Kevin Can F**k Himself
“Broken” is currently available to stream on AMC+; its broadcast premiere on AMC is July 25, 2021.
“Classic Allison.” That’s how Allison describes herself in that fertility clinic after she purposely knocks over the brochure display, drawing attention to herself in the hopes that someone will remember seeing her there and will believe that she was committed to family planning for herself, her beloved husband Kevin, and their very wanted future child. Well-meaning but clumsy, gregarious but embarrassed, self-effacing with a big old smile. Is that Allison?
Or is Allison the woman who is planning her husband’s murder, and cheating on him with her old teenage hookup? Is she both? Neither? Which Allison has been bursting into tears all over town? Which Allison is experiencing, perhaps for the first time, regret, even as she remains resolute? We tend to think of authenticity as an all-or-nothing bargain: You’re either honest or duplicitous, loyal or treacherous; the extremes are black-and-white. But life is shades of gray, and they’re swirling all around Allison now. “Broken” gives us Allison at her lowest: wrestling with the effects to come of Kevin’s death, realizing that Patty is correct when she says Allison will be judged and suspected and talked about her whole life, and struggling to cement enough details of her alibi to keep suspicion off herself after Nick kills Kevin. She needs to break it off with Sam, she needs to publicly demonstrate her love for Kevin, and she needs to act as if they were planning on spending the rest of their lives together — maybe with another pantsed priest at their child’s baptism or something.
What’s harder, the waiting or the pretending? “Broken” is as tricksy about that as it is about who actually gets shot in the McRoberts’ home. The episode moves back and forth between two timelines, with one timeline situated four or so days before the night that Nick breaks into the McRoberts’ house to kill Kevin, and with the other timeline set after the sound of a broken window downstairs draws Kevin’s attention and causes him to retrieve the gun Patty received in that cocaine swap in Vermont, and then buried in the backyard. An off-screen shot is heard, and some hours after that, Allison sits at the police station across from Detectives Tammy and Bob Bram (Kevin Chapman), answering questions about whether Kevin had any enemies, had gotten in any arguments recently, or had any reason to be attacked. Does this mean Kevin got shot? I don’t think so, and certainly no one speaks as if Kevin is dead. Could Kevin be in another room, being questioned about whether someone might want to attack Allison? And, are we even sure that Nick broke in? I don’t recall the detectives mentioning Nick’s name during their questioning; the only specific clue is that the person who broke in used to play hockey with Neil, and I don’t think Patty had mentioned that when speaking about Nick with Allison earlier. Whatever the answers to these questions, we have to wait until next week to get them.
Throughout both timelines, Annie Murphy does standout work balancing atop various emotional tightropes. Her clueless attempt at friendliness during that negotiation with Nick, and her exasperation giving away to despair when Patty reminds her that planning Kevin’s murder is just the beginning of a decision she’ll live with the rest of her life. Her quiet wonder at her memory of Kevin making her laugh on their wedding day (she put a lot of ache into the line delivery of “I really thought he would do anything for me”), and her bizarrely abrupt ending of the affair with Sam, and the tears she collapses into while leaving the diner. The normal distance and resignation with which she treats Kevin evaporating into pained anxiety at the realization that Kevin might actually want a child, and finally, her weariness in the police interview room. This isn’t the practiced version of Allison, I don’t think — I think something went wrong when Kevin crept downstairs with that gun, and the freedom that Allison imagined for herself is slipping away.
“Broken” begins with the take-no-shit Allison who bossily told Nick at the end of preceding episode “The Grand Victorian” that he would kill Kevin according to her plan, and the plan is this: Nick is to kill Kevin the upcoming Saturday night, while Allison visits her mother in South Carolina (huzzah! Allison does have family, which I wondered about in a previous episode!) for a regularly scheduled annual trip. Allison will have an alibi, Kevin will be set up as the town drug dealer, and Nick gets $7,000 for making it look like a robbery (“Don’t actually take any of our stuff!”) and killing Kevin. But then Nick shoves a guy at work, causing him to burn his forearm, and then Nick’s boss fires him, which jeopardizes his parole status, and so Nick decides to act outside of the plan. “We’re leaving tonight, I just have one thing I have to take care of first,” he says to someone on the phone, and then we cut to four days later, and then back and forth.
The four-days-later scenes are pretty straightforward: Allison is being questioned by the detectives. The four-days-previously scenes are more interesting, and capture the shifting relationships of which Allison is the center point. First up is her deepening friendship with Patty, who emphasizes to her that killing Kevin will affect the entirety of Allison’s life. Mary Hollis Inboden is really great as Patty pushes Allison to practice her story for the police, and treats Allison with a combination of sympathy and anger. She knows Allison is cheating on Kevin with Sam, she knows that Allison’s “scone and a book fantasy” is not going to come easy, and she tells Allison that “things can’t just happen.” Allison needs to stay alert: “Closing your eyes to reality, it doesn’t change anything, it just makes you blind,” Patty says. “You gotta be smarter than this.”
Is the way Allison acts after Patty’s dictate actually her being smarter? I’m not sure. Her breaking off the affair with Sam is so abrupt that it makes him laugh, and he’s not wrong: “You’ve been very clear. You’re miserable … Suddenly I’m more than happy to never do this again because I don’t know when you got so broken.” Her behavior at the fertility clinic is practically manic, from her performatively happy reaction to the doctor’s “You’ll get your baby” reassurance to that knocking-over-the-brochures moment. And does she inspire Sam to leave his wife? “Maybe I don’t want to waste the next 15 years trying to distract myself,” Sam says before storming out of the house he’s renovating with Jenn. If someone were to look at Allison’s life, she’s leaving a trail of damage behind her. Classic Allison.
What Else We Could Be
• I haven’t mentioned anything about Jenny McCarthy Tank Top because what is there to say, really?
• A little production-design detail: The leather armchair that Allison bought for Kevin is now in black leather, so she did go back and return the brown she preferred for the color he wanted.
• The scene of Allison and Patty in the bathtub together, exhausted and conciliatory, and the line “Maybe we can die alone together,” had very strong Dead to Me energy.
• I was very grateful for the infrequent sitcom scenes this week, and at least there was a change of pace in staging one of those in Patty’s house. Plus, I think the nonchalance with which Neil accepted Patty’s “cop friend” Tammy was significant — like maybe Patty’s concerns about being public with Tammy aren’t necessarily shared by her brother.
• Re: the gorgonzola on the steak that Nick was told to send back — cheese is dairy, right? Or have I been doing lactose intolerance wrong my whole life?
• There has never been a gun introduction on a TV show that didn’t end in something tragic. Those are just the rules of narrative storytelling.
• “Churning my own butter” is such a gross euphemism for masturbation that I have to tip my hat to show creator Valerie Armstrong and staff writers Lindy Jumil Gomez and Shukri Abdi. Y’all are gross!
• Who did Nick call after getting fired and before the hit on Kevin? Does that person know the whole plan involving Allison and Patty?
• Speaking of Chekhov’s gun, I don’t think Kevin Can F**k Himself is this kind of show, but on another series, Allison’s sexual relationship with Sam plus the doctor telling her she can’t have a baby would result in a surprise pregnancy. If Kevin Can F**k Himself suddenly pivots into being that kind of show, especially now that Kevin wants a baby, that would be unexpected!