In spite of the scene near the end where two of our cast members turned into heartless teenage monsters, I heartily welcomed the arrival of Casey J. Adler as Carl Cramer, the young dynamo introduced in tonight’s new episode of Bunheads. With a song in his heart and a dream of his hundredth viewing of That’s Entertainment! lifting his spirits, the new lead in the dance school’s Rogers/Astaire tribute sought to leap, waltz, and charm his way into Boo’s good graces when cast as her leading man. With his predecessor out of the picture (special guest Kent Boyd from So You Think You Can Dance, a.k.a. SYTYCD, which I think is pronounced “sit-icked”) and Sasha sidelined due to forbidden suntanning, can this odd couple share a dance number without driving each other crazy?
This struggle was, for me, the most interesting part of tonight’s episode, “Blank Up, It’s Time”. (Despite Michelle’s consternation, the title of the play-within-an-episode makes sense to me. Every morning for me, “wake” is a four-letter word.) Carl and Boo were only one of three new couples featured. First, Fannie introduced us to her heretofore unknown troubadour amour Michael (character actor Richard Gant, whom you probably saw in this one thing, and you’re absolutely sure of it, but for the life of you, you can’t remember it, can you?). Later in the episode, while attending an amateurish performance of Blank Up, It’s Time with Fannie, Michelle makes a new friend in the play’s director, Conor (Chris Eigeman, best known to me as Malcolm’s obnoxious teacher on Malcolm in the Middle). I’m generally not interested when shows delve into sex lives, but the rapid-fire chemistry between Michelle and Conor was fun to behold, especially as they’re comparing notes on how badly his play is going (Conor surveying the unresponsive audience: “I count eight asleep, three dead”).
Random thoughts from tonight:
* When noting in old film dialogue that, “It’s funnier when it’s faster,” Ginny discovers the secret that has driven the careers of Amy Sherman-Palladino and Aaron Sorkin.
* I spent the second half of the episode fairly irked. Michelle’s haranguing of the buffalo-legged lady struck a little too close to home for me, someone who’s self-conscious about how much space he takes up in auditorium seating. Granted, the lady’s stubbornness was the more annoying obstacle, but most of the snark was at the expense of her weight, not her obstinacy. If that wasn’t enough lowbrow mockery, then came the short jokes about poor, effervescent Carl. I appreciated Fannie’s sobering moment with not-small-boned Boo when she subtly hints that sometimes it’s to our benefit when people overlook those of unusual size (a fitting callback to Boo’s own hard-won acceptance into ballet school). I less appreciated her summation of Carl: “What he lacks in everything, he makes up in enthusiasm.” Then again, that’s only slightly less backhanded than most of her quote-unquote “compliments”.
* Favorite scene: Fannie’s tantrum over the Arroyo Grande beach party’s decision to forgo ballet in favor of cheerleaders this year. (Maybe in their world, yodeling and plate-spinning are sports, Fannie! Not nice to judge.)
* It was hard to be shocked at Sasha’s continuing downward spiral into “DEFCON Swan”. After the forbidden suntan, then her dramatic act of wanton, reckless rebellion…was to try out for the cheerleader squad? For a brief moment the ending felt straight out of Bizarro World. If Carl sticks around for future seasons, expect his disenchantment with his parents’ marital issues to lead him into a street gang whose members are all on the chess team.
* I do not want to see Michelle’s one commercial gig. Please do not show us Michelle’s one commercial gig. I will die of male horror if I have to watch Michelle’s one commercial gig.
* I bet Conor would’ve made a fantastic murder victim on Law & Order: Parental Neglect. Dick Wolf’s people clearly just didn’t get him.
Regardless of all of the above, tonight’s real star was — that name again — Carl Cramer, the long-lost son of Mad Men‘s Michael Ginsberg. Once more with feeling, here was my second favorite scene (posted officially by ABC Family, so no pesky C-&-D order to disrupt transmission this time), in which Carl’s stalker-ish tendencies show just a little before he reins them in and ends on a note of gentlemanly class…and then undermines it all with a coda threatening to do impressions. Maybe should’ve stopped one sentence sooner, Carl.
(If you’re dying to see Kent Boyd’s musical number, that’s online, too. I don’t watch reality shows, but he does seem talented.)