Bunheads' Mid-season Premiere: Did Truly Wire a Cardboard Reset Button?

By Nick Campbell

Jan 08, 2013

Bunheads S1E11: "You Wanna See Something?"

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.


NOTES


– 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.

  • Comments (24)
Add a Comment
In reply to :
  • NasiaVoulieri Jan 11, 2013

    "I'm fascinated by how much Michelle and Paradise just can't connect, particularly because of how different the relationship was on Gilmore Girls." Well, I believe that the script starts off like that in order for it to unravel slowly making her warm up to the place, loving the people etc... Isn't it obvious? ;-)

  • pcsjunior002 Jan 09, 2013

    My how I love this show. I loved the episode, and a solid review here. I would like 2nd the question about the parents, and, maybe this is just because I'm a man (granted, a man who absolutely loves and adores "Gilmore Girls"), but I couldn't help notice that there are so few (read: no) male characters. I would say it's because Amy Sherman-Palladino would have more trouble writing for men than for women except that a) that's sexist and b) that's just plain not true as evidenced by Luke, Dean, Jess and Richard from GG. Each of those 4 characters were well fleshed out complex, well written characters. I understand that it might be harder to find a male character to easily and legitimately connect with the Paradise Dance Studio. But that's 4 main female youths, Fannie, Truly, Boo's mom, not to mention our lead, Michelle with not a single male character on that level. The show has done fine without one so far, but I think things would open up more for the writing if there were maybe one or two male characters. Just a thought.

    Also, "You wired a cardboard box for electricity." Awesome.

  • ktfahel Jan 09, 2013

    "I'm fascinated by how much Michelle and Paradise just can't connect, particularly because of how different the relationship was on Gilmore Girls." Ummm. maybe it's because this ISN'T "Gilmore Girls"?

  • psunshine Jan 09, 2013

    It isn't Gilmore Girls, but it is very similar and is created by the same person, and features a lot of Gilmore Girls cameos

  • ktfahel Jan 10, 2013

    That's like saying that Sam Beckett from "Quantum Leap" should be a lot like Thomas Magnum from "Magnum P.I." The only thing the shows really have in common is a main character's demographic.

  • psunshine Jan 16, 2013

    Neither I nor Nick said that Michelle should be like Lorelai. What is being said here is that there are a lot of similarities between the two characters - they're both quirky, fast past, strong women who stand out in the small town (filled with very quirky individuals) that they live in. The two, however, react very differently to the small town, which is part of what makes it interesting - seeing how Amy Sherman-Palladino has created two very similar shows, with two very similar leads and two very similar settings, and yet still managed to do it differently.

  • NicholasCampb Jan 10, 2013

    Magnum didn't leap through time and Sam Beckett didn't solve crimes in Hawaii. Michelle and Lorelai are both quirky, intelligent, strong women who move to small towns populated by liberal and hyperquirky characters. Lorelai handled it one way. Michelle handles it another. That's the interesting contrast, exacerbated by the fact that it's by the same creator.

  • ToddMurray Jan 09, 2013

    Nice review, Nick. I really enjoy your insights, even if the opinions sometimes differ from my own. I actually didn't see this as a "reset button", since nothing had really changed since the Nutcracker incident, save everyone having a cooling off period. For me, the biggest point of the episode was that your problems don't simply go away when you run away from them. Michelle ran away to Nevada, trading one bag of problems for another, but her macing incident still found it's way back to her in the form of an auto-tuned viral video. Likewise, Sasha returned to Paradise, but floated from cupboard to open house to dead grandmother's bed as she refused to return to her own home and face her parental problems. Even Fannie was running away without really going anywhere, closing down the dance studio and completely remodeling her home (and by extension, her life) - only to be put back on track by her and Michelle's common thread and moral compass - sweet, innocent Hubble. She went to Nevada to face one of her "problem"s, and in doing so, convinced Michelle (with Hubble's help) to come home so that she could do the same. Sasha got a temporary reprieve from facing her problems, but you got the feeling she would have the strength to do so, thanks to Michelle's timely return. The dance number at the end was a humorous and not-so-subtle reminder that there are still problems to deal with head-on now that they've stopped running, very much like real-life.

    It's a rare few shows that can make you laugh one moment and bring a genuine tear to your eye the next - and often several times an episode. This is one of those shows and I, for one, am delighted at its return.

  • Llostris Jan 08, 2013

    IMO Sasha and Michelle are the hearts of Bunheads. Michelle is often compared to
    Lorelai - and no wonder they have similar characters. I think Sasha is becoming Bunheads version of "Rory" - it's clear that Michelle is a mother/older sister figure for her. Michelle sees herself in Sasha. The scene of Michelle's return to Paradise showed how close the of them are. I'm looking forward to see how their relationship will progress.

    I really liked the song at the end of episode. Anyone knows how it is called and who sings it?

  • NicholasCampb Jan 08, 2013

    The one that was during the final dance sequence? It's the autotuned version of Boo's interview, "Nutcracker Macer."

  • Llostris Jan 08, 2013

    Oh, I see. It sounded a lot better then the interview on the laptop so I thought it was a genuine song. Shame it's not.

  • lsbloom Jan 08, 2013

    I didn't feel like the point was to hit the reset button, but to parallel the original scenario in order to notice the difference and talk about choices. You aren't *really* family just because you married in and it took Fanny a while to decide to adopt Michelle--good and bad--as family. The girls are family to the dance studio. Fanny was lost without Michelle there, she missed her, they meshed.

    I felt like the point was that Paradise wasn't somewhere Michelle got left behind in, but a home she is building. And you can screw up and home always has to take you back, and you can leave but home is always there for you to come back to, and you can't just ditch it and move on. Maybe it was a bit too redundant, but I thought they went somewhere slightly new with it and managed to reset while growing at the same time.

  • AnoukvdZee Jan 08, 2013

    I nearly laughed to tears when Fannie started that autotune song, and then when she added the Nutcracker-costume comment. I can't criticise this show, I just love it.

  • AnoukvdZee Jan 08, 2013

    I forgot to add; I did dislike what Boo's mother was becoming. I liked her nuancing as a good mother, who is always there for Boo but ultimately not supporting her (the sorry-cake in advance, wanting her to give to go ahead to get off the diet they're doing) - that was very lifelike and complicated. This was just... I think they really took it a step too far.

  • qbe_64 Jan 08, 2013

    Boo had a scene early in the show where she looked really slimmed down (she was wearing a grey tee I believe). Perhaps that was just before she was juxtaposed against Sasha again later in the episode, because I didn't notice it by the end of the episode.

    Always great to see SYTYCD alum (Kent), I'd expect that Chehon and Eliana should make an appearance given their background in ballet.

    If nothing else, the dance routines on this are actually very good (disclaimer: the extent of my dance expertise comes from watching 8 seasons of SYTYCD), but even my wife, who actually was a dancer, agrees with me.

    In a packed midseason, Bunheads gets one of the two non-time shifted 9:00pm slots on my DVR, I really like this show.

  • LydiaWilson1 Jan 08, 2013

    I hate Boo's Mother sooooo much. I assume she is on bed rest because she is too fat and nearly to old to be having more babies. She's letting her 16 year old do all of her work and she doesn't even have the god damn decency to stay in bed - or to seem very grateful.

    She is a terrible and unsupportive mother that just wants her kid to be fat so they can eat too much cake together.

  • NicholasCampb Jan 08, 2013

    That's a good point about Boo's mother, how she seemed to be so well-adjusted compared to the rest of Paradise mothers who resemble something closer to Emily Gilmore's friends when they were younger. One of my favorite things about Boo's home life is how much she seemed to be loved (obviously a contrast was drawn between her and Sasha's with a relative lack of subtlety) and had a decent relationship with her mother. This episode did her no favors and I'm curious if we'll even out as the season progresses and the focus isn't how Boo helps her middle-class family cope with her mom on bed-rest or if that even happens we're looking at a seasonal arc. Interesting nonetheless.

  • Muderboy Jan 08, 2013

    Last week I watched "The Movie Truck" just to see if this show was as delightful as I remembered - it was. I really enjoyed tonight's episode even more as they got the band back together. I loved your review, not that I think this show needs reviewing, and it's nice to have even though it's really not necessary. These people could just paint the studio every week and the resulting banter would be worth watching. Best new show of 2012 - suck it CBS...

  • NicholasCampb Jan 08, 2013

    "I loved your review, not that I think this show needs reviewing, and it's nice to have even though it's really not necessary."

    Thanks?

  • See More Comments (3)