Forget Joe the Plumber, meet Joe the “Frescort,” a friend/escort who works for My Best Friends Inc.—”where everyone’s in the in-crowd.” When Joe is murdered, his reanimated corpse tells Ned and the team that the murderer is one of his best friends, that is, a client who was paying for his companionship.
The creators take a gamble that the subject of this episode will resonate with much of their target audience, the geeks and outcasts of society who were mocked in school or have difficulty making friends as adults because they’re a little…weird. Sadly, it’s a good gamble, but geeky or not, lots of people have to deal with loneliness at one time or another. Certainly Ned does; Chuck is now rooming with the recently returned Oliver, and they’ve become BFFs, leaving him with less and less quality time with his girlfriend. He doesn’t even have his dog for company, since Digby prefers staying with Chuck, too. But when Ned meets Joe’s roommate, a suspect named Randy Mann (David Arquette), he thinks he’s found a kindred spirit and a new best friend. Unfortunately, Randy’s hobby is a little too creepy even for a Pie-maker who brings the dead back to life—Randy is a taxidermist who enjoys making dioramas with dead animals. Randy protests, “If you could hold onto someone after they’ve died, wouldn’t you?” Ned certainly can’t argue with that one.
Meanwhile, the past comes back to haunt Emerson Cod this time around. We learn that his mother, Callista, is also a private investigator, but she was a much better business partner than a parent. She drops back into his life after a long absence to help him with the case, but of course she has an ulterior motive. Emerson laments the fact that he hasn’t told her about his missing daughter, too embarrassed about being conned by his ex-wife. They’ve always told each other everything, because “the truth is the cornerstone of any relationship.” Chuck and Olive take this fine sentiment to heart, to a point—though they claim there won’t be any more secrets between them (smart, considering how much trouble keeping secrets has brought them), they immediately begin lying about little things to keep their friendship strong. Under a stressful situation, the truth comes out in a heated argument, and they worry they’ve ruined a good thing. The truth is important, but sometimes it hurts.
In the end, Joe’s murderer is caught, and everyone has learned something that improves their relationships and outlook on life. Callista decides she needs to be a better mother to Emerson, and promises to help him revise his pop-up book so he can get it published, and use it find his daughter. Ned realizes that it’s okay that Randy is creepy and pursues a friendship with him, explaining that “what makes me unique has brought everyone I love into my life.” More than that, Ned discovers he has to face his loneliness if he doesn’t want to seem so needy. Taking the first step, he refuses to let Chuck move back in with him—she needs to patch things up with Olive.
It’s hard not to sympathize with everyone in this episode, perhaps even with the crazy killer who has the noble desire of providing everyone with friendship, a basic human need. One of the sweetest and saddest moments is when Ned tries out a hugging machine, which gives him a moment of pure joy since he can never touch the woman he loves. As strange as it may seem to pay someone to be your friend, you can’t really blame them. Ned and Chuck manage to help more than My Best Friends Inc. did, by bringing all of its clients together at the Pie Hole, where they find other kindred spirits and can form real friendships. And presumably, buy pies.
This episode brought to mind Fox’s hopefully forthcoming series Dollhouse, which features an even more twisted escort service. I wonder if there’s a reason why this kind of story is gaining popularity. As the founder of My Best Friend Inc. says, gadgets that are meant to bring people together are only pushing people farther apart. And yet here we all are at Tor.com, finding kindred spirits and a community of like minds. Does the Internet provide an adequate substitute for personal contact? Is Twittering and blogging just as good as conversing with a friend over dinner?
Though I caught the preview for next week’s episode, “Dim Sum, Lose Sum,” I can’t tell you what it’s about because there was too much packed into the commercial. There’ll be a Chinese restaurant, though, I’m pretty sure. Speaking of commercials, this advertisement for Playskool’s HELMET HEROES toys was more shocking than the episode ending with Chuck appearing naked! What the heck is going on there?
Pushing Daisies airs Wednesdays at 8:00pm EST on ABC. Free episode streaming is also available online at ABC.com.