Billionaire hedge-fund manager Bernie Bethel is arrested for murdering his assistant. Lassiter, who single-handedly cracked the case, throws himself a victory party, complete with a crepe station and festive crime-scene photos hung above the punchbowl. His victory is short-lived, as Bernie is soon found not guilty by reason of insanity and is sent to a posh mental hospital instead of prison. Lassiter offers to go undercover as a mental patient (“I’ll grow a beard and wear nothing but tweed!”) to prove that Bernie is faking his condition. Henry decides to send Shawn in his stead, as Shawn could believably pass as someone in need of institutionalization (Shawn: “I’ll take that as a compliment.” Gus: “I wouldn’t”).
Shawn quickly makes himself at home in the luxurious hospital (“Dude, they have electronic bidets!”). Posing as an orderly, Gus goes undercover as well. He soon strikes up a highly inappropriate relationship with an attractive patient, Vivian (Julianna Guill), who is afflicted with multiple personality disorder. The hospital’s chief of staff, Dr. Abel Elliott (Gerard Plunkett), is the only outsider aware of Shawn’s and Gus’s true identities.
Shawn befriends Bernie, who does indeed seem legitimately insane. This is because Bernie is played by Brad Dourif, who always seems insane. This is an overwhelmingly awesome bit of casting. Dourif has been in too many films to list here -- if you don’t know him from the Chucky films, you surely know him from Lord of the Rings -- but for the purposes of this episode, the most relevant gig on his résumé would be his role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Fun fact: Brad Dourif also starred in Toto’s “Stranger in Town” video.
Awesome bit of casting #2: The hospital is run by the brusque and no-nonsense Nurse Lavender McElroy, who is played by Molly Ringwald. Molly Ringwald! Molly is squandered a bit in this role, actually, but it’s still awfully good to see her.
Shawn grows to believe Bernie is legitimately insane. More, he realizes Bernie’s degenerative arthritis means he couldn’t have strangled his assistant. He theorizes that Dr. Elliott keeps deliberately mixing up Bernie’s anti-psychotic medications to keep him incoherent, at the behest of an unidentified third party. Shawn’s theory is burst when he finds Elliott dead, hit over the head by an unknown assailant. Gus, meanwhile, has been fired for hanky-panky with Vivian. With Elliott dead, no one at the institution realizes that Shawn is only pretending to be insane…
…Y’all can see where this is going, right? Before you know it, Shawn finds himself strapped down to a gurney, bellowing at the top of his lungs to a couple of bemused psychiatrists about how he’s really a psychic detective working undercover for the Santa Barbara Police Department. Hey, I totally saw this episode of 21 Jump Street! It guest-starred Christina Applegate at the height of her Married: With Children fame. 21 Jump Street is one of those shows that really doesn’t hold up over time, but man, I loved it while I was growing up.
Anyway, with Gus’s help, Shawn manages to break Bernie out of the asylum. They confront the real culprit: Nurse McElroy, who, under the orders of Bernie’s devious younger brother Daniel, has been altering Bernie’s medication to keep him delirious. Daniel had tricked his mentally-ill brother into giving him control of his massive fortune; after Bernie’s assistant found out about this, he murdered her and framed Bernie. When Dr. Elliott uncovered this plot, he murdered him as well.
A gun-toting Daniel arrives at Nurse McElroy’s place and threatens to murder Shawn, Gus and Bernie to cover his tracks. Bernie’s diagnosed phobias include a severe fear of saxophone music, so Shawn slips a Kenny G. album on the CD player and blasts “Songbird.” Bernie freaks out and overpowers his brother.
And all ends well. Not one of the stronger episodes, actually -- is it me, or have we had a disappointingly high ratio of clunkers to good episodes this season? -- but I’ll give it a few brownie points for the casting of Dourif and Ringwald and call it even.