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Psych: “Dead Air”

Illustration for article titled Psych: “Dead Air”
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Poor Burton Guster, even when he does everything he can to remain honorable—resisting a seductive radio station owner, preventing a fight between his girlfriend and said radio station owner to continue with a police sting operation, rebuffing advances minutes after his girlfriend leaves for England—he just can’t win. Since Psych put Shawn and Juliet together, there has been decidedly less romantic tension on the show—aside from the contrived breakup and reconciliation over the past few episodes that now seems essentially forgotten by everyone. Lassiter’s courtship and marriage occasionally filled that void, but for the most part Gus’ romantic failures—at a commune, on a Bachelor-style reality show, and many others—amplify the only remaining romantic uncertainty.

While Gus gets to indulge in a trip back to his failed college radio DJ heyday, his relationship begins to fray. Rachel doesn’t tell him of her impending six-month stint back in London to “resolve a visa issue,” where her son Max gets to see his father. They know they’ll try to keep talking, but the likelihood of the contact staying frequent enough to patch over some already troubling signs of a not-so-perfect match doesn’t bode well for Rachel’s swift return. But in spite of this, Gus throws himself into his work, helping Shawn and the rest of the police to track down the person who randomly killed Crock, the radio host who once interviewed the guys on the air.

Crock was a morning zoo DJ, a kind of programming I’ve honestly never had to endure, thanks to the invention of the iPod. I can only remember listening to one radio program regularly in my lifetime: Loveline during the Adam Corolla years, when I was in middle school and it seemed edgy somehow. Both hosts are detestable human beings, but it’s a completely different time slot and tone for a radio program. My knowledge of morning zoo shows came mostly from David Cross’ incredible bit on Shut Up You Fucking Baby, and more recently Crazy Ira And The Douche, some of Parks And Recreation’s many hilarious recurring minor characters. Crock doesn’t operate in the regular duo format, but jettisoned his partner after 20 years to take a gig at Miranda’s radio station, which she hoped to sell to Clear Channel before a deal fell through.

Garcelle Beauvais as Miranda provides the two funniest aspects of the episode. First, she’s thoroughly unimpressed by Shawn, unaffected by his attempts at charm or his “psychic visions.” Gus, on the other hand, she can’t stop flirting with, always hinting at something more, trying to seduce him at dinner, and replacing Shawn’s miserable attempt to fill in as a morning DJ with Gus’ smooth, sultry relationship advice. Gus repeatedly rebuffs her advances, and in the best way possible affirms that though he finds Miranda attractive, he prefers the thrill of the chase to a woman throwing herself at him, and when he picks someone, he treats that woman like a queen, not throwing her over for whoever else comes along at a vulnerable moment. Now that takes some conviction.

Despite setting up plenty of professional motives for coworkers, the twists and turns of the episode lead away from the radio station out into the audience. The case winds from arrogant, abrasive radio blowhard in a cutthroat environment, to a stalker, to a mentally unstable woman with multiple personality disorder, then back to the stalker. It’s a bit of an unsettling direction, to blame a mentally unstable woman, then exonerate her as though it’s no big deal, just a simple mix-up, before saving Gus before he gets hurt by a violent criminal. But wandering away from the radio station prevented this from being too similar to “Office Space” last week, a workplace-centric investigation just with a different profession.

Gus gets to live out an old dream, but gets attacked thanks to Shawn’s overconfidence and missed details. But in the end, he isn’t upset because of the case, he’s supremely sad about what he thinks will happen with Rachel. Burton Guster is a loyal, true man, so ardently committed that he got his heart broken time and time again throughout the series. More than Shawn, he’s the one who deserves to be happy with a perfect match.


Rachel wasn’t going to be around forever, at least not yet, but I’m glad Psych didn’t jump straight to a green card marriage or other contrived tactic to raise the stakes. Her goodbye-for-now hinted at more sadness to come instead of a solid long-distance partnership. In that one brief conversation toward the end of the episode, as Gus and Rachel talked about the time difference and looked nervous about their future, I thought about more brutal long-distance relationships depicted in other stories—Like Crazy is the most recent I can come up with—and a bunch of horrendously difficult long-distance relationships I’ve had.

Not many episodes of Psych resonate like that, especially not in such pointed, brief moments. Even as Shawn spiraled into jealousy at Gus getting all the attention or pulled his usual Perry Mason, always-get-the-perp realization in the nick of time, this episode belongs to a Playa Named Gus and his perpetually lonely existence watching his friends and coworkers settle into long-term relationships.


Stray observations:

  • Shawn still can’t get over walking in on his parents, which is why he doesn’t go to visit Henry as often. Very mature.
  • Gus quote of the night: “But right now I have to go flirt my butt off with some white woman and get a comic book villain to shoot me.”
  • Lassiter, commenting on holes in a suspect’s alibi: “I’m guessing it’s Swiss…as in cheese…as in full of lactate.”