Season 1 | Episode 2 | “Dummy” | Aired Oct 10, 2007
Pushing Daisies is basically a pop-up book, but only some of the characters are meant to pop. The murder victims of the week — and this episode indicates that we’ll mostly be following a case-of-the-week procedural formula, but with quirk — are lightly drawn caricatures who catch butterflies and get mauled by their secretaries’ dogs. We can meet and lose them in 60 seconds, and go about our business just as Ned does. Only the main characters are given dimension, and this episode gets down to the business of knowing them. Don’t look at Ned; it was Chuck’s idea.
The boy who lived next door just brought her back from the dead, and Chuck has some questions. She hasn’t seen Ned since they were kids, and she wants to know what he’s done with himself. (“It’s pretty much I bake pies and wake the dead. I live a very sheltered life.”) She has no idea what she’s in for, but nothing could be more scandalous than Aunt Lily’s historic erotica, right? Ned isn’t so sure, because the more he explains his past, the more he has to talk about what he can do. He hasn’t told Chuck that if he keeps someone alive longer than 60 seconds, someone else has to die. That would mean admitting that he traded another life for hers. And he definitely hasn’t told her that her father’s life was the one he accidentally traded for his mom’s 19 years ago. He’s so much happier with Chuck in his life, and he doesn’t want to disrupt anything.
Chuck is all about disruption. She didn’t climb out of a coffin so she could stay inside all day. Chuck wants to go on adventures with Ned, and today that means talking to a dead guy. Automotive safety specialist Bernard Slaybeck was found on the side of the road, the victim of an apparent hit-and-run. Ned wakes Bernard to get the details, but Chuck, not knowing why the 60 seconds matter so much, steers the conversation toward Bernard’s beliefs and last requests. He asks them to tell Jeanine in promotions that he loved her. Ned only has time to learn that a crash-test dummy killed Bernard before he’s forced to send Bernard back to his death.
Emerson is annoyed by Chuck’s interference in the case, but Ned can’t even pretend to take those concerns seriously, because he’s too caught up in how sweet it is that Chuck wants to bake Jeanine a pie. The three of them head to Dandy Lion Industries, where Bernard was testing an experimental dandelion-powered car, and find Jeanine promoting the car in a terrifying flower headdress. She denies knowing the man whose last wish was to tell her that he loved her, so clearly the flower headdress ate her sense of human decency. Ned reluctantly hands Jeanine her pie, which she later cries into while crouched behind the car.
Jeanine isn’t the only one in denial. Pie Hole waitress Olive is still hiding her feelings for Ned, which is harder than ever with Chuck here. Who is this mysterious new brunette who never touches Ned and yet follows him everywhere? As she closes the restaurant, Olive indulges in a little musical number with Digby (“Hopelessly Devoted to You”), which works entirely because she keeps getting interrupted. The song also gives Olive some much-needed dimension. She isn’t just flirting with Ned because she can. She really pines for him and questions herself because of it.
Everyone gets a little more dimension tonight, whether Ned likes it or not. Emerson, as it turns out, knits and went to art school. Chuck thinks refrigerators are exclusively for cheese (what a life) and likes wandering off, which is how Jeanine finds her late at night in the factory. Now that her bosses aren’t watching, Jeanine admits to being in love with Bernard, and she wants to show everyone what he found. They’re on their way when her car explodes.
An aside: It’s clear by this point that Jeanine has bulimia. I had forgotten all about this and spent the whole episode hoping that I’d forgotten about it because it was misdirection. I was hoping that she’d turn out to be pregnant, because that would resonate with the story of Bernard’s murder. Her eating disorder isn’t tied to the main plot, so it starts to seem dangerously like just another quirk. Look how much pie she can eat. Chuck notices and expresses concern, and Jeanine decides on her own to get help, but it feels like an attempt to graft a problem onto her just so she can find resolution later. Jeanine isn’t given much dimension — she’s not one of the pop-up characters — and giving such a serious disorder to such a flat character does everyone a disservice. This is an issue too complicated for one paragraph in a recap, but it doesn’t sit right.
Jeanine directs everyone to a pit full of crash-test dummies, where they’re Tasered and wake up in a car. The facts, as our narrator would say, are these: The Dandy Lion SX is actually a death trap, and when Bernard figured it out, company president Mark Chase killed him. When Chase catches Ned, Chuck and Emerson at the pit, he stashes them in body bags and prepares to hurtle them into the crash wall, but Emerson has a knitting needle in his pocket that’s never been more useful. His hands untied, Ned speeds out of the factory. Chase is pulled over in his pursuit, and they all narrowly avoid running over Olive and Digby, who unintentionally save the day by forcing Ned to hit the brakes right as the car reaches peak explosion speed.
Realizing that he might find himself on a lot of drives with Chuck, Ned builds a divider between the driver and passenger seats. There’s even a glove for hand-holding. Nothing like a high-speed car chase to bring out the romantic in everyone. What did you think of that resolution? And which character is still keeping the most secrets?
“While Olive considered how much she loved Digby for paying attention to her when the Piemaker would not, and Digby considered how much he liked salt, the Piemaker considered what the sentence would be for breaking and entering with no prior convictions.”
“I will pay the both of you not to have this conversation in front of me.”
“It’s not in front of you, is it? It’s to the side and behind you.”
“As the Piemaker’s brain crackled with 10,000 volts of electricity and then lost consciousness, Olive would have no such luck.”
“Emerson Cod did not like to knit in public, but he often left the house with the needles in his pocket should the opportunity to rib-stitch a ski cap present itself.”