It’s happened: the end of The Muppets….until February 2. Then a new producer will come in and fix everything. Except, if “Single All The Way” is to be taken as evidence, it’s actually doing just fine now. A recurring theme of the last few recaps has been the gelling of the cast and return to roots for The Muppets.
When the show first started, the Muppets looked like the Muppets we knew but acted like darker, shriller assholes than we remembered them to be. I argued it was because they were always somewhat dickish, and they had only grown bolder with age. Yet even I thought it was a bit of a mess. And now it seems like The Muppets have fixed themselves, only to be fixed again when they come back from break.
But that’s for another article. Let’s focus on last week’s episode “Single All The Way”– a Christmas-themed episode with Mindy Kaling playing a more arched version of herself. She has a duet with Piggy, and, at rehearsal, it is discovered that she can’t sing. Which is news to Mindy since she thinks she’s great, but the band is a little off-key, though.
So there’s the Kermit obstacle of the episode: how to get Mindy Kaling to NOT sing. Except his real mission this episode is to help Fozzie. Fozzie has always been a little immature, as some of the past episodes have explored. But his inability to have a conversation without joking has finally made Becky (Riki Lindhome) call it quits. Fozzie is distraught.
Kermit tries to help, but Fozzie is inconsolable. Kermit is stumped, especially when Fozzie tells Kermit he doesn’t know what he’s going through because Kermit’s never been dumped. Kermit seems taken aback. Ever quick on his webbed feet, Kermit steers Fozzie toward Piggy for help.
Piggy, of course, accepts because she loves helping people, especially co-workers who will thank her with effusive love and praise. She tells Fozzie that it’s okay, all will be well, and he can take this extra time and money and buy stuff for himself. Fozzie does some reverse therapy here and calls out Piggy for her contradiction. She tells him to fight for Becky. He retaliates that she didn’t fight for Kermit. This floors Piggy. He’s right. He then tells her she hasn’t moved on. She’s surrounding herself with stuff and only making herself lonelier.
Fozzie hugs Piggy and thanks her for helping him figure out what he needs to do. Piggy is, for once, speechless. As Up Late’s Christmas episode nears airtime, Kermit goes to Piggy’s dressing room to check up on her. She’s depressed and is considering canceling the show. Kermit asks what’s the matter and Piggy confesses it’s been hard for her to see him every day, to see him move on, and she feels like she didn’t do enough to fight for him.
Earlier on in the season, there was a similar scene: a despondent Piggy refusing to go on minutes before air time and it was up to Kermit to persuade her to go on. In the earlier version, Kermit manipulated Piggy by playing into her ego and vanity. Here, Kermit actually listens and tells Piggy there’s no reason they can’t be friends. She’s not alone; she has him. Plus, she has a purpose: she makes millions of people every night feel loved.
It’s a Muppet scene. Kermit helps Piggy– both out of self-need and because he empathizes. He feels for her. Of course he does– they were a couple for decades. Those kinds of bonds don’t just vanish overnight. It’s a touching moment because Kermit isn’t just hellbent on making the show go on, he’s hellbent on listening to Piggy and helping her.
There’s a subplot involving Kermit’s secretary Yolanda and how she’s in charge of the Secret Santa gift exchange this year. Last year, her name was left out so this year she’s put her name on every piece of paper. The crew of Up Late, being genetically incapable of keeping secrets, start discussing who their Secret Santa is only to discover they all have Yolanda. Exasperated, Rizzo asks, “Alright, who had Yolanda last year?” When no one raises their hand, they realize why Yolanda has done what she’s done. So what do they do? They do what the Muppets do. They all give her a gift and apologize for leaving her out.
Fozzie tells Kermit he called Becky, apologized, and said he’d do anything to get her back. Becky, recognizing that Fozzie is willing to make an effort, agreed. Kermit is happy for his friend. He’s also happy because he’s solved the Kaling problem. Mindy refuses to admit she can’t sing and thinks she’s fabulous. Kermit can’t have her embarrassing herself on national television. So the whole cast and crew sing with her. The duet becomes a group sing-along.
“Single All The Way” manages to look and feel like a Christmas episode without ever trying to be a Christmas episode. It also feels like the Muppets have finally found their footing. Now all that remains is to see how the new producer “fixes things”. Oh well, The Muppets will endure. It’s what they do.