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Speechless - E-I-- EIGHTEEN - Review: "Coming Of Age"

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After being off screen for well over a month, Speechless returned this week and on mighty fine form. E-i—Eighteen gutted me in more ways than one, had some great emotional moments, and some fabulous dialogue.

The main storyline this week was JJ turning 18. Maya was completely devastated by her eldest son turning of age, and it’s a devastation that is understandable. Parents want their children to stay their little babies forever, and each milestone that a child celebrates as a milestone bringing them ever closer to that ‘glorious’ adult life is just heartbreak for their parents.

To even out the emotional aspects of the opener, Jimmy told JJ he only had a few seconds left to murder someone and be tried as an adult. Of course Dylan immediately looked to Ray, who looked extremely worried for half a second.

Whilst Maya was making arrangements for JJ’s birthday party, including an obviously childish cake that JJ hid behind Dylan’s desire for instead of proclaiming it himself, JJ took a trip to the store with Kenneth.

What started out quite amusing with JJ going through the rite of passage of now being allowed to buy products for the over 18’s, very quickly took a down turn as they sat in the car park. They were approached by a boy from school, who was at the shop to fill up on gas. JJ’s mood plummeted as the boy revealed he was going to be staying with his girlfriend for the weekend away from home, and prepping to go away to college.

That’s obviously not something JJ will be doing soon given he’s been held back a year, and suddenly buying lotto tickets made JJ feel like he was still a kid. Cedric Yarbrough is usually relied upon for his comedic talents, but he did excellently well here as Kenneth’s slowly turned to sadness the more the boy went on & JJ basically looked humiliated. He of course returned to those comedic routes we know so well when he told the boy he had a big mouth, but this episode ended up being covering a lot of serious, emotional ground & Cedric was more than ready for it.

When they returned home JJ was very much not feeling the party. Kenneth attempted to ease the mood, but the more the other guys were talking about how epic their 18 birthday’s were, the more annoyed JJ got. It’s again a completely understandable, not to mention realistic reaction to have. JJ is always to an extent going to struggle for independence, and be surrounded by people his age who are living a much different life to him. He’s always going to feel jealous and envious of that, and that is ok.

Lashing out at his parents and bumping the table causing his birthday cake to fall to the ground? Very much not ok. Kenneth & Jimmy attempted to alert Maya to JJ’s bad mood, but she ignored them and attempted to feed JJ a piece of birthday cake. He very much was not feeling that and wanted to bail on the party which Jimmy told him off for, pointing out the effort Maya had gone to for her. It’s then JJ let rip on Maya proclaiming that it’s always about her and my jaw dropped to the floor.

I just couldn’t believe JJ actually had Kenneth say that. It was completely out of order, and very much unfair given that we see everything that Maya does for JJ. She’s his biggest supporter after all! Maya ordered JJ to apologize which he refused to do and stepping up, Jimmy told JJ whilst he was living under their roof, he would respect his mother.

This only served to further antagonize JJ, who bumped the table bringing the party to a standstill and stormed out. With everyone staring on in shock, Kenneth ordered the party goers to dance and get on with things. When the boy who’d previous made a ‘momma joke’ pointed out there was no music? Kenneth ordered them to dance anyway and the party goers obliged.

It’s then discovered that JJ’s opened an account with an accessible ride service. Maya wants to march after him, but Kenneth advises her to back off and let JJ do what he’s gotta do. Although Maya wants to agree to this, her body doesn’t quite get the message and we’re treated to a scene in which Maya fetches her coat & keys without even realizing she has. Even better is her telling Kenneth to block her path as she comes at him.

In case it’s not said often enough the entire cast has excellent chemistry with each other, and without that, Speechless wouldn’t be what it is.
Kenneth tracks JJ down at a tattoo parlous and JJ attempts to mouth off at him again. Refusing to stand for it Kenneth plays hard ball, and tells JJ if he wants to be treated like the adult he now is, he needs to act like one instead of a child and apologize to his parents. It’s very rare that we see a storyline in which JJ is completely out of order & get a massive dressing down. Cedric again does so well, refusing to pull any punches or crack any jokes. He needs JJ to know what he’s done is serious and by the end of the scene, JJ is beginning to understand that.

Kenneth brings JJ home where Jimmy and Maya are sitting on the sofa. He reads JJ’s apology letter and JJ reveals his tattoo which is pretty neat. Not that Maya thinks so and Kenneth can’t help but be amused that JJ correctly guessed at what point in his speech she’d freak out over it. Once the apologies been accepted Jimmy & Maya give JJ his birthday present. It’s the garage which will from this point on be known as JJ’s man cave. They know JJ’s a man now and whilst he can’t get all the independence he wants, he can have his very own cave and it is a sweet moment.
What is not a sweet moment? Poor, innocently naïve Ray.

Taylor has a foreign exchange student staying at her house and whilst Ray is initially trying to be cool and mature about it, when he meets Lars? Cool goes out the window and is replaced by a jealous, insecure guy. That probably sounds a lot harsher than it’s meant and is no actual criticism of Ray and this storyline. Everyone is enamoured with Lars, and considering Ray couldn’t believe that Taylor actually wanted to go out with him, feeling jealous over someone as attractive, not to mention older than them, staying with Taylor was bound to weigh down on him.

Despite Jimmy warning him not to, Ray decides to work his fathers old school moves on Taylor. This includes staking his territory with Lars, talking about guacamole and inviting a girl to JJ’s birthday party. That last move spectacularly back fires on Ray as the girl kisses him. Ray is obviously stunned, not to mention guilt-ridden, and it’s that guilt that gets him in trouble. Maya urges him to be honest with Taylor claiming that she’ll understand. Jimmy very much thinks that’s a bad idea and presents a physical example of why when he tells Maya that he was actually involved with a girl before he thought they were exclusive. She’s furious, Jimmy’s in a world of trouble and it should be warning enough for Ray to stay quiet.

When Taylor later admits she felt jealous of seeing the girl with Ray at the party, he admits that he invited the girl there because he felt jealous of Lars. This is something Taylor understands and finds sweet, but Ray doesn’t stop there and admits the girl kissed him.

That’s something Taylor is very much understandably not happy with. Ray proclaims that the girl was the one who kissed him, he didn’t want it and couldn’t stop her from kissing him. Taylor then presents a physical example of stopping someone from kissing you, and it is fair to say Ray is in the dog house.

I really hope this isn’t the end of Ray & Taylor. They are pretty cute together and I’d like to see them work past this. Jimmy telling Ray the reason he didn’t give him any of his tips because he’s too innocent for them was completely true. Being so guilt ridden that he had to tell Taylor what happened at the first opening is completely in with Ray’s character, but as many a TV show has taught us never invite a person to a party to make your significant other jealous. You will regret it.

The final storyline of this episode revolved around Dylan trying out for the school’s wrestling team. She promptly fell head over heels for Rev. If you’re wondering why he looked so familiar, he’s played by Jack Dylan Grazer who was the young Alex Riley on CBS’s gone way too soon ‘Me Myself & I’. The head over heels feeling is very much reciprocated, as they both put on extra weight in an attempt to avoid fighting each other for a spot on the team. That back fires and Dylan wants to be willing to lose the fight so as not to humiliate her love, but it’s just not in her. She takes out Rev and they share a kiss in the aftermath. I honestly wouldn’t mind if Rev ends up being a recurring character on the show. The storyline might not have had a lot of screen time this episode, but during their scenes, there was chemistry between the two of them. Dylan may have had the odd crush here and there, but she’s yet to reach the point of her first relationship, and it’d be interesting to see the show explore that.

Judging by the press release for next weeks episode, things are not looking good on the Ray/Taylor front. You can catch that at 8:30 on ABC. Speechless is one of the best family, not to mention heartfelt, comedies on TV and I hope against hope come May that it doesn’t meet the grim reaper.

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