Building A Supporting Cast: Carlton Lassiter of Psych

Supporting casts are important. Especially in long form fiction where the audiences connection to the supporting cast may make or break a viewer. They can get people to watch a show or read a book series featuring a lead that would generally turn them off. A bad supporting cast puts a lot of pressure on the lead and/or the plot and lets be honest, audiences are generally more interested in character driven stories than plot driven stories. I just recently finished the series Psych, about a fake detective named Shawn Spencer and his partner Burton Guster who solve mysteries for the Santa Barbara Police Department. The last two seasons (I actually saw most of the 7th season) just further confirmed the importance of supporting players. Shawn is annoying. He’s amusing at times, and actor James Roday has good comic timing but he’s a hard pill to take of the 8 seasons. He does not grow much until the very end. Burton, played by Dule Hill, is a more rounded character but also suffers from not growing much. He has to be a certain type of partner to Shawn. It comes to the supporting cast to evolve and force changes and movement in the two.

In Psych there really are only three main supporting characters. Shawns dad Henry, played by Corbin Bernsen who plays well off everyone on the show. But he is essentially the retired cop occasionally getting mixed in with the adventures. There is Shawns love interest, Det. Juliet O’Hara played by Maggie Lawson. Being in the “will they/won’t they” can be detrimental to a character and at time it is but Juliet is likeable and fun to watch. Then there is head Det. Carlton Lassiter played by Timothy Omundson. Nicknamed Lassie by Shawn, he’s a jerk. Some what mean spirited, rough, ignorant. However the actor brings great comic timing, physical mannerisms and excellent facial expressions to a role where the character actually evolves. Lassie never deters from his objective which is the law but he does support his partner and cares for her, grows to accept Shawn and Gus as his friends, or better yet allies, even if they bother him. Lassiter is what made me finally choose to finish the series and I am happy with how his story turned out. Actually, the series ended pretty well-but anyway! Here are my top 10 Lassier episodes.

10. Lassie Jerky S7 EP3-Written and Directed by James Roday
This episode, by series star James Roday, barely makes it. Not because its bad-no, its really fum. Its just not a big Lassie episode despite the title. He shows up several minutes in along with Juliet. Shawn and Gus are taking part in a Bigfoot hunt with college filmmakers that brings them into an encounter with dead bodies. Along with Lassie and Juliet, their injured and lost and trying to stay ahead of trouble. Lassie is the one injured in a bear trap, gets delirious, puts his feelings on camera on a standout scene. He also covers his partner, Juliet, in her best scenes of the show with her fighting off Serbians. She’s kicking ass and he’s giving her cover with a sniper rifle. After the episode is over, he gave her much respect. Its a fun episode through, to be honest, just an okay season. Oh, and good work from WWE star Big Show. I’m a wrestling nerd, had to comment.

9. S.E.I.Z.E. the Day S8 EP2-Directed by David Crabtree and Written by Todd Harthan
The last season of Psych looked to grow some characters that had been stalling on the show or reverting to old habits. Lassie however, his series long development continued. At the start of season 8 Lassiter had been demoted to beat cop by the new interim Chief. In this episode Lassiter worked his hardest to get into Chief Trouts good graces, risking life and limb but when his wife tells him she’s pregnant, Lassiter finds himself shaken. The usual gung ho Lassiter freezes up and gets scared. Its always great seeing Timothy play vulnerable and scared. Keeps the character interesting. That is until the end when facing off with the bad guy he pulls it together because Lassie wants to be there for his future child. In the end, he saves the day, but doesn’t get his old job back. Its alright, a few episodes later he returns to being a Detective. By the way, him and his wife Marlowe have a baby girl.

8. Shawn Gets the Yips S4 EP5-Directed by Tawnia McKiernan and Written by Kell Cahoon & Bill Callahan
So season 3-6 is probably peak Psych. There’s some great stuff with the Lassiter character through out and this one is a stand out. After a softball game the Police team is out for food when Shawn spots a man with a gun and Lassiter goes two gun style scaring him off. Shawn and Gus are on the case to figure out who and why this man attacked a restaurant and determine Lassiter was the intended target. Some twists and turns but a lot of the focus is on how Lassiter deals with this. He is gung ho about finding out who did it, and when they land on their first suspect he is of course ready to gear up and kick ass. This not a big emotional episode or super serious, just a popcorn episode with good balance of drama and comedy.

7. High Noon-ish S4 EP3-Directed by Mel Damski and Written by Kell Cahoon
A little bit of a look to what made Lassiter the man he became. The Detective hires Psych to investigate weird doings at a Old West tourist attraction. A place he spent a lot of time at as a young child, looking up the owner Sheriff Hank, played by James Brolin. While they investigate there, the Pysch team discover a dead body. While they investigate there Lassiter investigates outside the attraction. This is a strong look at what shaped Lassiter and Timothy Omundsons chemistry with everyone in the episode is on point. The Old West setting suits him, which he has a little familiarity with due to his short stint on Deadwood.

6. Lassie Did a Bad, Bad Thing S3 EP11-Directed by Stephen Surjik and Written by Kell Cahoon and Tim Meltreger
Lassiter delivers second in command of a dangerous street gang, too bad the PD wants to deliver him to the Feds to make a deal. Before that can happen he’s shot and Lassiter is the prime suspect. As Internal Affairs starts breathing down on him Lassie hires the Psych guys to clear his name. This is a strong Timothy episode and its fun to see Lassiter go from cocky and confident to fall into a funk and then badass his way back to the Lassiter we enjoy the most.

5. Last Night Gus S6 EP2-Written and Directed by Andy Berman
A Hangover riff years too late but still incredibly effective. Shawn, Gus, Lassiter and Police ME Woody wake up at the Psych episode, forgetting what happened the night before. They were at a bar celebrating an officers retirement and then its all blank. When a body shows up and they realize they’re connected, they have to solve the case before anyone figures out they knew the victim, a person they really can’t remember ever meeting. Shawns dad, Henry, also gets into the mix. This is one of the episodes where Timothy Omundson gets to be a fool along with James Roday (Shawn) and Dule Hill (Gus), just delivering one of his best comedic performances on the show.

4. Deez Nups S7 EP7-Directed by James Roday and Written by Bill Callhan & James Roday
Series star James Roday directed this episode that follows the impending marriage of Carlton Lassiter and Marlowe Viccellio played by the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer Kristy Swanson. Shawn and Gus want Lassiter to have a guys night before the big day which includes bringing in Lassiters old high school buddy. But fun and games is out the window when they spot the accountant of a crime boss. This episode has actor Timothy going back and forth from fun and silly Lassiter to his emotional side and even showed a bit of his vulnerability when he admits he did not want a bachelors party because he had so few friends. This series was smart in giving him a love interest and the way Timothy and Kristy is gold. The show has a very big ending for Shawn and Juliet but we’re not here to talk about that.

3. 1967: A Psych Odyssey S8 EP6-Directed by Kirsten Nelson and Written by Tim Meltreger & James Roday
With half the final season already over episode 6 finds Lassiter making his move to become Chief of the Santa Barbara police. The problem is the mayor does not like him so to get into the good graces he attempts to solve a case of one Archie Baxter whose death was swept under the rug by the police in the late 60s. The episode finds the cast playing parts in flashbacks, with Timothy Omundson playing the part of journalist Archie Baxter. With the help of his partner and the guys from psych, of course they solve it but its the ending that really strikes. The mayor makes him Chief but it comes with a catch-he can not keep his partner Juliet O’Hara and make her Head Detective. It breaks him up so much he almost does not take the position but Juliet wants him to. This episode is an excellent cap off for the pair as their final episode together. They had been partnered up since the second episode of season 2 and they’re friendship was one of the best parts of the show. It actually ends with Juliet deciding to take a job with the former Chief Vick in a new city, saying good buy so its also an excellent cap off for Juliet who just cameos in the last few episodes.

2. From the Earth to the Starbucks S1 EP10-Directed by Michael Zinberg and Written by Steve Franks
Show creator Steve Franks wrote this stand out first season episode which was one of the first episodes where I found Shawn Spencer likeable more than annoying. He’s still annoying but less so here as he and Gus attempt to knock Lassiter out of his funk. Lassie believes an astronomer was murdered but he can not prove it. With Det. Juliet O’Hara helping Shawn and Gus feed her info and she works it into conversations with Lassiter. He’s now up, full force and with their help going to find the killer. Sure, Shawn and Gus lead him to the killer but still a win for Lassie. An important episode in the relationship between the Head Detective and Psych.

1. This Episode Sucks S6 EP3-Directed by James Roday and Written by Todd Harthan & James Roday
Series star James Roday seems to love Lassie and why not? The best episode is this Vampire inspired episode which includes Corey Feldman and Kristy Swanson debuting as Marlowe. After a meeting in a bar Lassie becomes infatuated with a mystery woman. A woman who may be tied with a mysterious death that looks to be a vampire. One of the coolest scenes is when Lassie recovers a necklace from the dead body he recognized as looking like the one his mystery lady wore the night before. Shawn and Gus suggest vampires and while Juliet dismisses it, Lassiter says he agrees with them. This episode gets many sides of the character so Timothy performs flawlessly. Serious Lassiter, silly Lassiter and vulnerable Lassiter. His scene where he drunkenly talks to Marlowe, disappointed in her part in a crime at a bloodbank is a favorite. Him talking about his mother and her girlfriend, its both hilarious and sad in his delivery. The scene with him talking to her in prison, telling her he’ll wait for her for six to eighteen months. Yeah, Lassie’s the shows best character and this is not just my fave Lassie episode but my favorite episode of the whole series.

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About CM Towns

I like comics, wrestling, and other junk.
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3 Responses to Building A Supporting Cast: Carlton Lassiter of Psych

  1. rmoorhe1 says:

    No Dinosaur episode? I feel that it’s the Iconic Lassiter on the Ball episode

  2. harakiri says:

    Honourable mention: Friday The 13th, because that scene in the restaurant between Lassiter and Victoria is a classic. And how come Lassie Did A Bad Bad Thing and Heeeeeeeere’s Lassie aren’t even mentioned? D:

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