The Wife:

Picking up from where the last episode left off, Ned finds Chuck and her alive-again father. He barely has time to process what he’s seen before he hears the Aunts burst through the downstairs door, forcing Chuck and Charles Charles to hide in a closet. Lily’s no fool, though, and knows that something must be in the closet. When she opens the door, she shoots. Fortunately, what she shoots is a tiny clown doll that Chuck placed in the closet as she and her father squished close to the side wall, knowing how much her Aunt/Mother is terrified of clowns. Sated on both bloodlust and terror, Lily and Vivian return home, not to be seen for the rest of the episode. Chuck and Ned escort Charles Charles back to Ned’s place, knowing full well he can’t stay at the old Ned house anymore without Lily and Vivian finding their once-dead mutual lover. With zombie dad safely in Ned’s apartment, Ned and Chuck retreat to the roof to discuss the reckless and thoughtless thing that Chuck did in keeping her father alive. Though disturbed, Ned seems to accept Chuck’s actions once he knows that the person who died in Charles Charles’ stead was murderous Dwight Dixon, knowing also that he did this exact thing in bringing back Chuck. Happy that Ned isn’t unhappy with her, Chuck and Ned share a tarp-wrapped hug.

At the Pie Hole, young Shane Botwin from Weeds enters with a jar of coins, asking for Emerson’s help in solving his mother’s murder. A lighthousekeeper, the widow Nora McQuoddy was killed and melted onto her own Frensel lens. According to television reports, she was killed by her long-missing and presumed dead husband, Merle McQuoddy. Olive, a lover of ghost stories, informs everyone of the legend of Merle McQuoddy, which differs greatly from the reality that Merle McQuoddy was marooned by Typhoon Tyrone during a routine dungeoness crab fishing expedition and did not return home for an Odyssean ten years, when he was finally saved by a gay pleasure cruise. Though many didn’t know he was alive, young Elliot McQuoddy is sure that his father didn’t do it. All anyone saw fleeing the lighthouse was a yellow raincoat. It could have been anyone. Choosing instead to deal with Charles Charles, Ned and Chuck take a personal day, leaving the case in the hands of Emerson and Olive, whom I am very glad is joining up in the detective ranks more and more these days.

After waking up Nora McQuoddy, Ned and Emerson realize that this is going to be a much more difficult case. Nora can’t tell them who murdered her because her mouth has melted onto the Frensel, making it difficult to speak. She does, however, give the morse code for PCHS, which Emerson knows to be, not peaches, but the Papen County Historical Society. His duty done, Ned returns home to Chuck and her father, who has decided to resume being the dad he didn’t get to be for 20 years and has become increasingly concerned with Ned being around his daughter, lest Ned accidentally commit Chuck to the ground for good. (He’s also a bit pissed that Ned killed him.) Ned assures Charles Charles that he has rules in place for living with Chuck. Charles Charles agrees to live by said rules that Ned outlines in the Alive Again Handbook, but only if Ned agrees never to see Chuck again. Only allowed to canoodle at the Pie Hole, Chuck relishes the teenage-like romance she and Ned can now have – the one they never got to have as teenagers because Ned was away at boarding school and Chuck was an orphan in the care of her eccentric aunts, with no father to bully her boyfriends. The way Chuck sees it, she and Ned are now free to live out their high school fantasies, sneaking round, pretending to be jocks and cheerleaders and making out through saran wrap under the bleachers. (Wasn’t that saran wrap kiss spectacularly hot?)

Meanwhile, Emerson hooks up with Olive to work on the case, amused by her gift of a custom cod-print raincoat. (Olive also bought a pie-print raincoat for Ned and an olive-print one for herself.) Emerson is none too pleased with investigating the lighthouse case in the impending storm. He really doesn’t like rainy days. They meet with Augustus Papen, director of the Papen County Historical Society, who tells them that Nora McQuoddy had the lighthouse declared a protected historical sight after her husband’s alleged death, an idea she got while hanging out with Annabelle Vandersnoot, a woman who runs a social group for widows dedicated to making dioramas of their husband’s untimely demises.

“Such a depressing word. Diorama. It has ‘di’ in it. I like ‘rama.'” – Augustus Papen

Annabelle Vandersnoot demonstrates one of her dioramas for Olive and Emerson, a recreation of the munitions explosion that killed her ammo-producer husband. (Oh, Mary Kay Place. Of all the scheming Mormon wives of Roman Grant, I never thought you’d be the one to kill him. Cutthroat Bitch was all over that shit, and she wasn’t even his wife.) She tells the gumshoes that Nora was her best friend and she couldn’t imagine hurting a woman who had already been hurt so badly by the loss of her husband.

Boy, am I ever happy to not be wearing prairie dresses and long braids!

Boy, am I ever happy to not be wearing prairie dresses and long braids!

Charles Charles catches Ned and Chuck sneaking around at the Pie Hole, which forces Ned to throw out all of his customers and leads to a broom fight with zombie Charles in the bakery. Charles Charles just can’t imagine why his little girl would want to be with a guy like Ned, who makes pies, when Charlotte always preferred cake as a child. Ned insists that if Charles Charles is going to remain alive again, he has to follow the rules. Chuck gets to go out in the world because she doesn’t have a corpse face, but if corpse face Charles Charles gets it, it exposes Ned’s secret to the world. Charles Charles is upset that Ned is only thinking of himself in that case, referring to Ned as Victor Frankenstein, until Ned reminds him that the rules are in place for Mr. Charles’ own safety. It isn’t Victor Frankenstein that the villagers care about. They’re only after the monster. The two commence their fight when Charles Charles refuses to follow the rules, leading to Ned locking him in the walk-in until Chuck comes to rescue her dad, shooting daggers at Ned for being the kind of boyfriend who beats up a girl’s dad.

“Who’s not for chocolate? Everyone at least tolerates it!” – Ned

Thinking that Elliot McQuoddy might know more than he’s saying about his mother’s death, Emerson and Olive head to the lighthouse in their new raincoats. Emerson tells Olive that he and his wife used to love rainy days. When they were together, they’d stay inside by the fire, drinking cocoa and snuggling, but ever since she left, rainy days just haven’t been the same for Emerson Cod. They find Merle McQuoddy living in a cave, not too far from the lighthouse and interrogate him about his wife’s murder. Merle tells them that by the time he returned, his wife had taken a lover, assuming that her husband would never come back. While he didn’t know who that lover was, he new that said lover had given Nora a spoon engraved with their initials. Olive recognizes this as a Dutch love spoon, a trope from Harlequin romances and Emerson recognizes the lover’s initials, AP, as those of Augustus Papen. They later discover the plans to redevelop the lighthouse into an amusement park and think that Papen killed his lover because she wouldn’t release the lighthouse from its historical landmark status. Hoping to catch him at the scene of the crime, they find Elliot McQuoddy dangling over the side of the lighthouse by Papen’s hand. Papen was actually there to save Elliot from falling when he tried to raise the semaphore flags by himself in the rain. Papen then reveals that he and Nora had planned to turn the lighthouse into a day spa, complete with barbershop quartets who sing “Candle on the Water,” leaving only Annabelle Vandersnoot as a suspect. Vandersnoot appears downstairs, trailing gunpowder that Olive thinks is glitter. She killed Nora because she, too, loved Augustus Papen and she was simply not willing to share her lover with her best friend.

Arrr -- those be some fine raincoats, yerve got there!

Arrr -- those be some fine raincoats, yer've got there!

After the fight, Ned realizes that his relationship with Chuck (and her dad) just isn’t normal and that unless she helps Ned control her father, they have no chance of being normal together. Upset, Chuck goes to her father, who tells her that the way she lives with Ned marginalizes her. As a child, she and Charles Charles dreamed of going on adventures together, often playing them out in their living room per the claymation opening segment of this episode where a chicken poxed Chuck and her dad pretend to ride camels through the desert. He offers her a chance to leave and go on adventure with him, asserting that, without Ned, they could actually have a normal existence.

“We’re only freaks in Ned’s world.” –Charles Charles

He presents her, again, with the choice between cake and pie. I wondered while watching this about the validity of saying that cake is rich and complex where as pie is just a crust with a filling. As someone who has made both, I feel like Charles Charles is really oversimplifying here. Making the filling of a pie is easy, sure, but it’s the crust that holds it all together. And that’s the hardest part. The hardest part of pie is making a protective, encompassing layer that will itself hold. Something that isn’t too flaky. Or too moist. Or too dry. It has to be perfect for the pie to work. A cake, true, has literal layers, but the dough is easier to work with. It’s much easier to make a cake, even if it’s more complicated in terms of flavor and can be more attractive and varied in its appearance. Looking back, I see the validity of the metaphor. Ned is like that pie crust. His rules and regulations hold Chuck’s world together. With Ned, she is safe and happy and warm and perfect. Although not attractive at all anymore on the outside, having her father alive is a cake-like promise. It’s easy to want one’s father to be alive again, but that is an incredibly complex thing to actually pull off. It’s a little slippery, but I get where they were going. Ultimately, though, the writers are asking us to choose between confections, between two scenarios that are so fantastic that we should be happy to digest either one.

Chuck, however, chooses Ned. She chooses her pie crust, and her father claims that he will apologize to Ned, but when Chuck and Ned go to find him, they realize that he has given them the slip and headed out into the world, unprotected and unregulated, a formerly dead man with a bandaged-up corpse face. If there’s one good thing about this plotline, it’s that we’ll get to visit locations outside the PD canon in the coming weeks as Ned tracks down the monster he created. As for Olive and Emerson, Emerson thanks Olive for her good work on the case and offers her a job, should she ever find working with the man she loves and his undead lover to be too unbearable. In addition to paying her for her help, he also thanks her for her friendship – a friendship I was happy to see develop through simultaneous line readings and similar speech patterns over the course of this episode – in the sweetest line I heard all episode:

“Itty Bitty, you made me love a rainy day again.” – Emerson Cod

Olive and Emerson share a victory butt-fuck.

Olive and Emerson share a victory butt-fuck.

Costuming Notes:

  • I have Olive’s purple Banana Republic trenchcoat, but in charcoal grey. (The lining on my coat is that shade of purple.)
  • I hate the 1970s, so I wasn’t pleased with Chuck’s return to a 1970’s palette in this episode. However, it did make the most sense with her character’s state of mind. She’s wearing the kinds of colors and patterns that would have been popular in her youth (the late 70s/early 80s), which is appropriate for an episode in which she reconnects with her father, the only thing she really has from that childhood. Still, I miss 50s/60s-style Chuck.

The Husband:

I was prepared to get all referency with this episode, as the lighthouse, the missing husband at sea, the almost duplicated cave dwelling and the similarity of the name Merle McQuoddy to the town name of Passamaquoddy all point to a major episode-long reference to Pete’s Dragon. I wasn’t entirely certain if they were 100% aware of their homage to the 1977 Disney movie, but it was worth a thought. The movie itself is a wonderful-for-kids but ultimately disposable live-action trifle that was clearly made very quickly (except for Elliott the animated dragon, which according to IMDB was originally intended to be invisible) and then shelved for several years. (I especially enjoy the cheapness involved when despite the film taking place at a seaside town, the movie itself was clearly filmed nowhere near any semblance of water.) But I love the songs, and I think the dragon itself is a nice and nostalgic design. I’ve always felt bad for the kid playing Pete, though, because acting opposite an invisible dragon is not easy.

But then Bryan Fuller and the writers show their cards and have a barbershop quartet sing the film’s Oscar-nominated and most famous song, “Candle on the Water,” right in the freakin’ episode, leaving me to basically come here and state the obvious. (The song, along with “Nobody Does It Better,” lost the Oscar to “You Light Up My Life.” Ugh…)

So I’m just going to be the bitch and say that “Candle on the Water,” while pretty, is a pretty expendable song in the realm of the plot. I vastly prefer two other songs, both goofy, both strangely pretty, and both kind of absurd.

Here’s the first. (Note: This is a song I have mumbled to my cats more times than I’d like to remember.) The song starts at 6:23, but I hope you’d like to watch a bit of the movie anyway. It’s sweet, even if it is kind of a failure.

The second is just gloriously dumb and very 70s. The song starts around 1:40.

I’m also kind of amazed that they cast Josh Randall, an actor who has pretty much gotten by on shows like Scrubs and Courting Alex simply on his bland handsomeness and his slight sardonic quality, as Charles Charles, someone whose face is entirely hidden. It’s a testament to Randall that he didn’t completely suck, but I wish they’d gone for a better, less douchey actor. Someone with a little more fatherly inflections. I don’t know. Just not Josh Randall.

I loved the mystery, though, and appreciated that the twists were numerous but not completely impossible to follow. Also, maybe you all can help me. Was PCHS involved in that windmill sanctuary from PD s1 in that episode with Dash Mihok and Jayma Mays? I don’t have the time nor the energy to look into that too closely right now, so I’m counting on others to do that work for me.