while also taking some rebellious steps forward for herself. Are all of these choices regressive? Some of them are, yes! But Allison has spoken longingly, and often, about who she was before Kevin. If the only Allison she knows is the one she used to be, of course it makes sense for her to slide backward — right into Sam’s arms.
Before we take a stroll down infidelity alley, let’s back up to that return drive from Vermont. Patty could not be more unimpressed by Allison’s admission that she plans to kill Kevin because “you’re, like, you’re you,” and she digs the knife in a little more: “When it really comes down to it, you’re like wallpaper.” Those words hurt Allison at first (“You’re right. I think I’m just having a time”), but by the next day, she decides to push back against that dismissal. She steals a lipstick. To Patty’s vodka-shot-taking delight, she quits her crappy job after a customer is an asshole and her boss refuses to stick up for her. And she gives into her simmering attraction to Sam by making a move that he returns, and after they sleep together, she accepts his job offer of waitressing at Bev’s Diner. Seems like a bad, overly reckless idea to me!
While Allison is bounding forward, Patty is sinking back. Mary Hollis Inboden does a great job tweaking her performance from the sarcastic, cynical, established version of Patty into someone more vulnerable, more fragile, and — like Thelma, Louise, and Allison did before her — more willing to settle. Her two scenes with Curt are heartbreaking in different ways. During breakfast, Patty realizes that she forgot his proposal after Terrance’s arrest, and she can only describe their three years together as “fine.” Curt, meanwhile, bristles at the idea that wanting to marry Patty is such an outlandish notion, and Patty’s response might be her most honest moment yet in the series: “‘Normal people.’ So I’m not normal because I want to live my life the way that I want to?” Curt’s parting shot, meanwhile, is shockingly mean (“Have fun rotting in Kevin’s house”) and his behavior later, when Patty practically begs him to marry her, is hurtful, too. Curt isn’t wrong that Patty is lying to him, and that she’s never been as all-in on the relationship as he has. But to say they don’t know each other at all? That sounds like a fear entirely inspired by Kevin’s bombast, and it helps Patty realize what Allison has been living with all these years under Kevin’s thumb.
The fear of being tied to this awful man drove Allison, and now it drives Patty, too — as does the threat leveled by new character Nick (Robin Lord Taylor, unrecognizable from his time as Penguin on Gotham), whose Aunt Cindy was the one constantly hitting Patty up for pills. Aunt Cindy, and a few other women in town, were taking the pills they were buying from Patty and then selling them elsewhere. What Patty thought was a Robin Hood–meets–Florence Nightingale situation is really more of a Walter White situation, and now Nick is trying to force her into a Jesse Pinkman-held-by-Todd situation. Nick’s presence in Patty’s life is a bad sign, as is Detective Tammy seeing that Nick is a presence in Patty’s life. And what was the deal with Detective Tammy inviting Patty “to a work thing”? I don’t think that was a date, but … I’m not sure what it actually was?
At the end of that scene in Patty’s home, with Detective Tammy leaving out the front door and Nick leaving out the back door, Patty is trapped between two opposing paths forward. She could come clean to Detective Tammy, and sell out Nick. She could agree to work with Nick, and keep lying to Detective Tammy. Or, as she dreams up with Allison in the episode’s final minutes, there’s a third option. If Allison is serious about killing Kevin (which she assures Patty she is during that well-composed kitchen-face-off scene), then why don’t they make the death worthwhile? “Turns out I’m actually good at doing terrible things to people who deserve what’s coming to them. It’s not that hard,” Allison says, and Patty has been pushed to the edge, too. Maybe Kevin could be the drug dealer that Detective Tammy is looking for, and maybe Patty and Allison pay off Nick to kill Kevin, and then maybe that gets Detective Tammy off their backs. I don’t think this plan is quite flawless because it then puts Allison and Patty in Nick’s debt, but maybe they are planning a double murder that would eliminate both Kevin and Nick?
And given all this, I have to wonder: Is Kevin onto them? Per usual, he drew the pettiest conclusions from what he determined about Patty and Allison driving all around Vermont and maybe not actually attending the beauty expo, but he did figure it out. He clearly has no problem with, and no shame, about calling up other people in these women’s lives and lambasting them with his complaints and insults. His questionings of Patty and Allison are in the sitcom parts of this episode, but consider these scenes without the bright lights, the goofy blocking, or the laugh track. You come home and your partner has enlisted his friends and family to help detain you, then interrogate you, then accuse you. One of his friends, a guy you don’t know very well, has a knife. They have the gall to tell you, “Loyalty. I demand it. Our marriage demands it,” like they’re Michael Corleone, and not some chump who spent your life savings on fake sports memorabilia and still hasn’t come clean to you about it. Each week I am amazed at the new ways this show’s writing staff makes Kevin so thoroughly awful, because man, they are good at it. But in all seriousness: What are the chances Kevin realizes what Allison and Patty are planning just by sheer chance or dumb luck? What would he be willing to do then?
What Else We Could Be
• Was that “criminal mastermind” scene a reshoot? Patty was wearing her signature burgundy lipstick during the car ride back from Vermont but didn’t have it on during that conversation on the sidewalk with Allison, and the lack of it changed her entire look. A good reminder of what character design through hair, makeup, and costuming can do.
• Related: The idea of Allison in lilac lipstick is as unfathomable as that moment in Mare of Easttown when Mare had a blue lipstick in her bedside table. “Improbable makeup shade” really is a tidy instigator for an exasperated reaction, isn’t it?
• The makeup store clerk played by Kiara Pichardo might be the most savage character on this whole show. Her laugh when Jenn suggested concealer for Allison’s under-eye circles? Yikes. Also, damn, Jenn, keep that advice to yourself!
• Kevin booing salad might be the only time I’ve taken his side on anything.
• Meanwhile, Patty’s idea of fun being “I’m gonna go home and eat a really big burrito”? I felt that.
• I am sad that Jon Glaser isn’t going to be on this show more often, but crossing Jeremy Jamm with Travis Bickle seemed effortless for him, and I enjoyed it.
• Allison’s boss Diane snubs Allison’s outrage at being insulted by that pushy customer, saying “Come on, you know the drill, I gotta put up with this crap daily.” I appreciate that Kevin Can F**k Himself didn’t belabor this, but so far it has presented female characters of various solidarity and complicity levels. And while I don’t exactly respect Diane for thinking that because she’s dealt with harassment, everyone should, I appreciate that the show included that widespread viewpoint. Allison needs foils, and between Diane and Jenn, she’s covered.
• Wild theory: Curt finds out what Allison and Patty are planning, or what they pull off if they do kill Kevin, and then (perhaps begrudgingly, given their final fight?) marries Patty for confidential marital privileges so that he doesn’t have to testify against her. Maybe? I don’t know! Just a guess!