The title of the October 15 episode of Pushing Daisies is more than just a pun on the strange doings at the Sisters of the Divine Magnatum, the nunnery at which Olive Snook (Kristin Chenoweth) has been hiding since her nervous breakdown; “Bad Habits” also refers to her tendency to dig—both literally and metaphorically.
Young Olive Snook wanted a horse, but her parents wouldn’t get her one so she decided to dig to Arabia for a stallion. Simple enough if you just “head to the center of the earth, then turn right.” Her digging revealed a dinosaur fossil instead, which she later traded to an Arabian for a horse. Thus Olive learned early on not to accept negative statements, and that good things can come from digging (like truffles). When a nun falls to her death from the bell tower, Olive refuses to accept that the woman committed suicide. She calls in Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) to dig for the truth, and he naturally brings along Ned (Lee Pace) and Chuck (Anna Friel). It should be no surprise that they find some important keys to the puzzle in the nunnery’s truffle cellar.
Meanwhile, Chuck is doing some digging of her own. She’s hired a genealogist to fill in the incomplete branches of her family tree—which is, of course, the very secret that Olive is trying to protect. Given that Chuck feels her own future is uncertain (worried that she’s interrupted the natural progression from life to death), she can only define herself by her past. Ned, who has worked hard to bury his past, fails to sympathize: “After all that shoveling you still wake up in the same bed, do the same job, live the same life. Except now you’re grimy. With a kink in your back.”
But that doesn’t stop him from asking Olive her reasons for leaving the Pie Hole. Sworn to secrecy, she engages him in a game of Charades/Twenty Questions until he “guesses” that Lily is really Chuck’s mother. Her burden lifted, and with Ned’s sincere apology for ignoring her, she’s finally ready to come home.
Once the case is closed and everyone (but the truffle pig, “Pigby”) has been cleared of wrongdoing, Chuck is crushed to learn that the genealogist has failed to turn up any information on her mother. Realizing how important it is for her to know the truth, and that he has to deal with the past before he can have a future, Ned tells Chuck who her mother is, which tells Chuck who she is.
The season so far, and this episode in particular, is all about secret lives (not-so-subtly illustrated with the numerous hidden doors, cabinets, and passages exposed by our protagonists during their investigation). As usual, the many plots and subplots parallel each other and dovetail in an enjoyable and satisfying way, though the solution to the mystery was rather convoluted even for the most attentive viewers. I’m glad that the central conflict of the season so far, the secret of Chuck’s past, has run its course, but I’m curious to see whether this carries out to the other major plot point: the fact that the Aunts don’t know that Chuck is alive again. If our characters have learned anything, it only stands to follow that they’ll share the happy news as soon as they can. But I bet they won’t.
The fairytale nature of the show often leaves viewers with at least the impression of a moral lesson at the end. But the moral of this episode, as learned by Ned, is that rooting around in the past isn’t a bad thing. Not surprising, considering the show is ostensibly about solving mysteries. And yet, none of this would have happened if Olive hadn’t pried the secret from Aunt Lily at the end of season one. Chuck’s happy tears leave little doubt that she’s better off knowing about her mother, but where does the digging stop?
Hints at later plot lines imply that Ned will have to face the father who abandoned him sooner or later. Are you a Ned or a Chuck? Is the past better left dead and buried, or would you rather know the truth? Do you feel defined by your past or by your hopes for the future, and are the two inseparable?
We’ll likely found out more about the Pie Hole gang and their feelings on the matter in tonight’s episode, “Frescorts.” I wish I could tell you what it’s about, but my roommate changed the channel before the DVR recorded the preview. She didn’t want to miss some political debate. Not long to wait for the full episode, anyway!
Pushing Daisies airs Wednesdays at 8:00pm EST on ABC, and is also available online at ABC.com.