'Bunheads' recap: Episode 2, 'For Fanny'
How do you handle death and grief on a family-friendly network without just fast-forwarding past all the hard and messy details? By making a punchline out of Marky Mark.
We pick up immediately where we left off, which is somewhat surprising since death is a hard thing to tackle on a family-oriented prime-time show. But via song, symbolism and a sleepless-night montage, we're gonna go ahead and tackle this tragedy head-on. On the night that Hubbell gets into his car accident, Michelle pines for her poor dead hubby as if they've been married more than a day, looking at extremely recent wedding photos and going through his possessions. She watches the sun come up on a new day - see, symbolism? And here's a new title sequence promising to hustle us through the death drama and back into the blistering fun of tween ballerina angst.
Next, our favorite dancer Sasha is hashing out the subtle intricacies of blackmailing her parents into buying her a Beamer for her birthday while Melanie reads the newspaper to reaffirm that she's the boring, responsible one. They're at gym class, but they don't have to participate because they have notes from Fanny saying that they're not allowed to do anything where balls fly at their noses. Ginny comes up to share the news about Hubbell, but they make it into a joke so that no one can actually feel sad while the show attempts to take us on a lighthearted romp past one poor schmuck's untimely, contrived demise.
Actually, Fanny decides in the next scene to explain the show's mission statement while describing her view of the perfect funeral: "Dignified, spiritual, not sappy." Like us, she handles bad news with gallows humor and by becoming a total control freak. She plans all the decorations and food and details while Michelle helplessly tries to figure out what to do. Truly comes in and says that she blames Michelle for what happened, and Michelle just says: "Me, too."
Back in school, Sasha uses the death to pull her Boo out of school and then all the ballerinas pretend to mourn so that they can skip classes to go to the movies. They're so functionally disenchanted, they're like the future cast of "Girls." Love it.
Fanny's still trying to plan a funeral that's supposed to incorporate the entire town, which may involve putting up a giant tent or else renting out a theater. She also imagines that everyone will wear white, which her friends inform will make them look like part of a cult or karate class. One such friend, by the way, is Ellen Green of "Little Shop of Horrors" fame, which clearly bears noting - especially as a former Wiccan. Hopefully this role will develop into something bigger in the course of this series, because we've missed her since "Pushing Daisies."
Michelle winds up going to the studio for some quiet reflection in a safe space, practicing some of her old showgirl moves and surely imagining herself to be falling back on them in due time. She hears some students arriving and sneaks out. The girls come running into class late, and Boo feels like they disrespected their dance teacher by seeing a Mark Wahlberg movie on the day of her loss. Fanny isn't there to teach anyway, but the girls warm up. They begin gossiping about Hubbell's death and suggest that he was a virgin and having sex for the first time with a hot showgirl was really what killed him. There are worse ways to go? Ginny pipes up that her grandmother's ghost haunted her family's car after she died, so they sold it - again highlighting the delightful disregard of youth that nourishes our bitter hearts.
Michelle brings bagels to the house in case anyone gets hungry, but Fanny informs her that no one eats carbs anymore, so Michelle goes looking for something else useful to do. Fanny's friends wonder what the showgirl is still doing there, and Ellen Green notes how tall Michelle is and speculates that she might have formerly been a man, which the town could use "to go with the Republican and the Liza Manelli impersonator."
Truly enters the kitchen and criticizes Michelle for eating carbs, too. Michelle says she's going to bring it back, along with smoking and lead paint. Fanny is on the phone trying to get the Dalai Lama to come pray for Hubbell in person rather than offering a prayer from afar because she takes spirituality seriously and therefore doesn't believe anything she can't see with her own eyes. Michelle: "Amen." Fanny assures Truly that she was Hubbell's soulmate, adding that "true love never dies" and that Truly can even call her mom. Michelle is like "hello, ring, wife?" and decides it's time to go for a walk. A strange old man in town asks her to walk his dog, so she does that because nothing in her life could be more surreal. Her dancer pal who now has a name, Talia, calls to get all the latest news about the nuptials. Talia is an awesome best friend and first criticizes her luck with guys and then asks how the sex was ("really, really good"). Michelle walks the dog into a bar (insert joke ending in "boozehound") and says he's a service pet because when she's drunk and passes out in the gutter, he's her pillow. The bartender, Rico, finds that excuse acceptable. Michelle, pretending to be Sophie Tucker, orders "what's not gross here" plus a very strong margarita. Rico recognizes her by reputation as the sex-at-the-party girl. His wife has also heard that rumor, but thought her boobs would be bigger.
Ellen Green shows up to save the day by being crazier by comparison, which is the kind of person you always need in your back pocket for this kind of situation, should you be like us and frequently find yourself in just this type of situation. Green is worried about Fanny because she's refusing to break down and instead is commissioning life-size statues of her son. Random people are calling Michelle, such as the caterer, asking when the memorial is and how many people there will be (currently about 500, by Fanny's delusional plans). Michelle doesn't know how they got her number.
The girls are still at dance class, waiting for Godot.
Michelle returns to the house and rouses Fanny to go over the plans (the sitar player, Ringling Brothers, a mariachi band) because she's not handling anything and Michelle doesn't know what to tell people. Michelle says she gave up her life to be here, and Fanny's all, "Oh, what a sacrifice that must have been." Ouch. She adds that she's been his mother for 48 years, so she is going to have everything the way she wants and not the way that's most convenient for the displaced showgirl. "And if that includes mariachi bands or circus tents or fireworks or the damn Rockettes, then that is up to me to decide. And when your heart is completely broken forever, you get to do whatever you want." Michelle storms out after Fanny tells her not to try to do anything there, ever.
The entire dance class is still hanging around even though it's getting dark out, so Sasha takes matters into her own hands by entering the house, which seems like a sort of forbidden territory and just the sort of thrill-seeking assignment Sasha would choose for herself mostly out of boredom but under the guise of being helpful. She finds Fanny alone and crying, the only person to accidentally see the matron break down. She backs away slowly because she's all, "Whoa, emotions, no thanks" because she's like the daughter we don't actually wish we had, but if we had to have a daughter, then she'd probably be this messed up.
Instead of trying to feign condolence, Sasha goes to yell at Michelle for letting this happen and brings her to the studio to help the girls figure out what happens next. When Michelle enters the studio (and realizes it's the perfect space for a realistic memorial service), the girls start crying and confess their movie-going sins. They say Boo was the only moral one, and she didn't want to go to the movies and doesn't even like Mark Wahlberg, although she snifflingly amends that "he was fine in 'The Departed.'" Hee. Sasha baffles at all of the water leaking out of the humans and explains, "They were fine when I left." Michelle enlists the girls to call everyone in town so the memorial can occur because otherwise it will become an impossible feat, which is what Fanny wanted all along because then it will never have to actually happen.
Boo comes by the house to call Fanny's attention to the fact that she missed class without canceling it, which the Madame calls "unforgivable." Boo lies (!!) about a leaking sink at the studio so that Fanny has to head out there and check it out - because what's better than a surprise memorial service for your own son, right? Well, it seems to work out well in this scenario, even though Fanny is extremely confused about what's happening since there isn't an ice sculpture or Intrepid in sight. To commemorate Hubbell's life, but mostly as a nod to Fanny's, the girls (plus some extras) do some ballet that they somehow choreographed themselves over the past few hours. They dance to Tom Waits' "Picture in a Frame."
Afterward, people socialize and drink. Fanny asks, "How are you?" Michelle says she stole a dog. The girls want to know which dancer sucked, because someone always has to suck (important life lesson that teaches the values of scapegoating), but Michelle assures them they no one did because they were perfect (the kind of blind praise that precludes stardom). Then Hubbell's friend (yes, he seems to have had at least one) says that he was in charge of Hubbell's will and that just before he died, he transferred his land and property to Michelle. As Kelly Bishop's eyes bug out and Sutton Foster chugs down her beer like a pro, the credits roll. And that's how you do a family-friendly funeral episode, folks.