Speechless returned this week with an all new episode “H-E-R– HERO”. What really makes a hero? Lessons were learned and laughter ensued.
Speechless episode 1.12 begins with the DiMeo kids engineering a stunt wheelchair ramp in their living room. Despite Ray’s careful planning, J.J.’s thrill ride is a failure and his wheelchair is damaged.
The “new” chair provided through insurance is actually a refurbished model that does not function nearly as well as the old one. Maya is on a mission to meet with her insurance ally, Stu. Having charmed Stu in the past, Maya is certain she will be able to sway him to provide a better replacement chair for J.J.
— Speechless (@TV_Speechless) January 11, 2017
Maya learns that Stu is no longer in the healthcare division and swiftly takes back the dessert she offered him. Stu advises that Janet is the new insurance claims contact and that she is a “tough nut to crack”.
Tough nut to crack
Tough for Maya? No way. She is up for the challenge. Jimmy and Maya sneak their way into Janet’s office and are ready to plea their case for a better wheelchair. Janet is not interested in names or personal stories and merely requests their account number. Maya’s typical charms are not going to work on Janet.
Jimmy accepts defeat, but Maya insists on finding a way to connect with Janet on a personal level so she can really explain J.J.’s equipment needs. Having taken notice of the equestrian photos in Janet’s office, Maya begins concocting plan B.
Eyes on the prize
Meanwhile, Ray has entered an essay contest at school that offers a cash prize. He has his eyes set on a hoverboard. He too is concocting a plan. The theme for the contest is heroes. He plans to write about J.J. being his hero. J.J. is none too happy about that prospect and does not want Ray to use his disability for Ray’s benefit.
Ray obliges and agrees to write about Albert Einstein instead. Much to Ray’s chagrin, Donald Bronson, a kid that neither he nor J.J. have ever met, claims that J.J. is his hero for the contest.
J.J. explains that he refuses to be inspiration porn, which Ray explains to Kenneth is “a portrayal of people with disabilities as one-dimensional saints who only exist to warm the hearts and open the minds of able-bodied people”.
— Speechless (@TV_Speechless) January 12, 2017
Kenneth likens the idea to another term, the magical Negro which he explains is “like in the movies where the black character’s just there to help the white guy on his journey and he mainly speaks in folksy sayings”.
In both cases, the actual person is not being taken into account but rather a caricatured or cliched version, which is then used for someone else’s benefit. Not fair, not cool.
J.J. tasks Ray with switching his essay back to one about J.J. being his hero, so that Donald’s will fall flat. J.J., Kenneth, and Ray get to work on Ray’s new essay.
Back at the ranch
Back at the ranch, well the barn at least, Maya has arrived in full horseback riding gear to bond with Janet over their love of horses. Except that Maya actually knows nothing about horses.
Maya calls upon her “mom powers” to do her best at convincing Janet that she is an equestrian. Maya is set on finding a connection with Janet so that she can help J.J. get the best insurance provisions possible.
While Maya fakes her way through horseback riding, Jimmy surveys Janet’s car and finds a “Track Mom” bumper sticker. Eureka! That’s it! Maya, too, is a track mom. Jimmy rushes to relieve Maya of her riding charade and shares that they must hurry and get to the track. Ergo, Janet learns that the DiMeos are parents to Dylan DiMeo, track star.
But the bonding over track that Maya hoped for takes a back seat to Janet’s proposal, er, bribe. If Dylan will throw the race and allow Janet’s daughter Melissa to win, she will throw her support behind better equipment for J.J.
When winning is losing and losing is winning
Jimmy and Maya struggle with asking Dylan to lose on purpose. But Dylan overhears and insists on doing it to help her brother.
Dylan makes every attempt to let Janet’s daughter Melissa win the race, but Jimmy and Maya cannot go through with it. They want what’s best for J.J. but not at the risk of losing their integrity. They shift gears and cheer Dylan to victory.
Ray faces a similar dilemma while giving his speech at the essay contest. When he sees someone giving J.J. one of those patronizing pats on the back that J.J. despises, Ray shifts his speech into honesty mode, explaining that his brother is not on a pedestal. He is just a regular brother who can even be a jerk sometimes. But of course he loves him anyway because they are family, not because he has cerebral palsy.
— Speechless (@TV_Speechless) January 12, 2017
All the DiMeos learn that being honest with who you are is important.
However, in a little twist of fate, Janet and her daughter overhear Donald Bronson’s fake speech about J.J. being his hero. Janet is so “moved” by the speech that she agrees to help J.J. get a better chair.
The DiMeos decide to tell the truth. Janet hears what she wants to hear. And J.J. gets a better chair.
Some other interesting highlights from Speechless episode 1.12:
- Jamie Denbo (who plays Janet) is actually the wife of John Ross Bowie (who plays Jimmy).
- Ray has a hilarious question with a fellow student named Kayla who “says every sentence like its a question” Listen closely, you’ve probably heard someone do this before!
- While trying to feign expertise with “dressage”, Maya does a goofy dance for (in front of) her horse. Jimmy told her dressage was “dancing for horses” when it would have been clearer had he said it was “horses dancing”.
Tune in next week for another brand new episode of Speechless on ABC. Episode 1.13 is titled “S-I–SICK D-A–DAY and airs on 1/18.
Writer, interviewer in metro Atlanta. Always ready to talk TV and movies. Wife, mom, special needs advocate.