And so we have the calm before the inevitable storm. Last week’s Kidding left us with the image of a broken Jeff Piccirillo amidst the storm he had created in his office after the fallout of his relationship with Vivian. I was fully prepared to suffer a wave of repressed anger this week, yet it appears that this is being left to the season’s final two episodes. Instead, we’re merely shown a glimpse of Derrell (Alex Raul Barrios – the show’s stagehand) being the sole witness of said freakout before we’re thrust back in time for an extended look at a very different time for the both of them.
Jill and Jeff are happy together, Phil is still alive, Dee’s marriage seems to be working and Peter is but an estranged coworker to Jill in the hospital with merely a sentence spoke between them. It seems to be a lifetime away (I can’t help but wonder where Maddie is too- this couldn’t have been before she was born or else Phil/Will would be much younger) and instantly director Minkie Spiro accommodates by offering muted colours and a restraint on the creative visual work the show has been implementing for the last few episodes. The cold open this week depicts a death row prison inmate (Joey – Derrell’s father) requesting a dozen Puppet Time TV dinners as his last meal, much to the chagrin of the wardens (another nice little cue for the remainder of the episode).
“I know you want to support your friend, but some friends murder and don’t deserve support” – Jill Piccirillo.
It turns out Jeff has been writing back and forth with Joey for awhile now and, despite never seeing an episode of Puppet Time, Joey wishes him to attend his lethal injection as a token of their friendship. It’s through this difficult decision that Jeff meets Derrell, and the two share an intimate and difficult time in both of their lives. Derrell and his mother Patrice live a quiet, more troubled existence than the Piccirillos they then share a meal with, a stand-in for Jeff declining the offer at the request of Seb (Frank Langella). Patrice is more than happy to accept their generosity and milk the experience for all it’s worth whereas Derrell immediately voices his contained resentment of his father’s passion for Jeff as a person. The only problem, of course, is Jeff’s altruistic intentions make him the most empathetic person alive, and he’s engrossed by his and his father’s story. Jeff feels an instant connection to the young man.
Cole Allen is on double duty this week as twins Phil and Will, and we’re introduced to their dynamic through a twin-centric amateur magic routine. Their contrasting personalities are a point of interest within the episode, with Will being closer to his father than Phil and the latter showing jealousy at the two’s relationship (WIll is given $100,000 by his father to donate to a charity of his choice, an odd gesture for sure to which he responds by choosing a cause that saves bees). Phil is definitely the worst-behaved of the two, desperate for attention amidst his brother’s dad-pleasing routine, despite taking some strange dating advice from his grandfather which explains Will’s actions with his classmates a few weeks ago. Will’s change in behaviour from this point to the present is nothing less than intriguing, though it must be said his fascination with bees has at least stayed intact. Allen’s work throughout the series has been consistently strong, and if his performances continue he could be someone to watch out for in the future, especially considering how remarkable it felt to notice the differences in personality between the twins and how strong this was to the point that I could pinpoint where they switched places with each other.
In comparison to the last few weeks, the episode definitely feels a tad trivial. The script this week from Roberto Benabib lacks some of the familial chemistry that those installments of the show have shown, limiting the majority of the heavy lifting to the men in the family. I can’t think of a reason why Judy Greer’s Jill needs to keep showing up topless too, but that’s besides the point. Whilst some might argue that an episode like this counteracts the momentum the rest of the series has built up, I appreciate a look back like this. Especially when it gives me a chance to see these characters in a better place – this place in particular being a time where Jeff wasn’t so afraid to show some anger and react to life like a normal human instead of some omniscient deity.
Jim Carrey, as usual, is astounding. ‘Philliam’ takes the melancholy subject matter the center of proceedings, as the Piccirillo family acts as a unit (which we got a glimmer of last week). When Jeff agrees to attend the execution- thrown by the absence of Derrell- he makes eye contact with Joey for the first time, immediately knowing everything he has to about the man who was as kind as any other and just needed that one bad day to finally snap and become a murderer. Spiro’s direction during this sequence is minimal but extremely effective. Jeff is the reflection of Joey as a character, this is his future and Carrey’s distraught facial expressions as he watches this man die foreshadow his transformation into what Joey became. There’s some wonderful symbolistic symmetry too as the injection is placed directly within the mouth of one of Jeff’s characters from the show. It’s refreshing to have this much of a break from the main plot at a pivotal moment, it’s a final push to remind the audience that Jeff is a good man deep down despite what he’s about to go through in the present. If we’re able to be as forgiving to Jeff as he is to Joey, then he may make it out of the first season of Kidding okay. As for everyone else…we’ll find out.
“Everyone has a breaking point” – Jef Pickles Piccirillo.