Pushing Daisies taught us a very important lesson tonight: "Don't mess with the Pie Hos!" I believe a resounding "oh snap!" is the only proper response to that.
I was starting to get a little concerned about 20 minutes into this episode: Between the neatly wrapped-up and not-nearly-weird-enough murder mystery and Molly Shannon (who I have never really liked in, well, anything), I found myself, for the first time since I started watching this show, checking the clock. It wasn't that it was bad—in fact, I was kind of intrigued that the episode seemed to be veering away from the mystery aspect into the workplace-comedy realm—it just hadn't captured my attention the way Frankenpuppies and fire-breathing horses have in weeks prior. And then came the body in the taffy.
One of my earliest memories is of the (probably unintentionally) terrifying children's book Sticky Stanley, concerning a boy named Stanley whose affinity for sticky candy somehow results in him being essentially suffocated by lurid pink taffy. The details are hazy, but I remember this image being so terrifying to my 3-year-old sensibilities that the staff at Children's World had to call in my mom because I was having a breakdown over candy that eats YOU. (See Ned, you're not the only one with childhood trauma.) I'm sure this is the latent reason why I shrieked when Billy Balsam's body floated to the top of the taffy vat, but I suspect even those not traumatized by Early Reader books reacted somewhat in kind.
The episode picked up markedly from that point onward, right on through to two excellent cliffhangers. Even though I was fairly unimpressed with Molly Shannon's role (I don't know how she managed to make such a diabolical character seem so boring), I'm interested to see how her murder of the health inspector plays out. And FINALLY Ned dropped the bomb that he "killed" Chuck's father—but did anyone think he wasn't going to, especially with that "happiness born of passion is short-lived" intro?
Speaking of that flashback sequence: A couple of weeks ago I harped on how the flashbacks were beginning to feel unnecessary, as they provided very little new information. I think I have to eat my words this week. This flashback felt perfect to me: it set up the themes of the episode, it wasn't redundant, and it was amusing in its own right (I rewound to watch mini-Ned throw the book at the bully two or three more times). Now that the show seems to be relegating all the background exposition to the "previously on" segments, it seems the flashbacks might be better served as a prologue than as a catch-up device.
I know there's a lot of Olive love surrounding this show (and not just because of her boobs), but I just have to add another bit of praise to the heap. Chenoweth's reaction when Ned called Chuck his girlfriend was so perfect: not a morose sigh, not a shifty glance, but a subtle intake of breath—you could literally see the wind getting knocked out of her, the exact immediate reaction I imagine I would have in such a situation. She does great slapstick and broad, Broadway-style humor, but it's when she's subtle like that that you can see why she's the breakout star of this show.
This episode also showed the various ways the main foursome can be combined. I think I like Olive-Emerson best, but Ned-Emerson has a nice feel to it too. They're like chocolate, peanut butter, caramel, and nuts—there's no bad combination (but who's which?). They all just shuffle up so nicely, it's a treat to see such a solid core of characters. There's really not a weak link. No, not even Chuck, who was looking a hot mess this week—what happened to those poufy dresses and Jackie-O glasses, Chuck? Run a comb through your hair for pete's sake, Ned's looking! In retrospect, I think her and Ned's notable shift into Scrubsville this week was foreshadowing the impending problems between them, but originally I just thought maybe the hairdressers were on strike along with the writers. Hey-o!
No new episode next week, then "Corpsicle," then… what? Very possibly a season finale, unless those rumors about the WGA strike winding down prove true… fingers crossed.
—Yay, Raul Esparza is back! Boo, it was too short (though excellent), and he's apparently gone for a while.
—Ned mentioned it, but I have to bring it up again: Is a candy shop really in competition with a pie shop? I mean, if a cake store or a tart vendor or a turnover factory had opened across the street, maybe I can understand the evil throwdown, but does anyone really say, "oh fuck pie, let's get taffy instead!" Clearly you get both!
—I really enjoyed seeing Emerson work a case without Ned's help for once. Even if the "clues" were farfetched (good thing Chuck's been paying so much attention to her marble countertop), it was more satisfying than "who killed you, kthxbye!"
—I'm glad to see someone shares my love of obscure holidays. Happy Electronic Greetings Day!
—It occurred to me during the ridiculously long "previously on" segment covering the background info, that all that explaining could probably be taken care of with, yes, A GOOD OPENING SEQUENCE. I'm glad we've added Bryan Fuller's name to the twinkly title card, but a solid 30-second sequence could probably do a more concise job, and give the show more of a sense of permanence.
—This week's pie: Smith & Wesson (okay, no pie this week, but come on… gun pie! With bullets! Oh Olive…)