When Abbott (Rockmond Dunbar) gets in touch with his former boss Bill Peterson (Dylan Baker) because of a raid gone wrong, he gets unexpectedly roped into the murder of a DEA agent, which pushes him closer to the danger caused by his involvement in the sensitive Rio Bravo case years before. Meanwhile, love is in the air in the FBI as Lisbon wants to celebrate Jane’s birthday and Wylie (Joe Adler) decides to ask his coworker Vega (Josie Loren) on a date.
That was a very cute and endearing episode, what with the old blue teacup’s return adding a really sweet reference to the past and the tentative romance between young Wylie and Vega opening a door for future progress. Abbott’s gotten also some interesting character development that both fits his personality and relates to the show history. All in all, this is probably one of the best episodes of this new season, because it shows how much putting the past to rest feels less like a conclusion than a new beginning for Jane and Lisbon, whatever it might entail in the upcoming episodes.
Detailed AKA Humungous Review (spoilers galore)
VIS#1: Abbott gets in trouble
In reaction to the trouble his past might bring to his wife’s blooming career, Abbott visits his former’s boss from the Rio Bravo Station. The official reason is that Dennis’s handling the report on the failed operation authorized by Peterson to find drugs in a restaurant which his team suspects was involved in a drug ring.
Upon visiting the man in his own ground in an attempt to make him more comfortable, Abbott explains that he doesn’t “want this to be awkward”. The other’s answering reaction is deceivingly benevolent: he hints that he knows Dennis well (telling him that he lost weight, asking about “Lena”, which is a nod to Dennis’ current predicament to viewers), then he slowly insists on the power he once held over the younger man (“Why? Because when you worked for me, you were barely shaving?”). That past familiarity has a vaguely paternal vibe and he’s trying to use the former influence he had to make Abbott give him access on the file on his own team. The man makes Dennis squirm a little at the mention of the Rio Bravo station –it is bound to make him sore like when this part of his life was brought up by the man from D.C. -, adding that he’s “come up to the world” since then. When his former employee refuses to accede to his demand, Peterson’s strategy changes to a more emotional angle stating that “a lot of people in this agency got their gun sights set for ol’Bill Peterson… I need to know if you’re handing them any bullets”. He’s putting himself in a victim’s position while Dennis becomes a potential traitor siding with the wolves… and when that doesn’t work either, the tone changes to something more threatening: “when I was your boss at Rio Bravo, I had your back. You’re telling me you don’t have mine now? Is that how you want to play this? ” He pretends to be asking for simple “professional courtesy” but the truth is that this dark secret has now because a threat not only to Lena’s job, but to Abbott as well.
Aware of the danger, but still being a professional, Abbott half agrees to let Bill see his final report. He starts his investigation by visiting the hotheaded agent who led the fiasco operation only to find him dead in his house. He’s been tied to a chair and shot twice. His position reminds a bit of Osvaldo’s body found by Rigsby in a creepy warehouse. Even though the latter had been stabbed, both are the victims of two cases somehow linked to a not quite forgotten nasty history that is coming back to menace the main characters.
Jane and Lisbon/ Wylie and Vega: domestic bliss and young love
But, while Dennis is busy being threatened by shady law enforcement officials and tumbling over dead bodies in true hard-boiled detective fashion, Jane and Lisbon are enjoying domestic bliss. They’re stepping out of the airstream -which may have viewers wonder whether she’s spent the night or if she was just coming to drive him to work- and they start talking about a rather hot topic: Jane’s birthday present from Lisbon. He’s not taking the date as a very interesting matter (“by the way, keep tomorrow night open. –Why would it be closed? –Your birthday… -oh, that…”) and has already warned everybody at work that he wants “no songs, no cake, no gifts”. Which hints at two things: for one, it’s his first birthday at the FBI hence the need to explain that he doesn’t celebrate it and two, those demands are probably why they were never seen celebrating it at the CBI, given that they celebrated Lisbon’s (at least once) and gifts and cake were required… The only other celebration shown on screen was the anniversary of his family’s death, in a more tragic perspective: Jane hasn’t been holding his own life in high regard, so rejoicing about a new notch in it obviously doesn’t held much importance. Yet Lisbon is eager to make him happy as she’s planning a private celebration and a gift. As she tells him that it’s a surprise, he’s amused at the idea that she thinks she can keep a secret from him for that long. Her reply is curt: “I don’t think I can. I know I can” to which he retorts “I admire your confidence”…
This snickering argument about her secret keeping skills has been going on for years, with Jane claiming that she’s “translucent” and that he can read her like an open book and her throwing him off balance from time to time, sometimes as a game (keeping a hammer in her desk drawer, playing poker with him), sometimes as a more serious way to keep him off her life (rubbing in his face that she had a “date”, not telling him that she planned to go to D.C. with Marcus). Now, it’s part of their old banter more than anything else. The romantic celebration she’s planning insists on their new status as a couple, even more since her own way of showing that she was glad to have him back after his two-years hiatus had also been to give him a present (those socks he was no longer wearing after coming back from Venezuela). Back then and now, she’s trying to give him what he’s been lacking off, comfort and normalcy. With her by his side, he’s back to a more normal, fulfilling and self-indulgent life.
Later on, she needles him into guessing what the gift is. He’s distracted because he sensed that Abbott was in trouble, but he stepped in her game nonetheless, asking silly questions to mock her secret keeping abilities. Truthfully, he probably doesn’t really care about what the present is, as long as it comes from her: he was gleeful and almost teary-eyed when she gave him something in ‘Green Thumb’, even though it was only a pair of socks… On the other hand, one might wonder if those childish suggestions may not held a deeper meaning: after all, he asks “is it made of Kryptonite?”, a veiled reference to the super-hero costume she offered to make him in S1 ‘Bloosdhot’, whereas the line “is it something that I would wear on a cold winter’s day?” might apply to the woolen socks. Following that logic of the three guesses game being hidden allusions to past presents/promised gifts, the first of his funny questions might be interpreted in a similar way. This dialog: “does it weigh more or less than 3 ½ pounds? -Why 3 ½ pounds? –Because.” might be a nod to Jane’s rebuff in ‘Fugue in Red’ (“because, Lisbon, because”) and if one were to offer a somewhat far stretched idea, the weight could maybe refer to the cowry shell he sent her from South America since he must have had to weight the package at the post office.
Nevertheless, Teresa and Patrick are not the only one in a romantic mood: in reference to Jane’s revelation to Vega about Wylie’s interest in her, the younger man is rehearsing his speech to ask her out at the office. Holed up in the break room, he’s repeating “Michelle/Vega, I’ve got tickets for that blues festival”… he’s obviously nervous, but he’s quicker to take action than Wayne had been (even though Jane’s teasing and Cho’s annoyance might not have helped that much in hindsight…). Plus, there’s apparently no rule against fraternizing given that he’s planning to make his offer in the bullpen… Yet, Vega’s refusal to acknowledge the situation her admirer’s in is on par with Grace’s and he chickens out when she interrupts him with the new case. The poor boy’s nervousness and isolation in the deserted room contrasts with the merriness in front of the Airstream… From the start, there’s a strong possibility that his planned romantic night out might not meet as a joyous success as their special birthday party… And this is further hinted at later when Jane interrupts his flirting by sending Vega on an errand for the investigation.
VIS#2: Jane makes a test and takes control of the situation…
After notifying the murder, Abbott puts his team on the DEA agent’s murder and promises to the visibly shaken Bill to extent “every courtesy” to him. It’s clearly a reminder of the not so friendly talk he had with the man, but Jane catches on the double meaning and suspects that something is going on. He confronts Abbott and asks what the other man has on him. He also suspects that there’s something fishy in the theory that the hit was ordered by the cartel, since the DEA couldn’t find anything during their raid: “the animal that escapes a snare doesn’t necessarily go after the poacher”… Shortly afterwards, the DEA team makes a not so good impression by mocking Vega’s young age.
1) … on the case
It’s may not have been what determined Jane’s interest in the case, yet it’s quite apparent that the victim shared some similar traits with the consultant. He was a dedicated investigator, prone to acts of insubordination given that he attacked their suspect in front of everyone, even though his boss was nearby. According to his coworkers, he used to listen to “the worst music, smooth jazz” (the music Jane used to listen to in his Citroën), he “didn’t talk computer”, “kept a hard copy on everything” like “witness interviews, surveillance photos” (cf. Jane’s endless lists and notebooks) and was “relentless”, going as far as sleeping “here on the couch half of the week”… It looks like the cartel was his own RJ case. Later, upon suspecting that one of the man’s colleagues is involved in the murder, Jane coincidentally stops one of the agents’ ire with the line “easy, tiger”, which might allude to the password “tyger, tyger” used the infiltrated Blake associates.
Indeed, Jane briskly steps in an interrogation and grabs the DEA agents’ attention by authorizing the prime suspect to leave, much to the dismay of the man who was leading the interrogation with Cho. The unorthodox consultant scurries off, but, as the angry man faces him, he plants the seeds of doubt by telling him that they were planning a raid at the restaurant that same afternoon. Something the man hurries to tell to his team members, thus warning the mole.
Afterwards, he goes alone to the Alamo Brewhouse and discovers the trick that allowed the drug dealers not to be caught in the previous raid: one green light bulb around the neon sign advertising for the restaurant is unscrewed. It’s a signal meaning that there’s no drug inside to sell. On the other hand, the shinning “Green Light” means that their business is open for their shady customers. Jane’s perception reminds of his quit-witted deduction about the trick in ‘Il Tavolo Bianco’, another restaurant used by criminals as a cover. Yet, the green color is simultaneously used in reference to Abbott, who admitted to have been “very green” when he was working for Bill Peterson; that confidence is the green light Jane was waiting for to get deeper into that mysterious part of the case at hand.
Thus, when an irate Bill comes to their table after hearing about the supposed raid, Jane tells him ironically that it was “a lie”, “a fib, an untruth. I made it up”. He then invites them to a “spot the difference” game with the victim’s photo of the restaurant, before explaining the trick and coming to the inevitable conclusion that the owner had been warned by an inside source: he finishes Bill off by adding “someone on your team is the killer”.
2) … with Abbott
Even though Bill might present a danger, Abbott is an honest cop and refuses to picture him as a traitor therefore the investigation focuses on his team. But his former boss is not as scrupulous as he calls him to a bar for a word in private. After trying an emotional angle again (“a hell of a thing to know that one of your people betrayed you… Killed a colleague, a friend”), he states that he wants credit for the arrest: he demands that Abbott lies about his supposed vital participation in the investigation in order to save his career.
Abbott is shocked: “you have been asleep at the wheel” ignoring that one of his people “has been in bed” with the cartel. He’s been expecting him to hand over his resignation instead –pretty much like Minnelli did after a mole killed Bosco’s unit. Peterson shows his hand then and threatens him openly to divulge whatever the younger man did at Rio Bravo.
Abbott knows he’s trapped and his worry is perceived by Jane. The consultant makes him talk. When Abbott was still a rookie he worked at the Rio Station: it was a war against the Zeta cartel, even more since the criminals would dress up as soldiers to stop buses and shoot all passengers to keep them to work for another cartel. This traumatic vision of bodies of men, women and children scattered like trash propelled him to take a bold opportunity. Once when he was watching a Zeta safe house alone, he spotted one of the criminals’ commander walk out in a military uniform… Understanding that it meant another massacre was going to happen and knowing that the frightened local police would be no help, he simply shot the man. The dramatic music by Blake Neely enhances the dark narration and the whole situation was somehow prepared by Vega’s overstepping her role by causing a suspect’s death during her stakeout in ‘Orange Blossom Ice Cream’. It might also explain Dennis’s lenience about her lie and her actions.
The moment is crucial in the relation between the two men because Abbott gives Jane a huge power over him in telling him his secret, especially since he was the one who tracked him in Venezuela and forced him into a deal, and given that Jane is looking for a way out, even if Dennis might not be aware of it yet… Anyway, neither of them seems to be thinking of it: they’ve become real friends and Jane is on his side. The whole secret murder reminds of LaRoche’s dark past when he too trusted Jane and asked for his help. As he did with LaRoche indeed, Jane makes no mystery about where he stands: he tells “you did the right thing” after looking at him intensely. There’s no doubt he sees the parallel with his own vigilantism against RJ and he understands Abbott’s predicament regarding Bill Peterson. He’s already thinking of a plan to keep the older man from talking: even in Abbott’s eyes, they’ve become a “we” fighting a common battle.
Abbott’s isolation both during the cartel commander’s murder and against Bill is a transparent allusion to the ‘Rio Bravo’ western movie (1959), starring John Wayne –whom Rigsby was named after. In the movie, the sheriff only had a handful of people helping him to defeat the boss of a gang whose brother he arrested for murder. Hence Dennis’s order to “saddle up” after the first briefing… Both stories feature indeed the uneven battle between a few people fighting for justice and a powerful and terrifying criminal gang, yet the moral question laying at the heart of the plot receives quite a different answer: in the western movie, the right things consists of abiding strictly to the law, while here Abbott served the greatest cause by committing a cold-blooded murder in order to save lives… It adds an important nuance to the notion of justice: indeed, in the quest against RJ, Lisbon represented the lawful option, while Jane decided to stop the killer no matter how. And Abbott, who was the agent responsible for closing the CBI down and later for arresting Jane, has actually a past pretty similar to the man he was after… That aspect gives a darker yet more human aspect to his character.
At the same time, the Alamo Brewhouse is a reference to Wayne’s western movie ‘Alamo’ (1960) about the battle of the same name. This event was alluded to in ‘Rio Bravo’ by a song played during the battle which meant that there would be no quarter, no pity towards the adversary. It was a fight to death, which is why Abbott acted too: he knew the others were about to slaughter innocents without remorse or hesitation. John Wayne, who played heroic figures in many war contexts serves as a model for Dennis’s decision –like the main song for the movie, ‘The Green Leaves of Summer’ might or not have provided the color for the title of the episode. Yet, even though the setting is also similar (once again a few men battling an almost surely lost battle against a more powerful opponent), the ending is quite different, for where ‘Rio Bravo’ ended successfully, ‘Alamo’ ended in heroic death, defeat and tears. That pressure weighted on both Abbott and Jane as they were fighting their own battles about their enemies –a cartel who terrified the police and an elusive serial at the head of a potent organization and who had infiltrated moles to hurt him. Both chose the lone way of becoming a vigilante which in hindsight gives an even deeper justification to Jane’s action…
3) … and with Vega
Abbott is not the only one who seeks solutions from Jane: after clearing her relation with Cho and now Wylie, Vega decides to talk to Jane, the first team member she opened up to when she started working with them. Once she’s back with the photos that Jane requested (pictures of agents who could be the mole over the past three years), she walks past Wylie into the room where Jane is checking the photos out. When she asks him what he’s looking for, he says “their eyes, window to the soul”, which she doesn’t buy. She’s reluctant to help with the “trick” that she knows he’ll be using and Jane, sensing her discomfort, tells her “speak your mind, soldier.” It’s a direct allusion to the cold reading he did on her when he unearthed her past in the army before her father’s death. Vega answers: “It’s just, I very much appreciate to be part of this team, sir. You get results, I respect that”, but she “the things you ask people to do… it’s not what I thought working for the FBI would be like…” Jane groans when he understands that this is going to be a critic of his unconventional methods and shifts the topic towards what he feels is the real problem: “more importantly, you wonder if your father would approve”. Her father “was strict. Makes you a sticker for rules.” For once, Jane doesn’t manipulate her to his views: he simply states that he was “a good father” and “I can’t tell you what your father would approve of. That’s for you to decide”… That’s one of the most personal pieces of grieving advice he ever gave out, since he too had been looking for his family’s approbation in his heart. That much could be surmised from Charlotte’s jibs in ‘Devil’s Cherry’. Now, the life he leads is closer to what he thinks his family would want for him, he’s found someone who accepts him and who he doesn’t need to lie to. He can be his real self again and that certainly helped him move on.
This insecurity also enlightens Vega’s motivations for reaching out to Cho earlier: she admires him because he’s the more by the book and self-regulating agent in the team –Abbott and Wylie are quite in awe of Jane’s methods and Lisbon is very close to him. As I stated in the review for the season premiere and for ‘Black Market’, she’s looking for a fatherly figure and Cho fits the bill as former military and as a strict character. Through his mentorship and approbation, she seeks both a reassurance and a standard to which evaluate her new job responsibilities. It’s more moral guidance that she’s been asking for than real tips on how to do her job, really.
On the other hand, the fact that Jane helps both Abbott and Vega to come to term with their moral dilemma shows that he cares about their well-being instead of just tricking them into following his schemes. He’s become more openly benevolent and has gained more human depth since Season 1, which is the most telling sign that he’s in peace.
Later, as the plan he’s been orchestrating unfolds, the team gets to work in sync. Vega arrests Bill under a false pretext –it serves a double purpose: to make the real culprit believe he’s safe and to put pressure on the blackmailer- while Jane, Lisbon and Abbott gather the other suspects and slowly determine those who fit the profile, based on their reasons for improving their appearance (based on the assumption that the killer must have had an ego boost and felt important after make much money and lying successfully to his coworkers). Then, after letting their three remaining suspects go with manipulated guns under the excuse that they got Peterson, Abbott, Lisbon and Cho move simultaneously in for the kill. They act completely similar and, in the same way they used in ‘The Silver Briefcase’ to create an analogy between the two possible ways the murder may have gone, the camera shifts from one of the three fake blackmailers to the other… until Cho gets shot at with blank bullets. That’s great team work and it shows the great unity they came to display, which sadly contrast with the last interrogation and the traitor’s malice towards his colleagues.
After his not so glorious participation in the case as a scapegoat to flush the killer out, Bill feels humiliated because he wanted to have credit. As a result, he threatens Abbott. After a while, Jane, who is in the room, loses his patience: “ok, I’ve been patient, I’ve been polite, not anymore. Take it back”. He insists: “take back your little threat and apologize to my friend here”. He’s very protective of Abbott and, in true Jane’s fashion, finds the chink in Peterson’s armor, the better angle to fend off the blackmailer: “this display, this tantrum, it is not about anger, it’s about fear”. Given Bill’s startled surprise, Jane pushes the cold reading further: “we weren’t too far off about you keeping a stash of dirty money”, adding his own threat that “with enough time, we’ll find it”… Bill leaves with a last not so veiled menace: “give my best to Lena”, an ironic way to remind Abbott of the power he still has to destroy her career and to echo the greetings they exchanged at the very beginning of their first meeting. He’s still dangerous, but Jane is confident in defeating him.
At the other end of Jane’s plan, Vega’s hand in the arrest has helped her come to term with Jane’s methods: they’re not as by the book as she would have wanted but they work and, to her surprise, they’re fun.
While she’s making confidences to Wylie about her reactions, the young man is enthusiastic about her performance and is about to take this relaxed moment to finally make his move… until he’s once again interrupted in his amorous overtures by a text on his dream girl’s phone. Coincidentally, Michelle’s charm has worked on a DEA agent who decided to ask her out too, much to her chagrin. Indeed, she’s not interested… which has Wylie feeling relieved until she explains that her lack of interest is based on her determination to focus on work. Wylie saves face by telling that he understands and that he too wants to focus on work…
Apparently the unlucky young agent is the new example of failed relationship on the growing list that has been going since ‘The Graybar Hotel’. His attempt didn’t even go as far as a confession and one can only wonder to what extent Vega has been aware of his intentions: her attitude in the previous episode was an implicit admission that she knew Wylie had been interested. There’s a strong possibility that she took the opportunity to gently brush him off by telling him that she’s not interested in dating, while showing that she does the same to other men, so he should not take it personally. On the other hand, her reason for refusing coworkers’ attentions is the same used by Van Pelt to break off with her illicit lover in season 2 and Grace confessed in ‘Red Velvet Cupcakes’ that she only used it as a pretext because she wasn’t ready for a long-term commitment. Is there a possibility than Vega’s reasons may have less to do with making her career successful and proving her abilities to the FBI than with emotional insecurities? After all, her reaching for Cho as a mentor was a way to express her yearning for fatherly approbation…
Either way, the failed relationship theme is also developed by the expressions used to characterize the two villains of the case: the mole had “been in bed” with the cartel (as told twice) and as Dennis put it “Bill Peterson doesn’t have much of a bedside manner, but he’s not a traitor”. In Wylie’s case as well in teamwork, intimacy has its limits… not to mention Jane’s remark about divorced agents “yes law enforcement… tough on the home life”. Is that worry part of his reasons for wanting to run away in the sunset with his sweetheart?
3) Lisbon’s gift
Those worries are as far from his mind as possible when he gets to his birthday date with sweet Teresa, though. As they are sitting at a little table outside of his trailer, she’s prepared champagne and one cupcake with a lone candle. The cute attention amuses Jane (“the lights are a nice touch”). He’s smiling and follows her instructions to make a wish as he blows the candle out. When he opens the red box adorned with hearts that hides his mystery gift, he discovers what is inside: it’s his old blue teacup. The one that shattered startlingly on the CBI floor when Abbott took his old life from him… He’s very moved and can’t believe that she “kept the pieces”. He’s genuinely surprised, both by the caring thoughtfulness and by the depth of the love she showed by keeping the pieces for more than two years, even though she couldn’t be sure they would ever become more than a nostalgic souvenir of a crushed past. Jane’s “speechless” and “amazed” by the “beautiful gift” and kisses her as a thank you – for the first time onscreen after ‘Blue Bird’. The moving moment of tenderness turns to a cute banter when Lisbon insists “are you sure you’re not pretending you didn’t know what is was to make me feel better? Because you don’t have to make me feel better”, but Jane retorts “Lisbon, just take the compliment”. The scene ends with them kissing again and drinking champagne.
The scenes echoes Jane’s surprise firework on the roof in ‘Orange Blossom Ice Cream’ as a way to make a statement in regard to Erica’s doubts about their romantic compatibility. But Lisbon’s gesture has a deeper meaning, since like the teacup, she took the fragments of his heart left after his family’s murder and kept them over the years to finally put them back together to give him a new chance to be happy. She put his old life at the CBI to rest by mending a past that was ended by Abbott’s actions –symbolically just when Jane defended the man as a friend.
There’s no longer any doubt about their future together, at least at that moment: the back and forth between past and future, represented by the CBI teacup perfectly glued together like a new one, shows how comfortable each of them is with the other. It’s also a way to reassure Jane about her feelings after the reservations pointed out by Pike and Erica: she loves him for who he is and what they share, has been for a long time and plans to still do so no matter what they’ll be doing. The notion of surprising him was never so complete: she had thought in season 2 that he had forgotten her birthday only to have him stun her with a pony -which was probably a dream from her saddening childhood that he wanted her to finally fulfill. Now she managed to shake him by a simple object that meant both the everyday familiarity that he yearns for and the unconditional love he believes he doesn’t deserve. To put it simply, both are much more than the other had ever expected.