Stephanie types through her tears at Psych's ending to bring you a mere handful of her favorite episodes of all time.
I was not always the stalwart Psych fan you see standing in front of you today. Oh, no. I was actually the opposite of being on board with the show when it started up eight years ago. The fact is, I had been slightly interested in the show because I was a West Wing-spawned Dulé Hill fan, but James Roday's character in the promos annoyed me too much to add it to my viewing schedule. It was only because the Television Without Pity Jericho forumites went on and on about the hilarious differences between Timothy Omundson's character as an evil mayor in Jericho and the frustrated detective he played on Psych that I finally gave the USA show a go. After that, all my promo-based prejudices melted away as Roday completely won me over, and I rolled ecstatically around in every missed episode.
Eight years later, here I am all choked up that this is it. This is the end of Psych. No more "suck it"s, Gus nicknames, Psych-Outs, pineapples, or countless other show-specific jokes Psych hilariously knitted into each episode. I will wholeheartedly miss the entire crew and cast of this show and the incredible amount of joy and laughter they brought to all their fans.
Tears, adoration, and soft, soft pineapple pajamas aside, my love for Psych is not so blind that I can't see some episodes are heads and shoulders, knees and toes above others. For instance, the pilot, while necessary for set-up, is pretty slow compared to the rest of Season 1 but...I mean, it's the pilot. When I do my binge-rewatches, I rarely rewatch that first episode, but that's not to say I never rewatch it. I like it the better for loving the rest of the series, but it's not the episode I would recommend to anyone looking to sample the show. Here, in order of air date, not affection, I give you my personal Psych hit list.
Note: I know you won't all agree with me on my picks. In fact, I'm counting on you guys to hie thee to the comments and forums and debate and dissect and disseminate your favorite episodes, because it is only our love that will keep Psych alive!
Cue the gypsy violins.
1. From The Earth To The Starbucks (S01.E10)
Unbeknownst to Lassiter, Shawn helps the head detective solve a murder at a space observatory in order to give him a much-needed ego boost. Five things to love:
- Shawn telling Lassiter he has "eyes women want to cannonball into."
- Gus geeking out at the observatory and using his solar system-based pickup line ("Did you hear about Pluto? That's messed up, right?") for the first time.
- Gus debuting his "Jackal" moves, which even extend to how he drives the car in the empty parking lot.
- This episode is a sweet stickpin on the map of the Shawn-Lassie relationship.
- Shawn making an auditorium full of people sick after he accidentally makes them watch a planetarium show for forty-five minutes.
2. Scary Sherry: Bianca's Toast (S01.E15)
While undercover at a sorority house, Juliet enlists Shawn and Gus to help investigate exploding clocks and other strange happenings following a sorority sister's untimely death at an abandoned asylum. Five things to love:
- The first mention on the show that people believe Gus is "Bud" from The Cosby Show.
- Shawn and Gus being scared out of their wits and the physical comedy that ensues when they try to escape in their car.
- Gus's terms for going back to the defunct asylum Wispy Sunny Pines: "I will not enter a room first. I will not enter a room last. I will not investigate any suspicious noises or go looking for a fuse box."
- Gus furiously fighting off imagined specters with his belt, yelling, "Not tonight!"
- This quote: "We're supposed to lead the slow clap."
3. American Duos (S02.E01)
In a "we're not even trying to hide it" American Idol piss-take, Shawn and Gus go undercover in a televised singing competition to protect its host from repeated attempts on his life. Five things to love (and please note that this is the episode that hooked me for the long haul):
- Tim Curry as Nigel St. Nigel, the Simon Cowell character, who distributes some truly great insults, including one aimed at Henry Spencer's decor: "If I were to build a table, I'd start by using wood that has never drifted."
- Gina Gershon's hilariously drug-addled judge, Emilina Saffron (Paula Abdul, obv.)
- Both of Shawn and Gus's musical performances.
- A character named "Bevan Rennie Llewellyn" (which is one instance showing that the Psych writers exult in wackadoo names just as much as Charles Dickens and W.C. Fields did).
- Gus slapping Shawn away from corn on the cob. Hard.
4. Psy vs. Psy (S02.E03)
Shawn, Gus, and the Santa Barbara Police Department race a Shakespeare-quoting federal agent (Lou Diamond Phillips) and his government-issue psychic to see who can bring in a counterfeiter first. Five things to love:
- This episode is a stellar example of how seamlessly the ensemble cast works with stuntcasting.
- Learning that Gus has over 85 Buffalo nickels in his coin collection.
- Pretty much every piece of dialogue the writers gave Diamond Phillips, because it's some of Psych's best. Examples: Ewing describing his suit to Lassiter: "What color is that suit?" "It's black." "Really? It seems blacker than black." "It's Washington black." Additionally, Diamond Phillips's deadpan delivery of everything the writers gave him: "That's ridiculous. If I had learned to laugh as a child I would right now."
- Ewing striding through the SBPD shirtless before he puts on the government-issue white shirt he always keeps folded in his wallet.
- Shawn countering Ewing's Shakespeare quoting with a dramatic "Tootie. You in trouble?"
5. Lights, Camera...Homicido (S02.E13)
Shawn is cast as a package-delivering Lothario while he tries to clear a fellow actor's name on the set of Gus's favorite telenovela. Five things to love:
- The alt credits in Spanish.
- "Lavender Gooms" is one of the best aliases Shawn ever gave Gus.
- Shawn struggles with the Spanish he "learned from Charo" and makes fun of the name "Jorge." (Roday is half Mexican and speaks Spanish.)
- Gus's deep and serious love for the telenovela: "Everybody in Santa Barbara is watching it, Shawn. The telenovela is a craze."
- These quotes: "Usually I hunger for meatballs the way a jackal hungers for an injured opossum. Sadly, I have no appetite now" and "I'm just going to go to the writer's room, where it's emotionally damaging but physically safe."
6. Shawn (and Gus) of the Dead (S02.E16)
Shawn and Gus investigate a stolen (and possible murderous) mummy. Five things to love:
- Shawn quietly making sure Chief Vick keeps her job.
- Gus's steadfast belief in mummy curses.
- Shawn calling the stolen mummy the "Rock-Em-Sock-Em" and "RubMyBottom" and the sarcophagus a "Snuffleupagus" without cracking a smile.
- These quotes: "Great, now we've got a mummy on the loose and the sunofabitch knows how to drive stick?" and "They might be hurt or even dead." "Or UNDEAD." "They could need our help." "OR OUR INTERNAL ORGANS!"
- Gus's ridiculous eleven-point K-turn in a mostly empty parking lot.
7. Let's Get Hairy (S04.E08)
A dude (Josh Malina) thinks he's a werewolf and hires Shawn and Gus to keep him from killing anyone. Which doesn't go according to plan. Five things to love:
- My totally unsubstantiated and possibly existing only in my mind because it makes me so so happy hypothesis: in 2006, Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker gives Psych a horrible review in which he calls the show "Monk for morons." Three years later, the show has an episode where not only is the murderer named Dr. Ken Tucker, but he is most often referred to by his full name. Not "Dr. Tucker," but "Dr. Ken Tucker." He gets slapped in the end and proclaimed "the sickest one of us all." Coincidence? NOPE!
- These quotes: "You want to have a half-black Fairuza Balk baby with his sister" and "This could be a matter of life and death. Or mange."
- Josh Malina wearing Gus's Dwayne Wayne Halloween costume and the fact that OF COURSE Gus has a Dwayne Wayne Halloween costume meticulously stored in a banker's box with a hand-drawn jack-o-lantern on the lid.
- The best description of Lassiter ever: "Imagine Robert Goulet dressed like Mr. Bean playing the Scarecrow in a summer stock production of The Wizard Of Oz dedicated to Tony Randall."
- Lassiter being on the monocle train before there even was a monocle train and prompting Shawn to ask: "Why were you reading that file like Mr. Peanut?"
8. Mr. Yin Presents (S04.E16)
Although serial killer Yang (Ally Sheedy) was captured at the end of Season 3, her serial-killing mantle has been taken up by her partner, Mr. Yin, who forces everyone to participate in elaborate Hitchcock-inspired web of games. Five things to love:
- As a rule, Psych doesn't need to its mysteries to be compelling or intricate; they're really just the sideshow to the characters and how they work together. However, in this episode, you have a very strong -- even suspenseful -- mystery, along with the entire cast (and Jimmi Simpson!) at their very best.
- Visiting Yang in prison, Gus and Shawn are warned that she gets overly stimulated by color, prompting Gus to react: "What about my face?"
- Omundson's perfect shot-by-shot recreation of Cary Grant in the cornfield in North By Northwest.
- Shawn's awful Jimmy Stewart impression sounds more like he's imitating Rich Little imitating Jimmy Stewart, which, knowing Roday's penchant for taking jokes just one step further, he probably is.
- The scene where Juliet finally collapses into Lassiter's sympathetic arms after almost being hung by a clock ranks among my favorite interactions in this entire show. The scene is not about romance, it's about being SBPD partners for four years.
9. Heeeeere's Lassie (S06.E11)
In one of the show's many homage episodes, this takeoff on The Shining, which has Lassiter going inexplicably bugnuts in his new apartment, is definitely one of the best. Five things to love:
- Louis. Gossett. Jr.
- A dead character named Ray Brower.
- "This is my partner, Fellatio del Toro."
- Gus and Shawn's hiring contract having a Slushy fund. For actual Slushies.
- DEAD BODY IN DRYER.
10. Psych: The Musical (S07.E15)
Relying on Yang for extra help, the gang* sings and dances their way through a murder plot revolving around a re-staging of a Jack the Ripper musical. (*Except for Henry Spencer who flat-out refuses to have anything to do with it. Heh.) Five things to love:
- Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.
- Gus's Jamaican accent.
- Chief Vick's pipes.
- Jimmi Simpson's reappearance as Mary.
- Dulé Hill's dancing.
And finally, because Psych always turned it up to eleven and never more so than in the series finale:
11. The Breakup (S08.E10)
Shawn finally decides to leave Gus, happy in a new pharmaceutical job, and move to San Francisco to be with Juliet. I'm sure I'm profoundly gullible, but I really didn't call how this episode would play out. I also did not think Psych could first break my heart in the best way and then put it back together again. But they did. Ten things to love:
- Billy Zane, OMG, after all these years, BILLY ZANE!
- BUD OMG BUUUUUD!
- Shawn throwing flax seeds in the baddie's eyes, a callback to The Amazing Psych-Man & Tap Man, Issue 2.
- Shawn not being able to give Gus a case nickname (sob!).
- These quotes: "You know I have better eluding skills, Shawn!" and "Shawn, We Bought A Zoo...lied" and "He's like Wesley in To Wong Foo."
- Dobson, at last, Dobson.
- Lassiter stopping his DVD before it ends and busting it to pieces. (This full-on made me bawl.)
- The way they wrapped up Henry and McNab's futures.
- The subtle Monk shout-out was darling and even the more so because of Ken Tucker's old review. (Can you just imagine how nuts Shawn will drive poor Adrian?)
- Truly, the best series finales are the ones that leave you feeling like everything in the show's world will keep on keeping on even if you aren't there to watch over it, and this is such a finale. All is right in the Psych cosmos -- where, of course, Pluto once again exists as a planet.
I know I don't have anything here from Season 5 and possibly not enough from the more recent seasons because they need more time to marinate, but these are the episodes that built the show for me. And yet there are still so many more I'd include for certain scenes or Gus's nicknames alone. I mean, Shawn and Gus arguing in clicks and raspberries as to whether or not Gus will help deliver a warthog at a zoo in "Forget Me Not"? Classic. Gus'd hysteria-fueled contamination of the crime scene in "Office Space"? TEARS OF LAUGHTER. "This is my partner, Knick-Knack"? ALL THE LOVE.
I guess what I'm trying to say is this: thanks for making it so hard to restrict myself to just eleven favorites, Psych. I'll miss the hell out of you.