This review is brought to you by P, a commenter of this blog who agreed to write the post since neither Violet or I were able to. I must say I’m feeling quite humbled by my guest reviewers; first Violet, now P🙂 Be sure to rate to express how fantastic the review is. -Reviewbrain
Lem McVie (Brandon Claybon), a young real estate agent, is found beaten to death on a country club golf course. The team discovers that he is an ex-gang member who had turned his life around and reinvented himself two years earlier to set a better example for his younger siblings. Was his death the result of his old gang ties, or somehow related to his new, seemingly respectable life? Meanwhile, Jane continues his search for Red John based on his new belief that they have met.
I found this episode a welcome break after the very intense episodes we have been given recently. Jane seemed the happiest and most engaged he’s been in quite a while, the classic Lisbon-Jane banter that has been absent lately was back in full force, and we even got a few Cho centric scenes thrown in for good measure. The case itself was interesting and well developed, and the writers managed to slip in references to the larger Red John arc without distracting from the current investigation. There were even nods to some recurring themes, such as the conflict between the law and justice. What else can you really ask for? 9/10
Detailed AKA Humungous Review (spoilers galore)
I loved this episode. Banter, Cho, clever lines, and continuity. We were given playful, involved, nice and sane Jane instead of the secretive, dark, moody and disturbed Jane we have seen so much of this season. It seems that he truly believes that his new lead has gotten him closer than ever before to Red John. I don’t really agree with him that the information is that surprising or valuable, but I’ll remain silent and allow him his optimism for now.
He let Lisbon and the entire team in on his plan to catch the killer, and I love how seamlessly they all worked together. The scene where Rigsby interviewed Wintergrove employees after Jane left Lem’s car with the blackmail note illustrates this. After Rigsby gives Dilmer the false impression that the CBI has no idea where Lem was killed, Rigsby reports in and says: “OK, the hook has been baited.” Jane and Lisbon wait at the murder scene to catch the killer, and Cho, Rigsby and Van Pelt all participate in the interrogations. The entire team worked together like a well-oiled crime solving machine.
While Jane seemed to give the case the attention it deserved, it is clear Red John is never far from his mind. When Jane meets Nathan Dilmer and shakes his hand, Jane gets an odd look on his face as he glances down at their linked hands. You can almost see him thinking of Lorelei’s assertion that he and Red John met and shook hands at some point.
And that brings us to…
VIS #1: The teaser: Lisbon and Jane and “The List”
As Lisbon and Jane arrive at the crime scene, Lisbon comments on Jane’s preoccupation with the little book in which he is recording the names of the people he has shaken hands with. After helping him remember the name of the redhead from the bio facility, Dean Harken, she points out something that I hope Jane at least considered:
“I hate to be a buzzkill, Jane, but even if you could remember everybody you’ve ever met, what if Lorelei Martins is lying? What if you’ve never actually met Red John?”
This is a valid question, but Jane is adamant when he states that:
“I haven’t just met him I’ve shaken hands with him. And she wasn’t lying. She didn’t realize what she told me.”
I suspect Jane is right, and Lorelei wasn’t lying. She seemed genuinely enraged at the time and my best guess is that she was being honest. Jane is taking her words as absolute gospel, including taking her literally when she said they shook hands. I hope for everybody’s sake this isn’t a case of him seeing what he wants to see, like he believed Red John would in the Crimson Hat. Presumably, the answer to this question will be revealed as the season progresses and we learn more. For now, Lisbon doesn’t seem nearly as confident as Jane that Lorelei isn’t playing him.
Lisbon’s “Am I in that book?” was absolutely adorable and said with just the right combination of curiosity and uncertainty. Jane in turn seemed absolutely genuine when he replied:
“She said it’s a wonder Red John and I didn’t become friends. Now what we have I consider a friendship, so my friend, you are free and clear.”
Lisbon was relieved, and frankly, so was I. At least we can confirm that Jane hasn’t become so dark and paranoid that he even suspects Lisbon. I would be shocked if he did doubt her, but it’s nice to have the verbal reassurance since his continued secrecy does make me wonder at times. I must admit I am much less certain and more curious about whether Cho, Rigsby and Van Pelt are also given the friend exemption.
After starting out with a short but serious Red John conversation, they switched gears and lightened it up with some cute Jane antics. Jane pretending to be the agent in charge and doing his best Lisbon imitation as he says “Rigsby, what have we got?” seemed to amuse even Lisbon. She is barely able to hold back her smile when Jane asks the obviously well-heeled country club member who found the body if he is a member of a street gang.
Lisbon finally says: “You know what? You can write my name down in that book” and the two continue to bicker. This dynamic is a big part of why I love the show, and I didn’t realize how much I missed it the past couple of weeks until I saw it back again.
VIS #2: Lisbon and Jane with Juliana and Noah
I thought the way this scene was filmed very effectively drew a number of parallels between Jane and Lisbon. Their shared sense of empathy and compassion for others (which Jane often hides), their own tragic losses, and even their fine investigative skills. We’ve seen many times how Jane has influenced Lisbon’s behavior (more on that later), but this scene highlights some of the more positive effects that Lisbon has had on Jane, such as giving him a way to use his skills to help people instead of con them. I like to think she has been a good influence on him, even if it doesn’t always show and is often overwhelmed by his obsession with vengeance.
The scene cuts back and forth repeatedly between Lisbon and Juliana and Jane and Noah. Both Lisbon and Jane clearly reflect on their own tragic backgrounds as they talk with Juliana and Noah. Lisbon realizes that with their parents and Lem gone and a younger brother to care for, Juliana is now in a position similar to her own when her father died. She tells Juliana: “I knows what it’s like to be the one to keep the family together. It’s a tough job. Don’t make it tougher. If you know who did this, tell me.” Juliana claims no knowledge.
Jane draws on his own personal history of loss, telling Noah: “It’s tough when you lose somebody but you still carry them with you. I mean your memories and the choices you make in life.” Clearly Jane is still dealing with his guilt over his role in his family’s deaths. You can’t help but wonder if Jane is also questioning any of the choices he’s made since his family was killed.
VIS #3: Cho and Tamsin Wade
It was love at first sight. Cho took one look at the CornerShot assault rifle in Tamsin Wade’s office and was drawn to it like a man lost in the desert is drawn to an oasis. After watching him play for a few minutes, Tamsin teases Cho, saying: “Better put that thing down before you shoot someone, doggy.” Cho actually almost smiled! Tamsin reveals that Lem has had no contact with the Ghouls in the past few years, so there doesn’t seem to be a gang related motive for his murder. But it wasn’t a wasted visit on Cho’s part. Turns out the CBI is creating a new Rapid Response team which will be the CBI’s version of a SWAT team.
I really like the dynamic between the two ex-military types and the badass attitude that Tamsin demonstrates (I could imagine she and Lisbon being friends, hanging out, cleaning their guns.) Later, after Cho works with Tamsin’s team to enter the Ghouls stash house and bring in Shade, he accepts a spot on the Rapid Response team. She invites Cho out to the shooting range after work to meet the team. I loved the chemistry between Cho and Tamsin. I hope we see more of her as the season progresses.
This brings me to a small, or maybe not so small, concern of mine. The show has introduced several new recurring characters: Tamsin, Mancini, Kirkland, Alexa. I find all of them fascinating and compelling, but I wonder how frequently they will really appear. We haven’t seen Mancini in weeks and we were just left hanging after that poker game. I realize there is only so much screen time available, but I really wish they would find a way to work more of these characters in even a bit more often. They did a great job this week doing that with Sarah. Even a quick verbal mention of them, such as they frequently do with Lorelei, would really help keep these storylines in mind.
VIS #4: Jane asks Lisbon to let Juliana go
Before Lisbon can explain to Noah that he will be going with child services, Jane drags her out saying he has a brilliant idea. He then admits that he has no brilliant idea, he just doesn’t want her to send Noah to a foster home. Jane tells her that there are always choices. She can just let them go home, she doesn’t have to charge his sister. When Lisbon responds that she broke the law, Jane draws in a breath and glances away as if he is frustrated by Lisbon’s insistence on the letter of the law. He just replies “Just let them go home” and watches Lisbon walk away.
A bit later when Lisbon asks where Jane is going, he says “Back to Wintergrove. I have an appointment to take a look at a model home. Do you wanna come with, or do you wanna stick around and do the right thing?”
Lisbon, exasperated, just replies “Jane” before he says “I trust you’ll make the right choice Lisbon.”
Considering Jane’s history of caring for children, I don’t doubt that he was eager to keep Noah out of foster care. However, as I watched this scene there was a nagging voice inside my head insisting that Jane was testing Lisbon to see how easily she would set aside the law in favor Jane’s version of justice. This isn’t the first time he has convinced her to let a guilty party go. Now that he believes he is closer than ever to finding his nemesis, he might be trying to gage where Lisbon stands after years of Jane’s influenced. Have her views changed enough for his purposes? Will she let Jane get away with murder, or will she try to stop him or arrest him when the final showdown comes? Will his evaluation of where she now stands influence how much or how little he tells her of his discoveries and plans going forward?
VIS #5: Lisbon and Sarah
Both Lisbon / Sarah scenes were compelling. They demonstrated Lisbon’s growing ambivalence toward always obeying the letter of the law, Jane’s influence on her, and the ongoing theme of the law versus justice. When Lisbon tells Sarah they’d like to hold off on charging Juliana McVie because they would like to have leverage to try to use her to catch bigger fish, Sarah readily agrees but tells Lisbon she read the file and it’s a slam dunk. She goes on to say:
“Don’t give her a pass because she is sympathetic. She broke the law. You have statutory duties.”
Thank you, Sarah! I’m glad somebody reminded Lisbon of this. Her guilty “I hear you” to me sounded like she is very conscious of all the things she has let Jane get away with, or convince her to let other people get away with. Not that I disagree with her decision in this particular case. The police and DA do have broad discretion on whether or not to press charges and Juliana is clearly not a threat to society. At least Lisbon did it the right way in this case, getting agreement from the DA, and not hiding or fabricating evidence or letting a dangerous criminal escape *cough* Jane *cough*.
Sarah reminding Lisbon of her responsibilities wasn’t the only thing I liked about this scene. I thought this was a great way to bring Sarah back and remind us she’s still out there and still in Ben’s life without building an entire episode around her. Please refer to my earlier comment about more continuity with recurring characters. This is a great example of the right way to do it.
The second Sarah / Lisbon scene was even more interesting. Lisbon introducing her to Juliana and Noah and explaining, in front of them, how Lem was a hero who died because he wanted to do the right thing, and then suggesting that perhaps the DA’s office would consider dropping the charges against Juliana “because it’s the right thing to do” was extremely manipulative. Sarah’s “nicely played, Theresa. You owe me one” was spot on.
Not even Jane could have played this situation better. Lisbon manipulated Sarah in much the same way Jane manipulated Lisbon. Lisbon has been learning at the knee of the master. Maybe Jane should put Lisbon in his book after all.😉
I love the very end when Lisbon gives Juliana and Noah Lem’s keys and cufflinks. Juliana understood how Lisbon managed the situation, and was very appreciative. The big hug Noah gives her was very sweet. We are once again reminded how awesome Lisbon is.
VIS #6: Jane and Lisbon catch the bad guys
There was a lot to like here. Humor, Jane and Lisbon working flawlessly together to get the guilty to incriminate themselves, and a mysterious murmur as Lisbon talks in her sleep.
When Jane and Lisbon go back to the crime scene, Jane jumps over fence assuming that it is locked. Lisbon calmly opens the gate and walks through. Jane is obviously surprised and a bit defensive as he explains “that was locked this morning”. Seeing the normally self-assured and in control Jane feeling a little foolish was amusing.
Jane knows it’s a Wintergrove employee, but not which one. They sit out of sight on the kitchen floor and wait to see who walks through the door. Lisbon eventually falls asleep and we hear her voice saying something just about unintelligible. Jane hesitates before reaching out to wake her. He tells her she was talking in her sleep and drooling (what a gentleman!) She asks what she said, but before he can answer her, the door opens. I had a hard time hearing what she said. My best guess is “lies, I know”, but I realize this is probably wrong. However, I suspect this is a bit of a Rorschach test. Is it meant to be anything significant, or is it just a cute moment letting us know that Lisbon talks in her sleep? Hard to tell, but the look on Jane’s face, instead of being amused as I would expect if she was babbling nonsense, seemed rather serious.
When Bosh, Phipps and Dilmer enter the house, Jane and Lisbon eventually make themselves known. I love how Jane turned them against each other by pretending that Bosh had been cooperating with them and sold the other two out. Lisbon played right along when she realized what Jane was doing (so maybe her acting skills are a little better than Jane gives her credit for.) Lisbon can improvise along with Jane, demonstrating how well she now understands his methods.
VIS #7: Jane in his attic
Once again we are reminded that the hunt for Red John is Jane’s top priority and favorite pastime. The episode ends with Jane in his attic looking through his book. We were given a clear view of the final page he looks at. The names shown were Brett Partridge, Ellis Mars, Dean Harken, Jason Cooper (Stiles’ second in command at Visualize), Walter Mashburn, Vint Molinari (FBI Missing Persons, led Kristina Frye search), Dr. Linus Wagner, Virgil Minelli, Dr. Towlen Morning (who is deceased), and Osvaldo Ardiles. I’m not sure why Morning would even make the list. Not only is he dead, but Jane never met him while he was alive or shook his hand. Sadly, there was no love shown for Laroche, Bertram, Kirkland or CBI Ron. L Either they are on pages we weren’t shown (most likely the case), or Jane doesn’t consider them suspects.
It’s like the writers threw in every pet theory of every Mentalist fan anywhere. While Red John could conceivably be on the page we were shown (although I would not bet on it), you cannot conclude that he must be. I think of it as a way for the writers to play with the fans and keep the interest level, and the conspiracy theory generation, running high. And just so you don’t put too much faith in “The List”, keep in mind that four other names are briefly visible as Jane looks through the pages. They are: Sammy Corrado, Anthony Astrino, Jannie Penvari, and Briana Morini. All four are staffers on The Mentalist, writers production assistants and the like. It’s good to see that the writers have a sense of humor, but unless you truly think one of The Mentalist staffers is Red John, you might want to take Jane’s list with a grain of salt.
The winner: When Lisbon manipulates Sarah into letting Juliana go. It demonstrated not only how much Jane’s influence has impacted Lisbon thinking, but also how well Lisbon has learned and can now apply Jane’s techniques. Bonus for the sweet interaction with Noah at the end.
First Runner up: Jane asking Lisbon to let Juliana go. The tension could be cut with a knife, and I do believe it was a very obvious test.
Second Runner up: The opening scene when Jane expresses his confidence that Red John is someone he knows. It is obvious he now views it as a simple matter of going through all the names in his book. And it’s a bonus to see him clearly acknowledge his friendship with and trust of Lisbon.
“Hey, you found our victim’s car. Well done” – Cho to Shade as he cuffs Shade after tackling him next to Lem’s car.
“You know what? You can write my name down in that book.”- Lisbon to Jane.
“I’m pretty handy with a kettle. You should trust me.” – Jane to Noah.
“He wrote the letter you idiot.” – Phipps to Bosh when Bosh doesn’t realize Jane had set them up.
“I think I need to be alone with the house for a moment. Just to check out its aura. Well I’m not gonna buy a house unless we have compatible auras.” – Jane to Bosh.
“But next time you come across a dead body, Chip, show a little respect. Thank you” – Jane to Chip McGavin.
“Better put that thing down before you shoot someone, doggy.” – Tamsin Wade to Cho.
Bryce Clyde Jenkins did an excellent job as Noah McVie. I’m always impressed when child actors give a strong and believable performance.
Jillian Bach was perfect as Sarah, as always. Sarah is such an unusual mixture of cute and hard. I’m glad she was back, if only for a couple of scenes.
Monique Gabriela Curnen is a great addition as Agent Tamsin Wade. I really like how she manages to be tough and playful at the same time.
If some elements of the plot seemed a little familiar to you, that’s because you’ve seen it before. Multiple perpetrators killing the victim together to ensure they all share blame in order to prevent the victim from revealing their role in an accidental death – was done before in Red Tide way back in season one. In that case it was four teenagers drowning their friend on the beach to keep her from telling the police about the accidental death of a security guard. Despite the obvious recycling, this episode was well done and I didn’t guess that the three men were in on it together until the very end.
Is it really realistic that Cho’s Rapid Response duties would not interfere with his full time Serious Crimes duties? I suppose if the unit was very infrequently used it might be, but I would think that type of unit would see frequent action.
Overall Black Cherry was well done and both a very good standalone episode and an effective vehicle for slowly moving forward other ongoing storylines. It harkened back to simpler times before Jane became quite so dark, and really highlighted the excellent chemistry Jane and Lisbon as well as the rest of the team share. After spending most of this season watching Jane become a less and less likable character, we got to see him, at least temporarily, redeem himself by being responsive to his team, showing compassion, and being less of the creepy obsessed loner that he seemed to be turning into.
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