If you’re among those fans rooting for Michelle to remove foot from mouth and get back in good graces with her surfer bartender oceanographer near-beau Godot, this week’s new episode of Bunheads, “The Astronaut and the Ballerina”, may have been a disappointment for you. Michelle approaches, makes bad jokes, digs her hole a little deeper, gifts him with a copy of Finding Nemo because of oceanography, but then watches her baby steps to forgiveness interrupted by a surprise visitor: her deadbeat brother Scotty!
For value-added meta-fun, Scotty is played by Sutton Foster’s real-life brother, Tony Award nominee Hunter Foster (2003’s Little Shop of Horrors). In mere minutes we find out what Scotty and Michelle have in common: they’re terrible at life decisions. Scotty retreats from a Madison (Wisconsin’s, I presume) to our little town of Paradise as a four-time runaway groom who needs a place to crash and a fellow loser with whom to hang out so he can feel better. Unfortunately Scotty drops by just in time to ruin Michelle’s plans and further delay the reunion of “Godelle” or “Michot” or whatever we ought to call their attempted pairing.
Bro and sis hang out. They share coffee fetched offscreen from the one shop (though we obliquely learn that barista Bash still “hates [her] guts” — clever reference to last summer’s episode “No One Takes Khaleesi’s Dragons”). They get drunk. They compare embarrassing stories of yore. Scotty brings Michelle her long-lost ukulele and lies about it suddenly turning up. It’s all party-time fun and games until Scotty crosses a line when he regales the Bunheads with a childhood anecdote about a younger, stupider Michelle who drew inspiration from the 1947 Margaret O’Brien ballet drama The Unfinished Dance and hatched a scheme to get out of class by injuring her teacher. Said scheme failed well, but instead of laughing along, Michelle blows a gasket. Toward the episode’s end, a knock-down drag-out hyperverbal shouting match illustrates the major differences between Scotty’s persistent immaturity and Michelle’s own recent character development. Though she’s still not batting 1.000 in the department of wisdom, she’s had to grow up tremendously from her vapid-showgirl days in the pilot to her current position as a mentor, role model, repentant Nutcracker Macer, and — especially while Fanny remains out of town — a more stable adult than some of Our Heroines’ own parents. She kind of needs to look the part, and is rather proud of her improvement at it. Scotty is frightened and confused, and has much to ponder, as embodied in the episode title that sums up their seemingly silly childhood aspirations. As of this writing, Michelle is much closer to hers than Scotty ever will be to his.
Meanwhile at Bunhead-level, Sasha is out-of-episode for apartment-hunting (just as Boo was AWOL last week for baby- and mom-sitting), and best friends Melanie and Ginny find their relationship tested by their conflicting issues. Melanie’s father (Taylor Nichols) is pressuring her to begin thinking about college, inundating her with literature and advice even though she’s not even a senior. Between that and last week’s minor tribulations, she finds an outlet for her pent-up frustration by taking up Cosette’s invitation to join the local roller-derby team, the Derby Dolls. (No indication is given as to whether this version is a farm team for the existing San Diego or LA teams.) Rechristened “Cleo Smacktra”, Melanie quickly fits in to death on wheels, though she’s irked to learn Cosette isn’t actually a teammate — she and brother Frankie are just the team DJs. The team’s true leader, whose name I missed, is played by Sydney Bennett, a veteran of the 2009 roller-derby flick Whip It. I imagine unsightly bruises would mar Cosette’s attempted unilateral perfection or whatever.
At the same time, Ginny’s speech pattern has shifted to high-velocity intensity as she’s trapped in the middle of the escalating tension between her divorced parents in the days leading up to her dad’s upcoming wedding to his new love, one Fay Mendelson, or Fay Mendelsohn, or Phai Menndellsunn. I suppose we’ll have to wait till someone guest-stars in that role before we’re informed of the chosen spelling. Whichever way her name ultimately goes, Ginny needs Melanie to be there for her at the wedding photo shoot, which in my book is always the most nightmarish part of the wedding procedural. Frankly, I don’t blame her for asking. Despite this commitment, not only does Melanie skip ballet class for roller-derby practice, she also forgets about the shoot because of the hypnotic allure of violent roller-skating. Ginny tracks her down, discovers her attempted new team activity, and refuses to divulge the full story as to why her already-hideous ceremonial dress is now covered in punch. When they part, not much has been hashed out.
Alas, troubled pairs come in three this week. Boo and Carl are driven to wit’s end, covering for her mom’s babysitting obligations. Bringing the three troublemakers with her to class proves a poor choice, disrupting everyone’s sorely needed demi-plié practice. Carl picks up some slack where he can, but these little monsters-to-be are trying even his generous patience. By episode’s end, even Boo and Carl are yelling at each other.
And Boo doesn’t stop there. Previous special guest Kent Boyd (So You Think You Can Dance) returns as Jordan, who’s apparently now a teaching assistant at Fanny’s school. He’s also a taskmaster and a jerk. His idea of constructive criticism is, “You just killed Baryshnikov!” When he lectures one petulant time too many, an already edgy Boo tears into him and bellows him into submission. After that, Jordan learns to behave and teach like a nice boy. In that moment, Boo was just that scary.
Even the dashing duo of Cosette and Frankie aren’t without sin. Cosette is stunned when Michelle deigns to offer her some ballet pointers in class. Her! Cosette! Can this be? Instead of flying off the handle diva-style, Cosette accepts the pointers, retries, and nails the move. Still, that was an unsettling moment for all involved. Frankie merely spends his time drawing and flirting lightly with Ginny, but is rebuffed when she, in need of someone to blame for everything, tears into Cosette for being an everything-wrecker and catches a speechless Frankie in the crossfire. Don’t expect their first date anytime soon.
In sum: all the plots conclude this week with everyone yelling at each other. Suddenly the show has become Yellheads and in dire need of Fanny to come save the day, preferably through not-yelling.
Thankfully, the episode culminates in one sweet note, as dueling siblings sit together on the porch without talking, set aside their squabbling for a moment, and croon tonight’s obligatory musical number — a ukulele-backed duet of the delicate 1920s quasi-love song “Tonight You Belong to Me”. In our world it was most recently covered by Eddie Vedder and Cat Power, which is only fitting after Scotty’s mean wisecrack about Vedder’s Ukulele Songs album earlier in the episode. The Vedder/Power version is enclosed below, though I’m hoping ABC Family posts the Simms Siblings version later this week. Enjoy!
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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”