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

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 1×12 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Dad“:

NO MISSED OPPORTUNITIES HERE

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Lizzie: Well, we GOT HERE. They finally kissed. And so, I don’t think we have to talk about missed opportunities here as much as we have to talk about the progression of the relationship and how (and why) we got to where we are, as well as what the logical next steps are for a relationship that’s ANYTHING but platonic at this point. What do you think, Jade? Let’s talk about Zoey’s decision making in this episode. First she reached out to Max, a very friend thing to do but not something she’s excelled at. Then she fought for his job, had him over for movie night, let him accompany her to her house, knowing what they were going to find there, and leaned on him at the funeral. What does this say about where Zoey’s at in regards to Max – whether she’s at the emotional point to really think about it or not?

Jade: Okay, deeeeep breaths. It felt like it took forever for them to get here, which is weird because it was a shorter season (compared to many shows), and some shows take much, much longer. Maybe it just feels like it took forever because so much happened in those 12 episodes. And because we were so eager for it to happen. And also because, you know…it’s 2020, which has itself lasted 87 years.

With Zoey, there’s a lot of “one step forward, two steps back” sometimes, you know? Her obliviousness about her own feelings is impressive. So, yes, you’re absolutely right. She’s not at an emotional point to really think about it, and given what we know of next season (both the grief and the love triangle), she won’t be for some time. But let’s be real, here. This is some serious OTP stuff, here. We talked before about the fact that Zoey hasn’t been there for Max to the same degree that he’s been there for her, but she really stepped to the plate in this episode. Also, can I just point out that, as sweet and wonderful as it was for Max to call Simon without Zoey prompting him to do so, because he knew she would need the support of someone who had lost a parent…there is something notable about the fact that Zoey didn’t reach out to Simon, isn’t there? When she needed comfort, the person she turned to was Max. It’s particularly notable because the whole reason Zoey said she was afraid to let Simon go was because she was afraid she’d never have a connection with someone who understood what she was going through again. You’d think Simon would be the one she’d instinctively turn to, rather than Max. Even given the fact Max was there when she got the call, she didn’t turn around and call Simon and say she needed him, and she didn’t ask Max to do so. Her leaning on Max seemed to be instinctive and automatic, and I think that’s an indication of where her heart lies, even if her head isn’t yet ready to listen.

YOU’RE ALL I NEED

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Lizzie: Absolutely. I hadn’t even thought about it, but the truth is we react more than think in moments like that, and Zoey’s first reaction was to feel comfortable and safe and cared for with Max. She didn’t need to reach out for someone else, because she was getting exactly what she needed from Max, and that’s BIG considering that, like you said, the reason she was holding back was that Simon was supposed to be the guy who was going to understand THIS moment. 

But I think it’s smart of the show to show that yes – someone who’s suffered grief can understand you sometimes in ways others can’t – but that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones who can be there for you, or the only ones who should be. Sometimes, and I’d say especially during the first few moments, all you need is someone to be there. You don’t even want words. 

Moving on, I think we also have to go into what flicked the switch for Zoey. When did she decide that, you know, the Zoey who sang “I’m Yours” was actually right? Because as bad a friend as Zoey has been at times, I think she understands what kissing Max means, and she is clear with him that she did it because she wanted to. I will be honest, I think a big part of it was seeing Max taking charge of his own life. When he said that he didn’t want the job back, and he was excited about the possibilities, she seemed attracted to that? I think maybe a part of what’s always attracted her to Simon has been his confidence – and then yeah, of course, she related to his grief – so, it makes sense to me that Zoey is somehow attracted to that take charge attitude that Max displays, and it makes want to, well, take charge!

Jade: Oh, I definitely think that the fact Max was looking at the future was attractive to her. I keep going back to the fact that Zoey taunted Simon with that very idea when she was lashing out at everyone in her grief. He said Max was trying to get away from her, and she taunted him with the idea that maybe Max was looking to the future, instead of being trapped in the past. I wonder if part of that is because she looks at Simon and sees someone who might understand what she’s going through, but she also looks at Simon and sees what she could become – someone who’s trapped in their grief and unable to find their way forward. Seeing Max go through something tremendous and life-altering (though granted, not the same thing as losing a parent) and having hope for the future? I could definitely see that flicking a switch in Zoey, with her seeing that, yes, that’s something she not only wants to have but something she wants to do.

AND I KNOW THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH HIM

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Lizzie: There’s also Max and Zoey at the funeral, aka during “American Pie.” We see Max in the background almost every time Zoey is around, just being there, her support, bringing her wine, checking on her. We see that he was likely at the funeral with her, because she doesn’t greet him like she’s just seeing him when they enter the house, and most importantly, we see her seek his comfort, rest her head on his shoulder. That’s without even going into Simon’s “I know that you’re in love with him,” which might not be literal, but it was still a choice to have him sing that to Zoey and Max. Does it feel to you, as it feels to me, that the show is being very deliberate with their choices during this song, even if they don’t close the door definitely on Simon and Zoey? I mean, at least it’s not wide open anymore, that’s for sure.

Jade: Oh, absolutely. As you know, I think the show projected the fact that Max and Zoey are endgame from the Pilot, but they sort of double-down on it this episode. Even in little things like Zoey introducing Max to her dad’s doctor…which gave off very “coupley” vibes to me for reasons I can’t entirely explain. But I also think there’s something telling in the shot where Simon is seated at the table, looking introspective, and Zoey comes up and puts her hand on his shoulder in a comforting gesture. He covers her hand with his own, to comfort her in turn, so I don’t mean to make this one-sided. However, that shot sort of reflected their entire dynamic over the majority of the season so far. Zoey was the one to approach Simon, the one to comfort Simon. As she has initiated doing all season. I don’t mean to make it sound like he doesn’t care or wasn’t there for her – he does and he was. But if Zoey and Max’s friendship has been skewed, Zoey and Simon’s has been, as well, to be more about Simon’s grief than even her own at this point.

Meanwhile, you have Max watching over Zoey, bringing her drinks without her seemingly needing to ask, unobtrusively making sure she’s okay. Giving her space to do what she needs to do, but also making sure her needs aren’t being lost or overlooked in the shadow of everyone else’s grief. And, of course, the show took extra pains to make sure the audience knew that Zoey’s dad knows of Max’s feelings for Zoey – and Zoey’s possible first glimmer of feelings for Max. We know he won’t be around for her wedding one day, so the show wanted to give the audience the opportunity to make her dad a part of that love story, so that when they get together, we know Mitch would have been happy for them. Over the course of the season, the show never took pains to make sure the audience knew Simon was introduced to Mitch, let alone to make sure the audience knew Mitch was aware of their burgeoning love for each other. Everything in this episode so loudly screamed that Clarkeman is endgame, I honestly don’t know how anyone could think they were doing anything else.

WHAT NOW?

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Lizzie: So, two final questions: what do you want from season 2 and what do you think we will get? I’ve already said that I think the first half of the season, at least, is about Zoey grieving, and it won’t focus on any romance, but I think Max will be there for her, 100%, and since he knows about her powers, I think that’s something that can bring them even closer. Maybe Max can help her the way Mo has? What I want is for their friendship to become stronger, for them to spend time together, for Zoey to actually be Max’s friend, and maybe for her to realize that awful lesson we all learn from grief: Life is short, and you gotta tell the people you love that you love them while you still can.

The rest is easy, I just want tons of scenes of them together. That’s how you build an OTP anyway.

Jade: I definitely agree that the first half (or more) of the season will be about grieving, although I think that they’ll also try to balance that with moments of humor – much as they did in this finale. I don’t know where that humor will come from, but I have no doubt it’ll be there. I also agree that Max will be there for her, even as he tries to find his own path forward. I want all the things you want, to be sure. 

But I also think it’ll be good for Max to exercise patience and to recognize that they can both have feelings and it could just be the wrong time. Without the hurt of being pushed away. I think it was an excellent first step for him to reassure Zoey that they didn’t need to think about their relationship at the moment – taking the pressure of both expectation and the fear that her hitting the pause button on their romance would hurt him in any way. That was important. I expect this grieving process will propel Zoey into some emotional growth and further capacity for empathy, even if that journey isn’t always pretty. Or easy. I would love for Max to help Zoey with her powers, particularly since he knows her secret and she…well…she knows his. But I also would love to see Mo lean more on Zoey next season, as Zoey leaned so heavily on him this year. I also think it’s important for Zoey to tell Simon the truth next year, even though I expect it would cause an understandable rift between them for a time. He deserves the truth.

Like you, I think she needs to learn that life is short, and you have to tell people you love them while you can, as often as you can. But also, that you can’t keep waiting for your life to happen. Zoey spent much of this season with Max not knowing her own feelings, afraid to confront them. I think Zoey might be scared to lose him next season – perhaps even more than she is now. But every moment is precious, and you need to listen to your heart and embrace the time you have. I do think Zoey will learn that lesson…but it might not be until the finale.

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

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