‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’ OTP Series: Missed Opportunities in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Neighbor”

When it comes to OTP moments between our favorite characters and ships, let’s be honest. We shippers can never get enough. So as we go through our weekly rewatch of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (not for the first time), Fangirlish author Jade and I thought we’d break down moments that…okay, maybe they wouldn’t entirely have made sense for Zoey and Max (aka Clarkeman) to kiss…but we certainly wouldn’t have objected to a kiss or two!

This week we’re looking at episode 1×04 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Neighbor“:

NO ZOEY, NO

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Lizzie: Okay, look, this is a very Max-lite episode, sadly, so we’re gonna have to use this time to discuss one of the things keeping Zoey away from Max, namely her inappropriate relationship with Simon. Mo points out early in the episode that texting an engaged man before 9 am is …ahem, problematic, to say the least, but Zoey tries to defend herself by saying it’s all, you know, friendly. They’re friends. Now, do you think Zoey is lying to herself, to Mo or both? Does she understand that she’s participating in emotional cheating, or is she just very good at telling herself this is nothing?

Jade: I really went back and forth on this one. I find it hard to think someone could be that oblivious, but Zoey does demonstrate over the course of the season that her obliviousness is on another level entirely from most people. So, after going back and forth a bit, I don’t think Zoey really thought she was doing something wrong. At least at first. I don’t think she saw the danger signs. She didn’t try to hide what she was doing – not from Mo and not from her mom. If she’d realized the line she was toeing with Simon, she would have been more reluctant for others to know about it. Now, at the end of the episode, when she chose not to respond, I do think that reflected her own realization. I don’t know that she would identify it as emotional cheating, but she did realize their texting could be problematic. What about you? How much do you think Zoey is conscious that she’s treading a fine line with Simon? And how much responsibility do you think she feels she holds to respect that relationship (as compared to Simon, who is the one actually in it)?

JEALOUS MUCH?

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Lizzie: I don’t think Zoey is conscious at all at this point. Part of it is, I think, Zoey being Zoey, and the other part is that I don’t think she’s ever really experienced emotional intimacy in a romantic way, so she can’t really recognize it as a bad thing to be doing with an engaged man? Because, let’s face it, Zoey’s relationship with Max ALSO goes beyond normal friendship boundaries, and she doesn’t seem to see THAT either. Which is why, even if she might recognize that she shouldn’t be texting Simon as much, at the end of the episode, I don’t think she’s quite there as to WHY. She’s basically just responding to her mom/Mo.

But back to Max, we get most of our Max/Zoey content in a scene where Zoey seems distinctly upset by the fact that Max and Autumn made their “first love” and not just that, are going away together. In fact, she comes close to voicing displeasure about the trip, DESPITE the fact that she was the one who made it happen in the first place. Do you think that Zoey understands why she’s doing this? Is she conscious about the fact that she’s jealous, or is she just reacting, without any level of understanding? I think it’s likely she’s repressing any inkling at why she might feel jealous, because …well, she’d rather have Max as a friend than risk losing Max at all. Which says a lot about how emotionally available she’s with Simon – not as much to lose.

Jade: Oh, I completely agree. The fact he didn’t act like she was crossing a line when she asked – and was comfortable answering – if he’d had sex makes me wonder if the two of them have these kinds of conversations before with prior relationships. They have been friends for five years, and I don’t think either of them were aware of their feelings prior to the events of the Pilot. Just like with Simon, her behavior suggests meaning, but Zoey is oblivious (perhaps willfully so to an extent) about it. Those signs are there. Mo has previously called her out on her jealousy. But it’s very clear that at this point (and again in a few episodes) that she doesn’t want to admit it. Admitting it would mean she has to face it and explore the motivations behind it. And she’s absolutely not ready to do that. 

Which comes to your final remark, about what she has to lose with Max versus Simon. You’ve really hit the nail on the head, in my opinion, about why she’s really unwilling to face her feelings for Max at this point. I don’t want to undermine her attraction for Simon – she is genuinely attracted to him, and she genuinely wants him in her life. But as you said, with Simon, if things go pear-shaped, she has less to lose. Remember in the Pilot it’s established that her past relationships have been “the opposite of good” which probably contributes to her reluctance. And chasing after an engaged man is a one-way ticket to Opposite of Good territory. Apparently her relationships often are disastrous. With Simon, should that happen, that would mean losing someone she cares about, losing a friend, but losing something that is relatively new. If things go south with Max, on the other hand, she loses one of the most important people in her life – not only someone who’s been her best friend for five years, but someone who’s even integrated into her family. And that’s a big, big risk for her. One I don’t think she’s yet willing to take.

TEAM MAX?

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Lizzie: Finally, let’s talk Mo and his flip-flopping between Simon and Max. Do you think he’s as undecided as he seems, or is he just trying to get Zoey to admit her feelings, all her feelings? Because, as hot as Simon is, there’s a certain “Girl, no” vibe coming from Mo this episode that kinda speaks to him definitely not being team Simon.

Jade: I’m not sure, and I wonder when Mo first met Jessica? I think before he met Jessica, there’s at least a chance that his indecision was genuine. Not that he would promote infidelity – emotional or physical. But there can be a difference between hearing a fiancée exists and in actually recognizing that relationship is and should be a part of any decisions made regarding whose “team” to support. Also, he didn’t have a deep personal connection to any of these people at first, so hearing about the potential love triangle drama was probably like watching a messy reality show play out next door. Popcorn and all. However, as he increasingly gets to know Zoey, Simon, Max, and even Jessica on a genuine, emotional level, it’s hard to ignore that this whole situation has the potential to become a dumpster fire of epic proportions. Who has time for that – particularly when this whole mess has had a shorter shelf life than a carton of milk? 

My inclination would be to say that at first, he probably was, if not undecided, at least uninvested in the decision and its potential repercussions. But Mo’s becoming a more important person in Zoey’s life, and that means these people are all becoming part of his life, as well. As that happens, the whole question for Mo of “Team Max or Team Simon” goes from a situation that can be amusing from the outside and in the abstract to being something that can really hurt people he cares about. And as that happens, his personal stance shifts from being actual indecision to wanting to force Zoey to confront her own feelings and deal with them. If she has to run into a Simon-shaped brick wall to recognize the mess she’s courting and get him out of her system, so be it.

But if that was what Mo was trying to do, was the best way for him to go about it, do you think? Would he have had more success getting Zoey to see the mess she was creating (for herself and others) if he’d been more direct? Or do you think, no matter what Mo did, Zoey was going to have to learn her lesson the hard way?

Lizzie: I think, sadly, this is a lesson that was always going to be on Zoey, and one that she still has to more or less navigate. Because for a relationship with Max to work, Zoey has to commit to that, a relationship. Unequivocally. With words. And you and I both know those don’t come easy to Zoey.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist if available on streaming now on Hulu and through the NBC app.

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