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 Silence” are Fangirlish writers Jade and Jacqueline as well as guests Amanda and Jacquie.
This episode focused on Howie and his relationship with his daughter, which of course paralleled Zoey’s relationship with her father, Mitch. How did you think the show handled this parallel and the message of letting your kids spread their wings, especially considered that, after this season, Zoey will have no choice but to learn to live without her father?
Lizzie: This was really a beautiful episode, even if it didn’t really take as much time to focus on the things we, as viewers, have been more interested in. I think the focus on Howie, on maybe on the comparison with his relationship with Abigail and Zoey’s relationship with Mitch as important, and I’m glad the message behind that was sort of: you teach your kids, and then you have to …well, basically trust them to go on living. Especially all things considered.
Jade: I quite like that this episode fleshed out Howie as a character, while showing both his deep love for his daughter, as well as his imperfections as a parent. Both Mitch and Maggie have been presented as “perfect” parents, and the truth is that no parent is perfect. Howie is helping the Clarke family navigate grief, and so it was good to see Zoey help him in return. She showed him that sometimes loving someone means letting them go, and it’s a lesson Zoey and the rest of the Clarke’s will learn soon enough.
Jacqueline: I loved seeing Howie’s relationship with his daughter and I’m really glad they were able to work things out with Zoey’s help. I think the lesson to learn is that even with your father not right there support you – you will be fine. Your parents have given you the skills to survive.
Jacquie: Zoey’s relationship with Mitch is presented as very idyllic the whole season, and unfortunately as we’ve seen with both Max, and now Abigail as well, that isn’t always the case for everyone. I think this episode actually plays a hand in Zoey’s escalated grief in coming episodes; as it’s a stark reminder of just how wonderful her father is and how lucky she is to have him. I think the message of the episode was really more about limitations on life, specifically the ones we decide for ourselves. Abigail chose to no longer see her disability as a setback, and it took Howie a little longer, but eventually he came around. With Mitch and Zoey, I actually see the roles reversed – it’s going to be Zoey who needs to learn how to let go.
Amanda: Howie is such a wonderful character and I was so glad we got to learn more about him, and see his relationship with Abigail. Though we know that Zoey and Mitch have a close relationship, they probably had their fair share of arguments and disagreements like Howie and Abigail did. Which is probably why Mitch knows that Zoey would be the best person to help Howie. Just like Howie, Mitch is worried about Zoey, he’s a parent they never stop worrying about their children. In Mitch’s case, he knows that he won’t be there for her and it makes him want to see her grow more now so that he is reassured that she will eventually be okay.
Simon is anything but clear about his feelings, and yet he seems to still consider himself a good guy, despite the mess he’s causing in the lives of two women. Do you think Simon gets to tell himself he means well if he doesn’t do anything to fix the issues he’s creating?
Lizzie: We all want to think we’re the good guys, so the fact that Simon sees himself as a good guy isn’t surprising, especially because, from what we know, he’s in every other respect, a good guy. But that doesn’t excuse his behavior and he can’t, and shouldn’t be hiding behind his pain and just letting the situation get out of control. I understand that he’s trying to cause pain, but sometimes you have to make a decision to prevent more pain in the future – and Simon is so adverse to the feeling that it seems he cannot actively do that. That doesn’t make him nonredeemable, but it does make him something other than the good guy he thinks he is – at least for the moment.
Jade: There’s a quote I read once that really stuck with me. To paraphrase: “We judge other people by their actions. We judge ourselves by our intentions.” I’ve always found it to be pretty accurate, and so it’s always a reminder to me to try to give people the benefit of the doubt that their actions may be at odds with their intentions. Which isn’t to say that all actions are forgivable if the intentions behind them are pure. However, when it comes to Simon, I think he’s doing what we all probably do at some point in our lives – if in different ways and regarding different things. He doesn’t think of himself as a good guy, and he doesn’t want to be a good guy. So even when he does something that’s…less than good, he reassures himself that he’s still a good guy. The thing is, his actions are actually hurting people, including himself. He can mean well all he wants. That damage is still being done. At the end of the day, he has to take action to be the person he considers himself to be. I’m glad he eventually did so in breaking things off with Jessica, but I hope he realizes that he needs to deal with his issues before he jumps into another relationship, or he may just make the same mistakes all over again.
Jacqueline: NO. I think Mo gave him an easy out but Simon is totally taking advantage of the women. They both deserve honesty. He’s made a commitment to MARRY Jessica she deserves to know what is going on. I feel for his situation, I do. But the way he is behaving – does not make him a good guy.
Jacquie: Simon is a tortured character, and he has been since the beginning. That said, Mo was 100% right when he said “hurt people, hurt people”. We’re all allowed to make mistakes, and we usually make plenty of them when we’re having a hard time. Simon isn’t a bad guy, but he is going to have to take a step, in whatever direction at some point – and by the end of the episode it seems like he does. That being said, his mess is far from cleaned up until he deals with the deeper issues causing him problems.
Amanda: I think like Mo says that Simon is a very confused man, but that doesn’t excuse his behavior. He has gone through an incredibly difficult loss, something that you do not easily move on from, and something he needs to seek help with, be it a support group, therapy, or through a friend (not Zoey, she has her own grief/issues to deal with). He’s created the problems with Jessica and Zoey in some ways as a means of distracting himself from his own grief and issues. Simon knows what he is doing is not okay, and he’s had a few people tell him this now, which means he cannot claim to be ignorant of his actions or his intentions. Simon tells himself that he means well because no one truly wants to believe that they are doing something wrong. It’s that human desire to reassure ourselves that we’re still a good person deep down.
Mo went from angry at Simon to sort of understanding where he was coming from, and letting him off the hook. Did Simon deserve that? Would Mo have done that if the plot didn’t require him to? Is this one of those plot over characterization moments for you?
Lizzie: Plot over characterization, one hundred percent. The show is trying hard to make us sympathize with Simon, and it somehow decided we couldn’t unless Mo let him off the hook? Which makes absolutely no sense with who Mo is as a character. Yes, sometimes characters can act OOC, and if they’d had some sort of explanation for why Mo did this 180, maybe I could have bought it, but there was nothing. Mo, in that moment, just said what the writers needed him to say, and not what WE all know he wanted to say.
And honestly, even in his lowest moment, we didn’t need Mo spelling it out to understand Simon. Understanding Simon has never been the problem.
Jade: It’s a little plot over characterization. Particularly since, this whole episode, while Zoey’s complaining that she doesn’t know where she stands with Simon, nobody – including Mo – ever points out, “HE IS MARRYING ANOTHER WOMAN, SO THAT’S PRETTY MUCH WHERE YOU STAND WITH HIM.” It is really my only big criticism of the season. Mo (and others) acted at times like it was totally reasonable for Zoey to not just chase after an engaged man, but to act like she couldn’t figure out if he wanted to be with her or not. As long as his ring was on another woman’s finger? That was Zoey’s answer, and it was a pretty definitive one. I think it was entirely possible to make it clear the show wants to establish Simon as being a genuinely good person while still staying true to that fact. Particularly since Mo would do a complete 180 shortly thereafter and say he was trying to get Zoey over her crush on Simon this whole time.
Jacqueline: Mo giving Simon an out seemed out of character. It’s okay to sympathize with Simon he is going through A LOT. But that does not excuse how he’s treating Jessica and Zoey. It was definitely plot over characterization. Mo usually serves the tea – and that was not the tea.
Jacquie: I was all for Mo giving Simon a long overdue talking to. So, I was a little surprised when he changed his tune so quickly afterwards – especially considering how quickly it changes back in the next episode. It does seem like the show needed Zoey to remain stuck in limbo with Simon, and the situation itself doesn’t have an easy answer. Simon is probably being just as hard on himself as Mo was prepared to be, but I still think that he needs someone to give him tough love. Which is usually Mo’s specialty. I think it was definitely a plot driven decision to have Mo cut Simon as much slack as he did.
Amanda: Simon did not deserve to be let off the hook that easily, he is still an engaged man regardless of how he feels about Zoey! I think Mo was ready to deal with Simon if he didn’t express any sort of remorse for his actions, but Simon took him by surprise by admitting that he didn’t know what to do about the situation. Mo should have stuck with the tough love with Simon because he needs to stop avoiding the problems he is creating with Zoey and Jessica. However, I do think that Mo also knows there are only so many times you can tell a person something that they already know. The fact that Simon knows what he is doing is wrong, means that Mo calling him out on it isn’t going to help him to fix the problems. Instead, it would probably pile on more guilt and anxiety which would make him avoid them even more.
Mo is also in some ways probably emotionally exhausted from dealing with all the emotional drama with Simon, Zoey, and Jessica. He has his own relationship to focus on, his own relationship issues and problems (as we see later), and trying to help others with their emotional problems is an emotionally draining task. So it’s partially plot-motivated but it’s also not entirely out of character for Mo to be sympathetic.
This episode presented a nuanced, realistic view at disability, in a way that we don’t usually get on TV. What do you think about the show’s decision to not just broach the storyline, but the way it was presented?
Lizzie: I feel like from watching the episode, reading what people with the same disability had to say about it, and then hearing Mandy and Austin talk about it during the Paley Front Row Panel, I was left with an even bigger appreciation of this moment. Sure, in the moment, it was a little profound, but it was like that in a non personal way, and though it could never be truly personal to me in the same way it can be to someone who’s experienced it, to hear that there was so much care put into it, well …that just made it all better.
Jade: I genuinely appreciate the thought and care that went into the way the storyline was presented, not just in the actors they used but in their approach to the song and the way it was put together for the audience. I can’t speak to the final outcome and how it served as representation to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. But I think the thought they put into the storyline says a lot about the people in charge of the show and the kind of show they want it to be.
Jacqueline: I really appreciated how the story was presented. Howie’s daughter is a strong independent woman, who happens to be deaf. She does not see being deaf as something that needs fixing. She’s living her full life. It must have felt so awful thinking your father wanted to “fix you” – when she doesn’t feel there is anything wrong. So often people with disabilities are portrayed as the victim or an inspirational story – this is a young woman wanting to live her life and succeed professionally with her disability. She’s not ashamed of it and she knows it won’t hold her back from living her life. And I say – YOU GO GIRL!
Jacquie: Though not something I can relate to personally, I still think the show handled this subject beautifully. And not just in how Abigail was written and presented as a character – but also in their decision to use actual deaf actors and dancers. The performance of “Fight Song” is moving and powerful, and a big part of that is the creative decisions that were made concerning the instrumental track and choreography. It was also great to hear the perspective of ‘I don’t need to be fixed’, as that is such an amazing message to expose in mainstream media concerning disability. It’s really true that nothing holds you back unless you let it, a fitting theme for this episode.
Amanda: I thought that they did a wonderful job with focusing not on the disability but on the individual themselves. We didn’t know Abigail was deaf until moments before Zoey was introduced to her, she’s not defined by her disability. This is, of course, all reiterated by what Abigail tells Zoey later when she says that she doesn’t see her deafness as something that needs to be fixed. She is such a wonderfully strong, determined character and I personally would love to see more of her! Have Abigail to return as an intern for Season 2!
The performance of “Fight Song,” alone is beautiful, transcending the need for vocals or showy choreography, and instead focusing on the emotions shown through their signing and on their faces. They could have included lyrics translated at the bottom of the screen or found a way to piece vocals in, but it is so much more powerful on its own, focusing on the individuals and what they are saying.
Max got a job offer on the 6th floor, and when he asked Zoey what he should do, Zoey was actually supportive and honest, which in turn seemed to upset him? What do you think about his reaction to Zoey’s advice, and did Zoey say the right words?
Lizzie: As I said in this week’s Missed Opportunities article, I don’t think Max was going to take anything other than “Please never let me, kiss me right now, and let’s never part from each other,” the right way. As a friend, Zoey said the right thing. I’m not even sure she said it out of a desire to avoid, because that Zoey, the one who doesn’t want to face anything, would push hard to maintain the status quo. I think she was really trying to think about what would be best for Max, despite what she wanted. The problem, of course, being that Max wants to know what she WANTS, wants her to be able to express that. So, in the end, they’re still at cross purposes.
Jade: I do think she gave the right advice, but I still get caught on her, “Is that the right answer?” at the end. Personally, I think she was probably being honest about her feelings. She would miss him, but she wouldn’t want her feelings to get in the way of his career. Finishing her answer by asking if that was the right answer makes it seem like she’s telling him what she thinks he wants to hear. Not the truth. And since they’d already had an issue with honesty between them, I can understand how he would take that the way he did. Which is probably to think that she doesn’t care – which will not be helped by her forgetting he’s leaving next episode. However, it’s important to remember that all of the characters are on journeys to learn and grow, and that means they’ll all make mistakes sometimes. Including Max.
Jacqueline: I think Zoey gave the right advice, she just shouldn’t have questioned herself in the end. Of course, she should support her friend’s career advancement! You wouldn’t be much of a friend if you didn’t. Zoey reacted as she should to positive career news from a friend. Max wanted her to ask him to stay. I think he saw this as an opportunity for Zoey to show him that she wanted him. I actually felt more hope for their relationship with him moving to the 6th floor as Zoey is no longer his boss and absence makes the heart grow fonder.
There is no way Zoey could have known what Max’s was thinking. If she had pleaded with him to stay with her team, as he wanted, I think that would have been wrong. She did say he would be missed – but I think Max missed that as all he heard were the congratulations.
Jacquie: Max has been on a journey of gaining more self-confidence and learning to not settle for less than what he wants since ‘Failure’. Zoey matters so much to him, it’s only fair that he would hope that it goes both ways. Though Zoey’s answer was very mature and supportive, she didn’t beg him to stay because she can’t be apart from him, but I don’t think that’s what upset Max. When she says ‘was that the right answer?’, that was the trigger. By saying that, she’s implying that she may have just been saying what she thought Max wanted to hear. And that undermines any honesty behind what she said – repeating a pattern she’s had concerning her feelings for Max. I think Max’s hurt feelings are also in his realization that Ava may have been right; he was waiting for something to happen that maybe never will. I understand Max’s disappointment, and thankfully Zoey does come around in the end.
Amanda: Zoey was supportive and excited for Max’s promotion, but she seemed to be thinking more of saying whatever she thought Max might want to hear, in order to repair their relationship. I find it interesting the way she phrased her response saying, “she’d never stop you from going after what you want,” except that she already has, multiple times. She found out Max had romantic feelings for her, she shoved him at Autumn. Max confesses he’s in love with her with a flash mob, she runs away and distracts him by telling him about her powers. So every step of the way she has actually tried to stop him from going after what he wants, a chance at a romantic relationship with her.
We know timeline-wise that by this point in the episode it’s only been a few days since Zoey’s glitch and all the emotional turmoil that came out of it. Max is still hurting and emotionally raw after what was revealed and his and Zoey’s fight, not exactly stuff that you get over in a day or two. I think he realizes that Zoey is only telling him what she thinks he wants to hear and it hurts him that she won’t be honest with him. Max has every right to be upset because he is asking for her honesty and Zoey’s not willing, to be honest, or open with him or herself.
Using a gif, please express what you would like to say to Simon after watching this episode:
What was your favorite musical number in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Silence”?
Lizzie: I find “Happier” sublime, I really do. It says everything without using real words. And yet I feel the exact same way about “Fight Song.” Which is, again, why we love this show, isn’t it?
Jade: It’s hard not to give it to “Fight Song” but if I had to choose a runner up, it would be “Sound of Silence.” It was a beautifully done duet, and it makes me wish we’d had a chance to hear Howie sing more often.
Jacqueline: Fight Song – it was such a powerful performance. Brought tears to my eyes. It was the perfect choice of song and performed beautifully. Truly amazing.
Jacquie: “Fight Song” gives me chills everytime I watch this episode – but so does “Sound of Silence”. I love both and you can’t make me choose, so I won’t. It’s a tie.
Amanda: This was a week for emotional songs, which means it’s hard to pick one…so I won’t. We’ll start with, “Fight Song” which was phenomenal! It was such an amazing and emotional number to watch, it moves me to tears whenever I watch it. So much emotion and emphasis placed into every sign, highlighting the determination and strength of everyone there.
Then we get “Happier,” as the end of the episode, which was moving in a completely different way. We know that Simon and Jessica have been through a lot together, and ending an engagement/long term relationship is not a decision one makes easily. The choreography was amazing, it emphasized their struggle and inner turmoils with the choice, but knowing it was ultimately the right thing to do.
I do have to give a shoutout to Emily’s “Buttons,” because she rocked it! Mama’s got moves!
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is available on streaming on Hulu, through the NBC app and on Peacock.