After Cho (Kang) and Abbott (Rockmond Dunbar) find the corpses of three victims whose organs have been harvested, during their investigation on a human traffic ring, Jane (Baker) and Fischer (Emily Swallow) are called to the disturbing crime scene. Meanwhile, Lisbon (Tunney) is still struggling to make a decision concerning following her boyfriend to DC.
With ‘Black Hearts’, star writers Ken Woodruff and David Applebaum close the case of missing girls started in ‘Brown-Eyed Girls’, the second arc in TM 2.0 after the case involving Haibach’s revenge on former CBI members. And, like then, Jane also reaches a new -and this time depressing- stage in his murky emotional situation. Indeed, while the maddening man still couldn’t bring himself to actually do something regarding Lisbon’s possible departure, both she and her boyfriend take the initiative of making decisions. Jane keeps being passive regarding Lisbon, whereas Pike comes across as more straightforward than ever and tries again to rush his relationship in the most frustrating way. On the other hand, the case is pretty predicable, but rather carefully crafted and made deeper by a rather intriguing symbolism and some obvious efforts to give their villain more substance. The pleasure of the two leading characters pulling an amusing con together and the team members getting to fill smoothly their designated roles (boss, supportive coworkers and eager rookie) come together to make this episode, which could have been the last one before the ultimate conclusion of Jane’s story, a rather coherent yet odd combo.
Detailed AKA Humungous Review (spoilers galore)
VIS #1: the opening scene
Right away, the title ‘Back Hearts’ is explained both by the harvested organs of the poor girls and the cruelty of what’s been done to them –both points being emphasised by the black little heart drawn on Daniela’s hand, which served to mark her as a unwilling donor too…
Jane’s attitude is respectful and affected by that turn of events. He even mentions a “cup of tea” in passing, which reveals that he needs comforting in front of the horrifying sight. Plus, the bodies were actually discovered at the end of ‘Il Tavolo Bianco’, meaning that the episode starts during the same night. In other words, Jane is still under the defeated influence of his failed attempt at talking to Lisbon while eating cannoli together. Indeed, Lisbon is not here, just like she was late at the crime scene when she started dating Marcus: it again hints at the growing importance of her personal life. Plus, he’s showing vulnerability while glancing at the young woman’s face, like he did when he witnessed the other one dying in ‘Brown-Eyed Girls’: like then, his deep empathy also reflects his powerlessness and his feeling of abandonment in front of Lisbon’s new life (she had accused him of interrupting her date back then).
Either because Abbott remarked Jane’s subdued behaviour and worries about it or because he thought Jane might have a hunch, he starts asking the consultant about the case. Jane gloomily answers that he thinks there are many more dead girls. It’s interesting that, true to his name, Abbott is once again willing to play the part of Jane’s confessor. He tries to get Jane to talk about the case, just like he approached him about Lisbon’s decision to leave Austin –telling him then that conmen’s downfall often involved them starting to believe their own cons- and about the date-like dinner he set up in the previous episode. May it be about Lisbon or about the gruesome case, he’s the one who helps Jane into shedding a bit more light on his feelings to viewers…
VIS #2: Lisbon on a job interview
Back in the office, Lisbon is brought to attend to a webcam job interview with a potential new boss in DC. Abbott is present as her current leader and Pike is here too. Marcus is actually the contact who hunted the job for her, yet his presence in Abbott’s office makes him look omnipresent in her life. She spends her time off with him, he’s taking her to lunch or to late take-out dinner while she works and now he finds a way to get into her job itself too, even when he’s not directly needed on a case…
Moreover, his proposition seems even more pressing since the silver-winged flying time is again alluded to by the hourglass on Abbott’s desk (filmed under different angles during the whole interview)… Lisbon’s answer to the enthusiastic job offer echoes that notion: “that sounds great. I just need some time to think about it”.
Abbott gives her his professional opinion when the meeting has ended: he remarks that it’s a great deal, but obviously he’s far from happy to have one of his agents leave the team –the dark look he discreetly sends to Marcus during the interview is pretty eloquent. In the most recent episodes, he tried to confront both her and Jane about the situation they’re getting themselves in: he asked her if Jane knew that she might leave when she informed him of her possible departure and he kept pushing Jane to get her to stay. Dennis seems to like Jane as a person, given how well they get along in their many undercover gigs, but he’s also probably fully aware that Jane’s efficiency in the field might suffer from her absence. Jane is an investment of sorts: he too made a great deal with the FBI. Abbott, the man who coldly and calmly closed down the CBI before hunting Jane through South America, might want to keep his “golden boy” as happy and useful as possible. Eons ago Jane remarked to Hightower who had the same kind of logic, that if Lisbon was unhappy, he was less happy: the same goes here, because if his moral compass/anchor fails him, he may very well let his life go downhill. After all, when she wasn’t here to tell him to shred off his homeless vibe, he ended up basically a beach bum…
Unfortunately but as expected, Pike is not as understanding. He bluntly tells her « I’ve been patient » as soon as they exited the office. There’s obviously a shifting in his behavior, since until now he’s been putting off the appearance of the supportive boyfriend who would wait for her to decide whether or not she wanted to follow him, all the while attempting to subtly influence her. Now, he’s trying to pressure her more openly, even though he still wants to make himself look good: as always, only his qualities are brought on, may them be his honestly and inability to lie, his willingness to be here for her, or now his supposed patience. He plays on every aspect of her life: he’s half-forced her to perceive their fresh relationship as something serious, before making her watch movies involving love triangles. On the professional aspect, he’s been finding her a job. He’s methodically trying to eliminate every counter-argument she might have against moving to DC with him. Implicitly, he’s controlling her, telling her “it’s a great decision, but it’s a decision you need to make”, a phrasing that hints that he’s already chosen for her, she only needs to say the words.
That’s the moment Jane chooses to intrude on them and the shifting is also perceptible on his part: while he seemed half-apologetic before when he interrupted them (going even as far as asking her to text “Jane says hi” to the other man), he now curtly announces his presence with a rather cold greeting « Hello Lisbon. Pike». The awkward moment sums up the situation perfectly: a hesitant Lisbon is caught up between her pushy boyfriend and Jane who’s always lurking in the background of their relationship. Is this coldness an indication that Jane has decided to take matters into his own hands after his failed attempt at bringing her dessert late at night? Anyway, every member of their little tangled trio is now openly aware of the antagonism between the two males, as Jane has showed his hand by coming to her house –even if he ended up telling her that he wanted her to be happy.
Afterwards, while Lisbon and Jane investigate their prime suspect Ridley –whom viewers already know to be the ringleader since the end of ‘Brown-Eyed Girls’- Jane’s inner tension is still palpable. He keeps poking the suspect, remarking on the soberness of his office and wondering about every answer the other man gives them “What’s so boring about details,” indeed?
VIS #3: Lisbon asks Cho for advice
Confronted to such a lack of answers from her pushy lover and her slippery friend, Lisbon turns to the most immutable person in her life, her blunt former second-in-command Cho. The stoic agent recalls how he almost quitted in the first day in her team… because of Rigsby. But then he saw the way she worked and that convinced him to stay. While the memories are obviously fond ones –made even funnier since Wayne actually become his inseparable buddy- the fact remains that he stayed for her. Just like Jane, actually, who came back for her and, before, who tried to make it up to her after wanting to quit when Bosco took over the case in S2. It shows the influence she had on the people around her, both as a team leader and as a person. Plus, the allusion to Rigsby hints that she should not make an hasty decision either: it reminds the viewer that Cho’s already lost a close friend to work with and therefore would be pretty unwilling to let her go too, even if he points out that it’s a great job offer. Plus, it implicitly indicates that she’s leaving because of Jane –like Cho almost did because of Wayne-, or rather his inability to make a move, while he should be her reason to stay –since Cho’s partnership with the taller agent actually became one of the highlights of working for the CBI. On the other hand, Cho’s respect also reminds viewers that Lisbon used to be his boss: Jane’s revenge cost her a most promising career. Even now that she’s working for the FBI, she’s only a subordinate. Marcus is offering an opportunity to remedy to that loss.
Talking about Wayne, it’s interesting that Lisbon asks advice from Cho, since Rigsby was eager to give advice to Jane about getting together with Lisbon… As he did at the bar in ‘White As The Driven Snow’, Cho is more reserved. He obviously takes sides with Lisbon as the whole team used to do in the most recent years. He concludes: “whatever decision you make, it’s been an honor” before hugging her. While Lisbon is happy that he holds her in such high regard, she obviously never realized the impact she had on her team members… like she probably doesn’t know how deep Jane’s affection for her runs.
Later, it’s Kim’s turn to chime in. She simply asks where Jane is to Lisbon, adding that they always work together. Lisbon’s reply is a dry “not always”. Like when Abbott tried to poke into her complicated relation with the blond consultant, she closes off… Obviously, this choice of topic is painful for her.
VIS #4: Jane and the ringleader
Interestingly, most of Jane’s investigation quickly revolves around Ridley. He tries to create with the man a friendlier bond. That starts by meeting him again in his house. There’s a startling contrast between the very functional office and the carefully decorated luxury house, which already hints that the man has a double life.
Soon, the team locates a witness: the foul Dr Lark, whom they suspect actually killed the girls and removed their organs. After Cho and Kim saved him from the bomb Ridley ordered his henchman Tremmel to put on his car, he starts singing like the bird he’s named after… He admits to killing the women painlessly because he needed the money and Ridley paid well. When asked about the moral aspect of his actions, he just says that it bothered him to kill, but after a while stopped thinking about it. Still, this amorality is somewhat compensated by the fact that he commits suicide in his cell once Tremmel threatened his daughter.
Indeed, Lark was not strong enough to fight the evil association he was working for. Many details subtly fleshed up its threatening presence through the episode: the words “hunter of the rocky seashore” and “predatory” visible in the background when Cho and Kim went interrogating a suspect at a museum; the reference to Caesar brought in by Tremmel’s tattoo (the famous “veni, vidi, vici”, “I came, I saw, I conquered” that the imperator used to describe one of his military victory. The very brief line puts emphasis on the rapidity of the action, which might be a way to hint again at the flying time theme). This reference to the Roman general is further enlightened by the horses used in decoration, both in Ridley’s house (on a lamp visible when he’s talking on the phone with Tremmel) and on ambassador Moreno’s desk when Cho interrogates him over the phone too (a book end shaped like a horse head). Along with the panther sculpture visible in the same scene, those details reinforce the idea that this new association is very well organized, powerful and predatory. They’re a force to be reckoned with and Lark as a inoffensive bird was bound to die by getting close to them: they only preyed on his weaknesses.
When Jane corners Ridley alone in a parking lot, both men have a very intriguing talk. Ridley remarks that “it’s just business”, adding coldly “personally, I didn’t kill anyone”. He goes as far as explaining to Jane -whom he seems to consider as a kindred spirit- that his traffic serves to “save important leaders”. Jane grudgingly admits “I understand your perspective, very well”. Ridley replies: “come on, it’s just us. If anyone could understand our perspective, it’s you.” Without the shadow of a doubt, the shady businessman is alluding to Jane’s past: he’s aware of Jane’s ambiguity, his determination to achieve his goal no matter what the cost or how many people get hurt or killed in the process… Plus, his assessment sadly echoes Jane’s less than glorious moments, for instance his dismissing of Haibach when Kirkland kidnapped and tortured him because he thought the man’s life wasn’t precious enough. Lisbon disagreed then because she’s a better person than he is: quite disturbingly, Ridley is applying the same careless logic to his criminal activities than Jane has been to his quest for justice and revenge… Still, that was before Jane came to a more peaceful state of mind, because his sympathy in this case lies with the victims; he’s not as cold as he was back then.
Therefore, the whole talk has shades of RJ’s attempts to gain Jane’s attention and friendship: indeed both the serial killer and Ridley are cold-blooded criminals who think they’re superior and that they have the right to choose who is worth living. They’ve been targeting harmless women and Ridley, like McAllister, has been threatening a daughter for her father’s faults. Even the marks they put on their respective victims are quite similar in their innocuous appearance: a smiley face, made gruesome by the fact that it was drawn in blood vs. a little heart-shaped drawing with a horrid meaning… But Jane is no longer like them: he admitted to RJ that he’s “nobody”. He’s gained a humility that the two others lack. That doesn’t stop Jane from replying courteously to Ridley’s wish for him to have a lovely afternoon with a rather pensive “sure, you too”.
Jane and Lisbon (don’t) talk it out
Meanwhile, Jane finds another kind of opponent when the investigation provides Lisbon with a new opportunity to try to clear things out between them, but to not avail. Actually, there are three decisive moments in this silent gentle battle of wills he’s having with his beloved partners.
1) Firstly, when Jane is back in the office, it’s her turn to corner him. She enters the bullpen with a mug of coffee and a cup of tea –Jane is usually the one to bring her her favourite beverage- and her resolve wavers when she realizes that he’s seemingly asleep on the couch. But she calls for him and sits with him. She tries to put him at ease by telling “I always liked this couch”: that brings a touch of familiarity in her action. Also, it might be a coincidence, but that was pretty much what Jane said when he came to the CBI bullpen with his bimbo to bid them goodbye in ‘Fugue in Red’ (something along the lines of “I always wanted a couch like that”). Both times, that old couch has been the symbol of the work they’ve been doing together and the comfort he took in it and both times, reminding of them through it was a way to prepare themselves to depart. But for now, the line only makes Jane smiles, which Lisbon takes as her cue to start interrogating him. He begins hesitantly “Jane… Jane…” when her phone rings. The announcement that Lark committed suicide interrupts their talk.
Obviously, still, Lisbon’s attempt is her answer to Jane’s recent visit at her doorstep. As he couldn’t bring himself to open up to his real feelings, which made her cry, she’s taking upon herself to unlock that dreaded door he wasn’t able to open.
2) The second, more dramatic moment between them happens while the kidnapped girls, along with Daniela’s sister, are shipped to Columbia. That further stresses how time is the issue.
Jane comes up with a plan and tells Lisbon about it over the phone. His description is less than thrilling as it involves breaking “a few laws”… Lisbon is wary and when he presses her, she hopelessly answers “I’m thinking, Jane”. Seriously, what’s with the men in Lisbon’s life asking her to make huge decisions in a snap of a finger?
Of course, Jane plans to use the “understanding” he set up with Ridley. As he fakes a friendly visit in his house, he drugs the other man’s glass and takes him in a dark and worrying secluded place, probably the same Lark used to work on the poor girls’ bodies. While Ridley is still groggy, Jane feeds him a chilling little speech, explaining that so far the man has “been a step ahead” of him -Riddley managed to warn his Nigerian client to fly away before the cops could catch him- but that he finally got him now. Again, the “one step ahead” notion is linked with RJ’s little mind games with Jane, a detail meaning to accredit the thesis of Jane going once more all vigilante on the leader of a criminal organization.
Ridley tries again to justify his choices by the same reasoning: “some lives are more valuable than others” but, whereas Jane “couldn’t agree more”, it becomes obvious that it’s Riddley’s life and his accomplice’s that he finds unworthy. Indeed, he and Lisbon as wearing scrubs as if they were about to perform surgery. The woman protests that she’s not convinced that Jane’s doing the right thing, but she nonetheless goes along with his actions. Again, she’s playing the assistant to Jane’s magic show: they turn their back to Riddley and start presumably removing Tremmel’s organs while he’s still alive and kicking –and the tattoo on his arm makes Riddley sure that it’s his henchman lying there. Yet their concentrated albeit grimacing faces contrast funnily with the dramatics they’re pulling off for Riddley’s benefit. Lisbon reluctantly following Jane’s silent request to splatter more of that fake blood she’s so obviously disgusted with on his scrubs makes it all the more amusing. Riddley is not aware that he’s played and he starts panicking once he realized that he’s the next target… even more since he’s just witnessed them murdering someone… His only hope is Lisbon’s scruples: “you’re a cop. You cannot do that. This is wrong.” But her answer is even more distressing than Jane’s ‘crazy scientist’ act: “not after what you’ve done. This is poetic justice”. Again, the “justice” killing is a reminder of RJ’s fate, which makes the whole ordeal even more convincing to Riddley. The only difference is that Lisbon is supposed to be Jane’s willing and active accomplice this time…
3) That fact isn’t without consequences. After a terrified Riddley gives them all the information they want, they bring him back to more lawful grounds. When he’s in the bullpen, he starts accusing Jane and Lisbon of murder and they defend themselves by showing that Tremmel is actually in a cell. He wasn’t killed (it was Wiley playing his part with a fake tattoo on his arm. The undercover job of the week…).
Still, even though Riddley has been neatly trapped, his accusations don’t settle well with Abbott. Even more since Jane’s reply to Riddley’s lawyer that he’s been using psychological torture on him is “your client is a monster”. He’s not pleased either that Lisbon takes Jane’s side, just like she did in front of the jury when she pleaded the fifth to protect him… Abbott convokes them in his office and scolds them, adding that those are serious claims against them both. They keep denying that they did anything Riddley affirms they did to him. After dismissing Jane, Abbott focuses on Lisbon: “Jane is a liar… but you’re an honest, good person with a long career ahead of you”. The moment eerily reminds of his assumption when they met at the CBI: back then, he told her that she had been a good cop… before getting under Jane’s spell.
That doesn’t deter Lisbon who keeps standing for her partner: she lies through her teeth to her boss, stating firmly that “everything Jane said was true”. If it does come to it, between a career opportunity and her loyalty to Jane, she’s made a choice. On a professional level, she thus knows where she stands and her determination to have Jane’s back contrasts with her overall recent wavering… Too bad that doesn’t help with the personal problem at hand, right?
VIS #5: Pike’s proposal
Paralleling the touching reunion between Daniela and her sister saved in extremis from her captors, Lisbon meets with much relief her ever-present boyfriend. She’s happy and relieved to see him as the day as been emotionally draining, between the revolting case, Jane’s dreadful plan and Abbott’s threats. Yet, Pike uses her vulnerability to once again pressure her into making a decision, arguing as the devoted boyfriend he pretends to be that “it’s your life and like to be part of it”. Still, the care he displays tips the balance on his side: he’s here for her and he values her. With Jane, she’s come to the realisation that, in spite of their shared affection and connivance, he ought to always demand that she always protect him. He’ll always decide to take justice into his own hands when the law won’t reach the monsters they’re chasing. Her career will always take a backseat to their partnership, whereas he’s still unable to take a step in her direction on a personal level. Hence the decision she suddenly makes: she accepts Pike’s offer.
Unfortunately, Marcus considers this as an opening to push his luck further. He knows that it’s not “romantic, but the hell with that”: he asks out of the blue “will you marry me” to a flabbergasted Lisbon. Poor Lisbon who’s already made a huge effort to fight her doubts sees her commitment issues rattled again. Distraught, she only manages to answer “it’s a big decision. It’s huge”… Pushy Marcus generously gives her a “no pressure”, even though he cannot be unaware that he’s kept pressuring her. He’s been pushing her along with every decision he makes for them, starting by labelling their liaison as serious, to finding her a new job, until that overkill proposal. Just like she accused Jane of, Pike is making decisions for her and he subtly blames her when she’s unsure of them by making her feel guilty when compared with his qualities as the self-proclaimed man of her dreams. That’s how he went from a heartfelt « I’ll be here » to an edgy« I’ve been patient » in a matter of hours, after all…
His admitted lack of romantic skills is also pretty telling. Since he started dating Teresa, he’s shown a rather unsettling interest in labels more than in the essence of things between Lisbon and him: that what the granola bar “breakfast” hinted at. All the while, he’s been imposing his tastes and decisions, choosing movies with a hidden meaning, planning life decisions way ahead of her. It’s becoming more and more visible that there’s a discreetly controlling and manipulative streak in his apparently harmless and open personality. Why would he have asked her to marry him when she was showing vulnerability, otherwise? A marriage would bind her to him more effectively… In a sense, he’s looking forward to make Lisbon a trophy wife of sorts, gently controlling her life in a rather perverse fashion…
Pike gives her the coup de grâce by asking her “have you told Jane?”, adding “he’ll understand…” The man wants to push his advantage to the bitter end.
Lisbon obediently goes to meet Jane in the bullpen, only a few steps from where Pike’s unromantic romancing took place. Here, the lack of communication culminates in a painful moment as Jane seems peacefully engrossed in a book, sitting alone on his couch in a deserted bullpen, just like he was at the end of ‘Violets’ after Pike took Lisbon on their first date and afterwards in ‘Silver Wings of Time’… Plus it echoes Lisbon’s tentative talk earlier. Before Lisbon could explain the new situation to him, he interjects “we make a good team sometimes”. It’s an affectionate and wilful thing to say, yet ironically it’s exactly this conception of their partnership that pushed her into Marcus’ waiting arms. Lisbon cannot bring herself to tell him what she planned to. She simply says “I’ll see you tomorrow” –a loaded sentence, since she plans on leaving soon… He replies calmly “I’ll be here. Goodnight.”
Has Jane heard what they were saying? Did he avoid the painful talk just like he feigned ignorance when she first came to talk to him? Is he blissfully unaware of what happened or is he protecting himself by evading the truth? Or is he keeping things close to his vest because he’s looking for a way to finally fight for his happiness? So many questions, so little time left…
This review was written in a hurry, so feel free to comment on any pet peeves you may have on the episode. Also could someone make out the title of the white book Jane’s reading in the finale scene? I’ve been asked about it but I couldn’t see it clearly… And, of course, thanks for reading!