Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer TV Rewind: Wonderfalls 1.06: "Muffin Buffalo"

“This isn’t me. It’s humiliating. I don’t save babies!”

“Muffin Buffalo” is one of my favorite episodes of “Wonderfalls,” mostly because it is the first of several appearances by Marianne Marie Beatle (played by the wonderful Beth Grant) and several rather epic riffs on Jaye’s new status as a “baby saver.” Jaye continues to rather unwillingly do good, and this actually escalates pretty significantly, with seemingly minor actions having huge positive consequences. We also get a glimpse into the kind of horrible things Jaye did pre-‘sode, like stalking an obese trailer park neighbor. Jaye doesn’t escape that situation without consequences, which I appreciated, even though she’s being forced to be a better person now. Part of what makes Jaye fundamentally Jaye is her prickliness. It makes you wonder, if she really is talking to God, what He saw in her to make Him believe she would do good when just prodded a little (okay, prodded a lot).

There are two one-shot but extremely memorable new characters introduced in “Muffin Buffalo.” The first is the aforementioned Marianne Marie Beatle. This is the first of three appearances Mrs. Beatle would make in the Bryan Fuller-verse, although it’s the only appearance she would make in “Wonderfalls.” Marianne Marie also shows up in the season 2 episode of “Pushing Daisies” where she competes against Ned and Olive in a cooking competition and in “Mockingbird Lane.” I do love how Bryan Fuller shows such loyalty to his former characters and stable of actors in his work, including in his current series, “Hannibal.” Anyway, Marianne Marie is an avid muffin baker who apparently gets a regular disability check for having had a hysterectomy. Those checks have been recently showing up in Jaye’s mailbox, but Jaye doesn’t realize it. Once she does realize it, the Muses start telling her to not give them to Marianne Marie.

The other new, one-shot character in this episode is “Fat Pat” aka “Patsquatch,” and extremely obese neighbor of Jaye’s who Jaye is on a bit of a quest to photograph, Sasquatch style. There’s an amusing scene early in the episode where Aaron is hiding out at Jaye’s trailer to avoid studying, and they’re working on a Fat Pat stakeout. Jaye thinks they’re in luck when there’s a pizza delivery to Pat’s trailer. Aaron ends up snapping the pictures of Pat while Jaye is distracted by a visit from Marianne Marie asking about her disability checks. Overall, this episode included an interesting evolution in the relationship between Jaye and Aaron from what we saw in “Crime Dog.” Aaron is back to being kind of obsessed with Jaye’s ability. He’s glued the head back on the cow creamer, and he keeps bugging Jaye about her ability throughout the episode. I can definitely see how Aaron might have been prompted to start a Cult of Jaye if the series had continued beyond one season. He even talks to his therapist about it in an interesting conversation about how even though he’s getting a PhD in comparative religion, the idea of Jaye actually talking to God is crazy to him.

There’s an overall thread throughout this episode of Jaye not liking the person that the Muses are turning her into. Early in the episode, a Muse instruction to staple a woman’s shoelace to a shelf results in Jaye catching a baby that had been catapulted out of its stroller. The story makes the local Native American reservation newspaper, and Jaye also wins Employee of the Month at Wonderfalls. Jaye only accepts the Employee of the Month award because it comes with taking the afternoon off. The Tylers have a celebratory fondue lunch at the Barrel, considering Jaye doesn’t usually have achievements that merit fondue lunches. In fact, Sharon’s a little miffed that Jaye is getting similar treatment for her retail achievement that she got for making partner at her law firm. Jaye struggles mightily with the idea that people might actually think she’s a good person. As she says emphatically to many people in this episode, including to her family and to Eric, she’s not a “baby saver.” As I alluded to earlier in the post, it’s interesting to see Jaye suddenly start to rebel against the idea of the Muses. She still does what they tell her to, but she feels like those actions are fundamentally against her identity. She can’t believe she’s a good person.

Anyway, much of the rest of this episode revolves around Jaye’s interactions with Fat Pat. After an incident involving an oven fire in Marianne Marie’s trailer, Jaye meets Pat (Eddie Kaye Thomas) in the flesh. And surprise, surprise, he’s not so fat anymore. He’s been spending the past year working very hard to lose the weight, but he still sees himself as fat. Jaye decides that Pat needs to go out and socialize to get some self-confidence, but this all seems to backfire pretty horrifically. First, she takes him to the Tyler family game night, where he doesn’t exactly endear himself to anybody in the family other than Sharon thanks to being way too aggressive in his game-playing. Then they go to the Barrel, where he tells Eric how Jaye is obsessed with him and has taken all these pictures. Poor Eric just looks like a kicked puppy as he worries that he’s lost his chance with Jaye. Jaye says goodbye to Pat at the trailer park mailboxes, but she later discovers him naked in her bed. This is understandably disturbing to Jaye, and the rejection just sends Pat right back into a relapse spiral.

Pat ends up in Marianne Marie’s trailer gorging himself on muffins that Marianne Marie is only too happy to supply. Unfortunately for Pat, though, Marianne Marie uses olestra in her muffins. Instead of gaining weight back (which Pat was trying to do because he was feeling sorry for himself), he ends up losing the final twelve pounds he needed to reach his goal weight. Jaye and Marianne Marie visit Pat in the hospital, where Marianne Marie presents her plan for Pat to be Muffin Buffalo’s spokesperson (Muffin Buffalo is her muffin company). Jaye also finally gives Marianne Marie her disability checks, and Marianne Marie is able to avoid eviction from the High and Dry. Jaye stashing the checks actually turned out to be a good thing, because Marianne Marie had never saved so much money before in her life, and now she has enough money to restart her muffin business. So “Muffin Buffalo will roam again!”

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