Guest reviewed once again by Violet the life-saver. Don’t forget to vote to tell her how wonderful she is 🙂
CBI Agents Lisbon (Tunney), Cho (Kang) and consultant Patrick Jane (Baker) investigate the death of a man handcuffed into a car and burnt to death in a dark alley. Jane immediately links the crime to the nearby cabaret where drag queens run a show. Meanwhile, the victim’s identity is confirmed as a very young man who happened to be gay and used to be bullied in parallel by his abusive father, a homophobic coworker and a sadistic lover.
Writer Daniel Cerone keeps throwing our way excellent storylines. ‘Ruby Slippers’ offered some enjoyable funny moments, enlivening a very intense and emotional story, written with great sensibility. All in all, a highly recommendable episode. 9.5
Detailed AKA Humungous Review (spoilers galore)
‘Ruby Slippers’ shows someone who couldn’t help but stay locked in a victim status, yet manages to get help and to become someone else, someone happier and more self-assuming. There were again plenty of nice references to previous eps: Jane is seemingly thrown off his game, just like he was after the failed attempt at robbing LaRoche near the end of S3 (‘Redacted’). That discreetly underlines that the show is approaching the end of another season. Moreover, for the third time in a row, we get an episode based on spectacle; after the low run casino where we get a glimpse on Jane’s youth, the theatre enlightening his potential for tragedy, here we have a drag queen show with a very emotional aspect. Three different stages for a growing distancing with Jane’s problems that becomes almost cathartic.
Dorothy’s ‘Ruby Slippers’
VIS #1 Jane and Van Pelt visit Archie’s father
Lisbon sends Jane and Grace inform the victim’s father of his death. Archie’s father is sad, but insists that his son was nothing like him and used to be a victim. Jane senses that something is off and begins poking at the man about him not being close to his son because the boy was gay. The man then asks if they are going to write “on their files” that Archie was gay.
-I really liked Grace’s reaction to the father’s question. She simply answered that they didn’t keep tabs on people. That calm demeanour shows once again that she has mostly recovered from her trip into anger and darkness: she’s not anymore the vindictive woman who knocked over a social worker’s coffee cup because she was irritated (‘Blood and Sand’). She can stay calm in front of a man’s latent homophobia even though she’s displeased. Moreover, there’s been some time since we got to see her investigate with the consultant. She was sitting with him on his couch in last episode, but here they are on the field, where Jane has been mostly alone or with Lisbon until recently. That detail alone hints that there is more collaboration with the team.
Both Jane and Grace soon leave the father to see the boy’s room. Jane immediately points out that it’s not a normal teenager room, since the decor was obviously done by the father; the room is not personalized, not even with posters. Van Pelt comments that hers was full of them, a personal comment that also indicates that things are alright with her. Nevertheless this room serves a greater purpose than just enlightening Grace’s teen years: the lack of homey feeling is the first glimpse we have in Archie’s life, and its sobriety bordering on austerity contrasts with the glimmer of the dressing room at the cabaret. In fact, later on, the other room (or rather bed) at the shelter where the boy slept after leaving home conveys the same painful lack of comfort and privacy.
That scene indeed presents and explicates Archie’s emotional situation before dying, the same he encountered in the other aspects of his life, at work and in his love life. He had no room for his real personality, and used to be mistreated because of his weakness and/or his sexual orientation.
VIS # 2: Jane returns to the cabaret
During the investigation, Jane learns that Glenda has seen the murderer but refuses to tell anything. He then comes back to the cabaret to convince her and gets to know better the rest of the drag queens troupe. That scene is a key moment, first, investigation wise, because Glenda finally accepts to try and identify the killer because she can relate to Archie. Indeed, she had admitted before to Jane that she’s also been a target, balancing her life as a drag and a day job as Glen, a “normal” man who became cosmetologist. We also learn more about the female impersonators and Glenda’s role among them: she’s the drag mom, that’s to say a protector and a confident for each of them, as she has taught them how to dress but above all how to accept who they are. That acceptation is made even deeper since she suffered herself because of intolerance.
Jane seems very at ease with his new friends, in a way that reminds the immediate complicity he had with the nurses at the hospital in ‘Bloodstream’. He’s so comfortable in fact that he mentions in passing that he would also like to learn how to accept who he is. And for a showman as Jane, being able to confess his insecurities is something huge and this line illustrates a change of mind in our usually iron-willed consultant.
VIS # 3: Jane’s First Revelation
The truth is progressively exposed: first Glenda is unable to choose one suspect from the pick up line. When pressed by Jane, she tells that the man was slender, eliminating all three men from the suspect list. Jane really stages every step of this scene and ends up accusing the three suspects of being responsible for Archie’s despair and suicide, from the thief of a co-worker who kept bullying him, the abusive lover who hurt and threatened him, to the father who rejected him.
-That theory is credible because it explains the lack of useful information from Jane during the investigation. If he had a hunch but no proof to assert such an audacious hypothesis, he would have indeed remained silent about it in case that he were wrong. That fits his character. Moreover, this kind of downer ending is what we’re been used to in the darker episodes of the show: usually, we get a somewhat bittersweet ending in most murder cases. Besides, that also fits the criteria of classic detective stories. Desperate characters killing themselves in a way that incriminates an enemy appear in many stories, including in Sherlock Holmes’, the literary model for Jane (‘The Problem of Thor Bridge’).
VIS #4: Jane’s Second Revelation
After the case has been officially closed, Lisbon, frustrated that she can’t arrest the suspects for Archie’s murder makes do with charging them for their other crimes. Lisbon then meets Jane in the kitchen and the intimate setting makes her speak her heart. She’s saddened by Archie’s suicide. Jane then takes her to the cabaret. He has a surprise for her: Archie is alive and has become a drag queen under the name of Fifi. He’s faked his suicide and his friends helped him with his elaborate plan. Lisbon accepts to keep the secret and both investigators end up watching Fifi on stage.
-The final scene full of optimism contrasts deeply with the heart-breaking ending of the previous episode. Back then, Jane was depressed by the birth of Rigsby’s son, while now he’s pleased by Fifi’s revival. The conflict is still here, but there is healing. Besides, those two characters coming to life in two episodes in a row hint at a possible new turn of things in the show, hopefully for the better.
Furthermore, Archie’s revival is developed by the many elements that refer in a significant way to Victor Fleming’s movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939).
1) The characters:
-the most anecdotic of them is the puppy that Summer choose for Cho. In a way, it impersonates Dorothy’s little dog Toto. Not an important hint, but a cute one!
– Glenda is obviously Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, the godmother-like character who helps Dorothy in her quest. Here, she gives Archie counselling about his new image, she helps him to accept himself and to act accordingly.
– Archie/Fifi explicitly refers to Dorothy at the very end, when she sings the song ‘Over the Rainbow’ with glistering red stilettos (the red slippers) and the same hairstyle as Judy Garland in the movie.
2) The storyline is cleverly transposed:
– there is an enemy to kill; back then it was the Wicked Witch of the West, whereas for Archie, the enemy is that disliked weak image of himself that attracts hate from others. Hence the fake suicide: he symbolically killed this part of him using fire, like Dorothy used water.
-The movie storyline was built as a path towards home, since “there is no place like home”. Archie had no real home to return to: his ordeal takes him to a new kind of family, and above all to tolerance, freedom and peace of mind.
-The ruby slippers are first present under the form of the broken high heel of a red shoe, glistering like the precious stone. It’s the symbol used for drags in the episode (Fifi wears another pair of them on stage and we get a glimpse of Glenda’s black stilettos before following her legs and skirt clad figure when she comes to see Lisbon in the bullpen). In the movie they were the means used to be get away from the land of Oz. Dorothy had to tap her heels together three times. Here, as a wink, it seems that the heel was found after our travestied Dorothy has symbolically tapped her shoes and the heel has broken. Indeed, she’s already returned home when the episode begins: she found a way to both hide herself and get a new life. Like her fictional model, Fifi has understood that she doesn’t need to run away from herself anymore.
Moreover, those slippers were also the first clue for the CBI team to found the guy that the bully at work kept referring to as a “princess”. There’s also a bit of a Cinderella reference, Given that the episode reunites a lost shoe (or part of it at least) and a situation where a good godmother helps her protégé to achieve happiness. The difference is that happiness here doesn’t mean for Archie only finding a love interest, but more learning to love who he is. And in this fairy tale, the main character has worked and earned his success, he’s taken an active part in his achievement.
Jane’s path on the yellow brick road
There is a parallel between Archie’s story and Jane’s. Like him, Jane needs to confront three adversaries. First, the father: Archie’s dad used violence and certainly psychological abuse on him, he restrained him to force him to become someone he wasn’t, someone like him. Jane’s father did the same thing, he forced his son to manipulate, lie and cheat. Hence Jane’s hate for whom he’s become. Second point, unease at work: Jane’s past career is also a problem, since he feels guilty for what he’s done to people who believed him. Last, Archie knew an abusive relationship with someone he loved. For Jane, Red John represents the failure of his private life, he stole what could have been the most positive thing for him. He’s ridden with guilt and regret. For Archie, these three threats are related to aggression from someone else, that’s what makes him a victim, while for Jane they are more different sides of his own conscience. Still, Archie’s rebirth, strategically aired after an episode where the consultant was surrounded by tragedy, is full of hope for Jane too.
The similarities go even further. In season 2, when the Red John case was given to Bosco, Minelli called out Jane’s lack of realism by telling him « you’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy». And another analogy with “The Wizard of Oz” is developed, starring Jane as a new Dorothy on his path towards revenge, Red John as the Wicked Witch he needed to kill before getting peace, and Glinda/Lisbon as a tutelary figure who protected and helped him out. It’s interesting to note that ‘Ruby Slippers’ showed a kind of complicity between Glenda and Lisbon. They talk together with ease and Lisbon is even dragged on stage by Glenda the drag queen.
The episode resumes a dynamic that we haven’t seen in some time but that was characteristic for past seasons: Jane investigates alone, manages to hide the truth until the end. The team gets to do the leg work, while Lisbon is relegated to her boss function, she deals with angry attorneys, demands results and chastises Jane for his lack of efficiency.
Nevertheless, the analogy now is in fact more nuanced than it was in season 2. There has been a shift in Jane’s goal meanwhile, so the conflict is more interiorized.
– He helps his Glinda in this ep, he shows her what really happened backstage. Somehow he’s become a kind of tutelary figure for her too, meaning that he’s grown up.
– He’s closer to accept who he is. There’s been an insistence in showing since S2 that he has the capacity to heal. When we compare with the shameful and self-deprecating image he probably has of himself, we can notice that he’s proven he has the same three qualities looked-for in the movie. He is a coward, who flies away from danger, yet he confronted it more than once. The brain he used to manipulate as a psychic is now a tool to serve justice. His cold heart that needed « someone better than (him) » has been proven capable of empathy. All that contrasts with Paddy from ‘Fugue in Red’, who is certainly close to the representation he has of himself (except maybe for the womanizing part): manipulative, selfish and ready to play with emotions, afraid to face the truth of his own life.
– Unlike in season 2, the coming back home part is more related to the craving for a new life than to Red John’s death. Like Fifi, he wants to live, not to die. Therefore, between he lines, this episode synthesizes that longing to live again that has been fermenting this whole season. Things are crystallized before the finale.
As a conclusion, the comparison with the old movie shows at the same time that Jane’s character has evolved and how a door has been opened. There is a possibility for him to come to reconciliation with himself and to repair the deep insecurity he still feels.
Cho and Summer
Yet, hope isn’t everywhere and Cho’s love life isn’t as sunny as it could be. Is his summertime coming to an end? Either way, the usually impassive Cho begins to have problems with his bubbly girlfriend.
Troubles begin when Summer calls him to ask his advice on a cute but irrelevant question since he’s out investigating. She wants to give him a puppy that reminds her of him. This reason for disturbing him is absolutely endearing but the woman seems not to take his job very seriously, while he does. That was already hinted with the alarm clock incident in ‘Ruddy Cheeks’, when she turned it off and he got to work late. She’s thoughtful and eager to please him, but she risks also appearing a bit clingy and immature.
Later on she barges in the bullpen to bring him lunch and collect her pay check as an informant, even though he explicitly asked her to wait until the evening. He’s not very pleased by her display of affection but his mild irritation goes further when his informant/secret girlfriend casually greets his boss, with who she’s on first name basis (the girl seems very familiar with the team indeed…). He’s afraid to be discovered and takes her into an interrogation room to have a little privacy and discuss the problem at hand: they need to be discreet or she needs to quit being his informant. That only highlights how ambiguous and uncomfortable Cho’s status is in this situation. He doesn’t want Lisbon to find out, because his career or Summer’s job are somewhat at stake, but above all because he is certainly afraid to lose her respect. He’s proven so with the painkillers incident. After all, he already told Rigsby that he was seeing the former hooker, so the problem really seems related to Lisbon. Except for Jane, she’s always the person people want to hide from. She has been given this role too at first during the romance between Wayne and Grace, only for slightly different reasons. Still, both couples wanted to stay under Lisbon’s radar not to lose the chance to keep working together.
There seems to be a problem of communication in our contrasted couple. Cho needs a bit of distance and tries to be professional and thus, keeps their relationship a secret. On the other hand, Summer doesn’t respect enough his boundaries, maybe because she’s feeling insecure, since she asked him in this episode if he was ashamed of her and she has already admitted before that it unsettled her not to know what he thinks. It’s becoming obvious that they will soon need to find a solution about the mixing of their professional and personal status.
The winner: the ending. That soft and delicate singing was one of the most uplifting moments of the show. Lisbon’s emotion and the gentle teasing about it were an added bonus.
1st Runner up: Jane and Lisbon in the kitchen- going backstage at the cabaret. That scene showed how the friendship between those two has progressed. First, Jane genuinely tried to keep her out of his scheme, so we can guess he decided to tell her when she admitted to being upset with Archie’s fate. He didn’t refuse her a choice in the matter like he used to do, he didn’t hide the truth to manipulate her or to test her reactions like he did in S3 ‘Blood for Blood’. And the big difference in Jane’s motive opens the possibility of redemption and a new hope. The trust between them was also quite touching: she was not afraid to tell him her inner turmoil, he trusted her to keep his secret and probably did it out of affection for her.
2nd Runner up: Lisbon and Glenda in the bullpen. The interaction between those two were very natural and non judgmental. That was very refreshing and nice.
– “In this dress, darling?” Glennda, clad in a form-fitting sparkly blue gown, to Lisbon asking her why she didn’t pick up her broken heel. Female bonding all the way…
– “Whenever I get dressed, I try to conceal where I’m going, who I’m going to see and who I’m going to blow on my way.” Glenda responding to Lisbon about her drag day outfit. Seductive? Yes. Witty? Definitely.
– « Ouh ! Don’t let them know that you said that » Jane to Lisbon after she states that that nothing stood out with the drag queens… when she searched their background.
– “He’s just like you Kimball. He’s so fierce on the outside and a softie on the inside. And he’s got this squished up face” Summer to Cho. About the puppy. Yes, that’s the lamest attempt ever at convincing a hardcore cop to adopt a dog.
– “Oh my. He stops my heart every time.” Glennda when Jane pops up at the rehearsal. Ooooh, seems like someone has a soft spot for Patrick…
– “Fifi Nex… Phoenix. Risen from the ashes.” Jane to Lisbon, when he explains her that Archie has become Fifi. Pay attention, people, clues may be everywhere!
– “Is that a tear I see?” Jane to a moved Lisbon while listening to Fifi’s song. The man can’t help but tease her at any time…
– “Yeah, keep watching” Lisbon to the above. Always so human and self conscious; that’s one of her most winning traits.
– Daniel Cerone managed to give us a hopeful episode and that alone is quite rare in the show. And the fact that the storyline was also very well built was the cherry on top.
– Carlon Wilborn did a great job in impersonating Glenda as an eccentric, charming and rather admirable character. I’d also like to point out that writer, stylists and actors managed to give a real personality to each one of the drags, from the chubby and endearing dentist to the gorgeous slender brunette in that stunning green dress. That’s rather impressive, given that we get to see them a few seconds at best.
– They also managed to personalize the team’s reactions to Glenda’s appearance. Rigsby is very amusing in his awkward but polite way; he clearly doesn’t really know how to deal with her: he calls her a “nice guy” but acts gentlemanly as if she was a woman (in front of the men bathroom of all places!). Jane is very at ease and Grace simply accepts the situation in her open-minded way, while Saint Teresa shows empathy.
– As much as I enjoyed this episode, I can’t help but think the representation of the gay community is maybe a bit reductive. The characters were either targets or drag queens when they assumed their sexual orientation. That lack of perspective is explained by the fact that the episode dealt with one specific destiny. Still, the general effect would have been better balanced if they introduced another gay character from outside that glittering world. A witness or an investigator; someone who would have showed a different take on things; who had maybe a supporting family or friends (other than just two saddened female acquaintances) or who had at least encountered more than violence or a rather awkward tolerance.
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