If I’m being honest, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist 2×11 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Double Date” isn’t the easiest episode to review. It was a good episode, and I enjoyed the hour I spent watching. However, I confess to being a little disappointed in at least one area where I feel the season is going. Which is probably a surprise, since I’ve never been shy about the fact that I ship Clarkeman, and I’m pretty sure that’s going to return to the forefront by season’s end. But more on that in a bit.
Outside of that, there was a lot to enjoy this week. There were some excellent musical numbers (kudos to director and choreographer Mandy Moore), some humor, a few moments worth cheering for, and enough secondhand cringe to be visible from space.
SHOCK AND AWE
This show is first and foremost about Zoey. However, the highlight of the hour probably came from Maggie and (particularly) Mo’s subplots. Both stories went places we didn’t necessarily foresee, and one broke our hearts.
Maggie’s been struggling this year, following Mitch’s death. He was clearly the love of her life. It’s not easy to go from being part of a unit to flying solo. Last week seemed to foretell trouble ahead, suggesting that she might be about to spiral into a self-destructive gambling addiction. In a moment that was a relief to both the audience and to Deb, it was revealed that appearances were indeed deceiving. Maggie wasn’t trying to drown out her grief at the roulette table. She wanted to gamble away the paycheck she received on her last job, from the man who retaliated against her after she turned him down on a date. (And she absolutely had the right to turn him down for whatever reason she wanted. But his retaliation because she wasn’t ready to date after recently losing her husband is just the whipped cream on the douchebag sundae.)
I love Maggie, and I’m relieved that all wasn’t what it seemed in this arc. It’s even more satisfying that her luck at the casino was…admirable, to say the least. If anyone deserves to take her winnings and her best friend on a well-earned vacation, it’s Maggie. I only wish I could go along for the ride.
But while things started looking up for Maggie, things took a sharp downturn in Mo’s relationship with Perry. I love these two, and I really want to see where this story goes. Everything seemed to be going well in sadly-inappropriately-titled-this-week Merry land, with Perry introducing Mo to his children. However, it turns out that Perry is struggling with self-consciousness in his relationship with Mo. In one of the most heartbreaking moment in an episode full of heartbreaking moments, he confessed about his experience living life openly as a gay man. And, now, he is struggling with how he will be perceived with Mo as his partner.
It is a struggle I have never experienced and cannot personally relate to. However, the vulnerability and honesty with which both actors conveyed the plot made it impossible not to empathize with them both. It was also impossible not to cheer for Mo in reaffirming both his own struggle to love himself, and his unwillingness to ever again hide who he is. Nor should he ever be in a position of doing so.
I love that Mo drew a line in the sand and held to it. However, I hope this isn’t the end of Mo and Perry’s story. I want to see Perry grow to the level of self-love and self-confidence that Mo has. I want to see the two of them continue to find happiness together in the future. And not just because David St. Louis (Perry) has one of the sexiest singing – and speaking – voices on the show. He could sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, and I’d be riveted by the performance.
KISS AND TELL
Fans of Tobin and McKenzie (McTobin, in fandom circles) have been waiting for these two to kiss since possibly her first appearance on the show. This week, they finally got their wish. And what a scene it was. Between I Want You to Want Me in season one and the makeout this episode, that meditation room has seen some things.
The only thing possibly better than the kiss itself was Tobin – and Leif’s – reaction to it. Tobin’s happiness, as well as his best friend’s excitement on his behalf, was absolutely endearing. And let’s be honest. The two of them clutching hands and jumping up and down happily is hardly the strangest thing that their coworkers have likely ever seen them do. Although it’s kinda sweet that they apparently think it is.
If there is one complaint I have with this storyline, it’s that I wish we could have seen more of the buildup to it. Tobin has been established as a character who assumes a “bro-like” persona, using sexism as a defense mechanism. In the past, he’s said inappropriate things and made inappropriate jokes. And while it’s true that there have been glimpses of the sweet guy underneath, we haven’t really seen him fully and consistently abandon that persona. We haven’t seen him really realize that he doesn’t need to pretend; who he is is enough.
A lot of fans speculated that a new relationship would help him with this this self-awareness. And maybe it has! Or will. But I wish we could have seen more of how Tobin and McKenzie came together. I wish I could have seen how she got past – or at least saw past – his bro-persona to get to the genuine, sweet guy underneath. There isn’t much time left in the season to explore that dynamic. So I can only hope that we get to see it explored in greater detail in a third season. And I hope we get a third season in which explore it.
BAIT AND SHIP
Last but not least, there’s the love triangle. It was a fairly significant part of the episode, and it left me with mixed feelings.
There really wasn’t anything about this particular storyline this week that came as a surprise. From the moment the show moved forward with Zimon while making it clear (particularly in interviews and on Twitter) that Clarkeman was still intended to be endgame, it was somewhat obvious where the storyline would go. Maybe not immediately in particulars – which became clear with the description of this episode – but generally. Zoey would have a moment of awakening, where she would realize she might be about to lose Max. She would panic and go into denial. Until something happened (possibly in therapy) to bring that realization home for her. At which point, maybe she confesses her feelings and maybe she doesn’t. And maybe they get back together before the end of the finale or the season ends on a cliffhanger. But ultimately, it’s leading to the return of Clarkeman in the third season.
As a Clarkeman shipper, one would think I’d be overjoyed at this turn of events. But I confess that I’m disappointed that this is the way the show is going this season. I wasn’t necessarily rooting for Zoey and Simon to explore their relationship. However, once the show decided to go there, I wanted the relationship to really be explored. My hope was that the two would remain together through at least the end of the season. Ideally even into next season. I wanted to see what makes them work and what makes them not work. I don’t think non-endgame relationships are necessarily wasted time. They can teach the audience something about the characters. Or they can teach the characters something about themselves. Just because a ship isn’t meant to be the OTP doesn’t mean it couldn’t have value.
And in this respect, I’m disappointed that the ship-direction of the rest of the season seems so obvious. (Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised and it won’t go the way I already suspect it will. In which case I will gladly eat my words.) I don’t think there’s really been time to explore much about Zimon, outside of the fact that Zoey started the relationship with a lie. And that lie not only continues but continues to grow.
To be clear, I do completely sympathize with the fact that Zoey is scared to tell Simon the truth. That her superpower gave her an “in” with their relationship. I understand why she’d be scared he would perceive her actions as a sort of manipulation. I’m certainly sympathetic that she would be afraid that the truth would drive him away. Probably romantically and possibly even as a friend. As a viewer, I have every confidence that the two could work through it, even if it was rocky at first. And even if it did spell the end of their romantic relationship. But I can certainly understand Zoey’s position and her fear.
But outside of that fear – and the fact that Simon isn’t a fool and knows there’s more going on than he knows – there simply hasn’t been time to explore this relationship. How it changes her, and how it changes him. What about it works past their physical attraction and the happy glow of the “honeymoon” period. And what about it doesn’t work, outside of the lies between them. And, now, outside of her lingering feelings for Max that will undoubtedly return to the forefront over the remaining two episodes of the season.
There also seems some thing particularly unfair in the fact that this leaves Simon in a similar (yet worse) position that he was at the end of the first season. Secure in the knowledge that he wants to be with Zoey, but ready to actually move forward on those feelings this season. Aware that there is more going on with Zoey and Max than mere friendship. Jealous, or wondering if he should be, about Zoey’s feelings for Max. Given Zoey’s reassurance that he has nothing to worry about, as he was this episode. Even though part of him clearly knows better. And, by the end of the season, it’s probable that Zoey will be struck by the realization that she wants to be with Max, after all. As she did last season when she surprised Max with a kiss. One can only hope that nothing like that happens while she and Simon are still a couple this season, because that would really be unfair to him.
It’s frustrating, and it didn’t have to be this way. Even if the show was determined to explore Zimon while establishing Clarkeman as endgame, there simply hasn’t been the time in the season to give the story the exploration it deserved. At least, not when they decided to put them together at the end of episode eight (in a thirteen-episode season). Perhaps the show is trying to do too much. They do cover a lot of plots in a shortened season. It might be better in season three to tackle fewer plots, but to do so in greater depth, over a longer period of time.
Because, yeah, I want Clarkeman to be endgame. But Zimon deserved more than a kiss (with an admittedly hot musical number – but, then, John Clarence Stewart could serenade a potted plant and it would be sexy), two episodes of happiness, and then two to three episodes of rockiness before the presumable ultimate breakup. And I don’t know that it’s even accurate to say they had two episodes of happiness, since one focused on Zoey wrestling with whether to continue lying to Simon and ultimately deciding to do so. To really explore this relationship – and what a relationship with Simon teaches Zoey, outside of guilt over keeping her powers a secret – it really needed more episodes to breathe and to grow.
Time will tell if my predictions are correct about the direction these ships will take over the rest of the season. In the meantime, if Mo and Perry don’t find happiness together, I’m going to cry.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist airs Sundays at 9/8c on NBC.