Is the “Right Turn Or Left For Dead” Episode of Psych Genius or Lazy?

The eighth episode of season 7 of Psych tackles the two different options trope a lot of TV shows handle. I’m actually a bit of a fan of this trope being used in TV because I like the idea of media multiverses and the parallel events. That’s why I like superheros so much. The main difference Psych has from most shows that use of this trope is that in the episode prior to this one, we actually saw only one event. So, for this episode it kind of seems like the writing team wanted to retcon what they just pushed as lore in the prior episode. But is that what happened? Did the writers want to change something or did they seriously want the audience to imagine two different scenarios of Psych and imagine which one is the right one? Was “Right Turn Or Left For Dead” a genius move by the writing team, or was it just lazy?

Let’s talk about the choice that splits up the episode: Did Shawn tell Juliet that he’s not really psychic or not? Well, the real choice would be: Did Shawn give her his jacket or the chief’s? In the universe suggested by the prior episode, we see that Juliet throws her drink in Shawn’s face for building their relationship on a lie and he is heartbroken and worse for wear. In the universe where he doesn’t tell her though, everything seems to be fine and happy between the two. To make things simpler let’s call the universe where Jules gets Shawn’s jacket “Universe A” and call the universe where she gets the chief’s jacket “Universe B”. In Universe A, there is an obvious grayscale kind of effect on all of the scenes letting us “subtly” know that this is the sad one. In Universe B, every scene either looks like the main show or somewhat golden almost as if to suggest that is the “golden” universe. The better universe.

Despite the mostly normal lighting in Universe B, it is almost evident throughout the episode that this is not the real episode simply because of the actions. Everything is too perfect. People are too happy. This is where the genius or laziness comes in. Either Universe B is too perfect because it’s all in Shawn’s head and the writers wanted you to know this, or the writers wanted to get rid of Universe A and let everything go back to the way things were without realizing that things were never this good. It’s hard to make a decision on whether or not it was genius without knowing the ending. So, here it goes.

Spoiler alert: near the end of the episode, we see that the scene from the beginning where Shawn said, “What just happened” is playing in the present. Everything before that was more of a flashback/what if? Now, we are in the present and there are no two universes. So, what choice did Shawn make? Even Shawn is unclear in these first moments. Until suddenly, we are awakened to the fact that it’s Universe A. Shawn did give her his jacket. She did figure out.

But it doesn’t matter, right? She forgives him, right? No. As we are made aware, that is a dream. You can call it a Universe C, but the point is: We are in Universe A. Juliet does not forgive Shawn. Shawn is forced to deal with his actions.

So, what? Was the writing lazy? I don’t think so. The point of this episode was not to show a different scenario. It was not to ask “What if?”. In every scenario in this show, it’s too perfect. That exposes Shawn for what he is: a child. He wants an easy way out. He wants everything to be okay. He wants everyone to understand why he did what he did and to go “the way things were”. As Shawn’s father repeatedly reminds us during the show: Shawn needs to grow up. We’ve had moments of character growth all throughout the show, but this might be the most important. The most important person to him in his life, other than Gus (of course), is Juliet and she is gone. He is why she’s gone. And it doesn’t matter if she did or didn’t find out. He lied to her despite the fact the she told him she values honesty more than anything.

Do I think Shawn did anything wrong by not telling Juliet? Not exactly. He was trying to protect himself. He was forced in the first episode to explain himself and Lassiter wouldn’t accept the truth. So, he lied and over time, that lie grew. As he says, “Falling in love with Juliet wasn’t part of the plan.” I think he should’ve told her at some point throughout their relationship, but that’s the point of this episode. This episode is to show that Juliet isn’t this always-sweet, stereotypical girlfriend character. She is strong. She is true to her ethics and she doesn’t easily forgive deceit. This is as much of an exploration of Shawn’s character as it is Shawn’s idea of Juliet. In the end, Juliet (in this universe) is real. She has real emotions and responds to things in her own way. Shawn cannot blame her for feeling the way she does.

I think the portrayal of Shawn, the way he thinks, the fantasy he has of Juliet, and his excuses or elegantly shown throughout this mostly-serious episode. I think that this was an excellent, almost-genius-like exploration of this character we’ve grown to love. And I know I’m not the only one.

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