Speechless S3E11 Review

"H-- HEY, YOU"

That title comes from Kenneth's "hyper-sexualized greetings" to Joyce the Physical Therapist and other ladies he's dated -- though the DiMeo family are all weirded out, he feels his affairs (however brief) still mean something special to him and wants to express that. He also insists he has a life and his own needs, which will come into play later...

After a detour into mentoring last week (thanks to a bit of network episode-shuffling), this week finds Maya beginning to carry out the adaptive-clothing line idea she hatched with Melanie (Sarah Chalke) at the end of "J-A-- Javier's P-A-- Pants" (s3e9). The two have worked out a business plan and a delightful pitch to investors, but later Maya is furious to discover that the recently divorced Melanie has been slacking on some of her duties to hook up with the perpetually single Kenneth. Though Kenneth assures Maya he won't let his interest in Melanie get in the way of the ladies' work, and she's willing to let Melanie off early on a day that she and Kenneth have a picnic date, Maya draws the line at his plan to surprise Melanie with a weekend getaway.

She finds a women-in-business conference out of town that's scheduled the same weekend, and Kenneth does not take his disappointment well -- he manages to find the ladies' hotel room and confronts them there. Maya and Kenneth accuse each other of ruining the weekend (she believes he's interfering with her business, while he thinks she simply doesn't want him to be happy) and then tell Melanie to pick a side; Melanie, who has only just begun getting to know both (especially Maya, considering their partnership was preceded by over a decade of grudges and rivalry), chooses neither.

Meanwhile, JJ's latest Film class assignment is a romance (instructor Mr. Powers, recently dumped, wants to be made to believe in love again); after he and his film-geek pal / partner Aaron (Christian Lees), stuck for an idea, laugh at the notion of drawing from personal experience, Ray overhears and suggests casting him and Izzy (Kayla Maisonet), a girl he'd just met in the Planetarium. As Izzy and the boys work on the film, she clearly doesn't reciprocate Ray's feelings, though she blames the script for their lack of chemistry; Ray, through pretending to read JJ's communication board (a big no-no), suggests she come over to his and JJ's house to help with the rewrite. While Ray only cares about the script making him seem more appealing to Izzy, Izzy -- who has seen JJ's past work and been impressed by its understanding of human behavior -- recommends making the male lead less a perfect hero and more "real," the kind of guy who's scared of putting himself out there but does so anyway. Her empathy towards JJ is beautiful to see, as is his growing attraction to her (especially as he later watches his improved script come to life); not everything has to be about life-and-death stakes, and even the smallest moments of connection between people can be deeply meaningful.

In a neat little scene briefly tying together these two main plots, Maya seeks her sons' advice (like they're the "diverse sidekicks" in a romantic comedy) to win Melanie back: Ray, of course, suggests the typical rom-com "don't take no for an answer" / grand-gesture approach, while JJ points out that trope's "toxic message" (as he says Izzy had pointed out to him). Maya sides with Ray, only to have to compete with Kenneth; on their way to Melanie's house, Kenneth unloads on Maya for making everything all about her and not allowing him to have much of a life outside of her and her family. No doubt a painful thing for her to hear, but she realizes he has a point: After beating Kenneth to Melanie's door, Maya ultimately decides to give the pair's budding relationship her blessing, citing his kindness, his big heart and how well he's taken care of JJ, as well as how he likes Melanie very much. I would think Maya would've been more sympathetic to Kenneth in the first place because they'll both have to deal with JJ going off to college soon, but then again, his rant about how she thinks the world revolves around her was something she's had coming for a long time.

As with last week, Jimmy gets saddled with the silliest plot, though this time I loved seeing his band again (including loan-officer / lead guitarist Carl, played by Kyle Gass of Tenacious D) after their cameo at the end of "L-O-N-- London (Part 2)" (s3e2). I must admit I cringed at the whole setup: The band takes credit for writing a song (the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction") Dylan especially likes during their living-room jam session, she has them play for some of her schoolmates, the kids love the band's songs (such as "Born to Run," "Layla," "Baba O'Riley" and "side 2 of Abbey Road") and one girl even has her father, a record-company exec named Todd (Peter Giles), check them out. After Todd joins them to play (despite knowing their "instant classics" are covers), the gig soon falls apart * -- Carl and mortgage-broker / keyboardist Weird Pete (Derek Basco) bicker, weed-dealer / drummer Glen (Rob Bruner) leaves with a girl, and an argument between Todd and Jimmy reveals the band's deception. But while Todd's heartfelt confession to his angry daughter is all sitcom and rock 'n' roll cliches, the DiMeos are gonna DiMeo and I can't help but find it rather sweet: In such a ridiculously low-stakes situation (besides no real harm having been done, the band had always been little more than "a cheap escape" for Jimmy and his friends to have fun and blow off steam, anyway), Dylan isn't really upset with her dad, and she even encourages him to try the same thing on her track teammates when he admits that he hasn't really learned anything from the experience and "would do it again" (just because he had momentarily "felt great" being considered a brilliant songwriter).

(* I hope this wasn't it for them; I've been hoping the show would use one of John Ross Bowie's own songs from his days with the NY pop-punk band Egghead, such as "Jane Airhead" or "Books" from their '90s compilation Dumb Songs for Smart People, or "I'm Still Here" or "My Daughter (Can F**k Up Your Daughter)" from their 2010 reunion Would Like a Few Words With You -- that last one, I could easily imagine Jimmy singing a cleaned-up version for Dylan.)

Musical Moment: Jimmy offers to play for Dylan one of his originals -- a hardcore-punk protest tune called "Draft Dodger" ("UNCLE SAM, DON'T SHIP ME OFF TO FIGHT IN -- and here we would name some countries where there might be a war going on, but really, it was an era of unprecedented peace..."), but she's immediately repulsed ("That song makes me want to become emancipated!").

Next Week: Dylan fears she may be too much like her mother, while her brothers continue to nurse their crushes on Izzy in "O-- OUR M-A-G-- MAGEDDON."

Grade: 8.5/10. A typically sweet and fun outing, with a bit of redemption for Maya, as well as some welcome insight into Kenneth's personal life and a promising development for JJ's.

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