You wouldn't expect the most romantic scene on TV to occur on a biting comedy like Schitt's Creek, but the Pop series has been digging deeper than ever before in its fourth season and the moment David Rose (Dan Levy) realizes he's in love for the first time will melt the ice around even the most cynical hearts.
"Open Mic" begins with David and his boyfriend Patrick (Noah Reid) realizing they need something to bring customers into the store they co-own together. Patrick pitches an open mic night, remembering his high school days as a singer-songwriter much to David's pretentious horror. The idea of his romantic partner singing ballads to a group of strangers is something straight out of David's nightmares, and the audience is set up to believe that Patrick's musical foray will be nothing but mortifying for everyone involved — hilarious, but mortifying.
Instead, the show made an unexpected turn and created a beautiful moment between the relatively new couple. It turns out that Patrick has a "butter voice" and as he begins a beautiful acoustic rendition of Tina Turner's "The Best," viewers get to watch David's reaction shift from fear and embarrassment to giddy amusement. In the span of one pop song, David has to come to terms with the fact he's fallen head over heels with the man on stage.
"So often I think shows get into these grooves where they know the characters hit and they just write for it over and over and over again," Levy exclusively told TV Guide at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in January. "Knowing that Noah has this incredible voice, we always thought he has to sing. He has to sing. We're not going to do the Say Anything radio outside the motel. We've seen that."
The audience knows the importance of this moment from four seasons of getting to know David, so neither character has to actually say what a big deal this is. They share looks across a crowded room as David tries to grapple with what's happening.
"We thought what if [Patrick] just sang something so amazing. We used that in a way to strengthen their relationship. We don't have to write exposition," Levy explained. "I hate listening to people talk about how they feel. I'd rather just show it. That was a great device to just bring them closer in ways that they didn't expect."
What is more impressive is that while Levy, who executive produces the show and co-wrote the episode, already had "The Best" in the script, Reid was the one who came up with the arrangement that made it into the final cut of the episode.
"That song was always something I knew lyrically was more beautiful. At first blush you listen to it and think that's a great pop song, but the lyrics are so stunning," Levy told us. "[Noah] said, 'Let me sit down with it and see what I can do.' At 11 p.m. on a Tuesday in the middle of our shoot — he was about to shoot [the scene] a month later — he sent me an audio file of him sitting with a guitar singing it. Maybe it was because I was really tired. Maybe it was because I was alone in my apartment, but I just burst into tears and thought that he has managed to take something we write and take it to a place where I know our audience will find quite sweet."
The serenade was so powerful that even Moira (Catherine O'Hara) could see what an intimate moment this was for her son. At one point she reached out to touch David's arm as Patrick sang, "You speak the language of love like you know what it means," and it looked like both of them might burst into tears.
"Catherine when we were shooting it just kept crying. We always thought Moira as a character wouldn't be as moved but she said, 'I just have to commit. Moira is going to cry and that's how it's going to work,'" Levy said.
The representation of gay characters on television has been steadily improving over the last few years, but few examples are as intimate and innocent as David and Patrick on Schitt's Creek. They shared their first kiss only in the Season 3 finale, and now six episodes later have found a simple but immensely satisfying way to show their deep love for each other. For Levy, depicting David and Patrick's love story has been a personal challenge that he hopes is as rewarding for his audience.
"As a gay man, it's really been a gift to write this story and tell this love story that's just about two people that doesn't necessarily have to teach people anything," he said. "We're just trying to show at the end of the day that love is love between two people. It's a challenge for me because I want to do it justice. I want to make it as uniquely theirs as possible."
This episode was no revelation for David though, and for every step forward there's two steps back. Levy teases that the road ahead won't be very smooth for the lovebirds and even if David feels it, he won't be saying any four letter L-words any time soon.
"[David] would never say that because that's way too vulnerable for him. It's really fun. The very next episode after what you've been shown something happens. We take the audience on a bit of a journey," he teases. "It's not all daisies and sunshine...We have some ups and downs in the second half of the season. I hope in the end it'll bring them together."
In the meantime, you can relive the scene in the video above or buy Reid's version of "The Best" on iTunes. Put it on repeat and swoon over and over again.
Schitt's Creek airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on Pop.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS, Pop's parent company)