8.3

Garfunkel & Oates Review: "Speechless"

Episode 1.03

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The third installment of Garfunkel and Oates starts a conversation about nixing… well, conversation. In it, Kate and Riki take on new romantic relationships with the specific goal of not speaking during their dates. It’s all in an attempt to validate a hypothesis: that men prefer spending time with a woman who doesn’t speak.

The experiment is inspired by a chance encounter with Alex (Nick Thune), a friend of Riki and Kate’s, and his girlfriend Jane (Ashley Johnson). Jane is infamously (and, as the girls deduce, self-decidedly) silent, a “beige curtains” girlfriend who communicates solely through facial expression and pantomimes. Regardless, she and Alex are a seemingly happy couple. Led by Riki, the girls decide to go full-on “Little Mermaid” and surrender their voices in the name of a social experiment.

Adopting Jane’s silent behavior, Kate and Riki meet their dates at a sports bar. With a game distracting the conversation, and an endless stream of one-sided conversation sustaining the evening, they make it through the date without speaking. The men do not notice. In fact, they are so oblivious to Kate and Riki’s ulterior motives that they interpret the date as a success. Matthew (played perfectly by Silicon Valley star T.J. Miller) sends two bouquets of flowers to Riki’s doorstep. Darren sends Kate an endearing email.

Still avoiding conversation, Riki establishes a strong emotional connection with Matthew by her second date. And, although he still hasn’t caught on to her scheme, he has opened up to her in a deeply trusting way. It evolves into a perfect date, with Riki later confiding in Kate that she enjoys the no talking set up more than she expected. By now, Riki’s initial stance, which was opportune for feminist commentary, is completed muddied.

Of course, things have to go sour—and they do. A nearby conversation featuring an unforgiving mix-up of Rent and Book of Mormon leads to Riki breaking her vow. Although the ramifications aren’t swift, it isn’t long before Matthew feels betrayed (“You haven’t said any word since we’ve been dating, except for your rant about AIDS?”). Kate’s luck isn’t going so well either, with her boyfriend deducing that she is, in fact, mentally retarded. Low brow as it may be, seeing Kate self-justify his diagnosis is a highlight of the episode. In the end, the game was Kate and Riki’s to lose, yet they somehow ended up exponentially more shamed than their male counterparts.

Somewhere, mixed in with the plot, a song that matched the episode’s cliché masculine undertones was presented. The sports-centric song titled “Sports Go Sports” is an anthem for anyone with an unflinching apathy concerning athletics, and is complete with a distinctly 1980s workout video aesthetic. “Sports Go Sports” is fun and punchy with plenty of snark, and hardly relies on the episode for accessibility, laughs or context. It’s a stand-alone piece that isn’t hard to imagine being on Garfunkel and Oates’ Youtube channel pre-Garfunkel and Oates, the series.

That said, I’m interested to see how the musical aspect of Garfunkel and Oates develops moving forward. Where the pilot episode incorporated music seamlessly into the plot, this week’s inclusion, as well as last week’s “Rainbow Connection,” feel slightly restrained, as if they were separate creative endeavors worked into a pre-existing storylines. It does not necessarily detract from the show, but there seems to be a minor discrepancy in the transition from Internet to television. Of course, the series is in its infancy. Garfunkel and Oates has time to find its footing, and I have no doubt that it will.

All things considered, “Speechless” is, perhaps, the most clever, genuinely laugh-inducing Garfunkel and Oates episode thus far. Benefiting from the subtext the pilot gave us, and offering a much more cohesive plot than last week’s ambitious effort, “Speechless” is charming, it’s direct, and, although not perfect, it’s another fun foray into Garfunkel and Oates’ world.