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Best Episode Ever: “Juliet Takes a Luvvah” [Spoilers]

1 Feb

While there have been tons of classic detective shows in my lifetime, none have been as entertaining or witty as the USA’s tv show, Psych. Over the years, Psych has developed a rapid cult following of “PsychO’s”, drawing largely to its offbeat sense of humor and good storytelling. While admittedly, it’s not for everyone, for those who like pop culture trivia, random callbacks to niche films, and shows like Columbo, Murder She Wrote, or Moonlighting, then chances are they’ll really like Psych.

Essentially, the premise of the show is based largely around the son of a type A, Santa Barbera, retired police officer, who is in his late 20’s, and a slacker. Through sheer dumb luck, this slacker, Shawn, opens up a detective agency with his childhood best friend Gus (played by Dule Hill) and they become special liaisons to the SBPD. What makes this different from any and all cop/detective shows is that Shawn has an eidetic memory, but poses as a psychic, and consequently, has the reputation of a “psychic” detective. On its face, Shawn is a brilliant detective, however he can’t ever let on that he is not a psychic because reputations and cases would be obliterated.

Throughout the show’s history, there are a number of memorable episodes and guest cameos, but for my money, not only is the episode “Juliet takes a luvvah,” one of the best episodes in the show’s history, it might also be (pound for pound) one of the best written episodes of ANY show written for television. This episode (season 7, episode 2) is written by Steve Franks and Andy Berman (the bellhop from the Jamie Foxx Show). Franks (the creator of the show, also known for writing the Adam Sandler screenplay, Big Daddy) and Berman wrote 97 episodes together, all of them pretty strong, but “Juliet takes a luvvah,” happens to be next level storytelling. 

What sets this episode apart is there are four storylines tied to the main thread. As in all good detective stories, there is a crime that must be solved. The crime in this particular story is a series of murders. The police believe that the victims were all linked to a dating service which leads them to believe there is a serial killer loose in Santa Barbara (most crimes on the show take place in Santa Barbara. Who knew it was such a haven for the criminal minded?).  The serial killer storyline is the vehicle that drives the episode with all the quintessential red herrings and dubious suspects. 

Story Line #1  “Shawn moves back home”

At this point in the show, everyone is pretty attached to the characters, and there is a sense of attachment to each of their lives. Shawn’s father, Henry is recovering from being shot in the cliffhanger from season six.  Shawn moves back home to help Henry (who is long divorced) around the house. We get a cameo from Moonlighting alum Cybil Shephard, as Shawn’s mom. She briefly moves back into Shawn’s childhood home, and they are all together again as one big happy family. But not so much. Shawn’s parents have been divorced since he was 12 and he is not feeling this new arrangement for many reasons–especially as his parents get chummier by the day. There is a real time regression shown not just in Shawn’s living circumstances, but also in his behavior and soon, it’s like he is 12 years old all over again.

Story Line #2  Shawn and Gus

Throughout the show, Gus has a pattern of falling for every woman he meets, and almost always, the woman in question ends up being a suspect in the case they are trying to solve (or she is just flat out cuckoo for cocoa puffs). In this episode, Gus meets a woman on the same dating app where all these women are getting offed. Gus is preoccupied with this woman, who turns out is hiding something, but also, he isn’t readily available to commiserate with Shawn in his newfound living circumstances. This episode does a great job of sifting through Shawn and Gus’ relationship as well as giving us some insight into what makes the two of them tick. Shawn does his best to wedge his in between Gus and his new love interest. Part of this is Shawn looking out for Gus because of Gus’ poor romantic judgement, but also out of a smidge of jealousy. This of course, causes a bit of friction between he and Gus.

Story Line # 3 Juliet goes Undercover

By this point in the show, Shawn has become fully involved with one of the homicide detectives on the police force, Juliet (played by Maggie Lawson–a poor man’s Alicia Silverstone) and she has taken the lead role on the murder case. To solve the case, she must go deep cover as a single woman on the hunt for a man. This causes some friction between her and Shawn, as Shawn is slowly feeling isolated and can’t get the emotional support that he needs. His parents have scarred him for life, and both his best friend and his girlfriend are both occupied as well. Further complicating things is that Shawn can’t even go near the case because it’s an elaborate sting operation in which he is of little use. The friction increases as the story moves along because Juliet has to keep going on blind dates to catch the killer. Part of Shawn is dismayed that Juliet seems to be losing herself in the case, as she is clearly irritated that a “Mr. Perfect” from the dating app won’t respond to any of her direct messages. To top it off, she wants Shawn to move in with her, and can’t figure out his resistance to the idea (especially in light of his current housing situation).

Story Line #4 Henry and Madeliene

As noted above, Henry is back home recovering from his gunshot injuries, and the love of his life is back in the house, taking care of him. In this loop of the thread, we get a little glimpse into Spencer family dynamic. Henry and Madeliene seem to be getting along swimmingly, cuddling on the couch and watching movies Things even get hot and heavy throughout the course of the episode. For reasons unknown to the viewer, this bothers Shawn a great deal, and we never really get to the root of his discomfort by the end of the episode.

One of the major selling points of the show Psych is that the audience is as much involved in the story and cases as the characters. Nothing is ever spelled out until the very end, and all the clues are extremely subtle. This episode in many ways, succinctly gives allows fans the insight (psychoanalysis) to every major character’s motivation throughout the entire show. It’s really brilliant, and though I wouldn’t start anyone unfamiliar with the show on this episode, I do contend that it is a top ten episode and possibly the strongest in regard to writing and plot development. Being on a cable network like USA kept it from hitting mainstream appeal, but it also helped it grow and slowly build an audience without unrealistic expectations weighing it down. So, if you like detective shows, and you have a decent sense of humor, have a bowl of slice pineapples and check it out. It is a very solid series worth your time.

Bob E. Freeman

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