Kevin Can F**K Himself has always housed two TV shows that feel vastly different but actually balance each other. Threading together Allison McRoberts’ dreary and dark drama with the glossy sitcom in which her man-child husband Kevin takes center stage is a tough task to pull off because of the visual and tonal polarities. Yet KCFH often connects and complements its genres. (Even if it’s simply pairing Allison and Patty’s graveyard adventure with Kevin celebrating a made-up holiday like Pal-o-Ween in this week’s episode).
The show uses this schtick to provide insight into its character study of the “expendable sitcom wife” who is anything but, and no outing has channeled this better than season two’s “Ghost.” It glimpses into a pivotal day from Allison’s past while reexamining the emergence and purpose of KCFH’s partial sitcom setting in the first place. And it’s a smart ploy I didn’t see coming.
Ever since the show debuted, I have longed for a flashback to Allison and Kevin’s initial courtship. How did a loud, narcissistic, devious idiot like him land a woman so far out of his league? And then convinced her to marry him to become a footnote in his universe for 10 long years before she decided to break out of her prison? We know she was in a vulnerable place when she fell for Kevin’s seemingly harmless hilarity. “Ghost” plays out exactly how it happened.
But first, in present-day: Allison and Patty take private investigator Billy Terrell’s help to break into a funeral home to find a potential nameless dead body whose identity Allison can steal and disappear permanently. Now, isn’t it technically the PI’s job to do this? Why is he making both of his clients do the dirty work? Anyway, unfortunately for Allison, the venue they sneak into is the same place where her father’s funeral was held years ago. Being in the same spot triggers the memory of the worst day of her life, and it’s not because of the wake. It’s also the day she met Kevin. Talk about a total nightmare.
On the day of her dad’s funeral in 2005, Allison’s emotions are messed up since it appears she was closer to him than to her mother, Donna (Peri Gilpin). KCFH makes this abundantly clear when Donna enters the frame, and the show switches from bleak single-cam to the bright multi-cam as it does whenever Kevin’s on-screen. The moment compels us to take a step back and dissect the existence of the sitcom universe, and what it truly means. I always believed it’s KCFH’s way of telling us that Allison’s agency is reduced to nothing when Kevin is in her orbit. Does that theory apply to her mother too? I think partly, yes. But it could also be Allison putting up a hunky-dory façade in her head to make Kevin and Donna endurable. Both of them definitely share similarities.
Instead of supporting her daughter through a panic attack, Donna uses passive-aggressive comments to put her down, like calling her an emotional eater and laughing at the idea of Allison going to college. At least now we know why she didn’t go despite having so much potential: No one close to her believed she could thrive outside of Worcester. It recalls instances like Kevin getting her fired from a paralegal job, or how he ignored her desire to buy a nicer home. She escaped Donna only to end up with a version of her in Kevin. So the two important people in Allison’s life often resort to silencing and mocking her. It’s no wonder she’s lost a sense of self-worth with no clue how to regain it.
“Ghost” provides a deeper understanding of how Allison’s mind functions because the sitcom world could be her coping mechanism. While both her mother and husband’s attitude is outright cruel if we take out the faux laughter, Allison probably needs it to process the daily indignations. I’m awaiting the episode when—assuming it’s a when and not an if—Donna and especially Kevin step out of the sitcom and into reality as we know it. But even without that context, KCFH brings alive a rich, informative backstory that’s crucial as the show progresses toward its end.
Perhaps the only way for Allison to truly get rid of her coping mechanism now is to become Gertrude French. Who is that, you ask? It’s the unclaimed victim from the funeral home who could be a good fake identity for Allison. She can leave Worcester behind and start a new life in Connecticut, where Gertrude is from. But it would mean leaving Patty and her only chance of a normal friendship behind as well. They won’t get to watch any movies together after all.
Allison and Patty have come a long way from their own first introduction on the same night she met Kevin. They first shared a beer, and Patty later had the opportunity of saving Allison from falling into Kevin’s clutches, but she regretfully didn’t take it. She’s now making up for it by assisting her pal (and ditching her girlfriend, Detective Tammy) in every way she can, including advising Allison to pursue the Gertrude route. Her agreement prompts Patty to ask, “You trust me to decide the rest of your life?” I appreciate the scene coming right after we see how Patty could’ve swerved Allison’s decision to date Kevin, thus deciding the fate of her next decade at least. Again: If there’s one thing KCFH does expertly, it’s finding the parallels in its storytelling devices. Let’s see where it leads to in the final five episodes.
- In case you missed it, Patty’s t-shirt when the episode begins says, “Eat. Sleep. Worcester. Repeat.”
- A reminder of where Allison and Donna’s relationship stands now: In season one, she mentions an annual trip to South Carolina to visit her mother. I’m guessing it’s the only time of the year they meet face-to-face.
- My recap heavily focused on all the Allison reveals, so Neil is getting the Stray Observations treatment. He’s getting increasingly agitated about spending time with Kevin, as observed when he answers his BFF’s call to come over for Pal-o-Ween.
- Related: Where is Neil staying? He apparently breaks into Patty’s house to steal money for weed, but don’t the two siblings live together?
- Neil also calls Tammy over when the men are scared of the horror movie they’re watching and feel safer around the detective. It struck me as odd behavior on Tammy’s part to stick around, though, especially because Patty didn’t come over for a family game night to meet her sisters.
- Speaking of, I sense their relationship will take a turn for the worse because Tammy tells her siblings she’s waiting for surveillance footage from Vermont about a case. A reminder that in season one, Patty and Allison took a road trip there to try and score Oxy pills to sell, and blame it all on Kevin. Are they about to be caught?
- One scene that made me sit up is when Allison wonders why Patty agreed to go play board games, and tells her, “I’m not like you, I can’t just pretend to like things.” Ummmm, that’s the premise of KCFH, buddy!
- Shoutout to director Anna Dokoza and the KCFH editing team for delivering such an immersive episode, especially the final act combining the storylines organically.