When the first episode of The Muppets hit, one of the big deals was Kermit’s new girlfriend Denise. Heavily featured in the marketing as Kermit’s rebound after breaking up with Piggy, Denise didn’t add much in the series premiere. She wasn’t all that memorable and proceeded to only make Kermit look like kind of a douche. Then again, that may have been the point all along.
In this week’s episode, “The Ex-Factor,” Piggy has a throwaway line about Denise where she says something along the lines of, “I know nothing about her other than she’s not me.” Despite the ego in there, it’s definitely right on the money in a meta sense. After being missing for four episodes without a single mention, Denise returns, again for the sake of reminding us that Kermit and Piggy are no longer together. She’s more of a plot device than a character.
Regardless, “The Ex-Factor” works with it and gives us the best episode yet. The episode is mostly about Denise’s birthday coming up. Kermit needs to get her a gift immediately and he’s bad at figuring these things out. His coworkers are even worse at figuring these things out and the only person who has a good head on their shoulders about gifting is Piggy. Which is, as you can guess, awkward and messed up for Kermit to go to her for advice on this subject.
The biggest shock here is that Fozzie not only doesn’t get his own B-plot (as he’s done in the first five episodes), but he’s not in the episode whatsoever. Instead, we get something way more entertaining. Kristin Chenoweth is a guest on Piggy’s show and gets roped into doing a gig for Floyd Pepper’s parents’ anniversary. This doesn’t get too much screentime, but seeing the band play off each other for minutes at a time is refreshing as hell.
After all, the Electric Mayhem has never really gotten any time to shine in Muppet history. They’ve always been background characters who would get a couple lines here and there and that’s it. It’s really great seeing them get the spotlight for once, even if it means seeing them bicker over relationships and band ownership, all while being stupid and stoned.
Similarly, the show has done a lot for Scooter, for better or for worse. For years, Scooter has been little more than Kermit’s equally-straight-man assistant whose main claim to fame is that he had a sister when they were all babies that has never been heard from since. Scooter has been consistently hilarious since the very first episode, where we’ve been able to get more of a look at his man-child personal life (“Put on a robe, Ken!”). It’s a delight that his role in Kermit’s story – where they go to a place where you paint on plates – gets spun off into the credits scene.
The show is finally coming to its own and I’m glad to hear that they’re going with the full season instead of cutting it short. The episode hit the right notes and even with Denise being…there, the story built around her is some of the best use of the Kermit/Piggy breakup yet. The ending takes a quick turn from sweet to knife-turning.
Plus I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Uncle Deadly, despite showing up only twice, completely owns this episode. God bless the 2011 movie for throwing him into the forefront.
Gavin Jasper is still giggling over Gonzo’s scale/socks routine. Follow Gavin on Twitter!