The following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the “Smell of Success” episode of the ABC series, “Pushing Daisies.”
Change doesn’t come easily to Ned the Pie Maker, and “smell can get you killed.” These are just a couple of things we learned on “Smell of Success,” this week’s installment of “Pushing Daisies.”
When Chuck (Anna Friel) suggests offering cup-pies on the Pie Hole menu, Ned (Lee Pace) rejects the idea. It has partly to do with a bearskin rug that came to life while he was on it with a former girlfriend, and mostly to do with change meaning he runs the risk of his safe world falling apart.
Ned became a pie maker, despite not being able to eat pie himself. At the age of nine years old, Ned made a pie because it reminded him of his mother and feeling safe, loved, and warm. He has made pie for the same reasons ever since.
Chuck recruits Olive (Kristin Chenowith) in a scheme to get her aunts, the Darling Mermaid Darlings, back in the water. Olive goes along with the plan, bringing the aunts pie laced with homeopathic happiness. She also brings along chlorine tablets, which Lily (Swoozie Kurtz) says are like bottled sunshine.
Then there is the death of the week. Anita Gray (Sarah Jayne Jensen), an apprentice for olfactory expert Napoleon LeNez (Chistopher Sieber), is killed by an exploding scratch-n-sniff book in LeNez’s lab. The book is the prototype for a book of smells LeNez is about to publish.
When Chuck, Ned, and Emerson (Chi McBride) visit LeNez, they are decontaminated in a sealed chamber before meeting with him. LeNez has to cleanse people before they’re allowed to be in his air space, because his nose is hypersensitive to smells. LeNez’s sense of smell is so refined that he can smell death on Chuck, though he thinks it has to do with the ingredients in her perfume. Chuck almost gives away her secret by saying she doesn’t wear a scent.
Emerson concludes there’s an angry author out there trying to get even with LeNez because his book was moved up on the release list, which meant someone else’s book publication was going to be cancelled.
Emerson’s theory leads them to a pop-up bookstore where Chas Spielman (Tim Conlon) is working on an “adult” pop-up book. Emerson, who has a thing for pop-up books, confiscates it and a few other books as part of his investigation.
At The Pie Hole, a drain clogged with a sewer-drenched sock leads the team to LeNez’s ex-partner in smell science, Oscar Vibenius (played by Paul Reubens in one of his straightest roles). LeNez and Vibenius parted ways when Oscar wanted to appreciate both good and the bad smells together.
Vibenius left to explore the smells of sewers, while LeNez lived in his scent-controlled digs above ground.
Chuck, Ned, and Emerson search the sewers where, as they are following “the yellow, thick hose,” they find Oscar, who they believe they’ve caught in the act of blowing up LeNez’s car.
Later, Chuck visits Olive, who is wearing one of the mermaid costumes the aunts gave her. Dressed as a tiny patriotic mermaid, Olive also gives Chuck one of her sweaters, also a gift from the aunts.
Ned finds evidence that LeNez is behind Anita’s death and his incinerated car. Apparently, LeNez got so much publicity from his assistant’s accidental death that pre-sales for his book have skyrocketed.
Hoping to increase sales even more, he continued to make it look like attempts were being made on his life, including destroying his own car.
He traps Ned and Emerson in his decontamination chamber and plans to kill them but Oscar saves them by rerouting the toxic gasses from the chamber into LeNez’s room.
We are likely to see Oscar again in the future because he is now obsessed with Chucks smell. He’s never before smelled what hes smelling on her, and hes determined to find out what it is.
On the bright side, Ned decided to put Chuck’s cup-pies on the Pie Hole menu.
The quirky plots and rapid-fire puns, jokes, and references in the dialogue and narration are always fun on “Pushing Daisies.” The smell jokes permeated the entire episode. The actors’ timing and delivery is perfect.
With all the great lines in it, my favorite was Ned’s rather dorky “OK. If that happens, I’ll say something like “What is this, a police state?'” followed by an uncomfortable pause. It may not be up there with Emerson’s magazine, “Knit Wit,” but the moment was so bad it was great.
Add to this, the bizarre death of the week. Death by scratch-n-sniff is up there with the best deaths on “Dead Like Me,” another creation of Bryan Fuller.
Of course, we had to see the animated fricasseed body, which, according to Chuck, smelled “Pungent.” Emerson retorted “Pungent like fried chicken grilled on a bed of hair.”
Then there was Anita’s grandmother with smoke coming out of her tracheotomy hole. I nearly fell of the couch for that one!
What Didn’t Work
While “Pushing Daisies” is my favorite of all the new shows in this truncated season, I am not a big fan of the musical interludes in some of the episodes.
The scene where Ellen Greene sings “Morning Has Broken” felt like filler to stretch an otherwise tightly-written episode to fit into its allotted 42.3 minutes. I can appreciate that both Greene and Kristin Chenowith are best known for their pipes on musical Broadway, and Fuller and company probably hate bypassing their potential, but the songs really don’t add anything to the show.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“Smell Of Success” was written by Scott Nimerfro and directed by Lawrence Trilling.
“Pushing Daisies” airs on ABC Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.