Bunheads' Mid-season Premiere: Did Truly Wire a Cardboard Reset Button?
Truly wakes in a frenzy shouting for Fannie to cut her out of some bubble wrap so they can run into the yard. She has something out there, something she needs Fannie to see so she can fully realize the things going on in her head, the actualization of the images dancing in her dreams. And so they go outside, racing into the morning, only to find something truly amazing: a giant red button protruding from the ground that tilts the board and realigns the pieces of their lives so that they can go back to before the Nutcracker Macing. Fannie smiles first at the button, then Truly, before she presses it with glee.
Okay, so there wasn't an actual, physical, reset button, but "You Wanna See Something" DID try to rearrange everything that came before the train wreck at the end of the first half of Bunheads' debut season so that we might forget the disaster. It was an odd situation in Episodes 9 and 10 where all the popular pieces of the show were fine (dialogue, Michelle-to-kids interaction, etc) but the some of the storylines just collapsed on themselves, like that thing where Michelle made out with Godot.
Mercifully, only the important parts of the season thus far seem to have survived the break, and chief (or captain, my captain) among them was the townsfolk of Paradise running Michelle out of town like she was the devil.
I'm fascinated by how much Michelle and Paradise just can't connect, particularly because of how different the relationship was on Gilmore Girls. Lorelai and Michelle are fundamentally alike: smart, quirky, independent, and good-looking women who land in a small town. The contrast is in how they take to their situations. Lorelai embraced the small-town nature of Stars Hollow and became the center of its gravity; Michelle treats Paradise like a backward village centered on a well of ignorance.
So it's no wonder the parents used the excuse of the Nutcracker Macing to run her out to Not-Vegas, Nevada. And that's where the reset button really became apparent. Even though her job before Hubbell whisked her away to Paradise was far more illustrious than playing third-wheel assistant to Jo-Jo the Magician (Michael Deluise, yet another great-guest star from Gilmore Girls), it amounts to exactly the same thing: a dead end with only the faintest hope of rising to any level of fame, that flicker of a dream only slightly dimmer in Henderson. Fannie still had to come out and save her just like Hubbell did (well, in her own way. Liberal as Vegas is with its marriages, I'm not up-to-date on Nevada's same-sex marriage statutes). But, ultimately, Paradise is the place she can feel at home—where, at the very least, she isn't constantly demeaned. The details of her being saved are different, but the result and general plot are the same: Our hero was rescued from her miserable life to learn a more fulfilling one.
I'm hoping that, despite the similarities between this episode and Bunheads' pilot, the hangover of what Michelle did during the Nutcracker Macing won't evaporate with her return. It doesn't look like it will. The autotune video of Boo's local news interview has the potential to be a dated media reference ("dated" in that way that it's not trending), but it worked well enough as a device to get Michelle back to Paradise and to remind us that her accidental macing of the town's children is still a thing that might be on the minds of the parents, just like "Double Rainbow" lasted well beyond its fifteen minutes, reupped by a remix. Will Michelle return easily to the town that rarely had parental interference to begin with, or will she have to answer for her crimes before some sort of tribunal headed up by the local grocer?
Speaking of the parents, what was up with them in this episode? There are fewer mature role models on this show than there on Pretty Little Liars and half the adults on PLL are suspects in killing a 16-year-old girl. Boo's mom is the only one who made it on-screen, and she's like the Kevin Malone of Paradise: starting off a little silly and devolving into a childlike simpleton. Everyone else's parents were either sobbing messes from marital struggle or didn't mind thrusting their own infirm parents onto their children. No wonder these kids were ready for their summers to end.
Though all the girls had crummy vacations, it was Sasha who earned the triumphant moment of the episode. Her time at Joffrey was a "learning experience" that she didn't entirely hate, but the dread of returning to an uncertain, imbalanced home life frightened her secret (though oft-surfacing) fragility. Although Boo sometimes appears to be the writers' favorite since she's so often the hero of moral character, Sasha tends to be the one who gets the more important emotional beats.
Going rounds with her punk-rock boyfriend (literally stalking each other in Michelle's vacated carriage house), sneaking around in all black, being the last of the main characters to be introduced after the break, Sasha is a focal point and struck in the same image that would mature to be Michelle. So while I like Boo best and I feel like Ginny and Melanie get the short sticks so often as far as story attention goes (despite them starting to finally become full-fledged characters), it was Sasha who got to welcome Michelle back to the town, tossing her arms around her neck, and making sure Michelle knew she made the right decision.
But that put us right back where we started, subtracting all the hare-brained kookiness that came up during Episodes 9 and 10: Michelle is still walking on thin ice in Paradise, Sasha's home life is a mess, Fannie is becoming a spinster wreck, Boo is our comedic hero, Ginny and Melanie are our Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and Truly is our Kirk. You know, because a Bunheads review can't go for more than three paragraphs without mentioning Gilmore Girls. Them's the rules. The episode wasn't astonishing or breathtaking. But it made me glad to have Bunheads back.
– While I like that they had a dance sequence set to "It's Oh So Quiet" (and the "old broad" jokes that came with it), I'm slightly disappointed they used the Lucy Woodward version instead of Björk (though I imagine Disney's involvement in the rights of the former might have had something to do with that decision).
– The cardboard kitchen. Truly is almost more Kirk than Kirk.
– "People walk by and see a 'Grade Pending' sign in the window and think this is a Gordon Ramsay show." That line is a good example of how Melanie is establishing herself (as are all her Oyster Bar quips). Of the four friends, the antipodes are Boo and Sasha. Ginny is a Boo-leaning moderate as far as personality goes, with her good nature and naivete. Melanie is a Sasha-leaning moderate with sarcasm up to her eyeballs but none of it meant to injure. I imagine the goal will eventually be for Ginny and Melanie to have their own independent stories (Ginny splitting with her long time boyfriend was a nice attempt), but right now, they're mostly defined by their more nuanced friends.
– Sometimes I think scenes are written just so the writers can unburden themselves of every joke of a certain genre. When Talia returned from her date: old man jokes. Interesting that there was an On Golden Pond reference but no "Old Man River" joke. Must've been too easy.
– "Is there something wrong with her hoo-ha?" I can check that for you.
– The Hubbell wedding video was sweet, precious, funny, and even if it was a manipulative and unsubtle way to build Michelle's self-esteem, Alan Ruck sold it. How could you not melt at the "Ducky got Molly" line?
– Kelly Bishop won all over the episode, from the martini gag to the smug grin when the dance was choreographed to the autotuned song.
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