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Holy Secretariat: Chuck and Olive Jockey for Ned's Love on "Pushing Daisies"

Is it just me or is Pushing Daisies getting even better and better with each new installment?

Last night's episode of Pushing Daisies ("Girth") was no exception to this rule, with an installment that filled out Olive's backstory as a female jockey (though Cheno had told me that herself over the summer) as well as explained some of the oddness of Ned's psychological/emotional history and heightened the tensions between romantic rivals Olive and Chuck.

The script for "Girth" was written by the exceptionally talented Kath Lingenfelter, Pushing Daisies' executive story editor. Lingenfelter, as Bryan Fuller told me, was hired on the strengh of her spec script, about a man with pork chops for hands.

Ned. Love that Ned kept the wooden arm from last week's episode and is using it as a scratcher for Digby. Seeing just what happened to poor Ned at the boarding school explained quite a lot about this psychological state as an adult and his emotionally withdrawn nature. The entire scene in which Young Ned waited hopefully in the school corridor for the Postmistress to give him a nod was heartbreaking, made all the more so by the fact that when he does finally get a piece of mail, it's a pre-printed "we've moved" card from his insensitive father. Ned, dressed as a ghost for Halloween, goes to see his father, only to learn that he has a new family, complete with two new children. And poor Ned, he's adrift on a sea of memories, returning to his old bedroom, now empty of any signs of life. (As one reader emailed me last night, if there were an Emmy category for best canine performance, Digby would win this thing hands down.)

Even more touching was the scene in which Ned secretly returns to Coeur d' Coeurs to see Chuck's aunts Lily and Vivian to learn about his father, who really wasn't all that nice as it turns out and was kind of a jackass. This entire sequence--in which Ned also learns that Chuck has been sending her aunts pies (via a strawberry, which he had already brought back to life, whithering under his touch)--was incredibly moving, from that briefest of human contact from Aunt Vivian to her words that he has grown up to be a nice man. Heart literally melting right now. Hmmm, any thoughts about whether Ned will buy that his vacant childhood house, conveniently located for keeping an eye on the Darling Mermaid Darlings?

Chuck. I love how on any other series, Chuck and Olive would have had their respective claws drawn, especially now that Olive believes that Chuck faked her death and is keeping her, er, life status secret from her aunts. While Chuck is sensitive to the fact that Olive could make her aunts' heads explode if they learned the truth, she doesn't threaten, cajole, extort, or make an effort to stop Olive from spilling her guts. Instead, she smiles and gently pleads with Olive's good nature, while looking fabulous in an red dress that could make itself right at home in a Douglas Sirk film. Loved her scene with Digby at the stables, where she's nearly frightened (back) to death when Emerson appears out of nowhere with a pitchfork and the way that she calmly took care of Olive at her apartment and was kind enough to notice her horsey mugs... while there was a killer on the loose. Plus, the payoff of her dressing up as a Halloween ghost so she could see Lily and Vivian was absolutely beautiful and priceless. She and Ned are linked in their attempts to recover and recover from their childhoods and the assumption of the ghost costume (well, a sheet with holes for the eyes) was a fitting and simple way of coming full-circle, almost poetic in its symmetry.

Olive. I've grown to love our Olive Snook over the past few weeks and this episode did a lot to broaden her backstory and explain several elements of her personality. Favorite scene: a tie between the one in which she and Digby jumped on the bed to celebrate her victory over Chuck... and the one in which her modesty (or lack thereof) was pointed out repeatedly by Mamma Jacobs, who peppered the former jockey with backhanded compliments that really stung. I liked that Olive did commit a crime in the end (she concealed and destroyed evidence of a crime) but felt so guilty over her first-place win (in which John Jospeh Jacobs was trampled) that she didn't spend any of her winnings. Hence her job as the perkiest waitress at the Pie Hole. I'm also very happy that Olive sees that she can't tell Vivian and Lily about Chuck, even if she doesn't quite have the facts about Chuck's death quite right. Oh, and did I mention how bad I felt when Ned swooped Olive up in her arms and she kissed him (gasp!), only to have him literally drop her when he saw Chuck stumble out of the underbrush? Sigh. Poor, poor Olive Snook.

Emerson. I heart Emerson. All I'll say is: watch the scene in which he "calls" Olive's money and sees if it's okay to use it to pay for things. Classic.

Monkey alert! Did any of you catch the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil monkey figurines on Mamma Jacob's console table? We know how much creator Bryan Fuller loves the wee beasties, so it was no surprise that another monkey motif popped up again so soon after the pilot. Any chance of seeing that Dr. Ron's monkey from Wonderfalls?

Guest stars galore. Jockey John Joseph Jacobs was played by the talented Hamish Linklater from CBS' Old Christine; I absolutely loved the reveal that he survived the trampling and regained his legs by having those of his beloved horse grafted onto his own. Mamma Jacobs was played by veteran actor Barbara Barrie, best known for her role of Helen "Nana" Keane on NBC's Suddenly Susan; she also appeared in two episodes of Bryan Fuller's Dead Like Me, where she played Phyllis.

In two weeks on Pushing Daisies ("Bitches"), Ned and the Pie Hole crew investigate the death of a dog breeder who happens to be a polygamist and whether one of his four widows played a role in his demise. Plus, Chuck learns about Ned and Olive's kiss, which puts him in a rather uncomfortable position. And was that a shot of Ned and Olive in bed together? I can't wait!


Another wonderfully fun episode of my new favorite show!

I just don't know how Ned and Chuck get away with being so darn cute. And not the kind of "I want to vomit" cute but a genuine "aw, shucks" cute that makes you want to hug the television screen.

They're like a warm cup of cocoa on a snowy winter night.

With lots of marshmallows.
Anonymous said…
Awesome ep. I was out last night at a Halloween party and so finally just saw it now. Chuck is adorable and I keep falling more in love with this show each week. Great post!
Anonymous said…
Danielle is so right - it's amazing how they keep avoiding that "I want to vomit" place of cuteness.

I heart Emerson, too. The money calling scene was priceless. If, like me, you ever watched Boston Public, it's really a pleasure to see Chi's range. I never would have guessed comedy would have been his forte.
mB said…
Every week I fall more and more in love with this show. Cheno keeps proving that Ms Olive Snook, former jockey and lovelorn waitress of the Pie Hold is a character that bristles with vivacity and catty banter yet keeps stealing my heart every week.
That said, I love Chuck and Ned - twinned soulmates that are as sweet as Ned's pies.
Anonymous said…
Someone please tell me how someone can touch Ned or when Olive kissed Ted on the Lips, WHY they don't DIE?>????? This is driving me crazy...maybe I missed something since I haven't watch all the episodes...Ted's mom died in the beginning when she kissed him goodnight? Someone please explain this to me...Thanks!!!!
Jace Lacob said…
Anonymous, I think you are missing something crucial about the entire series. People don't die when they touch Ned (whose name is Ned rather that Ted); he has the ability to bring the dead back to life with a touch. However, if he touches them again, they die again forever. Ned's mother suffered an aneurysm when he was a child and he revived her (for longer than a minute, which caused Chuck's dad to die). When she kissed him goodnight, his touch killed her again.
Unknown said…
This was easily the best episode yet. I'm glad Olive has moved to the front line and become a favorite character.

I loved Emerson's "I love you, shovel" line. And the scene with the sisters' parrot had me in stitches. "Help, I'm a boy turned into a parrot."
Unknown said…
Different episode but how come Olive didnt die when she kissed Ned???
Unknown said…
How come Olive didnt die when she kissed Ned?

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