Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist - Season 1

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

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 Mother” are Fangirlish writers Jade and Jacqueline as well as guests Amanda and Jacquie.

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This episode focused on Maggie and her grief, something the show hasn’t done as much as it could have. Do you think it was the right choice, to focus on Maggie at this time? What did you think of the way the episode went for her, and the mini-journey she took towards some sort of acceptance?

Lizzie: I understand this is a show about Zoey, and she is the main character, but I think there was no way to tell this story the right away, the realistic way, without focusing on Maggie in this moment, especially in this final episode before the end. As for her journey throughout it, I appreciate that the show made it clear how hard it is, and how very non linear, and just didn’t try to sugarcoat the millions of emotions that come with loss, or even preparing for that loss. I feel like one of the biggest mistakes shows make in regards to showing grief is making it too simple, and this show has never, ever been guilty of that.

Jade: I think it was absolutely the right choice to focus on Maggie at this point in the season. Watching this, I found myself thinking about my mother-in-law saying once that she’s been married to my father-in-law for over 40 years – they married when she was 18 – and she thought he had a greater influence on the person she is now than the family she grew up with. I hadn’t really thought of that the first time I watched the show, but with Mitch and Maggie being married for 38 years, it seems likely she would feel the same. As important as Mitch is to Maggie (and David), he would have been such a big, important, even formative part of Maggies’ life. What she’s losing is something not even Zoey can imagine at this moment. Maggie needed to go through this mini-journey, but it was a brilliant decision on the show’s part to realize that Zoey couldn’t be the one to help her through it.

Jacqueline: I think it was important to show Maggie’s grief because she is grieving a different loss than Zoey. She’s losing the love of her life, her partner. I thought it was a hard but great episode. I really like that she got to meet Deb. Deb is someone who knows like to have that kind of lost and appreciate that she didn’t sugarcoat the situation. 

Jacquie: Since the show is mostly from Zoey’s perspective (I mean her name is in the title), it can be easy to let that be the main lens we see grief through. While they do drop in on the other members of the Clarke family, this was an amazing opportunity to see the parts of losing Mitch that Zoey can’t possibly understand. Maggie is losing a bond no one else in the family is. Zoey and David are losing a father, and while that’s an individual experience for both of them, they’re still both losing their dad. Maggie is the only one losing the love of her life, her partner, her everything of the past 40 years. I liked that Maggie was given a glimpse into her future, via Bernadette Peters, and that helped her come to some kind of peace about the whole situation. 

Amanda: Throughout this whole episode my heart just ached for Maggie and what she is going through. Looking at funeral plots and caskets all drive home the reality that she is going to be burying her husband. She’s been focusing on spending as much time as she can with Mitch and helping him as the disease progresses, but planning his funeral makes her realize that very soon she’s going to be without him. Maggie has been the pillar of strength for her family, helping them with their problems it was finally time for her to get the help and support that she needed. Zoey knows that she neither she nor David can understand the loss that Maggie is facing, so she asks Deb to step in for her. Maggie needs someone like Deb (who I hope we will see more of next season), who knows what she is going through and can offer the advice and support that she needs.

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This episode gave us some amazing bonding moments between Joan and Zoey, as well as a truce between Joan and Ava. What do you think about the way this show continues to present female relationships as anything but adversarial? It should be the norm on TV, but in reality, it’s the exception.

Lizzie: It’s like a breath of fresh air, it truly is. We are all women in this round-table, and I think we can all relate to the power of having girl friends and the strength and support you get from them, in all aspects of your life. It makes me sad that TV doesn’t typically explore the nuances of female friendships, and more often than not, tries to pit women against each other, as if we spend all our time competing with other women for jobs, men and other dumb things.

Jade: I really love the complexity of all the female relationships. None of them are entirely adversarial, but they aren’t entirely friendly, either. They’re complex and dynamic, and they evolve. As relationships – and people – do. It makes their various dynamics all the more interesting, and it really makes me wonder how they’ll evolve next season. 

Jacqueline: I LOVE how this show displays female friendships. Especially as the friendships mentioned, Zoey and Joan and Joan and Ava, are all in a male dominated work environment. I know from experience how hard that can be so its nice to the women supporting each other. I ADORED Joan’s support of Zoey in this episode. She really does get it. I wish more managers supported their staff when necessary. I really did love watching their friendship develop throughout the season. It was also nice to see Joan and Ava appear to play fair, I say appear because I doubt Joan would have supported Ava firing Max. But it was nice to see two strong female leaders work together. 

Jacquie: This show subverts expectations every chance they can get, so why should their take on female professional relationships be any different. I like that they used a heart-song to dissuade any lingering doubts about the sincerity of these two strong power women joining forces. Unfortunately, success often breeds competition and it’s not always handled correctly. I like that Joan and Ava were able to put whatever past wrongs aside (you know there is waaaaaaayyy more backstory there than we get on screen) to realize that their efforts are better spent working together than fighting. 

Amanda: Even with Joan and Ava’s competitive nature, they were both willing to acknowledge one another’s strengths and work together. I absolutely love how they present positive female relationships! In a career world that is predominantly male-driven, it’s not only important to see female representation but to also have those women supporting one another and building each other up instead of tearing one another down. 

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Max and Zoey made up at the end of this episode (finally), and they did so because Zoey was finally open with Max in a way she rarely has been, by confessing with words, not song, that she basically couldn’t stand feeling so far apart from him. What do you think this means as far as her feelings? Does Zoey at this point realize what she feels for Max? Where do you think she stands?

Lizzie: I don’t think Zoey realizes, even in the finale, because that would require most self introspection than Zoey is capable of. But I do think Zoey has reached a point where the status quo just wouldn’t do, where she realized that to keep Max in her life, she would have to give him SOMETHING. It might not be all he wants, and it might not be all she feels yet, but she does recognize in this episode that the relationship, as it is, is unequal, and it’s up to her to bridge that gap. And hey, that’s growth.

Jade: All season long, Zoey’s been running from her feelings. She ran from Max’s confession and any risk of considering her own. She pushed him towards Autumn to keep from analyzing her own feelings. Even when she sang her feelings to him, she ran from what her own heartsong was trying to tell her. In facing the rift in their friendship and admitting she couldn’t stand to be so far apart from him, Zoey finally stopped running. She may not be ready to fully analyze and embrace her romantic feelings for him, but she stopped running from the possibility. She even admitted that what they have already is more complicated than mere friendship. It’s an important first step. She’s not yet ready to embrace her feelings, but she is finally trying to confront them and figure out what they are. Finally.

Jacqueline: I think Zoey always knew she needed Max in life, it’s why she didn’t want to rock the boat – but now that she did lose him to the 6th, her perspective has changed. I think she really truly missed him. So she finally used her words and made herself vulnerable to try to repair their relationship and it worked 🙂 I think whether she realizes it or not she’s more open to a relationship now then she was in the past. 

Jacquie: We know some part of Zoey was afraid to lose Max, and this episode brought her face to face with that becoming an actual reality. And that scared her. Which led to the first time in the entire season that Zoey chooses to grow and change her ways all on her own. Before it was always due to a heart-song pushing for her to change, so I think it’s a good sign for Zoey and Max’s relationship that she was able to do this. Zoey has been aware of her deeper feelings for her best friend since she sang to him in Glitch, but this episode is the first time she doesn’t actively deny them. She needs Max in her life, that’s made abundantly clear in this episode. Her resolve to only see Max as a friend is cracking. 

Amanda: Zoey is not great with being open about her emotions, something we have seen that throughout the season, but she opened up to Max with tears in her eyes telling him that she can’t stand to be apart from him. It took almost losing Max for Zoey to realize how truly important he is to her, and how much she cares for him. Zoey knows that she feels something more than friendship for Max. Ever since she sang “I’m Yours” to him, she’s been aware that she has romantic feelings for him. She’s not ready to proclaim her feelings from the rooftops, but she’s also no longer denying them, which is a huge step for her. With everything happening right now, Zoey isn’t ready to be in a relationship however, she is more open to the idea of a romantic relationship with Max at some point.

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Max admitted to Leif he wasn’t exactly over Zoey, but he was trying. Do you think that, after her confession at the end of this episode, he’s still trying? Or is he too busy thinking about the fact that he just got fired to explore his feelings?

Lizzie: I don’t think he was actually trying, as much as he was angry and that’s what you say when you’re angry? Besides, if getting over people was as easy as saying you were going to get over people, there’d be a lot less TV and films out there, wouldn’t there?

I think he was rightfully focusing on being fired at the end, and the beginning of the next episode, and I think that’s real growth for Max. He’s learned that he can and should put himself first sometimes. Self love is the first step to any meaningful and lasting relationship, after all.

Jade: Was Max ever really trying? He said he was, but does anyone really believe that? He was trying to focus more on himself, on his independence, and on his career. But I don’t think even he really believed he was getting over her. After their reconciliation, I don’t think he was trying one way or another, but I don’t think it was necessarily just because he was fired. I think he genuinely recognized that the first thing they would need to do was to repair their friendship – get back to whatever they are – before either of them could address their romantic relationship.

Jacqueline: Max may have been trying but he wasn’t trying very hard and that went out the window the moment Zoey showed up on the 6th floor grovelling! I was surprised Max didn’t dance with happiness but he got called into Joan’s office – grrr. Max has a great big heart and its all for Zoey!!

Jacquie: Zoey said it best, they have a long way to go before getting back to “whatever they are”. Max was pushed to a tipping point concerning his feelings for Zoey, and he actually made the healthy choice to try and move on and be happy. But loving someone doesn’t just go away because you want it to – and it doesn’t help when the person you love starts throwing sparks back on that fire. Zoey admitting there is something more between them is a big step for their relationship, and I have a hard time believing Max doesn’t know that. Being fired though, would probably be a bit of a distraction from being able to fully dissect his feelings. I mean, considering how Max ends the season, emotionally speaking, it’s probably a safe bet that he wasn’t trying that hard.

Amanda: Max’s feelings for Zoey are always a part of his thoughts, we’ve seen it through all of his heart songs (except “Con Te Partiro”) being about her. The moment he agreed to work on getting back to where they were, he was no longer trying to get over her. Max’s immediate focus is definitely on being fired, but right after his talk with Zoey he has a skip in his step and is cheerfully joking with Ava. So at least for a moment, he was thinking about his feelings and what Zoey had said to him. Poor Max really gets emotionally jerked around at the end of this episode, between Zoey’s confession and then having the rug pulled out from under him by being fired. 


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Leif and Joan. What do you think about their whole relationship? Have you enjoyed any part of this storyline or would you love to see it killed with fire?

Lizzie: Ugh, I just threw up a little in my mouth. Though I will admit I do appreciate what the relationship did for both characters, or how it allowed us to see past what they were first perceived as, especially when it comes to Leif. We would have never cared, not even a little bit, if it weren’t for his feelings for Joan. That being said, no more, please, kill it with fire.

Jade: I didn’t enjoy the relationship for what it was, but I did appreciate it for what it did. I certainly wasn’t rooting for Joan and Leif to engage in a relationship, and I didn’t root for them to work out. But the plot did provide some important growth – for both Leif and Joan’s characters. For that reason, I appreciate it on some level. But I’m also not sorry to see it go. I can just hope that next season, we’ll continue to see Leif’s growth, and I would love to see him attempt to atone for the unintentional (if foreseeable) consequences of his actions.

Jacqueline: KILL IT WITH FIRE!!! This episode made me feel bad for Leif and that made me feel all kinds of ick! I just don’t like Leif. Joan deserves so much better and I hope she gets it in season 2 even if that’s just her being super happy and single. There is more than one road to happiness! I LOVED how clear Joan was when she ended things with Leif, there was no room for confusion and that was kind. So glad its over!

Jacquie: A storyline like this, in a show this progressive especially, I would say doesn’t deserve more than one or two episodes unless there is a payoff. And … there really wasn’t. It looked like Leif could have had some real growth from this, but we really don’t see much of a change in his character. And he remained unscathed in the end no matter his dastardly deeds, while Max paid the price. For that alone, I’d like to light him on fire but that’s neither here nor there. This entire plot line could have been taken out and it wouldn’t have changed the show that much. I didn’t hate it, but a little more payoff for the characters involved would have been nice. Maybe they’re saving that for season two.

Amanda: I’m not a fan of them being together romantically, which at first was because I didn’t trust Leif (he’s still not entirely trustworthy), but also because they were not in it for the same reasons. Joan was looking for a fling after her marriage fell apart, and Leif was hoping for a way to climb the corporate ladder. We did get to see Leif grow some more and see a slightly more human side to him which I enjoyed and would like to see more of next season. But overall I’m not a fan of them romantically.

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Mo broke up with Eddie before he could break up with him, because Mo has been burned before, and it’s always better to feel like the decision is in your control. Do you understand why he did what he did? Do you think Eddie and Mo are a good fit, long-term?

Lizzie: I’m not sure about long term, but I really am rooting for these two, because I think they really care for each other, and they deserve the chance to try. If something is going to go wrong, let it be because it actually did, not because someone quit before it could out of fear, you know what I mean?

That being said, I do understand why Mo made the decision, and I appreciate that as much as he’s doing the SAME THING Zoey is doing, in so many ways, Zoey calls him out on it, which I hope helps her see her own issues. Because you just gotta take that chance, and if you get hurt, well …you were gonna get hurt doing nothing anyway, right?

Jade: In a sense, isn’t that what Zoey has been doing? She and Max weren’t together, so she didn’t break up with him. But she initially ended the possibility of something with him to avoid what might happen. She made the decision not to attempt to move forward, rather than risk losing him. Mo and Zoey did something similar, though they did it in different ways and at different points in their relationship. But I wonder if perhaps this is why the two get along as well as they do. They’re opposites in many ways, but there are ways in which they are similar. I think Mo’s decision was understandable, if ultimately unhealthy. You can’t always run from the possibility of pain, and some things are worth the risk. I do think that Eddie showed an incredible capacity for understanding and forgiveness in the end. Mo had hurt him, and he could easily have refused to give him another chance. That he did so without hesitation implies not only a depth of feeling but a level of understanding on his part that could imply they are a good fit. 

Jacqueline: I was actually surprised to be rooting for Mo and Eddie long term but somewhere along the way it happened. I totally understand Mo’s need for control. You would think if its your decision it would hurt less – it does not. I hurt for Mo. He clearly has a lot of big feelings for Eddie. I do love this couple. They are so cute together.

Jacquie: Mo and Eddie wormed their way into my heart very quickly. I love the ease of their relationship, which I still love even after this dramatic bump in the road. I understand where Mo is coming from – getting hurt often is a feeling you would do anything to protect yourself from. And we know Mo has had his fair share of hardships in his life from just being who he is. I need more on Eddie before making a determination about their expiration date as a couple, but together they seem genuinely happy. I hope that Eddie will be the one to show Mo that unconditional love is worth conquering your fears for.

Amanda: Being in a romantic relationship with someone means that you are trusting them with your heart and that can be a terrifying thing for many people. Relationships aren’t easy sometimes they work out wonderfully and sometimes they end terribly, but that’s the risk you take with love. Mo is afraid that because he feels so much for Eddie that it’s going to end up like his past relationships. Rather than risk possible heartbreak with Eddie, Mo decides to put up walls and refuses to deal with his emotions. It’s an interesting role reversal because this is normally what we see Zoey do when faced with problems or emotions in her life and it’s usually Mo who she goes to for advice. I think that Eddie and Mo are a great fit long-term, they do need to work on being more open and communicating with one another, but that is something that can come with time.

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Bernadette Peters. Use a gif to summarize her guest appearance in this episode


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What was your favorite musical number in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Mother”?

Lizzie: Okay, look, “Bye, Bye, Bye” was super hot and I’m not above admitting it worked for me, okay?

Jade: There was something strangely sexy about “Bye Bye Bye,” I’m not even gonna lie. That little pushup against the bar? Whew. I’ve watched that gif more times than I think is strictly reasonable. But every time I listen to “Issues,” Alex’s voice just blows me away. Incredible.

Jacqueline: While I LOVED “Bye, Bye, Bye,” despite not being a HUGE N’Sync fan. I have to go with Mo’s version of “Issues.” Beautiful and perfect. He hit it out of the ballpark! 

Jacquie: I did love “Bye, Bye, Bye” – I did. No matter how much it broke my Clarkeman-loving heart. But the song from this episode that gives me chills is “Feeling Good” I mean … it’s freakin’ Bernadette Peters! What more needs to be said. 
Amanda: “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place,” gets a shoutout for both the unusual setting and for being the perfect song to showcase how overwhelmed Maggie is feeling at this point. I also have to give props to “Issues,” because Alex Newell’s voice is amazing! But hands down “Bye Bye Bye,” is my favorite. It’s the perfect juxtaposition to Leif pleading Joan to take him back with “All Out of Love.” Max is done being a doormat for Zoey, he’s finally putting himself and his feelings first, as he should! Not to mention that confident and angry Max is incredibly hot! That bar pushup he does? *fans self*

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is available on streaming on Hulu, through the NBC app and on Peacock.

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