‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’ Re-watch Roundtable: “Zoey’s Extraordinary Boss”

We love Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist around here. A whole lot. And, well, we are in the middle of a quarantine, with very few new content coming till 2021.

So, yes, we are doing a re-watch of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, and yes, we are going to be talking about every episode as if it just aired. Because, we love the show, you love the show, and frankly, what else are we going to do to fill the time?

Joining me this week for “Zoey’s Extraordinary Boss” are Fangirlish writers Jade and Jacqueline as well as guests Amanda and Jacquie.

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This episode of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist centered on Joan. What’s your take on her character? Did this episode make you like her more? How do you think the show handled her growth and her journey, in general?

Lizzie: I think she was wasted – a little by necessity – in the first two episodes. I’m glad they didn’t take long to flesh her out, though, because the Joan/Zoey relationship ended up being one of my favorite things about the show in general. We rarely see women in positions on power on TV and when we do we rarely get to see those women show an empathetic, caring side, have friends, you know, behave like human beings, and I’m glad we got to see that side of Joan.

Jade: I really felt for Joan this episode. I think before, she was trying to appear like she didn’t care about her staff, even though there were cracks in the facade. But I really love the way she connected to Zoey in this episode. I also have to say, I completely felt for her when she talked about having to rely on her husband to get a “win” at work. And when she explained that she’d had to beg him to come back, even though he was the one who had been a complete jerk to her at their lunch meeting and was totally dismissive of her work…that was really a punch to the gut. Lauren Graham did a phenomenal job in that scene. I liked her character before, but this was the episode that made me really root for her. I love the growth all of the characters go through over the course of the season, but hers may be the most satisfying to me.

Jacqueline: Prior to this episode Joan seemed like a pretty impersonal manager but this episode let us see her as a person. As a woman, who has been one of the only women in the room working in tech, I kind of understood why she may have behaved this way. I love that we got to know about her personal life and see her grow as a person and as a manager. The is the first step in the Zoey and Joan friendship. I have always appreciated her professional support of Zoey but their relationship grew to another level by the end of the episode. I definitely liked Joan more by the end of the episode and I appreciate that the writers didn’t finish her growth with this episode.

Amanda: Joan comes across at first as a very driven, powerful authority figure, not the kind of boss you could approach with personal problems, or really with any problems. However this episode showed her vulnerable side, and that beyond her harsh exterior she wants to build emotional connections with people. I imagine that being married to someone like Charlie, with his celebrity status and massive ego, carries quite a bit of pressure and concern with what the public sees. Once Joan makes her decision to leave Charlie, and finalizes her divorce there is a significant difference in her interaction with everyone on the team, as though a huge weight and responsibility has been lifted from her shoulders. Zoey needs a strong female friend/role model from outside her family, that could give her a different perspective on what she is dealing with. By the end of the season Joan’s growth and journey has led her to becoming a member of Zoey’s close circle of friends, someone she can confide in, spend time with outside of work, even someone she can discuss guy problems with. Joan goes from telling Zoey in episode 1×02 to “keep your personal life to yourself,” to telling her in episode 1×11 that work can wait, that what is far more important is spending her time with her dad while she still can. This is huge growth and development, taking viewers’ initial impressions of Joan and completely turning them around. Joan’s growth and journey provide the opportunity to showcase the importance of women supporting women, be it professionally, personally or both (something we could always use more of).

Jacquie: I was apprehensive about loving Joan as a character. Lauren Graham made her likable – but I didn’t find her endearing. That all shifted with this episode. Watching Joan set herself free from what she had once tolerated is so gratifying to see. Her growth in this episode alone from “Satisfaction” to “Roar” is amazing and perfectly executed. This was just the beginning of Joan’s journey, and while some of her choices later on could be seen as questionable, I love her conviction while making them. Which all stems from the confidence in her own power she regains once she breaks free from Charlie. I also love how Zoey’s influence on her life remains intact the rest of the season, and has many mutual benefits for both of these amazing women. You go girl(s)! 

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Maggie was going through a rough time this episode, which isn’t something that shows will usually focus on. What did you think about her struggles and the way the show handled them? Did it ring true with you?

Lizzie: It’s just …this show is very refreshing in the way it depicts, well, people, and families, and the relationships they have with each other. More importantly, it’s refreshing to see the way this show depicts the relationship all these people have with Mitch’s illness, and getting prepared for grief. I don’t know that I’ve seen any other show attempt it, and every second of it felt real to me, and necessary.

Jade: I felt for Maggie and her breakdown, which both was and really wasn’t about lemonade. It broke my heart that she’d had so much hope for Mitch’s first message to her, and he used it to ask for lemonade. (That said, I don’t think he ever meant to hurt her. The scene in the grocery store still makes me cringe because that girl is so rude for no reason. I think under so-called “normal” circumstances, Maggie would have probably let it go. But all of her frustration (and, yes, grief) overwhelmed her at that moment and she just lost control. Well, grief isn’t always pretty, and it doesn’t necessarily show itself in the best of ways. As Zoey will herself come to discover in a few episodes.

Jacqueline: I REALLY felt for Maggie in this episode. It must be so incredibly hard to watch the person you love going through this and knowing they are dying. They lack of communication must be unbearable so I understand why she was upset that Mitch asked for lemonade. As for Maggie losing it at the grocery store – that girl deserved it – yep, I said that! Yes, Maggie could have let it go but it was just the final straw for a woman under a great deal of stress and that girl was just plain rude. I think it rang true because we have points in life where we snap – Maggie has emotions too and I’m glad we got to see them.

Amanda: Throughout this rewatch my love and admiration for Maggie has grown tremendously. She is in an unimaginably painful situation and has been so strong throughout it that she views asking for help as a sign of weakness, something many strong women struggle with. Her declaration to Zoey and David of, “Time off from my husband?… But he is my life partner,” is just so heart-wrenching and so human. She’s not wrong, there is no “escape” or “time off” from what she is going through. Even with the kids helping her she is still facing the reality that soon she will lose the love of her life. How do you even begin to try and understand how that feels, and what she is going through? 

Maggie actually was pretty calm with the sorority girls until the one girl made the comment of, “If your husband is dying for some lemonade, you can make it yourself.” That was her breaking point, and yes the sorority girl had no idea what Maggie was dealing with, but that’s how triggers and emotions work. At that moment Maggie had a complete stranger making an offhand comment about her husband “dying” and she snapped, understandably so. Maggie is an incredible woman who puts her family first, and her emotional outburst is a very real portrayal of her struggle to not only take care of her husband’s needs but her own needs as well. 

Jacquie: Everybody hits a low point, and Maggie has definitely earned hers. It was 100% understandable. She had held her head high for so long with all that was happening with Mitch, so a breakdown was inevitable. Maggie became my personal hero when she freaked out on those girls in the grocery store – and I felt it was nothing short of authentic and totally realistic. I knew where it was coming from; grasping for control in an uncontrollable situation, feeling overwhelmed and a little underappreciated, disappointment setting in under the guise of new hope. I’ve felt all of these things without losing the love of my life to a debilitating neurological disease. I think the show did a great job of portraying all of that, as well as how the resolution paved the way to so many future plot points. Pay attention – this is how you write great television. 

What was your favorite musical number in “Zoeys Extraordinary Boss”?

Lizzie: I juust … I love “Jesus Christ Superstar” SO MUCH. But it’s almost impossible not to say “Roar” because that was a big moment for Joan and for Lauren Graham, who I’ve been a fan of for ages.

Jade: I feel a bit like a broken record in saying every musical number this episode was so good, but every musical number this episode was so good. From the coders showing their adulation of Charlie through “Jesus Christ Superstar” to Maggie expressing her grief through “How Do You Mend a Broken Heart.” But, if I may cheat a little, I think I liked the bookended songs Joan sang, with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” at the beginning of the episode and “Roar” at the end. She went through a tremendous journey in this episode – and it’s really just beginning. Those two songs really just perfectly highlighted her journey through the episode – and, frankly, throughout the season.

Jacqueline: I can’t believe I’m saying this and I hope I don’t offend anyone but “Jesus Christ Superstar” when the fanboys idol showed up was PERFECT!!! I LOVED the singing and the choreography, it was the most wonderful song to use for that moment!

Amanda: I loved “Satisfaction” in this episode, such a great song for Joan and the entire elevator scene was amazing. It gave such a close perspective of how Zoey experiences everyone’s heart songs. You could sense the tension, frustration, and awkwardness as Zoey watched Joan dance in such a confined space, surrounded by their colleagues. Not to mention “Satisfaction,” gave us new insight into Zoey’s powers, and what happens if she tries to ignore a heart song. 

I do have to give “Superstar” a shoutout though because it was the perfect use of a song from a musical, without being overly ridiculous or shoed in. It was a hilarious moment that was entirely within character for the worshipping brogrammers. Also, shoutout to Michael Thomas Grant for killing it in this number!

Jacquie: While the use of “Superstar” in this episode is one of the most inspired and ingenious things I’ve seen on television in years, my favorite has to be “Roar”. The power of the whole number just invigorates you. It made me so emotional to see a strong woman embrace her new reality in such an empowering way. It made me want to roar too! 

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This episode more than others gave us a glimpse at the relationship between Zoey and her brother David. Do you think the show handled their relationship well in season 1 or was there something else you would have liked to see? Are you feeling the same about this issue on re-watch than you did watching for the first time?

Lizzie: Honestly, in my first watch, I felt like this was somewhat lacking. Now, on re-watch, I realize that it wasn’t as much lacking as it was just that I, personally, wanted more, which is always a good sign. The show is very good at giving them moments in the background, even while both of them are dealing with their own shit. I think my thing is, I have a sister, and I couldn’t imagine a situation like this where I wasn’t leaning on my sister, so I will never say no to more – and I hope that when (not if, WHEN) we get a season 2, there’s a lot more of the two of them just, mourning together.

Jade: I would have loved to have seen more of their relationship throughout the first season, because that would have meant we had more episodes. And I will never turn down more episodes of this show. I enjoyed their relationship in this episode. It reminded me that, when it comes to siblings, sometimes you’re an adult, and sometimes you’re twelve years old again, sticking your tongue out at them from behind mom’s back. There was real, genuine affection there. They’re both trying their best in a really difficult situation to hold it together, not just for themselves but for their mom. Things may not always work out the way they hoped, in that event, but these little glimpses into their dynamic just really reinforce how much love the Clarke family has for each other and show what great parents Mitch and Maggie must have been.

Jacqueline: What I LOVED about this glimpse into Zoey and David’s relationship was how real it seemed. They love each other and their parents but they aren’t BEST FRIENDS. So often in shows siblings are shown to be best friends. This felt more real. They teamed up to help their Mom in this episode but they both have their own lives going on too. Watching it for the second time I feel like appreciate their relationship even more. 

Amanda: I love the dynamic between Zoey and David, they are a very realistic relationship between siblings as adults. There will always be moments where they tease each other, banter, and argue but they still love one another and work together when they need to. Watching it for the second time their relationship is just so relatable, honestly, it reminds me of me and my younger brother. They aren’t forcing themselves to get along with one another for the sake of their parents, they’re still picking on one another and acting like siblings do, even though they’re both adults. Their relationship gives them a sense of normalcy in the face of everything that is happening, and there is almost an unspoken agreement between them to keep things as close to normal as possible. That, “yes what we are dealing with is terrible and awful, but if you think for one second I won’t bribe your pregnant wife with bagels to get you to help with Mom, then you’re wrong.” I’d love to see more moments between them, which I’m sure with the baby being born, and with Maggie being in the house alone, we will see much more of the two of them together in Season 2.

Jacquie: I liked the dynamic these two seem to share, and I also like how it was tested and then resolved in a very believable sibling-esque way. The only thing I might like to have seen in Season 1 was just more of them together. David is going through the same thing Zoey is – would it have killed the writers (probably bad choice of words here, but you know what I mean) to have them talk about it in a more in-depth capacity? Some sibling bonding with a side order of holding each other while they cried – please? Their moments/scenes together felt so fleeting except for the one David-centric episode. So please, in Season 2, let the Clarke KidsTM have a heart-to-heart. I also want embarrassing childhood stories to be told, and plenty of them. 

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What was your favorite quiet moment in the episode? You know, those tiny instances that end up not being as important to the plot, but that you absolutely love?

Lizzie: I kinda love all the casual friendship moments we got between Zoey and Max. It’s the kind of building up some shows don’t do well, but that make it so that when we get the big OTP moment we all go AHA instead of wait what?

Jade: It probably doesn’t count, because it absolutely was important to the plot. But I will never get over Joan’s heartbreak when talking about having to apologize to Charlie to get him to agree to help. That realization that her marriage isn’t what she wants it to be and is never going to be what she wants it to be. Her recognition that, to keep her marriage going, she’s the only one making sacrifices, the only one willing to compromise, and just how much that’s chipped away at her self-confidence and even dignity over time. In my former career, I saw a lot of people have a similar moment of realization, and Lauren’s acting felt so real to me. Both her pain and her struggle to not break down from it. It broke my heart. In the course of the episode, it was one of the quieter moments, but for me, it was probably the most impactful scene of the episode. If not one of the more impactful scenes of the season.

Jacqueline: I don’t know if it was necessarily quiet but when Joan basically ended her marriage on the red carpet – it was perfect. I wanted to and did cheer for her standing up for herself. She is awesome in her own right – she doesn’t deserve to be treated like trash! YOU GO GIRL!

Amanda: I loved the little Emily moments we got throughout the episode. “Sorry I was just looking for some pop tarts, but then I realized you’re not stoned college kids. I’m just gonna take down this loaf of bread instead.” And the way she snatched the bagels from Zoey’s hand because carbs are what the “cute tapeworm,” craves. It was nice to have her being portrayed as a more realistic pregnant woman, instead of the glowing, always happy kind that media tends to showcase.

Also, Max’s interactions with Leif and Tobin fanboying about Charlie and Better World were hilarious. The whole thing with Tobin losing his virginity in-game “still counts,” only for Charlie to say it doesn’t, and Max’s little “Told ya.” It could have been just a one-line throwaway joke but instead, they continued it, showing a bit more of the dynamic between the three of them.

Jacquie: Zoey and Max casually sitting on the steps, working while joking, is just so great. It’s a quiet moment that really captures their friendship, as well as making you ship them even more. My heart melted at Max’s ‘in da club’ joke – even if it didn’t really serve a purpose beyond making the audience (and Zoey) laugh. 2nd place has to go to the whole moment after Max comes back from his ‘one time only in this life’ phone call. The awkward silence cracked me up, as did Zoey trying to disappear inside her own body in the background, as Max slowly figured out he wasted it.  

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Seeing Max dating Autumn – the total opposite of Zoey – brings up an interesting question: Is Autumn the kind of girl Zoey thinks Max would be happy with, or was she setting him up with someone she never thought would last? What’s your read on Zoey’s mindset in this regard?

Lizzie: I think Zoey just reacted and took the easy way out – which I think really backfired on her when she saw that it was working, because I feel like Autumn basically forced her to realize she didn’t actually want Max dating someone else, which of course, then led to her going actively on denial – instead of just, you know, organic denial, lol. The thing with Zoey is that she can’t face her feelings for Max, or his feelings for her, or she thinks she can’t face them (*cough* because they’re real, as she has no problems facing her feelings for Simon *cough*), so she just …pulls a Zoey.

Jade: Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy? (Oh, are you expecting more of an answer than that?) I don’t think at the time she set Max up, that she was really thinking about whether it was a relationship that would last or not. She was panicking, and I don’t think it was just about their non-date date. She’d just discovered Max’s feelings for her, and she was not ready to confront her own. She still isn’t ready to confront her feelings, since she’s clearly not ready to examine the jealousy that even Mo calls her on this episode. Setting Max up with Autumn not only gave her an “out” on a possible date-adjacent dinner she wasn’t ready for. It also gave her an excuse to push her own feelings into a box, shove the box under a bed, and not examine them any closer for a little while. But still, she couldn’t entirely keep them from bubbling to the surface. And, thus, the jealousy. But it is interesting to me that she picked a woman for him that is so opposite from her. She may not have consciously chosen a person she never thought would last, but I do think a little subconscious sabotage may have been at play.

Jacqueline: I think Zoey thought Autumn was a nice girl.  I don’t think she consciously set Max up with someone so it would fail. I think she just needed to not worry about Max’s feelings for her so she rashly put them together – but she totally has buyers remorse even if she’s not yet willing to admit it – it’s so obvious in all her conversations with Mo.

Amanda: I don’t think Zoey really thought much of Autumn outside of she’s pretty, nice, single, and looking for love. Zoey was in panic mode about going to Hand-Picked with Max and finding a way to avoid his feelings for her. It was one of those situations where if Autumn hadn’t been there would Zoey have even thought of setting the two of them up? Or was she just so eager to “solve” the problem that she grabbed the first familiar and single female that she saw? 

You can see throughout this episode in her interactions with Autumn and Max as a couple, that she’s considering that maybe Autumn wasn’t the best choice for Max. In the club, she’s rather taken aback when Autumn drags Max out to the dance floor. As we see later in episode 1X07 at the Spelliversary party, Max is not a fan of clubs, so it’s definitely unusual for Zoey to see him out on the dancefloor. Not to mention her facial expressions as she watches them dance, that look of “did I really push my best friend into dating this woman?” and “am I okay with this relationship?” 

Later when she comments, “What did you do to your hair? I can’t tell if I love it or hate it,” it’s almost as if she’s saying she can’t tell how she feels about Max dating Autumn. On the one hand, she doesn’t have to worry about Max’s feelings for her if he’s dating someone else, but on the other, she can see that Autumn isn’t necessarily the “right” girl for Max. She didn’t worry if it would be a lasting relationship if Autumn was Max’s type, or even how Max might feel when he finds out why she set him up with Autumn. Zoey put them together out of a need for an immediate solution to her “problem” and didn’t fully consider what might happen because of her choices.

Jacquie: Of course she would always want what’s best for her best friend, but I think when Zoey heard Autumn sing – it was like a lightbulb went off in her head. Being the loyal guy he is, the most surefire way to get Max off of her was to set him up with someone else. Apart from picking someone who seemed nice enough, and wouldn’t be a total stranger to him, I don’t think Zoey was really focused on the longevity of the possible relationship.The reasoning seems shallow at best -”What’s your take on Max? Do you like farm-to-table food? You mentioned the cow too? Perfect!” Mo knew exactly what she was doing too, and tried to warn her against it- if only she listened to him! Her focus was a little bit more self-serving, and based off of what little we know about Zoey’s dating history – it doesn’t seem like she even knows how to pick the right person for herself, let alone anyone else. Zoey set Max and Autumn up out of desperation to avoid his feelings for her – and by the multiple unhappy looks she gives them throughout the episode, I’m thinking she realized her plan had a few holes. 

Are you Team Simon or Team Max? Why?

Lizzie: Up to this point, in my first watch, I still wasn’t quite sure, but on re-watch I feel like the answer is clear: Max is the guy for Zoey. The first time it took me until episode 6 to be totally sure, but now I see what the show was trying to build up to. The thing with me is, mistakes aside that make it super hard for me to root for Simon WITH Zoey (cheating is a big no), I actually like Simon as a person, and I hope he finds some happiness, with you know, some other girl.

Jade: Whether you look at this question from the perspective of this particular episode or from the perspective of what we know is to come throughout the rest of the season, Zoey genuinely isn’t ready for a relationship with either. She has yet to be really honest with Simon (even at the end of the season finale, her powers remain a secret). And he’s not at a point where he’s really honest with her, either. He will come to a point where he wants to be emotionally honest, particularly after what will happen with his relationship with Jessica. But even that attempt at emotional honesty comes when Zoey calls him on his attempts to pretend he wasn’t jealous. And in this episode, not only is he still engaged, but even the song “No” is comedic because what he sings to Zoey and what he says to her are completely at odds with each other.

I’m firmly on the side that I want (and expect) Zoey to eventually end up with Max. I think there’s a solid foundation of friendship, there’s genuine caring, and I think it’s clear that until the Pilot, they were honest with each other. Things are weird between them now in part because they’re keeping secrets from each other, and they don’t quite know how to do it. I love their entire relationship, as imperfect as it is at the moment. But Zoey is, of course, dealing with a tremendous, imminent loss. And as we’ll come to see, Max himself has some maturing to do as he discovers what he really wants of his own life and his own career. So I’m rooting for the two of them to be together, but I know they still have some things they both need to deal with before we get there.

Jacqueline: TEAM MAX. There is no choice here. PLUS, Simon is ENGAGED. I like Simon, he is hot, sweet and intriguing BUT he’s not available. There is no point in even thinking about it. Max, on the other hand, knows everything about Zoey, he supports her and her family – HE IS THE ONE. Autumn means nothing to Max, he’s TEAM ZOEY. I adore Max.

Amanda: Max and Zoey’s relationship is just the perfect best friends to lovers story. They experience so much together throughout this season. They both experience major emotional growth and changes as well as all the huge changes to their world (Zoey’s powers, Zoey’s promotion, Max’s promotion, Max getting fired, and Mitch’s death). Yet throughout it all, they are still there for one other, with only a few minor bumps along the way. 

Max Richman doesn’t do anything halfheartedly, when he’s all in on something he goes after it one hundred percent! It’s why things with Autumn didn’t work out, he realized he wasn’t fully committed so he ended it. Max has proven so many times how he will go above and beyond for Zoey, without expecting anything in return. They are soulmates, so of course, I’m Team Max all the way!

I like Simon, but he is happily engaged, or so we are led to believe. His and Zoey’s friendship is built off of her not being honest about how she’s able to “read” him, and they don’t have much of a relationship outside of listening to one another discuss their fathers and their grief. Simon needs to work on himself and his issues with a therapist/counselor before he tries to start any significant relationship.

Jacquie: I’m going to be answering this question solely based off of where we are in the rewatch, even though my choice never once wavered. I’m Team Max because of every reason Mo gave in this episode, plus the fact I’m just not a fan of Simon here. Dude is happily engaged (as far as we know) and yet he is being awfully flirty. And I know the use of Meghan Trainor’s “No” is meant to be comedic, but it always kind of bothered me and rubbed me the wrong way. For me, taken is taken – no matter what feelings may be involved. Max dating Autumn was directly Zoey’s doing – and it’s made very obvious that it’s not meant to last (i.e. changing his hair, awkwardly dancing together, the consensual air spanking) and just the fact that he didn’t sing one romantic song to Zoey that whole time gives you a sense of what a sweetheart he really is. 

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is available to stream on Hulu.

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