A hitman commits a quadruple homicide and Jane and Lisbon are called on the case along with the team. Problem is that as danger looms closer, Jane’s fierce protectiveness towards Lisbon, in spite of her independence and her sense of duty, may put a damper on their growing attachment.
With this episode, writer Erin Donovan offers an interesting addition to the season, as it nuances the very sweet domestic atmosphere between the two main characters. This is their first meaningful disagreement and it’s certainly more pivotal than a mere bump on the road to happiness… In fact, it was a welcome –if jarring for Lisbon- surprise to get back a shadow of the Jane we used to know from the early season… someone more manipulative and serving his own idea of right or wrong, someone who doesn’t really stop at not playing nice to get the result he desires, instead of the tamed wild beast he has seemed to become under Lisbon’s vigilance. Especially since his scheming nature is precisely focused now in keeping her safe.
Detailed AKA Humungous Review (spoilers galore)
VIS#1 the opening
The difference of mood with the hopeful ‘Little Yellow House’ is perceptible from the get go since Lisbon’s heart-to-heart with Jane is replaced on the screen by another less sweet pair. Indeed, a realtor is presenting an empty place to a potential buyer; said client happens to be actually a hitman who murders the other man in order to use the “killer view” the apartment affords on his planned victims’ location.
The impression of danger is suggested by the grey colors of the setting, without any bright spot unlike in the others episodes. Blake Neely’s unsettling music puts emphasis on the eerie calm of the cold-blooded killer, comparable to the composed attitude displayed by the colonel at the very beginning of ‘The Silver Briefcase’: here, the man is as silent as the collected colonel was when putting the crime scene in order. The careful directing by Rod Holcomb dramatizes the shooting, with the sun reflecting on the edge of the circle-cut glass when hitman “Lydon” aims through the window. The staccato-like drumming of the music gets underlined by the increased focus of the camera on the three fallen victims. It carries on as the killer is no longer at the window in the next frame: his retreating back is calmly going away, disappearing like a ghost and as detached as a businessman. The hit was fast and coldly done.
The shooting obviously refers to the title, ‘The White of His Eyes’, an almost-quote coming from the recounting of the historical battle of Bunker Hill during the siege of Boston in the American Revolutionary War. One of the most famous orders in war history was uttered there: “don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes”, meaning that soldiers should wait until they were close enough to the enemy to shot, the exact contrary of what the hit man did here. His aiming skills and equipment allowed him to attain his target from a far distance, a fact the team comment upon later. Plus, the allusion to the historical battle which ended being a colonial defeat again the British troops reminds of the Alamo battle (‘Green Light’). Those war backgrounds coupled with the diffuse yet insistent Western movies references scattered through the season hint that a major and dangerous confrontation is about to take place.
The focal point of this growing peril is obviously Jane’s team and more explicitly Lisbon –hence the FBI agents killed along with Edward Hu, the primary target. That much is suggested by Lydon pretending to be interested in a real estate purchase because it was actually a strategic place to carry the hit. It reminds of the fake house hunting Lisbon and Jane did in ‘The Silver Briefcase’ to get to the crime scene without drawing attention.
VIS#2: Lisbon and Jane share some free time
Meanwhile, in complete contrast with the chilling opening, Patrick and Teresa are enjoying some down time at a bar. A lot of red elements bring to viewers’ mind that danger is looming closer, though: Lisbon’s red blouse, the walls, the red and white little Foosball players, the waitress’s checkered shirt, the neon red signs reading “Eat” and “Texas”… As Lisbon and Jane keep playing Foosball, some other hints raise red flags, just like Lisbon shooting enthusiastically “you are going down!”, reminding of the three corpses falling in a heap. The whole game and winning discussion is basically a distant echo to one of the main themes of Jane’s interactions with his former nemesis…
Nevertheless, the moment is cheerful and carefree for the two lovers: as the friendly game progresses, Lisbon is showing more and more her feisty side (“I’m not competitive, I just like to win”), accusing him of cheating when things don’t go his way, which he denies, telling her “that was spinning, just spinning”. Her gleeful cheering at beating him (“did that hurt? What? did that hurt?”) emphasizes the amusing youthful competition between them, with cheating, showing off and humiliation, since “everybody here [is] watching the man get beat by the girl”. This new side of Lisbon, which was only hinted at in such occasions as the ending of ‘Red in Tooth and Claw’ when they played poker and she accused him of cheating too, shows how comfortable they are with each other: it’s not quite a role reversal, but almost, since she’s not afraid of displaying her playful and childish side, while he’s not hell bent on showing off his skills. That new level of ease is without any doubt a consequence of her confession at the end of the previous episode and two lines allude to their stay in Chicago (“there’s spinning in Chicago” and “never never play Foosball with a woman who raised three brothers”). The domestic moment is further developed when Jane leaves to pay for their check and orders chicken wings to go. They’re planning to eat them together at his or her place and it’s obviously a very usual occurrence.
Yet, the moment is shattered when they’re called on the hitman case that they’re precisely watching on the news. Furthermore, the details viewers get on the quadruple homicide match a bit their current situation. The main target was a witness in the murder of a man beaten to death by a Kelvin Bittaker “after a dispute in a bar”, just like the couple had been playfully bantering in a bar. Even before they’re truly involved in the investigation, they’re already stepping into the danger zone…
Moreover, the cheerful moment between the partners offers a startling contrast with the new scene. The still very detached professional assassin is destroying a photography of Hu, who he’s killed, whereas a second picture stays in the folder. Viewers are thus privy to the fact that the murder spree is not done, there’s another witness to get rid of. That knowledge is reminiscent of the Columbo-like progression of the plot in ‘The Silver Briefcase’ and it only increases the anxiety regarding the man.
Jane’s worries come into play
1) at the crime scene
But viewers are not the only ones who may suspect that something might go very wrong in this case. Slowly, Jane’s mind starts taking in the odds of things getting out of hand…
It starts at the crime scene, when he meets Ken Spackman, the Dallas FBI agent he teased in ‘Nothing But Blue Skies’, at the very start of his love affair with Lisbon (which makes the man’s presence an indication that this new investigation may become pivotal in the secret relationship). Jane keeps being cheeky, telling that he “missed that face” when he greets Ken. However, the lightness brought by his mischievous personality is tempered by the description of the crime, “four murders in under three minutes”, including two FBI agents, like them, who were “good men, good family men with young kids”… The killer left no clues behind him and vanished “like a ghost” too, which brings to mind RJ’s crimes: in Jane’s case, the serial killer murdered his family –making him the FBI agent who had a young kid- and left no trace to work on for years. Like RJ too, Kelvin Bittaker’s wrongdoings, that Edward Hu had been a witness of, was a disproportioned retribution to an offense from the first victim: Bittaker beat him to death over a simple spilled drink…
The other witness to the first murder, that woman whose photography “Lydon” kept in a folder, is a young mother, which insists on the family element of the case as well as it reminds of Angela. The fact that she’s a threat to Bittaker is interesting, for the sonority of the man’s name can be associated with the “bitter” feelings that plagued Jane for years as well as with the notion of “taking” someone from him… Indeed, the woman’s is Lily Stoppard and she shares her first name with Lily Barlow who was killed in ‘Red John’s Rules’ as a message to the consultant. If the analogy wasn’t clear enough, Jane deduces from “powered sugar” from beignets that hitman “Lydon” and the realtor “shook hands”, a major clue in Jane’s investigation on his nemesis…
Meanwhile, Spackman acknowledges Jane’s abilities and the two men banter back and forth… leading Ken to explain that he wants Jane to convince the woman to testify, in spite of the risks on her life, because “we could use a little charm”. Jane retorts that he doesn’t know if he “should be insulted or flattered”, to which Spackman’s answers “whatever works”… Jane feels “a little bit of both”: despite the darkening clouds gathering above his head, he’s still unaware enough to be his normal mocking self. Interesting still that after their first investigation, Spackman is more sensible to Jane’s endearing qualities than his cunning streak. The agent from Dallas gets more sympathetic with that remark than he was after almost insulting Lisbon the other time they got a case together.
2) the talk with the Stoppards
As Jane accepts to turn on the charm on their doubtful witness, he realizes that things are decidedly getting too close to home for comfort. The Stoppards deserve their name, as Lily is hell bent in stopping Bittaker, whereas her husband Matthew just wants to put a stop to the dangerous case. Spackman reassures them that it’s their choice and that the “door’s open”, an expression that probably takes Jane back to that awful moment when he discovered his family butchered behind his bedroom door. Indeed, Lily is feeling guilty for not saving the victim she saw getting murdered before her own eyes, like Jane had been for years for not saving his family. On the other hand, Matthew is worried sick about his wife because they’ve “got a baby at home and he’s only six months old”: Jane is clearly torn between feeling emotionally closer to the man –given that he’s been in the same place and understands his feelings, a similarity hinted at with the baby Jane was holding at the end of ‘Little Yellow House’- and his sense of justice and professional duty that consists on catching the bad guys with Lily’s help.
This is why he chooses that angle to talk the couple into giving in to Ken’s pleas: he asks what their baby name is and compliments that “Henry” is a “good, strong name”, thus attracting their confidence as a family, just like before his comment about how Matthew’s fears are “pretty darn reasonable” put little by little the man’s hostility and distrust to rest. He then proceeds to explain “I hate to talk to you about doing the right thing. Doing is the easy part, knowing what it is is tough”… he adds that he doesn’t “know what the right thing to do is”, but he ask them “in years from now, when you tell Henry this story, how will it go? Did the three of you take an evil killer off the street or did you play it safe? Is Henry’s birthright gonna be one of proud bravery or sensible caution? Tough call…”This question is very intriguing, because the smoothness of Jane’s reasoning makes one wonders whether Jane might have thought about the same dilemma, directed to his own past. Were he to have children with Lisbon, what will their “birthright” be? That of a thirst for revenge upon the other family that Jane loved? The justified action of taking another “evil killer off the street”? Or the law-abiding heritage that comes from Teresa? Either way, it looks like Jane may have taken Pike’s bitter remark to heart and started envisioning that “what feels like the right thing” might entail building something more fruitful with her. Unfortunately, the same tough choice about caution and doing the right thing no matter the risks also comes into play later, when he’s faced with the possibility of his worst fear happening as Lisbon might be killed on the job: like Matthew, Jane is terrified of his newfound lover being hurt at the hands of a ruthless killer… Even more since both women are selfless people who want to protect others.
When he and Spackman leave the room, the agent congratulates him on his “nice work”. He’s not aware that the case is pulling at Jane’s heartstrings and that he’s feeling a distressing similarity with the fearful husband; he just shrugs it off as one of Jane’s clever manipulations. Jane sets things straight by telling that he doesn’t want his word about protecting Lily, he only wants her safe.
2) the talk with the Bittakers
Mirroring that family love on the witness’s side, the interrogation of the Bittaker gang also focuses on family unity. When Abbott visits the violent Kelvin in jail, the younger man preens “my mama taught me never talk to strangers”, hinting at who the brain of the family really is. His indifference, then exuberant joy at hearing about the murders contrasts with Lily’s regrets and her determination to do what’s best for others. Again, his ironic “Hallelujah” might be reminiscent of RJ’s interest for religion…
Later, when Jane and Cho interrogate Mrs. Bittaker and her other equally unfriendly sons, Jane is delighted to find in her “a fabulous liar” and comments that talking to her is “like a master class in dishonesty”, which introduces in this episode the old theme of lies/truth and trust… Plus, the luxury cars in the garage are “Ferraris and Phantoms”, the latter reminding of the “ghost”-like hitman: through them, it’s the ghost of his broken past that is haunting Jane, made more perceptible by the red furniture in the grey room at the back.
The other preeminent theme of the episode being family, Jane sees with amusement how Belinda Bittaker tells her ill and rude son Ethan that she loves him and he picks on him as the weakest link of the gang. He tells him: “being a Bittaker middle child can’t be easy, and I sympathize. But you really do have to take control of these attention issues”… Is that a coincidence that the Bittaker brothers are three, just like the Lisbons? In a twisted way, that would make Belinda a less honest and kind-hearted Teresa, equally intent on getting her protégés out of trouble, but with completely different means. Hence Jane’s sarcastic comment that, in that morally reversed version of the Lisbons, Belinda has “wonderful family” and she “must be very proud”, something the woman correctly interprets as a sneer.
Nevertheless, Jane has gotten more positive results from his little chat with the less than tasteful family: he’s seen that the younger –and admittedly smarter- of the brothers is playing a “War Lord III” online video game. His shout of “head shot!” and his insulting comments to other players have grabbed his attention: indeed the shooting war game reminds of the violent murders and Jane suspects right away that the online connection might be a discreet way to make contact with the hit man. Plus, the game and its jungle setting are once again a reminder of notions associated with his pursuit of RJ the “tyger”, a deepened continual allusion that shows Jane’s obsession with losing his family. It therefore suggests that there might be a threat for the new couple.
VIS#3: in Louisiana
That menace is getting more precise when that new lead directs them to a woman in Louisiana. As Lisbon and Jane arrive there with Spackman, the latter orders to Patrick to stay by the car, to the consultant’s great displeasure. However, Jane progressively inches closer to his lover as the two armed agents separate: he’s noticed that the house isn’t as empty as it seems. He’s reluctant to leave Lisbon alone since Spackman covers the back of the frail bungalow. His presence thus prevents Lisbon from facing Lydon alone when the man opens the door and pretends to be the wanted woman’s cousin (even though her bloodied corpse is lying on the other room…). This moment is crucial, because that’s when Lisbon is directly in the line of fire and that much is expressed by two very telling elements: the fact that she knocks on the closed door (like Jane opened the bedroom one in the pilot) and Lydon’s lie about being part of his victim’s family.
Fortunately, Jane manages to cold read the man’s murderous intentions and puts Lisbon down with him, effectively saving her life. It’s Ken who is shot in the chest after discovering the body and trying to sneak from behind; he falls near the dead woman with the cut throat. Lisbon orders once again to Jane to stay behind with Spackman, and rushes after the murderer, ending lost in a jungle-like forest resembling the one in the game Caleb Bittaker had been playing. Jane’s presence by Ken’s side saves the man because he managed to calm the man enough to keep his heart rate down, preventing him from bleeding to death. Yet, Jane’s worries and guilt flare up when he notices a bullet hole visible on Lisbon’s sleeve: she’s almost gotten shot too.
The “arrogance” and fast and brutal reactions of the Bittaker make Abbott angry and he makes it his personal mission to “crush these people”. As a result, he decides to visit himself the criminal family with Cho in order to put stress on them by arresting Ethan, the sickly middle son, for supposedly violating his parole by consorting with his felon of a brother. It ends up in a power play with the mother who keeps denying knowing what he’s talking about. She states that whatever he may do, her son is “a citizen” who needs his dialyzes and Abbott’s “a lawman, a supervising agent” who is “too dam ethical” to let him die… As Abbott comments to Cho that they don’t know him (and his sometimes gray morality, for that matter), the woman insists that she will “bet her son on it”. This last uncaring remark added to Abbott’s “bluff” brings again the game metaphor to the forefront.
All in all, the only bright point of the day -and a continuation of the theme- is that Wily got himself a game date with his dream girl after Vega teased him on his tastes on online games. She promises to show him the “big boy game”, even if “some people just can’t handle that kind of pressure”: talking about “hot keys”, triggers and “a little one versus one [that] might clear this whole thing up”, with “pistols only”, brings them closer and all fired up to see to it “any day, any time”… Unconscious innuendo, someone?
Meanwhile, both sides of the crime in preparation are getting ready to take action: like in ‘The Silver Briefcase’ again, Lydon is coldly and methodically training in order to define the final details of his plan. On the other hand, the FBI team has understood that the attack will take place between the room and the car leading Lily to the court to testify. They therefore rehearse the moment when they’ll be taking that route to recognize the spots where Lydon might take a shoot at her. Lisbon takes the target’s place in the rehearsal, symbolizing Jane’s fear for her safety and she’s fake-shot at seven times: in Jane’s mind she’s in danger, as hinted at by the fearful face of Lily’s husband during the dummy run. An interesting detail here is how much Abbott and his men trust Jane: he’s the one elaborating the plan, directing the rehearsal and making tactical decisions. Sprawled on his couch like he used to in the old CBI days, he explains that “the general who chooses the field of battle wisely wins before the fighting starts”. In that “battle”, alluded to in the title, he’s the “general” who is able to define where Lydon is bound to attack, hence Jane’s also able preparing a trick beforehand to fool him. If the constant if implied analogy with ‘The Silver Briefcase’ was to be followed until its logical conclusion, then Lydon would be another colonel, while Jane’s superior skills rank him higher. Yet, Jane’s (only apparent) confidence and enigmatic remark are also a bit disturbing, because they remind of a time where he was far more reckless and inclined to play puppeteer with his coworkers…
VIS#3: in the airstream
A few hours later, in dire contrast with Jane’s worry, the night is starry and peaceful over the Silver Bucket. Jane’s still sleepless though. He’s staring outside the window of the Airstream in pretty much the same fashion he used to spend his night brooding his obsession away in his dusty attic. Only now, he’s not thinking of what he’s lost anymore, but he’s worried sick about what he might lose, which might lead him to the same secrecy and recklessness that used to characterize his behavior…
As Lisbon used to do when she was witnessing his insomnia and unhealthy habits back then, she tries to shake his sadness off. She’s sleeping in his little bed and she calls him back to her, reassuring him that “everything’s gonna be okay tomorrow” and it’s a “really good plan” and that they’re “gonna be safe” and “everybody will be fine, I promise”. She correctly surmises that his insomnia is about his fear of someone getting hurt and her motherly comfort apparently calms him enough to get him back to bed.
The comforting quality of the moment is nonetheless laced with humor when she offers to sing him the lullaby she used to sing to her little brothers when they couldn’t sing. Jane inexplicably freezes and utters with hesitation “I really… don’t want to hear that”… Lisbon still carries through when he’s settled by her side and she sings very badly Bon Jovi’s pop rock song ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ while Jane moans at her cringe-worthy voice. This mixing between her caring maternal concern and the underlying teasing of lovers is very sweet.
The lyrics of the song are pretty telling: “oh, oh, we’re halfway there. /Oh, oh, livin’ on a prayer,/ Take my hand and we’ll make it, I swear”. Indeed, they’re “halfway” through both the season and the development of their relationship, as they’re already past the honeymoon stage and the lingering doubts about their commitment and compatibility and past jealousy –courtesy to Pike and Erica. They’ve taken their first step into becoming an official couple by introducing Jane to Lisbon’s family as her boyfriend. It’s probably not a coincidence that Jane’s fears –the same he admitted had been keeping him from getting closer to her when he confessed his feelings for her in ‘Blue Bird’- resurface more visibly just after she told him she loved him too… As they did at the bar when they interrupted their Foosball playing, they might be reaching a half-time in their relationship. Another interesting aspect is that Lisbon’s kept faith in that nighttime hopeful “prayer”, even though the unusual choice of the rock song as a lullaby indicates how much she had to improvise as a teenage surrogate parent. As she used to be with her brothers, she’s the responsible adult, the fixer of people, the independent, strong one who knows how to bring comfort even in the dark world she grew up in… On the contrary, Jane has lived in fear for years: he refuses to sing along with her and when he joins her he’s talking about “the pain”… He hasn’t let go of his demons.
Yet, this humorous and intimate moment is endearing and funny, because it speaks of living together: it’s the very first time both are shown sleeping together –even if viewers could see her lay on his bed when he was ill. Their sleepwear also hints at how familiar they’ve become: he’s wearing old-fashioned pajamas, like he did once in the first season-, while she’s ditched the jersey for a more seductive satin babydoll that makes her alluring if not overly sexy. They’re completely acting as a couple at home even though they’re not in a real house.
The notion of house is meaningful here: Lisbon has given Jane a set of keys to her own house, but they’re still spending the night in his trailer. It’s certainly not the first time: after all they’ve spent only one morning after at Lisbon’s, at least onscreen (‘Nothing But Blue Skies’). This echoes with the office/apartment fake purchase in the beginning of the episode, with their undercover house hunting and with Jane being “a little envious” at Lisbon’s childhood house. Houses are a permanence fixture and, for them, are symbolic of a more stable life (just as Lisbon got a house when she decided to invest more time and attention in her private life during the hiatus). It contrasts with the homey but shabby ‘Silver Bucket’ which fragility is emphasized by the starry night sky above. Emotionally and relation-wise, they’re not yet to the point of having a house together: the provisory aspect of the trailer is symptomatic of their disagreement over the future, as they’ve yet to decide what to do of their lives. It’s a memento of Jane’s less than stellar childhood, in stark opposition with the yellow house and linked to running away with Angela: this attachment to something that is associated with fleeing (and which may even allow him to do just that) shows that he has not let go of his insecurities. He’s still clutching at a familiar emotional blanket, hence his deep fear of the darker parts of his past coming to life again when he realizes that he might lose another woman he loves. As long as he’s not faced those ghosts and that part of his that still lives in the past, he probably won’t manage to communicate fully with Teresa and they won’t make any further decisive progress.
While Jane is both metaphorically and literally in a dark place of worry, Lydon’s own “good plan” is unfolding: the man is changing his appearance as Jane knew he would. He’s shaving his head in a twisted and threatening parody of a morning routine, which is a continuation of the couple’s falling asleep in the previous scene. Both his and Jane’s plan are linked and respond to one another, in a very familiar dual pattern reminiscent of RJ’s pas de deux with the consultant.
VIS#4: the operation
As the team gets ready to take Lily safely out of the hotel room, the impression of danger gets more specific: she’s the target and like in her first apparition, she’s wearing a pink-reddish jack that makes her very noticeable among the gray and black outfits in the room.
Lily rather trusts the team’s abilities to protect her, but her husband is as reticent as ever. He demands guarantees that the plan will work and that they’re prepared enough and, when she left the room, he finally blurts: “if anything happens to her today, you know, and I could have stopped it…” Abbott is quick to reply that his wife wants to do this and they’ll do everything to keep her safe: “It was a good decision; you need to trust her on it, okay?” Jane’s worried face is visible in the foreground while Abbott is talking and it show how much of an impact his words have on him: like Matthew, he’s been feeling guilty for years for getting his family killed and now he’s faced with the same kind of situation. He’s afraid that Lisbon will get hurt, more badly than just a bullet grazing her arm, and he knows he’s the brain behind the scheme. He can prevent her from getting in the heat of the action… but that also means that he doesn’t “trust” her decision to do her job of protecting Lily.
This is why, after Lydon’s plan gets going with a smoke bomb used as a decoy, Jane sets his own smoke screen in place. The hitman is disguised as an EMT –with a dark blue uniform and an bright orange bag, which would have screamed danger in the RJ era- and he enters the building almost at the same time as Jane is leaving while glancing around to spot him. The consultant enters a surveillance van where Wylie is working his magic with screens and cameras. Jane has already warned his coworkers that Lydon must be wearing some kind of uniform and, soon he pretends to identify the man as an EMT on the 7th floor (an echo to the 7th season, maybe). The team and Lily are on the 6th and Lisbon volunteers to go get their suspect. It’s a false alert, but in the meantime Lydon has taken action and faked being shot in order to split the team. He takes one agent down and go for it in front of the elevator under a frightening red light. That’s when the subtlety of Jane’s plan is revealed: he too used a feint to get the man to reveal himself. They’ve substituted Lily for Vega, who’s wearing a wig and the eye-catching clothes. After the man is shot and the situation is under control, Lisbon comes back to find out that she missed the action… Her distressed expression when Jane asks where she is over the radio and her simple reply “I’m here, I’m just getting back with the team” indicate that she just realized that her absence was no coincidence…
Like many times before, Jane’s plan is based on a magic trick: a quick substitution, right under his audience/adversary’s eyes. It’s basically the same ruse used on the scene in ‘Pink Champagne on Ice” and the show aspect is stressed out by Abbott when he gloats in front of the arrested Mrs. Bittaker: “sometimes, people just see what they want to see”. Belinda applauses… But a major difference is that Lisbon is no longer his lovely assistant or the partner embodying the psychic of their little act: whereas in ‘Pink Champagne on Ice’ she was the secret weapon hidden in the magic box, now she’s been excluded from the action. She’s no longer the one who saves the day, but she’s been arbitrary lured behind the scene for her own sake. Jane’s played at the same time the director for his team and the conman with his own partner; he’s taken her cop identity from her.
Interestingly, the whole plot of the episode is closely based on the events of ‘Blood Money’ in Season 2. Back then, the episode opened on Van Pelt ordering a hit on her former boyfriend Rigsby as a cover for identifying a hit man/serial killer –whose moustache and tools were alluded to by Lydon’s disguise. Jane’s recklessness in front of the judge after he’d broken in the suspect’s home resulted in Lisbon being suspended (the trial setting is hinted at by Lily and Hu being major witnesses for the prosecution). In order to help her to get back in Hightower’s good graces Jane called her near a warehouse to bust a gang whose boss happened to be a seemingly inoffensive and confused old lady, who used her son as a decoy: here, equally deceptive Belinda directs her sons and her unsavory business from a garage. But the most interesting point is that, after Lisbon took the brunt of his actions and both ended up stranded in the Mexican desert, she suddenly realized that he was trying to help her. Jane’s response to her surprise was “you know I’m always gonna save you, Lisbon. Whether you like it or not”. Lisbon retorted that she didn’t need to be saved and that she’d always known that working with him would end in disaster and that one day she’d be fired because of him; she nonetheless accepted it because they were catching a lot of bad guys… It was one of their very first fight and at the same time real discussion on screen and it was in hindsight a major step in their relation. Now, Lisbon’s job is no longer Jane’s priority: he no longer needs to protect her career to stay close to her, because he knows he has her love and devotion. Yet, Lisbon’s position is still valid: her career is still at stake; Jane wants her to stop being a cop, because his fears make him consider that “saving” her involves keeping her safe from any danger, even those she’s always accepted to face on the job. The similarity between the episodes at two very different moments of his life indicate that he’s still stuck in the terror that plagued him then: to protect her, he’s also still willing to manipulate her, because he considers he knows better and because deep down he doesn’t want to feel guilty and suffer in case things turn ugly again.
VIS#5: the ending
The moral conflict at the heart of the episode is summed up y Belinda’s remark to Abbott that he doesn’t have “the faintest idea about the love a parent has for a child”: love is her sovereign justification for the deaths she caused and her reasoning for not wanting to “throw” Kelvin “under a bus” to save her own skin. It was also Matthew’s reason for worrying about his family and Lily’s one for wanting to put Kelvin in jail. At the same time, love and protective instincts also pushed Jane into the path of lying again to his girlfriend.
Love and its failures at been represented by many pairs in the few last episodes… Yet, this time, Wylie’s discouraged admiration for Vega is not part of those examples. Taking Michelle at her words, he organizes a surprise gaming competition for the two of them. They share a pleasant and cheerful moment which comes as an echo of the main couple playing Foosball at the beginning: like Jane then, Wylie is playfully cheating and a Texas flag is visible behind them, just like the neon sign “Texas” decorated the bar.
In contrast, Jane and Lisbon aren’t doing so well. Abbott has been telling Belinda that she and her precious family are “all gonna go down together” and Wylie and Michelle too have been yelling to one another “you are going down” as Lisbon did when defeating Jane: is that a way to imply that the main characters’ relationship is going downhill too? One way or another, the jolly moment between the youngsters is in direct opposition with Lisbon’s gloomy isolation in the nearly empty bullpen. Her tensed expression when looking outside the window is emphasized by the darkened room and the anxious atmosphere is quite similar to Jane’s worried insomnia in the airstream: in one day, Jane’s actions have reversed the dynamics between them. The night before, Lisbon was eager to reassure him; now, she’s suffering the consequences of what he planned when she was sleeping… The connection between the scheme and this moment is underlined by the similar lines: he asked “where are you?” after Lydon’s downfall, whereas now they’re commenting “there you are. –Here I am”.
Jane detects immediately that something is wrong, just like she did when waking up. Lisbon is straight to the point and tells him that he must already know: the sore point is that he took her off on purpose. He explains that he wanted to protect her, which makes her angry: “Protect me? I’m an FBI agent”, “it’s my job”. He tries to placate her by repeating “I know” to whatever she says and concludes with a half-hearted “I’m sorry”. But Lisbon sees through what he doesn’t say and she asks him directly whether he’d do it again. He answers sincerely that he probably would, which Lisbon sees as a problem. Jane tries again to throw in a conciliatory line but Lisbon won’t have it: if he amends “its not a problem”, she corrects bluntly “a really big one”, because he can’t “do that”, he has to let her do her job. Lisbon is at a loss about how they would work together if he doesn’t understand her point. Jane’s final tentative line is “we’ll work it out”…
The parallel between the “work” issue and the necessity to “work it out” makes this talk a harsher version of the cheeky discussion that had a few time ago about quitting law enforcement to build a dream life elsewhere. Whereas making plans was a way to open up to the other then, it masked Jane’s insecurities and Lisbon’s worries about their first disagreement concerning the way each of them envisions their life together. It’s why work is now more than ever at the core of the problem that leaves them no longer cuddling under a blanket, but coldly separated in front of the elevator. In a way it reminds of their many separations in front of the CBI elevator too: in ‘Red Rover, Red Rover’, for instance, it was also Jane’s obsession to hide his true intentions and feelings behind lies and manipulation that kept them to get closer.
Jane and Lisbon are therefore the example of a falling apart relationship in the episode: the others pairs are doing better than them, Wylie and Vega are bonding; the almost arguing couple with worry/hope issues ends up in each other’s arms during the exchange with Michelle. But Patrick and Teresa deal with miscommunication and mistrust, because Jane lied and tricked her. He’s truly cheated, just like she accused him of doing when they were enjoying a friendly game and now it “hurts” them both to quote her playful provocations at the bar. He’s making decisions for her in the same way as Abbott has been deciding things on his own for his wife’s sake at the risk of living apart from her. Therefore Jane has committed the same kind breach of trust as some of the other characters who hurt their life partner in the previous episodes: the colonel, who was selfish in murdering his wife and didn’t trust his lover enough, and the jealous poker player from ‘Little Yellow House’ have also failed at communicating. At the same time, Lisbon’s at fault too, because she did not manage to hear what Jane was trying to tell her: her reassuring words were not enough to make him at ease and she should have understood that his pain run deeper than the worry he was displaying on the surface. After all, he did imply that he couldn’t deal with losing her: he said as much in the plane when he confessed to her, it scared him “for obvious reasons”. His willingness to make her quit her job reflects that overwhelming terror and, from his point of view, he had no other means to keep her safe since she wouldn’t listen to the hidden meaning he was trying to convey. Helping him get over or at least face that trauma born from the brutal loss of his family is also part of the fixing mission she has taken on her shoulders: it’s quite unfair to try to heal some scars –like the broken teacup- while expecting him to sweep the darkest pain under the carpet of that little silvery home they’ve been creating in the Airstream… It’s normal that she resents him for breaking her trust (and not trusting her either about the depth of his uneasiness with the situation), but working things out should be a two people’s task in their case… Now, Lisbon is blinded by anger and she gives him a piece of her mind like she did in ‘Green Thumb’: however, back then the argument left him as distressed at the perspective that she may be rejecting him. Her dressing down in the plane thus mostly served to prevent him to try and get closer even when she was hoping he would. Hopefully her resentment won’t have the same consequences now in the long run.
Anyway, it’s interesting that the successive endings of the episodes of the season outline the progress of their love affair: Pike’s question, the rooftop reunion after Erica’s meddling, the glued back together teacup, Lisbon’s “I love you” are important steps in the trust department. But this one shows how stuck up they’re still are in their old issues about mistrust and control. Only this time, Jane’s ulterior motive is to keep her safe, which is another indirect proof of love. He’s eager to make up with her, because he probably realizes that he might be losing her too by his own wrongdoings if they don’t reach an understanding soon.