The second episode of the new season of American Vandal deepened the mystery of the story of the Turd Burglar, first feeling like a riff on Making a Murderer in its examination of false confessions, but ending with Sam’s theory that maybe Kevin ‘Shit Stain’ McClain’s confession wasn’t false after all. We also learn more about the crime spree of the Turd Burglar, including the details about the Poop Piñata and the Shit Launcher. It’s not pretty. It IS funny.
Most of this episode consists of an extended interview with Kevin, casting what we learned about him in the premiere in a whole new light. First, all of that footage of Kevin being bullied by his classmates? He never really considered it bullying. One could look at an eccentric kid’s Instagram page and think that he’s being a target when he’s actually in on the joke. He likes “Fruit Ninja!” Remember the kid who dressed like him for Halloween? He gave him the outfit. Kevin is just a bit weird, and he actually seems to enjoy when his eccentricity is highlighted. You could make his day by asking about tea or Sri Lankan cinnamon.
So why did Kevin confess to being The Turd Burglar if didn’t do the dirty deed? American Vandal has the statistics and talking heads ready to explain the phenomenon of false confessions and place it in the context of this case. Kevin clearly didn’t know the details about any of the Turd Burglar’s crimes, unable to recreate how the feces got into the Poop Piñata or the Shit Launcher. And Kevin claims that he was coerced into confessing, told by an administrator that he would only get a 2-week suspension instead of the possible expulsion on the table. Combined with the betrayal of the testimony from former BFF Tanner Bassett, Kevin confessed just to get it over with.
Why would Tanner Bassett lie about Kevin McClain? First, the boys go to the pharmacy and learn that they don’t even sell the laxative that was found in the lemonade outside of some truly horrifying gummi bears. So why did Tanner lie about seeing Kevin buy the laxatives? Could it have something to do with Tanner’s belief that Kevin ruined Skip Day? A belief that forced Kevin to kick Tanner out of their band, the Horsehead Collective, replacing him with a 10-year-old kid? Is this vengeance because Tanner can’t play bar mitzvahs anymore?
One of the reasons it starts to seem like Kevin is being framed is that he doesn’t know any of the details of the crimes, laid out wonderfully in a series of recreations that could come straight from the highest-budgeted shows on the ID channel. First, there was the Brownout, which we learned about in the premiere. Then came the Poop Piñata, a horror that unfolded during a birthday party for Kurt Vonnegutt. The blindfolded kid didn’t know he had sprayed poop all over his classmates until it was too late, but he did realize that no one screams like that for candy. Then came the Shit Launcher, T-shirt guns spraying cat shit all over a pep rally. At least three kids got actual Turd Burglar shirts too.
As they do so often, the writers of this episode play a little game with viewers, setting us up with ALL of the evidence that suggests that Kevin McClain is innocent, framed for the crimes of the Turd Burglar, and then turning the tables in the final scenes. One of the best elements of the first season was the way the investigation divided Peter and Sam, and they seem to disagree on this case already. Peter, so eager to prove Dylan’s innocence in season one, wants to jump into the role of White Knight again, ready to claim Kevin’s innocence. But Sam hesitates. One, the Turd Burglar crimes stopped when Kevin was being monitored. Warnings went out but no crimes followed. Two, it looks to Sam like Kevin isn’t a victim of the Brownout, and could even be forcing himself to shit to look like he was. Did Kevin McClain shit his own pants? Can anyone else believe that’s a legitimate question in 2018?
- #1 Suspect: We’ll open each recap with our current #1 suspect for the identity of The Turd Burglar. For now, I’ll go with Chloe and finger popular athlete DeMarcus Tillman, although that feels too easy. This can’t just be the story of someone who called the AV guys with eyewitness testimony, can it?
- Myles, the kid who replaced Tanner in the Horsehead Collective, is played by Elisha Henig. Wondering where you know him from? He’s the killer from this year’s season of The Sinner in a totally different key here.
- I loved Kevin calling himself “the proverbial...guy.” I don’t think Kevin knows what the word proverbial means.
- I also loved grandma’s angry delivery of “He didn’t know how the poop got in the Vonnegut Piñata!”
- Speaking of that, I beg everyone who studies Kurt Vonnegut in a class this year to raise their hand and ask if he’s really “The Kanye West of satirical post-modern literature.”
- Don’t try The Great American Challenge, the kind of brilliant creation of the writers of American Vandal that I may have been just dumb enough to get my friends to do in college. Don’t be me.
- There’s something about the delivery of it, but you have to adore the simplicity of the line, “It wasn’t clear it was poop until somebody shouted ‘IT’S POOP!’”