Last night’s winter premiere of Bunheads, “You Wanna See Something?”, centered around the main characters all realizing that they needed Fanny’s dance studio – and each other. This, of course, is the challenge when you have a finale that burns everything down as effectively as Michelle’s macing of The Nutcracker and subsequent flight from Paradise: Before you make any real progress in the next season (or half-season, as I suppose this technically is), your premiere has to get the band back together.
Fanny has closed down the studio in the wake of the Nutcracker incident and Michelle’s departure; it’s likely that the parents of Paradise weren’t thrilled with the idea of sending their kids to her right then anyway. She’s supposedly channeling her energy into renovating her house, but Truly is of course far more enthusiastic about the project than she is. (In a moment of extreme Truly wackiness, she makes a full cardboard model of a kitchen she saw in a dream – complete with electricity.) Fanny insists that she doesn’t know what she wants and feels like everything has to change, but as she secretly watches videos of Michelle teaching her dancers, what she wants seems pretty clear to the audience. She claims she’ll reopen “when it feels right.”
With the dance studio closed, most of the girls have been drawn into intense – and very adult – family responsibilities. Ginny’s mother is non-functional because her father is remarrying, so Ginny has taken over the real estate business. Boo’s mother is pregnant again and on bedrest, so Boo is in charge of the house and her younger siblings. Her mom is excited about the downtime at first (“I’m finally going to see the finale of Friends! I don’t even know who the friends are! Are they friends anymore? Don’t tell me!”) but quickly goes stir-crazy, which only makes things harder for Boo. And Mel is taking care of her elderly, ill grandfather, mostly, it seems, at the Oyster Bar, which is still the popular place to congregate. Sasha’s situation is a bit different: she has returned from Joffrey but doesn’t want to go home, so she’s hiding out in places like Ginny’s vacant houses and Boo’s broom closet so her parents will think she’s away until school starts.
Michelle herself is living with her friend Talia and working as a magician’s assistant in Henderson, Nevada. She says she’s fine but she’s clearly miserable, mourning her life in Paradise and turning down all opportunities for fun: “The hookers look sad for me. And you don’t know pathetic until you’ve been pitied by a Henderson hooker.” Talia has a much-older boyfriend who is nice enough but less than thrilled at the lack of privacy that results from Michelle staying at Talia’s apartment, and it’s clear the situation won’t work long-term for anyone.
The episode started with Fanny watching a video of Michelle teaching, and two more videos wind up tying everyone back together. The first is an autotuned video of an interview Boo did about Michelle macing the dancers; it’s gone viral and has over a million views. Talia finds it, of course, and tries to put things in perspective: “Look on the bright side. Of all the truly humiliating things you’ve done in your life, this is the first one that’s gone viral. And you look super thin!” But Michelle isn’t quite buying. And Boo, for her part, is worried that the video will make Michelle hate her, though Melanie is pragmatic about it: “Well, Michelle’s not here, and being hated from afar is like not being hated at all.” Heh.
Meanwhile, Fanny finds Hubbell and Michelle’s wedding video, which conveniently includes a fair amount of footage of Hubbell explaining his love for Michelle to the cameraman at the Vegas wedding chapel. It prompts her to travel to Henderson and show up at the magic show one night. Michelle is her usual combative self and offers to sign all her property in Paradise over to Fanny if it will make her go away, but it turns out that Fanny just wants her to come home. “You get married, you get family. That’s the deal. That’s how it’s done. Like it or not, I’m your mother-in-law for the rest of your life.” She points out Michelle’s rather immature habit of running away whenever someone gets mad at her, and says she wants to give Michelle the life Hubbell wanted for her, and really, the chemistry between Kelly Bishop and Sutton Foster is incredible. Michelle acts like she’ll refuse Fanny’s plea/offer, but she does watch the wedding video, in which Hubbell adorably proclaims that “Ducky got Molly” and predicts that eventually his mom will love Michelle more than she loves her own son. And his words eventually win her over, just as they did when he was alive: “She doesn’t know it yet but she’s going to do some really great things. I’m going to make sure that happens.”
Back in Paradise, Sasha has run out of friends to crash with and snuck into Michelle’s empty house, where she meets Tyler (the boy from the finale), who’s back from his summer in Kansas. They’re adorable awkward together – and just as they start to kiss, Michelle walks in. Sasha immediately runs over and throws her arms around Michelle, and I love this surprisingly tender relationship between two of the prickliest characters on the show. With Michelle back, Fanny reopens the dance studio, and they come to a tentative arrangement for Michelle to stay and teach, at least for a while. And the episode brilliantly, hilariously ends with a dance Fanny has choreographed to the song from the autotuned viral video.
This was a strong premiere, and I am of course glad that our gang is back together. But while the show obviously had to get everyone back to the dance studio, I’m really hoping that it doesn’t forget about the issues the girls were dealing with over the summer, because I’d like to see how those all shake out – especially with Michelle’s involvement. I think both Boo’s mom and Ginny’s mom could use a heart to heart with Michelle – or with Fanny, for that matter. These characters are, above all, survivors, and the show is best when it uses the realism and sadness that produces to leaven the bizarre cuteness of Paradise.
Other favorite lines:
Boo: “Do not whoo this! This is not a whoo thing! We are not whooing this!”
Michelle: “I’m in the middle of a show.” Fanny: “I think they can handle being ignored without you.”
Fanny, in what I would like to think is a sly Gilmore Girls reference: “People told me daughters were harder. I just thought it was because they could get pregnant.”
Sasha on Joffrey: “Cutthroat. Lots of girls want to be seen. But I was the only one who’d read The Art of War, so.”
(Photo courtesy of ABC Family.)