Psych: The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Episode

Well, finally! Is it me, or has Psych has been a little off its game since returning from its winter break, with a cluster of episodes that have been somewhat ragged and lackluster and low-energy? Certainly last week’s installment, “Think Tank,” was a bit of a series low. However, it seems to be fully back on track with this week’s fast-paced, plot-light, quip-loaded, Lassiter-heavy homage to Jaws.

Half of an unidentified corpse washes up on the beach, the clear victim of a shark attack. Lassiter, tired of taking a backseat to Shawn and his show-offy psychic antics, decides he needs to be more impulsive and less methodical in his investigative tactics. Above Juliet’s fierce protests, he announces to the reporters gathered on the beach that, while the John Doe was clearly mutilated by a shark, the cause of death was murder: One of the shark bites is actually a stab wound.

The reporters openly mock his preposterous theory and lampoon him in the newspapers. Shawn, however, thinks Lassiter might be on to something. The police coroner (Kurt Fuller) confirms that the suspicious wound could have been inflicted by a serrated knife. He can’t identify the body from dental records, and there are no fingerprints, as the hands were bitten clean off. Thus, to prove his theory, Lassiter must track down the shark to retrieve the man’s hands, and possibly his wallet, from its stomach.

A ten thousand dollar reward is offered for the shark. The coast is mobbed by fortune hunters, including Shawn’s dad Henry. Henry denies he’s after the money and insists he’s merely going on one of his usual fishing trips, which leads to this delirious exchange:

Henry: We’re going to hunt some marlin.
Shawn: Wayans? Well, it’s about time. Get out there, quick, before they make another White Chicks.
Gus: (filled with icy contempt and blistering scorn) White Chicks was hilarious, Shawn.

See? See? This is why I watch Psych!

Henry, naturally, catches the shark. He stores it on ice, but someone breaks into his storage locker and swipes it. Gus uses his legendary super-sniffer to follow the scent of the dead shark. He finds it sliced open and the contents of its stomach removed.

Dr. Kimberly Phoenix (Jeri Ryan), a professor of shark studies at the local university, arrives on the scene. She and Henry flirt with each other outrageously, then she announces that Henry’s shark couldn’t have been responsible for the attack -- the one that killed Lassiter’s John Doe would have to be much larger. Thus, the killer shark is still at large.

A man’s severed leg washes up on the beach. While its DNA is a match for the corpse, there’s some tissue from a second set of DNA embedded in the bite marks, which possibly indicates the shark attacked someone else as well. The victim is identified as Dante Pavan, a prominent environmental activist and the founder of an influential group campaigning for more ecologically-sound fishing practices.

Chastened by all the bad press, Lassiter gives up on his murder theory. Shawn and Gus decide to investigate further -- after all, if it wasn’t murder, then why did someone steal the contents of the other shark’s stomach? In need of a boat, Shawn addresses a group of assembled fishermen and fortune-hunters. He launches into the speech from Jaws (“You all know where I stand. You know how I make my living”), which segues into a long, rambling rant about all the past cases he and Gus have solved. By the end of his speech, there’s only one fisherman left in the room: crusty old Tanner, who is played by Michael Hogan, best known as Battlestar Galactica’s resident incompetent drunk/one-eyed Cylon, Colonel Tigh. So that’s sort of awesome.

Tanner takes Shawn and Gus out on the water to find the killer shark. Below deck, Shawn discovers letters to Tanner from Dante Pavan warning him about various fishing violations, plus a jagged knife. Shawn concludes that Tanner killed Pavan, then fed his body to the shark. Tanner also has a bandaged wound on his wrist, which Shawn deduces is from where the shark bit him, thus explaining the second set of DNA. Tanner attacks Shawn, but Gus knocks him unconscious.

Henry continues to romance pretty Dr. Phoenix, though it’s entirely possible he’s just using her for her knowledge of the best fishing spots in the area. After Shawn and Gus receive all the accolades for solving the case, Shawn tells a disgruntled Lassiter if he’d trusted his initial instincts, he could be the one showered with glory.

Pineapple spotting: No. I give up.

Lassiter-based awesomeness: The episode is fair teeming with bon mots from Lassiter, but here’s the pick of the crop:
(Juliet discovers that the shark attack victim penned a letter to the editor of the local paper about the various fishing violations. Lassiter refuses to read it, on account of the bad press he’s been receiving.)
Juliet: So you’re going to ignore a clue just because you don’t like a reporter?
Lassiter: Hate. Hate is the word, O’Hara. And yes, no good can be found in that paper, except maybe the obituary of reporter Chad Gorsuch. An untimely death, self-inflicted and painful, later to be referred to as Gorsuching yourself.

Awesome Eighties references:
Considering how this whole episode is basically one big messy Valentine to the original Jaws (1975) and its sequels, there are surprisingly few Eighties references. Here’s what I found:

Shawn: Stranger things have happened. Michelle Pfeiffer dated Fisher Stevens.
Gus: And then?
Shawn: He actually cheated on her.

Shawn (to Gus): Don’t be Leon from the “Like a Prayer” video.


CP said…
I totally agree--Psych seems to be flailing in the second semester of this season. I'm concerned that making Abigail a temporary semi-regular character was too much of a not-quite-good thing and that the romantic tension between Shawn and Juliet may be trashed beyond repair.

This episode was definitely my favorite of the second part of the season, but it doesn't come close to the halcyon days of Season 3.

Maybe they're under too much pressure to broaden their viewership? Too many guest stars, too few obscure jokes. To couch it in Spencerian terms--too much Nick Rivers, not enough Chris Knight.
Morgan Richter said…
I'm glad it's not just me, CP -- I thought I might have been too picky about these recent episodes, because it's hard to pinpoint exactly what's wrong. I think you might be on to something -- there are too many guest stars, and in too many cases they're not being used as well as they should (as one example, Miguel Ferrer can be extremely funny, very deadpan and dry, which should be perfect for this show -- and in last week's episode he played a completely humor-free role). It's shifting the focus away from the joyously dumb humor and the obscure pop-culture references and the rapid-fire gags.
Lou said…
I saw the pineapple! It was on the suntan lotion bottle.

Great ep! I can't think of anything more to type right now - Im just so excited I finally spotted the aforementioned fruit.
Morgan Richter said…
Congratulations, Lou! I missed the blasted thing. Again. Are you going to enter the sweepstakes? That Psych bobblehead doll could be yours!

Fun episode. Gus's icy, wounded delivery of his "White Chicks was hilarious, Shawn" line made me laugh out loud. And a heavy dose of Lassiter is always a good thing.

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