Winter finale (n.): 1. an episodic device used by television programs to entice viewers to return after the programs go on a brief-to-lengthy hiatus during the holiday season, often resulting in a major development in (or even the closure of) certain story arcs or bringing new elements into play upon the show’s return. 2. a device used by networks to get their shows off the air before Rudolph, Frosty, and Charlie Brown come in to rule the roost.
I’d say that definition fits this week’s episode of The Muppets like a pink satin glove (which is a good excuse to skip the manicure). The key word in “Single All the Way” was relationships, as the main part of this week’s episode was the story of three couples: the Ghost of Couples Past (Kermit and Miss Piggy), the Ghost of Couples Present (Fozzie and Becky), and the Ghost of Couples Yet to Come (Sam the Eagle and Janice). Each of these couples has a change in the status quo of their relationships that will likely complicate things in the six remaining episodes.
First, a quick recap: the main story is kicked off with the revelation that Becky has broken up with Fozzie as she feels Fozzie is unable to take anything seriously. Brokenhearted, Fozzie decides that he can’t do the show. Kermit, trying to salvage Up Late’s big Christmas episode, asks Piggy to talk with Fozzie, as Piggy knows what it’s like to be dumped. While Fozzie takes Piggy’s advice and decides to fight for Becky’s love (which he does by having a mature conversation with Becky), Piggy feels worse knowing that she did nothing to try and stay with Kermit and that it’s too late now to try and win his affections back. While Fozzie returns to the show, Piggy calls it off until Kermit goes to have a heart-to-heart with her. Naturally, it’s quite obvious that they still have deep feelings for each other.
Meanwhile, in a subplot, Sam tries to use mistletoe at the office Christmas party as a chance to get closer to Janice, but when he has his chance, Chip talks his ear off about potato chips and his grapheme – color synesthesia (it’s a real thing, in case you didn’t know). Later, Janice tells Sam that he saw him talking to Chip, and she thinks that hanging out with someone who doesn’t have a lot of friends was a very nice thing to do, and she rewards him with the kiss he pursued all day.
Personally, I think this may be the most adult episode of The Muppets yet. Not adult as in talking about narcotics and naughty bits, but rather adult as in a mature examination of relationships. In both Fozzie and Piggy’s case, they finally gain the perspective to examine why they were dumped and decide to make a change to win back the people they truly love. This is particularly important in Piggy’s case. Miss Piggy has always been unapologetically a diva. You can either get on board with her or get the hell out of the way. But now she’s starting to wonder if having this awesome life is worth it without the frog she dearly loves. This is a side of Piggy that I absolutely love. A chance to break down her superficial characteristics and get to some real character development could make for an incredible story arc. I want to see her reexamine the choices that led to the breakup of the century. Who knows? Maybe she will decide she doesn’t need Kermit to truly feel happy. Maybe she’s willing to chance to win him back. And the best part is that Kermit may be going down the same path of thought. I’m willing to predict that Kermit and Piggy will be back together sooner than we think, and they’ll be even stronger than ever.
My only real pet peeve is that the side-plots this week were pretty much unnecessary. Yolanda schemes for payback at being left out of last year’s office Secret Santa exchange, while Kermit tries to cover up guest star Mindy Kaling’s inability to sing, which leads to a classic Muppet moment where the entire crew comes in to sing along. Compared to the really meaty main story, this could’ve been dropped and no one would’ve noticed, except when they wondered where Gonzo was this week, but it’s all worth it to see all the Muppets coming together to sing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” The Muppets are at their best when they all come together for a big number. It was a sweet Christmas present to everyone who’s been following the series so far.
All in all, I think this was a pretty good episode, and it leads me to believe that the show is on the right track as they head to the final six episodes of the season. As the characters go forward to take a better look at themselves, I’m just glad that the Muppets are still characters worth rooting for.
Best Joke: Janice claiming that Mindy Kaling’s bad singing voice is the result of her “releasing evil spirits from her soul.” It comes from out of nowhere, so it catches you by surprise.
Lamest Joke: Any time Scooter talks about his mother or Ken. I am tired of Scooter repeating this same joke over and over again. I know that there’s more the writers can do with him.
Best One-Liner: Carl: “Kids love me!” Sure they do, Carl.
Missed Opportunity: When Janice kisses Sam, he says “God bless Christmas!” C’mon, it’s a Christmas episode! That should’ve been “God bless us, every one!”
MVP (Muppet Valuable Player): This was a tough one. Carl and Uncle Deadly steal the scene any time they’re on camera, but Miss Piggy actually has some serious character development. For the first time in the series, Piggy is our MVP.
Best Guest: Considering Echosmith only shows up in the (barely memorable) credits scene, I think Mindy Kaling has this one locked up. Too bad she doesn’t play more into the episode.
Song Watch: That gorgeous finale with “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and Echosmith’s “Bright” has music lovers covered this week.
Obscure Character Watch: For the most part, it feels like The Muppets has its character roster set. I didn’t notice any new characters this time, but it was cool to see Behemoth and Beauregard get a tiny bit of screen time. But… dare I say it… did I spy a revamped version of the Fork (Formerly) in the Road? Kermiiiiiit!!!
Adultiest Content: Mercifully little of it this time around. Scooter made a subtle casting couch reference, while Rowlf asked Sam if he’s dealing any mistletoe.
One More Thing: If Fozzie and Becky wind up spending Christmas with Fozzie’s mother, someone better warn her about the icy patch.
Okay, One More One More Thing: After all that talk of the Ghosts of Couples Past, Present, and Yet to Come, I want to see a version of this episode with Gonzo narrating as Charles Dickens. (And Rizzo the Rat as Himself.)
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by Matthew Soberman