Jeff develops a dicey idea in “I’m Listening” to help him connect with America’s kids, while obstacles begin to emerge in his personal and professional lives.
This recap of Kidding Season 2, Episode 3, “I’m Listening”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
If “Up, Down and Everything in Between” was the high, Kidding Season 2, Episode 3, “I’m Listening”, was the come-down. And I don’t necessarily mean that as a criticism. It’s important in a second season to pull back a bit and allow the new conflicts, themes and goals to settle in; with the first two episodes focused on Jeff (Jim Carrey) hitting Peter (Justin Kirk) with his car and their subsequent physical and emotional breakthroughs, here we start to see the emergence of the long-running stories that’ll define this second season, especially on the back of Jeff waking up from his liver transplant and telling his father, Seb (Frank Langella), that he’s fired.
That leaves Jeff in, Lord forgive me, a bit of a pickle. He has no show for the first time in 30 years, and thus he has no way to connect with the children of America and indeed the world. Dilemmas like this often produce startlingly prescient ideas, and what Jeff has is certainly an idea, though admittedly a bizarre and I’m not sure entirely legal one: He wants to create a Mr. Pickles doll that listens – like, really listens – to the children who own it and allows Jeff to communicate with them directly.
This is, needless to say, a terrible idea. But Kidding Season 2, Episode 3 finds the tiny granule of good-heartedness in it and brings that to the forefront, despite a wealth of obvious double entendres emphasizing why it’s so likely to backfire. Because Seb has no creative control anymore, he can’t stop Jeff going ahead with the plan and potentially damaging his public image even further, so in “I’m Listening” he begins to emerge as a subtle antagonist trying to puppeteer his children through backstage manipulation.
Speaking of Seb’s children, Deirdre (Catherine Keener) remains Jeff’s only real confidante, even though she’s dealing with not only her divorce but the fact that the IRS is looking into a fake charity she dreamed up to pocket more money. That, and she hates not only the direction Jeff’s show took but also his haircut; by fixing the latter she resolves to fix the former, Jeff’s show of trust having obviously inspired her. Jeff, for what it’s worth, looks much less like a serial killer without his trademark hairdo, which helps with the whole doll thing.
With the Pickles siblings united, Seb can’t halt production of the new toy, and it’s incredibly cathartic to see Jeff stand up to his father; when we skip ahead to his retirement, which he’s obviously deeply unhappy about, it’s a fine moment of triumph for Jeff and the audience, even if, at least initially, response to the listening doll isn’t overwhelmingly positive.
Lest we forget, Will (Cole Allen) busies himself in Kidding Season 2, Episode 3 with a book on dark magic and attempts to turn back time, leading to the meaningful discovery of what Jill (Judy Greer) did with his late brother Phil’s organs – despite having insisted she did nothing at all. Between Seb’s obvious grudge, Will’s temporal meddling, and a shadowy guest appearance, there’s a lot in the margins of “I’m Listening” that suggests the direction the show might take going forward. A missing liver might be the least of Jeff’s problems.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.