During most of its run Psych has been divided in half, airing in late summer, taking a break during late fall, and then finishing up in early winter. With a later start date for this season, the Halloween episode got a vampire theme. Psych is a very relaxed show where all of the cast members look like they’re having a lot of fun, but a lot of the time, the theme episodes only add another twist to the show’s formula of police procedural with a psychic comedy twist. “This Episode Sucks” was par for the course, with a handful of laughs and some nice character work for Detective Lassiter, but a case of the week that never became compelling and ended with a thud.
Going into the episode, knowing there was an overarching vampire theme made the initial victim pretty obvious. A man gets attacked, and his body is discovered with what appear to be bite marks on his wrists and neck. Meanwhile, Lassiter goes to a bar alone, orders some whiskey, and meets a blonde stranger, Marlowe, who happens to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer (from the movie, the one that Joss Whedon likes to loft insults at Donald Sutherland for ruining, not the television series). They hit it off pretty quickly, but the girl disappears, and Lassiter goes off to the crime scene all droopy and sad.
Shawn and Gus immediately jump to the conclusion that the victim died from a vampire attack and spend the rest of the episode chasing that hare-brained theory not because it’s funny or the characters would go down that road, but simply because it’s Halloween. Juliet constantly rolls her eyes at this suggestion, to the point that it’s not entirely clear how she’s sticking it out in a relationship with Shawn when he’s this insufferable. Lassiter tracks down Marlowe to talk about their chance meeting at the bar. At this point, the case of the week jumps into territory that doesn’t really seem that interesting. Marlowe is a suspect in the killing because she’s tracking down human blood from a creepy vampire bar, she’s a suspect in a break-in at a blood bank, and she’s got a brother with a rare blood disease that requires O-Negative blood, which happens to be Lassiter’s blood type. What kicks that plot to the backseat is how enamored Lassiter is with Marlowe and how she genuinely returns his affection.
There have been multiple references to Quentin Tarantino in the early goings this season, both in dialogue and in cinematic style. We got a nod to the title sequence of Reservoir Dogs during last week’s Dude, Where’s My Car?/The Hangover-themed episode, and this week, Shawn name-dropped the director. Maybe that affinity is why the show feels the need to throw in a couple of unnecessary cameos that rarely add anything to the action. Sometimes, the show uses those guest-star casting choices well, the best example being Ally Sheedy in the three Yin-Yang episodes that have closed out the previous three seasons. Other times, they only feel like superfluous tangents, like Corey Feldman’s appearance as a bartender tonight. This wasn't much of a reference to The Lost Boys, since he wasn’t really playing any of his previous characters. The idea of the vampire bar was interesting, but the only part of that scene to land was Feldman brushing off Santa Barbara as a town of fashionistas and slam poets.
The same can’t be said for the bigger guest appearance of the night. Kristy Swanson gave a pretty nice performance here opposite Lassiter. The two debate the finer points of Clint Eastwood’s filmography as an actor and achieve a nice rapport. Timothy Omundson makes the most out of the quickly formed romantic plot that makes him want to wait for Marlowe once it’s clear she’s guilty of a crime. She and her brother track down the blood he needs, and when the brother corners Lassiter and tries to take his blood, there isn’t much explanation as to how the initial victim died or how Lassiter manages to subdue Marlowe’s brother aside from a cutaway that sets up a nice joke. The plot suffered from a lack of imagination tonight, which is one of the biggest weaknesses of these theme episodes for Psych, but it was saved by the focus on Lassie.
It’s taken me a while to figure this out, but Carlton Lassiter is probably my favorite character on the show. He’s got a really great character foundation that leads to great one-liners, like the one tonight about seeing Chuck Norris at an NRA rally when he was 13. He’s also far more vulnerable of a character than Shawn, and that leads him to try that much harder as an actual employee of the police department, instead of an adjunct one. Gus has many, many more funny lines, because he’s in more of the show as Shawn’s partner, but it was nice to see the Halloween episode divide its time between a mostly Lassiter plotline, and Shawn/Gus/Juliet together, giving Lassie some more time on his own to develop. Over the course of six seasons these characters really haven’t changed very much, which gives the impression that even though Lassiter was recently divorced all the way back in the first season, he still hasn’t been able to move on very far. What elevated “This Episode Sucks” into the usual average for a Psych episode was an unusually high amount of banter leading to laughs and Omundson bringing his A-game opposite a very game guest star.
- Shawn and Gus’ vampire outfits acted as a pretty nice runner throughout the middle of the episode, especially Gus’ Blacula outfit repeatedly being mistaken for Count Chocula. They looked absolutely ridiculous, and was Shawn supposed to be Tom Cruise from Interview With The Vampire? Help me out on that one.
- My favorite Timothy Omundson role? That would be his turn as the villain in the Disney Channel Original movie The Luck Of The Irish.
- Lassiter orders Jack Daniels as his whiskey of choice? Can’t he order a little more top shelf than that? Maybe something like (ri)1 whiskey, Maker’s Mark, or even Wild Turkey. Jack Daniels is an easy sponsor to get, but Lassiter strikes me as more of a connoisseur than that.
- After Feldman’s knock against Santa Barbara, we’re all in agreement that Vancouver looks absolutely nothing like the coast of California as a shooting location, right? It’s never been that much of a problem, just a simple fact.
- Lassiter’s chloroform immunity is pretty hilarious, but it doesn’t get a big laugh until Gus sniffs the cloth, unconvinced, and passes out with a thump on the floor. Priceless.
- While I’m not a fan of The Big Bang Theory, I have to say that Rock-Paper-Scissors-Spider is much less interesting than Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock
- “You look like Omar Epps in Dracula 2000.”
- Best exchange of the night from criminally underused Woody the Coroner regarding a balloon animal he hands to Juliet: “What is it?” “The small intestine of a ram.”