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Wednesday, 16 of October of 2019

Psych – “Viagra Falls”

“That’s exactly what we look like.”

Peters, Shawn, Boon, and Gus collectively interview a pretty witness.

Shawn ages horribly.

I have a feeling the title of this post is going to get me a lot of spam. Maybe I should have titled it “v1agra.”

It appears that Season 5 is going to be the one that the show rife with references to myriad media properties and pop-culture-historical artifacts is going to start toying with its own mythology and reference itself. Ushered in by last season’s finale with one of the few times a legacy viewer has been rewarded (Yang to S3 finale’s Yin), S5 has already had an episode where characters make fun of Shawn’s “I have a clue” face (“Not Even Close … Encounters”), this episode exposing the dynamics of Shawnngus with versions of themselves 30 years aged, and then, coming after the hiatus, It’s a Wonderful Life gets the Psych treatment in December.

What results is this show actually rewarding long-time viewers. Okay, not necessarily long-time viewers but an audience that has seen at least a handful of episodes. While Psych is generally an esoteric show in its extensive knowledge of pop-culture, we’re starting to see some jokes where the punchline is purely for long-time viewers. And they land.

Mark of a good series is able manipulation using its own mythology. Right?

This week’s manipulation comes in the form of a well-respected if not decorated tandum working a case along with Psych. “Along with” might be strong (especially for the first couple of acts). “Parallel to” maybe? The thing is that Peters (William Devane) and Boon (Carl Weathers) are Shawn and Gus except older and legitimate (as opposed to Shawn’s game of pretend). They’re retired detectives, ones that even Henry respects, who were hot shots in their day and don’t really cotton to whipper-snappers encroaching on their territory, similar to Shawn’s dismay when other consultants/fake-psychics/law-enforcement treads on his case. And this case is especially important to Peters and Boon since it involves the murder of their (and Henry’s) former police chief.

As the case wears on, the parallels continue. Peters and Boon get to the crime scene before the actual police arrive. They interrogate suspects in their own unprofessional manner. They fight with each other in front of people important to the investigation. They do that let’s-turn-around-and-whisper-about-the-people-behind-our-back thing, something I’m glad that they address because, usually, non-Shawnngus characters don’t seem to notice the aside and no time passes, as if it’s some two-person soliloquy. Peters and Boon even have a special way they congratulate each other (a concentrated single-pump handshake) that competes with Shawn and Gus’s fist bump.

What these episodes have been doing recently is breaking down our familiarity to the character into consumable chunks for the casual viewer. Fans tend to do this naturally as they begin to own a show but the writers are making weaving the meta-knowledge into the fabric of the show by making Shawnngus aware of their own behavior. It can be argued that they are ruining a reward for the loyal viewer by making subtleties too obvious, broadening the base, but these are the kinds of things that need to be set up in order to make the breaks in these behaviors more rewarding later. The episode “Feet Don’t Kill Me Now,” where Shawn and Gus partner up with Juliet and Lassiter respectively, appeared on the surface to not fully utilize the story potential (namely building the Shules relationship) but, within this context, it’s just another way to manipulate the audience with what’s expected based on the show’s history.

Interestingly, this over-thinking totally threw my guess about the episode’s outcome askew. With the built antagonism between Shawnngus and Peters&Boon, some of the things the old men did led me to believe they were constructing a ruse to throw Psych off the case, not because the retirees wanted to work it alone, but because they did it, especially since the cold open featured the eventual victim yelling that he was facing the two most evil men he’d ever come across. There were several times I thought the old men working out loud was to feed Shawn false information and force a bias on how to interpret clues, tricking them into some sort of trap. The place I thought this was most obvious was when they were investigating the victim’s house and they did the turn-around-and-whisper moment loud enough for Shawnngus to hear, following it by overacting the clue about the locker. Shawn sees a certificate in the house and assumes it’s at the pool. I figured this was a red herring and possibly a trap. But the lead turned out to be a major break in the case and, at the end, the (surviving) culprit was the first guy Peters&Boon interviewed. So it wasn’t the old guys. I was fooled by Psych because I accounted for too much.

One last note: as the series continues, the actual SBPD gets more and more impotent. Despite several characters on the show in full support of the power of law enforcement (Henry, Lassiter, Chief Vick, etc), it seems like only consultants and Friends of Psych are able to crack these cases. Meanwhile, Lassie and Jules come off looking either like Keystone Kops or merely assistants that are actually able to touch evidence. This isn’t a new revelation but renewed in this episode, especially when the red tape that binds the police doesn’t apply to the consultants and the consultants don’t have to abide by the same rules. Shawnngus need an episode where their carelessness in a crime scene (like when they enter a place without a warrant) ruins a case. Or just something to give Lassie his balls back. He’s looking a-fool lately.


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