So, do you think ABC decided to air Pushing Daisies against Barack Obama's 30-minute network blitz this week as a show on confidence in the struggling series, or as a sneaky maneuver to torpedo its ratings enough to justify bringing down the cancellation hammer? I'm a big-time Obama supporter, but I find myself hoping that audiences–those who have firmly committed to a candidate, anyway–avoided the other three networks and gave ol' Daisies another chance this week, because "Dim Sum, Lose Some" was probably the most stylish, well-paced effort we've seen so far this season.
Of course, viewers tuning in for the first time in a while, or ever, would probably be somewhat confused by the increasingly twisty long-range plots that were further snarled up tonight. But I was extremely pleased that we finally got a little more Ned momentum this week; his M.O. on the show lately has veered too far into the "Reanimate bodies, moon over Chuck, repeat" cycle for my liking. The specter of his long-lost father has been looming since the season premiere, but finally touched down in the form of Dwight Dixon (the always-welcome Stephen Root), an old "military buddy" of Ned's father come a-snoopin'. Dwight's quest piques the interest of Chuck and Olive, who do some snooping of their own and find Ned's half-brothers–who have grown into their matching eyebrows quite nicely since we first saw them as young'ns last season in "Girth"–doing parlor tricks in the parlor of Ned's dad's house. Judging by the wrap-up, we have more of both the magical twins and the suddenly sinister, gun-toting Dwight Dixon–whom Olive has an adorable crush on–on the horizon in coming weeks, and I for one can't wait to see where this goes.
We got another callback this week in the form of Simone, the clicking dog trainer from "Bitches" last season, who showed up to test Emerson's, er, animal instincts, as well as provide some handy insight into this week's mystery. Usually the weekly mystery is my least favorite part of Pushing Daisies, mainly because I'm just not a huge fan of mysteries, but also because they tend to be a little too wacky to merit any real intellectual or emotional involvement. But I found myself really engrossed in this week's pork-bun poker puzzle, and not just because it made my mouth water. Maybe it was because the basic elements of the murder mystery–the gambling debt, the life-insurance scam, the cadre of shady characters who could all be suspects–were familiar, and the setting wasn't that off the wall. Considering so far this season's murders have taken place at a honey factory, a circus, a nunnery, and a frescort agency, a dim sum restaurant–no matter how decked out in neon and gongs it may be–is a pretty pedestrian setting for this show.
But pedestrian is relative in the Pushing Daisies universe, and the dim sum restaurant turned out to be as lively a setting as any other. I think this was my favorite episode this season, looks-wise, and the restaurant was a big part of that. Aside from a new color scheme–I love the show's saturated blues, greens, and yellows, but that big dose of red and gold really mixed things up in a good way–this episode utilized a lot of fun pans and jump cuts that gave it a subtle kung-fu vibe without gonging us over the head with it. That said, there wasn't a lot of subtlety otherwise, from the gang's disguises–Chuck and Olive's Mandarin getups and Ned and Emerson's poker-playing pimp suits–to the exploding pork-bun stove (complete with CGI buns) to secret messages hidden in fortune cookies. But, as usual, Pushing Daisies manages to finds nuance in the broad gag, and while this episode may have been a little low on the laugh-out-loud moments, it maintained a pleasantly zany vibe without stooping to Mickey Rooney-level tomfoolery, which is saying something when you're dealing with a clutch of Chinese stereotypes.
While I was a little surprised to get another heaping dose of Emerson so soon after his time in the spotlight last week–especially considering there's been very little Olive and nothing from Aunts Lil and Viv for a couple of weeks now–his blossoming relationship with Simone felt a lot more natural than last week's out-of-nowhere mommy issues. And, like Ned deciding to take a risk on his dad, Emerson and Simone agreeing to both "show their cards" was a nicely unforced tie-in to the weekly theme of gambling (be it your feelings or your daughter's hand in marriage). Of course, neither would have any cards left to show if Bubblegum the dog hadn't been there to assist in the, ahem, collar of the twerpy manager with pork buns in his pockets.
— Mmmm, passion-fruit pie and dim sum… where is this glorious epicurean Eden that Pushing Daisies takes place in?
— Where can I get me one of them clicky dealies?
— Does Simone inspire Emerson to bust out the brightly colored patterned disco shirts? I still remember his Technicolor getup from "Bitches," and tonight's ensemble was similarly garish.
— Ned's Southern drawl was supposed to be really bad, right?
— Olive: "What? I love gongs. There's nothing wrong with that!"
— You guys have been rocking the comments, covering all the excellent lines and moments I invariably have to gloss over every week–there is SO MUCH going on in this show. Keep 'em coming.
— No new episodes for the next couple of weeks, but when it returns… Fred Willard!
— Tonight's pie: Homemade peanut-butter and banana with an Oreo crust. Yeah, you're jealous.