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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled iUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt /icelebrates nerds and exposes bad men
Photo: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt portrays a society on the brink of technological dystopia—in a fun, Kimmy way, as Kimmy herself would probably clarify. Yuko robots have infiltrated not only the workplace but private lives, too. And they seem to have actual lives and agency of their own: C.H.E.R.Y.L. brunches with Titus and Kimmy and talks about her sex life and also maybe has a drinking problem. “Party Monster” subtly revealed that a Yuko robot is an inmate in the same prison as the reverend. The implications there are dark—as is the fact that men programmed C.H.E.R.Y.L. to menstruate. As with its satirization of wealthy lifestyles, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt uses its portrayal of tech and tech bro culture to spin jokes with underlying greater meaning and implications.


This episode throws Kimmy and Lillian into the deep end of rapid technological innovation culture by sending them to a conference in Pittsburgh. Zach asks Kimmy to go to represent Giztoob, and Lillian thinks it’s a great idea to get Kimmy’s mind off the documentary (which works quite well until a DJ recognizes her as the wife of DJ Slizzard). Lillian invites herself along presumably because she’s a huge fan of fries on sandwiches but also because she thinks it’s an opportunity for her to get laid.

Lillian ends up in her own personal version of Black Mirror when her flirtations lead her nowhere. Guys are either too absorbed in virtual reality to pay attention to her or are virtual reality themselves: An older man she hits on turns out to be a hologram programmed to console the elderly. Lillian and Titus are the show’s resident luddites (I’ve often thought it’s quite possible Titus thinks all Yukos are humans), and Lillian’s frustrations with the way technology is destroying human interaction hits its apex after a funny misunderstanding between her and a tech dude who thinks she’s some sort of computer genius and invites her to be on a panel. Lillian, on the other hand, thinks she’s being invited to a group sex party.

But she ultimately gets what she wants, giving a rousing speech to all those nerds about how the human body is the greatest machine of all...because of sex stuff. Framed as an inspirational, Ted Talk-esque presentation, she waxes poetic on the powers of human sexuality, and it’s all perfectly in-line with who Lillian is as a character as well as in-line with the show’s absurd comedic voice. Plus, it’s cogently interwoven with a motivational speech from Titus also meant to empower nerds. Lillian teaches nerds how to fuck, and Titus teaches them how to be more than how others define them.

Titus has the realization in the episode that he used to be mean to nerds (shown in a hilarious flashback that again reiterates just how good Tituss Burgess is at encompassing a bit with his whole body and physicality) because he was afraid of being othered himself for being gay. It’s an obvious realization, but it’s also realistic for Titus to come to terms with it so late in life. Titus often has tunnel vision and trouble not just with being empathetic but introspective, too. He lives loudly in the present, but these flashback-driven realizations are a core part of this show, and it’s refreshing to see Titus experience one in a way that feels authentic and meaningful. His speech to the schoolkids he’s performing for is genuinely moving, albeit in a dramatic, Titus way.


Kimmy’s arc in the episode is great, too. She meets a seemingly cute and flirty guy who bonds with her over the fact that he also doesn’t really understand any of the tech stuff people are talking about at the conference. He provides a welcome distraction from her thoughts about the reverend and the documentary...until the plot twist that he’s actually a bad man, too. The DJ might snap Kimmy back to reality initially, but it’s this asshole who reminds Kimmy just how manipulative and abusive some men can be.

It turns out he’s married, which he readily shares with her since he finds out she’s technically married also and assumes that means she’s into casual cheating at conferences, too. When Kimmy freaks out, he tries to leverage the fact that she would be ruining his wife’s life by exposing him and destroying a happy family that includes an adorable dog (the dog, of course, particularly works on Kimmy). But Kimmy still finds a way to bring him down, exposing the fact that he doesn’t know anything about tech so that the nerds turn on him.


The twist that he turns out to be a bad guy works well, especially since it’s genuinely surprising. In the past, Kimmy’s potential love interests usually crumbled because of her own baggage and the things she needed to work out for herself. And at first, it looks like that might be where the story is headed here, too. But the turn of events ends up being much more interesting. He might not be as bad as the reverend, but his actions come from a similar place—a compulsive desire to control women and manipulate them into having sex with him. Kimmy may have escaped the bunker, but she can’t escape patriarchy because, well, none of us can.

Stray observations

  • “Kimothy Olyphant, this is not Justified.” Titus’ nicknames continue to get more intricate and wonderful.
  • Titus and Kimmy yelling over each other as the lead in to the main title sequence is also wonderful.
  • Titus’ initial meeting with Jacqueline is one of the funniest scenes of the episode, starting with him asking for water at body temperature. All of Titus’ quick little reactions to the things Jacqueline says are so good.
  • Titus’ realization that the nerd at Giztoob has the same story as him is very well done.

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