Set entirely within the confines of “Episode 3101” of Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time, and guest starring Ariana Grande as a fairy, the fifth episode of Kidding is a creative triumph.
This recap of Kidding Season 2, Episode 5, “Episode 3101”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Kidding Season 2, Episode 5 is an episode within an episode, a story within a story, and a deeply moving lesson on letting go and moving on disguised as a slapstick half-hour of kids TV full of puppets, moral fables, and elaborate song-and-dance routines. We’re reminded throughout it that only Jim Carrey could possibly play the role of tormented Mr. Rogers’-alike Jeff Pickles, and also that Judy Greer remains one of our most undervalued talents. “Episode 3101”, which is the episode of Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time that the installment is confined to, is and will likely remain one of 2020’s best, most unconventional, and creatively brilliant episodes of television.
By utilizing the fake show’s puppet characters and oddball low-rent storytelling techniques, “Episode 3101” tackles complex ideas in the most simplistic terms. It’s about dealing with universal truths in a manageable way, but also about how vital this land of make-believe is to Jeff and his perception of the real world — he’s so intimately connected to the cardboard backdrops of Pickle Barrel Falls that the only way he can process the events of his real life is to filter them through the sanitized one he has built and nurtured across three decades of international stardom.
What he’s dealing with in Kidding Season 2, Episode 5 is, obviously, his divorce from Jill (Greer), while Deirdre (Catherine Keener), present throughout as local handyman Do-It-Yourself Deirdre, is responsible for many of the featured puppets having to say their goodbyes to the show since their rights have been handed over to her ex-husband as part of the divorce settlement. It’s a swansong, then, not just for Jeff’s marriage to Jill and his old, happy life, but also to an old version of himself and his show that has been intruded upon by unavoidable tragedies. A guest-starring Ariana Grande is on-hand as the Pickle Fairy of Hope, who serenades the humans and puppets alike as they grapple with their crises.
While it’s obvious early and only becomes more so as it progresses that “Episode 3101” is just a cutesy metaphor for how sometimes things happen that are nobody’s fault and not everything you try and hold together will be prevented from falling apart, once Jill arrives in person to witness Jeff signing the divorce papers the episode becomes genuinely moving, and Carrey and Greer largely sell it with teary-eyed looks at one another as they both apologize for the glue that once bound them not having held. The episode is so creative and clever that you often forget what it’s saying; that these two people who love each other deeply have also endured so much heartache that to be together would be too painful for both of them. Seeing Jeff and Jill let go, both of each other and to some extent the trauma that kept them tethered for far too long is a great moment of catharsis and is reflected in the puppets themselves finally embracing change and leaving for greener pastures.
Of course, the grass is rarely greener, especially not in Kidding, which tempers its otherwise uplifting ending with a brief scene of Jeff, now freed from the episode, watching one of his puppets being aggressively dipped in sauce as an advert for a fast-food joint. It was heartwarming while it lasted.
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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.