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 1×08 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Glitch“:
I THINK YOU’RE CRAZY
Lizzie: I’m not gonna say that Zoey should have kissed Max as she walked off that elevator singing “Crazy,” though really, it would have been a saving grace if Max had indeed kissed her in that moment, because at least that way she would have stopped singing! But she look so adorably confused and lost and of course, Max is her friend, and he is obvs in love with her and he would never take advantage of a moment of vulnerability, especially after she said she needed space, so that wasn’t really the moment for a kiss, it was the moment for Max to be the one thing he’s always been – a good friend. Which is exactly what he did.
Jade: Look. You’re absolutely right. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it. But that doesn’t mean we have to be happy about it. Besides, if she’d kissed him before he knew she was suffering an uncontrollable glitch with her powers, he wouldn’t have known she was vulnerable. And, sure, he asked for space, but if she kissed him, you don’t think he’d have gone along with it? He’d have definitely gone along with it!
All joking aside, though, while the shipper in me is always up for another kiss, I’m glad that the actual kisses waited until it seemed Zoey was more aware of her feelings for Max. Of course, who knows how things will go in season 2. But I think it’s important that Max was consistently there for her as a friend, regardless of his romantic feelings for her. The best relationships start in friendship, and right now (and for a while in the future), what Zoey’s going to need is a really good friend.
Lizzie: I AM, however, gonna say that though it would have been super weird to, on top of the song, have them kissing in the middle of the conference room, the fact that Max walked in there and risked his job AND his reputation just to help Zoey, is kiss-worthy. He does it without thinking too, he’s not contemplating what he can gain from it, she’s just someone he cares about, she needs help, he knows what he can do, so he goes for it. ALSO worth mentioning: a totally random person in the office sees the shenanigans in the conference room and immediately thinks: If they’re Zoey related, Max should know. That’s a big sign, because it’s a huge thing on TV that other characters typically see what’s going on before the two main characters do, and it especially works out that way for the friends-to-lovers trope. So yes, after the song, and after they walked away …how do you not go, you know what dude, I take back what I said about not being sure, I will marry you? Though I guess that’s what she did, isn’t it?
Jade: She did, and I think it’s great that the episode ended right there and nothing bad happened in the rest of the episode ever. Don’t you think that’s great? I think that’s great. And, you know, it might have been weird to make out in the middle of the conference room. In the middle of the table. But given that she’d just been rolling around on top of the table (amidst everything else she did to that poor, unsuspecting piece of office furniture), would a makeout session really have struck anyone as terribly unusual at that point? Besides, he jumped right in and ad-libbed a performance of “Pressure” – risking his job – to save her some embarrassment. If she wasn’t willing to kiss him in that moment, I know several Clarkeman fans who would have happily volunteered for the job.
But, you know, you raise (another) good point. In these articles every week, we’ve talked about Zoey’s denial. Was that the moment that finally made even her heart realize finally how she really felt? Because she didn’t even swing past any “I Think I Love You” level songs on her way to the finish line. Her heart jumped straight to, “I’m Yours” – with its “There’s no need to complicate. Our time is short. This is our fate, I’m yours” lyrics and all. She might not be ready to jump in with both feet, but her heart clearly is!
Lizzie: Like you just said, what follows right after is Zoey singing “I’m Yours,” which, again, is a totally swoon-worthy moment that could have very well ended with a kiss, and that’s it, show’s over, or at least the romantic “triangle” part is over. I mean, she sang “I’m Yours.” She didn’t sing “I Want You To Want Me,” which I agree with Max is more about lust than love, she sang “I’m Yours.” And I think part of the reason she did is that the big issue between them was that Zoey didn’t dare to take the chance, that she had, presumably, never dared to consider her feelings for Max. And she might not have wanted to, but the song proves that deep down, Zoey knows that the fear of losing Max isn’t about her fearing that if she examines her feelings she’ll find nothing for him, but the certainty that, if she does, she’ll find she’s got feelings for him, and if she explores that, if she lets herself feel it, she will be really, really vulnerable because she’ll have to own up to the fact that, if she loses Max, it’ll break her.
The thing about Zoey is that she doesn’t realize that owning up to your feelings or not doesn’t change how you’re gonna feel when the bad thing you’re dreading happens. The first taste she gets of this is when Max hears her heart song to Simon, and gets predictably upset. Zoey tries to explain, but does she really have any explanation? No, because in order for her to really understand, or to make others understand, she has to stop and own up to her feelings, all of her feelings, which she’s clearly unable to do as of yet.
What do you think, Jade? Is Zoey still, somehow, in avoidance mode, even after the heart songs? How does she even manage that?
Jade: She is in avoidance mode, and I think a lot of that is really – sympathetically – because she is going through a lot right now. And particularly in this episode. She’s losing one of the most important people in the world to her, and you and I both unfortunately have a little experience with that pain. You’re absolutely right in the fact that losing Max would break her in a way that losing Simon (at this point) simply wouldn’t. That’s not to diminish their friendship, which I’m sure is important to her and will be in the second season. But as she expressed a few episodes ago, if she loses Simon, she’s afraid she’ll never find anyone who understands what she’s going through right now. Meanwhile, her friendship with Max is clearly very important to her, and she’s even expressed that he’s the one person she can’t stand to even think about losing right now. Is she avoiding her feelings? Yes. But, as I begrudgingly take off my shipper glasses for a moment…man, the girl’s got a lot going on. And, frankly, I’d rather she be overly cautious at the moment than take the route Simon is implied to have taken – jumping into a relationship in a reaction to grief and then wondering if it was a mistake.
One thing I think she hasn’t really considered (and maybe Max hasn’t consciously considered either) is that she’s essentially asked him to wait for her. She told him she wasn’t rejecting him in those explicit terms. And in telling him that she couldn’t deal with the matter of their feelings right now, she implied that, if he can wait for her, she will eventually. Simon will similarly ask her to wait for him in a few episodes. Now, I totally get where both Simon and Zoey are coming from; neither of them are really in a position to get into a romantic relationship at the moment. But asking someone to “wait for you” is…well, it isn’t exactly fair, is it? It’s basically putting the obligations of a relationship on someone without an actual relationship. Neither fully an acceptance nor fully a rejection, it’s putting them in an emotional limbo. They can’t move forward, but they’re not really able to move on, either. I’m not bashing Zoey – or Simon – for this request, because they certainly aren’t in a position to move forward themselves. But I am struck every time I rewatch by just how unfair that request is to the person being asked to do the waiting. It’s a sympathetic request, but, man, is it also an unfair one. And the fact that Zoey responds to her heartsong by trying to play it off as a platonic thing is also pretty unfair to Max. She may not be ready to act on her feelings, but she’s the one who told him that heartsongs are always accurate and always reveal someone’s deeper feelings. She can’t have it both ways, even if she would have still had to leave it at, “Apparently I have deeper feelings for you than I realized, but I’m still not ready to deal with that right now.”
THIS IS OUR FATE
Lizzie: And, of course, there’s the last scene between our favorite OTP, where Max pushes aside his anger to check on Zoey – because he understands that if Maggie is reaching out to him, something is wrong. Which is, of course, when Zoey tells him what’s going on. And it’s ironic that she’s always said she has this connection with Simon, and their connection is ALL ABOUT GRIEF, and yet she doesn’t share her grief with Simon in this hour, doesn’t sing “I’m Yours” to him. Instead, she sings that to Max, shows her true self, fears and pain and all, to Max. Because he’s the one she knows he can trust with the true Zoey, all of it, not just one part.
Having someone who understands your grief is important, and necessary, but that’s not what makes a good partner, and though I think there’s a level of understanding that only someone who’s been there can provide, I don’t necessarily think that’s …well, everything. Or the only thing. Sometimes you just need a shoulder to cry on, someone you know will be there for you, no matter what you do or say. Someone who will let you be you, and who will distract you if you need to, and yes, someone who will point out the good, and believe in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself. And that’s what Max has always done for Zoey, what he does so beautifully in this episode, even when she’s upset. He’s her safe port in a storm, and I think that says love more than anything else. Don’t say you disagree.
Jade: I agree that it’s important to have someone who understands your grief, but I also think it’s reductive to assume that Max couldn’t possibly understand her grief because his parents are (presumably) still alive. It assumes that the concept of empathy doesn’t exist, and that caring and understanding cannot exist unless one has experienced a somewhat similar situation. I mean, I lost my father over fifteen years ago, and my husband’s parents are still alive. I would never say that his love, support, and ability to understand my grief is diminished or lessened because of it. In fact, he’s provided me more comfort over the years than anyone else. I don’t know; I appreciate that Simon’s friendship is important to Zoey, but that argument always bothers me.
But perhaps I can understand why Zoey would assume that nobody could understand her grief. I’m curious to see how the show handles this theme in season two. After all, it was established that Max had an established relationship with Mitch and, in fact, was perhaps closer to him than he was his own father. Which doesn’t equate his grief at the loss to hers at all, of course, but it also means that he will be experiencing a certain amount of grief of his own.
Still, if we’re to believe that she doesn’t think Max could understand her grief at this point, it’s maybe even more interesting that she finally did confide in him and not in Simon. Maybe it was a timing issue; she had been repressing the issue all day and was finally at a point where she could talk about it. Except this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen her turn to Max when she needed someone who understands her, someone who cares about her, and someone she can rely on. It also may be notable that she confessed to him at a time when she thought he was angry at her, so either she thought it would stop him from going away mad (and, therefore, she wouldn’t be “losing” him), or she knew that she could still trust him to be there for her in that moment, even through his anger. As, indeed, he was – putting aside his own feelings to be there for her when she needed him. Either way, Zoey’s heart is showing itself again in trying to show her what she really wants. She’s just not at a place to listen. Yet.