Saturday, July 19, 2014

Jenn's Pick: Top 15 Episodes of 'Psych'

I have very few television regrets, if I’m being honest. I suppose that this is because I’ve found myself becoming involved in fandom or social media at just the right time – I joined the Community fandom just as it was beginning to surge and take on more life (and social media prowess). I was pretty much at the ground floor of the New Girl fandom. And I am proud that I was watching the pilot live and got the opportunity to witness Sleepy Hollow soar into success. In recent years, I cannot recall a regret that I’ve had regarding television. I don’t even regret watching Smash or Glee as being involved in both shows has afforded me the opportunity to discuss their faults ad nauseam and bond with others who felt similarly (long live #SmashBash).

But there is one television-related regret that I have and it is this: I regret that I didn’t watch Psych when it was on the air and become a part of its meta, delightful fandom. Funnily enough, I first recall hearing about Psych from my friend Sarah. We were at her apartment, marathoning the second season of Community when she told me that since I loved that show, I should marathon Psych next. She told me that the humor was so similar that I was certain to love it. I vowed to follow her advice but then life and other fandoms got in the way and I found myself forgetting about the show until I was home sick one afternoon with a blanket on the couch and the near-limitlessness of Netflix. After taking a poll via Twitter – of which one person and I do not remember who, but thank you, responded – I decided to kick off my newest television binge of Psych. I had been drowning myself in Pretty Little Liars so I was overdue for some good, solid comedy. And boy, did I find it.

I wrote a post a few years ago in which I ranked some of my favorite pilots of all time. Looking back on the post, I have no regrets about which shows I selected, but I would now like to retroactively add Psych’s pilot to that list. It’s rare that I fall in love with a show from the pilot alone. Most shows usually take a while – at least three to five episodes – to really find their groove, but Psych drew me in immediately and compelled me to continue watching. After the completion of my initial binge-watch this weekend I can safely say that Psych ranks among my top five television shows in recent memory (perhaps of all time). Not only are the characters appealing, hilarious, and delightfully nuanced but the stories and cases are solid and the humor is self-referential in the way that makes me laugh and swoon. I didn’t think a show could be more meta than Community, but Psych is just that and – if I dare to say it – does meta humor better than Community.

I fell deeply in love with this USA comedy series and its characters over the course of my binge-watch, so I thought that I would rank some of my favorite episodes of the series. What’s delightful about this show is that there are so many amazing homage-style episodes and “normal” ones to choose from that I doubt any two “top 10/15 episodes of Psych” lists between fans are identical. I think that’s actually pretty cool, to be frank. So grab a pineapple and maybe some fries quatro queso dos fritos while you’re at it, because we are about to count down my top 15 episodes of Psych!

15) "American Duos" (2.01)

Okay, really is there anything better than an episode that guest stars Tim Curry and features a spoof of American Idol? No? Wait, there is and it’s Jules teaching Gus and Shawn some dance moves while wearing 80s workout attire. “American Duos” is a really fun episode of Psych, as it kicks off the second season and proves that Shawn and Gus can both have fun while undercover on a case and also solve it. I would get more in-depth with my reasoning for the episode, but you know what? Sometimes you don't need a really deep reason for placing an episode on a list: sometimes the best reason for placing an episode on a list is because it is FUN.

14) "Ghosts" (3.01)

“Ghosts” is a pretty unassuming episode so you’re probably wondering why it lands itself in my top 15. And you’d be right: the season three premiere IS pretty unassuming. It’s also pretty absurd which is what makes it so completely and perfectly Psych. In the episode, Shawn investigates Gus’ boss’s home, which his wife believes to be haunted. What’s so delightful about this episode of course is that – spoiler alert – it is Shawn who has been masquerading as a spirit in order to get Gus’ boss to let him have his pharmaceutical job AND still work at the Psych office (the latter position was threatened earlier in the episode). Gus and his boss eventually find out about Shawn’s antics and yet, Shawn’s brilliant powers of deduction end up saving both of Gus’ jobs while also earning him a raise at his company.

But the reason “Ghosts” earns itself a place on my list is because of the tearful, brilliant scene between Madeline Spencer (who returns in the final moments of the second season into Shawn’s life) and Shawn at the precinct. You see, Shawn spends the entire episode angry with his father for trying to restore a relationship with Madeline. We see Shawn’s daddy issues quite clearly in the pilot and throughout the entire first and second seasons. He and Henry clash over everything and anything and he bitterly resents his father for leaving Madeline. But in the precinct, Madeline admits that SHE was the one to leave Henry. She abandoned them and this revelation stuns us and Shawn who now has to rethink everything he’s believed about his father all of these years. The end of “Ghosts” had me sobbing and was the first episode to really convince me that James Roday had much more to offer than just comedic acting skills and that he could really nail an emotional scene. (Little did I know that this would be even more evident at the end of the season, too.) It proved that Psych wasn’t just a show that doled out meta humor and 80s references: it was a show that was rooted in something much deeper and fundamental than that.

13) "Scary Sherry: Bianca's Toast" (1.15)

For my #13 pick, let’s backtrack and discuss Psych’s freshman season and the episode that ended the first year. I liked the show’s first season and yet, there were some episodes that I felt lukewarm toward. That’s okay, honestly, because the show was still finding its footing and so was Shawn Spencer, as a character. His absurd psychic antics were toned down over the years (remember how he used to flail around whenever he had “visions”?), making those moments and the character more bearable. “Scary Sherry: Bianca’s Toast” is the season finale and it’s a pretty great one, not just because it features an undercover sorority sister Juliet, nor because it features this moment which ranks as one of the most hilarious ones to ever exist between Shawn and Gus, and not even because it features an ax-wielding Shannon Woodward. No, it’s a great episode because it perfectly balances legitimate scary and intense moments with just the right amount of necessary humor.

(It’s also probably the height of Shawn Spencer’s attractiveness for me, so there’s that too.)

Overall, this was a great way to end the first year of Psych and it allowed the characters to have a platform to grow from in the coming seasons.

12) "Talk Derby To Me" (3.07)

What we have here are back-to-back episodes that feature an undercover Juliet. I love Jules. I love how much she gets into her undercover work and I love that she is the one who gets to take down the bad guys. It’s refreshing because though Shawn often has the “psychic visions” that lead the police to a killer or killers, Juliet and Lassie are usually the ones to take down the suspects. In “Talk Derby to Me,” Juliet gets to go undercover at a roller derby and be extremely awesome in the process. And I think it was one of the first really Juliet-centered episode that we had seen since “Scary Sherry: Bianca’s Toast,” so it made the episode extra refreshing. I won’t pretend that this isn’t on here because of the couples skate at the end of the episode, nor because Shawn is so insistent on “saving” Juliet (because it partially is), but I really do love the growing trend that this episode provided of Shawn caring exceptionally about rescuing Juliet. Even before they were dating, Shawn and Jules had a great banter and bond and Shawn continued to prove over and over again in the seasons that he would do pretty much anything for her, including risk his own life. While that’s a chunk of “Talk Derby to Me,” the larger chunk is that Juliet is strong and determined, probably more so than any of the others give her credit for. And I love her so much because of it.

11) "Santabarbaratown 2" (7.01)

When I began my marathon of season seven, my friend Laura told me that she wasn’t a fan of much of the season, mainly due to Shawn’s character development, or lack thereof. After watching the season, I understood what she meant by her statement. A lot of season seven is uneven in terms of Shawn: he’s often far more selfish and childish than in other seasons (culminating in the reveal to Juliet that he’s not a psychic), which is odd given how much he seems to grow around seasons three and four. Nevertheless, “Santabarbaratown 2” ranks among one of my favorite episodes BECAUSE of Shawn’s erratic behavior and James Roday’s portrayal of it.

Shawn is unhinged in the season premiere and everyone knows it. At the end of the previous season, Henry has been shot and is rushed to the emergency room with Shawn able to do nothing to help from the sidelines. (This is probably on my list for one of the earliest moments in the episode alone where he yells: “That’s my dad!” and I nearly burst into sobs because of how much the Henry/Shawn relationship had evolved.) But Shawn is sleep-deprived and full of anger and so he won’t sit by and do nothing. The rest of the episode is full of bad decisions on Shawn’s part: he puts his life, Gus’ life, and the lives of a lot of others in jeopardy in his desire to take down his father’s former friend and shooter. But what’s so telling and so important about the episode is that while everyone knows Shawn is coming undone, they also all help him. Chief Vick subtly gives her approval for Shawn to go after the shooter. While watching the episode, I thought this was terrible advice for her as a chief… but then remembered how much she cares about Shawn and Henry and realized how important it was that she didn’t stop Shawn. A wonderful moment occurs when Lassie steps up and assists Shawn, knowing how important it is that they find the shooter. The final moment of brilliance is when Juliet shows up and saves Shawn’s life, despite her earlier insistence that Shawn not become involved in the case. She has his back; she will ALWAYS have his back and they will (as expressed in earlier episodes) always protect each other.

I loved seeing a crazed Shawn, to be honest. Rational, normal Shawn is fun and goofy and delightful but unhinged Shawn was just SO raw and amazing that “Santabarbaratown 2” had to make the cut.

10) "You Can't Handle This Episode" (4.10)

Okay, I admit it: sometimes I watch Total Divas on E! because clearly I have nothing better to do with my life. So when I got to “You Can’t Handle This Episode” in my marathon, I immediately recognized John Cena and – I will be honest – expected him to be a lackluster actor and guest star. If you couldn’t tell, I actually felt quite the contrary upon completing this episode and loved his stint as Juliet’s brother Ewan. This was a fun, shenanigan-filled episode that also provided a lot of tension between Juliet and Shawn. The fact that he is dating Abigail aside, Shawn doubts Ewan’s innocence in the episode which causes Juliet to grow irate with him. And in spite of the fact that he apologizes, she doesn’t really forgive him because he crossed a line. It’s the first time we’ve really seen Jules deeply hurt by Shawn. The rest of the episode is top-notch, focusing on Ewan as an important piece of the case and also an important part of Juliet’s life. She’s deeply protective of her brother and he loves and cares about her. But what’s brilliant and why I really love the episode is that while she is protective of Ewan, she also takes her duty to track down and put away criminals extremely seriously. She trains a gun on her brother at the end of the episode and I have no doubt in my mind (though he may initially have) that if it had been necessary, she would have shot him. It’s these brilliant little moments that we are able to see Juliet vulnerable but strong that make her such an appealing character. There’s no doubt that her decision was very difficult, but that doesn’t mean that it was impossible. She’s not a weak character, nor is she one to be dismissed. Juliet O’Hara is a force to be reckoned with – she’s a human woman with emotions and feelings, who cares about people and situations deeply, but who makes tough choices every day. And for that, “You Can’t Handle This Episode” makes my cut.

9) "Extradition II: The Actual Extradition Part" (5.10)

I love recurring guest stars on television series and there are few who I could think of better than Cary Elwes (also forever known to me as Westley from The Princess Bride) to recur on Psych. He’s Pierre Despereaux, an art thief who was imprisoned in Canada courtesy of the pair during “Extradition: British Columbia.” Despereaux breaks out of prison, then back into prison, then back OUT again and Shawn and Gus are left scrambling to locate their frenemy. This episode marks the return of Mackintosh and escapades in Canada, which are obviously awesome. It also involves a complex plot, one in which Shawn and Gus (well, mainly Shawn because Gus has always believed Despereaux to be guilty, just like he always believes Lassie killed that man in “Lassie Did a Bad, Bad Thing”) as well as the audience constantly second-guess Despereaux’s innocence.

Cary Elwes + Canada + Shawn and Gus + did I mention Canada? + spy-like shenanigans = one of Psych’s greatest episodes. I’d be remiss, of course, if I didn’t discuss the Shawn/Jules of it all as this episode marks the beginning of their relationship. He confesses his true feelings for her (“The point is, since I met you, I… I’ve been thinking about getting a car.” I mean, SWOON.) and they share an epic, camera-spinning kiss that literally earns applause from bystanders. (There’s then a hilarious montage of them making out and it’s about as perfect as you could even imagine.)

All in all, the “Extradition” sequel is probably one of the most fun hours of Psych minus, perhaps, “100 Clues” which we will get to later on.

8) "Bounty Hunters!" (2.09)

Look, Shawn as a bounty hunter is extremely attractive. So I take back what I said about the end of the first season being the height of my Shawn Spencer love because “Bounty Hunters!” is probably the true height of it. The episode is fun in the Shawn-and-Gus-go-on-an-adventure-and-almost-get-killed sort of way that Psych often is. They go head-to-head with an actual bounty hunter in order to solve a case and, partially do this so that Shawn can prove he’s just as cool as a bounty hunter. (Shawn has some insecurity issues in case you haven’t noticed.) When Shawn and Gus were younger, they admired the bounty hunters because of his how suave and cool they seemed. The episode is a wild chase that covers both land and sea. But as you can probably gather, there is one particular scene that lands this episode high on my list. Admittedly, it’s the first moment I really began to “ship” Shawn and Jules together (so many feelings were/are because of this moment). Yes, friends, it is the “very close talking” scene. Shawn moves to kiss Juliet but she acknowledges that it would be a mistake if he did in that moment and our faux psychic recovers by keeping his lips very close to hers and insisting that they’re just talking really close to one another. That’s not a mistake, right? Shawn pulls away without actually kissing her and it’s clear that he’s affected and so is she by the tension and their moment.

It’s the vest, guys. Just like Nick Miller’s jacket gave him confidence, Shawn’s bounty hunter leather vest gave him confidence, too. And boy did both situations pay off for us as an audience.

7) "100 Clues" (7.03)

Psych did a lot of homages and references in its time, but only two arguable love letters: “Murder?... Anyone?... Anyone?... Bueller?” (a love letter to John Hughes and 80s movies) and “100 Clues,” a love letter to – duh doy – Clue. In its 100th episode, Psych decided to go all-out and create a Clue-style love letter to the 1985 film, even bringing back some of the original actors from the movie to guest star in the episode (Christopher Llyod!). What’s so great, as my friend Kelly noted, is that Psych didn’t really have to stretch much in order to fit the homage. Psych and Clue share the same type of delightfully witty humor. Watching Shawn Spencer run around a mansion trying to solve a case is not much different than Shawn Spencer running around the precinct, trying to solve a case. The wit and humor in this episode and rapid-fire of jokes is so impeccable that Shawn’s “reveal” scene had me laughing so much that I had to pause and review what had happened, plot-wise. The recurring sight gag guest star in Curt Smith is delightful (as is Shawn’s insistence that he is dead and everyone repeatedly correcting him in unison), and the crime keeps you guessing. What I read, too, is that the east and west coast killer reveals were different, which makes me love this homage even more because it means that the writers and producers took the time to make sure that this episode wasn't just special to one coast, but that it was special to everyone.

(Basically, this episode is perfect and there’s a good chance I’ll be rewatching it in the very near future.)

I think that after 100 episodes, it was even more painfully obvious to me just how much the Psych writers care about getting everything about their homages and their episodes right. They very rarely ever do an homage just for the sake of having an homage. There is a preciseness and a purpose to what they do and celebrating 100 years by writing not only a love letter to Clue, but also to the fans is just what I would expect from the show.

6) "The Break-Up" (8.10)

When I say that the Psych series finale was perfect, I mean that it was perfect. It combined everything about the series that made it great and delightful: the comedy of the case paralleling Shawn and Gus’ situation (and Shawn’s increasing disbelief) had me laughing so hard. There were frequent callbacks to earlier episodes and running gags, and we got the opportunity to bid farewell to every character. Here’s why “The Break-Up” is such a stellar episode: by the end of the series, we feel like every character is going to be okay. We truly believe that these characters will exist after the screen fades to black and that they will be happy. This is the best feeling as an audience member that you can have after a series, quite frankly. After spending eight years with Shawn, Gus, Lassie, Jules, Henry, and Karen, we leave them in Santa Barbara and San Francisco and we know that they’re going to continue to live their lives without us.

Apart from the satisfying feeling of leaving characters in a place of happiness, the other elements of “The Break-Up” worked together flawlessly. I cannot express enough how much James Roday has impressed me and the series finale was no different. Shawn spent the majority of the episode trying to tell Gus that he was quitting Psych to move to San Francisco with Juliet. And then, when it is clear that Shawn has run out of time to tell Gus (we see him recording a video throughout the episode), he leaves, but not before tearfully expressing how sorry he is for ruining Gus’ life eight years ago. Shawn blames himself for Gus’ life being the way that it is: if he hadn’t dragged his best friend into a phony psychic detective business eight years ago, maybe Gus would have been happier. Meanwhile, Gus watches the video with tears in his eyes as well and it’s such a beautiful and terribly sad moment because we see the full depth of Shawn’s guilt. We have never seen Shawn this way before, this guilt-ridden over what he had done (or feared to have done) to Gus.

Meanwhile, there is the most brilliant closure on the Lassie/Shawn and Henry/Shawn fronts: Shawn sends Lassie a farewell video and just as Shawn is about to admit that he isn’t psychic, Lassie pops out the DVD and snaps it in half, earning a sob from me. This simple act is so significant because it marks the fact that Lassie genuinely cares about Shawn and doesn’t see him merely as “Spencer” or a nuisance. Lassie knows what the end of that sentence will be and yet, he decides that he doesn’t need to know or want to know. He’s going to remember Shawn as that annoying pop-culture obsessed psychic who became one of his best friends.

The Henry story in “The Break-Up” nearly caused me tears, too, as there were callbacks to the pilot (“Close your eyes.  How many hats are in the room?”) and a beautiful resolution to the Henry/Shawn relationship (“He finally called me.”) These two began the series in an extremely rocky place and the way that they ended was so absolutely beautiful: it was full of growth and acceptance and understanding.

And then there is the culmination of the Shawn/Jules relationship in a proposal scene that made me laugh and ugly cry. The series ends with Shawn and Juliet (and Gus) engaged to each other… and then the saccharine moment is interrupted with a comedic one, as a thief steals the engagement ring out of Shawn’s hand (“WHAT KIND OF CITY IS THIS?”) and runs off. The golden trio initiates a car chase and while we’re still crying because of the engagement scene, we’re laughing hysterically because this is Psych and of COURSE something like that would happen. And you know what? It was the perfect send-off to a delightful, emotional, beautiful little series. 

5) "Deez Nups"/ "Right Turn or Left for Dead" (7.07/7.08)

I’m not sure that there is a more heartbreaking, gut-wrenching pair of episodes on Psych than “Deez Nups” and “Right Turn or Left For Dead.” The first of the back-to-back episodes is quite similar to “Last Night Gus” in terms of heightened shenanigans between the ensemble. Everyone is preparing for Lassie and Marlowe’s wedding, the men and women split into bachelor and bachelorette parties while simultaneously trying to solve a case at a casino. It’s a hilarious romp right up until the final few minutes of the episode. In those moments, Shawn gives Juliet his suit jacket because she is cold and walks off to talk to his father. When he returns, Juliet has a question: she found a ticket in Shawn’s coat pocket that is linked to the case they solved earlier that day – the case he apparently solved “psychically.” She’s bewildered and hurt and wants answers. Suddenly, Shawn’s entire world slows down (what a testament to James Roday, who directed the episode, because that moment is brilliantly shot) and he begins to realize that he cannot lie to Juliet; he has to come clean and it is painful and slow but he tells her, justifying his reasoning – he was GOOD and they were having fun doing it, and hadn’t he helped put away so many criminals, including murderers? Kudos to James Roday and Maggie Lawson whose acting in those moments was utterly flawless. My heart broke and you could almost hear Shawn and Juliet’s entire lives come crashing down around them. And then, it all ends: Juliet throws a drink in Shawn’s face and runs out on him, while Gus watches on from upstairs and Shawn is distraught.

“Deez Nups” was such a delightful episode with an emotional steamroller ending that it landed onto my list without any question. The follow-up episode, “Right Turn or Left For Dead” was completely and utterly brilliant and was, perhaps, one of my favorite stylistic decisions on the series. I know that it was an homage to Sliding Doors, but it truthfully reminded me of a combination between (500) Days of Summer and Doctor Who’s “Turn Left.” The episode follows Shawn’s despair and regret in the moments following his confrontation with Juliet at the wedding. But then something happens: Shawn imagines how the story would play out if he had just given Juliet a shawl instead of his jacket. She would never have found the paper and he would never have been forced to disclose his lies to her. They would have been happy; they would have gotten Lassie and Marlowe a puppy as a wedding gift. They would be laughing and joking and kissing. And as Shawn constructs this alternate reality in his mind, it’s contrasted with the cold reality that he and Juliet are on the verge of breaking up (and do at the episode’s end). The episode was so brilliantly written and shot, so painfully raw emotionally, and so wonderfully complex that it lands close to the top of my list. Though it is a difficult episode to watch (I cannot express enough how impressive James Roday is in it), I plan to re-watch it because of its sheer brilliance in the near future.

4) "Mr. Yin Presents..." (4.16)

You may find this shocking or in some way sacrilegious, but I’ve never seen a Hitchcock movie. (I’ll hold for the gasps.) I believe that they are worth my time, so you won’t have to try to convince me, but if I’m going to watch an older movie, it’ll be something like Some Like It Hot or My Fair Lady. What I mean to say is this: I’m not a huge fan of scary movies and I definitely don’t like thrillers. I’m a wuss, a baby when it comes to things that go bump in the night or shots of empty stairwells in the dark. I get jittery and jumpy and I’m not the type of person who actually enjoys feeling that way. But I love “Mr. Yin Presents…” a lot. It is brilliant and thrilling and an homage to Hitchcock movies. It develops the Psych characters extremely well and introduces us to a villain that is far more terrifying than Yang. Yin, as Mary Lightly explains, is not ruled by order and structure like Yang was when she turned everything into a game. Chaos is the dominant feature of Yin and his newest target is Shawn.

James Roday is never more at the top of his game than he is in this episode, I swear to God. Everything he does – every little nuance of fear and emotion, every frantic or calculated move he makes – is so distinct and so powerful. I’ve always admired James Roday’s skills as an actor in this series: he’s energetic and comedic, enthusiastic without being irritating because of how lovable he is. The Yin/Yang trilogy allows James to really explore the depth of his emotional narrative as Shawn. Because you see, Yin targets both Abigail (Shawn’s current girlfriend) and Juliet in this episode and forces him to make the choice to save only one of them. I can’t quite explain it, but there’s a frantic edge that James brings to Shawn in these moments – this terrifyingly human desire to go and DO that electrifies him and the people around him and us as well to where we're buzzing, itching for him to catch the bad guy. Everyone is so on point in this episode, to be honest, from Vick to Henry to Gus (who we rarely get to see be extremely serious) to Lassie and Jules. The acting and directing and writing fire on all cylinders. “Mr Yin. Presents…” is an exceptional hour of television, providing just enough levity within the heavy narrative to remind us that this is still Psych and still the pop culture-referencing, goofy Shawn Spencer. But what makes this episode so strong is that it provides us with real, scary stakes. We don’t know if Abigail will make it. (We can safely assume that Juliet will, since she’s a large part of the show.) We lose Mary in the episode. We watch the team divide and conquer in order to end up saving both Juliet and Abigail. And we watch the characters forced to grow and change in the process of the narrative. We see how even though he puts up a front, Shawn is a human being who has legitimate fears. We see that Juliet is strong and determined but that there are some things she just cannot understandably handle (her breakdown in Lassie’s arms was gut-wrenching). We see Henry and Shawn’s bond forged even more when they team up to save Abigail. It’s one thing for Psych to tell us that circumstances change people, but it’s another entirely for them to SHOW us this through a story.

Honestly, “Mr. Yin Presents…” is a top-notch way for the series to do just that.

3) "Psych: The Musical" (7.15)

One of my favorite Scrubs episodes of all time (and arguably one of the best) is “My Musical.” Okay, so maybe I’m a sucker for an amazing orchestra opening score and maybe I love it just a little when characters randomly break out into song and MAYBE I’ve been obsessed with Broadway since high school. Maybe that’s why I love musical episodes and montages and why I think “Regional Holiday Music” is one of the best episodes of Community. It’s probably similarly why I think “Psych: The Musical” is one of the best episodes of the USA network comedy. Technically, this episode falls within the scope of canon though it was aired outside of the scope (Shawn references how Juliet doesn’t know his secret yet, which means it falls before “Deez Nups”) and I absolutely adored everything about it.

Musical episodes are tricky because unless you’re Glee – a show where every character bursts out into song on a weekly basis – it seems highly illogical that any character on any television show would sing and dance for no reason. Here’s why “My Musical” works: it’s an episode about a patient thinks that everything around her is a part of a musical (spoiler alert: she has an aneurysm that is causing her to hear music), so it makes sense for the doctors and nurses to be singing and dancing around her. “Regional Holiday Music” is a parody of Glee and takes place near the time of a holiday musical. Again, it makes sense. “Psych: The Musical” centers around a musical version of Jack the Ripper so – again – it makes sense for the characters to have song and dance incorporated. And the musical has everything that a good Broadway show does: likable heroes, a complex villain, lots of singing and dancing, dramatics, comedy, and a solid ending. I fell in love with the episode the moment I started watching it, as I pretty much assumed I would. (Like I said, I am a sucker for anything musical-related.)

The episode is pretty great and every member of the cast is really quite talented in regards to the singing and dancing. “Santa Barbara Skies” is the perfect opening to the episode and songs like “I’ve Heard it Both Ways” (a tango between Lassie and Shawn) and “When You’re Making Up A Song” (so meta it hurts in the best way) are delightful. The episode guest stars Anthony Rapp (Mark from RENT) who is exceptional as the “villain” named Z. It also marks the return and final appearance of Yang, who is played by the immensely talented and deserves-all-the-awards Ally Sheedy. I don’t know what I could possibly say about this episode that would explain why I ranked it so high on my list except for the fact that it exceeded my expectations. Musicals are great because they remove you from the normal world of the show for an hour or two and transport you into a realm where anything can happen. But what I loved about the Psych version of the musical was this: it never really transported us out of the realm of possibility in Santa Barbara. Psych has taken a lot of risks with itself before, but the musical wasn’t an extreme stretch to take. The characters were, quite frankly, themselves. And that was what needed to happen: the show needed to have one foot grounded in the reality of their characters while the other was free to gallivant about, singing and dancing. Henry refused to sing which is so in-character that I laughed about it for quite a bit. The characters were singing and dancing but it didn’t feel out of place for them to suddenly interject with dialogue or tango with each other.

If anyone could have pulled off the balance between dialogue, plot, music, and dance, it would be Psych. And quite truthfully, I think they excelled.

2) "The Polarizing Express" (5.14)

The silver medal for my favorite Psych episode is bestowed upon the holiday episode “The Polarizing Express.” Here’s why I love this episode, in a nutshell: in the vein of It’s a Wonderful Life, Shawn is forced to imagine what life would be like if he didn’t exist. In some pretty hilarious and zany visions of Gus, Lassie, Henry, and Juliet’s lives, Shawn jokingly recognizes that their lives are better because he returned to Santa Barbara. But what made this Christmas episode so important was that there were moments within the visions where the characters would stop and stare at Shawn and he – and we – would realize truths about them: we realize that Shawn doesn’t appreciate Gus as much as he should, that he doesn’t respect Lassie as much as Lassie deserves to be respected, that Juliet is a woman who has emotions and isn’t as tough as she lets on, and that he needs to care about and for his father.

Those realizations carry over into reality – the reality where Shawn got himself suspended and his father fired because of his methods on a case. Shawn is lax and selfish at the beginning of the episode, thinking only of how HIS life has impacted the people around him. What he begins to realize through his dream sequences is that often times he is too concerned with his own life and fails to appreciate the people who care about him and always go out on limbs for him. So Shawn decides to solve his real-life case using the by-the-book method he often disregards. He consciously chooses to treat the people in his life more carefully and more thoughtfully than he normally would thanks to his revelation. He decides to be mature and considerate and it pays off, as the team solves the case. Shawn returns to his father’s house later that night to repair their relationship and finds his father to be asleep. In a moment of beautiful tenderness, Shawn tucks his dad in and then notices a Christmas card for him. We aren’t quite sure what Henry wrote in the card, but we do know that it visibly affects Shawn and that alone is enough to justify the episode on my list.

1) "Last Night Gus" (6.02)

When I got to “Last Night Gus” in my marathon, my friend Laura told me that this was an episode she still laughed at, repeatedly, whenever she re-watched. As you can tell, this turned out to be my actual favorite episode of Psych. I do love the dramatics and the emotions that the USA network comedy brought during its run, but let’s be honest: the story of what happened the night that Lassie, Gus, Shawn, and Woody drank (and got drugged) together is probably one of the funniest stories ever. I cannot keep a straight face while watching the Shawn clip above (“IMAGINE THAT JACK!”) and every single moment throughout the episode is golden, from the moment that Lassie snaps at Juliet to put sunglasses on, to the moment the entire gang jumps off a balcony and into a motel pool, to the fact that Gus literally attacked someone who had a gun with a bowl of taffy, I doubt there is any story that could be better than “Last Night Gus.” I love that the group of men feed off one another so seamlessly (Lassie’s horror, Shawn being unable to “psychically” remember anything, Gus being convinced that last night Gus had major game, and Woody being hilariously and weirdly Woody) and that they managed to piece together the crime in the process. I knew that Shawn and Gus had a comedic buddy-cop dynamic together, but it was so amazing to laugh along with the four men as they scrambled to piece together the events from the night prior.

I wish there was some deep, philosophical reason for me placing “Last Night Gus” as #1 on my list, but I’m just going to be honest: it is a HILARIOUS episode and it is one that I will go back to for years to come whenever I need a pick-me up. That means that the jokes are not just funny, but that they’re timeless. And that is something that makes it deserving of the coveted top spot.

So, now that I have rattled off my top 15 (technically 16 because I always cheat when it comes to these lists) episodes of Psych, it is YOUR turn. Hit up the comments with some of your favorite episodes and let's never stop discussing this show, shall we? ;)


  1. Psych is so underrated. So great to read about it.
    I agree on your choices that are some of my favorite.
    I would add: Earth, Wind and... Wait for It 3x12 - Its all for the fistbump at the end.
    Season 3 was great in general. "Six Feet Under the Sea" 3x10 and "Tuesday the 17th" 3x15 also "Dual Spires" 5x12
    Now I am in the mood for some Psych.

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  4. Fantastic article! Psych is my favorite comedy, top 10 favorite show ever period. I agree with your list and oddly came to realize I must have a similar complex when it comes to musical (loved Scrubs/My Musical). I would only add Dual Spires, Not Even Close Encounters and Black and Tan. The show is comedy gold. Anyone who doesn't love Psych must not like laughter (and should be ashamed of themselves, and their family).

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