Speechless S3E1 Review

"L-O-N-- LONDON (Part 1)"

At the end of season 2, the DiMeo family -- having just been evicted for violating their lease -- camped out on their lawn with everything they own, and Kenneth dropped in to spend the night with them; s.3 picks up the next morning. Kenneth invites the family to stay at his apartment (see "Musical Moment" below), but this arrangement only lasts a month before lack of privacy really gets to him. I suppose a lot can happen in a month, because the DiMeos (on their way to dropping off Dylan at the home of a neighbor / track teammate after she floats the idea of splitting up the family) learn their house has already gone back on the market; I was under the impression that Eddie (from s2e17 "A-C-- Action") had wanted to buy the place just to tear it down and build new structures on the property, but it's possible he and/or his wife changed their minds for some reason...

Presented with another chance to buy the house outright, Maya decides to take Kenneth up on his earlier suggestion that she go to her estranged father (with whom she has not spoken in some 20 years) for the money. On the flight to London, the other plots emerge: Jimmy, acknowledging JJ's hatred of travel, promises to make the trip as fun as possible for him; Dylan discovers Kenneth's secret fascination with Britain's Royal Family and turns him into an object of ridicule for it; and Ray, looking forward to escaping California and experiencing some "real" culture, mocks SoCal surfer-dude stereotypes only to be mistaken for the real deal by a British girl who takes an interest in him.

After arriving in London, as the DiMeos and Kenneth ride atop a double-decker bus around town, Maya is overjoyed at being back on her home turf while Jimmy tries in vain to find a wheelchair-accessible tourist attraction JJ might enjoy; a stop at Buckingham Palace finds Dylan accidentally revealing her own Royal obsession to Kenneth, while Ray buys and puts on beach-bum gear after impressing more girls with his "gnarly" act. Back on the bus, the family soon reaches the home of Maya's father, Martin (UK comedy legend John Cleese, of Monty Python), as he's yelling abuse out his window at the bus's tour guide.

As the family visits with Martin and his wife (a polite peacemaker whom Maya dismisses as "phony"), Maya and her dad end up sort-of "apologizing" to each other in phrases each wished the other would say -- to both hilarious and poignant effect. Like s2e7 "B-R-I-- British I-N-V-- Invasion" (which introduced her mother, Andrea, a renowned cancer researcher who devoted herself to her work at the expense of her family), this episode goes a long way toward filling in Maya's background and explaining why she's the way she is; her stubborn, willful and abrasive sides clearly came from Martin, but having children (especially one with disabilities) gave her an outlet to direct her inner "fight" in positive, constructive, and less selfish ways.

Meanwhile, as random as it seemed to me for both Dylan and Kenneth to be into British royalty (not to mention odd that Dylan would suddenly care about what others think of her), it's sweet to see a softer side to her, as well as her and Kenneth having something else to bond over besides sports. Also, Ray pretending to be what he's not -- especially to attract female attention -- may be a well this show has returned to more times than I care to mention, though I thought it made for an interesting variation that: 1) he gets a taste of being seen as "exotic" by others, and 2) he ends up cracking under the strain of portraying the sort of culture he had hoped to get away from on this trip.

As for Jimmy and JJ, I think their pairings on the show are too rare as it is; how refreshing that, as much as I loved their plots in s1e9 "S-L-- Sled H-O-- Hockey" and s2e4 "T-R-- Training D-A-- Day," they get one this time that doesn't revolve around Jimmy fearing for JJ's physical safety and having to learn a lesson about not being overprotective or patronizing as he struggles to balance encouraging his son and being realistic about the boy's limitations. If anything, Jimmy's outburst reminded me of his pairings with Dylan in the s.1 and s.2 finales -- he tries to keep up a "fun dad" / hero front for his children despite feelings of inadequacy as a provider weighing heavily on him.

Musical Moment: When Kenneth offers to take in the DiMeos, he imagines their adventures as the opening credits of a cheesy 1980s-style family sitcom called Living Under One Roof, complete with a bouncy theme tune sung by himself and Maya.
"Under One Roof!"

Fun Facts: The real estate agent who informs the DiMeos of his difficulties in selling their home is played by Ben Savage, star of '90s TGIF staple Boy Meets World; Martin's first scene was a deliberate homage to Monty Python & the Holy Grail.

Next Week: Martin learns the real reason Maya has come to see him in "L-O-N-- LONDON (Part 2)."

Grade: 9/10. A little hard for me to judge as a stand-alone episode without knowing how "Part 2" pans out, but overall I thought it was a strong start -- well-paced in a way that quickly covers a lot of ground yet allows both jokes and emotional moments to land.

Bonus: In honor of World CP Day (Oct. 6), here's a message from the Speechless cast. :)

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