For the past few episodes, Kimmy has made pretty significant strides in life. Rather quickly, she got a job and a new apartment. She still struggles with nightmares and startles easily, but she hasn’t let New York City swallow her whole. Now, she even has a cute boy who kisses her in the cereal pantry. But when fellow mole woman Cyndee Pokorny arrives, Kimmy starts to realize maybe she’s not all that well adjusted after all.
Cyndee’s post-bunker successes, of course, are largely based on a lie. Her seemingly perfect boyfriend Brandon is very obviously gay (“I’m just a regular guy. I like NASCAR and fishing. You know, quoting Borat, setting up universal remotes. And of course, Vegas, baby!”). But “Kimmy Kisses A Boy!” shows that there isn’t just one way to assimilate back into normal life after tragedy. Kimmy thinks she needs to protect Cyndee by telling her the truth, but Cyndee knows her boyfriend is gay. As clueless as Cyndee seems, she actually has complete agency over her life. She’s doing what she has always wanted to do.
For all the strides Kimmy has made, there are still signs that she spent 15 long years in an underground bunker, controlled by a fucked up cult leader. Kimmy and Cyndee have both found their ways of coping in their post-bunker lives, but the trauma that they experienced still manifests in ways that can make them seem naive or strange: Cyndee believes in unicorns, and Kimmy believes a guy she kissed a couple of times could really love her.
Charles kissing Kimmy in the pantry feels a bit rushed, but it’s also refreshing that the show isn’t trying some drawn-out will-they/won’t-they thing with the two. Plus, Kimmy’s subplot with Charles in this episode is what really drives home that idea of interrogating what it really means to be well adjusted. There’s stuff in here that’s undeniably hilarious. The dialogue in Kimmy’s phone conversation with Charles is so perfectly written that I, like Kimmy, totally fell for it. The show already had me taking furious notes about how out of left field his “I love you” was and how forced the speedy romance felt before then pulling the rug out from under me by showing the real conversation, had between Charles and his gaming pal Jeremy. “Troll the respawn, Jeremy” is the first joke of the season with instant repeatability, the kind of line destined to be quoted and referenced over and over again.
But Kimmy’s last conversation with Charles is also devastating. Kimmy fears that she’s that weird girl again. Even though she doesn’t want the life Cyndee has, she wants to go after the things she dreamed of from the bunker, and she wants to do so on her own terms. “That’s the whole point of being in a bunker,” she says “No one tells you what to do.” This realization is huge for Kimmy, and it keeps her character arc moving forward. Just as I was starting to complain that Kimmy’s episodic plots were starting to feel redundant, here we have some real momentum for her as she decides to enroll in a GED program and take the long route toward happiness.
This episode also does some needed character work with Titus, who confronts the fact that he’s aging: “Black, gay, and old? I’m not even gonna know which box to check on the hate-crime form.” Though we know bits and pieces of his past, Titus doesn’t often get a chance to talk about himself. In fact, in this episode, when he starts talking about his wife back in Mississippi, he quickly recenters the conversation on Kimmy. But the more we know about Titus, the richer his storylines become. Here, we get a glimpse into his insecurities, and he finally feels more connected to the emotional framework of the show. And hopefully there’s a lot more to come. Kimmy’s a great character, but the show can’t coast by on her energy alone.
- Writing about the quotability of “troll the respawn Jeremy” also makes me think about the awkwardness of the binge-viewing model when it comes to references. It’s not like, say, after the Portlandia finale when everyone was saying “put a bird on it” the next day. I’ve seen “troll the respawn Jeremy” show up at different times all over my Twitter timeline over the past few days, as everyone’s watching at a different speed. I don’t have any lofty conclusions to make about what this says about Binge Watching Culture in general, but I just think it’s fun to watch people moving at different paces.
- Speaking of which, try to save comments about future episodes for the reviews that actually correspond with those episodes, just in case people are worried about spoilers.
- The traditional meat and flowers of Indiana courtship have convinced me to pack my bags and move to Indiana.
- Car is a hard word to say.
- One of those Kimmy declarations that’s wise and true and dark all at once: “Titus, age doesn’t matter. You can die at any time.”
- Props to this show for doing a Borat “my wife” joke that somehow doesn’t feel hack.
- The bunker flashbacks are particularly effective in this episode. We see the great lengths Kimmy went to to take care of Cyndee underground, whether she’s making sure Cyndee gets her turn with the tennis racket and imaginary ball or lying to Cyndee to keep her hopes alive. And then there’s the re-enactment of Cyndee’s date with Brandon, which is easily the episode’s funniest scene. Ellie Kemper continues to nail the comedy.