“His steamed buns blurred the line between eating and sex.”
– Simone

The fact that Emerson Cod’s office is located in Chinatown was going to play a role in one of Pushing Daisies’ plots sooner or later. “Dim Sum Lose Some” takes the predictable route of making the restaurant below Emerson’s office the location of a murder, but there are unexpected delights along the way.

One of those unexpected delights is the illegal game of poker running in the restaurant, played using various dim sum dishes instead of cards, with meats representing suits and shapes representing numbers. In fact, gambling plays a large role in this episode, both literally and metaphorically. (Pushing Daisies has never exactly been subtle with its metaphors.)

Chuck: Ooh, I like daring Ned!
Ned: It seems since you arrived, cautious Ned has left the building.

Ned normally doesn’t like taking chances; he’s a risk-averse person, and his neurotic tendencies lead him to ponder worst-case scenarios instead of realistic ones. But Chuck has encouraged Ned to take more gambles, usually related to putting new and weird varieties of pie on the menu. When it comes to emotional gambles, however, Ned is significantly less eager.

“I keep my feelings about my father behind a door that’s closed for so long, it’s wallpapered over and you can’t see the seams, and that’s how I like it. Dwight showing up is like a corner peeling.”
– Ned

One gamble that Ned doesn’t want to take is digging into his past with his father. When Dwight Dixon shows up, looking for Ned’s dad, Ned is reluctant to help him. That’s understandable; Ned is still dealing with abandonment issues. After being left by his father as a boy, Ned isn’t exactly willing to try to hunt the man down now.

“I know you. You say you don’t want to feel connected, but I don’t believe that.”
– Chuck, to Ned

Ned has two opposing forces within himself. One is his risk-aversion, telling him not to take gambles like hunting down his father. The other is his need for connection. Ned wants to love and be loved, but love is a risk, and Ned doesn’t like taking risks. It’s true that bringing Chuck back from the dead was a risk, but that was a decision that Ned made on the spur of the moment. When he has time to think things through, he almost always errs on the side of caution.

“I thought I knew my father, but I didn’t know him at all.”
– Mei

Here’s where the case comes in: Bao Ting, the chef at Emerson’s favourite restaurant, was murdered after he tried to win back his daughter, Mei, in a poker match, following her forced betrothal to a man she did not love, Rubbie Wu. Mei had always had a chilly relationship with her father, but upon finding out the lengths to which he went to get her back from Rubbie, she is forced to reassess him. That gets Ned thinking: maybe his own father had a reason for doing whatever he did – for abandoning him and starting a new family elsewhere.

“It struck Emerson that while some people are terrified of a gamble, and others can’t say ‘no’ to one, the best approach lies somewhere in the middle.”
– The Narrator

And so Ned decides to take a gamble and meet his half-brothers, the ones his father had with his new family. The meeting turns out to be a rare happy moment for him, and it is possibly the start of a new, loving, familial relationship. As for Emerson, his love for Chinese dumplings continues, but he also opts to take a gamble of his own: he decides to strike up a romantic relationship with Simone. It’s hard for Emerson and Simone to be vulnerable and open up to others, but maybe their relationship is worth it.

In the end, that’s the overall message of “Dim Sum Lose Sum”: loving someone and being vulnerable are gambles; but sometimes, they’re worth the risk.

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