Speechless S3E20 Review


At the end of "S-P-- Special B-- Boy T-I-- Time" (s3e17) a few weeks ago, Kenneth promised to help JJ find a new aide with whom he can start to navigate life after high school. As this week's ep begins, Kenneth (with Dylan's help) announces to the DiMeo men that he's found an ideal candidate in Seattle named Tim -- who's willing to relocate, but also very much in-demand -- and Jimmy suggests a road-trip to meet the guy ("one last JJ adventure before college"). When Maya suddenly appears and interrupts, she's quickly appeased by Jimmy's suggestion that she can use this opportunity to make a few more new mother-son memories with their eldest child; as this is the first she's heard of Kenneth and JJ's next-aide plan, I would think she'd be a bit upset that they didn't seek her input on the matter, though I suppose since JJ lets her know this is something he both wants and needs, it makes sense that she would go along with it.

As the DiMeo family and Kenneth hit the road*, Ray announces he's joined the Eagle Scouts to beef up his high school resume; he's even wearing the uniform and bringing along his Scout Journal. In a welcome callback, Maya hauls out a book of her own: her "JJ's Care Book" (the previous appearances of which bookended her s.1 arc of learning to trust Kenneth with her "baby boy" -- she first showed it to him in s1e2 "N-E-- New A-I-- Aide," and he ended up quoting her own advice back to her in s1e23 "C-A-- Camp"); however, after an ill-advised shortcut leaves the DiMeos' wheelchair van with two flat tires, Maya trips and loses her book, which goes flying into a nearby river. The group then splits up: Maya (with an injured ankle) starts re-creating the book from memory with Kenneth's help, and Ray also stays behind to test his Scout skills in "the jungle," while Jimmy must take the punctured tires to the nearest town (since nobody can get any cell-phone reception), and Dylan (who wants to spend a quarter she's just found) and JJ decide to join their dad.

While sitting in the van with Maya, Kenneth reveals that he not only has his own "JJ's Care Book," he's been making corrections, updates, and so on. Later, as Ray mediates their argument, she admits she feels like Kenneth is second-guessing her abilities, and he admits he feels like she doesn't appreciate the strides her son has taken since he met him; this causes her to flip out, hurl Kenneth's "book of secrets and lies" into the river, and lock him out of the van. She initially doesn't believe his claim that he's being pursued by a bear, but soon she finds him hiding in a nearby cabin, and the bear finds them as they continue their fight; Kenneth is upset that she keeps undermining him as he thought they were friends, she says it was always just a "friendship of convenience based around JJ," and he confesses he only made himself a copy of her manual because he wanted to be more like her, "ready for anything." Ray comes to the rescue by diverting the bear's attention away from them -- and ultimately sacrificing his Scout book (which still smells of the jerky he placed in it earlier), its "record of my achievements" on paper no match for a real act of heroism he can now write about for his college-application essays. Funny stuff, but I was especially impressed by how Maya and Kenneth's conflict over who's more in-tune with JJ's needs at this point ended up being about their own relationship, rather than actually making any decisions for the young man.

Meanwhile, Jimmy takes the tires to a gas station and, having promised Maya that he wouldn't let their eldest and youngest have any fun she would miss out on, reluctantly takes JJ and Dylan to the diner across the street to wait for the mechanic. As Dylan lingers at the prize machines trying to pick a toy (she eventually buys a rubber ball... which she loses the first time she bounces it), her dad and brother have a lovely heart-to-heart, with JJ admitting he's "nervous about a lot" and asking how he'll be able to meet people on his own, and Jimmy reassuring him that he initially had a hard time at college but "ended up OK." The mechanic soon arrives, and when he offers to either patch up the old tires or get new ones from the next town over, Jimmy chooses the latter to buy himself more bonding time with JJ; but even after the new tires are ready to be picked up, the guys still aren't done yet (a farmer is letting them take his tractor for a ride). When Dylan demands to know why her father is so reluctant to go back to the van, Jimmy admits he "saw an opportunity" to spend some time with her brother, and he breaks down as he tells JJ how he's been "so focused on making sure that Mom got time with you, because she needs it, but... she's not the only one who's gonna miss you." JJ is moved to offer some reassurance of his own ("There's time for Mom bonding and Dad bonding -- I'll make time"); and the trio have a group hug, nicely offset by the weirdness of Dylan capturing one of her dad's tears in the capsule that had held her bouncy ball.

(* DiMeo road-trip rule: "Getting carsick isn't a choice, but letting the vomit leave your mouth is!")

Musical Moments: In the cold-open, I loved how Jimya just throw together one of their "Born to be Wild" parodies after Dylan points out that, unlike previous occasions when they announced family trips (see #1 on this list), this time the idea didn't come from them so they had no time to prepare ("NOT OUR BEST WO-O-ORK!"); I also loved how the Cat Stevens "Father and Son" cue during Jimmy and JJ's diner bonding session turns out to be from the jukebox (it briefly stops when they play something else, but they decide to go back to it because it "fit the tone better").

Fun Fact: In the closing-tag, Micah Fowler's (JJ) real-life sister, Kelsey Fowler, plays the barista at the coffee shop in Seattle where the DiMeos and Kenneth -- armed with a binder of water-damaged pages saved from both JJ-care manuals -- claim they have an appointment to meet Tim (who sees them and runs away immediately after getting his coffee).

Next Week: JJ meets Izzy's parents, Maya envies Melanie, and Kenneth needs Jimmy's support in "THE S-T-A-- STAIRCASE."

Grade: 10/10. I found everything about this incredibly sweet yet never saccharine; as so much of s.3 has dealt with figuring out how Maya and Kenneth (who consider themselves friends for real by this episode's end) might cope without JJ around, I'm especially glad Jimmy finally got to open up about his own feelings regarding Jimmy Junior's impending departure from the nest.

Bonus: A message from Micah and Kelsey for National CP Awareness Day (which was earlier this week -- Monday, March 25).

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