Perhaps it's because last week's death turned out to be accidental and took place in the sanctified confines of a convent, but tonight's whodunit felt especially creepy by comparison. I know I've made this point before, but "Frescorts" really upped the creepiness ante and earned the "Burton-esque" tag that always gets slapped on the show. It's not always that noticeable because there's so much corn on the macabre–the puns, the sight gags, the sillyness–but the Pushing Daisies universe is a pretty gruesome one when you stop to think about it. (Such as tonight, when I found myself writing in my notebook, "Did Randy just bake Joe into that pie?")
You could easily strip tonight's murder plot down to its foundations and rebuild a pretty standard horror movie atop it–minus details like the friend-for-hire "frescort" agency and the hugging machine, of course. But Buddy Amicas, the lonely, delusional kid-turned-psychopath, is a pretty familiar character type of the genre, and when you throw in his proclivity for mummifying his victims, well sir, you've got yourself a bona fide homicidal maniac. Not to mention that he was the head of a weird corporation that would never exist in the real world, which in Pushing Daisies land pretty much damns you from the get-go. Why is it always the crazies who decide to start up honey-based cosmetics corporations, dandelion-powered car companies, and massive hybrid dog breeding ventures?
Then there was (groan) Randy Mann, taxidermy enthusiast and certified creepster, played by David Arquette, doing his standard weird-guy routine. Though his meat pies were thankfully not filled with the offal of his murdered roommate/repoed frescort Joe, Randy was categorically and singularly weird–which explains why Ned felt an immediate kinship with him. Though he was understandably put off by Randy's gift of a taxidermied golden retriever to take the place of the absent Digby, Ned saw himself in Randy–they're both unique in a way that alienates them from others. Though Ned sees the upside of his situation–"What makes me unique has brought everyone I care about into my life"–he also sees a valuable lesson in Randy's realization that there's nothing wrong with being alone.
And just in time, because Jesus, was Ned getting clingy this episode. Now that Chuck and Olive (and Digby and Pigby) are roommates/sidekicks with their own adorable handshake, neglected Ned was especially mopey and pathetic for most of this episode, to the point where he found himself embracing a "hugging machine" and spilling his feelings to a man who keeps his murdered roommate's appendix around as a cute little memento. When Chuck and Olive had a minor falling out after dropping a bunch of truth bombs on each other while trapped in a locker at the frescort agency, it looked like Ned was going to get his precious back. Thankfully, Randy Mann was more than just a red herring with a funny name, and Ned took his motto to heart, deciding it was time for him to learn to be alone again. Of course, that doesn't mean Chuck can't come over and "duvet" him every now and then.
I liked the way Ned and Chuck fit into tonight's theme of learning to face and embrace your vulnerabilities. Emerson's story felt a little more ham-handed, however. While it's nice that Emerson is developing from sass-machine into a more well-rounded character, the conflict between him and his mom (Debra Mooney) just didn't ring true for me. I liked the dynamic of their relationship, but the idea that Emerson couldn't tell her about his Lil' Gumshoe because she's more of a friend than a parent–and that she would mistake his attempts to find his missing child as a plot to embarrass her with a tell-all memoir–seemed too much like manufactured drama. We've seen Ned and Chuck's vulnerabilities before, so they make sense in this context; Emerson's mommy issues came out of nowhere, and I suspect we're not going to hear much about them again. It's weird to say this, because I usually enjoy when the show digs deeper into the lives of its peripheral characters, but in this case I think it would have been better for Emerson and Calista Cod to stick to solving mysteries and engaging in witty banter. ("I'll be dental damned." "With a girl like that, you certainly should.")
— Olive and Chuck's classes for the frescort training program: the How To Flatter And Reassure The Profoundly Ugly Symposium, and CD Mixes That Matter.
— Joe's fellow frescort and secret lover Barb, a.k.a. "Downy", only solves the down clues on crossword puzzles, which makes them not crossword puzzles at all, rather just fill-in-the-blank trivia. But I guess I can't get too down on her eccentricities after all, she was hugged to death.
— "There's a vindictive person with low self-esteem on the loose!"
— I can't decide if Chuck showing up for naked time with Ned is cute or incredibly sad.
— Tonight's pie: cherry