7.10 – “The Santa Barbarian Candidate”
Reading this review in its entirety– which you should do because it’s awesome– will likely lead you to conclude that I did not enjoy “The Santa Barbarian Candidate.” That isn’t true – I actually think it may have been the funniest episode of the seventh season so far, and I especially liked the references to Dulé Hill’s characters in Holes and The West Wing. I love the way the writers sprinkle in quick, subtle jokes and references that are really the backbone of this show (or what keeps me coming back each week for new episodes) while not damaging the pace of the overall plot.
I complained last week at great length about the ongoing drama between Shawn and Juliet, and because that’s significant again in this week’s episode, I thought I should go on an even longer rant this week.
What I actually like about this conflict is that, like in real life, it’s complicated. It challenges us to think about who these characters really are, even if some of that thinking leads us to conclude that this is a very dumb storyline and that it’s unnecessary to introduce this artificial drama at this point in the show. Like real life, when a couple is fighting, it’s often unclear who is right and who is wrong, because in some ways, both are right and both are wrong. It’s complicated when two people are in a relationship and both people have their own ambitions that potentially get in the way of what the other person wants.
Yet the way this conflict was suddenly forced upon us is frustrating to me, even if it does reflect Juliet’s sudden realization that Shawn is a fraud. I don’t need these two characters to skip off into the sunset holding hands, content in a perfect relationship. But it’s clear to me, at least, that they are going to end up together. So putting them through one last trial really just serves to manipulate the audience. We see where this is going, so it has to be absolutely plausible and fitting with everything we know about these characters.
It’s sort of in a shady gray area in terms of honesty, but the truth is that Shawn lied to Juliet via omission. And I am willing to believe, even though it doesn’t really make sense, that Shawn would be fired – and maybe even arrested – if he admits that he’s not really psychic. But in that scenario, Juliet becomes the selfish one. Under those circumstances, Shawn devised a plan where Juliet didn’t have to lie for him, which she currently is having a very hard time with. As a person that has been in multiple long-term relationships in my life, I know that keeping a secret like that is against the rules, but this storyline also requires us to believe that Shawn telling the truth would have severe consequences for him. So I’m not totally sure where that leaves us.
Juliet wants Shawn to come clean, which would end his career – and also erase his ability to help other people. It would also theoretically undo many of the good deeds he’s done, because evidence he obtained through his “psychic visions” was obtained illegally – we know this, because we watch him do it every week, but obviously no one else, other than Gus, knows how Shawn obtains his information (even Lassiter, who’s always been a skeptic, doesn’t really know Shawn’s methods).
At the end of the episode, Shawn enters Chief Vick’s office to confess. At the last second, Juliet steps in and lies for him, saying that he was about to confess to illegally obtaining information without a warrant. I certainly understand why, in a real police department that would be a problem. My issue is not with that – it’s with the show’s inconsistencies when it comes to following the rules, and the way that the show tightrope walks the line between realism and the fantasy police world of television.
I think maybe it’s because by now I know what I expect from Psych, and because Shawn and Gus have broken just about every law and procedure for actual detective work with no repercussions or anyone really noticing, it’s a surprise that suddenly the stakes have become much higher and we’re worrying about Shawn being thrown in prison for being a fraud, and scores of murderers being set free because all the evidence that put them in jail was obtained illegally.
I was actually pretty happy with the resolution because Juliet acknowledged the issues I’ve had with this story arc, so it makes me feel better that the writers are aware of the way our perception of who these characters really are has been challenged. I’m glad that she accepts that, while Shawn lying to her was not okay, she would also be
at fault if he did confess. This was never really on the table, I don’t think, because then the show would pretty much be over, unless Chief Vick had just said, “I know, I don’t care.” Which honestly would have been more plausible than the past handful of episodes, but she went postal on Juliet when she took the blame, so that possible outcome is off the table. Still, I think that if they really felt the need to introduce this conflict, at least it has been resolved in a somewhat reasonable way that has (mostly) stayed true to the characters.
Ben Wachtel likes baseball, the Boston Celtics, pancakes, tacos, and swam collegiately at Purdue University. You can follow him on Twitter at @benwachtel24.