Note: “Live Free or Die” is currently available to stream on AMC +; its first broadcast on AMC is July 4, 2021.
Three episodes in, Kevin can fuck himself has been intentional about the distinct boundaries between its sitcom and drama halves. The number of cameras is different, the lighting is different, the tone and writing content is different, Annie Murphy’s performance is different. the Kevin can fuck himself that triggers a laugh track for every terrible joke Kevin and Neil make on the New England Patriots or Goodwill hunting isn’t the same show that follows Allison to Sam’s AA reunion and puts her through the agony of meeting his seemingly perfect wife as Allison bites emphatically into the only food we’ve seen her enjoy until now: the humble powdered sugar donut. The first scene is defined by irritation, the second by quiet tragedy, and how the first causes the second is what creator Valerie Armstrong and showrunner Craig DiGregorio have highlighted and explored with all this monocam vs. multicam experimentation.
But so far, neither “Living the Dream”, “New Tricks” nor “We’re Selling Washing Machines” have spent so much time about Kevin without Allison, and when the fourth episode “Live Free or Die” chooses to do so, it makes for a downright obnoxious watch. Of course, this is intentional: we have to be by Kevin’s side during one of his silly plans and childish meltdowns so that we can compare and contrast the encouragement and complicity of his father Pete and his best friend. Neil in his demeanor, with Allison and Patty’s exasperation, resentment, and ultimate disgust with her. Seeing both perspectives on Kevin’s incessant first call was effective, hammering the yawning gap between Kevin’s immaturity and demand for accommodation and Allison’s traumatized and reactionary fear of hearing the phone ring, and her conviction. instinctive that she must answer it right away.
Allison’s pairing with Patty has helped clarify that her frustrations with Kevin are not unfounded, and that her growing anger at how much he took advantage of her over the decade of their marriage is justified. Clean up their savings accounts. Bring it down and control it. Damaging their home by smashing doors, as we learn from her occasional hostage-taking of those escape room players, and damaging Allison’s reputation by having her fired from her paralegal job and spreading rumors that she was having an affair. First: who would blame her if she had been? And second: Do the additional details we learn about what Kevin has done to Allison over the years make his desire to kill him … more justified?
I’m not going to answer one way or the other as I write on the internet for everyone to read! Anyone can see this! Ultimately, though, while I can understand the need to make us suffer by listening, watching, and experiencing all of Kevin’s nonsense so that we can understand Allison’s breaking point, spend so much time on the side. from the sitcom of Kevin can fuck himself was frankly difficult to sit down. Do we need all the drama of the escape game? It’s already clear that Kevin is a selfish person who can’t handle women in leadership roles, or even as his equal, and acts in a petulant and silly way. At some point during “Live Free or Die”, the repetition of reducing the house of McRobert lost its effectiveness. Why not spend more time with Allison and Patty on the road as they tiptoe closer to friendship? Or even tell us how Detective Tammy’s investigation of Terrance is progressing? Please, I beg you. Everything except Kevin.
“Live Free or Die” follows Allison and Patty as they take the Vermont road to buy Oxy, which Patty thinks Allison is doing because she went on a bender and stole pills from a scary guy named Jason (the story of Sam Allison stole). What about Detective Tammy telling Patty not to leave town, and Patty does so immediately anyway? I think this is Patty’s first sign that she feels guilty for her behavior towards Allison over the years, and that she feels some debt to her clients, and on the ride from Worcester, the women are breaking new ground. The jokes about dead mothers, murder and dad seduction will do that, I guess, as will the revelation that the women went to high school together. They weren’t friends, but there is a certain camaraderie in knowing the same people and having the same kinds of memories.
Before Kevin can fuck himself goes too far in a Freaks and Geeks way, however, Patty and Allison find themselves in Vermont, where they are essentially stuck on a wild goose hunt trying to find the Oxy that was promised. Patty’s connection misunderstood what she wanted and sells her cocaine instead; the teenager who tells Patty and Allison that he will guide them to the Oxy dealer ends up being an idiot; and the dealer “Red Rooster” that Patty and Allison end up meeting as they trade a gun for cocaine rather than Oxy. Nothing seems to be going well, but in order for Patty to help her, Allison leans into the lie. She says Jason is harassing her now and that he won’t leave her alone – and she’s so convincing that later at a gas station, when Allison approaches a truck driver to buy her Oxy, Patty thinks stalker Jason them. has followed through the state lines, and knocks out the cold man.
The role reversal after this mistake is a solid play on the part of Murphy and Mary Hollis Inboden, with Allison adopting the caring, no-bullshit attitude Patty had worked on during the trip, and Patty freezing in shock. to what she’d been doing. Is this confident, self-confident Allison who she was before Kevin? She grabs the Oxy, drives Patty to the car, gets behind the wheel, shoves the gun in her pants when they’re pulled over, and she smiles throughout the conversation with the two cops who come to ask Allison and Patty why they are in a car that has been reported stolen. Because Kevin, rather than, say, calling Patty, or to be cold about his wife left for may be half a day, instead went to the police. The real fast zero to 100 nature of Kevin’s choice is ultimately what helps crystallize for Patty that her neighbor and friend is not just “not a great guy” but a real asshole who doesn’t listen to his wife, remember everything she says or trust her. The rawness that Murphy and Inboden bring to this conversation, especially the punishment of Inboden, makes this scene the best of the episode.
But what comes next? Talking to Patty about her plan is a leap of faith on Allison’s part, not a wise guarantee. And what Allison said about how Kevin is once again in control of their lives answers my question about the rigidity of this show’s presentation about the McRoberts’ existence as a sitcom: “The world revolves around him. It’s not that. It is necessary. If not, he sends her to hell. It has to stop. Is that a literal “must” because Allison is stuck on a sitcom she needs to break free from? Or that a figurative “must”, because Kevin is used to going through years of reinforced patriarchy, narcissism and abuse? And if it’s both, Allison has the Oxy, and she potentially has an ally. Maybe Kevin getting stuck in that window isn’t the worst thing that’s going to happen to him.
• Congratulations to Patty for stealing the fries from these teenagers; if it’s a “bitchy” behavior then I guess I’m a bitch to encourage it too. Give me all the starches!
• Neil’s “lunch, a few beers, app and dinner” meal planning had real Hobbit energy, but I think Neil would be one of those guys who never leave the Shire. Trust Neil with a ring of power? Never.
• Do we think Detective Tammy already knows about Patty / Terrance’s phone call, or does it come back later? Terrance was right, however: never use the phone for criminal activity. It was amateurish, Patty.
• What exactly was Allison doing to make her look “cute”? Was it the puffer jacket?
• Is any part of Patty’s dislike of Allison rooted in the girl she was – the one who was a star on the swim team, who had a group of close friends, and dated Sam in secret? Perhaps this dismissive nickname of “Barbie” has a different historical advantage.
• Kevin sounded more worried that a ‘thug’ would steal his crappy car than he was about the possibility of Allison’s death, didn’t he?
• “Buffalo Wild Wings Has Good Commercials” is exactly the kind of stupid thing a sitcom husband would say, so kudos to Kevin can fuck himself to know his enemy so well.