This week’s Pushing Daisies had it all — a deep-fried murder case, a couple of good guest turns, a Bangles song and a big, fat call-back to another Bryan Fuller show, Wonderfalls. It’s almost enough to make me forget that we’ll probably only get to see a few more episodes. Sigh.
These spoilers only contain a handful of herbs and spices, not 500.
Wednesday’s action was split between Ned and Olive’s battle at the Comfort Food Cookoff and Chuck and Emerson’s efforts to deal with the un-deading of her dad, and the unusual pairings worked pretty well for me, as did the slight tweak of the show’s usual formula. Watching Emerson grudgingly bear the brunt of Chuck’s emotional verbal torrent was a particular high point.
The facts are these:
Chuck engages Emerson in an effort to bury her guilt over a deception she’s put over on Ned. At the end of last week, we saw the couple digging up Charles Charles’ grave so they could ask Chuck’s dad why Dwight Dixon is threatening to go public about Chuck’s identity. He is a dangerous guy, Charles (an unrecognizable Josh Randall, what with being wrapped in bandages and all) says, but all he really wants is the pocket watch.
Ned then leaves Chuck alone to say hello and goodbye to her dad once more before his minute of life is up, but unbeknownst to him, Chuck places a glove on her father’s hand — meaning that dad isn’t dead again, but someone else is. It’s this fact (and the fact that she’s keeping the truth from Ned) that’s causing Chuck such anguish and leads her to Emerson, who’s surprisingly compassionate (save for a brief and awesome blowup: "Hell yeah I’m mad! I’m steamed, furious, hot — and don’t think I’m not gonna yell at you later").
After returning to the cemetery, they find the dead man who’s taken Charles Charles’ place: none other than Dwight Dixon, who it seems was ready to kill himself, having lined up a shot for what he assumed would be Chuck’s attempt to return her father’s watch to his grave. The fact that he was out to kill her doesn’t do much to assuage Chuck’s conscience, as evidenced by the fact that Dwight starts to talk to her (at least in her head). Twisting the knife one last time, he tells her that in her situation, he would’ve done the same thing — but the only difference is that he would have told Ned by now.
Meanwhile Ned and Olive, after taking a year’s hiatus when Chuck entered the picture, are back at the Comfort Food Cookoff, where they face stiff competition in the form of fried-chicken impresario Colonel Likkin and hyper-competitive baker Marianne Marie Beetle — whom all 14 of my fellow Wonderfalls fans will recognize as the Muffin Buffalo lady from that late, lamented show. Marianne really seems to enjoy needling Olive: "Remember now: Losing doesn’t make you a loser. Oh wait — it does." That’s not really how I remember the character from Wonderfalls (although my recall is kind of fuzzy), but it’s OK, because riled-up Olive is funny.
The smack talk is interrupted by a scream — Colonel Likkin has met an untimely demise, having been battered in his own secret recipe (500 herbs and spices!) and dunked in hot oil. The piemaker also discovers that the secret recipe has been stolen.
Olive wonders how Ned could figure all that out just by looking at a dead body, and Ned eventually stammers out that he’s picked up some things from working with Emerson (good save). Fortunately(?) for him, a new distraction comes in the form of Team Pie Hole’s sabotaged oven, which leads Ned to believe that if he and Olive find the saboteur, they’ll find the killer. A series of red herrings leads them first to the Waffle Nazi (Patrick Fischler, aka Mad Men‘s Jimmy Barrett) and then back to Marianne Marie Beetle. She is the saboteur, but the killer turns out to be cookoff coordinator Leo, who’s pretty much the anti-Jared and has seen his life and health ruined by his addiction to the colonel’s chicken.
Oh, and Team Pie Hole ends up winning the cookoff, but Ned can’t savor the victory with Olive, because a distraught Aunt Vivian informs them that the Pie Hole is closed, which means that Chuck isn’t there, which means he’s off to look for her.
His first stop is the aunts’ house. No dice there, but Lily notices movement in Ned’s old house across the street. Fearing the worst, Ned races over … to find Chuck and her not-dead father. Uh-oh — and not just because of any issues it might bring up between Ned and Chuck, but because I hope Fuller and Co. are able to resolve them at least to some degree in the time they have left.
More thoughts from "Comfort Food":
- Kristen Chenoweth carried the comedy load for much of the episode, and not just because she was singing "Eternal Flame" at the end. As referenced above, it’s funny to watch Olive seethe, as she did for much of the cookoff, and funnier still when the sweet little Chenoweth gets to say dirty things, as when Ned solicited her help in solving the colonel’s murder: "Ooh — I just got all tingly, and not just in the nether regions."
- I also really liked her reaction to Ned’s warning that she was "baking with hate": "Rich, buttery, high-in-carbohydrates hate. You know what no one tells you about cooking with the dark side? The food is really good."
- Having been away for the past couple weeks, I caught up with the show in a two-hour run of distracted DVR viewing earlier in the day, so I may have missed this. But do we know the significance of Chuck’s father’s watch? What’s the big deal?
- This isn’t germane to the story of the episode, but I was happy to learn that the Waffle Nazi and Colonel Likkin were about to enter the chicken-and-waffles business. As someone who served chicken-and-waffle appetizers at his wedding a few weeks ago, I endorse any spreading of the gospel.
- I enjoyed the Young Ned sequence more than usual this week. It did its usual job of setting up the episode’s thematic points, but more than that it was an ode to the joys of pie. And that is something I can always support.
What do you think the fallout will be from Chuck’s deceptive resurrection of her dad? Will Josh Randall get to take those bandages off? And has Olive’s flame for Ned been rekindled?