“At this very moment, in the town of North Thrush, young Ned was… lonely.”
– The Narrator

“Pigeon” is an episode of Pushing Daisies that doesn’t make much in the way of grand thematic statements. Instead, it plays around with the ideas of loneliness, trust, and jealousy.

“Chuck’s heart went out to the man with a plane in his living room, despite the piemaker wanting her heart for himself.”
– The Narrator

Loneliness, trust, and jealousy are linked in the following way: loneliness breeds a lack of trust in others, which can in turn lead to jealousy. That’s exactly what happened to Ned. He was abandoned by his father at a young age, which left him lonely, save for Digby’s companionship. With nobody to turn to for comfort, Ned never had the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with others. This made him much less trusting. When he finally has a meaningful relationship with Chuck, he finds it difficult to navigate because he has spent so long distrusting others. That’s why he becomes jealous when the fake Conrad (i.e. the real Lemuel) swoops in; Ned doesn’t trust Chuck to stay faithful to him. He think she’ll leave him, just like his dad.

“The piemaker did not wish to be separated from Chuck, who in turn did not wish to be separated from her aunts, Lily and Vivian, who continued to be challenged by social phobias.”
– The Narrator

While Ned has difficulty trusting other people, Lily and Vivian have difficulty trusting the world around them; hence their reluctance to leave their home. Chuck’s death left them distrustful of the natural order of things; nieces aren’t supposed to die before their aunts.

“You can’t put everything back on its perch.”
– Lily

Lily in particular became deeply cynical, completely unwilling to trust others or that any effort she made would be rewarded. After all, if nothing she does matters, then why not resign herself to her fate? But Olive’s presence starts to rebuild her trust, little by little. It’s even enough to get the two sisters to leave their home for the first time in years. They still have a long way to go, but they’re making progress, slowly but surely.

“The piemaker and the girl he called Chuck marvelled at love’s power to conquer all obstacles – distance and time, hardship and pain, a lack of reciprocation – even death.”
– The narrator

To bring this back to Ned and Chuck, I would be remiss if I attributed Ned’s jealousy solely to distrust (although it’s surely the prime motivator). There’s one key factor here that isn’t a problem in most romantic relationships: a lack of touch. Physical contact is a large part of romantic relationships – at least the ones that aren’t long-distance – and with good reason: hugs are good for you. Ned will never be able to provide that for Chuck, but literally every other man on the planet – Lenuel included – potentially could. Ned and Chuck find ways to get a little bit of physical contact – hands held through gloves, kisses through plastic wrap – but they’ll never be able to embrace.

For now, Ned’s grand romantic gestures, like the urban beehive he built for Chuck, are enough. And “Pigeon” seems to come down on the side of such gestures being enough for the long term as well. But Ned’s and Chuck’s desires may not be immutable. If either of them is need of a hug, they’ll have to look elsewhere.

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