Love in a Dumbwaiter: “Secret Cupet” review

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of romantic plotlines. Mainly because I think avoiding the issue is just ridiculous. On My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, only one main character ever expressed even a modicum of interest in a member of the opposite sex. The other five appear to actively avoid romance for no discernible reason. Well, that is with the possible exceptions of Twilight, who fell in love with a block of wood from a parallel dimension. But she didn’t really express an active interest in Flash Sentry, just a passive one. She just stood back, took a few shy glances, and blushed. And now that I think about it, that kind of characterization is bordering on old-fashioned sexism. Expecting the woman to stand back and wait for love to happen to her. What the hell, writers!?

But nonetheless, with the exception of Rarity’s one romance episode, they seem to actively avoid it. And this is part of the reason I like to presume the other five were spayed at some stage.

But that being said, romance is something that needs to be handled delicately, and not shoehorned in for the sake of fan service. And to me, the prime example of this has to be the TV show, Jonathan Creek. It’s a comedy/mystery series about a magician’s creative consultant who moonlights as an amateur detective solving seemingly impossible cases. Most of which are of the ‘locked-room’ variety. For the first few seasons he worked with his friend, Maddie, who also got him started in this business to begin with. Now, in the first few episodes of this show, there was no indication of any romantic tension between these two. In fact, just the opposite. They appeared more like reluctant colleagues. Then, in the final episode of season one, one character says, ‘oh yeah, they want to bang each other.’ And from that point forward, we get this shoehorned romantic subplot that never goes anywhere since they’re more likely to annoy each other before they can put it in. Typically, this is known as a ‘will they/won’t they’ plot. Except in this case, I wish they didn’t… ever. But they did, and a few episodes later, after she left the series, Jonathan mentions that it was a mistake. And I can’t tell if that was Jonathan Creek (the character) talking, or the series’ writer saying, ‘yeah, that was a bad idea, I don’t know why I did that!’

Then they introduced a new character named Carla, who also had a bit of romantic tension with Jonathan. But if you ask me, in that case, it worked. Primarily because they actually had a bit of chemistry. You could actually believe that they were a couple. Sadly, between her first and second appearances, she ended up dumping Jonathan, and getting married to a professional tool. So that wasn’t actually a ‘will they/won’t they’ plot. It was a ‘they did, and it’s over now, but they still have the hots for each other’ plot. And it actually worked!

I guess what I’m saying is, whether the characters actually ‘hook up’ doesn’t matter. What matters is: Do the characters and actors actually have any real chemistry. Can you believe them when they say they’re in love? And even more importantly, does their relationship develop in a believable way?

In the past, Littlest Pet Shop handled this pretty well… sometimes… For instance, Pepper’s relationship with the Captain worked because we saw their relationship develop. There was a bit of old ‘love at first sight’ bollocks, but as the episode progressed, they started to talk, and flirt, and by the end, we can believably presume several little hybrid pups are in their future.

Then there was the time Zoe fell for a mime. She had nothing to base it on, and eventually realized that, so left him in the dust. Again, believable; and because of that, one of the better romance plot threads on this show.

It’s certainly gold in contrast to the time Blythe crashed into some skateboarding ponce and instantly found herself smitten before he got a chance to say anything.

Yes, Josh Sharp. A block of wood with no personality. But perhaps, as time went on, this relationship could develop into one that makes a bit of sense. We could get either some indication that Blythe’s feelings are based on something more substantial; or we could see Blythe come to her senses, and decide to abandon this silly and superficial crush.

But I don’t think either is going to happen. Especially since Josh’s most recent appearance only confirmed everything I just said. He just stands around, says ‘hi,’ as Blythe gushes.

They can’t even try to develop these characters?

Well, admittingly, we do get an expansion of Blythe’s social awkwardness and bad luck. Apparently, every time she’s near Josh, she does something embarrassing, like slip and fall with a tray of cupcakes so they land directly on her eyes. Then, she unleashes a laugh that sounds like a cross between a warthog, and a hyperventilating cow. So, that’s new, and comes straight out of nowhere. She’s never laughed like that before! It’d make more sense if it was more throaty instead. The backwater hillbilly stereotype doesn’t.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into this.

But with all her embarrassing actions, Youngmee realizes it’s likely a product of fear, and the solution is to get Blythe to move past it. So after doing a bit of online research, she discovers information on this ancient ritual called “writing a letter.”

Why do they have to make me feel old? In my day, that’s all we had! And I mean less than 20 years ago! And they treat it like they’re anthropologists observing a newly discovered tribe of primitives, who write letters in between sessions of bashing rocks and sharpening sticks!

But the plan is to get Blythe to write a love letter, put it in an envelope with Josh’s name and address on it, and throw it in the trash. It’ll be a bit of therapy for her. Though why they would need to put his exact address on it is beyond me. Actually, where did Youngmee even get his address!? Is there something she’s not telling us? Was she stalking him?

So Blythe agrees to write the letter. Ooo! Maybe we’ll finally get an explanation as to why she even notices cedar boy.

Yep! Turns out Blythe likes Josh because he’s really good at math… Okay, I’m calling bullshit on this. I’m great at math, and it hasn’t gotten me any lovin’. I’ve never known any girl who’s been turned on by an elegantly designed equation… Well, maybe Rachel Riley, but she’s British. She lives too far away.

So after waxing poetical for a few minutes, she seals it in an envelope, and is just about to throw it out when the gang interrupts her because of zany schemes we’ll get to later. And just as she’s about to leave, she throws it in the general direction of the trashcan, only for it to bounce its way out.

Yes, this old trope, because she didn’t rip it up, either. And when Roger runs across the envelope, he decides to mail it without Blythe’s consent. And when he actually tells her this, she understandably screams in terror. So he tries to reassure her by saying he stuck a stamp on it as well.

Just so we’re clear: Roger’s an idiot, right?

The rest of the plot thread is then devoted to Blythe, Minka, and then Zoe trying to recover the wrongly delivered love letter. It’s fun, but there isn’t much to talk about.

So what is there to talk about? How about the other plot thread? For Blythe isn’t the only one experiencing romantic follies. Seems it’s springtime in Downtown City. The time for love and getting it on! But for some reason, Russell reveals himself to be a romance Scrooge.

Bah, love is stupid! I hate romance… for some reason!

Maybe he’s just bitter over having been dumped or something.

Well, Penny theorizes that it’s just because he’s never experienced love. Valid theory, sure. But that doesn’t explain the amount of bitterness in his voice. And even if you’ve never experienced love, you’d have an idea of what it’s about, wouldn’t you?

His bitterness is completely irrational, but I’m sure Sunil can snap him out of it. Sunil’s quite the romantic, if you’ll remember. He’s the one who sang about Paris’ romantic atmosphere while everyone else was singing about food and paintings. He’s also the one who fell for the cockney cat a few episodes ago, and he was quite smitten at that. This is a mongoose who knows love. He’ll agree with the girls. Right?

Well… bizarrely… no. Sunil’s romantic history doesn’t even come up. And the way he acts actually runs against it! He’s not as bitter as Russell, but he is still quite dismissive of it all.

No, instead it’s up to a new visitor to the pet shop: Baa Baa Lou, the goat.

Who has a goat as a pet?

Anyway, he says he was just like Russell, bitter and dismissive of romantic endeavours. Until he met the girl of his dreams, just five minutes ago.

Yes, she’s a pig, because ‘why not!?’ And because this goat is so in love, he just spends the entire day dancing around the store, annoying Russell.

But he didn’t just fall in love randomly. From his story, Penny realizes that it was actually caused by a secret pet cupid called… Secret Cupid… And Secret Cupid’s magical music can make pets fall in love.

Ah, yes, because love magic worked so well the last time! I’m sure we can presume she doesn’t actually brainwash them or something, right? Force them into love. Maybe Secret Cupid just distracted him in such a way to get him to merely notice her. The love happened on its own.

So, eventually Russell gets so annoyed he decides it’s time to take down the Secret Cupid. Penny, Vinnie and Sunil join him. Vinnie and Sunil to help take the Secret Cupid down, and Penny because she really wants to meet this chap.

So they drag Blythe along, to the park, and begin the sting.

It’s your standard honey-trap operation. Russell and Penny pose as potential lovers, hoping to lure the Secret Cupid out of hiding. And they’re terrible at it, because they keep doing things out-of-order, acting romantic before Secret Cupid gets the chance to do anything.

But somehow, it works, and the Secret Cupid is revealed!

Yay! It’s the stoner cat! She’s back! This just raised the quality of the entire episode! Though, if I could make one complaint: She rhymes ‘coo-coo,’ with ‘do-do.’ Not only is that a shit rhyme, it’s also a homonym of a synonym of it. Should’ve probably rewritten that one, writers!

So, now that she’s been caught, Sugar Sprinkles decides to play a song with her magic ukulele, which places Russell under a love spell, forcing him to fall for Penny Ling.

… Are you kidding me? Do they really have to include mind control and magic? Okay, Sugar Sprinkles isn’t the first to use magic on this show, that would be Sunil. But I still don’t like it. Too many shows include magic àpropos of nothing, and it genuinely annoys me.

But it’s also music, and music already has a tendency to alter one’s emotions, so I guess I’ll excuse it.

But why is he floating!? I know it’s a reference to something, I just don’t know what. Pepé Le Pew hops, so that’s not it.

And speaking of cartoon rapists, now that Russell’s under some type of love spell, he starts to act like one.

That’s right, meet Sex Offender Russell. Which I find kind of unusual, since Baa Baa Lou didn’t act like that when he met his pigfriend. Or at least, we didn’t see him act like that. Might’ve done off-screen.

On the other hand, this is the first time Russell’s engaged in anything romantic. So one would expect him to be crap at it. With him smothering her with physical affection, and showering her with gifts she doesn’t want. This is more like romance by someone who’s only seen it done on TV. Though I don’t know where he got the idea that Spanish is ‘the language of love.’ It’s a ‘romance language,’ sure; but that just means it evolved from Latin, just like Portuguese, Romanian and Haitian, and I’ve never heard any of those languages being used for courtship. I mean, except by people who actually speak those languages.

If anything, his attempts to woo Penny Ling just scare her off, and annoy everyone else. So Sunil and Vinnie decide to take a stand and get Sugar Sprinkles to reverse the spell. Instead, she casts it on them as well.

GAH! Well, at least the shippers are happy. And again, these two have the same romantic strategy as Russell: overbearing and irritating. But wouldn’t Sunil know better? He’s the romantic, he has a bit of experience here. I’m sure he’d be able to seduce Pepper successfully if he actually tried. Besides, last time he was smitten, he didn’t act like a rapist, he was actually competent at flirting.

… Okay, he did a lot of giggling, but he didn’t try to pull this crap!

So, now that the threat has been tripled, all three of the females make a break for it to confront Sugar Sprinkles themselves. Sadly, she doesn’t know how to reverse the spell, but tells them they’ll get used to it.

Yeah, eventually Stockholm Syndrome will set in and you’ll actually sympathize with your rapist. Since when did Sugar Sprinkles get so dark?

Though, when she actually witnesses their techniques first paw, she decides to give it a shot, by yelling at them. And I really wish that worked, if only for its comedic value.

Instead, it doesn’t and she then tries to simply sing the song backward. You know, if she actually played the entire song backward, instead of just singing each word backward, the fact that it works would actually make a lot of sense. The song’s resultant discordant quality would be enough to disrupt their romantic desires.

But yeah, the spell is reversed, and everything’s back to normal, with Russell as grumpy as ever. So Sugar Sprinkles, who simply has no self-control, decides to recast the spell. But Russell makes a break for it, resulting in a brief chase sequence, where they trip up a mailman, and save Blythe’s plot thread. And during this scene, Sugar casts the love spell on Josh Sharp instead.

They’re trying to get me to hate this show, aren’t they?

Well, too bad, I don’t! And more importantly, I really liked this episode.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some problems; because if this was their attempt at a romance episode, it didn’t work. The only reason the three males attempted to woo the three lovely ladies, was the damn love spell. It wasn’t because of any genuine affection they had for them, it was Sugar Sprinkles’ magic. So for romance, that doesn’t work. It falls flat. If the ladies reciprocated in any way, it might’ve worked, but they outright rejected it. So the result is just a perpetual vibe of ‘just friends.’

But overall this episode was really fun. Just a funny story, with some great gags, and a light plot. No need to do anything too heavy, just have some fun.

I think the reappearance of Sugar Sprinkles was a nice touch. Normally, I’d frown upon reintroducing an old character for no reason, regardless of my feelings for the character in question. But in this case, this does seem like something Sugar Sprinkles would do. She would attempt to manipulate pets to her own preferences, and she prefers them to be in love. She also lacks a perspective on the wider consequences of her actions. So, casting love spells is completely in character for her. And introducing a new character to fill the same role might’ve been problematic, because they would be harder to understand, and harder for Penny, Pepper, and Minka to appeal to.

In the end, however, it all just blends together, and will probably just fade away. I think this episode’s only notable for ending on Russell getting in touch with his inner romantic, and Josh having a love spell cast on him; which is especially problematic, since I’m pretty sure we also saw Blythe finally get over her crush on Josh, since she ran away at the end instead of gushing like an idiot.

But if they are going to do any follow ups, I hope they don’t do it by having Blythe and Josh actually get together. Not only because Josh is a blank slate, but because we saw Blythe get over him, and I don’t think she should back slide. Besides, I think there’s much more potential in another theoretical couple:

That’s right, Russell and Sugar Sprinkles.

I say this for several reasons. The big one being: they’re both very interesting and fully developed characters. They don’t just blend into the background and neither would just feel like they’re there to be the other’s love interest. Also, Sugar Sprinkles isn’t a series regular, so they don’t have to feel obliged to have her on every week, which’ll prevent the romance from getting tiresome. Next, the two of them work very well together: the aloof free-spirit and the anxious intellectual. Of course opposites would attract. And they already get along pretty well, for the most part. True, this episode saw them working at cross-purposes, but that kinda thing happens, and would be part of the appeal.

And not only that, they just look friggen cute together!

By the way, anyone who uses the phrase: “OTP”, will get punched.


One response to “Love in a Dumbwaiter: “Secret Cupet” review

  1. I consider it a FUCKING MIRACLE this episode didn’t turn out bad, for the most part… I still don’t like seeing Blythe act stupid (unless justified, like it surprisingly was here for me, but not unlike in “Hedgehog in a Plastic Bubble, which I did find funny enough, but not as realistic as this, making this episode a bit better in comparison of the two…), as much as it helps her not be slammed as a Mary – sue, though (I can’t stand it when people call her that. She isn’t, honestly. This show just needs better antagonists, if we must have any more going forward.).

    However, the implied rape issues (in these modern times where this is a serious issue…) do haunt this episode a bit for me, unfortunately (even though I didn’t see it that way, nor do I, the issue exists IRL, which is something that cannot be ignored anymore, nor shouldn’t..)….

    Thankfully I know that wasn’t the writer’s intentions. They were just trying to be funny. Better that than romantic, IMHO – unless done well, romance and funny don’t completely mix.

    So yeah, as hard as it is for me to agree with you (I know there will likely be 10 episodes better than this one; I’ve already found certain ones after this to be better than this one.), good review, as always.

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