Speechless S3E21 Review


After last week's road-trip adventure, it's back to the regular routine for the DiMeos. However, while checking e-mail on the duct-taped family laptop, Maya makes an exciting discovery -- JJ has just received his first "college decision" -- and Jimmy joins her in taking the computer to their son's Film class (to have him open the message himself, rather than invade his privacy). Kenneth notices the letter is from Long Beach Technical College, his alma mater; but despite being accepted, JJ is still holding out for an acceptance from NYU and doesn't want to hear Jimmy's arguments for going to a school that's more affordable and closer to home.

Convinced that JJ will be more inclined to listen to his friend than to his dad, Jimmy invites Kenneth to go to LBTC with him and help make a video during a campus tour that should appeal to the young man. After the tour, Jimmy (whose status as a graduate-school dropout was first revealed in s1e12 "H-E-R-- Hero") asks Kenneth if he's ever considered finishing his degree... and the eager response he receives surprises and touches him. To get reacquainted with campus life, they hit the bookstore, sit in on a lecture, etc.; but the fun stops when they look into getting Kenneth re-enrolled and see his old transcript*, which reveals just how much of a screw-up he'd been as a college basketball star. He storms off, and Jimmy later finds him in his apartment's hot tub; when Jimmy wonders what could be wrong now, since Kenneth seemed so excited at first about going back to school, Kenneth admits he's afraid of reverting to his old self after JJ (whom he credits for bringing out his best self -- as both an aide and a high-school basketball coach) goes off on his own. Jimmy apologizes for pushing the re-enrollment thing too hard on him but admits it felt nice to have someone take his fatherly advice seriously, and he assures Kenneth of his support. (In the sweet closing-tag, when Kenneth tells him he's returning to college, Jimmy couldn't be prouder if the big guy were one of his kids.)

That same evening is an annual Cerebral Palsy Foundation event to which Maya and Melanie (Sarah Chalke) have been invited, as Fashion 4 All is supplying the clothing this year. Maya dislikes the self-congratulation of such events (she has to be reminded that this isn't an "awards" thing), and only decides she wants to go with JJ after Melanie talks about how she and her son, Logan (Cole Massie), always enjoy attending them together. When JJ declines due to other plans, his siblings are happy to take his place (or "move up in the [family] power rankings," as Ray puts it); but things quickly go south for Maya at the event, as Logan is invited onstage and praises his mother in a brief speech.

When another attendee asks where JJ is, Maya claims he's around somewhere and then tells Ray and Dylan to call him away from his girlfriend's house; after their brother says he's going to Izzy's bedroom (causing Dylan to freak out -- "Sexualized JJ!"), Dylan ends up making a spectacle of herself and Ray by forcing him to pose as JJ (who has just been called to the stage, along with Logan and their mothers). Later in the parking lot, the two moms have a lovely scene: Maya apologizes and admits she only wanted some of what Logan gave Melanie earlier; Melanie admits to her own envy (she praises the strides JJ has made and wishes her son could be "too busy to come to these kinds of things"), but gently chides Maya for comparing their sons and tells her to be proud of JJ; and Maya admits Melanie's moment of glory was well-deserved. (They've sure come a long way since feuding over a hospital room in this season's Thanksgiving ep!)

Meanwhile, having ditched both his parents, JJ goes to meet Izzy's dad and mom (Philip Anthony-Rodriguez and Jill Lover). Her dad cuts an intimidating figure, and Izzy (Kayla Maisonet) warns JJ that he isn't happy about her wanting to bring home a boy, but the man changes his mind immediately upon seeing JJ's wheelchair (something Izzy failed to mention beforehand) -- he treats him patronizingly, rather than seeing him as a sexual being like any other boy from whom he would want to protect his daughter. This upsets Izzy so much that, after her parents (trusting JJ enough to leave him unsupervised with her) decide to go out for a few hours, she plots to teach her dad a lesson... by having him catch her in bed with JJ later. JJ complies, at the risk of really angering her father ("If that's what it takes to fight prejudice, I am willing to make the sacrifice"); he won't even be put off by stairs ("I'm a DiMeo, so two things drive me -- love and spite. This has both"), ultimately calling on his physical therapist, Joyce (Liz Cackowski), to help him.

But after he needs additional help getting carried up the ladder to Izzy's loft bed -- from a neighbor named Brad, for whom her dad recently did a favor (and whom Joyce ends up inviting to her place) -- JJ sadly admits, "I tried to show your dad that I'm a man; I wound up showing you that I'm not." When he isn't convinced by Izzy's reassurance that "everyone needs help sometimes," she assures him she doesn't think of him as just "harmless;" despite all the work it took to get him into the bed, she says there's no other boy she'd rather be with there... and gives him a kiss. Of course, this beautiful love story isn't without big laughs: Thanks to the adaptive wear his mom made him, JJ is caught pants-less in Izzy's bed after she attempts to move him, and Izzy's dad both loudly threatens him and softly tries to avoid being insensitive while carrying him downstairs.

(* While this reveal didn't seem to jibe with what Kenneth told Dylan in s1e20 "R-U-N-- Runaway -- he had been kicked off the team for taking bribes from "boosters" -- I suppose it's possible he felt the truth was too embarrassing, or simply could've forgotten all the other stuff.)

Musical Moments: Logan sings "Ave Maria" after his speech; "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell plays twice, as Izzy encourages JJ's stair-climb and as he reaches the top with Joyce; "My Boy Lollipop" by Millie Small scores Jimmy and Kenneth's campus fun.

Fun Facts: Micah Fowler (JJ) celebrated his 21st birthday the week this episode was filmed; Brad is played by production assistant AJ Cast (and this wouldn't be the first time a crew member has popped up on-screen this season, as director of photography Rhet Bear had a cameo as a portrait painter in s3e18 "S-E-- Seoul B-R-- Brothers").

Next Week: Kenneth pushes for one last hurrah with JJ while Maya braces herself for his high-school graduation and departure for college, Dylan helps Jimmy as he prepares for a job interview, and Ray turns introspective during a class trip in the s.3 finale, "U-N-R-- UNREALISTIC."

Grade: 10/10. All three plots this week find Speechless at its sweetest: JJ reaches another milestone with his beloved Izzy, and his parents each find ways to cope with his growing up thanks to the help of good friends -- Maya learns to appreciate how far JJ has come after Melanie gives her a bit of perspective on their sons' different paces of development, and Jimmy gets renewed confidence in his parenting abilities from Kenneth, who accepts his encouragement to start a new chapter in life.

Bonus: In 2015, CPF launched their Design For Disability competition; every year since then they've held a runway show / gala.
2016 (links to press coverage)
2017 (press links and pics)
2018 (article and pics)

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