Season 1, Episode 16
Date of airing: February 11, 2013 (ABC Family)
Nielsen ratings information: 0.967 million viewers, 0.560 million viewers with Adults 18-49, 0.4 rating with Adults 18-49
This episode bored me. It showed that the writers didn’t know what they were supposed to do with the characters. And I thought that Amy Sherman-Palladino knew what worked and what didn’t after the first ten episodes, but now I’m getting the feeling she never did, because everything seems so goalless at this point. Two episodes I thought that Melanie might be gay and have a crush on Cozette, but that story got lost quickly thereafter, making me think that the writers never planned for it, even if it had the attempt to be part of the narrative. Melanie’s roller derby thing could have been a thing for a few episodes, but that story has been lost as well and was barely mentioned in this episode (pretty much just twice — one Melanie got the pictures, the other when she tried to invite Ginny, and both plot devices were hereto make Ginny feel uncomfortable and lonely). And in the meantime, Talia returns for another storyline set outside Paradise, which had absolutely no effect on Michelle as a character. At the same time, Sasha finally has her first real boyfriend and while her story started like she was uncertain of how to be a girlfriend, or how to behave in a romantic relationship, the story was dropped, as soon as Roman took a seat at the table and did not make himself useful as a character among the band of friends. This episode was kind of a waste of time.
Maybe this episode was just about Ginny, since she seemed like the only one the writers were interested writing about. I sort of liked her story, because it might have been a narrative that pushes the show into a different direction — focusing on other forms of performances, maybe even focusing on some of the other bunheads, after Sasha and Boo have been kind of the main characters of the show during the first half of the season. The former made me like Ginny’s audition for her audition in front of Michelle, making this seem like a truly hard test to pass before she can go on and be a high school theater star, but the latter comes a little too late, although I can’t blame the show for at least trying to get either Ginny or Melanie into the spotlight now, after they have barely been given back stories during the summer episodes. Also, Ginny’s audition in front of Melanie made me think about Michelle for a few seconds, as she felt like she was wasting her time as well, sitting there and witnessing the rise and fall and rise again of a teenager trying out for a musical theater production. At least Ginny’s audition in front of Michelle was used for a story that involves Michelle, and “Bells Are Ringing” might be a plot device to have Michelle realizing that she needs to step it up, when teenagers are overtaking her on the highway of dance and theater productions.
The entire episode should have been focused on Ginny, because I got the feeling that her fear of losing her best friends was merely a third-row issue for the writers here, when it was a great-enough premise to be the A story. There was some drama in Ginny realizing that Boo had her guy, that Sasha was about to get her guy, and that apparently even Melanie had her guy, which surprised me (I still believe that Melanie was supposed to be gay, and maybe some of the network executives said “Hell to the no!”), which meant Ginny she was the only one left behind, after she broke up with Josh, couldn’t get anything started with Charlie, and now can’t get close to Frankie, simply because Ginny is too weird to be a confident person, and because maybe Cozette is as terrifying to Ginny as Michelle was before she started her audition piece. This was a Ginny-focused episode without the writers realizing it, making it a bit more of a bore than it could have been if the blonde bunhead had been front and center with all of her awkward troubles, including the audition, which should have been the center piece of the entire episode.
Meanwhile, Michelle’s story was forgettable. It started off as a carbon copy of Lorelai having troubles with Taylor to get some sort of approval of the Dragonfly Inn in the fourth season of GILMORE GIRLS, and it even ended in almost the same fashion, because the person that stood between Lorelai and her Inn, and in this episode between Michelle and her amphitheater, were able to be swayed by one little piece of information that made them either feel better (Taylor getting something from Lorelai in return) or worse (Sal’s nude pictures which Millie apparently had?). It wasn’t much of an exciting storyline, because really, there weren’t a lot of stakes in that story. Yes, without the amphitheater, Michelle and Fanny won’t have the opportunity to raise their income, and while that part of the premise has been repeated in the “Previously on” part, it never seems to be a topic within the dialogue scenes between the characters. Besides that, the theater never seems to be the number one priority for the dance school – Michelle is too focused on dealing with Talia and her own dreams to work on the amphitheater, and the project itself has kind of been delegated to a recurring character, while the other half of the main pair of characters is in and out of the show due to other commitments by the actress. It’s a weird narrative.
Talia’s return to Paradise could also have been meaningless, but in hindsight it woke up Michelle, together with Ginny’s audition success (thankfully). Talia was never anything more than a character to remind Michelle who and where she is, and who and where she wants to be, but for this episode the writers tried to separate her from Michelle and give her an own tiny character arc by getting engaged and then getting the opportunity for a touring musical. Yet at the end of the episode it was all about Michelle again, and Talia’s decision whether to accept or decline the offer was dropped by the writers, which means the chance to have Talia be her own character was burned as well. And for some reason I cared less about Michelle and Talia’s relationship, which is another weird thing I can’t explain about the show, and doesn’t bode well for BUNHEADS as a whole.
Best part of the episode: Some of the recurring characters are great. Carl was golden in this episode, as he was the right amount of annoying to people (especially to Jeffrey), as well as a great guy in general, who just wanted to hang with his girlfriend and be supporting and nice while breaking the girls’ rules about the lunch table. I have no idea if I generally prefer Carl over Talia, or if it’s the way those two characters have been written for this episode, but they happened to be making the difference here.
Worst part of the episode: The whole meeting with the council was beyond reasoning. Yeah, it’s a carbon copy of a GILMORE GIRLS plot (BUNHEADS is still in its infancy and it already has to recycle plots from that other show), but Sam and Sal turned into characters I could have shot to the moon during this episode. That’s when the writers overdid it.
Weirdest part of the episode: I have no idea if Sasha is scared of a functioning relationship with Roman, or if she is just weird about certain aspects of a relationship. She doesn’t seem to have a problem going with him, but the hand thing is difficult? She has it easy to declare Roman her boyfriend to her friends, but having an actual relationship is the thing that gives her problems?
Player of the episode: Hats off to Bailey Buntain (now Bailey De Young) delivering a solid teenage-like performance of that “Bells Are Ringing” number. Turns out some of the cast were also hired for their musical talents.