Tonight’s new episode of Bunheads, “I’ll Be Your Meyer Lansky”, saw the return of one of Michelle and Fanny’s most dreaded mutual enemies: their accountant, Eric (Ron Butler). Though they ostensibly “run” a dance studio as an awkward partnership, neither of them is big on bookkeeping, finances, profit margins, simple math, or numbers in general. Consequently, the studio is tanking hard, thanks to the Nutcracker fundraiser disaster, Fanny’s reluctance to bill many of her poorer students, and both instructors’ penchant for canceling classes on a whim and/or plot device.
Presumably before Hubbell’s death he managed his own money as well as his mother’s studio, but apparently didn’t leave her enough of a fortune to fund it on auto-pilot in perpetuity. Eric’s base-level fiduciary jargon reminds me of my day job, but is useless against a pair of flighty dance instructors, even though they prefaced their office visit with several rounds of energy drinks and a dedicated physical training montage set to faux-Rocky fanfare. Had they spent their formative years double-majoring, they wouldn’t be in this mess or, one hopes, overdosing on Red Bull. As it is, the best business proposition they can muster is a shaky plan involving a donkey, a sluice box (or “sluicer” in Michellespeak), and some gold in them thar hills.
As they recover from their grueling session of Scared Straight in Mathmagic Land, their brainstorming session for moneymaking ideas yield one non-absurd thought, regardless of feasibility: part of their vast property would make a great amphitheater. Eric is not impressed with their enthusiasm or their wild hope to build one from nothing in the space of a month. Add “construction” along with “finance” to the list of concepts not in their mutual skill set.
Then Michelle has something closer to an official Good Idea: sign up for a small-business accounting course at the local junior college. Stranger people than her have tried it. In the Mafia analogy that facilitates the episode title, Michelle would be famous Mob accountant Meyer Lansky to Fanny’s famous Mob boss — either Bugsy Siegel or Lucky Luciano, her pick. (I owe a debt of gratitude to Max Allan Collins’ old Nate Heller novels for educating me on those names.) Not content with merely a single analogy, also quoth Michelle in her eureka moment, “Stringer Bell did it, right?” That’s five thousand bonus points to Michelle for referencing season three of The Wire. In this scenario, if Michelle is Stringer, then Fanny is Avon Barksdale, ever the stubborn soldier with no use for the economic constructs of The MAN.
Shocking news interrupts the enrollment process: Michelle never officially earned her high school diploma. With just a single summer-school class standing between her and accreditation, teen Michelle blew it off and spent two weeks in Dollywood instead. I can’t even begin to comprehend that line of thinking, and I’m all but certain that a Bunheads prequel series starring ditzy teen Michelle would give me a mental meltdown.
Bitter and disappointed, Michelle finds her spirits temporarily lifted when the Bunheads gang bring good tidings: her one-moment surfer-bartender beau Godot is back in town from his Australian surfing experience and serving at the Oyster Bar once more! What should be a meet-cute reunion turns sour when Michelle tries to bond with him on a high-school-dropout level. Man, those diploma-holders are such a drag, am I right? This attempt at humor is lost on Godot, M.O. (Master of Oceanography), who plans to parlay his master’s degree into a for-real doctorate, and probably plans to report her to his local Surfer-Dude Anti-Defamation League. You can imagine the trombone wah-waaaah right before she spends the rest of the episode without male companionship.
Not all Oyster Bar matters end fruitlessly, though. Well, okay, some matters do, such as the weekly trivia contest, at which sassy adult-tap-dance student Sam (Rose Abdoo) is the reigning champion, twelve weeks and counting. Michelle teams up with her briefly, but is unclear on such basic trivia concepts as multiple choice, quick thinking, timers, and not-rambling. Over in a lonely corner, Truly and her lucky troll doll forge a one-sided partnership that probably outscores Michelle. Three of the four Bunheads (Boo is AWOL this week) collaborate and appear to fare even worse. The winners: Cosette and Frankie, the Wonder Twins! Last week’s new students are still hanging around, doing better than everyone at everything, and even forming a new mega-clique comprised of their fans from all the various school cliques, including at least one adult. This is not how school works and cannot be permitted to continue.
Anyway, as I was saying: one Oyster Bar matter doesn’t end fruitlessly — the owner of the trivia contest equipment is Truly’s type-A sister and ex-landlord Missy, who also just happens to be a pro investor, a real estate maven, and a theater fan who recently saw TV’s Mario Lopez in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and once performed in her youth as an extra in Up the Down Staircase. Michelle’s amphitheater proposal tickles her fancy so successfully that she doesn’t just want to help — she wants to be a partner. Thus does she confirm their plans to establish the Millicent Stone Performing Arts Center. Not exactly the name Michelle or Fanny had in mind, I’m sure. Will Eric approve of their plan now? Can they count on his support? Will he be the first guy to declare himself an official MSPAC-man? Time will tell, quarters permitting.
Meanwhile on the teen level, Melanie’s icky brother Charlie is devastated after his girlfriend Stacia dumps him for no obvious reason. Melanie assumes Charlie is at fault because of ickiness, but is stunned when she’s told he did nothing wrong. Charlie’s resulting depression is so confusing to her that she has no response on a conscious level…but as she passes Stacia in the hallway later, Melanie impulsively yanks her ponytail hard enough to force her to the ground. Later, when Godot walks away from Michelle with just cause, Melanie responds by yanking his chair out from under him. Melanie is unsure what’s driving her to all this wanton violence, but the nigh-perfect Cosette compliments her on her brashness and hands her a flyer that explains what the mega-clique may be about: Cosette is forming a roller derby team! Subplot ends To Be Continued, as the promo for next week confirms with several shots of roller-rink safety equipment.
Cosette’s big show-off moment this week happens earlier at the dance studio, where class is delayed on account of Truly using half the dance floor to run Sparkles and sell dresses without paying rent. Unfazed by retail obstacles, Cosette and Matisse perform as a duo and incorporate the heck out of the props and scenery, while Our Heroines watch helplessly from within their ever-burgeoning inferiority complexes.
Serious matters are sequestered to the show’s final ten minutes, in which Sasha and her mom butt heads over the moving plans. Dad is fleeing with his new love to Encino, while cuckolded Mom is dying to go live in San Jose. Sasha wants neither, refuses to pack, and deflects questioning by pretending to read Ordinary People, which is only half-apropos since it’s about a family torn apart, but half-isn’t because Sasha hasn’t had any relatives die suddenly, as far as we know. Seeing an opportunity for an object lesson and an excuse to dump the baggage that is her own flesh-and-blood, Mom tosses all the house keys to Sasha and storms off to go finish packing. Sasha is left despondent and alone with Michelle, who’s still terrible in the advice department. (“This would be a lot easier if I could offer you a drink.”) All Michelle can do is sit with her and give her silent comfort, which is more than her selfish parents are providing her.
As with the “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” emotionally symbolic number from last summer, thus does this episode conclude with another similarly structured piece, set to the somber strains of folkie Erin McKeown’s “You, Sailor”, a theme fit for a strong-willed survivor who refuses to be undermined, but ultimately isn’t sure that it’s working.
(Fellow Indianapolis residents can catch McKeown live at the Irving Theater on February 9th. Nice timing.)
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Updated 1/22/2013: ABC Family posted Sasha’s heartbreaking interpretation online today:
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Missing an episode of Bunheads? Be sure to check ABC Family’s official site for recent episodes posted online, consult your local Video On Demand provider, spend money on them over at iTunes, try Hulu if you’re so inclined, or check out past episode recaps here at MCC. Your handy episode checklist is provided below, along with recap links where available. Enjoy!
6/18/2012: “For Fanny”
6/25/2012: “Inherit the Wind”
7/9/2012: “Better Luck Next Year”
7/16/2012: “Money for Nothing”
7/23/2012: “Movie Truck”
7/30/2012: “What’s Your Damage, Heather”
8/6/2012: “Blank Up, It’s Time”
8/13/2012: “No One Takes Khaleesi’s Dragons”
8/20/2012: “A Nutcracker in Paradise”