Back in 2006, USA Network executives gathered at their conclave and smoked up the network’s blue-skies with their new show selection: Psych, which follows a “psychic detective” and his best friend who help solve an alarmingly high amount of crimes for the Santa Barbara Police Department. Shawn Spencer (James Roday Rodriguez) isn’t actually divining anything from the spirits, of course. Stuck in arrested development with an endless rotation of obscure pop-culture references, he’s the son of a former department detective (Corbin Bernsen) and possesses a prolific amount of observational and investigative skills, giving him the perfect excuse to begin a new career as a “supernatural consultant” for hire. Shawn’s partner in business and in life is Burton “Gus” Guster (Dulé Hill), who slowly warms to the idea that indulging in the case of the week is far more fulfilling than his nine-to-five gig at a pharmaceutical company. The brusque head detective Carlton Lassiter (Timothy Omundson), self-assured junior detective Juliet O’Hara (Maggie Lawson), and indulgent chief Karen Vick (Kirsten Nelson) round out Psych’s core team, along with Gus’s hundreds of nicknames and a sedan called the Blueberry.
The real magic of Psych, though, is how it tells the procedural format to suck it. This show is truly a story about the bromance between two lifelong friends who didn’t hesitate to answer the door when their childhood dreams came knocking. Viewers could see themselves as, or aspire to be, Shawn and Gus — not as a fake psychic and his brother-in-arms but as the platonic ideal of BFFs, who, if given another chance to do it all over again, wouldn’t change a damn thing about the adventures their little beachfront agency brought into the world. They never had any guaranteed money, but they sure had guaranteed fun. What could be more important in life?
Eight seasons and 120 episodes aired before Psych came to an end in 2015, with two bonus films following in the years since. In celebration of Psych 2: Lassie Come Home, which premiered July 15, Vulture decided it was time to revisit the series and give it the episode ranking it so richly deserves.
122. “Cloudy … With a Chance of Murder” (Season 1, Episode 12)
While the rest of this list is subjective and open to friendly debate among fans, this bottom spot is inarguable. Roday Rodriguez said he and the cast had crowned “Cloudy … With a Chance of Murder” Psych’s weakest episode due to its bland courtroom narrative. It was so dull it inspired them to try again seven seasons later with “Remake, a.k.a. Cloudy … With a Chance of Improvement,” an episode ranked much higher here. The premise — which lacks even the slightest of laughs — revolves around a teacher accused of murdering a womanizing weatherman in front of his green screen, with Shawn and Gus determined to prove her innocence. The jealous receptionist did it, because green screens can’t hide everything, we guess. The nicest thing we can say about the episode is Shawn’s courtroom objection to “unfair surprisery.”
121. “A Nightmare on State Street” (Season 8, Episode 9)
Psych’s penultimate episode was not the time to experiment with “A Nightmare on State Street,” which unfolds as a surrealist horror ode with Gus consulting a dream therapist to address his recent uptick in nightmares. The therapist (Bruce Campbell, perhaps the outing’s sole redeeming feature) tries to guide Gus through his lingering abandonment issues with Shawn, but he only makes Gus’s nightmares worse as the duo tries to solve the murder of a gym teacher. We’d be kinder if this were nestled somewhere in the middle of the show’s run, but as the second-to-last episode? With all those gimmicky jump scares, zombies, and tangents about the perception of reality? It was a betrayal to viewers but a bigger betrayal to Gus, as it still doesn’t meaningfully tackle the “everything is changing” issues he’s so afraid of.
This is my partner … Burton Guster Black Spencer.
120. “Who Ya Gonna Call?” (Season 1, Episode 7)
The premise — a murderous man with dissociative personality disorder kills a doctor with one of his “two separate but distinct personalities” while pursuing gender-reassignment surgery — was as ill-conceived in 2006 as it would be in 2020. A waste of Ghostbusters homages, too.
This is my partner … François.
119. “Game, Set … Muuurder?” (Season 1, Episode 13)
Another episode plagued by an absurdly convoluted solution: A tennis star is attacked in her apartment, and the perpetrator is revealed to be the department’s crime-scene photographer, who acted in a jealous, unrequited-love rage. He attempts to fix the scene by scrutinizing and retaking the photos to ensure there are zero traces of him. (The giveaway? Shawn realizes the shadows are in the wrong spots for the time of day.) But don’t take our word for it. In the season-four episode about killer sharks, Shawn says, “Screw that case,” when reminiscing about his successes. He too can’t fully remember what happened.
118. “No Trout About It” (Season 7, Episode 14)
The beginning of the end of Psych as we know it arrives in “No Trout About It,” when the mayor, enraged at how the gang handled a recent case, hires police consultant Harris Trout (a hotheaded Anthony Michael Hall) to create a new model of precision and efficiency in the department. Trout’s outsider status immediately puts him in enemy territory, never mind that his criticism of their methods is valid: He doesn’t look at their 100-plus solved homicide cases as a good thing but rather as confirmation that Santa Barbara has become Murder Central due to various institutional failures. We don’t need these truth bombs! Psychics are very valuable! It’s an uncomfortable jolt to Psych’s spirit, especially when Chief Vick gets suspended, Lassiter is forced to take a demotion, and Trout — the new interim chief — vows never to hire the duo again. He’s the show’s worst character, no doubt about it.
This is my partner … Burton Trout, no relation.
This is my partner … Bad News Marvin Barnes.
117. “Christmas Joy” (Season 3, Episode 9)
Psych’s second Christmas episode delivers hit after hit to Gus’s family, all of whom are hiding life-altering secrets from one another that Shawn is able to deduce in a matter of minutes. The holiday case — pretty much a tweaked version of Home Alone — becomes irrelevant upon the contemptible revelation that Shawn has a history of sleeping with Gus’s sister, which comes out of nowhere and defies his decades of loyalty and the love of his best friend. The betrayal is just too much for viewers.
This is my partner … Scrooge Jones.
116. “Let’s Get Hairy” (Season 4, Episode 8)
The mind can convince itself of almost anything if fear is involved, even if, in this case, a man believes he’s turning into a werewolf every night and enlists the duo to help stop him from killing farm animals. (It goes without saying that Shawn and Gus absolutely believe in “wolves and were-hybrids.”) What ensues is one of Psych’s few narrative failures: A psychiatrist is methodically setting up the man, one of his schizophrenia patients, to take the fall for a murder he wants to commit, that of a patient he’s having an affair with. It’s an easy skip.
115. “Forget Me Not” (Season 1, Episode 9)
What could have been an introspective episode about Shawn proving his investigative worth to his father — Henry’s old police captain, suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s, solves a murder but can’t remember the details — gets lost in a wildly confusing plot that boils down to how a captive mountain lion is well trained enough to maul someone to death.
114. “S.E.I.Z.E. the Day” (Season 8, Episode 2)
I don’t know
With Trout terrorizing the department as interim chief, Shawn tries to pivot his career to life coaching after months go by without his being put on a case. (His acrostic motto needs work.) Shawn’s reluctant first client is the demoted Lassiter, who loses all semblance of confidence and swagger when his wife, Marlowe (Kristy Swanson), announces her pregnancy. Thinking he’s dying, the group guides him along as they figure out who’s “targeting and killing assholes” around the city after someone tries to murder Trout. Lassie’s mojo returns with a vengeance when the culprit shows no mercy about his impending fatherhood. It’s a good arc for his growth, but it can’t trump the fact that all Trout episodes share the same grating DNA.
This is my partner … Trending Ontwitter.
Gus, don’t be … the 100th Luftballon.
113. “Woman Seeking Dead Husband: Smokers Okay, No Pets” (Season 1, Episode 4)
A bank robber’s widow seeks protection from Shawn and Gus upon the release from jail of her dead husband’s trio of criminal pals, years after they completed an epic heist and escaped with millions — but they can’t seem to figure out where the loot was stashed in the woods. (Let’s blame erosion and bad weather.) A séance doesn’t do much to get answers, especially when it’s discovered that the husband has been alive the entire time and hiding from his wife, the heist’s true mastermind. It suffers from “Psych still working to escape its generic early season” syndrome.
112. “Zero to Murder in Sixty Seconds” (Season 2, Episode 4)
Psych’s car episodes are on the lower end of the creative spectrum. This one centers on a Pimp My Ride–esque company that’s actually a front for a chop-shop and drug-smuggling operation. One business partner kills another in a jealous rage to take it over? As Shawn himself notes, it’s too easy, even if the perp conveniently gets himself arrested prior to the murder to get an airtight alibi. Too bad you don’t need to be present for nitrous oxide to work its magic.
This is my partner … Ovaltine Jenkins.
111. “Weekend Warriors” (Season 1, Episode 6)
Lassiter’s passion for Civil War reenactments gets paused when one of his “soldiers” is shot and killed on the battlefield, not, well, pretend-shot and killed on the battlefield. (Shawn and Gus witness the commotion when they swing by to heckle Lassie’s thespian chops, obviously.) An insurance-fraud scheme weaves its way in, because why wouldn’t a jewelry store have elaborate underground tunnels running for miles through Santa Barbara?
110. “Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Piece” (Season 1, Episode 3)
“Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Piece” is another example of Psych being a little too generic in its early episodes. An expensive heirloom ring goes missing from a hotel’s safety-deposit box, and dead bodies start to follow. (Of course, it’s the jealous sister who wanted the inheritance for herself.) If anything, the highlight here is Gus’s secret love of safecracking, which births eight seasons’ worth of weird hobbies including coin collecting, ferroequinology, and memorizing area codes and their local periodicals.
This is my partner … Gus. Just call him Peter Panic.
109. “Bounty Hunters!” (Season 2, Episode 9)
Shawn and Gus’s childhood admiration for a bounty hunter turns into an adulthood battle against their hero when they all try to capture a career criminal. The tepid reveal — that the guy escaped to prove his innocence in a murder case that actually involves a vindictive husband killing his wife — is buoyed by the first spark of romance between Shawn and Juliet.
This is my partner … Galileo Humpkins.
Gus, don’t be … a little girl about this, okay?
108. “Rob-a-Bye Baby” (Season 2, Episode 8)
This is one of the only episodes that tries to give some perspective into Karen’s life as an overworked (and, at times, overlooked) female police chief. But when she hires the duo to “psychically read” the best candidate to be her child’s new nanny, what could have been an insightful look into Karen’s work and home lives — perhaps letting us know how she worked her way up to be chief — ultimately goes nowhere. It takes no time for a series of daytime burglaries and robberies to be connected to the agency with the city’s top nanny talent, and the agency’s unassuming founders have a kink for breaking into their clients’ homes using high-tech cameras. Chief Vick still gets a nanny and takes a nap. That’s a wrap on her backstory.
107. “Any Given Friday Night at 10pm, 9pm Central” (Season 3, Episode 13)
A foot that washes ashore belongs to a kicker for the city’s football team, which means the duo get to embrace their inner fanboys and go undercover with the athletes during training camp. (Shawn, mediocre kicker; Gus, very annoyed intern.) A Russian-mob theory is more fun to think about than the motive of the actual culprits, fellow players who attempted to cover up the kicker’s accidental death after he crashed his ATV. Get it? Because their contracts prevented them from doing dumb shit like riding ATVs? It’s the weakest of Psych’s sports-themed episodes.
This is my partner … Dequan “Smallpox” Randolph.
106. “Earth, Wind, and … Wait for It” (Season 3, Episode 12)
A firebug has reemerged in Santa Barbara years after a hot arson streak plagued the city, but Shawn and Gus determine that the fires have a connective kindling — the buildings are due to be demolished for not being earthquake safe and, oh yeah, are hiding a bunch of dead bodies in the walls. It’s surprisingly heavy! At least the duo get one hell of a heroic moment when they save people from a burning building.
This is my partner … Step Anthony Wally Ali.
Gus, don’t be … William Zabka from Back to School.
105. “Truer Lies” (Season 3, Episode 14)
Four words: quatro queso dos fritos. Also: The department ignores a prolific liar when he claims to have overheard an assassination plot; he has wasted police time in the past by reporting numerous false crimes. (Felony alert.) This time around, though, he’s not lying to make himself valuable, but his “uncontrollable sickness” renders it difficult for him to process and relay information in a normal way. Yes, it’s hard to follow. But the assassins are very much real?
This is my partner … Hollabackatcha.
Gus, don’t be … this crevice in my arm.
104. “Thrill Seekers and Hell-Raisers” (Season 4, Episode 11)
This episode seems to exist only to tease Gus’s poor track record with women and make him more dependent on Shawn. The guys convince Gus’s new girlfriend to let them join her very tight (and very randy) friend group on a white-water-rafting trip — only for one of the friends to fall overboard and turn up murdered by another friend. Gus is ladyless yet again after the ordeal, something Shawn seems a little too pleased by.
Gus, don’t be … the new Meshach Taylor.
103. “True Grits” (Season 6, Episode 15)
A schism of sorts occurs between Shawn and Juliet when he decides to help a chef, whose prison sentence is overturned by the Innocence Project, figure out who was behind the armed burglary that landed him in prison for a harrowing “two years and eight months.” Juliet was the lead detective on the case and takes the duo’s involvement personally, but it doesn’t matter because she forgives them after the gang ties the crime to several cold cases committed by the man’s doppelgänger. It’s a letdown for what could have been a compelling look at the unforeseen intricacies of working with the person you’re dating.
102. “Someone’s Got a Woody” (Season 8, Episode 4)
Shawn and Gus are desperate for a case under Trout’s iron-fisted reign as chief, and they may have found an opportunity to finally prove their worth: An ex-con takes coroner Woody (Kurt Fuller, Psych’s best recurring character) hostage in the morgue, claiming he has been set up for the murder of a man whose body is due for an autopsy. The clock ticks for the duo to investigate the ex-con’s corrupt halfway house, and they expose a dirty parole officer just in the nick of time. Their reward is much better than a consulting fee: Trout, declaring he’s going to fire them all for insubordination, is instead fired by the mayor for his disastrous hostage-negotiation skills. Bye, bitch. Psych’s final season begins in earnest now.
101. “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, He Loves Me, Oops He’s Dead” (Season 1, Episode 11)
Lassiter revels in the chance to pass an odd case to Shawn and Gus — in which a man believes he was abducted by aliens — but when a second man turns up dead in the same place as the first, the investigation leads them to a speed-dating venue to find the missing link. And what a link it is! A married couple has a pretty ingenious identity-theft plan to acquire daters’ personal info in their speed rounds. It’s a shame they drugged one of the guys a little too much and killed him. At least it brings Shawn and Juliet closer together.
100. “One, Maybe Two, Ways Out” (Season 5, Episode 9)
The only good thing to come out of this half-baked spy narrative is that it finally brings Shawn and Juliet together. Just be patient. We have to sit through some dumb drama involving global currency certificates and special-ops moles first. “Serious Shawn moment here. I want to be happy too,” Juliet overhears him admitting to Gus. “For some reason, I can’t imagine that happening without Juliet.” They kiiiiiiiiiiss! Yaaaaaay! Nothing will ever be the saaaaame!
Gus, don’t be … Fine Young Cannibals’ cover of “Suspicious Minds.”
99. “Lassie Jerky” (Season 7, Episode 3)
This Blair Witch Project parody, filmed entirely in the “documentary footage” style, unfurls into overnight madness when the duo join film students in the woods to pursue Bigfoot but instead stumble upon a bunch of dead bodies in a pit. Lassiter and Juliet get involved now that it’s a proper murder investigation, and this ragtag Scooby gang has to reckon with a very real and present danger when they discover that the woods are a dumping ground for the Serbian mob. The compromised woods, in fact, compromise the integrity of the episode, which climaxes in a blood-soaked shoot-out around “Bigfoot” and his cabin — he’s just a secluded man who “lost faith in humanity.” It needed a few more rounds of editing, if only because Gus “sampled the meat” of what was assumed to be a dead and roasted Lassie.
98. “Ferry Tale” (Season 5, Episode 7)
What was supposed to be a snoozy day on the water to help with an environmental cleanup turns into a hellish hostage situation for Shawn and Gus when four inmates overpower a guard and initiate a prison break. (They have nothing to lose, the guard notes, because they’re going to be behind bars for life.) Two of them are smart enough to get to dry land and search for the bag of stolen cash left by a former inmate, and the guard himself has a dalliance with corruption when he’s enticed by the easy money. Everyone is caught. Nothing else important happens.
Gus, don’t be … the one game at Chuck E. Cheese that isn’t broken.
97. “The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Episode” (Season 4, Episode 15)
Lassiter tries to “out-Spencer Spencer” by claiming that a shark-attack victim was actually murdered, since one of the shark bites looks suspiciously like a knife wound. Shawn is thrilled that Lassie is embracing his weird theories — even if the press retaliates by labeling him “Detective Dipstick” — but their reversal of wise guy and straight man doesn’t live up to its full potential. The resolution relies too heavily on the likelihood that an “ocean-activist nut job” was fed to a shark by the fisherman he was investigating for illegal practices. Sorry, but this ain’t Jaws.
Gus, don’t be … Leon from the “Like a Prayer” video.
96. “You Can’t Handle This Episode” (Season 4, Episode 10)
Juliet’s badass brother (an ever-jacked John Cena) surprises her with a visit and uses his job connections at the Department of Defense to assist with solving a homicide at a nearby Army base. His allegiance is questioned, however, when his boss tells him to stop snooping, which culminates in his being prepared to execute the guilty soldier for “breaking a code based on allegiance, honor, and honesty.” Psych isn’t the type of show to, uh, explore the extent of corruption in the military — Shawn and Gus prance around in stolen uniforms — but Juliet gets a fine monologue when she convinces her brother to spare the soldier and instead send him to prison. We wish Jules got more of those moments.
This is my partner … Ghee Buttersnaps, a.k.a. the Heater.
95. “Shawn and Gus in Drag (Racing)” (Season 5, Episode 5)
A forgettable episode that should have had more fun with its Fast & Furious pastiche. A masked thief shoots a Lamborghini driver and flees the scene, and Shawn and Gus pretend to be gearheads as they investigate who would want to kill the leader of a car-theft ring. “You’ve got the kamikaze in you,” the guy tells Shawn before being sent off to jail, which we can kind of believe.
94. “In for a Penny …” (Season 6, Episode 7)
Juliet’s daddy issues reach their breaking point when Shawn and Gus, misreading how she would like to celebrate her 30th birthday, invite her estranged father (William Shatner!) to Santa Barbara as a surprise — but he’s not the rich and powerful businessman he led the duo to believe he is. Rather, he’s a smooth-talking, prolific con man whose longest con of all, Juliet scolds him, “was on your own daughter.” He inevitably gets tangled in the department’s case about a rare-coin theft and somewhat redeems himself as a father by helping apprehend the crooks, but all this episode does is remind us yet again how Jules’s overarching story lines are always tethered to men.
This is my partner … Ingle Woods.
93. “Cirque Du Soul” (Season 7, Episode 6)
Gus’s inaugural stint as a babysitter for his girlfriend’s son is the worst “big boy day out” ever: The pair and Shawn witness a Cirque du Soleil–style performer fall to his death during a dress rehearsal. The case itself — a porta-potty tycoon promising performers visas in exchange for robbery jobs — gets stale fast, but the incident ignites a long-gestating issue between the best friends after Gus’s girlfriend breaks up with him over his carelessness. “You’ll go about like everything’s fine, and I’ll be left to clean up the mess that you’ve caused,” he tells Shawn. “I’m tired of your mouth writing checks that my ass has to cash.” It’s the only time we’ve ever seen him visibly angry over Shawn’s behavior, and frankly, it’s a needed wake-up call for Shawn to make amends — even if it means dressing up as an exterminator and searching the “poop houses” for weevils to solve the case. It may be his best disguise yet.
92. “Santa Barbarian Candidate” (Season 7, Episode 10)
The mayor dies in an apparent surfing accident on the morning he is set to host Shawn and Gus for breakfast, but the oceanic crime scene screams political retaliation. The only way the duo can properly investigate? By having Shawn run for mayor, of course! Despite his consitutents initially likening him to a “glib and adolescent” man-child, his polling numbers go off the charts thanks to a campaign promise to have food carts on every corner and his use of “culturally neutral salutations.” (Hill gets a requisite walk-and-talk as a nod to his West Wing days.) The stunt does nothing but remind Juliet that Shawn is “a charade.” Jules’s ultimatum to get back together — he needs to tell the chief that he’s not psychic — is reversed at the last second and cheapens her growth.
This is my partner … Bill Ofrights.
91. “And Down the Stretch Comes Murder” (Season 2, Episode 5)
Shawn and Gus’s former elementary-school bully, now a renowned jockey who has maintained his pip-squeak stature, visits the Psych office to enlist their services to find out why he’s been on such a long losing streak. His problems get worse, though, when a fellow jockey turns up dead at the end of a race and all signs point to a classic adultery motive. The truth is a scientific head-scratcher and a bit too fanciful for Psych — a photographer used a homemade camera-gun to shoot tranquilizer darts at horses to slow them down and rig a winner. See where this is going? He accidentally shot a jockey instead.
90. “Dead Air” (Season 7, Episode 12)
Seven seasons of Gus claiming to be a master seducer of ladies is tested when the pair investigate who was brazen enough to murder a shock jock on-air. It’s likely the culprit is less a radio executive than a jealous listener obsessed with the host’s groupie, so Gus gets his own show to lure the stalker out: “The Smooth Storm With a Player Named Gus,” on which he tantializes the airwaves with aural pleasures like “Sit back and chillax with me as I take you on a funky ride.” Oooooooh yeeeeeeah. It is funky, but in the musty way. The entire premise hinges on whether the groupie, who suffers from a split-personality disorder, is her own villain. She isn’t. Psych is better than that narrative cliché.
This is my partner … Django Unchained.
Gus, don’t be … Weepy Boy Santos.
89. “Shawn and Gus Truck Things Up” (Season 8, Episode 7)
This episode is snuggled within that weird late-Psych purgatory, where half the characters are up in San Francisco and it seems like we’re just passing time until Shawn and Gus decide what they want to do next with their lives. The team’s favorite taco-truck owner turns up dead — R.I.P. to his secret taco sauce — and they go undercover with their very un-gourmand “Mash and Grab” truck to get answers. (On the menu this week? Gumball soup, pudding ribs, and Froot Loops quesadillas.) The perpetrators are two dudes trying to cover up a bank robbery, but the episode hits nice emotional notes for Lassiter, as Marlowe gives birth to their daughter and he purchases Shawn’s childhood home. “It’s fitting that it’s going to another cop,” Henry tells him, “raising a new family.”
88. “Dead Man’s Curve Ball” (Season 6, Episode 5)
The guys go undercover again in the sports world (Shawn, excitable hitting coach; Gus, reluctant Seabirds mascot) when the bench coach and star player of a minor-league baseball team turn up dead within days of each other. There’s no crying in baseball, but there’s most certainly corruption: The team’s general manager snapped and committed murders because of contract intricacies about things like “rookies” and “trading windows” losing him millions. It’s a reminder that despite its creative riches, Psych somehow was never able to nail a sports episode.
87. “There Might Be Blood” (Season 3, Episode 6)
Chief Vick’s enduring sibling rivalry reaches new heights when her Coast Guard commander sister (a well-cast Jane Lynch) raises hell over jurisdiction after a safety inspector falls to his death on an oil rig. Family drama anchors the entire episode when it turns out that the daughter of the rig’s owner, fed up with his misogynistic and patronizing ways of doing business, took matters into her own hands by killing the inspector, who was hours away from ratting out their illegal drilling practices. It’s skippable.
86. “The Greatest Adventure in the History of Basic Cable” (Season 3, Episode 4)
Shawn’s flighty and flirty uncle (who’s also a not-so-secret globe-trotting tool) comes to town with an offer that’s hard to pass up: There is vague Spanish treasure hidden somewhere in Santa Barbara, and he knows his nephew’s particular set of skills could be the key to finding it. It becomes a bigger family affair when Gus and Henry get cajoled into deciphering the map and fending off sketchy interlopers, with Shawn ultimately double-crossing his uncle after realizing the extent of his doucheness. The episode somehow falls victim to making a treasure hunt — the platonic ideal of an adventure — dull.
85. Psych: The Movie (2017)
The fact that we got this movie at all is nothing short of a miracle, and knowing the full backstory is important to understanding the Hail Mary that went into its production: A week before the start of filming, Omundson suffered a massive stroke that rendered him immobile and barely able to speak. Roday Rodriguez and series creator Steve Franks were forced to rewrite the script in 48 hours to guarantee a movie would happen, tweaking the vast majority of it to deal with Omundson’s absence. “The two biggest shifts were losing Santa Barbara,” Roday Rodriguez told us, “and losing the nostalgia that came with that and pivoting to more silliness.”
The resulting script leans heavily on Juliet and the deadly ramifications of how she “fudged the rules and skipped some protocols” to put bad guys away at the San Francsisco Police Department (which, in terms of character development, doesn’t make a lot of sense), along with the revenge-murder spree of a David Bowie fanboy named Thin White Duke, who was a police informant Juliet sent to jail despite his help. It’s a weak narrative, but who cares? We got to check in with our favorite characters two years after the show’s finale, Shawn and Juliet are married after a showdown at Alcatraz, and Omundson was ultimately able to appear in a brief and poignant cameo.
Gus, don’t be … the comma in Earth, Wind & Fire.
Gus, don’t be … the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile.
Gus, don’t be … the C above middle C in “Those Endearing Young Charms.”
84. “Right Turn or Left for Dead” (Season 7, Episode 8)
Shawn meets with a Sliding Doors scenario when, immediately after Juliet discovers his fake psychic persona, he enters into two parallel story lines about crimes involving a Swedish au pair. It’s more of a waiting game to see how, or if, Jules can reconcile with such a crippling breach of honesty, and Lord knows she’s not going to accept the second or third or fourth apology that comes her way. The more she thinks about the lie, “the angrier” she gets. She asks Shawn to move out so they can take an indefinite break. It sucks seeing the couple’s demise, but it’s the right thing for her to do.
This is my partner … Jonas Gustavsson.
83. “Shawn Gets the Yips” (Season 4, Episode 5)
A post-softball-game outing with the SBPD is cut short when a gunman opens fire on the team and flees the bar, tragically leaving Shawn unable to eat his pizza chili cheese fries. The team surmises that the culprit is trying to murder everyone tied to an old case involving a drug lord who targeted kids for his operation, but the reveal of his being a father avenging his teenage son’s death by offing members of a “broken police system” gets a little too piteous for Psych to pull off.
Gus, don’t be … the ribs that flip over Fred Flintstone’s car.
82. “1967: A Psych Odyssey” (Season 8, Episode 6)
With Chief Vick gone just as quickly as she returned (the idea that her work ethic would get her a police-chief gig in San Francisco is … questionable), Lassiter has to bust his ass to prove to the mayor that he’s a worthy successor. And the ass-busting job is a curious one: The mayor, still haunted by the death of his crime-reporter uncle decades ago, effectively tells Lassie that the gig is his if he can solve the cold case. Flashing back and forth between 1967 and the present, the gang uncover the true culprit (Peggy Lipton in full minx mode), but their jubilation over Lassie’s promotion is short lived. Due to petty politics, Juliet must be replaced, spurring his most tender moment in the show and proving just how far he has matured.
81. “The Amazing Psych-Man & Tap Man, Issue #2” (Season 6, Episode 4)
Crime is getting so bad in Santa Barbara that a masked vigilante calling himself the Mantis emerges to help the police department take down a burgeoning drug syndicate. He’s on a pretty impressive hot streak, so much so that Shawn and Gus are inspired to bring their “Catch & Tap-Man” alter egos out of retirement to assist. It’s perfectly fine but a filler episode.
80. “Juliet Takes a Luvvah” (Season 7, Episode 2)
Juliet’s enviable undercover mission: being wined and dined by eligible bachelors from a dating website. It all happens after the department connects several recent deaths of young women to a man called Mr. Opportunity. The dreamy, hard-to-get dude is a catfish situation, and even worse, his account was created by an incel who wants to prove that all women are shallow and don’t actually desire “good and nice guys.” He disavows his ideology when Juliet pretends to love him, right before she overpowers him at gunpoint. It doesn’t get much deeper than that.
This is my partner … Immaculate Conception.
Gus, don’t be … the Tom Selleck to her Paulina Porizkova.
Gus, don’t be … the B from Apartment 23.
79. “Bollywood Homicide” (Season 4, Episode 6)
An extremely handsome Indian-American man begs Shawn and Gus to help free him from a love curse: The past four women he dated nearly died in freak accidents when they decided to become exclusive, while his most recent lady friend, a dancer, broke up with him after escaping two attempts on her life. Juliet gets another good undercover gig by “dating” the guy to bring out who’s targeting him — and it just so happens to be his future sister-in-law, who has some very nonfamilial feelings for him, if you know what we mean. Despite a memorable climax taking place at a Holi festival, the episode gets bumped down a few spots due to lazy, stereotypical writing about Indian culture.
Gus, don’t be … Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Marzipan.
78. “Nip and Suck It!” (Season 7, Episode 13)
Henry, growing tired of the minutiae of retirement life, is perhaps the only person to ever get excited about discovering a murdered woman in a park. Eager to exercise his investigative chops again, he competes against Shawn and Gus to figure out how the case connects to the city’s most prominent plastic surgeon (a pre-scandal Lori Loughlin), who “feeds on the insecurities” of her clients. With Gus too distracted by an awful Botox job, there’s room for the father and son to have one last criminal hurrah before Henry decides to leave his SBPD days in the past for good. It’s nice seeing him somewhat acknowledge that Shawn is keeping the family legacy alive — even if he’ll never admit it out loud.
77. “Juliet Wears the Pantsuit” (Season 7, Episode 9)
With Shawn and Juliet in the awkward-aftermath stage of their breakup, Jules decides to get a roommate to make her home a little less lonely. Her plan turns into a Single White Female scenario, however, when the woman she’d decided to live with turns up dead in a field and her second choice mimics every aspect of her identity after moving in. This turns out to be quite an unexpectedly fulfilling puzzle for Juliet during this transitional period in her life: The woman isn’t a harlot using fake identities for fun but instead is running from an abusive ex-husband and has to reinvent herself whenever he gets close. It’s empowering when the two women beat the shit out of the ex after he discovers their location, even if Jules begins to question her choice to leave Shawn.
This is my partner … Blue Ivy Carter.
76. “Romeo and Juliet and Juliet” (Season 5, Episode 1)
Juliet demotes herself to desk duty at City Hall after the traumatic events of “Mr. Yin Presents …,” but an intriguing case involving the city’s Chinese gangs slowly brings her confidence back. When a woman from a triad is kidnapped, all signs point to this being a power move to set off a war between rival families. The solution is far more Shakespearean, though, when Shawn and Gus realize that it’s two star-crossed lovers from the families, who just want to be together. Jules’s healing — and the terrific fight choreography — aside, this episode debuts Henry as the department’s new part-time employee, overseeing every single consultant who comes through the door. It’s a smart creative decision that keeps Henry rooted in the station for two seasons.
This is my partner … Jonathan Jacob Jingly Smith.
Gus, don’t be … the ten tigers of Canton.
75. “Death Is in the Air” (Season 4, Episode 13)
This one is strikingly prescient amid our coronavirus era. A cooler containing a rare and deadly virus is stolen while being transported for safekeeping, and with the help of a porn-mustached medical expert (Judd Nelson, a hoot), Shawn and Gus track down the culprit: the man who created the vaccine, who had the deranged idea to release to virus into the world so his lab (and by extension, his livelihood) could be saved. The episode’s bigger emotional weight comes from Shawn realizing how much he loves Juliet after she pricks herself with a vial and assumes she has only hours to live. Luckily, her strong immune system has other plans.
Gus, don’t be … Nic Cage’s accent from Con Air.
74. “The Tao of Gus” (Season 6, Episode 8)
A female cult member witnesses a murder while visiting Santa Barbara for the day, but the department initially ignores her claim until a shooter tries to take her out, too. Shawn and Gus welcome the chance to sleuth around her commune (excuse us, a place for people who “enjoy a higher way of living and serenity in isolation”), which has a much darker side than all the fresh peaches and communal bloomers up for grabs would suggest: The leader is nothing more than a patient con man who makes every member sign a carefully worded document giving him power of attorney, and he intends to flee the country with their savings. Unexpectedly Overeager About a Case Gus is the best Gus, but he gets a little too overshadowed by Desperate Gus, who becomes obsessed with romancing the victim. He’s the worst Gus.
73. “Autopsy Turvy” (Season 6, Episode 14)
Woody’s sloppy work comes back to haunt him when an alluring mortician, one of his many ex-lovers, asserts that a body was murdered, not accidentally struck by a bus. Shawn and Gus promise to solve the case to preserve Woody’s job, and they uncover quite a frame-up while exploring Santa Barbara’s underbelly: The victim, a very lonely man, was hand-picked for a “controlled, calculated, and cold-blooded” death. A true-crime-bookstore owner named Whip Chatterly (“Whip … cream, was it?”) assists the guys with the investigation. The red herring of his wanting to be immortalized as a killer is better than the actual motive, though.
72. “Let’s Doo-Wop It Again” (Season 6, Episode 13)
The follow-up to “High Top Fade-Out” loses some of its original Blackapella magic without one important character (Mekhi Phifer’s Drake subs in for Kenan Thompson’s Joon), but a technological twist manages to keep things fresh. Shawn, suffering from the unexpected bursting of his appendix, has to help solve the attempted-murder case of a community hero while confined to a hospital bed. With an iPad. Under the influence of some moderate pain medication. It’s an amusing angle that, dare we say, all sleuthing shows should attempt at least once, if only for the physical-comedy opportunities that arise when your BFF forces you to hold an iPad for an entire investigation.
71. “A Very Juliet Episode” (Season 4, Episode 12)
It’s a shame Juliet’s Psych backstory involves only daddy and boyfriend issues, although this episode is a good reminder that she has always been a driven woman with detective aspirations. Here, she shows up at Santa Barbara’s train station to reunite with her college boyfriend, eight years after promising each other they would, but when he doesn’t show and police databases come up empty, Shawn and Gus discover his death was faked when he went into a witness-protection program. The resulting case is fine enough, but it still makes us wish Juliet were given more nuance instead of being defined by her male relationships.
Gus, don’t be … the ‘iiiiit’ in ‘Wait for iiiiit.’
70. “Remake, a.k.a. Cloudy … With a Chance of Improvement” (Season 8, Episode 3)
Psych became the first television show to remake one of its own episodes, after Roday Rodriguez and Franks agreed that season one’s “Cloudy” was the weakest. (“The whole point of the remake,” Shawn pointedly tells Gus in the opening scene, “is to choose something that had serious promise but didn’t live up to expectations.”) The premise remains the same as we rewind back to 2006 — Shawn and Gus try being legal consultants to prove a woman didn’t murder a sex-crazed weatherman at his studio — and about a dozen actors return to play different courtroom characters. The novelty factor keeps things light, and everyone is clearly having a fabulous time. But a fresh coat of narrative paint still can’t hide the fact that the original episode was never compelling to begin with.
This is my partner … Robert Jones, but you can call him Boooooooooob.
69. “High Noon-ish” (Season 4, Episode 3)
Lassiter’s backstory gets a nice emotional flourish in “High Noon-ish” when he privately enlists the duo to investigate weird activity at an old Western town where he spent a lot of his childhood. (Perhaps the nicest compliment Lassie has given the boys: “You two have a propensity for finding something from nothing, and I need that gift.”) Lassie, or “Binky” to his loved ones, solidifies his icon status by winning a Western shoot-out, fast draw and all.
68. “The Polarizing Express” (Season 5, Episode 14)
Shawn gets suspended from the department when he’s caught illegally obtaining evidence, thus willing a Christmas Carol situation into existence after his day from hell. (This is Psych’s third and final holiday episode.) Where would they all be without him, you ask? Henry is a fat slob, Gus gets walked over by his materialistic wife and stepson, Chief Vick has been demoted, Lassie is a tyrannical chief, and Juliet is an overworked officer in Miami. This journey of self-discovery gives Shawn the kick in the ass he needs to solve the case and redeem himself but also, and more important, to reflect on how much everyone means to him. “Of all the relationships in my life,” he tells Gus, “ours is easily the most stable and the only one I haven’t screwed up.” Shawn rarely ruminates about his relationships, but when he does, it’s guaranteed to be a lovely moment.
Gus, don’t be … Keith Sweat now.
Gus, don’t be … the way Eriq La Salle spells Eric.
67. “A Touch of Sweevil” (Season 8, Episode 8)
The last bit of Psych magic. After years of rejection, Shawn is finally invited to participate in a prestigious convention on “supernatural police consultants” at the city’s university — but his victory lap is short-lived. The organizer drops dead onstage, and Juliet’s replacement (Mira Sorvino) arrives as a kook who loves crafting just as much as firing M1911’s. The new head detective is essentially Lassie’s female clone (“I always assume that everyone is guilty, always!” she declares), making everyone realize there’s no point in trying to hang on to the past. When interpreting Psych’s final season through the five stages of grief, consider “A Touch of Sweevil” as the acceptance phase. Things really are changing and ending for the show.
66. “Daredevils!” (Season 3, Episode 3)
What’s set up to be a fairly standard sabotage case gives way to one of the most genuinely moving moments in Psych history, when Shawn realizes that a terminally ill daredevil is trying to kill himself during his stunts to get an insurance payout for his family and tries to sway him away from the plan. “It doesn’t take a psychic to see how much people love you,” Shawn tells him. “Ask your wife, your son, your crew. You ask them which they’d rather have, six more months with you or a million dollars. You know damn well what they’ll answer, and they won’t have to think about it for a second.” The moment when Shawn realizes that the man has heeded his advice and lands what was intended to be a fatal motorcycle stunt proves there’s way more to him beneath the surface than a Rolodex of silly pop-culture jokes.
This is my partner … Sports Mackintosh.
Gus, don’t be … an old sponge with hair hanging off it.
65. “Neil Simon’s Lover’s Retreat” (Season 6, Episode 9)
Shawn and Juliet get out of their police-department bubble for the first time when they attend a couples’ weekend at a fancy resort, but their vacation turns back into work real quick when they find themselves investigating two intersecting crimes: a Bonnie and Clyde–esque couple who rob them after a day of friendship (“We are dirty thieves but basically nice people!”) and a braggadocious wine investor who is murdered at a vineyard. A hot-air-balloon ride and a commandeered super-car help catch the culprit (Tony Hale, a competing investor), yet the badass chase has nothing on the reveal about why Shawn was so fixated on his stolen Nintendo — he was hiding an engagement ring for Julie even if he wasn’t ready to propose just yet. Meanwhile, a lonely Gus ends up hanging with Lassiter and Henry back in the city after a chance encounter at a grocery store. We’d watch this unlikely trio go club-hopping any day.
64. “Not Even Close … Encounters” (Season 5, Episode 3)
A high-profile lawyer claims to have witnessed an alien landing and the subsequent abduction of his young colleague, and Shawn and Gus are the only two people who believe him. Well, make that three people: They enlist an old high-school-nerd pal (Freddie Prinze Jr., a great Psych addition) to assist on the case. The conspiracy afoot sadly doesn’t involve little green men, but at least the trio are able to uncover that the lawyer is not a lunatic but instead is trying to be discredited by the textile executives he was investigating for chemical pollution. It’s just as important to us earthlings! The duo’s sci-fi sleuthing outfits are always a series highlight.
This is my partner … Gurton Buster.
63. “We’d Like to Thank the Academy” (Season 5, Episode 13)
Shawn and Gus reach an “asinine and idiotic” low point by going rogue during a case, but their punishment doesn’t seem to be too much of a drag: They’re forced to enroll in a three-week crash course at the police academy to be pushed to their physical, emotional, and mental limits. (Custom Police Academy uniforms are excitedly made for the occasion.) As always, the pair’s lack of basic understanding of police procedure makes for A+ entertainment.
This is my partner … Mission Figgs.
62. “Poker? I Barely Know Her” (Season 1, Episode 14)
This installment of “Shawn Proves His Worth to His Father by Helping His Friends” finds him investigating the increasingly erratic behavior of a young man trying to pay off the debts he acquired during various high-stakes underground poker games. Shawn gets his very own James Bond moment in the climax — he really is gifted at playing cards — especially when he discovers the dealer and game organizer have been cheating the whole time with the help of invisible ink and special glasses. It’s exciting stuff, and, going forward, the relationship between Shawn and his father changes from minor estrangement to unspoken mutual respect.
61. “There’s Something About Mira” (Season 2, Episode 11)
Surprise! Gus has been married this entire time, the result of a wild spring-break tryst in college, and his wife (Kerry Washington in full hurricane mode) returns years later to finalize their divorce so she can marry her fiancé at her family’s vineyard. (Word to the wise: Never do shots of Goldschläger if you aren’t prepared to handle the consequences.) The wedding weekend becomes one of suspicion and intrigue when Shawn has reason to believe that the unseen fiancé is a delusion brought on by Mira’s psychosis medication — but it’s actually even weirder, since he’s just a con man who fell in love with his intended target. Seems like a whole lot of work for a few crates of fine merlot. We’ll overlook it just for the fun flashbacks of college Gus.
60. “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)
Rewatching the pilot, you may be surprised at the way Shawn is introduced. He’s a slacker, a womanizer, and immensely proud of his 50-jobs-and-counting drifter lifestyle. Not until Lassiter and his junior detective (Anne Dudek) become convinced that the tips Shawn gives to the police mean he’s actually in on the various crimes does he realize he can parlay his talents into a sustainable career, one that also happens to be the childhood dream he and Gus shared. “I finally figured out a way to use my special gift,” Shawn tells his father. “You should be thrilled. You’re the one who made me this way. I’m good at this.” It’s a strong and plausible beginning to Psych and, thanks to its supersize length, is injected with everything we’d grow to love about the series: humor, the promise of an enviable bromance, and an astounding amount of pop-culture one-upmanship.
The show as we know it evolves from here but not without one interesting caveat: Dudek’s character was canned and replaced in the next episode because test audiences had an overwhelmingly negative view of Lassiter due to their romantic relationship. “If people didn’t give him a chance,” showrunner Franks later admitted, “we were dead in the water.” Oh, and the whole psychic thing? Shawn calls himself one after “sensing” that a desk clerk believes in such spirits. Let the fun begin!
59. “The Devil’s in the Details … and the Upstairs Bedroom” (Season 4, Episode 4)
A student at Santa Barbara’s local Catholic university witnesses the suicide of her best friend, whose personality took a 180-degree turn in the days leading up to her death. Shawn and Gus know one of the school’s priests from their Sunday-school days (Ray Wise! Exclamation point necessary!), but that isn’t as beneficial as they expect, as he gets a little too gung-ho about using exorcisms to solve the case. Hey, there are worse Exorcist homages than this.
This is my partner … Shawn.
58. “Lassie Did a Bad, Bad Thing” (Season 3, Episode 11)
Damning evidence piles up against Lassiter when he’s accused of fatally shooting a crime kingpin he’s been pursuing for years — and shooting him in the police station just as he’s about to go into witness protection, no less. Shawn and Gus know Lassie’s a good egg and vow to find the true killer (“You’re like our brother. Stepbrother? Weird kid who lives down the street and eats nothing but mayonnaise on saltines?”), and their loyalty pays off when they’re able to deduce that Juliet’s corrupt new partner is on the kingpin’s payroll. The SBPD sure has a history of dirty employees, huh?
Anyway, it’s never not a delight to watch the duo and Lassie work together and bicker like an old married throuple.
57. “In Plain Fright” (Season 5, Episode 11)
A decade after being forced to close unceremoniously after the death of a child parkgoer, Santa Barbara’s annual “Scarefest” returns for some autumnal fun and lives up to its name when Shawn witnesses a murder during a haunted-house ride. It takes a while for the others to believe it wasn’t part of the ride (Gus didn’t see anything because he, uh, definitely wasn’t scared and closing his eyes the entire time), until Scarefest executives start to turn up dead or claim they’re being haunted by the dead boy’s ghost. Dare we say the real scares, though, come from Shawn continuing to hide his relationship with Juliet from Gus. “I totally saw it coming,” Gus says when finally told, “just like Lady in the Water.”
Gus, don’t be … the only Black lead on a major cable network.
Gus, don’t be … your jury.
56. “Santabarbaratown 2” (Season 7, Episode 1)
Immediately picking up after the events of “Santabarbaratown,” this episode has Shawn discovering his father just seconds before he is destined to bleed to death. With Henry in the ICU — and doctors confirming he’ll recover — Shawn goes berserk with plans to avenge him and finds an unlikely ally in Lassiter. The international conspiracy involving Henry’s former partner distributing weapons of war doesn’t really fit into the Psych worldview, but it doesn’t matter, does it? This is more of a culmination of how far the father and son have come since they began to reconcile seven years earlier. Shawn gets the guy, by the way.
55. “COG Blocked” (Season 8, Episode 5)
When a man with an eerily identical life to Gus’s turns up dead in an apparent suicide, it triggers something existential inside Gus that we’ve never seen before — a fear and loathing that he too is an unfulfilled “faceless cog” whose life will never get any better. (“There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind,” he declares, “that I’ve been murdered.”) It’s a small step for Psych but a giant leap for Gus. After years of malaise at Central Coast Pharmaceuticals, he decides to quit his job to figure out what he wants for the next stage of his life.
54. “Disco Didn’t Die. It Was Murdered!” (Season 3, Episode 5)
This is our first inkling that Henry is perhaps not the virtuosic detective we’ve been led to believe he is. Shawn and Gus are hired to reinvestigate the “biggest case of his career,” in which a radical bomber allegedly tried to set off explosives at police headquarters back in the 1970s. Henry weasels his way into working with the duo to redeem himself, and their groovy Starsky & Hutch adventure culminates with the discovery that the bomber had indeed been set up by his married cohorts, who are now reformed as suburban prepsters. It’s a bruise to Henry’s ego, but it brings him and Shawn closer together.
This is my partner … Methuselah Honeysuckle.
53. “Meat Is Murder, But Murder Is Also Murder” (Season 2, Episode 6)
The arrival of Gus’s pessimistic uncle forces him and Shawn to reverse roles while investigating the death of a restaurant critic, since Gus may have lied and may have implied to his uncle that he’s the real psychic. (And by “reverse roles,” we mean they translate for and channel each other with nonsense words to help keep up the ruse.) Gus may not be a psychic — well, okay, Shawn isn’t either — but pretending to be one gives him way more poise and conviction than we’ve ever seen in him. And, dare we say it, he finally embraces the “ridiculous and/or roundabout way” Shawn operates.
Gus, don’t be … a gloomy you.
52. “Think Tank” (Season 4, Episode 14)
Lassiter can barely contain his jealousy when Shawn and Gus get hired to prevent the assassination of a tech billionaire while he’s in town for a convention. But their cockiness dissipates when they realize the security think tank they’re a part of isn’t a legit operation with an $8,500-a-day budget and bonus trampoline expenses. Instead, the duo and the other hired professionals (a master statistician, a retired Secret Service agent, and a former KGB contract killer) are inadvertently helping a well-funded man plan the perfect murder. It all ends with a pleasant twist, naturally. And there’s another pleasant twist: seeing that Shawn is actually smarter than the statistician, agent, and contract killer combined.
51. “Viagra Falls” (Season 5, Episode 6)
The body of Santa Barbara’s revered former police chief is found executed on a boat, so Henry bends the rules and hires the department’s superstar detective team of yesteryear to consult on the case — and they happen to be older, snappier parallels of Shawn and Gus. (Put some respect on William Devane’s and Carl Weathers’s names.) The separate buddy comedies merge into one buddy-quartet extravaganza when the pairs reluctantly decide that working together is better, and this becomes especially helpful when they have to attack some goons at a nightclub and hype one another up enough to abandon their checkers game in pursuit of justice. (We’ll let you guess who does what.) This type of episode is what makes us love Psych and perhaps gives us a glimpse at what Shawn and Gus will be up to in 2040.
This is my partner … Imhotep, or He Cometh in Peace.
This is my partner … Control Alt Delete.
50. “Feet Don’t Kill Me Now” (Season 5, Episode 2)
The murders at the center of this episode — a couple experiencing fidelity issues die within days of each other — is overshadowed by the team’s high jinks. In a temporary switch of partners, Lassiter and Gus team up against Shawn and Juliet to investigate the world of Big Pharma, with Lassie unexpectedly showing interest in Gus’s tap-dancing classes while they kill time awaiting DNA results. (Lassie claims it’s because his therapist wants him to try new things, but those shuffle steps and cramp rolls? They come naturally to him, baby.) A jealous lab worker confesses to the murders, but all we want to do is recap Lassie’s amazing tap routine, which leads him to proclaim, “I know who the West Side rapist is!” Classic stuff.
This is my partner … Santonio Holmes.
49. “Shawn vs. the Red Phantom” (Season 1, Episode 8)
This episode is an ode to con culture and another early glimmer that forecast how great Psych would become. Shawn and Gus head to a comic-book convention to investigate the disappearance of a teenage boy who is secretly an incredibly influential blogger. When some movie-studio bigwigs go missing as well, Shawn deduces that the creator of the Green Spirit comic is taking revenge on everyone who caused the film adaptation to be a box-office bomb — he just had to write taunting notes with his signature loopy handwriting. If the guys could infiltrate George Takei’s inner circle only eight episodes into the series, we could hardly wait to discover their other antics going forward.
This is my partner … Magic Head.
48. “Psy vs. Psy” (Season 2, Episode 3)
Shawn’s first great professional hurdle arises when he faces off against the Treasury Department’s resident “psychic,” who is brought in with a fellow agent to help investigate a roving counterfeiting operation. (“A department that deals exclusively with treasures?,” Shawn asks in amazement.) Shawn’s ensuing victory is also a moral one, as he deduces that the so-called psychic was able to stay one step ahead of everyone because she was in on the scam herself. It’s always nice to see Santa Barbara’s humble police department enjoy a victory in government one-upmanship.
Gus, don’t be … a paranoid schizophrenic.
47. “Shawn Rescues Darth Vader” (Season 6, Episode 1)
The duo take on their most juvenile case yet (literally) to steal back an action figure for a tween, but the ensuing murder investigation is less important than how Shawn’s identity changes in the eyes of the group: Hooked up to a polygraph by Lassiter, he passes the test by asserting that he most definitely is a psychic and is also in love with Juliet. It’s a scene worth replaying dozens of times, as is Lassie’s own polygraph response that he’ll “discharge my pistol … repeatedly” in Shawn’s direction if he breaks Jules’s heart.
Gus, don’t be … the mystery Mousketool.
46. “Talk Derby to Me” (Season 3, Episode 7)
Juliet thrives while going undercover, and this episode’s infiltration of a rah-rah women’s roller-derby team proves to be no exception. (She’s so good that the Chief has to remind her to not “dive in a little too deeply.”) A bunch of department-store robberies are linked to the team members because of their incredible skating abilities, but the lackluster stolen merchandise points to an even smarter scheme: using scanners to steal identities off credit-card applications. Imagine Whip It, only way more murder-y and just as entertaining.
This is my partner … Longbranch Pennywhistle.
45. “No Country for Two Old Men” (Season 7, Episode 4)
Yet another male figure in Juliet’s life becomes a disappointment, when her stepfather, Lloyd (Jeffrey Tambor), transcends his bumbling-accountant persona to reveal that he’s a gambling addict and has to pay off a sizable debt — “somewhere between 1 and 10 million dollars.” A delightful sexagenarian buddy comedy with Lloyd and Henry ensues, as the pair seize an aircraft and fly south of the border to deliver a sentimental crime boss’s prized cufflinks as repayment. They even party at his compound until Lloyd miscalculates the situation and steals a few items. No disrespect to Shawn and Gus, but we could watch these future in-laws bicker affectionately for hours while digging their own graves.
Gus, don’t be … the remake of Yours, Mine and Ours. While I’m at it, don’t be the original, either.
44. “Dead Bear Walking” (Season 5, Episode 15)
Lassiter’s little sister shadows the team as she works on a documentary for her master’s thesis, and what a quintessentially outrageous Psych case for her to be a part of: Someone is framing a polar bear at the local zoo for killing his trainer. Shawn and Gus act fast and get the bear into hiding after the zoo confirms he’ll be euthanized, but when a poorly concealed trail of fish sandwiches leads to the bear’s discovery, they effectively have to become his defense attorneys and prove that a human was the real culprit. PETA’s worst nightmare aside, Lassie’s sister gets some great footage and gives the guys a nice tagline: “They’re not about objects and papers; they’re about people and emotions.” A perfect summation of their work, no?
This is my partner … Radio Star, and I’m afraid your video will kill him.
43. “He Dead” (Season 4, Episode 2)
Shawn and Gus help with a rescue mission in Santa Barbara’s sprawling mountains after a Madoff-like billionaire crashes his airplane. When they’re the first to discover him, he tells the duo with his dying breath that they need to solve his murder. The businessman’s family (with a saucy Christine Baranski as the matriarch) and social circle all seem to have motives to sabotage his plane and want him dead. It’s good fun and a good reminder to enjoy the safety of your 401(k).
42. “Gus’ Dad May Have Killed an Old Guy” (Season 2, Episode 10)
In the first of Psych’s three Christmas episodes, Shawn gets to prove his worth to Gus’s skeptical parents (who think Shawn runs nothing more than a “gypsy detective agency”) when they are both arrested as prime suspects in the murder of a neighbor. Years of thinking Shawn was a terrible influence on their son are absolved when he proves the neighbor was a Rear Window–style perv who blackmailed half the street. It’s a great redemption moment for Shawn’s questionable past with an able assist from Gus’s “super-sniffer.”
This is my partner … Schoonie “U-Turn” Singleton
41. “Lock, Stock, Some Smoking Barrels and Burton Guster’s Goblet of Fire” (Season 8, Episode 1)
Despite being the weakest episode in the Despereaux tetralogy, “Burton Guster’s Goblet of Fire” is still a great Psych escapade and transfers the action across the pond to London. Years after our third encounter with Despereaux (Cary Elwes), the dashing art thief reveals that he is probably, maybe, sort of, unlikely an undercover Interpol agent who rose from desk jockey to major player as a “police-sanctioned criminal,” and he needs Shawn’s help with a sting operation because Shawn resembles a British crime boss’s new crew member. The episode’s real fun comes from having Despereaux’s true identity decided once and for all. “What do you choose to believe?,” Shawn asks Gus and — by association — us, when doubt is cast on Despereaux’s Interpol position in the final scene. We can’t imagine a better way to leave the character.
Gus, don’t be … The Howling II: Your Sister’s a Werewolf.
40. Psych 2: Lassie Come Home (2020)
The superior of the two movies and a general return to form for Psych, largely due to Omundson’s presence. Three years since we last saw the gang, everyone has reconvened in Santa Barbara after Lassiter is shot and left for dead at an abandoned warehouse while investigating a case. He’s now recovering at a pretentious rehab facility but can’t remember anything about his attack, so he calls up Shawn and Gus after he witnesses a bunch of Hitchcockian funny business happening in the facility. Omundson’s lingering health issues were respectfully written into his character, with Lassie “suffering a massive stroke during surgery” and remaining bedridden throughout most of the film. “I don’t know if I’m ever gonna walk again,” he tells the duo.
It’s a good thing his pals keep poking around: One of the nurses (Sarah Chalke, in scrubs) has been carrying out quite a scheme by drugging rich patients with psychoactive drugs and blackmailing them with their secrets, and Lassie (with the help of Joel McHale as a hallucination of his father) takes her down despite being at his weakest. Lassie’s body may be playing catch-up, but his mind is sharp as ever — and that final scene, when he’s able to muster the strength to walk to Marlowe, had us in tears. Welcome back, old friend. Oh yeah, and Gus is going to be a dad! If this is truly the last time we’ll see these characters, it’s a rewarding conclusion.
This is my partner … Bill Poopingtons.
This is my partner … All the Pips in One.
This is my partner … Ding Dong Ditch.
This is my partner … Leggo My Eggo.
Gus, don’t be … the night your dad fell asleep inside your mom.
39. “Gus Walks Into a Bank” (Season 3, Episode 8)
What should have been a normal trip to the bank for Gus turns into a group-hostage situation when a disoriented man (pre-Succession Alan Ruck) pulls a gun on everyone and locks the building down. But when it becomes clear that he’s being forced to act against his will, Shawn outsmarts the SWAT team’s negotiator (Gary Cole, in full smooth mode) with pizza and his knowledge of the city’s sewers and finds the real mastermind — who, of course, happens to work at the bank and enjoys stealing from people’s safety-deposit boxes. Watching Shawn psychically kick ass against seasoned officers of the law never gets old.
38. “Shawn and the Real Girl” (Season 6, Episode 12)
Psych was destined to parody the Bachelor franchise at some point. Here, Shawn and Gus infiltrate Paths of Love, a reality show that selects contestants who “could have had contact with” the leading lady in the past. (One guy models on a billboard outside her office; another is an old creative-writing classmate.) Leave it to Shawn and Gus to turn the show’s confines into a cute, highly enjoyable buddy vacation. “It was kind of hard to penetrate that twosome. When they came into the house, I actually thought that they may have been together,” the bachelorette quips about their relationship. “I mean, they’re really into each other.”
This is my partner … Larenz Tate.
37. “Yang 3 in 2D” (Season 5, Episode 16)
This episode ends the Yin-Yang trilogy, reigniting the story when a young woman claims to have been kidnapped by the serial killer Mr. Yin. Ever the riddler, his imprisoned partner, Mr. Yang (Ally Sheedy, a top guest star), admits nothing when the team visits her in a psychiatric hospital, and she leverages the situation by agreeing to help only if she can take a vacation day from her sentence. But what a guy Mr. Yin turns out to be! He’s actually a tenured college professor (played by Peter Weller) looking for an “exit strategy” from his murderous side hustle and has been living near the Spencers for decades. He also — gasp — is Mr. Yang’s father. We still think the revelation would have been stronger had Mr. Yin been unmasked as a character we’ve seen before, but when Mr. Yang breaks free from her lifelong victimhood and kills her dad to protect Shawn and Gus, we’re willing to brush those feelings aside for the full-circle moment.
36. “Shawn 2.0” (Season 5, Episode 8)
Complacency sets in if you don’t challenge yourself, and Shawn learns this lesson the hard way when the department hires a criminal profiler to lend his expertise in the investigation of a series of mercy killings. The handsome and filthy-rich fella, who Shawn claims has “a job that only exists in TV shows,” surmises that all the victims were gravely ill and had been targeted from a liver-transplant waiting list — shrewd thinking that makes our resident psychic jealous. But despite Shawn’s realization that the guy is as much of a fraud as he is, the deception doesn’t matter. The “profiler” admits his lack of credentials, and the team still respects him after they finish the case. It’s a rude awakening for Shawn because it proves there really is a better version of himself out there, one that doesn’t need to operate on a fundamental lie.
35. “The Break-Up” (Season 8, Episode 10)
This is a very satisfying series finale. When Shawn decides to close the Psych business and move to San Francisco to be with Juliet, he leaves a bunch of farewell-message videos for his friends after solving one last case with Gus. The crime may be a bit too on the nose — one half of a BFF business-partner team turns up dead when he decides to “move on” — but all we can think about are those wonderful videos and how far the characters have come. Gus is nearly reduced to tears by his, as it becomes inevitable that the episode’s title refers to the duo’s friendship. “You’re gonna be better than fine,” Shawn tells him. “I just can’t help thinking that the only problem that you really had this whole time … is me.” Inspired by Shawn’s decisive action to follow love, Gus quits his newest nine-to-five pharmaceutical job to move up north to “solve crimes and live life to the fullest” with his closest friend. Oh yeah, and Shawn and Jules get engaged! Everything is tied up as best as it can be. What more could we want from an ending?
34. “Chivalry Is Not Dead … But Someone Is” (Season 5, Episode 4)
Someone’s killing handsome and youthful bachelors in Santa Barbara, which means Shawn and Gus need to find the culprit before they too are murdered. Haha, just kidding. The trail leads them to classes in the “art of gentlemanly seduction” taught by a master lothario (a hilarious John Michael Higgins), and they learn the bachelors are dropping like flies as they pursue one of the city’s most eligible women (Jean Smart, noted babe). Her penniless best friend ultimately reveals herself to be the killer, with an arsenal of poisonous mothballs as her weapons. By the end, you too may finally be ready to believe that Shawn has been a “true gentleman” all along — since he, you know, has helped solve an astounding number of crimes.
This is my partner … Chaz Bono.
Gus, don’t be … George Hamilton’s reaction when Ashley came to him and said, “Dad, I think I’ll become an actor too.”
33. “Dis-Lodged” (Season 2, Episode 14)
Lassiter faces his worst nightmare in having to arrest his ex-father-in-law for murder, but this plays second fiddle to Shawn becoming the youngest member of the clandestine Monarch Lodge, where we’re pretty sure the only activities involve wearing wizard robes and sitting for portraits. (He’s a legacy, duh.) One of the society’s “brothers” turns up dead at a ceremony, prompting an internal audit of all its geriatric members and uncovering a trail of cooked books, embezzlement, and the powdered venom of a “Brazilian vine snake.” But mostly embezzlement. Some society this is! A great episode all around: Shawn’s at his silliest, as is Gus, who reminds us that he really does work in pharmaceuticals.
32. “The Old and the Restless” (Season 2, Episode 12)
Henry gets to relive his glory days when he goes undercover at a swanky retirement community as Shawn and Gus’s grandfather (“he worked at Benetton”). He’s helping them investigate why healthy residents keep collapsing at the facility, and the effects are so severe that the victims have to be assigned to another nursing home. It doesn’t take the trio long to realize that one of the workers is poisoning the residents’ food so her mom can take a coveted spot, which sucks for Henry because he was having one hell of a time as “Talmadge McGulager.” Henry doesn’t giddily indulge in Psych casework a lot, but when he does, we know we’re in for a gift.
31. “65 Million Years Off” (Season 2, Episode 2)
Desperate to get on a case during Lassiter’s hot streak, Shawn insists that the only reasonable explanation for a dead paleontologist having so many wounds on his body is that he was mauled by a dinosaur. And you know what? He technically was, since a farmer had pushed him into a hole where he was hiding a bunch of gigantic fossils. This delightful episode established the show’s penchant for successfully reverse-engineering Shawn’s outlandish theories, but it’s diluted a bit by Henry’s insistence on staging an intervention for his son and his “delusions of magical powers.” Just give in already, Henry.
Gus, don’t be … a giant snapping turtle.
30. “Ghosts” (Season 3, Episode 1)
It’s always a treat to see that Gus’s pharmaceutical job isn’t a figment of his imagination, and here, one of his bosses, at the insistence of his scared wife, hires the duo to investigate the paranormal activity cropping up all over his manse. Living in luxury — with robes spun from extinct worms and Dutch hot cocoa “dipped right out of Willy Wonka’s river” — is essential to solving the case, but there’s actually no case to solve. Shawn, wanting to ensure that his pal is more valued and accepted at work, has been doing all the hauntings himself, a plan that turns out better than expected despite the discovery of his ruse. (The boss, of course, is having an affair with his secretary and dabbling in illegal business activities.) Corporate silliness aside, the arrival of Shawn’s mother (a terrific Cybill Shepherd, calling him “Goose”) adds deeper layers to his backstory when she admits that she was the one to leave Henry, not the other way around. A long-gestating reconciliation of sorts ensues between father and son.
This is my partner … Lemongrass Gogulope.
29. “Psych: The Musical” (Season 7 Special)
Showrunner Franks managed to turn his dream into reality with this musical Psych episode, which, despite being aired out of chronological order, is a wildly effective form for the show. (It served as the final episode of season seven, though its events transpire before Lassiter and Marlowe’s wedding.) A playwright escapes from a psychiatric hospital years after allegedly killing a critic who was poised to give his play — a Hamilton-ized take on Jack the Ripper — a bad review, and none other than Yang became his closest confidant during his incarceration. The characters zazz their way through breezy numbers such as “Santa Barbara Skies,” “Jamaican Inspector Man,” and “I’ve Heard It Both Ways” as they investigate whether the playwright was framed, but they need to nail their tangos fast because he’s embarking on a rampage now that the work is being revived at the city playhouse. On a scale from a Kars4Kids commercial to Buffy’s “Once More, With Feeling” episode, we’d put “Psych: The Musical” in the upper 70th percentile of the TV musical pantheon, especially when Yang sacrifices her life to protect Shawn from the true culprit, a director. We’d take it (again) from the top any day.
This is my partner … Lil Wayne.
This is my partner … King Mongkut.
This is my partner … Gig Van Tran.
Gus, don’t be … the kites upon strings.
Gus, don’t be … the very model of a modern major-general.
28. “Spellingg Bee” (Season 1, Episode 2)
It’s pretty remarkable how Psych found its groove so effortlessly after the pilot, with the duo’s first case involving the death of a renowned master speller during a bee for adolescents. (“Hockey with words,” Shawn taunts.) Along with a defining moment for Shawn’s personality when he impersonates another master speller, this episode gives us Lawson’s first appearance as Juliet, a young, gun-shy junior detective transferred from Miami. That introduction alone trumps the silly idea that a father and his tween son could rig a spelling bee with an inhaler and electrical signals. Anything to get into a good college though, right?
27. “If You’re So Smart, Then Why Are You Dead?” (Season 2, Episode 7)
Shawn and Gus get their 21 Jump Street moment (sort of) when a bunch of “prodigy nerds” cajole them into investigating a crime at their school even though — let’s get this straight — they don’t know who the victim is, who the murderer is, or when the murder will happen. The only reasonable thing for the guys to do is go undercover to teach a class on “Phsysics” (“the physics of psychics”) as they unravel a greater conspiracy involving a 30-something student trying to pass as a teen because his stint in juvie ruined his chances to restart his life. The parallels between him and Shawn are intentional (minus the murderer part). This already stellar episode also gives Juliet some much needed career development on her first case as a lead detective.
26. “From the Earth to the Starbucks” (Season 1, Episode 10)
A drunk Lassiter confessing his admiration for Shawn kicks off a terrific episode about the death of an astronomer, who, with his partner (an always welcome Richard Kind), discovered a new planet. (“You astound me. It’s beyond astounding, it’s some of the most impressive reasoning I’ve ever seen,” Lassiter admits in a rare moment of candor. “I don’t know how you do it. You, sir, are unstoppable.”) We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that this episode also debuts Gus’s signature pickup line about Pluto.
25. “Indiana Shawn and the Temple of the Kinda Crappy, Rusty Old Dagger” (Season 6, Episode 10)
Despereaux makes an appearance here for the third time, but the plot develops into something far more poignant than his simply helping the duo find a stolen shipment of fine art they were supposed to be supervising for the local museum. Despereaux is seemingly killed in an explosion while fleeing from suspects in a boat; Shawn and Gus both clearly witness his death, but Shawn refuses to believe it. Only when Henry presents him with DNA evidence do we see a side of Shawn we’ve never been privy to: profound grief.
“I’ve never lost anyone close to me before in my entire life,” he yelps. “Jesus, how stupid-sad is this? People die. It’s awful and unfair.” The reveal that Despereaux is just incredibly good at faking his own death negates this breakthrough a bit, and the trio proceed to discover a deceased billionaire’s “core collection” in his crypt. The artworks turn out to be not the billionaire’s mediocre attempts at painting but instead some painted-over Rembrandts, hammering home the episode’s theme about the duality of existence.
24. “Six Feet Under the Sea” (Season 3, Episode 10)
Psych silliness at its best: Gus lies to Shawn (“There’s not really a burglary ring at a gentleman’s finishing school, is there?”) to get him to attend the open-casket funeral of Shabby, the Santa Barbara aquarium’s beloved sea lion. Shawn’s lifelong affinity for marine creatures works to the duo’s advantage when he determines that the poor animal was shot to death soon after being released into the ocean. The culprits — smugglers who thought they were killing a diver — are outliers in an otherwise light and enjoyable episode that sadly does not end with Shawn having a date with destiny to swim with dolphins.
This is my partner … Hummingbird Saltalamacchia.
Gus, don’t be … exactly half of an 11-pound Black Forest ham.
23. “Santabarbaratown” (Season 6, Episode 16)
A quiet eeriness permeates “Santabarbaratown,” in which a crooked businessman turns up dead next to the woman he supposedly killed 20 years earlier. He did, in fact, murder the woman after she secretly gave birth to his child, but how we get to the proof is a stomp on the heart for poor Henry. It’s a transformative episode that spurs him to reevaluate his life, career, and worldview. The cliffhanger — Henry is shot point-blank and left for dead — is a graphic awakening that affects the rest of Psych’s run.
This is my partner … Sh’Dynasty.
22. “Murder? … Anyone? … Anyone? … Bueller?” (Season 3, Episode 2)
Psych joyously meets the John Hughes canon when the pair’s high-school reunion (expertly planned by Gus) is ruined after Shawn witnesses a murder. But the “no body, no crime” mantra haunts him, as he can’t seem to discover who was pushed off the school’s roof — or why. It ends up being the work of the former prom queen and king, who silence their former lackey in a very un–Breakfast Club twist; meanwhile, Shawn gets to reunite with an old love interest between investigating leads in the locker room and cafeteria. The very sweet Abigail (Rachael Leigh Cook) stays around for the next two seasons and gives further insight into Shawn’s past. He may have drifted aimlessly through high school, but if this episode is any indication, he sure seems to have his life’s purpose figured out now.
Gus, don’t be … an incorrigible Eskimo Pie with a caramel ribbon.
21. “Tuesday the 17th” (Season 3, Episode 15)
This outing, an excellent ode to the slasher genre, sees Shawn and Gus return to their childhood camp to investigate a counselor’s disappearance. The first twist — that it’s now a “murder camp,” run by their old friend, where guests pay to have the shit scared out of them — is great enough as it is, but when staffers begin to drop dead for real, the duo are forced to get to work weeding out the psychopath before they become victims too. (“What are the odds?”) The killer was bound to be an avenging counselor whose father had died at the camp years ago. This is also the first of many episodes Roday Rodriguez directed, proving he’s more than just a pretty psychic-detective face.
20. “Shawn, Interrupted” (Season 6, Episode 6)
Shawn has been mentally preparing to go undercover in a psychiatric institution his entire life, where a billionaire businessman, found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity, will have to live out the rest of his days. The department believes the man (Brad Dourif, in a nice Cuckoo’s Nest nod) has been expertly faking his madness to avoid prison, so Shawn is tasked with monitoring his behavior — but when Shawn witnesses him continuing to act crazy when nobody else is around and drift in and out of consciousness while taking his medication, he and Gus (also undercover as an orderly) have to expose a familial and institutional conspiracy before the electroshock therapy begins. A final discovery leads to the series’ funniest apprehension scene yet, but the episode also goes deeper and more meditative as it explores Shawn’s “psychic abilities” and how he too could have wound up in a place like that if he’d rubbed the wrong people the wrong way.
19. “Office Space” (Season 7, Episode 11)
A hilarious opening sequence is apt for “Office Space,” the show’s last truly great episode. After Gus stands up to his abusive boss at the pharmaceutical company and quits via a note, he rushes back at night to undo his resignation — only to discover that the boss has been murdered in his office. Gus had nothing to do with it, of course, but a comedy-of-errors flashback doesn’t exactly help his case. He hyperventilates and accidentally trashes the place in a panic, then enlists Shawn to help him scrub the scene before sunrise. (“You might have actually undersold this thing,” Shawn quips.) Gus gets promoted when a rival corporate executive turns out to be the killer, and Shawn also receives good news when Juliet agrees to reconcile with him. The heightened reality makes for textbook Psych fun.
18. “Heeeeere’s Lassie” (Season 6, Episode 11)
Lassiter takes advantage of a fantastic apartment deal when he stumbles upon a place that was a suicide crime scene, but after he moves in, the honeymoon phase quickly fades when surreal, Shining-style things start to happen — so much so that he hires Shawn and Gus to snoop around. (Blood bubbling in a light fixture is … not a good sign.) Luckily for Lassie, his place isn’t haunted, but since this is a Stanley Kubrick homage, the truth is far more macabre. The chase that a drugged-up Lassie, sober Gus, and blissfully unaware Shawn have throughout the building is one of the show’s most memorable sequences and perhaps the only time we’ve genuinely feared for their lives. It also, yes, brings the trio closer despite the Torrance-esque rampage, because Psych is like that.
This is my partner … Fellatio del Toro.
This is my partner … Eddie Adams from Torrance.
17. “Shawn (and Gus) of the Dead” (Season 2, Episode 16)
Impressed by Shawn’s investigative work in “65 Million Years Off” (he did technically discover a bunch of dinosaur fossils), the curator of the city’s history museum enlists his supernatural skills to determine how a mummy could walk out of an exhibition coffin undetected and disappear — and, perhaps, strangle one of the museum’s guards. The solution is less cool than the Night At the Museum homage sets it up to be, but Shawn’s humility arguably never reaches a higher point than in this episode. He also solidifies Karen’s post as chief after taking it upon himself to, uh, photograph her intended replacement in some compromising positions. We’ll never stop laughing at the museum’s “psychic paleo-sleuth” sign, even more so because of the name Bruton Gaster.
This is my partner … Patty Simcox.
Gus, don’t be … a Traveling Wilbury.
16. “Deez Nups” (Season 7, Episode 7)
A game-changing episode that punches you right in the gut. It’s the weekend of Lassiter and Marlowe’s nuptials, with the respective bachelor and bachelorette parties converging at a nearby casino resort for a day of debauched fun. (It wouldn’t be Lassiter’s wedding unless he apprehended one last criminal as a single man.) But what begins as a spiritual sequel of sorts to “Last Night Gus” transforms into a tragedy after the wedding, when a forgotten ticket stub in Shawn’s pocket finally wakes Juliet up to his true identity: He’s not a psychic who divines through spectacular visions but just an extraordinarily sharp guy who takes advantage of his intuition and eidetic memory. “Falling in love with you was never part of the plan,” he explains. “We sort of found a groove, and by the time you showed up, it was so much fun. I’m good at what I do, and what I do is good, isn’t it?” A glass of prosecco to his face signals that Juliet and, by association, the viewers, aren’t so sure anymore.
15. “100 Clues” (Season 7, Episode 5)
Psych celebrated its 100th episode by reuniting Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren, and Christopher Lloyd for this wonderful Clue tribute. Shawn and Gus are invited (by singing telegram, of course) to a mansion for a dinner party hosted by an aging rock star who has just been released from prison for the murder of groupie that he swears he didn’t commit. The rocker says he’s hosting the dinner in good faith — he’s a changed man after his short stint in prison, even if the guests’ testimonies were what landed him there — but when a fellow band member turns up dead on the property, it’s clear that everyone at the party had motive to commit both murders. Shawn works a little “1+1+2+1” magic to find the killer, and, in true Clue spirit, three different endings were shot. As with “Dual Spires,” you don’t need to know the source material to thoroughly enjoy the episode.
This is my partner … Domo Arigato.
Gus, don’t be … the second time ever I saw your face.
14. “High Top Fade-Out” (Season 4, Episode 7)
The first appearance of Woody complements the arrival of Gus’s estranged buddies from his college a cappella group (the delightful duo of Kenan Thompson and Jaleel White), who travel to Santa Barbara for the funeral of the fourth Blackapella member. Working with Shawn — who’s trying to weasel his way in as the quartet’s newest singer — the group figures out that their pal’s death wasn’t a tragic hit-and-run accident. Rather, he was murdered while investigating a foxy colleague who was selling encrypted data to a drug kingpin. But that’s not the point, really: Most important, Gus sings, and any episode that lets Gus sing is a great episode.
This is my partner … Detective Miles.
Gus, don’t be … the American adaptation of the British Gus.
13. “Extradition II: The Actual Extradition Part” (Season 5, Episode 10)
The run of excellent Despereaux episodes continues with “Extradition II,” his second appearance, when he gifts Shawn and Gus an all-expenses-paid vacation to Vancouver to come visit him in jail (which he likens to a “mid-range Sandals resort”). Why? He claims he wants to prove to them that he truly is a great criminal by escaping prison and sneaking back in without being caught. But really we know it’s just an excuse for him to play around with Shawn and annoy Gus, a premise that could be multiplied dozens of times and never cease to be amusing. In the end, Despereaux is extradited back to the U.S., and, thank God, another group hang is foreshadowed. We can’t stress this enough: Everything Despereaux touches is gold.
This is my partner … Yasmine Bleeth.
Gus, don’t be … both Ashlee Simpson albums.
12. “9 Lives” (Season 1, Episode 5)
Only five episodes were needed to get to the first great Psych outing, in which the duo go undercover at a crisis hotline when they suspect a series of suicides — of people finally getting big breaks in their lives — is tied to it. A feline that “witnessed” one of the deaths becomes Shawn’s closest confidant, even if the fluffy boy pees on a bunch of evidence. “I want to talk to that cat,” he implores. “As soon as he’s finished licking himself.” Without further comment, here’s the moment when Shawn becomes Shawn:
11. “This Episode Sucks” (Season 6, Episode 3)
Lassiter gets a long-awaited humanizing touch in “This Episode Sucks,” when he meets an alluring woman named Marlowe at a bar and instantly falls in love — only for her to escape through a bathroom window. Unfortunately for Lassie, though, Marlowe becomes a prime suspect in a series of blood-draining attacks on innocent people, all of whom share a rare blood type. And … so does our dear Lassie. Shawn and Gus put together that the attacks are not being made by vampires (or vampires disguised as cats) but instead by Marlowe’s terminally ill brother, who accidentally drained one victim a little too much, and they save Lassie just before he too gets sucked dry. Marlowe is off to prison for a few months for her involvement but not before Lassie proclaims he’ll wait for her — proving that, underneath all his shiny, department-issued guns, he’s capable of loving someone even more than he loves Chuck Norris. Aw.
10. “Shawn Takes a Shot in the Dark” (Season 4, Episode 9)
Perhaps the only Psych episode that consciously eschews humor, “Shawn Takes a Shot in the Dark” is a major turning point that proves Shawn is the real deal when it comes to his sleuthing and survival skills. Watch and learn, skeptics. He gets shot and kidnapped while investigating irregularities in armored-truck crashes, and is able to — at least for a bit — outsmart his kidnapper by escaping from a trunk and running through the woods while leaving clues for his friends. (Skills his father taught him in, by far, the show’s only flashback sequence worth talking about.) The realization that Juliet loves Shawn pushes this into top-ten territory, as does the big-budget car-chase scene on the highway.
This is my partner … Doughnut Holschtein.
9. “Black and Tan: A Crime of Fashion” (Season 2, Episode 15)
Shawn and Gus finagle their way into a party for Santa Barbara’s hottest clothing brand to celebrate Gus’s birthday, but the subsequent murders of the married lead designers herald their most difficult undercover assignment yet: trying to pull off being models. (Gus, face. Shawn, foot and ankle.) The world of high fashion is every bit as shallow, judgmental, cruel, and gorgeous as the guys anticipated. A mini-schism develops when Gus deserts Shawn to whore it up all over town with his fellow face models, giving Shawn a taste of his own medicine and rehashing one of Gus’s most pervasive themes of Psych’s run — his abandonment issues with Shawn. Their friendship is still meaningful and #goals, of course. But now we know it’s not all shits and giggles for them, regardless of how much lavender oil Gus puts on his scalp.
8. “Dual Spires” (Season 5, Episode 12)
Even if you’ve never stepped into the Black Lodge, this Twin Peaks homage is still a strong episode that expertly basks in the sinister and absurd. But for all the Lynch lovers out there, it’s a damn fine treat best paired with a cup of coffee. The guys are anonymously summoned to a small town to attend a Cinnamon Festival, but when a teenage girl washes up onshore, their real purpose there is exposed: to solve the murder of Paula Merral. (Don’t worry, they still eat a lot of cinnamon.) Former Twin Peaks stars Dana Ashbrook, Sherilyn Fenn, Sheryl Lee, Robyn Lively, Lenny Von Dohlen, Catherine E. Coulson, and Ray Wise all show up in supporting roles, and although things don’t reach Red Room levels of terror, the revelation that the town’s “founding families” killed the girl to protect their future male leader just … feels like a Lynch move.
“As soon as I knew we were going to be doing tribute episodes, and as soon as I knew the landscape of Psych allowed us to do homages, the show creator and I both had respective dreams. His was a musical episode, and mine was a Twin Peaks episode,” Roday Rodriguez told Vulture in a 2017 interview about the creation of “Dual Spires.” “It was crazy, because I was the superfan on staff, and the amount of freedom that was given to me, both by USA and Universal, was pretty remarkable. They were like, ‘You’re the one who knows the show; go and try to make this happen.’ I couldn’t believe we were going to do this.” (You can read the rest of the feature here.)
This is my partner … Lodge Blackman.
Gus, don’t be … the scream from “Holding Back the Years.”
7. “Mr. Yin Presents …” (Season 4, Episode 16)
The stakes skyrocket in part two of the Yin-Yang trilogy, when creepy criminal profiler Marion “Mary” Lightly (Jimmi Simpson, another top guest star), fresh from publishing his book about Mr. Yang, who is now incarcerated for serial murder, confronts Shawn and Gus with a startling revelation: Mr. Yang must have partnered with another mastermind in her crimes. A trip to visit Mr. Yang confirms this, and Mr. Yin makes his grand debut by sending the team riddles, all slyly dealing with themes and motifs from Hitchcock films, to give them a chance to find him.
The Hitchcock canon bleeds into the final showdown at an abandoned warehouse (R.I.P., sweet Mary), with Mr. Yin giving Shawn the ultimate test of fate: Does he choose to save Abigail, his “femme fatale” under the docks, or Juliet, his “girl next door” over the clock tower? Both women are saved from inevitable death, but at what cost? Abigail ends things for good, Juliet develops crippling PTSD, and Mr. Yin escapes into the night. The game isn’t over, which is a brutal — but sometimes necessary — taste of reality for the Psych world.
6. “Scary Sherry: Bianca’s Toast” (Season 1, Episode 15)
Juliet’s first fulfilling episode is also an incredibly fulfilling Psych episode in its own right, with John Landis tapped to direct this homage to urban legends with a slasher twist. When a sorority is plagued by the haunting and killing of its members, Jules goes undercover as a freshly manicured alumni parliamentarian to discover who’s sick enough to electrocute one of the girls with a toaster in the bathtub. The ax-wielding showdown in a deserted mental institution — where it’s revealed that a sorority member’s BFF is behind it all after a hazing gone wrong — affirms Juliet’s transition from a naïve junior detective to a confident second-in-command. (No wonder Lawson herself considers it her favorite episode.)
“Scary Sherry: Bianca’s Toast” also delivers what might be the best subplot in the show’s history: Lassiter is forced to team up with a bawdy older rookie (Goochberg!) and teach her not to, uh, physically attack every suspect. The “Scarecrow” is unsuccessful.
5. “Lights, Camera … Homicidio” (Season 2, Episode 13)
An absolute hoot from start to finish, this episode finds Shawn working his charm to the fullest as he investigates a murder on the set of a Spanish soap opera, joining the cast of Explosión Gigantesca de Romance as a sexy postman. Shawn’s character, Chad, becomes quite the telenovela hunk, which we’ll credit to his subtle but alluring use of eyeliner. (Photographic evidence above.) We consider this episode the biggest breakthrough moment of Shawn’s detective prowess, given that, well, nobody gave him a second thought as he blended right into a telenovela. If he could do that, he could do just about anything.
This is my partner … Lavender Gooms. (Which is, amazingly, the real name of Hill’s great-aunt.)
4. “An Evening With Mr. Yang” (Season 3, Episode 16)
The first episode in the “Yin-Yang trilogy” is its strongest and one of the show’s most memorable overall, with Santa Barbara’s most prolific unseen serial killer coming out of retirement to face off against Shawn, who has been deemed “admirable” enough to play with. Mary helps the team as they go from riddle to riddle to save a waitress’s life, but a miscalculation from Shawn brings about a permanent reckoning for his character: When he refuses to indulge Mr. Yang any further, his mother is also kidnapped, forcing him to quit his juvenile antics and cautiously play by the rules. The big reveal, that Mr. Yang is actually a middle-aged woman, earns its gasps.
This is my partner … Sterling Cooper.
Gus, don’t be … the last of the famous international playboys.
3. “Extradition: British Columbia” (Season 4, Episode 1)
Hello, Pierre Despereaux! Shawn and Gus’s ski sojourn in British Columbia (where Psych actually films) turns into a case of international intrigue when they run into the prolific art thief while pizza-ing and French fry–ing on the slopes. Shawn and Despereaux’s budding bromance cements this episode as the best in the tetralogy and one of the greatest Psych installments ever. They keep trying to outsmart and outcool each other, only for Shawn to discover that Despereaux isn’t the sexy criminal he claims to be. Alas, he’s nothing more than a middleman who is handed artworks from clients so they can claim insurance fraud. We guess it technically still makes him an art thief? But it doesn’t matter. Shawn has a new best friend, and in 42 minutes, Despereaux becomes the stuff of Psych legend.
2. “American Duos” (Season 2, Episode 1)
An endlessly rewatchable episode that satirizes “another knockoff of the other knockoff of the original knockoff of that other show,” or, in layman’s terms, a singing competition featuring duets. Shawn and Gus investigate who would want to kill reality-show judge Nigel St. Nigel (a perfect Tim Curry) by pretending to be contestants on the show — which is difficult, since their vocal talents are not incorrectly described as “post-post-postmodern” and “sandpaperesque.” The resolution becomes almost irrelevant when you realize that this episode epitomizes everything about the Psych ethos: It’s two best friends who get themselves into believably ludicrous situations, ham it up to everybody who crosses their path, and maybe even solve a crime along the way. Not exactly in that order.
1. “Last Night Gus” (Season 6, Episode 2)
Just put this in the Library of Congress already. Psych’s best episode takes a page from the Hangover playbook when Shawn, Gus, Lassiter, and Woody wake up together with zero memory of what happened the night before. Their discoveries accelerate from “Lassie lost his man-spooning virginity” to “We may have killed a guy,” when the quartet slowly piece together their roofied memories. The dead man is a private investigator who got embroiled in a case way beyond his snap-and-shoot pay grade, but the culprit himself — one of the most wanted armed robbers in the state — plays second fiddle to how the gang, with the late addition of Henry, uncover his identity.
As the team retrace their debauched steps from a bar to a doughnut shop to a motel, “Last Night Gus” becomes a master class in showcasing everyone’s chemistry and eccentricities, as well as how, after six seasons, their bond transcends friendship to make them a family — a sometimes reluctant and often dysfunctional one, but a family nonetheless. Fans will tell you that the real joy of Psych never came from the thoughtfulness of the cases or even how smart the culprits were in any given episode. It was always about the characters. And if you got them all united on the same side — even if it culminated with Lassie shooting a few rounds into a massive doughnut mascot — the magic would follow.