“Every Pain Needs a Name” was another solid instalment of Showtime’s Kidding, and Jim Carrey continues to excel.
Jeff Pickles (Jim Carrey) is heartbroken, which means his puppets are heartbroken, too. Everyone needs an outlet for their grief, and for Mr. Pickles it’s his fuzzy friends, whose hearts he yanks out of their chests. Every pain needs a name, according to him, and by having his puppets show externally what he’s feeling inside, he’s identifying those nebulous feelings that kids don’t know how to process or explain. That’s what he thinks, anyway.
The reality is a little more complicated. As his father Sebastian (Frank Langella) explains to him, nobody, least of all the children, sees Jeff as a human being. He’s society’s smiley embodiment of moral good; no more real that his puppets. To Jeff, that’s the problem. But it might be an advantage. Sebastian insists that what Jeff needs is a rebound, especially now that Jill (Judy Greer) is shacking up with someone else. Whatever public reputation Jeff is worried about preserving isn’t in the jeopardy that he thinks it is – he is not, to use his father’s phrase, seen as “a sexual being”. He’s just Mr. Pickles.
But according to “Every Pain Needs a Name”, Mr. Pickles means different things to different people. To Shaina (Riki Lindhome), he’s a saviour; whereas she was once a drug addict who prostituted herself to fund the habit, now she’s cleaned up and ready to face the world – because of him. Because of his lessons and his puppets and his endlessly upbeat demeanour. That’s off-putting to Jeff because he knows the demeanour is bullshit.
To the drunken college girl who drinks herself unconscious in the hallway of Jeff’s apartment building, Mr. Pickles is a quirky neighbour. On some level she knows it’s all an act, but when Jeff carries her to his apartment and sets her up with a bed for the night after finding her delirious, he becomes, to her, someone to be saved. “Don’t you ever get tired of doing the right thing?” she asks him. Of course he does; he knows that his squeaky-clean uprightness isn’t getting him anywhere. But when she comes on to him, he doesn’t sleep with her, even though Kidding pretends for a while that he might. Jeff knows he needs something, or someone, but he believes he can find it without betraying the values that, inefficient or not, he has held aloft for so long.
He finds it in a cancer patient – someone who can’t be saved, and so doesn’t see him as a saviour. I don’t know if the episode’s surprise cut to Jeff in bed with her was perhaps too contrived (aren’t there visiting hours at those places?), but it made the point well enough.
Everyone perceives Jeff in a slightly different way, but none perceive him as entirely human – not even Sebastian, who is so worried about Jeff’s emotional downslide affecting his bottom line that he’s contemplating merchandising and animating his son, just in case. Will (Cole Allen) is having the same problem with perception. He’s the surviving twin, but he doesn’t feel alive; when people look at him, they see the spectre of his brother hovering behind him. “Every Pain Has a Name” was a fitting title for an episode about traumas and anxieties that aren’t so easily defined or explained. You can give these things names, but that won’t necessarily make them hurt any less. Everyone knows Mr. Pickles, after all – but nobody seems to care who Jeff is.