Sasha’s parents may be divorcing and deserting Paradise in separate directions, but judging by the evidence presented in tonight’s new episode of Bunheads, “Take the Vicuna”, their forgotten credit cards are keeping their daughter company in their absence. Their magically limitless credit line is enough to secure her new luxury apartment, cover the utilities bills (and hopefully the learning curve that goes with those), provide two carts’ worth of startup food and accessories, and still have thousands left over to throw a righteous housewarming party for her core friends, several classmates, the grownups who didn’t abandon her, and for reasons unknown Aubrey (Victoria Park), her onetime cheerleading captain. The snacks are plentiful, the guests receive parting gifts, and the decor is so over-the-top ornate, you’d think Sasha shares an interior decorator with Tom Haverford from Parks and Rec.
Two minor omissions on Sasha’s guest list. One: Cosette. No ill will on Sasha’s part — they’re not even introduced until this episode. However, Ginny and Melanie are still sparring over last week‘s differences, which Ginny largely blames on Cosette. A hotheaded Ginny threatens to skip the party if Cosette attends. An offended Melanie threatens to skip if Ginny doesn’t attend. An embarrassed Sasha delicately rescinds her invitation from Cosette because, in her words, “My friends over there are reenacting the last act from Benjamin Button and will soon turn four.” However, because Cosette is perfect, she understands Sasha’s rough position between Scylla and Charybdis, and abides.
During the intricate opening sequence, this same Ginny/Melanie schism pervades ballet practice, as our Bunheads all chatter at a breakneck pace while running through a complex series of moves that would be difficult for the average student to pull off silently, let alone while reciting several pages of snippy dialogue. Minutes of simultaneous squabbling and dancing result in no apparent errors to easily impressed amateur eyes, though Fanny is none too thrilled. Also, Fanny’s finally back!
Equally uninvited to Sasha’s party: her boyfriend Roman (Garrett Coffey), left hovering at the outskirts of her still-fracturing life. After the party’s over and the last guest departs, a bitter Roman confronts Sasha about the party to which he wasn’t invited, the apartment he didn’t even know she had, the three-letter texts that pass for Sasha’s small talk, and his part on the show in general. I expected Sasha to break down and collapse into his arms in a sobbing mess, but no. She confesses that in her whirlwind state of totally reconfiguring her entire life as a result of her selfish parents, she was afraid that inviting her boyfriend to her swinging new bachelorette pad would send the wrong signals and complicate their quasi-courtly relationship. After a brief shouting match that teeters thiiis close to breakup, they agree to dinner Friday at eight. Sasha smiles as a steaming but somehow satisfied Roman storms off.
Meanwhile at adult level, Fanny, Michelle, and their new investor Milly (Truly’s type-A sister) survey the portion of the Flowers estate that a sign proclaims as the future site of the Millicent Stone Performing Arts Center and, in much tinier type, Paradise Dance Academy. Milly promises to buy them a whole new world — a bigger stage! More lights! Better costumes! Twenty tall, well-built ushers! Fanny and Michelle try demurring from such luxury (“we’ll just shove the ugly kids in the dark spots”), but Milly won’t have it. If she’s funding it, she’s funding it all the way (“I live in a perfect world,” she says with nary a trace of sarcasm), using all her vast knowledge of ballet and art that was derived entirely from selective skimming through recent issues of Playbill. In response to this jaw-dropping offer, Michelle quotes a scene about proffered extravagance from the movie Sunset Boulevard: “As long as the lady’s paying for it, why not take the vicuna?”
Milly’s superficial art knowledge inspires her to invoke her first demand: she wants to attend a backer’s rehearsal. In the theater world, apparently the patrons fronting the cash to a production are entitled to watch the performers practice and see what their money is facilitating. According to Milly’s understanding of things implied by Playbill articles, this also entitles her to give notes and demand changes, even if she has no idea what she’s talking about and no clue how ballet works. The students run through a few segments from their upcoming production of Sleeping Beauty, including the classic single “Once Upon a Dream” and a solo for Ray-Ray (RaJahnae Patterson, who also has a short non-Bunheads dance sample posted on YouTube). Milly’s pages of dimwitted, focus-group notes on her yellow legal pad include:
* There must be tutus.
* She should have a producer’s chair with her name on it, which she’s already ordered. Oh, and by the way, she’s their producer now.
* Needs less spinning.
* This one particular jumping move? Also less of that.
* The part where Boo trips? She shouldn’t do that.
* If this is Sleeping Beauty, where are the dwarves?
Milly accepts correction on that last point, but Fanny is otherwise fit to be tied, and would’ve throttled Milly in her large, squeaky throne if Michelle weren’t holding her back. As it is, Fanny shouts her out of the studio (“You’re not Scott Rudin and this is not a Johnny Depp film!“, because California small-town residents can readily name-check random movie producers even in moments of fury) and invites whatever litigation Milly wants to jump-start.
Fanny later cools down and invites Milly to dinner for more mature negotiation. At long last the truth is revealed: Milly is tired of being perceived as just a businessperson, and wants to look like someone who also knows a lot about art. She doesn’t actually want to spend time viewing, reading, or consuming arts in any way because that would take time away from earning money, her one true Precious. Fanny explains that in order for Milly to appear artful, her productions should have the appearance of competent art composed by trained artists, not overproduced into ignorant mediocrity like a Hollywood film. Thus is detente reached: Fanny will be allowed full creative control, and in return Milly gets bragging rights for making it possible, and will be allowed to fake a certain level of upper-class art cred.
Meanwhile, Michelle humors her brother Scotty’s presence for one more night, first bringing him to Sasha’s party, where they both marvel at objects and appliances more expensive than anything they’ve ever owned. Sasha makes a point of impressing Michelle with the dance bar and mirror she had installed in her bedroom because, despite her sarcasm about a great many other matters, she honestly is serious about dance. Sasha’s reverence nearly flies over Michelle’s head, but not Scotty’s.
After the party: Simms siblings one-night road trip! Other than fun things not shown onscreen, the itinerary includes one secret destination: a quick rendezvous in a Sacramento diner with special guest Lolita Davidovich as their birth mother. At long last we meet the woman responsible for two irresponsible kids with impressive talents. It doesn’t take us long to discern why Mom failed at teaching them everything they needed to know: Mom is a bit of an ungracefully aging flibbertigibbet. After losing their childhood home in an acrimonious breakup with a past boyfriend (not their father), surviving the fiduciary ordeal required Mom to have herself declared incompetent, with Scotty appointed by the court as her beleaguered guardian. Scotty is being a good son and signing papers so that Mom can afford her new condominimum, where she lives with her new boyfriend Rufus, age 35. Mom wants to record a country album; her condo has a built-in recording studio; and Rufus owns a copy of Pro Tools. This master plan cannot possibly go wrong.
As Mom and Scotty exchange terse words, she and Michelle avoid looking directly at each other until just before parting. Whatever separated them 12½ years ago obviously still pains them both. Though this delicate scene is no less hyper-verbal than any other (Mom may be a legally incompetent airhead, but she’s not slow to speak), it’s clear that we’re seeing new evidence as to why Michelle’s life was as screwed up as it was before Hubbell changed everything for her. Michelle clearly, sadly learned her ways from a real pro.
Last scene: Scotty drops Michelle off at home and concludes his two-part appearance. On the couch, Sasha is curled up half-asleep. Her friends weren’t allowed to spend the night at her new place because of complete lack of parental supervision, so it seems an unspoken form of crushing loneliness drove her to seek refuge and company at her favorite teacher’s place. That swank apartment may be decked out in style and ready for a magazine cover, but home decor is no substitute for loved ones.
Thus are we To Be Continued once again. Unless Sasha’s housewarming party had source music piping over her speakers, this episode had no catchy, obscure tunes for me to track down. Instead, we close with the original rendition of “Once Upon a Dream” from the mighty Walt Disney players. That silly owl might be a dwarf, but I’m not sure which six animals are his true dwarven comrades.
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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”