The Queerplatonic Brilliance of Kevin Can F**k Himself
Kevin Can F**k Himself was a masterpiece in subversion. Not only subverting the sitcom genre, but amatonormativity in media and greater society’s preconceived notion of what life partnership must look like. It was iconic and queerplatonic to the very end.
Courtney: Hello everyone and welcome back. My name is Courtney, I’m here with my spouse, Royce, and together we are The Ace Couple, and today, oh, we are talking about a show that I am very, very excited to talk about; one that was a little under the radar and certainly, I think, under-discussed in the ace and aro communities, because there isn’t explicit ace or aro rep in it. But from our eyes, there was absolutely just a queerplatonic brilliance to it that we need to talk about.
Royce: So, speaking of the show being somewhat under-recognized, I believe it aired on AMC and I’ve read somewhere that it suffered from something that a lot of shows suffer, where it had a curse word in its title and then either wasn’t advertised enough or performed poorly. [Courtney’s uhm] I don’t know if we’ve just organically come across to other people that we’ve mentioned this to, who have heard of it.
Courtney: That’s true. I feel like every time we recommend it, people are like, “I’ve never even heard of that.” But it is called Kevin Can Fuck Himself or Kevin Can F Himself. In all of the title screens they censor out the U, so it’s like Kevin Can F-ck Himself.
Royce: The title on–
Courtney: The good old fashioned cable censoring.
Royce: Yeah, the– The title, at least on Wikipedia, has asterisks for the U and the C.
Courtney: Kevin Can F asterisk, asterisk Himself. It’s so good! It is such a good show.
Royce: But it is starring Annie Murphy of Schitt’s Creek fame.
Courtney: Also such a good show! And more recently, Black Mirror. What was that episode of Black Mirror called? I think that was everyone’s, like, universal favorite of the season.
Royce: It was the first episode of the season: Joan Is Awful.
Courtney: Joan Is Awful, yes. How to describe this brilliant show. So I think it is a masterpiece in subversion. The main premise that you’re able to tell from episode one is that they are trying to subvert the sitcom genre, which, now that I’m thinking of it, is kind of a trend in media I like. If you can present and subvert the sitcom genre with a lot of additional depth and trauma, I’m probably all about it. Because that’s also a way I would begin to describe Bojack Horseman, even though that’s a fully animated series. That one’s also a subversion of the sitcom, but this one is live action.
Courtney: And in the very first scene it’s very recognizably a sitcom. It’s got the bright sitcom lighting, it’s got your standard, like, here is this family’s living room, here’s the couch, and the stairs, and a doorway that goes to the kitchen. And you get all of the camera angles that you normally see in a sitcom, and you’ve got the laugh track. So it’s going old fashioned, cheesy, corny sitcom. But you also have the good old fashioned sitcom misogyny. Like you have this– this main character of the sitcom, Kevin, who – spoiler alert – can go fuck himself. [laughs] And so it’s all very lighthearted and jovial, and it’s got the laugh track. But it’s also got the like– If the laugh track wasn’t there and the show wasn’t telling you what to laugh at, the jokes are a little mean, and the main punching bag of the show is his wife, Allison.
Royce: I feel like they use the laugh track so much that they were, even in those moments, just making fun of sitcoms.
Courtney: Oh yeah! I mean–
Royce: Because it was– it was overused.
Courtney: It’s definitely a parody, yes. But yeah, so you sort of get exposed to the main cast of this – quote – “sitcom world.” It’s Kevin as the main character, his wife Allison, who’s the main punching bag. Then Kevin’s got his two, like, sidekick goofs, who is his father, Pete, and his best friend Neil. Now Neil also happens to be his neighbor, and Neil has a sister named Patty. And Patty is, like, teetering the line of goofball accomplice with these other three guys, but also still kind of a punching bag as the other woman in the room, but not nearly as heavily weighted as Allison, as the wife character is. So the big subversion happens though where– They’re also, they’re in Worcester, so they’ve all got this very northeastern accent, which is way heavily exaggerated in the sitcom version of this reality too. It lessens a little bit. But they sort of– I can’t call it breaking the fourth wall because that’s not correct, but they break through the sitcom wall when Allison is, you know, in the room with these other four people who are alluding to the fact that they’re always kind of dumping on her. She exits through the doorway that goes to the kitchen, but instead of, like, a normal sitcom where she would just be gone and the scene would continue in the living room, it follows her into the kitchen where, once she is alone in the kitchen, everything changes.
Courtney: The– the lights change, the laugh track is gone, and it is just visually distinctly different. And the first time it kind of gave me chills, because there were so many years where people would, you know, laugh off the casual misogyny of a lot of sitcoms and like, “Oh, it’s just a joke, it’s just lighthearted.” And now that people are starting to look at it with a more critical lens, I feel like some of those older sitcoms have been ruined for a lot of people. Because now that you look back at them you’re like, “Oh no, these people are just mean, they’re just mean to each other.” They’re cruel, they’re– you know the expense is usually at the woman or the wife character in these situations. So to see this character transition from a sitcom world to dropping the sitcom facade and responding as if those things were actually said to her, where she is visibly in distress, she is tired, she is over it, what– It, like– It gave me chills the first time, it was very cool.
Royce: The first cut was pretty hard too because it was accompanying a quick camera change and the slamming of the door. And the show moves between these two viewpoints frequently. There are some characters that are always, or almost always, shown in sitcom mode and some characters that are always shown in drama mode. Which is: sitcom mode is a multi-camera filming model, a single camera model is what tends to be used for everything else. The lighting, the style is what you would think of for a drama.
Courtney: Yeah, very dramatic and much darker lighting, so a much more somber tone. And the– the laugh track sort of also gets replaced with more, like, suspenseful sounds too.
Courtney: Like a ringing in an ear or a buzzing as a transition or as thoughts are worrying. So you do get all of these, like, video and audio cues that this is different.
Royce: Right. And beyond just the– the lighting and the sound, the characters acting, their posture, their facial expressions, the way that they word their sentences. Because some of these characters, and particularly Allison and Patty, you see both in drama mode and sitcom mode and the contrast between them, those two under those two different camera settings, is drastic, like everything about their character is different.
Courtney: Yeah, they– Like I said, the strong accent is, you know, a little less pronounced in drama mode. The way they’re interacting with people, they’re interacting more like real people and depressed people and traumatized people in drama mode. But in sitcom mode, you know, if someone makes a joke at their expense, maybe they’ll have a cutting response back to it and, you know, just sort of ribbing each other. And so, like I also, just– I commend the acting for everyone in this show because there is range between the two versions of reality. Now, since you do mention Patty as someone that we also see outside of sitcom mode, she is the first one we see outside of sitcom mode and I didn’t even fully appreciate that fact until we watched it through a second time. Because Patty is not friends with Allison. And Neil is not friends with Allison.
Courtney: Basically it’s like Kevin and his three friends that are around him, kind of all ganging up on Allison, but she’s not friends with any of them on her own. She– she’s the punching bag of the sitcom. And so it didn’t really strike me as heavily how profound it was when Allison has– in another scene later on, outside of sitcom mode, she– she’s like going through the living room, so it’s all happy, lit up, sitcom mode, but then she exits out the front door and it’s all drama mode again and she’s just walking down the sidewalk. She’s going somewhere. And she sees Patty just on her front porch smoking a cigarette. And they’re not friends, they’re not friendly, so they sort of acknowledge each other, you know, give a hey, but they’re– they’re kind of side-eyeing each other at the same time. And it didn’t occur to me until a second watch through, when I knew where everything was going, how telling it was that Patty is the first and for a long time the only other person in this main cast that we see outside of sitcom mode.
Royce: Yeah, the sitcom bubble very much revolves around Kevin.
Courtney: Yes, and there will be situations where you know, maybe Patty and Allison are in the same room and they’re in drama mode, but Kevin bursts into the room in the same scene and everything changes instantly. So it does very much follow this one guy. But for a very long time we don’t see Neil or Pete without Kevin, so they’re just always– And sometimes we’ll even get scenes that it’s like just the three of them and Allison isn’t even present there, and you’ll see, like, old fashioned sitcom hijinks. Like they’re making bad decisions and they’re getting into trouble, but they’re being very goofy and making you know funny mistakes. Or what we’re being told are supposed to be funny mistakes.
Royce: Everything in sitcom mode is– even if it’s a serious matter, ends up becoming a joke or ends up being very neatly resolved in a way that doesn’t cause serious harm. And there are a couple of times where Kevin is off screen and Allison is in drama mode and Kevin’s actions bleed from sitcom mode into drama mode and you see, like, the real life effects of this person’s behavior.
Courtney: Yes! Because he’s– I mean he’s played off as, like, the buffoon, right? Like he’s the silly guy, he’s–
Royce: He’s the sitcom husband.
Courtney: He’s the sitcom husband!
Royce: Like that’s the trope.
Courtney: He’s getting into hijinks. He’s making elaborate plans and schemes that go awry and run amok, and all of these negative ramifications are funny in sitcom world because they’re hamming it up that way. But a lot of the actual things are like causing serious harm. And sometimes we don’t even get to see the hijinks, sometimes they’re just alluding to past hijinks as the type of, like, a joke. Like they’ll joke about how Kevin’s, like, accidentally set a bunch of fires and we don’t let him play with fire anymore, or something like that, and that’ll be like a laugh track moment, but…
Royce: There is an escalating series of back and forth with new neighbors that all happened off screen. You’d see them in the house talking about what the neighbors did and what they just did, and this back and forth and scheming. And you would hear that they left something on their porch or stole something from the area, or I believe at some point that ends with Kevin setting something on fire. Arson is a theme.
Courtney: It is, and if any of you have watched this, I am curious to see– Because on a second watch through, the writers of this show were masters of Chekhov’s gun, because there would be things that would be mentioned off handed in sitcom mode, played off as a joke that several episodes later would be like, “Oh shit, that actually had a major ramification.” And I would have never seen it coming. Because it’s not like oh, someone pulls a gun out of their pocket, so when is that gun gonna go off? It’s like– Because you have these two different modes, so sometimes when something from sitcom mode bleeds into drama mode, it’s like jarring.
Royce: And it’s also because so much of this story does revolve around Kevin, and Kevin is– his life is sheltered, he’s kind of protected in what is visualized as the sitcom bubble. A lot of his actions don’t have consequences for him, but they do have consequences for a variety of people around him. And it’s not until we see them bleed over.
Courtney: Everyone’s cleaning up his messes for him, yeah.
Royce: Kevin has a little, like, dry erase board on his wall that he tallies points, it’s like: ‘Kevin’ this many points, ‘Life’ this many. And throughout the series this number keeps going up, but near the end it’s like Kevin: 700 and something, Life: 4.
Courtney: Yeah! Well, for– The first time this is pointed out exclusively, he’s like, “I won this one!” And he– he wipes off the Kevin, and he’s like, “Kevin 660, life 3!” And we don’t get to know what those first three life’s were. But that’s a funny number.
Royce: It’s showing the pattern we’re seeing that–
Courtney: Things always work in his favor.
Royce: Things always work in his favor, he kind of sees himself as untouchable. And when you really start to think of the ramifications of a lot of these behaviors that we, again, do often see in sitcoms, if you actually take those literally sometimes they’re really, really bad.
Courtney: Really bad, yes! And here’s one example from the show of, like, one of his sitcom hijinks. He’s like, let’s, let’s find a way to, you know, get a bunch of money. And this isn’t a get rich quick scheme, this is a get wealthy fast plan. And he convinces Neil and Pete to help him set up an escape room in their basement. And he’s like, “What we’re gonna do is tell people that they’re gonna win this huge prize money if they– like, jackpot, if they can figure out how to get out of this escape room. And we’ll build it as this very hard thing.” And so it shows him making these incredibly counterintuitive, nonsensical clues for this escape room in his basement.
Courtney: And again, to go back to the fire, when people were, you know, making jokes about, like, “Oh, Kevin, starting fires!” was just a joke played up for the laugh track. Allison is leaving for the day and taking his car and she’s saying you know, “I put a– I put a roast in the oven, take it out in a couple hours.” And he’s not listening to her. He never listens to her. This is a theme. She’ll say something and he’ll, like, have forgotten a couple minutes later. And so she’s just fighting to say, like, “Just take the meat out of the oven when it’s done. Just do this one thing. I am leaving!” And she sets an Alexa– and says you know, “Alexa set an alarm because I don’t think he listened to me.” And the last thing she says before she leaves is don’t burn down my house. And then Kevin gets himself locked in the escape room with these other people and then all of a sudden the house starts getting all smoky. Because the alarm goes off. He doesn’t know why the Alexa is going off. And he can’t get upstairs to the kitchen now to take the meat out of the oven. So he actually does almost burn down the house, and she knew that that was going to happen!
Courtney: But the actual plot aside from these sitcom hijinks, because those are very much a B plot for the purposes of this show. In drama mode, Allison, as this wife who is in this relationship that nobody is perceiving as abusive, but we’re seeing the fact that she is constantly the butt of the joke. She is constantly needing to clean up after Kevin’s messes. He is not very kind to her, he is not very attentive. She decides that she’s going to kill him. And I’m very here for it. But she’s also very much, like, white sheltered suburban woman who is like, “I’m going to kill my husband because he is terrible and he can fuck himself.” And she doesn’t know how she’s going to do that. So once she resolves to kill him, part of the plot is her just trying to figure out how she’s going to do it.
Royce: And that plot spans most of the first season. This is a fairly short series. It’s two seasons, eight episodes each. The episodes themselves are about 45 minutes. But the plot of the first season is mostly Allison trying to figure this out, I believe. She decides she’s going to kill Kevin in episode one and settles on a drug overdose being the easiest way to accomplish that and then goes through a whole series of situations to try to find the pills to cause the overdose.
Courtney: So Allison is looking for drugs to try to make this seem like an opioid overdose and she doesn’t know how to do that, so she’s trying to figure it out. She kind of has a wild night where she ends up doing some “coke-caine” [laughs] which she says at one point. She says coke and then has to explain, “-caine?” to someone and they’re like, “Yeah, I know what you meant.” And just sort of going off the rails partying. And this actually has a lot to do with, like, the neighbor feud too, because she has now learned – because Patty told her – on the front porch that their life savings that Allison thought they had is gone. Kevin has spent all of it. It is gone. Because she was dreaming of actually buying a house.
Courtney: They must be renting the one they currently live in and she wanted to move to, you know, a suburb, buy their own home. This is something very aspirational for her, so she’s fantasizing about what life would look like in this suburb. Which wouldn’t have happened anyway, because her fantasy of living in this suburb was very, like, pristine 50s housewife. Like lovingly pouring a beer for her husband and he looks great and they both look happy. And it’s like we, as the audience, know that’s not how that would work anyway. So it’s also just sort of a– showing a coming to the realization that everything in the American dream, or every relationship we’re told we’re supposed to have, isn’t always a good thing for everyone. But she’s decided, you know, “We have been married 10 years now. We have saved up money for 10 years now. I want to buy a house. Let’s talk to a realtor, let’s get serious about this.”
Courtney: And that’s when Patty, outside of sitcom mode, kind of feels really bad for her and is like, “Hey, Allison, there is no money in that account.” And Allison’s like, “What? No, that’s not possible.” And she’s like, “No, there’s no money in this account.” Like, “Your husband has asked my brother for money because he doesn’t have any,” for all these like sports jerseys and sports memorabilia that they’re buying. And she even says, “How often does a package come to this house? How do you think Kevin is paying for all these expensive things that he’s getting?” And she’s like, “Yeah, when Kevin asked Neil for money, who do you think Neil went to for money? Neil came to me. So that’s how I know, and this was a couple of years ago. You don’t have any money.” And so this was obviously all the more reason to kill him. [laughs] But that’s sort of the first conversation they have. And Allison starts warming up to Patty and starts saying, like, “Oh well, aren’t we friends?” And for a while Patty’s like, “No, we’re still not friends. I just felt bad for you and that is why I told you that. But we are still very much not friends.”
Courtney: And it’s in this episode too that Allison realizes that Kevin had just ordered a sweater that was worn by some professional athlete and that that’s coming to the house. And so Allison decides that she’s going to steal that because fuck him, right? And she took the package and was like, “This is my sweater now.” And she just wore it on her bender where she went and did cocaine for the first time. And Kevin thinks the neighbors stole this package, so that’s why he’s feuding with the neighbors now. But it was also in this episode where you get a moment where Kevin is talking to Patty about how, like, oh, he’s going to win this feud with the neighbors, and Patty mentions offhandedly, like, alluding to something else, and she’s like, “You got the mail carrier deported because of some minor thing they did that annoyed you,” or something. So that’s also played up for the laugh track. That’s passed off as a joke, in the way that line is delivered is as a joke in the sitcom world. But then you start thinking about that with everything else that’s adding up and it’s like oh, this guy is actually like ruining a lot of people’s lives on a whim or over petty feuds.
Courtney: And so in her quest to try to find these pills, she meets a couple of dead ends, but she gets a tip with a little business card on it and is told, “Hey, if you go to this hair salon and ask for a wash, like Bob gets, like that’s the code, this owner of this salon is actually a dealer and you can get some pills.” And so Allison goes and finds out, in that moment, that this is Patty’s salon. Patty is actually the dealer. So then they have a moment of like, “Oh shit.” So now they both kind of know that the other one’s kind of up to something. Patty’s like, “Why do you need these pills?” And Patty’s getting supplied by an old friend from school who’s a pharmacist now. And for the most part she’s just been selling some here and there to some of her clients, a lot of whom are, like, middle-aged women, elderly women who have, like, knee pains and hip issues and, like in her mind, she’s not part of a big drug ring at all. She just sees clients who have chronic pain and she knows someone who can get them pills. So she very naively is thinking that she’s just doing this to help out these clients of hers. But when she goes to get a restock on the pills so that Allison can have some, the pharmacy gets raided by police and that pharmacist gets arrested. So her supplier is now gone, which we also found out was kind of accidentally Allison’s fault.
Royce: Yes, that’s true.
Courtney: Because when she was on coke…caine she was also trying to just spill her guts to this guy she was doing cocaine with, and he turned out to not be listening at all, and since nobody ever listens to her, she just absolutely lost it and slapped him. And he got really angry. So when she asked him, like, “Hey, sorry for slapping you, but do you know anyone I can get pills from?” He decided to mess with her and tell some guy that she was a prostitute and set up this meeting with these incorrect intentions. So she got mad enough when she got set up like that that she decided to call the cops on that guy and say, “I saw this guy selling drugs and he works at this mechanic shop,” and, “Please get this monster off the street.” But since he got arrested he decided to give up another local dealer, who’s this pharmacist, probably in exchange for some kind of plea bargain. And so that came full circle. And now Patty can’t get any pills.
Courtney: So Allison decides to lie to Patty and say that the reason why she needs these pills is because on this night that she went on this big bender, she made some awful decision and stole some pills from a guy who’s some big, serious, tough dealer, and now he’s harassing her and he wants his pills. So Patty’s now concerned for Allison’s safety and is like, “Look, I might know someone in another state who can get us some, but we’re gonna do this once and only once.” So they kind of go on a little girl’s trip together, a little girl’s trip to get some drugs. And that’s, you know, a series of unfortunate happenstances too because the guy they thought was gonna sell them drugs didn’t have the right kind. He ended up bringing something different. And then they say, “Who can we get these particular pills from?” They send them to someone else, but that person didn’t have drugs either and, instead of drugs, gave them a gun. And they were like, “What am I gonna do with a gun?” And Patty thinks, “Well, this is great, you can use it for self-defense for this guy and get him off your back. Just point it at him.” So they end up going back home, no pills in hand, but they have a gun.
Courtney: And they stop to fill up on gas and Allison sees a trucker filling up his semi who’s kind of limping, and she goes, “Oh, I wonder if he has a prescription.” So she goes and tries to buy some pills off of him in a back corner. And Patty comes out of this gas station seeing that Allison is gone. She is now starting, because of this road trip, to take a liking to Allison. They are now actually starting to become friends because of these chats that they had while driving. And she sees a guy with Allison in a back corner and she’s like, “Oh no, this is the guy who’s been threatening her.” And so Patty comes up behind this guy and, trying to defend Allison, just knocks him out cold, just absolutely, like, pistol-whips him from behind. So they run away real fast. They steal the bottle of pills, or Allison steals the bottle of pills that he dropped when he got unconscious, and they head home. But that is when they get picked up by police. So of course Patty’s like hyperventilating.
Royce: So it’s at this point, they are on their way back home, they have a stolen bottle of pills and have an unregistered firearm in the car, and they are pulled over by the police.
Courtney: And they recently assaulted a man in a parking lot in the middle of the night.
Royce: Yeah, and they find out that the reason why they have been pulled over is because the car that they are driving has been reported as stolen by Kevin. Kevin ignored Allison when Allison told him she was leaving and was taking the car and then tried calling Allison repeatedly, and when Allison didn’t answer– I don’t think Kevin specifically reported Allison as a missing person, but he did report this car as stolen as a response to that.
Courtney: Yeah, it was just the car. I don’t think it’s anything about Allison.
Royce: But this is a moment of, I think, clarity. A moment of insight into their relationship in the drama sequence outside of sitcom mode. Where Patty, in disbelief, is like, “You didn’t answer your phone earlier today and Kevin reports your car is stolen,” like that’s all it took.
Courtney: Well, yeah, and in this moment too, Allison isn’t surprised, and she’s like, “Patty, this is what he does, this is him.” And Patty’s even like, “Well, you know Kevin, I mean, he’s a buffoon.” Like, he’s a goof, like he just does silly things. And Allison’s like, “Oh, no. No, no, it’s way worse than that, and that’s why I’m gonna kill him.” And so she tells Patty, right then and there, that that is what she’s planning to do, and–
Royce: I think it’s at that point in that conversation, she also goes through a list of small things like–
Courtney: Not small. She goes through big things.
Royce: What I meant was she very quickly moves through a list of things without a lot of detail of, like, things that Allison has tried to do, career choices, friend groups, things like that, somehow Kevin has gotten in the middle of all of them and isolated her. She’s at a point in her life where she has a job at a liquor store. She basically doesn’t have a friend group. She doesn’t have a career path. Every time she has tried to do something for herself, Kevin has done something to cause that to disappear.
Courtney: Yeah, he sabotaged it. And she wanted to go back to school. She got a job that she was really proud of and she was like, “I was proud of myself. I felt like I was, you know, doing good and making something for myself.” Was it like a paralegal or something along those lines? I’m trying to remember. But, like, Kevin absolutely sabotaged that job for her and she lost that opportunity. And, like with the job at the liquor store too, there comes a point where Allison actually quits that job and gets a job at a diner. And that diner happens to be owned by not formally an ex, but a past love interest of hers from back in school, that they maybe had a little fling but weren’t in a formal relationship at the time. And he’s recently moved back to Worcester, after moving away for a while, and opens up a diner there. And so she stumbles upon his diner, reconnects with him and he ends up giving her a job in this diner. And it’s in sitcom mode, so it’s all played for laughs. But Kevin, like, confronts her about quitting her job at the liquor store because he wanted that employee discount for liquor. So like, even something as seemingly innocuous as changing your job from a liquor store to a diner, he is upset about it and confronts her.
Royce: I pulled up the transcript, and Allison did get a job as a paralegal. That caused her to start working a lot, and Kevin convinced everyone in their friend group that Allison was having an affair, and then poured sugar in her boss’s gas tank, which ruined the engine. And then she got fired.
Courtney: Yep. So yeah, when she says that to Patty in this list of like, “No, this is what he does. He ruins my life, he ruins opportunities for me. I am 0% surprised that he reported this car stolen.”
Courtney: So now they’ve kind of got this like Thelma and Louise situation going. We got these two women doing crimes together who are getting in a little too deep and are starting to develop this bond of friendship now that was absent before. And you start getting these additional nuggets of when they’re talking together. Like Allison picks up hamburgers, at just like a fast food joint, and gets an extra one and gives it to Patty. And as they’re eating that on the porch, she’s like, “I used to eat hamburgers every day after swim practice back when I was a competitive swimmer, and I haven’t eaten one in years.” Like, “I have changed everything about my life since I married Kevin.”
Courtney: And this new boss, old love interest of hers, kind of becomes a new love interest too. They start kind of having an affair. And this is the thing that’s very, very interesting, because I said at the top of this episode that there is a queerplatonic brilliance about this show, and there absolutely is. And it didn’t get enough attention that I’m seeing like a ton of think pieces on it, but some of the op-eds that I saw at the time this was coming out– First of all during the first season, they’re like, “Kevin isn’t actually that bad and Allison’s way worse than him because she wants to kill him.” And it’s like I don’t know. I could definitely see the little nuggets of like, no, this is intense manipulation. It is just being glossed over by this sitcom bubble of a brush. So I at least kind of always sense that there was more to the story of Kevin than what was overtly being shown to us.
Courtney: But there are still some people who, as– like the two leading women, Allison and Patty, who will either say, “I’m so disappointed that they didn’t turn out to be gay,” or they’ll say, “I’m so excited that they did end up becoming gay and in a romantic relationship.” And I don’t– I disagree with both of those assessments. I don’t think anyone has seen it the way I see it. And I think it’s so much more complex and nuanced than a will they/won’t they of Allison and Patty. Because in my eyes neither of them ever expressed a sexual or romantic interest in one another, but they did express those interests towards other outside people.
Courtney: Allison starts having this fling with this boss of hers, and Patty at first, we learned, has been in a relationship with the guy for a while, but there’s very much no real spark there. They’re very much in a rut. She seems very bored, if not outright annoyed by him, and he ends up proposing to her because he’s like, “We’ve been together for long enough, this is good.” And she’s like, “Whoa, why do you gotta do that? Why don’t we just keep doing the thing that we’re doing? ’Cause this works.” But he really wants something more than Patty’s giving him. So they end up breaking it off and Patty instead starts dating a police officer, who also happens to be the first woman that Patty has ever been in a relationship with. And also happens to be the officer like actively investigating some of the shit that they are involved in, in some way. So there is kind of this, like, added level of tension and tiptoeing around things because of that now.
Courtney: So during the course of all this, a much grittier drug dealer just shows up in Patty’s salon one day, and is like, “Hey, I’m the nephew of someone you’ve been dealing to for years. And I get it, sometimes it’s good business to not ask a lot of questions, but did you really think that all of those pills you were given to my dear aunt were just for her knee pain or whatever?” And he’s like, “Come on, you have been– you have been increasingly giving her more bottles. You really didn’t suspect that there was something bigger going on here?” Like, you were supplying my aunt, and I was supplying the rest of the town. And so then Patty realizes that she’s gotten in some deep trouble as well. And now he wants pills. He’s like, “Figure it out.”
Courtney: So after hearing all this, Allison decides to not use these pills to try to kill Kevin. She decides she’s going to give those pills to Patty to try to assuage this drug dealer who wants his pills. And so now they need a new method.
Courtney: What is the new method of killing Kevin? They’re like, “Well, actually, word on the street is this drug dealer killed his stepfather or something and got away with it.” And so they’re like, “Maybe we can hire him and take out a hit on Kevin.” So they try to do exactly that.
Courtney: And it’s kind of interesting because during this first period of their blossoming friendship, when they’re put back in sitcom mode, Patty will reflexively make mean jokes at Allison’s expense, and then Allison will be like, “Hey!” And she’s like, “Sorry, reflex.” Like she just can’t help it. This environment, like, is so toxic and so carefully curated this way by Kevin. So we start seeing a little less of that. We start seeing Patty distancing herself from the main group with the three guys a little more. And since they came home with this gun that is, as you pointed out earlier, unregistered, made in a very seedy backwards deal, they decide to just, like, bury it in their backyard. Like this, “I just wanna wash my hands with this. I don’t want anything to do with this gun right now.”
Courtney: And so, after they hire this guy to kill Kevin, there is this moment where Allison is really distraught. She has, like, got a bottle of wine and she’s drinking in a bathtub and she’s crying. And Patty comes to find her and Allison’s just sort of lamenting like, “I’m not going to have my house in the suburbs, I’m not gonna have my kids.” And Patty even says, like, “Do you even want kids?” And she’s like, “Well, yeah, of course it’s what you do.” So that’s also kind of hinting at the fact that she probably hasn’t actually thought about it that much, but she’s probably been looking at her miserable relationship and thinking, “Well, this will be better when we have a house, this will be better when we have kids,” despite that absolutely not being the case. And she’s just lamenting the fact that she’s gonna die alone cause her husband’s gonna be dead, and this is just how it’s gonna be.
Courtney: And so Patty ends up like – and they’re fully closed, they’re like in their jeans and normal clothes – and so Patty gets in the bathtub alongside her and they’re drinking the wine right out of the bottle together and it’s a really sweet moment. They just sort of, like, lean their heads in together and just lean on each other and drink wine in the bathtub. But I think that was the first main moment where the concept of being alone and dying alone was seen as like the worst possible outcome, which does come up with other characters later. So the end of the first season – this is a two-season show – the end of the first season was kind of jarring because for the first time since Allison and Patty, we see the next person break out of sitcom mode.
Royce: Yeah, well, let’s back up just a little bit because, leading into the finale here, things are trying to get set up. So the drug dealer will break into the house and kill Kevin. Patty has buried the unregistered firearm in the backyard, which is very quickly thereafter found during sitcom hijinks involving a metal detector.
Courtney: Yeah, Kevin finds it.
Royce: Yes, Kevin and Neil find it while they are messing around with a metal detector. And so the drug dealer breaks into the house ahead of schedule because he is– has just committed a parole violation and needs to get out of town now, basically. Kevin whips out this gun from, like, under a pillow or under a mattress or something – Allison had no idea he had the gun – and somewhere off-screen, he confronts the drug dealer and shoots him.
Courtney: Yeah, and can I just say we were watching the show on a weekly basis as it was coming out and it was agonizing. Because we just hear an off-screen shot, and we know that both of these guys have guns, and they leave you hanging for a while before you find out who actually shot whom. And just the nature of this show like they would often leave on cliffhangers and they’d often do like a coming up next week with like a best of reel for various scenes that would have us going like, “What context is that in?” So it was an agonizing week-to-week watch.
Royce: This was also a show that I think was in a very shaky “Is it going to get canceled or completed?” state during season one.
Courtney: Oh yeah, after the first season left off on yet another cliffhanger. I was like, “I swear, if this show gets canceled I will be so mad.”
Royce: But rounding out the first season, the drug dealer is hospitalized after being shot. I believe is unconscious in a coma or something like that. The season ends after a couple of verbal confrontations. Neil had been bothering Kevin more than Kevin liked, so Kevin had told him to go. They told Neil to basically go hide as some sort of, like, large scale game of hide and seek that apparently they’ve done before that Neil really wanted to do. So Allison and Patty believe that they are alone in Allison’s home and begin very loudly talking about everything that has happened, and how the person that they were hiring to kill Kevin is now in the hospital and might wake up at some point, they don’t know. And sort of their whole plan is in jeopardy, they’re in danger, and Neil overhears this.
Courtney: Yeah, and it was kind of a big confrontation of, you know, relationship strife too, because Allison is concerned about Patty’s new girlfriend officer being suspicious of her and suspicious of their plans and she’s investigating all these things. And she’s always kind of side-eyeing Allison when they’re together in person. So she’s like, “I think your girlfriend’s on to me. And she’s constantly like writing notes down in a notebook. Why don’t you steal that notebook and read it and see what she’s saying, and see if she’s on to us.” And Patty does that and learns that she’s just really jealous of Allison, and is concerned that Allison is like a threat to the relationship. So then Patty feels awful that she just violated her girlfriend’s trust, and she’s like, “How could you ask me to do that?” So that was the context of this argument and Patty kind of ends up storming out. And then we see Neil fall out of a closet, like stuffed behind blankets and stuff, and confronts Allison and was like, “I just heard all of that.”
Courtney: And at first he plays it off pretty goofy, like the goofy sitcom guy, but then he’s like, “I’m going to tell Kevin.” And ends up like throwing Allison down on like a counter and like grabbing her throat and like very violently trying to, like, take his phone back from her. And then Patty, who we thought was gone, like, smashes a bottle over his head from behind and he falls down to the ground. And then it’s the darker, moodier lighting again and he drops the funny guy act. And so now he’s not fully unconscious but he is, like, bleeding from the head on the ground, and then Patty and Allison standing there just like grab each other’s hands and stare down at Patty’s brother who is now bleeding on the ground and knows that they were conspiring to kill Kevin. And that’s how that season ended! So of course I was like, “I am going to riot if they cancel this!” Because now we’re like, Neil broke out of sitcom mode. What’s going to happen with that?
Courtney: And all throughout this, like, plot to kill Kevin too, I did want to point out that, in line with just like imposed aspirations, after Allison’s dropped the, “Oh, we’re going to live in the suburb and live the perfect like 50s housewife life,” she starts fantasizing about what her life’s going to be like after she kills Kevin and she’s like, “I’m going to go to cafes and have tea and a scone and read a book by the shore. And I’m just going to love my quiet life, reading books and going to coffee shops.” And so you see all these like dreams and these fantasies about the fact that she’s going to do that. But season two comes and now that they’re out of options for killing Kevin – the pills are gone, the guy who was going to kill him is still in a coma in the hospital – the new plan then becomes Allison’s going to fake her own death and take someone else’s identity and just move far away.
Courtney: And Kevin, of course, I mean this whole time he’s just failing upward all the time. Like he even starts running for, like, a political office because the whole town loves him for standing up to the vicious drug dealer and defending your home. And so like the entire town loves him, and they’re even showing like police officers on his side, and everyone just enabling his bad behavior all around.
Courtney: And you sort of see the messy implications of these other relationships that these two women are in, like– I really liked Patty and Tammy, her cop girlfriend, as a relationship on TV too that was, you know, two women. Because I think a lot of queer couples on TV kind of fall into either there’s like a tragic kind of we can’t be together because of our respective situations or we have to hide what we have, or it’s a very like – I mean, this is an adult relationship so it’s not the same – but it’s like Heartstoppery where it’s like we’re doing the very aspirational, like, this is the perfect relationship, they are happy and lovey-dovey and they’re going to have a happy ending and live happily ever after.
Courtney: But this relationship just felt so real. Like even aside from the fantastical situations of like, yeah, Patty’s hiding all these things, she’s committing these crimes, she’s Allison’s cohort, the moments when they are together there are real moments of, like, Tammy being envious of someone else, feeling threatened by someone else. They have normal fights that normal couples have. There’s really good moments where you’ll see them just sort of being, you know, fun and cutesy together, but then you’ll see issues that they’re going through. And it just felt so real in a way that I don’t see a lot of queer relationships on TV looking. Because normally people are very concerned about, you know, portraying queer relationships the right way. But this felt like the real way. So I really appreciated that too.
Courtney: But then Allison almost has a moment where she thinks maybe she can leave Kevin and just be with this other guy she’s having an affair with. And that kind of almost seems to be the dream for a little bit and they kind of talk about what that would look like. He’s also married, by the way, but there’s a moment when he leaves his wife and he tells her as much and is like, “This is our chance.” But he says a couple of things that– she has now had enough character development through her, not only her relationship with Patty, but now her growth as a character just trying to identify what she actually really wants, where Patty has said things like, “I like who you are and I don’t want you to change.” And “I like this version of Allison. I didn’t like the submissive housewife version of Allison. I like this version of you.” And this guy that she’s having an affair with occasionally will drop something like, you know, we can get better, we can be better people if we’re together and we can become better versions of ourselves.
Courtney: And Allison finally has a realization where she’s like, “There are some people who like me exactly the way I am. And I’m not a charity case.” And it’s very clear, just based on dialogue, that she is talking about Patty. Patty is basically the only one who has ever told her that she has self-worth just for being who she is.
Courtney: And so they do all the necessary preparations to fake Allison’s death. They get a– they sort of destroy the death certificate for someone whose identity she’s going to take that sort of roughly fits her physical description as close as they can get. And they have a guy who can forge all the appropriate documents for them. They’re like breaking into City Hall and stuff. But this whole time they’re getting closer to one another and they’re also, I mean, they’re trying to deal with Neil, because now Neil knows what’s going on.
Royce: Throughout this entire season, Neil is just on one big downward spiral.
Courtney: Very much so. But throughout it we also learn, and we got kind of inklings before, like “Kevin came to Neil for money and Neil came to me.” We start getting a better picture there, where– The house they live in I get the impression it’s kind of like a duplex kind of a situation, because they live in the same building that belonged to their parents, and so they inherited it from their parents. But it seems like Patty has been covering a lot of Neil’s expenses and the payments on the house itself, and that she also just has to clean up a lot of his own messes, and that he can’t really function on his own without her. And so we see more and more of that and she feels an obligation to do so because, you know, that’s her brother and that’s family. But you start to see more and more how it’s been taking a toll on her as well.
Courtney: And Neil even starts getting like a little bit saucy in sitcom mode, like you almost start to see the facade begin to crack with some of the way he delivers his lines, like he’s only half-heartedly delivering lines comedically, but there’s like a little venom of truth and spite in some of his lines.
Courtney: And throughout all this on his downward spiral, he’s still very much clinging to Kevin and still wants to be on Kevin’s good side, but he feels a lot of resentment, especially for Allison, but also for Patty, for the things they did to him and for the fact that, you know, he knows what they were trying to do. And he just really starts losing control. But it’s while he’s losing control of this that he falls into a relationship with Allison’s former boss from the liquor store. And there’s a bit of an age gap there, she’s quite a bit older than he is. So once that relationship gets revealed, there are a lot of, you know, a lot of shock and awe, some jokes at their expense, of course, from Kevin.
Courtney: So we also have a running theme now of people getting into romantic and or sexual relationships at very vulnerable points in their life, and we see through flashbacks even that Allison was really really affected by the death of her father and that her, you know, sort of falling into this marriage with Kevin happened pretty shortly after that happened as well. So we start to see that, we see Patty getting into this relationship with Tammy during a very stressful period of time obviously, because they’re committing lots of crimes. And now Neil, who’s on a very self-sab–
Courtney: Self-destructive path, thank you. Is now also starting a new relationship, and that woman is also married and it has also been revealed that she’s in a very abusive relationship. Was that confirmed to be physically abusive? Did she, like, show up with a black eye at one point?
Royce: I can’t remember definitively, but I feel like that was the case. At the very least, she mentioned to Neil that it was dangerous for him to be found out.
Courtney: Yeah, and she even, like, almost kind of tried to leave him at one point, and that kind of opened Allison’s eyes like, “You can just leave.” But then she goes back to him and everyone’s like, “Why did you go back to him?” And she’s like, “It’s just not that easy to leave. You don’t understand.” So she decides to go back and stay with her husband, but to continue this affair with Neil. And so– And also in this season, another fire that Kevin starts actually causes, like, a power outage for the entire city, and he ends up bringing his crew to this diner because he’s like, “Oh, the diner is a great place to be at during a power outage.” And he brings this generator and he’s like, “Don’t worry, we’re gonna hook up a TV, we’re gonna have power here. I’ve got this generator.” But he doesn’t realize that it runs on fuel – he assumes it runs out of batteries – and he states that he brought batteries that he took out of the fire detectors at their house.
Royce: The smoke detectors?
Courtney: The smoke detectors. And then, of course, everyone groans and they’re like, “Kevin, it doesn’t take batteries.”
Royce: I didn’t catch that on either watchthrough.
Courtney: You didn’t?! Oh my gosh, that– that was part of where I was like, “This is brilliant.” Because there are so many like, that’s just a one off like, “Oh, that’s Kevin for ya!”
Royce: That’s just a very stupid thing that of course Kevin would say. Like one, a generator that size isn’t going to run on a whole bunch of smoke detector batteries anyway, even if it was electric.
Courtney: Yeah, he’s like, “Oh, I took the– took the batteries out of the smoke detector.” And everyone’s like, “It doesn’t run on batteries! It runs on gas!” And– and like, yeah, that’s, that’s basically the extent of that line. So– so many of these things seem like throwaway lines. Even a lot of the previous examples of, oh, he started a fire doing this, or “Don’t burn down my house,” that, “We don’t let him play with fire anymore.” Like all of those seem to be throwaway punchlines. But when you take them at face value – which in sitcom mode in the show, it’s not training you to do, it’s not telling you to do that – you have to kind of piece it together after the fact, and be like, wait a minute, there is a pattern of behavior here that we’re not supposed to just disregard and and take it face value. So that happens at one point. But other things just start catching up with them.
Courtney: For instance, Tammy – Tammy Ridgeway, Officer Ridgeway – has now been trying to sort of solve why this drug dealer was in their house with a gun and he’s clearly in a coma. But they think he’s related to just other drug activity in the area and they want to catch this other dealer and figure out to, like, tie up all the loose ends with that case. And as part of just general investigations, Tammy gets her hands on security camera footage from the gas station in – I want to say – Vermont, when they went on their road trip last season, early last season, to try to get those pills, when they ended up getting that gun, when they ended up assaulting that trucker. And Tammy at this point is invested enough in this relationship that she’s more concerned for Patty. She’s like, “I don’t know what’s going on yet, but I think Patty is in some trouble and is in some hot water and is doing some shady things.” But she is not immediately planning to turn her into the precinct, but she is trying to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
Courtney: So she tells Allison that she has this footage, and asks Allison what’s going on. And she’s like, “I know you’re Patty’s best friend,” and you know – I don’t know if she outright says it, but the context clues are very much: even though I don’t like you. – “I know you and I both care for Patty. And so what exactly is going on here? Do you have any other information? Has she been acting strangely around you?” And Allison kind of realizes then, “I actually have to do this, I actually have to leave for Patty’s sake.” Which is really kind of tragic because just prior to this, Allison goes to Patty and says, “I’ve kind of been second-guessing things, I don’t think I actually want to leave,” and Patty says, “I don’t want you to leave,” even though it would make a lot of things a lot easier.
Royce: Over these last, I would say, I think it’s two, maybe three episodes, Allison starts to realize: one, yes, there’s the pattern that she’s already admitted that everything that Kevin wants to happen happens, like he has this ability to just make things go his way. But then she realizes, “I can manipulate Kevin.”
Royce: “I can use Kevin to have him change things about our world for my benefit.” And she thinks, like, “Maybe, maybe I can figure out a way to make this work so I don’t have to leave.”
Courtney: Like, “If I can pit Kevin against Tammy Ridgeway, if I can get him to have a bone to pick with her, he can make sure she loses her job.” Like then no one will take her seriously. And like, yeah, it’s really schemy. But you see Kevin starting to enact a plan like that where he’s like, “Oh, I can present evidence that she planted evidence at a crime scene. And this is how we’re going to do it.” And so she starts seeing things like that, where she’s like, “Maybe if we can make sure we don’t get in any legal trouble, maybe I can still stay and maintain this friendship with Patty.” And despite the fact that Patty admits, like, “Yes, if we can pit all of these crimes on you but then fake your death and you can just disappear, then I will be off scot-free.” Like that is admittedly the easier option for Patty, but despite all that she says, “No, I don’t want you to leave.” So they kind of resolve that she’s not going to.
Courtney: But with this new piece of evidence and with the target on Patty’s back, Allison makes the decision, without even talking to Patty, that she’s just going to do it. She is up and leaving, she’s got the paperwork already, she’s going to fake her death now. And it’s even in sitcom mode when, like, cops come to the door to tell Kevin that they, you know, found her stuff when she was hiking and they think a terrible accident has happened in the mountain. And Patty is just distraught. And this is like the second to last episode of the entire series. And then it sees Allison looking for a place to rent temporarily under her new name, Gertrude Fronch. Quite a name.
Royce: We mentioned earlier that they tried to find an identity that was close enough to be believable for Allison, but it’s not close enough to be enjoyable. [Courtney laughs] Allison hates everything about it, like the new identity ages her like 10 years and it’s the worst name ever, and she doesn’t like any of it. But also is, at that same time, sort of panicking at all of this being real. Like I think even if the identity would have been better, she would have had an issue with it somehow at that point in time.
Courtney: Mm-hmm. Well, yeah, because now that she’s actually developing an emotionally fulfilling relationship with Patty, she has something to lose now. And she didn’t have that before. But this is why I think part of the subversion of this entire show is just societal expectations in a way that I don’t think I see done this cleverly very often. Because we saw the housewife fantasies fall to the wayside. We got the discussion about expectations around kids falling by the wayside. But now Allison is alone. Everyone thinks she’s dead. So she’s essentially a free woman now. And it sees her at a little cafe trying to read a book, just like her fantasies did, where it was all like rose-colored glasses, everything’s wonderful and glamorous and she’s feeling so good. But this was hilarious because they have her sitting there reading a copy of Ulysses and she’s just going, [whispering] “What?” [laughs] She is just cocking her head at this book going, “I don’t understand.” [laughs] So she’s absolutely not enjoying this book. And, yeah, that’s not the easiest read in the world. But at this point I don’t even know if Allison genuinely even enjoys reading or if she just fantasizes about enjoying reading, because it’s something that she doesn’t usually get to do.
Courtney: We adopted an orphaned copy of Ulysses once, not long after we got married. We were going to brunch in Kansas City at this– I think it was the French place, a nice little French brunch place. And it was just in, like, a cute little shopping center, strip mall kind of a thing. And we were walking around the neighborhood after we ate and there was just the weirdest thing, because it was like in a doorway around a back alley, on like a side door, it was just the book sitting, like, propped up against the door, and it had like just started to rain too. So we were, like, trying to get back to our car and we were like, “Oh no, this poor orphaned book, we can’t leave it out here in the rain!” [laughs] So we have a very used, very beat up copy of Ulysses because it chose us. [laughs]
Courtney: But no, it’s not the easiest read in the world. And I think it had already previously been established that Allison basically only reads, like, once a year, on Kevin’s birthday. Because Kevin always tries to go out for a nice dinner with Allison. But it’s also right next to an arcade and he does the, like, two dates to a prom sitcom trope where he’s trying to play games with Neil at the arcade while also trying to have dinner with Allison. So he’s constantly, like, making excuses to leave the restaurant and she’s like, “Oh, I absolutely know that Neil is next door,” like “I know that this happens every single year, so I just bring a book to read and I have a nice night to myself and I enjoy it.” But she doesn’t usually get to finish her book because then she goes back to her life and doesn’t have time to herself anymore. And there’s actually a very sweet moment where Patty learns about this and is like, “Well, that’s kind of sad, I– we didn’t know that you knew that that’s what he was doing. But I, as part of – well, I guess – the outside of the inner circle, I knew that he was doing this every year, but we thought he was pulling the wool out of your eyes.” And she’s like, “No, of course I know. He’s not slick.” And she, like, brings her a little novella and is like, “Oh, it’s just a novella, so you actually have a chance of finishing this one this year.” And it was so sweet!
Courtney: I think Patty actually does like to read, probably in a way that Allison does not. But while we also see Allison like struggling to read Ulysses and not enjoying her life and not really having any other close relationships, we’re also cutting back and we’re seeing that Patty, six months later – six months have now gone by – is using basically every spare moment of her free time between clients at work and after work trying to track down Allison. Because she didn’t realize she was going to just pull the trigger and do that to protect her, but she knew what the plan was all along. So now she’s like looking at news clipping, she’s like calling operators in different cities and states trying to look for a Gertrude Fronch, and she is just going on this huge campaign trying to find Allison.
Courtney: And it’s also at this time that officer Tammy Ridgeway is like, “Hey, it’s been a rough time. Why don’t we just move somewhere and start anew? I’m not happy with my job. You can open up a salon anywhere. We can just go and leave Worcester.” And leaving Worcester is also a big common theme, like everyone talks about, like, “Oh, this place is terrible and everyone wants to get out of here.” And– Very, very small hometown vibe. Like, I definitely grew up in a place where everyone’s like, “Oh, I can’t wait to get out of here.” So I thought it was a pretty small place, but you actually corrected me on that and looked it up. Apparently it’s not that small.
Royce: It’s not huge, but it’s the second largest city in New England after Boston.
Courtney: Mm-hmm. So– And in fact it’s actually just Tammy who’s kind of the only one who– during their first road trip, where they first started getting to like each other, when Allison was talking a lot like, “Oh, I’d love to leave Worcester and go somewhere else, go anywhere else.” And then Tammy is like– Or no, Patty says, “Well, I’ve got this theory: everywhere’s bad, everywhere sucks. I bet Miami is terrible. I bet–” I think they were talking randomly about North Dakota, they’re like North Dakota’s bad, every place is bad. Which is, I mean, probably true if you see the wrong sides of any given place. But Patty then is the only one who hasn’t expressed interest in leaving Worcester. It’s basically Patty and Kevin, because Kevin– like, everything’s working out for him and he doesn’t want anything to change that he doesn’t control. So Allison’s not having the best time, Patty’s not having the best time.
Courtney: We do see Kevin and the gang, and after six months we find out that he is in a relationship with a new woman and they’ve been together for four months. And he’s kind of playing two sides of it. He’s kind of playing, “Well, I have replaced Allison, so I don’t need her,” and in fact sometimes, like, mixes up Allison and his new girlfriend in ways that really shows that it is not about the individual women. But then he’s also using his, like, grief and mourning over the loss of Allison to, like, hold over people’s heads and further manipulate them to do things for him. So you definitely see that duality.
Courtney: And as Allison’s going about her own new life as Gertrude Fronch, she starts getting a little concerned, a little paranoid, because she’s seeing like the same Jeep show up at a lot of places where she is. So she gets the feeling that she’s being followed. And this is being interspersed with Patty finding or trying to find her. So when there finally is a knock at her door, the surprise reveal is that it’s actually Tammy Ridgeway who shows up at her door and says, “Hi, Allison.” And so Allison’s immediately thinking, “You have figured all of this out. The rest of Worcester PD is outside waiting for me, I’m going to get arrested now.” And Tammy basically says, “No, I figured it out. There’s a reason why Patty doesn’t want to leave Worcester with me.” And I think they did say that Tammy had moved in with Patty, so they were living together, but she wanted them to start fresh somewhere else that was a new place, that was, like, just for the two of them kind of a thing. And alluding to the fact that you know Worcester is haunted, we’ve had a lot of bad memories here, kind of a thing.
Courtney: And she said that Patty’s been behaving very strangely, and now I figured it out it’s because you’re not dead and she wants you to come back and she wants to be findable if you do ever decide to come back. And she’s kind of had it at the police department. I mean, she is not only a woman on the force, but she is a Black woman on the force, and so she’s seeing like white men get promoted over her who have been doing the job for less time and all these things. So she’s like, “I no longer have any loyalty to this precinct, and I would quit and go elsewhere in a heartbeat.” But Nick, the drug dealer who’s in a coma, finally actually died for realsies, and so she came to tell Allison that. And she’s like, “Yeah, I’ve had someone investigating you and looking for you, they told me you were here. And as far as I’m concerned, you know, all these secrets died with Nick.” So she was just kind of telling Allison you’re– you’re off scot-free.
Courtney: And upon learning this, Allison does actually go back to Worcester. But she is not ready to see Patty right off the bat. She said, “I have to figure out how to have this reunion with her.” She goes to see her former boss, her former love interest guy she was having an affair with, and he’s someone that Patty has now started hanging out with, if nothing else just to have someone else who knows that she faked her own death, who she can spit ball with and be like, “I’m trying to find her, I’m trying to find her.” And so I don’t think there’s a lot of love there, necessarily. But they have this one thing in common that only the two of them can talk about. And so when Patty comes to him he spills the beans and is like, “Allison is here.” And Patty goes, “What?!” And just the– the acting is so good, like you can just see how much care goes into this, let alone the difference in acting style between sitcom and drama versions.
Courtney: But we also start seeing Kevin with his new girlfriend. But we also see all the people around him sort of starting to get very disillusioned with him and no longer playing his game. And there are definitely allusions to the fact that they knew earlier, like, they knew he was problematic for a while but still hung around. Neil especially, since we’ve seen him in drama mode this entire season. But even his father, Pete, at one point during this episode grabs a suitcase to leave and is like, “Yeah, I’m moving with my girlfriend to Florida. And you’ve been taking advantage of me for these last six months. I tried to stay around because you were in mourning, but enough is enough.” And Kevin says, like, “All right, well, I’ll– I’ll be down to visit you in February, so I can keep up my tan or something.” And his dad, his father, Pete, is like, “Do you really think I’m going to give you the address? Come on!” And just, like, leaves without giving his address to his son. And it’s just gone now. And then Neil leaves.
Courtney: There was a very particular moment, too, where Patty was having a conversation with Allison’s ex boss from the liquor store. I can’t think of her name off the top of my head, but she’s the one who’s been having an affair with Neil all this time that’s still going on by this point. Diane! Diane is her name. So Patty’s talking to Diane, and Diane kind of lets the L word slip. She’s like, “Oh, I love him.” And she’s like, “Wait a minute, you love Neil?” Because for a while she’s just been seeing this as like a very weird relationship, maybe just a, you know, situation of convenience. There’s kind of that age gap there that she’s feeling perhaps a little strange about. But she’s like, “Wait, you love my brother?” And Diane just sort of says, “Well, I mean yeah, maybe, or maybe I just don’t want to be alone, and maybe there’s not always a difference.” And Patty has this deep moment of reflection that you can just see in her face when she says that. And so it’s this just running theme of people who are just in relationships because they don’t want to be alone.
Courtney: Allison is with Kevin. Patty was with whatever that guy’s name was earlier and then was with Tammy. And I do think she genuinely liked Tammy. They had some cute moments. They also had a lot of very fraught moments and very, like, definitely had their relationship issues for sure. But then they also had big talks where Patty’s like, “This is new for me, you’re the first woman I’ve had feelings for.” And so even though I do think there was some attraction there, the relationship itself was just not quite right, and I think they were hanging on longer than was beneficial for either of them. And now she’s sort of hearing it from Diane, like she doesn’t know if she loves my brother but she doesn’t want to be alone and he’s there, and she’s wondering if that’s actually what love is. And I think that is such a small line that I think a lot of people might discount in the grand scheme of the plot here, but I think that line is everything.
Courtney: I think that is one of the main themes of this entire show. That and the final line of the episode we’ll get there in a moment. Like, those are my two main pieces of evidence that I am putting forward that this is queerplatonic brilliance. So we do also have in this episode, Patty is reading a book called My Brilliant Friend, and it’s something that a client of hers gives hers as, “I think you’ll really like this.” And that is a very well-esteemed Italian novel about a very deep, important female friendship. And in fact – from what I understand of it – the narrator of the book, who’s writing this, begins to write the story of My Brilliant Friend after her friend has vanished inexplicably. So there are definitely some–Like, they chose that book for a reason. And it all sort of builds up to the fact that, like, despite marriages, or boyfriends, or girlfriends, or fiancés, or lovers, or affair partners, whatever is going on here, like, that is the relationship. That is the relationship of this show is Allison and Patty.
Courtney: And Allison learns that Kevin now has a new girlfriend, and finds out who she is and where she works. So she just shows up to have a conversation with that new girl. And we don’t get to see that conversation. We get to see the shock on that woman’s face when her boyfriend’s dead wife shows up at her place of work. We get to see her be like, “I thought you were dead.” But we don’t get to see what the actual conversation is. And I actually kind of like that because I can imagine what that conversation was. And so next we see Kevin still in full sitcom mode, but everyone else around him is gone. His dad has left, Neil is gone, he is alone in his kitchen and he’s talking to himself still with a laugh track going, and he’s like, “I am just going to keep talking, because if I don’t keep talking there will just be dead silence and I will be alone. So I’m just going to say silly words.” And he starts spouting off words he thinks sounds cool.
Royce: Yeah, his exact line is, “It’s a little too quiet, so quiet that if I stop talking it’ll be complete silence, which I cannot handle.”
Courtney: Yeah, “Which I cannot handle.” And his girlfriend pops in and he’s like, “Oh my gosh, am I happy to see you!” And she’s like, “Really? Because last time I showed up unannounced you accused me of being too clingy.” And he’s like, “No, no, no, no, no. But good news, you’re moving in with me!” [laughs] He’s like, “Let’s move in.” She’s like, “Okay, isn’t that a little fast?” And she, like, very clearly, like nopes out of that situation. She’s like, “I gotta go pick up some cigarettes.” And then he’s like, “Oh, okay, good, see you in a few.” And then you see him have a moment of realization dawn on him and he’s like, “Wait, she doesn’t smoke.” And the laugh track is going, of course. And so he walks from the kitchen into the living room and you see him lightly drop his facade when he goes into the next room and he goes, “What is with everyone?”
Courtney: But then Allison is there in the living room waiting for him. And, oh my God! And I had been saying for several episodes at this point, while we were watching it live, I was like, if and when we see Kevin’s facade drop out of sitcom mode, it is going to be a lot.
Courtney: I was waiting for this moment and it did not disappoint. It was so subtly chilling. And I think anyone who has ever experienced a manipulative and emotionally abusive relationship like this is going to just feel it on another level. Because you not only have the dialogue and the actual situation transpiring, but the difference between sitcom mode and drama mode, and the way people break out of it is such a brilliantly artistic way of showing what it can actually be like. If you are with an abusive partner who is so skilled at manipulating the narrative and situations around them and other people, how– You can know how horrible and toxic it is, but everyone else around you would not believe you, or they don’t believe you if you try to speak about it, because that’s not the narrative that they have been spun. So it’s brilliant. It’s brilliant! It really really is.
Courtney: And the laugh track is still there and at first it’s still on Kevin’s side. And this is another very subtle thing that I wanted to watch through a second time to see when exactly the shift happens. Because it doesn’t drop the sitcom facade yet. But he’s like, “Oh, Allison! Is so good to see you and you have great timing, because I think maybe I just got dumped?” Like, “Perfect timing. You can just– we can go back to the way things were. I need someone to be able to pay attention to me and clean up my messes and humor me.” And someone I can control, essentially. And she starts saying, you know, “Six months ago I ran.” And then he’s just still joking. He’s like, “Ran? I thought you were on a hike when you fell off that mountain.” And the laugh track is still going for him. But then, as he’s joking, she just finally yells shut up and listen to me. And then the track gets on her side, because then the audience goes, “Oh…” They all have that, like, oh, this is serious now. And from then on out until it fully drops, they’re on Allison’s side.
Courtney: So we see a progression in a very interesting way where now she’s saying, “You listen to me, I’m gonna say my piece.” And she ends by saying, “I want a divorce.” And the live studio audience – [laughs] allegedly – like, they’re cheering for her now, they’re rooting for her, and they’re like, “Ooh, yeah.” And he says, “Oh, you don’t want to do that.” And she says, “Of course I do.” And the audience cheers her. But then it flips on a dime and it just goes dark. And Kevin is a goofy looking dude, like the way the actor plays this character in sitcom mode. His eyes are, like, bugging out of his face and his facial expressions are so big and exaggerated that even those expressions, like, drop and he gets more serious. And a lot more subtle. And his voice lowers. And my pulse was racing the first time this happened.
Courtney: Because it was, like, so much scarier than if he was just yelling at her or if he just decided to throw something. Because now it’s like we are seeing how terrifying this man is, but I have no idea what he’s about to do. And he just says, like, “Well, you get all these silly ideas, like the time you thought you wanted to buy a house, or like the time you thought you wanted to go back to school. You get all these silly ideas, but eventually you come to your senses. So why don’t we just skip this part where you think you want to divorce me?” And it’s like– [groans] it’s so effective, not only for the dialogue, but just the incredible stylistic choices of this show that really drive it home.
Courtney: And he does end up getting real up in her face. He does end up, like, hitting a dresser, like a wall that’s like right behind her, and does get very physically aggressive. But she ends up standing her ground and walking out and saying, “No, this is– this is done.” And she even says, like, “Where is everybody? Everybody knows that you are a terrible person.” I think she says a goddamn cancer, “Everyone knows your goddamn cancer.” Like, “Where’s Pete? Where’s your dad? Where’s– where’s your best friend, Neil? Where’s your new girlfriend?” Like, you are alone here.
Courtney: And one of the last things he says to her as she’s walking out of this house is like, “You can’t leave me, because if you leave me, I will ruin you. I will destroy your life.” And he makes that an absolute threat and we’ve seen every evidence that he means that, and that he can, and that that is true. But she leaves. And then we see him just grab a bottle of liquor. He starts drinking right from the bottle. He’s going on a rampage and you see him picking up his phone and trying to call everyone. He’s like, “Dad, pick up your goddamn phone. Neil, where the hell are you?” And calling his girlfriend, he’s like, “Hey, whatever just happened, that was weird, but let’s talk that out.”
Courtney: And just like desperately trying to get anyone and– anyone back into his you know bubble of control. And as he’s doing this, he’s drinking heavily. He’s collecting every bit of, like, Allison’s belongings that are still in the house and putting them in a giant, like, trash bin. And he grabs her old passport and lights it on fire and throws it into the garbage. And this is why all of these subtle throwaway lines about fire is so good! Because this is the first time we actually see him lighting a fire, and it’s when he is drunk and raging. And when we see how miserable he is, and how much he needs to control and manipulate people. So if that in retrospect, all the other times we’ve had a throwaway gag about a fire he lit, it’s like he has been doing this this whole time. This is the real Kevin. And this is how this is all happening. And he drunk passes out on the couch with this fire lit in this garbage can.
Royce: Presumably with all the smoke detectors battery-less still.
Courtney: All the smoke detectors battery-less. That’s why I’m saying they’re a master of foreshadowing, because there are silly throwaway one liner gags from episodes ago, if not an entire season ago sometimes, that ends up having these major ramifications later. Which is also just so, like, that’s the style of the sitcom, like we’re taking everything so lightheartedly and as a joke. But if you actually take a step back and you remove the laugh track and you remove the exaggerated facial expressions and the goofy humor, it’s actually terrible! So much of it is actually terrible! And this is such a brilliant way of illustrating that.
Royce: I mean there’s even one point late in the series that’s done in reverse, where Allison gets in a car accident and she’s like I swear there was a stop sign there. And it’s not until a fair amount of time, real world later, where she finally gets home after being, like, in the hospital and she opens up the front door and there’s a stop sign sitting in her living room. And she’s like, “Oh, goddamn it.”
Courtney: Yes, like– Things like that happen so often in every single episode in this show. And so now he’s passed out. He doesn’t have batteries in his smoke detector. He has now lit another fire and he has nobody there to put out his fires now. He has been abandoned by all of his enablers. And so the house burns. And he burns with it! He dies! And it was all his own doing. Allison didn’t even have to kill him in the end. He literally fucked himself! [breathy laughs] Roll credits! But don’t. Because this show isn’t about Kevin. This show is about Allison and Patty. So Patty is – I don’t even know where she is at this time – but she gets a call because she’s next door neighbors with them. So she gets a call that’s like, “Hey, your neighbor’s house is on fire.”
Royce: As this is winding down. It shows a couple of people, like Neil included, walking by and looking at the ruins of this house and just walking on.
Courtney: Yeah. Well, Patty also confronted Neil recently as well and basically told him, like, “I can’t keep taking care of you. You are a grown man, you need to learn how to take care of yourself.” And she asks him to move out. She’s like, “I want you to leave. I don’t think you should live under my roof anymore.” And so he is literally walking like with a duffle bag of his things, trying to move out, and he just stops and looks at this burning house and then just sort of, like, shakes his head and keeps moving. Which is, like, so telling. I like to think– Because Neil definitely is not without his faults. He was complicit in a lot of bad things. It’s even alluded to a lot that he’s like taken the fall for Kevin, like directly taking the consequences or the blame for things he’s done too in the past. So like he is very much a victim of Kevin, but he has also been, you know, manipulating his sister, he has also contributed to a lot of negativity in this bubble as well.
Courtney: But the way it ends when he is asked to leave and get his life together, when Patty tells him to leave, he goes to Diane, and that was when Diane said, “It’s not safe for you to be here.” Because he shows up at her house, and she’s like, “My husband is going to see you, and that cannot happen.” He sort of says like, “Leave him, let’s– let’s go off together and let’s–” And he’s like, “I know I’m a mess right now, and I know I’m drunk,” and I know all these things. And he’s like, “But you can fix me.” And Diane puts her foot down too and she’s like, [emphatically] “That’s not my job.” She’s like, “It’s not my job to do that for you.” So Patty basically tells him to leave, Diane tells him to leave. And the thing is he actually does. He– He doesn’t push back on it too hard and he’s definitely having a bad time, but he does pack his duffel bag of things and he does leave. And so I would like to think that, postscript, he is redeemable and is able to get his life together and find his own way and find his own happiness.
Courtney: But Patty still has not spoken to Allison yet. She has heard that Allison’s in town and she’s looking for her, but now she hears that Kevin’s house is burning down. And earlier in the episode we see Tammy moving out of Patty’s place. They’ve finally come to the revelation that this relationship isn’t going any further. And so Allison comes to Patty, as Patty– Like the house is burnt black. It’s got the caution tape sectioned off, the fire is gone, but the house is unsalvageable. Patty just sits on the doorstep of this burnt down house and Allison shows up and sees her. And they sit on the doorstep together. And it’s such a beautiful moment, it’s so good! And Allison says, for the very first time, that she wants to stay in Worcester and Patty looks over at her and says, “Let’s die alone together.” And they smile and they hold hands and they sit on this doorstep.
Courtney: And if that is not one of the most beautiful depictions of a queerplatonic relationship that I have ever seen in media, then I do not know what is. And I don’t even think that I need the word queerplatonic to be spoken, because of the fact that it’s not just a will they/won’t they. It’s not as black and white as is this a romantic relationship or not? Or is– Are they going to become a couple, or are they a couple? Is this gay or is this not? It is not as black and white as that. Because the text, throughout the entire story, the entire plot is all about breaking societal conceptions of what a good life is supposed to be, what partnership is supposed to be, what marriage, what relationships are supposed to look like. What actually makes you happy and what are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to have the suburban house with the husband and the kids? The entire show is rejecting all of that or reframing it and showing characters who think they want that for their life, that that is actually not what they want at all.
Courtney: Allison did not actually want this marriage with Kevin. She did not actually want that house. She really didn’t even want to leave Worcester, even though that was one of the biggest things she’s been saying this whole time. What she wanted was an emotionally fulfilling relationship, and what she found was not in the guy she was having an affair with. It was not with her husband. It was with her next door neighbor, who has now become definitely a best friend. There’s nothing sexual about this relationship, and we know that because the two of them have sexual relationships with other people at various points.
Courtney: And so I would argue that not only is this a subversion of the sitcom genre, it’s a subversion of what life partnership can look like, what fulfilling life partnership could look like. Because, even using the word ‘alone’, that has been the concern. Diane has been concerned about being alone. Allison’s been concerned about being alone. Patty kind of has her revelation when she hears, like, is not wanting to be alone kind of the same as loving someone, sometimes? Like, is there really much of a difference when you get right down to it?
Courtney: I think these two women, throughout the two seasons of the show, have come to learn that the definition of ‘alone’ being not having a spouse or a romantic and sexual partner is not the end of the world. That’s not the worst thing that can possibly happen. And it might not– You don’t need that type of partnership if you have fulfilling relationships in different ways. And yeah, I don’t know what to tell you. I have seen some people make the argument that this is romantic and they’re just going to be a couple now and they’re just– they’re just going to be gay. And it’s like it’s not that simple! This is– Look as someone who has been in a queerplatonic relationship, this is what it feels like. Especially if you don’t have that language.
Royce: There is a point earlier in the season where Tammy specifically asks Patty what her relationship with Allison is like, and Patty kind of pauses and isn’t sure how to answer it. Like she says, like, an abrupt no to, like, being attracted to her or something like that–
Courtney: “Is she someone I have to be concerned about?”
Royce: Or being involved. But when I feel like there’s a slightly more pointed question there, and Patty just has to like, pause and isn’t sure how to describe it.
Royce: What the words are.
Courtney: Like I don’t– I don’t really have the language for this, but she did at one point say, “She’s my favorite person.” That was a line that Patty said at one point. So we know Allison is her favorite person. They use the word let’s die alone, which in the context of this show, it’s been made very clear that that means like without a spouse.
Royce: That means being single, yeah.
Courtney: That means being single. And they’re saying let’s be single [emphatically] together. But they’re also like– they’re in their early to mid thirties. I think Allison’s 35 and Patty’s like 33 or something. And to now imply like let’s die alone together, they’re like, “We are going to be what we are for the rest of our lives.” And they’ve got quite a bit of life ahead of them, presumably.
Courtney: So this is the kind of thing that I actually crave from genuine ace rep, where we know that a character is ace or a character is aro or both, because it’s not just being aspec in label, in word, it is subverting amatonormativity, and it’s reframing what relationships are. It’s reframing what family is and what it can look like and what it can mean. And it’s just good TV! And it uses clever means of storytelling that I haven’t seen done in this way before. So I have nothing but good things to say.
Courtney: If you haven’t seen it yet – and yet decided that you wanted to get spoiled on pretty much all of it – I would still recommend watching it because so many of the little tiny things, the one liners, the foreshadowing, the brilliant way that they portray relationships of all kinds – toxic and positive, romantic and sexual, or only one or the other, or neither – is brilliant. I think it’s absolutely brilliant. So I do still think it’s worth a watch, even if you know how it ends. Maybe even better if you know how it ends because, like I said, the smoke detector thing was something I picked up on the second watch through. You didn’t even pick up on that yet until I brought it up, but there’s so much more. I’m sure if I watched it through a third time I would pick up on new things too, which is something I found very nice also– To bring back to Bojack Horseman again, every time I watch that show I learn– I pick up on new things.
Royce: That is an incredibly dense show.
Courtney: And incredibly clever. Things that seem innocuous in the moment actually tend to have a very important reason for being there. So that’s definitely– that’s a show we’ve wanted to talk about for a while, but I think we’ve probably got a couple other examples of not necessarily aspec rep, at least not in vocabulary but definitely in feeling and in spirit, that we might get around and talk about some other things along these lines. Because they are out there. But on that note, thank you all so much, as per usual, for being here. Make sure to subscribe to The Ace Couple on whatever platform it is that you enjoy your podcast on, and we will talk to you all next time. Goodbye.