What a lovely thing to have Pushing Daisies back on television. And lovelier still to see that the show hasn’t lost anything of what made it so charming in the 10 months or so since it was last on the air.
Wednesday’s premiere did a deft job of bringing folks up to speed, with a tidy recap for new viewers or those who’ve forgotten what’s going on mixed in with a little bit of new information — the origins of Chuck’s bee fascination, the "ballet of avoidance" that is Ned and Chuck’s home life — for loyalists who have been anticipating this return, then launched into a main story that had the usual complement of quirks along with a nice thematic tie-in. I’ll say it again: TV is better for this show being on the air.
These spoilers wear slippers with bells on them.
Murder o’ the week
Chuck, Ned and Emerson — who’s authored a pop-up book called Lil’ Gum Shoe in his spare time — investigate the death of one Kentucky Fitz (Autumn Reeser), the No. 1 "Bee Girl" (though not this kind of Bee Girl) at honey-based cosmetic company Betty’s Bees, which has just been taken over by a rival company run by Woolsey Nichols (French Stewart).
When Ned un-deads Kentucky, she reveals that was sabotaging the hives at Betty’s Bees, and a person seemingly made of bees caused her to be swarmed and stung to death. Suspicion first points to founder Betty Bee (Missi Pyle), who was being shunted aside as the face of the company in favor of Kentucky, and Chuck goes undercover as a new Bee Girl to dig up the dirt on Betty. Chuck herself then gets swarmed — but has the good sense to hold the plastic-encased queen bee the bee-person spits at her in her mouth, thereby convincing the drones that she’s a nesting spot — which leads them to Betty’s childhood home and the discovery that Kentucky was not sabotaging the hives but in fact helping Betty steal them as a counterattack against Woolsey for diluting the purity of the Betty’s Bees product line.
That leads them back to Woolsey, who was in love with Kentucky but couldn’t bear the fact that she was sabotaging the company, so he sics the bees on her. DNA on the plastic queen-bee case he spat at Kentucky and Chuck is the proverbial smoking gun.
The thematic part
The larger part of the episode dealt with the idea of what makes a home, and the secrets everyone is keeping from everyone else possibly breaking those notions apart. Chuck and Ned have developed a delicate dance to make sure they never touch, with Ned wearing lots of corduroy and bells on his slippers and Digby (yay Digby!) barking a warning when necessary.
It’s all going swimmingly — until the aunts show up at the Pie Hole in search of Olive. Lily, see, has told Olive not to come around with the specially baked, homeopathic antidepressant-laced pies after Olive learned Lily is actually Chuck’s mother, but Vivian is so distraught at not having either the pie or the company that she insists on taking the bus to the Pie Hole to make sure Olive isn’t dead. Keeping Lily’s secret from Chuck, and the secret that Chuck isn’t dead from Lily and Vivian, is just too much for Olive, who lets out a hell of a scream and then starts ranting about how she’s "sawed-off shotgun of secrets" and that "truth buckshot could come spewing out of my muzzle."
She announces she’s quitting her job, to which Ned replies, "This is your home. Where will you go?" Lily knows a place: a nunnery where the sisters wear teal habits and Diana Scarwid (Lee Pace’s Wonderfalls co-star) is in charge and, in a "Lord, beer me strength" sort of way, explains that during her time at the convent, Olive will be taking a vow of poverty, which means all her things are being given to the poor. Oh, and when Lily comes to check up on her, she reveals that the reason she let Chuck believe her mother died in childbirth all these years is because Vivian and Chuck’s dad were engaged, and Lily had an affair with him. Damn, Lily, you bad. (This also makes Chuck’s family tree rather confusing — if the story is Chuck’s mom died in childbirth, and Vivian was engaged to her dad, shouldn’t Vivian know that something was amiss?)
Olive’s sudden departure has freed up the apartment next to Ned’s, and Chuck figures she might move in — much to the piemaker’s chagrin, even after she explains how romantic and Parisian it will be, with the his-and-hers suites and the "coy midnight knocks on the door" — "You’ll be knocking?" Chuck asks incredulously. Ned, however, is having some serious separation anxiety; having been abandoned by his father, he now figures Chuck is on her way out too, moving into her own place and getting a job (even if it’s just a temporary, undercover one).
But after a second near run-in with Vivian, who explains that Chuck’s room is still exactly the way it was before she died the first time, Ned realizes that they both have to move on, and that doing so doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll get left behind. He gets Chuck’s stuff from the aunts’ house and fills Chuck/Olive’s place with it — which strikes me as incredibly romantic and sweet. Also sweet: the reveal at the end that Emerson wrote Lil Gum Shoe as a way to bring his missing daughter back to him.
And, oh yeah — Ned’s father is lurking around the Pie Hole!
The fun stuff
- I really loved the two-level discussion about workplace romance. "We ruled out office romance," Ned replies to Olive’s theory about the case. "Oh. I’ll just cross that off my list then," she replies. "I haven’t ruled out office romance," Chuck says, causing Ned to melt a little bit. "Romance does give us a motive," Emerson chimes in, then adds with a pointed stare at Olive, "Someone’s always lovin’ someone they shouldn’t be lovin’." They may not all have been talking about the same thing at the same time, but it was also apparent they were catching everyone else’s meaning.
- Emerson’s dressing-down of Kentucky’s husband as he’s about to cry: "It is not OK for a grown-ass man to weep in public with a bunch of happy families around eating pie. If you can’t hold it, take your ass to the men’s room and cry in private on the toilet — like a man!"
- The entirety of Kristin Chenoweth’s shotgun-of-secrets rant, including her ineffectual throwing of napkins and the long, broken scream — and then the Sound of Music spoof after she arrives at the convent.
- Also at the convent, Mother Superior’s clear exasperation at Olive’s inability to get with the program: "Gawd … in His infinite wisdom brought you here."
OK, I’m gonna dose myself with a scoop of shut the fudge up and let you weigh in: Are we happy to have Pushing Daisies back? What’d you think of the premiere?