I almost wish Pushing Daisies weren’t so brilliant this week. In the face of an episode where Chuck makes a huge mistake Ned might not be able to forgive at the same time he’s reviving Olive’s eternal flame (oh, Olive), we have to wonder where they would have taken this storyline before circling back to plastic hugging contraptions. Bitter tang, bitter viewer–it’s a story. Because, much as was the case with the boarding school pie-speakeasy in the teaser, Ned’s party with forkfuls of immediate gratification has stopped, and I worry they don’t have enough time left to fully explore that.
This is particularly painful when considering the best episode since Season 1’s “Sweet Smell of Success.” Chuck has admittedly been getting on my nerves with her self-centered insistence that everyone else in her tiny circle should feel about family and life the way she does, but her selfish choice to keep her father alive in this episode is presented in such a way that, in the middle of a terrible decision, it makes her sympathetic again. Her chat with Daddy Deadest about what death feels like and how much more vibrant revivified life feels reminds us that there are some things about her no one else can possibly understand, adding to her isolation even from the person she loves the most. It’s hard to imagine, though, that Ned will be able to let her betrayal go lightly, so the clock is striking justice o’clock for Lonely Tourist Charlotte Charles.
All of this heavy stuff (and heavy stiff) is perfectly counterbalanced, however, with the Best in Belly Comfort Food Cook-Off. Seeing Beth Grant reprise her role as Wonderfalls‘ Muffin Buffalo proprietess is delightful enough, but seeing her hip-check Olive in slow motion with muffins flying is almost too much goodness to ingest. (It’s even more fun that episode writer Doug Petrie, previously a writer and executive producer on Buffy, labels her The Pastry Slayer.) There is a character called the Waffle Nazi (who speaks not German, but “English mit a German accent”), sweetly delivered threats to strangle people with blue ribbons, and promises of hobbits on jetpacks. Kristin Chenoweth remains the best thing on TV, rollicking back and forth between declaring that the thing no one ever tells you about cooking with the dark side is that the food is reeeeaaallllly good to radiating with one look that her feelings for Ned have been percolating under the surface with as much force as Emerson’s Bolivia Jura coffee grounds. She has a knack for just the right touch to elevate a scene from fun to delightful, like balancing a pie on her shoulder while racing it to the judges’ table on a scooter or biting her lip when Ned notes that she could be his investigative assistant. (The costume department also has a knack for dressing her to show off her, er, assets.)
And maybe that’s why, even in an episode that does so much to rehabilitate Chuck and reshape her relationship with Ned, I’m starting to believe that Pushing Daisies is really Olive Snook’s story. I would never, ever have believed that capping a television show with a (beautifully orchestrated) Bangles song would make me weepy, but getting to see Olive finally win one, only to have Ned offer the hand that will pull her back into the depths of unrequited love, rips my heart out. We saw a few episodes ago that, when faced with potential death, Olive found forgiveness in her heart and wished love, success, and pie on everyone. While Charles Charles found death to be like gliding, and Chuck didn’t feel much of anything at all, I hope when Olive actually goes, death will feel like winning the Best in Belly Comfort Food Cook-Off, taking Ned’s hand, having sparkles explode all around her, and having a heart so full it breaks open and music spills out into the world.