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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

PSYCH Uses "Goblet of Fire" to Ignite New Season

Article first published as PSYCH Uses "Goblet of Fire" to Ignite New Season on TheTVKing.

USA's Psych returned this week with "Lock, Stock, Some Smoking Barrels and Burton Guster's Goblet of Fire." That very long episode title finds Shawn (James Roday) and Gus (Dule Hill) called to Britain for undercover work by none other than Despereaux (Cary Elwes), who claims to have been working for INTERPOL the entire time they've known one another. But as the boys get involved in the case, they start to suspect INTERPOL is yet another clever cover for the cunning crook.

"Lock, Stock, Some Smoking Barrels and Burton Guster's Goblet of Fire" is fun because if brings back Despereaux and, for a time, paints him in a new light. He's a fan-favorite recurring player for a reason, though he seems more toned down this go 'round, having limited screen time and posing as an upstanding intelligence agent. At first, it's kind of cool to learn he might not be a bad guy, since he's very likeable, but that also takes away his edge, so in the end, viewers may be left a tad disappointment by his appearance.

It's also sad that we get only a couple of brief glimpses of Officer Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) back in Santa Barbara. Last year left us on quite the cliffhanger for his character, and not only is that not dealt with at all, but we don't even see any of the other main characters or how the police station is operating. Thus, while this premiere is an amusing little event episode, it doesn't deliver on those who love the serial arcs of the show.

The case itself is hokey. Shawn's antics usually get him into trouble, but that's OK because he has police protection. Here, not only is Shawn drawn into a dangerous gang run by Ronnie Ives (Vinnie Jones, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), but he unnecessarily puts Gus in the line of fire, as well. There is nonsensical and then there is just plain stupid, and Shawn takes a huge risk putting both he and his best friend's lives in a delicate situation.

It's true that Ronnie is tickled by Shawn's outrageous personality, and that could make it OK to accept the premise. However, there are two others in the gang, 'Arry (Andrew Kavadas, Underworld: Evolution) and Dierdre (Olivia d'Abo, The Wonder Years), and these two aren't so easily fooled. Thus, the risks Shawn takes are unacceptable, even for Psych.

Psych has always straddled the line between comedy and crime drama, typically leaning more towards the former than the latter. But because there is death and peril in the series, the line walked has been a thin one, keeping things just a hair shy of overly campy in order to make it work. "Lock, Stock, Some Smoking Barrels and Burton Guster's Goblet of Fire" crosses that line into inane territory, pushing what should have been a great episode into a lesser category.

Now, the comedy parts of the installment still land. Gus' obsession with Harry Potter, being detained by the TSA for carrying a wand and walking around wearing wizard robes, is great. Shawn recklessly driving a car through an obstacle course and hitting every obstacle, trying to play it off as on purpose, it good, too. Plus, there are jokes to be had at Britain's expense involving meat pies and such, and a terrific one-liner quoting an unexpected source. But that isn't enough to save the hour.

Maybe next week, back in familiar settings with the entire cast returned, will be better. Or maybe, eight seasons in, the show has run its course and has now officially jumped the shark. My guess is, the answer lies somewhere between these two extremes, with the occasional emotionally hefty episodes landing, while other frivolous stinkers like this one making up the rest of the current run.

Psych airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on USA.

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