. Our story opens with the family giving Ray plenty of guff for all his embarrassing moments, and a tense moment occurs when his girlfriend, Taylor, makes a sudden appearance to celebrate their 100-dayth anniversary. No, she’s not going to break up with him (as he constantly assumes out of anxiety), she just she just wanted to present him with some cheesy “100” blow-up glasses. Then, Ray tries to evade “disaster” (the gf discovering his goofy lie about a charity he claims to have founded for JJ) for the remainder of the episode. The show is so adept at quickly and smartly building tension before releasing it, and incorporating the entire family into the hijinks.
It wouldn’t be a sitcom without plenty of goofy little side stories intertwining throughout the episode. Kenneth and Dylan go back and forth on a prank by hiding and startling each other, and Dylan has perfected the shrill, blood-curdling scream. Maya is training her husband Jimmy to be a real boss, and in one scene, coaches him on the phone through a tense moment with an errant employee, who he then fires. Turns out wearing the red jacket comes with extra stress and responsibility for him, but it’s his authoritativeness that’s a huge turn-on for Maya.
Meanwhile, Ray stumbles through multiple attempts to thwart his “own” charity fundraiser that was formed on the spot; J.J. was the one who helped drive the lie to the point of no return, forcing Ray to go to a hotel and book a place within a day’s notice. That such a young actor can convey such adult emotions (namely, a quiet panic) so convincingly is remarkable, and I’m hoping Mason Cook gets noticed by some bigger eyes in the industry–he’d be outstanding in a more purely dramatic role.
Watching Ray makes one uncomfortable, sure, but the conclusion of the episode is deeply satisfying, seeing “the good one” finally “get a win.” The whole family conspires to make the charity fundraiser actually a thing, and it’s not so bad (well, if you don’t count the fact that the guests are all drug addicts, per Maya’s last-minute invitation of 12-step program participants). The one who steals the show, though, is J.J., who steps in at the the perfect time and explains to Taylor what the charity actually does: build playgrounds for children with disabilities to play with abled children. It’s a brilliant idea, and I can’t wait to see how it develops.
While most sitcoms seem to suffer from a natural ADD, J.J.’s dream won’t be a fleeting one if we’re lucky. Perhaps, we can see Ray grow triumphantly through the development of the charity that, unsurprisingly, really is J.J.’s dream.
Season 2, Episode 3 (S02E03)
Speechless airs Wednesday 830 PM on ABC
Emily Nuncio Schick | Contributor