A Girl, Interrupted or One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest inspired episode of Psych seems like a depressing idea, what with all the laughs and bright spots within those two films. But even in the face of some very dramatic fare used as inspiration, Psych has given a valiant effort towards filtering that dramatic inspiration through its characters to mine comedy. When the show gets on a roll or into a groove as comically smooth as Kenny G’s music, it’s very fun to see the cast so in-sync that they slip into auto-pilot and we’re along for the ride. “Shawn, Interrupted” hits that gear as an episode, one of the occasions where the cast is so comfortable that they seem incapable of just having a ton of fun together, even when their case of the week is set in a mental hospital.
The circumstances that get Shawn undercover in the ward aren’t really important, because the episode is always building to the one moment where he loses all of the police backing and is mistaken for a truly crazy person when he tries to explain his undercover background. It’s one of the best moments in the episode: Shawn strapped down to his bed, explaining to a doctor that he’s a psychic detective and his friend Gus drives a blueberry, failing to note that it isn’t a fruit, but in fact just his slang term for Gus’ car. It undercuts what I view as Shawn’s arrogance and overly controlling nature very nicely, going for laughs while taking power away from him at the same time.
To me, Gus is at his funniest when he loses himself in his quirks on a case, and tonight he went to extreme measures to stay the strange, quirky character that works so well while undercover as an orderly at the mental hospital. His flirtations with Vivien—patient with Multiple Personality Disorder who sometimes talks to him as a very relaxed dude named Frank—were very funny, and brought out the best in Gus. He loses interest in cases very quickly when presented with the possibility of romance, and his behavior is innocent enough toward a damaged girl to come off as humorous instead of exploitative.
It’s still kind of a mystery this season as to why Juliet stays with Shawn. The guy almost prefers the simplicity of a mental institution to being on the outside with his girlfriend, and she spends a lot of the episode worrying about his condition in the facility with not a lot of reasons to show for it. Still, I don’t mind it very much when the laughs are coming at the quick pace they came tonight. The moment when Juliet and Lassiter bust into the room to find Gus grooving to Kenny G with Bernie’s brother subdued on the floor was a great bit of physical comedy, heightened by Shawn and Gus discussing in very funny steps just how much they both secretly like the famously despised jazz musician.
I’ve given Psych a lot of grief as a procedural show with minor twists to make it stand out from the gaggle of similar shows I group it into, but tonight was a really good example of how it can break out of those comparisons with more comedy. When the jokes about buddy investigations with Gus, minor conflicts with Lassiter, and Shawn’s eccentricities are coming at a furious pace and landing frequently—like they were tonight—it makes for a very enjoyable episode that took some potentially dour inspiration and had a lot of fun making jokes within the context of that setting.
- Molly Ringwald gets a fair amount of screen time throughout the episode, and is the lynchpin to the climactic scene where Shawn and Gus put everything together, but I was a little disappointed that she didn’t get more involved in the comedic parts of the episode. She seemed stuck being pigeonholed into the mean doctor character.
- For some reason Bernie’s obsession with Skittles kept making me laugh.
- Lassiter is willing to let Shawn keep trying things in the mental hospital because he gets video evidence of Shawn’s screw-ups. Yeah, he’s still probably my favorite character, and the outtake over the credits at the end pretty much cemented that distinction.