The camera freezes on the side of her face, as she looks down and away from her boss. He becomes a blurry abstraction — unrecognizable except for what he’s doing and what he represents: sexual assault.
When his arm movement suddenly stops and his expression calms, he reaches for a tissue and Kate flees the office immediately. She’s visibly shaken and off her game throughout Tig’s show. As soon as Tig finds out, she immediately confronts Jack, who denies it and claims he was probably just scratching himself.
The two women later go above Jack to report the problem to the head of the company. An investigation is opened, but nothing more comes of it during the second season. It’s left open-ended whether or not Jack will face repercussions for assaulting Kate.
The parallels are clear: A man in a position of power committed sexual misconduct by masturbating in front of a female colleague and then claimed it didn’t happen. One could easily presume Jack is a stand-in for C.K., and he was the one sitting behind the desk, serving as the show’s producer, when someone, anyone, involved with “One Mississippi” witnessed him do what others have accused him of doing elsewhere.
Of course, presumptions aren’t accusations, nor are they facts. Jack isn’t explicitly made out to be C.K. within the context of the show, and Notaro has never claimed the E.P. has done anything similar. The episode was written by Cara DiPaolo, not Notaro, though the creator and executive producer is obviously heavily involved in the episode.
But she’s said enough. She’s done her part, and the rest of the season helps explain why.
Two key factors surface before the misconduct takes place. First, at the end of Season 1, Tig unveils she had been sexually assaulted by her step-grandfather when she was younger. Because of this, she’s become an advocate for assault survivors and a sensitive observer of overlooked or repressed scenarios.
To wit, Tig finds out at the beginning of the season that Kate had suffered from sexual assault when she was younger. Framed as “common” touching and innuendo from adults in power, Tig pushes her to admit what happened was, in fact, molestation. “And by the way, you were molested,” Tig says after hearing stories of gym teachers and camp counselors who got too close to the kids. “Yeah,” Kate says, “but not really.” “Yes, really,” Tig insists.
Kate brushes it off as an accepted part of everyone’s childhood, but Tig makes sure to emphasize this is not OK. Sitting behind a microphone, she rises to the occasion, rejecting the presumption that any kind of unwanted sexual acts should be a part of anyone’s life. While it may sound obvious that such actions are wrong, the season continues to hammer away at the importance of acknowledgment.
So when Kate is reluctant to speak out publicly against Jack, Tig has to acknowledge a simple truth: It’s not her story to tell.
“You can’t say his name,” Kate says. “But I can describe his story in detail,” Tig says, but Kate counters, “No, that’s my story to tell.” Tig nods, accepting that truth, but insists that her reaction is appropriate. “It’s upsetting,” she shouts. But Kate argues it’s especially upsetting to Tig because of what happened to her with her step-grandfather. She encourages Tig to talk about that experience instead of recounting Kate’s story.
So she does. On the air, she talks about how much she hates not being able to talk about what happened to her co-worker; how she learned not to say anything as a young girl, when her step-grandfather’s actions scared her into silence and his other, normal behavior made her enjoy pretending his assault wasn’t true; it wasn’t who he really was. He acted normally and seemed like a good guy throughout the rest of her childhood.
The conversation then shifts into how bad the system is for reporting sexual assault. “It’s so insane that, with sexual assault, the criminals are more protected than the victims. It’s like we have to prove we’re not lying or we didn’t want it. No one wonders if you wanted to get mugged.”
The message is clear: The system is broken. People are getting away with sexual assault, and you don’t have to be physically touched to be sexually assaulted. Kate’s trauma isn’t lessened by her ability to walk out of the room or that Jack didn’t touch her. The situation needs to be handled. People need to speak up.
Whatever has happened in real life, Notaro is not going to stay silent and let things just go away. She, as do all truth-seeking humanitarians, has an obligation to hold the accused accountable. And that’s exactly what’s she done, to the best of her ability, with “One Mississippi.”
With any luck, the truth will come out. But the silence has been broken.