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Bunheads: Gimme Shelter

Susan P back with more Bunheads. We've reached the winter’s penultimate episode. At this point, the series has built a great foundation with likeable and interesting characters. Nathaniel and I are both hoping the show has enough backing from viewers and ABC Family to be renewed for a summer or fall return.

"It's Not a Mint"

This Week on Bunheads…
I found this week’s installment, “It’s Not a Mint” inconsequential when compared to some of the earlier episodes of this half season.  It had the feel of a set-up episode, moving characters (and relationships) into their proper place for the winter finale. That said, there was still fun to be had and ideas to be explored, like the need for shelter and protection. The episode’s title is referring to this idea since the object that’s “not a mint” happens to be a mysterious condom that Sutton Foster’s Michelle finds hidden in the girls’ dressing room.

In what amounts to a "bottle" episode most of the action takes place at the dance studio... [more]

The studio is transformed into an evacuation shelter when the town is threatened by fire. This brings together a number of Paradise regulars including the young bunheads and the boys who they like, Milly (Liza Weil), her sister Truly (Stacey Oristano), visiting bride-to-be Talia (Angelina McCoy) and Bash (Sean Gunn, reprising his role as the barista who clashed with Michelle in an earlier episode). The latter (with his team captain  cap “CAP”) is in charge of running the evacuation center with Fanny, but Michelle has to step in since she’s “out of the country.”  Tellingly, Michelle’s cap doesn’t fit her head, which, as you can see in this clip, Bash claims is “too big.”

do you like "bottle" episodes?

In addition to juggling her co-captain duties, Michelle is also dealing with Talia’s wedding plans. It turns out her friend, who’s pregnant, wants the emotional and financial security of marriage versus the uncertainty of pursuing her Broadway dreams. Michelle had that secure feeling for all of 24-hours with Hubbell before his sudden death. She knows how fleeting it can be. She’s not only transferring her own Broadway dreams onto Talia, but projecting the anxiety and fear that accompanies love: the fear of its loss. As a result, she’s less than supportive of Talia, but comes around in the episode’s most emotional scene.

For the younger cast, the trapped atmosphere of the studio leads to a number of not-so-surprising discoveries. Melanie (Emma Dumont) realizes her brother’s seemingly dim friend Dez (Paul James Jordan) may be someone she could actually like. Ginny (Bailey Buntain) who continues to moon over Frankie (Niko Pepaj), finally recognizes his sister – rather than a threat to her friendship circle – could be a powerful ally.

The mystery condom figures into a revelation from Boo (Kaitlyn Jenkins). While the condom isn’t hers, she’s on pre-emptive birth control for when she and boyfriend Carl finally do have sex. They’ve targeted the night before their prom (more than a year away), figuring they’ll get the deed over with before the prom, freeing themselves up to actually enjoy the event (the prom, not necessarily the first-time sex).

The condom, with its pretty pink packaging represents literal protection, but also the perils of getting older and navigating the tricky waters of sex and relationships.

What I’m Loving…

Frankie keeps on fascinating Ginny

This was an episode of little moments that made me smile, versus big emotional ones. Buntain continues to win me over with her portrayal of Ginny. I especially loved her little bounce of joy after Frankie offers to give her drawing lessons. It’s such a spontaneous, youthful display of happiness.

I’m not a fan of Roman’s guyliner, but I do enjoy the chemistry Garrett Coffey has with Julia Goldani Telles as Sasha. The episode begins as Roman comes to her aid when she suspects a burglar has broken into her apartment. This is mostly played for laughs (Roman is broadly channeling Annie Hall when he discovers a spider of unnatural proportions in her bathroom). My favorite moment was the little smile they share after the chaos of this opening sequence.

Inspiration from Annie Hall’s famous spider scene?

Reference of the Week…

The Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life” gets a shout-out after Milly displays her awesome powers of intimidation. That 1961 episode of the series (remade in the 1983 film version) featured a young boy who can control his neighbors with his mind, banishing those who displease him to the “cornfield.” Milly, with her overbearing personality, apparently instills a fear of cornfield hell into Paradise residents, none of whom will call her out for cutting the evacuation check-in line.

Michelle observes this, then deadpans: “Note the group successfully avoided being wished into the cornfield.”

Milly, confused, responds: “Why does everyone keep making the same cornfield joke?”

ABC Family better renew Bunheads or I’ll consider them “very bad men” and wish them to the cornfield!

Musical interlude…

The kids perform a light and shadows (with hardhats) rendition of “I Predict” a 1982 single by Sparks, which the band performed on Saturday Night Live. I liked the sequence, but it didn’t have the emotional punch of other recent musical moments, like last week’s audition. Also, how did they pull that routine together so quickly? [Watch as the girls dance in the dark]

Film Clip…

Michelle quips that the evacuation center has descended into Altamont-like chaos after Bash agrees to let her take on more responsibility. She’s referring to the infamous Rolling Stones concert where Hells Angels members were hired as security guards. It didn’t go so well.

The incident was chronicled in the 1970 documentary film Gimme Shelter, directed by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin.

So, did you like the episode, or consider it a letdown after some recent series high points? Please share your thoughts, unless you’re too busy watching Hope Springs and working on your Tommy Lee Jones impersonation.

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    Response: 5

Reader Comments (10)

This show is getting increasingly weird but increasingly better. Therefore i fear cancellation. It's definitely found its own voice -- i think pushing Fanny out of the picture has helped with the focus.

but sometimes it's just too weird. i mean teenagers obsessed with HOPE SPRINGS and doing dueling Tommy Lee Jones impressions?

February 19, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I haven't seen Hope Springs, is there anything in that film that would be appealing to teen boys (even more artistic leaning teen boys?) In addition to being silly, the dueling Tommy Lee Jones' seemed to reveal that Carl has a rival for Boo. But I don't really think the show takes that rival seriously and this was just an odd joke. It did remind me a little of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon series/film The Trip.

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusanP

to answer the first question -- No. I don't think the show takes that waiter seriously either so it felt like a lot of filler. I was far more interested in the odd flirtations of that maybe not dumb jock and the one of the girls whose name i always forget.

February 20, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

That Hope Springs bit went on way too long, all three times it showed up. I would say it was an okay episode, but not my favorite of the season.

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkelsy

kelsy -- agreed. it already felt like such a weirdly hemmed in eppy and then the hope springs thing. strange.

February 20, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nat -- I think you mean Melanie, the one who is also doing roller derby. That "flirtation" goes back to when her brother Charlie was interested in Ginny, though until Monday's episode it was completely one-sided. This was the first time she seemed to notice him as more than just her brother's annoying friend.

And I agree that this wasn't the strongest episode. Definitely the weakest of those I've written about and maybe the entire winter season.

Here's hoping next week is better (I think it will be) and that it isn't the series finale!

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusanP

FINALLY got to watch this last night (WHY must this be on at the same time as RuPaul's Drag Race?!?!).

The whole Hope Springs/Tommy Lee Jones bit was completely absurd and went on FAR too long, but it failed so spectacularly that I think I kind of admire it?

Anyone else disappointed that Melanie is seemingly going to fall for the maybe-not-so-dumb jock and NOT turn out to be a lesbian? I mean, maybe-not-so-dumb jock guy is kinda hot, so I'm not complaining, but it always felt like that was where that character was headed, and maybe they chickened out a little.

The head-lamp dance, which I assumed was from the Billy Elliot-inspired ballet the girls mentioned when they found the head-lamps, made absolutely no sense on any level, was completely unrealistic... and was TOTALLY AWESOME.

What I love about this series, is that despite its heightened nature, all the bunheads feel like real people, ESPECIALLY Michelle. Her reaction to Talia's wedding, announcement that she's pregnant, and finding the condom all felt like exactly what a real live person would do - and not just any real live person, but THIS person. Sutton Foster is so wonderful. The same thing could be said about the opening sequence with Sasha's apartment. Yes, it's a TV show, so the things that happen are a little out-there, but the characters reactions always feel grounded in a very specific, surprisingly real reality. I REALLY hope it doesn't get cancelled. Life without Bunheads is not nearly as fun as life with Bunheads.

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

denny -- I can see where you're coming from with the Hope Springs bit. The show isn't afraid to go all the way with an idea, even if it fails. And I actually really like the *idea* of the boys having some kind of odd, unexpected fixation. The danger, as Nathaniel notes above, is it can end up feeling like filler. Maybe because the fixation was just too off?

Regarding Melanie, I don't think her flirtation with Dez automatically eliminates the possibility of her being a lesbian. But would an ABC Family show go there? Assuming they don't go there, I wouldn't say I'm disappointed, I just hope the characters go in organic and interesting directions. I'm less concerned about the specifics. Melanie is probably the least developed of the girls so far, but I like the energy that Emma Dumont brings to the role. I also like how her elegant appearance -- to me she's the most "ballerina-like" -- contrasts with her personality.

And YES to your last paragraph, though I think the show struggled with this a bit in the earlier episodes. Monday's episode reminded me a little of those struggles -- especially with the Hope Springs stuff -- but it still managed to be engaging to me. As I wrote above, Bunheads has built a foundation and even those summer episodes really helped establish who Michelle is, who Sasha is, and so on. Even the supporting characters, like Truly, are very clearly defined. I didn't touch on it in my write-up (I felt it was already too long), but Truly's desire to be the perfect maid of honor and then Milly unexpectedly helping to make that happen, felt very real to me -- for those characters.

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusanP

Am I the only one who thinks that Ginny looks like Megan Hilty from Smash? Tee hee.

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDaph

Daph, you're not the only one who thinks that! I've seen others note this and I mentioned it in my last recap.

February 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusanP

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