"Dead Bear Walking" is the fifteenth episode of season five. After the zoo's polar bear trainer is murdered unexpectedly, officials are quick to point the finger at the polar bear, but Shawn believes the animal to be innocent, resulting in him becoming an advocate for the bear and embarking on a desperate search for the real murderer.
Lassiter shows up to work one morning with his (previously unmentioned) kid sister Lauren in tow. He explains that Lauren is a film student there to do a police documentary. Lassiter plays to the camera, trying to impress his sister with his "large and in charge" demeanor. Suddenly they get the call that there's been a murder at the zoo. Lauren films as the officers prepare to leave for the crime scene.
SBPD shows up at the zoo. Shawn and Gus are already there and are shocked to see how normal-seeming and attractive Lassiter's sister is. They soon find out that the murder victim is the zoo's polar bear trainer, Jasper Zane. Zoo officials immediately point fingers at the polar bear, saying that the bear turned on his trainer suddenly. The trainer's fiancée, Gemma Kramer, steps up and claims that he devoted his life to raising the polar bear, so much so that they had to hold off on getting married for 6 years. She wants the bear to pay. Shawn examines the scene more closely and determines that the polar bear did not murder the trainer... She was framed. Much to Lassiter's dismay, everyone's attention, including Lauren's camera, is now trained on Shawn.
Later, at the autopsy report, Woody tells the team that he is still unsure as to whether or not the bear killed the trainer. Back at the zoo, the administrator, C. Lee Banting, announces that the polar bear has escaped its enclosure. Shawn immediately tries to convince Gus that they need to find the polar bear before Lassiter does, but Gus isn't having it. Shawn then postures that a group of activists, led by Macleod Sinclaire, could be the culprits behind this mess, so he goes to question one of them he saw hanging around the zoo. With Sinclaire's help, Shawn finds the bear. But Shawn soon realizes that the trainer's killer actually may be the activist. So he convinces Gus to escape the activist with the bear in tow...on the back of the Blueberry. But Shawn has another theory about who the killer may be. He finds out that the zoo has a huge insurance policy out on the bear, and in the event that it was killed they would be paid 2 million dollars.
Meanwhile, Shawn hides the bear at Henry's house, but is soon discovered by SBPD. The bear is then taken to a holding cell to be placed on "death row." Shawn and Gus visit the bear and see that she has been wearing a heart monitor collar this whole time. From this, Shawn gets an idea. From the heart monitor readings he is able to prove that the bear was indeed sleeping at the time of the trainer's murder, so the killer couldn't possibly have been her. At this point they are back at square one. Shawn heads to the trainer's house to find more clues. Lassiter looks over all the evidence back at SBPD, and Lauren starts to get bored. She wants to get in on Shawn's action-filled investigation, so she leaves Lassiter. Shawn is questioning the trainer's neighbor, Ritch Renaud, and he tells them that he would always overhear the trainer and his fiancée fighting all the time. So they head to the fiancée's apartment to question her. The fiancée turns out to be a dead-end suspect, so Shawn thinks back to other clues. He remembers certain aspects about the neighbor's house that lead him to believe he was in a property dispute with the trainer.
As a result, everyone heads to the neighbor's house for the breakdown. Just as Shawn is about to step up in front of the camera and do his thing, he decides to throw his case and give Lassiter the credit to impress his sister. Lassiter shows up with a file from small claims court pertaining to a property line dispute between the neighbor and the trainer. In the end, the murderer is found out to be Renaud, the bear is saved, and not only does Lassiter make his sister proud, he also proves that sometimes the most effective police work isn't always done out in the field.
- A popular term for a condemned prisoner's last journey to the gallows or the electric chair, there is a 1909 Thomas Hardy poem 'The Dead Man Walking' which may be the origin of the term, and the ultimate source of the title.
- While the filming location of the "Santa Barbara Zoo" was the now-closed Vancouver Zoo in Stanley Park, the panorama view of the zoo is actually the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, CA.
- It is implied that Lassiter was a de facto only child while growing up, and didn't want the Psych clowns knowing about his pretty younger sister.
The list of references to pop culture and other media from this episode can be found here.