Since the very first episode, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist has been one of our favorite shows. However, episode 2×07, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Memory” is proof that even the best shows can have weaker episodes. Episodes that aren’t terrible but don’t quite rise to the bar that’s been set. It’s okay, but it has some obvious weaknesses when compared to powerhouse episodes like “Zoey’s Extraordinary Reckoning.”
But as one can expect from this series, even episodes that aren’t their best have high points. Let’s dig in, shall we?
A GLIMPSE OF THE PAST
Is there anything more adorable on the show than younger Zoey sharing a special moment with her dad? Of course, going into the second season, we knew Mitch wouldn’t be a big part of the show moving forward. However, it’s been wonderful seeing the little glimpses of him (or hearing his voice and seeing a body double from behind meant to represent him) we’ve gotten thus far this season. We can understand why this moment would be something Zoey would treasure to the point of recreating. And, honestly, just getting a glimpse into the relationship that existed before his illness was something worth remembering ourselves.
DAD IN A BAND
We’ve made no secret of the fact that we adore David (and Emily) this season. The latter doesn’t appear this episode, but David has a fun story. He’s struggling as a stay-at-home dad. Not so much due to parenting responsibilities as the fact he clearly hasn’t had may conversations with other adults in a while. (And it’s apparently been longer still since speaking to adults who weren’t other attorneys.) When he learns that next-door-neighbor Aiden has a band, he basically gets volunteered by Zoey to watch a practice. Then he sorta, kinda forces his way onto the band. His misunderstanding that a “jam session” is an “audition” is more than a little second-hand cringe. However, it seems less a misunderstanding he would normally make as much as “I’m desperate to do something that isn’t related to diapers and milk bottles, so please let me have this.” It’s both sweet and a little sad. Mostly, it’s impossible not to love him for it.
CAN’T CATCH A BREAK
Fans of Tobin and Leif have been hoping to see their characters fleshed out a little more from season one. In particular, they’re hoping to see them both get love stories highlighting some character development. For fans of Tobin, things are still…ambiguous. The fact he’s hanging out with Mckenzie is somewhat suggestive. Particularly as they seem awfully cozy as she’s buying him drinks. But there really isn’t anything definitive to hang one’s hat on. After all, friends do buy each other drinks.
Those who hoped for Leif to get a love story had a bit more to go on this episode. Although we certainly hope what we got wasn’t the entire love story that Austin suggested would be coming our way this year. One way or another, right now, Leif has to be the unluckiest in love of all the characters on the show. And there hasn’t exactly been a plethora of lucky-in-love stories on the show so far.
First he fell for his boss. Bad idea, generally speaking. Now it’s revealed he tried to move on at some point. His first date-post breakup ended early, but his date keeps trying to reach out to him again. Zoey encourages him to give love another shot, and he takes her suggestion. And, of course, it doesn’t go very well. It turns out his date isn’t interested in a love connection so much as professional networking.
If we’re being honest, his storyline this week is a little painful to watch. I’m not saying that his next romantic arc on the show has to be his own OTP, with both parties singing joyfully about how they’re meant to be together always and forever. I’m not saying his next romance even has to work out for him or be without his share of drama. But, at the very least, I would appreciate seeing him have an equal role in deciding whether something is working out. Or even if it should. I’m just not sure how many times I want to see him get handed the fuzzy end of the romantic lollipop. And then kicked while he’s down.
So his story this week is a little rough. He doesn’t necessarily handle his disappointment as well as a person could. Is it entirely fair that Leif lashes out at Zoey when he learns the truth – the truth he asked her to find out for him? No, it really isn’t. But “shooting the messenger” isn’t unheard of either. And whatever initial anger he feels towards her fades quickly enough. So we don’t blame him for his anger. That said, we will be very disappointed if this is it for his “romantic arc” this season. He’s had some professional character growth this season. Personal character growth would be good to see, as well.
Although nothing solid has happened yet, it seems Leif isn’t the only one to have had a brush with love this week. First, there’s Mo and Perry, the fire marshal responsible for performing the inspection of Maximo’s. At this point, there are more sparks (no pun intended) than love story going on between the two, but there are certainly sparks. It’s an interesting dynamic because Perry’s personality seems so distinctly different from Mo’s own. (“I understand how puns work,” he says in the driest voice ever, which somehow brought unexpected hilarity to the scene.) But this dynamic has promise, and he has a voice we certainly wouldn’t mind hearing much more often coming from our television sets.
But romance is in the air elsewhere at Maximo’s, as well. Max has reconnected with an old friend from camp, Rose. There’s not much to see of her this week, but what there is so far is endearing. So far, their relationship is limited to mild flirtation, but there’s no guarantee it will stay that way for long. The two have a connection, and – right now – their relationship is free of drama. (Will it stay that way? Eh, probably not.) Clarkeman fans have been concerned about what Rose’s presence will mean for the main ship of the show. For now, it’s too early to say. Clarkeman is still almost undoubtedly endgame. The path to get there just may not be as smooth as fans had hoped. However, it’s very likely that the Rose and Max ship won’t be the reason for that. More on that later.
SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
With these positives in mind, one might wonder why we say that this episode doesn’t live up to the high bar that Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist has otherwise set. The main problem with the episode comes down to the writing for the titular character herself.
Zoey is fundamentally flawed, but her foibles have typically made sense. We haven’t necessarily always agreed with her actions, but we’ve understood where she was coming from. We could understand the reasons why she acted like she did, even if her behavior was ultimately self-defeating or even self-destructive.
This is sadly where the episode falls down the most for us. The main drama arises because Zoey wants to see the Leonids meteor shower, recreating a precious memory she had once shared with her dad. The episode starts with the memory, making the audience immediately connect to it emotionally. We want her to succeed in recreating this memory. We want her to have this precious moment to remember a happier time with her dad, before he became ill. Of course, because nothing ever comes easily in TV land, things keep getting in the way – first Leif and Tobin inviting themselves along (and rather ruining the experience for her, if doing so unintentionally), then the opening of Maximo’s and Leif’s disastrous date. Until ultimately, she doesn’t get to recreate the memory at all.
As a viewer, my heart broke for her, in the fact she never did get to see the meteor shower that had meant so much to her. But while my heart was is breaking for her, I also want to shake her a little. We know how important this is to her, the solution to her problem is right there in front of her (and us), and she just refuses to do it.
At first, her justification for not just communicating something makes sense, but as the episode carries on, the justification just gets weaker and weaker until it’s just frustrating to see her continue to struggle unnecessarily. It’s a situation where the solution to her problem is so mind-bogglingly simple and obvious, even for someone as occasionally clueless as Zoey, it makes no sense to not just embrace it. Of course, she doesn’t want to keep imposing on others to help her with her grief. But this isn’t a situation where she has to share absolutely everything or absolutely nothing. There is a middle ground that would save her pain and – frankly – resentment. It’s possible to communicate something without even mentioning her dad, or making it about her grief. Ultimately, her lack of communication does little but lead to unnecessary resentment, making it feel less like a justification than an excuse for episodic drama.
She isn’t imposing if she said, “it’s really important to me to see the Leonids.” It isn’t even an imposition to admit, “I saw the Leonids with my dad when I was younger, so I want to recreate that memory in private.” Certainly, when Leif and Tobin invited themselves along (not realizing that she was all but resenting their very presence) – or, at the latest, when their ignorance led them to ruin the experience for her – it wouldn’t be imposing her grief upon them to say, “I know there are other places to see the Leonids, but my dad took me to a spot to watch them together, and the whole point of going to see them for me is so I can honor that memory.” Or, I don’t know, just about anything else other than getting increasingly frustrated that the people around her aren’t respecting something she has told them nothing about.
If she’d communicated anything at all, is there any chance that her friends (or frienemies, as the case may be) wouldn’t completely understand where she was coming from? Even Tobin, as oblivious and even over-the-line as he can sometimes be, is unlikely to respond to any of these confessions by continuing to mock the activity or by hogging the telescope. As for her other friends, sure, their immediate reaction might be to ask her if she’s okay, but if she said yes, that it was just something she wanted to do, they’d understand.
And I’ll be honest. This is more complicated when one takes into account her dynamic with Leif and Tobin. We haven’t seen her ask them to help shoulder her grief. Either they’re friends, and she should be able to tell them, “Thanks for the offer to come along, but this is a private moment,” or “I know there’s another place we could go, but I’m recreating a memory from my childhood that means a lot to me” or, I don’t know, a number of other things) or they’re not friends, and she’s not making her friends carry the burden of her grief if she tells them…frankly, any of the same things.
Either way, it was frustrating to see a memory we want her to be able to relive, only to then watch her remain silent to the point that she is at least verging on anger and resentment (if not tipping over the edge) because her friends (or not friends, in her mind) don’t know something they couldn’t possibly know if she won’t tell them. That frustration grows as the episode continues, and she eventually misses her chance entirely because she never says anything at all until it’s too late.
Zoey’s heart may be in the right place, but as the episode carries on, her unwillingness to attempt even the most basic level of simple communication becomes a little inexplicable, a lot heartbreaking, and ultimately just incredibly frustrating.
A LOVE TRIANGLE RESURRECTED?
As a final note, it’s too easy to say for certain, but this episode seemed to plant the seeds to resurrect the love triangle. Which is to say, they showed that the love triangle might resurrect, although that alone feels a little out of the blue. After putting the love triangle to rest in the first and second episodes and removing any and all romantic tension between Zoey and Simon between episodes two and six, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Memory” leaned hard into the flirtation between these two characters.
It’s possible this is just a set-up for a long-overdue conversation in the next episode. Or the intention could be to truly resurrect the love triangle. The latter would be something of a strange choice since, like with Tobin and Mckenzie, the dynamic between Simon and Tatiana has been suggestive that it could be something more than has been explicitly revealed to this point. Or it could be leading to something more, if it’s not there already. So for the season to start by declaring that Zoey had to make a decision because vacillating between the two men would be an act of immaturity, only to then resurrect the love triangle after Zoey’s realized she loves Max and Simon has (presumably) begun to move on would be…an odd choice. But for any Zimon fans out there, the forecast does suddenly look a little more optimistic than it has in recent episodes!
Where this story will go is anyone’s guess. But hopefully the next episode will provide some clues.