Playing House, Season 2, Episode 6, “Kimmewah Cup”
Written by Christine Nangle
Directed by Stuart McDonald
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm (EST) on USA Network
As Playing House’s second season winds down, “Kimmewah Cup” continues to explore how the transitions in Emma and Maggie’s lives have affected their friendship. Maggie is excited to spend a weekend alone with Emma—who’s been occupied with her new relationship with Rabbi Dan—at the lake house they went to every summer as kids. While at the lake house, Maggie is frustrated with Emma’s constant talk of her boyfriend, and the two have to renegotiate their friendship and Rabbi Dan’s role in their lives. “Kimmewah Cup” also helps to expand the ever-growing collection of fascinatingly named weirdos that inhabit the world of Playing House, as the Sklar Brothers play Emma and Maggie’s rivals from childhood, the Custerman twins.
Despite all of the potential of the episode, especially with a larger focus on Rabbi Dan, “Kimmewah Cup” isn’t a noteworthy entry into the Playing House canon. With only two episodes until the finale, “Kimmewah Cup” seems superfluous, a holdover from a version of Playing House that had a full 22-episode season. The idea that Emma would be too involved with a guy to pick up on Maggie’s feelings is already a story the show explored in season one’s “Totes Kewl,” when Emma went out on a date with Maggie’s divorce attorney, oblivious to Maggie’s feelings for him. “Kimmewah Cup” has exciting paddleboat visuals, and Emma and Maggie’s plans for their lake house retreat are right out of a 90’s slumber party handbook, but the episode overall is a retread of themes and ideas the show has done better in the past.
The episode especially comes off as filler following such complex emotional episodes about divorce and life transitions. “Knotty Pine” and “Employee of the Month” acted like a two-parter of sorts, dealing with Tina and Mark’s divorce and their lives in the aftermath of that decision. It is heavy subject material for a comedy on the USA Network, but starting with the pilot, the show has always been this way, joy and sorrow existing side-by-side in Maggie and Emma’s lives. Every episode of the season can’t explore Mark and Tina’s divorce, but “Knotty Pine and “Employee of the Month” were the show at its best. “Kimmewah Cup,” in comparison, can’t help but feel like a slight letdown.
The episode’s other problem, and one that maybe has been telegraphed since “Sleepless in Pinebrook,” is Rabbi Dan. “Kimmewah Cup” hinges on his and Emma’s relationship overtaking Emma and Maggie’s weekend away together, but he’s not enough of a presence on the show to make this story as meaningful as it is trying to be. The episode does an admirable job of expanding on Rabbi Dan’s character (he loves jam bands, he likes to have sex to “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors, he’s generally supportive and calls a bit too much), but his character is still relatively new to the show. It is in “Kimmewah Cup” that Playing House’s eight episode season starts to feel too short, as a couple of extra episodes spent exploring Emma and Rabbi Dan’s relationship would have made this storyline more powerful.
The other issue with Rabbi Dan is that since both he and Mark are the objects of Emma’s affections, it’s hard not to compare the two characters against each other. Mark, either because of the strong character writing for him since the pilot, Keegan-Michael Key’s performance, or some combination of the two, is a more dynamic and exciting character than Rabbi Dan. The short season also comes into play here: Mark has a shared past with Emma, a friendly and comfortable intimacy that the show has built on for the past two seasons. Rabbi Dan’s four episodes, even though “Kimmewah Cup” gives him more personality quirks, can’t match up to that shared history. At this point, he’s more of an obstacle in the way of Emma and Mark rekindling their relationship than he is a character.
Overall, “Kimmewah Cup” is a middling episode, especially in comparison to the two episodes preceding it in the season. It’s far from bad, but it stands out as an anomaly in an otherwise strong second season. Hopefully the double-episode finale next week will return to the show’s deft balance of comedy and drama, and “Kimmewah Cup” will be remembered as an enjoyable, if not essential, episode of the series.