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Touching Dead Things: Double Negatives, Alive-Again Avengers, and Window Dressing on "Pushing Daisies"

I saw the final three episodes of Pushing Daisies back in April but that hasn't stopped me from getting excited (and saddened) all over again now that ABC is airing the last three unaired installments this month on Saturday nights. (You can read my original advance review of Daisies' swan song here.)

This week's delightful episode of Pushing Daisies ("Window Dressed to Kill"), written by Abby Gewanter, picks up where we last saw the gang at the Pie Hole: with Olive and Ned dangling precipitously off of a branch over a rather yawning chasm. Fortunately, neither the dashing Pie Maker nor the delicious Pie Waitress perish though the near-death encounter is not without complication, thanks to Ned's unforeseen usage of a certain double negative, which infuriates the love-struck Olive to no end.

Furthermore, Ned's decision to become just an ordinary guy who makes pies and doesn't touch dead things and bring them back to life leads to a parting of ways among the group when Emerson decides to investigate the mysterious death of the Dickers' Department Store window dresser, leading him to team up with Chuck, the "Alive-Again Avenger" to solve the crime while Ned tries on a life of mediocrity as Clark Kent, rather than Superman.

But this is Pushing Daisies, after all, and things have a way of working themselves out in rather unexpected ways. In this case, it's the reappearance of Olive's childhood kidnappers, Jerry Holmes (Richard Benjamin) and Buster Bustamante (George Segal), on the scene along with Olive's ardent admirer Randy Mann (David Arquette). And a very large stuffed rhinoceros.

So what did I think about this episode of Pushing Daisies on a second viewing? Grab yourself a slice of pie, make yourself a wig or mutton-chops from some animal pelts, and let's discuss "Window Dressed to Kill."

First, I just want to say that I was absolutely blown away by the sheer amount of guest stars that Bryan Fuller and Co. were able to pile into this single installment. In roughly forty-odd minutes, we were treated to memorable turns by such actors as George Segal, Richard Benjamin, David Arquette, Willie Garson, Diana Scarwid, Wayne Wilderson, Sam Pancake, and Constance Zimmer. Some series don't manage to get this many compelling guest turns in an entire season, much less in a single episode and it's a testament to Daisies' off-kilter charms that so many small-screen luminaries jumped at the shot to tread the streets of Papen County.

I loved the fact that we didn't see the group split down its usual lines with Chuck and Ned investigating a facet of a particular case while Emerson follows a lead and Olive gets stuck at the Pie Hole. Instead, writer Abby Gewanter gives each of the series' leads equal weight and pairs them off with Emerson teaming up with sidekick Chuck to take the murder case while Ned and Olive go on the run with the escaped cons. That Ned and Olive do so whilst pretending to be betrothed (much to the chagrin of poor Randy Mann) only adds to the fun. (I especially loved the scene where Chuck pretends to be various members of the Devotee crowd in order to get Emerson paid and where Olive bursts into a snow-swept rendition of "Hello" at Lily and Vivian's house.)

Olive's simmering love for the Pie Maker has proven to be one of the series' most enduring subplots and this episode confronts it head on, with Ned acknowledging that he loves Olive... as a friend and gives her the kiss she's been waiting for this whole time. But she also realizes that she'd rather not have Ned than only have him as a pretend fiance in the end. It's a real transformative moment for Olive that's juxtaposed beautifully with the flashbacks to her childhood plotting and her life-long belief that she has to lie in order to try to obtain affection. For a series that has delved into the childhood root causes of our protagonist's adult lives (and their psychological issues), Olive coming clean to her not-really-kidnappers and Lily and Vivian was a fantastic moment of self-actualization for the lovelorn Olive Snook. (Let's hope that she does find love with the clearly head-over-heels Randy Mann.)

For Ned too, the entire false engagement was an effort to try on a disguise of his own, to pretend just for one day that he was Clark Kent and not Superman: that he had a "normal" relationship with a woman that he could touch and kiss (without her, you know, dying again forever) and that he was nothing more than a man who made pies. In playing house with Olive, Ned gets the chance to see a life without "the cape," without his paranormal ability or its inherent complications.

But ultimately Ned realizes that he is Superman and not the "tall, clumsy" Kent. Like Clark, he might wear a disguise concealing his awesome abilities but Superman is who he really is, cape and all. He'll take the winter hand-holding with Chuck (thanks to some glove-clad hands) and the "plot holes" that come along with it because she knows and accepts the real him.

I also loved seeing Chuck and Emerson attempt to solve a gruesome murder case (or a string of murders case) using "hustle" rather than Ned's supernatural stroke and this week's case was a luscious blend of kooky characters, over-the-top window displays, and some nice bait-and-switches involving the super-talented Erin Embry (Rachel Cannon) responsible for Dicker's department store windows... and Coco Juniper (Constance Zimmer) "to a lesser extent." Plus, we got to see Olive use some window dressing of her own to spirit away her errant kidnappers/father figures under the guise of restroom-seeking nuns, thanks to the help of the Mother Superior (Diana Scarwid).

All in all, yet another fantastic installment of Pushing Daisies that makes me remember why I fell in love with this brilliantly original series in the first place... and why I'm heartbroken all over again that ABC has decided to snip these beautiful Daisies.

Next week on Pushing Daisies ("Water and Power"), Emerson gets a lead in his daughter Penny's whereabouts when he investigates the murder of millionaire Roland Stingwell and fingers Penny's no-good mama, Lila Robinson (guest star Gina Torres) as the prime suspect; Randy Mann (guest star David Arquette) attempts to romance Olive.


Brilliant episode! Olive singing "Hello" and an appearance by Mother Superior were the icing on the cake! (Or, the flaky crust on the pie?) Loved it!
greebs said…
I thought one of the brilliant things was Ned and Randy Mann talking about Superman and Clark Kent, and it taking that for Ned to realize that Clark Kent didn't get any women...never liked David Arquette more than in this show, frankly.

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