Chuck: I have so many questions; my mind wanders.
Ned: You need to feed it warm milk and a turkey sandwich, let it curl up in a sunny spot and take a nap.
Pushing Daisies’ second episode, “Dummy” is built around the concept of secrets. Each of the show’s three main characters – Ned, Chuck, and Emerson – has their own perspective on secrets, and “Dummy” takes the time to address each of them.
Obviously, the biggest secret in “Dummy” is the fact that Ned is indirectly responsible for the death of Chuck’s father. In the pilot, it was loaded up into Chekov’s gun to be shot out at a later date. “Dummy” reminds us that the gun is still there, waiting to be fired.
Chuck: Isn’t that what a PI’s supposed to do, investigate? Isn’t that the fun part?
Emerson: The fun part’s counting my money in the bubble bath.
But the episode doesn’t have time to dwell on that. There’s a case to solve, giving us our first taste of what Pushing Daisies looks like on an episodic basis. Chuck is eager to join in on the mystery solving, partly because she wants to feel useful in her alive-again state, but also because solving mysteries satiates her natural curiosity. Chuck isn’t much for secrets. She wants all the answers as fast as she can get them, and she wants to know how everyone else is feeling at all times. It’s little wonder that the question she asks when Ned revives someone – any last wishes? – is one that reveals what lies at the emotional core of the deceased.
Ned: I hate secrets too.
Chuck: What? You love secrets! You want to marry secrets and have little half-secret, half-human babies.
Ned, on the other hand, thrives on secrets. This is partially because after being abandoned by his father, he retreated into a shell and learned not to trust others. But it’s also because secrets are what’s familiar to him. Ned isn’t naturally curious or proactive. he merely accepts that some things are meant to remain unknown, and he takes comfort in that. He’s content to stay out of other people’s business. He takes no joy in solving mysteries with Emerson; he just wants the cash reward to keep his struggling pie shop afloat. The contrast between his secret-keeping attitude and Chuck’s openness is a source of conflict; Chuck wants Ned to step out of his comfort zone and be open with her, but Ned prefers to stay wrapped up in his cocoon of emotional privacy.
Emerson: What’s she doing here?
Ned: Said she didn’t climb out of a coffin for me to keep her in a box.
Emerson: She the boss of you?
Ned: I’m the boss of me.
Emerson: Dead Girl’s gotta go.
Ned: Dead Girl’s not going anywhere!
Emerson: You don’t know nothing about her except she had soft lips when she was ten.
Ned: That should be enough.
Emerson: I don’t like it.
Just like Ned, Emerson appreciates secrets. But unlike Ned, Emerson only appreciates his own secrets; he isn’t fine with other people having secrets. He wants to play his own cards close to the vest (which he knitted himself, naturally), while sneaking a peek at everyone else’s hands. More so than Ned, Emerson is driven by a lack of faith in others. He has a deeply cynical view of the world, and neither Ned nor Chuck has managed to shake it yet.
“Olive often imagined there was an orchestra in her heart, music heard only by her, except when her heart broke open and it spilled out into the world.”
– The Narrator
Even Olive has a (not-so-secret) secret of her own: she lusts after the piemaker, even though he won’t return her affections. It might appear odd to refer to such obvious pining as a “secret,” but Olive has never actually come out and honestly expressed her feelings. That might lead to trouble down the road.
What will definitely lead to trouble down the road, however, is the fact that Ned is keeping the true cause of Chuck’s dad’s death from Chuck. It’s telling that by the end of the episode, none of the characters has changed their mind about secrets (just about whether Chuck can sit in the front seat of Ned’s car). Ned still intends to keep what he knows about Chuck’s father’s passing a secret. Unfortunately, secrets have a nasty habit of coming out in the end.
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