I was still enjoying watching episodes of the Psych TV show before our Amazon Prime free trial ran out… and color me surprised when I came across another library scene — and this time, a librarian character! — in the Season 5 episode “Dual Spires.”(See my post from a few weeks ago about a school library scene in a Season 2 episode of Psych.) This episode, which originally aired back in December 2010, brilliantly riffs off of the iconic Twin Peaks series. Below is a 20-second promo for the episode, which includes a peek at the reel librarian on the intro image and at the very end:
The basic plot of this episode? Here’s the write-up from Prime:
Shawn and Gus receive a mysterious email inviting them to the Cinnamon Festival in Dual Spires, a quirky small town nearly invisible on a map. They arrive to find themselves embroiled in the mystery of the drowning death of a teenage girl — who was declared dead under similar circumstances seven years ago in Santa Barbara. Sherilynn Fenn, Sheryl Lee, Dana Ashbrook, Robyn Lively, Lenny Von Dohlen and Catherine Coulson guest star.
The call number clue:
When Shawn and Gus arrive at the town — which has a population of 288 — they are on the spot when the girl’s body is discovered by the lake. Twelve minutes into the 50-minute episode, Shawn also finds the one spot of cell phone coverage by the lake — they’ve been told the town has no internet or phone coverage — and his phone goes off, alerting him to a new email.
There’s a close-up of the email message, which is one short line: F796.352
I immediately screamed out loud, “It’s a call number!!!“
Note: Because I am a librarian, I also knew that this call number was a Library of Congress call number, a classification system that uses a combination of letters and numbers. And y’all know I looked up the general topic area for this particular call number, right? Class F, as according to the Library of Congress site, is the section for “Local History of the United States and British, Dutch, French, and Latin America,” and the call number range for 791-805 focuses on the history of New Mexico.
Back to the episode…
First library scene:
A few minutes later, Shawn and Gus then bicycle to the local public library after a suspect, the town’s resident jock, says he was in the library during the night the teenage girl died. The first library scene occurs 20 minutes into the episode.
The exterior of the library kind of looks like a converted train station, doesn’t it?
The interior of the library reveals it to be one long room, with a fireplace on one end and rows of bookcases on the other. The librarian’s desk faces the door, and the middle of the room contains a chunky wooden table, wooden filing cabinets, and old-fashioned library card catalog drawers. The librarian’s desk has stacks of books piled up on it, along with a magnifying glass and a retro-style tabletop fan. Basically, this library is where time stopped in the 1940s.
The reel librarian in this episode also looks like she hails from the 1940s, in her retro attire and hairstyle. Sherilyn Fenn, who starred in the original Twin Peaks TV series, plays the librarian, Maudette Hornsby. Her character name provides an initial clue that her reel librarian character is going to play off of reel librarian stereotypes, particularly the Naughty Librarian character type. Demure yet sexy attire? Check! Glasses? Check! Suggestive, flirty dialogue? Check!
Let’s listen in on their conversation, which provides a lot of exposition and flirting:
Shawn: Excuse us.
Maudette: Shhhh. Keep your voice down, please.
Gus: It’s just us and you.
Maudette: Just a bunch of words on paper to you guys, right? Wrong. Each is alive with a story to tell. Listen.
[Pause, as Shawn and Gus cock their ears in silence.]
Maudette: I’m just messing with you guys! Thanks for playing along. That was really sweet. I’m Maudette Hornsby. Isn’t cherry the best? [sips a cherry soda and straw suggestively, invoking the “cherry stem” scene from Twin Peaks]
Gus: The best what?
Maudette: Everything, silly. I thought you were psychic.
Shawn: I am. I am the psychic. But how did you know that?
Maudette: Mmmm, word travels. You know, we don’t get a lot of gossip around here. So, untimely death, a psychic, and a black man all in one day. Epic.
Shawn: I really thought we were being discreet.
Gus: Do you even know what discreet is? That’s a serious question.
Shawn: I know what–
Gus: [To Shawn] Shhh. [To Paula] Was Randy Jackson [the football star] with you the night Paula died?
Maudette: Why? Do you think she was m-u-r-d-e-r-e-d or something?
Maudette: Yes, Randy was here. We have a very special bond, you see. His mom passed away when he was very young. Sheriff Jackson never remarried, so I sort of stepped in and filled a role. For both of them.
Shawn then spies a row of books behind the librarian, and the camera zooms in on the call numbers. These are clearly call numbers using the Library of Congress classification system, which uses a combination of letters and numbers on the first line of call numbers. But one call number in the middle reveals it’s part of a “Parent Teacher” collection, which is odd because none of the other spine labels have that designation. (My thought at this point was that the propmaster didn’t look too closely at their book props.)
But the glimpse of call numbers are enough for Shawn to put two and two together and realize that their email clue is a call number.
Gus: Do you mind if we poke around?
Shawn: Poke. Peek. Peek around.
Maudette: Knock yourselves out.
Shawn and Gus then walk around the back of a standing bookcase, where Shawn reveals his deductions.
Shawn: Okay, remember the last email, the one with all the weird hieroglyphics?
Gus: They were letters and numbers, Shawn.
Shawn: Okay, it was one of these things. [Points to a call number on the shelf.]
Gus: The Dewey Decimal system? I didn’t even know they still used this.
Shawn: That’s ’cause people don’t want to crack war codes when the payoff is Jane Eyre.
Gus: What was the number, Shawn?
Gus: 700’s, that’s sports and recreations.
Okay, I have to press pause on this analysis — and this episode, which I literally did in real life at this point — because THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH WHAT JUST HAPPENED. Let me break down it down.
- I am usually #TeamGus, but WTF with the dismissal of the Dewey Decimal system?! That’s just cold, Gus. Just about every public library system worldwide uses the Dewey Decimal system.
- This second closeup of the call numbers, as seen above, highlights call numbers that are clearly using the Dewey Decimal system — which uses numbers only, between the range of 000’s to 900’s, for the first line of its call numbers — instead of the Library of Congress system we just saw seconds ago on books behind the reel librarian’s desk. And NO LIBRARY EVER IN THE HISTORY OF LIBRARIES uses both Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal classification systems for organizing their collections. You choose one or the other. Most public and school libraries go with Dewey, while most academic libraries go with Library of Congress. The only reason you would have both call numbers in your library is if you are in the middle of transitioning from one system to the other (which is so tedious, y’all, and most libraries don’t bother).
- Shawn clearly recalls the call number and says aloud the “F” in that call number yet fails to notice that the call numbers he just pointed to do NOT have letters at the beginning of their numbers. And Shawn is the one who is supposed to be so detail-oriented that he’s able to pass off those observational skills as being psychic. (Uh, spoiler if you’ve never seen the show.)
- Gus is correct that the “796” part of the call number falls in the “Arts & recreation” range of the Dewey Decimal classification system, and the 790’s are specifically “Sports, games & entertainment” (and yes, a search for 796.352 on WorldCat pulls up books on golf, because I am thorough, y’all, unlike the consultants on this show). But that doesn’t matter, because that “F” in front of that call number completely changes that call number from a Dewey Decimal call number into a Library of Congress call number. If the call number clue had JUST been “796.352,” I would not be getting ALL CAPSY right now.
- So the show switches — mid-library scene!!! — from Library of Congress to Dewey Decimal call number systems, and seems utterly clueless about THEIR OWN CLUES.
This show should have consulted with a real-life librarian, who would have pointed out that error in a nanosecond. And yes, I totally yelled that at the screen.
But the show wasn’t done being clueless. Because as Gus backs out and peeks at the librarian — slurping her cherry soda — we get more close-ups of books on the bookcases. And these books have NO CALL NUMBERS whatsoever on their spines.
So. We have three different call number situations going on in this scene, within a span of 30 seconds:
- Library of Congress call numbers on a row of books behind the librarian
- Dewey Decimal call numbers on a row of books in a standing bookcase
- No call numbers at all on a row of books at the end of a bookcase.
The propmaster for this episode totally messed up. I. Am. Seriously. Displeased. And thank you, reader, for allowing me to rant online about my rage over these call number shenanigans.
But time stops for no librarian, so the scene continues as Gus and Shawn move around to the next bookcase.
Gus: These books are archaic.
Shawn: And really old.
Gus: Except this one. [Pulls out a book, reads title.] Putt Your Way to a Better Life.
Shawn: By Earl Wyndam.
This is an inside joke for Twin Peaks fans, as “Windom Earle” was a character from the TV series. But y’all know I also doublechecked WorldCat for that title, right, just to be sure? Yep. No such title.
Gus: My short game could use some work. [thumbs through book]
Shawn: There’s no pictures?
Gus: This is the weirdest golf book I’ve ever seen.
Shawn then takes the book and flips off the cover, revealing the book’s true title: Reincarnation and Rebirth, by Ann Power. Clue!
Again, I looked that title and author up in WorldCat, just to make sure. No book by that exact title, although some come close, but there is an author by that name who looks to be an historian.
Shawn: Our emailer wants us to think that Paula was reincarnated? We should get back to the lake. Juliet should have something by now.
As clues go, this one’s more than a little thin. But the object of this library scene is to get to the next clue. And set up another potential suspect, which the next shot does.
Shawn puts the book back on the shelf, replacing the cover. Immediately, we get a tried-and-tested scary-movie trick of a person’s face staring from the other side of the bookcase. This time, it’s a close-up of the librarian, who is giving her best “librarian glare.”
Maudette: You’re gonna need a library card if you want to check something out.
Shawn: I think we’re good, Maudette.
The reel librarian definitely scared them! (And the audience?)
Second library scene:
This first scene in the library lasts only three-and-a-half minutes. The second scene set in the public library comes in at 29 minutes into the episode, when Shawn and Gus need some more clues (and a new suspect). This second library scene is even shorter, only two minutes long, but it starts out memorably, with a close-up of the reel librarian’s peep-toe heels — and her legs.
Shawn: Nice shoes.
Maudette: I know.
Shawn: Gus was wondering if you would like to be his date to Betty Boop Night at the road house.
Maudette [to Gus]: Sure you can keep up with me? I like to dance ALL night long.
There is a suggestive pause, which includes multiple flirty looks from Maudette.
Gus: Well.. Shawn?
Maudette: Relax. [Rolls her eyes.] Okay, here we go. This is the most recent Dual Spires yearbook.
Shawn: Thank you, Maudette. Feels a little thin.
Maudette: Small book for a small school.
M[We learn that there were only 6 people in the graduating class, and Maudette’s class only had 3 graduates! Exposition much?]
Shawn: Paula sure is in a lot of photos.
Maudette: Oh, that’s not surprising. She loved the attention.
Shawn thumbs through the yearbook and then notices a clue. He does NOT have a poker face.
Then as the guys leave, Maudette thumbs through the yearbook herself, seeming determined to figure out the clue for herself.
There is another library scene in the episode’s final 10 minutes, a scene that sets up the final action, but I don’t want to give away any major spoilers. Let’s just say… Maudette is keeping a few more secrets that play a vital and personal role in figuring out the mystery and the murder(s).
Significance of reel librarian role:
So what is the significance of Maudette’s role as a reel librarian? She is a supporting but memorable character, one who plays off both the Naughty Librarian and Information Provider character types, winking suggestively at Shawn and Gus, as well as the audience. Maudette also provides a lot of exposition and clues to the audience.
We also learn more about Maudette’s personal life, through details she and other characters reveal, like how she was close to the football star student and his dad. However, we never see her physically outside the library. She is physically — and, uh, literally — tied to her library until the very end.
Have you seen this episode of Psych? Did you remember this reel librarian character? Please leave a comment and share! And feel free to browse more TV reel librarian characters on my TV Shows page.