The following contains spoilers for Kevin Can F**k Himself Episode 6, “The Grand Victorian”
The sitcom doesn’t begin until a full ten minutes into Kevin Can F**k Himself Episode 6, as “The Grand Victorian” begins instead with Allison and Patty away from Kevin’s orbit. I continue to find myself fascinated with the structure of this show, as in its opening episodes the sitcom portion was clearly the focal point around which all of the action circulated—Allison’s scenes exiting the living room to enter the kitchen, for example, were almost jarring as the show suddenly changed its whole style—whereas by Episode 6 they are truly decentered. This has also altered the way in which they come across.
By Episode 4 (“Live Free or Die”), the idea that the Kevin sitcom was funny was at least undermined conceptually—the point brought home by Allison’s monologue to Patty at the end of the hour after they’d been stopped by the police (Kevin having called the cops because Allison wasn’t answering her phone). What the sitcom plays for laughs is reprehensible. Kevin is a raging narcissist enabled by patriarchal structures, and there is a subtle misogyny at work in the framing of such behavior as wacky, or zany. We excuse him through our laughter (or the laugh track does it for us), and this goes not just for Kevin but for everyone like him in the real world.
By Episode 5 (“New Patty”) the humor of the sitcom scenes shifts fully into the territory of dark comedy. They begin to feel properly oppressive, particularly when Kevin sits Allison and Patty down to be interrogated about their trip. Cue the laugh track. But it is undeniably mean that he not only excommunicates Patty from the group but calls her boyfriend Kurt to inform him. And when Patty plays along with the mockery of Allison, though she apologizes for the reflex, this is nonetheless subsumed into the sitcom world through the laugh track. We know of their genuine relationship, as it has been well established within the broader narrative of Kevin Can F**k Himself, but Kevin is still the center of the universe whenever he is around. He demands it. And think about how insane it would be to be confronted by one of those posterboards. While the laugh track laughs to make light of what he’s doing, we laugh because it is so truly terrible it’s the only way to cope.
But in Episode 6 things shift again. Frankly, the Kevin plot feels annoying and like a distraction from the real story. He’s juggling two birthday events, like every year, but things are complicated by an eating contest with a smug Sean Avery…and, who cares?
But this is clearly the point, as it resonates thematically with what Episode 6 is up to. Allison is annoyed, as she’s always known about Kevin running back and forth between The Grand Victorian and Tricky Ricky’s on his birthday (with lame excuses about having left something in his car) but was actually looking forward to the quiet evening relatively alone, reading a book and sipping some wine.
Kevin undermines the wine part quickly by negating her attempt to order and overriding it with his own insistence on the cheapest glasses on the menu, but it’s really the whole Sean Avery affair that disrupts things. By the time Brian Scalabrine is appearing in a vision to encourage Kevin to finish his challenge meal, we (like Allison) are more prone to wish he’d just instead die from his own idiocy already.
Of course there is another dynamic at play in the scenes at The Grand Victorian, as Nick at moves through the background of the frame. Episode 6 begins with Allison and Patty hiring him to murder Kevin, and she says she’s happy to be relieved of knowing anything further about how, but paranoia gets her when she sees him at the restaurant. Surely he wouldn’t kill the man somewhere so public?
I don’t think he would, and there is a good chance he just actually works at The Grand Victorian, but that doesn’t change the power games he plays with Allison over the course of Episode 6—most notably in the scene where he presents Kevin with his knife. Beyond the flare with which Nick does this, there is the way in which he plays at sharpening it beforehand. His face is offscreen, with the focus on the blade, communicating to us Allison’s anxiety.
Nick likes to gain the upperhand over women through his chaotic energy, as we saw with regard to Patty in Episode 5—you don’t know what this man might do. But in this way he’s just another exemplar of male privilege. It’s important that Allison flips the power dynamic on him at the end of Episode 6 not just in terms of alleviating her paranoia when it comes to the murder at hand, but in a broader way, as she is coming to realize and take hold of her own agency.
This is clearly spurred by Sam, who tells her she is always in control and she should know that, though in terms of their relationship dynamic this is more of a jab than anything. She’s the one who has seduced him, after all, and threatened his marriage, and so on. I’m not a big fan of Jenn either, but he’s absolutely right that it’s not fair of Allison to be jealous of her. And in the background I can’t help but wonder what happened between Allison and Sam years ago. One gets the sense that perhaps he’s pined for her and feels that she was the one who pulled away from their relationship. I suspect that’s probably a fair assessment from his point of view.
This isn’t to blame Allison by any means. Life is messy and the real story of Kevin Can F**k Himself is in her movement of self-actualization. That might run through murder, and it definitely is running through at least a conspiracy to murder, but it’s clear that this is where the real stakes of the show lie. And the same could be said with regard to Patty.
It would seem that Det. Ridgeway’s invitation to a work thing was really just that—she was asking Patty out on a date. The power dynamics are tricky here as well, of course, and it’s not clear the extent to which Tammy even realizes it consciously. She’s a cop investigating a case that involves Patty at least as a person of interest. We should ask to what extent consent is even truly possible in such circumstances and to what extent the autonomy of someone like Patty is undermined precisely through Tammy’s authority.
When she kisses Tammy at the end of Episode 6, is this due to a real emotional relationship being forged, or is it out of fear, to cut off the line of questioning about Allison from this officer of the law? I’m not sure even Patty knows, and that’s the problem.
Despite the way Allison moves to claim her own power at the end of Episode 6, this is presaged by Kevin once again casually negating it. She decided to get him a brown massage chair for his birthday even when she knew he wanted a black one, but he won’t allow her this small act of self-determination. As he thanks her for the present, he at the same time commands her to take it back and exchange it for one that is the right color. Imagine the arrogance of imposing such a demand in the face of a gift—or, well, you don’t have to because Kevin Can F**k Himself has put it right there for you on the screen.
The situation with
Oswald Cobblepot Nick is messy as well. Allison has claimed the right to know what’s going to happen by declaiming that he won’t get his money otherwise, but did I miss something that would indicate that she and Patty have $7000 to pay him? It is an oddly specific number, but I can’t help but wonder if their real plan is to get him arrested after the fact. Why does Allison tell Sam that Nick is “some guy who has a problem with Kevin” otherwise?
One thing about the shifting structure of Kevin Can F**k Himself when it comes to the sitcom elements revolving around the titular character is that it makes Kevin’s death feel like a live possibility. One could imagine the sitcom fading and the drama taking over increasingly as we move forward, but this is not what I predict. The sitcom is being pushed to the margins, inverting the form with which we started in Episode 1, but it should remain present for as long as Kevin is alive.
It clearly centers itself on him, and not the house, or the living room. This has always been the case but has become even clearer as the sitcom action has moved out into the world of bars and restaurants. But I find myself pondering how we have also only seen Neil and Pete through this frame, and imagining them if it were to be punctured. Surely Kevin’s death would throw them into the stark light of reality.
With two episodes left in the season, I find myself hoping that this is what happens.
Kevin can f**k himself.