Tag Archives: Mentalist literary references

Mentalist Nothing Gold Can Stay Review


While investigating the case of a brutal armored car robbery and generally getting on happily with their respective projects, the team is shaken by an unexpected event: Michelle Vega (Josie Loren) is killed by one of the criminals they were trying to arrest.

Concise Verdict

The ‘Bullet’ mentioned in the vague threats of the more recent episodes has finally found a target: Vega is the very first team member killed in the show and no need to say it makes this episode very emotional… Even more so since writer Alex Berger also signed her first scene at character development in ‘Green Light’ when she started stopping seeking her father’s shadow behind rules and approval… After tragedy stoke, bonds are strained and boundaries change: all in all, ‘‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ presents a sinister echo to ‘Nothing But Blues Skies’: it’s a reset button for the team, with altered dynamics and Jane threatening to fly the now painful premises.

Detailed AKA Humungous Review (Spoilers galore)

The violence displayed on the robbery contrasts with Jane and Lisbon cheerfully discussing their plans for a romantic weekend. This jarring note hints at unsettling events right from the star. Interestingly, their plans are a consequence of their talk at the end of the previous episode: Lisbon told him to focus on “what’s going on right now” because what they had was “very, very good”. Jane is therefore trying to work their disagreement out spending some nice time alone, out of work. Unsurprisingly, his choice for a dreamy getaway is getting them isolated from the world in a “rustic, charming, very romantic” little cabin. As usual, Lisbon is not depicted as a nature-loving girl, so she immediately picks up on the description: “rustic as in no running water?”… This detail reminds of her prison girl talk with Marie in ‘The Greybar Hotel’: back then, she commented about the life the girl was sharing with her outlaw of a boyfriend that “wild is one thing, no shower is another”. More than some demand for comfort in the choice of their lovers’ nest, with “the kind of place that leaves a mint on the pillow”, it’s implicitly their whole relationship and the dangers inherent to it that are about to be called into question, even more since ‘The Greybar Hotel’ started Jane’s round of worries about his sweetheart’s safety…

When the consultant starts interrogating witnesses under Cho’s supervision, viewers get treated to a classic cheeky Jane moment … In a few sentences, Jane manages to rub the whole bunch of witnesses off by asking right away “which one of you was the accomplice to the robbery this morning” and reading their reactions… The moment features that impertinent side that he used to display in the CBI era. It also shows Cho’s announced new charge of leader since Abbott is planning to leave because the stoic agent funnily defends Jane’s way of doing things by remarking that it’s not outrageous “not really, not yet” . On the other hand, Jane’s rapid and callous solving of the point is quite reminiscent of the case he cracked in record time at the beginning of ‘Blue Bird’, that is when he was about to lose Lisbon because she was walking out his life, which is quite telling of fears and foreshadowing of future events…

The second layer of subtext in that moment is Jane’s speech regarding guilt: he tells his marks that guilt is “physical, increased perspiration, racing heart”. Guilt has been his trademark emotion for years and is probably part of his current issue with Lisbon since he’s worried that she’ll get hurt like Angela and Charlotte were. Maybe he’s even terrified that one of his plans might be responsible for it because he’s the brain behind the team, just like his conman acted caused his family’s death… that much is hinted at when notes that “when I just shook your hands, most of you were relatively calm”, given that hands have been linked to guilt during his quest for revenge (Lady Macbeth, the handshake clue to RJ’s identity). One way of another, the menace he’s been afraid of is getting closer…

Meanwhile, the continuity with the happy party at the ending of ‘Copper Bullet’ is guaranteed by many changes, such as Abbott being content to let Cho direct the investigation because he’ll be in charge soon enough and Wylie finally gathering the courage to ask Michelle out. And she accepts, which shows how she has warmed up to the idea of getting closer after asking him to dance. A detail also brings attention to the connection with the previous events: Abbott is told that Jane “just said he was running an errand”. It was the same excuse Vega used for leaving the bullpen when she started tailing Peterson after convincing Cho to let her in the plan. It indicated that the focus is on her and her assumed choice to be a part of the team.


The young agent’s interaction with Michelle leads him to go to Abbott for advice. Dennis is a sound expert on love matters since he’s been happily married to his college sweetheart for 17 years old. Although Jason might not be aware of it, he was also Jane’s official Cupid into earning Lisbon’s favors… He willingly takes the same part for Wylie and states right away that he knows the young man asked her out: his explanation for this knowledge is an amused “this isn’t my first rodeo”. This line hints again at cowboys and, through them, at the danger idea brought by the allusions to Western movies in the previous episodes… Same with Wylie’s comment that he doesn’t really know what kind of restaurant he should choose, arguing “I don’t want to tip my hand”: this reference to poker is a nod to the game metaphor from the RJ era and a way to convey an unsettling impression in the middle that joyful occasion… However, Dennis advice echoes Lisbon’s consideration for details and mints on pillows: “keep it casual. Not a hole in a wall, you know? Tablecloths, not necessarily white…” Is it reading too much into that line to see it as a subtle reminder of Lisbon’s description of her date with Pike in ‘Silver Wings of Time” with “cloth napkins and everything” after Jane asked her if his rival was taking her someplace nice? If that’s the case, it’s a clever way to foreshadow how this first date with Michelle is doomed from the start… The talk anyway ends up with Abbott reassuring the hopeful young man: “she already said yes, that was the hard part. Just try to have fun”.


Cho too has a meaningful moment in relation with Vega: without being as personal as Wylie’s progress with the brunette, his talk with her in the car shows how much their relation has been veering towards genuine friendship. Indeed, when Vega starts commenting about his new leadership position, she asks him “are you excited?” As he retorts that he doesn’t “really think about it that way”, she presses on “isn’t this something you’ve wanted your entire career?”, “so be excited about it”. Her gentle prodding turns to teasing when he tells her that the main change he’s going to make is “a new rule: rookie agents are seen and not heard”, which she brushes off (“good luck with that”). Cho turns his head to hide his half-smile from her: their wit makes them equals in a way. Since she faced him and his protectiveness of feeling “responsible” for her, she turned the tables and made their bond evolve from seeking him out for approbation and guidance to something more akin to a partnership. Plus, she’s happy for him and Cho likes her as a person obviously for he’s taken her under his wing and is amused by her eagerness.

Jane and Lisbon

Meanwhile, in the “fishbowl”, Jane meets Lisbon. He’s prepared a surprise to please her. As he offers her a gift box full of those mints she wanted, he tells her he made reservations for their weekend “at the Alhambra: resortish style place, room service, high-thread-count sheets… I think you’re gonna like it”. He wanted to indulge in her wish to have a high-end weekend –like he planned to at the ‘Blue Bird’- in order to spend time alone with her. He’s eager to make her happy, even though she’s aware that he would have preferred something more “rustic” (“yeah, I’ll find a tree”). His dismissal of his own desires is probably a way to make up with what he’d done to anger her in the first place: he’s willing to prove to her that she’s important and that, in spite of his fears and manipulations, he’s attuned to her needs… And one may wonder if both their insistence with bed-related details (“pillow” and “sheets”) is not a way to imply how they want to spend this time alone, given how little cuddling time those two get onscreen. Too bad this luxurious hotel as an ominous name in context: the original “Alhambra” is an ancient Moorish palace in Granada (Spain), whose name means “red house/castle”, tying it up with the red thread and threat from Jane’s history… Once again, danger, fear and the ghost of revenge are lurking.

The notion of partnership is also mentioned in that brief moment between the lovers: as Lisbon can follow Jane’s steps in cold-reading the criminals’ non-verbal clues in the video of the robbery, he acknowledges her “good eye” as a sign that her own set of skills is getting is par with his. She’s his equal. On the other hand, the gang is not as well equipped: both Jane and Lisbon manage to define a flaw in their team. The one in charge –the “Alpha”- doesn’t trust the new crew member whose “big gun stands out” during the violent assault… Plus the Alpha apparently works with his brother, who’s the third member of their organization: trust, bond and defiance are closely woven together in the dangerous trio. Plus, it’s probably only a meaningless detail but it’s still intriguing that Jane’s eye caught onto the fact that they were brothers because of a similar walk due to a lift on the left shoe –even more since it’s that clue that later tips Vega onto identifying the group. Indeed, Jane’s shoes are a long-standing symbol for his journey through tragedy and received special attention in ‘Blue Bird’: it might be a way to hint that his life is about to make a new leap in an unexpected direction as well as attracting viewers’ attention on the important theme of family…

VIS#1 The turning point: Vega is killed

Things take a sudden turn for the worst when Vega and Cho check a dinner in the hopes of spotting their men. Some red elements like walls and booths and the redhead waitress hint at the looming threat as well as the poster “eat, sleep, fish” behind their suspects alludes to the old fishing/sea theme mentioned in ‘Little Yellow House’. Indeed, the menace gets very pressing when the two agents recognize the three gang members and confront them: a violent gunfire ensues, very much like it would happen in a saloon in a Western movie. Interestingly, Vega recognizes the Alpha because of his shoe: in the movie ‘Rio Bravo’ (already referenced in the season), Wayne’s sheriff character and his deputy also plan to recognize their suspect because his boots are covered in mud when he managed to hide in the saloon. The two men enter separately, the sheriff from the back door while the deputy takes the main entrance (just like Vega stays in the dinning room while Cho pursues two of their suspects through the back storage room). The difference is that the deputy is able to spot and kill the hidden man who was planning to shoot at them from above… Vega isn’t not as lucky and when Cho comes back after the men had managed to escape, he finds her injured on the floor with the patrons gathered around her. He wasn’t here to protect here, which will probably weigh on his conscience later.

Cho takes her in his arms and presses her injury –which has probably pierced a lung- in an attempt to stop the bleeding. He tries to calm her by talking and ends up repeating endlessly the same lines like a distraught mantra “come here”, “keep breathing”, “I know”, “you’re okay”, “good”… he’s almost fatherly, using with her the same words one would with a frightened child, calling her “Michelle” to put emphasis on how personal the moment is. Vega doesn’t seem to fully realize her state as she first wants to take her phone to call for an ambulance, but she soon asks a heart-breaking question: “did I mess up?” Cho tells her “no, you did good, okay? You did good”. Her last words end up being “I did?” It shows to viewers the reason why she felt drawn to Cho in the first place: his stern but reassuring presence reminded her of her father; the “mess up” also reminds of their first contact when her recklessness and lies made him angry at her. Things are coming full circle in a poignant few words when she’s starting to lose consciousness in his embrace and his “you did good” line referring to the job morph into “you’re doing good” when he gets her to focus on staying with him (“just keep breathing for me”), then to “look at me” when he feels that she’s slipping away…

The outcome is shown at the hospital in a completely silent scene except for Blake Neely’s very slow tune: Lisbon is running in slow motion in the hallway (like she did in ‘Bloodstream’, when Cho was too appointed new team leader after she unknowingly insulted their new boss LaRoche), Jane close behind her. Abbott standing motionless in front of the door then Cho waiting for them already indicate that they have bad news: Michelle has passed away. Their expressions show their different way to deal with the tragedy: Lisbon’s face expresses shock and grief. Jane lowers his head, centered on his emotions, while a sad Abbott looks at Cho, who’s completely focused on Vega’s pale dead face.

Wylie’s tears

Wylie’s reaction is shown immediately afterwards: he’s sitting alone in the bullpen and doesn’t move or react when other agents walk by. He ten looks at her desk when the phone starts ringing: there’s on one to answer it anymore. The Austin homicide agent who’s now in charge of the investigation tells him “I’m very sorry for your loss” and later Lisbon hugs him, acknowledging that he’s most affected by the tragedy since he’d been creating personal ties with the young woman.

His grief stricken lack of activity contrasts with Abbott’s attitude in front on the man who wants to take the case from them: even though he’s polite and cooperative, Dennis outright tells him “but this case is ours and these men, they belong to us”. He’s even more eager to keep the case that he didn’t even get the chance to talk to Vega that day…

Cho’s guilt

As Cho is waiting to be interrogated, he’s displaying another emotion: the blood on his shirt and on his hands hint that he’s feeling guilty for not protecting the rookie. He’s already told her once that he felt responsible for her and he was moreover in charge of the case; his bloodied hands are thus reminiscent of Lady Macbeth’s guilty conscience, even though he’s not really at fault. Plus, his appearance is a distant echo to Lisbon’s own bloodied shirt after discovering that Bosco and his men were shot by a RJ minion in ‘His Red Right Hand’.

Just as Lisbon acknowledged Wylie’s pain as somewhat leading the mourning given that he’d been her love interest, Abbott refers to Kimball to know more about Vega’s family: he’s the one able to tell that the next-of-kin in her file, “an aunt in Tampa”, is her only living relative and that she’s her father’s sister. Cho even furthers take side as surrogate family by telling that he’ll call the woman: he considers it his responsibility. When alone on Abbott’s office, he starts crying when he sees her file on the screen. The image of him finally making the call in a composed voice, shot through the window and framed by two littler glass panels give even more solemnity to the moment.

Jane and Lisbon are falling apart

Vega’s demise has unexpected consequences on the other coworkers: Jane is drinking his tea alone in the kitchen instead of seeking comfort close to his sweetheart. When she comes into the room asking for coffee, he tells her they’re out of it, yet she refuses his offer to have a cup of tea… Before Jane had been seen many times preparing a mug of coffee for her, but now he’s again centered on the pain and fear plaguing his thoughts and he’s closing himself off.

On the other hand, Lisbon broaches immediately the subject on her mind: “you don’t believe in the afterlife at all, do you?” Given that the theme was an important part of Jane’s grief after losing his family, Lisbon’s question ties the current situation to his past tragedy. When he confirms that he does not, she pushes further “I do. Do you think that’s foolish?” Again, he denies and she explains “I just need to believe that she’s someplace”. She’s in need of comfort and the only form of soothing he can provide her is by touching her arm –not even hugging her like she did with Wylie… Both are in need of the other’s presence, but a certain distance is growing between them… which is why Jane stays in the kitchen drinking his tea and watches her go with Abbott as she’s called for the investigation. When he finally joins the remaining team members and the homicide detective in their talk about the criminals’ whereabouts, he tells them “maybe we should all just take a breath”, echoing Cho’s words to the dying Vega. He explains to the agents who are eager for action “when you’re hunting a wounded animal, you just don’t start chasing it immediately. You’ll drive it to the ground”. Two more old themes are alluded to in that conversation: the hunting theme –linked to revenge- and the theme of birds (the possibility to send helicopters is mentioned with the line “a couple of birds in the air”); the latter is altogether associated with the hunt, with RJ’s ultimate demise and Jane’s hope for a new life by Lisbon’s side (‘Blue Bird’).

VIS#2 Jane’s methods are questioned again: are they enough to keep everyone safe?

1) Jane’s plan

While Wylie had been listening to the operation, a female dark-haired agent with a ponytail can be seen behind him: it’s an allusion to the missing Vega, just like both Abbott and Cho sitting in cars with the seat at their side remaining empty is a nod to Cho and Vega’s last friendly conversation before the catastrophe. Her loss is at the heart of the operation, because the whole team is trying to avenge her.

Yet the level of grief only increases as the criminals are cornered, for they take a woman then a man hostages. Plus Tommy, the Alpha’s brother, is injured: the blood on his torso and his brother’s comforting words “okay, it’s gonna be okay” while taking his hand draw a parallel with Vega’s last moments.

Jane understands the situation and remarks that “they’re in there because he was trying to get medicine for his brother, that’s compassion”. Nevertheless, instead of demanding a trade for a hostage, Jane plans to manipulate their feelings. He wants to use the Ace’s desperation to save his brother against the new member’s eagerness for money: “we drive an edge between them. Divide to conquer”. In order to do so, he plants a listening device in the pizza that Cho delivers to the bad guys trapped in one of their hostage’s house.

2) Cho’s counteroffensive

Yet, while Jane is busy playing mastermind, Cho took this opportunity to take a look inside. He asks for a word in private with Abbott and tells him that he wants to take them out. He’s aware that Jane doesn’t really have a plan: “he’s improvising”. He states “Now, I’ve followed Jane down a lot of paths, but I’m not sure he’s right this time.”

Abbott correctly surmises that it’s “about payback for Vega” and Cho simply answers “maybe. What if it is?” The older man prudently decides to let “Jane’s plan play out for a little bit”, but orders Cho to “talk to SWAT, let them know we might go in.” He realizes that, as much as Cho is right about Jane and about the urgency of the situation, he’s also recklessly out for revenge, like he was in ‘Blood In, Blood Out’: when one of his friends is targeted, Cho lets free rein to his wild streak… He’s briefly following into Jane’s footsteps, like Rigsby had been with his father’s killer; only now Jane is not as eager to avenge their lost friend as he is to protect his beloved…

3) Jane talks with the TV reporter

Blissfully unaware that he’s being passed over by his friends, the consultant pulls all the stops to mess with the mind of the criminals. To mislead them, he’s willing to use the TV crew in front of the house, in the same way he used Karen Cross’ show in the CBI. He tells the woman that he’s a “well-placed source” and that they’re secretly negotiating with one of the hostage takers, a fake news she relays on air for the benefit of the distrusting Sellers, the dangerous new gang member who killed Vega. He doesn’t care about hurting the hostages or about his accomplice’s endangered life: Seller’s only in for the money and his own greed leads him to believe that Ace may have been making a deal and selling him out…

The names of the news reporters might also prove remarkable: it may be a coincidence, but the leading man is called “George”, as the Christian Saint who fought the dragon that represented Evil. It used to be Jane’s position, but now it’s Lisbon’s, since she wants to keep stopping bad guys (hence Jane marveling at one of her clever remarks on Peterson’s skimming in ‘Copper Bullet’ by saying “by George, I think she got it”). And the news lady’s called “Elizabeth”, who’s Aaron’s wife in the Bible. Her name is associated with “seven” in Hebrew, making it another nod to the last season, but more interestingly she’s part of the Exodus history. Indeed, Aaron was alluded to in ‘The Silver Briefcase’ for it was the colonel’s first name. As explained in the review for that episode, Aaron was Moses’ older brother and helped him to lead their people out of Egypt, but they had a disagreement over how to worship God (Exodus, 32, 1-5). This divergence was a symbol for the different positions held by Jane, who wants to quit and make his own ‘Exodus’ real, and Lisbon, who wants to stay in the FBI. The Exodus was also hinted at by another character’s name in ‘The White of His Eyes’, when Jane decided to take measures to force Lisbon into safety: one of the Bittakers was called Caleb. Caleb was in the Old Testament one of Moses’ men who first saw the Promised Land after he was sent to explore Canaan; he was also the one who praised it with Joshua (Numbers 14, 6-9). In a nutshell, the journalists’ names sum up both Jane’s and Lisbon’s respective opinion on the matter of quitting law enforcement…

Moreover, the whole setting with Jane using the reporters to curb the situation to his advantage is reminiscent of Lisbon doing the same thing in ‘Red Alert’ to force Bertram to give her control of the operation. Back there too, a hot-headed cop with guilt issues wanted to take the hostage taker out by shooting him… and shades of the not so bad guy’s personality can be glimpsed into the altercation between the two angered accomplices here as Jane succeeds in driving an edge between them: the violent one who takes his rage on the male hostage is in direct contrast with the other one who simply asks the excited female captive to “sit down”…

4) Jane’s suicidal initiative

As things progress, the similarities with ‘Red Alert’ get more obvious. Indeed, Jane quickly realizes that he’s losing control of thesituation. Even when he pleads that he only needs a little more time, Abbott answers him “I’m sorry, Jane, I’ve tried”… Problem is that Jane wanted to avoid Lisbon getting into the dangerous house… So, when his smarts aren’t enough to keep her out of trouble, he resorts to more direct methods, telling her “don’t go with them” and taking her by the arm before adding “you don’t have to”. Lisbon disagrees but her usual reassurances don’t work on him: he knows that she can’t foretell if anyone will be hurt and Vega’s fate is too fresh in his mind for him to react rationally… Out of anger and fear, he takes a spur-of-the-moment decision as soon as she leaves at Cho’s order: he walks himself straight to the house, ignoring the others’ call to stop. If he can’t convince her to stay put, he’d force her to by taking the risks instead of her… Since he doesn’t have much time for finessing this out, he goes straight to the point with the surprised Ace when the man opens the door: he can help him and his brother, but he has to release a hostage first. His determining argument is “I am FBI, take me instead”, given that he’s “more valuable, better leverage”… he goes as far as pleading to the man to take him in: “come on, it’s a good deal”. Like in ‘Red Alert’, the criminal is not entirely cold-blooded and accepts to release the male hostage instead of keeping the three of them: he knows he doesn’t have much time because someone inside is bleeding to death, like it was back then. Again, the moment echoes a bit the movie ‘Rio Bravo’ ending with the criminal gang being out powered during a trading of hostages…

Outside, Lisbon tries to pacify the other infuriated cops: “I am just as angry as you are, but he’s just going in there, let him have some time”. She understands Jane’s plan and wants to avoid getting him in further danger in a potential gunfight. She explains that he’s trying to drive an edge between these two guys, giving him a vote of confidence (“if anybody can do that, it’s Jane”).

Jane’s improvised plan is to do the reverse of what he did to calm the panicky hostage in ‘Red Alert’: he’s driving the bad guys into a corner by causing their only remaining civil captive to have a panic attack. By messing with their mind, he manages to convince the men to free her in order to avoid the cops -who are listening on them- to barge in to save her from a supposed diabetic coma… While Ace is leading her outside, Jane manipulates the other by talking about how much money they took, causing his two marks to get into a violent argument. In the end, in the two criminals are killed another silent scene, except for the sound of the bullets: Ace is taken out by his ruthless accomplice, while the latter is shot by Cho. Ironically, the only one who makes it out of it alive is the injured brother, unlike Vega.

VIS#3 The funeral: saying goodbye

One last silent scene takes place in the cemetery when the team along with a number of other law enforcers gives Vega the last tributes: the music is drowning out the words. The official and well-attended funeral contrasts with the deserted graveyard in the opening of ‘Copper Bullet’ in the same way that this sad ending is in direct opposition with the joyous gathering to celebrate their victory.

Abbott and Cho are carrying the coffin as the higher ranked people in the team, whereas Jane’s walking alone, Lisbon preferring to stay by Wylie’s side… The distance between them fades a little as they’re sitting as a group to listen to the priest and when each of them –except Jane, at least onscreen- shovels some dirt onto the coffin as Michelle’s professional family. Abbott is comforting Wylie when they leave, Cho walking alone nearby.

Lisbon finds her lover crouched near a tree and she tells him that she’d like to postpone their plans for the weekend because “it just doesn’t feel right”. She’s aware that “places like this must be hard for” him, given the loss of his whole family, but she’s still taken aback when Jane tells her “I can’t do this anymore”. He pours his heart out, helped by the emotion from burying their friend: “I can’t watch you do this work. I mean it, it could have been you in that coffin. I don’t, I can’t go through that again”. Lisbon is right: the funeral has awakened painful memories for Jane, but what she didn’t expect is that he would take out his fear on their relationship. Even more since she’s probably still smarting from his latest stunt after all: “Jane, you were the one who walked in that house”. He was the one who was more in danger to catch a bullet than her. But Jane’s peculiar logic comes into play: “yes, so that you wouldn’t”. The difference is that in Jane’s mind, his life is not worth much: “me dying, it’s, it doesn’t hurt me”, a self-deprecating point of view illustrated many times by the risks he was willing to take to kill his nemesis –and by the temptation of suicide lurking after the deed was done… Lisbon tries to state reasonably “you can’t keep pulling me from the path of oncoming trains”, “because there’s always new train coming every day”… Jane’s solution is more drastic than simply accepting the dangers inherent to her job –and to life itself-: “I’m leaving. You can come with me or stay here, but I have to go”. He’s taking himself out of the situation before getting even more hurt, since he cannot bend her to his will… As she asks him where he’s going, he simply answers “someplace nice” before kissing her on the cheek. Lisbon keeps watching him go with tears on her eyes… Each of their most deep-seated fears has become real: Jane lost her to danger (since she didn’t follow him), which was his main motive for not confessing his feelings in the previous season, and Lisbon couldn’t keep him from leaving her, the very reason why she didn’t want to get close to him before he made his love clear. Yet neither wants to understand the other’s point of view… They’re both centered on not losing the other and are blinded by that.

Conclusion: a ray of hope in the darkness

Two texts are referred to during that episode. The first one is quoted in the title; it’s a poem written by Robert Frost in 1923:

“Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.”

In that poem, nature (with the metaphor of the Fall), and religion (the lost Eden) are combined to draw an history of humankind doomed to suffer and fail since everything is only ephemeral: “nothing gold can stay” means that every ounce of beauty and happiness is condemned from the start to end. It reflects both Vega’s demise when she was starting to become a valuable part of the team (hence the falling leaves when they were carrying her coffin) as well as Jane’s fears concerning Lisbon’s possible death which keep him from focusing on what they have right now. That piece of poetry is reminiscent of Blake’s ‘Tyger, Tyger’, given that the divine creation brings in itself its own demise, just like for Blake good and evil were tied together as a guarantee of balance: in their own different ways, both poets build a picture of the world defined by religion, in a rather dark perspective since the all things good are bound to have drastic limitations. There’s nothing absolute.

Eden for Jane is thus no longer that past he shared with his family and which met an end because of his own original sin: it’s the new life he managed to craft for himself, with his new team and Lisbon’s love. This life full of hope was crystallized in ‘Blue Bird’ and ‘Nothing But Blue Skies’, but in Jane’s mind it is somehow destined to end in death and violence too… Vega’s fate only confirmed this fear: time ineluctably takes people from him and it gets even faster in their line of job. On the other hand, it’s interesting that Death chose the rookie as its victim, since her name is telling: Michelle is the French feminine for Michel/Michael, the name used for Kirkland’s twin for it referred to the Archangel who fought Satan in the Book of Revelation. Yet, it may be another of the angel’s role that’s called into action here, since Michael is also the one in charge of saving innocent souls from the Devil and carrying them to heaven. This, associated with the fact that “Vega” is actually a star, makes for a positive symbol: Michelle is linked to the sky and to heaven (hence maybe her cheeky remark to Cho in the car “we’re wearing jetpacks”). The poem is also related to the religious concept of felix culpa (from Saint Augustine’s texts and in the “Exultet” in Catholic Easter liturgy): it’s the original fault that convinced God to send the Messiah on Earth, so paradoxically that sin is somewhat blessed. Meaning that something good can come of an unfortunate event. The notion of felix culpa is also linked to the Exodus: without exile, there would be no promised land after all… Even more since “gold” for Jane has not so happy connotations of leaving Lisbon on a cliff at sunset and of clinking to his wedding band… Maybe once the conflicting emotions have settled down he would be ready for a more permanent emotional commitment instead of living in fear and regret.

The other meaningful text is the song playing at the funeral, “Letters From The Sky”, by Civil Twilight:

“One of these days the sky’s gonna break
And everything will escape and I’ll know
One of these days the mountains
Are gonna fall into the sea and they’ll know

That you and I were made for this
I was made to taste your kiss
We were made to never fall away
Never fall away

One of these days letters are gonna fall
From the sky telling us all to go free
But until that day I’ll find a way
To let everybody know that you’re coming back
You’re coming back for me

‘Cause even though you left me here
I have nothing left to fear
These are only walls that hold me here
Hold me here, hold me here, hold me here
Only walls that hold me here

One day soon I’ll hold you like the sun holds the moon
And we will hear those planes overhead
And we won’t have to be scared
‘Cause we won’t have to be scared
We won’t have to be, yeah, scared, no

You’re coming back for me”

The idea of Eden and happiness coming to an end (“One of these days the sky’s gonna break/And everything will escape”) is associated with departure and return: Vega’s, in Lisbon’s conception of a rewarding afterlife, or Jane’s, given that he probably took the decision to leave during the funeral. The lyrics therefore tell viewers that he’ll come back to her (“I’ll find a way/To let everybody know that you’re coming back/ You’re coming back for me”) and that he’ll have no more reason to be afraid of losing her, nor Lisbon of him leaving her (“we won’t have to be scared”). The song foreshadows Jane’s heart-wrenching decision to go away, while also hinting that it won’t last. Interestingly, his leaving out of fear was also hinted by the location of Vega’s demise since she was shot at the “Tastee Pancake House”. Pancakes were the food Pike used to seduce Lisbon into going on a date with him: back then too, Jane had been on the verge of losing her because he couldn’t face his fears, until he found the courage to accept the risk of living fully again.


Cultural References in The Mentalist – a work in progress by Violet

Image by Chizuruchibi. Copyright Reviewbrain Dec. 2012. Not to be used without permission.

Image by Chizuruchibi. Copyright Reviewbrain Dec. 2012. Not to be used without permission.

This post is brought to you by the infinitely literate Violet, who was kind enough to share this monumental work of the cultural references in our favorite show, The Mentalist. Please enjoy her gift to us and have a wonderful holiday everyone!


I Conception of the main character: (S1-2)

1)      Sherlock Holmes.The prototypical detective is the most obvious source of inspiration for Jane’s character: every following quote is taken from the very first pages of A Study in Scarlett, where Holmes was first introduced.


  •  Alternating activity/laziness: “I’m the most incurable lazy devil that ever stood in shoe leather – that is, when the fit is on me, for I can be spry enough at times.”
  •  Enthusiasm: “At the sound of our steps, he glanced around and sprang to his feet with a cry of pleasure. “I’ve found it! I’ve found it”, he shouted to my companion […] Had he discovered a gold mine, greater delight could not have shone upon his features.”  Cf. Jane’s “aha!”.
  •  He likes to impress: ““Wonderful!” I ejaculated. -“Commonplace” said Holmes, though I thought from his expression that he was pleased at my evident surprise and admiration”…
  •  … to the point to pass for vain: “This fellow may be very clever”, I said to myself, “but he is certainly very conceited”(Watson, upon first reading Holmes’s views).
  •  He seeks fame: “I know well that I have it in me to make my name famous.” Cf. psychic Jane on a TV show…

Socially difficult:

  • Towards his fellow detectives (Lestrade and Gregson): cutting analytical judgement, fun at their expense, since he enjoys their rivalry. “They are both quick and energetic, but conventional –shockingly so. They have their knives into one another too. They are as jealous as a pair of professional beauties. There will be some fun over this case if they are both put upon the scent”. Same sense of acute and funny comparison as Jane. Irony and mockery: “I may have a laugh at them, if I have nothing else.” He also relies on his confidant’s connivance to catch the joke.
  •  He doesn’t seek women’ company, although it’s more because he’s simply not interested, while Jane’s a widower.
  •  He’s cold and people are a little afraid of him as they are not sure what he’s able to do: “Holmes is a little too scientific for my tastes – it approaches to cold-bloodedness. I could imagine his giving a friend a little pinch of the latest vegetable alkaloid, but simply out of a spirit of inquiry in order to have an accurate idea of the effects.” That assumption is far-stretched for Holmes: he wouldn’t risk any friend’s life on a whim, but it’s revealing of how people who superficially know him may be wary of him. Now, replace the “scientific” by “manipulative” and the bit about alkaloids by a cunning plan, and the quote works for Jane too…

Similarities in their methods:

  • At the crime scene: “As he spoke, his nimble fingers were flying here, there, and everywhere, feeling, unbuttoning, examining, while his eyes wore the same faraway expression which I have already remarked upon. So swiftly was the examination made, that one would hardly have guessed the minuteness with which it was conducted. Finally, he sniffed the dead man’s lips, and then glanced at the soles of his patent leather boots.” Jane doesn’t really touch the body, since it would be a glaring mistake nowadays with the progress in forensic, but he does everything else: attention to detail, sniffing, glancing at the soles, you name it, you have it.
  • No respect for the dead: beating the corpses in dissecting-rooms.
  • Odd mix between knowledge and ignorance: “Neither did he appear to have pursued any course of reading which might fit him for a degree in science or any other recognized portal which would give him an entrance into the learned world. Yet his zeal for certain studies was remarkable, and within eccentric limits his knowledge was so extraordinarily ample and minute that his observations have fairly astounded me.” Actually, the similarity is played with: Jane’s ignorance touches science and forensic, the very subjects that Holmes is well learnt upon…
  • The memory palace: “”I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend at any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for any addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”” Various things are partially used for this quote: the notion to compile and order memories, the selection of uninteresting knowledge (that Bertram is Hightower’s boss, for example). This well-known speech is played with: Jane’s “attic” is his thinking room, with “nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work” of hunting Red John.
  •  Although he is quite action-oriented, he still lets Watson carry the gun: “”Have you any arms?” […] When I returned with the pistol, the table had been cleared, and Holmes was engaged in his favourite occupation of scraping upon his violin.”
  • The archenemy: Moriarty is a respected secret criminal mastermind, who stays hidden behind his web of minions. There is a variation with RJ, since Jane becomes a detective/consultant because of his nemesis, while Holmes’ usual activities helped him guess Moriarty’s double life.

2) Detective stories and popular classical culture

There are various hints that Jane is well-read in old-school detective stories. In passing mentions develop aspects of the persona Jane has elaborated to hide his true self:

  • The classy characteristic car reminds of Ellery Queen and his Duesenberg.
  • His elegant (if slightly rumpled) suits remind of classical aristocratic detectives (Holmes, Ellery Queen, Van Dine’s Philo Vance, Christie’s Hercule Poirot and so on).

In other words, he’s playing the role of the detective and he’s aware of it. Those allusions also hint at Jane’s love of fun and his tendency to consider his day-to-day job as a big game solely for his amusement, hence the different clichés he revels in:

  • He explains how to open a hermetically closed room in S1 ‘Red John’s Friends’ (the trick has been explained in numerous stories for example in a Philo Vance novel, The Bishop Murder Case).
  • “The butler did it!”
  • The detective in an armchair: in novels featuring Nero Wolfe, there is a duality between a clever subordinate who does the leg work and the master who does the ultimate brain work. There are hints of this with Jane on his couch: he sometimes let the team collect information when it doesn’t seem fun enough and analyses it and comes up with a theory while lying on his brown couch.
  • To some extent, the treasure hunt in a mansion in S2 ‘Red Scare’ might be a classical element too (cf. Holmes’ “The Adventure of the Mustgrave Ritual”  and Poirot’s short story “The Case of the Missing Will” for example)

More broadly, Jane’s childish vision is completed by reference to a past era connected with mystery and gangsters adventures (more or less the Prohibition era):

  • The hard-boiled detective stories (the fedora)
  • “Stop the press!”

II Conception of his nemesis: Red John and William Blake (S2-3-4)

Red John’s depth comes from the fact that is more than just Jane’s Moriarty: he’s been given a personal universe of his own, characterized by references to Blake’s poems.

Two quotes are used directly in the show. First, ‘Tiger, tiger” said by RJ and repeated by Todd Johnson in ‘Red Moon’, which lead to think the quote is used as some sort of a code among RJ’s disciples and that the philosophy he teaches  to them to convert them may be based to some extent on Blake’s poetry.

Tiger, tiger, burning bright    

In the forests of the night,                   

What immortal hand or eye                 

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?   


In what distant deeps or skies

Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

On what wings dare he aspire?

What the hand dare seize the fire?


And what shoulder and what art

Could twist the sinews of thy heart?

And, when thy heart began to beat,

What dread hand and what dread feet?


What the hammer? What the chain?

In what furnace was thy brain?

What the anvil? What dread grasp

Dare its deadly terrors clasp?


When the stars threw down their spears,

And water’d heaven with their tears,

Did He smile His work to see?

Did He who made the lamb make thee?              


Tiger, tiger, burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


In this poem, we have: the color of the fire (“burning, “burnt, “fire”, “furnace”), that is red, laced this the “night” in a “fearful symmetry”. As Cho analyzed in ‘Strawberries and Cream’, the poem enlightens that both the tiger (evil) and the lamb (innocence) have been created by God as part of the world equilibrium. Said equilibrium is also used and twisted by RJ in his speech in the limo in ‘The Crimson Hat’: both sides are equivalent and, therefore, there is no good or bad, meaning evil actions or good ones are similarly justifiable. What’s more, as RJ is part of this symmetry as the evil killer as well as the one who defines it by creating an enemy in Jane, he might be at the same time the “tiger” and a sort of “god” his followers may believe in, if we were to link this with Gupta’s “deeply religious” beliefs (‘Strawberries and Cream’).

The “night” is also mentioned by Bertram: “When thy little heart doth wake,/ Then the dreadful night shall break ” (from A Cradle Song).  We don’t know yet if Bertram is connected with RJ, but it’s plausible that the quote is relevant anyway in a “meta-meaning” concerning RJ’s beliefs.

Indeed, the night seems to have a particular meaning both in Blake’s universe and in RJ’s: the night associated with the fire symbolize the tiger and the symmetry it represents. It also seems to be RJ’s favorite moment to strike (Panzer’s and Jane’s family’s murders).

Moreover, since the show seems to revel in classical mystery stories, another poem by Blake

has been quoted by Agatha Christie (in Endless Night) and apparently fits to some extent with

what we know of RJ’s philosophical view:

Under every grief and pine,

Runs a joy with silken twine […]


Every night and every morn

Some to misery are born,

Every morn and every night

Some are born to sweet delight.


Some are born to sweet delight,

Some are born to endless night.


We are led to believe a lie

When we see not thro’ the eye,

Which was born in a night to perish in a night,

When the soul slept in beams of light.


God appears, and God is light,

To those poor souls who dwell in night;

But does a human form display

To those who dwell in realms of day.”

(from the end of Auguries of Innocence).

Those words seem to fit with RJ’s supposed spiritual goals: to make people better by making them suffer (“Under every grief and pine/ Runs a joy with silken twine”), through a revelation of the inner balance of the world. He detaches them from a false sense of morality, opening a path towards that illumination. He dispenses a superior knowledge as well as a new take on life, through purification by sufferance; hence, RJ presents himself as a mean to divine knowledge, or better yet as a prophet: there is no good or bad, hence no punishment or reward in a so-called after-life (cf. the speech in ‘The Crimson Hat’). His followers are freed from any consequences of their actions.

Last, if we were to believe Rebecca’s statement that RJ wanted to redeem Jane by punishing him, then we can also connect his behavior with this quote from the “Annotations to Lavater”: “forgiveness of enemies can only come upon their repentance.”

III The narration: Jane’s fate

A number of cultural –mostly literary- references have made their way in the show. In the first seasons, said references have been used to develop some particular aspect of Jane’s personality (in the same fashion as Holmes has shaped some parts of it), and/or to give some depth to a situation.

Season 1: Jane’s obsession with revenge and killing his nemesis: Moby Dick (‘Flame Red’) Parallel with the case at hand hinting that revenge only ends up in blind cruelty, deceit, and is hurtful for innocent people.

Season 2:

  • ‘The Scarlet Letter’ references the book by Nathaniel Hawthorne: the case deals with adultery and, like in the novel, the secret identity of the mysterious lover’s plays a great part. Both also deal with guilt: like Hawthorne’s protagonist, Jane’s behavior has caused him to lose his old life and, like her lover, he lives in self punishment. (Amusingly, the novel has inspired Ellery Queen’s The Scarlett Letters…)
  • Director Bertram’s name might also be a reference to Christie’s At the Bertram’s Hotel, which might then refer to a façade used to hide a criminal network, like RJ’s started to reveal itself after Bosco’s murder.

Season 3:

  • ‘The Red Mile’/ The Green Mile. Dr Steiner is in his own personal death row and chooses to die, whereas Jane is implicitly left wondering about his own fate.
  • Minor reference: ‘Rhapsody in Red’/ Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, mixing jazz and classic, Jane’s usual tastes in music.

Season 4: While the first seasons only used references to enlighten Jane’s character and motivations, season 4 uses them to give some perspective over his fate. Two recurrent references provide two major angles, as two sides of the same coin.

  • First madness and despair is developed under Shakespeare’s influence. A recurring theme in the season (‘Fugue in Red’, ‘Cheap Burgundy’, ‘Something Rotten in Redmund’): essentially ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Macbeth’. There is a similarity of tone with the show and Jane himself (seriousness mixed with lightness, tragedy with foolish things). Like Lady Macbeth, Jane is also obsessed with guilt and his sanity might be at risk; like Hamlet, he hides behind the mask of a fool and seek ruthlessly revenge over a dead relative’s assassination, hurting in he process the people around them (and both cause quite a lot of collateral damage). More, both plays end in loneliness, madness and death and that’s what Jane himself risks.
  • Then a path towards hope is shown: The Wizard of Oz, first referenced in Season 2, but blossoming in ‘Ruby Slippers’. The differences between those two allusions show that Jane has progressed personally (See ‘Ruby Slippers’ review for more details).
  • Some songs show Jane’s set of mind and situation (Hotel California show that he’s trapped in his revenge and RJ’s games; Dust in the Wind alludes to the futility of his six months scheme and to the dust surrounding him and Lisbon when they’re holding hands and he can fully realize its pointlessness).

Season 5 (so far):

  • Alice in Wonderland: ‘Devil’s Cherry’ uses the two themes introduced by Shakespeare and The Wizard of Oz: madness and a journey in an extraordinary land.
  • « La donna è mobile » From ‘Cherry Picked’ is from Verdi’s Rigoletto is an allusion to Lorelei.
  • Agent Nemo in ‘If It Bleeds It Leads’ references Ulysses and Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo. Both characters are connected with travels over the sea…

– ‘Red Sails in the Sunset’, whose title is inspired by a song where a fisher girl waits for her lover to return. Various interpretations are possible: one of them it that the fisher girl may be the siren Lorelei Martins who thought her master RJ was helping her get out of jail. Anyway, the original song ends with these words:

Above no bright stars are glowing/ It means the storm’s coming soon.”

– Also in ‘Red Sails in the Sunset’ : Jane’s flight with Lorelei is compared with Hitchcock’s movie North By Northwest. Various interpretations in here too: they are hunted down by the police (Lisbon and Kirkland), based on a misunderstanding; the show plays with the notion, since innocent Thornhill was mistaken for someone else, while the CBI is convinced that Jane has been kidnapped and thus hasn’t orchestrated everything. Moreover, Lorelei’s attitude towards him is ambivalent (somewhat like Eve Kandall in the movie): meaning that Lorelei may become an ally too. Besides, in the scene Jane and Styles are watching at the very beginning the movie plot reaches a pivotal moment (Thornhill and Eve fake his death, before he decides to enter the bad guy’s dent); that hints that Jane may be about to turn the table on RJ.


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