Film and TV

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Episode 9: Tina Fey's Back, and She's Wasted

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

Perhaps it was only a matter of time until Tina Fey appeared again in her own sitcom. She showed up near the end of last season as the attorney in the case against the Reverend in a parody of Marcia Clark from the O.J. Simpson trial. Also named Marcia (and also sporting a sad perm), Fey's character maintained an extreme level of incompetence that provided some strong comedic moments And while the character lacked depth, she didn't really need it. Now, Fey's portrayal of Andrea might be the key that cracks Kimmy open.

Kimmy meets Andrea when she picks her up for an Uber drive. She's a drunken mess, transitioning from one bar to the next. Andrea throws up in Kimmy's car, but she also gives Kimmy some advice about standing up for herself and valuing her own needs. (This, despite Andrea taking advantage of her.) When Kimmy drops Andrea off at her office, she finds out that Andrea's actually one of the top psychiatrists in New York City. Kimmy comes back to the office the next day to ask to start therapy, but Andrea insists their drunken introduction created a conflict of interest. Yet when they meet on yet another Uber trip, Kimmy reveals her past in the bunker, and enthused with the idea of analyzing someone with legitimately intense mental problems, Andrea concocts a drunken scheme to blackmail herself into taking Kimmy on as a client by recording a video of her wasted antics.

There's a lot coming together that makes Andrea work as a character. For one thing, Fey pulls off the part perfectly, portraying both the drunken and sober versions with precision and energy such that they contrast dramatically but they still appear in each other in shades. And Andrea's drunken insights are consistently great, as she expresses her impressively strong understanding of mental habits and diseases without a remote degree of articulation or tact. "You're uncomfortable with conflict, obvs," she diagnoses. "How come is that?"

But more than anything else, she adds to the show an outsider's deeply informed opinion on Kimmy's issues, such that she can aptly point out the problems Kimmy has always struggled with and yet we've never seen so clearly put into words. Yes, Kimmy does sacrifice her own well-being for the happiness of others to a fault. Yes, she does have a tendency to lose control of her own actions. Andrea's eye for these patterns marks the first step toward Kimmy resolving these flaws. And yet Andrea's alcoholism and compartmentalizing makes it clear she's no savior. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt largely operates under the idea that everyone's a little bit crazy — even the woman who tells people they're crazy.

Meanwhile, Titus spends the entire episode trying to get a tape deck for the basement. Really, literally, that's it. First he tries to buy one, then tries to make one, and finally, he digs through the dump until he finds one. The fact that Titus does nothing of consequence this episode could have been the point of his plotline, given Kimmy calls him out on his refusal to find a new job or work on a new project when they overlap this episode. But the story plays out mostly without that self-awareness, treating his journey with much more legitimacy than it deserves. Given we don't see Lillian, Jacqueline, or Mikey, it feels like the writers wanted to make this episode all about Andrea and only included a B plot at all for the sake of pacing, but it's a swing and a miss.

The episode also frequently uses songs from Kimmy's new tape series Now That Sounds Like Music!, "music inspired by but legally different from the music you love." It features hits like "Hiking on Sunlight" and "I'm Convinced I Can Swim," and they're mainly impressive simply in how much energy the creators clearly put into writing, recording, and producing all these songs. But they're generally funnier in theory than in practice, and yet they keep showing up over and over.

Biggest Laugh: Kimmy: "Happy people value their needs as much as others'." Titus: "Where did you learn that! Have you been reading Chipotle bags again?"

Biggest Surprise: Fey's back! And not only that: She's great. And it looks like she's here to stay.