"Next!" might've been the quintessential episode of Bunheads.
If you really want to get a feeling for this show, you have to look at how it deals with life choices because it's almost never exactly the way it would happen in real life. The quirkdom has a way of spinning and flipping a situation until it explodes under the pressure of your suspension of disbelief. It never violates your trust, but by the end of an episode, you do have the distinct feeling that you were watching something—as Ginny so thoughtfully put it at the beginning—"surreal."
The conversation "Next!" wants to have is one I want to enter very carefully. Raised as a boy (and still male, lest my PHRASING imply otherwise), I have a uniquely opposite view of sex, a.k.a. I wasn't told my whole life that my virtue and body would be scarred and ruined by carnal encounters. What to me was never a rational thought so much as an emotional escalation might be something a little more difficult to breach for young girls in a small town, particularly ones nowadays with so much access to information via the internet.
The episode began with something more familiar to me as Godot and Michelle finally laid down together, and that's an important note for the rest of the episode. For the length of the series we've tied Michelle and Sasha together, two women inextricably linked by one living the past of the other. Rebellion, stubbornness, independence reeked of Michelle Simms, age 16. But, once we got to sex and something serious, the two diverged greatly. We established that Sasha thinks too much and Michelle likes that she never really thought before she leaped.
It seemed like this wrinkle in Sasha's personality was validated by the fact that she's alone now. With her parents gone from Paradise, she's working without a net, and things have to be more calculated so as to not misstep. Her obsessional dependence on Martha Stewart as a guide to life, a way to recreate that net, was a fine precursor to her need for absolute planning and education before something many teens consider an accident caused by being drunk on emotion. Then we got the story about the dog and I was more conflicted about the origins of Sasha's fastidiousness.
So I'm choosing to consider the dog thing an aberration in Sasha's backstory, an event that happened that demonstrates her propensity to overintellectualizing a situation she really wants to happen, and not something that certainly precluded what happened here. Her parents being gone just dredged up old habits.
But the sex talk obviously didn't stop there. You could look at Michelle's audition, spectated by (and dabbled in) by the bunheads, as a metaphor for dating as an, one that's marked by patriarchal ideals for how the women present themselves to the male choreographer, the tryst that builds, and the bitter disappointment that comes after learning that he already has a stable of young, attractive women to choose from and that, many times, they aren't looking for something as real as Michelle is able to provide. It's cutthroat. It's sad. It's the way we do things.
And, unfortunately, it's something Ginny now knows all too well. In a classic (?) Bunheads bait-and-switch, it turned out that it was Ginny who needed the most guidance from Michelle. As soon as Ginny sat down, I was impressed by the scene. Michelle sits down with Boo and Sasha so often that it's a pleasure to see the other bunheads get some love from her and it was a great scene for Bailey Buntain, who vacillated between "not a girl" and "not yet a woman" with great emotional alacrity. "My banana's name is Frankie." It looks like Frankie could nudge the bunheads into new territory just as easily as Cozette.
The dichotomy between Sasha's whimsical approach to Ginny's wistful pain was what made the episode so compelling. While seeing Sasha mired in research and making snack bags for a trip to the world's largest display of condoms (people in Paradise must really get it on) showed a bit of struggle, what brought things back down to earth was Ginny's attempt at rationalizing the vagaries of sleeping with a boy who's more of an image than a person. It made Sasha look juvenile, a none-too-simple task. It revealed the difference between Sasha playing grown-up and Ginny actually crossing the threshold.
For a "finale," we weren't left with the cliffhangers like the last one where Michelle was rejected from the town like a unmatched organ. Other than Ginny's despair and the Stone sisters possibly gearing up to fight over Poor Man's Jason Ritter, there was nothing to really gasp over by episode's end. Instead, "Next!" wanted to infect you with the Bunheads charm that'll make you excited to tune in the next time it's new.
You don't watch
for the drama. You watch it for the developments. I'm certainly looking forward to the next installment.
– "The tutus hate me. They know I failed." Been there.
– So I guess, based on the complaints of the bunheads arriving in Hollywood, Melanie wasn't going to the Derby Dolls in LA when she was going to roller derby. My too-much-knowledge of Los Angeles strikes again!
– I got scared for a moment that the bunheads were going to end up catching choreographer's eye and Sasha would steal the part from Michelle. I'm happy that wasn't the case. That would be the straw that broke my suspension of disbelief's back.
– In further strides for quirk that will eat itself, Cozette and Frankie were both guilty of encouraging the bunheads to operate the siblings' Bohemian, worldly quirkiness (Cozette with the book, Frankie with the sex) to cause trouble in the realm of the bunheads' small town quirkiness. It's almost like these characters were brought onto the show to poison the well-tread territory of AS-P's brand of quirkdom in order to birth something else, almost to to bring them to Michelle's stasis. In any case, I like Cozette and Frankie as sibling tricksters, mythical and playful interrupters of stability.
– It was odd to see a dream dance sequence where Sasha wasn't the star. Because they normally occur during moments of Sasha's panic, I assumed they were just the realizations of her mental state. But Sasha, for much the sequence, was left posturing on her own in the background while Ginny and, interestingly, Cozette took center stage. The dance seemed off-base with the previous scene, however, since the sequence demonstrated a general dominance of the male dancers by the females (Ginny literally rode two as beasts of burden) but was preceded by weakness in Ginny after suffering Frankie. I'm not entirely sure what to make of it, so I'm open to suggestions.
What'd you think of the episode? Assuming Bunheads gets a Season 2, where would you like to see it go?