SusanP here, back for more Bunheads fun. The more I watch the show, the more it surprises me. Even in episodes that I find less engaging, there’s always something to pull me in. I think that has a lot to do with how the show is structured: The first third of the hour tends to play for laughs; the last third doesn’t necessarily drop the humor, but it closes the deal with an emotional payoff. In thinking of Monday’s episode, “There’s Nothing Worse Than A Pantsuit,” you could almost say that the show starts off wearing sweats or jeans, but finishes with a pantsuit (with lots of pockets).
This Week on Bunheads
The idea of acting or auditioning is at the heart of “There’s Nothing Worse Than A Pantsuit.” The episode, directed by veteran character actor and director David Paymer, is in some ways lighter than the last two episodes, but still offers an unexpected gut punch for Sutton Foster’s Michelle.
Ginny (Bailey Buntain) must get up the nerve to finally audition for the high school musical and also approach her crush, the mysterious Frankie (Niko Pepaj). Sasha (Julia Goldani Telles) is getting used to the role of girlfriend as Roman (Garrett Coffey) pushes their relationship public. The appearance of boyfriends (or potential ones) has also changed the overall dynamics of the girls’ friendship. For example, the rules (or customs) like “girls only lunch” are changing. They must figure out how to act in this new reality.
Michelle has several roles to play throughout the episode. First, she must wear the titular pantsuit in the role of “business woman” as she and Milly (Liza Weil) successfully convince a town group (The Association For The Preservation Of Keeping It Real In Paradise) to let them build the amphitheater. Later, while celebrating the amphitheater victory, she must play the role of “encouraging friend” when she finds out her visiting Vegas pal Talia (Angelina McCoy) may get a shot at Broadway, an opportunity that Michelle covets.
Michelle’s reaction to this news leads to the episode’s centerpiece: She puts on an actual performance, taking over Ginny’s audition practice to perform “It’s a Perfect Relationship” from the show Bells Are Ringing. As the scene starts, Michelle is reeling (and hung over) from the night before. She has had to hide her envy and disappointment from Talia and now she has to muster up enthusiasm to help Ginny. Michelle is listless at the start of the scene, but she starts to get her energy back as she harshly interrupts and instructs. “Sing Out, Louise!” she yells, channeling Rose from Gypsy and pushing Ginny to put more into the performance. Finally, she decides to show, not tell. This is no longer a lesson. Instead, she wants to prove to herself that she has what it takes to win the role, even if (for now) all those doors seem to be closed. In that moment, she comes back to life and to herself through the act and joy of performing. It’s also a revelation for Ginny, who, rather than getting angry that Michelle has pushed her to the side, recognizes the kind of energy she must bring to the audition.
What I’m loving…
Foster continues to demonstrate the onscreen rapport she shares with her younger cast mates, this week culminating in that fantastic performance with Buntain. My only wish is that there had been time to show Ginny’s entire audition at school. Buntain continues to impress. Getting a chance to hear her lovely singing voice cemented my fantasy of watching her perform with her older doppelganger, Megan Hilty. Maybe Smash can write in a younger sister for Ivy? (Or better yet, Hilty can show up on Bunheads!)
Reference of the Week…
Michelle discovers the true advantage of wearing a pantsuit versus wearing a skirt: No danger of a Basic Instinct-like wardrobe malfunction.
At first I was all against the whole concept, but now I get it. It’s binding so it keeps all your powers in. Plus there’s no potential Basic Instinct moment. So suddenly you’re not thinking about how you’re sitting and you’d be surprised how much brain space that frees up. Plus, the pockets.”
Musical interlude/Film Clip…
“It’s a Perfect Relationship,” was perfect on a number of levels. The only caveat is that when Foster turns it on like that it’s hard to imagine how Michelle didn’t become a star. I also love how Bunheads doesn’t employ tricks like auto-tune to enhance these performances. Foster certainly doesn’t need them. From what I’ve read, all of the singing on the show is recorded live. There's something truly exhilarating about hearing a performer sing without any embellishment.
Here’s Buntain and Foster performing “It’s a Perfect Relationship” and Judy Holliday performing the same number in the film version of Bells Are Ringing (1960).
So, Film Experience readers, what was your take on the episode?
Did you have a favorite moment or reference?
Do you have any questions that can’t be answered by reading a Judy Blume novel?