“Behind the Red Curtain” – The Mentalist

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A surprisingly good episode from The Mentalist for the second week in a row. Once again, the casting was clever enough to avoid providing “Aha!” moments for all the wrong reasons. The plot was a little predictable, perhaps, but not enough to stop one enjoying the twists and turns of its unraveling. As always, it grates somewhat that Jane does all the work for the team – did they never solve crimes before he got there? – but that’s easily ignorable in the face of decent and, at times, surprising writing. This episode also struck a workable balance between Red John fare and murder of the week.

That balance has been missing for a long time. This season, perhaps more than any before, is very much about Red John. While Seasons 1 through 4 were always topped and tailed by Red John-centric episodes, this (and the latter half of Season 4) is very much focused on Jane’s endeavors to find the serial killer. That has often overpowered the rest of the show and, somewhere along the way, plot advancement and character development were sacrificed. Not so this week. While character development was scant (we had a bit more Grace and Rigsby, but nothing to write home about), the plot was driven on in a big way – even if we don’t quite understand how just yet.

We are, of course, referring to Bob Kirkland and his relationship to Red John. Our suspicions had been more or less allayed as to his being the man himself, but we haven’t been able to shake that niggling suspicion that he’s high up in Red John’s organization. That was basically confirmed this week. Though, we say again, we’re not quite sure how. Kirkland confirms to viewers – although, unfortunately, not to Jane – that he’s a ‘friend’ of Red John’s. That was only to be expected. The real mystery comes in the form of his question for the formerly comatose Jason Lennon: “Look at me. Look close. You recognize me? You ever seen me before?… It’s important.”

We’re at a loss and beyond confused. Moments later, (Spoilers!) he kills Jason. So why would it matter whether Jason recognized him or not? Knew him or not? All we can think of is that it might be some sort of test. But not testing Jason. Testing Kirkland. We’re aware this is going to sound completely off the wall, but the only thing that makes sense to us is that Kirkland, at some point in the past, got a face transplant and he’s asking Jason this bizarre question to make sure that he truly is unrecognizable. Which made us wonder anew if he is in fact Red John.

So, yes, we sound crazy. And, yes, we’re probably way off base. But we’re also excited. For the first time in months, The Mentalist is compelling, and we may be looking forward to next week’s episode, and to getting some answers. – K

Quoteworthy: “‘Trust me, you’ll have fun.’ Was there ever a more suspicious phrase?” – La Roche

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“Red, White and Blue” – The Mentalist

      

This episode sort of threw me for a loop. I didn’t recognize ANYONE (other than the series regulars, of course, you masses of pedants jumping to correct me). And then even the person I was supposed to recognize but didn’t – Eddie McClintock (Warehouse 13), playing Sgt Hawkins, I think – wasn’t the killer. The casting directors have been getting better at this. The subtle casting of murderers. It’s confusing, but welcome.

And yet, in spite of this massive step in the right direction, the episode wasn’t without faults. It was, at times, a bit preachy. The military-base setting brought up issues that the series hasn’t had to confront before and, somehow, the manner in which they addressed military sacrifice and veteran services felt awkward and against character. Having Patrick, the stalwart of just not caring, as the sole member of the team to thank a roomful of veterans for their service felt wrong.

My favorite arc of the episode came courtesy of Cho. His insistence that Sgt Hawkins reopen a sexual harassment investigation and protect the victim was the strong centre of a wobbly episode. He’s my hero of the week. – K

Quoteworthy: “Next time you ask someone in this unit to watch your back, you might remember how you watched hers.” – Cho, to Hawkins

“There Will Be Blood” – The Mentalist

       

And we’re back in business! After a brief respite, we’re back in Red John territory. Joys. The one saving grace? Lorelei Martins. We just love her a little bit. Yes, she was evil. Yes, she was protecting a serial killer. Yes, she has killed. But there was something charming about her, and there was a part of us that was shipping her and Jane. The whole series has pushed Jane and Lisbon, but that tension doesn’t hold up under re-watching. For a while there, for us, it was all about Lorelei.

Also making an appearance? Bob Kirkland. The questions about Mr Homeland Security keep coming thick and fast – is he protecting Red John or does he really not trust anyone else to catch him – but, with too much time left between cameos, some of the gold dust has worn off and we’re left with a frat boy with a dodgy accent. We’re still curious about how he’s connected to Red John, and about his influence over Bertram, but we just don’t care that much anymore.

Even the sideline stories – Rigsby attempting to get over Grace by almost dating a load of redheads he met on the internet, the predictably obvious murder – failed to inspire. I found my concentration slipping in a way that it hasn’t in years. The episode just didn’t grip me the way it should have.

Though it did give us hope, for a time. Before it savagely ripped it away. They do persist in dragging out this increasingly frustrating Red John thing. The one potential resolution dried up with the oh-so-predictable death of Lorelei. And, before she went, she made Jane’s work just that little bit harder, shooting the only other lead he has. With Lorelei dead and Lennon (Christopher Cousins, Breaking Bad) in a coma, there’s no end in sight for this dull saga.

Last week’s episode of Psych saw Shawn defending The Mentalist vehemently. We get it. The Mentalist is Psych for the seriously-minded. Of course Steve Franks would want to give a sly nod and a wink to the fans of both. But mostly it just made us wish that The Mentalist had half of Psych’s charm, or was as grown-up as The Following. It either needs to be more serious or less, more funny or less, creepier or less. Because it can’t keep being both – that just makes it middle of the road. – B+K

Quoteworthy:

“She’s at a computer training programme. She’s probably using computers.”

“I should have signed up for that.”

“You barely know how to turn a computer on.” – Cho, Rigsby

“The Red Barn” – The Mentalist

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This was actually a surprisingly good episode from The Mentalist, particularly when one considers that it’s a Red John episode. They have become tiresome in recent seasons and, while the overarching Red John concept is, theoretically, still interesting, I’ve found myself wishing over the past few weeks that they’d just catch the guy already. And, this week, they got one step closer to that.

The team catches a cold case and Jane comes across the Red John symbol painted on the side of a barn. And therein lies my only problem with this episode – okay, the face has been there for 25 years, but are you seriously trying to tell me that when Red John’s smiling face started appearing at murder scenes and was reported in the news no one in the area thought to report this one to the Feds or investigate in the barn?

What the episode does do, however, is tie Red John inextricably to Visualize. The face was drawn by a farm hand – all of whom were Visualize members – and it seemed to inspire something in the other farm workers. We may even have heard an anecdote about one of Red John’s first disciples (Quoteworthy).

We’re also given a brand new Red John suspect in the form of Ray Haffner – a CBI employee, and a Visualize member who was active in the cult around the time of the murders at the farm. Jane has also shaken his hand (back in Season 4). On top of that, Reed Diamond just exudes don’t-trust-me vibes. It feels like The Mentalist is finally gearing up to a big unveiling. I’m fairly certain they’ll disappoint us at the last, but here’s hoping it all comes out soon. – K

Quoteworthy: “You know, I asked Talbert what it meant, the smiley face. He said, ‘What does anything mean?’, but he said it with this really deranged look on his face. There was a bad vibe about that place. Evil.” – Fr Peter DiBuono, former Visualize member

 

PS Did anyone else think it was strange that Jane seemed reluctant to give Lisbon the list of his top suspects? He can’t think she’s involved… can he? Also troubling was Grace’s wide-eyed quoting of Visualize material. Are we supposed to think she’s buying what Bret Stiles is selling? Is she already a member of Visualize, or is she just on the borderline? 

“Little Red Corvette” – The Mentalist

I think the best thing that can be said about this episode of The Mentalist is, “At least they didn’t drag this Volker thing out.” Though I’m not sure I should even be saying that because, had Volker stuck around a little longer, it would have given us a viable villain, other than Red John, for the first time since… ever! I can’t help thinking it would have been nice – if having a recurring serial murderer on a show can ever be called nice – to get some fresh blood, and a new villain to hate. Being honest, the Red John storyline is getting a little stale. I’m actually starting to hope that the writers have a finite number of series in mind or, at least, have a concrete plan for revealing Red John to us soon. This is starting to get almost as tired as the search for HIMYM’s Mother. And, aside from anything else, I feel like the search for Red John is holding The Mentalist back. As long as Jane is obsessed with Red John, the plot will never move past murder of the week and characters will never have the opportunity to really develop. All screen time is devoted to Jane’s vendetta, and the rare episodes that center on another member of the team do little to advance our knowledge of this group of people that has graced our screens for the last five years.

And then, on top of all that disappointment, we got an episode that hinged on a flimsy deus ex machina and backtracked all established knowledge of a character central to the story. As Wikipedia says, the deus ex machina comes into play when the writer has painted him or herself into a corner, and there is a palpable sense of that in “Little Red Corvette”. Here, the writers find themselves confronted with an uncatchable, connected murderer – a great character they don’t know what to do with. So they speed up events to hasten his capture. A body is discovered in an abandoned, boarded up warehouse. The victim is a geologist who had been poised to testify against Volker. Jane discovers a child’s RC car at the scene and decides that the owner must have witnessed the murder. The episode revolves around the teams’ search for any evidence tying Volker to the murder, and Jane’s search for the boy. Throughout the episode, information is being fed to Volker by Brenda, the CBI’s press liaison (we did wonder what Volker has on her, but it’s never revealed).

Then we’re left with a genuinely nail-biting rush to get to the boy before Volker does. Though even that good film-making was not without irritants. This was where the writers seemed to forget everything they knew about Volker. Yes, he was backed into a corner. Yes, he was probably going to jail either way. But here is a man who, for years, has been so careful that he cannot be implicated in any of the crimes he is guilty of. He is a man of extraordinary caution. He never leaves any trace of his crimes. But now he’s going to kill a child? And not even subtly? Kicking in doors, trashing apartments, leaving fingerprints, brandishing handguns, walking through the zoo calling the kid’s name, dragging him off as he kicks and screams? This couldn’t play more against type if it tried. It all just seems so unlikely. Now that we write it out, the only explanation we can think of is that he wanted to get caught, but that, too, seems unlikely.

Writers, try harder! – K

Quoteworthy: “You want us to think you’re gloating, but you’re not. You’re afraid.” – Jane, to Volker

“Days of Wine and Roses” – The Mentalist

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There was a dual story in this week’s The Mentalist – there was your standard murder of the week, and then there was the return of Lisbon’s arch nemesis, Volker.

The murder of the week was very nearly as predictable as every other week, albeit with a couple of red-herring casting choices to throw us off the scent. (Spoiler!) The therapist did it.

You may remember Volker from “If It Bleeds, It Leads”. He was the local philanthropist who had murdered two people in Cali and a whole tribe in the Amazon. And he evaded Lisbon’s clutches.

This episode revisits the case as Lisbon finds new evidence supporting the supposition that one of his victims was murdered, and had not committed suicide. But she’s blocked at every turn, with Volker intimidating judges and gunning down his own enforcer.

And yet, in spite of this mass murderer evading justice, the most worrying and disturbing part of the episode is the intimation that Volker may be becoming Lisbon’s personal Red John. – K

Quoteworthy: “Jane, I need your help.” – Lisbon, turning to the one person who understands

“Panama Red” – The Mentalist

        Image copyright CBS (2012)

Well then. With one single episode The Mentalist has undone, and rendered impotent, all my griping about predictability. I thoroughly enjoyed this offering and, for once, didn’t see the ending coming. I don’t know if it’s remnants of jet-lag, if I’m having a slow day, or if the writing of this episode was just downright fantastic. I’m leaning toward the latter.

This was an episode full of red herrings (most notably in the casting choice for second-tier, ‘almost-killer-but-not-quite’ villain, Francesca [Nicole Bilderback, Clueless, Bring It On, Dawson’s Creek]) and twisty plot and genuine intrigue. This week, I was kept completely on my toes. The person I thought was a killer – the aforementioned Francesca – was a bad guy, but wasn’t the killer. The killer was someone, for once, who I didn’t recognize in the slightest. With “Panama Red”, for the first time in well over a season, the writers kept me guessing right up to the end.

Also working in the episode’s favor was the brief return of Cho’s ex, Summer (Samaire Armstrong, The O.C., Dirty Sexy Money) and a semi-complex plot involving a counterfeiting ring. She’s pregnant, though, and clean, and just about to get married to a genuinely good guy. It was nice to have her back, albeit only for a short while, and to see that she’s turned her life around and made good.

In short, for this episode I say to the writers of The Mentalist, simply, ‘Bravi!’. More of this, please. – K

Quoteworthy: “You only think you know everything about me.” – Lisbon, to Jane

“Black Cherry” – The Mentalist

       Image copyright CBS (2012)

The Mentalist essentially stalled with “Black Cherry”. After weeks and weeks of plot and intrigue and Bob Kirkland mysteries and allusions to Red John and prison breaks and kidnappings it all. just. stopped. What? This week saw a few references to Jane’s ongoing attempt to find the man who killed his family – he’s seen to be writing down the names of everyone he’s ever met or shook hands with – but the vast majority of the episode was taken up with the murder case. Not that I’m complaining exactly. It is a show about murders after all. But The Mentalist is still suffering from predictability. The moment I set eyes on the killers – (Spoilers!) the victim’s boss and co-workers – I knew it was them because I recognized them. I’ll admit I was initially thrown by the casting of Greek’s Frizzy Lizzi (Senta Moses), but she was a red herring to the eagle eyed. All that was left, then, was to uncover the motive. And, unlike a lot of people who watch murder mysteries, I don’t enjoy finding the motive if I already know who’s done the killing. It fulfils an idle curiosity, that’s all.

Making this week’s episode even worse, and cementing the crimes of The Mentalist, was the lazy reuse of a Season 1 storyline. Different situation, same murder. Cast your mind back to the third episode ever, “Red Tide”. The body of a teenage surfer is discovered on the beach. After spending some time with her friends, Jane discovers that they killed her: they had been partying somewhere they shouldn’t have been, they got in a fight with a security guard and accidentally killed him. The victim wanted to come forward and go to the cops but the ringleader didn’t want it to ruin their lives. She decided to kill the victim and she got each of the others to take part so that they would all be culpable.

Now look at “Black Cherry”. The body of an ex gang member (Lem) is discovered at a golf course. After spending some time with Lem’s co-workers, Jane discovers that they killed him. They had been at a company retreat, out drinking and hunting. They saw movement in the trees and shot it, thinking it was a deer. They accidentally killed another hunter. Lem wanted to come forward but was persuaded not to. He later felt guilty and said he was going to go to the cops. His co-workers couldn’t let that happen so they killed him, each doing some of the killing so they’d be equally culpable.

Sound familiar? I rest my case.

The only thing of any interest was the final-moments shot of Jane looking at his book of names. As he gazed at the pages, a strange look crossed his face… almost as though something clicked. Has he figured out who Red John is? Or figured out how to figure it out? Was I just looking for something to cling to to make those 42 minutes of my life worthwhile? Probably the latter. Tune in next week to find out. – K

 

Quoteworthy: “She said it’s a wonder Red John and I didn’t become friends. Now what we have I consider a friendship so, my friend, you’re free and clear.” – Jane, to Lisbon

“Red Sails in the Sunset” – The Mentalist

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I’m genuinely too lazy to write a full review for this. And even if I wanted to I don’t know what I could possibly write. It wasn’t that exciting and not that much happened.

With the help of Bret Stiles (Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orange), Jane broke Lorelei Martins out of prison. He had set up an elaborate series of whatevers to keep the CBI off of his trail long enough to get what he wanted from Lorelei – which he didn’t – and then he let her go so she could go and learn the truth about Red John (who may or may not have killed her sister), and come back to Jane and tell him everything.

One of the only interesting aspects of the episode was the interplay and evident attraction between Jane and Lorelei. It’s so unusual to see Jane that way. Even though we all know how deeply in love with Lisbon he is, that’s a far more subtle display. With Lorelei, there’s palpable tension.

That’s only interesting to a person like me, who rather enjoys reading other people’s relationships. I find it fascinating. But what’s interesting to the whole gamut of Mentalist viewers is the one little nugget that Lorelei offered in a fit of rage, perhaps without even realizing that she had: “I only wonder why the two of you didn’t become lifelong friends that moment you shook hands.” …Jane has met Red John. He knows him. And, as Jane had never met him before last week (and Lorelei couldn’t possibly know they had met at all), that more or less clears Bob Kirkland.

Now we have to wait for Lorelei to come back and tell Jane everything. Or, like so many of Jane’s Red John leads, will she just turn up dead one day? Hopefully, either way, it will be more interesting than this week’s episode. – K

 

Quoteworthy: “God, you’re just like him, you know that? Relentless manipulation.” – Lorelei, likening Patrick to Red John

“If It Bleeds, It Leads” – The Mentalist

       Image copyright CBS (2012)

Things just aren’t working out for our CBI agents this week.

We discover that the driver from last week’s episode brought Lorelei Martin to a high-security federal prison. The FBI stole her from Jane. Jane is trying to find a way to get to her, but doesn’t know how to break into a prison like this one – razor wire, electric fences… impassable.

Though his attention is split, he still manages to help Lisbon et al. with their case. Not that it does any good. (Spoilers!) The victim, reporter Cassie Flood, was wrapped up in an exposé of Tommy Volker – a local philanthropist who, she claimed, had committed mass murder in the Amazon in order to remove opposition to a project of his. The team knows this Volker was behind Flood’s murder, but can’t prove it. In fact, their only lead (his personal assistant, who’s willing to talk about a conversation she overheard between Volker and Flood) apparently commits suicide just when they need her most. Lisbon knows Volker had her killed, too, but still can’t prove it.

Dejected and guilty, she’s visited by Bob Kirkland – the man we saw in the car with Agent Schultz in “Red Dawn” – who tells her to back off on the Volker case and to watch her step.

And, in another ‘woah’ moment, Kirkland bumps into Jane. He calls him by name and, when Jane asks “Do I know you?”, says “No, but I know you”. Seriously, though… is he Red John?? Ahh, the suspense! – K

 

Quoteworthy: “Hell hath no fury like a slut outflanked.” – Jane