Pushing Daisies (S02E03): “Bad Habits”
More than any other show on TV, I can count on Pushing Daisies to give me a reason to smile every week. That’s because Daisies has yet to truly let me down, even in its roughest weeks, and “Bad Habits” sticks to the very good habit of crafting an hour long escape that leaves my cheeks feeling the slightest bit tingly and my heart a little warmer.
Olive and Ned are both dealing with abandonment issues this week: Olive feeling abandoned emotionally by Ned, and Ned still not over being dropped to the curb by his father. Their separate but related issues collide when one of Olive’s sisters falls from a bell tower and she brings Emmerson, Ned and Chuck in to help solve the case. So these dilemmas are nothing new, but their finally coming face with them and with each other. Olive’s run away to keep her guard up and her secrets inside it, but she gets the chance to spill it all to Ned in the nunnery and can instantly feel a heavy burden pulled off her like a plastic bag from the head.
This season has demonstrated in more than one way its insistence on these characters to move forward, out of the past and into the future. The problem is that they’re scared of both their pasts, with all its dark corners, and their futures, clouded by uncertainties that point back to the past. Olive’s admissions to Ned and his subsequent apology to her, for not being the slightest bit sensitive to her feelings in his whirlwind romance with Chuck, allows her to finally move out of the past and toward that future.
She’s not the only one struggling with the past, though, or even the one having the toughest time with it. That honor goes to Chuck and her sad stump of a family tree, unfinished since her days of grade school and the silly project that made her realize then and still now that she knew very little about her family. Donning a blond hooker wig, as Ned calls it, she meets a well-known genealogist to try and dig up her family history, but Ned makes that scowly face he makes when he’s unhappy, because he is unhappy for whatever reason about her search. Perhaps because even after last weeks steps forward, he still wants partly to be all that she needs–to be her entire world–when clearly that can’t and shouldn’t be the case.
Later, in the thick of the nunnery investigation, sitting side-by-side and under the watchful eyes of the Virgin Mary, Chuck reveals how she feels stuck in between, like a ghost lingering somewhere between heaven and hell. It almost seems to Ned that she wants him to touch her again and die, which breaks his heart a little, but what she’s really wanting is clarity on her past and a clear path into her future. She doesn’t have to die, she just needs answers to kick her out of that terrible in between place of uncertainty. And Ned is handed the key to that by Olive Snook in the form of the bombshell that Lily is not her Aunt, but her mother.
When he does tell her, she begins to cry tears of joy. Ned is surprised over her choice to take the news in a good way, since he was right alongside me in thinking she would resent such a secret being held from her, and maybe she will later on, but for now she’s just overjoyed to be able to fill in those missing branches of the unfinished family tree. Ned hands it to her to rewrite, but is simultaneously realizing he has to go back into his past as well. The Father at the convent told him that he is going to continue to become more like the father that abandoned him unless he goes back and faces him and clears the air, which is hard for our very non-confrontational Ned to stomach. Much like myself, Ned is the kind of guy to choose almost any option over confrontation. While it can be a good quality at times and avoid many unnecessary conflicts, it can also lead to avoidance of absolutely necessary things–like reconciling with a person that hurt you more than you’d even like to admit. Ned can’t live in the bubble anymore, as it’s been burst, and has to move outside his comfort zone in order to expand it and move on and be happy. Olive’s bandaging up her past, Chuck is filling in hers and now Ned, too, has to face his. Also, Emmerson has one that’s following him around and will surely be more than just hinted at as the season continues.
The case this week isn’t as fanciful as the last, taking place entirely in Olive’s convent, but I think has more heart. Olive gets to play the heroine for the hour, starting with the wonderful opening explaining her penchant for digging. She dug a hole in her yard to get to Arabia to get an Arabian horse, but find a dinosaur skeleton instead. She’s digging for horses, digging for truffles, but mostly, she’s digging for love. It’s an odd story that could only fit in the world of Pushing Daisies, but it sets up Miss Snook’s tenacity in this episode and her reason for never giving up until she has what she wants. That could be why Ned poses such an unknown for her, being someone that no amount of digging will ever lead her to, and she doesn’t know what to do or how to move on because of it. So the supposed suicide of her one friend at the nunnery (guest star Mo Collins) gives her a chance to dig into a problem she can solve and leads her to the meeting with Ned that sort of finally pushes her out of the stagnant pool she’s been wallowing in. Olive may have the biggest pickax for digging, but Ned, Chuck and Emmerson are all finding they have digging of their own to do and they’re finally almost able to handle the tools necessary to drill into their pasts and get rid of the several billion year old dinosaur skeletons lingering there.
I enjoyed the many turns the case took, making it appear that several different people were murders before ultimately revealing the complicated truth behind everything. Some shows, and even some cases on PD, I can figure out early on, but this one kept me guessing until the end. Complete with secret passageways, hidden truffle laboratories, and killer pigs, the case was certainly obscure and random enough for a Daisies caper and ended off for the first time (that I can recall) with no one being guilty of murder. I was personally glad that the devout nuns or the Father full of good advice were not scheming killers, which would have been a little dark for this show, but the episode did a good job of making it hard to trust a single person living in a convent full of devout sister’s of God.
If I had to find a negative it might be the lack of either aunt, but that’s only because I love them so much, and I realize there was no way they could fit into this nun filled hour. Also, I was pretty sure I read Olive was to perform a musical number in the third episode, but either I was misinformed or it got lost on the cutting room floor. Everything else, as usual, was full of that Fuller magic (and Gretchen Berg, the writer, deserves credit, too).