Speechless S3E9 Review


This week, both Maya and Jimmy are feeling hit hard by their sons' growing up: Maya needs an intervention after the rest of the family and Kenneth have discovered that she's been applying to the same colleges as JJ (who does not want his mother going to school with him); and after seeing Ray change a flat tire by himself, Jimmy worries that all the focus on JJ over the years has caused him to miss out on too many father-son "milestone" moments with Ray.

Wondering what to do with herself that would both be personally fulfilling and allow her flexibility to still be there for her family, Maya takes her crisis to her special-needs-mom support group (making their first appearance since s1e16 "O-S-- Oscar P-A-- Party"). Upon realizing she's been dominating the conversation at their meetings, she decides to try being less selfish and even offers to help new member Melanie Hertzal (Sarah Chalke) -- the rival-turned-friend last seen in s3e6 "C-E-- Celebrity S-U-- Suite" as she and her son had Thanksgiving dinner with the DiMeos and Kenneth in a hospital's VIP room -- who has recently been abandoned by her husband, John.

The devastated Melanie also encounters JJ's PT Joyce (Liz Cackowski), with whom she ends up at a strip club; Maya finds them there, and has an epiphany after a stripper named Hot Hot Javier (Victor Turpin) rips off his pants: Earlier in the episode, she had lamented how long it takes her to change JJ's clothes for his physical therapy sessions, and this sexy display inspires her to come up with an idea for a line of easily removable yet stylish adaptive clothing (funnily enough, sort of like JJ discovering his passion for filmmaking while working on the set of a raunchy campus romp in s2e8 "B-I-- Bikini U-N-- University"...). But while Maya has JJ come to the strip club and shows him what she has in mind, Melanie sneaks off with Joyce to John's place; again, Maya goes after them, and as she and Melanie bond over their status as soon-to-be empty-nesters (while smashing bottles from John's wine collection), Maya proposes going into business with her. As much as I enjoyed seeing her get into community theater earlier this season, I think this could be an even more promising development; Maya and Melanie really do make a good team when they put their minds to it, and an adaptive-clothing line would be an excellent outlet to channel their experiences with their wheelchair-using sons (and "make a buck" while fulfilling a need).

Meanwhile, Jimmy keeps trying to pass down to Ray lessons his own father had taught him, only to find the boy has been learning on his own from instructional videos on YouTube. Luckily, just as I was starting to feel like this ep was trying too hard to make Jimmy seem more buffoonish than usual, there's a lovely twist in which Ray, after discovering that his father had been looking up "how to be a better dad" on the Internet, tricks him into finding a video he'd made for him -- giving Jimmy some much-needed reassurance that while he has missed out on teaching his son a lot of practical "little things," his heart-to-heart talks have always managed to "get the big [things] right" and teach him "what matters." Jimmy may not be particularly bright (during the tire-changing scene, he even briefly talks about how his dad had called him dumb -- which I'd say goes a long way towards explaining why he still seems so down on himself sometimes), and he may be baffled at times by the awkward but gifted Ray; but he has a good heart, and it's very touching to see Ray recognize that and give back to him the same sort of love.

As for daughter Dylan, she's been suspended from the track team for yelling at her teammates, so JJ takes it upon himself to set her right by having her join the girls' basketball team, putting his faith in his buddy Kenneth to teach her a lesson in teamwork. This soon backfires, though, as Dylan takes her trash-talk skills to new extremes by digging up "dirt" on the opposing team and using it to mess with their heads on the court -- a strategy that actually helps her team win, and that JJ is later dismayed to find Coach Kenneth encouraging. I felt JJ was a little underused in this ep, but I had to love that, similar to one of my s.1 favorites, "S-I-- Sick D-A-- Day" (s1e13), he again finds his own way to be a good big brother to Dylan: Just he had used tough love to protect his sister from a not-so-nice boy, here he does his best to let her know when her behavior is unacceptable -- including using just his stare to express his disapproval and to ultimately help both her and Kenneth realize what they've done wrong (she's been dragging her teammates and coach down to her level while he, being the adult, should've been teaching her better sportsmanship to begin with). I also recalled "R-U-N-- Runaway" (s1e20), when Dylan first bonded with Kenneth upon learning of his star-athlete past; as disappointed as I was that the show never really revisited this development between then and now, I think it actually worked out for the best: She got him back in touch with his b-ball background, which would eventually come in handy for his new coaching job, and it's in this capacity that he gets to teach her how there's more to sports than scoring the most points -- learning to work as a team can be its own sort of winning.

Musical Moment: Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" plays as Jimmy struggles to find something, anything, he can teach Ray -- such as tying ties, lighting a campfire, and shaving -- only for the kid to end up teaching him better methods.

Next Week: Ray and Dylan find a support group of their own, and their parents tackle mentorship and self-improvement in "R-O-- ROLL M-O-- MODEL." (Note: According to the official Disney/ABC press release, the episode's number is #314, while #310 is scheduled to air the following week. I wonder whether this simply reflects the order in which they were filmed, or ABC is starting to shuffle eps way out of order...)

Grade: 10/10. A thoroughly heartwarming outing to kick off 2019, including an especially promising step in Maya's development.

Bonus: More info about adaptive clothing from www.disabled-world.com

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