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Throwback Thursday - The Mentalist - Strawberries And Cream, Parts 1 & 2

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Throwback Thursday is a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from the past.

This week we’ll take a trip down to memory lane to review the season 3 finale of The Mentalist. I’m pretty sure that if you’re here you probably know a thing or two (or maybe more) about this show, but in case you don’t or need a brief refresh, The Mentalist was a show created by Bruno Heller and starred by Simon Baker in the titular role, that ran through 7 seasons, from 2008 to 2015 with a total of 151 episodes, and revolved around Patrick Jane, a man that used to be a fake psychic in the past, that ended up joining the state police to help them solve crimes using his sharp skills of observation, persuasion and manipulation, while trying to find Red John, the serial killer that murdered his wife and daughter.

These episodes originally aired on May 19, 2011 and were written by Ashley Gable (part 1) and Bruno Heller (part 2), both directed by Chris Long, and though both parts of this season finale can be treated as two stand alone episodes, I decided to review the pair since they are connected, and the first part sets the story that develops in the second one. Also, these two are among my favorite episodes of the whole show. .

Most of the first hour seems to be like an everyday case, involving the explosion of a man that arrived at a gas station with a bomb attached to his body, in an apparent terrorist attack. Later, we discover that he stole 50,000 dollars from his work, a money transfer company, along with a list of clients that use the service and the addresses where they had sent the money. Jane, as usual seeing beyond the obvious, figures out that all of this has to do more with the information on that list than with the money stolen.

In one of the most tense scenes of the episode, Lisbon goes to an abandoned school following a lead, where Jane later finds her laying on the floor with a bomb attached to her body, just like the one from the beginning of the episode. After the initial shock and the realization that they can’t deactivate the bomb easily, they receive a call from a man through a cell phone that leads them to the CBI offices where they’re supposed to retrieve the list of clients of the money transfer company, in order Lisbon can get rid of the bomb.

Jane: “Yeah.” Lisbon: “Wh-what if--what if it triggers the bomb?” Jane: “We'll never know.”

I really liked how they played with the attention of the criminal just as they played with ours, when Jane and Lisbon started to whisper when they were supposed to be trying to enter the evidence room in the CBI only to show us that they had figured out that the gas station attendant was behind the bombs, and they were actually right where he was. Then they start one of they’re classic bickerings which helps to distract once again the criminal and get the detonator out of his hands.

Later, when things seem to have calmed, we are surprised once again by Laroche killing the suspect inside of the patrol. This is a weird moment that makes him look suspicious, and also we start to realize that this case has a lot more behind than what meets the eye. After that, they discover that a cousin of Madeleine Hightower, their former boss falsely accused of being a Red John’s accomplice, was tortured and murdered in an apparent attempt to get her location. This can only mean that the serial killer is behind all of this, which will lead us to the next episode.

The lighter part of this hour, and that I can’t leave out, is a small and funny scene almost at the end, when Jane walks in while Lisbon is in her office trying on her bridesmaid dress for Van Pelt’s wedding. She looks nothing but disgusted by having to wear a very pink and girly dress, totally opposite to her daily outfits, though Jane seems to be enjoying the view in more than one way.

Jane (to Lisbon): “You look good. This is… Beautiful, like a princess. An angry little princess. Someone stole your tiara.”

The transition between both parts of the season finale features Jane going back to the hotel room where he lives, and there we’re all expecting to see Red John waiting for him, but instead we find Hightower pointing a gun at him. She’s there to tell him that she’s tired of hiding with her kids so she prefers to turn herself in and prove her innocence. Jane agrees but he asks her 48 hours, since he doesn’t want to miss the chance to catch Red John, so the next day he gathers the team and tells them everything about the killer having an insider in the CBI and how Hightower was framed for it. He then asks for their help to discover the real identity of the mole and after a brief hesitation, the whole team is in, and this dynamic is an example of something that I’ve always liked about this show. Even when Jane most of the time was very secretive with his plans and schemes, at some point he had to let the others in and they were always there for each other, and it also proved how much he trusted them, and they trusted him.

Later, we get a glimpse of how good is Jane by playing mind games with other people, since he made Laroche to give him the list of suspects by blackmailing him with exposing a dark secret he supposedly discovered when he send a burglar to steal that very list from his house earlier in the season, though he didn’t really know what was hidden in Laroche’s safe.

Laroche: “You're a fascinating man, Patrick. Who knows what you might have achieved in this world… were you not quite so damaged?”

Jane shares the suspects' names with the team and they’re all surprised to discover that they’re very well known people to them, especially since one of the names is Craig O’Laughlin, an FBI agent that’s currently engaged with Van Pelt. They all want to know how he plans to catch the mole and here, instead of listening him explain it with words, we get a montage of scenes of them putting the plan in motion by feeding each of the suspects with intel about the hotel where Hightower is supposedly hiding, but giving each a different room number, so when someone appears at the hotel to kill Madeleine, they automatically can know who is the mole. This is something I remember I found very clever when watching the first time and I still enjoy every time I rewatch this episode.

After setting everything up and a long wait, Jane, with his sharp skills of observation, spots a mysterious woman that he immediately points at as the killer hired to take care of Hightower. This is when things start to get tense, and the close up of the elevator floor numbers as it's going up and the music by Blake Neely help to set this atmosphere. Something that should’ve been a red flag about what happened later, is that the woman went up to the floor where the team was staking out and then used the stairs to go down to the room, in a clear move of someone that was trying to create distractions. Anyway, the team is convinced that the CBI mole is none other than the very CBI Director, Gale Bertram, so they proceed to arrest the woman in the room, only to see her throwing herself out of the window.

Now that everything seems to be cleared, Van Pelt shares with O’Laughlin everything about the plan and him being one of the suspects and Hightower’s real location, which obviously raises a red flag in the audience and it makes you want to yell at her: ‘Don’t tell him!’. Here I find very curious how this show made us be weary of everything and everyone, cause at this point we were supposed to know who the mole was, but they still made us feel unsure about the other suspects.

In the next part of this episode, I really liked the editing since we got alternate scenes of Jane at the mall where he had brought Bertram to confront him and Hightower, her kids and Lisbon all happy in the cabin where they were hiding, which couldn’t make us feel nothing more that something bad was going to happen. After not getting anything concrete from Bertram, at some point he says something that raises the alarms in Jane’s head so he realises that the killer was aiming for another room at the hotel and that it was the one destined to O’Laughlin. This realisation shocks not only the characters but the viewers and it gets more shocking when we see him arrive with Van Pelt to the cabin and kill (without being seen) the policemen that were guarding the front gate.

What comes next is a rapid series of frustrating situations that keep contributing to build the tension, cause Craig prevents Grace of taking a call from Rigsby and Lisbon doesn’t hear her phone ringing and when she finally answers, she asks Jane to wait in line while she opens the door to Van Pelt and O’Laughlin. After this, everything happens so fast. Jane tells Lisbon who’s the real mole but she’s so shocked that she quickly gives away that she knows the truth, so Craig pulls his gun faster and shoots her, but then Teresa manages to distract him long enough so Hightower and Grace can empty their own guns on him. I found very cruel and meaningful the fact that the last reaction O’Laughlin had before dying was ripping off a heart-shaped pendant of Van Pelt’s neck he had given her in the previous episode, I see it as a metaphor of how he didn’t really care about her and ended up tearing up her heart.

In the meantime, Jane, who has been hearing everything through the other end of the line, is not sure of what’s happened so he’s obviously worried and we can see the fear in his eyes as we’ve not seen it many times before. Lisbon answers that she’s wounded but she’ll be fine and for a short moment none of them speaks as if they were communicating their emotions, concerns and fears just through their breathing.I think Jane was really scared of losing again people he cared about because of Red John. Finally, he starts coming back to his senses and asks Lisbon to call the last number in Craig’s phone, which he assumes would’ve Red John’s, and to deliver the message that his mole is dead which he clearly sees as a small victory, even when he just realized that, once again, his nemesis was ahead of him all this time.

After this, Jane discovers, along with us, that Red John is right there in the mall, which I have to say was very thrilling for me and I assume for most of the viewers and more when we saw that he was Bradley Whitford. We then get a great scene with a great dialogue between two great characters portrayed by two great actors. It’s very contrasting how both men have opposite body language, while Jane is at the edge of his seat and clearly nervous, Red John looks very relaxed. During their talk, the serial killer tells Patrick that he’s retiring and wanted to meet with him one last time but Jane claims that he won’t stop until he kills him so he can move on with his life, which is exactly what he did eventually. All the time it seemed like Jane was waiting for an irrefutable proof that this man in front of him was really his enemy, and he gave him that by telling him very personal details about the night he killed his wife and daughter. This leads to a very good performance by Simon Baker which quickly changes his anxious expression to a great sadness reflected in his face when he remembers what happened and how guilty he still feels about it.

Jane: “How do I know you are who you say you are?” ‘Red John’: “That's a deep question. How does anyone really know who anyone is?”

It’s also heartbreaking to hear Jane’s voice almost begging Red John to stay while he’s walking away, as if he was going to ask for more details of that tragic night, so that’s one of the reasons for what happens next turns out to be the biggest shock of the episode. While they’re facing each other, we hear three shots that we’re not sure where they’re coming from and since earlier we had seen Red John was carrying a gun, I guess the first instinct for most people must have been to think that Jane had been shot by his enemy, so the surprise comes when we see that is Red John the one that falls down and Patrick’s hand inside of his jacket’s smoking pocket. I can appreciate now, without all the confusion of the moment while watching it for the first time, how good was the contrast they showed on the scene with all the chaos of people running and screaming around, while Jane was calmly going back to his table to finish his cup of tea and ask for the bill. At this point, I was sure he had lost his mind, and I still think it was like that at least for a few moments, though he was well aware of what he had done and that he had to take responsibility for it, so he stayed there, waiting for the police to come and finally surrendering with a look of relieve in his face, and leaving all of us shocked wondering where the story would go from here.

Some final thoughts
Through the season, and even in earlier episodes, they were leaving us hints here and there about people and situations that were addressed and somehow solved during these hours. Since I’m always very attentive to details, I really like when shows tie their loose ends at some point and this is one of those examples. I also like to feel part of the story by finding clues as it was a game, and discover along with the characters what’s happening and I could feel that way watching this show and these episodes in particular.

I remember that after finishing these episodes the first time very late at night, I couldn’t sleep for at least a couple of hours while my mind was trying to make sense of all of what I had just seen and then I spent the months between seasons sharing many different theories about it with other fans. Now we know that the Red John we met here wasn’t the real one and I know many people didn’t like finding out that and it even made some viewers stop watching the show but I have to say that even when I would’ve liked that Bradley Whitford was him and that arc would’ve ended here, I’m still very happy about how things turned out in later seasons, and find interesting to discover that at the end it happened exactly what Jane said here it would happen, though that’s a story that we can discuss some other time.
Jane: “Wherever you go, you delusional freak, I will find you and I will kill you. And then... then I will forget about you.”
‘Red John’: “Seeking revenge is a waste of your precious time. Your life is precious, Patrick. Get on with that precious life. Find yourself a woman to love. Start a family.” Jane: “When you're dead.”

Favorite Quotes
Lisbon: “Lucky for us, the lunatic only killed himself.” Jane: “If it's so cut and dried, why are you here?” Lisbon: “Them. Director Bertram wanted a CBI presence here.” Jane: “Director Bertram. Let me ask you something. If director Bertram wanted a CBI presence to jump off a cliff, would you and your CBI presence jump off that cliff?” Lisbon: “If there was overtime, sure.”

Lisbon: “Are you coming?” Jane: “Hmm. Come along on a methodical grinding search through Sacramento County or rearrange my sock drawer. I'll go with the "or." Thanks.”

Jane: (a phone rings) “I didn't touch a thing. It's a phone. You should answer it.” Lisbon: “You sure?” Jane: “About 75%.” Lisbon: “You--you think we should answer?” Jane: “Yeah.” Lisbon: “Wh-what if--what if it triggers the bomb?” Jane: “We'll never know.”

Gupta: “You're whispering. Stop it.” Jane: “She's just praying. She's scared, and so am I. If I could find someone to pray to, then I'd probably do the same.”

Hightower: “How will you do in 48 hours what you haven't been able to do in months?”

Cho (explaining the meaning of the poem ‘The Tyger’ by William Blake): “Well, God made the lamb, but he also made the tiger. You can't have light without darkness, life without death.”

Bertram: “Just who exactly is trying to kill her, anyhow?” Jane: “Well, it's hard to say. Who would be your guess?” Bertram: “Well, I run the department, Patrick. I don't read case files.” Jane: “ You have no idea at all.” Bertram: “None. You tell me.” Jane: “Red John, of course.” Bertram: “Of course.” Jane: “I believe he has a friend inside the CBI.” Bertram: “Oh, another one. Oh, good lord, this man's a prodigy.” Jane: “I believe he has friends all over the state-- powerful friends.”

Lisbon: “This is Agent Lisbon. O'Laughlin's dead.” ‘Red John’: “That's too bad. Never mind. You win some, you lose some, I guess.”

‘Red John’: “Look at--look at me. I'm just a regular guy. I bet you--you thought I'd have horns, huh? Right? I'm not a monster. I'm not the devil. I'm just another human being with flaws and vices and problems just like anybody else.”

Do you remember watching these episodes back in the day? Did you liked how the story of Red John played out after this? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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