Psych, TV Thursday

Psych S1 E2-4: how is Shawn not on a list of possible psychopaths? (TV Thursday)

These, if you ask me, are some of the most fun episodes in the whole show.

Episode 2: Spellingg Bee
Directed By: Mel Damski
Written By: Steve Franks
Starring: James Roday, Dulé Hill and more
Run Time: 43 Minutes
Release Date: July 14th, 2006

I absolutely adore this episode. Frankly, this may be my favorite episode in the whole series. This one has one of the best stories, simplest but most interesting mysteries, and it introduces Maggie Lawson as another show-long main character, Juliette. There’s a lot here to love.

After meeting Juliette during a bust, Shawn and Gus get sucked into a new mystery. After a young man mysteriously goes down in an important spelling bee competition, they’re brought in to solve the case. But things quickly spiral out of control, as the spellmaster drops dead off the balcony. Can Psych solve the case within two days? Or will the saboteur get away?

This is where the simplistic mystery writing becomes clear. Take one look at any character with development for more than thirty seconds. Bang. You’ve found your criminal. Is this a problem? Nope. The spectacle of the show isn’t who the guilty party is. The fun part of the show is figuring out how they did it.

And this episode does it wonderfully! There are several differing factors that play into the mystery, all of which seem completely separate from one another. Possibly poisoned Chinese food, faulty inhalers, a rampaging van and a a scholarship on the line. And in order to solve it, Shawn must finish a dog house from his childhood! How do all those play into one another? It seems impossible on the surface. But when all the pieces finally come together, it not only makes perfect sense. It’s incredibly satisfying.

The character writing here is also incredibly strong! Shawn and his dead connect for the first time as they finish the dog house together (even if the touching aspect of the scene is short lived). Shawn has some of his best improvisation moments as he dances around the job of spellmaster (that scene still kills me to this day). Juliette is introduced wonderfully as a charming, witty, but inexperienced cop. And of course: Gus learns why he lost the spelling bee as a kid.

He reacts appropriately.

No matter how many times I watch this episode, it just doesn’t get old to me! It’s a ton of fun, it’s intriguing and it’s hilarious. This is my standard for Psych episodes. Even back in middle school, I’d always compare each episode to this one.

I should start a counter for when I do that here.

Episode 3: Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Piece
Directed By: Michael Zinberg
Written By: Steve Franks
Starring: James Roday, Dulé Hill, and more
Run Time: 42 Minutes
Release Date: July 21st, 2006

In this episode, Shawn proves that he naturally gravitates towards murder. Like, a lot. I’m willing to bet he stumbles on dead bodies in the creek when he goes for groceries.

Also, he breaks more laws in this episode than in pretty much any other episode in the series.

In this episode, Shawn and Gus are brought in once again to help the Police Department solve another absurd case. This time, they must find an incredibly valuable stolen ring before the wedding of the couple that is supposed to have it. But as per usual, things escalate beyond what they were prepared for when they find a dead body. Can the pair find the killer and return the jewel?

With the sheer number of corpses he finds, Shawn is on a one-way ticket to becoming a sociopath. If he’s not one already. Seriously, this guy has a problem.

It wasn’t until this episode I truly realized how formulaic Psych is. Shawn and Gus get the case, investigate and do stupid shit along the way, and then Shawn exposes the killer/thief/kidnapper/all of the above. Every few episodes, you’ll get some character development or the comedy will shoot far above the average.

Unfortunately, this episode is purely standard. There isn’t anything exceptional to talk about. It’s the Psych standard: fun, interesting, and hilarious. But in terms of narrative weight, this one is lacking. It’s not bad. But it’s not one that I’d come back to consistently. At best, I’d put it on as white noise while I’m working.

But hey! It’s not physically painful to watch!

Episode 4: Woman Seeking Dead Husband: Smokers Okay, No Pets
Directed By: Jeff Melman
Written By: Steve Franks
Starring: James Roday, Dulé Hill, and more
Run Time: 42 Minutes
Release Date: July 28th, 2006

Can we take a moment to discuss how much of a champ Gus is? He is constantly dragged through hell by his best friend, such as being threatened, held hostage in a bank and kidnapped. But he never abandons him, no matter how frustrated or terrified he may be. That’s a hell of a friend right there.

Shame Shawn keeps dragging him through the mud.

In this episode, Shawn and Gus get their first non-police client. However, the job she has for them may prove too challenging; she needs them to commune with the dead. They must find out where a long-dead bank robber stowed the lost cash, or their client is at risk of being murdered by his former partners. But is all what it seems?

This is one of the few episodes in the first season with a genuinely surprising mystery to it! There is a genuine list of possible suspects, all of whom feel equally possible as the culprit. Then, when the true culprit is revealed, it’s a genuine, albeit kind of forced, twist. It has genuinely interesting twists and turns.

Y’know. Like a mystery should.

It also leads to some of the strongest comedy in the season. Out of the three episodes in today’s rant, this one had me laughing more than any of the others. It’s not often that a single scene could make me laugh from beginning to end.

Plus, it has some strong character writing! We see Juliette and Lassy coming closer together for the first time, and we see that Jules has more police know-how than you’d expect! Shawn’s ‘powers’ are put to the test for the first time. At gunpoint. Because that’s all he can live for.

There’s the narrative weight I was looking for!

This is another great episode! It’s fun, engaging and absolutely hilarious! This is one I’ll gladly revisit numerous times for a while to come. It’s easily one of my favorites.

Conclusion

As stated earlier: these episodes are great. Sure, episode three is lacking in narrative weight. But they never stop being funny.

Kind of important in a comedy, innit?

It’s nice to go back and watch a nice, wholesome comedy from your youth. Sure, that comedy may be about a scam artist manipulating everyone in his life to feed his ego while he makes light of the deaths of dozens, if not hundreds, of strangers he meets on his jobs. But we shouldn’t always be so cynical. Sometimes, you just need to sit back, relax, and laugh.

God knows we don’t do enough of that these days.

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