Tonight’s Bunheads is one of the best of the season. Of course, it’s not enough that one of the primary ballet companies on the show is the Joffrey Ballet (an actual company, no less) – no, we double-up on the Game of Thrones references tonight with the episode’s title, “No One Takes Khaleesi’s Dragons.” It’s a journeyman performance for Sutton Foster, who spouts one liners like nobody’s business. She’s proactive the entire episode, primarily in her war with city hall over their motion to prevent the opening of a new grocery store due to a zoning technicality. This is to say nothing of her combative involvement with a pretentious barista (guest star Sean Gunn, of Gilmore Girls fame), who is practically a psychic when it comes to caffeine, knowing Michelle’s coffee preferences just by looking at her.
But, for once, Michelle and Fanny (Kelly Bishop) aren’t really the central concern of the episode. This week, we’re focused pretty squarely on the bunheads themselves, as Ginny (Bailey Buntain) gradually comes to realize the nature of her attraction to Melanie’s brother, Charlie, with whom Boo is still infatuated. But Boo is facing complications of her own, as she’s come to realize that, despite her lingering attraction to Charlie, she’s developed feelings for Carl. These storylines are centered on a series of setpieces that see Ginny acting with a conflictingly hyperactive catatonia to the presence of Melanie’s brother. She speaks in clipped, declarative sentences, always looking straight ahead to avoid eye contact with Charlie, whether she’s next to him in the front seat of the car, or sitting in the passenger seat in his car, too frozen to fiddle with the radio stations. The knowledge of Charlie’s attraction to her, imparted by Boo several episodes ago, has rendered her mute with awkwardness. Worse yet, Melanie (Emma Dumont) doesn’t appear to know that yet another one of her best friends is crushing on her brother.
When she eventually finds out, during a sleepover in which Ginny intends to dress-up in the event that Charlie should come by, Melanie is freaked out about it, in a major way. That Ginny would show interest in the long-time object of Boo’s affections represents a clear violation of “bra code.” Ginny immediately goes on the defensive, asserting that it’s not as if she wants to hurt Boo, but you really can’t help who you like. This comes into play later with Boo (Kaitlyn Jenkins) and Carl, whom Ginny and Melanie chased away last week, blind to the possibility that Boo would possibly reciprocate his feelings. At the city hall zoning board meeting in the studio, which Michelle tricked the girls into attending, Boo confesses her feelings to Carl after he states his intention to quit dancing. Carl kisses her, and once the initial shock of it wears off, Boo kisses back. Cue Melanie and Ginny walking in on the scene.
What ensues is the first major conflict between the girls so far this season, as Ginny reasons that Boo kissing Carl means that she’s no longer into Charlie, thus freeing him up for her own pursuit. Boo is incensed that Ginny would go after Charlie after saying she wasn’t interested, to say nothing of how she’s known how Boo has felt about Charlie for years. Ginny argues, perhaps correctly, that Boo already has Carl, and can’t stake claims to both boys. Missed in the outburst is Carl retreating from the scene, his feelings bruised by Boo’s admission that she’s still enamored of Charlie, despite having kissed him only moments earlier. We know Boo didn’t mean to offend him, but Carl seems like the kind of guy who has no intention of being anybody’s second choice, especially since Boo did nothing to stop Ginny and Melanie’s put-downs last week. It’s strike two for Boo, and she’ll have to work hard to salvage things with Carl, to say nothing of how bruised things are between herself and Ginny.
But the romantic entanglements don’t end there, as Michelle finds herself talking with Godot, the irresponsibly good-looking young bartender from The Oyster Bar. They get their flirt on, and Michelle clearly appreciates his attempts, but feels that the two dynamics they represent (high-strung dancer + laid-back surfer guy) just won’t mix well together. Godot, however, is persistent, and refuses to allow the door close on the possibility, responding to Michelle’s insistence that they wouldn’t work out with “We’ll see.” It’s a bit out of left field, especially this close to the summer finale. One would think they’d have gone farther in establishing Godot, if for no other reason than, up to this point, he seems far younger than one would think, given tonight’s episode. Previously I had pegged him as no older than twenty-four, but tonight’s episode had me thinking he could be as old as twenty-eight. It all depends on how he carries himself from week-to-week, but perhaps the heightened attention to age discrepancy is purposeful, as it gives Michelle a reason not to pursue the relationship. Regardless, this seems like something that will happen, as Michelle finds her footing in Paradise in the wake of Hubbell’s death. Such a trajectory naturally would include romantic exploration, and while Conor the director was the cultured choice, Godot is offered as the rebellious, impulsive choice.
Michelle’s business hardly stops with Godot or the zoning board, however, as she confronts Sasha over her actions last week. Sasha has been acting every bit as strangely this week as Ginny, appearing to be happy and bubbly to a very un-Sasha degree. The girls are suspicious and attend the school’s basketball game to watch her cheer. In her pigtails and pom-poms, Sasha looks positively miserable, being kowtowed by the cheer captain, who gives her a hard time over her too-high kicks and her lack of positivity. This leads Sasha to completely snap, arguing that they’re the problem with men today, as they make underachieving boys believe that they can accomplish anything, instead of lowering their expectations accordingly. It’s a great outburst from Julia Goldani Telles, the second in as many weeks. She’s gradually becoming the dramatic backbone of the show, as her arc carries on throughout this first half of the season. As Sasha sits on the bleachers at school, Michelle stops by for a heart-to-heart, telling the dancer-turned-cheerleader that she really needs to at least hear people out. Sometimes, the people who seem to be oppressing you actually know what they’re talking about, and taking their advice might help a person avoid the youthful mistakes that easily become the harbingers of future regret. It’s a lot to mull over, but Sasha’s wheels already appear to be turning. And not a moment too soon, as Fanny has yet to cast the lead in the company production of The Nutcracker, and is working the company to the bone in preparation for the big performance.
Bunheads is a show that has acquit itself well, going from simply pleasant TV to actively-engaging comedy-drama. Its development has been one of the real stories of the 2012 summer TV season, and so I’m certainly going to savor next week, given that it’s the last we’ll see of the show for a while. If the previews are any indication, it’s going to be a finale that’s heavy on the heart. It should be interesting to see if any of these new romantic pairings will be able to work themselves out, and if Sasha’s existential crisis will lead her back to dance.