Bunheads: 1.05 “Money for Nothing”

Season 1 Episode 5
Airdate: July 16, 2012

Michelle wakes up at 2pm as usual. This afternoon she sees a possum in her bed! Scared because she is not sure what kind of animal it is or whether it will try to eat her, she tries to remain very still and quiet while she calls Not Emily Gilmore, who is, of course, already awake and active along with everyone else who acts like an adult. Michelle tells her there is something in her bed. “Just give him some cab fare and change the locks,” NEG replies. Oh, NEG, you are such an awesome bitch! NEG suggests she bang the critter on the head with a frying pan. No, that’s actually what she says. Michelle replies that she doesn’t have one because she doesn’t cook. No, that’s actually what she said in reply. I wish I could write jokes like that.

The possum bares its teeth, which sends Michelle screaming out of the house. She probably did something to attract the possum here. We already know she had all her windows open. She must have left a bunch of garbage all over the place. Michelle isn’t  someone who has mastered basic acts of adulthood like cooking or driving or knowing to put garbage out so it to be collected.

Booboo has a job as a waitress. Her supervisor is a boy who acts like the flare guy from Office Space but without the flare. Flare Guy Without Flare explains to Boo that part of her duties will be to jump on top of the stack garbage in the dumpster to pack it down. Yeah, how about I don’t want my waitress jumping around in a dumpster in between waiting tables. Over at dance class, her friends wonder why she smells like garbage.

NEG and Crazy Saleslady are sorting out NEG’s bills. You see, twice a year is her bill paying season. Her creditors in town let her get away with this because they know NEG is already extremely eccentric and demanding she pay her debts on time may push her into spiraling down to adopting 50 cats and throwing empty cans at people who use the sidewalk along her house. As everyone in town knows when bill paying season is, Michelle is accosted by a man named Sal Russano, who says he owns the local dance supply store and wants NEG to pay the money she owes, or he warns, “something’s going to happen, you hear me?” If he is not paid, he threatens to “rip the toe shoes right off those little girls!” Yeah, that dance supply store isn’t a front for the mob or anything, He then talks about the different types of butts dancers have, which began because he was staring at Michelle’s. To be fair to him, his mind is on the same track as most Italians: act like you are in the mafia and then go right to perving on women.

Inside, Michelle sees that NEG’s bills are all over the floor. The wind blew them around. Not that NEG was in any way organized before, mind you.

The three girls who aren’t Booboo go to the restaurant she works. They notice the hot young man who is the bartender, because he comes in without a shirt carrying a keg. He will be referred to as Shirtless Bartender.

Michelle tells NEG that she needs to see an accountant. This is totally out of character for Michelle, because recommending an accountant would be something a functioning adult would do. The two visit an accountant and call him Bob. “My name is Eric,” he says. His name is right on his desk. “I’m sorry. There used to be a black guy who lived here named Bob. Do you know him?” Eric the black accountant says their finances are not good. Hummel did not leave behind much money. Michelle is shocked to learn that only nine students in NEG’s whole school pay for dance lessons. I would not be shocked. No one in this town who owns a business actually runs it with the goal of generating money. Paradise, California took all their economics lessons from Greece.

Michelle wants to talk to NEG about this, but she has been dancing to her iPod since leaving the accountant’s. Then Michelle sees that there is no music in it. I am not surprised.

Michelle says they need to get every student to pay. NEG replies that some of the families couldn’t afford classes and she won’t turn anyone down. Michelle says that means she needs to add more classes to start bringing in money. NEG says she doesn’t have time for more classes, what with all the time she spends on her one class as well as traveling to garage sales to collect more glass frogs.

The three girls return to the restaurant and they are dressed to impress. Impress Shirtless Bartender, that is (note: he is wearing a shirt currently). Boo gives them some fries and then Michelle sits down with them and wants to talk and whatnot. “Why are you hanging out with us?” asks Sasha.

Sasha approaches the bar to try to flirt with Shirtless Bartender, but he ignores her. I assume he would have to be over 21 to be a bartender, so responding to one of these girl’s advances would be bad news, man, trust me you don’t want to dip into that, dude.

Shirtless Bartender goes out back where Boo is stomping down the garbage. He points out that the boy who told her to do that is quote a “douchebag” and isn’t even an actual manager. Since her uniform is covered in trash stains, he takes off his work shirt and gives it to her. Boo says it smells like a “coconut snicker-doodle”. Boo is turned on right now. More by the snicker-doodle smell than him showing off his abs yet again. Shirtless Bartender talks about having surfed all over the world. But now he is broke and has to come back here to take a job where the MAN forces him to wear a shirt and it’s bullshit man, bullshit. Shirtless Bartender was meant to be shirtless. Whenever he plays basketball with his buds, he is always on Skins, never on Shirts. Never.

The dance students and NEG are preparing for a recital. With all the parents here, Michelle wacks a stick and demands that every one of them start paying for their kid to be a student here.

It does not go well. We next see Michelle having to apologize to parents over the phone. Turns out NEG has arrangements to teach people’s kids in exchange for various services and debt forgiveness. So now that Michelle has messed up, she agrees to teach additional classes.

The episode ends with the students putting on a recital NEG wrote about the environment. It’s called “Paper or Plastic” and really funny. I’m not going to describe it any more than that, because it’s worth watching to get the full experience. It’s my favorite scene so far that doesn’t feature Michelle drinking. Michelle is surprisingly sober this episode. Maybe she ran out of money for cheap wine.

Grade: B+

I forgot that I originally intended to grade these episodes and skipped the last few. I would have given “Better Luck Next Year” a D-. It was the low point of the series so far. I’m glad that we’re finally getting to the point where Michelle is going to teach, but I expected that to happen in the third episode, if not the pilot. The series has been moving too slow, and I don’t think a lot of what we’ve seen in that last few episodes has been worth waiting through to get to this point.

If I were Amy Sherman-Palladino, I would have combined episodes 3, 4 and 5 into one. The first episode moved along pretty fast as it is, being the pilot. Episode 2 was perfect. The ending, with the memorial dance to a Tom Waits song, was beautiful and could not have been improved upon. But the last three episode kept covering the same ground over and over.

My version of the third episode would have started as “Inherit the Wind” did, with Michelle learning that she inherited all of Hubble’s property and given a tour of it by the weird realtor. NEG would worry she was going to lose her studio and home. Then she learns Joffrey won’t be holding auditions here due the floor she can’t afford to fix. Michelle is ready to say to heck with it all and leave, but learns how much the studio means to her mother-in-law. Of course, Michelle also gave up a promising dance career, so has something to bond with NEG. They drive to Oxnard, get a contractor, the floor gets fixed and Joffrey comes (Joffrey doing traveling auditions doesn’t make sense, but we’ll keep it for the Boo in wigs scene). Then Michelle moves into the guest house, and we get to where this episode is, learning from the accountant that neither of them have any money, so the episode will end as it did here, with the recital and Michelle agreeing to teach. It would have been a nice, tight episode.

I would have taken out Michelle meeting the rich guy, as well as most of the scenes with the girls. To make up for that, I would have made the next episode mostly about the girls (episode 4 in my layout, episode 6 in Palladino’s. It’s like the difference between the US and Japanese Final Fantasy titles). So far, we’ve only gotten stories about Boo and Sasha, anyway, so my plan would have even featured all four girls earlier than we’ve gotten.

What We Learned:

Boo is short for Bootina.

Cultural References:

  • Ballangen, Norway*
  • Pina Bausch
  • David Brenner
  • ChiTaS*
  • Johnny Depp
  • Girl, Interrupted
  • Martha Graham
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High
  • Jack Hanna
  • Alyssa Milano
  • Waiting for Godot
  • Kristen Wigg


* I think this is the reference but I’m not really sure what was said.