Speechless – H-E-R– HERO
By: Taylor Gates
JJ (Micah Fowler) breaks his wheelchair while trying to go over a homemade stunt ramp Dylan (Kyla Kenedy) and Ray (Mason Cook) built. Kenneth (Cedric Yarbrough) chastises the kids for being so irresponsible, but it turns out Maya (Minnie Driver) and Jimmy (John Ross Bowie) gave them permission. Their health insurance will only pay for a used, crappy wheelchair to replace JJ’s broken one so Maya plans on taking Stu (Jim O’Heir), their insurance rep, to lunch in order to sweet talk them into paying for a better one. Ray plans on entering an essay contest. He wants to write about JJ being his hero in order to win a cash prize, but JJ refuses to let him lie.
During Maya and Stu’s lunch, Stu admits that he transferred departments and now works in boat insurance. Maya is going to have to bribe his replacement, Janet (Jamie Denbo), if she wants a wheelchair upgrade. At the essay contest semifinals, Ray is preparing to read a piece he wrote about Einstein. However, Donald (Bradley Steven Perry), a kid who JJ doesn’t even know, reads a paper about how JJ inspires him.
Maya and Jimmy go to talk to Janet in her office, which is covered with pictures of horses. Janet is cold and unsympathetic and Jimmy guides Maya out before she can make their situation even worse. Maya has another plan up her sleeve and she drags Jimmy to the horse stables where Janet likes to ride. The DiMeos pretend to love horses and Maya steals one in order to ride next to and bond with Janet. The two get to talking and a clueless Maya says whatever she thinks Janet wants to hear, including the fact that she does dressage. Meanwhile, Jimmy sees a bumper sticker on Janet’s car that says she’s a track parent just like they are. Maya gets called out for lying about dressage and admits she just wants more money for her son’s wheelchair. Janet is disgusted, but makes them another deal—her daughter has never won a track meet and if they can convince Dylan to throw the race so she can Janet will give them more money.
Ray tells JJ about Donald’s speech and he and Kenneth go off to confront him for writing “inspiration porn.” JJ tells Donald his speech was insulting, as he doesn’t exist solely to make able-bodied people feel better. Dr. Miller (Marin Hinkle) doesn’t help the situation when she comes up and tells JJ he is a hero and saint in the middle of the conversation. Donald says he realizes the speech could be seen as insulting, but he’s not going to change it since he wants to win. JJ tells Ray to write an essay about him to beat Donald’s. While helping JJ and Ray write the essay, Kenneth realizes that JJ’s situation is kind of like the “magical negro” trope—the black character who only exists to help the white ones.
Jimmy thinks Janet is heartless to ask Dylan to throw a race and Maya is distraught there seems to be no other way to get more money. Dylan overhears their conversation from the hallway and says she wants to intentionally lose to help JJ. The day of the race, Jimmy and Maya don’t feel good about Dylan doing badly on purpose. In the end, they yell from the stands for Dylan to do her best and she ends up winning. Janet is furious, but Jimmy says at least their family’s integrity is intact, which is the best gift they can give JJ.
Ray starts giving his clichéd speech, but in the end he can’t manage to make JJ out to be some flawless, brave hero. Instead, he talks about all the ways JJ can be a jerk. JJ and Kenneth love it, but the judges and other audience members don’t and Donald ends up winning. On the plus side, Janet hears the end of it and tells Maya that JJ’s friendship with Donald moved and inspired her so much that she’s going to give them more money.