Agent Teresa Lisbon (Tunney) is playing poker with Director Bertram (Michael Gaston) and two others high-ups. To his dismay, Bertram is losing big time when Lisbon is called for a crime committed at the Museum of Natural History. Here she meets with CBI Consultant Patrick Jane (Baker): a young professor at NorCal State University has been killed and her body hidden in a case with flesh-eating bugs. Both agent and consultant start investigating, while Van Pelt (Righetti) announces to Lisbon that she’s been accepted in a computer training program in L.A..
Set after ‘The Red Barn’, an episode heavily centered on RJ, ‘Red in Tooth and Claw’ provides us with a pause from this tension-filled arc. While the questions left hanging at the end of the previous episode are still frustratingly unanswered, it gives us a handful of very enjoyable moments and focuses on the relationships between the main characters. Almost every element that made the show so endearing is present, accompanied with an appreciable serving of continuity: solid and funny team-work, some well-used time screen for every team member, amusing and heart warming moments from Jane who shows off his sense of spectacle for once in a non problematic way. And writer Jordan Harper even skilfully managed to introduce more serious topics under the sweet trivialities. 10/10
Detailed AKA Humungous Review (spoilers galore)
VIS #1: Lisbon and Jane interview Dr Kidd
At the university, Lisbon and Jane try to get a feeling of the victim’s work environment by asking some questions to Dr Kidd. First, Jane asks about Linda’s subject study, arguing that there is an analogy between what she was interested in and her personality: the woodpecker she was studying indicates that she was tenacious and used to bang her head against a problem until she solved it… So, if we are to follow that logic, that also implies once again that Jane resembles who he chases: Red John. Jane and his nemesis are quite alike, as Lorelei claimed: same qualities (intelligence, cleverness), same flaws (a certain cruelty and ferocity), and same way to solve problems by manipulating people and situations.
The second interesting point in this scene concerns family: Kidd asserts that “the success of one of us helps all of us. We’re a family.” Jane answers: “People murder family members everyday, it’s natural”. As Reviewbrain pointed out various times, family is an important theme this season, opposing biological family (often with rather bad relations) to a more supportive substitute: the team is a great example of this, as they care and protect each other. But later, the reality is revealed to be in sharp contrast with Dr Hill’s words. Ironically, as Jane said it was a member of that “family” of scientists who killed the victim, because her success was a danger to his own career. Plus, there were jealousies and rivalries with other coworkers (a fake dating profile was made up to break her up with her boyfriend), enhancing the gap with the SCU. That matches how that ideal of a chosen family has been slipping towards a darker version recently, first with the revelations about Lorelei’s past, then with the events in ‘The Red Barn’: RJ’s influence seems to have replaced the bond Lorelei couldn’t form with her mother as well as it has helped her overcome her sister’s death. So far, RJ’s network had been presented as a religion -hence Gupta’s faith-, but it seems more and more implied that they also form a kind of unconventional and loose family around their master; the farm members from Visualise were asked to cut ties with their biological family to reveal their real identity, the group serving as a new family, a concept that RJ seems to have taken up to new extremities… And the “people murder family members everyday” has illustrated been among RJ followers with Rebecca’s and Todd’s execution.
Also, continuing the animal theme brought on by the title ‘Red in Tooth and Claw’, one of the scientists comments that “you don’t even know what it’s like in the program. Dr Hill likes us to play like one happy family, but we’re like a pack of hyenas tearing each others apart”. It illustrates the meaning of the title expression (predators soiling those “teeth and claws” in their preys’ blood in the wild world) and the killer’s motive for murdering Linda, a survival of the fittest logic career wise. Still, the predator referenced in the title may encompass many more people: RJ the tiger, Bertram and his obsession for besting the other poker players and in a comic way Rigsby’s dinosaur toy. So the main arcs in this episode fit under that characterization.
VIS #2 Lisbon talks to Bertram
After Grace told her she was accepted in the Advanced Computer Investigation Training Program in L.A., Lisbon asks Director Bertram –who seems to have become their boss since Luther hasn’t been replaced- for his authorization. But Bertram is still offended by loosing earlier to Judge Manchester at poker and hardly listens to her: he complains that Manchester acted all smug towards him and asks Lisbon if she believes he cheated. When Lisbon tries to play it down saying “it’s just a game”, Bertram tells her incredulously “you don’t believe that”, before refusing Van Pelt’s training because of budget cuts. The scene gives further explanation for Grace’s training program, an excuse to send pregnant Amanda Righetti on maternity leave, as well as giving a raison d’être to Jane’s scene with Bertram (VIS #3). But it also discreetly raises an important question: Bertram implies that he doesn’t attend poker nights just to play cards, so what is his true goal in gathering with other high ups? Is he just trying to promote his career by mangling with judges and senators, or has he an ulterior motive?
VIS #3 Jane plays poker with Bertram
Since Lisbon couldn’t convince Bertram to let Grace follow her program, Jane barges in Bertram’s office, armed with a deck of cards and his charm, and claims that he’s heard that losing at poker has been affecting his work… He then proceeds to train Gale at playing cards, analyzing his tells and his bluff technique: Bertram usually fakes some tell to lead his adversary to think he’s bluffing.
This cordial moment between two men who are generally opposed is interesting on many levels and enlightens Bertram’s character. First, his personality: given his anger at losing and his elaborated technique, we can deduce that he likes to dominate others and considers himself as smarter than them. That’s why he’s surprised and a bit vexed that first Manchester then Jane see trough him and spot the tell inside his fake tell: he likes to deceive his adversaries. We can also notice that, if you are to believe what Jane pointed out in the VIS#1 concerning the similarities between someone and the object of his observations, since Bertram enjoys to observe the people he plays poker with and whom he accuses of being smug (and maybe cheating), it might refer to him as well, in addition to being a sore looser… Bertram lets personal favors influence his decisions at work: he later gleefully tells Lisbon that he accepts to let Grace go to L.A.; so, while before he gave in to pressure (media, FBI…), to maintain a good public image for the CBI and himself, now he’s not above giving special treatment to people who please him. He’s hardly incorruptible… Wanting to be the smartest of the room, playing tricks on people, letting his personal opinion bend his rules: Bertram shares those traits with Jane too.
Second point, as implied in the scene with Lisbon, poker nights seem to be a good way to promote those office politics Bertram is fond of. It gives a golden opportunity to gain influence and contacts, hence Lisbon using Judge Manchester in ‘Days of Wine and Roses’. That’s something Bertram is bound to value if one remembers his “well played” to Lisbon when she used the media to force him to change his mind in ‘Red Alert’. But his reaction now raises a question: it seems that what vexed him most, more than losing big money, was Manchester’s “smug” and patronizing attitude. So, if his goal was really to benefice office politics, then why was his reaction so strong? He didn’t really lose Manchester’s respect by being outsmarted, except for being mocked a bit (the older man claimed he could read him like a kid book), but it’s unlikely that the judge wouldn’t help him if need arose: in other words, poker nights are an occasion to get to know and befriend people who can prove useful, who win or who lose shouldn’t really matter in this perspective. Jane explained Bertram’s bad mood to Lisbon as being part of who he is: his domineering position in life would encourage him to want to win… Nevertheless, it hadn’t bothered him to be servile with Alexa Schultz at the beginning of the season, paying her compliments and being charming. He was his usual opportunistic, pragmatic self. Thus are Manchester and the poker nights different from her for Bertram?
Those poker nights were presented under a suspicious light from the start and various details reinforce that impression. First, the first took place when there was some effervescence about that potential mole hidden in the FBI, therefore a discreet gathering of influential people was bound to raise a few questions among viewers. As commenter Hallie pointed out in response to the ‘Not One Red Cent’ review, the tablecloth is red instead of the usual green. And Judge Manchester’s name might remind us of the famous soccer team Manchester United… also called the Red Devils. Also, it was hot-headed Mancini who introduced Lisbon to them: he appears in the recap, but hasn’t been seen in the actual show for a while. Since he was familiar enough with the players to bring someone, why hasn’t he been here for the last two games? Was he too busy and was it just a coincidence, or did he bring Lisbon in contact with the others because he was asked to? One the game interest is to make useful acquaintances, but apart from the favor Lisbon asked from Manchester a few eps ago, it seems that the one who is really trying to become closer with another player is Bertam with Lisbon: he’s making overtures, commenting the game, asking for her opinion. As discreet Lisbon wouldn’t have spontaneously mentioned that her wayward consultant is “pretty good” on her own, he has certainly been asking about Jane’s skills off screen. He is trying to build up some kind of complicity with her, bumping fists for instance. It’s quite a paradox given how eager he was to let Jane rot in jail and to fire Lisbon in the previous season… Hard not to wonder what brought on such a drastic change of heart, even Hightower’s warming up was more gradual. Again, has Bertram an ulterior motive by playing nice, like winning Lisbon’s trust and, through her, Jane’s?
Jane and Lisbon
Jane’s revelations at the end of the previous episode have been having positive consequences. Both Jane and Lisbon are very comfortable around each other during this episode and she has let him in enough to lie down on her couch in front of him, unprofessionalism be damned. There is no arguing, every interaction between them shows that they get along and it looks like this is a given for both. Jane also tries to get her to spend time with him, asking her to visit the museum with him another time (telling her that “we” should come back when there is not a corpse involved), getting her to play his assistant during his brilliant conference about his memory palace. That’s probably the reason why he bough dinosaur gums at the museum gift shop and pretended that they were for himself for later in front of Cho: given that he was aware that she had been playing poker the previous night and that he had a deck of cards in his pocket just after giving Cho his gift – he used said cards to trick the thief- he was planning to play poker with her all along. The resulting ending scene was very in character: it involved scheming, seeking Lisbon’s company, sharing food and feeding her, all things that are becoming increasingly regular.
Besides, both seem to be eager to make the other look good: Bertram revealed that she stated that he is “pretty good” at poker, while Jane takes upon himself to train her to improve her poker skills. It remains unsaid still if he does it because he thinks she should be the best, because he wants her to be as good as him (as part of his modelling her as a fellow mentalist), or just as an excuse to get to enjoy her company. His adamant willingness to assert himself as a poker specialist both with Bertram and with her might also suggest that he may be a little bit jealous that she spends time playing with other people a game he’s admittedly so good at… By training both of them –and particularly with Lisbon-, he gets back his status as the smartest of them and the one she goes to for help. Even when she didn’t ask for it.
The closer bond they have formed is also enlightened by the blatant efforts writers have made to feminise Lisbon in the course of the most recent seasons. At first, she was quite simply a tomboy, with awkward reactions to Mashburn’s attentions and pink bridesmaid dresses… But lately, things have begun to change in the portrayal of the character: no doubt she would still be wary of frilly girlish outfits, but her appearance is more feminine (her make-up has changed); she’s started gathering a lot more of male attention (Mancini, Kirkland, the stripper and Haffner, only since the beginning of the season), and acts more secure of her charms (flipping her hair before meeting Kirkland, and telling Jane she would be having lunch with Haffner as if it was a date). Even the stripper was a hint that she’s seen more as a woman, after all the previous celebration celebrated in her honor was a birthday party involving a pony… And here, tough-as-nail Agent Lisbon is fainting in front of bugs eating a decaying corpse and her usually coward consultant has to try and catch her. And she’s disgusted by the dead animals she has to touch when Jane works his magic during the conference he accepted to give. Her image is progressively changing. At the same time, it may nor not be related to that progression, but we get a scene where Jane is being hit on by a woman who for once is a suitable date and not a criminal setting her eyes on him… That moment with Dr Hill reminds of the ending of ‘Bloodhounds’ with Dr Montague. Both women are scientific interested in him personally as well as intellectually, by professing curiosity and admiration either towards his extensive memory or towards his capacities of deduction and his intuition. And both were rejected in a similar way, except for a detail: Jane only acknowledged Dr Hill’s attraction, there is therefore a progress between those two scenes. Also, that has been a long time since Jane used his marital status as a pretext to deflect unwanted feminine attention: so the goal here could be to highlight this status as a “taken” man (as Dr Hill puts it), or to emphasis that he is attractive too.
Either way, the consequences of Jane’s confidences at the end of ‘The Red Barn’ are discernible also in the way he acts with others than Lisbon. He is well-behaved, he doesn’t anger anyone and doesn’t come up with messy plans. He’s willing to help the team investigate and to help Van Pelt to get her training trip: he’s trying to make himself useful. He showers his teammates with affection, bearing gifts, playing “bingo” with them to fid out a suspect… The whole ep is a breather and illustrates implicitly how satisfied he is to have come clean with Lisbon. A pleasant feeling albeit it’s certainly only the calm before the storm…
The team: many sides of the friendship between Cho and Rigsby
Cho and Rigsby have been acting as representing the team since Grace shows up less in the past months and as such their general acceptance of Jane indicates how fully they took him back after his Vegas adventure. They enjoy his gifts, they play along with his schemes… In fact, Cho isn’t even surprised when Jane gives him a dinosaur toy, leading to this telling exchange: “I’m guessing you’re the triceratops, yeah? –Yeah”. Simple as that. And the doting consultant even looks a bit crestfallen that his stoic coworker wouldn’t take it with him on the field, a thing that Rigsby spontaneously does… Each dinosaur indeed fits its owner: Cho’s an herbivore, reflecting his usually calmer nature, but has horns, meaning that it can defend himself and attack as efficiently as impassive Cho. On the other hand, Rigsby’s T-Rex is the most famous dinosaur and indicates his more childish and flashy personality. It’s a carnivore, enlightening its owner’s violent streak and big appetite, and its imposing size reminds that he’s the tallest of the team… and often also the less subtle. Same goes with Van Pelt’s fossil, albeit it doesn’t garner much attention: rectangular like the computer screen it is put close to, it makes clear that she’s used to chase tracks at her desk, while being more feminine than a dinosaur toy. And it’s more static than the toys too unfortunately, since the poor woman hasn’t been a lot of field time recently… However emphasis is put on the complicity between the men of the team and they have the same dynamic than in the first seasons: Cho silently assessing the situation, Jane coming up with brilliant/crazy ideas and Rigsby taking care of the most ridiculous and dangerous parts (holding a tarantula before warning children not to do it). Have those three had their boys’ night?
Nevertheless, what is even more heartwarming is the closeness between Cho and Rigbsy: they compare their dinosaurs in mock rivalry and tease the other about it, and the toys show the contrast between their personalities and how well they complete each other. But that amusing argument also leads to more serious subjects which Cho tackles with his usual bluntness: that Rigsby has no real personal life and harbour one again (or is that still?) romantic feelings for Grace. Cho is actually reaching out for his friend and trying to make him confide in him. But, while the tall agent used to be pretty open about his attraction in the past, he now tries to play it down and even avoids the matter.
That alone shows how Wayne’s been making progress: when he met Van Pelt, he didn’t hide his puppy love and thus the relationship was traversed with drama (longing glances, failed confessions, a not so secret forbidden love story, break-up, confession and jealousy at almost every stage…). Here, his reaction is more adult in spite of his sputtering and awkwardness: basically, he doesn’t pour his heart this time. It’s rather nice that, since they chose to give that arc another go, they seem to try to infuse a bit more of maturity in it instead of just replaying the same situation. Another point: while the training program would undoubtedly be useful for the SCU, opening new possibilities while simultaneously making a clever way to integrate Amanda Righetti’s maternity leave in the story, it also reminds us that Van Pelt is rather career oriented. It’s then a manner to point to her probable willingness to go forward in her work, which was the reason for her break up with Rigsby. That might make us viewers wonder if there is a chance that Grace would think of moving out of the team one day.
Icings on the cake
The continuity with ‘Red Queen’ where the Museum of Natural History first appeared was very nice. It’s rather rare that previous episodes or minor characters are referenced and when it happens, it conveys an impression of coherence. Same goes for Jane’s interest for the museum and its gift shop, as he bought a gift for a friendly guard’s son back then: at the time, he was hiding information from his friends, while now he’s sharing his suspicions with Lisbon, a fact enhanced by him getting gifts for the team. Also, it was a pleasant surprise to make Rigsby interact again in a quite funny manner with Papadakis.
Jordan Harper, beautiful pace and flawless writing, enough said. Also, the whole cast and the guest stars were as talented as they have accustomed the viewers to be, especially humorous Wayne Yeoman.
- “It’s Advanced Computer Investigation Training Program, taught by actual hackers. It’s so advanced I don’t know what she’s saying when she talk about it.” Lisbon to Bertram about Grace’s training program, or when the best argument is that you can’t even understand enough to find an argument at all. I heart Lisbon.
- “It’s time to play bingo”… completed with scheming faraway look. That’s Jane’s investigation techniques at their best for you.
- “It’s easy to remember when you never forget” modest Jane to Dr Hill who asked him what was the secret of his impressive memory.
- “T-Rex are losers” Cho to Rigsby when he asks him how come he likes triceratops better. Blunt and to the point.
- “Goodnight moon. Goodnight stars. Goodnight judge” Bertram to Manchester, after whipping him out at poker. The line, inspired by a very famous bedtime book, references the judge’s earlier statement that he could read Bertram like a kid book.
- “Your dinosaur eats grass!” Rigsby to Cho. No, it’s not a description, it’s an insult.
- Why the killer didn’t take the corpse away before it had a chance to be discovered? It may have seem too dangerous, but it should have been stated, because that way we get the feeling he just stuffed it in the case, poured the worms and forgot about it completely. Or at least, he should have mentioned he was waiting for the bugs to leave clean bones to take it out more discreetly, even though it would have taken a while…
- The decaying corpse was also showed with an insistence that didn’t match the usual atmosphere of the show. The scene had almost a Bones’ vibe: usually, skeletons get no more than a snapshot here. It’s a bit disconcerting given that the corpse itself didn’t hold them any information, nor the murder scene (no searching for blood in the laboratories or offices). That horrible picture justifies a little Lisbon’s fainting, but, as amusing as her being grossed out was, it still was a bit out of character for her.
- Same goes for the “bingo’ scene: while enjoyable, it’s still rather far stretched to assume that the culprit would use the same words as in the fake dating profile during a simple brief chat under the sun.
Since we know that Jane’s been making significant progress in isolating RJ’s name in that new list of his, I guess we’ll be playing for some episodes a little game called “May This Guy Be RJ?”, beginning with Gale Bertram.
There are quite a few pro arguments:
- he quoted Blake (it could have been a test to figure out if Jane had kept her in the loop concerning his encounter with the serial killer in season 2 finale). Moreover it did it in ‘Red Queen’, the episode that took place in the museum too and that Papadakis alluded to… But let’s not forget that at the time, the writers were instilling suspicions towards almost everyone.
- In ‘Strawberry and Cream’, he mentioned the rope, and so implanted in Jane’s mind the idea that it was a set up and that Craig was the real mole. It was played as a coincidence back then, but he could have been playing with him. After all, it was plausible that O’Laughlin had already held a killing party at the cabin, and it would have been supremely ironic if Lisbon, along with Grace and Hightower, had been already dead when Jane had called her. Instead Bertram, voluntarily or not, provoked a confrontation with Carter and as a result, managed to get rid of Jane. RJ almost managed at the time to completely crush him: if Jane really believed he was spending his life in jail for murdering his nemesis, RJ could have either retired at his depends, or kept killing and gloating while Jane wasted away. Or, if Jane had realised his mistake, his regrets and horror would have been even more enjoyable. And, may it be for the sake of the CBI public image, but Bertram was very eager to let Jane in jail for the longest time possible.
- Bertram was the one putting Haffner in Lisbon’s position as Jane’s team leader. Given the man’s connection with Visualize and his speciality in surveillance, the possibilities are pretty intriguing.
- Bertram’s age roughly fits RJ’s. He would have been in less than his mid-twenties at the time RJ was at the farm. If he seemed inexperienced and juvenile enough, he might have been called “a kid” by older men.
- Bertram’s attitude while playing poker indicates that he shares some of Jane’s personality traits (manipulative and over-confident in his intelligence). So, he resembles Jane, who resembles RJ. Huh huh.
In the Cons Department:
- Truth be told, Bertram always seemed pretty defiant towards Jane and his antics. Was that attitude an act? Would RJ have tried to befriend Jane instead?
- Bertram is definitely less clever and smart than Jane, since the latter could spot the flaw in his bluffing and Manchester had no difficulty doing so either. One might argue that it could have been a manoeuvre from Bertram to get closer to Jane and make him lower his defiance (he would be prone to do it if he though Bertram wasn’t a threat). Or, in the reverse way, Jane could be suspecting Bertram and his eagerness to help him improve along with Lisbon’s affability might be an act to observe their director… Who knows?
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