Psych: Death is in the Air

Shawn and Gus find a hung-over courier named Donny Lieberman (Ernie Grunwald) asleep on the couch in their office. He was transporting a cooler for a company named Genutech, but someone swiped it, along with his valuable gold watch, when he got drunk the previous night. The cooler contains something incredibly valuable (Shawn guesses, “The disembodied soul of Marcellus Wallace?”): a vial of the deadly and contagious Thornburg virus.

A woman stumbles around a convenience store, then collapses and dies. Blood streams from her eyes, which is one of the symptoms of the Thornburg virus. When Shawn and Gus join Lassiter and Juliet at the crime scene, Shawn notices the woman is wearing Donny’s watch.

Donny remembers getting drunk with the woman, who turns out to be a hooker named Ginger (cue Shawn and Gus riffing on Gilligan's Island), at the awesome tiki bar in his hotel. All hotels should have a tiki bar. While searching Ginger’s residence, Juliet finds ten grand in an envelope and a key to a hotel room registered under the name Val Kilmer (Shawn: “It’s either an alias, or Val has officially lost it”). Shawn figures someone paid Ginger to steal the virus from Donny, but she accidentally released it before turning it over to the buyer.

Shawn tries to track down the buyer at a local coffee shop. When he sees the broken remains of a vial on the floor, he barricades the door and calls in the CDC, who send in their foremost authority on the Thornburg virus, Dr. Steven Reidman. Dr. Reidman is played by Judd Nelson (sporting a preposterous mustache), and here’s why I love Psych: The USA Network has been relentlessly hyping Nelson’s appearance on the show for the past few weeks with an enthusiasm most shows would reserve for a guest spot by, say, Clooney or Pitt. In the Psych universe, Judd Nelson is a megastar. As well he should be.

Gus and Shawn discover that Genutech, the lab that provided the virus to Donny for transport, is also the primary manufacturer of the cure. Genutech is closing due to lack of funding, so Shawn figures the head of the lab, Dr. Mallon (Cullen Douglas), deliberately released the virus to demonstrate the vital importance of the research done by Genutech. One of Mallon’s lab techs tells Shawn and Gus that the lab shipped three vials, not just one. Ergo, two vials are still unaccounted for. Shawn realizes that Mallon is one of the customers from the coffee shop currently quarantined in the hospital, but Mallon escapes before Lassiter and Juliet can arrest him.

After a manhunt, they find Mallon at the bus station, where Shawn manages to retrieve one of the missing vials. Mallon eludes capture again, but Shawn, Gus and Juliet find him when he returns to the hospital to steal some of the cure for himself. Juliet gets exposed to the last vial of the virus, and Mallon dies because there’s not enough of the cure left to heal him.

Shawn and Lassiter retrieve a stockpile of the cure from Mallon’s lake cabin and return to the hospital to heal Juliet, who, it turns out, isn’t infected after all, all of which is a little convoluted and unnecessary from a narrative standpoint, but hey, it’s Psych! Embrace the convolutions and don’t worry too much about the lack of a streamlined narrative. Juliet’s not-really-near-death experience motivates Shawn to proclaim his love for her. He launches into a long, rambling anecdote, in which he compares Juliet to the prize at the bottom of a cereal box, but chickens out before confessing his true feelings.

Operating under the assumption that any episode guest-starring Judd Nelson is automatically a good episode, this was a good episode.

Pineapple spotting: Several years ago, I attended a star-studded black-tie charity gala honoring Harry Belafonte. During the pre-dinner cocktail hour, I remarked to my date that I’m absolutely terrible at spotting celebrities in real life -- they could walk right in front of me, and I wouldn’t notice. Just as I was saying this, Lea Thompson (who, by the way, would make an awesomely appropriate Psych guest star herself) stepped directly between us on a beeline trajectory towards the hors d’oeuvres table. No, I didn’t notice.

Point being, I’m not the most observant person. I didn’t spot the blasted pineapple. Apparently there were two in this episode. If you want some help narrowing down the location, look here.

Lassiter-based awesomeness: Lassiter explains to Shawn that he knows how to find Lake Victoria, where Mallon’s cabin is located: “I used to practice figure skating there when I was little. I mean ice hockey.”

Awesome Eighties references:
Beverly Hills Cop: After Gus does an impression of Shawn, Shawn replies, “First of all you have to stop using the ‘I’m not falling for no banana in my tailpipe’ voice every time you imitate a white person.”

Shawn explains how he’s enjoying his post-Abigail bachelorhood: “I’m TiVoing Blame it on Rio as we speak.”

At the first mention of the virus, Shawn says, “What does this have to do with Richard Chamberlain?” Gus patiently explains the difference between “Thornburg” and The Thorn Birds.

Cocktail: After placing his drink order (club soda with pineapple), Shawn tells the bartender at the tiki bar, “If you can get ‘The Hippy Hippy Shake’ going, flip a few glasses, and introduce me to Elisabeth Shue, there’s an extra fiver in it for you.”

Back to the Future: The Genutech lab assistant, whom Shawn thinks bears a strong resemblance to Christopher Lloyd (he doesn’t), explains that the lab is being shut down. Shawn asks, “For striking a clock tower with lightning?”

Ghostbusters: Shawn refers to his hazmat suit as a Stay-Puft protective suit.

This one spans more than just the Eighties, really, but it’s too good to leave off the list: After the virus is successfully contained, Gus suggests attending the Sidney J. Furie Film Festival to celebrate: They’re showing Iron Eagle II, Lady Sings the Blues, and Iron Eagle IV. Dr. Reidman pipes in, “If The Taking of Beverly Hills is included, count me in.” (If Ladybugs is included in that lineup, count me in.)


Morgan Dodge said…
You know I rewound and rewatched multiple scenes looking for that effing pineapple. I don't think it's because you're not observant. I think it's because they're hard to find.

I think it was some of Judd Nelson's finest work. Then again I only seem capable of remembering him in Cabin by the Lake, and Return to Cabin by the Lake, so what do I know.

I did do better with the 80s references this time.
No idea who Sidney J. Furie, but please don't hold that against me.
Morgan Richter said…
I don't think there ever really are any pineapples. I think they're just messing with us.

Judd! Ah, Judd. In Jonathan Bernstein's excellent book "Pretty in Pink: The Golden Age of Teenage Movies", he describes Judd thusly: "Swaggering on screen with one hand full of bluster and the other packed with bombast, his entire career seemed to be an endless hysterical rehearsal for a one-man show titled I, Iconoclast." Indeed.

Alternately, there's this rather wistful bit from Judd's IMDB biography: "Critics have not been overly kind to this misunderstood actor."
Morgan Richter said…
This reminds me: Last month, I had this totally awesome and super-rad dream in which I was serving on some kind of Model United Nations panel with Judd, Charlie Sheen, and Emilio Estevez, circa 1985. We were dividing into teams, and I remember hoping I could get onto Judd's team, because clearly he was the brainy and motivated member of the group, and I thought we'd probably work well together. On the other hand, the Sheen-Estevez boys had ordered in some really fancy Chinese food (the fortune cookies were wrapped in blue-and-gold embroidered fabric, and the fortunes were on handwritten scrolls), so there were potential perks to being on their team as well. Also, they had beer.

There wasn't much more to it than that, but it was a pretty good dream.

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