7.09 – “Juliet Wears the Pantsuit”
There are a lot of reasons why I love Psych and couldn’t be more excited to add it to my weekly to-review list. I’ll admit that it’s one of the few shows I watch that I didn’t start watching when it first came on the air; like Jimmy Smits on the The West Wing, I jumped on board during season six after having caught up via Netflix during hiatus. (Note: probably not how Jimmy Smits “caught up” with The West Wing.)
In a lot of ways, it’s the ultimate coast show. It’s pretty formulaic, like all crime/procedural shows, but gets most of its mileage and watchability value from the way its main characters interact. Even after 100-plus episodes, I still think Shawn and Gus arguing with each other is funny, and I probably always will. The show will rarely cause me to have a profound experience and provides little in terms of social commentary or cultural relevance, but I enjoy interacting with these characters as a viewer enough to keep watching. It also adds a touch of self-awareness (for example, commenting on the ridiculously high number of murders that have been committed in Santa Barbara) that subverts the genre enough to make it okay that it’s really just the same show over and over again.
With that being said, I am frustrated by the turn this season has taken. There are two main reasons why “Juliet Wears the Pantsuit” doesn’t work, and both involve Juliet’s identity – who she is, and what we have come to expect from her.
The first is that Juliet is already an independent character, so it shouldn’t be a revelation to Shawn – or anyone that’s seen half of an episode – that she is capable of taking care of herself. He seems to be surprised when she’s able to fight off the killer and his attempted rescue is unnecessary. Even the episode’s title– which is both a joke about her clothes being stolen by the identity thief and her independence– is demeaning because it implies that this is a shift for her character, that now that she and Shawn have separated, she is evolving into a different character. For years we were shown that Shawn was the one that always needed to be rescued – he and Gus get in over their heads, and Juliet and Lassiter appear at the last second to rescue them and apprehend the killer. That’s how they operated as a team. But this storyline requires us to have forgotten that, and it’s just not working.
The other reason it doesn’t work is that Juliet and Shawn’s breakup was dependent on her not having figured out over the past seven years that Shawn isn’t really psychic. This is an engineered, forced, manufactured storyline. While the very premise of the show requires the police department to believe in Shawn’s psychic abilities, it’s pretty unbelievable by now – which is okay, but acknowledging this introduces the unwarranted confrontation of the issue. Chief Vick has strongly implied that she knows Shawn isn’t psychic but finds him useful enough to maintain their working relationship; Lassiter has never believed in Shawn’s “gift.”
So to have Juliet suddenly figure out that Shawn has been lying this whole time is not just an implausible storyline, it’s a discredit to the character’s intelligence and contradicts everything we know about her.
Besides, why hasn’t he just told her the truth by now?
The only reason I can think of to explain that choice is that the writers wanted to infuse their relationship with some added drama before their (rumored) final season next year. Breaking them up to add drama before reuniting them is insulting to viewers that already know where their story is heading. But it doesn’t need added drama, as they took their time bringing those characters together in the first place – they only started officially dating about two seasons ago, which is pretty late in the lifespan of a show that began sewing those characters’ relationship seeds in episode two.
Ben Wachtel likes baseball, the Boston Celtics, pancakes, tacos, and swam collegiately at Purdue University. You can follow him on Twitter at @benwachtel24.