Pushing Daisies – “Dim Sum Lose Some”

“Dim Sum Lose Some”

October 29th, 2008

If there is a new mantra on Pushing Daisies, it seems quite simple: leave no character behind.

Excluding the Aunts, who have been absent for quite some time now likely in an effort to save money and focus the show on other issues, we’re seeing a lot more interaction between our four main characters. Ever since Olive’s last stand at the monastery, especially, the four have been intertwined into the mysteries in a way that the first season only really accomplished once, in “Bitches.” Perhaps it is no coincidence, then, that Simone, one of the four wives of the polygamist dog breeder returns in this episode to a similar dynamic, and a similarly strong episode.

Although the episode deals a bit with Ned’s past, and Emerson gets almost all of the great one-liners, it really is a group effort: when the episode evolves into an almost “Chuck”-like espionage scenario at the Dim Sum restaurant, the entire cast comes together in a comic scenario that just clicks. I wouldn’t contend that this is amongst the show’s best episodes, but it’s a definite sign that the creative resurgence that began the season is still going strong.

Around this time last year, Pushing Daisies did a Halloween episode, one where we got the genius that was Olive’s horse riding career. What we also got, however, was Ned off on his own dealing with his Halloween-related issues. “Girth” was an amazing episode for Olive, and a great one overall, but separating Ned from the main mystery was problematic. The same could have been said for this episode, where Ned meets a friend of his father’s (or someone who purports to be a friend) and eventually we get introduced to Ned’s twin half-brothers, Maurice and Ralston.

But the episode smartly makes it an issue that everyone has to deal with: Chuck and Olive are the ones who meet the twins first, and there is no point where this is just Ned’s internalized struggle. I know the dramatic value of giving your hero these existential questions of his past, but the show has been broadening these horizons: we’ve gotten views of young Chuck, young Olive and young Emerson as of late, and that narrative complexity is allowing the show to expand its horizons. And, in this episode, to great effect: the scene of Olive and Chuck with the twins, in particular Olive’s fawning over them and their response of “You have seen twins before, right?”, was just a great little sequence.

The central mystery, however, was dominated by Emerson Cod, who continues to be the show’s hidden weapon for those who don’t know how capable Chi McBride is of this type of comedy. This might be Emerson’s most broad episode yet: the return of Simone (Christine Adams) returns him to his obedient state, he gets his first love tryst, he spends an enormous amount of time either eating or talking about eating, and the episode’s climax is highlighted by his genius cover persona of fast-talking, wig-wearing Jimmy Ace.

The mystery itself is complicated, almost too-complicated at certain points. As I can gather it, the cook gambled his life savings, and his daughter’s hand in marriage, and lost. Desperate to get her out of the arranged marriage, he bought a life insurance policy, gambled it, and then had his future son-in-law/manager win it, and kill him for the payout. In the process we have the reveal of Simone’s involvement in the poker game, the cheating that won the game for the manager, and everything else. It seemed like a bit more complexity than it perhaps needed, but it did the trick: the aforementioned spy scenario in the restaurant felt like a wacky, gong-filled Casino Royale, and that works for me.

The episode was also, however, quite funny: “See, what we need now is a mirror” (Emerson’s suggestion on how to convince the cook that he had a giant pole through his head) may be one of my favourite lines the show has ever done, and some of Jim Dale’s narrative food references were even more ridiculous than the show’s usually ridiculous narration. Considering the hype surrounding this episode, as it was the only non-Obama related programming on the Big Four networks, I have to wonder if it wasn’t a big too wacky for its own good, but as a fan of the show I can say that it was firing on all cylinders in that department.

So, overall, another solid entry into a very solid season.

Cultural Observations

  • In an effort to save time, I’ll write this here as opposed to starting a big post: I don’t think the show is going to see much of a rating spike airing opposite the Obamamercial, and even if it does it isn’t going to stick. The sad reality is that this show is wacky, and it’s weird, and it’s not the kind of thing that Joe the Plumber is going to stumble upon and suddenly become obsessed with. This is a show that needs to spread through word of mouth, something that fans are currently working on. Even if the show experiences a ratings uptick, perhaps inevitable all things considered, I doubt it would last enough for a complete turnaround.
  • As someone who doesn’t like Chinese Food, the Foodie element of this episode was lost on me – to be fair, since I also don’t like Pie, the foodie element of the entire show has been a lost cause since day one.
  • I’m kind of surprised that they got away with Simone’s “Come!” command right before she and Emerson start getting acquainted.

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