‘Bunheads’ recap: Episode 4, ‘Better Luck Next Year’

It's weird that she tried to bribe this guy with money but tried to bribe all the others with sex, right?

Michelle finally gets all of her crap from Vegas and moves it into the guest house. Except it includes a lot of extra things that her landlord threw onto the truck to get rid of them or, as Michelle puts it: “I’m getting robbed in reverse.”

In the meantime, Fanny is trying to groom the landscaping to make her studio look good for the Joffrey Ballet auditions. That includes getting Michelle’s crap out of the driveway as fast as possible, even though there’s nowhere to put it. Surely she sees no problem shoving it all together in the tiny guest house, since she personally loves the aesthetic of “cluttered.” We’re actually surprised she’s not trying to adopt that sombrero and giant blue pig into her own collection of oddities.

Boo and her mom are shopping at the farmers market because Boo’s still trying to lose a little extra weight before the auditions. But her mom wants to splurge on pita chips and kettle corn. “It’s more fun when we eat together!” But Boo was miserable when she failed the auditions last year, so she’s determined to stick to radishes and kale.

Michelle should have checked out the house before agreeing to move into it. The fridge doesn’t work and she turns the stove on and it gets stuck spouting gas. Plus it comes with a meddling mother-in-law … who happens to come in the middle of the night to start cleaning up after Michelle. She graciously allows her to share the kitchen in the big house, which is a convenient way to get them to interact more. Michelle also learns she has to get some curtains when she’s dancing around in her underwear eating chips, and some dancers (including Sasha) stand in front of the window gaping.

Fanny meets with alcoholic bar owner Rico and Truly to organize the refreshments for the Joffrey people. She wants things to be perfect, obviously, but unlike her last party planning foray, this list of barely reasonable requests doesn’t include mariachi and an ice sculpture yet. Mrs. Flowers (the elder) then rushes out because she got a fax from Joffrey, and she interprets it to mean they’re passive-aggressively hinting that they’re not holding auditions at her studio for the first time in 12 summers.

In the saddest moment of TV since we learned Logan Echolls on “Veronica Mars” got abused by his dad at home (we’re still sore about that cancellation), we see Boo visit her kitchen in the middle of the night and discover a cake waiting for when she fails her auditions that says Better Luck Next Year. We thought we were going to love her warm, enabling mom but now it seems like she is kind of a bitch. So we learn that you can beat someone with a belt but you can also beat them with a cake.

The next day or later, Michelle is attempting to put up a curtain rod in a lovely moment of prop comedy aided by wobbly sound effects. She winds up throwing it. Fanny is still stewing about Joffrey and dismisses her kids without teaching them anything. She thinks a studio in Ojai (obviously chosen for the humor of its name) stole the auditions from her. Michelle suggests just fixing the floor, which is the main hold-up. Fanny looks at her like she spouted two heads, because fixing the floor of a dance studio is no cheap or easy task.

Meanwhile, Boo breaks her pointe shoes and says her mom will never buy her a new pair just for the auditions since she doesn’t think Boo stands a chance anyway. She almost hits Sasha in the face with one, too, which would have been awesome but too bad. That would have gotten her cast as the next Clara in “Nutcracker” hands down. Sasha actually attempts to be nice, but Boo shuts her down and storms off.

Truly brings over perfect curtains for Michelle; she says she’s always been able to tell what everyone wants except herself. (She seemed to really want Hubbell though, yeah?) Michelle brings up her issue with the tension rods and Truly reveals that she brought those, too. We’re kind of impressed that window dressing has become a major plot point on this episode. Curtains probably haven’t gotten this level of attention since “Sound of Music.” Also, Michelle doesn’t know what a Phillip’s head screwdriver is. Didn’t she claim to be handy around the house??? If her dance resume is as deceptive as her personal resume to Fanny and Hubbell, it’s no wonder she didn’t get “Chicago.” Speaking of resumes, Truly rehashes Fanny’s whole dance history, which we already know, just to illustrate how important Fanny’s reputation and business are to her and why she’s going a little crazy about it (this is all she has left). WE GET IT.

Sasha’s mom is showering, so she sneaks into her room and steals money from her wallet. That’s all that happens for now!

Michelle has a dream about performing “Me and My Baby” in an audition for a mean judge that mirrors her curt rejection from “Chicago” (although in that case, she didn’t exactly get rejected since she didn’t dance at all). Also, for a minute we thought the judge was going to be Alan Ruck, who plays Hubbell. Sadly, no — though that would add a little more nuance to this psychological dilemma. Also also, we’ve missed seeing dancing, much less singing, on this show especially from Sutton Foster. Why cast a stellar Broadway performer if she’s not going to do things like this more often? When she wakes up, she wanders around the studio looking at pictures of Fanny and working herself up to forming a plan that will save the day (oh, you so know it’s true just like you know Sasha was stealing that money for Boo’s shoes).

So yeah, then she’s wandering into the town hardware store and trying to strike a deal with the workers so that they can get the floors done as soon as possible without paying for it right away. She even resorts to painfully awkward flirting. But it’s to no avail.

Instead, she resorts to visiting the neighboring town of Oxnard where they have more than one hardware store and she can try seducing various men into helping her out. She found it on the Internet, which she uses at an Internet café. You guys, the world’s last remaining Internet café is in Paradise, California, spread the word! She enlists Fanny in this crusade because surely flirting with guys in front of your recently deceased husband’s mom won’t be weird at all.

At the dance studio, Sasha throws some brand new pointe shoes at Boo and tries to brush it off like it’s all some kind of mistake and she doesn’t actually have, like, feelings or anything.

Michelle and Fanny recruit some weird guy named Floyd to do their floors but Michelle’s suddenly worried about letting him take charge and funnily, Fanny’s the one doing most of the flirting. Michelle: “What is it with floor guys?” Fanny: “They don’t like you, that’s for sure.” Fanny summarizes Michelle’s trepidation as such: “If people are willing to do what you want them to do, you don’t want them to anymore?”

We skip right ahead to Joffrey being there though wow, that was fast. So the floors worked out. That was anticlimactic. The pacing on this show can be so weird. Boo’s excitedly wearing her new shoes. Michelle and Fanny sit back to watch what happens and drink a bottle of wine. What happens is that Boo keeps getting cut but Fanny keeps putting her in wigs and new costumes so she can keep trying out until they see how well she can actually dance. Michelle watches in astonishment: “It’s like being backstage at the Carol Burnett Show.” Hee! Well, Michelle, it’s certainly better subterfuge than that time you tried to get away with being “handy around the house.”

Boo keeps getting cut, but she has fun and she knows that Fanny actually believes in her, so she comes away happy and confident. It’s good that she didn’t just get in as a cheap shot at positivity this route way better. The most important thing about this scene is that the person helping Boo with her costumes is the token black girl that likes to hang around in the background. Boo also invites Sasha home to eat “failure cake,” so though it seems like Sasha made it or made this cut at least they bond and Sasha is now smiling, too.

Despite settling into her house more and helping Fanny, Michelle continues to have her dance rejection nightmares and once again wakes up in the middle of the night breathless. Is this the end of her career, which is about to become a tragic footnote in her life story as it has for Fanny? Or is it a speed bump that will make her stronger as she moves forward, as it is for Boo?


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