Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

There’s a lot going on in “Kimmy Goes To College,” and yet not much really happens, which is pretty par for the course with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which packs a lot of zaniness into one half hour, sprints through the story with little time to breathe. That may sound like criticism, but Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s rapidfire pacing and tendency to blow through story quickly works well. It keeps the show from ever feeling stuck. And after all, this is a show all about not feeling stuck.

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Kimmy introduces the gang to TaskRabbit, an app that lets people hire locals for random services. This leads Titus to Gordy (Judah Friedlander), a musician who hires Titus to sing backup vocals for his tracks, which are all extremely controversial conspiracy theory musings. “Gordy’s got some opinions,” as Titus puts it. And those opinions include believing the C.I.A. invented AIDS to sell quilts, the Supreme Court wears robes to hide their octopus bodies, and fluoride makes children gay. The subplot all just serves as a chance to throw as many ridiculous conspiracy theories out there and have Tituss Burgess sing them—always a bonus. Titus doesn’t care about what he’s singing until he gets to Gordy’s song all about California and how all things, but specifically the boobs, are better there.

Equally throwaway yet funny is Lillian’s storyline. Frustrated with her new political life, Lillian stages a filibuster when the owner of a massive grocery store chain (Peter Riegert) threatens to open a new one in East Dogsmouth. There are some funny Lillian oneliners (when singing a song about the things she does not see in the room, she throws out “a toaster that understands love”), and Carol Kane is as delightful as ever. But overall, it’s a simple storyline that doesn’t add much other than jokes to the episode.

The simplicity of Titus and Lillian’s storylines saves plenty of room for Kimmy, who ends up on Columbia’s campus while completing a TaskRabbit job. There, she runs into none other than Xanthippe Voorhees. I always love storylines that pit Kimmy and Xanthippe against one another (especially since they always end up coming together in some way). Dylan Gelula perfectly embodies a slouchy teen, and she brings depth to her performance, subtly showing some of Xan’s vulnerabilities under that layer of sarcasm and scowl. Kimmy and Xan’s opposite demeanors make them a fun pair, and they always end up learning from each other in small but meaningful ways. Xan’s feeling like an outsider in college, burdened by her upbringing, especially since her social justicey crew team roommates are constantly demanding that she check her privilege. Despite insisting she doesn’t want Kimmy anywhere near her, she also unloads on her. They insult and mock each other, but there’s a layer of understanding underneath it all. They’re both outsiders.

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Even though it’s a mostly silly and inconsequential episode in terms of the bigger picture, it isn’t without substance. One of the most poignant moments of the episode comes when Kimmy shows off her rowing skills to Xan’s roommates, who are all very impressed. When one asks her how she’s so good at it, Kimmy flashes back to her time in the bunker, when she had to turn a large crank per the reverend’s orders. It’s easy to laugh at all the little moments when Kimmy’s physical strength is on display (earlier in the episode, she carries a refrigerator on her back as if it’s light as a backpack), but this scene reminds us that that strength is born from the terrible conditions of her life in the bunker. It also serves as a crucial reminder that Kimmy’s trauma can resurface at any point. A seemingly innocent question can quickly bring her back to the bunker. Anything can. Kimmy replies “just for regular reasons,” opting not to get into the details of how she can row so well. Like Xan, she wants to fit in, and she doesn’t want her past to define her.

Stray observations

  • Life According To Kimmy: “Caffeine free” means you don’t pay extra for the caffeine.
  • Titus takes his water with two sugars.
  • Tony Ravioli
  • “That’s a stupid pizza.”
  • Xan’s RA is convinced Xan and Kimmy are lovers.

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