Film and TV

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Episode 8: Welcome to Steve Buscemi's Sex Show

Each week, we're recapping the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt episode by episode.

Lots of sitcoms run on sex. Not sexual appeal, necessarily, but sexual plot material: pickup attempts, quirky dates, regrettable hookups, and long-running will-they-won't-they scenarios between regular characters. This stuff's the lifeblood shows from Friends and Seinfeld to How I Met Your Mother and New Girl.

And sex has always maintained a presence in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt too, mostly through occasional mentions of Titus' exploits, but even less so when it comes to Kimmy. All we really know is her admission in the pilot that "there was weird sex stuff in the bunker," and duh, the Reverend most likely didn't kidnap four women and lock them underground with him just so they could hang out together. Beyond her bright-eyed naïveté, Kimmy has a sexual history, probably a dark one.

We get our first insights during "Kimmy Goes To A Hotel!", which is directed by Steve Buscemi. Though Buscemi is best known as an actor, he's also worked as a television director on such shows as Nurse Jackie, The Sopranos, and Kimmy's predecessor 30 Rock

This episode begins with the flashback that kicked off the season, now the present, as Kimmy celebrates fake Christmas with her friends (remember, last episode she decided to celebrate a Christmas a week to make up for lost time). Soon after, Dong comes to Kimmy's window and says he doesn't care about the stakes, he wants them to be together. They agree to visit a hotel in the Poconos, which turns out is closed, meaning they have the whole decrepit place to themselves. Once they've done everything else they can come up with, they finally decide to go for it and sleep together. But Dong has a violent allergic reaction to the latex in the condoms, and they have to call 911 - which, of course, results in a call to immigration.

Kimmy's storylines this season keep tackling increasingly mature content, and here we reach a pinnacle. Her decision to have a fling shows a crack in her goody two-shoes persona, and the result (Dong getting deported) demonstrates the dark and permanent real-world consequences of these kinds of choices. But one scene particularly stands out where she and Dong start making out and, reflexively, she smashes him over the head with a rotary phone. This makes clear that Kimmy's had a violent sexual past in the bunker, to the extent that even the suggestion of intimacy triggers her self-defense alarms on full blast. We probably will never find out the full details, so instead we're left to stew in the implications.

This central story only lacks in laughs, as it makes a number of references to 1990s media, including Home Alone, My Girl, and Dawson's Creek, that aren't particularly funny even if you are familiar with the original material. Jacqueline and Lilly's story makes up for it though. Jacqueline fights off lawyer Russ (guest star David Cross), who works for a Jewish family claiming ownership over her multi-million-dollar painting. Jacqueline and Lilly try to fudge their way through the situation, but ultimately they admit that the family should have their rightful property back. Yet when Jacqueline realizes Russ comes from money, she makes him her new conquest.

There's little enough plot here that all this feels in service to set that new relationship up for future episodes, but there's plenty of humor from juxtaposing Jacqueline and Lilly, two incredibly different characters who don't share the screen as often as we'd like. Jacqueline: "I'll have to sell my diamonds and pearls." Lilly: "Honey, you're gonna have to sell all your Prince albums."

Meanwhile, Titus takes over as manager at his horror-themed restaurant, which means dressing like Ebenezer Scrooge and, inevitably, acting like him, too. The story makes a handful of pokes at Titus' absurd attempts to turn everything around him into A Christmas Carol, but this one's also mainly here to service Titus ultimately quitting his job. The gang all gets together to sing a delightful adapted Christmas carol to close the episode out, complete with snow inside the apartment. "Don't worry," Lilly assures, "It's just asbestos."

Biggest Laugh: Titus: "But those papers have numbers on them, Rick! Numbers! The most boring of all the shapes!"

Biggest Surprise: Lots of candidates this week — Buscemi and Cross joining the crew, the episode's explicit subject matter — but it definitely goes to the Ecce Homo reference when Lilly tries to replicate the painting. The internet phenomenon is just recent enough to remain timely, but just old (and silly) enough to come as a complete surprise.
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