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'Pushing Daisies' recap: Eyebrow family tree

Season 2 | Episode 5 | “Dim Sum Lose Some” | Aired Oct 29, 2008

Emerson Cod has lost the only chef who really understood his taste buds. Take a moment to sympathize, because those steamed buns “blurred the line between eating and sex,” but don’t feel too bad. At least he’ll get paid if he solves the murder. When he gets a message in his fortune cookie telling him to visit the restaurant below his office, Emerson finds Lae Di Ting mourning the death of her husband, Bao. Of late, Bao had been unable to sleep due to pressure. Because this is a world where dramatic irony happens and is narrated by Jim Dale, Bao died when the pressure inside his bun steamer went critical, sending a pipe through his head. Lae Di is convinced that it was no accident.

Ned wakes Bao, who says that he lost a bet at the restaurant. Is something shady going on at Emerson’s favorite eatery? Bao’s daughter Mei insists that her father was too busy to gamble, and she’s backed up by her fiancé Rubbie. (That’s how he actually spells it, which tells you everything you need to know about him.) Bao’s old friend visits the Pie Hole to say that Mei and Rubbie are lying—there is gambling at the restaurant, and there has been since Prohibition.

Ned, Chuck, and Emerson sneak in and spy on the proceedings. A table of people is using food for cards, and one of them happens to be Simone Hundin (Christine Adams), the dog trainer who still holds a hypnotic power over Emerson. He questions her, and she admits that anyone else at the table could have killed Bao. Conveniently, Simone was at a dog show on the night of the murder, which probably means she didn’t do it. But we all agree that she’s capable, right? Simone is a little bit terrifying. Emerson likes it. She wants to know why he hasn’t made a move, and he explains that the more he likes someone, the worse it ends, so this relationship could only end in disaster. They make out and fall to the floor.

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When Simone has gone, Emerson notices a suspicious busboy in photos of the restaurant. Ned and Chuck join him to investigate, but the bun steamer, like any respectable super-villain, will kill again. It explodes, and a pipe impales the busboy. When Ned wakes him, he explains that he’s actually an undercover insurance investigator looking into a life insurance policy that Bao bought before his death. Mei was named as the beneficiary. Ned notices that the pipe has clearly been tampered with.

Emerson receives another message in a fortune cookie, so his life is starting to look very much the kind of P.I. life I’d like to lead. It’s like getting distress calls from a ship in a bottle, if you could eat the bottle. The message leads him to Mei, who, it turns out, was responsible for summoning Emerson to her mother in the first place. Mei has to be careful because Shrimpboy, the man in charge of the gambling operation, is watching her. Her father gambled for money to start the restaurant and lost big, so Shrimpboy credited him one more round. If Bao lost that round, Mei would have to marry Rubbie, because it’s not like she’s a person with feelings or anything. Bao, of course, lost that round.

In the face of that much unfortunate sexism, there’s only one woman for the job: Olive. She and Chuck go undercover at the restaurant by getting hired as waitresses. (To be clear, this is also unfortunate, because they dress up as cultural stereotypes. It shouldn’t have happened when this episode premiered in 2008, and, judging by the backlash in January over a similar gag on How I Met Your Mother, it wouldn’t fly now.) Chuck and Olive endure being ordered around and called “Woman!” while acting as diversions for Ned and Emerson, who are undercover as Rich Guy Cowboy and Shaft.

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The guys join the card game—or food-as-card game, technically—and Shrimpboy tells them that Bao tried to win back his daughter’s freedom. (Although really, if a woman’s freedom from one man has to be won for her by another man, she’s not all that free.) Ned and Emerson realize that, with nothing left to bet, Bao gambled his life insurance. Rubbie killed him in order to collect. Now that he’s been found out, Rubbie takes everyone hostage, but Simone arrives to scold Emerson for never calling her back. Her dog, Bubblegum, sniffs out some hidden food in Rubbie’s pocket: He’s been cheating. Cheating is a crime worse than murder in this crowd, so Rubbie is taken into custody, Mei gets her insurance money, and Emerson gets paid. He even apologizes to Simone. It’s not much of an apology, but she accepts because he makes a cute face.

Reconciliation is the name of the game right now, as Ned’s dad has a friend in town. “Friend.” Did Ned’s dad have friends? I thought he hated feelings. Dwight Dixon (Stephen Root) says that he’s looking to reconnect with Ned’s father, but he’s got a gun in his car and a thing for stalking, so I’m guessing that it wouldn’t be a friendly reunion. Ned, happy with his little Pie Hole family, isn’t interested, but Chuck and Olive persist until he hands them his father’s last known address. If they knew about the gun in Dwight’s car, they might rethink their actions.

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Chuck and Olive decide to visit the home and scope out Ned’s dad for themselves, but they find twin magicians instead. When young Ned ran away from school and visited this address all those years ago, the boys looked too old to be his father’s biological sons, unless Ned’s dad was having an affair for a while. It looks like he must have been, because the eyebrows alone make it clear that Maurice and Ralston are Ned’s step-brothers. Their dad abandoned them too, in the end. Ned hesitates to meet them, and he isn’t thrilled that Chuck and Olive went behind his back, but he relents. The twins embrace him as he wonders what to do with his arms.

So were Chuck and Olive right to push Ned into this family reunion? What does Dwight Dixon want with Ned’s dad? Are you craving steamed buns now? Go tell your favorite chefs that you love them.

Best lines:

“Who’s the new guy in the booth? The handsome, brooding, older man with a sensual twinkle? Plus he smells good.”—Olive

“I’m glad Dad got so fun and creative with naming after I left. Goodbye Ned, hello Mercutio and Ribald!”—Ned

Chuck: Why don’t you try to get to know them?
Ned: I know other nice people my father didn’t abandon me for.

“Keep walking! I love gongs. Nothin’ wrong with that.”—Olive

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