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Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist - Zoey’s Extraordinary Session - Review: Back in Time

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When everything is going wrong in the present, Zoey takes a look back at her past in this special flashback episode of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Read on for my review of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Session”:

Unpacking the dramatic reaction she had to Max moving away in last week’s episode, Zoey is recounting the first time she encountered loss for her therapist. It happened to be on her first day as an employee at SPRQ Point, which also happened to be the first time she met many of her now-closest friends including Max and Mo. We also received the welcome treat this week of Peter Gallagher returning as Mitch, before his diagnosis of PSP.

Contrary to what one might believe, however, the first person Zoey meets at SPRQ Point is Leif, who makes an oddly pleasant first impression. It’s only then that she first talks to Max, who approaches her making fun of a guy who wore a suit to his first day...before noticing Zoey in her own bright pink pantsuit. (Nice one, Max, way to go).

The day’s orientation starts with Danny Michael Davis appearing, singing and dancing Pure Imagination (and inspiring a hearty chuckle in the audience at home). However, Danny then reveals that this is actually not the first day of school so much as it is the Hunger Games Opening Ceremony - only two of the many orientees are actually going to be employed at SPRQ Point when the day is over, and a competition will be held to determine which two. Now, I don’t know much about how Silicon Valley works, to be fair, but this has to be violating so many HR policies, right? Come to think of it, does SPRQ Point even have a proper HR department?

After this new development, Zoey checks in with her parents only to find out that competing for her job isn’t her most pressing worry. Mitch talks to Zoey from the car as he is driving Maggie to the hospital, who is suffering from chest pains. Maggie insists that she’s fine and that it’s just a precaution, so Zoey continues on at SPRQ Point.

Everyone has to choose a partner for the “competition,” and Zoey initially vies to work with Leif. But after taking a call from David about her mom, Zoey is left with Max as her only option. Their first task is to build as many different children’s sets as possible, with each set worth a certain number of points based on their difficulty level. Arguing on whether to start with easy, low point value sets or go for the highest and work down, Max and Zoey end up each doing their own thing. They make the cut and move forward in the games, but just barely.

Anyway, this is 99.9% unrelated, but one of the first-round cuts sings “The Climb” (not in his head - out loud!) as he packs his things. And this episode is set in 2015, well after that song’s heyday. Wow! Did I underestimate the staying power of the Hannah Montana movie?

The next challenge for the employee candidates is a classic box-within-a-box puzzle challenge. Zoey easily solves the first part of the challenge, but gets stuck with a clue that only says “Thinking Out Loud.” It’s Max who then swoops in, realizing that Danny Michael Davis is a big Ed Sheeran fan, and concluding that the key is in the singer's song of the same name. Leif, overhearing, concludes the same thing, and after a brief Sheeran duet battle between the two, Zoey cracks the code. Max and Zoey move on, along with Leif and his partner, Amber.

On a lunch break, Max and Zoey both apologize for their coldness to each other and finally begin to bond. Max tells Zoey about why he’s so keen to get the SPRQ Point job - his father doubted that he could succeed doing what he loved, and all Max wants to do is prove that he's not a disappointment. Just then, Zoey gets a call finding out that Maggie’s tests came back showing that she actually had a small heart attack, meaning she would have to go into surgery. Mitch insists that Zoey stay at SPRQ Point and keep competing for the job, but the conversation leaves Zoey worried.

Zoey tries to focus on the last task - building a new piece of tech to present to the entire floor - but Max, noticing her distress, coaxes the truth out of her and encourages her to leave to be with Maggie. Instead of letting her drop out of the competition, though, Max devises a way for Zoey to work on their project’s code remotely while he builds the tech, letting her stay in the running.

On the way to the hospital, Zoey’s Uber driver is Mo-re than familiar, especially when he flawlessly belts out Rihanna’s “Shut Up and Drive” on the way over.

With Zoey video-calling in (truly, ahead of her time), both teams present their devices to much success. Later, Max visits Zoey at the hospital, to tell her that Danny hired her, but passed him over for Leif, meaning that Max was indeed left as a “disappointment” to his dad. Although, as Zoey explains to her therapist, Max ended up being hired anyway about a month later.

Meanwhile, David (who, at the time, was dating Kirsten, a rather demanding girl in a velour tracksuit) runs into a former flame from law school - Emily Kang. Hearing about Maggie’s condition, Emily offers if there’s anything she can do to help, which touches David. The two set up a coffee reunion - cue George Michael’s “Careless Whisper?”

The Clarkes get the news that Maggie made it out of surgery OK, but Zoey recounts to her therapist how the incident made her realize how close she could be at any moment to devastating loss. Zoey’s therapist points out that the story is not just about worrying for her mother’s health, but also about her deep connection with Max right from the beginning. “You might not want to hear this,” he says, “But to me it’s as much a love story as it is a loss story.”

After the session, Zoey encounters Max, who is getting ready to leave the following week. She reminds him of their first day at SPRQ Point, which he remembers just as well - with one key difference that he keeps a secret from her. As it turns out, Danny actually originally hired Leif and Max, but Max insisted that he take Zoey instead. After reminiscing on this fact, he prepares for his leaving with Rose, but it's noticeable that something in his heart (song) might have changed its tune a bit.

Y'all, this episode was so good. Fun and lighthearted, with a heavy dose of feelings - reminds me of the better of the season 1 episodes. I really think the key to Zoey’s success lies in the writers staying creative with episode structure. They truly shouldn’t be afraid to go full Moonlighting on this! Regardless, this is probably the best episode of the season thusfar. Just getting a taste of the fresh, unique Zoey I know and love makes me uber-excited again for Sunday’s finale! I honestly think Zoey still has plenty of juice in it (and plenty of unanswered questions - how did Zoey get her powers? What was the heart song Max sang to Zoey when they fought?), so let’s just hope the show can gather itself together and give us more of the good stuff for however long we have left with it.

What did you think of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Session?” As cathartic as the therapy segments are, is Oscar Nunez maybe being underutilized in his role? And wasn’t it a breath of fresh air to get a short but sweet reprieve from plotlines all about the massive love triangle/amoeba? Let me know in the comments!

Zoey’s Extraordinary Quotes-List:

Zoey (to Leif): Wow, you were at JPL? Did you work on the InSight mission?
Leif: I did!...get CC’d on a few emails about that, so yeah, basically.

Mo: Got any song requests? I have tons of backing tracks that I can sing over. I call it “Mo’s Exquisite Playlist.”

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