Hello, again ( … step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch). It’s time for another Schmigadoon! recap!
Now halfway through another season and exonerated for the crime of murdering showgirl Elsie (Justine Gera), Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) thinks he and wife Melissa (Cecily Strong) have found happiness and are now free to go home to NYC. It’s like they’ve never seen this show or something. No, my darlings, this is the beginning.
Therein lies the tragedy of Season 2 Episode 4, “Something Real,” written by Raina Morris and directed by Alice Mathias. But before we start the main event, remember to silence your phones and that this recap is full of spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.
When Mel and Josh reach the bridge, they find their car’s tires have been stolen. So they decide to walk. Before they can, The Narrator (Tituss Burgess) stops them with a “leaving so soon?” They were having such a good time…
Much to Josh’s chagrin, that sets Mel off to engage. Schmigadoon was fun, she says. Schmicago? Not so much. She’s outta there. But it doesn’t matter what she thinks. Because, as The Narrator puts it, “And then Josh and Melissa realized they were still in Schmicago. Womp, womp. You actually thought that was a happy ending?”
Basically, happiness isn’t just your own murder charge acquittal. It’s making sure everyone gets what they deserve. The only problem? If they can’t even make themselves happy, how can they help others get their happy on? Besides, what is happiness even?
While Melissa lays out some literal cards with the townsfolk’s names printed on them on the table, she doles out the metaphorical ones as well. She and Josh made all the quote-unquote right decisions in life, but they’re still unhappy. Where did they go wrong? Why is life hard?
Ignoring the sad, the little illustrated townsfolk cards are adorbs. Melissa uses them to talk through a scenario to turn some frowns upside down. It mainly involves reintroducing Jenny (Dove Cameron) to her dad, Dooley (Alan Cumming).
Josh thinks it all might be bigger than that. It might be “Kill-Baby-Hitler” big. Jenny interrupts that argument to ask for a cigarette and laughs when they once again insist they don’t smoke.
Josh encourages Melissa to use this opportunity to tell Jenny about her dad. Talk about ripping band-aids off. Jenny doesn’t want to listen about how maybe her dad isn’t actually a murderer — not after she had to grow up in an orphanage and fend for herself because her whole life was built on the foundation that her dad killed her mom and went to jail for it. As far as she’s concerned, Dooley’s dead.
When Jenny drops a hat on Josh’s head to cover up his baldness, it triggers his memories of his briefly-lived hair. He gets the bright idea to bring Jenny to meet Topher (Aaron Tveit) and The Tribe. There is an instant spark.
And what luck! It’s time for the tribal parable meeting! Topher needs suggestions for a person (Topher!), place (junkyard!) or thing (flower!). Josh and Melissa want to steer the boat in other directions, so they shout, “Father!”
Topher gets snippier and snippier the more “suggestions” that Josh and Melissa throw out for the parable as they try to shape it into the exact story they want Jenny to hear. Topher starts to sing! He doesn’t like the criticism. Why are they advising him? Then,
Jesus Topher storms off to his tent. Then all the other tribe members turn to Josh, rapt. So, he launches into a song about “Pretty Penny,” who never wrote back to her father in a diddy called “Talk to Daddy.”
Someone can correct me on this, but musically, these two songs remind me of Godspell (Thanks to the commenter who pointed out me missing mentioning this show!). However, the thing is, unlike some other places in this show, the content translates a little less literally. I’m not sure if I am as smitten for that reason. That’s not to say I don’t like the song or the plot, just that the “Easter Egg-ness” of it doesn’t work as well for me.
In any case, Jenny does not take from the parable what Josh and Melissa want her to; instead, she feels she ought to talk to Topher.
The Narrator wonders why Josh and Melissa even bother if they’re just gonna keep failing. So, why not focus on the younger, more appealing couple, Jenny and Topher? (Oh, and make it nighttime.)
They flirt and giggle. These two feel comfortable and natural around each other. Cue song. It’s all about how what they’re feeling is something real. It’s cute, and they have cute chemistry. Their voices blend really nicely together.
Meanwhile, our main couple watches them creepily from outside, patting themselves on the back for “making that happen.” They think that maybe love is the answer key to getting out of Schmicago and want to set up more people!
They have slightly different ideas on who they should set up. Josh thinks “Ronny and Jared from the dance break have really natural chemistry,” whereas Melissa wants to play matchmaker for Dooley and Ms. Codwell (Kristin Chenoweth). Besides, R&J are already knocking boots in a fridge.
The following day, Melissa and Josh visit the butcher shop, where Dooley’s his usual less-than-chipper self, for he’s run out of meat, you see. As he grinds up sawdust to fill up his sausages, the dynamic duo tries to get Dooley hyped about Ms. Codwell. But he can’t believe anyone but the police would be interested in him.
So, to convince him, they all have dinner together — a dinner to which Dooley has brought his cleaver. Ms. Codwell is intrigued (“So lovely it is, so shiny. Big.”). She’s even more intrigued to hear that unlike her “worst brats in town,” Dooley doesn’t complain when his hair falls out.
Dooley is pleased when Ms. Codwell cuts his sausage for him. It’s been a long time since someone did it for him. And she handles his cleaver so well. I have to say that it does look a bit like Cumming was breaking here, but also, LOL. Can you blame the guy? He gifts her the knife.
After dinner, Ms. Codwell grabs Dooley by the arm and invites him in for a drink. Inside, they sit awkwardly next to each other, complaining about their lots in life. Dooley’s being run out of business by a bigger market, and Ms. Codwell’s forced to put up with ungrateful kids who have the gall to die of pneumonia.
“You’ve got too many orphans. I’ve got too little meat,” bemoans Dooley. A problem for which Ms. Codwell suggests A Modest Proposal of Sondheimsian proportions. Instead of playing with occupations à la “A Little Priest,” Schmigadoon! ‘s version plays with the orphans’ names, rhyming Sidney with kidney, Sutton with mutton and François with foie gras, to name a few.
When the kids sing about how they’re sweet, delectable and good enough to eat, it really makes me think about how much “eating” language we use around adorableness. And how maybe that’s a little weird?
I know this storyline is bound to make some people uncomfortable and cannabilism — especially that of children is really the line for some –, but I think it’s hilarious. Partially because it’s done so tongue-in-cheek. At one point, they lift a cloche to reveal a fully living, waving and smiling child. The kids are totally in on the joke.
It’s clear everyone is having so much fun, so it doesn’t bother me at all. Meanwhile, Josh and Melissa watch from outside, none the wiser. The Narrator side-eyes them from inside the orphanage.
Lights Out. Fin.
Finally, here are some of the best lines or small pieces from this week’s episode:
Josh: “Mel, please do not engage with The Narrator.”
Melissa: “Since you’re so all-knowing and wise —
The Narrator: “– Thank you –“
Melissa: “Why don’t you tell us what we need to do to get out of here?
Ensemble: “There’s a chance that he’s homicidal/But the bond between you is vital.”
Melissa: “Hi, Mr. Blight; how’s it going?”
Dooley: “The world is crawling with the maggots of humanity’s failure … weather’s pretty good.”
Ms. Codwell: “The orphans are locked in their crates for the night.”
Dooley/Ms. Codwell: “Before these darlings get much thinner/I think we ought to make them dinner.”
Alan Cumming scooping up mashed potatoes with a meat cleaver.
New episodes of Schmigadoon! premiere Wednesdays on Apple TV+.
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