“The Grand Victorian” is currently available to stream on AMC+; its broadcast premiere on AMC is July 18, 2021.
We’re in sitcom high-jinks territory, baby! A main character’s overblown birthday? A food-eating contest? Two elite-athlete cameos? A disastrous paths-crossing-coincidentally scenario? “The Grand Victorian” has every one of those recognizable elements, going all-in on genre familiarity and goofiness as Kevin makes his 36th birthday an intensely narcissistic, immature affair. And once again, like in the escape-room episode, although that half of “The Grand Victorian” is aware of the clichés on which it’s riffing, the result isn’t exactly entertaining to watch.
Kevin has a hard time juggling his childish best friend with his long-suffering wife? Yes, we understand that he is terrible and selfish. He is so petty that even when Allison buys him an expensive birthday gift in the form of a reclining massaging armchair, he demands that she return it for the leather color he wanted, like there’s that much of a difference between brown and black leather? Yes, we understand that he is terrible and selfish. I have sarcastically wondered whether Kevin Can F**k Himself is trolling us with these scenes as a way of smirkingly saying, “Really, this is the kind of #content that people are into?” But sincerely, I do wonder if we’re getting so much sitcom time as a lead-up to the format eventually cracking — as in, we get a sort of collapse between the agony in which Allison and Patty seem to be living, and the cheery, studio-lighting- and laugh-track-heavy world of Kevin, Neil, and Pete. With only two episodes to go in this season, that purposeful destruction might be a really jarring way to emphasize the difference in these TV formats — and to help Allison “break free” from the sitcom prison. Just a thought!
While “The Grand Victorian” spends too much time showing us Kevin being his worst self, the drama side of this week’s episode swings the other way with some revelatory, unexpected character development for both Allison and Patty. Kevin chowing down on a tray of fried apps ordered in perfect numerical symmetry for his birthday? Obvious (and, I will admit, envy-inducing; I could really go for some onion rings). Patty realizing that her relationship with Curt might have been so underwhelming because she is attracted to women instead of men? I didn’t see that coming! Nor did I anticipate Sam turning the tables on Allison by saying that her self-perceived powerlessness might not be entirely accurate, at least not when it comes to their affair. I’m not quite certain that we’ve seen enough of the Sam/Allison-as-cheaters dynamic to totally buy that accusation from him, but it does go back to the question of power that Allison has weathered from a variety of Worcester residents.
Consider: the librarian, who wondered why in the novel Allison pretended to be writing, the wife character pursued killing her husband instead of divorcing him. Couldn’t she just walk away? Or liquor-store manager D (Jamie Denbo), who argued that because she has to put up with crap from customers all the time, she couldn’t be bothered to defend Allison. Couldn’t Allison just let it go? Allison has considered herself powerless in all these situations, a woman victimized by men in her private life and in her public life, and she has convinced herself that killing Kevin is the only way to truly be free. But in going down that path, is Allison shedding off layers to reveal her true self — or is she transforming into someone who may eventually be unrecognizable to Patty, to Sam, and to everyone in her life? (Maybe I missed this, but: Does Allison have family? Parents? Relatives? I’m curious about what additional characters who knew Allison pre-Kevin could add to her sense of self.)
This sixth episode of Kevin Can F**k Himself starts off with a question I posed after last week’s episode, “New Patty”: How were Allison and Patty going to get Nick involved in killing Kevin? We get an answer nearly immediately with “The Grand Victorian,” which opens with a meeting between the three. For $7,000, with the bottle of Oxy pills that Allison stole from that trucker in Vermont as a down payment, Nick will take care of Kevin. “Don’t contact me. When it’s done, you’ll definitely know,” Nick says after Allison and Patty give him information about Kevin’s schedule and job, and theoretically that should be the end of the transaction. The job will be done, the women will pay up, Nick will keep quiet about Patty’s role in Worcester’s Oxy-dealing scene, and everyone’s lives will move forward.
Is it bleak to plan the murder of someone on their birthday? Sure. Do Allison and Patty have some guilt about doing that to Kevin? Not quite yet. Instead, they have another low-key confrontational moment where Allison blows Patty’s mind by sharing with her that of course she’s known that every year, Kevin wants to eat at the fancy Grand Victorian restaurant because it’s right next to the Chuck E. Cheese–like Tricky Ricky’s. Kevin runs between the two buildings each birthday because he can’t break it to Neil at Tricky Ricky’s that he’s spending time with Allison, and he can’t break it to Allison at the Grand Vic that he’s spending time with Neil. He’s been doing it for ten years, and Patty usually attends with Neil — and Allison, to her joy, gets a night to herself with a book and a fancy dinner.
But even if Allison and Kevin each get what they want on his birthday, they’re doing so by betraying each other, and that treachery bleeds into this year’s evening, too. Patty tells Allison she’s not attending Kevin’s birthday dinner because she’s not feeling well — a lie. After hooking up with Sam at work, Allison avoids his question about what she’s doing that night — an obfuscation. And when Kevin and Allison arrive at the Grand Vic, the night starts flying off the rails. There’s Kevin dashing between both the Grand Vic and Tricky Ricky’s, using his hackneyed “I left something in my car” excuse. There’s Allison, freaking out about the fact that Nick is at the Grand Vic and getting all “custy” with her demands (and perhaps second thoughts?) about how Nick should do the job. There’s Sam, who shows up at the Grand Vic with wife Jenn, whose misnaming of Allison, and then her overly exuberant friendliness toward her, adds another layer of awkwardness. And finally, there’s Patty at the bar underneath the Grand Vic, hanging out with Detective Tammy.
When Tammy had asked Patty to come to “a work thing,” I wondered whether that was a first date invitation — and although it takes some time for Tammy to finally be direct about her intentions, that’s absolutely what this night was! Was taking so long for Tammy to confirm her romantic feelings effective? I don’t particularly think so. It would have made more sense character-wise for Patty, I think, to be more direct in asking Tammy before the event what she was actually attending, unless we’re to assume that Patty knew what Tammy wanted, and was just uncomfortable about being out in public with a woman. I know that Patty was nervous thinking that Tammy was going to question her further about Terrance or about Nick — but Patty did dress for a date, right, with her fake eyelashes, her blouse, and her lipstick? I’m not sure Patty’s surprise at Tammy’s admission was totally necessary here, or if it was even supposed to be genuine. “It’s not a real date,” she said to Allison in the restaurant bathroom, but then at the end of the night, she is the one who leans in and kisses Tammy. You could argue that Patty just did that to keep Tammy off their tracks, but I don’t think so — that moment was more passionate and sincere than any she ever shared with Curt.
In other relationship considerations, are Allison and Sam done? Both were horrendously uncomfortable during that drink with Jenn, and later on, Annie Murphy did a good job showing Allison’s conflicted reactions to Sam saving Kevin from choking on his Mighty Moo steak. Maybe Sam telling Allison “You are always in control” makes her reassess what they’re doing with their rendezvous — but conversely, it certainly doesn’t make her reassess what she’s doing about Kevin. Instead, that line seems to push Allison further into certainty regarding her kill-Kevin plan, and results in her tracking Nick down and giving him an ultimatum: “You do it my way, or you don’t get the money.” What does Allison have planned? “You’re asking for messy. You’re begging for it,” Patty had told her, and the fact that Allison can’t admit that about herself is cause for concern.
What Else We Could Be
• Nick definitely got away with killing his father figure? Who is he, Ben Foster in Hell or High Water? (Good movie.)
• I am beginning to realize that a lot of Kevin’s food choices, from all those fried apps to the ice cream cake he demands for his birthday, are also my preferred choices, and I’m going to need some time to sit with that.
• But: The Mighty Moo was too much. Somewhere right now, Adam Richman shivers in fear.
• Patty’s “I think he thinks he’s a mastermind” assessment of Kevin certainly fits with the escape room scheme, and blowing his money on the fake sports memorabilia because he thought it would be a good investment, and convincing himself that Allison was having an affair with her lawyer boss instead of simply working as a paralegal. I feel like this is a clue about what could happen if Kevin begins to sniff out that Allison and Patty are up to no good, and coupled with that cop’s get-out-of-jail-free card as a reward for Kevin conquering the Mighty Moo? I am trepidatious!
• Patty’s “I am realizing I used to think you were kind of stupid” and Allison’s “Well, back atcha” was a perfectly compact distillation of their relationship.
• Mary Hollis Inboden and Katy Mixon should play sisters in something.
• John Steinbeck’s The Pearl feels like a very portentous book recommendation from Patty to Allison.
• Re: those athlete cameos — I didn’t know anything about Sean Avery until Googling him, and he’s kind of terrible, huh? Brian Scalabrine seems more chill.
• So Patty has now been part of two incriminating phone calls: one with Terrance about her supply, and one with Allison about Nick being at the restaurant. I’m worried!