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'Pushing Daisies' finale recap: Swim on, mermaids

Season 2 | Episode 13 | “Kerplunk” | Aired June 13, 2009

With its bright colors, lavish costumes, and alliterative names, it’s only fitting that Pushing Daisies would have a narrator to round out its pop-up-book aesthetic. Our narrator, though, is more than a gimmick designed to give the show some style. He’s also a necessity. The plot is tangled, Ned’s gift comes with a lot of caveats, and everyone is keeping secrets from everyone else. If not for the narrator, we might not have even made it to a second season, because no one would ever know what was happening. As we send this show off with one last recap, let’s give it up for the narrator.

He earns his keep in the opening minutes of the finale, which finally make sense of Lily and Vivian’s history. Vivian was born with a heart defect, and, though it was remedied, her parents still treated her with extra care. They taught Lily to always put her interests behind those of her sister, which Lily did, until she slept with Vivian’s fiancé. She hid the fact that Chuck was the product of that union, telling herself that she was doing it to spare Vivian the pain, but her motives may have also been a little selfish; by sparing her sister, she spared herself from the full consequences of her betrayal.

Now, the sisters have begun to venture out into the world again. To celebrate Chuck’s memory on her half-birthday, they go to the Aquacade, where they run into Aquadolls Blanche and Coral Ramora, a rival synchronized swimming duo. The Aquadolls are headlining the event, but tragedy strikes when a shark gets loose and swallows Blanche whole. It looks like an unfortunate accident, but the shark’s owner insists that someone released him on purpose. He hires Emerson to solve the case.


Emerson takes Ned and Chuck to the morgue, where Chuck realizes that the lard in Blanche’s waterproof hair gel would have attracted the shark. They don’t even really need to wake Blanche, which seems appropriate; the last case we’ll ever see them solve is one that they work the old-fashioned way. Ned’s gift is only useful for personal reasons, as Chuck scolds Blanche for being rude to her aunts. Chuck finally gets to declare that she’s their niece, if only for a moment.

The Aquacade asks Lily and Vivian to come out of retirement and be their new headliners, which excites Vivian so much that Lily can’t say no. When the aunts stop by the Pie Hole, Emerson realizes that they can be his cover during the investigation. What better way to access the behind-the-scenes drama than to become an entourage? Chuck can’t go, obviously, but Ned, Olive, and Emerson roll up to the Aquacade ready to catch a killer. The best part of this whole arrangement is either Ned’s green tie or his ritzy mermaid tail bags.


Olive stops by the Ramoras’ dressing room and finds Coral’s hail gel, which doesn’t have any lard. Someone was definitely targeting Blanche. Olive suspects jealous performer Sid Tango, whose belt has a remote to open the shark’s gate, but Sid insists that he’s being framed. He also reveals that Coral was jealous of her sister, though it seems unlikely that she killed her; Coral is so desperate to remain a part of the show that she even tries to master a motorcycle stunt act. When she almost drowns and Blanche’s husband, Shane, saves her, Emerson realizes that Shane and Coral were having an affair. Shane makes a getaway on his motorcycle.

Vivian invites Coral to join the Darling Mermaid Darlings, which makes Lily uncomfortable, since they both betrayed their sisters in the same way. What’s more, Coral knows that Lily was pregnant 30 years ago. She tries to rattle her before the show, hoping that the Darling Mermaid Darlings will fail and she’ll finally get to star in her own act. Olive kicks Coral out of the group on Lily’s behalf, because nobody sabotages the sisters on her watch.

Chuck is thrilled to know that Lily and Vivian are performing again, but she’s less pleased when she learns about their contract. It all hinges on a European tour. Vivian wants to say no for Lily’s sake, but Lily is finally ready to rejoin the world, so they agree. This means that Chuck can’t be in their lives at all, even just to keep tabs. She blames Ned for encouraging the sisters, and she decides to sabotage their music to keep them in town. Ned, who doesn’t want Chuck to leave him, has the same idea. Emerson catches them both before they can do anything, and they realize their mistake.


In the midst of Lily and Vivian’s performance, Shane shows up in a lobster suit. He plans to throw a microphone into the pool and electrocute the sisters so that Coral can be a star, but Ned catches the mic with a pool skimmer, and the show goes off without a hitch. Shane is arrested. All that’s left now is for Ned and Chuck to confront what they almost did. Ned tells Chuck that he’s been protecting himself by keeping her from seeing her aunts. He’s ready to really put her first.

Across town, Lily’s idea of putting Vivian first has blown up in her face. Coral stops by to tell Vivian that Lily had a child, and Vivian puts together the pieces. She realizes that Chuck was Lily’s daughter, and she wants her sister out of the house. Even though Lily says that she’s spent the last 30 years trying to make up for it, Vivian stands her ground. Their fight is interrupted by the doorbell, and they swing open the doors to find Ned and Chuck on their porch, dressed to the nines, holding flowers and champagne.


Our narrator wraps up everyone’s stories: Olive opened her heart to Randy and then opened a macaroni-and-cheese restaurant called The Intrepid Cow. Emerson’s daughter found her way back to him thanks to his pop-up book. And with the words “I’m alive,” Chuck rejoined her aunts’ lives. Lily and Vivian reconciled and toured Europe as the Darling Mermaid Darlings.

There’s so much more that Pushing Daisies could have done, but it’s also fitting that it left a few things incomplete. This is a show that started with an ending—the end of Digby’s life—and went from there. We fade out on Digby in that same field, because this story is always just getting started. Were you happy with the way it ended?

Best Lines

“We small-boned persons are vulnerable to exoduses of the mass and panicked variety.” —Vivian

“In third grade, I did a report on Great Whites. Discovered we were a lot alike, seeing as how we’re both misunderstood badasses.” —Emerson

“That’s bogus, Neptune! We have a signed thing.” —Shane

“I’m a solo guy by nature. But I choose to affiliate myself with the both of you. Reason being? It’s because when you spend all your time chasing bad guys, you want the best of the good guys in your corner.” —Emerson

“At that moment, in the town of Coeur de Coeurs, events occurred that are not, were not, and should never be considered an ending. For endings, as it is known, are where we begin.” —Narrator

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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