From the moment we first met Chuck on Pushing Daisies, we’ve known that she’s something of an adventurous soul, and that circumstances — her father’s death, her agoraphobic aunts and, you know, her death — prevented her from living those adventures.
Wednesday’s episode dealt directly with the life Chuck hasn’t lived, and while there was the usual amount of visual playfulness and verbal brilliance, it also went a little deeper. And was that much better for it.
These spoilers come wrapped in a kicky new raincoat.
Because the people Ned reanimates only stay alive for 60 seconds, and he and Emerson are usually peppering them with questions about how they died during that time, we don’t get much insight into how they feel about being alive again. (Chuck is the obvious exception, but she’s a special case in a lot of ways, not least for her perpetually sunny outlook on life.) The return of Chuck’s dad, however, has let the show explore that a little more, and Charles Charles’ salty reaction to his new life has been pretty cool to watch.
I would agree, at least a little bit, with Chuck’s assertion tonight that part of her father’s animosity toward Ned is a normal dad’s reaction to his little girl having a boyfriend. Ned’s more right, though, in noting that their circumstances make the stakes way higher — pitchfork-toting mob higher, should their secret get out.
Emerson, insightful dude that he is, tells Ned that the elaborate stayin’-alive rules he and Chuck use aren’t going to suit a man like Charles Charles, world-traveling war veteran that he is. In fact, he lays down an ultimatum to the intimidated Ned: I’ll play by your rules, so long as you never see my daughter again. That, of course, doesn’t fly, and equally unsurprisingly, Mr. Charles catches them plastic wrap-kissing, which leads to a tussle (or more like a scuffle) between the two men and hurt feelings on all sides.
The way Charles Charles sees it, his daughter has a choice: pie or cake. Pie, he says, is just a simple pastry filled with something, whereas cake is layered and mysterious. The little girl he knew would have chosen cake and all its attendant adventures — so why doesn’t she do that now? he asks. We can go anywhere we want and do whatever we please. You would have to think that for Chuck — who died the first time when she was finally trying to have one of those adventures — such a prospect would be mighty tempting.
Fortunately for Ned, though, Chuck has found that her "lock-and-key" life is a different kind of adventure, and she realizes that her dad is still trying to be the parent she needed when she was 8 years old. So she chooses pie (yay!) — but her dad is still a cake man, and the last we see of him, he’s driving off to who knows where.
This feels like the start of a really interesting arc for Pushing Daisies. I hope, for our sake, that Bryan Fuller and Co. can bring this story around to some kind of conclusion in the little time we have left with the show.
I know I haven’t mentioned the case of the week, which like last week was at a pretty complete remove from the ongoing story. But the unlikely P.I. team of Cod and Snook brought their own goodness to the party as well.
The murder of Papen County’s lighthouse keeper wasn’t especially difficult to solve — especially if you follow the Most Famous Guest Star theory (Mary Kay Place, in this case). But the scenes with Place’s condescending widow and single girl Olive had me cracking up (as I’ve said before, angry Olive = comedy), and the idea of a future partnership between Emerson and Olive — should the burden of working with her true love Ned ever prove too burdensome — is an intriguing one.
And, OK, I nearly fell off the bed when Olive chest-bumped Emerson. Or chest-to-stomach bumped. Chi McBride is a legitimately big man (probably about 6’3" or 6’4") and Kristen Chenoweth you can basically put in your pocket. It wasn’t the most elaborate bit of physical comedy, but man, did it work.
A couple other highlights:
- Young Elliott McQuoddy was played by Alexander Gould, whom you may know from his consistently funny work on Weeds.
- I loved Olive’s explanation for how she knew the significance of the Dutch love spoon: "I’ve read the entire Harlequin library." Seems about right.
- Once again, Josh Randall did some good work as Charles Charles, even though his face was entirely obscured by bandages and sunglasses. Maybe it’s his voice, but he managed to project an awful lot for someone with no facial expressions.
- Just for the record: Metaphors aside, I’ll take pie over cake. Apple, blueberry, pecan, cherry, pumpkin … yeah. I’ll take pie.
What about you? Do you think Chuck’s current life is enough of an adventure, and how do you think the story with her father will play out? And, I have ask: cake or pie?