Friday, July 7, 2017

My 12 Favorite Psych Guest Stars [Guest Poster: Ashvini]

Related image

With the announcement last month that USA’s hit Psych would be getting a Psych: The Movie sometime in the upcoming year, I knew I had to write something about my love for that wacky, hilarious show that defined the way I consumed TV for most of my time in high school.

When the show ended in March of 2014, I was disheartened. I thought, “They can’t just end it like that, right? Shawn moves with Juliet? Does he continue the Psych detective agency with Gus? They didn’t even complete Gus’s storyline!” I was annoyed. Few finales are able to tie up loose ends (some ignore them altogether), and I was disappointed that Psych, a wholly brilliant and meticulously written show, wouldn’t be ending in a more satisfying way.

Now with the movie, there is that opportunity. And I hope showrunner Steve Franks will give the stories of Shawn, Gus, and company satisfying happy endings. At least ones that I can get on board with. Personally I think Gus should take up post as a radio DJ again as "A Player Named Gus" (from “Dead Air”).

As much as I adore the closer than close, best friend duo of Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and Burton Guster (Dulé Hill, shout-out to my West Wing fans), one aspect that I loved about this show was its fabulous guest stars. The caliber of their guest stars was immense; I’m sure getting someone like Cary Elwes on your show, willingly, is not an easy task. My guess is that the people of Psych (from the actors to the writers to everyone in between) are fantastic at networking and pitching. Whatever their strategies, I think a large part of it was that Psych was absurdly unique (nevermind that it was somewhat reminiscent of Monk) and did a wonderful job at entertaining audiences.

I supposed they hooked their guest stars as well, so much so that a lot of their performances blended well into the style of Steve Franks and Psych, and they were able to keep up with Shawn and Gus’s pitter-patter. I was impressed. So let's take a look at twelve of my favorite guest stars

Image result for yang psych gif

1. Ally Sheedy as Mr. Yang

No one plays basket case quite like Ally Sheedy. In Psych she played Mr. Yang, a psychotic murderer with a penchant for Hitchcock movies and riddles that behooved the Santa Barbara Police Department (a riff off of the Zodiac Killer). Sheedy’s character has also been obsessed with Shawn Spencer (the show’s main lead and “psychic detective”) since he was pre-pubescent, which really sets in those creepy vibes (so much yikes). Not to mention that although her character is only one-half of a murderous duo (Ying/Yang), she often works alone and is driven by her obsession with Shawn and his hyper-observational talents. In her first appearance in “An Evening with Mr. Yang,” she is only revealed as the famed killer during the last minutes of the episode — just as she’s holding Shawn’s mother hostage, strapped to a timed bomb, in a car at a drive-in movie theater.

As soon as the audience is introduced to her, the crazy in her eyes is pretty blatant, making her more of mysterious psychopath than a terrifying psychopath. You can see her vulnerability, as much as you can see her mental instability. Why did the show choose to depict her like that? Well, probably to keep her entangled in the main characters’ lives, as she went on to appear as Mr. Yang in three more episodes. With each appearance, she became like an ally to Shawn and Gus — an ally that they’d prefer not to talk to, but must talk to if they want to do their detective work.

Nevertheless, Sheedy sold Mr. Yang to me. I’m never one to take the sides of the villains, but there was something about the way Sheedy portrayed Mr. Yang that made me a little sympathetic to her character. She peeled back so many layers, starting with a one-dimensional killer and turning her into a pathetic woman stuck in the body of a child, wanting positive reinforcements from her murderous father (Ying), and attention from Shawn and Gus. Sheedy made me care and wonder for a villain who admittedly made my skin crawl. That in itself, is incredible. But only Sheedy is capable of changing your perception of a character so resolutely and within minutes (see: The Breakfast Club).

Image result for cary elwes psych gif

2. Cary Elwes as Pierre Desperaux 

Who in the acting universe can pull off uber-charming and puzzling at the same time? Why, that’s Mr. Ivan Simon Cary Elwes (yes, that is indeed his full name). Elwes plays an ever-allusive international art thief named Pierre Desperaux who amazes Shawn and distresses Gus. First making an appearance in “Extradition: British Columbia,” he spends the episode flitting around British Columbia trying to steal an extremely precious painting, while managing to escape from Shawn, Gus, and the rest of the SPBD who remain on his tail.

Pierre Desperaux is alluring, dressed to the nines, capable of seducing any woman with a crystal glass of choice hard alcohol in hand, and a posh yet vague British accent; he’s the Bond of our Canadian dreams. Except that he’s really not. Besides being an obvious satire of Bond (and similar characters), he’s outlandish and serves as a type of role model of Shawn’s daydreams of being an Indiana Jones-type hero, which is a runner throughout the show. The truth is, Desperaux is nothing but a thief and a possible murderer. But instead of making him untouchable, Elwes humanizes him. He gives Desperaux a fleeting benevolence toward Shawn and Gus. It’s fun to watch.

3. Kerry Washington as Mira Gaffney

Can Kerry Washington do comedy? Uh, yeah she can! In “There’s Something About Mira,” she played Mira Gaffney, Gus’s wife with very wealthy parents (who have a vineyard, say what). The two got married in college during a love haze fueled by tiki torches and Goldschlager. She reappears in Gus’s life because she’s found love for real with a supposed businessman named Jan and wants an official divorce. Historically, Gus has a difficult time saying no to Mira (he gets heart eyes in her presence), and agrees, getting wrapped up in her life again — wedding plans to Jan and all. Shawn is annoyed at being left out of even one detail of his best friend’s life and makes it his mission to get Gus to rid himself of Mira once and for all, because she has the tendency to wreak havoc.

Washington plays Mira as ditzy, stubborn, entitled, and temperamental; she’s the archetypal crazy ex. Yet, Washington gives her dimension, agency, and a voice which is important in the episode’s storyline, but also generally. Before Rachel Bloom came along to flip TV sexism on its axis, depictions of crazy exes in the male gaze all told the same story. The main message was always: she’s beautiful, but she ruined my life, and therefore she deserves my hate.

Though in Psych, Mira roundhouse kicked that trope. Despite being genuinely unstable (she was abusing prescription medications), Mira was never on the receiving end of hatred from Gus; Gus worshipped her, saw good in her, and we — as the audience — got to see it too. She had tenderness, compassion (however fleeting), and we got to see why she and Gus married each other in the first place. And in the end of the episode, Shawn sees that too. Mira Gaffney wasn’t revolutionary in the same way that Rebecca Bunch is, but she proves to be vital in the fight to end that tired trope.

Image result for woody psych gif

4. Kurt Fuller as Woodrow “Woody” Strode

Psych is chock-full of lovable weirdos. Some weirdos you could get behind and some weirdos you wanted to run far, far away from. Either way, it was entertaining to watch them interact with Shawn and Gus. That’s why I loved Kurt Fuller’s depiction of Woody Strode, SBPD’s coroner and resident quirk master. I first saw Kurt Fuller in Supernatural, where he played a smarmy, terrifying angel that shook me to the core. Seeing him in Psych opened my eyes to the talent of Fuller. Every interaction between Woody and another main character was like rolling the dice; I never knew what he was going to say or what he was going to do because he was somewhat of an oddball. They gave bits and pieces of backstory to Woody’s character, but a lot of who he was was open to interpretation. But the character was so dynamic, funny, and interesting to watch that I think the writers had a lot of fun putting in different scenes and situations just to see how flexible and real he could be.

Giving a weirdo depth is difficult, I think, because you run the risk of making them derivative of so many weirdos that already exist. Instead, give the weirdo agency, a story, something to do, because that’s how you begin to flesh them out. Fuller made Woody Strode come to life without making him a caricature; he instead got to laugh with Shawn, Gus, and company as a recurring character. And what a cool thing that was to watch.

Image result for psych father wesley

5. Ray Wise as Father Peter Wesley

Ray Wise is either an incredible method actor or is actually an ordained priest. I’d like to think it’s a combination of both. I admittedly haven’t seen Ray Wise in anything else besides Psych, but I’m aware that he is most known for being Leland Palmer on Twin Peaks. Wise first made an appearance in “The Devil Is in the Details... And the Upstairs Bedroom” as Father Peter Wesley, Shawn and Gus’s childhood priest. The episode centers around the suicide of a university student, who Wesley claims was possessed during the troubling last days that led to her demise. He calls upon Shawn and Gus for their supernatural help — Gus believes in Father Wesley and Shawn believes Father Wesley is full of it. But upon Gus’s insistence, they both go and meet with him.

There was something about Father Wesley that made me believe his every word. I knew that he was wrong, and that the student was in fact not possessed, but Wise played Wesley with an easy pugnacity (an oxymoron, I know). He was determined, he had faith, he had to rid the world of the demon’s the plagued the past students. I mean, I’ve never been religious before, but by God, did I believe in Father Wesley.

Snaps for Ray Wise, indeed.

Related image

6. Tim Curry as Nigel St. Nigel

Tim Curry is a chameleon. He has the ability to be believable in any situation, and in Psych he proved that (as if Tim Curry has anything to prove) with bells on. In the show, he played Nigel St. Nigel, a celebrity judge for the reality show American Duos (think American Idol) who is in danger of being killed off by an angered contestant. In the fashion of Simon Cowell’s rancorous bravado, Nigel St. Nigel is bitter and completely unimpressed by every single contestant that appears in front of him — even Shawn and Gus, with their rendition of Tears for Fears’ “Shout.”

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Nigel St. Nigel was written specifically for Tim Curry, because really only Curry has the fortitude to pull such a malicious character off while still giving him some depth — something for the audience to empathize with — as I found myself worried for his safety. He’s also grateful for Shawn and Gus’s help, as they race to save him from the murderous contestant during the episode, but he remains somewhat unimpressed. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Image result for psych abigail gif

7. Rachael Leigh Cook as Abigail Lytar

Of all of Shawn Spencer’s love interests, I thought Abigail was the most believable. The chemistry between them was palpable, and as much as I like Maggie Lawson, I just never shipped Shawn/Juliet as much as I did Shawn/Abigail. I’m a sucker for high school sweetheart love stories — best friends in love that for whatever outside factors, could never entirely be. It’s angsty, and heartache-inducing, which are my sweet spots. Masochism aside, these variables make for the most interesting stories I believe.

I was rooting for Abigail and Shawn, but in the end, Abigail chooses to go abroad to teach underprivileged children, leaving Shawn behind in Santa Barbara. They try to make the relationship work long distance, and succeed for a while, but Shawn can’t stand to be away from her for the months and possible years she plans to be away, and Abigail can’t give up her dream for him. His life is too dangerous for her to be a part of, too. So they break up. It was sad to watch, and more than that, it was believable: their love, their banter, their heartache, everything.

Also, it’s because of Abigail that Shawn learns that sacrifice is a part of growing up and that growth visibly changes Shawn, as he begins to become aware of what he really wants in life romantically. I just hope their relationship provided Abigail with some growth and positivity, too.

Related image

8. Jimmi Simpson as Dr. Mary Lightly III

If you’re a fan of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, you probably know that Dr. Mary Lightly III isn’t the strangest character Jimmi Simpson has played. In Psych, he plays a genius and long-time follower of Mr. Yang. Mary helps Shawn, Gus, and the SBPD crack her riddles and make sense of the Yin/Yang mystery. After being suspected for being Mr. Yang in his previous appearance in the show, he ultimately dies at the hands of Yin/Yang in “Mr. Yin Presents...” Shawn, Gus, and the SBPD are dismayed at his death, as he had become someone to depend on and care about. Of course, Shawn is the one who cracks the mystery in the end, but it's not without Mary’s help. It’s touching, really, and makes his mark on the Yin/Yang case unforgotten.

Jimmi Simpson is great at playing silly, strange people, that’s just the truth. But unlike his character in It’s Always Sunny, Mary Lightly is not a villain and does not have cruel motives. He’s wholesome, he’s clever, and he’s a pal to the main characters. Simpson manages to bring natural whimsy to the character that could’ve very well been a boring stereotype. Honestly, I just wanted to see more from this character. Mary Lightly peaked my curiosity. Who was he really? Sadly, we’ll never know.


9. Jaleel White as Tony, and
10. Kenan Thompson as Joon

These two guest stars were everything to me. Everything. It’s not enough that I love Dulé Hill, but having him interact with Kenan Thompson and Jaleel White (two comedians who I also love), was just a dream scenario. White and Thompson play Gus’s ex-friends from college named Tony and Joon, who Gus was also in a singing group with. They reunite after the tragic death and possible murder of their friend and fourth member of their singing group, Leonard, in “High Top Fade Out.” Shawn loves them immediately and wants Gus to patch things up with them in an effort to reconnect and get justice for Leonard. By the end of the episode, they manage to do all of the those things.

The chemistry between Hill, White, Thompson is so wonderful and so believable. They have a banter and ease to their interactions that establishes a relationship between them, one that is sweet and means a lot to Gus (and Shawn). Of course, White and Thompson have impeccable comedic timing and know how to play goofy (see: Saturday Night Live and Family Matters), so watching them try to be detectives in an effort to bring justice for Leonard makes for some great physical comedy and dialogue that had me crying laughing. Having them tag along with Shawn and Gus and keep up with their shenanigans, and harmonizing (so beautifully might I add) was just the cherry on top.


11. John Cena as Ewan O’Hara 

In “You Can’t Handle This Episode,” John Cena plays an ex-military private assassin/agent (which is a secret), who also happens to be Juliet’s brother Ewan. The SBPD calls upon him for help in a perplexing military-related case. Shawn and Gus inevitably get involved in the case and figure out the details of Ewan’s double life and that he may be involved in the case. Juliet eventually figures it out as well, and is forced to arrest her brother. Ewan manages to escape without a trace.

Having an older brother myself, I sympathized with Juliet in this episode. What would I do if I found out my brother was involved with crime? It’s really a question of morality, and Juliet and Ewan lie on either sides of the fence. They’re both good, ultimately working for the safety of other people, but the way they choose to exercise that motivation is quite different and puts them at odds in their work lives. What hurts even more is that Ewan and Juliet are depicted to be close and care deeply for one another. Cena brings a tenderness that I’ve never seen from him before (see: Trainwreck), and I loved it. The older brother-little sister dynamic is difficult to navigate as you get older and older, because it's not clear who’s in charge anymore, who’s right and who’s wrong. Your parents can’t tell you that, often they’re not there to. You have to depend on each other. And even if Juliet and Ewan are at odds by the end of this episode, the fondness between them is evident and holds strong, I’d like to think.

How Cena plays both a hardened assassin and a big-hearted brother, is beyond me. But because of his depiction, the audience gets to see him in a new light, and a lovely one at that.

Image result for anthony anderson psych

12. Anthony Anderson as Thane

Having Gus and Shawn bring about justice for Thane, a wrongfully imprisoned chef, was highly enjoyable to watch. Played by Anthony Anderson in “True Grits,” Thane is bitter, impassioned, and on a quest for justice. He seeks out the help of Shawn and Gus, who are hesitant at first upon seeing his grandeur. But they are eventually persuaded by his intensity and his dramatic re-telling of his wrongful imprisonment and of losing his love.

Hill, Roday, and Anderson click pretty well and it seemed were aware of how to play off of each other’s styles of humor, because Anderson fit perfectly in the Psych world. He was prone to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, knew how to cause a scene, and could keep up and even control a conversation with Shawn and Gus, which can be notoriously nonsensical to outsiders. I’m honestly surprised that he didn’t end up joining the Psych agency by the end of the episode, because he would’ve been a perfect addition into their quirky lifestyle. But Thane finally received his justice, thanks to Shawn and Gus, and gained financial restitution. Viva la Thane and his dramatics.

I would say that I’d like to see all of these guest stars reappear in Psych: The Movie but that’s obviously not realistic. Seeing just one of them would be enough for me. Anyway, whether they appear or not, these characters will forever ingrained in Psych’s DNA. I thank these and the rest of the wonderful guest stars for helping make Psych what it was, what it is, and what it will become this upcoming year.

I’m so excited!


Post a Comment