“Zoey’s Extraordinary Failure” was an uncharacteristically scattershot episode, harmed a bit by its lack of focus and lacking in the big emotional moments that have made some previous installments sing.
This recap of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist Season 1, Episode 5, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Failure”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
As it turns out, at least in the context of an NBC comedy-musical, men are a lot less interesting than women. At least that’s the impression I got from Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist Episode 5, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Failure”, which divided its time up among Zoey’s (Jane Levy) attempts to help just about everyone she encountered to scattershot and less-impactful-than-usual results.
Not that anything here was bad, obviously, just spread thinner than the show at its strongest. We haven’t seen much of Emily (Alice Lee) and David’s (Andrew Leeds) relationship until now, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t work as the focal point of an episode – except, of course, it isn’t the focal point of the episode. David is riddled with anxiety over their forthcoming baby boy since he was kind of a friendless dork and he doesn’t want his offspring to suffer the same fate, and Zoey keeps catching him in lies to his wife and his parents. She wants to help, even though his issues are actually pretty mundane and he’s going about dealing with them in a childish way, and her efforts to do so only result in her making things worse by telling Emily the truth – “Zoey’s Extraordinary Failure” isn’t really her failure at all, but the failure of her brother to an honest adult.
This shares space in Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist Episode 5 with some workplace drama, as Joan (Lauren Graham) and Zoey hold anonymous peer reviews and reveal the results to each team member in turn, which greatly upsets Leif (Michael Thomas Grant) since he’s called out for being a smug narcissist. Naturally, and without any sense of irony, he spends the entirety of the episode moping and then being passive-aggressive to Zoey when she attempts to help him.
And this shares space with Max (Skylar Astin) and Autumn (Stephanie Styles) ending their relationship just as it’s reaching the next level, in large part because Max, understandably, can’t cope with her free-spirited flower-child hippie lifestyle. I don’t blame him, though I do lament the obvious functionality of this pairing in muddying the show’s core love triangle, which becomes its muddiest yet in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Failure” when Simon (John Clarence Stewart), driven to an all-time-low on his father’s first birthday since his suicide, goes to her apartment for advice and breaks into a tempting song-and-dance routine that ended on a will-they-won’t-they cliffhanger. Next week, folks. Next week.
As always seems to be the case, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist Episode 5 was at its best when it focused on Mitch (Peter Gallagher) and Maggie (Mary Steenburgen), with the latter conflicted over whether to continue taking on clients in their husband-and-wife business now that Mitch is incapacitated. All the most emotional moments of the episode sprang from this subplot, and I could have used more of this rather than the divided focus elsewhere. In its early episodes, the show focused on Zoey helping one or perhaps two people at a time and letting overarching dynamics develop in the background, and it works much better when it does that. Hopefully, next week’s episode is a return to form.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.