Bunheads opens the pilot with Michelle (Sutton Foster) on stage dressed in a red bedazzled bikini. She and her friends are dancing across the stage. They move upstage as another line of women dressed all in white, with lots and lots of feathers, move across the stage to hoots and hollers. It’s pretty clear from the hoots that the women in white are topless. Not only do they get all the attention, they’re paid more for a whole lot less dancing. Sigh. Things aren’t easy for Vegas showgirls.
Michelle is in the center.
Backstage, Michelle is super excited because an old friend of hers is now the dance captain for a tour of Chicago and got her an audition for tomorrow. She wants to go home and get a good night’s sleep so that she can be well rested and 25 by tomorrow (she’s not 25). So she’s not really happy to see Hubbel (Alan Ruck – hi, Cameron!), a very nice shoe retailer who has been coming by to see her once a month for the past year. She tries to slip out, but he sees her and tells her that he saw her purse so knew she must not have left yet. It’s all a bit stalkery, but he brings her flowers and shoes and wants to take her to dinner. When she tells him she can’t, she offers up her three friends as dinner companions, and he actually takes them out to dinner and spends all night talking about how amazing and smart and talented Michelle is. Stalkery sweet, that’s Hubbel.
The next morning, Michelle gets to the audition, only to have the director barely look at her before telling her that she just isn’t right. She’s despondent. When she gets to work, Hubbel is there with a gift for her. It’s a beautiful watch. Michelle is really touched, and tells him that she didn’t even get to dance. That’s she’s too old. He asks her to let him take her to dinner, telling her that they can have all desserts if she wants. He’s worn her down, and she agrees.
At dinner, it’s pretty clear that Michelle is looking for more of a liquid dinner. She is a bit of a sloppy drunk. Hubbel tells her about his house in Paradise and the amazing view he has from his bedroom. He asks her to let him take care of her (feminists everywhere cringe a little). Michelle is way drunk and apparently agrees because the next thing you know, Michelle is in Hubbel’s car and they’re driving to Paradise (feminists everywhere die a little).
Meanwhile, back in Paradise, Fanny (Kelly Bishop) is conducting her advance class. The four wannabe bunheads, Boo (Kaitlyn Jenkins), Sasha (Julia Goldani Telles), Ginny (Bailey Buntain) and Melanie(Emma Dumont) are in the class. Sasha is the star pupil, while Boo really wants to be a ballet dancer but does not have the same natural aptitude. Fanny releases the class and reminds them that the Joffrey Ballet is coming to hold auditions next week.
When Michelle and Hubbel get to his house, he opens the door and it’s…indescribable. There are more knick knacks in the living room than most curiosity shops buy in five years. That’s not an exaggeration. There are frogs and photos and dolls and just…stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. Michelle looks a bit horrified. She might actually recoil from the room. Turns out that Hubbel allowed his mom free decorating rein. They make their way upstairs and there is no discernible wall space that is not covered by a frame. Michelle is really getting a bit freaked. Then Hubbel opens his bedroom door. It’s beautiful. There are french doors that open onto to a deck and a view that is just breathtaking. Michelle is relieved that Hubbel decorated his room. He tells her that she can redecorate, and she starts to ask if she can throw outÂ—which is when Fanny walks in.
That’s when Michelle finds out that Hubbel lives with his mother (“like a serial killer?!”) and Fanny finds out that her only child got married without inviting her. Michelle walks out and finds the dance school. She gives Boo a helpful hint to really nail her arabesque. Boo is thrilled and grateful. Fanny walks in to tell Michelle that she is throwing a wedding party tonight and invites the girls. Michelle tries to give them an out, which is when she finds out that Paradise does not have so much as a movie theatre.
Fanny suggests that Michelle head over to Sparkles for a party appropriate dress. When Michelle gets over there, she meets Truly (Stacy Oristano), Hubbel’s heartbroken ex. She also begins to realize that everyone in town seems to think she’s a stripper or possibly a hooker and who knows what else. Truly hands her a spectacular black dress and shoes. It fits perfectly.
When Michelle goes down to the party, she can hear the guests talking about her. None of it’s good. She finally can’t take it and goes back upstairs and she and Hubbel hash it out. She tells him that she doesn’t love him, that she doesn’t think she’s built that way and that he really should have told her about his mom. He was floored when she said yes, and didn’t want her to change her mind. He thinks she can love, and that he just wants to help her live an unexpected life. It’s both annoyingly patronizing and weirdly sweet. Later, they go down to the party with bedhead and Fanny implodes.
Michelle leaves and hangs out with the bunheads. She gives Boo a boost to her confidence. Fanny comes to find her and they bond over scotch and dance (Michelle was once in the ABT). Then Truly comes in with terrible news. Hubbel went to find them and was at that blind intersection and suddenly time ran out for Hubbel and Michelle.
Photo credits: abcfamily.com