An action chase opens “High Top Fade Out,” the latest episode of USA’s Psych. A preppy man on a bicycle pedals frantically away from a sketchy car driven by gun-toting thugs. The chase leads to an alley where the man loses control of the bike. He sets off on foot, acrobatically leaping up a fire escape ladder, and makes it into his apartment, where he has just enough time to upload and email some kind of video before the thugs bust the door open and strangle him. A surprisingly intense and violent opening (Who directed this episode? Michael Bay!?), but it works.
The dead bicyclist, Diddle, was a college friend and former bandmate of Gus’s. Along with Tony (Jaleel White) and June (Kenan Thompson), they made up a college a cappella quartet called Blackapella. The group went through a bitter breakup years before, but Gus and the other two surviving members reunite briefly to sing a tribute at the funeral. Gus is tight-lipped about the reason for their estrangement, despite Shawn’s best efforts to get the truth out of him.
Diddle’s cause of death is reported to be a result of a tragic traffic accident, but Tony and June believe that he may have been murdered. They hire Shawn, despite the bad blood with Gus. All three remaining members of Blackapella received the same, impossibly encrypted email titled “It’s so hard to say goodbye…” on the day that Diddle died. Since Diddle worked as an encryption analyst for a private firm called CyberVault, the guys think he must have stumbled onto something secret and that someone went to great lengths to silence him.
Shawn begins his investigation at the victim’s apartment. He has a tough time staying focused with the Blackapella boys feuding in the background. Several clues support the conclusion that their friend was murdered, which suggests that anyone who received the email might be in serious danger. Then June’s car explodes. Luckily, no one was hurt.
Lassiter and Juliet are colder than usual. With virtually no explanation, they deny Shawn and Gus inside access to the case, and refuse to help. It’s always strange when sweet Jules takes a hard line when it comes to anyone, especially Shawn, so you know something’s up. They try to convince the guys not to investigate. They should know better.
The truth behind the group’s estrangement finally comes out, at Henry’s house where the group is hiding out. Shawn and Henry take seats on the couch and watch the truth unfold. The only thing missing is a bowl of popcorn. The rift turns out to be the result of a huge betrayal, one of the romantic kind. June and Tony both slept with the groupie that Gus had feelings for.
Shawn and Gus find clues at CyberVault that lead them to two abandoned warehouses. Tony and June follow them to the first address, after receiving an apparent mixed message stemming from Shawn’s misuse of “The Nod.” Before they can find anything, Tony and June are kidnapped by someone driving a mysterious car. At the station, Lassiter and Juliet chastise the guys for continuing the investigation after being told to stay out of it. Shawn is shocked and appalled that the detectives aren’t taking the case seriously. So, of course, he and Gus continue to follow their clues to the second warehouse.
They arrive just in time to witness a huge drug deal go down. Shawn recognizes one of the dealers, a scary-looking man with a scar who attended Diddle’s funeral. A cell phone call (Shawn’s butt accidentally dials Gus’s phone) gives them away, and they are chased by the same gun-toting criminals who killed Diddle. In the alley, the scarred man pulls two guns and forces them into his car. He takes them to an unknown location where Shawn and Gus are handcuffed to chairs with black cloth bags over their heads.
The bags are pulled off to reveal a police interrogation room with Juliet and Lassiter, and another truth comes out. Shawn and Gus stumbled into the single biggest undercover sting operation in the department’s history. The scary, scarred drug dealer is actually Detective Moses Johnson. He scooped up Tony and June the day before to ensure police protection.
Huge caches of drugs and weapons were stolen from the police storage warehouses. The only way someone could’ve discovered the locations was by cracking the confidential, encrypted network contracted to CyberVault by the SBPD. Juliet tells them that Diddle found out who did it, but was killed before he could tell anyone. The police think that the email Diddle sent contains footage of the rat making a deal with the bad guy, but their best encryption analyst still couldn’t open the attachment.
Shawn puts the clues together and realizes that the encryption is a vocal key, a four-part harmony chorus of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” He finally gets his chance to sing with the group! The video shows the very attractive CyberVault employee that Gus had connected with earlier making a deal with the criminals who killed Diddle. Detective Johnson arrests the girl, telling her that she may be able to lessen her charges by cooperating with the police and giving up names. Shawn still can’t believe that the cops didn’t let them in on things, and tells them he thought they were on the same team. Lassiter’s cold attitude remains, and he rudely reminds Shawn that he is not a cop and never will be. Thank god for that, B.
This episode rocked. It’s great to see some of Gus outside of Shawn. Without the occasional expository episode, it’s too easy to think of Gus as being a mere prop for Shawn to do his thing. The guest stars – Jaleel White, aka Steve Urkel, and SNL‘s Kenan Thompson (who I actually don’t find very funny on SNL, though I do fondly recall his All That days) – worked well together and with the main cast. The relatively intense plot also made for a nice change of pace, as well as the action-movie cinematography. And yet, there was no shortage of jokes. In fact, the ’80s a cappella quartet theme opened access to previously untapped cultural hilarity. Hammer pants, hi-top fades…
Other things I liked: Shawn’s excitement at the funeral and his awkward attempts to become the fourth member of Blackapella. Gus’s cell phone ringtone. The singing group’s estrangement. “B.” The entire scene at the second warehouse.
Spot the Pineapple:
What, no pineapple!? None to be seen, confirmed by USA’s website. There is no pineapple. Like Gus in this episode, I feel so betrayed. (There is a pineapple in the high school Shawn and Gus clip, but that really doesn’t count. High School Shawn and Gus are pretty lame.)
Odds & Ends:
Gusisms: Detective Miles, Gus Brown & Shawn White, John Slade
• Henry tells Little Shawn that computers are just a passing fad, like rap music, Madonna and LA Law. Corbin Bernsen starred on LA Law.
• The email title and encryption key is from the song “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” as performed by Boyz II Men. Boyz II Men sang the intro theme song in this episode.
Gus: What grown man doesn’t own a black suit?
Shawn: Besides me, the Joker, Colonel Sanders, Matthew McConaughey…
Gus: McConaughey doesn’t count. He doesn’t own a shirt.
Shawn: Man, I wish I could’ve known you when you were black.
Shawn: That was like a New Edition reunion concert, minus Bobby and Ronnie.
Shawn: So they can or cannot remove the parental lock on my laptop?
Gus: That was me, Shawn. It was for your own good.
Shawn: Don’t be the American adaptation of the British Gus.
Shawn: We have to cover you because cadavers don’t wear shirts from Abercrombie & Fletch.
Gus: It’s Abercrombie & Fitch. And, no, you haven’t heard it both ways.
Shawn: Hi Jules. Hi old penguin from Happy Feet. (addressing Lassiter)
Shawn: Wow. Did Lassiter just throw his voice into your mouth? Because that’s really unsanitary.
Shawn: Man, this is straight out of To Live and Die in LA.
Gus: Are they doing the thing where they put their pinkie in the blow and taste it to see if it’s good?
Shawn: He just did. It’s good. It’s really good. Dude, he double dipped!
Criminal: Who are you? Who sent you?
Shawn: Mikhail … Dudikoff.
Criminal: Russian mob?
Gus: American Ninja, you mother.
Photos: NBC Universal/USA/Alan Zenuk