'Pushing Daisies': Send in the drowned clowns
You gotta love a show that can have one of its characters deliver a line like "A truckful of mimes pulled up, and they ain't talkin'" -- and have it both be deadpan-hilarious and completely germane to the story. And this is why I gotta love Pushing Daisies.
You can't see me, but I'm miming that spoilers are on the way.
In an episode brimming with both fantastic lines and a nice emotional tie-in to the week's case, I have to single out the aforementioned line as my favorite, for both the way Chi McBride delivered it and the fantastic reaction shots from Anna Friel and Lee Pace. We'll get to some of the others later, but we begin with ...
Case o' the week
Business is booming for Emerson, so normally he wouldn't pay attention to the pushy woman who barges into his office. But Georgeann Heaps (Rachael Harris, channeling a Katherine Hepburn sort of iciness) has a missing daughter, which gets Emerson where he lives, and so he, Ned and Chuck are on the trail -- but without a dead body, things get off to a bit of a slow start. Chuck, showing off some mad good-cop interrogation skills, gets runaway Nikki's best friend to give up her location: a van where she's been holing up with a mime. They arrive to find said mime dead.
I know what you're thinking: Dead mime, so where's the crime? After Ned un-deads him, said mime mimes that Nikki broke his heart, and after Emerson pulls his gun, actually speaks and tells the gang that she ran off with some clown. "A real clown?" Chuck asks. Yes, a real clown, with the Circus of Fun. And, oh, he doesn't know who killed him, but he thinks it was via poisoned makeup.
They learn that Nikki wanted to break away from her mom's control and be a star, so she was apprenticing with head clown Jackie Johnny -- who, it turns out, is also dead, his clown car having been run off the road and into the drink. And yep, they went there with a clown-car-full-of-bodies gag. Like Sideshow Bob with the rakes, it's a bit that drags on for a while and shouldn't be as funny as it is, but it is.
Nikki is emerging as the prime suspect, until the un-dead Jackie Johnny explains that they left her behind to hose off a customer who was the subject of a clowning and had threatened to kill them for what they did. Said customer, Bryce Von Dreenis, was indeed upset, but his alibi checks out, so they then move on to the ringmaster, who had posted a notice for new clowns three days before they died. Ah, but he wasn't planning to kill them -- just fire them, as they were sneaking off to have union meetings. Nikki was his spy, and he promised her that she'd get a starring role in the show for her in return for information.
Red herrings all, as the real culprit was the snooty acrobat from Act 2, who was spying on Nikki's spying and bumped off the clowns because he didn't want anything to change. "Who ever heard of a circus with a fair and safe workplace?" he sneers, in full cartoon style. "You fools!" A bit of a weak resolution, maybe, but it ties in nicely with ...
The thematic part
Despite the happy face he put on it at the end of last week's show, Ned is still struggling pretty badly with the fact that Chuck has moved out -- and even moreso because Chuck herself doesn't appear to be struggling much at all -- even when Vivian shows up at the Pie Hole looking for triple berry and companionship. The thing about fresh starts, Ned says, is that they imply stale endings elsewhere, and he doesn't quite know how to deal with Chuck wanting to live the life she was starting to live before she died when he wants to hang on to the Chuck he knows, his best friend with whom he destroyed Play-Doh cities and shared a first kiss.
Emerson, meanwhile, tells Ned that the case has stirred longings to see his own daughter, who we learn for the first time left with her mother seven years ago. He's never told anyone that, and Ned wonders if he would still recognize the girl. "She was a stubborn little thing. I'd recognize that," Emerson replies. Chi McBride is a brilliant comedic actor on this show, but the way he can dial it back for these smaller moments is really something to watch.
Back at the Blue Nunnery, meanwhile, Olive is starting, ever so slowly, to adapt to her new life. Or would be, if Lily didn't keep showing up and trying to change her story. She tries to spin a tale about how she never slept with Chuck's dad but still convinced him that Chuck was his daughter. "So why did he believe you?" Olive sensibly asks. "Dammit."
Lily eventually admits that she thought after Chuck died, she might be able to let go over some of her guilt for not raising her, but that hasn't happened. Olive then has a small epiphany -- complete with angelic halo around her head -- and says that maybe Lily shouldn't be trying to put Chuck behind her; maybe, in fact, she should be holding on to her daughter's memory so she can be there for Vivian as well. And, oh by the way, Olive's keeping a secret too. Or was, until blurting that she's still in love with Ned but he's in love with someone else.
We close with Ned and Chuck each affirming to themselves that it's OK to be alone or exciting to be striking out on one's own, and while that may be true, nothing too exciting is likely to happen that day. And then they step out and introduce themselves, all coy and flirty. "Can we play this game every morning?" Ned asks. And there's your fairy-tale ending for the week.
The fun stuff
So many good lines this week. A sampling:
- Olive on the Blue Nunnery's porridge: "I just threw up in my mouth a little, and I don't even know the difference."
- Emerson, responding to Ned being "curious" as to why Olive left in the middle of the night: "'Curious' is tighty-whitey for 'angry,' and you're angry because Olive left and because dead girl up and moved her ass to the empty apartment."
- More Emerson: "It's a traveling circus, not a wait around for you to work out all your junk circus." And, responding to Ned's revelation that he's built a few "contraptions" to work around the no-touching issue: "Do you know how a head works? Do you? Every time you say something, I gotta think it."
- "I think that human cannonball was meant for us."
Pushing Daisies is like the TV equivalent of a warm blanket for me -- it just makes me feel good. Does it do the same for you? And can you really see Ned being able to let Chuck go do her thing?