Wonderfalls Episodes 5-6: Family and Fat People

We're (re-)watching Wonderfalls as part of the TV.com Summer of (Re-)Discovery Club. You'll find links to past installments at the bottom of this story.

Wonderfalls S01E05 & S01E06: "Crime Dog" & "Muffin Buffalo"

We're in uncharted territory, folks! Episode 5 and on never actually aired in the series' original run on Fox, but they'll live on forever with DVDs and illegal downloads. "Crime Dog" and "Muffin Buffalo" were the beginning of the show's expanding universe. We got comfortable around Jaye in the first four episodes, so now it's time to meet her family, like REALLY meet her family.

"Crime Dog" was one of the best episodes we've seen so far, a very necessary one-off that checked off several boxes in the series' to-do list. We were fairly familiar with Jaye's personal life, but aside from sister Sharon, her parents and brother Aaron were largely caricatures for Jaye to roll her eyes at. "Crime Dog" was all about family, both by blood and love, and did a wonderful showing that no matter how much they bicker or tease each other, there's a solid foundation of unconditional love at the core of the Taylors.

The lesson learned came via the Taylors' housekeeper Yvette, who was hauled away by immigration services back to Canada sorta kinda accidentally because of Sharon's lawyering ways. A lot of the Taylors felt partly responsible for the deportation; Sharon kickstarted a rash of giving illegals the boot, Karen kept the fact that Yvette was an illegal secret from everyone else, and Jaye kept Yvette in the house under the advice of the family cow-shaped creamer, allowing the INS officers to take her away. But all the Taylors felt horrible because she was a part of the family and "practically raised" the kids.

And thus started Jaye and Aaron's quest to bring Yvette back with a shortsighted plan to throw Yvette in a trunk and drive back into the States. It was our first real time with Aaron (Lee Pace, who would star in Pushing Daisies), and the first time one of Jaye's family would notice her talking to animals made out of various ceramics and plastics. Along the way, several truths would come to light: Yvette wasn't actually French-Canadian, her parents weren't actually dead, and her name wasn't even Yvette. Instead, she ran away, her parents were pains in the ass, and she was rich, biatch! But she preferred the company of the Taylors because they felt like family, and in fact she was emulating her own family's housekeeper, the real Yvette, who showed her the love and care her family never did. Family theme firmly established.

But like all great episodes of Wonderfalls, it was the ending that wrapped it all up in a pretty bow of "awwwww." Because everyone felt partly responsible for Yvette's deportation, they all did their part to make sure she got back safely and mostly legally, which brought the Taylors together magnificently.

The whole episode was told in two parts, one as a flashback with all the stuff mentioned above, and one in present time when Jaye was being held under arrest in a police station for stuffing her housekeeper in the trunk. There were also fun nods to film noir and heist movies that would have felt out of place on any other show if we weren't already used to the fact that Wonderfalls was completely insane in a charming way.

Most importantly, Aaron became that really asked all the same questions we were asking ourselves, namely, is Jaye a saint or is she just a normal girl having a mental breakdown? Those questions would continue in the next episode, the middling "Muffin Buffalo." While "Crime Dog" was normal but presented in a weird way, "Muffin Buffalo" was weird but presented in a normal (for Wonderfalls, at least) way.

Last episode we hung out the family, this time we met some of the wackjobs at Jaye's trailer park. The person of interest in "Muffin Buffalo" was actually people of interest: a former lardo shut-in that Jaye nicknamed "Fat Pat," and a nice lady baker named Marieannemarie.

It was almost as if the writers needed to clarify something: Jaye is not a nice person. Not only is she not a nice person, but she likes not being a nice person and the commands she takes from the talking animal toys often make her an even worse person. She spies on her fat neighbor because she considers him to be some mythical creature to be gawked at, and she withholds disability checks from broke Marieannemarie because the buffalo on Marieannemarie's apron tells her not to. She also managed to staple someone's shoelace to a shelf and scoot a chair out from beneath an unsuspecting because some bad-advice animals said to. Six episodes in, and she seems to not only have gotten more used to the inanimate creatures that talk to her, she's doing their bidding without giving it a second thought. Jaye's somewhere between understanding her role in destiny and just not giving a flying f***.

It's also apparent that the people Jaye will be helping aren't always worthy of being saved. Fat Pat ended up being a total jerk who misconstrued Jaye's help for horniness, and his behavior at the Taylor family's game night was appalling. To me, that became a bit of a problem with the episode because I would have been happier if Fat Pat did explode from eating all those muffins like that guy in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. But here, our heroine's mission was to help out a jerk, and while I suppose jerks need saving too, it's just more fun when it's someone we like. Past episodes we rooted for Jaye's target to find that happy ending, because they had some redeeming qualities. Even Gretchen the mean girl from high school was sympathetic because of her crappy marriage. But Fat Pat was actively unlikable. The odd thing is that Marieannemarie was a perfect option for Jaye's help, but she became an indirect recipient of good fortune through Jaye's helping of Fat Pat.

Aaron's chat with Dr. Ron was the first real discussion in the series that asked questions about Jaye. Jaye's certainly not going to be asking those questions of herself, that's not in her character. She doesn't want to be known as a baby saver or someone who steers people on the right path, she'd rather hang out in her trailer and lock the door. But throughout Season 1 we will be asking questions about Jaye (Is she a prophet or is she crazy?), and it's nice to see some of the characters join in on the debate. The chain reaction from the cow creamer head falling off was brilliant as well. Wonderfalls wants us to believe that Jaye is some mouthpiece for God, even if she and Aaron don't.

Halfway through Season 1, the show is opening Jaye's world at just the right time. It's just a shame that Fox viewers never got a chance to see it.

Wonderfalls Episodes 3-4: Stalk It Out / Nun of Your Business
Wonderfalls Episodes 1-2: More Timely Now Than Ever

Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

Comments (5)
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The Tylers are one of the greatest tv families of all time, even down to their rhyming names. I think Crime Dog was so great because it focused on the family dynamic, especially Sharon and Jaye's love/hate relationship. I also love that Aaron has noticed Jaye's strange behaviour and is looking to find out more. On a personal note, it was great to hear the "have a pancake" line again. For some reason that line has taken on a life of its own in our house and we're still quoting it years later.
As I read your review I kept wondering: who are the Taylors? Jaye's family is the Tylers. Another thing, Crime Dog was especially interesting because of Aaron and Dr. Ron's conversation. In it we learn that Aaron is an atheist, even though he's getting a master's degree in compared religion, or something, if I remember correctly. That completely caught me by surprise. About, Muffin Buffalo, Fuller liked Mrs. Beattle's character so much she had a crossover appearance in Pushing Daisies, in the episode Comfort Food.
Crime Dog has always been my favorite episode. Possibly this is just because it was the first episode I got to see that wasn't originally aired on FOX (what a wonderful day that was). Mostly it was the cow. Jaye's argument about not wanting a pancake, with Aaron looking on in bewilderment. The cow's panic attack to get Jaye to turn on to Yvette's parent's street. I still laugh out loud. Plus many scene's with a certain '64 Studebaker (love that car).

I didn't enjoy Muffin Buffalo as much. Jaye seemed to be trying too hard to be her old self. And I agree that Pat was less than likable. And then, Jaye ended up helping Pat mostly without prompting, as the Buffalo was more concerned with keeping Jaye from returning the disability checks to Marieannemarie, who seemed to benefit most from Jaye's work.

It was cool to hear Walkie Talkie Man in the background when Jaye and Pat were at the Barrel. Nothing says 2004 like Steriogram!
I think the biggest reason these episodes were as good as they were was because of Lee Pace and his bigger role in them -- particularly in Crime Dog. Along that line, Aaron's relationship with Jaye (including their mutual dislike for Sharon) is fun to watch.
I totally agree Lee is the reason I started watching the show in the first place and was a huge part of why I love Wonderfalls so much

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