Kimmy Schmidt the show doesn’t really need saving right now, but Kimmy Schmidt the character does. And Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt co-creator Tina Fey is going to be the one to do it. More specifically, Fey’s character Andrea, an alcoholic who stumbles into Kimmy’s car during peak Uber hours is the not-quite hero our protagonist needs. Fey guested on her own show last season as Marcia Clark (with a decidedly different interpretation than Sarah Paulson), but as Andrea, she becomes a crucial part of the show’s narrative instead of just playing a bit character.

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In fact, her performance as Andrea is quite unnerving. This isn’t the wild and irresponsible sister Fey played last year in the Amy Poehler co-starring movie Sisters. This is someone who is truly out-of-control, broken, sick. It’s almost hard to watch as Andrea slurs her words and sways in the back of Kimmy’s car. Even more disturbing—and brilliant—is the characterization of Andrea as two different people entirely. There’s the night-version of Andrea, a spiraling, blackout-drunk disaster. But by day, she’s an award-winning psychiatrist. Drunk Andrea hates Day Andrea and vice versa. Fey manages to bring some humor to the role, but it’s sad-funny, which is steadily becoming the way I describe Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt these days. Kimmy remarks that the first restaurant she picks Andrea up at looks fancy. “I come here all the time. They make the best vodka in a glass,” Andrea replies. That slices.

Fey doesn’t just manage to find the comedy in dark places; she also brings a huge dose of humanity and realness to Andrea. She isn’t just some caricature of a drunk lady, and ultimately, her addiction isn’t a joke at all. The show gives specificity to her problems, which becomes especially poignant in a letter Andrea writes to her drunk self, urging her not to drink and to think of her mom. Nighttime Andrea is sloppy, but she’s just as smart as daytime Andrea. In fact, it’s the sloppiest version of herself who gets through to Kimmy and who eventually devises the perfect plan to get daytime Andrea to agree to taking her on as a patient.

But even before becoming her psychiatrist, Andrea does so much for Kimmy. She tells Kimmy—who doesn’t hesitate to forgo a shower when Titus needs it for his Barbies—she’s too busy taking care of other people’s needs when what she really should be doing is taking care of herself. To say Kimmy prioritizes the needs of others over her own is an understatement. This is the woman who let her fellow captives beat her up just so they could take out all their anger toward the reverend. Andrea is the right messenger to finally get through to Kimmy. Other characters have been trying to tell her to deal with her shit, but Andrea comes at just the right time for Kimmy and for the show. The writing this season has so effectively developed Kimmy as a more complicated and troubled character, paving the way for the breakthrough that happens in “Kimmy Meets A Drunk Lady!” “When you shove your problems down, they’re gonna bust out in weird ways,” Andrea says. She would know. She’s the living embodiment of her own warnings. It takes meeting someone who’s way, way, way more visibly worse at dealing with her demons for Kimmy to finally realize the severity of her own issues.

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Kimmy has been living in a bubble of denial. But Andrea’s words help crack something open inside her. Kimmy literally flashes back to all of her worst post-bunker outbursts: when she woke up to discover she was sleep-attacking Titus, when she hit Dong with a phone while he kissed her, when she relentlessly dug her palm into another love interest’s face, when she trapped Keith in a headlock, when she hit Dong with the phone again. It’s a fantastically edited flashback montage, made even better by the addition of a clip we’ve never actually seen before: Kimmy attacking Billy Eichner after he accosts her on the street in his usual way to ask if Cate Blanchett is good or just tall. Watching Kimmy beat Billy with a microphone is some perfect comedy, but the montage is obviously much more than that. Ellie Kemper’s face rather succinctly encapsulates that as the episode snaps back to the present. The whole series has been building to this moment, to Kimmy’s realization that all of these incidents are connected, specific to the trauma she experienced in the bunker. Her outbursts aren’t random or even unpredictable. She attacks men. Specifically, she attacks men who get close to her. It seems simple, but just the fact that Kimmy finally asks for help is huge.

Scored by the not-quite hits from Now That Sounds Like Music 3, “Kimmy Meets A Drunk Lady!” never once loses its surreal sense of humor, even as it unspools really grounded character work. Titus and Kimmy’s friendship gets complicated when Kimmy finally calls him out on some of his bullshit. When characters on this show make major life changes, it doesn’t usually lead to immediate positive results. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt can be bleakly realistic in that way. Kimmy put the reverend away, but she still has her demons, which threaten to spill forth with every stinky, ominous burp. Titus quit his job last episode, but that hardly leads to a grand moment of self-discovery. It’s simply a step along the way—all part of the process. He has a lot more work to do to accomplish his dreams. And it’s going to be hard. Wanting to prove to Kimmy that he can do see something difficult through to the end, he spends the episode unsuccessfully attempting to buy and then build a replacement tape tower for their seemingly endless cassette collection. When he finally “travels back in time” (dumpster dives) to retrieve a new tape organizer, it’s a win for Titus, but it’s also a win for friendship. Kimmy and Titus’s relationship was really only based on proximity and convenience before. But in season two, they’re becoming closer in a way that’s believable and gradual. Titus’s storyline in “Kimmy Meets A Drunk Lady!” marks progress for Titus, but it moves the friendship forward, too.

Stray observations

  • Titus, when Kimmy tells him to dance like he has ants in his pants: “I do have ants in my pants, due to some pocket taffy.”
  • “Mikey’s away at Con Con, the annual construction convention.” I missed Mikey, but this excuse for his absence made up for it.
  • “It’s called compartmentalizing, and it’s not a problem, because I know the words to describe it.” Andrea really is such a well crafted character.
  • “Kimmy, you did it! All by myself!” Titus has a lot of hilarious lines that hinge on his slacker attitude. But I especially loved “I don’t give up on everything that I—whatever.” Tituss Burgess delivers it flawlessly.
  • Almost-kisses have officially become a running gag this season, and even though it’s killing me that no one is sealing the deal, I’m very here for it.

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