“Olive Snook loved to win. She celebrated the fact that the unflappable brunette who had swept in from nowhere to steal the piemaker’s heart might be flappable after all. But, as often happens when one celebrates, the universe is quick to even score.”
– The Narrator
We’re going to do something a little different in the commentary for this episode. Instead of concentrating on the episode’s plot or themes, we’re going to zero in on its dialogue.
Pushing Daisies has a penchant for witty, wordplay-infused dialogue, and nowhere is that more apparent than in “Girth,” the series’ fifth episode. Just look at how the narrator invents the word “flappable” to fit the cadence of the above line. It’s also a showcase for the relationship between Olive and Chuck, taking it out of the realm of antagonism and steering it on the path towards friendship, but not before Chuck gets in some passive-aggressive jabs in at Olive as well.
“He was stunned to be summoned; guess what he’d been given
Candy corn treats, or masks of dead risen?
But the thing was more frightening than a demon winged or hooved
A pre-printed card from his father: ‘We’ve moved'”
– The Narrator
The best way to describe Pushing Daisies’ dialogue is that it’s poetic – not necessarily in a metaphorical sense – but in a more mechanical one. The dialogue is witty, brimming with rhyme and alliteration, among other poetic devices. In fact, the Narrator rhymes the entire introduction of this episode, underscoring the show’s whimsy.
“Ned hates Halloween, you know, makes him moodier than a pumpkin full of PMS.”
Ned doesn’t like Halloween, because twenty years ago on that day, he found out that his father had started a new family. Olive doesn’t know the real reason why Halloween makes Ned sad, but she has no qualms about dangling whatever superior knowledge she has about Ned in front of Chuck’s face. She does it in Pushing Daisies’ trademark style.
Let’s break down that line, shall we? “Moodier than a pumpkin full of PMS” is a very cleverly-worded phrase. Of course, the “pumpkin” evokes images of Halloween, but even the sounds made by the words in the phrase are interestingly placed. There’s lots of consonance in the phrase, with repeating “p” and “m” sounds. Heck, the letters “P” and “M” are actually spoken out at the end in “PMS,” as if to draw attention to the consonance.
Emerson: What’s the case?
Olive: Yesterday, a ferrier named Lucas Shoemaker was found dead. Trampled.
Emerson:Why should I care about a dude who sells fur coats?
Olive: Not a furrier. A ferrier. “Err.”
Olive:It’s a blacksmith, puts shoes on horses.
Emerson: Don’t try to act like that’s a word everybody knows.
Pushing Daisies is actually quite conscious of its complex wordplay. Just take the above conversation between Olive and Emerson, for example. The misheard word is a signal to the audience that the show’s rapid-fire, wordy dialogue is entirely intentional. It gets the audience “in on the joke” without being an overly winking meta moment.
Ned: Is this a bad idea, Olive as a client? It’s a little too close for comfort.
Emerson: Oh, hang on a second, let me ask the money. [mimes a phone call] Oh hey, money, it’s me, Emerson! … I’m good, I’m good, thanks for asking. Say, can I still pay my bills and buy stuff with you even though you was Olive’s money first? … Uh huh.
Emerson: Yeah… Okay then, thanks. [mimes putting phone away] The money don’t care; touch him.
Speaking of Emerson, he doesn’t engage in as much whimsical wordplay as Olive or Chuck (or the nervous wordplay of Ned). But he does deal in the same sort of rapid-fire dialogue as the other characters. Instead of puns and clever turns of phrase, Emerson is a master of snark and sarcasm.
Emerson: You can’t die of evilness.
Chuck: Happens all the time, you do something mean or hurtful to someone, like tell a secret… Bang! You’re dead.
Olive: Or bang! You’re not really dead; you’re just pretending to be dead while other people who think you’re dead are heartbroken.
Emerson: Or bang! You talk too much, and you’ll both go wait in the car.
Just look at this exchange he has with Chuck and Olive. When the two of them start to bicker passive-aggressively, Emerson steps in and puts a stop to it in his own witty way. Pushing Daisies frequently employs repetition in its dialogue. Notice how the word “bang” gets repeated in each line. Or how the word “ferrier” gets repeated in the earlier exchange between Emerson and Olive. Or how the word “(un)flappable” gets repeated in the quote that opened this commentary.
It’s also worth noting that the above exchange works so well because it follows one of the golden rules of comedy: the rule of threes. Things are funnier in threes, especially when the third thing is incongruous with the first two. Chuck and Olive come in first and second respectively with their passive-aggressive jabs, and then Emerson interrupts with his straightforward, pointed remark.
By about three-quarters of the way through the episode, Chuck and Olive have stopped fighting, and their relationship becomes friendlier. Soon, they’ll be regularly exchanging Pushing Daisies’ superb dialogue with each other.
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