Speechless S3E17 Review


That title refers to the quality mother-son time Maya had promised Ray ten years ago -- specifically, a trip to a water park -- only to cancel because "something came up." Though Ray soon lost interest in the water park itself, every year since then he has milked his disappointment to guilt-trip Maya into giving him other things; what makes this time different is that: 1) Dylan learns of her brother's annual tradition (she chides him for "kicking up drama" to mess with such a "great lady" as their mom, yet can't help but admire the cleverness of his scheme); and 2) as Maya confesses to Jimmy, while she's seen through Ray's manipulation for years, what she used to find "cute" coming from a sweet little boy now seems pathetically needy from a 16-year-old, and despite her own disdain for water parks (her hair frizzes up when wet), she has reached her breaking point and vows to teach him a lesson by finally fulfilling her original promise. A hilarious game of "chicken" ensues, with Maya calling Ray's bluff, Ray refusing to back down, and both knowing neither actually wants to do this -- right up until they start going down their first slide at Great Wolf Lodge, when she cracks and demands he tell her what he really wanted (this year, a private SAT tutor).

They end up having more fun than they anticipated, but after many more activities, this mostly silly plot takes a serious turn when Maya's work life comes into play -- she steps away from Ray to take a phone call from the bank (about a loan for her adaptive-clothing line), breaking her promise to stand by and watch him during a particularly scary ride. Ray survives the ordeal, but becomes furious with Maya and goes off on his own for a while; later, when she finds him sitting with some children, she apologizes for abandoning him but admits she didn't realize he cared so much. In turn, he admits he didn't think she would be so much fun but also opens up about a new concern: As in "N-E-- New JJ" (s3e4), he initially enjoyed all the attention she was giving him instead of his brother; but while in that episode her excessive doting became too much even for him, this time he feels he has to compete with her home business ("Now that he's gone to do his own thing, I just hope that [your] work doesn't become the new JJ"). Maya praises Ray's honesty and promises to make time for him; likewise, he promises to start being more direct in asking her for things he wants.

While Ray is affected by Maya having become a working mom, Jimmy must deal with Dylan turning into a young woman and starting to bring boys around. After some amusing attempts to intimidate Kai (Noah Urrea of the pop group Now United) -- a new "bad boy" at school whom Dylan has invited over to study -- Jimmy finds himself bonding with the surprisingly sensitive lad over music. However, Dylan accuses her dad of "ruining everything" no matter what he does in this situation -- from trying to protect her, to getting along with Kai, to calling her out on her "sick social game" (of wanting information about Kai she can use to give herself an advantage over the "queen bees" in her class who also want him) after she admits she only finds the boy "dumb [but] pretty." After Kai overhears them arguing and leaves, Jimmy and Dylan have a lovely car-talk as they go looking for him: The frustrated Jimmy just wants Dylan to tell him what to do so he can stop screwing up and actually help her, which prompts her to admit that she doesn't know what she wants (other than to "be able to yell at you about it!") yet is all too aware of how unreasonable she's being; to her surprise, her teen angst strikes him as merely a weird new phase he can easily handle because "weird is us."

Meanwhile, after JJ gets peeved with Kenneth for making too many mistakes lately -- most recently, making him wait after school and botching his attempt to tell Izzy's friend "I love your car" (Izzy is almost scared off by the too-soon "I love you" that Kenneth reads) -- they meet with JJ's disabled adult mentor, Lee (series writer/story editor and podcast host Zach Anner), who is shocked to learn the young man has had the same aide for nearly "THREE YEARS?!" He explains to them how the aide relationship isn't supposed to be long-term, and lends his own aide, Randy (Dan Mintz of Bob's Burgers), to JJ for the day; however, JJ soon grows bored and frustrated with the humorless, low-energy Randy, and as they attend a movie, he finds Kenneth in the audience and leaves with him. On the way home, Kenneth chuckles at the thought that his little buddy "couldn't make it one day" with a different aide, but then seriously wonders what they'll do next year when JJ goes to college; later, JJ admits he wants Kenneth to go with him. As much as Kenneth would love to stick with him forever, the fact is he'd only signed up to help JJ through high school (the district won't pay for his aide services beyond that); even so, he offers to help JJ find another aide (presumably, a licensed professional who can work with him at whatever college he ends up) to ease him into the major life changes he'll surely be facing. In what has already been a very bittersweet season for the duo, I found this their most touching moment yet, especially with their hug and JJ's "I love you" to Kenneth.

Musical Moments: Jimmy (on bass) and Kai (on acoustic guitar) play "Dueling Banjos" together; Tiny Tim's "Living in the Sunlight" plays over a montage of Maya "having a wonderful time" with Ray at the water park; and in the closing-tag, Ray and Maya dance to Walk the Moon's "Shut Up and Dance" (after the boy is honored "King of the Wolves," something the park made up -- at his mother's insistence -- just 15 minutes prior).

Next Week: Kenneth finds out something that upsets Jimmy and Maya's dynamic, JJ struggles with spending his Social Security benefits responsibly, and Ray has a run-in with a former flame in "S-E-- SEOUL B-R-- BROTHERS."

Grade: 9.5/10. All three plots this week do an equally fine job of balancing fun and humor with sweetness and truth as the DiMeos and Kenneth are all faced with new phases of life.

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