“Zoey’s Extraordinary Employee” (who gets fired)

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist was a show that appeared when I needed it the most in 2020. The first season was full of heart, and soul, and the full range of human emotions. If you haven’t watched the first season yet, here’s the briefest summary I can manage: after a freak accident involving an MRI machine, Zoey is able to hear people’s thoughts…in the form of musical numbers.

Now, get. yourself to Hulu and binge the first season (and the first four episodes of this season!) because spoilers are ahead, darlings!

What’s up with the Zoey Crew?

Maggie and Jenna

“It just felt so nice to feel desired by someone, to feel normal again.” -Maggie

Maggie (Mary Steenburgen) and Jenna (Jee Young Han) are working on Maggie’s new landscape design, and when Jenna points out that Maggie’s boss, Roger, is so into her, Maggie is at first in denial. Roger asks her out to dinner, at which point Maggie has to remind him—and herself—that her husband just died and she’s not ready to head back into the dating scene.

She confesses to Jenna that she feels guilty, and like she betrayed Mitch. Jenna helps Maggie sort through her feelings, and you know what? I think that Jenna may be the best person to help Maggie right now. She plays “Never Have I Ever” with Maggie and gets Maggie to talk about happy (and possibly illegal) memories from her past, but it’s helping Maggie unwind after months of grieving, and though it’s probably annoying to Maggie’s family, it seems like Jenna is just the person that Maggie needs to be around right now.

Simon and his new role as company spokesperson

Simon (John Clarence Stewart) faces his first big challenge as the new spokesperson for SPRQ Point: an interview with a notoriously quick-witted and hard-hitting journalist, Tatiana Morris (Alvina August). He’s nervous before the interview, but according to the heartsong Zoey hears after the interview concludes (Lizzo’s “Juice”…and can we have a petition to have Lizzo songs in every episode in the future???), he knocked it out of the park.

The interview went so well, that Tatianna accompanies Simon to a party/cleansing at Max and Mo’s (more on that later), and…maybe…perhaps Tatianna is going to be a new love interest for Simon? Or, maybe Simon didn’t do as well as he thought he did in the interview. Either way, I have a feeling that we will be seeing more of Tatianna in the future.

Max and Mo

Mo’s (Alex Newell) in full creative swing and trying to create signature cocktails for his and Max’s (Skylar Astin) new restaurant (personally, I would love to try the Mo-jito!), but to Max, it appears that Mo is not taking their business venture as seriously as he is, and frustrations mount.

Randomly, or perhaps inevitably, their clashing work styles culminate in a karaoke energy cleansing, because Mo is sensing some real bad vibes from the restaurant space. Max, doesn’t seems to be too thrilled about this cleansing-that-doubles-as-a-party, but he goes along with it begrudgingly. There’s a wholly awkward scene between a drunk Zoey and Max at the party, in which we realize that things are probably going to be a little uncomfortable around the pair for a while.

Even though Max does duet with Mo during karaoke (giving me the Skylar Astin/Alex Newell team up I have been dreaming about), he’s obviously unhappy with his business partner and eventually lashes out at Mo, very visibly hurting Mo’s feelings.

Mo, however, asserts that he has been pulling his weight and hands Max a business card for Tatianna Morris, who, because of Mo, is interested in doing an article on their business venture. “I have a different process than you and you need to respect that,” Mo tells Max. It’s a very telling moment for Mo and Max, and you know what? I think corporate America could take a lesson or two from this. Sitting behind a desk with a stack of paperwork is not the only way to work, and diversity should be embraced in all its forms.

Zoey and George

Zoey (Jane Levy) is struggling with maintaining her facade of happiness, and Mo reveals that part of the secret of being happy is that you have to choose to be happy. The next day, Zoey walks into SPRQ Point determined to be happy, only to find that due to budget cuts, she now has to fire 10% of the team members on the fourth floor.

For some departments, the choice is left up to their supervisor, but for the programmers, the choice is more difficult. If given the choice, Leif would get rid of one of the new women programmers (I think he’s still sore over the end of the Brogrammers), so Zoey tasks him with analysing the productivity of the department. When the results are in, the least productive member of the team is clearly George (Harvey Guillén), who Zoey has bonded with since returning to SPRQ Point after her father’s death.

She does not want to fire George, but she does, and when she heads to Mo’s karaoke cleansing, she is still feeling very guilty and copes by having quite a few of Mo’s cocktails (which are probably doubly strong as a regular drink). Zoey’s drinking does not end well, as predicted, and we find out the next day that she drunk dialled George to rehire him…leading to a very awkward morning after.

When Zoey fires George, again, she frames it as she’s setting him free to find a job that he actually likes. His response? Britney Spears’ “Stronger.” (Petition for more Britney songs, please and thank you).

George might be done at SPRQ Point, but like Tatianna, I do not think this will be the last we see of him.

David and Emily

David (Andrew Leeds) is working on his 100th trial as a public defender, so the family shows up to court to support David in this milestone achievement. However, something strange happens while David is in the middle of presenting his case: Zoey hears him sing.

Zoey talks to David, and it turns out that he doesn’t enjoy being a lawyer, not since his father died and he became a father himself. He wants to spend more time with his son, because he feels like time is precious and fleeting.

Emily (Alice Lee), at first, isn’t keen on this idea. She and David have plans, and those plans do not include David being a stay-at-home father. But, as Emily gives advice to Zoey about how to fire someone, and Zoey describes George’s dismissal (and subsequent re-dismissal), Emily’s stance shifts.

There’s a beautiful moment at the end of the episode when Zoey hears Emily sing, “I’ll Stand By You” just before she tells David to quit his job and stay home with Miles.

Is there a right way to rebound from grief?

After last week’s episode, Zoey definitely seems to be on a roller coaster of emotions. She definitely wants to be happy, but that happiness seems to elude her because of complications in her life. At the end of the episode, we are introduced to a new character, Aiden, the neighbor boy who has recently returned from college and, uh, he’s hot now. And Australian.

This definitely seems to be the start of a rebound relationship for Zoey, and while some may say that’s not a good idea, who are we to tell Zoey how to grieve? Or how to move on? Perhaps she needs a relationship with someone who is not so closely entwined with her father’s death in order to move forward, and you know what? Aiden’s hot. Get it, Zoey.

“You can feel all the emotions at the same time.” -Simon

There’s no one right way to process grief. Zoey wants to feel happy, Maggie wants to feel desired, and David wants to spend time with his son. All are valid. Maybe these methods will work, maybe they won’t, but that’s human nature, isn’t it? As I type this recap, my uncle is dying. Since we’re still in a global pandemic, all I can do is wait for the inevitable phone call telling me he is gone. But you know what? I will probably spend the rest of the day playing Assassin’s Creed because it’s too heavy to think about the future family gatherings without this man. If Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist has taught me anything, it’s that grief is a personal journey, and Zoey’s just started on it.


Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist airs on NBC on Tuesdays, and is now streaming on Hulu.