The second season of One Mississippi is an impressive balancing act. While weaving satisfying and disparate romantic comedies for its three main characters, it’s lacing in an urgent, post-election tale of being a blue droplet in a red ocean, all while maintaining a connection to the mourning process that put Tig, Remy, and Bill back under the same roof. Even when it falls short of its ambitions, it still has those ambitions; the show’s willingness to go above and beyond brings season two’s ongoing stories to exciting peaks in “Kiss Me And Smile For Me.”
At a pure payoff level, there are the fireworks of Kate leaning in to kiss Tig during their fishing trip. The episode’s script, from showrunner Kate Robin, emphasizes that love isn’t a label, but a feeling—this is Kate acting on a feeling, and onscreen, the moment transmits nothing but feelings. Compare it to Remy turning to Desiree and locking lips with her at Beulah’s tarot booth. It doesn’t have the same amount of buildup behind it, but it does attest to the economic storytelling Danette pointed out in her review of “Into The Light.” No hemming and hawing, no stringing the viewer along—Remy, who’s in search of some type of emotional anchor, sees Desiree pouring her heart out, and reciprocates with his own outpouring.
That sort of speed is right for an impulsive figure like Remy. For someone as fastidious as Bill, a courtship with Felicia should take its time. The midpoint of season two takes much of its verve from the stages its various romances are at; the newness of Remy’s and Bill’s combines with the longing of Tig’s for show-wide butterflies-in-the-stomach. And rather than treating Bill and Felicia’s mingling of clipped, stoic personalities as a punchline in and of itself, it’s just one bow in the storyline’s quiver. (Talking about the thank-you gift he brings her, though he’s really talking about himself: “Orchids have a reputation for being difficult to care for, but with proper tending, they can bloom for months.”) Frank (Steven Williams, who can currently be found in theaters demonstrating proper sheep-executing technique in It) presents an obstacle to this budding connection, but even that is treated in a way that feels true to Bill and Felicia: They’re not ones to go meddling in other people’s affairs, meaning Bill doesn’t ask if Felicia and Frank are still together, but waits until Felicia is ready to volunteer that information.
“Kiss Me And Smile For Me” is all about acceptance and rejection. One Mississippi treats the former as propulsion and the latter as ballast, and both factor prominently into Tig’s new life in her old home. Just look at what’s happening with the radio show: People are listening (acceptance), but no one’s paying (rejection), which leads Kate to seek outside support and a tempting offer from a revered benefactor named Ezra Weiss (Philip Casnoff). There’s no time to really explain who is Ezra is and what he does, but from Tig’s reaction (“I love him… I’ve been listening to his show for years”) and his name, it’s easy to surmise that Weiss is a figure of some radio or podcasting renown, of the sort that gave Tig Notaro’s profile a humongous boost during the trials and tribulations that informed much of One Mississippi’s first season.
There’s acceptance, and then there’s whatever Ezra Weiss’ colleague, Jack (Timm Sharp), expresses during their interview with Tig and Kate. “I officially got obsessed when you started doing your deeper, darker, more personal material,” he tells Tig. She takes it as a compliment, and she’s glad to hear that the “pretty taboo topics” (in Tig’s words) that drove the listeners of Bay Saint Lucille away have a receptive audience at the immaculately named Weiss-Acre Productions. But there’s something in Sharp’s voice that doesn’t sit right with me, a mixture of awe and pity suggesting that the only reason he even got interested in Tig’s show was the host’s (in The New Hope Ministry’s words) “struggles.”
It’s a form of condescension that tends to be attracted to stories like Tig’s: “You’re so brave,” or “You’re so inspiring.” Which both Tigs are, don’t get me wrong. But they’re also people (just people), and to over-emphasize their bravery or their power to inspire loses sight of their humanity. It’s something One Mississippi doesn’t do; it’s also something One Mississippi is uniquely positioned to comment upon. Tig Notaro is more than the Job-like series of setbacks she details on Live, and Tig Bovaro is more than One Mississippi’s version of those events. She does more than struggle. She drinks beer and goes fishing and razzes her brother and tells stories and shuts down missionaries who claim that she can pray her way to being someone else’s idea of normal. She just wants people to feel really comfortable with who they really are.
And she loves—which could set the ending of “Kiss Me And Smile For Me” up to look like more tragedy porn for the Jacks of the world, but it’s not. Because Kate telling Tig that she just wants to be friends is just part of a story, and this is the part of the story where the hero doesn’t get what she wants. It’s meaningfully acted by two performers who wound up together in real life, but One Mississippi wouldn’t want us to wallow in it. One Mississippi is an anti-wallower. It’s only the middle of the season—on to the next episode, and the next stage in these stories.
- One Mississippi, Tunes Mississippi: It ends in anguish, but that “Ring Of Keys” musical fantasy really is something. The song, taken from the Tony-winning stage adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, matches the theatrical flair of the sequence, and Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne really throw themselves into, even if their pipes aren’t quite Tony-worthy themselves. Tig feels like she’s found someone with whom she can be comfortable and completely herself. When reality fails to match up with the fantasy, it’s devastating, made all the more so by the joy in that musical sequence.
- Lots of killer one liners from Tig in this one, but I especially loved her “They can’t talk back” when Kate asks a rhetorical question to the radio audience.
- Fantastic Beth Grant line reading, after Mellie corners Bill to explain what Beulah’s up to: “Oh, this is a disaster, Bill.”
- “A full bar is profligate.” “That is the perfect word to describe him.” “It was a great relief when we divorced, and I remembered that I am actually a very fun person.” “Of course you are.” Bill and Felicia are a treasure.