Readers, don’t be the “iiiiit” in “wait for iiiiit” or the one game at Chuck E. Cheese that isn’t broken. USA’s blue-skies comedy Psych will return for a reunion film in early December, appropriately titled Psych: The Movie, which will find Shawn and Gus together again as they track down a dangerous criminal in San Francisco. It’s been more than three years since we’ve last seen the boys in action, and although they’re a little more grown-up (with some added facial hair!), we have a feeling it’ll be like no time has passed at all. In anticipation of these delightful troublemakers returning to the small screen, Vulture has put together a list of the ten essential Psych episodes you should watch before the film debuts — whether you’re a longtime fan, casual viewer, or complete newbie. Slicing open a pineapple to eat while watching is up to you.
“9 Lives” (Season 1, Episode 5)
While the first four episodes of Psych teased a promising series, the sheer ridiculousness of “9 Lives” is what really catapulted the characters into the personalities we know and love. The premise is simple: A string of seemingly unconnected suicides might actually be related murders, with Shawn using one of the victim’s cats to channel his “psychic energy” to prove he’s correct. (In the midst of that, Lassiter is solidifying as the eternal skeptic and Juliet the supporter of his psychic talents.) Shawn’s cabaret song-and-dance routine for Chief Vick at the police station is only outshined by him and Gus “Sillypants” Jackson going undercover at a suicide hotline.
“American Duos” (Season 2, Episode 1)
An excellent mockery of the slew of TV singing competitions — “This is just another knockoff of the other knockoff of the original knockoff of that other show” — “American Duos” proved to be the perfect platform for Tim Curry to portray a curmudgeonly, Simon Cowell–esque judge whose life is constantly under threat. When Shawn and Gus have to go undercover as contestants to investigate potential leads despite their abysmal vocal talents, Curry’s complimentary reading of the duo’s “post-post-postmodern” and “sandpaper-esque” sound to get them into the next round add to the already high level of hilarity.
“Lights, Camera… Homicidio” (Season 2, Episode 13)
When a murder by stabbing occurs in plain sight on the set of a popular Mexican telenovela — which conveniently films in the Santa Barbara metropolitan area — Shawn and Gus have no choice but to immerse themselves in the addicting show, with Shawn eventually cast to play a supporting actor as a sexy delivery man. He transforms into a fan-favorite despite his lack of Spanish-language skills, but he, too, soon finds himself as a target of this mysterious assailant. If anything, “Lights, Camera… Homicidio” gifted us with what’s perhaps the funniest quote in Lassiter history: “Hola. Me llamo Inspector Carlton Lassiter. Me gusta queso.”
“Black and Tan: A Crime of Fashion” (Season 2, Episode 15)
Shawn and Gus’s silly undercover exploits inspired Psych’s most enjoyable episodes, and “Black and Tan” fits that bill all too well as they explored the seedy and shallow underbelly of the Santa Barbara high-fashion world — after a designer meets his maker thanks to a microphone electrocution. (Just remember, Shawn is Black and Gus is Tan, or else Shawn will give you a stern talking down: “I can’t believe you just made that assumption, you should be ashamed of yourself and your family.”) Come for Juliet’s fabulous wardrobe transformation, and stay for Shawn’s increasing irritability of people believing he’s only capable of being a foot model.
The “Yin/Yang” Trilogy (Season 3, Episode 16; Season 4, Episode 16; Season 5, Episode 16)
Psych shied away from full-on drama throughout its eight seasons, with the “Yin/Yang” trilogy proving to be one of the few exceptions to this standard. While the core gang have more than enough to chew on in these increasingly high-stakes episodes — Juliet’s PTSD after the first incident is particularly noteworthy — it’s Ally Sheedy’s portrayal of the deranged serial killer “Mr. Yang” that’ll really sends the chills down your spine. Despite being so easy to root against, so inherently evil, she still manages to maintain an extremely endearing aura that you can’t help but feel excited to see again and again. She is Psych’s most memorable villain, hands down.
The “Pierre Despereaux” Tetralogy (Season 4, Episode 1; Season 5, Episode 10; Season 6, Episode 10; Season 8, Episode 1)
If Mr. Yang is Psych’s most memorable villain, Pierre Despereaux is easily Psych’s most memorable recurring character. The unbearingly debonair Cary Elwes was a brilliant choice to portray this maybe art thief, maybe Interpol agent, consistently oozing braggadocio and spewing out 007-esque musings like he was trying to meet a quota. (“You see, a gentleman of leisure never packs his weapon next to his socks. It’s uncouth.”) Whether or not he was really undercover for the British government is up to you, but his lovingly familial relationship with Shawn — and openly mutual disdain with Gus — was a hoot to see slowly unfold.
“Dual Spires” (Season 5, Episode 12)
In the second half of the series, Psych became a surprising outlet for excellently crafted homages to films and TV shows. Even if you’ve never watched Twin Peaks, “Dual Spires” stands on its own as a fantastic and moody narrative about a teenage girl whose dead body gets washed ashore in an off-the-map town celebrating its annual Cinnamon Festival. But if you’re indeed a Peaks enthusiast, seeing seven original cast members (Sheryl Lee! Sherilyn Fenn!) and witnessing a nonstop blitz of Lynchian jokes is simply too wonderful to pass up — there are about 100 if you can count ’em all.
“Last Night Gus” (Season 6, Episode 2)
This is the Hangover-style comedy of errors Psych was born to do. The equally formidable and doofy crime-solving quartet of Shawn, Gus, Lassiter, and Woody are forced to come to grips with the fact they might’ve killed a person the prior evening while under the influence of spiked drinks — and they’ll be doomed to serve time unless they crack the case before anyone at the station finds out, despite increasingly damning evidence piling up against them. (RIP, Bobo the Donut and Lassie’s man-spooning virginity.) Although the conclusion veers a little much toward the huh?, the chemistry between these four gents has never been hotter.
“This Episode Sucks” (Season 6, Episode 3)
“This Episode Sucks” is deliciously spooky in its own right — Shawn and Gus are under the impression Lassiter’s gorgeous new girlfriend is a vampire, leading to some truly iconic Transylvanian and Blacula costumes — it also sets in motion a mission that was neglected in the prior seasons: humanizing Lassiter. Dealings with his ex-wife aside, our dear Lassie’s friendships and romances were rarely explored outside of the realm of the police station, so hearing him exasperatingly yell, “Can’t you see I’m in the throes of passion!” when the gang bust in on his sexy times foreshadowed a more complex portrayal to come. And not just because his girlfriend has to go to prison for a few months.
“100 Clues” (Season 7, Episode 5)
Shawn and Gus have obviously never heard the old saying, “Don’t go to an unknown millionaire’s scary mansion for a dinner party during a thunderstorm,” so we get to reap the rewards of their tomfoolery. As a take on the 1985 comedy Clue, a washed-up rocker seeks the help of a few connected guests to clear his name for the murder of a groupie he didn’t commit, and the situation quickly escalates to the point of absurdity: Tears for Fears’ Curt Smith gets mauled by a panther and Gus finds himself trapped in a toupee room, for starters. In classic Clue style, you also get three endings for the price of one. (And if you want to watch another homage episode, season six’s “Heeeeere’s Lassie” Shining outing is also very much worth your time.)