Mentalist Jolly Red Elf Review


It’s Christmas season. A Santa Claus falls from a building in Old Town Sacramento and CBI Agent Teresa Lisbon (Tunney) and Patrick Jane (Baker) arrive at a scene. The victim is Benjamin Ripple whom Jane quickly denounces is the real Santa because he smells of alcohol. Jane also insists that the death wasn’t a suicide despite finding a suicide note in the victim’s pocket. The victim was part of the National Society of Authentic Santa’s, so Lisbon sends Rigsby and Van Pelt to investigate. Ben was also an AA member so Jane pays them a visit. Once there he goes undercover and gets Ben’s sponsor May Walters (Meghan Ghallager) to become his that he can investigate her. Meanwhile, the new head of the professional standards unit J.J. Laroche (Pruitt Taylor Vince ) is investigating the murder of Todd Johnson’s death while in lockup at CBI.

Concise Verdict

Mentalist writers are really raising the bar this season. Daniel Cerone wrote this one and gave us continuity, sincere Patrick, more continuity and…ok I’ll move the rest of the list below cause it contains spoilers. I’m gonna give this one a 9/10.

Detailed (aka humongous) Review (spoilers galore):

I’m not going to discuss the Santa killer mystery because it merely served as a backdrop for the more interesting B plot; the one which earned the episode its high rating. CONTINUITY, PEOPLE! Viewers were given a major Red John clue last episode, and rather than stringing us along (like so many shows do), the Mentalist people graciously pick up where they left off.  I was so happy when Lisbon mentioned that Hightower was giving a briefing on the murder of Todd, but I never expected that we’d actually get to see it. Or that it would serve to introduce a new character that will be a major player in the Red John arc.

Playing on last year’s highly successful Sam Bosco storyline, Jane is once more set up against a CBI employee with possible information on Red John: this time PSU Head  J.J Laroche. But there are significant differences. This time, only Jane knows that Todd’s death is linked to Red John’s investigation (well, him and the person that killed Todd, and Red John of course). Also unlike Sam Bosco whom viewers knew was a good guy, Laroche is introduced while a haze of suspicion is upon every character who isn’t in the opening credits (at least we hope they’re in the clear).  Laroche could very well be Red John’s operative; a fact that Jane obviously hasn’t ruled out. When Laroche asks Jane what he thought Todd wanted to tell him, Jane fakes disinterest; saying that the cop killer was probably just looking for sympathy from the only non-cop in the building he knew.

The casting of the talented Pruitt Taylor Vince (whose lost quite a bit of weight since his stint on House-good for him) is inspired. The scenes between Jane and the calm cold “Robocop” (as Jane describes him) were very entertaining; a match between equals.

Another extremely wise decision was bringing the beloved ex- CBI head Virgil Minelli back into the plot.

I had stated in my ‘Red Moon’ review that:

“It’s been established that Jane’s keeping information from Lisbon: Red John’s “Tiger, tiger” message, and the gun he got as a gift from another bereaved husband …..”

and that:

“Jane’s past excuse for keeping things from Lisbon has always been the same; to protect her. But now a more obvious possibility presents itself: so she won’t get in his way.”


“I just hope he shares it with Lisbon before her life is endangered.”

Minelli’s presence in the episode allowed these concerns to be acknowledged in the episode’s first VIS ( very important scene).

The first VIS is when Jane finds Virgil Minelli and tells him that Todd Johnson was part of Red John’s network, killed in CBI by another man in RJ’s network to silence him. Jane asks Minelli to use his influence to procure Laroche’s suspect list for him. The significance of this scene is threefold. First, the fact that Jane confides in Minelli is a huge relief. It makes up for his not confiding in Lisbon. As long as Jane is talking to someone, anyone that he trusts, viewers can assume he’s not too far gone into the darkness. Second, when Minelli asks Jane what Lisbon thinks of his theory, Jane states: “I can’t tell her, that’d put her at risk.” So we have it in canon that the reason Jane is keeping information from Lisbon is to protect her. On the other hand Minelli’s response to Jane is a very telling, scornful: “Of course”. Minelli knows Jane very well and writer Cereone uses Minelli’s knowledge to keep viewers in suspense – that despite what Jane says, he might have a more self-serving reason for keeping his theory from Lisbon; which is, of course, killing Red John.

This is good writing people. Pure genius. I just have one request: PLEASE DON’T KILL MINELLI OFF. Really, I can see how the writers might be tempted to do so, and setting him up as Jane’s ally could mean that’s why Minelli was brought back. But, killing off guest stars can get real old real fast. After Bosco, it will most likely be redundant; “sophomoric” even. Don’t deprive viewers of another wonderful character. Please?

Now, the third significance of this scene is when Minelli tells Jane that Red John is making him crazy. This statement ties into and leads up to the second VIS so I’ll discuss it there.

The second VIS is Jane’s undercover scene at the AA group, first denying that he’s an addict (of alcohol) then admitting that he does have an addiction.

Jane’s addiction was first mentioned in canon in season two by Sam Bosco. The agent had told Jane that he was addicted (to Red John) and that he needs help. At the time Jane was unconcerned. In this episode, however, when Minelli tell him that he needs help, that Red John is turning him into a “paranoid conspiracy freak”, Jane loses his cool and retaliates: “This from a guy on a pier with two 40’s under his chair and no fish in his bucket?” He also calls him a “drunken fish-killer”. Jane is a master at controlling his emotions so it is safe to assume that Minelli’s words got to him. Of course Jane could have just been reacting to Minelli’s refusal to help him.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Viewers may not initially realize the significance of Jane going undercover to the AA group. Personally I had thought that he went there with the intention of doing his usual ‘rile-observe-question routine’ and that his confession was an unforeseeable result of him going with the flow when the group assumed he was a member. But the fact that  the team makes such a big deal out of it: “You went undercover”, “You never go undercover”, tipped me off that he wanted to be seen as a new member. That maybe Minelli’s statement worried him so much that Jane chose to go undercover because it gave him a safe opportunity and place to express his fears for being addicted to the Red John case.

Good stuff.

But this begs the question: Why now? After all these years, why is Jane now acknowledging his addiction?  Is he thinking about moving on? Have recent events made the weight of revenge extra heavy? Hmm.

Icing on the cake:

One of my pet peeves from the last episode was answered in Jolly Red Elf. I had thought it was out of character for Lisbon to push Jane to talk to Todd. But I now know that it was a plot device to set Jane up as a suspect in Todd’s murder. Laroche suspects Jane because he was the last person to see Todd alive. But Lisbon then clears him by saying that Jane hadn’t wanted to go, that she asked him to because Todd wanted to see him. Of course, that then leads to Laroche wanting to know why Jane specifically, which in turn makes us suspect him as Red Johns operative, which in turn…no I think it stops there. Anyway, Lisbon insisting Jane go see Todd turned out to be a necessary plot device and is therefore no longer a pet peeve. Isn’t clarification wonderful?

Best scenes

The winner:

The scene where Laroche questions Jane is really interesting. Jane, who had been avoiding Laroche all day, agrees to let him question him when he’s drunk. Obviously Jane he wants Laroche to think he has him at a disadvantage, to make Laroche feel that whatever Jane tells him is the truth. Turns out even when drunk, Jane is a very convincing liar.  Jane plays the PSU head, using his drunken state to his advantage, calling  Laroche “La Rouge”, obviously wanting to gauge his reaction (hint, La rouge means “the red” in french). Then, when Laroche asks him why Jane thought Todd wanted to see him, Jane says Todd probably just wanted to gain his sympathy. Jane’s nonchalance is so convincing, Laroche doesn’t even suspect him when he asks to be kept in the loop regarding the case. Laroche just asks him why he’s interested, to which Jane replies that he likes the mystery. Laroche is so convinced of Jane’s act that he doesn’t even resent Jane’s nosiness. Simon Baker is truly a joy to watch in this scene.

1st runner up:

Jane and Minelli’s final scene at the end. Minelli meets with Jane and thanks him for his rather biting remarks, said that he opened up his eyes and gives him the list of suspects he wanted. Jane then hugs him (aww!!!) and asks him have lunch with May (the AA sponsor) whom he had brought along. I’m thinking it’s his way of apologizing for earlier, and for helping Minelli out; both with his loneliness and with his alcohol addiction.  Virgil is more than happy to join the woman (their attraction is apparent)  and even asks Jane for advice, to which Jane replies that he should grow a beard. In my last review I stated that I wished for a lighter episode, and this one delivered. A beautiful, happy ending. Welcome back my friend: I’ve missed you.

2nd runner up:

Jane and Lisbon’s discussion on Santa. Tunney was delightful here, saying that the finding out Santa didn’t exist crushed her heart like a cigarette. To which Jane responds that this explains why Lisbon is looking for magic in her life. I confess his statement confused me at first. Lisbon is as realistic and grounded as they come. Then it occurred to me that Jane might be referring to what he called her “naive optimism” in Red Moon and equating that with magic. CONTINUITY, PEOPLE!

Best Lines:

“I do have an addiction. It destroyed my family. But I can’t talk about, it’s not that I don’t want to it’s just that I have so many bad things in my head that I’d like to throw out I just…if I start talking about it, just don’t know that I’ll be able to stop.”- Jane

“Yeah, okay, zip it if you know what’s good for you.”-Lisbon to Cho, on his careless attitude towards Johnson murder. Tough Lisbon- I’ve missed you too.

“You’re a brave old man with nothing to lose”-Jane to Minelli, on the risk of helping him.

“Not so brave, not so old!” -Minelli.

“Easy cowboy, you just met her.” Jane to Minelli.

Pet Peeves (yes, I always have them):

1- At the end of the episode, Jane asks Lisbon to drive him home (he’s drunk), but where is home? His Malibu home, his attic at CBI, or does he have a place in Sacramento (in Season two’s premiere he mentioned that he’s thinking of moving to the city Sacramento but it might have just been part of a ruse).  So, again, where’s home?

2- The Santa fights weren’t nearly as funny as they seemed in the promo.

3-  Drunk Jane is funny! Why didn’t we get to see more of him?

So, onto the polls. Also, feel free to leave comments. I’d appreciate help in digging into the many layers of the Mentalist.


About reviewbrain

Screenwriter, independent producer, compulsive critic, editor, artist, language lover, student of life, pacifist, parent. View all posts by reviewbrain

4 responses to “Mentalist Jolly Red Elf Review

  • violet

    Once again, thanks for your precious analysis on this episode! It’s truly a joy to read you!
    You’re totally right about the sincere Jane part. Between these two last chapters, we’ve given rare occasions to see more of his real inner thoughts: first with the moments with Lisbon, then here, with him snapping at Minelli, the acknowledgement of his addiction to Red John and the pain it induces. About the reason about his sudden confession, I think it’s because he felt safe among those people who didn’t know him. The tension must be becoming too much. It has been building pretty badly recently: the dark mood after Kristina’s fiasco, his kidnapping, witnessing a man burn alive and now the suspicions. He must feel more and more trapped. For example in the beginning, his conversation with Lisbon over the corpse, he’s joking, but doesn’t make it personal (until they are in the apartment). His humour is dark, his replies short (“No”, “Murder”), he’s not up for really exchanging.
    At the same time, he proves in this episode again to be extremely clever: while he was shell-shocked in the previous episode, he has now thought a way to use the situation to his benefit, to make a potential betrayal become a lead to his enemy. That’s probably explains partly why he goes undercover alone: he wants to does things on his own. As you pointed out, he certainly wants to be seen as a team member, but, at the same time, he tries more obviously than ever to distance himself emotionally and in the field.

    Besides, I really liked your comment about Jane’s admitted reasons about keeping things from Lisbon: he declares he lies not to get her involved, but there may be others explanations as well. In fact, I can indeed see four valid motives for him to lie: first,of course, to protect her and to prevent her from getting in his way. These are usual, as they have been displayed in Hardy’s case, when he saved her and when she pointedly didn’t follow his plan to get Red John.
    Moreover, as you pointed out, he comments on her possibly getting at risk to use Minelli’s affection towards her. Implicitly, how could his former boss not think that if he (although “not so brave, not so old”) doesn’t take the matter in his own hands, Jane would end up getting help from her, as he normally does?
    But there’s probably another idea in Jane’s mind: he must become even more cautious. So if he tells her about Todd, first of all, she would ask some very uncomfortable questions. He would have to tell her how he knows, the whole “tiger, tiger” thing, and therefore, he would have to put in the open a part of his secrets. Minelli’s been especially uncurious, but Lisbon wouldn’t accept his word so easily… And don’t forget Lisbon must be a suspect as well. Let’s face it: she was the last to talk to Todd, she left him just before he’s been assaulted and she was the only one who knew for sure that he wanted to talk to Jane. Of course, making her Red John’s pawn would be a suicide for the show, but could our distrusting consultant really not consider that she had the best opportunity, and that, if she did it, she could be sufficiently cold-hearted to make him go to see Todd burning? That would really make him a “paranoid conspiracy freak”, but, after all, Jane chooses this moment to go and find Minelli…

    The ending was beautiful, indeed. Jane continuously enjoys playing matchmaker with people around him. After Rigsby and recently Lisbon, now comes Minelli’s turn. It’s touching to watch how he likes to meddle in other people’s life, not only for messing with them. That was a truly nice touch. And probably a way to make Minelli feel grateful and more sympathetic towards him. He hugs him like he hugged Lisbon when she accepted to take him back in the team and I always wonder nevertheless if this way of thanking is totally sincere. Or does he try to play the inoffensive and grateful good boy in front of someone who openly distrusts him? Both hugs occur just after he showed a selfishness that angered them, first when he told the team he had no more reason to stay with them if he couldn’t use them for revenge, then, now, after he basically told Minelli that he was a useless old alcoholic. It’s always difficult to tell with Jane.

    Last, not least, about Lisbon looking for magic in her life, remember also her reaction to the leaping frog in the very first episode, or with the pony… She is a complex character, who completes his quite finely: while he’s cheerful and funny (even faking it, it’s too frequent not to mirror a real part of him) but, at the same time, dark, and cruel, she has two sides too. One particularly tough, realistic and a less obvious, more cheerful and light, like when she’s mock arguing with Jane, or agreeing to do the somewhat absurd trust fall (as if falling in his arms could make her believe more in his schemes!)…

    Anyway, your work was great, as always! Don’t let the depressing suspicions get to you and keep commenting! I’m looking forward to reading more from you!

  • reviewbrain

    You really make me blush. And as usual, you’re own comments are very enlightening. I think you are totally right. Maybe all the stress finally caught up to him, plus sharing information with strangers can be easier than with people you know. I never would have thought that Jane might actually suspect Lisbon….by the way, that’s not going to help me with trying not to get depressed 😉 As to Jane’s hugs, I actually have a theory about that. Like you said, his hugs always come after a selfish action on his part. I think he does this to ‘clear the air’ and maybe make things right with the person he hurt. Now why he’d do that…. either because he actually cares about them and is expressing his affection as well as his sorrow for hurting them, or he’s doing it so that they’d forgive him and he can still use them later if he wants to. I expect it’s a little of both. I like to think that he knows he can be cruel and that he actually has a conscience that makes him feel bad for using that cruelty against someone who cares about him (whom he might also care about). Hey, I’m trying to be optimistic here!

  • violet

    Oops! Sorry for darkening the mood even more! Well, I confess I’m not totally sure about Jane suspecting Lisbon, it’s just an hypothesis: he keeps joking with her, he leans on her when drunk, he uses the sofa in her office just before ducking to avoid Laroche (just like he was lying in the bullpen couch before the meeting with the new cop)… He doesn’t seem to have a different attitude with her, only a somewhat more serious tone. And her behaviour towards him is the same, since she defends his innocence in Todd’s murder.
    By the way, I like the way you put it, with the hugs: he’s certainly truly grateful in both occasions, even if he can also a second though. After all, he hugged Lisbon when he still didn’t know if he could use Bosco; he tried turning the situation to his advantage only after deciding to stay in the team. And Minelli already accepted to help him. It’s probably always a mixing of sincerity and prospective manipulation in the way he deals with the people he knows well and care about…
    Anyway, keep being optimistic! Don’t worry, I can be pessimistic for two… 🙂

  • Sid

    When LaRoche pulls Jane out of the AA meeting, he accuses Jane of having substance abuse problems, and when Jane denies it, he says the words were real, Jane was sweating, etc.

    How oblivious can LaRoche be? The words were real. His family was destroyed. The cause wasn’t alcohol or drugs, but Jane didn’t say they were.

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