Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer TV Rewind: Wonderfalls 1.09: "Safety Canary"

“He’s more like a fuzzy bunny. I don’t kill fuzzy bunnies!”

And this is where “Wonderfalls” starts to get a little more painful to watch. Jaye and Eric are torn apart in such a very Krista Vernoff way, there’s no way to describe it other than painful. Now while Bryan Fuller (rightfully) gets the majority of the credit for the awesome that is “Wonderfalls,” Vernoff’s contribution cannot go unmentioned. Vernoff is best known for having been a long-term writer/producer on “Grey’s Anatomy,” at one point even being the showrunner. Earlier in Vernoff’s career, she was a writer/producer on Wonderfalls. Both this second half of “Wonderfalls” and the second season of “Grey’s Anatomy” have a similar trajectory in the main romantic storyline. The main, snarky heroine has just taken up with the love of her life, who she had been kind of resisting up until now. All of a sudden, his ex-wife is back on the scene. Yup. That’s right. “Safety Canary” marks the first real appearance of Eric’s estranged wife, Heidi.

The overall theme that ties this episode together is being afraid of love and close relationships. All of the characters featured in this episode (including a couple of hyacinth macaws) find themselves pushing love away out of fear. By the end of the episode, everyone, even Jaye has overcome that fear. Unfortunately for Jaye, she overcomes her fear just a touch too late. Heidi’s back, and Jaye is going to have to spend the rest of the series trying to deal with that. I’m not going to lie, I don’t like Heidi one bit. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Heidi’s portrayer, Jewel Staite. I’ve been a fan of her since I was twelve years old and watching “Space Cases” on Nickelodeon, and I continued to be her fan watching her in “Firefly” and “The LA Complex.” I’m just a rather unapologetic Jaye and Eric fangirl, and Heidi getting in the way of that makes me a bit stabby. Although, with the character of Heidi, the fact that she makes me stabby probably means Jewel was doing her job right.

Anyway, the setting of this episode is mostly in a zoo, because that’s where Jaye and Eric go for their first official date. They are in that extremely happy new love phase until various characters though out the episode start trying to talk Jaye out of it. Almost ten years later, we’d call what characters like Sharon and Mahandra do in this episode “concern trolling.” As in, they’re being nasty to Jaye and questioning her feelings for Eric out of “concern” for Eric in his fragile, getting over his marriage imploding after less than 24 hours state. I guess they’re right to be concerned, in a way. They don’t have the insight into Jaye’s real feelings that the viewers do. They just think Eric is another in the long line of men who have thrown themselves at Jaye that she has subsequently discarded once she’s bored with them.

At the zoo, the Muses really start their interference. Eric and Jaye are making out near the hyacinth macaw cage, and the picture of a bird on a “no flash photography” sign tells Jaye to, what else, take a picture. Jaye tries to resist, given the warning sign and all, but eventually she just goes through with it. The result is that she gets pecked in the face by one of the macaws, and the zookeeper in charge of the bird area, Penelope, gets shipped down to elephant dung cleaning duty. Penelope is distraught. She had been devoting all her time and energy to making sure the two hyacinth macaws would mate, and now it’s been taken away from her. The Muses start bugging Jaye to “save the lovebirds,” so Jaye decides to try and make things right. She makes a trip to the zoo that results in Penelope being outright fired, and things only escalate from there.

Penelope convinces Jaye and Eric to help her “liberate” (ha!) the hyacinth macaws from the zoo so she can continue working with them. They get a little help from zoo janitor Rufus, who secretly has a huge crush on Penelope. Penelope doesn’t notice him, though, because she’s too interested in her birds. The gang takes the birds to Jaye’s parents’ house, because Aaron is the only one who is going to be home for the weekend. Mahandra joins them too, and there’s a funny sequence where they’re all waiting for the macaws to start mating, and Penelope says that Eric and Aaron have to leave because of their “male pheromones.” The guys leaving works, but in a moment where she really wants to get away from Eric thanks to her crumbling self-confidence (what with Sharon having called her a “man-eater” and Mahandra also begging Jaye to break up with Eric for Eric’s safety), Jaye goes into the room where the birds are mating, and she opens a window. Yep. Birds. Open window. You can guess what happens next.

Anyway, through the process of trying to find the macaws (which turn up doing it in Sharon’s high end SUV), a lot of relationship statuses change. Jaye and Eric break up, because Eric realizes that all her moaning about being bad for him is just her being scared, and she’s not ready for a relationship yet. Sharon goes back to girlfriend Beth and asks to be dominated, not realizing that Beth has just gotten back together with her ex-husband. Aaron and Mahandra decide to try kissing and realize they like it (which will lead to one of my favorite Aaron lines in a later episode “you think I’m delicious!”). Penelope and Rufus also end up together. Jaye convinces Penelope that she’ll be okay without her zoo job, because she’s just been using her birds as a distraction from actual human contact. Once Jaye makes Penelope realize that Rufus is interested in her, Penelope decides to see what this love thing is all about.

As I said earlier, the only one who is left out in the cold at the end of the episode is Jaye. After convincing Penelope to stop being scared and pursue something with Rufus, Jaye realizes that the same advice should apply to herself and Eric. She knows things are different with Eric than with the victims of her “man-eating” phase, and she’s just been using those sorts of comments as an excuse to stay in her comfort zone. She rushes to the Barrel to apologize for Eric and explain her true feelings, but she’s too late. She enters the bar to find Eric and Heidi snuggling to some music. When Heidi announces that she’s Eric’s wife, that’s when things really start to get painful. “Save the lovebirds” indeed.

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