Speechless – P-R– PROM
By: Taylor Gates
Kenneth (Cedric Yarbrough) and the DiMeos are out eating dinner when they hear someone say the word “retard” from across the restaurant. They have a contest to see who gets to go tell them off. Kenneth ends up winning and makes a wonderful sensitivity speech, but it turns out the table was just talking about having their driveway re-tarred.
Maya (Minnie Driver) dotes on how handsome Ray (Mason Cook) and JJ (Micah Fowler) look as they get ready to attend prom. Jimmy (John Ross Bowie) has decked out JJ’s wheelchair with a “party mode” option complete with lights, but JJ just wants to blend in during the dance. Kenneth tells them both to practice their French kissing for below-the-bleachers action. Dylan (Kyla Kenedy) is also going to the dance to help set out refreshments.
At the dance, Riley (Holly J. Barrett)—who has recently gotten a makeover—asks Ray to dance and hang out under the bleachers. Ray is excited, but panicked. He asks the prom king for make out advice. He tells Ray to think of his tongue as a toothbrush and to just brush Riley’s teeth. When they get to the bleachers, Ray is afraid it’s all a prank. Riley proves him wrong by leaning into kiss him, but they’re interrupted by Riley’s mom texting her to drop off her overnight bag. Ray thinks she’s perfect until she calls herself a retard for being forgetful.
Ray tells Dylan what went down. Dylan is furious and thinks Ray should stop speaking to Riley altogether, but Ray feels like he can overlook it. Dylan is angry and disappointed in Ray for allowing anyone to say that word and get away with it.
Ray meets Riley under the bleachers again, confronting her about using the word. She’s not sorry, saying that censoring herself to be PC is un-American. Being the captain of the debate team, Riley knows exactly what to say to trip Ray up. She tells him her intention was benign and that language is evolving, which is a good thing as it robs hurtful words of their power. She also encourages him to think for himself instead of blinding accepting the opinions of his family as his own.
JJ can’t manage to blend in and frustrated hides in the back of the room. With him are the other prom misfits: recently dumped boy Dean (Logan Shroyer), tall girl Caroline (Alexia Verbeke) and a goth kid (Adam Simon Krist). They decide to boycott prom, chanting through the hallways and eating food from the teacher’s lounge. But when Caroline turns on the radio, the two other boys yell that there can’t be music at non-prom. She is embarrassed leaves, but JJ chases after her. He finds her watching the other kids dance. She admits that she loves dancing but is self-conscious because of her height. JJ asks her to dance and the two make their way to the floor, not caring what other people say about them.
Meanwhile at home, Maya yells at Jimmy for giving her a ring. The ring is large and she accuses him of telling her that he thinks she has fat fingers. Kenneth tells them to stop arguing and have fun, but they inform him this is their idea of fun—they bond by having fight nights when the kids are away. Kenneth asks if they want him to stay and judge their tiffs and they enthusiastically agree. Kenneth gets very into it, closing a variety of cases such as “should Jimmy have to hang out with Maya’s cousins?” and “Should Maya be allowed to get a dog?”
The last case Kenneth hears is whether Jimmy should have been allowed to set off random fireworks he found on the street 15 years ago. Kenneth rules in favor of him and is having so much fun that he doesn’t want the night to end. He insults Maya and the two go head-to-head as opponents while Jimmy takes over the judge role. However, when Maya brings up Kenneth helping himself to their food he gets offended and defensively storms out.
JJ surprisingly gives Ray permission to kiss Riley even though she said something problematic, saying he’s a good brother and deserves to be happy with a girl. Dylan still isn’t convinced, telling Ray he needs to ask himself if he’s okay with turning his back on his family and brother to make out with someone who used ablest slurs. Ray tries to kiss Riley, but he can’t get the voices of his family or his conscience out of his head and pulls away. Ray tells her that she can say whatever she wants, but he’s not okay with her using that word. Riley starts to reconsider her position when Dean interrupts, making his way under the bleachers and asking if there are any singles looking to mingle. Riley ditches Ray for him instead.
Kenneth comes back inside to get his keys and Maya apologizes for hurting his feelings, promising she meant no harm by what she said. Kenneth admits he doesn’t know where he stands with the family. As a symbol of their love, they decide to shoot off the fireworks Jimmy found fifteen years ago in a surprise show. They present Kenneth with Maya’s ring while asking him to be part of their family for a long time. However, they get angry when Kenneth has a lukewarm reaction to the grand gesture, yelling that he is ungrateful and selfish for not even pretending to be moved. Only then does Kenneth finally feel happy and accepted—being the target of irrational anger is the true initiation into the DiMeo family.