TV Recap: Psych: A Nightmare on State Street, (8.9)


Psych Nightmare

March 19th, 2014, 9PM, USA Network

Afraid he’s been dumped by his latest girlfriend and still grappling with the multiple recent changes life has brought him (Juliet’s move, Betsy’s being part of the team, his recently quitting his job) and its resultant loneliness, Gus has a hard time coping with the changes in his life. His angst manifests in a series of terrible, zombie-filled dreams that are so severe Shawn is driven to find help for him in the form of a hack dream expert (Bruce Campbell, Burn Notice and the Evil Dead series). But what Ashford Simpson finds hidden deep within Gus’ psyche might throw a major wedge between Shawn and Gus.

What can be said about this episode that isn’t a superlative exclamation point? Psych crams more reverent tributes to horror as a genre - and more genuine jump scares - into a single episode than any actual horror movie remake. Tossing on a layer of genuine pathos and some humor and you end up with a great comedy/horror outing.

Dule Hill owns this episode; you will feel bad for Gus, very bad, but that doesn’t stop Hill from punching up his performance with oodles of comedic moments. He’s a force to be reckoned with.

Bruce Campbell’s guest starring role actually serves a fresh purpose- he fills in as Gus sounding board and help while Roday heads behind the camera. He’s a bit more subtle than usual, providing shades of grey and menace while Gus remains rubbery and vulnerable. Roday gets in a great scare of his own but mostly stays on the outskirts of the action this time out.

There are great moments for Timothy Omundson and Mira Sorvino as well (Sorvino in particular gets a great line and a hilarious side storyline…that makes little sense in light of last week’s tag scene), and Corbin Berensen makes a too-brief appearance during a zombie outbreak – he should have been given more to do. But even though everyone gets their own moment, this is all about Gus’ interior world.

There’s a number of successful jump scares in this episode; it’s genuinely terrifying in places, and the makeup is awesome. In fact, at times it works better as a straight horror episode than as a comedy; the scares come that frequently and are that good. It works better as a bit of horror comedy than it does as a comedy-drama. It’s something of a minor flaw in an episode that’s this brilliant.

A Nightmare On State Street is a hallucinatory, genuinely scary trip through the past and present. There are in-jokes, cameos and jokes galore to dissect, but the episode is genuinely scary in ways the show’s previous horror tributes don’t compare to.
Roday has grown into a masterful director; he has quite a bright future behind the camera. Also flawless is the inventive cinematography; there’s a hazy grit and a sense of bloody weariness to the proceedings, and that adds to the atmosphere exponentially. It’s a beautifully crafted, spooky treat, and one of the best episodes of the season.

The Roundup:

  • Gus sends his estranged girlfriend a dozen roses and a cake “shaped like Nelson Rockefeller”.
  • Shawn and Gus’ made-up child is named “Joshy”.
  • William Zabka, Philisha Rashad, Mira Sorvino, Curt Smith, Sutton Foster and The Bella Twins also appear in this episode; Philisha and Curt re-appearing as Gus’ mom Winnie and Curt as himself, echoing their previous Psych appearances.
  • The number of horror references is seriously endless in this episode. Try to count them all, you’ll never catch up. My favorite was the buzzing fly sound effect that pays tribute to the ending of Evil Dead during the high school boiler room scene, and the Thriller tribute at the end.
  • Maggie Lawson doesn’t appear in this episode.
  • And yes, they managed to cram in a three hole puncher joke.
  • Series co-creator Steve Franks appears as a zombie.
  • This episode is also remarkable for the amount of ribald innuendo they pack into it.
  • Next week: It all comes down to this: Shawn and Gus visit the Chief and Juliet in San Francisco and Things Happen in Psych’s series finale, “The Breakup”.
[notification type=star]GRADE: 98/100~MASTERFUL. A dazzling display of technical prowess with a zippy script and an almost dizzying number of horror film references. It’s slightly less sweet and funny than the average Psych ep, but that doesn’t stop it from being a tour de force. [/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.