Lisbon (Tunney) and Jane (Baker) are called at a crime scene where the body of a young woman from the army has been found near a military basis. After a brief struggle with the soldiers to determine who will investigate the case, the CBI takes charge and Jane and Lisbon are informed that the victim worked with soldiers with PTSD, such as memory impairment.
After the tension filled encounter with Lorelei in last episode, ‘Red, White and Blue’ worked as a much needed stress reliever. There has been some time since we had a themed episode such as this one, centered on the army, and the situation is used to infuse lots of humor into the characters’ investigation. All in all a nice and hopeful little episode.
Detailed AKA Humungous Review (spoilers galore)
VIS#1: Lisbon is singing
Soon after Lisbon and Jane’s arrival, Lieutenant Lewis argues that the case should belong to the army since Lucy Greene was an army medic. The local cop who called the CBI doesn’t seem impressed either by the duo formed the team leader and her consultant, to the extent that Lisbon has to tell him drily that “our staff is on its way” to confirm that they are more than only the two of them… Fortunately (or not), Jane decides to step in and prove that quality is better than quantity in his own peculiar way. To show off his attention to details and his superior detective skills, he asks Lisbon to examine the tattoo around the body’s ankle: “Huh, Lisbon, you used to play clarinet, is that right? Can you read that tune?” Lisbon, dutiful as ever, tells him it’s the song “Kansas City” and, seeing Jane’s lack of recognition helpfully begins humming the melody, then, encouraged by Jane’s glee, she sings the lyrics… and stops abruptly when she notices the incredulous look on the soldier and the cop’s faces. Ouch, talk about credibility… Finally, her facetious consultant effectively manages to convince them that they’re more professional than they look by deducing that the victim was at a bar before being murdered, which ends up winning them the case.
This scene is really funny and Lisbon is particularly cute when she’s lead on by Jane. It’s also quite intriguing that neither actually cared to label Jane to the other men: Lisbon simply introduced him by his name to the cop (without adding “my associate” this time, or even “our consultant” for that matter), while Jane answers Lewis’ inquiry with a very precise “Me? I’m with her”…
The moment has various purposes. First, plot wise, the scene obviously presents the victim and her working environment (the army). The brief struggle between the military authorities and the CBI also aspires to explain why the team is in charge of a case when it normally would belong to the soldiers. A number of viewers would immediately associate NCIS with the violent death of an army medic: that scene at least acknowledges a bit the question, even if the given explanation remains quite unsatisfactory…
Second point, it illustrates Jane’s usual modus operandi in crime solving. First step, to poke at any authority figure at hand who isn’t Lisbon; then, when he has undermined them by ridiculing and/or insulting them, he baffles everybody with his abilities. He likes to play his public. As an example, he did it in ‘Red Gold’ too when he hugged the sheriff out of the blue and admired the landscape enthusiastically before analysing the victim’s car. But here, his mocking of the rules involves Lisbon: he makes her lose credibility, while he stays relatively normal in front of the others. She passes for the oddest while he just shows his mastery both in gently manipulating her and in investigating.
But this also adds some interesting layers of subtext concerning his relation with Lisbon. Indeed, things are almost back to normal: teasing, smiling, joking… The “clarinet” references the episode ‘Rose Colored Glasses’, where Jane asked her to dance at that high school reunion. Back then, he discovered that she used to play an instrument and kept trying to guess which one. He mentioned the clarinet and she denied it: so, either he is teasing her here by talking about an instrument he well knows she didn’t play, or they had a talk offscreen where he realized that she had been lying and that she really used to play it. Either way, this allusion reminds us viewers of a sweet moment in the early times of their partnership and gives some perspective: they share a past. That fact adds a deeper meaning to their complicity during the song and to Jane’s teasing, along with his willingness to keep the case. It hints that things have been mostly mended both professionally and personally since the previous episode. Even Lisbon’s “stop that” afterwards when he begins imitating her by singing gives some measure of normalcy.
Plus, the song itself might be telling: “… Kansas City, Kansas City here I come/ They got a crazy way of loving there/ And I’m gonna get me some…” Really, Lisbon? You’re singing to Jane, your slightly insane consultant, that you’re gonna get some of that “crazy way of loving”? No, they’re totally not teasing the shippers with this one… And if we read the rest of the lyrics, things get really intriguing at the end of the song (which Lisbon doesn’t get to): “Nobody will know where I’ve gone/ Cause if I stay in town/ I know I’m gonna die./ Gotta find a friendly city/ And that’s the reason why/ I’m going to Kansas City/ , Kansas City here I come/ They got a crazy way of loving there/ and I’m gonna get me some.” Basically, two choices are offered to the character in the song: to die if he stays where he is or to leave secretly to a “friendly city” with the hope of love. Those symbolise pretty accurately the choices offered to Jane in ‘There Will Be Blood’: to keep going on his vengeful path towards revenge (which is getting even more dangerous with Lorelei’s death), or to move on and to choose a new life full of redemption and affection (represented by Lisbon). This might be again a discreet hint that Jane is beginning to seriously question his quest, a theme started after him killing Carter and enhanced by his meeting with “Charlotte”. Back ‘The Devil’s Cherry’ he showed only lassitude due to his lack of progress in the RJ case; now he might also feel a renewed sense of danger born from Lorelei’s fate…. The thread is even more pressing.
Last, amusingly, there seem to be two little reminders of the two arcs carrying hope: “Alice in Wonderland” from ‘Devil’s Cherry’ (Lt Lewis/ Lewis Carroll) and “The Wizard of Oz” from S4 ‘Ruby Slippers’ (the song Kansas City/ “You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy” was what Minelli told Jane long ago). Those are very probably only coincidences but the detail is rather entertaining.
VIS#2: Jane and Lisbon at the hospital
Later, both investigate Lucy’s workplace and interrogate the doctor who worked with her. This time, it’s Jane who is put in an uncomfortable situation when he mentions in passing that the doctor recently divorced. The man is surprised and asks how he knows that. Instead of backing her partner up, Lisbon turns to him and acts the same way he did at the crime scene: she only shows incomprehension and it forces Jane to elaborate further, explaining that he uses way too much cologne… Lisbon slightly nods at that. Dr Bowman seems ok with the remark, yet he ironically adds that “it’s been a little over one year and (he’s) doing quite fine actually, thanks for asking”. Since neither asked about how he was doing, they both answer with an uneasy smile and an awkward “great”. They seem quite in sync both in the timing of their line and in the uneasy feeling the situation provoked.
That funny scene (Jane even clears the air with his hand after the smelling doctor has left) shows again their complicity and humor, two aspects lacking in ‘There Will Be Blood’: the air has been cleared between them as well, or so it seems.
VIS#3: Lisbon and Jane interrogate Pete
While at the hospital, they discover that someone witnessed the murder and called the police before abruptly leaving the crime scene. The interrogation reveals that Pete, their only witness, suffers from memory impairment due to his traumatic past as a soldier. All his friends in the army have been killed in an attack and the shock has affected his short term memory… meaning that he doesn’t remember anything from the night of the murder. He even forgot about the crime right when he was talking to the police on the phone that night, which is why he simply walked away in the middle on the conversation. His impairment is further showed by a detail: at some time, someone walked in on the interrogation by mistake and the distraction erased every memory of the talk they were having from Pete’s mind, forcing Lisbon to tell him again that Lucy had been murdered and making him sad and shocked by the news all over. The poor guy just suffers from a never ending memory loss that makes him live over and again every terrible event he may encounter.
This unusual situation gives some background to the character and makes him very pitiful and sympathetic as he’s moved both by the death of his friends and by Lucy’s. It’s pretty poignant and it explains Jane’s empathy and his later bonding with Pete. It may have also helped that Jane himself had his memory damaged in ‘Fugue In Red’ and may then understand how impotent and frustrated with himself Pete must feel.
VIS#4: Jane triggers Pete’s memory
After telling Lisbon that he wants a taco, Jane takes off again to the crime scene. Here, he peacefully enjoys a gardenia’s delicate scent before lounging on a bench for a nap. Such a serene moment, who would have though the man was actively investigating?
Indeed, it appears that he was doing a field reconnaissance for an experiment of his. When Lisbon and Pete later join him, he buys a taco for their witness, makes him smell the gardenia, all the while explaining his plan: he wants to boost his memory by using his senses since the best tools are smell, hearing and taste. He recreates that way with external reminders the exact conditions Pete encountered before walking in the murderer seeing as he was eating a taco then and passing by the flowers. The trick works when the last element, the church bells, is added.
Of course, that clever scheme worked because his memory loss was due to more to traumatism than to a head injury, but what’s interesting here is that Jane took the time to explain what he was doing to Pete. He describes the theory for trigging his memory while he was using it; he didn’t manipulate Pete, he made sure he understood what was about to happen. That way the guy could comprehend and work with him. The moment is comparable to the lecture Jane has given at the university about his memory palace and his mnemotechnic method in ‘Red in Teeth And Claws’, but this time he doesn’t use parlor tricks to impress his public. More, those scenes almost complete each other: he told Dr Hill that “it’s easy to remember when you never forget” and he demonstrated how he could “remember” an extended list with his extraordinary memory; now he works with a young man who could only “forget” and he shows him how not to. Those scenes set Jane as a specialist in memory: he doesn’t just show off his skills, he can theorize about it and use his knowledge to help people, not just as entertainment or for an investigation.
Explaining in detail what he’s doing to Pete also sets the ground for a form of trust between the two men. That part is deepened and twisted later when Jane puts Pete in a slight trance to help him sleep. He has used his skills before to help people in order to gain their trust (like with that dying mafia boss he gave advice to help him sleep in ‘Bloody Valentine’) or out of kindness (those two times he planted a suggestion in people’s mind to make them stop smoking in ‘Blood for Blood’ and in ‘Something Rotten in Redmunds’). But those instances were just fleeting moments: here Jane goes out of his way to help Pete, he seems to care. Even if he uses this to plant a false memory in the notes Pete has been writing to try to remember things, he really tried to create a peculiar kind of trust with the young soldier. In a way, by explaining his method and helping him overcome his problems (memory impairment and insomnia), Jane almost acts as a therapist. Even the detail of Pete lying on a couch while Jane hypnotises him belongs to iconic scenes for psychologists.
VIS#5: Jane apologies to Pete
Jane apologizes (*gasp!*) for using him that way at the end. The scene echoes the other: this time it’s Jane who is napping on his couch and Pete awakes him. The soldier thanks him for finding Lucy’s killer; he understands that Jane only abused his trust for a noble reason and both show respect for the other. This moment between the two men also enhances their similarities: before, during his interrogation, Pete said that he couldn’t sleep and was “angry and sad and no idea why” due to his lack of memories and the loss of his friends while Jane is admittedly an insomniac (napping on his couch during the day), who is also often angry and sad because of grief. And, although he does know why he feels that way, the incertitude in his case lies more on his real motives for going on, as his imaginary daughter pointed out.
Jane then proceeds to help him overcome his memory impairment at least partially. By writing his fake note, he has indeed enlightened the limits of Pete’s usual system of writing down everything he can to supply information in lieu of his lost memories. This routine of relying on notes might also refer to one of Jane’s own habit: his list of possible suspects for RJ. Jane has been racking his brain and writing down their name like Pete was obsessively taking notes about what was happening around him (he did so at the crime scene after Jane’s experiment). For Jane too, his scribbling is the only way left to unearth the truth after he lost the lead provided by Lorelei since Jason is out of reach at the moment.
This scene shows once more Jane as an expert: he teaches the memory palace technique to the younger man to help him fix his memory. Pete chooses his late army friends as his own palace: by associating systematically everyday little things to one of his lost friends, Jane plays again the part of a therapist for Pete since he is helping him overcome his impairment and the traumatic event that caused it. Thus, with Jane’s help, Pete can be able to heal and grieve at the same time, he has been given a tool that can fix progressively his short term memory problem and deal with its root as well in the long term. Given the parallels between them, one can wonder is there is a hope for Jane too to start accepting his traumatic past and to overcome it, to start grieving his family instead of staying fixated on his loss. Lorelei’s demise might have been a catalyst and might have given Jane perspective on the path he can choose and on what he is willing to risk (aka Lisbon, and the question is not anymore just about protecting her either physically or by not telling her the whole truth, but about losing her affection beyond repair).
Also, it may be a bit far stretched but one might wonder if the memory theme that has been developed lately isn’t a circumvallated way to allude to Jane’s greatest memory loss so far: his confession to Lisbon in the heat of the moment before he shot her in last season finale. Since feelings have been addressed this season, first by Lorelei’s comment in ‘The Crimson Ticket’, then recently with Lisbon’s anger and hurt, can viewers start hoping that this odd “memory loss” will be fixed as well?…
In spite of being openly funny and quite heart warming, this episode unobtrusively deals with the aftermath of the dark events of the dramatic ‘There Will Be Blood’. Indeed, various hints have been given all along and it may prove useful to recapitulate them:
1) Rigsby is fine: contrary to Cho’s accident last season, there have been no apparent consequences of his brutal encounter with the fierce former minion. He only seems to have been assigned to desk duty for the most part of the episode, except when they’ve been tricking the murderer. Which may be why Cho was in charge of the sexual harassment aspect of their investigation.
2) Jane and Lisbon seem to be on good terms again but if we squint hard enough, we can see that there are some elements that indicate that things may not be as smooth as they first appear. First, Jane is particularly eager, both in the investigation and in enjoying little things: he’s drinking (tea?) in a paper cup at the hospital; he tells Lisbon he wants a taco, passes the time until the moment he can set his plan in action by lying on a bench and is enthusiastic about that fragrant gardenia. Is he just showing resignation and making the best of it while bidding his time until he manages to make a breakthrough in the RJ case? Or is he relieved to some extend that Lorelei is out of the picture, hence the almost cheerful vibe? Either way, his jovial behavior contrasts with his depressed attitude after he lost tracks on the woman, in ‘Devil’s Cherry’. Of course, his relief may concern Lisbon and the fact that he fixed his relation with her, since he seems to go out of his way to mend things completely… Still, the guy is overdoing it a bit, like when he thanked profusely the therapy group (“thank you. All of you. Very much.”), although the group members keep just staring at him with a blank expression… On the other hand, Lisbon’s attitude is quite contradictory: she goes along with him and takes part in the funniest moments, still her good disposition seems sometimes a little strained. When Jane asks her to follow him at the hospital, she doesn’t move and asks drily “Why? Where?” When she takes his call, she greets him with a rather cold “what is it, Jane?” And she gets impatient when he asks her if she has a padlock and tries to joke about it. She’s just a bit harsher than usual and she accepts less easily that he may not tell her everything. Is that a reaction to his previous statement that he only tells her 30% of what he does?
3) There is a pretty classic transposition of the RJ plot into the current situation. Indeed, many bright red objects in the background allude to him: the fireman truck when Hawkins is accused of harassment, the fire extinguisher Bowman grabs to try and break the padlock, the red car behind Jane at the crime scene, the whole red alert thing… But the characters themselves also offer some intriguing similarities:
- Jane and Pete: the common past, the contrast between the states of their memory… One of them forgets, the other remembers, still both seem to spend their time getting back at the start after every failure: until they met, they seemed condemned to be frozen in time in a never ending quest, starting again at the beginning every time. But the promise of recovery from one of them gives hope for the other. Still, it’s interesting that Pete was the only witness of the murder, just like Jane seems to be the only real threat remaining toward RJ. Which leads us to…
- … Dr Bowman reminds of RJ by some aspects. He’s a cold-blooded murderer who just divorced – like RJ has interrupted his relationship with Lorelei. And Lucy too might be an allusion to the late siren since she was killed with a blade when she was about to threaten her killer: she too was the one who knew too much and she was helping Pete like Lorelei had almost been an ally for Jane. Both women were killed to preserve the lifestyle of their killer.
- Those parallels make one wonder where Lisbon stands in this connection between the episode and the main plot. Is she the one alluded to by the victim instead of Lorelei? They share a taste for music (she sings the song Lucy loved to the point of having its melody tattooed on her body), they are both OCD about the rules (at least that what Jane accuses Lisbon of) and are overall helpful and well intentioned women. Lisbon cares about Jane, Lucy helped Pete. Since Lucy was killed because she was trying to do the right thing, the possibility that Lisbon might be targeted too only adds to the still vague shadow that seems to grow over her.
The winner: Jane tricking Lisbon into singing in front of soldiers and a cop (and a corpse). So much for professionalism. It was so cute and, at least, Jane managed to make one woman “sing like a bird”…
First Runner Up: Pretty much every interaction between Jane and Pete. The young soldier brought the best out of him.
Second Runner Up: Jane and Lisbon tricking and arresting the murderer. Classic Jane technique for solving a case and funny moment.
Icings on the Cake: Cho saluting after Sgt Hawkins has been arrested. A nice reminder of his military past. Also, Pete was a convincing, pretty moving and likeable character.
- The CBI taking charge in an army related case seems a bit odd. See VIS#1 above.
- The army uniform seemed a bit… off. A little too baggy and the soldiers’ general attitude lacked of rigor.
- Is that me, or isn’t it a bit strange that Pete was able to recognize his own voice immediately and without any hesitation? I mean, one doesn’t often actually hear it: for a lot of people, hearing their voice feels a little strange, it doesn’t sound exactly like they think it would be. It might have been more natural if someone else recognized it first or if he showed a little more hesitation. Or I’m just being awfully picky…