I think this was the best episode of Speechless so far.
I believe this for many reasons. The structure of the episode was outstanding, with the practice runs neatly and humorously kicking off all three acts of the episode. The choice to show character development in all three of the children was an equally smart choice, as until now the focus of the children’s character development was always individual as opposed to all at once. Last but not least, the jokes were good, understated and placed in the episode at the perfect times.
The Dylan and Jimmy subplot of picking the best Christmas toy and trying to make a quick buck, only for Dylan to discover that she’s outgrown toys, was odd but heartfelt enough to make it interesting. It subtly touched on the realities of growing up and the constant evolution that a father-daughter relationship has to endure to grow and survive.
The JJ and Claire subplot removed another layer of the ‘onion’ that is the life of a special needs family, the layer in this case is the possibility of JJ getting his heart broken by an able-bodied girl that he likes. While Episode 6 touched on the possibilities of JJ dating, in this episode he actually admitted to liking Claire, and in turn Jimmy and Maya are seen for the first time anxiously discussing how to deal with the heartbreaking reality of the situation. This slightly sad moment was perfectly balanced out with the hilarious ‘practice date’ between JJ and Ray, which I personally feel was the best moment of the episode. It was obvious that the real thing wouldn’t go as planned, a reality that everyone can relate to, and it also touched on another painful reality of JJ dating–he can’t date with or without help.
I like that JJ bit the bullet and told Claire how he felt, I really wasn’t sure how it was going to go, however in hindsight there was no real chemistry on Claire’s part. The fact that JJ didn’t get his happily ever after with Claire was perfectly balanced out by Ray selflessly giving up his beloved field trip to cheer him up. It was a great bonding moment between the two brothers, not to mention a subtle and sweet reminder that JJ will always be loved no matter what, especially if able-bodied girls can’t see past his disability. Ray’s character development of making his family go through practice runs to get to a field trip on time, only to abandon it completely is small in comparison to JJ’s and Dylan’s character development, but it’s still notable character development nevertheless.
As I said due to the neat structure of the episode and the character development of all three children at once, this was the best episode of Speechless so far. However the structure and this level of character development only works for an episode like this as it was necessary to keep it together. That being said it will be interesting to see if there are attempts to repeat the neat structure and simultaneous multiple character developments in future episodes.