Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bunheads 1x17 - "It's Not a Mint"

Here's what I learned from Bunheads last night: even though the plot developments were largely centered on the girls' relationships with dudes, the best scenes of the hour still belonged to lady-lady ensemble.  On the one hand, it's hard to complain about meaningful conversations between women onscreen.  It's almost like these moments of poignance come as a reprieve to the more plot-based male-female interactions, as though the writers are hanging a "No Boys Allowed" sign on scenes of emotional breadth.  The importance - almost sanctity - placed on the female-female relationship is near impossible to argue, and I love that it not only exists, but that it's a specific, directed choice.

But at the same time... I find it really hard to care about these girls' relationships with their boys when the ones they have with the other girls are far more compelling and complex.  We'd gotten plot-related developments between the female characters before, but "It's Not a Mint" seemed to drop them in favor of pairing everyone in the group off.  What happened to Ginny's anger over the girls' dynamic changing?  Did she and Melanie resolve their issues?  Is it no longer a concern that the relationships between the core four might be affected by their love lives?  Beyond that, we're one episode away from the 1.2 finale - and some amazing storylines from earlier in this back half are still left dangling.  Do we really not get to see Melanie at roller derby?  Sasha really can just live like an adult, even though her parents basically left her without a second glance?  What ever happened with Truly's rent?  

In short: I'm a little grumpy that the plot arcs that Bunheads set up at the beginning of 1.2 are dust on the wind, and we instead get storylines with cute boys.  Maybe I'm just not the target audience for ABC Family, being a cranky feminist 20-something who just wants to see teenage girls doing their own thing independent of boys.  Is that goal unrealistic?  Maybe.  But we're talking about a show where a sixteen-year-old rents her own apartment, buys her own organic groceries, and does just fine paying the bills without a job.  So.  The realism card is not a strong one here.

But, like I said, it's hard to complain when there are such great female interactions in the mix.  "It's Not a Mint," despite its drama surrounding Dez, Frankie, Rick, Roman, and, well, sex with boyfriends - still was able to put emotionally resonant content in the hands of its capable lady ensemble.  The events of the episode were set against two backdrops: the evacuation of Paradise East into the ballet studio because of a forest fire, and the pending wedding of Michelle's BFF Talia and her aging fiancĂ© Rick.  

Last we saw Talia, she had gotten a random phone call offering her a role in a touring company of "Rock of Ages," but "It's Not a Mint" showed her plowing ahead with wedding plans instead.  This turned out to be an issue for Michelle, as it bubbled to the surface in one of four strong lady scenes in the episode.  When the wedding nearly falls through twice, first on account of the emergency and second because of Rick falling and breaking his ankle, Michelle tells Talia it might be good to have time to think.  Turns out Michelle doesn't quite agree with Talia getting married to an old guy, especially when she seems to be "twisting [her]self into a pretzel for him."  She's giving up performing just for what appears to be monetary stability, and Michelle can't fathom that - especially when Talia had a role for the taking and with her own pull towards performing, even in Paradise.

Michelle's objections towards Talia's marriage reminded me a bit of Lizzie Bennet's towards Charlotte's in Pride & Prejudice, which is a lovely little character angle that's entirely relatable but also flawed.  Yeah, you can judge your best friend's choices all you want, but ultimately their situation is different than yours, and you have to accept that.  Michelle reached that conclusion with Talia, upon realizing that Talia didn't mind turning down "Rock of Ages," and is actually pregnant with Rick's baby.  (How adorable was it though that Michelle offered to raise the baby with Talia, though?  It makes absolutely no sense, which is why it was so endearing that Michelle suggested that so quickly.)  And we even got another always-welcome reminder that Michelle was married to a man for 24 hours before he died tragically, something that wouldn't happen to a person without impacting them.  Especially without Fanny around, it's nice to remember that Hubbell actually existed, and technically Michelle is a widow.

There was another lovely lady interaction as a result of Talia's wedding calamity, this time through the involvement of Truly.  Truly was hellbent on being maid of honor, simply because she's never been asked and believes she'll never be asked again.  (I was waiting for Michelle to be offended by what Truly was implying by that statement, but it never came.  Opportunity missed!)  We got an episode of Truly being wacky as she makes her own bridesmaid's dress and wills the wedding into fruition, but we were also treated to an emotional moment between her and estranged sister Milly.  

I won't lie; I've been a bit grumpy with Bunheads for introducing Milly and her sticky relationship with Truly, only to use Milly as a solo act and forgo Truly from those episodes entirely.  These are sisters, dammit!  There's a story here!  And "It's Not a Mint" found a touching moment, after Truly realizes that the helicopter used to magically deliver Rick to the wedding was actually Milly's doing.  This scene was so lovely and understated, as Truly thanked Milly for ensuring that she got her time as maid of honor, and had a brief conversation about their relationships with their mother, and the concept of marriage.  It sounds like Truly and Milly's mother was a piece of work, and doesn't think they'll ever get married.  For Milly, it's not a big deal.  She adopted, and is happy.  (Assuming the nanny is taking good care of the kid over at the Paradise West evacuation site.)  But Truly still wants to get married, so I suspect we'll have a Truly-in-love storyline coming our way.  I am 100% not sure how I feel about it being with Bash, though, which was hinted at in the scene.  But we'll just have to see.  Regardless, the Truly-Milly scene was a welcome moment of emotional authenticity between these two women and their complicated relationship.  Keep 'em coming!

As for the bunheads themselves, "It's Not a Mint" took the opportunity to have all the boys and girls in one place, so that everything was a bit more boy-girl than usual.  Boo and Carl are still going strong, and Sasha and Roman are progressing quickly.  The episode also saw the shift of Melanie and Dez from lunkhead and sarcastic girl to potentially dating-type people.  I do not know how I feel about this; I much prefer their dynamic as it was... but who knows?  Maybe I'll be surprised.  Ginny also seems to have taken a step forward with Frankie, thanks to the benevolence of Cozette.  Their scene together was a sneaky favorite, and another instance of a strong lady scene - even if it doesn't quite pass the Bechdel Test.  But Cozette's story of shooting an antelope in the head to put it out of its half-eaten misery was maybe the funniest thing all episode, especially with Ginny's shocked reaction.  Better still, Cozette's version of shooting Ginny in the head was setting up a device for Ginny to hang out with Frankie, which was sweet.  I like this iteration of Cozette: a kind of Milly-type exaggerated character, but who isn't actually mean or thoughtless.  Just very, very blunt.

Of course, all this boy talk was tied together with Michelle finding a condom in the bunheads' dressing room, which she was appropriately horrified and angered by.  I'm so charmed by Michelle's insistence on protecting the girls' innocence.  It's a nice character note, and an easy way to make Michelle embody her reluctant mentor role.  Plus, it's genuinely funny to see her be the "stuffy" adult who breaks up the girls' and boys' cots, and funnier still when she botches that role.  I laughed so hard when she walked up to the girls, silently laid the condom on the table, pointedly glared at them, got nothing in return, then awkwardly made her exit.  Oh, Michelle.  Bless you.

What followed, though, was another excellent all-female scene, wherein the teenagers discussed sex.  It's nice to see a conversation about sex scripted completely from the perspective of teenaged girls only, and this one definitely embodied a refreshing honesty within each of their points of view.  Sasha, who, let's be real, was probably the owner of the condom, behaves very cavalierly about sex.  This makes so much sense for Sasha, because she is a child playing grown-up, and always has been.  It's part of her core construct as a character, and why she works so well opposite Michelle, an adult who doesn't quite have it together.  This season has made Sasha's faux-adulthood more apparent than ever, with the independence and the apartment and basic emancipation from her parents.  

So of course Sasha isn't scandalized by the possibility of sex.  Screw the people who are judgey about teenaged girls buying condoms in grocery stores!  And I love that Sasha brings that up.  But at the same time, even though she's playing it cool, Sasha is still a little kid.  And so the scene shifts to reflect that.  Turns out Boo, who thought maybe the condom might be a mint, is on the pill.  She casually mentions it, as she takes a bite of her sandwich, and all of Sasha's nonchalance about sex goes out the window.  She pretty much flies off the handle at Boo's admission, and Boo's the one who's rather nonplussed about the whole thing.  She doesn't even plan on having sex for another year and a half.  But Sasha has a brain meltdown at the idea of Boo and Carl having sex, and another brain meltdown at Boo and Carl not having sex even though Boo's on the pill. Basically, Sasha's not as cool as she thinks, and it's kind of adorable.  Also, the idea that Boo takes her birth control pill by putting it in a peppermint patty is hilarious and again, kind of adorable.

Speaking of Boo, Sasha, and grownups, it bears mentioning that the Jordan family invasion of Sasha's apartment was another episode highlight, even if untethered from anything else.  Boo's family is endearingly chaotic, and their spastic and panicked concern for Sasha's safety was charming and funny.  Plus, it brought back some of the Boo-related insight from earlier in the season, with the constant presence of the Winkleburn kids and Boo's place as a fixture of sanity in a slightly unhinged family.  The scene worked well enough with Sasha and Roman investigating the possible burglary on their own, but got even better by adding the Jordans.

"It's Not a Mint" finished up with Talia's offscreen wedding going off without a hitch, and the evacuation being lifted.  Naturally, in marched the firefighters, and who was among them?  Godot.  So, Michelle, too, gets a boy storyline for next week.  Sigh!  But even with all the dude-related story arcs, "It's Not a Mint" was a solid episode with a lot of great scenes.  I'm curious to see what Bunheads puts forth for its winter finale, and how it will tie up the stories introduced in this back half, both bad and good.  Also: hopefully Fanny will be back.

The Report Card:
Dialogue: A+
Plot: A
Character: A
Joke of the Night: "Stand down, Hulk." (A+ continuity on Melanie's protective rage.)
Scene of the Night: It's a tie between Michelle and Talia at odds over marrying Rick, and Milly and Truly finally having a meaningful conversation.
Episode MVP: Everyone was on point in this episode, but let's say Talia.

2 comments:

  1. Great recap! The boys don't bother me much, but Godot is just... eugh, enough already. Also the way she pulls the condom out of her pocket to have a look at it before she hugs him, jeez, subtle, no idea what they were trying to hint at there!
    Also Sasha calls everyone except Michelle?! "We'll sleep at my house tomorrow" doesn't even make the top five?! WAY HARSH.
    I genuinely hope next week is a confusing mish-mash of ridiculous hilarity again, this show works best for me when it's in over-drive, I want more macing!

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