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Saturday, 31 of October of 2020

Psych – “This Episode Sucks”

“You mom is Coogan.”

Shawn and Gus try to blend in at a vampire bar.

Better than Roland Orzabal and Michael Jackson in "American Duos?" It's too close to call.


I’ve missed Psych.

There are a few things that make a Psych episode: (1) Shawn and Gus banter, (2) a mystery with clues that Shawn can connect in the fourth act, (3) references that stoke the nostalgia of Generations X and Y. Everything else is bonus. The other characters like O’Hara, Lassiter, and Henry are great but these are the key elements.

The show always delivers on those points but has been comparatively lazy in its effort lately. It’s still one of the funniest shows on television (cable or broadcast) but its guffaw count has been sinking and its characters threaten to be bland in the formula. And then this episode came along.

I heard a lot of people tout last week’s episode to be one of the funniest in years. It has nothing on this episode. Not only does it hit all those points but it also expands a neglected character and opens up the horror homage playbook. I’m, like, giddy over here. And I’m usually not giddy. But, to be fair, it’s usually because I have to watch Dancing with the Stars.

The holiday and season finales always let the series air out a little bit, the equivalent of a gross uncle unbuttoning his slacks after a delightful dinner of Western Bacon burgers and chicken fries. Sometimes it stinks but you have to commend him for letting it all hang out. What the season finales lean toward is something more emotional than Psych is used to being, particularly lately with threats made on any woman in Shawn’s life by long-game lunatics and requiting the seasons-long affection for Jules. The season finales think outside the box but we usually end up paying for it through schmaltzy scenes featuring James Roday’s lips at their poutiest.

But the Halloween episodes aren’t hampered by having to demand a viewer’s emotional involvement. They’re everything that the season finale is without the pressure. So we get all the witty banter and experimental production values (for this series) without having to worry about Shawn possibly breaking down into tears he can’t produce. Which is only second worst to when he actually produces them.

“This Episode Sucks” is Psych firing on all cylinders. Gus is more involved than he’s been in a long while and their banter is at its sharpest. This may be the best Juliet episode since “A Very Juliet Episode” on account of Lassiter not standing in front of her. Speaking of which, it was about time for the spotlight to shine on him.

Every other character on this show had a bit of development in the last couple of seasons. Henry got the job as the consultant after dealing with the trauma of Yang. Obviously, Juliet and Shawn are together. Gus always has the spotlight on him in some way. Outside of Chief Vick, Lassiter has been ostensibly the same since the episodes detailing his divorce. It’s nice to see a different side of this character every once in a while, even if we prefer his position as gruff foil. Although I’m not sure I like how Lassie puts aside his sense of justice for the whole “steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family” bit. Especially since, here, it was blood. But I’m hoping Kristy Swanson comes back in five to eighteen months.

I can’t share with you enough how much I enjoyed the back-and-forth between everyone. I put a quote at the top but there were just too many to actually sort out and pick “the best one.” It’s been a long time since I felt that way about Psych. I literally guffawed with how excited Gus gets while Shawn announces the crime to be committed by a vampire. “Sookie is mine!” There’s a very thin line with writing Gus that separates partner from lackey. I feel like Gus has been more lackey to Shawn lately, tossing in a zinger every once in a while, being creepy about cute girls, and giving Shawn a hard time. But this episode we saw that he is more of a contribution to Shawn’s process and his general well-being. I’m not sure Shawn could do all this alone without having someone to bounce ideas off of and to help connect the dots with strange bits of trivia. Gus is Wilson to Shawn’s House. He’s a friend. And a confidante.

I’m just saying, if Shawn threw a party and invited everyone he knew, he would see the biggest gift would be from Gus and the card attached would say, “Come on, son.”

I hesitate to say this is Psych coming back to form since the Halloween episode every year is a bit of an anomaly. But if this is what we get when James Roday helps write an episode that doesn’t have to be all cliffhangery and emotional, I say make sure he’s always in the writer’s room. This was an absolute treat and, you people that read me know, I don’t say that often about anything. I love Mad Men but the show can be exhausting. Psych has a near perfect game this week.

Other things:

  • Sadly, I had the same problem with this episode that I did with the Hitchcock one: I haven’t seen enough horror/thrillers to catch everything that came up. Like the fireworks thing at the end? I’m hoping that’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer but that might be just wishful thinking (because that reference has to be somewhere in this episode with Kristy Swanson).
  • Lassie is perfectly awkward in the opening bar scene. I mean, just perfect. Lee awkward.
  • I get how people would assume Gus is Count Chocula but I don’t like that I think that way.
  • Corey Feldman? In a bar for the undead, I was hoping for Corey Haim! OH! Rimshot!
  • It’s better for Gus and Shawn’s relationship for them to fail together rather than one judging the other. That they’re repeated attempts to destroy Lucian are not only pathetic attempts but inherently flawed (attacking with things that aren’t silver, throwing cloves of garlic like a grenade) makes their kinship that much more adorable. They really operate in a world of their own creation and it doesn’t matter how much reality tries to tear them apart. Turk and JD have the forced, slapstick version of their bond.
  • Cats are the devil.
  • When does Lassie get to put his P in a V?
  • “I’m hungry like a mug.” “You’re hungry like a what?”
  • I want Ron to be on this show all the time. Every week.
  • I kind of like the art on Lassie’s walls. Does that make me a homicidal maniac?
  • “Unbeknownst to my assailant, I’ve slowly, methodically been building up a tolerance to chloroform over the last 15 years.” Not at all surprising.
  • I’m going to use spider for every one of my future roshambo matches.
  • What a sweetheart ending. Adorable without being saccharine. Good balance. I’m going to miss this episode when the show goes back to its non-holiday regular schedule.

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