When a young journalist drives off a cliff in a state park, the CBI is asked to help. Consultant Patrick Jane (Baker) quickly discovers the accident was in fact murder. Agent Lisbon’s (Tunney) investigation leads her to a suspect millionaire Tommy Vokler (Henry Ian Cusik). Meanwhile, Jane is busy trying to figure out ways to break Lorelie Martin’s out of federal prison to lead him to Red John.
Brilliant, witty, well-written, shocking, funny, thrilling… I don’t have enough words to qualify this episode. ‘If It Bleeds, It Leads’ took over from where ‘Cherry Picked’ ended on many aspects and set things up for even more complex developments. It left us on the verge of a decisive turning point, while managing some really entertaining parts. Great job! 9.5/10
Detailed AKA Humungous Review (spoilers galore)
Jane is too Busy to Help on the Case
Jane’s arrival at the crime scene answers many questions from last episode: the FBI has taken Lorelei, not RJ or a minion. “Agent Nemo” was a real agent who has put Lorelei out of Jane’s reach. The address given by the deputy is a high security prison where Lorelei has been incarcerated. Lisbon (and probably the whole team) knows all of this and is worried about him. Therefore, we have confirmation that Jane kept Lisbon in the loop after the fact. Unfortunately, Jane’s good intentions seem to only go so far as and we are immediately aware of his new plan, to help Lorelei escape. As a matter of fact, it looks like he’s willing to rush the case far more than he was in ‘Cherry Picked’; he even swears when he discovers that the so-called accident is a murder and flies the scene saying “my work is done here”.
Jane is getting himself in a more dangerous situation every time with Lorelei. A detail places emphasis on that potential risk: we see a board behind him when he’s going to the accident scene warning about the Loma Vista Point. It’s a warning: the characters are literally and metaphorically walking on the edge of the abyss.
Jane Plots to help Lorelie Escape
About his off the book investigation itself, he seems to be lacking decision a bit too. Except some brooding and file studying in his attic, Jane only makes two feeble and quite ridiculous attempts at entering the prison. He approaches the front guard explaining that he has a vague appointment, and when that doesn’t work he makes sure that the fence is really electrified. The man seems to be running out of creative ideas, really. I found it very intriguing that he doesn’t try to play on his knowledge of human behavior like he did every other time he tried to break out of jail (phobia in ‘Black Gold and Red Blood’, skills in reading people by playing poker in ‘Scarlet Ribbons”, hypnotizing then tricking the guard in ‘Redacted’). He has obviously no real plan yet and is just starting a field reconnaissance but, even so, he totally lacks discretion. The guard saw his face and his car plate and he wasn’t even hiding when he was near that fence.
He’s pretty ambivalent about the case too: he’s rushing it, but he dives into it with glee sometimes, like when he was gossiping with the blond reporter or giving an interview, even though he hated it with Karen Cross. When compared with his behaviour when he deigned to take part in the case with Lisbon, he seemed strangely subdued in his personal investigation.
That reminds of the question asked many times to Jane this season: why does he even bother working with the team? The answer that he has nothing else to do doesn’t stand here. So, is it just because Lisbon asked him to with insistence like he pretended? Or simply because he likes it too?
Jane progressively seems more uncertain than he wants to let on. He implicitly pretends to distance himself, but he asks Cho about high security prisons and doesn’t lie when Lisbon asks him about it. Unlike last season, he’s preparing her and tries to spare her feelings to some extent. But it might also be a way to call her for help as I wonder if he doesn’t harbour some mixed feelings about his plans. There are also undertones of sadness when he’s near Lisbon, like when he answered “it did” when she told him she hoped the slap in the face he just received did hurt him.
Reviewbrain: I thought the same thing exactly. His “It did” seemed to be referring to more than just the slap. Like Lisbon being glad he was hit hurt him too. But not because she was glad he got hurt, but because he knows the vindictiveness is a result of his own actions, and it makes him sad. Then there was the fact that he hid his file (containing info on Lorelie’s prison) in front of Lisbon. Maybe Jane trusts Lisbon so much that the thought never occurred to him she’d go back and check it. Or it could be he didn’t care that she knew where it was because he wanted to give her the opportunity to help him if she wants. Or at least discover what he’s planning and hence prepare herself for whatever it is he might do. Wishful thinking?
Lisbon Tries to Stop Jane’s Plotting
However, Lisbon is not exempt of some ambiguity either. She continuously shows worry and a growing impatience: she’s hovering over him, makes him take some fresh air and leave the confines of his obsession.
True to her resolution to drag her consultant out of his new fixation, Lisbon attempts to force him into work. Jane eventually gives in. He’s slightly patronizing and tells her he’ll help her a bit, then she’ll be on her own, to what she answers “I’m not in sixth grade, that doesn’t work on me”. He retorts: “I can’t promise I’ll be always here to help you, Teresa. There will come a time when you may have to do all this on your own. I want you to be prepared.” Her answer? “I’m prepared to punch you in the face on my own.”
The scene is rather amusing: Jane is trying to sneak out if his duties and he’s bantering with her, teasing her as if she were a kid he was helping acquire autonomy. Ironic, really, given that the man has just finished hiding the precious secret file he’s been studying under his mattress, in a very juvenile fashion. Nevertheless, in spite of the deliberately light tone and music, those lines were an eye opener on many points. First, the irritation Lisbon displayed in ‘Cherry Picked’ seems now clearly directed at Jane: she’s frustrated with him and worried that he may be about to do something foolish again. Like she says, she’s not kidding with him. The scene is a faint echo of the one in front of the elevator where she offered her help and he silently asked her to let him go by letting the doors close.
On the other hand, it seems that calling Lisbon by her birth name has become a habit. Or that he’s telling her something serious. In fact, that scene allows us to guess the second part of Jane’s plan about Lorelei. It looks like Jane realizes he’s about to leave Lisbon again, that the progress he’s making in his investigation about Lorelei will cause a new separation with his friend. It’s kind of logical: either he will get caught in trying to break her out of jail and things will end badly for him, or he will succeed. Then, he will have to take her with him to convince her to betray RJ, meaning that he’ll kill his nemesis, or he’ll die. Either way, he’s bound to lose Lisbon. That may explain the veiled sad resignation oozing off him. Actually, Jane has started doing in this episode what he did last season: he’s telling her to stop relying on him. He’s grooming her into taking his role in the team before leaving them. He keeps repeating her things like “you’re very capable”, trying to boost her confidence as well as warning her. This may very well be the calm before the storm.
Some other scenes complete those impressions. As a matter of fact, it’s quite interesting that almost every scene between them takes place either in the attic or over the phone. Thus, in both situations, they’re separated, physically (on the phone) or by Lorelei’s ghost (the attic symbolizing his obsession with RJ). Furthermore, during all those conversations, both seem to be playing an odd game of push and pull. As the episode progresses, we may wonder if a hint of ambivalence isn’t appearing on both sides.
Lisbon Confronts Jane
Lisbon finally pokes at the elephant in the room- “I need you to accept the fact that you cannot break Lorelei out of prison”. Her stubbornness makes me wonder if her frustration might have less to do with Jane’s actions than with his refusal to let her help him and her subsequent inability to save him. Still, in spite of being aware of what he’s planning, she doesn’t seem as emotional and supportive as she was last season: she just assesses that he need to stop, and get back to work, she acts more like a boss than the very understanding friend she usually is. So either the prospect of him breaking Lorelei out is so ridiculous that she doesn’t take him seriously, or she may begin to effectively distance herself from his personal vendetta.
Reviewbrain: I was glad to see the difference, in all honesty. We’ve already seen that Lisbon being there as a friend to Jane doesn’t really help deter him from his ill conceived plans. So it was nice to see her try a different approach: she’s holding him to his obligation as a consultant. She can hardly be blamed for asking him to do his job. And keeping him busy doing that job might slow down whatever else he’s plotting. But let’s let readers decide.
Since the very opening of the episode, we can understand that the murderer (or the mastermind) is someone special this time, since we get to see the murder itself. It gives a very special status to the case. Indeed, one of the major points announced for this season was that Lisbon was getting a new arc, involving her own nemesis. But there is much more to it, as we can see in the analogies between the major characters appearing in the actual case and the protagonists’ situation.
First, as it was to expect, Volker reminds of RJ in various aspects:
1) He’s personally interested in Lisbon, telling her “call me anytime. And I mean it.” (Like RJ is with Jane. Remember that “kind of love” thing?)
2) He’s a cold mass murderer, who ordered the massacre of a whole village in the Amazon because it was an obstacle for his big juicy project. Interesting detail: Lisbon glanced at Jane when they were told of the crime, either to see if he deduced it was true or not, or to judge his reaction to the possibility of yet another horrifying killer… as she pointed out later, Volker is responsible of the murder of “women, children, babies”, just like RJ has killed women and Jane’s little girl. And the rapt attention he showed when Amanda was strangled proves that he’s a possible psychopath.
3) He’s vindictive: after Lisbon tried to interrogate him, he told her “I don’t want you to worry that you’ve offended me in any way.” RJ killed Jane’s family because he offended him on TV.
4) He uses other people to do his dirty work. He manipulates them.
5) Jane thinks he’s “formidable”, “smart and careful.”
On the other hand, there are similarities between Lisbon and Jane too:
1) She has her own Lorelei: Volker’s secretary Amanda. Lisbon notices that she’s weaker than him and tries to break her by creating trust and a personal connection, like Jane tried to do with RJ’s girl.
2) Later, she’s a woman on a mission: she wants to get Volker for whatever crime or fraud he may have committed, may it even be tax fraud or unpaid parking tickets. She ends up promising to the man himself that he won’t get away with Amanda’s murder.
More surprisingly, there are also a few interesting things that connect the victim and Jane:
– She was part of a team. Her producer told that “she was a valuable person here. She was a part of this team. We cared about her. So don’t mistake our commitment to the news for a lack of feeling”. Same commentary from the news anchor she worked with: “She was a great asset to the team”.
– Cassie also had an ambiguous relation with her partner: Hunt characterized them as “The best of friends” before admitting they “had a moment.” Jane and Lisbon’s relation is more on the side of close friendship, but there are shades of ambiguity too.
– She was a skilled investigator too. Some similarities with Jane’s work are discreetly enhanced with lines such as “any good journalist gets sued, it’s part of the job”. Jane probably also consider that poking at people’s secrets and receiving complains is part of his. Moreover, Cassie had an inside source (like Jane and Lorelei). And Jane takes her place when they’re on the air, since he answers to Hunt.
-Finally, Cassie’s biggest investigation caused her death. That’s exactly what Lisbon fears for Jane. It’s a rather clever way to link the case with the recurring problem at hand for Jane, while hinting that we are following Lisbon’s point of view in the interpretation of the murder and its developments. Indeed, the episode focuses on her, as shown by that curious headshot we get from her when she’s at Amanda’s door. This shot enhances the pivotal moment when things are getting personal for her, when she starts making promises.
At the same time, that vision of Lisbon’s head surrounded by a large yellowish or golden circle is like the face of a saint encircled in an aureole. Our cop Saint Teresa indeed wants to protect and fight all things evil. And that is what makes her essentially different from Jane: she seeks justice, not revenge; she wants to get the bad guy arrested, not to kill him.
Nevertheless, this new arc caused by Amanda’s death is deep-rooted in Lisbon’s path. In the review for ‘Red Dawn’, Reviewbrain wrote:
“Saint Teresa, indeed. I’d say she’s in desperate need of a shrink except this world truly needs people like her. Why a shrink? Because just as Jane can’t move on from his family’s death, Lisbon is still being tortured from not being able to save her dad. Just like Jane wants to right the wrong of his family’s death by killing Red John, Lisbon wants to right the wrong of her dad’s suicide by saving Jane. It’s a sad, sad cycle, one that I doubt either of them will be able to break out of easily.”
It seems that by failing again to save a witness who trusted her, poor Lisbon has just added another step in her personal cycle.
Mysterious Mister Kirkland
Like the episode begun with a warning that the characters may be on the edge on the abyss, it also ended with a promising epilogue. Lisbon met the mysterious man who had supervised Alexa Shultz’s phone conversation with Minelli at the very end of ‘Red Dawn’. The unknown adversary has now a function and a name: Bob Kirkland from Homeland Security. His last name is intriguing because it contains an allusion to religion (“kirk”), and Red John’s usual method is to inspire an almost religious faith in his followers. The guy tries to pressure Lisbon to back off Volker’s case because the billionaire has contributed to a lot of campaigns, the implication that he has many powerful friends. Lisbon stays as indifferent as she has been with Brenda’s similar request last episode. Kirkland displays the same logic that characterizes Bertram, as well as an interesting perspective, since we know that RJ works with a network, connections and influences, probably in the highest spheres…
Its leads us to two questions: given Kirkland’s interference with a CBI case, we may wonder if he didn’t use the same method to convince Alexa to make that call to Virgil. Is Alexa even aware that her part in watching Jane may have been questionable? Second point, what is Volker’s background? He’s well-connected and influential, both qualities precious for RJ. And he’s protected by someone who has an interest in Jane and who has certainly been watching him for years. Does it imply that Lisbon’s new enemy is connected to Jane’s old nemesis?
Icing on the cake: It looks like the writer took special care of balancing the dark shades of the episode with some very pleasing and funny details. Like Jane hiding his file under his mattress, the fact that Lisbon made him take some fresh air and sunshine where a car just crashed. And my favorite: Jane’s cunning plan to enter the high security prison… “Ahem, I have an appointment.” And later testing the electric fencing. That scene really cracked me up!
Honorable Mentions: a collective praise to witty writer Eoghan Mohony, director John Showalter and his very intriguing shots and especially Blake Neely for his meaningful music. And to wonderful Robin Tunney because, well, she’s just great.
“I can’t promise I’ll be always here to help you Teresa. There will come a time when you may have to do all these on your own. I want you to be prepared.” Jane to Lisbon.
“I’m prepared to punch you in the face all on my own.” Lisbon, to the above.
“I don’t want to speak badly of the dead.” The “lady from the weather” after gossiping with glee all of her heart content.
“They don’t really care. They’re dead”. Jane to the above.
“You mean she was planning to meet with a secret lover? Sly minx. Woah.” So much for not being here to judge, Jane!
“I hope that hurt”. Lisbon to Jane after he’s been slapped by the woman he just insulted. Oh, just punch him yourself, woman, you know you want to!
“Well errr… I’m not really available at the moment, but if you leave a message after the tone…” Jane, subtly trying to hang up on Lisbon, after he’s been talking with her for some seconds already.
“Cho told me you asked him how to break in a high security prison.” Lisbon to the above. Going right for the jugular.
“Purely theoretical. And by the way he was no help whatsoever.” Devious and whinny Jane to the above.
“We’ll be right back after this short commercial break”. Jane, after the news anchor has fled the set. His expression is priceless.
“You guys are great. Tough, good looking, sincere. Let’s put you on the air. All this Public Relation, blah blah blah…” Jane and Lisbon being asked for an interview. Or scouted, I don’t really know…
“Hey, look at you! So tough! But you go smooth” Jane to Lisbon, about her determination to get Volker. Seriously, Jane, you had to choose “tough” over “good-looking” and “sincere” to pay her a compliment?
“Give him some lipstick and some blush” Lisbon on the TV set when Jane is about to be interviewed.
How come some guards didn’t come to make Jane leave when he was trying to sneak into the prison? As if he weren’t visible, suspicious and questionable enough…
Lisbon should have asked for more official information about that massacred village. It would have been more credible.
There seems to be an awful lot of unspoken things between Jane and Lisbon. It’s revealing that he accuses her of repeating his question when he asked her why she was in the attic with him. Like he did when Lisbon asked him about his confession, both are still answering the others’ doubts and worries with a question of their own. Nevertheless, the dynamic between them may soon need to accommodate a new element in Lisbon’s life; her quest to capture Volker. Then there is her new interaction with Kirkland and Mancini. All in all, the show is getting evermore intriguing.
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