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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Psych: “No Country For Two Old Men”

Illustration for article titled Psych: “No Country For Two Old Men”
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For an episode that nearly ends twice with people getting shot in freshly dug graves while stranded in a desolate desert, “No Country For Two Old Men” sure is a whole mess of fun. Most of the credit for that goes to Jeffrey Tambor as Juliet’s stepfather Lloyd, a reformed gambling addict-turned-accountant who goes a long way to settle his final debt and wipe his slate clean for a new life with Juliet’s mom. Shawn’s insistence that his father and Lloyd become new best friends gets Henry caught up in that mess, and the way Corbin Bernsen plays off of Tambor makes up the foundation of a lighthearted if unsubstantial episode full of chuckled, not belly laughs.

Once Henry picks up a package meant for Lloyd, it starts an extended chase sequence—running away from two unknown gunmen—in a stolen Cadillac, to a tiny plane that Lloyd illegally flies over the Mexican border to Baja, in order to deliver a special set of cufflinks to a Mexican man who obviously isn’t into much legal business activity, considering all the armed guards he has around to force people into digging their own graves. The best parts of the episode have Bernsen and Tambor yelling at each other incredulously. First Henry doesn’t want to get in the plane, then he can’t believe they’re crossing the border, then he’s irate that Lloyd doesn’t know how to land a plane. He’s so mad that he turns down a sopapilla before he and Lloyd get kidnapped.

Meanwhile, Shawn and Juliet pick up the trail in Santa Barbara after Lassiter gets a call about the shooting that started Henry and Lloyd’s adventure. Gus tags along, constantly flip-flopping on whether he’s excited about being in a committed relationship with a woman who has a young son, or utterly terrified and suffocated because of it. Tough Gus, we’ve all been there (in a romantic situation oscillating between committing and ditching). I didn’t really care about the subplot that Juliet knows about Lloyd’s gambling past, or Gus’ relationship wavering, or the twists throughout the case. Jeffrey Tambor elevates everything he’s in with such a solid presence that all I could do was focus on him.

“No Country” makes fun of Mexico—in a gentle, elbow nudge to the ribs kind of way—without making fun of Mexicans in a mean way (except maybe Shawn’s terrible attempts at speaking Spanish), the same kind of general humor used to make fun of Canada for being “America’s Hat,” or all the joke material in Weird Al’s parody of Green Day’s “American Idiot.”

It took me longer than it should have, but eventually I caught to the fact that technically this episode features George Bluth Sr. returning to Mexico, site of some of the very best gags in Arrested Development, including the Cornballer, George’s Charlie Brown walk with a sombrero, and GOB’s chicken dance. That subtle connection back to Arrested made Tambor’s restrained yet outlandish performance even more fun.

With a character as bumbling and endearing as Lloyd, none of the scenes with the major characters held at gunpoint have any real tension, because there’s no danger of real violence. But there is a lot of funny material, begging mixed with the usual witty banter. Lloyd steals something from his powerful Mexican creditor, which lands him and Henry one-way tickets to digging a grave, shortly thereafter joined by Shawn, Juliet, and Gus.


Saving everyone once isn’t enough though, so Psych builds in another twist—a less-satisfying reveal that the Mexican version of Lassiter is actually corrupt—that precipitates rescuing Lloyd once again. It doesn’t matter than he clears his debt, or that Juliet believes him and won’t tell her mother. Lloyd isn’t there to be a coherent, logical addition to the Psych supporting character gallery, he’s supposed to be an energetic laugh machine, and he delivers the most he can out of this script.

“No Country” may feature a trip to “Mexico” and back twice, but other than one outstanding guest performance by Jeffrey Tambor, it’s just a slightly above-average episode. Shawn surprises a station full of Mexican police with his observational abilities, an officer repeatedly tricks Gus because he’s so gullible, and Henry makes a new friend to take fishing—all funny scenes, but not building to anything. That’s not Psych’s goal most of the time, so one great guest star will have to do.


Stray observations:

  • Thoughts on the theme song in Spanish? I wonder how they shot Vanouver to be Mexico. That has to be even harder than Santa Barbara…unless they shot on location this once?
  • “I was thinking of Pinkberry on the way back.”
  • Next week is the 100th episode, and what better way to celebrate than with a Clue-inspired episode with multiple endings?
  • Lloyd and Woody would make a great team.