Here’s an episode of Bunheads. “There’s Nothing Worse Than a Pantsuit” is the high point of the back half of this season so far, and a shining hour in a show that I have a great deal of fondness for. There have been some real rough spots in this show recently too, don’t be fooled, but this week’s episode smooths them all over, and offers on top of it a breakout moment for Ginny, a star who’s been mostly forced into the background until lately. But more on that later.
First, the adult side of the plot, which starts as a silly diversion about smalltown politics, but pulls the rug out from under Michelle’s feet late in the episode, and segues into something a little more emotionally frayed. The early moments are extremely smart about the way they use Millie, who was absolutely grating as the villain in episodes past, but is a good deal more fun as an unexpected ally. It was nice, too, to see her get along with Truly; I’m not sure how they got over whatever deep rupture was separating them before, but I like it, and I hope it stays this way. And for Michelle, it’s nice to see her triumph with the amphitheater (and crack wise about pantsuits as often as possible), and for a while there it’s unclear exactly why Talia is in the episode at all. But then there’s the phone call, and in a moment, Michelle becomes suddenly bitter and upset. It’s a brilliant moment, and brilliantly played by Sutton Foster, who doesn’t let up on the speed of her genial wisecracking (“Have you seen Rock of Ages? My pantsuit could do Rock of Ages.”) but portrays exactly how angry she is by the way she takes off her jacket. It’s all physicality.
Following an opposite emotional trajectory, starting at jealousy and ending at success, is Ginny, clearly the star of this week. The back half has been especially interested in fleshing out Melanie and Ginny, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it. Bailey Buntain has always brought an insane energy to the character, and her particular brand of anxiety is a perfect fit for the Amy Sherman-Palladino-verse’s dialog. The way she transitions from overly confident to a complete mess, then back again, several times throughout the episode is amazing.
And, at the end, Michelle and Ginny meet, and we get a number that shows off the Broadway star we knew was in Sutton Foster, and a talent that’s a bit of a surprise (to me, at least) from Buntain. It’s a great setpiece, and the episode somehow doesn’t lose energy afterward, sustaining itself all the way to the end. All in all, “There’s Nothing Worse Than a Pantsuit” is a fantastic episode of television, and the best Bunheads in a while.