Speechless S3E10 Review


No mention of Maya's new adaptive-clothing line idea this week -- but then according to the number on the official ABC/Disney press release (#314), I'm guessing it was the 14th episode filmed this season. (#310 and #311 are set to air Jan. 18 and 25, while the Feb. 1 ep is #313 and was apparently filmed the week before this one.) I think this episode worked as a cute stand-alone "filler" story -- not necessarily a bad thing, if wonky scheduling ends up requiring an ep that the network can just stick almost anywhere without badly screwing up any on-going story-lines or character arcs.*

The story begins with JJ and his aide at a grocery store (a rival of the supermarket where Kenneth works part-time); there, Maya informs them of a "new cause" for herself and JJ: Mentoring new-in-town special-needs dad Corey (Todd Robert Anderson) and his young son, Owen (Cale Ferrin), an aspiring "sit-down comedian" who's having trouble making friends at school. Owen's birthday is coming up, and both his father and Maya are encouraging his plan to emerge from a big gift-box and entertain his guests with some disability jokes; though Maya thinks it's only fair for JJ to start helping others as he had been helped over the years, he's reluctant to get involved in strangers' lives until he sees how his mom is handling Owen... and after discovering that she had lied to him about an inspirational figure from his past (among many other things, as it turns out), JJ urges Maya to have Corey be more honest with Owen and not "manufacture victories" for the boy.

Even so, when Maya, JJ and Kenneth get to Owen's party, they find Corey has been blasting music to cover up the total lack of crowd chatter (since he made good on his promise to Maya and JJ not to bribe a bunch of kids to come); of course, Owen is disappointed when he makes his grand entrance only to find nobody from his school has shown up, and he doesn't buy JJ's attempt to impress him by pretending to be a famous fellow comedian. In the sweet little scene that follows, JJ admits to Owen that he doesn't have much wisdom to impart, but he's able to reassure him that things will "get better" by being straightforward, using his own example of how he eventually made friends, got into filmmaking and is now preparing for college; and when Owen asks if he can meet with him again sometime, he agrees.

The importance of honesty is also addressed in Ray and Dylan's plot, as they stumble upon a teen support group at their school; Ray sees some hot girls and follows them to the meeting, while a hungry Dylan just wants to go home... until she sees pizzas being served. She also finds surprising sympathy for her made-up tale of woe (including dead parents, crying herself to sleep and having a much-cooler younger sister -- the latter two claims being veiled digs at Ray) and begins to feel bad for taking advantage of such a good group, while Ray is more concerned about trying to score a date with one of the girls. At the next meeting, Dylan tells him to stop his nonsense but he refuses, sharing his own bogus sob-story (involving disease, divorce and a motorcycle); after she reveals the truth about him and his motivation for being there, he retaliates by exposing her lie, and both are kicked out of the group.

Meanwhile, an agreeably silly side-plot has Jimmy losing control of his life after a lucky find. As part of his job as the boss of an airline's baggage-claim department, he lets his employees each pick an item in their annual "it's been here for a year, so now it's ours" luggage giveaway. After they leave the shelf virtually bare, he discovers they left behind a large, flat box and takes it home -- it turns out to be a 60-inch TV, which he is overjoyed about until he realizes it just makes the dingy living room look even worse. Unused to owning such a fine item, he has his family help him tidy up the place to make it "worthy" of the new addition; later, feeling like the "dumpiest thing" left in the room, he gets dressed up to watch his beloved World's Best Garbage Fights, only to immediately become ashamed of his trashy taste (yet he doesn't want to watch anything else).

Getting back to Ray, I won't mince words: He is an ass for most of this ep. Furious with Dylan, he accuses her of deliberately ruining his attempts to meet girls; and while I agree he has put up with a lot of crap from her, it's pretty ridiculous that this would be his breaking point since she warned him against going to that last meeting. Dylan confesses that she was there not to sabotage her brother, but simply to talk about some feelings that had been building up in her over the past year -- a rare display of vulnerability for her, though not unheard of (similar to how she revealed her reason for not wanting a birthday party in s1e17 -- she had wanted her mom all to herself for once -- and how she told her dad why she was skipping school in s2e2, to name a couple examples).

Thankfully, Ray quickly realizes he messed up and seeks Jimmy's advice, only to find him in a nice suit doing push-ups (so he can feel superior to the TV by doing something it can't do "BECAUSE IT DOESN'T HAVE ARMS!"). After setting his unhinged dad right with a Dr. Phil quote ("No one can make you feel inferior without your permission") -- in the closing tag, he also helps him return the TV to the airport for another baggage-handler to find -- he takes Dylan back to the support group. In light of her and Ray's earlier dishonesty, she is encouraged to seek support elsewhere, but she and Ray do have a hilarious series of breakthroughs regarding their family dynamic (she as the baby, he as the overlooked middle child, both as the siblings of a disabled person, etc.) before they leave.

(* But even if this episode was indeed originally intended to air a few weeks later than it did, I never noticed any hints that the business possibly could've already gone bust...)

Next Week: Kenneth meddles in Maya's business, Dylan digs Jimmy's old punk band, and Ray wants a role in JJ's latest film project in "H-- HEY, YOU."

Grade: 8/10. I wasn't a big fan of the Ray/Dylan plot for the most part, but I thought it was ultimately worth it for Ray ending up helping both Dylan and their dad; and I found pretty much everything else here likable.

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