Note: I find myself in circumstances where I may be unable to write reviews for some time. I hope things will get back to normal soon. Thankfully my dear friend and blog commenter Violet has once again agreed to help me. I am beyond grateful and don’t doubt readers will enjoy reading this review as much as I did
When a dead man is found shot in the middle of a road, CBI agents Lisbon (Tunney) and Cho (Kang) and Patrick Jane (Baker) immediately realize the victim was connected with a nearby second-rate casino, the Golden Fox. Once there, Jane has the surprise to bump into an old friend, Jack Hellion (Andrew Rothenberg), who runs the casino magic show. Jane soon discovers that his former fellow is in big trouble and decides to help him.
While the settling promised an intriguing and enlightening glimpse in Jane’s youth, the result was rather disappointing. The reunion between Jane and his long lost friend is just a bit awkward and doesn’t give the viewers anything big to munch on. That Champagne definitely lacked sparkles… That’s even more frustrating since writer Eoghan Mahony had managed to deepen Jane’s history in the past by creating psychiatric Sophie Miller (S1 ‘Red Brick and Ivy’). Fortunately, some amusing moments here and there and make things a bit more lively. Conclusion: another mostly filler episode. 7.5
Detailed AKA Humungous Review (spoilers galore)
I said the episode didn’t give us a lot of thinking about Jane’s youth. But, as a paradox, some moments enlightened a bit his evolution since the beginning of the show.
VIS #1 Jane joins his friend in the dressing room
After the magic show, Jane and Jack meet for a little chat while the magician is taking off his make up. The atmosphere is friendly, albeit a bit awkward, as both men seem to have gotten “sidetracked” from their promising futures from sixteen years ago. Jack explains that he got into drugs. Jane doesn’t mention the tragedy he went through -which his friend obviously ignores- and just tells that now he works with the police without explaining any further.
As much as the discussion is frustrating with the lack of juicy information, we get to witness perhaps the first time when Jane isn’t too ill at ease with a fragment of his past. Even more surprising, is Jane readily assuming his new life: when Jack is shocked by his new choice of career, Jane only goes farther in his role of consultant for law-enforcement by showing him the picture of the victim.
That impression is even confirmed when Jane confronts Hellion about his secret, namely that he is forced into robbery by the kidnappers of his girlfriend. Jane first plans to step in the game… by calling the police. Seriously, where were we looking when the man has acquired such lawful and Lisbon-esque reflexes?
VIS # 2 Jane turns to the team for help
Meanwhile, the team doesn’t stay idle and come up with various leads, a second dead body and a theory that involves Hellion. Then Jane barges in asking for their help. Three things stand out:
1/ the team and Lisbon are at long last a little efficient! They’re able to do an independent investigation without Jane’s help, have linked the victim with Jack’s staff and guessed there was something suspicious with the guy. They would have made something out of it if they had the chance to interrogate the man, no doubt about it.
2/ Jane has come at once after talking with Jack to ask for their participation. He doesn’t mock their theory. He doesn’t want Lisbon’s help only, nor did he invent a role for just one of his colleagues like he usually does. He asks for their help as an ensemble, as a team. That’s a rare enough occurrence to be mentioned. Usually, he does so for something big; even the last time he pulled out such a plan (‘Ring Around the Rosie’), Lisbon wasn’t included in his “long term con”.
3/ they are back to be wary of Jane’s so-called brilliant ideas. That was a very nice touch, as was Jane’s attitude in front of them. He tries to make them feel guilty by feigning hurt and leaving saying “I’ll manage on my own”. When he turns around as if he was leaving, his eyes betray that he’s playing them, but Lisbon runs in and takes charge, like in good old times…
In fact, many elements remind us of the lightness of Season 1. Everyone gets their characteristic part: Jane investigates alone, as a clever con man/ mastermind; Rigsby plays the naïve mark chosen as a “volunteer” during the show; Grace is the pretty girl used to distract the head of security; Cho makes the arrest, while Lisbon saves the day. This is definitely another bit of light-heartiness in the chiaroscuro that is S4.
In the same way, if we compare ‘Pink Champagne on Ice’ with S1 casino episode ‘Red Handed’, we see some interesting differences that make Jane’s evolution obvious: while at the time Jane occupied himself by gambling and tried to earn his colleagues’ friendship with extravagant gifts and by explaining part of his tricks (poker and the memory palace), here he already has their trust. They are reluctant by reflex, but they don’t doubt in playing along. They all work together like a well-oiled machine. He doesn’t hesitate either in asking for their help instead of trying to deal with everything alone… Moreover, Lisbon is more ready than ever to assume full responsibility for what may happen. We’ve been repeatedly showed all of these things during the last episodes, but, there, with the parallel with the first season, they are made even more visible. As if we were meant to see how well things still are before the big fallout that may come in the approaching finale.
The big plan of the week: ‘Jane’s Eight’
This arc is at the same time the better part and the biggest flaw of the episode. It’s flawed because it could have been handled better (see Pet Peeves), yet the casino robbery was an interesting alternative to Jane competing with his friend on the field of prestidigitation.
Scenes won’t be commented individually here but rather as a whole. Jane’s scheme was indeed inspired by many movies picturing casinos robberies and ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ is a good example of them (I couldn’t resist parodying the title here). The main elements have been used indeed.
- Classic characters: we have a friend in distress, kidnappers, ex-cons less than reliable, the traitor and of course the mastermind.
- The technicalities: the use of disguises, the gimmick with the keys, an astute way to hide in the safe room. Not to forget the inevitable scene of surveillance of the main room with the chronometer in hand, the messed up camera as well as the innocuous mean to take the money out. Name it, you have it!
- Distraction is the key… the most classic move: pretty girls are the best way to distract people (Van Pelt, the assistant helping Jack to get an alibi during the show). Here the theme is linked with prestidigitation since there are a magic show as well as mirrors to make the two friends disappear and a substitution of boxes with Lisbon hidden in. To quote last season, the woman really gets the part of Jane’s “lovely assistant” here…
That peculiar aspect makes ‘Pink Champagne on Ice’ another of those themed episodes disseminated in Season four. We already have been presented with an undercover cop episode, one in the fashion world, as well as many in appealing locations (island, vineyard). The writers definitely try to vary and give dynamism to moments that aren’t related to Red John. Those nice efforts also illustrate how willing they are to avoid the monotony of routine investigations, which is always a problem in a recurring police show: many episodes like this one are built quite originally -a new team; Grace lost in the woods; Jane becoming amnesic or off investigating with Darcy; a supposed murder victim alive and hidden in the attic, a killer who hasn’t killed yet, etc…. Viewers are distracted from the angst involving Red John and things don’t get too boring. One especially clever move for that matter is referring to S1 best assets, for example punching Jane in the nose, always a big hit (pun totally intended).
VIS # 3 : Cho’s blossoming love life
During the investigation, Rigsby notes a bunch of red flowers lying on the side of Cho’s desk. Cho just tells that they are for Summer and, to his friend’s surprise, he admits that he’s seeing her. That brief scene hints at various things. First, Cho begins to go public about his affair with the former hooker/ informant. Things go well and seem to be getting serious, since flowers to a lover hint at romantic feelings more than at just a casual fling.
Is that a way to make us understand that all is great with him and that his addiction is history? Or is it a stretch to wonder if he’s trying to smooth down a quarrel by offering flowers to his girlfriend after stopping the use of painkillers? I just hope this cute moment isn’t meant to be all we’ll get as a conclusion for the addiction arc…
The winner: VIS# 2. The team’s reaction to the prospect of posing in another of Jane’s plans made me crack a smile. With a pinch of nostalgia at that.
1st Runner up: Lisbon emerging from the box. The idea that Jane choose to stuff in there the most petite woman (with her big gun) is quite amusing. Her voice steady, she literally kicks in to save the day. She isn’t even unfazed to have half of her hair in her face. You’re a super cop or you’re not.
2nd Runner up: the epilogue. At the very last both friends acted a bit more natural around each others. Jane using the other’s admission about drugs to insinuate that it damaged the foundations of his memory palace was pretty funny and in character.
- Even it wasn’t an outstanding episode, thanks to Eoghan Mahony for creating at least one character from Jane’s past who is neither a mark nor a carnie, but who still manages to fit with Jane’s sense of spectacle and magic tricks. It’s a nice change!
- Is that me, or the atmosphere of the casino, a little lame, sad and without glamour, also remind of Mahony’s ‘Blood and Sand’? The island had a bit nostalgic, out of time vibe. Part of its inhabitants was running away from their past, just like this little more than a bump on the road casino illustrates Jack’s failures…
- Finally we have a team episode: the communication between Cho and Rigsby, the team scene, Wayne supporting Lisbon, all those moments make us feel that the team can still be a whole. Every one of them took part in the scheme this time, not just our dynamic duo.
- Was that hypnosis scene even necessary? A man who performs every night and day magic tricks that demand smoothness and dexterity, in front of a public, suddenly has trembling hands because he’s nervous… Not the most believable of events, but ok, we can go along. But would hypnotism even work on him since he probably already knows the trick or at least what Jane was doing? “Relax: I’m hypnotizing you” is not the most calming thing ever in my book… And I won’t even mention that just because he’s a magician he knows how to crack a safe.
- Is that credible that the security of a casino is so lousy? They mess with the camera, take the key and sneak into the most ill-secured safe chamber ever, and that’s all it takes to robber a casino. Worst, one single man goes in there alone with all the keys, ready to be knocked out cold if someone was hiding in the hallway – the “Personnel Only” door isn’t locked, no less. And the owner cannot even afford a second camera in the room, a simple glass window in the door must suffice. I guess it’s *really* a second-rate casino. They’d rather call it the Skinned Fox…
- I also guess there is truly nothing suspicious with a guy who has nothing to do with magic carrying a huge magic box out of the safe room. Silly me, why would one the guards need to ask him about it, really?
- “Mentalists, big talkers, no skills” magician Jack Hellion to Patrick Jane. That’s one of the rare mentions of our main character as a “mentalist” rather than a fake psychic. Other than in the title of the show, of course…
- “I am looking for clues… Yes, in the newspaper. That’s why I’m reading every single word” Jane explaining to Lisbon why he spent the team’s brainstorming session sitting on his couch reading the news. The lazy guy doesn’t even bother trying to be convincing anymore…
- “Did he say “crazy idea”?” Lisbon’s circumspection after listening to Jane’s attempt to drag them all into his last scheme is particularly cute.
- “ He said “trust me”.” Cho responds warily to the above.
- “Always a bad sign” Rigsby concludes that rather endearing ensemble.
Note: thanks to JohnScott for pointing out (comments for ‘Season Four Finale Hysteria’) that the ‘Pink Champagne on Ice’ was a quote from the famous song ‘Hotel California’ by the Eagles: “”Mirrors on the ceiling, the pink champagne on ice / We are all just prisoners here of our own device”. Although his interpretation of the quote seems a bit daring to me, I must say I completely missed the hint here. It’s probably a wink to the mirrors used in the robbery and maybe a description of the cheap, shiny, and quite sad atmosphere in that half-way casino where Jack ends up after wasting his promising career in drugs. Now I can stop wondering who may be drinking that invisible champagne!
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