Written by Lisa Joy, Gretchen Berg, and Aaron Harberts
Directed by Peter Lauer
Emerson gets a rejection letter from his publisher and decides to give up. Also, his mom is in town! She raised him in the hardboiled detective life. Olive and Chuck become roommates in the apartment, where they both pretend everything is great an they’re BFFs with no problems, which is far from true. Emerson gets a case, and they decide to solve it together like old times. A woman’s best friend is dead. While Emerson’s mom works on her own case, Emerson employs Ned, Chuck, and Olive to help him investigate Frescorts, a company that enables sad lonely dorks to hire people to pretend to be their ideal best friends. The victim was one of the best Frescorts, and Emerson’s favorite suspect at first is Randy, the victim’s roommate (and client), but that doesn’t pan out. The guy is just weird, not a killer. The receptionist and the victim were in a relationship (which is against company policy), and they did crosswords together. Emerson discovers that his mother has been spying on him. She thinks he hates her because she thinks the book he wrote (which she mistakenly received the rejection letter of) was about how she was a horrible mother to him. Chuck and Olive get trapped inside a locker together by the receptionist. Who has also been murdered (with the hug machine). Whoever killed her was dressed as a Spartan high school mascot. The team thinks Randy might be the killer after all, but it’s actually the former jock boss of the company, Buddy Amicus. Who was actually the real mascot and loser in high school. The quarterback is dead and mummified in a case in Buddy’s office. Buddy murdered him back in high school after he proved to be less than the friend Buddy thought he was. The murderer caught and Frescorts dead, Ned holds a mixer for all the ex-clients at the Pie Hole, which goes really well. Chuck wants to move back in with Ned because of her falling out with Olive, but Ned tells her she can’t because she needs to fix things with Olive. Which she does! Emerson and his mom also fix their own relationship. They realize they need to be mother and son first, friends second. She critiques his book. He wrote it wrong. She tells him he needs to write a story that would show his daughter why she’d want to be his daughter. Finally, Chuck comes over to Ned’s apartment and proves that her moving out and becoming best friends with Olive has not moved them farther apart.
Calista Cod would make this one of my favorite episodes even if that was the only good thing going for it, but it’s not. There’s also some really excellent development of Emerson’s missing daughter arc, Chuck and Olive’s friendship, Ned working through his issues, and Ned and Chuck working through their issues together. Plot A is also a pretty good metaphor for all of that, since it’s about a fake friend service, and the point of that story in the end is that the only friendship worth anything is genuine friendship. Chuck and Olive were trying to get by on fake enthusiasm and pretending not to be annoyed by each other’s mannerisms. Calista and Emerson were trying to get by as best friends when they needed to be mother and son. Ned was trying too hard to hold onto people when he needed to be dealing with himself. Ned is rewarded for his commitment to introspection and consideration by gaining a friend in Randy and fixing things with Chuck.
Things I Liked
Things I Didn’t
I must be more used to the sitcom status quo formula than I ever wanted to be, because I only just now realized that Ned coming to terms with Chuck moving out of his apartment was an arc, not just something that could be fully dealt with in a single episode. I really like that. Interpersonal issues aren’t tidy enough to work through in an episode’s length of time. Ned has been making progress across the whole arc, but the real test came when Chuck offered him exactly what he wanted (her moving back in) and rejected it because he knew that wasn’t what she needed. It’s fantastic. I also really like how Ned withdraws from Randy every time Randy does or says something very Ned-like. It’s a very good representation of how bad he is at dealing with his own issues that he has trouble dealing with someone so similar, even though he clearly recognizes a kindred spirit in him.
Chuck has definitely been overly needy and selfish this season, and she needed that kick in the pants from Olive to realize it and knock it off. Yes, her situation is hard in some very unique ways, but she’s not the only one going through crap, and the people she cares about need her support dealing with their issues as much as she needs their support dealing with hers. I’m keen to see how things go from here, because it’s been a long time since I watched any of the remaining episodes and I honestly don’t remember. Exciting!
Olive’s frankness with Chuck once they’re both stuck in a locker made me realize something interesting: Ned shouldn’t have to be the one who can be super up-front with Chuck about problems like how needy she can be and how inadvertently selfish she can get. Those are very dangerous waters for a boyfriend to navigate, but perfect for a best friend. Ned doesn’t have to be everything for Chuck, and she doesn’t have to be everything for him. That way lies all kinds of codependent dysfunction. They both need friends besides each other, and that actually makes them work better as a couple.
The idea that parents shouldn’t be best friends with their children is one I really like seeing on TV. Children have their peers for friendship; they need their parents to be something else. They need someone older and wiser who loves them enough not to make everything easy and let them do and have whatever they want if it clashes with what they need to become good people as adults. I particularly love that Calista can even be a good critic of Emerson’s book. There’s a time for putting your kid’s crappy artwork on the fridge, and there’s a time for straight-forwardly explaining to your adult child why his awesome detective pop-up book won’t achieve what he wants it to.
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.