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.
Thank the lord of talking animals that we're looking back at Wonderfalls two episodes at a time, because "Safety Canary" and "Lying Pig" go together like two Blue Macaws in the back of a hatchback. This pair is the first of the post-The Kiss era, and to borrow from Awkward., the episodes after the DTR heard 'round the world. Well, at least the world that was lucky enough to watch this plucky little show on DVD after Fox canceled it.
Love was all over the place in "Safety Canary," spilling everywhere in goops and gobs like we were right in the middle of a rabbit farm at a Barry White concert. And the after effects of that love were at the core of "Lying Pig." Both the highs and lows of love were displayed in both episodes, with the highs belonging to everyone who wasn't Jaye. Because she's the beating, whining heart of this slacker-centric dramedy, both episodes dramatically changed the tone of the series by being emotionally rich... and total bummers. 'Shippers weren't the only viewers reeling, we all were thrown against the wall by the power of the final moments of both eps.
Let's get this out of the way right now: Jaye is one crazy bitch. And I don't mean in the "listens to inanimate talking animals" way (though she might be that too). On the most basic of crazy levels, I'm talking run-of-the-mill self-sabotaging selfish crazy. She's had a sure thing in Eric for half a season now, but she kept building a wall every time he got close. And after they finally met atop that wall in "Lovesick Ass," she quickly reverted to thinking love was terrible and she would rip out Eric's heart and stomp on it like it was on fire. Jaye! Quit it! You're so damn frustrating!
And if we're feeling like that, imagine how Eric, the punching bag of Jaye's schizophrenic feelings, feels! Never mind wondering why Eric doesn't just leave Jaye and her manic back-and-forth to die alone in the trailer park, it's a wonder he hasn't shoved a wax lion down her throat in a crime of passion. These questions will plague every Wonderfalls fan at one point or another. Seriously, at several points we find ourselves wondering why we're rooting for these two in the first place. Jaye's a mess and Eric's a wuss, and when we see these two do their little dance it makes us want to throw up.
But whether it's through the magical manipulation of television or something more, we found ourselves crushed when Jaye walked into The Barrel to see Eric and Eric's whorish wife Heidi holding hands and kissing, and we were floored when Jaye witnessed Eric and Heidi re-tightening the knot at the end of "Lying Pig." We may not agree with the way Eric and Jaye handle courtship (which is something like the behavior of a pair of six-year olds), but dammit we know these two are supposed to be together. It's very similar to the chemistry between Ned and Chuck on Bryan Fuller's later series Pushing Daisies, but Fuller swapped Jaye's personal obstacles for, ironically, more believable supernatural ones.
Let's not forget that this show is about more than Jaye and Eric getting naked with each other. The most important effect of their crumbling relationship is on Jaye's own crumbling state of mind, the most fascinating part of Wonderfalls by far. With Eric occupied by someone else, Jaye is about to enter a very dark place and when almost-crazy people start walking toward dark places, they tend to go full-blown crazy. We saw hints of that this week, especially in the great opening moments of "Lying Pig," which sets up the final three episodes in a fantastic way. If there's one thing that's not praised enough about Wonderfalls' single season, it's how it's paced. We meet and get to know Jaye, we wonder about her sanity, we meet her family and the rest of the characters, the love story kicks into high gear, love happens then it un-happens, and we have three more episodes to go to with our interest at an all-time high.
As for the individual "cases," well, these two were unlike any of the previous ones. Instead of a clear-cut person who needed saving, the "cases" were way more reflective of Jaye than the people she was helping. Penelope, the bird keeper at the zoo in "Safety Canary," was probably the best damsel in distress the season has produced thus far. But she became a prop while the attention was spread around the rest of the cast getting their love on.
More important was the "case" in the second episode. The return of Heidi (played by the adorable Jewel Staite) led to the great confrontation between Heidi and Jaye, a case of faked amnesia and a trashed hotel room. Jaye was told to "mend what's broken," which she interpreted as Eric and Heidi's marriage. Coupled with her fear of breaking Eric's heart (which was really her fear of having her own heart broken), she missed the clues and backed off from claiming the man-meat that was rightfully hers if she'd just reach out and grab it. Indeed, what was broken was Eric and Heidi's marriage, but what needed to be mended wasn't Eric and Heidi, it was Eric and Jaye, you silly coot! This was the first time that Jaye didn't figure out what the animals meant, and all it cost her was the love of her life.
Overall, two very strong episodes of Wonderfalls that showed off the series' panache for sappy lovey-dovey stuff, but really delivered its two most heart-wrenching moments to date and embraced the show's dark side. Seeing Eric get back together with Heidi will do more than crush Jaye's heart, it will mess with her mind.
– A handful of episodes into the first season, Aaron was little more than the sarcastic older brother. But he's since become a favorite, and Jaye's go-to Tyler when she has problems. His theology background ties in nicely to everything Jaye is going through, and is it just me or does his "thing" with Mahandra also seem surprisingly natural?
– Lots of great performances in these two episodes, particularly from Caroline Dhavernas, who effectively toned down Jaye into a weepy human being with real emotions, and Staite, who relished playing the bad girl. How great was their hotel-room fight? Answer: VERY.
– You could just see Fuller creating Pushing Daisies in his head during "Safety Canary," when Jaye said the only way she and Eric could be together was to not be around each other.
– The funniest moment in the series to date was when Jaye got in the taxi and tossed the Chihuahua air freshener out the window. "I didn't say anything!" pleaded the poor fresh-smelling, dog-shaped piece of cardboard. Ha!
– Wonderfalls Episodes 7-8: Finally!
– Wonderfalls Episodes 5-6: Family and Fat People
– 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