Psych: “Shawn And The Real Girl”
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Psych: “Shawn And The Real Girl”

Going after reality television for its sub-par quality isn’t a new tactic, but nobody ever accused Psych of being a trailblazing show. It’s one that can take almost any scenario or themed gimmick and plug in its characters to fit the requirement. Pitting Shawn and Gus against each other as last-minute surprise contestants on Paths of Love, a reality dating show in the Bachelorette vein, not only puts their banter on full display, it puts more at stake. Shawn has to lose, since he’s got Juliet, but his blasé and deliberately aloof attitude makes him seem mysterious and endears him to the girl, while Gus tries so hard that he comes off even more awkward than he appears. The show’s director calls them in after one of the contestants flips his car in an accident and gets left in a coma. The director suspects foul play, as other bachelors have also suspected there may be a saboteur in their midst.

There isn’t any commentary on the state of reality television, except for Shawn’s obsession with pitching outlandish reality show concepts like America’s Got Crabs! But like the baseball episode earlier this season, or even the Indiana Jones and horror film homages the past two weeks, the style is there just for fun, and for the third week in a row, Psych puts it all together into a decently funny and certainly entertaining hour.

Though the regular cast can make a delightful episode of Psych on their own — last week is a perfect example of that since the guest stars weren’t as high profile — this week is aided significantly by the presence of Wayne Brady as Hilton Fox. The obvious star of and host of the reality competition, Brady gets to land squarely in the middle of his improv/talk show persona and his infamous appearance on Chappelle’s Show. Here, he’s sharp, witty, and not afraid to toss out smarmy insults or act like he’s above everyone as the real star. He cuts right to the point when talking with Gus while cameras aren’t rolling, giving him blunt advice on how to lie about a dead fiancé and children in order to progress in the competition. It also helps that Brady looks like he’s having a ton of fun messing around with Dule Hill.

Lindsay Sloane, who might be remembered from She’s Out of My League and other guest spots on How I Met Your Mother and The League among others, is fine as the bachelorette contestant. She keeps falling for Shawn even though it’s all a big façade and Shawn clearly goes out of his way to try and lose, and she continually ignores Gus despite his attempts to mask his personality with a tragic past. She’s mostly there as an empty vessel, beholden to the comedic trope of falling for the guy who doesn’t want her and ignoring the one that does, and completely missing the actual romantic possibility out of the other contestants.

I’ll freely admit that I’m a Greg Grunberg apologist. I abandoned ship on Heroes at the exact right time, before former fan outrage ramped up, so I still have fond memories of that show. I liked his bit part in the Lost pilot, and I even find something worthwhile to J.J. Abrams first show Felicity. Still, it’s not hard to say that Grunberg is at his absolute worst in this episode, making some pretty clumsy dialogue even more cumbersome, and basically doing nothing more than showing up. He’s never a viable suspect because Grunberg never sells the possibility. From the second he berated Hank the camera guy, that was my primary candidate, and as with most weeks on Psych, figuring out the case before the characters isn’t much of a challenge.

The whole dynamic of this episode puts pressure on Shawn and Juliet’s relationship, as she gets increasingly jealous and angry that Shawn entered the show even to help solve a case. He’s obviously not going to do anything, and actively stacks the odds against him by acting like a total ass, but of course his tactics backfire. In the midseason finale Shawn was gearing up to propose, and the ring is still a point of discussion, but from the standpoint of this episode, it’s hard to see a proposal down the road anytime soon. I wouldn’t rule out a complete shift for the season finale, but for now, it looks like Shawn and Juliet have some issues to work out before they can move on to the next step. That whole relationship is so derivative it makes me want to fall asleep, but at least the banter between Shawn, Gus, and even Lassiter, is deft enough to incite the laughs required for me to continually forget anything about the romance plotline.

Stray observations:

  • Grunberg’s character is bragging about having sold the show to NBC? Come on man, you at least have to choose a believable network. Or perhaps the show is so bad that NBC would be interested in it.
  • During the reunion show, Brady’s character plugs his next project, Tyler Perry’s foray into sci-fi I Ain’t Getting’ On No Rocket!
  • The first scene in the police station, when Gus throws his donut at Lassiter, is absolutely priceless. Great argument, great reaction from Omundson.
  • “This is a taco/burrito conversation — nachos!” Oh well, if Shawn is a six-year-old searching for a popsicle, he’s got to have playground humor.

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