One Mississippi is not documentary. One Mississippi isn’t even strict autobiography: Though the lives of Tig Notaro and Tig Bovaro share some significant overlaps, the show purposely puts space between art and artist. These are not representations of events as they happened. They’re reflections, reinterpretations, and inventions for storytelling’s sake. Because Notaro has been open about her personal life in her work and in the press, there’s a temptation to connect the dots between that personal life and One Mississippi. Before season two premiered, there was a jump to connect a prominent plot point with developments in the real-world: The rumors of sexual misconduct on the part of Louis CK and Notaro’s professional estrangement from CK, who is a nominal executive producer on One Mississippi and originally distributed her Live album on his website.
It would be wrong to describe “Can’t Fight This Feeling” as “the Louis CK episode of One Mississippi.” “Can’t Fight This Feeling” is more than the nauseating few minutes in which Weiss-Acre’s Jack Hoffman lives up to his name, masturbating in full view of Kate, the act CK stands accused of. The incident looms over the remainder of “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” but it doesn’t define it. “Can’t Fight This Feeling” isn’t the “Louis CK needs to ‘handle’ these rumors” episode just as One Mississippi isn’t “the cancer show” or “the dead mom show” or the “nearly dying from a gastrointestinal infection show.” What Jack does is cause for anger, disappointment, and a righteous scene of confrontation, but to look at “Can’t Fight This Feeling” solely through the lens of Tim Sharp’s unseen hand goes against so much about One Mississippi.
But a few words about that scene: Wow, is it upsetting. Re-watching it for this review, there was a real horror-movie feel to the moments leading up to it. The way things are blocked at the top of the scene, Jack’s right hand is already out of frame; the switch to the over-the-shoulder POV doesn’t just put the viewer in Kate’s shoes—the shallow depth of field puts the emphasis on her experience, the blurred images around her heightening the sense of dissociation and “Is this really happening?” It’s some damn effective filmmaking on the part of director Minkie Spiro, who also helmed the recent Better Call Saul episode with the startling jump-cut car crash (an installment that’s more than “the jump-cut car-crash episode.”)
No one’s in a comfortable position in “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” but Kate’s is the least comfortable. Issues of crowding and compatibility come to a head at the impromptu dinner, Destinee’s gesture of apology that only serves to further upset Bill’s environment—a well-meaning rack of lamb smeared all over his smart thermostat. Spiro does an expert job of drawing out the tension here as well—for comedic purposes, this time—as everyone’s expectations for the evening upend everyone else’s, and Remy offers up a worthy candidate for season two’s motto: “We all have our ways of understanding the world.” Those ways receive silent illustration in the wide shot that punctuates the dinner, in a searching look from Felicia to Bill, or Desiree re-fixating on the photo of young Remy. In the collision of family anecdotes and differing opinions on paleontology, the makeshift family winds up learning a lot about itself.
For Felicia and Bill, that means reconciling with the past while being spontaneous enough to have a future together. Felicia, impressed though she is at the gusto with which Bill threw himself into studying the history of systemic racism in the United States, is worried that Bill isn’t prepared to enter into a committed relationship. He’s so concerned about the wedding crystal, and reminders of Caroline’s eccentricities pop in and out of the dinner-table conversation. (Excellent Bill-ism: “She was rather madcap.”) There is, as in the Tig-and-Kate and Remy-and-Desiree storylines, one person worrying that they’re not the right fit for the other. But even if that’s what’s going on in their characters’ heads, the true nature of the romance—the thing that’s builds to the kiss, the embrace, and the destruction of more crystal—is all over Sheryl Lee Ralph’s and John Rothman’s faces. The way Felicia and Bill connect with and complement each other is a hoot, but—if I may be so bold—there’s a lot of joy simply in watching Ralph and Rothman act opposite one another.
Is it the same type of connection that exists between Tig and Kate? Tig believes so, and Kate might be coming around to the idea, too. Harkening back to their conversation in the diner, “Can’t Fight This Feeling” ends on a flash-forward nursing-home fantasy. As in the past, Tig’s doing a bit with her reading glasses, but the impression the scene makes is that, so many years later, they’re still there for one another, in this relationship founded on listening to and supporting one another. When Kate tells Tig about her pervy field-hockey coach, camp counselor, and male teachers in “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” Tig doesn’t challenge Kate’s memories or play devil’s advocate: She lets her friend know that she’s being heard. When Kate tells Tig about what happened in Jack’s office, she’s similarly trustful—and, in this instance, she has a chance to stand up to the person who’s assaulted Kate. And she believes Kate despite Jack’s denial. In the traumatic fallout, she offers Kate a safe space, a ride, a bed, a Police concert T-shirt from the Synchronicity tour. Tig has shown her commitment to the connection—now it’s just up to Kate to know that she’s committed, too.
- One Mississippi, Tunes Mississippi: If you haven’t yet, check out the curated playlist Tig Notaro and Kate Robin put together for season two. Notaro and Robin provided some insight on the songs that made it into the show, and others that influenced it—in the case of “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” that meant taking inspiration from the REO Speedwagon song that provided the episode’s title, but using the more-affordable Arthur Russell tune “Love Is Overtaking Me” for the end credits. If you’re into “Love Is Overtaking Me,” you should also give Russell’s “A Little Lost” a listen—and, to bring it full circle to the One Mississippi soundtrack, Jens Lekman’s cover of “A Little Lost.”
- I first became aware of Timm Sharp as Marshall Nesbitt, the sensitive-doofus music major on Undeclared, but since then, he’s mostly played single-camera creeps, like One Mississippi’s Jack or Dougie, the oily manager-bro in Enlightened. But he’s put in his time by now, right? When does he get to play another Marshall?
- Every time Desiree seems like she’s going to float off into the ether of Southern belle caricature and red-state stereotype—like during that dinosaur conversation—Carly Jibson keeps the character tethered to the ground. One Mississippi’s good at that: Writing big, bold characters like Desiree, Bill, or Felicia, and then putting them in the hands of actors capable enough to find the nuances.
- One bad habit I wish One Mississippi could break: An indie-film tendency Noel Murray once decried in an op-ed with the perfect headline “Ban the backstory.” Obviously there’s something unspoken that’s preventing Remy from wanting to have sex with Desiree, and obviously it’s probably going to point back to Tig’s molestation. I just wish the show would come out and say that, rather than teasing it out like “Can’t Fight This Feeling” does. One Mississippi has proven itself to be adept at addressing such sensitive subjects—I don’t know why it feels the need to occasionally dance around them for storytelling’s sake.
- “I’ve seen the documentary called Jurassic Park, and it’s hard to argue with that.” Touché, Tig.