"The Tao of Gus" is the eighth episode of Season Six. A gorgeous young woman named Nicole claims to have witnessed a murder, yet everyone – except for Gus – is having trouble believing her story, and it takes a further attempt on her own life to make her story credible. Shawn and Gus take Nicole back to her commune to protect her, a place which they realize is a cult after meeting its charismatic leader. As usual, Gus' tendency to fall hard for women has consequences - he forgets about the case and devotes all his time to the cult.
Shawn and Gus are at the SBPD waiting to pick up their check when they spot an attractive, ethereal woman named Nicole Reed (Diora Baird), telling the police that she witnessed a murder in an ally on a busy street at the height of lunch hour. Given the circumstances, Lassiter and Juliet are unsure whether or not she is telling the truth. Her story sounds unbelievable even to Shawn, but Gus is really attracted to Nicole and wants to further investigate.
Shawn, Gus, and Nicole head to the place where the murder supposedly went down. Suddenly, a car swerves, almost hitting Nicole. Shawn thinks it was on purpose and that the person behind the wheel was trying to harm Nicole because of what she witnessed. From this, Shawn decides that Nicole is telling the truth, and that the killer wants her dead.
Shawn and Gus have no choice but to take Nicole somewhere safe. Nicole suggests they go hide out on the farm where she's from, as she's part of the Box Canyon Commune. They leave Nicole's car parked out in front of Juliet's house and take The Blueberry to the farm instead. Later that day, Juliet's house gets shot at, thus causing Juliet to believe the woman's story about witnessing the murder.
When they arrive at Nicole's farm, Shawn and Gus quickly learn that this isn't any regular farm – it's a farm that houses an entire community of free-loving, hippie-type people. Shawn and Gus are immediately greeted with hugs. They explain to Shawn and Gus that they are a loving, openhearted, welcoming community that celebrates a nonviolent lifestyle and shared values - all under the leadership of a man named Eli (Diedrich Bader).
Eli comes out and greets Nicole with loving, open arms. She tells Eli that she witnessed a murder in the city. Gus and Shawn are introduced to Eli as the men who saved Nicole. Gus wants to stay at the farm because he wants to "take care of Nicole." And with that, Gus and Shawn are welcomed to the farm to stay until the case is solved and they know Nicole is safe. Shawn is uneasy with this situation, while Gus on the other hand, is excited. He has immediately connected with the commune's message of peace and free love. When they reach the mess hall, they see an enormous picture of their leader Eli prominently hanging on the wall – thus leading Shawn to believe that this hippie commune may actually be a cult, led by Eli.
Just then, Juliet calls Shawn and confirms her belief that someone is trying to kill Nicole. Juliet tells Shawn to stay where they are and to keep the girl safe while the SBPD investigate further.
The next morning, Shawn and Gus awake on the farm. Shawn finds Gus's obsession with Nicole a bit odd and confronts Gus about his recent tendencies to hit on every woman they have come in contact with as of late. Gus confesses, like Shawn, he too wants to find someone special.
Nicole pops her head in and tells Shawn and Gus that it's "morning ritual time" down at the "Peace Ash", a large tree that the commune gathers under.
Back in Santa Barbara, Juliet and Lassiter head to the street where Nicole witnessed the murder, but they see no clues. While on the phone with Juliet, Shawn gets the idea to look at the red light camera photos from the intersection where Nicole witnessed the murder to get potential leads.
Henry accesses the traffic camera pictures while on the phone with Shawn who is also looking at the pictures on Eli's computer via remote access. From the pictures, Henry recognizes a man, Dan Cooper (Drew Taylor), an Internal Affairs agent who has pissed off a lot of cops in his time. Nicole walks in on Shawn looking at a picture of Cooper and says right away that he was the man she saw killed.
Later, Shawn tells Gus the news about Cooper while they are at the commune's fruit stand. But Gus is more interested in selling apples and being a part of the commune than figuring out the case. Just then, a band of brutish locals stops by and pokes fun at the fruit-selling members of the commune. Geoffrey (Carlos Jacott), a commune member, tries to diffuse the situation with love, but the locals keep harassing them, Nicole in particular. After Geoff sees them harass Nicole, he punches Redneck 1 (Michael Jonsson) in Nicole's defense. Then Gus gets into the fight and a brawl ensues.
Lassiter and Juliet try to get March (David Richmond-Peck), the head of Internal Affairs, to tell them who Cooper was investigating to get a lead on what really happened to him that day. But March can't give up any details – except for the fact that Cooper mostly monitored how police logged evidence, nothing super secret.
Just then, Juliet gets a report on the wire that Shawn and Gus got in a brawl with the locals up in Box Canyon. She now knows their location is no longer a secret and that the murderer can find them once armed with the knowledge of their whereabouts. Juliet tells Shawn about Cooper and how he monitored evidence logging and Shawn gets an idea that makes him think Cooper was investigating Pierce (Stephen Locke), an officer at the SBPD that may have been tampering with evidence.
Shawn stumbles into Eli's house. No one is there, so he does some harmless snooping. He sees pictures of the community over the years. Then in Eli's desk, he sees an address in Santa Barbara written on a scratch piece of paper, then he comes across Gus in the kitchen making out with Nicole. Shawn pulls Gus aside, worried that Gus is leaning toward possibly joining this bizarre hippie farm cult.
Meanwhile, it turns out Shawn was right about his hunch on Pierce. Lassiter and Juliet arrest Pierce and they are certain they can get Pierce to confess to Cooper's murder.
Thinking that the SBPD has their guy, Shawn wants to get off the commune and back to Santa Barbara immediately. But he knows Gus won't leave without putting up a fight, so he pulls Gus aside and asks him to join him at the Peace Ash. Gus agrees, and they get in the Blueberry to drive there, but instead, Shawn hightails it out of the commune. But on the way out, they notice a car hidden under branches – the same car that tried to run over Nicole back in Santa Barbara. Now Shawn believes that the killer is at the commune still. They head back and try to find Nicole to make sure she is OK. They thankfully find her unharmed.
Just then, Lassiter and Juliet show up. Lassiter explains to the people that there is a killer on the loose, and Eli's reaction is to get everyone to go to the "Barn of Truth" to talk about what is going on with the entire community.
Geoff takes the floor and releases a truth. He tells Nicole that when she went to Santa Barbara, he knew she wasn't going there to shop for bobbins like she said, but that she was instead going there to see a man. Nicole steps up to defend herself by saying she and the man never had a chance to meet anyway. Geoff then admits that he read Nicole's emails – all from a particular email address – an email address that Lassiter immediately knows who it belongs to. Lassiter then steps up and reveals that the email address Nicole was writing to belonged to Dan Cooper, an IA agent. The man that she went to go visit was the same man that she saw killed.
Now all eyes are on Geoff. His coming to Nicole's defense at the fruit stand, added with his admission of spying on her, leads Shawn to believe that it was Geoff who killed Cooper out of jealousy because he thought Nicole, his ex-wife, was leaving the commune for good to be with another man.
Lassiter, Juliet, Shawn and Gus head to Geoff's house and find the body of Cooper in his shed. They arrest Geoff for the murder of Cooper.
In Cooper's wallet they find a picture of a woman that Shawn saw in the pictures in Eli's house from earlier. Dot (Suzanne Krull), a community member, explains that the woman in the picture in Eli's wallet is Cynthia Cooper and that she left the commune years back. Dot also reveals that Cynthia's life was ruined after she left the commune. From this, Shawn puts it together that Cooper was emailing Nicole to try to get info on the Eli and the commune – to find reason for why Cynthia's life was destroyed after she left it. From this, Shawn knows it wasn't Geoff who was the killer. He believes it was Eli.
Shawn interrupts group exercise to place blame on Eli for the murder of Agent Cooper. Shawn reveals his reasoning by relaying the fact that upon arrival to the commune, everyone is forced to sign a document that gives Eli power of attorney over them and everything they used to own on the outside. Shawn then says it was Eli that murdered Cooper because Cooper was trying to get info on Eli, whom he believed was the reason Cynthia's life was destroyed. And after Cynthia left the commune, Cooper made it his life's work to investigate Eli and take the commune down.
Eli was planning on taking everyone's money and eventually fleeing. The commune is furious and as a result turns on Eli and takes him down, Dot and Eli's assistant Milosh (Jason Vaisvila) in particular. Eli is arrested.
Nicole tells Gus that she is headed to India and asks him to go with her. From this, Gus finally realizes that Nicole is a bit too cuckoo for him and declines her offer. The remaining members of the commune decide to keep its ideals alive, and Shawn gets to show Juliet the difference in taste with fresh-grown fruit.
- Tao is a Chinese word, fundamentally meaning something like 'way/path', but also with aspects of 'essence'.
Juliet: And if you need absolutely anything else, please don't hesitate to give me a call.
Nicole: What's your number?
Gus: I was gonna ask you the same question.
Juliet: Gus, please, this woman may have witnessed a crime.
Gus: A crime in progress. She's stealing my heart. But I ain't pressing charges.
Juliet: Wow! I would like to apologize for my creepy colleague.
Nicole: No need. I find his energy very soothing.
Gus: Really? Your silhouette should be on a mud flap.
Shawn: That's the weirdest flirting I've ever heard.
Gus: Burton Guster, P.I. My apologies for your traumatic crime-seeing experience.
Juliet: Guys, sidebar?
Lassiter: I mean, this girl's obviously been doing a little too much of this [mimes a stoner smoking weed]
Gus: Suffering from hemorrhoid pain?
Shawn: Doing an inaccurate impression of Dr. Evil in space?
Eli: We've got three simple rules: keep your mind open, your heart pure and your plate full!
Gus: I hear that!
Shawn: I'm afraid I can't abide by those stifling restrictions. I'm sorry.
Gus: These plums are God's candy.
Shawn: Okay, if God meant for them to be candy, then why did he invent candy, huh? Did you hear what I just said?
March: As for you, Detective, we'll be watching.
Lassiter: Please, you don't have anything on me.
March: In '04, you discharged your weapon at a circus. Twice. Last year you put an 86-year-old shoplifter in full-body restraints.
Lassiter: That old lady was feisty as hell and I've got the denture marks to prove it, bub!
Eli: Don't listen to him. He's a slave to his own cynicism.
Shawn: I'm a slave to love, Jack. And fashion. And movies where dogs cover their eyes when couples get intimate around them.
The gallery for "The Tao of Gus" can be found here.