Lisbon (Robin Tunney) and her team are called to South Sacramento where a Yoli Concepcion (guest star Natalia Castellanos) has been shot to death. To local Sergeant Henderson’s (guest star Dean Norris) dismay, Consultant Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) quickly figures out that the woman was an undercover cop. Henderson reveals that Yoli was part of his Undercover Narcotics task force and was tailing a major dealer name Omar Vega (Kamar De Los Reyes) at the nearby club Luxure. Henderson adds that Yoli’s identity must be kept secret to ensure the safety of the other officers. Later, during the course of the investigation, Agent Kimball Cho (Tim Kang) runs into a prostitute named Summer Edgecombe (Samaire Armstrong) who reveals that she has inside knowledge on Vega.
Pink Tops paid homage to many of this show’s excellent qualities: character continuity, humor, many excellent one liners, and character moments (including what fans have lovingly dubbed “Chigsby”, or Cho-Rigsby interaction). But something felt off to me the entire episode (and no, I’m not talking about that which everyone complained about which I’ll discuss below in the spoiler zone). It took me a while to figure it out but there were a number of small factors which combined to keep Pink Tops from fulfilling its potential. That being said, 8.0 is pretty darn good.
Detailed AKA (Humungous Review) (spoilers galore):
A while back I was chatting with @CJDavey on twitter where he mentioned that the reason a certain mentalist episode wasn’t amongst his favorite was because it didn’t feel like a mentalist episode to him. As soon as I read that tweet, I realized this was exactly how I felt about Pink Tops, though I was still having trouble figuring out why I felt that way. So I enlisted my good friend and guest reviewer Violet’s help. Now anyone who has read her reviews knows that she’s not shy about expressing her opinions, which is exactly what I needed here. But before we get into what may not have worked in Pink Tops, let’s talk about all that did. This might take a while…
Continuity on the Red John case
A lot of fans expressed disappointment that this episode didn’t reveal more about the Red John case but I actually found enough hints, enough subtext to leave me quite satisfied and happy.
Jane and Lisbon in the teaser
When Jane arrives at the crime scene he remarks, somewhat cautiously to Lisbon that she looks “marginally rested”. Lisbon tells him she was actually hoping to get some sleep to which Jane replies that she could go back to bed. As expected, Lisbon refuses, saying that their assistance is needed.
-I found this exchange, the questions it raises, and Jane and Lisbon’s demeanor to be very interesting. Why are Lisbon and Jane tired? Have they been working the Red John case? Have they been busy dealing with the fall out Red John’s re-emergence must have had on their unit? Were they being investigated to the point of exhaustion by Professional Standards and/or FBI?
Or has the serious crimes unit simply been overwhelmed with other cases?
Violet: The atmosphere reminded me somehow of the beginning of S3 after Kristina went missing, with a sleep deprived and uncontrollable Jane. This could suggest that he isn’t dealing very well with what he’s done (since RJ being alive isn’t really new for him). If that’s the case, we can also spot a hint at character development, since unlike in S3 he didn’t take it out on others (well he tries at first, with the Sergeant, but only once).
Reviewbrain: Actually, Jane behaving after misbehaving is his usual MO (i.e. Red Gold after Blood For Blood, and Every Rose has its Thorn after The Red Mile). But Violet’s point that he doesn’t take out his frustrations on others is quite true, especially compared with his vindictiveness in Season three. This is possibly more evidence that he’s gained some of Lisbon’s professionalism. Or it could be more that he’s becoming more humble (my inner Cynic is laughing again) and/or, like Violet states, Jane feels uneasy with himself. Because while in Season three Jane’s antics came across as a result of a frustrated and self-righteous victim, his demeanor in this episode, this season really…well, he’s not a victim anymore is he? At least not of any external source.
I’ve already raised the issue that the writers might be planning on making Jane into a killer (as they’ve been making perps this season more sympathetic and uncannily similar to Jane). I even explored the possibility that Jane has become a serial killer even (see rant in Blinking Red Light review). That being the case, I found Jane’s demeanor in this episode, wary and unsure, very reassuring to say the least.
The end scene of the episode made me even happier.
Jane/Lisbon end scene
After the case is wrapped up, Lisbon comes across Jane and makes small talk with him (asking him how he figured out who the killer was, etc.) before she comes right out and states:
When Jane asks her for what, Lisbon tells him that they need to talk about Red John. Jane then points out that the victim’s widower has arrived, distracting Lisbon and taking off to avoid the discussion.
Whatever Jane’s reasons may be to take off, this exchange lets viewers in on the fact that he and Lisbon have not yet talked about Red John’s re-emergence. Either they hadn’t had a good chance to do so (due to how busy they’ve been as hinted at in the episode’s teaser) or they have been avoiding doing so (hinted by Lisbon’s “It’s time”, and their cautious body language throughout the episode).
Both possibilities could be true; the serious crimes unit might have had an influx of cases which conveniently allowed Jane and Lisbon to skirt the issue of Red John. It could also be that they have avoided the topic until the dust (suspicion) of the higher-ups (and/or FBI) has settled.
Violet: The fact that Lisbon waited for the right moment to discuss the situation is a nice realistic touch: she let him some days to recompose and gave herself the time to assimilate it all. Now why Jane didn’t want to talk about it? Was the talk only about the consequences of RJ resurfacing or about the way Panser died? Did she want to ask how he felt while he didn’t want to share? Or does he want to keep his plans secret like he used to do, maybe because he was disappointed in her for trying to meddle with Carter’s wife?
Reviewbrain: That last is a very interesting possibility. Jane certainly sounded angry when he found Lisbon at Sally Carter’s jail cell. His “What are you doing here” when Lisbon called him to the scene after Sally died sounded pretty accusatory.
Violet: The aspect of the talk Jane is avoiding couldn’t be only about RJ as in “OMG! He’s back!” because Lisbon already knew about the possibility even if she didn’t believe it. So Jane is trying to be sneaky one way or another, especially since he left Lisbon in charge of dealing with the grieving widower. In another setting, it would be Jane who’d relate with him. But here he was trying to isolate himself.
Reviewbrain: My favorite possibility for the furtiveness is one I had explored in Season three and am evermore convinced of now: Jane, feeling uncomfortable with his hidden dark side (“Red Moon”) fears talking to Lisbon about Red John (and how he lured him into the open via Panser) because he’s afraid of Lisbon’s reaction; that she may not like him anymore afterwards (canon since “Every Rose has its Thorn). Just as likely, however is the possibility that Jane doesn’t want to talk to Lisbon because he himself is unsure of what he’ll do when/if he catches Red John this time around, and Jane isn’t exactly the type of man who likes appearing unsure. Some support for this theory is Jane’s calmer state this season. Alternatively, I suppose it could be that Jane has already decided on what he wants to do and wants to keep whatever conclusion he’s come to from Lisbon. But I don’t think so.
Wishful thinking aside, Jane’s tendency to behave quite well after he’s misbehaved (reprised in this episode) hints that Jane fears he’ll one day push his luck too far. Now Lisbon has accepted a lot of things from Jane, and he seems pretty in awe of her for that. Perhaps that’s why Jane fears that one day he’ll do something she simply cannot accept, so he’d rather keep things hidden from her to lessen the chances of himself negatively tipping the balance.
Note: In a related theme, it’s beginning to seem to me that perhaps Jane can only be straight after he’s veered a bit; like he can only be good after he’s been bad. I wonder if there’s any truth to that. And if so, I wonder if that’s an addiction, a compulsion or habit.
The subplot revolves around the prostitute Summer (Samaire Armstrong) and Cho. Summer takes an instant liking to Cho and spends her time alternately coming on to him, trying to find out things about him, and impressing him. I loved how Tim Kang a chance to show off his subtle acting (and the fact that Cho can have more than an impassive expression on his face). Armstrong played off him pretty well too, despite my wishing that she’d choose between either moving her head or her eyebrows, instead of both simultaneously as she said her lines; a few of her scenes almost gave me vertigo. But she conveyed Summer’s youthful exuberance and contrasting blasé attitude pretty well. I think I’ll agree with Lisbon and say I like her too.
And I think Cho does too :)
Cho/Summer Final Scene
During the case, Jane goes undercover as a dirty law enforcer, wanting to make a deal Vega. It’s part of his plan to find Yoli’s killer (who he suspected was another cop who turned sides). When Cho and Rigsby lose Jane’s signal, Cho finds Summer and demands she tell him where she knows Vega’s location is. The scene is quite heated and Cho, impatient and fearful for Jane cuffs Summer. Hurt, Summer tells Cho that all she wanted was a bit of civility. She tells him what he wants to know, and demands he release her and leave her alone.
Later, once the perps are all caught, Cho goes to Summer. She assumes (accurately I think) that he feels bad for the way he treated her. Cho states that he wants her to sign on as his informant.
- Cho looked like he felt pretty bad (as much as his can anyway) over what he’d done; especially coupled with Summers hurt (yet stubbornly prideful) facade. Cho offering summer a job is meant to validate Summer’s usefulness, make her feel better about herself. It also gives Cho a convenient excuse to see her and issue an indirect apology; probably the only kind Summer can hope to get considering Cho’s personality.
Note: Cho’s pride is one of the reasons why seeing him break down in remorse, apologizing to his friends grandmother (Blood in Blood out) was such an effective scene.
Summer (and viewers) can’t possibly expect the same reaction from Cho here, but it’s a good start. Especially when coupled with the scene’s punchline.
When Summer tells Cho “For cash money, I’d snitch on my mom”, Cho leans in close and asks Summer, in a perfect deadpan “What did she do?”
And for once during most of their interactions this episode, it is Summer who is left momentarily speechless. Cho is awesome :)
Violet: The part about Cho and Summer was the funniest! There’s such a contrast between the lively and bold woman and the usually impassive Cho! While Rigsby’s date shows a physical disparity, here the difference in character makes it even more humorous! Now, I wonder: why every team member feels the need to have complicated relationships? Rigsby and Van Pelt, all the same together and separately (the cougar; Van Pelt’s disastrous bad luck with guys), even clipped Lisbon and her playboy Mash… I guess Elise was too boring and normal for the show: I feel now that she was only a plot device for explaining Cho’s rage in ‘Blood In, Blood Out’ and now that it’s over, she lacked drama. Too bad, I liked her!
Some new questions arise about Summer, since there will be without any doubt more of her very soon: will the attraction have consequences of Cho’s career? It would be certainly frown upon given her source of income, so will Cho go against the rules for her as he did for the kid in “Rhapsody in Red”? Anyway, he was in dire need of a private life, so Summer is more than welcome!
Reviewbrain: I liked Elise too and thought that having at least one normal couple would have been good for the show. While the plot of a call girl befriending a cop isn’t anything new, it promises to be dramatic. I just wish that it was saved for a later season. It seems that there is way too much drama going on already, I feel exhausted merely thinking about it. But a major perk will be getting to see how Kang handles the material; we’ve seen enough of him to know that it’ll be a real treat.
The winner: Cho and Rigsby in the Car
Rigsby remarks to Cho “So that Pro seemed like a piece of work huh?” When Cho responds “Summer?” Wayne answers “Oh, so she’s Summer now?”
-I like this exchange for the subtext it suggests. The fact that Summer knew Cho’s name is Kimball when he came to let her go hints that she asked Wayne about him. Wayne bringing her up in this scene shows that he picked up Summer’s interest in Cho and wants to see if the woman made as big of an impression on his partner as he had on her.
Of course, it doesn’t take long for Cho to turn the conversation on his Rigsby.
Cho then states “She is Summer, that’s her name. Just like she knows your name is Wayne. Wayne is immediately (adorably) defensive “It’s was just some potato chips” to which Cho shoots back “you emptied an entire vending machine.” Rigsby, flustered, explains, “Yeah, she was hungry.”
-To be fair, Rigsby is a man with a big appetite, though why he thought Summer is capable of ingesting the same amount as himself is not very believable. Methinks he had fun chatting with her.
But more than the revelations of the scene, it was so much fun watching Rigsby and Cho interact. I’ve missed these tiny moments between the two especially as this season has been mostly about Jane/Lisbon and Grace/Wayne. It’s nice to see these buddies get some quality time too.
1st runner up:Cho and Summer’s end scene. It was both touching and funny and Armstrong and Kang did very well in it.
2nd runner up: Jane and Lisbon’s interaction in the opening scene. From Jane’s concern that Lisbon isn’t getting enough sleep, to Henderson shoving Jane up against the wall, his adorable “I’m here”, Lisbon’s anger, and then Jane pouting that Lisbon didn’t push back when Henderson called him a circus act; this was all very familiar and made me so happy especially considering the darkness of the episode prior.
“Okay, I’m here.” Jane to Henderson when he pushed him into the wall.
“You’re not known for your management skills are you?” Jane, to Henderson.
“I like your swagger”-Vega to Jane.
“Keep guessing, pinstripes.”- Vega to Jane. The great moment was afterwards when Jane mouths “pinstripes” to Lisbon, in amusement. I missed this playful Jane, the one who’s amused even as he’s being insulted. It reminded me of his huge grin when a suspect assumed he was gay in season one. I miss season one Jane..
“Was he in a boy band?”-Summer to Cho about Rigsby. Love the reference to Rigsby’s good looks, and beautiful voice. But more than that, this line was plain hilarious. Again, Ms. Swafford gives me one of my favorite lines in this show.
“Bad back, huh?” Summer to Cho. Love the continuity on Cho’s car accident a few episodes back.
“I bet you just doodle on that thing don’t you?” Summer to Cho as he takes notes.
“I like her”-Lisbon on Summer. I love the subtext here; that Lisbon enjoyed watching her unflappable senior agent be teased.
“Another Robocop. Where do they find you people?” Lalo, victim’s husband to Grace. Its’ interesting that Grace kept her cool here. Perhaps she’s recovering from her PTSD.
“Must be difficult living two lives.”- Jane to undercover agent Trey. Looking for advice Jane?
“Pinky swear?” –Summer to Cho.
“I’ll bet.” Cho to Summer’s contention that she can make him cry like a baby.
“There may be hope for you yet.” Summer to Cho, in response to the above.
“Mind turning the bass down a little? Makes me want to go to the bathroom.”-Jane to mobsters.
“I’m really disappointed about my shoes.” – I adored this line! I think Jane’s been wearing the same shoes for the last four years and this statement is continuity on how much he loves them.
Icings on the cake
-Jane sampling spaghetti sauce at the victim’s home; another favorite character moment Jane’s love of food.
-Rigsby finding Jane’s jacket and shoes. As Rigsby has been used mostly for comic relief this season, I applaud Ms. Swafford for reminding viewers that he is a very observant investigator who is very good at finding evidence (he noticed two types of cigarettes in The Scarlet Letter, he also found the camera lens in Red Sky in the morning).
-I liked the little details we got into the drug ring; the impromptu method of water-proofing drugs was one I hadn’t come across before.
-I appreciated that Dwayne from Perry’s gang was playing a loud video game when he was killed. Explains how he didn’t hear how the rest of the gang was shot.
-I don’t usual comment on this but the children who played the victim’s kids were absolutely gorgeous.
Stephen Bishop (Trey), Gina Rodriguez (Elvira) and Wilmer Calderone (Lalo) were very well cast. I wished Trey especially had been given a bigger role. Couldn’t he have he been sent undercover to Vega instead of Jane? It wouldn’t have been the first time the Serious Crime’s unit worked with the local cops, although (unfortunately) that has become a rare occurrence. I’ll be watching out for this actor.
Not so Pet peeves (AKA What might have gone wrong )
Violet: While the writing didn’t show downright outrageous flaws, it definitely lacked something. Sincerely I didn’t feel all that interested in knowing who the killer was: the victim was simply tagged as an “undercover cop/maybe cheating wife”, although they could easily have added some more personality to liven things up a little. Same with the others characters: the victim’s boss’s anger and grief at the crime scene only gave an occasion for Jane to act harshly, as for the charismatic drug lord who almost only served as a counterpart for the consultant. And the final revelation that the killer was a colleague and friend? Well, they missed a golden occasion for character analysis and drama, in a intense scene the interrogation room as they usually do! It’s almost as if the plot only added one cliché of a standard TV cop show to another: bad corrupted cop? Check. A bunch of drug dealers shot in a house? Check. Cops tailing their agent-with-the-bug and losing him? Check. And so on…
Reviewbrain: Personally, I didn’t mind the classic plot. The drug cartel thing hasn’t been done before on the Mentalist (although a possible storyline had been raised last season in Rhapsody in Red with Terrence Rome). And while the “call-girl falling in love with a cop” plot is a bit cliché I’m interested to see where it goes. But I do agree that the execution of this episode left something to be desired…
The casting/wardrobe of the victim felt off. I find it strange that Jane noticed the victim’s bra type (which, incidentally, I doubt was a sports bra; I think the purpose of those is to hold the cleavage in during exercise, and hers was close to spilling out simply from walking fast) but didn’t comment on the possibility that the victim may have had surgery to accentuate her assets (if I’m wrong about this, then I truly apologize and I hope the actress takes the mistaken assumption as a compliment on her physique). But the dialogue and the casting/wardrobe simply didn’t feel like it matched. Another example is how Jane commented on Yoli’s muscular arms, but she was wearing flowing sleeves that didn’t really reveal those arms. Either cast/dress the actress in a manner that fits the dialogue, or change the dialogue (for example, having Jane comment on her muscular legs; which were in plain sight.
I’m sorry to say that I felt the ball was really dropped here. Is there a rule which states only Jane gets the funny soundtrack? Why did Cho’s first questioning of Summer have to be in silence? What happened to all of Blake Neely’s lovely whimsical tunes? They were sorely missed and would have made a humorous scene even funnier.
Also the songs chosen at the club didn’t seem to fit the Latino demographic shown in the episode; especially considering that Omar Vega was the “behind the scenes” owner. Nor did they serve to give the club a “jammin” aura. Music chosen for other episodes (Crimson Cassanova, Rose-Colored Glasses,) packed a much bigger punch.
As to the characterization, Violet had a point especially when it came to the club owner, Vega. We’ve been told by multiple characters how dangerous this man is. But when he learns that Yoli was a cop, all he says is “Damn”. This reaction seems downright mellow considering this is a man we’ve been led to think is terrifying.
Violet: Even Jane was good, but not flamboyant, and they could have him play more with the situation. Jane introducing Lisbon in the night club was funny, but it could have been so much better! Although this lifeless attitude was probably intentional to show how tired he was. At least Lisbon got a chance to show she can still keep Jane in check.
Violet: The major disappointment was the dry representation of the undercover universe. I mean, when the murder happens in a specific profession, like the haute gastronomy or an orchestra, we got a bit of a picturesque atmosphere… Here? A noisy club, some warehouses, one or two shootings and a bullpen some more-or-less disguised cops strand across without interacting with each other, at least on screen… What a shame, the situation had potential for so much more!
Reviewbrain: I’ll have to agree with Violet that the sets in this episode were woefully simple. Even when Jane goes to Vega’s bookkeeper, all we get is a depressing looking little wooden sign with Luxure written on it to let us know that this warehouse or facility or whatever is part of the club.
Even the caption at the beginning of the episode which is usually tells us where exactly California we are was missing; and location is a major part of this show. Yes, we were told by the local cop, but it was just another missing aspect that left me wondering “What’s wrong with this picture” rather than concentrate on the unfolding events.
Mostly Pet Peeves
-If I had five bucks for every character called Yolanda on this show I’d be able to donate a lot more to Indie movies. At least this time the victim’s nickname “Yoli” set her apart.
-It feels almost blasphemous to be saying this, but I felt that Simon Baker overdid Jane’s act in the scene where he pocketed drugs from Trey. He was a bit too effusive in his apologies, especially since we were shown that he stole the drugs from property; didn’t need any further hints. I’m surprised Trey didn’t suspect him.
I’d been worried that viewers will become desensitized to the show’s awesomeness due to all the dramatic plots and increasing number of Red John episodes. But I never thought that the show’s quality might drop because the more dramatic episodes have it running out of steam (as seems to be the case here).
I know this isn’t a Red John episode and that it wasn’t written by one of the shows big guns, but an equal effort in production must be made for all the episodes if the show is to retain its quality. Pink Tops is a perfect example of how even a well written script can have less than stellar results. And considering how most of the episodes this season have been so amazing (and Blinking Red Light, prior to this one was arguably the most dramatic and phenomenally executed) a large amount of effort needed here to ensure that Pink Tops doesn’t come off feeling like a filler. I didn’t feel that effort and it doesn’t seem fair.
Personally, I prefer the non-RJ episodes (it’s no secret I wished we’d seen the last of him). But the one-shot episodes need to be evermore perfect now that he’s going to be sticking around.
I think the powers that be need to go back to season’s one and two and study those fabulous stand alone episodes which earned this show its watchable reputation; episodes like The Scarlett Letter, Ladies in Red, The Red Line, Russet Potatoes, Red Herring , Rose Colored Glasses, Red Badge, Code Red and a Price above Rubies were wonderfully produced, had intriguing settings and characters, and were sharp.
Finally, we’ve had the fact that Jane is “just a consultant” ingrained for three seasons now but more and more he is acting like an agent. While it is not the first time Jane has gone undercover, I can’t help but think that, in a show that’s almost entirely devoted to Simon Baker’s character, the spotlight needs to be passed around as much as possible. And I don’t mean have episodes devoted solely to individual characters (I actually find those awkward); rather, give characters as equal share as possible within a single episode. Episodes Redline, Red Alert, Rhapsody in Red, Ring Around the Rosie, Bloodstream, and Every Rose Has its Thorn are all good examples of how this was done effectively. I love Simon Baker and Patrick Jane, but once in a while I want someone else to be in danger, to save the day. And that shouldn’t be too hard to pull off as he’s just the consultant.
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