Parodying Beyoncé’s Lemonade is not a particularly fresh concept, and yet Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt does it masterfully in “Kimmy’s Roommate Lemonades!” It pays sufficient homage to the original while also standing on its own, embodying the specific and weird voice of the show. And it’s safe to say none of it would have worked if not for the magnetism of Tituss Burgess.

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“Kimmy’s Roommate Lemonades!” spotlights all of Burgess’ strengths. His voice, his presence, his incredibly distinct and hilarious delivery—they all combine in these musical vignettes to make magic. After seeing Mikey with another man (named Jeff, which Titus pronounces incorrectly throughout the episode), Titus decides he’s “lemonading,” leading to a series of music videos parodying original Lemonade tracks. The fact that Titus turns “lemonade” into a verb alone is so true to the character. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt doesn’t need to bend over backwards to pay tribute to one of the most popular albums of 2016. It doesn’t feel like a gimmick, because it’s so believable that this would be the character’s exact reaction to finding out he’s being cheated on. The writers don’t undercut the characters for the sake of comedy; in fact, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s humor is all firmly rooted in a strong sense of character.

Every frame in these “music videos” is essential, and every lyric delivers jokes on jokes on jokes. These songs are all on-par with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s music in terms of being both hilarious and also authentic reproductions of the genres they’re replicating. Carol Kane joins Burgess and is, unsurprisingly, delightful. The songs don’t overtake the episode, but they’re an essential throughline, especially because the parody functions as a part of a larger story about Titus and Mikey’s relationship.

Mikey tells Titus that he has just been hanging out with Jeff as a friend, and Mikey really believes that to be true until he realizes Jeff might be into him and he never told Jeff about his relationship. Mikey and Jeff undeniably have more in common than Mikey and Titus, but Mikey promises Titus he’ll do anything to make their relationship work. Titus flashes back to saying the exact same thing. It’s a great flashback that shows just enough. Titus then takes Mikey to meet his first boyfriend, Roger, a dentist in the suburbs. Titus would have been miserable if he had stayed with Roger and been forced to change who he is and what he likes to do for the sake of the relationship. He feels that Mikey might be doing that, and he feels too much pressure as Mikey’s first and only boyfriend. Again, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt does from something ridiculous to something real and moving, layering character development under all the humor. Mikey and Titus’ story has been sweet, and this mutual breakup plays out believably.

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Titus’ story carries most of the episode. There’s a light skirmish between Lillian and Jacqueline when Jacqueline announces her plan to help clean up the sludgefronts of East Dogmouth. Lillian responds with her usual platform of wanting to keep things the same (even the water in East Dogmouth, which is somehow thick, orange, and crunchy). Lillian borrows some 2016 election language, chanting “lock her up” at Jacqueline and referring to her own neighborhood as a basket of deplorables. Those jokes don’t really land and feel outdated and grabby in the way the Lemonade parody does not.

Kimmy also finds her life’s calling (sort of) and meets a new friend in the episode. After taking a test that determines she should be a crossing guard, she visits Robert Moses College and meets Perry (Daveed Diggs), a charming philosophy major who helps her realize she doesn’t have to decide exactly what she wants to do in life right now. Their interactions have a definite spark to them, and Diggs brings his bouncy energy to the role. Ellie Kemper, as usual, delivers brilliant small moments that could easily go unnoticed or unrecognized but have become the foundation of her performance as Kimmy. For example, the face she makes after joking to Perry that the building they’re in might not exist is so good.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt feels like it’s in a bit of a transition mode as it eases into the new season, setting the characters on new paths that build on the developments of last season. Right now, Kimmy and Titus seem to be headed in an interesting direction, but it’s tough to see exactly where the Lillian and Jacqueline plotlines are going. Regardless, the show still churns out the jokes with rapidfire precision. And this Lemonade parody solidifies Burgess as a radiant performer deserving of more awards attention than he has received in the past.

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Stray observations

  • Life According To Kimmy: There should be edible paper and hats with pockets and…penguins with teeth?
  • Life According To Titus: “baseball stick”
  • Boom Boy Bye Foop
  • Glitter, on my phone!”
  • “…in episode 204 of our relationship” This might be my favorite meta line the show has ever done.

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