People always misunderstand the dynamic between Shawn and Gus, always misunderstand their friendship and Gus’ role in it.
They like to think he's the downer, the sensible one between the two of them. The plain jane debby downer Gus who acts as a damper to the brilliant whirlwind that is Shawn. They see him as a beard, a dead weight, or at best, comic relief.
They never really question why, since the age of five, neither of the two boys had developed a deep connection, friendship or otherwise, with another person until they were well past their youth.
Or if they did, it was as a passing thought in regards to Gus. They saw him as being unrelatable, hard to make friends. Poor pathetic Gus, hanging on Shawn like a wet blanket.
But Shawn is amazing at making friends. Even those who Shawn had put in jail tended to like him. It was practically a statistical fact that Shawn couldn’t go five minutes without making a friend. So why is Gus the only person Shawn really counts as a true friend?
Or rather, he kinda understands.
He is Shawn’s tether to reality.
For a man who has been trained from a young age to be a detective with extreme natural ability to see all and know all and unfortunately, remember all, it’s too much to stand still, to remain in one place for long. To work in the same job, day after day, seeing and knowing every iota of what’s going on around you, even things you aren’t supposed to know, drives you mad.
Gus remembers the first time Shawn ever got drunk, one of the few times.
They were sixteen.
Shawn’s first girlfriend had broken up with him after a month of dating. He had seen, known, and had offered her comfort and condolences on her parent’s divorce. But she hadn’t known yet and she hated him for being the one to break the news. Shawn had told Gus all about it while falling down drunk, while sobbing his heart out.
He didn’t date seriously again for years. No longer than a couple of dates.
People, regular, everyday people live under this illusion that a certain sector of their lives is private. That they have and can have secrets that people don’t know. They exist on this premise, thrive on it. Some people need more, some less. But they cannot exist without it.
And then there’s Shawn who, without wanting to, without meaning to, sees it, figures it out, knows. The longer he’s with someone, or around them, even co-workers, the more he sees. And that illusion of secrecy upon which they so depend crumbles. They can’t take it. Neither than he.
But Gus is special. Unlike other people, who hold things back, Gus almost never does. And even when he does, he doesn’t expect it to remain hidden, nor does he hold it against Shawn. He offers everything, gives everything, so there’s almost nothing for Shawn to accidentally see. And in the only case outside his immediate family, Shawn has a normal relationship, a normal friendship with someone. It doesn’t drive him crazy. It is sustainable. It keeps him tethered to real life.
Because if you can’t stay with people, with jobs, in places, if you’re always moving because standing still is simply too much, how do you keep your grip on real life? How do you not lose your mind, disappear into yourself?
For Shawn, Psych offers his only chance at a real job. A sustainable one. Unlike being a police officer, he doesn’t have to get too close, remain too long with a case or work with people. He has Gus and he has a revolving set of cases that offer new and interesting challenges to keep his mind occupied for a while. Then they go away.
But there’s one serious drawback. The horror they see every day, the murders, the theft, the kidnappings, Shawn remembers it. Shawn dives right into the middle of it, understanding and seeing more about the horror of what happened than the detectives. And it stays with him, follows him around. He ought to go mad.
Except he doesn’t, because somewhere along the way, he found that being goofy, making jokes would keep him separated from what he saw. And from the backlash that came with what he saw. And when it comes to the murders, the death and destruction, it reminds him to pull back.
He jokes, and Gus is there to play ball, every time. He is there to be a sounding board of normalcy. Tethers him to reality and keeps him from becoming the next Dahmer, the next Zodiac... When Gus becomes ill at a scene, he reminds Shawn of the horror of what they are seeing. That Shawn should be horrified and grossed out and everything in between.
Gus is why Shawn is alive and sane.
Why his mind hasn’t collapsed in on itself.
Gus is what keeps Shawn the closest he’ll ever be to normal.
People may not see it, may not understand it, but that’s what he is. And that’s why Gus is the most important person in the world to Shawn. And why no one should never ever take him for granted.