When a show like Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist with high energy and emotional musical numbers in every episode returns to the airwaves, fans expect a huge celebratory opening number and this show delivered! Let’s get into all the amazing details of episode one, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Return.”
The episode opens with Mo’s crystal clear voice singing “Rise Up” by Andra Day (we’ve missed those amazing vocals!), who came to support Zoey on her first day back at work after her father, Mitch, passed away. It’s been six weeks and through Mo it’s revealed that Zoey has basically moved back into her childhood bedroom and barely left the house. Still deep in her grief, she rallies herself enough to get dressed and head off to work with the support of Mo, Maggie, David, and Emily. Before heading off to the office, she greets baby Miles, who has made his entry into the world. On their way, Zoey and Mo discuss that Zoey’s powers have been inactive since Mitch’s passing and Zoey hopes that this means her life can get back to normal.
She meets up with Max for coffee before work and he gifts her with a ring shaped like a shield and engraved with a backward musical symbol, a reference to her superpower, but it’s backward “so it looks more like a ‘z’.” He hopes it will act as a both a shield and source of strength to help her through her grief and first day back at work.
Of course Zoey is barely off the elevator before she realizes her powers are far from gone. The entire office serenades her with a huge Broadway-esque musical number. The brilliant choreography and high energy song choice of “Hello Dolly” is exactly what we’d expect from this show, right down to the kick line! It’s a brilliant way to open the show and reminds us why we love it! Zoey seems a little overwhelmed by it all. Since she’s been gone, Leif has been interim-manager and made some changes. Okay, a lot of changes. Everyone now has standing desks, there are dogs roaming the floor, there is no longer a bar of any kind thanks to budget cuts, and he’s hired Max’s replacement, George, played by Harvey Guillén. George is an utterly delightful character who is eager to get along with Zoey and thrilled she’s returned. He conveys his sympathies and also says he’s there if she wants to talk or yell at him — “I’m very used to people yelling at me,” which is a little concerning. While Zoey checks in with Leif, she notices a dog barking at George and Tobin proudly claims that he taught the dog to bark at George who is clearly uncomfortable around them. Leif also tells Zoey that SPRQ Point is broke, hence the “no bar” bar where you can only get glasses of water now.
If all these changes aren’t enough, Joan arrives and calls Zoey to her old office where she offers Zoey her previous position: executive director of the fourth floor. Zoey tells her she was hoping to ease in and Joan agrees this is anything but, “this is jumping in the deep end during a raging fire while vultures circle your head, and just hoping that you don’t drowned, or get burned, or have your head pecked to death.” Well put, Joan. She tells Zoey to think on it for a day since she can’t make a decision at that moment.
Back at home, Maggie is finalizing some of Mitch’s accounts but has been on the phone for hours trying to get the password for Mitch’s email. While on hold and being transferred, she talks with Emily, who is having a minor crisis with being a new mom. She’s used to “crushing it” at life but she feels like Miles is more than she can handle. Maggie reassures her that it always feels that way. Emily offers to let her hold Miles, but Maggie pushes it off by saying she will once she settles Mitch’s financial things.
Zoey decides to visit Mo after work and arrives to find Mo, Max, and Simon watching football together. It’s a little awkward and they invite her to stay as long as she “picks a team.” They don’t specify on whether they mean the sports or between them. She does hang around long enough for them to explain they started a group text as a way to stay in contact about Zoey, if and when she decided to reach out to any of them. One thing led to another and now they are all friends. Mo leaves to pour Zoey some wine, and the guys sit her down to tell her they don’t want to be in competition with each other. “We are evolved men who won’t get into some war over you,” Simon says right as the two break into a killer duet battle to “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” by Jet.
Understandably overwhelmed, she leaves but Mo stops her in the hall where Zoey tells him that she just heard Max and Simon sing. She wants to run away from it all, but Mo gives her some tough love for her “champagne problems” (perhaps we’ll see Mo cover the Taylor Swift song in the future?). “We all have our stuff, Zoey, and while you were in a bubble for the last six weeks, life went on.” He tells her she can’t keep running away, and while it’s jarring it wakes Zoey up and helps her realize she needs to face things head on.
Back in his apartment, Mo, Max, and Simon discuss what food to order, and of course they all want completely different things. Mo quips that it’s “too bad there’s not a restaurant where you can order food from other restaurants.” Simon’s comment, “yeah, I could actually eat with my vegan friends again,” sparks a lightbulb for Max, who has been chasing after the perfect business idea.
Home again, Zoey finds Maggie buried in paperwork and discovers she’s been trying to get Mitch’s password all day. Zoey reminds her that she’s a coder and gets her access to the email in seconds. On his computer, Zoey finds hidden testimonials from Mitch for Maggie, Zoey, and David which he recorded while he could still talk. The next morning, they decide to watch them together but only make it through part of the videos before they are overwhelmed. After Zoey leaves, David asks Maggie if they need to give her space, as Emily noticed that Maggie is unwilling to hold him. She brushes it off as being too swamped with settling Mitch’s affairs.
Zoey heads to work where Joan needs an answer, but Zoey requests a little more time. While she works, Tobin regales the team with an “epic prank” he pulled on George. He pretended to be Danny Michael Davis texting him and told George to complete outrageous tasks, the last of which resulted in scratches from an actual baby tiger. In a quick succession, Zoey gets texts from Max checking on her, Simon physically checking on her (who she dismisses quickly), and Leif asking if she likes his “co-manager” idea. The subtle music behind the scene has an ever increasing beat letting you feel Zoey’s growing frustrations. The final straw is a heart song, “Don’t Cry Out Loud” by Melissa Manchester (Guillén crushes it), from George that makes it clear he isn’t so nonchalant about the teasing from Tobin. She snaps a few verses in, and lets the whole room know she’s absolutely had it with everything before she storms out and goes home for a break.
She’s shocked when Joan drops by to check in on her (where she’s hiding under a pillow in her childhood bedroom), and they have a heart to heart where Joan tells her she wanted to have a successor in place before leaving. That’s right, Joan is headed to Singapore to head up the Asian division of the company. We’ll miss Joan’s amazing character and killer vocals!
Still ruminating on their idea, Max drops by Mo’s to brainstorm the restaurant idea. Max thinks his technical knowledge with Mo’s artistic flair could make a great a team, and we have to say we agree!
Zoey and Maggie have a heart to heart while watching TV together later that night. Neither of them know how to move forward in the world, and Maggie admits to not wanting to hold Miles because she feels guilty for experiencing joy when Mitch is gone. It’s a raw look inside the deep grief that comes with losing a loved one, a topic that the show has tackled from its first episode and continues to depict in an authentic way. David calls them into the dining room where he plays Mitch’s message to Maggie. He recorded this one on “a good day” and doesn’t struggle with speech as much, making it easier to view for the family. His message is so tender and loving, telling her to move on and be happy once he’s gone. It’s sad but also therapeutic in a way. They sing a heart song as a family while setting the table for dinner. The beautiful rendition of “Carry On” by Fun is enough to bring tears to anyone’s eyes, and it sets a tone of hopefulness for the end of the episode. Together they can begin to make the difficult journey forward through their grief and start to live again.
At work, Zoey is back in action and tells Leif that she’s accepted the position Joan offered and he’ll be stepping into Zoey’s old role. When she spots the dog still harassing George, Zoey tells Tobin the hazing stops now and he needs to treat George with kindness in the workplace. George overhears this and thanks her later in the day for standing up for him. “It’s not often that people stick out their necks for one another, especially for someone they just met. And for me, small acts of kindness like that are gigantic.” He also asks to give her a hug and Zoey consents. It’s clearly something they both needed, Zoey more so than George because she hugs a little longer than is usual and both seem content. Our only request is that we keep George forever. Later, we see Tobin and Leif invite George to join their ongoing foosball game.
Set to an acoustic version of “Carry On” we see Maggie cradle baby Miles while showing him family pictures. Zoey settles into her new office, and Max brainstorms with Mo. Later that night, Max arrives at Zoey’s to tell her all about their new idea. She apologizes to him for being distant and leaving him to wonder about their relationship. He’s understanding of course, and she makes her position clear by kissing him. We can’t wait to see what next week has in store for these two!
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist airs Tuesdays on NBC at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. C.