TV Recap: Psych: A Touch of Sweevil (8.8)



March 12th, 2014, 9PM, USA Network

Shawn and Gus are invited to a prestigious paranormal convention for police consultants, for the first time in all of their years…of playing paranormal psychic consultants. When the keynote speaker, note Parapsychologist Professor Sky Stein, is murdered, they must rely on the skills of their fellow consultants - a woman who believes she has magical powers and a man who consults with the help of the ghost of his former partner Bernie (played by Community’s Yvette Nicole Brown and comic/actor/former husband of Rosanne Barr Tom Arnold, respectively), as well as those of Lassiter’s new partner, the steel hand in a silk glove that is the extremely wholesome Betsy Branigan (Oscar winner Mira Sorvino) - to solve the crime. With suspects including Randall Fishbeck, Stein’s assistant, and James Earl Craig, a former SBPD consultant determined to restore his tarnished-by-Stein reputation, Shawn and Gus must probe into the nebulous world of their fake compatriots while trying to figure out who’s for real and who’s just playing.

Meanwhile, Lassiter reacts badly to Branigan’s cheery presence and teams with Gus and Shawn to drive her out of the SBPD with various wacky antics, asking Gus and Shawn to play up their psychic solving antics to the hilt.

There’s something very classic about the show this week. Shawn is very much his old, wacky, showy self (“HOLY BALLS, EVERYBODY!”); Gus is his practical, kind counterpart, and Lassiter will gladly murder anybody who gets between him and justice. There’s even a chorus of old callbacks and a mystery that’s fairly involving and rife with black humor.

But sadly, Mira Sorvino’s character is a completely obvious replacement for Juliet O’Hara. Had they gone on another season, and had Maggie Lawson’s Back In The Game been successful, one could imagine Betsy beside Lassiter, looking like Juliet and behaving like a slightly more off-the-wall earlier-seasons Lassiter with her chirpy toughness. Sorvino is a talent who deserves far more than what the show’s offered her here, which is nothing more than warmed-over goofy neighbor next-door hijinks. She’s in the unenviable position of filling a hole so late in the series that bad timing and terrible circumstances created. Sadly, she gets no help from wardrobe and hair, who could have at least dressed her differently than Maggie Lawson and given her character a different kind of attitude. Providing a plot twist at the end only turns her into a pale version of another character and serves to make the audience wince. It shows a total dearth of creativity; how hard would it have been to simply make her like somebody else?

Lassiter’s resistance to change is generally uncharacteristic as well; he’s a brooder, and while it took him awhile to warm up to Juliet that was easily explained (he’d been having an affair with his previous partner). In this case, it only makes a little bit of sense. He and Juliet already had a moment of emotional closure last week.

On the other hand, it’s always fun watching Lassiter try to work with Shawn and Gus, but his pushback against Braddock is far less entertaining than watching Roday flail around trying to make the script seem funnier than it is. In fact, the show hasn’t seemed this hyperbolic, this frantic, in seasons – it’s both a good thing and a bad thing, because it seems to cover up the cracks that are starting to show.
A Touch of Sweevil is desperate and funny in equal measures. Sometimes the funny side of the show wins out, though, and those moments make watching along worth it.

The Round-Up

  • Gus is a fan of Ghost Hunters. And nobody is surprised.
  • This isn’t the last you’ll see of Betsy Bradock. Expect to see Mira Sorvino in next week’s episode.
  • It’s the return of Magic Head, everybody!
  • Thank you for the uncomfortable ethnic humor, show! The unfortunate Indian guy Gus and Shawn burst in upon was definitely voiced by James Roday.
  • Betsy calls one of her guns “Beatrix Kiddo”, after the vengeful warrior woman in Quentin Tarrantino’s Kill Bill series.
  • Shawn nicknames for Fishbeck: “Fishtank”, “Fishfry”
  • I have to add that there’s one montage near the beginning of the episode that manages to encapsulate Gus’ lovelorn status and his love of food in one moment.
  • There was an unusually high number of “Suck its” this episode; around six. We got a “sympathetic crier” on top of the Magic Head reference, too.
  • Next week: Gus’ nightmares might be a sign that he’s not coping well with the changes going on around him, but that’s no consolation; whenever he closes his eyes, he’s haunted by visions of zombies. This turns him an insomniac, and Shawn is forced to consult an expensive, and possibly fraudulent, dream expert (Bruce Campbell) to cure his best friend in “A Nightmare on State Street” .
[notification type=star]GRADE: 69/100~ OKAY: The episode rollicks with ridiculous humor and almost too-frantic comedy, but nobody cares about Betsy this late in the game, and the episode suffers for it.[/notification]

About Author

Staff Television Critic: Lisa Fernandes, formerly of, has been watching television for all of her thirty-plus years, and critiquing it for the past seven. When she's not writing, she can be found in the wilds of the Northeastern United States.