Now in true love but married, bored and depressed, Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) and Melissa (Cecily Strong) set off to rekindle their spark in the magical, musical land of Schmigadoon. Unfortunately, they found themselves in the dark — but no less musical — city of Schmicago, where Josh has been wrongly accused of murdering Elsie (Justine Gera). Luckily, the insufferable Topher (Aaron Tveit) busted him out of jail.
And thus begins Schmigadoon! Season 2 Episode 3, “Bells and Whistles.” But before we start the main event, remember to silence your phones and that this recap is chock full of spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.
Title sequence! This episode is written by Julie Klausner and directed by Alice Mathias. We open with The Narrator (Tituss Burgess) slapping up “Wanted” signs for Josh around town. What’s Joshie wanted for? Murder, escape and jazz.
Next, Melissa runs into Bobbie’s (Jane Krakowski) law office to tell her she discovered an address in Elsie’s date book. Maybe she should go to there? (She should! Right?)
Bobbie tells her to hold her horses and shoves the Wanted poster in her hand. Bobbie knows she can track him down, but the jailbreak has hurt Josh’s acquittal chances. Melissa just wants Josh to be OK.
For his part, Josh wakes up to a trio offering him flowers and orange juice — and a noggin that’s apparently been treated with Miracle-Gro®. Where is Josh? At Topher’s junkyard hippie
cult commune. IMDB tells me that at least a few of Topher’s followers have names. There’s the very creatively named Michael (Michael Delleva), Marisa (Marisa Gold) Alex (Alex Gullason).
I am sure this is intentional, but whereas last season Tveit’s character was pathetic in the truest sense of the word, here, as Topher, he’s just plain creepy. The fact that the actor has nearly a decade on his character’s purported age is painfully apparent — and works to the show’s advantage — but it is still so squicky, especially since most of his followers are clearly in their early 20s. (Note: I am only three years younger than Tveit, so I am in no way disparaging him for his age!)
The gang launches into a song to welcome Josh to the
cult club. Is this Hair? Is this Jesus Christ, Superstar? Or is this Joseph, the Amazing Technicolor Dreamboat? Oh, it’s a bit of all of them. At first, Josh is not into this song proclaiming, “Everybody’s gotta get naked.” He wants to know if it’s mandatory. It is. Topher’s super compelling argument is that flowers don’t wear pants, so why should people? I mean, can’t argue with that logic.
Back in Schmicago proper, The Narrator introduces us to Quick Street, where we know good things don’t happen because the score is a Sweeney Todd knock-off. While looking for the address that was in Elsie’s book, Melissa happens up an orphanage run by
Miss Hannigan Mrs. Lovett Miss Codwell (Kristin Chenoweth). Chenoweth is a delight here with her over-the-top Cockney accent and the horrid way she treats the children under her care. There’s a wink-wink-nudge-nudge, almost like the actor/show couldn’t bear to be that awful to children.
The song “The Worst Brats in Town” is maybe the closest musically to its inspiration (“The Worst Pies in London“) that I’ve heard on Schmigadoon! thus far. Actually, the whole Sweeney Todd parody is eerily close to the OG. When Miss Codwell finishes her song, Melissa asks for directions to the address she’s seeking. Codwell points her to Dooley Blight (Alan Cumming), the butcher. As Melissa walks away, Miss Codwell says, only slightly under her breath, “I hate me lot in life.”
Back at summer
cult camp, everyone’s put their clothes back on. With a smiley painted on his face, Topher officially welcomes Josh, who’s not so excited because it involves socialization. However, he perks up when Topher tells him that the tribe is engaged in social justice campaigns like taking down tycoon Octavius Kratt (Patrick Page).
Josh wants to teach the flower children about effective protest, but they think he needs to learn about the Power of the Parable (“I assure you, I do not.”) The title of the parable is “The Lamb Without a Flock.” (“Ohhhh no, I already hate this.”) The story is about a lamb who lives alone with a cruel shepherd, and then one day, he finds a community to join and is super happy. What does Josh think? (“The impressions … in the ballpark.”)
All Josh wants is to find Melissa, but in a moment of clarity, Topher reminds Josh he’s wanted. So, he sends Alex off to find her instead. Then it’s time to get naked again.
Over on Quick Street, Melissa enters the butcher shop, where the door squeaks like the whistle in Sweeney Todd. Cumming greets her with his own version of “The Worst Brats in Town” — brats as in bratwurst — this is Sondheim-level wordplay, y’all. It’s also brilliant foreshadowing. Cumming is phenom as deer-in-the-headlights-angry-AF Dooley Blight.
It turns out Elsie was Dooley’s daughter’s roomie, which means that Jenny (Dove Cameron) is Dooley’s kid! Jenny and Elsie are estranged because when Jenny’s mum/Dooley’s wife refused to marry him, Kratt killed her and framed Dooley for the murder.
Dooley’s out for revenge. He’s gonna butcher Kratt and all his cronies. Melissa realizes that Kratt probably murdered Elsie too. She also tries to convince Dooley that rather than “kill[ing] them all,” he tries reconnecting with Jenny.
Just then, Alex finds Melissa, who bra-shames the former. Not cool. (Especially because Alex is clearly wearing one?). When Melissa finds Josh, he’s high on drug-laced bread. At first, she’s mad that he was out here partying with hippies while she was dealing with murderous butchers and dancing for pennies, but then she gets over it. She’s even pretty calm about the potential orgy he attended. #RelationshipGoals.
The hippies do not like Melissa because she’s a ◾. To prove she isn’t, she burns her $68 bra. O-K. But maybe it’s more that she’s there to bring her husband back to prison and judge him for the length of his hug with Topher. 🤢
The next day at the courthouse, the gallery, judge and jury are already convinced Josh is guilty. But then Bobbie busts in on a trapeze. She blatantly sings that she uses “Bells and Whistles” to win. It’s a cute number. It goes from a sendup of the Chicago courthouse scene to “(Not) Getting Married Today” from Company, a very fast song near and dear to my heart because I’ve used it as an audition song (singing is not my forte 🤣). Legalese is a great way to employ this parody because the words she’s saying aren’t comprehensible.
Josh is not guilty! Melissa and Josh realize that they’ve got their happy ending — does that mean they’re free to go? With the look he gives the camera, The Narrator doesn’t think so.
Over at his offices, Kratt is not pleased by Josh’s acquittal. His cronies promised they’d successfully frame Josh. He can’t believe that his quest to find a wife always fails! Hmm, perhaps if you don’t constantly try to force women already in relationships to marry you? If you picked people who picked you, you wouldn’t end up literally self-flagellating. Just a thought…
Oh, look! The Narrator is in Kratt’s office. Is he a minion? Is he an observer? Who knows, but at least he’s there to tell Kratt that Melissa did not take Josh’s last name. Unfortunately, Kratt has now decided he wants her as his wife. End episode ominously.
Gosh, I love Josh. Key plays such a fantastic straight man, which is often an under-appreciated role. But he imbues his version with a touch of sarcasm that takes it to a different level. Also, if no one’s guessed, Sweeney Todd is my favorite musical, so this episode was choice. And Alan Cumming needs to play Sweeney Todd in the next Broadway revival.
Here are some of the best lines or small pieces from this week’s episode:
- Bobbie: “There’s very little I can’t do … besides bore people.”
- Tribe: “We’re gonna let it all hang out!”
- Michael: “Even our weiners!”
- Miss Codwell: “Yeah? Well, I want massive knockers and to fill up me tub with French soap bubbles instead of bathtub gin, but we ain’t the steerers of the ship, is we?”
- Topher: “It’s never easy to fight the power, Josh. We have been getting naked and telling parables for months, but for some reason, nothing has changed.”
- When Dooley says he always has his knives and cleavers, he’s not kidding. In his family portrait from when things were normal, it’s got pride of place, as do Jenny’s and her mother’s.
- Ha! So the storefronts in Schmicago are named after icons of the Post-Golden Age Musicals. In typical fashion, it only took me until seeing “Sondheim‘s Children ” to figure this out 🤦. After that, it’s recency bias, and I finally noticed “Schwartz Happy Family Portraits,” “Herman’s Hummable Tunes” and “Ebb & Co.”
New episodes of Schmigadoon! premiere Wednesdays on Apple TV+.
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