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 Glitch” are Fangirlish writers Lizzie and Jacqueline as well as guests Amanda and Jacquie.
Jane Levy has been amazing as Zoey all season, but this episode allowed her to really show many different facets of Zoey’s character. Which Zoey scene impressed you the most?
Jade: Jane Levy is amazing and deserves all the Emmys for her work on this show. It doesn’t matter if it’s comedy or drama; she commits wholeheartedly to it and knocks it out of the park every time. It’s hard not to pick the final scene with her dad as a standout, because she was so amazing in that quiet moment between them. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention that Peter Gallagher also blew me away in that scene. They really were incredible onscreen together.
Lizzie: It’s weird because I feel like the juxtaposition of her first musical number and her last say all that needs to be said about her performance in this episode, and in this season of Zoey’s Playlist in general. She has the most insane range, and she can literally play Zoey in her highest highs and lowest lows without us ever feeling like she’s overreaching. As for Zoey, in particular, I will say that the growth and the strength it took for her to go to her dad, and just be upfront with him, like she did in that final scene, well …that’s one of the biggest Zoey moments of the season and one of the reasons why Zoey, even when she’s being …well, Zoey, is still such a likeable protagonist.
Jacqueline: I was most impressed with the final scene with Zoey and Mitch, you could feel her pain. It was so so powerful. I also think she deserves a special shout out for “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “Pressure” as both were so physical along with her singing. Jane Levy had shown her acting chops all season leading the show but she really blew me away with this episode.
Jacquie: Jane Levy absolutely blew me away in this episode. We already knew she was a very talented actor, but her singing and dancing skills are just off the charts. You can tell she puts 100% of herself in everything she does when playing Zoey. While all the songs in this episode charmed me to no end, I think it’s the softer moments that really impressed me. The scene where the high-pitched ringing started and the world went silent. The scene with Zoey and Tobin talking about mistakes. The scene towards the end where Zoey finally faces her hardest truth of the day. These are the moments that made me really feel something (other than second-hand embarrassment for Zoey – poor thing) I love when Zoey shows growth, and I think it was in this episode that it truly started to take hold. It’s easy to help everyone else fix their lives and learn a little something along the way. But it is much more of a challenge when what you’re facing is your own baggage. I think Zoey, and Jane, did a remarkable job with that in this episode.
Amanda: This whole episode is such a whirlwind of Zoey’s emotions and moments that it’s difficult to pinpoint which moment is really the most impressive. I would have to say the most impressive moment is when she tells Max that Mitch isn’t getting better. It’s such an emotionally raw moment but it’s also the first time she allows herself to be open about her feelings, her insecurities and is willing to be vulnerable. This is the growth we’ve been needing to see from Zoey, and it’s what pushes her towards growing more and being more open with her feelings by the end of the season. Jane Levy honestly deserves an Emmy for all her work throughout the season, but this episode alone showcases her vast range of talents.
This was another friction-filled episode for Max and Zoey. Do you think Zoey was intentionally pushing boundaries in suggesting they resume their movie nights in the beginning of the episode? Was Max justified in his anger in the end?
Jade: I don’t think she intentionally pushed boundaries, though she certainly was bad with maintaining them throughout the episode. Even in the aftermath of the two songs, when she asked Max if they could talk about what had just happened, he said no and she pushed ahead anyway. But I don’t think it was conscious boundary crossing so much as…he’s her best friend. This is clearly the first time they’re really had this kind of significant level of tension and anger between them, and she didn’t know how to handle that.
As for Max, I think it’s really easy to blame people for negative, ugly, or inconvenient emotions. But there’s a difference in being justified in feeling a certain way and in that feeling being fair. I understand where Max was coming from. Of course the position he was in would hurt. Whatever your relationship, it would hurt to have the person you love confess they love you only to turn around and express their desire for someone else. It’s a sucky situation, and the fact that Zoey didn’t mean for it to happen doesn’t make it hurt any less. The thing is, feelings are stupid. The fact that Zoey can’t control her heartsongs means that his anger may not be entirely fair. (It’s for that reason that I try not to hold anyone’s heartsongs against their characters – we cannot always control how we feel, and they cannot control whether those feelings are overheard.) But what you rationally understand and how you feel are often two different things.
How a person feels is less a testament to their character than how they act upon those feelings – particularly when it comes to hurting or helping other people. Max was hurt by what he oversaw. Who wouldn’t be? But when Zoey needed him at the end, he put that hurt aside and did what he could to help. And he didn’t just listen to her problems; he actively helped her to come to terms with a truth she’d been running from all day. (Let’s not forget that even before he knew what she’d learned at the doctor’s office, he still came by to check on her when her mom reached out to him and indicated she was worried.) He was hurt. For the last couple of episodes, he’s had good cause to be hurt. But he was still her friend when she needed him, and that’s one of the reasons I love him so much.
Lizzie: I think it’s more that she wanted things to go back to normal and wasn’t thinking about how her pushing was definitely not helping in that regard, and how Max very clearly needed time to process not just her powers, but what she had to say about his feelings. And this, of course, comes to head at the end, mostly because after Max had sort of processed, he realized part of Zoey’s reasoning, at least – though I don’t think she was lying completely – was a fib, she wasn’t just afraid to lose him, she ALSO had feelings for Simon. So, of course he’s justified in feeling angry. I don’t even understand saying he isn’t. We don’t control other people’s emotions, so in general, I always say people are and should be free to feel whatever they want to feel.
Plus, for me, the most important thing is not how he felt, but that he was willing and able to put those feelings aside for a bit when Zoey needed him the most. Isn’t that all that matters?
Jacqueline: I think Zoey was pushing boundaries by suggesting to Max they resume their movie nights. She just wants things back to the way they were before but that isn’t very respectful of Max’s feelings. I feel Max was justified in his anger at the end. Zoey had told him how she felt, sang HIM a heart song and then he saw her making the moves on Simon. Who wouldn’t be upset? I was upset FOR HIM! It was amazing to see him put his feelings aside when he realized exactly what Zoey was going through. He could see it was bigger than him and it made me love him ALL. THE. MORE. I HEART MAX.
Jacquie: This episode is my favorite of the whole season, and the Zoey/Max stuff that happens is why. This whole episode was about exposing Zoey’s truths, and there is no bigger one (or one that has been denied more) than ZOEY HAS FEELINGS FOR MAX. Although we kind of already knew that, this is the episode where it comes to a head, and Max now knows it too. I do think that Zoey can be a little selfish when it comes to the boundaries of others. Simon asked for professional boundaries – and I didn’t really see much of a change on Zoey’s end there. Now here, Max asks for some space and Zoey is once again pushing the boundaries, or rather acting like they don’t exist. I don’t think it’s done on purpose, I just think that Zoey is one of those people where she doesn’t want things to change. If they do, she wants them back to the status quo that works for her as soon as possible.
That being said, this episode exposed that fact to Max. The emotional rollercoaster he goes on is right alongside Zoey’s glitch. First she’s glitching, and that gives Max the proof he needs to finally come around on her powers. Then maybe he thinks that if she wasn’t lying about that, maybe everything else she said was true too about her feelings. And then just as he’s dealing with the fallout of her glitching, Zoey sings him a heartsong which very obviously states that she does have romantic feelings for him. Now he’s floating on cloud nine – just to have it crumble a short while later when he sees her do the same to Simon. Zoey is confused, yes, but Max has caught her omitting the truth to him on more than one occasion in this episode alone – after promising to be totally honest with him just the episode before. Also, it just hurts like all hell seeing the person you love with someone else. So for me, Max’s anger was totally justified. He was hurt – plain and simple.
Amanda: Zoey and her continuous need to try to quickly fix situations so that things go back to the ways she wants them, really comes through in this episode. When she mentions movie nights in the beginning you can tell she is testing the waters to see how upset and hurt Max still is, which given the last episode, and their conversation is reasonable. Max doesn’t reject the idea of movie nights resuming outright, he tells her that he needs time away but that eventually resuming them is a possibility. Zoey appears to accept this and doesn’t bring it up again, seemingly satisfied that Max hasn’t closed the door on their friendship.
After her heart songs to both Max and Simon, Max tells her he doesn’t want to talk about it he is deeply hurt, frustrated, and trying to process what he has just seen and heard with Simon. Max has been given a lot to deal with when it comes to Zoey recently, learning about her powers, her rejection/”not a rejection” of his romantic feelings, all in addition to everything that has happened this episode. Instead of respecting his space Zoey pushes forward insisting that they discuss things now, in order to assuage her guilt. She tries to fix everyone else’s problems and make them face their hidden truths, but when she’s faced with facing her own feelings for Max (which we all knew have been growing and changing since she first heard him sing to her!) she immediately tries to hide them and deny them. Max has every right to be angry and upset, Zoey is the queen of denial when it comes to emotions and problems that she doesn’t want to deal with, and Max has had to deal with her avoiding her feelings quite a bit lately.
This episode showcased a different, more vulnerable, arguably more mature side of Tobin. What do you think of his character growth over the season to this point?
Jade: I love how often this show started off by making you think you were going to get one thing, only to turn it on its head and give you something completely different. Tobin was no different. When the show started, he seemed like the typical sexist jerk. But there is a depth to him that was largely only hinted at through jokes in the first part of the season. Even in the anonymous peer reviews, he seemed like a man who was willing to coast through life – and through work – and wasn’t particularly interested in taking ownership of his mistakes. It was therefore wonderful to see how much he cares, and how much he’s willing to keep working at a problem until he fixes it. I really loved his vulnerability in his scene with Zoey this episode. He is a man who cares but tries not to hide it. It was probably my favorite Tobin episode of the season, and it left me wanting so much more of his character next year.
Lizzie: This was, I think, the beginning of us getting to see a different side of Tobin, and the episode that made me absolutely convinced that I needed Tobin to get his own romantic relationship in season 2, so I could see him belt out some love songs and also so that Max and Zoey could be on the other side of snooping and betting on HIS love life, as I’m sure Tobin has done with theirs. In general, though, I was super glad the show gave him this level of growth, because sometimes characters like Tobin are left one dimensional, and there’s so much promise there to be explored.
Jacqueline: Truthfully, I was very impressed with Tobin’s growth. He owned the problem and really set out to solve it…at first, I worried he was going to brush it off but he really stepped up. I was happy to see Zoey acknowledge this as well. I really like that there is much more to Tobin than meets the eye. Makes me even more excited for Season 2!!
Jacquie: Tobin is one of the most underrated characters of the show. Though his arc hasn’t been as complex as some of the other characters, he still shows significant growth in a short amount of time. His loyalty to Leif is strong, one episode later and he’s taking what his friend said to heart. Tobin may have seemed like a goofball character that was there to add dimensions to SPRQ Point, but now he’s getting some fully fledged moments beyond that trope. I can only hope that this trend continues into season 2 – and that we get more Tobin heart-songs!
Amanda: I love Tobin, he’s one of my favorite characters on the show, and seeing his growth and determination in this episode made me love him all the more. Even though he is more focussed and mature when it comes to work, he still continues to be Tobin, complete with his quips, giant portions of food, and sense of humor. His character growth may not have been as significant as some of the others we have seen, but it shows that he can grow and that there is more to be explored with him in the coming seasons. He went from just another brogrammer who gives Zoey grief at work, to a more mature, focused but still fun coworker. Is Tobin still going to joke and tease Zoey about things at work? Absolutely. I’m really hoping we get to see more growth with Tobin and potentially a chance for friendships with Zoey and Max in the future.
Zoey warned Joan that Leif was in the relationship for the wrong reasons, but over the next few episodes, Leif seems to have a change of heart. Where do you think he stands in this episode – is he completely using Joan for his ambition, or has he started to develop feelings for her? What do you think causes that shift for him?
Jade: Personally, I think he was still using Joan for his ambition in this episode. Or trying to, at least. He’s a very ambitious person, driven by a competition with his brothers that – even if he ever won – he’d probably still think he was losing. When he went into the relationship with Joan, I think he told himself that he was going to use it to his advantage. (He eventually wants to take over the company – with Tobin at his side – after all.) But I also think he’s more sensitive than he likes to pretend, even to himself. Here’s a man who got one somewhat negative comment on an anonymous peer review and became unglued for the rest of the day. So while I think he’s still at a point where he’s telling himself this is going to help his career, his head and his heart aren’t on the same page at all.
Lizzie: I don’t think he was ever using her, I think he was telling HIMSELF he was using her, because that felt like the thing he had to say – to Joan and to everyone else, to you know, make the whole relationship okay. So that’s kinda said for him, in a way. But also, no to the entire relationship. Sorry, but no.
Jacqueline: I think Leif probably always had feelings for Joan from the start….even before he was willing to admit them. Like Tobin, I think there is more to Leif than meets the eye. You can already see that he’s excited to be with Joan…it’s sweet but there is no hope. I love that Joan thought he was in for the wrong reasons – as she definitely is. I don’t think she was out to deliberately hurt Leif, she was just looking for a little fun but she probably should have found that fun with someone who wasn’t her employee. Just saying…
Jacquie: I think Leif doesn’t give Joan enough credit. I mean, does she really seem like the type that gets manipulated? I think what starts out as shameless career advancement turns into real feelings because Joan is just that amazing. And she recognized Leif in a way that probably no one ever has before. She’s validating him and nothing makes you fall in love faster than that. I think at this point he’s enjoying the ride on her coattails, and doesn’t want anything screwing that up for him. Ironically, he ends up doing that all by himself.
Amanda: I think with Leif it started as using Joan to get ahead, it was as if he made the move in response to Zoey and Joan becoming friends. He had an opportunity to get close to Joan and thought it would be a good way to one-up Zoey and to try and manipulate Joan. As cocky and self-assured as Leif is, we saw during peer reviews that he can be emotionally vulnerable and that he is looking for reassurance and validation. Starting a relationship with Joan, both on the professional level and the personal level give Leif that validation. On the professional level, he gets the recognition and praise that he is an excellent programmer with good ideas. While on the personal level he is in a physical relationship with an attractive, smart, high-powered woman, giving him validation on a more personal level. I get the feeling that this may be one of Leif’s first experiences in an adult relationship, and so his inexperience and eagerness has him falling for Joan very quickly. Their relationship definitely started as being simply physical and a manipulative means to an end, but as Leif spent more time with Joan you could see that he actually enjoys being with her, which pushes his plans and ambitions to the side in favor of romantic feelings.
Max told Zoey this week, “One song is about attraction, the other is about love,” but Zoey claimed she didn’t know her feelings until she sang both songs. Do you think she was being genuine with that claim? What do the songs Zoey, Max, and Simon sing over the course of the season tell us about their love triangle?
Jade: When it comes to Simon, I am sure without a doubt that she knew she was attracted to him. It’s her awareness of her feelings for Max that are more questionable. She was clearly in denial at the beginning – and even through the first part of the season. But completely oblivious at this point? I’m not so sure. I don’t know if she’s genuinely oblivious about her feelings for him or if she’s just not ready to deal with her feelings for him.
As far as the songs go and what they mean for the love triangle, they’re just one more sign that Zoey and Max are meant to be endgame. The songs Zoey sang to Max and to Simon may have been about love and about attraction (respectively), but the songs she’s heard in return are the same. Time and again, the show has reiterated that what there is between Max and Zoey is love. It may not be time for them to move forward with that, but it’s love. What she has with Simon is attraction – and, to be fair, the songs he’s sung to her in return haven’t suggested what he feels for her goes any deeper.
Lizzie: I think she was lying, but mostly to herself, if that makes sense? I think she had SOME idea of her feelings for both, but she was just refusing to see it. I do agree with Max, though, that one song is about attraction, the other one is about love. In fact, I think all the songs Simon/Zoey sing about each other ARE about attraction. “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” isn’t exactly a love declaration and “Jealous” isn’t either. It’s about a connection, yes, but it’s not nearly in the same ballpark as “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” and “All of Me,” which aren’t even the only songs Max sings to Zoey. So I think, deep down, Zoey knows the difference, and the songs she herself sings are markedly different, I just don’t think she’s ready, at this point in the season, to even attempt to articulate that difference, especially because, as we’ve said a few times before, Simon is easy …attraction is easy. Love not so much.
Jacqueline: I think Zoey wants to believe she’s telling the truth when she says she didn’t know….but I’m not buying it. I think all the Zoey and Simon songs are mainly about attraction with the exception of “Mad World” but that’s really just a Simon song. “I Want You to Want Me” is about attraction for instance. Whereas, all of Max’s songs are about love. Sure, he’s also attracted to her but it’s all about how Max loves Zoey. And the song Zoey sang to Max was about love. ERGO, they are perfect and Simon is dismissed from the triangle.
Jacquie: At this point in the season, defensive Zoey comes out to play. ‘Zoey in denial’ was blown to smithereens after “I’m Yours”, there’s no denying that those feelings are there. But she still doesn’t want to face them, and she certainly doesn’t like to be confronted about that fact. Max laid out a hard truth – that her feelings for both men had different reasonings. He was just calling her out on everything, and good for him! It was about time. There are so many significant differences in how Zoey reacts and treats both of these guys – even before her glitch. When I first watched the episode, versus the many many many rewatches that took place after; I would go back and forth on which feelings she was referring to at that moment. Was she talking about her feelings for Max that she had been unsure about? Or had she been referring to her feelings for Simon that she purposely shelved after the engagement party blew up in her face? In this rewatch it almost looks like she’s trying to hurt Max, defending herself by saying that she wasn’t aware of her feelings until they were forced out of her. Meaning that she never intended for him to know about them in the first place.
The songs of the triangle over the course of the season are very telling. Max loves Zoey – that’s made abundantly clear in almost each and every song he sings (even the ones where he’s hurt) Simon’s songs to Zoey are almost always hiding something he doesn’t want seen or wants to keep covered up. Either that, or possible infidelity. The tone of his songs are ambiguous, and that probably has a lot to do with the confusion he faces the whole season. Zoey’s songs to both of them are clearly different – exactly how Max said it. Her song to Max was all about how she shouldn’t hesitate any longer and act on how crazy she is for him (This is our fate, I’m yours). Then her song to Simon was about the forbidden fruit and pining attraction that they share, seeded in painful expressions (Didn’t I see you crying, you know you feel like dying) To us the audience, there’s a clear choice here.
Amanda: I think for Zoey it was more that she didn’t realize that her feelings were that strong for Max and Simon, until she sang to them. Her song to Simon is about attraction, Zoey even acknowledges it when she tells Simon, “I’m really sorry, just know it’s not me, it’s my body.” On some level Zoey is at least aware of her physical attraction to Simon, even though she has been trying to move on from her crush on him. While with Max she’s only recently (Queen of denial at it again) allowed herself to view him in a romantic light, and is probably surprised that her feelings run immediately to love. Zoey knows according to her guidelines for heart-songs, that what she sang was the truth and how she really feels. So while on some level she may have had knowledge of her feelings, she wasn’t fully aware of the depth of them until she sang them.
It is very telling that when Zoey is singing heart songs directly to people, she is reluctant and resistant to singing them. From physically trying to prevent herself from singing “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause,” to Leif and Joan, to apologizing to Simon about what she’s going to sing before “I Want You To Want Me.” The two exceptions to this are when she sings “How Do I Live,” to Mitch and “I’m Yours” to Max. Both these times she just begins singing, no signs of reluctance or surprise that she is singing to them (Add this to the ever growing list of parallels between Max and Mitch). These are the two most important men in her life and the fact that she seamlessly slips into singing to them just shows the amount of trust and love she has for both of them.
The biggest thing to notice about the songs Max sings throughout the season are that with the exception of the very brief “Con Te Partirò,” they are all about his feelings for Zoey. His feelings don’t waver, in fact they progressively grow stronger. Max goes from “I Think I Love You,” to “All of Me,” and with all of his songs it’s about how he feels about Zoey, his feelings for her are consistent (it’s very reminiscent of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, “My affections and wishes are unchanged.”)
While Simon’s songs are all over the place, which given his grief, emotions and changes in his relationships throughout these season is understandable. Simon’s songs are all very centered on him and his feelings about himself. “Mad World,” “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” and “Jealous,” are all about how he feels in those moments, he feels depressed, he feels conflicted, he feels jealous. Simon is in an uncertain and difficult place emotionally, and considering how inconsistent his songs are it really speaks to him not being fully ready to pursue a relationship, until he works on himself.
Zoey is attracted to Simon in part because, as she claims, he can understand what she’s going through with her dad. However, when Simon asked her about her dad’s doctor visit, she lied to him. Do you think she just wasn’t ready to face the truth, or was there something more significant to her reticence with Simon? Is there something significant about the timing or circumstances of her eventual confession?
Jade: When Simon asked her what had happened at the doctor’s office, she was not ready to face the truth. That said, it’s significant that, when she was finally ready to face it, it was Max that she turned to. She likes Simon. She likes having him for a friend, and she likes having someone she can talk to about her grief. Those are very important things. However, it’s Max who – time and time again over the course of the season – she turns to when things are bad. That she turns to for comfort and support and even understanding. Even when they’re at odds with each other, he’s still consistently the person she leans on. And he’s still consistently there for her, regardless of his feelings in the moment.
Ultimately, she can talk to Simon about grief and what it’s like to lose her father in general terms. But when she needs to discuss what it’s like to lose Mitch, well…for that, she needs Max. She just hasn’t yet come to realize the significance of that, or the fact that – even though she’s afraid to lose Simon because she thinks he’s the only one who can understand what she’s going through – Max is the one she turns to (both now and in the finale). It may be subconscious, but it’s an indication that she recognizes you don’t need to have experienced loss to have empathy, understanding, or the ability to comfort others. It’s a lesson Simon will need to come to, as well.
Lizzie: I think that, despite Zoey’s whole thing with Simon being that he “understands” at that point Zoey just wasn’t ready to face it, and even when she was – Simon wasn’t the person who knew her father, knew her family, the person who could give her the best possible advice based on that knowledge. Understanding grief as an abstract is one thing, grieving for a person together – even if Mitch isn’t Max’s father – is another. And Max knows Mitch, is much more capable of understanding the specifics of the situation Zoey is in right now, even if he has never experienced that level of grief.
Plus, subconsciously, I think Zoey just trusts Max, implicitly, sees him as the one person she can always confide in. Notice how the show didn’t bring in Mo, who has been Zoey’s sounding board for the entirety of the season. And it’s because …this wasn’t about her powers, this was about Zoey’s family, about who Zoey is as a person and how she deals …and for that, well, there’s no one better to understand her than Max.
Jacqueline: I think Zoey wasn’t ready to tell anyone about her dad, so no, I don’t think it was specific to Simon. I think she just couldn’t deal – and could blame her? As for her attraction to Simon, I’m sure the fact that he gets grief is nice, but I think he’s a safe attraction as he’s IN A RELATIONSHIP, so technically nothing can happen. Plus, Simon is really HOT. I think the scene in the office was more about grasping at any distraction possible not to think about her father dying.
Jacquie: I think when it comes to Simon, it’s all well and good to bond over their shared grief. But I think for Zoey, most of that grief was just hypothetical. Her dad was still alive, his meds seemed to be working, and she could communicate with him through song. It was always looming over her head, but in this episode I think it actually started to hit her. And I think it’s telling that she couldn’t come clean to her grief buddy after that. Sure, she needed processing time, but she was also dealing with her glitch as a result. She didn’t trust Simon with the knowledge of her powers. When things got bad for Zoey, it didn’t even occur to her to go to Simon for help with any of it. Once she gets the news about her dad, she needs Max. And she trusts him with the truth at the end of the day, because she knows she can be emotionally vulnerable with him. They have five years of trust there, which pales in comparison to her few months of getting closer with Simon.
Her confession via heart-song seemed to come at a moment when Simon made her feel at ease; a feeling Max had stopped allowing her to have by making her face her song to him. It almost seems like Zoey felt the need to balance out the scale. It also happened in a room where all outside distractions are supposed to feel forgotten, like you’re in a bubble. Her feelings for Simon were a dirty little secret, and while I know she has no control over the heart-songs, something about them seems to be instinctual. And I think Zoey’s attraction to Simon has always been a kind of safety net for her when she has to deal with something harder or more real.
Amanda: Part of it is absolutely her not wanting to acknowledge or face the truth, but also as much as she goes to Simon about her dad we do know how much of a part of the Clarke family Max is. In all honesty, I don’t know that Simon would have been the person to understand what she was going through with this, whereas Max can see why she’s scared. With Simon, it would be about wanting to spend as much time with his dad as possible, and while they have bonded over losing their fathers, the circumstances of their losses are very different. While Max has known Mitch for five years, he’s seen the way he has declined and how rapidly it has been happening as of late, so he understands that while her time with Mitch is important, it’s also difficult for her to face him.
For all that she says Simon understands her grief, Max is the one to acknowledge that she’s grieving now and tries to be supportive and help her through it. The more significant part of her telling Max about her dad isn’t that he’s the first person she tells, but he’s the one who is able to push her towards facing Mitch. Simon is around when she wants to discuss her grief, Max is there when she needs to discuss it and is there to help support her.
Max: “Nice Guy” or actually nice guy? Discuss.
Jade: Look. I’ve known “Nice Guys” and I know that sometimes it’s hard not to project one’s experiences onto assumptions about a character’s motivations. We all watch television through the lens of our own experiences, and television in general has a tendency to veer towards “Nice Guy” territory all too often. So it’s something I’m always on guard against, and it drives me up a wall when I see it. That’s why I’m so glad this show avoids that trope – just like they avoid the trope of having two men fight with each other to “win” a woman’s affections. Max is a nice guy. He’s genuinely Zoey’s friend, and he repeatedly puts his friendship with her above his romantic feelings for her. If he was a “Nice Guy” he wouldn’t have put his anger aside to be there for her when she needed to talk about her dad. Or he would have used her vulnerability to try to get into her pants. And that’s not even getting to what we’ll see in the finale, when she starts to talk about their relationship and he cuts her off and reassures her that her relationship with him takes a distant second to her need to focus on herself for a while.
Max isn’t perfect. None of the characters are perfect, and it would make for a pretty boring show if they were. But throughout the season, his caring for Zoey is consistently shown to be genuine. He’s not a perfect guy. But he is a genuinely nice one.
Lizzie: I can’t pinpoint one moment this season when Max was being “Nice Guy.” When he was nice, he was nice, and when he was mad, he wasn’t “Nice Guy,” for obvious reasons. He felt what he felt and he behaved according to that. He was never nice to get something out of Zoey, there’s no ulterior motive to his niceness. Let’s just remember that Max and Zoey have been friends for years, and he has presumably been nice to her all this time, if the friendship has continued, and if he was doing that to get something, well, then he’s the worst “Nice Guy” in the history of “Nice Guys,” or boy he was playing a hell of a LONG game.
Jacqueline: I think Max is even more of a nice guy then he thinks – did you see how quick he got over his legit anger at Zoey THE MOMENT he found out about her Dad. He put her needs before his own without hesitating. It was amazing. Also, he put his job on the line without a second thought to join Zoey for “Pressure.” He even went on to say he regretted nothing. He’s an actual nice guy – you know a unicorn 😉
Jacquie: How anyone could think that Max’s motives are anything less than pure is beyond me. If he is just a “nice guy”, then he is going above and beyond to get laid (though something tells me he doesn’t have to try that hard). I think we have become such a suspicious and cynical society that the idea of someone being a genuine, kind, and caring person seems so ridiculous we have to come up with a term for it. Max is a nice person, plain and simple. Any of his flaws come from being hurt by his best friend, not disappointment that all his ‘hard work’ was wasted. So many of his actions are driven by nothing else than his concern for others. He brings Mitch pudding because he knows he can only eat soft foods. He lurks outside the coffee shop because he feels bad that Autumn is hurting over their breakup. And not to mention the fact that he goes out of his way to help Zoey, even when he’s totally pissed at her or doesn’t fully understand the situation. At some point, all “nice guys” give up because the effort isn’t worth it anymore. Not once does Max do that. Not. Once. Max Richman is an honest-to-goodness nice guy, and I hope to see more of those in real life, not just on TV.
Amanda: Both Austin Winsberg and Skylar Astin have both been very adamant in their discussion that Max is not a “Nice Guy,” character (we don’t refer to them as the leaders of the Max Richman Protection Squad for nothing), the two who would have the most insight into Max’s character. Max is genuinely a nice guy, and I don’t understand how anyone can think otherwise, other than they are projecting their own experiences and insecurities onto him. If he was only her friend because he was trying to get into her pants, like a so-called “Nice Guy,” then he would have completely dropped her once she rejected him. Maggie has his phone number and when she can’t get ahold of Zoey all day she texts Max to ask him if he can get her to respond to her. That’s not a manipulative man, that’s a man who legitimately cares about Zoey and her family. You can see it when Zoey tells him Mitch is getting worse, which you know he’s upset about because he genuinely cares for Zoey and her family. He’s hurting emotionally because of Zoey’s glitch and their argument, but he’s still able to be there to support her when she needs him. He has been there every step of the way for Zoey and for her family when they need him. He brought down Mitch’s bed after Mitch fell, which is not an easy task, but one he was willing to do because he cares for them. As in love with her as he is Max has always been Zoey’s best friend first, which means that when she needs him he puts his own feelings aside and helps her out.
Of all the amazing songs in the episode, which was your favorite?
Jade: I adored every single song in this episode. The choreography in “Crazy” blew me away. The physical comedy in “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” made me cringe endlessly on her behalf. I even love Simon’s “hit by a truck” facial expression after she sings “I Want You to Want Me.” And “How Do I Live” is so beautiful and so raw, I actually can’t emotionally watch it too many times.
As a shipper, I want to say “I’m Yours” is my favorite. In part because I had that song on endless repeat for days after the episode aired. Also, Zoey’s flirtatious smile gets me every time. But I actually think that it might go to “Pressure.” It’s an unconventional shipper moment, but Max putting his job on the line to save her some embarrassment? That’s the stuff OTPs are made of. Plus, his facial expressions when he’s trying to mirror her dancing to make it look pre-planned makes me ugly laugh. Every. Single. Time.
Lizzie: I want to say “I’m Yours,” I really do. I absolutely loved not just the song, but the scene, Max’s surprise, and Zoey’s face as she’s singing. But I have to say “How Do I Live” because that song absolutely wrecked me. I tear up just thinking about it. And that’s the thing that Zoey does best, elicit emotions in us.
Jacqueline: “PRESSURE.” There were a lot of great songs in this episode but I’m a Billy Joel fan and this song had Max coming to Zoey’s rescue – IT WAS AMAZING. I LOVED everything about it – well maybe not Danny Michael Davis, but everything else. Also giving an honorary mention to “How Do I Live” – for obvious reasons.
Jacquie: “I’m Yours” is my favorite hands down. Not only is it one of my favorite songs in general, but it is the source of my number one Clarkeman shipping moment of the season. Nothing feels better than watching the reluctant half of the ship basically be forced to FINALLY admit their feelings. And then watch as the other half, who had been a little more forthcoming about how they feel, be absolutely thrilled about it. The minute I heard the first few bars I was so excited because I knew what was coming – and I was LIVING FOR IT! It’s the kind of outright validation every shipper needs to hear. And Jane totally killed it with both her vocal and physical performances.
Amanda: It’s a combination of “Pressure” and “I’m Yours,” because those two combined are such huge Clarkeman moments! I mean you can’t go wrong with Billy Joel (Max isn’t the only one who grew up with Greatest Hits Vol. 1&2). The choreography is great for “Pressure,” because unlike many of the other numbers which take place in more open space, this takes place in the small closed-off meeting room, and uses the tables, chairs, and small space to build on the pressure (get it?) that Zoey is experiencing. We have Max jumping in blindly (I still love that they didn’t allow Skylar to see the choreography at all, the fact that it was all improv just makes the moment 100x better) to sing and dance with Zoey saving her career and reputation, while risking his own in the process.
Then we get the wonderful “I’m Yours,” with Zoey finally acknowledging her feelings for Max, even if it’s only in song form and she immediately denies them. Her flirty dance movements, the way she looks at Max, and the way he looks at her all throughout the song, such an amazing Clarkeman moment. And let’s be real as Clarkeman fans we thought that this was as good as we were going to get moment wise between them, and I have never been so ridiculously happy to be proven wrong!