Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist 2×06 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Reckoning” is an extraordinary episode of TV, and one that, as much as I try, I will probably fail to do justice to. Simon’s experiences, Mo’s experiences, Tatiana’s experiences …I haven’t felt them, or come anywhere close to them. I’m Zoey in this situation, and like Zoey, my job is mostly to shut up and support.
But I still have to write this review, and so I will attempt to do so understanding that, even after an episode such as this one, and an attempt on my part to be conscientious, blind spots are bilnd spots because we cannot see them. Zoey isn’t perfect, and neither am I, and the issues raised in this episode, issues that started last episode, will absolutely not be fixed in one day. But that doesn’t mean we have to stay silent.
And yes, so much of this episode is about Zoey’s realization that she, well-meaning white person that she is, doesn’t really get it, hasn’t really been as helpful as she thinks she is, and still has so much more to learn, but I’d be remiss if I focused on Zoey, as I always do, or on someone like Leif, who is literally the definition of “you tried, dude.” So, instead, we’re going to talk about Simon, Mo and Tobin in this review, as we go deep into Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist 2×06 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Reckoning”:
Simon is the driving force behind this episode, the one making the tough choices, the one confronting everyone with their own biases, and Simon deserves to be applauded for it. From my very limited experience, it’s so much easier to not rock the boat, even in a situation where you know you should be speaking out. And yes, Simon already made that decision last episode, but he could have just …put his head down and handled it. He chose the opposite.
A particularly poignant moment, and one that shows the strength of this show’s writing, was the conversation Simon has with Zoey in his office. “I have to constantly amputate parts of who I am to make other people feel comfortable in my presence,” Simon explains to Zoey, and the entire conversation hit me deep, but this moment in particular broke my heart. Mostly because a part of me had never even considered it, and that’s my privilege.
It’s also Zoey’s, who tells him “When I see you, I just see Simon.”
To which he very quickly replies. “Simon is a black man.” And that’s the thing. The attempt at a colorblind society is just kidding ourselves. The world we live in isn’t colorblind. We aren’t even close to there, so by ignoring the ways other people’s experiences are different from ours, we’re doing them, and us, a disservice. Zoey can never fully understand Simon’s experience, but she can stop trying to equate it to hers just because she herself isn’t racist.
It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: In the world we live in, it’s not enough to not be racist, you have to be actively anti-racism. Otherwise you’re just supporting the status quo.
Mo’s storyline this episode is not just about support for Simon – and Mo is all for burning it down and starting from 0 if needed, he’s been there before and he’s not afraid of that – it’s about being honest with Zoey about what it means to be the one that always has to fix her issues, and how exhausting that role is.
This is something Mo has done from the beginning, being Zoey’s emotional support, and he’s done so without much complaint, until the moment Zoey tries to use him to talk to Simon and make it easier on her. “You rely on me far too much to do your emotional heavy lifting,” Mo tells Zoey, and he’s absolutely right. There’s also, of course, the problematic fact that Zoey, unconsciously, thought Mo, who is Black, should be the one to talk to Simon, who is Black, which doesn’t seem to be something Zoey understands till it’s pointed out to her.
Let’s make one thing clear, Zoey is wrong in this regard. Zoey is wrong in regards to Simon, too. That’s partly why this episode works, because it allows the main white character to truly be wrong in the way most of us are about race, because understanding isn’t just a divine thing, it’s something we need to work hard on. Well-intentioned doesn’t equate to right, and Zoey learns that lesson in this episode, just as, I hope, many people watching will too.
And, at the end of the episode, nothing is fixed. There was a win, yes, and it should be celebrated. But racism isn’t cured, Zoey’s blindspots have not disappeared, and she probably will still rely on Mo too much for emotional heavy lifting. But conversations were had, people moved forward and Simon made a difference, a real one, by being himself and speaking his mind.
Tobin has always been a hard character to like. We’ve seen glimpses of depth from him, but he has been kept deliberately shallow, something that has always rubbed me the wrong way, as I wanted to see much more from him and felt the actor had so much more to give. This episode makes me feel like maybe, maybe, this was deliberate to bring about the revelations of this episode.
Because the Tobin we see in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Reckoning” is the same Tobin, but finally deconstructed in a way we understand. His jokes, his over-the-top-persona, are just a facade he deliberately puts up so people don’t notice the other things that are different about him, so people don’t treat him like the odd one out.
For me this is very familiar. I’ve caught myself unconsciously suppressing my accent just to not have to answer questions about being latina, and though I have it easier than Tobin, because I’m white and can pass as long as I can manage that, the experience of feeling like you need to hide a part of yourself to be accepted is …heartbreaking.
And the fact that Tobin breaks out of that, puts himself out there, and that his vulnerability is the thing that pushes everything forward, is immensely rewarding to watch. Feeling free to be who we are, unequivocally, will take a while, but this episode closes with the idea that maybe, just maybe, it’s possible. Reality will take a while still, but it might be all the more easier, if entertainment lead the way in messaging, like Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist did this week.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think about Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist 2×06 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Reckoning”? Share with us in the comments below!
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC.