Each week, we're recapping the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt episode by episode.
After a few rocky ones, we finally get an episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt that works on every level. The character development, the humor, the pacing, the relevance to the larger themes of the show — each delivers in full force.
Jacqueline prepares to throw her big gala in support of Native Americans, but realizes that Mimi labeled the invitations with the month and day switched like "how they do it in England." This means her gala ended up on the same day as Deirdre Robespierre's Lupus Awareness Awareness fundraiser ("not enough people know about lupus awareness"). With her guests all attending Deirdre's event, Jacqueline's on the verge of canceling, but she hatches a plan to win them over. She approaches a gaggle of mistresses at the hotel and convinces them to all bring their boyfriends to her gala so they can finally get a proper date. But it turns out none of her attendees have any interest in donating to a cause that doesn't benefit them in some way, so Jacqueline can't raise any money for her tribe anyways.
After Jacqueline's far too easy and sugar-coated resolution last week, Kimmy doesn't hold back in the intensity of her defeat here. There's no silver lining, no learning. In fact, her last words in the episode are simply, "I failed." This episode may present the relatively cliche message that rich people only care about themselves, but given the darkness of this loss, that message holds legitimate impact. This development will almost definitely change Jacqueline more than her typical monster-of-the-week plot structuring has this whole season.
But this plotline excels on a comedic level as well, largely thanks to another spectacular performance by Anna Camp as Deirdre Robespierre. Her character is so stunningly brilliant (she compares herself and Jacqueline to Newton and Leibniz), revealing that the trophy wife lifestyle has driven her crazy. "Thank God you didn't kill yourself, because I would have," she tells Jacqueline, "and I know exactly how and when." And she remains fascinating and hilarious for the extent to which she embraces each extreme. A speech where she demands that Jacqueline fight back rather than give up marks one of the most powerful moments of the season, built on the pure ferocity of Camp's delivery.
Meanwhile, Kimmy meets a veteran named Keith in a bar, who she pegs as a former vet on sight. "You look like you've seen some stuff," he says. The two connect immediately over how no one else can understand the trauma they've undergone, although Kimmy withholds the details of her kidnapping. At the gala, a crashing noise causes Keith to tackle Kimmy in a PTSD fit, which causes her to attack him back in her own triggered mania. Keith insists that Kimmy's in denial over the extent of her emotional scarring, but she ignores him and storms out of the party.
Kemper has great chemistry with guest star Sam Page, and the two delve into some deep emotional territory over the experience of confronting past trauma and making up for lost time. Like Jacqueline's story, Kimmy leaves still in complete denial over her personal stability, with no neat little perfect ending but with plenty of material for future episodes to unpack. And like everything else this week, it's all pretty damn funny too. "If you think you don't have triggers, then you're in denial," says Keith. "You mean the river in Egypt?" Kimmy responds. "Well you're in a different river — the Euphrates, because Euphrate a buncha stuff!"
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Even a minor subplot with Titus and Mikey comes with strong material. Titus can't keep up with how much Mikey talks, but he observes that Mikey goes silent when around his coworkers and figures that he has no one else to open up to. But Mikey confesses that he only talks to much around Titus in an attempt to replicate his nervous behavior from their successful first date. It's a simple, low-stakes story without a lot of screentime, but it lets us see Titus and Mikey grow as a couple and get to know each other better in a frank, honest way. Moments like these really help a television romance to thrive over an extended period of time, so good thing Kimmy puts in the effort to include them even as an afterthought.
Biggest Laugh: The brief concluding scene where the various construction workers shout their secrets in an environment so loud no one can hear them, like "I get turned on by setting fires!" and "I have a tail! A little tail!"
Biggest Surprise: Every appearance of the recurring joke where someone imagines a person's face with their mouth and eyes switched to pretend they're paying attention. The image remains disarming even on the third incarnation.