Despite my well-documented disappointment with The Sing-Off, I really don’t hate a cappella as a performance style. I just hate bad a cappella, and poorly presented reality competition formats. That said, when I saw the episode description, I was a bit nervous. After last week’s Bachelor-inspired reality show episode, and Castle investigating a case on the set of a Dancing With The Stars-style competition program, procedurals were already overloaded with these types of cases and plotlines.
Thankfully, the a cappella is a tangential aspect of the episode, just an excuse to bring back Gus’ old vocal group. Jaleel White makes a returning guest appearance, but apparently Kenan Thompson was too busy with Saturday Night Live, so Mekhi Phifer stepped is as the other member of Blackapella. Of course, Shawn rounded out the quartet, and even though they sound fine, all of his harping about the name and his whiteness made me even more satisfied when he collapsed on stage of an apparent case of appendicitis.
When watching sports, particularly this past painful season of Northwestern basketball, my friends refer to rather streaky players as either “Good” or “Bad” versions of a player. Tonight, we got “Bad Shawn,” the incessantly annoying and deliberately moronic version of the character who can only make me laugh when trading quips with Gus. Otherwise, the infantile absurdity gets on my nerves. With Shawn isolated to a hospital bed, I thought that perhaps he’d at least be making a limited appearance in the episode, but alas, the iPad exists, so despite the appendicitis plot device designed solely so Shawn shares a room with Deacon Jones for the climactic scene, Shawn appears in almost every scene of the investigation as a face on an iPad screen, a constant gimmick that didn’t click at all for me. I would rather watch what Gus can do for his friends during his own investigation, and Phifer and White were more than up to the task of playing comedic sounding boards to replace James Roday for one measly episode.
The lukewarm case didn’t really help things either, squandering a Cheech Marin guest spot amid a bunch of other guest stars. Marin plays a charity leader who helped Phifer and White in their youth, and Blackapella performs at a fundraiser for the charity. After Shawn collapses, Marin gets shot, and then the whole rigmarole gets going. In typical live-action Scooby-Doo fashion, anyone is a suspect and every piece of evidence could be a red herring. Emma Stone’s friend from Crazy Stupid Love shows up as the person dealing with financial records who could be embezzling, then evidence points to Marin’s charity director, then somehow things spiral through gangland blackmail, before ultimately ending up with a security guard who barely had any screen time at all.
I normally don’t nitpick the hard-to-believe elements of Psych—because if I did, the whole show would fall apart, because there can’t possibly be anyone out there who thinks Shawn could continue to masquerade as a psychic detective for this long. As I said all the way back during the season première, what gets on my nerves the most is when Psych turns its usually smart police officers into oblivious, foolish characters. For the full-length thematic homage episodes—like Indiana Jones or the horror-film episode—I’m willing to suspend disbelief in order to fit the procedural within the confines of a certain genre. Episodes like this one aren’t afforded that same lenience, because they’re only tangentially referencing some other kind of media, so the slightly more realistic tone makes these kinds of inconsistencies stick out. Shawn notices details of a tattoo and a bandage via videochat, because apparently the resolution on the iPad’s camera is incredible, connection strength is never in doubt, and Gus always has it facing the right direction.
Santa Barbara isn’t perfect, but it’s a pretty damn nice town. Like any other city it has crime, and a casual Google search shows that gang violence is actually present despite the city’s reputation. But I have a hard time believing the “south side” of Santa Barbara—which has the Yacht Club and the ocean as its border—is gang territory. The final twist with the culprit is also a bit strange. The security business has dropped because of the economy? Crime, in a recession, has declined, thus making the security business less viable? That doesn’t make any sense. In a lot of other Psych episodes, those kinds of discrepancies go in one ear and out the other because banter is flying so fast that before anyone has time to think through logical errors there’s a laugh, but this was an off night.
There were still some hilarious moments, as always. Gus and Shawn arguing in the hospital, Lassiter making up a new black entertainer name for Gus’ friends—“You, Wind, and Fire” was the best—Phifer calling him on it, Lassiter and his incarcerated girlfriend finding a way to get information out of another female inmate, and particularly the line about Shawn’s “skinny Chaz Bono look” made me laugh. Still, when the comedy isn’t as consistent, and there’s no guiding theme, Pysch can struggle with more “normal” episodes that go through the motions and trot out guest stars. After a string of successes the past few weeks, it’s only natural for the show to hit a couple stumbling blocks down the stretch.
- Let’s get one thing straight: The extended a cappella version of the theme song sung by Boyz II Men is awesome, just like it was the first time the show used it.
- Woody the Coroner is consistently my favorite side character. Another great cameo appearance tonight.
- The chief showed up to the first concert, right? She hasn’t had a line in forever.
- Shawn is writing a bubble-boy movie, and it will be wildly different from the others because it will star Jake Gyllenhaal.