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'Pushing Daisies' recap: Death by scratch and sniff

Season 1 | Episode 7 | “Smell of Success” | Aired Nov 21, 2007

Late at night at the Longborough School for Boys, young Ned learned to channel the loss of his mother into pie baking, even though he couldn’t eat the pies he baked. He could only wrap himself around them in bed and enjoy their smell. That basically sums up Ned’s life: holding tightest to the things he can’t touch. He doesn’t even want Chuck to expand her bee-and-flower operation to the rooftops across the street. Chuck would have the city dripping in honey from every rooftop if she could, but until then, she’ll settle for adding miniature cup pies to the Pie Hole’s menu. Ned is scandalized. Nontraditional pies are about as scandalous as Ned’s life gets—when he’s not waking the dead.

pushing daisies 107 ned rolling pin

Death pulls him away from cup pies when a scratch-and-sniff book explodes, killing one Anita Gray. A student of olfactory science expert Napoleon LaNez, Anita sniffed out an advance copy of his upcoming self-help book, The Smell of Success, which was rigged to blow. It seems that someone was trying to kill LaNez, possibly for the fact that his book was moved up the release schedule at the expense of an adult pop-up book (Pop-Up Pin-Ups). Ned and Emerson visit the author, Chas Spielman, and find that he’s written a book about bombs, so naturally he’s innocent. Emerson confiscates a few of Spielman’s pop-up how-to guides anyway, in the name of good P.I. work.

Meanwhile, Olive is on a mission for Chuck, who wants to get aunts Lily and Vivian out of the house and back into the pool, where they dazzled for years as renowned synchronized swimming duo the Darling Mermaid Darlings. Since Olive was a fan of the Darlings, she persuades Lily and Vivian to pull their old costumes out of storage. Vivian seems ready to jump back in the water, especially after Chuck takes a cue from LeNez and sends chlorine tablets with the weekly pie, but Lily finds one of Chuck’s mom’s old sweaters and shuts down. When Olive asks, Lily will only say that Chuck’s mother died.

Back at the Pie Hole, Ned finds a grammatically tragic tube sock in his sink that reads “u can’t save lenez” [sic]. The overwhelming sewer odor points to Oscar Vibenius, LeNez’s ex-lab partner and rival in the field of olfactory science. The two consciously uncoupled after realizing that their theories diverged beyond repair: While LeNez purges his home of any smells that don’t elicit positive memories, Vibenius believes in embracing the bad smells to appreciate the good. Since his split with LeNez, Vibenius has mostly kept to the sewers, which is where Ned, Chuck and Emerson find him, along with a methane gas hose that blows LeNez’s car sky high.

pushing daisies 107 chuck

Vibenius disappears, only to turn up later at the Pie Hole. He confronts Olive, who comes at him with a knife, and an emotional Chuck, now wrapped in her mother’s sweater. After convincing them that he was actually trying to shut off the methane and save LeNez, Vibenius smells up the ladies (it’s exactly like it sounds). Olive is easy—she smells like dog—but Chuck’s scent is more complicated, with notes of honey and death. LeNez said the same when he met her, but he attributed the death to her perfume. Chuck isn’t wearing perfume, and Vibenius knows it. He also knows that methane doesn’t smell like rotten eggs, and only someone who wanted to play into public perception would manipulate its scent. The explosion has to be LeNez’s handiwork.

Because LeNez conveniently unlocked his car from across the street, he was unharmed in the blast. It actually boosted the presales of his book. To make the most of these 15 minutes of fame, LaNez has arranged a press interview, complete with Ned and Emerson as witnesses. Ned gets bored and snoops, as you do, and finds himself checking under his host’s bed, as you do, and he stumbles upon a tube sock like the one in his sink, marked with almost the same warning. He confronts LeNez with the evidence. (“You set Oscar up. After you figured out the correct SPACING.”) LeNez orchestrated the whole thing to drum up publicity, though he never counted on killing Anita. His intent was to discover the trap before its detonation. It’s possible that he didn’t think this through all the way.

pushing daisies 107 decontamination

LeNez locks Ned and Emerson in his decontamination chamber, which he’s rigged with explosive gas, but our team is one step ahead. With Chuck and Olive’s help, Vibenius has reprogrammed LeNez’s entire system, flooding his home with all of the natural smells that LeNez prefers to avoid. The outside air is too much for him, and he collapses. This has to be the first time that fresh air has assisted in a criminal arrest.

With LeNez in custody, Ned adds cup pies to the menu at the Pie Hole, because who wants to be the kind of person who decontaminates himself against the world? Change happens. Even Lily and Vivian are diving back into the pool, trading their unhappiness for at least the chance of something better. Only Vibenius hasn’t figured out how to let go—he’s still following Chuck around, trying to sort out what she smells like, and he’s taken her mother’s sweater. This could get problematic.

Vibenius poses a real threat to Chuck and Ned (and just as I was starting to warm to him), which is the kind of shake-up this show needs as it ramps up to the first-season finale. What do you think Vibenius’ curiosity might expose? And how do you feel about cup pies? Feel free to support your argument by mailing baked goods to my doorstep. Lee Pace as delivery man is optional, but highly encouraged.

Best lines:

“You know. We grew apart and lost interest. Had intimate relations on a bearskin rug.” —Ned

“Lily doesn’t believe in water anymore. She thinks it’s a waste of a perfectly good tumbler.” —Vivian

“OK, if that happens, I’ll say something like, ‘What is this, a police state?’ If I ever say that, it means I’m having a panic attack.” —Ned

“Sure hope there’s methane down here, ’cause the skinny ones are the first to go.” —Emerson

 

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