Since the beginning, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has explicitly stated that Kimmy Schmidt is no victim. The character’s kidnapping backstory works well when it doesn’t assert monolithic depictions of victims, abuse, and survival. This all presents the writers with a difficult balancing act: How do you make the bunker a meaningful and crucial part of Kimmy’s background without making it the only thing that defines her? “Kimmy’s In A Love Triangle” seems to strike that balance best.

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The episode doesn’t have any bunker flashbacks, and any of its references to Kimmy’s kidnapping feel organic. First, there’s the hilarious moment when Kimmy visits Titus at work and cackles at all the horrors around her: “It’s so funny what people who have never been kidnapped think is scary!” But Kimmy also decides to help out Xan, who unknowingly says the exact right words to get Kimmy on her side. We’ve seen Kimmy empathize with other women—like Jacqueline and Kymmi—before, and these connections always feel believable, grounded in Kimmy’s background and coming from a genuine and coherent place. Kimmy springs into action as soon as Xan tells her she feels like her childhood is being taken away from her when she finds out Jacqueline and Julian’s divorce means she has to move to her mom’s home in Connecticut.

But what makes this different from the times she empathized with Jacqueline and Kymmi is that Kimmy realizes she’s projecting her own shit onto Xan and changes her mind about helping her. In this episode, Kimmy seems very self-aware of how her own experiences sometimes color the way she sees others. Xan going to squash-filled Connecticut is not the same as being held in a bunker for 15 years. Kimmy can be quick to see others as victims, as we see in the pilot when she mistakenly assumes Jacqueline is being held in her home by a face-peeling cult leader. Those initial assumptions make sense considering Kimmy just re-entered the world. But if she herself asserts she isn’t a victim, it wouldn’t make sense for her to continually see other women as such. Her reversal with Xan makes more sense and shows growth for the character.

Even though the Kimmy/Dong/Logan love triangle gets a title shoutout and takes up a lot of the narrative, the best relationship work in the episode belongs to Kimmy and Xan. The character development done with Xan in these 22 minutes is what has been missing in the Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees equation for so long. Xan the slouching teen who secretly bird watches and gets straight As and drinks soda out of her plastic cup is much more fun than Xan the slouching teen who fits neatly into a finite “bad girl” box. Xan leans on Kimmy in this episode, and Kimmy leans on Xan, asking her for advice with her whole love triangle situation. They’re by no means best friends, but their relationship evolves, and it’s the most interesting Xan has been all season…which is why it’s a major bummer that the conclusion of this arc has Xan packing her bags for Connecticut. Just as the character was becoming more than a stocktype, she’s gone. It’s probably just a temporary departure, but considering how long we had to wait for a strong Xan narrative, it seems like a misstep to have her leaving the story so soon.

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Logan’s departure, on the other hand, is very welcome. Kimmy’s initial courtship with the character makes sense. He grants Kimmy access to a world where she felt like she could never belong, and that excited her. But given how selfish and clueless Logan is—as an apology for his behavior at the party, he gives Kimmy a live dolphin that promptly dies on the sidewalk—it wouldn’t make sense for Kimmy to continue putting up with his bullshit for too long. She finally draws the line with him after finding out he was the one who called Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Dong. It doesn’t tackle immigration with the same level of deftness as Jane The Virgin, but Kimmy Schmidt critiques a lot of the fucked up parts of life in America, like last episode’s shots at popular music (“I Beat That Bitch With A Bat”). And with Dong’s storyline, the show fires shots at the current state of immigration policies, though without getting very specific or deep with it.

There’s a lot more substance written into this episode’s critique of toxic masculinity. When Titus realizes he keeps losing roles because he can’t pass as straight, he enlists the help of M Le Loup (Dean Norris), who specializes in helping gay men pass. Of all the brilliant guest appearances Kimmy Schmidt has had so far, Norris as the macho and mysterious Le Loup might take the cake as the best. Le Loup’s lessons with Titus highlight the absurdity of masculinity with an exaggerated take on the behaviors of straight men (always leave a buffer seat; never drink from a straw; never give any indication that you’re listening). Titus’s desire to pass as straight resonates as a poignant and sincere feeling for the character, the result of internalized homophobia and heteronormative assumptions. And on top of that, Tituss Burgess lands all the comedy, both when the character’s failing to “play straight” and when he’s absolutely nailing the impression.

Stray observations:

  • “To be honest, I’ve never even seen the inside of a public blimp.” Even though I’m glad Kimmy kicked Logan out of her life, I will surely miss lines such as this.
  • According to Titus, paintball is the straightest of all weekend activities.
  • The staging of the crack den that Xan orchestrates is hilarious.
  • I commented a while ago about noticing Kimmy always refuses water when it’s offered to her. I expected some sort of grand reveal about the reason for that, but I’m much happier with the route the show took instead by just making it connected to the funny gag here between Dong and Kimmy, who make fun of everyone else around them always drinking so much bottled water. Their impressions of the overly thirsty are funny, but it’s also a sweet—if strange—bonding moment between the two.
  • My biggest laugh of the episode went to: “If this is your idea of a joke, you belong in a Woody Allen movie, because I’m not laughing.”
  • I also love the recurring bit of Kimmy saying “tooken” instead of “taken.”
  • I’m already looking forward to Xan’s inevitable revenge episode/arc.
  • And folks, we have our best Kimmy Schmidt closing scene to date: A televised screening of the 1938 musical “Daddy’s Boy.”
  • I straight up forgot Jacqueline’s son exists.
  • I’m glad the love triangle doesn’t get drawn out at all. We’re back to a nice biangle, uh, I mean line.
  • “There is no Entourage 2!” And thank god for that.

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