Since the beginning of this season, Psych has taken the now-public relationship between Shawn and Juliet for granted. After the polygraph test with Lassiter in the season première, the moment the inevitable romantic pairing was outed to the rest of the characters for good, the show shunted it to the background. Juliet hasn’t been featured for much of an episode this season until now, and bringing in William Shatner to play her absent, con-man father invigorated the comic aspects of Psych as guest stars tend to do—Molly Ringwald, Kristy Swanson, and Malcolm McDowell have all carried that torch so far this season. Still, the best episodes of Psych for me manage to balance fast-paced wit with a tiny kernel of melancholic drama. When Shawn deals with his own family issues or Lassiter confronts his failed marriage and loneliness, it makes the characters more sympathetic and relatable, instead of just inherently likable.
To that effect, “In For A Penny… ” executed a great many joke sequences at a high level, but stumbled when it came to an emotional payoff. Psych has done so much blatant stunt-casting that it hardly seems necessary to call William Shatner by his character’s name, Frank. He’s there to deliver lines in his usual cadence, taking pauses at random intervals and making references to credit cards and used-car websites. I was surprised that the show went for the commercial angle and left out Star Trek or T.J. Hooker jokes. However, it did leave room for more banter between Gus and Shawn, and this week seemed to have more laughs when those two were bickering with Frank, Lassie, or Juliet in the room with them.
Shatner holds his own with Hill and Roday in witty exchanges, and Frank’s skills as a con man aiding the Santa Barbara police made me laugh consistently. Lassiter is easily won over when Frank’s advice starts paying dividends, and I really liked how Shawn was always a step ahead of Frank, realizing that the coin heist was all a diversion, and then coming back again at the end of the episode to nag Shatner again about the fake recovered coin.
Shawn and Gus have always been the central partnership of the show, with Shawn’s increasingly complicated romantic entanglement with Juliet taking a back seat. Now that they’re actually a couple though, it would be nice for the show to actually fulfill the promise of all the sexual tension built up from the previous five seasons and depict Shawn and Juliet in a satisfying relationship. Right now, Shawn seems to only irritate Juliet to the point where I can’t quite figure out why she’s still with him. He disobeys her very simple wishes under the guise of “knowing women,” and even though everything works out in the end because this is Psych and the case has to be solved within 45 minutes, Juliet gets caught playing mother and babysitter way more often than she gets to be co-worker or girlfriend. That doesn’t bode well for the relationship going forward.
I was also a bit disappointed that the daddy issues Juliet and Shawn both faced didn’t get churned up even more. Henry was barely even a bit player, appearing in a cameo role standing in the police station for a few shots, and didn’t even get to interact with Shatner, which seemed like a golden opportunity for scenery chewing and a witty conversation about how they each “failed” their respective child. Frank was an absent father for Juliet, while Henry was ever-present. Shawn deals with his father’s overbearing moral teachings in little bits over the course of the entire series, but springing Juliet’s father around her 30th birthday in such a way that doesn’t confront her own vastly different daddy issues was a missed opportunity. Shawn’s few lines that refer back to not speaking with his father, in addition to Juliet’s speeches, only go halfway to some kind of emotional revelation. Frank tells Shawn he’s proud of him right in front of Henry, but he only says one line about being Shawn’s little-league coach. There was so much more to delve into here between Shawn and Juliet’s separate issues with their fathers that even a successfully funny crime of the week couldn’t counterbalance the gaping emotional hole.
The big speech in the surveillance van at the end of the episode tries to tie everything up succinctly, showing Frank in a sympathetic light and re-characterizing him as distant, but not absent, shoved all of the fatherly reconciliation Shawn and Henry went through into a few minutes. The contrast between those two father-child relationships hurt the Frank and Juliet plot, but that half-baked emotional plot didn’t destroy what was a very funny episode overall.
- The “great oxygen drought” bit that led to Gus and Shawn holding their breath worked nicely, especially how it ended on Lassiter pointing to the two of them and saying “Idiots,” followed by Juliet’s agreement.
- Shawn deals with the “woman say one thing, so I should do the exact opposite” approach in the most stereotypical fashion possible, but I didn’t expect it to lead him and Gus to the golf course.
- Neither Shawn nor Gus can drink Scotch. Why am I not surprised?
- Shatner can tell Gus is single, and takes little shots at him for it over the course of the episode. Those were pretty damn funny.
- Shawn mashing up Good Will Hunting and The Town was probably my favorite joke of the episode. Gus’ Irish Mr. Ed accent was a highlight as well.
- “This is my partner, Ingle Woods.”
- “I’ll write an anonymous letter.”
- “Foghorn needs Leghorn.” “They’re the same rooster, Shawn.”
- “We’ll take the two nickels… ”