Pushing Daisies

The Wife:

It’s very difficult to write about the final episode of Pushing Daisies, as we were all told by our humble narrator not to treat it as an ending, but as a beginning. It’s unfortunate that ABC’s axe deprived us of a fully-told story, leaving Ned’s father and Zombie Charles Charles roaming about somewhere in the town of Couer d’Couers in Papen County (or possibly in America or Europe) without any explanation or raison d’etre. But those are stories, I’m sure, will be told in the much-talked-about comic book, whenever it debuts. I think Daisies can go on to live a good life in comic/graphic novel form, and now has myriad cheaper ways to engineer its signature quirk in full-color panels. Buffy and Angel have gone on to live long, fulfilling lives in this format, and I hope Daisies does, too. So with that promise of new beginnings and format changes, I can’t talk about the series finale as though it is, in fact, a finale. It didn’t try to be one because it knew it wasn’t one. I will, however, pretend it was a season finale, in which case I have to say that it adequately tied up another long-standing storyline, as last week’s “Water & Power” did for Emerson Cod. And that’s basically what we expect a season finale to do: to tie up some things, while leaving others to be dealt with at a later date. So while we may not know why Ned’s father returned or where Charles Charles is, we do know that Emerson is reunited with his Lil’ Gumshoe and that Chuck finally faces her aunts as an alive-again dead girl.

The Children of St. Clare wish all the best for the cast and crew of Pushing Daisies. We loved you guys, and we hope you all get to do some great, inspired work in the future!

The Children of St. Clare wish all the best for the cast and crew of Pushing Daisies. We loved you guys, and we hope you all get to do some great, inspired work in the future!

It was great to see an episode that focused primarily on the Aunts – and especially on the antiquated ridiculata that is professional synchronized swimming. I love both Ellen Green and Swoosie Kurtz, but I could tell that, as a season finale, this plot was meant to bring both of their character’s closure and allow them to exist in a world outside of Couer d’Couers. Taking them out of the main cast would allow for some new characters to enter into the Daisies universe, with Lily and Vivian returning as guest spots. I’d miss them dearly, but a change in the main cast would have undoubtedly been healthy growth for the show. So here the aunts decide to honor the half birthday of their dead niece/daughter by attending the Aquacade, the very aquatic circus in which they once performed before they retired from synchronized swimming and the world at large. Ned, for some reason, decides it would be a good idea to give Chuck a great half-birthday gift by also taking her to the very same show (and Emerson and Olive – but not their respective significant others, both of whom are ill for the purposes of this episode, and so Olive could say the phrase, “Out with the gout,” which is funny to anyone who doesn’t have gout). Naturally, there are some silly avoidance tactics in place so that dead-Chuck is not seen by the aunts who do not know she’s alive again; chief among these non-sighting sight gags include the gang hiding behind various balloons shaped like aquatic denizens. I was particularly fond of Emerson’s crab balloon and his insistence on talking through its many legs.

The Aquacade itself might be the quirkiest, weirdest thing this show has ever shown us. It includes an announcer (Joey Slotnick, forever known to me as Merril Bobolit, dog-hair transplanter and inventer of Bobotox on Nip/Tuck) riding in Neptune’s chariot with a triton-shaped microphone (which I need, by the way . . . my half-birthday’s next month!), a shark-cowboying act featuring Mad TV‘s Michael McDonald as Bubba the Shark’s wrangler, a very homosexual Wilson Cruz as Sid Tango the Aquadancer and skinny bitches Nora Dunn and Wendy Malick as the Darling Mermaid Darlings’ biggest synch-swim rivals, the Aquadolls. Oh, yeah, and Dr. Swingtown from Private Practice/Swingtown (Josh Hopkins) plays their himbo manager/Blanche’s husband/Coral’s lover. But amid all that finery, something awful happens: somehow, Bubba the Shark escapes his tank and finds his way into the pool where the Aquadolls are performing one of their many star-spangled routines, where he proceeds to gobble up Nora Dunn’s Blanche mid-backwards summersault. Because someone rubbed lard in her hair gel. Awesome. Gross. Hilarious.

With the Aquadolls officially defunct, Jimmy Neptune’s traveling Aquacade clearly needs a new headliner, so he invites the Darling Mermaid Darlings to come out of retirement and get back into the pool. Seriously, Jimmy Neptune had the best aquatic puns ever in his pitch to Lily and Vivian: “I wanted from the water wings.” “The audience soaked it up.” I imagine the writer’s room bursting into giggles while working on this episode. “These are so bad!” someone would exclaim. “But they’re also so good!” someone else would say. Daisies writers, I hope someone gives you guys jobs, because you people were awesome. My praise of the writers and their terribly awesome puns aside, Chuck sees the Aunts’ decision to return to the biz they call show as an opportunity for the rest of the gang to infiltrate the Aquacade and find out who murdered Blanche. Emerson poses as the Aunts’ coach, with Olive running hair and makeup and Ned, in a totally gorgeous 1960’s-style suit and a pair of sunglasses that made Lee Pace look the fucking hottest he has ever looked on this show EVER, as their manager. (If I take nothing else from this episode, I take away the shot of the first time Ned turns around in that suit and how it made my heart skip a beat. And I am very much not exaggerating here.)

As they investigate, they find a variety of incriminating things attached to Sid Tango: he’s taken over Blanche’s dressing room, where her lard-laced hair-gel is kept, and, apparently, keeps a remote trigger to open the shark cage on his very phallic belt. But Sid is innocent, and suggests that Olive and Emerson turn their investigation toward Blanche’s sister, Coral. In addition to being bitter rivals, you see, the Aquadolls and the Darling Mermaid Darlings had more in common than their mutual interest in synchronized swimming. Like Lily, it seems that Coral was also guilty of sleeping with her sister’s lover. Coral assures everyone that while she may have been sleeping with Himbo Dr. Swingtown, she would have never killed her sister. Vivian, having been born with a hole in her heart, takes pity on Coral and invites her to swim in the Darling Mermaid Darlings’ act. But being around Coral makes Lily feel all the more guilty for what she’s done to her own sister, and the two adulteresses share some harsh words. Coral knows Lily’s secret, and threatens to expose it to Vivian unless she gets to stay in the act, but Olive quickly thwarts her plan by revealing to Lily and Vivian that Coral had another costume under her senorita garb and had planned to steal the show from her fresh-out-of-retirement rivals.

Meanwhile, Ned negotiates the Aunt’s contract and finds out that Jimmy Neptune wants to take the Aquacade on a European tour, which Lily and Vivian both agree to. Chuck, however, is not pleased with this information. She feels like being near her aunts, even though she can’t actually visit them, gives her some purpose to being alive again, like she’s meant to be their earthly guardian angel, slipping homeopathic curatives in the scads of free pies they never seem to question receiving. She tells Ned that she isn’t sure she could be happy with her aunts on the road, and that she might have to uproot and go with them somehow. Clearly, this would make Ned very, very sad. Before the big show, Emerson catches Chuck, disguised as a handyman, trying to sabotage the Darling Mermaid Darlings performance with an unauthorized music change, and catches Ned waiting in the shadows to sabotage her sabotage. Despite their confusion, from their vantage point in the control booth, they can all see that a more pressing situation is about to take place in the pool below when a giant lobster man karate chops Jimmy Neptune and steals the triton mike. With the lobster-head removed, Himbo Dr. Swingtown announces his intent behind Blanche’s murder and the imminent electrocution of the Darling Mermaid Darlings: everything he did was to give his lover, Coral, her own show. Fortunately, the underwater speakers drown out anything he has to say so that the Aunts never know of his plot to kill them and Chuck and Ned manage to capture both the Himbo and the microphone before any harm can befall Lily and Vivian.

Nonetheless, harm is about to befall them, as Lily wakes one day to find that Coral has dropped by her house and informed Vivian of everything. But just as Lily is about to kick her sister out of the house, Chuck and Ned arrive to announce the thing that would free and resolve the sisters: their daughter/niece is alive. And for Chuck to have them know that allows her to stay with Ned while they go out into the world on tour, just knowing she’s still around to take care of them. As for the others, Emerson’s Lil’ Gumshoe finds her way to him, and, randomly, Olive and Randy decide to open up a mac and cheese joint called The Intrepid Cow. I would say that these endings felt hurried, by, at least as far as Emerson and Penny and Chuck and her aunts are concerned, the swiftness of these resolutions carries with it some of the magic with which Daisies has always been imbued.

However, the moment I caught sight of Oscar Verbinius as the camera swept through the sewers and took us around the world as narrator Jim Dale assured us that endings should always be thought of as beginnings, I couldn’t help but wish he’d had something to do with the revelation that Chuck is alive-again. His arc in season one was truly incredible, and while I’m happy to see him again, I wish he’d figured into Chuck’s reveal to her aunts in a bigger way. Perhaps he’ll turn up at a later date – for even though the Aunts know she’s alive-again, there are still others who do not. Or perhaps he could be useful in sniffing out the location of Zombie Charles Charles. I guess I’ll take comfort in the fact that he’s still there, in the sewers, lurking. Just as I’ll take comfort in the fact that the beating heart of Coeur d’Coeurs will continue, panel to panel on the page.

On a final costuming note, I think the most fabulous thing in this episode, other than Ned’s suit, was Chuck’s orange-and-brown blossom skirt. I’ll miss the fabulous costumes on this show most of all – that just won’t be the same in the comic book.

The Husband:

I can’t talk long, because my bosses are hovering over me here at my work, but rushed or not, I absolutely loved the final 90 seconds of this episode, which swept through Couer d’Coeurs and flew by at least a dozen locations previously seen on this show, from the convent to French Davis’ bee empire to the graveyard where Stephen Root met his maker to the sewers, finally finishing on Digby in the field that opened the series, and am glad that the effects house was able to deliver it even after the show’s cancellation, thanks to some quick Bryan Fuller thinking and a great big hug of CGI charity.

Another good show dies young, because people apparently don’t want to see anything too original, too quirky or too fantastic in their everyday television viewing schedule. Let the CSIs and Law & Orders reign proud, because they’ve hypnotized their audience into watching the same damn show time and time again. Don’t blame the network. Blame the viewers. They gave up after the high-rated pilot, and that’s their fault.

Well, now I can give DC Comics some of my hard-earned money, and hope that Lee Pace finds a more welcoming home either on our television or in our movie houses.

The Wife:

“Water & Power,” I think, is one of Pushing Daisies‘ finest episodes. I’m glad ABC aired it, even in the death zone of Saturday nights at 10 p.m., because it was one of the best examples of what this show can be, why it’s loveable and precisely why I’ll miss it. Plus, it effectively brought closure to Emerson’s search for his little girl, Penny, which means one less hanging thread for the end of the series. While it’s true that Emerson does not actually get to possess his daughter at the end, leaving the story open for more, getting to see her and meeting her mother feels like an adequate amount of closure to the story – absolutely appropriate for the end of a season, and acceptable enough for the end of a series. I was satisfied.

I was also satisfied with the central mystery and the stellar noir tale played out by Emerson’s past and present lovers, Lilah Robinson (played by the incomparably gorgeous Gina Torres) and Simone Hundee. It was almost like something out of Walter Mosley, with Gina Torres as Black Betty. (Totally great noir book, Black Betty. Read it.) Although Emerson may be soft-boiled (I say that because he knits), he has always been the kind of man who would do myriad stupid things in the name of love, appropriately summarized for us in a flashback to his school days in which a crush on the principal was enough to convince him to beat up other boys just to spend time in her presence. So when his ex-wife Lilah returns to Papen County after the murder of her former fiancé millionaire utilities tycoon Raleigh Stingwell was found dead at the bottom of the dam and claims she’s innocent, Emerson is willing to give her the benefit of the doubt – especially when she promises he’ll be able to see his daughter if he comes through for her.

Emerson Cod, knitting with balls.

Emerson Cod, knitting with balls.

Even more than the flashback establishing Emerson as a fool for love, I adored the flashback in which we watched his romance with Lilah blossom. She had been engaged to Stingwell at the time, posing as a well-off heiress named Emily, but she would disappear for days at a time, and Stingwell assumed she was cheating. He hired Emerson to tail “Emily,” who, as it turns out, was an amateur bird watcher and easily caught Emerson spying on her. They started sharing lunches in the woods, which led to picnics and a fondness for tomato soup, which in turn led to romantic trysts that left Lilah pregnant with Emerson’s child. During all of this, she confessed that she was only with Stingwell in the hopes of robbing him of his precious Dam Ruby and had planned to abscond with it before the wedding. Emerson convinced Stingwell to let Lilah go, and promised to protect her and their child as long as she stayed on the straight and narrow. But that proved too hard for Lilah to do, and she eventually left Emerson and took the only thing more precious to him than she was: little Penny, his Lil’ Gumshoe.

Believing in Lilah’s innocence, even though the Dam Ruby is missing, the gang heads out to look for other potential murders, particularly those who might have been irked by Stingwell’s plans to rebuild the Papen County water mains. This trail, although initially cold, led them in the right direction of disgruntled farmers, one of whom, a Farmer Brunt, was cursed with glow in the dark flowers due to a small amount of toxic waste flowing into his irrigation system thanks to the runoff from a candy company. (Oddly/hilariously/adorably, that toxic waste conspiracy theory was dreamed up by Stingwell’s crazy secretary . . . and turned out to be right.) It was Farmer Brunt who offed Stingwell, dressed in drag to appear as Lilah before the security cameras after overhearing a conversation between Stingwell and his ex-fiancée before his own meeting with the tycoon. Brunt followed Stingwell into the dam tunnels, locked him behind a drainage grate and turned on the water and power, sending the tycoon shooting out of the dam to his doom (and really grossly twisting his neck in the process). Emerson and Simone manage to escape the same fate by stepping to the side of the ledge and letting the deluge pass them by.

So although Lilah leaves Emerson high and dry in the woods with a broken down car and a dummy version of his daughter, he does catch a glimpse of Penny as her mother drives away, finds out that Lil’ Gumshoe will be published and strengthens his relationship with Simone – I’d say that’s a pretty good win for Emerson Cod.

Also win for:

  • Lilah’s amazing harlequin-print neutral sheath she wears on one of her flashback dates with Emerson.
  • Olive and Randy Mann, for enjoying a date filled with subterfuge in the service of crime solving.
  • Chuck and Ned, for making sure Olive doesn’t give up on Randy.
  • Chuck’s riding hat.
  • Mennonite lawyers, who are really bad at lying.
  • Lilah putting Ned and Chuck in their underwear after finding them in the trunk of her car. Lee Pace has such pretty arms! Seriously, check him out in Soldier’s Girl, the story of Calpernia Addams (whom I have actually had the honor of sort of playing in “They Beat the Girl out of My Boy,” a newish monologue in The Vagina Monologues), a transgender Southern girl in love with a military man. Pace plays Calpernia and he is 100% divine. You will see a lot of his arms in that movie.
  • “You just blew a whole dog whistle full of crazy, and I’m not a dog.” – Olive

Fail: Total underuse of Robert Picardo in this episode. On Voyager, he was a hologram, so his holodeck fantasy in that show was to cultivate an artistic life, often as a painter or a playwright. To see him play a detective on this show felt like he was acting out one of Captain Picard’s Sherlock Holmes holodeck fantasies from ST:TNG. Not saying Picardo was bad in this episode, just saying it could have been anyone. A little too hard boiled for him, not enough of a chance for him to show off his comic timing, which he was great at on Voyager.

The Wife:

It’s a total delight to be given the final three episodes of Pushing Daisies when there is nearly nothing else on television right now (except for So You Think You Can Dance and, soon, SLOTAT). Having a plethora of farmer’s market strawberries because my mother won’t stop buying them, I spent my Sunday morning baking, like Ned, with live fruit and watching “Window Dressed to Kill.” And while I certainly enjoyed the episode and the pie-baking, there were certainly some bittersweet moments to both experiences. First, the minute this show opened with the narrative about little Olive Snook being ignored at a costume party, I remembered how much I missed seeing this blissfully designed show, but realized I had also forgotten the central decisions made by the characters in “The Norwegians.” Because that was back in December. Before Christmas and holiday baking and drinking and before cooking my noodle on five months of Lost. I had forgotten about the very literal cliffhanger. I had forgotten that Ned had sworn off detective work, and several other things. Secondly, I had a hell of a time getting my crust to come together, at one point spilling little pie crust crumblies all over my freezer. And finally, once I remembered plot points and got my pie crust together, I realized the most bittersweet thing of all: no matter how much of a lovely time I would have watching Pushing Daisies on Sunday mornings over the next three weeks, these would be the last three airings of the show, airings that many people who were only casual viewers might not see because they’re on Saturday nights at 10 p.m. and there was no ABC-sponsored advertisement to remind us about these airings. Seeing Daisies only for a few minutes made me remember everything I love about it, like the smell of a pie cooling on a windowsill. But both pies and Pushing Daisies are finite things, and that makes enjoying them so much just the slightest bit sad. I can always bake another pie, but there’s never going to be another show quite like Pushing Daisies.

After the last episode’s cliffhanger in which Ned told Olive that he didn’t not love her, she spends her time learning about the intricate grammar of the double negative, trying to discern exactly what he meant by that while Ned chooses to retire from detective work, miring himself in his bakeshop to cook with alive-alive fruit for the first time in his life. As Olive asks Ned delicately constructed questions with obscured meaning, he muses on the fact that he can finally eat his own pies and relishes the possibility of getting fat. So when Emerson enters with the case of a dead window dresser for Dicker’s Department Store, Ned politely refuses to help. In his stead, Chuck offers her services suggesting that they, for once, do traditional detective work through which she can become the Alive-Again Avenger.

Relishing the return of that smile.

Relishing the return of that smile.

While Emerson and Chuck head off to investigate the death of window dresser Erin Embry, Olive’s former kidnappers turn up at the Pie Hole, inconveniently ruining Randy Mann’s attempt to court her. But Olive’s former kidnappers turn out to not be as horrible as we thought they were. In fact, they weren’t actually kidnappers at all. They were petty thieves who just happened to steal the car young Olive was hiding from her parents in, hoping that they’d give her the attention she desired if only they missed her for long enough. This was a pretty magical, ingenious twist that I adored, even more so when it lead to the bittersweet realization that Olive’s parents didn’t even want her back and that Jerry and Buster were jailed simply for returning a lost child to the parents that didn’t want her. Over their time in the pen, Olive wrote to them, considering them in some ways to be surrogate dads, and they returned to find her post-jailbreak to solicit her help in getting them safely across the border to Canada.

Olive has told her surrogate kidnapping dads a lot of things, actually – including that Ned loves her and wants to marry her. This comes as a shock to both Ned and Randy, but Ned decides to play along when he realizes that Jerry and Buster’s only happiness is knowing that Olive is happy. So they load the men into Randy’s taxidermy van, and share a very uncomfortable ride with a stuffed rhinoceros up to the border where they find the police waiting for them. Rather than risk Jerry and Buster returning to jail, they turn the van around and head to Lily and Vivian’s house, where Olive hopes they might be able to root through the aunts’ old Darling Mermaid Darlings costumes and find some way to disguise the escapees. While there, Olive’s dads accidentally spill the not-real news about Ned and Olive’s engagement and while Vivian looks for disguises for their houseguests, she digs up the veil she was to wear to her wedding to Charles Charles and presents it to Olive, the very presence of which freaks out Ned so much that Olive finally realizes he definitely doesn’t love her in that way and comes clean about her fake relationship, which her kidnapping dads recognize as yet another one of Olive’s desperately sad pleas for attention.

But there’s barely any time to mope over the dissolution of a fake relationship as the cops have surrounded the aunts’ house, as a suspicious neighbor saw Jerry and Buster smoking on the porch and called them in. Ned, who’s spent the episode “trying on” a normal relationship and a “normal” life in which he can eat pies and not wake the dead and hold the hand of a girl he loves (in some way) realizes, after a long talk with Randy and the events with Olive, that he should be happy being somewhat-super instead of trying to hard to fit in to normalcy, and so he rushes out to Randy’s van and makes the rhinoceros alive-again long enough to disperse the police. This very much embarrasses Randy, who just can’t believe he taxidermied a live animal. But Olive quiets his fears with talk of the convent and he, in turn, quiets hers by suggesting she turn to whomever Mother Superior would turn to in times when one runs out of their own cunning.

Olive talks to the police about letting Buster and Jerry off the hook since they didn’t really commit a crime in the first place, but they seem unmoved. Luckily, as if by some divine plan, Mother Superior and her sisters enter the Pie Hole looking for a pee break, and Olive kindly breaks her “customers only” policy to allow the sisters in, which also allows her to spirit her jailbird dads out in nun’s garb, along with some complimentary pies. You know, in the name of charity. This was a very clever take on deus ex machina, especially because I saw Diana Scarwid’s name in the credits and kept wondering how Mother Superior was going to figure into this episode. In general, I really liked this whole insight into Olive’s desperation for love and attention, especially the flashback to what her childhood kidnapping experience was actually like (better than her life at home) and the moment where she breaks away from her fake-engagement party to sing a few bars of Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” Swear to God, Bryan Fuller is almost as good as Ryan Murphy at choosing appropriate music for a scene. I was also very fond of Ned’s Superman/Clark Kent-ish struggle with being ordinary or extraordinary, which also reminded me of how good the first season of Heroes (when Fuller worked on it) compared to subsequent seasons.

The Emerson-and-Chuck mystery was mostly just fluff compared to the emotionally-driven Olive-and-Ned narrative, but it was pretty fluff, which is the best kind of fluff Daises has to offer. Sans their magic finger, they investigate Erin Embry’s murder and realize that the current window at Dicker’s mirrors the crime scene. She’s wearing the same dress as the mannequin and died in the same frozen, wintry fountain. As the police have ruled Erin’s death an accident, Emerson has no one to pay him to investigate. Cleverly, Chuck drums up some funding by whispering into the ears of Erin’s many devotees that she may have been murdered, so after about three minutes of rumor-mongering, Chuck and Emerson are on the case. The suspects are many, particularly Coco Juniper, Erin’s window dressing partner, whom they suspect may have offed Erin to show which of the two had real talent. Only, that theory gets shot to hell when Coco Juniper turns up dead after the unveiling of the Erin Embry Memorial Window, showing a goddess-like woman ascending retail escalators to heaven . . . which means Coco’s corpse is also lodged in an escalator. By poking around the store at night, Chuck and Emerson uncover the fact that neither Erin nor Coco were the creative geniuses behind the Dicker’s windows – it was their biggest fan, Chic-as-Hell Denny. When they suspect he might be murdering everyone at Dicker’s to get credit, they inform store owner Dick (Sex and the City‘s Willie “Stanford Blatch” Garson), who immediately starts to make suspicious inquiries about Denny. Ned returns just in time to help put everything together by waking the two dead designers (so distractingly funny to see Coco wonder where the hell her legs are) who inform them that it was in fact Dick who offed them, meaning Chic-as-Hell Denny would be his next target. You see, Dick hated his family business and wanted out without having to lose his family, so he set about to lose the one thing that brought Dicker’s Department Store so much revenue: its famous windows. Case closed, thanks to Ned’s magic fingers, and Chic-as-Hell Denny went on to get Erin and Coco’s old job all to himself with a new member of the Dicker family running the store.

Favorite outfit of the episode belongs to the black lace cocktail dress worn by Olive’s inattentive mother at the party from which her daughter gets “kidnapped,” which I think was nicely reflected in Coco Juniper’s black lace sheath – two women who could not have cared less about the loss of people they “loved.” I just taught you costume design, bitches.

The Husband:

It may be entirely because of the five-plus-change months between the last episode of Pushing Daisies and this one, but this entry may log as one of my favorites. It could just be because of the sudden rush of nostalgic awe-inspiring goodness of this show (yes, something five months old can be nostalgic), but I was so into this episode and its clever way of working around Ned’s insistence that he would no longer revive dead things, at least for the time being. It somehow ironically livened up the procedural aspect considerably, especially since Emerson and Chuck figured out pretty much everything even before Ned broke his pact with himself and went to the morgue with the two of them.

Instead of ignoring the Darlings, we got just the right amount of screen time from them without resorting to another flashback into their pasts. Instead rehashing old guests stars just for the sake of it, David Arquette and Diana Scarwid were essential plot items used 100% correctly. Instead of pushing Olive to the side as pretty much the entire first season did, she was front-and-center when she needed to be and elsewhere when she wasn’t.

Am I actually praising this show for simply using its ensemble well, something that would seem to be pretty much was you’re supposed to do with an ensemble show? Yes. Because it doesn’t happen enough on television. It should, but it doesn’t.

I’m so glad to get these aired in some form or another, followed by the leftover episodes of Eli Stone and Dirty Sexy Money, even if it is at 10 p.m. It’s always a shame to have to wait for the DVDs, usually released midway through the fall, so this is a nice present from the networks who saw the poor ratings for these three good shows and just had to cut them. Stay tuned for the leftover eps of Samantha Who, In The Motherhood and the not-canceled but cut-down first season of Better Off Ted during the rest of the summer. It’s actually quite a lovely idea, even if it is bittersweet.

The Wife:

We finally got around to watching this episode this weekend, after a good chunk of last week’s TV time was taken up by either Bruce Campbell or assorted holiday parties, and I have to agree with all the buzz I’d been hearing about this episode. It was amazing. It fully utilized all of our main characters (finally giving the fabulous Ellen Greene a chance to shine on this show), added a team of foils for our detectives, complete with a seemingly double-crossing Olive Snook and, in addition to fully illuminating some of the somewhat muddled Dwight Dixon plot points, also handed us a heavy dose of the show’s mytharc. I don’t think this episode will be appearing on my Ten Best TV Episodes of the Season list (coming soon!), but that’s only because I’ve already chosen a better Daisies episode, and I’d rather not submit two episodes from a series to the list.

Olive, after having been inducted as a potential business partner for Emerson at the end of the last episode, is fed up with the Pie Holers keeping secrets from her. They debate telling her everything, not wanting to push Itty Bitty away, but ultimately decide that their secrets might be best for her not to know. Meanwhile, Emerson Cod is presented with a very heavy case when Vivian comes to his office, asking him to look into the disappearance of one Dwight Dixon, complete with a hand-drawn charcoal portrait of the man rivaling Leo DiCaprio’s of Kate Winslet in Titanic. (Has Stephen Root ever looked so serene as in that drawing? Well, maybe when he’s creepily enraptured with Lafayette drawing his blood over on True Blood.) Not wanting to do research on a case he very well knew the answer to, but also not wanting to break Vivian’s heart or implicate himself in Dixon’s murder, Emerson tries to get Vivian to drop the case by telling her that Dwight, like all men, is a dog. If he stopped calling, it’s because he found another woman to romance.

“He’s not missing. He’s just barking up somebody else’s tree.” – Emerson Cod

Emerson tells the Pie Holers that he successfully diffuses Vivian’s search for Dwight, admitting that he does feel terrible for Vivian, the party unwittingly harmed by this whole Dwight business.

Chuck: Poor Vivian. She’s carry a torch for a flame I extinguished.

Ned: With my finger.

But no sooner have the Pie Holers begun to feel badly for Vivian and who should enter the establishment but a team of Norwegian detectives who look suspiciously like their Pie Hole counterparts. Orlando Jones plays the Norwegian equivalent of Emerson Cod, complete with hat, suit and loud shirt, while Hedda, Chuck’s Norwegian equivalent, shows up in a red wool coat and matching fabulous hat and the Norwegian Ned is pared down to a dark suit and a tie. These Norwegians, while they may look like the Pie Holers, are actually bitter rivals with Emerson Cod, whose PI business seems to somehow always trump their superior technical skills in forensics, aided by their traveling RV, whom they’ve dubbed Mother. It irks the Norwegians to no end that Emerson is more successful than they are when they consider him an inferior detective. The Norwegians infer that if Emerson snubbed Vivian’s case, which has now fallen into their laps, that Emerson and crew must somehow be involved. This rattles everyone at the Pie Hole, with Ned ultimately kicking the Norwegians out.

Ve vill not be denied pies!

Ve vill not be denied pies!

“No clues, no dirt, no service.” – Ned

Seeing how her friends react to the presence of the Norwegians (especially Chuck hiding in the kitchen because if they saw her the Norwegians would know that she “faked her own death”), Olive wants in on the action. Emerson decides that she can be useful to the operation, especially if she heads over to try and talk her good friend Vivian into dropping the case.

“I don’t need protection. That’s what I have several long-standing restraining orders for.” – Olive

Olive only agrees to talk to Vivian if she can have full-fledged membership into the detective clique in return, no more secrets. When talking to Vivian, Olive notices the intense pressure Lily is placing on her sister to drop the case, admitting further that there are things about Dwight that she simply can’t tell Vivian. Olive realizes that Vivian is the only person more on the outside of the truth than she is and so she convinces Vivian to continue to case. Spurred into action, the Norwegians find Lily’s note to Dwight in his hotel room and Vivian, for once, decides to take action and confront her sister with it. Lily tells her sister all about what happened: how she found out that Dwight had stolen Charles Charles’ watch from Chuck’s grave and that she, in turn, stole Charles’ watch and Dwight’s watch and asked Dwight to meet her in the graveyard so that she could put Charles’ watch back where it belonged. But Dwight never showed. Vivian is crushed by this news. She starts to realize that maybe everyone around her was right in their claims that Dwight was a bad man.

Meanwhile. Chuck and Ned go looking for Charles Charles. Chuck hopes to find him through a series of big brass buttons that she’s seen around town, displayed prominently in places, she believes, her father would have wanted her to see them, like he was leaving a breadcrumb trail of buttons. During their search, they come across the Norwegians’ roving investigative van and uncover something they hoped they never see: Olive, donning the Norwegian colors, turning turncoat. He also overhears that the Norwegians have an exhumation order for the bodies of Charles and Charlotte Charles. Ned reports this news to Emerson, who realizes that Olive can out them, even with her limited knowledge of the situation. She knows Emerson’s investigative methods. She knows Chuck faked her death. And she knows about Dwight’s relationship with both of the aunts. Furthermore, the whole team knows that when they go to the graves, the Norwegians will find only one body.

Seeing the potential for disaster, Emerson agrees to take the fall, but Ned convinces him to tell the Norwegians everything, as a diversion for Ned to steal Mother, the very thing which would render the Norwegians completely unthreatening and unable to discover the truth. Olive nearly foils Ned’s plan by popping up in the van, but then she tells him that she would never turn traitor at all and that she simply took it into her hands to go deep deep undercover in order to prove herself to the gang. So she hands him the keys and helps him drive away with Mother. In exchange for her help, Olive asks Ned to answer some of her questions. He refuses outright, but agrees to answer yes or no, so that Olive comes to the conclusions on her own. Eventually, Mother crashes in a ravine, but Olive and Ned escape, clinging to a limb for dear life. As they are about to die, Ned admits that he once had feelings for Olive, which renews Itty Bitty’s hope that her pining hasn’t been in vain. They two are then pulled from the limb by a mysterious masked man.

Emerson calls in Vivian to clear the air, apologizing for turning her off the case so cruelly. He tells her that he was only trying to protect her, and that the Norwegians weren’t going to spare her feelings. Fundamentally, Emerson believes that detective work is not about the facts, but about the people involved. The Norwegians, on the other hand, don’t give a damn about the people as long as the empirical evidence adds up. Vivian agrees, owing this preference to their Viking ancestry in what I thought was the funniest line of the night:

“It would be difficult to rape and pillage with the subtlety of a humanist.” – Vivian Charles

Emerson tells Vivian that both Chuck and Charles Charles’ graves were empty (the additional empty grave being a surprise to him and everyone else, as that means there’s one dead Dwight Dixon out in the world somewhere instead of in the ground where he’s supposed to be). This fact convinces her that everyone was right all along: that Dwight was a bad man, nothing more than a common grave robber who was using her heart to get to her dead ex-fiancé’s dead body, as well as that of her beloved niece, Lonely Tourist Charlotte Charles.

After being saved by the mystery man, Ned tells Olive all about how Charles Charles, like his daughter, faked his own death. She then thinks that the mystery man who saved them must be Chuck’s dad. Meanwhile, the Norwegians are furious about their stolen van, feeling that their investigation is halted in its tracks now. Olive tells them that Swedes stole it, hoping to incense their inflated sense of nationalism, but then they get a hit on Dwight’s credit card.

Everyone races to Dwight’s hotel room, where they find him dead, slurpee in hand, surrounded by his various guns and grave robbing tools. As the Norwegians inspect the body, they discover only what their limited scientific equipment would discover: that Dwight Dixon was a thief and a dangerous man. He acted and died alone.

After this brush with near-exposure, Ned decides to quit dead people and dead things cold turkey (refusing even to use rotten fruit in his pies) and the masked man shows up in the Pie Hole, revealing himself to be not Chuck’s father, but Ned’s own! (Husband Note: George Hamilton alert!)

This episode marks the last we’ll see of Daisies this year, with the remaining three episodes to be burned off on ABC sometime next year, probably all three at once on a Sunday night when the network can’t think of anything else to put there. If ABC doesn’t find a chunk of time to air those episodes, we will have to accept this as our finale (until the DVD release, that is). In which case, I’d like to look at this, briefly, as though it were a finale. If it were, how satisfying would we find this episode as an end to a series?

It is satisfying in tying up the Dwight Dixon storyline and resolving the conflict between the aunts, although still leaving their secrets in tact. However, it sets us up for a Ned’s Dad arc that, if it were the finale, would never, ever be resolved. (Except maybe in that comic book we keep hearing so much about.) Were this the finale, it would be a pretty shoddy one, an episode that takes us out on a good, big mystery, and serves the characters well, but ultimately leaves the show’s larger themes untouched, as well as certain other story threads. Olive needs to find out more about these characters. Lily and Vivian need to be honest with each other. Chuck and Ned need to make a big decision about the nature of their relationship. (Can they sustain a life where she, like a vampire, doesn’t age because she’s already dead and made alive again, a life where they can never touch, where Ned grows old and eventually dies?) And they need to find Charles Charles.

So, please, ABC, make sure you air these episodes. Don’t leave the fans hanging, having to accept this as a plausible finale, which it isn’t. And when you do burn off these episodes, please do it respectfully. Give this show a tasteful funeral, like it deserves. It’s the least you can do for killing something so incredible. Look forward to hearing similar gripes from me about Eli Stone, if I ever get around to writing about it.

Clothing I Loved from This Episode: The All About Hats Edition

  1. Hedda’s red hat with the black beaded filigree at the front? I would want that if I only had an occasion to wear it, and a matching red coat.
  2. Same goes for Chuck’s adorable fuchsia hat and coat get-up. It’s cold. I want hats and coats.

The Husband:

To alleviate any worry, the remaining three episodes are going to be aired, and there is no word that they’re shifting them to anywhere other than the Wednesday at 8 p.m. spot. It’s not like competing NBC has anything worthy to put over there (since Knight Rider is bombing hard). ABC has not said anything about any changes, only that these are the final episodes. I’m not sure where my wife got this information.

Again, the final three episodes will air and will, until somebody official says otherwise, air in a normal way at a normal time.

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.

The Wife:

Due to Thanksgiving last week, I decided to table a write up on Pushing Daisies until I’d seen this weeks’ installment so I’d actually have something to write about beyond that cliffhanger at the end. “Robbing Hood” involved a really lame mystery involving the death a bajillionare with a floozy trophy wife (who seemed so incredibly out of place in the PD universe, for some reason) and a group of charity bell ringers who moonlight as modern-day Robin Hoods, skimming some of the wealth of the rich off the top to benefit those less fortunate.

The only worthwhile thing about the Robin Hood characters’ potential involvement in the mystery plot came to fruition when Ned decided to use the Aunts’ home as a set-up for a robbery. This was the first time we’ve ever seen the Aunts involved in one of the investigations, and Lily is, of course, quick to grab the shotgun, as she is none too pleased to see her home invaded. Chuck uses the robbery as a means to get into her old bedroom, which has been converted to a cheese room, in order to get some of her father’s things to help them figure out just what Dwight Dixon is up to.

How dare you try to fuck my sister and steal my dead daughters dead fathers watch!

How dare you try to fuck my sister and steal my dead daughter's dead father's watch!

Dwight Dixon, having dug up Chuck’s grave and found no body, somehow has Charles Charles’ watch, which Lily finds to be greatly unjust and she storms over to Dixon’s hotel apartment to steal back the watch he stole from her daughter’s cold dead hands just as Chuck and Ned head out to disinter one Charles Charles and wake him from his 20-year dirt nap to find out what’s up with Dwight Dixon.

“Comfort Food” picked up where that cliffhanger left off, which Chuck and Ned waking Charles Charles for his one minute reanimation, only to see Chuck trick Ned into keeping her father undead for much, much longer by telling Mr. Charles to don her glove and pretend to be dead again when Ned touches his hand.

From there, Ned declares an “emotional snow day” wherein he offers to close down The Pie Hole to help Chuck sort through any residual emotions she may be having from seeing her father again for 60 seconds. She ensures him that she doesn’t need it and that she’d rather stay and work while he goes to help Olive compete in her favorite biannual event, a comfort food cook-off.

I look like a Pie Gondalier in this outfit.

I look like a Pie Gondalier in this outfit.

So Ned heads off to help Olive at the cook-off, entering a world of costumes, comfort foods and festive food-themed hats. I was totally thrilled with the world of the cook-off, as it was filled to the brim of Ned’s boating hat with everything I love about Daisies’ design. I loved Olive’s cute little pie-festooned fascinator, Ned’s smart boating hat, their matching striped vests, the brilliant custom-colored tangerine Kitchen Aid artisan stand mixers peeking out from the background. Mostly, though, I loved the appearance of Muffin Buffalo as The Pie Hole’s biggest rival at the cook-off. For those who don’t love Bryan Fuller as much as I do, Muffin Buffalo is the name of the muffin company on Wonderfalls that is run by Jaye’s trailer neighbor, Mariane Marie Beetle, who hasn’t been getting her disability checks. She’s played by Beth Grant, and the actress reprises the role in this episode of Daisies. Clearly, thanks to Jaye’s help, Mariane Marie was able to get her disability checks and get her life and business back on track. In fact, things seem to be going so well for her that she can afford to bake her muffins at comfort food cook-offs and don a jaunty Little Bo Peep outfit replete with a buffalo peeking out of her bonnet.

Chuck, meanwhile, has taken her dearly departed dad out of the grave and dragged him home with her. She starts to feel guilty about the life she knows she selfishly took in order to prolong her afterlife with her dad, who thinks he might be a zombie (“I’m not going to start craving human flesh, am I?”), which I think officially answers a question my friend Drew asked the other week. Indeed, Chuck is technically a zombie. Her conscience heavy, Chuck begs Emerson to help her find the body of the person in the graveyard that Ned killed by didn’t know he killed.

“Don’t you peck at me, woman. That’s the peck of cahoots, which are most definitely not in.” — Emerson Cod

At the graveyard, they discover the body of one rakish and dead Dwight Dixon, about whom Charles Charles had no nice things to say. Chuck wonders why he had been in the graveyard in the first place, and Emerson discovers that Dwight had a shot lined up to kill Chuck and Ned when he saw her at the gravesite, assuming that she was planning to return Charles Charles’ watch to his final resting place. But then, seeing his old army buddy rise from the dead, scared the bejesus out of him and before he could take a minute to process what was happening before his eyes, he took Charles Charles’ place in the afterlife.

Chuck and Emerson bury Dwight’s body and attempt to give him a proper funeral at the urging of Chuck’s extremely guilty conscience, which feels so terrible about Dwight’s accidental death that she imagines a re-animated Dwight talking to her up until the moment the dirt covers his face. Lily shows up at the graveyard, gun in hand, and Emerson manages to succeed at keeping Chuck’s cover.

“Olive, you’re cooking with hate.” — Ned

Mariane Marie’s presence at the cook-off antagonizes Olive so much that she becomes determined to win. That is, until one chicken magnate Colonel Likken is found dead, dipped in his own deep fryer.

“At least the colonel left this world frying.” – Olive

The Colonel’s wife assumes that he had a heart attack (one of many) and fell into the deep fryer. Her only concern is that Colonel Likken’s secret recipe containing no less than 500 herbs and spices died with him. Hoping to help the widow Likken, Ned sneaks into the crime scene to wake the colonel, who tells Ned that he was actually murdered. He was dipped in his own batter before he was deep fried, by someone who “snuck up from behind. Stealthy like a snake. Or a yankee.” Whoever killed the colonel, it seems, also stole his secret recipe.

While trying to solve the murder, Chuck and Olive get disqualified from the event when they are caught inside the Waffle Nazi’s prep tent. I was pleased with the idea of the Waffle Nazi and the fact that his restaurant is called the Waffle Iron (with an Iron Cross for a logo), but I would have been even happier if his restaurant was called Der Waffle Haus, after the restaurant where the reapers hang out in Fuller’s Dead Like Me. (Although, I’m glad the Waffle Nazi was played by a man who I now only think of as the face of Utz Potato Chips, Patrick Fischler, Mad Men‘s Jimmy Barrett.) The Waffle Nazi reveals that he would never have killed Colonel Likken as “Herr Likken and I were set to go into business together” creating the delicious Southern comfort food known to all as chicken and waffles.

Looking back at the crime scene, Ned notices gurney tracks in the batter surrounding Colonel Likken’s body and realizes that the only person who could have killed him was Leo Burns, the scooter-riding cook-off organizer.

“I ride a scooter. What kind of killer could I possibly be?” — Leo Burns

The facts were these: Leo was once a thin man who, when faced with hard times, ate a bucket of Colonel Likken’s delicious chicken and became hooked. He then became a very morbidly obese man out to revenge the man he blamed for his fatness, stealing the secret recipe that caused him to eat his way to obesity. Once Leo is arrested, his disqualifications are discontinued and Olive and Ned can once again compete for top prize. Olive cleverly brought along one cold pie just in case someone should sabotage their oven, ruining their chances of winning. She races Mariane Marie to the table in the last thirty seconds of competition and just beats her there to get her icebox lemon pie in on time, a pie which ultimately took first place.

Olive, thrilled at finally winning and receiving much respect and admiration from Ned, bursts into a sad rendition of “Eternal Flame,” only to have Ned once again leave her to check on Chuck, just as he always will. He drops by the Aunts house to ask if they’ve seen Dwight Dixon and Lily notices someone stirring in Ned’s old house across the street. When Ned goes to investigate, he finds Chuck . . . and her zombie dad, waiting for him.

Overall, I feel like this was a pretty abrupt end to the Dwight Dixon storyline, a character we never really learned all that much about. But then again, this is not the first time Daisies has done this. I expected more Dilly Balsam from the first season, and also more of Raul Esparza’s herbalist character, but it seems those two characters are never to return. Much like Dwight Dixon. However, I am perfectly happy with the sacrifice of that arc in favor of this Charles Charles arc. It’s much more informative of the kind of person undead Chuck has become and, I hope, will bring us back to the levels of poignancy found in “Bad Habits.”

While I can’t say that Chuck was up to her usual levels of finery in either of these episodes, I would like to note something very clever on the part of the wardrobe department that other people might not have noticed. There was a nice visual link between the two very separate stories tonight: one featured Muffin Buffalo, while in the other, Chuck donned a Buffalo plaid jacket. Very clever.

The Wife:

I’m writing this post the day after ABC made its announcement to not order any more episodes of Pushing Daisies, which means we fans will only get to indulge (overindulge?) on seven more episodes of this delicious little show before it goes away to never been seen or heard from again. Showrunner Bryan Fuller has spoken about the idea of continuing the show in a comic book (like Joss Whedon does with Buffy), and I would certainly consider that being a viable format for the wonder that is Daisies. Now, I don’t believe that shows should go on forever. In fact, it’s pretty clear when some shows outlive their usefulness and lose their freshness (like Bryan Fuller’s other show he once wrote/produced, Heroes, to which he has said he would return if Daises, well, lived up to its name). However, Pushing Daises deserved three full seasons. I also realize that none of Bryan Fuller’s other creations (Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me), have lasted more than two seasons, so letting Daises go belly up after two just seems par for the course. What can you do? Those of us who recognize Fuller’s greatness get it and love it and want to hold on to it forever, but most people don’t, and when a show gets low ratings and isn’t making money it has to go. But I wish more people loved Bryan Fuller’s work the way I do. I wish more people could get into witty, thematic, quirky, awe-inspiring, zany, punny, beautifully art directed, well-written and altogether delightful television, but it really must be hard to do that when you can just tune in to any number of CSI or Law & Order variations, enjoy it for an hour, and then not have to think about it again.

Another thing that makes me think that Daises‘ (non)cancellation is a little premature is the article by Benjamin Svetkey I was reading in this week’s Entertainment Weekly about what will happen to pop culture in an Obama presidency. Svetkey discussed popular culture under several presidencies, indicating a surge of feel-good programming under the Kennedy administration (whom he likened to Obama), a culture of excess during the Reagan years and a rise in narratives about government conspiracies and crimes during the Nixon and Bush years. Both Bush presidencies had negative storytelling under their watch, but Svetkey writes that W’s term gave us some of the darkest things we’ve seen, including director Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the Batman series based on Frank Miller’s comics. Svetkey posits that we may see a drastic change in popular culture during Obama’s presidency of hope, and a possible renaissance of the kind of programming we saw in the 1960’s (The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gilligan’s Island). I wonder: had Pushing Daises waited two more years to put out its pilot, would Svetkey’s theory be correct? Would an Obama presidency save Pushing Daises? When you really look at it, Pushing Daises asks us to believe in camp, in fun and in whimsy and to hope against all hope that the star-crossed lovers Ned and Chuck can someday overcome their physical limitations and embrace. If that’s not the audacity of hope, I don’t know what is. While I would never call Barack Obama campy or whimsical, I can’t help but wonder if Pushing Daises would have faired better under his presidency than it did under the presidency of George W. Bush.

Would this show have survived better under Obama? It shall remain a mystery to be solved by Emerson Cod and Co.

Would this show have survived better under Obama? It shall remain a mystery to be solved by Emerson Cod and Co.

That aside, I liked “Oh Oh Oh . . . It’s Magic” more than I liked “Dim Sum, Lose Some.” There is one very good reason for this and his name is Paul F. Tompkins. Tompkins is the new host of Best Week Ever (in its new, Soupier format), and I respond very positively to his style of comedy. Paul likes to riff on the slightly headier parts of pop culture, and show people how to properly drink four beers in the course of a 45-minute comedy set without getting hammered. He also wears a mean suit and argues well in the court of Lewis Black’s The Root of All Evil. In short, I want to be his friend.

The Pie Hole gang headed off to see Ned’s half-brothers’ magic show, adorably titled Two for the Road. Maurice and Ralston have taken after their deadbeat magician father, it seems, and, with the help of their surrogate magic dad The Great Hermann (Fred Willard) have done well enough to have their own act. Ned, due to the severe emotional scars received when his father abandoned him, gets terrible acid reflux at the mere mention of magic. But Olive and Chuck are so enthralled with Ned’s younger brothers that they drag him and Emerson along to Two for the Road.

“What they’re pulling out of their hats isn’t a rabbit, it’s my childhood trauma and they’re putting a cape on it and taking it to the stage.” – Ned

At the show, they meet The Geek (Paul F. Tompkins), Alexandria the Assistant (The State‘s Kerry Kinney-Silver) and, of course, The Great Hermann, who tries to get Ned to take Maurice and Ralston off of his magic dad hands. Hermann asks Emerson, whom he sensed was “a great investigator of things unsolved, named after a poet and a fish,” to help find out who’s been killing all of his assistants: a pair of doves, a rabbit and a monkey. The gang realizes that the animals were not killed intentionally, but were the unintentional victims of failed murder attempts on Hermann, who shortly after this revelation does not escape from his famed Cementia escape trick.

Meanwhile, Dwight Dixon (Stephen Root) is up to no good, dropping in on the Aunts and stirring up Lily’s secret pot. Dixon was a military buddy of Chuck and Ned’s fathers from back in their UN Peacekeeper days. All three had engraved pocketwatches and Dwight wants to know if he could have the watch that belonged to Charles Charles. Flattered by the way Dwight speaks of her long-dead fiancé, Vivian sets up a date with Dwight at the Pie Hole, where he almost spills Lily’s secret in an effort to find the watch, until Olive interrupts and saves face for Vivian. (Not without her overhearing that Chuck is dead, though. I wonder if Olive interprets this as corroborating her story that Chuck faked her own death, or if it changes her mind to think that Chuck really is dead. We’ve got seven episodes to find out.) Dwight gets all the information he needs from Vivian, though, when he finds out that Charles’ watch was buried with his daughter. Dwight races off to the grave to dig up Chuck’s body, and is dismayed to find an empty casket.

“It’s all very confusing. There’s murdered magic dads and the promise of tasty pate with tuna sauce.” – Ned

This used to be a tasty pate, but now its just a scarf.

This used to be a tasty pate, but now it's just a scarf.

Back at the Pushing Daisies equivalent of The Magic Castle, the gang starts questioning everyone about their relationship with Hermann to find motive for the man’s murder. When they go to check out the cement block he was supposedly buried in, they discover that the blocks have been switched and the real block containing the Hermann they need to make un-dead for 60 seconds is hidden somewhere in the magic castle. They find his body buried under the floorboards in the basement where he would normally make his Cementia escape and when they wake him from death, he reveals “magic man to magic man” that the secret to escaping Cementia is the magnets in his shoes, which were stolen, thus sealing his fate. Ah, and who would know to steal the magnets? The person who ate some magnets earlier that drew Chuck’s necklace to his stomach: The Geek.

When Ned and Chuck go to find The Geek, they find him dead on the floor, which throws them off the trail and makes them wonder if someone else was involved. The Geek is not dead, of course, because he’s also a Blockhead, and the railroad spike jammed up his nose is just part of his act, not his death warrant. He holds Olive against her will and confesses that he killed Hermann because he used to be like a son to Hermann, until the great magician took in Maurice and Ralston and turned his affections toward them, shunning The Geek to a life of far less magical tricks.

This is what a Blockhead does, not a Geek.

This is what a Blockhead does, not a Geek.

Here’s where I have to break for a second and discuss the first gripe I have ever had with Pushing Daisies. Ever. While it is possible for Blockheads to also be Geeks, it is unlikely and, more than that, odd. There’s a hierarchy to the circus, and even more of one to the sideshow, which is where you’d see Blockheads and Geeks. (I suggest, for a great exploration of this, that you watch The X-Files episode “Humbug.”) Blockheads are people who train their bodies to withstand great amounts of pain, and many of them believe that this art is close to shamanistic practices, thus, it puts them far above the level of Geeks, who are considered base creatures in the world of the sideshow, the kind of people whose bread is won by basically eating anything that won’t kill them. (In “Humbug,” Dr. Blockhead is played by Jim Rose, a modern circus pioneer and actual Blockhead, and his lesser companion The Conundrum is played by The Enigma, an actual Geek.) My issue is that the Daisies writers have assumed that Blockheads and Geeks serve the same function: that is, doing weird shit to their bodies. But this is not true. They’re very different circus performers and one of them is considered more skilled than the other. Anyone can be a Geek if they don’t have a gag reflex, but being a Blockhead takes a lot of training. That said, I’m happy to see Paul F. Tompkins play either. For me, either way is pretty hot.

In the end, Hermann bequeathed his Magic Book of Magic to Maurice and Ralston, who decided to share said secrets with Alexandria. With that book, Alexandria was finally able to get her own act after eight years as an assistant. Ned made peace with his brothers, and managed to curb his acid reflux.

“We’re two grown men with dad-related body fluid issues. I can’t suck lozenges for the rest of my life. And you can’t wear adult diapers.” – Ned, to Maurice and Ralston

As a gift for magic-loving Chuck, Ned and Olive found a way for her to communicate with her mother and hear Aunt Lily admit to the fact for herself. Olive pays a visit to the Aunts while wearing the bee-shaped bug from “Bzzzzzzzz!” Chuck speaks to Olive through a wire, and Olive is able to ask Lily all the questions Chuck has ever had about her birth, leading to a bittersweet ending in which our two protagonists resolve some of their deep-seated family issues.

More olives, Olive.

More olives, Olive.

Now, Chuck only had two outfits in this episode, and I loved them both, but I’d like to give a very special shout out to her gown for the magic show, this amazing gold number with a flamenco skirt and fitted scalloped layers edged with black up the bust. I squeed. I want it. What am I going to do with only seven more episodes of Chuck Wardrobe Envy?

The Wife:

I can honestly say that I didn’t think a show as original as Pushing Daises and as inventive in its murder mysteries (taffy murders, rent-a-friend murders, scratch-n-sniff murders) would ever stoop to the cliché of a Chinese restaurant gambling murder. The show managed to do something interesting with it, but I was, as a whole, a lot less interested in this episode than I have been in others from the season.

The facts about the murder were these: the chef and owner of Dim Sum, Emerson Cod’s favorite Chinese restaurant below his office from which he places a specific order every Sunday at noon, was killed in a pressure cooker accident, but his wife suspects foul play. When Ned reanimates the chef, Bao, he keeps talking about making a bad bet, which leads the gang to discover that the Dim Sum is actually running an illegal gambling operation that substitutes cards for delicious appetizers. Bao, who had run into some hard times recently, gambled away his restaurant to the ringleader of the illegal Dim Sum poker game. In an effort to gain the restaurant back, Shrimp Boy let Bao play one more hand. If he won, he would get the restaurant. If he lost, Bao’s daughter Mae would have to marry Shimp Boy’s socially retarded cousin and Dim Sum maitre d’, Robbie.

tough, not buttery.

Shrimp Boy: tough, not buttery.

Knowing how much money he owed, Bao took out an insanely high life insurance policy the day before his death, hoping to insure his daughter a future and, also, to insure that her new husband would have Bao’s debts paid to his family in time. Robbie had initially agreed to this arrangement, but then decided he’d prefer the money sooner rather than later to go along with the girl, so he rigged the pressure cooker to explode and send a copper pipe straight through his future father-in-law’s head. When Shrimp Boy finds out about Robbie’s act, he makes sure that Mae and her mother get Bao’s life insurance policy and that she is freed from her obligation to marry Robbie as, in Shrimp Boy’s world, “a bet is sacred.”

This plot allowed Emerson to rekindle his love affair with obedience trainer Simone Hundee, wife of the late Harold Hundin (The Soup’s Joel McHale) whose murder was solved in season one. I’m glad that the PD writers have not entirely disposed of certain interesting characters we met in season one. Maybe if Kath & Kim bites it, we can see the return of Molly Shannon taffy maven Dilly Balsam. (Also, I demand another appearance of Paul Reubens’ Oscar Verbinius.)

demanding Emersons obedience.

Simone Hundin: demanding Emerson's obedience.

I was also happy to see her because her sexual tension with Emerson (which gets released in this episode) adds another layer to our quippy, knitting, pop-up book designing gumshoe. Speaking of Emerson and layers of development, another gem from this week’s episode comes in the form of Emerson’s love of Chinese food:

“Ma’am, may I just say that your husband’s pork buns make me happy to be alive.”

I think that this actually speaks to a larger theme I like about the show: the idea that food is a connecting point for people, one that can evoke a memory and illicit a response, not just something you eat for sustenance. In a culture that’s rapidly become a slave to fast food, foods from boxes and other substances that pretend to be foods but are not, in fact, foods (Hot Pockets, anyone?), it’s become difficult to see the importance of real food. Two things that will correct that false ideology are Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food (eat food, not too much, mostly plants) and Pushing Daises.

“He invested his life savings in a bakery at a time when carbohydrates had fallen out of fashion.” – The Narrator, on Ned

Ned feels connected to pies and chooses to become a piemaker because pies evoke the memory of the mother he accidentally killed. Emerson and Simone feel similarly about Bao’s pork buns:

“His steamed buns blur the lines between eating and sex.”

This clearly speaks to Simone’s dialectic between control and sensory pleasure, and her desire to find a balance between the two. (Which results in her tryst with Emerson.) Chuck’s aunts love cheeses, and Chuck too loves to bake special pies for them with cheeses in the crust so that they will remember the times she spent cataloging and organizing their cheeses when she was alive. Then there are the white truffles that make Swiss Chef fall for a nun in “Bad Habits.” Food is a powerful motivator for all of the characters in the Pushing Daisies universe, and it’s important to note that all of the foods they deal with and admire reflect the artistry of those who prepare them and the nourishment of body and soul that comes from eating a food prepared by hand. You might argue that for Ned and Chuck, when she ingests a slice of his pie is the only way he can ever physically touch her.

Oh yes, and these disguises happened. Lee Paces mustachioed cowboy made me instantly flashback to seeing Tarsems The Fall. That was not a fun time at the movies, despite Lee Pace.

Oh yes, and these disguises happened. Lee Pace's mustachioed cowboy made me instantly flashback to seeing Tarsem's The Fall. That was not a fun time at the movies, despite Lee Pace.

Food love aside, this episode had one final plot of note involving Ned’s attempt to get back in touch with his father. Stephen Root shows up at the Pie Hole baiting Ned with information about his parents, insisting that he wants to go see Ned’s father, with whom he was buddies when they were in the service. Olive and Chuck find out that Ned has had his father’s address ever since the day at boarding school when Ned received news that his father have moved on without him. Chuck gives Stephen Root the address, and she and Olive decide to go there too and talk to Ned’s father on his behalf. At the house, they find two twin magicians who share Ned’s distinctive eyebrows. Chuck realizes that these boys are Ned’s half-brothers, which she later tells him and convinces him to go and meet them lest he never truly be able to reconnect with his father. When she takes him there, the brothers are excited to welcome their long-lost half sibling, but Stephen Root sits across the street in his car, fingering a gun, waiting to kill someone.

At first I thought Root was Ned’s actual father, but Ned would have recognized the man who bore him away to boarding school and scarred him so deeply. Apparently, Stephen Root wants someone in that house dead, but is it Ned’s brothers or Ned’s father? I can’t even hazard a guess, but its good bait to lead us in to sweeps.

For the second time this week, I really want to make a Gilbert and Sullivan joke. And Im going to! Two little maids from school are we! Filled to the brim with girlish glee!

For the second time this week, I really want to make a Gilbert and Sullivan joke. And I'm going to! "Two little maids from school are we! Filled to the brim with girlish glee!"

And the Cute Shit Chuck Wears list for this episode:

1. I certainly don’t need her china doll wig, but I do want to note that when Anna Friel wears that black bobbed wig, she looks exactly like Ellen Green. I’ve never noticed how good that casting was before. I miss Ellen Green. Please let Aunt Vivian sing this season!

2. J’adore that yellow linen coat with the Peter Pan collar. J’must haves it!

The Wife:

While overall I don’t feel this episode is as strong as last week’s, I’ve still yet to meet a Pushing Daisies episode that I don’t find delightful. I was especially pleased this week to get a backstory for one Emerson Cod. How great was it to see that his dear mother (and best friend) was a hardcore P.I. in her day who taught her lil’ gumshoe everything he ever needed to know about being a good detective? I really enjoyed her sudden reappearance in her son’s life as the two have this amazing dynamic that rivals that of Ned and Chuck. The mechanisms of their plot were very well played, too: Calista Cod returns under the guise of tailing a client in the area, but is really hanging around to spy on her son, whom she believes is trying to publish a tell-all pop-up book about what a terrible mother she is. This misunderstanding nearly ruins Emerson’s friendship with his mother, whom he had never told about the real reason for the pop-up book. All these years, Calista never knew she was a grandmother. As they patch things up after their fight, Calista suggests to her son that he change the story of his pop-up book. Lil’ Gumshoe in its current state is basically about young Emerson Cod and his wacky adventures with his crazy mother. Calista suggests that Emerson write a book that shows his daughter how great grown-up Emerson Cod is, to make her really want to come back.

I thought you loved me, but now I believe you think Im derranged if this pop-up book is any indication of your feelings.

I thought you loved me, but now I believe you think I'm deranged if this pop-up book is any indication of your feelings.

The issues Emerson and his mother have with their relationship – not knowing when to be friends, and when to be mother and son, and when to be business partners – is reflected in the case this week, in which a Frescort (a friend escort, or kind of rent-a-friend) turns up dead, and also in Chuck an Ned’s relationship, as well as Chuck and Olive’s. Emerson is paid a visit by two different clients claiming to know the dead man, which leads him, Ned, Chuck and Olive over to the Frescort company, My Best Friend, Inc. I’m very glad to see Olive join in on missions this week, and I’m also glad to see how full-tilt the production designers went when they designed the interiors for My Best Friend, Inc. The company, filled with bright sherbet-y colors, is run by one Buddy Amicus (Hayes MacCarthur, fiancé to Ali Larter of Heroes), a former high school jock who realized that he should help the friendless dweebs that he used to pick on after his football career ended. (I love the name Buddy Amicus, by the way. It’s so deliciously redundant.) Olive and Chuck, posing once again as Kitty Pims, go deep undercover as wannabe Frescorts to learn more about the inner workings of the company and some of the dead Frescort’s business associates. They meet the equally vivacious receptionist, Barb (Heroes‘ Dana Davis, doing more acting in this single episode then she ever got to do in her truncated arc on that show), who helps the girls until they discover that she was the “Downey” of whom the deceased Joe spoke: his girlfriend who only did the down segments of crossword puzzles so that he could do the across segments. Frescorts were not allowed to date, and Joe, the top-selling Frescort, was willing to quit his job to be with Barb.

Thoughout this mission, Olive and Chuck learn to put their mutual secrets and lies behind each other and be best girlfriends and roommates, like water under a bridge:

Olive: Look at all of those bridges!
Chuck: And all of that water flowing right under them.

That is, until Barb stuffs them in a locker together and they realize how much they still dislike one another, from the smell of Chuck’s freesia shampoo to Olive’s wardrobe choices:

Olive: I wish I’d never told you that smelled nice.
Chuck: I wish I’d never told you those capris made you look taller.

Meanwhile, Ned is missing Chuck something fierce and is noticeably jealous about her newfound friendship with Olive. As he and Emerson investigate Joe the Frescort’s death, Ned meets another man who is just as lonely and strangely gifted as he is, Randy Mann (David Arquette), Joe’s roommate who likes to taxidermy animals. (And has Joe’s appendix in a jar.) The two bond over the hard times they had making friends at school, until Ned learns of Randy’s hobby. Ned is at first appalled by Randy’s hobby, especially when Randy lends Ned his taxidermied golden retriever playing a guitar, but Randy reveals, unknowingly, that the two might be more alike than Ned would like to think:

“If you wanted to keep someone with you after they died, wouldn’t you?”

Who can take a canine, and stuff it full of fluff? The Randy Mann can!

Who can take a canine, and stuff it full of fluff? The Randy Mann can!

Ned responds no to this, not wanting to betray his strange gift, but later realizes that he and Randy are meant for each other, in a way, and are both deserving of real friendship – not the kind of friendship Randy tried to buy from Joe, who was Randy’s live-in Frescort. He later hosts a mixer for former clients of My Best Friend, Inc. at the Pie Hole, to help the lonely find some kindred spirits.

As for the case, when Barb turns up dead via the hug machine in Buddy’s office, Ned suspects Randy, who mentioned that he used to be a mascot in high school because he couldn’t play football like Buddy. In a scuffle, Chuck and Ned knock over Buddy’s old football uniform, which turns out to be worn by the dead body of high school football star Ares Kastopolos, whom Buddy, a loser who worshipped Ares in high school and donned the school’s Spartan mascot costume, killed after the team humiliated him when he accidentally cost them the state championships. Buddy spent years and lots of money on steroids to beef up and become the man he’d always worshipped, until the thought of losing his favorite and most valuable Frescort, whom he worshipped like Ares, drove him insane and murderous once again.

Ultimately, Chuck and Olive are forced to make up an learn to live together again, as Ned rejects Chuck’s offer to move back in on the basis that he needs to know more people in the world besides the girlfriend he can’t touch and his two coworkers, even though all he’s ever wanted to do is be her down comforter. “Selfishly, I want to duvet you right this second,” he says, but insists it’s better for both of them to not live together. Sweetly, Chuck shows up at Ned’s door wrapped in blankets and offers to be Ned’s down comforter for the evening, before dropping the blankets and revealing herself to him entirely.

It’s hard to overcome the adorableness that is that final scene, but I’m also glad this week that I can finally return to my list of Cute Things Chuck Wears to wrap up my posts:

  1. I haven’t looked into it yet, but the pink sweater she has on in the opening of this episode is adorable and very likely from Anthropologie.
  2. I am all about that orange print sheath she’s wearing in the morgue.
  3. I am also all about her yellow sweater with the rosettes around the collar.
  4. If someone gave it to me, I wouldn’t say no to Chuck’s white rose sheath that she wears to her Frescort interview.
  5. That Spanish-inspired dress she’s wearing at the Friends for the Friendless gathering is really gorgeous.

The Husband:

Since my wife stole the only line I actively came up with while watching Pushing Daisies last night – that Dana Davis did more acting in her first minute of screentime than she did during an entire season of Heroes – I don’t have much else to say about the episode. It’s a basic 3.5-out-of-4-stars – a small shock considering the show’s long line of 4-star extravaganzas – whose best quality was allowing Olive into the detective work that frames each episode and allowing her to not be such a pushover anymore.

No one really works here, do they?

No one really works here, do they?

I would like to say, though, that if they ever release a real-life version of Emerson Cod’s pop-up book Lil’ Gumshoe, I will buy it off Amazon before you can say “David Arquette is looking really grody nowadays.” It could go right next to my collection of Freaks & Geeks scripts and that sweet Six Feet Under book – both, I believe, were presents given to me by my sister – as well as Barney Stinson’s The Bro Code book, which hopefully is waiting on my home doorstep as we speak.

More shows should tie in books that fictionally exist on their respective shows. For instance, I never watched October Road, but I know it was about a novelist and screenwriter who wrote about his hometown. That would be a pretty sweet release for that cult that was really into a show that I heard was pretty goddamn awful.

What I’d really love is Hank Moody’s God Hates Us All from Californication, as well as the resulting shitty Hollywood screenplay adaptation Crazy Little Thing Called Love. Anyone else have any ideas to add to this list?

The Wife:

First of all, let me say how happy I am to have the Pie Hole plot and the Nunnery plot meet up in one tightly woven meditation on exactly what Bryan Fuller does best: life and life after life. The death of a truffle-loving nun and Chuck’s discovery of her incomplete family tree serve as the catalysts to forge these two plots together. Olive, upset by the death of her friend at the nunnery and the fact that the rest of the cloister views Sister LaRue’s tragic fall as a suicide, calls on Emerson Cod to investigate, stipulating that no Neds or Chucks would be allowed. Of course, what use is Emerson Cod as a detective without Ned? And what is Ned without Chuck? Naturally, all three come along . . . posing as Vatican investigators to go deep undercover in the cloister and severely limiting this episodes’ Cute Chuck Outfit potential, much to my dismay.

In all of their digging around at the nunnery, Chuck, Ned and Emerson discover that the deceased Sister LaRue was smuggling contraband from the outside in to her sisters via a special relationship she’d formed with a Swiss Chef, whose restaurant is conveniently located near the cloister and is accessible via a system of secret tunnels. LaRue brought Hansel rare white Italian truffles, known to some as the diamonds of the table, and he in return brought her top shelf tampons, nail polish, fashion magazines and so on. They were also, on occasion, dinner partners and lovers. Unfortunately, rare white Italian truffles grow only in Italy, so how Sister LaRue was able to acquire them adds to the mystery.

Lee Pace is far too attractive as a priest and that makes me feel very dirty and wrong.

Lee Pace is far too attractive as a priest and that makes me feel very dirty and wrong.

At the nunnery, both Ned and Chuck experience their own existential crises. Ned feels uncomfortable using his “gift” in a house of worship, feeling it somehow ungodly to bring the dead back to life. Emerson tries to convince Ned that it shouldn’t be an issue, saying, “Why not? He did it. Remember Lazarus?” Ned also begins to question his advice to Chuck et al about leaving the past in the past in regards to dealing with his own issues with his father. Ultimately, via confession to Father Eduardo, he realizes that the only way he can move on is to come to terms with being abandoned by his father, a statement which once again compares Ned to Christ in a somewhat odd way. (I don’t quite know what to make of such a heavy-handed metaphor, as it’s the first time the Ned-Jesus comparison has ever appeared on this show. I guess I’ll just accept it, as all Bryan Fuller shows ultimately get to this slightly-too-religious point and then back away from it slowly.)

Chuck, on the other hand, upset by her incomplete family tree, begins to feel as though she probably shouldn’t be alive again for the second time at all. She confesses her fears about her life after life to Mother Superior, who receives her concerns with steely reserve and suspicion. When Mother Superior asks Chuck what her family thought when she took the veil, Chuck is taken aback and realizes that when she died and started her second life, everyone she loved, everyone who was her real family (Lily and Vivian are her step-aunts), was dead. The scene in which she confronts Ned with her post-existential crisis was rather heartbreaking.

“I am a person with no past and no future because of what I am.”

I can only imagine how terrible Chuck’s liminal existence must be under her sunny, beautifully dressed exterior and her seeming happiness with her sweetheart whom she can never touch save for an occasional bee-suited dance of a high five by-proxy. And in this moment, I think the weight of that terror finally hit Charlotte Charles.

Sister Christian, theres so much in life. Dont you give it up before your time is due.

Sister Christian, there's so much in life. Don't you give it up before your time is due.

Thinking that perhaps her purpose as a re-purposed dead girl might be to help the recently dead pass on, Chuck ascends to the belfry where Sister LaRue took her final swan dive to see if perhaps she can communicate any last wishes for the fallen nun. In the belfry, Chuck realizes that the bells were stainless steel and never needed to be polished, calling into question exactly how Sister LaRue spent her time up there. Through a series of clumsy missteps, Chuck discovers Sister LaRue’s secret truffle lab where she manufactured her Italian white truffles to trade with Swiss Chef. Father Eduardo had discovered this lab and thought that his condemnation of LaRue, formerly Dr. Linda Franks of I Thought You Were Hungry Foods, had driven her to suicide as he was strongly against her use of the nunnery’s resources for her own gain. However, the real culprit was LaRue’s pet and trufflehound Pigby who pushed her off the ledge in an attempt to get his snout on what he was only naturally inclined to desire: Italian white truffles.

Mother Superior and Father Eduardo of course discover that Ned, Chuck and Emerson are not Vatican investigators as Chuck’s alias Sister Christian “is nothing but a heavy petting power ballad.” But once the mystery is solved and everyone but Pigby is cleared of any allegations, Ned, Chuck and Emerson return to the Pie Hole with Olive in tow, having earlier unburdened Aunt Lily’s big secret to Ned in a game of Nun Charades, which was hilarious.

At home, Ned tells Chuck to her relief that Aunt Lily is her birth mother and gives her pencils to fill in the empty branches of her family tree. Finally, Chuck has a place in the world and a people to call her own. She is relieved to have a mother at all and is unphased by the potentially scandalous circumstances of her birth. Now that she has reconciled her past, it may be possible for Chuck to have a future in this world, which I think sets up a nice arc for her character for the rest of the season, which should parallel nicely with Ned’s inevitable search for the father who abandoned him and Emerson’s continued search for his Lil’ Gumshoe.

Note: The actress who played little Olive’s mom in this episode is named Diana Costa, which freaks me the hell out, because that’s my mom’s name. Just like it freaked me the hell out to learn that Jason Dohring’s character on Moonlight was currently going by the name of Josef Kostan, which technically has an “n” at the end but was rarely ever heard pronounced. That’s my dad. And my dad is not a vampire hedge fund trader.

The Husband:

This is by far one of the best episodes of Pushing Daisies, a wonderful bit of mystery chaos, big questions and believable character evolution (as in character evolution done right. Take note, Desperate Housewives.) Chenoweth proved herself to be a worthy member of the main cast after basically being treated like window dressing and comic relief for so long, and I’d love to see more of her involved with the central mysteries (and not just a back-and-forth messenger for the Lily and Vivian story).

Two Hail Marys and a box of Pecan Sandies.

Two Hail Marys and a box of Pecan Sandies.

As one of the people linked to our blog has pointed out, we Pushing Daisies fans need to stick together if we want to see it survive another season, and as the numbers have dropped severely post-strike, we need all the love we can get. This is a great episode to show newbies – a crash course in the magnificence of the show’s tone, the great guest stars, the characters’ extreme and various personalities and the wildly complex cases that would have Raymond Chandler’s head spinning. Bryan Fuller has been good enough to grace network TV once again with his oddities and themes, and we should consider it a blessing that should be returned with a favor.

I love how the show, realizing that just like any other quirky quality show it may be running out of time, is barreling through their stories quickly with wit and economy, throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. I’ve never picked on a show for being ambitious, and luckily PD has high-scoring results in that department.

This was a true gem. Enjoy it.

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