Season 1, Episode 3: “Every Pain Needs a Name”
Directed by Jake Schreier
Written by Halley Feiffer
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Pusillanimous” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Bye, Mom” – click here
We see a woman named Shaina (Riki Lindhome) being bent over a couch in a dingy room. On the TV, after the humping changes channels, she sees Jeff Pickles (Jim Carrey) talking about the part of yourself “no one can take away,” and it’s as if she has an epiphany.
At home, Deirdre (Catherine Keener) says goodbye to husband Scott (Bernard White) who’s headed off on business. Their daughter Maddy (Juliet Morris) wonders if her parents are going to split up, dealing with things in her own way. She’s taken to screaming at home and in school, too. A doctor says she’s displaying what’s known as “Moro reflex,” but it’s usually the behaviour of an infant. The doc suggests it’s linked to a trauma. I guess seeing your dad being jerked off – a.k.a getting a “secret handshake” – by your music teacher’s pretty traumatising for a child.
On the latest show, Jeff tells his audience: “Every pain needs a name.” Because you’ve got to name the pain, describe it, label it in order to fix the pain. Really, Jeff’s going through his own struggles and trying to grapple it on his television show. His father Seb (Frank Langella) knows women send naked pictures to the kids show star, suggesting a “new fuck friend.” This isn’t exactly where Mr. Pickles excels, and he’s still attached to his estranged wife Jill (Judy Greer), despite the fact she has a name man, Peter (Justin Kirk). He refutes his father’s definition of manhood, choosing to hang onto his marriage. Whether that’ll work out in the end, we’ll have to wait and see.
In hospital, Jeff uses his puppets to cheer people up. He meets one cancer patient who throws him off with talk of “gushing assholes” and Grey’s Anatomy. This woman’s prepared to die, only six weeks left. She seems hopeless. Although, somehow, Jeff’s able to get through to her a little with his charm. If only he were as good at relating to his own son, Will (Cole Allen). The kid’s busy smoking pot and hanging out with older kids, “the troubled people” his dad calls them referring to a Nancy Reagan speech, showing us more of that Conservative side to his personality.
And elsewhere, unbeknown to Mr. Pickles, Shaina’s turning her life around by listening to him like a motivational speaker. It’s also a spectacular scene as her apartment builds back up to a beautiful place, filled with happiness and friends, as opposed to the sadness that was there before. Shaina’s no longer snorting cocaine or selling herself for cocaine. Not long until Jeff finds himself out on a date with Shaina. They’re getting to know one another. He’s being pushed by his father constantly to date.
Simultaneously, Seb’s talking to Deirdre about having “to continue Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time without Mr. Pickles.” He believes Jeff will ruin things if they let him continue. He wants a subordinate son who’ll do exactly what he requires for capitalist purposes, whereas Deirdre feels her brother will unravel if he loses the show. Seb’s sole concern is “vertical integration,” looking to put dolls and other marketable bullshit out there to numb the audience of children to a new form of Mr. Pickles on the shelves for their parents to buy.
“What do you think he’s gonna do when he’s a cartoon sandwiched between Spongebob Dickpants and Dickbob Spongepants?”
Will confides in his friend he feels like “the living dead” because everyone, other than his mom’s new dude, looks at him like he’s his twin brother, Phil. He loves his father, and his mother, but everybody around him seems intent on treating him like the brother he lost, which can’t be easy for a young kid trying to grow up.
After his date, Jeff goes home to his apartment. He finds a drunk girl in the hallway, bringing her inside to let her sleep it off. He then writes a letter to Shaina, saying they shouldn’t seen one another, but glad he helped “save” her. The whole scene’s perfectly surreal when Jeff brings the drunk girl water, dressed in a Space Otter sleeping bag. The drunk girl also comes onto him. He doesn’t succumb to her advances, but the girl questions him: “Aren‘t you tired of always doing the right thing?” This prompts Mr. Pickles to go have sex with the sassy cancer patient he met earlier. While dad’s getting it on, his son is having a kiss with his friend Cassidy (Julitta Scheel).
God, I love this series! So fucked up, in the most hilarious way. Carrey’s own life bleeds into some of these scenes, you can feel it. “Bye, Mom” is next time.