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Hudson And Rex - Grave Matters - Review: Family Ties Run Deep

Hudson and Rex delivered a claustrophobic episode of revenge this week. But on a more uplifting note, it reminded us that Charlie’s friends will do absolutely anything for him, because family ties run deep.
Welcome to Grave Matters where things start light and fluffy before turning dark so fast you might get whiplash – or that pain in your neck could just be from a tranquilizer dart...

We open in the precinct at the end of a work day. Charlie’s car is in the shop. He tries to get a ride home with Jesse, even offering to serve up some ribs, but Jesse rode his bike in. Speaking of, remember when Charlie was fixing up a bike in season one? Is that still a thing he’s working on? Or was it a post-divorce distraction he’s since moved on from?
Sarah arrives in the bullpen but not even an offer of cocktails is enough to tear her away from a late-night at work.
Through Sarah, we learn that it’s the fifth anniversary of serial killer Frost’s capture. Charlie had been a (actually not so) minor player in Frost’s arrest. Frost killed himself in jail and Charlie hasn’t really thought about the case since. After that little bit of foreshadowing, Charlie makes it clear – in his own Charlie way – he wanted company tonight and is disappointed he’ll be spending the evening with his “one friend”. Rex. The guilt trip he throws their way as he leaves the precinct will fully kick in a little later.
On his walk home, Charlie stops to appreciate the view, when he is hit with a tranquilizer dart. He goes down. Rex is also hit and is soon unconscious beside him.
Charlie wakes to find himself trapped in a small box. A coffin. Underground.
Cool, cool. Only my worst fear.

The next morning Joe arrives at work to find an email from the kidnapper. By now, Charlie’s been underground for at least ten hours, but likely more.
Side note: literally ALL of Joe’s other emails are either from Charlie, Sarah or Jesse – and Jesse’s appears to be asking Joe if he’s seen his water bottle? Before a quick, “never mind I found it,” follow up. Raising his SJPD kids must be more exhausting than raising his own daughter.
I spent way too much time trying to read their emails.

To get their friend back, Jesse tries to track down who sent the email, while Sarah works to estimate how much air Charlie might have in the box. Meanwhile I hyperventilate into a paper bag.

“Check his family, Jesse,” Joe says about Frost, “family ties run deep.” But while he may be talking about Frost in the moment, it is also true of the family this little team has created.

In the box, Charlie yells for Rex. The dog hears him and begins to bite through the rope that is keeping him tethered to a pole. None of this is okay, not Charlie underground, not Rex tied up. No amount of sob story will make me feel an ounce of sympathy for whomever is responsible.

The kidnapper calls Joe but the team can’t get a trace. While playing the call back, Sarah hears a noise in the background. They can’t identify it though.

Rex, having chewed free, finds his way back to where he was tranquilized. Rex picks up a dart and carries it with him. Good boy.

The kidnapper demands a ransom, but the SJPD won’t negotiate. They’ll play along and stall, but won’t pay. The kidnapper calls again, with instructions on where to leave the $500,000. Joe asks for proof Charlie is alive and the kidnapper sends a link to a live feed. On screen, Joe, Jesse, and Sarah see Charlie in the box.
Charlie really isn’t the best with showing his emotions, but Sarah doesn’t hide anything (except her undying love for Charlie). Mayko Nguyen rips your heart a little further out of your chest with each shot of Sarah struggling to keep it together.

Charlie hears Christmas music; he smells pine needles. He realizes it’s a Christmas tree farm. He finds the camera inside the box and tries to communicate where he is. It should be comical as he imitates a sprinkler. It isn’t.
Joe misreads his lips as Chris McPherson. Okay, it’s a little comical.

Jesse catches Sarah on the phone trying to get $300,000 for the ransom. The guilt is setting in. The silent, unspoken if only’s. If they had just joined him for drinks at his place, maybe none of this would have happened. But it still would have, and it could have been much worse.

Sarah breaks down over their friend’s plight, and she and Jesse hug. It’s a nice addition to their friendship. Sarah’s clearly always been a hugger, but now this little group is at the point where they can comfort each other physically.
In Jesse’s arms, Sarah laments that they need a miracle. And then one walks into the lab in the form of a GSD with evidence in his mouth. Rex deserves a donut for that.
Rex is finally allowed to go into the lab, but he won’t. Instead, he takes Sarah’s lab coat between his teeth and tugs her in the opposite direction. He wants them to follow him. At the site, Sarah finds tire treads, and it’s from a pickup truck that’s at least ten years old.

In the lab, Rex lays on Sarah’s table. She comments on how he looks a little guilty. But she might be projecting.

Lisa Bunting, the mother of Noel Bunting, Frost’s last victim, comes to the precinct. She remembers someone who may have been an accomplice to Frost. A man who asked her a lot of weirdly specific questions and who was also at the trial. She thinks his name was Peter or Pat. And he drove a red pickup. And because of how these police procedurals tend to go, this is where I start side-eying her as a suspect.
However, all the pieces point to a man named Pat Gillespie. The teams thinks they’ve got him and go to his home. Taped to the door of his home is a piece of paper with Joe’s name on one side, and on the other a photo of Charlie in the box with the words ‘R.I.P Detective Hudson’. It’s not looking good for Charlie.

At the precinct, the kidnapper calls again demanding his money. Sarah speaks up, telling him the money is coming but from different banks and it will take time. While the team watches the live feed, the kidnapper smokes Charlie, depleting more of his oxygen supply. Sarah can’t watch her friend being slowly asphyxiated; she leaves the room.
Joe follows. He isn’t happy she’s going against policy by trying to get the money. But he also can’t stand by and do nothing. If he dips into Camilla’s college fund, he could make up the rest of the $500,000. These are good people.
Jesse figures out that the noise in the background of the call, and the hand gestures Charlie has been making to the camera, are sprinklers.

Rex tracks a scent and leads them to a mound that’s been recently dug. Gillespie’s truck is found, and we think Charlie is finally being unearthed but it’s all a giant, mean fake out, and it is Gillespie who the team finds in the box.
Charlie is still missing, Rex is missing again, having run off, and Gillespie is in a coma and can’t help them. And I start stress eating.

At the site, Charlie is unearthed by Lisa Bunting. She wants him to feel what her son felt before he died. She thinks Charlie botched the investigation, that it’s his fault her son died.
Thinking Pat Gillespie was Frost’s accomplice, she buried him too. But he wasn’t an accomplice, he was an informant.
And Charlie wasn’t trying to protect himself by not telling the parents everything, he was protecting them. Because Frost killed Noel the moment they paid the ransom. He didn’t want Lisa and Richard to experience the pain of finding out the ransom had caused Noel’s death. They think he’s lying and Richard knocks him out with the butt of his gun. They plan to smoke and close the air hole to make it quick.

Hurry up, Joe and Sarah!

At the precinct Sarah pieces it together that all the evidence suggests Charlie is somewhere with Christmas trees. That’s when Joe realizes: it wasn’t Chris McPherson! It was ‘Christmas Tree Farm’ that he mouthed to the camera. They find one in the area, and, as the audience already knows, it’s owned by none other than Richard Bunting.

Rex is an amazing actor. When Richard Bunting fires at him, he cries and plays dead, convincing Richard he shot him. But nope. Just kidding! Rex is fine.

Richard is knocked down by Rex. Lisa runs off. And Rex starts digging where he smells Charlie. The team arrives and arrest Lisa. She won’t tell them where Charlie is but they don’t need her. Rex’s barking alerts them to his location. Sarah, Joe, Rex, and a team unearth the box and open it. Sarah and Joe haul Charlie out, straight into Sarah’s arms. The two embrace in relief while Charlie takes a moment to appreciate the sunlight. He had been underground a good 24 hours.
My heart did a little fluttery thing when Sarah's entire face lit up with a relieved smile. I ship them so hard.
Because Charlie still mostly sucks at emotions, he avoids Sarah’s eyes as he pulls out of the embrace. From Sarah’s arms he goes to Rex, burying his face in the dog’s fur. It’s been an ordeal, but, being the show that it is, it’s unlikely there will be any long-term effects for this character to work through. There will be no PTSD. At most, it’s another tiny step forward in becoming emotionally available enough to finally admit his feelings for Sarah. I’ll take it.

At the precinct, the next day, Charlie has Lisa in one of the interrogation rooms. Gillespie will be okay, but Lisa is going to jail for a long time. She tries to explain how she got here, from a mother who lost her son to a woman who buries people alive in vengeance. She wanted revenge, for everyone who she thought was responsible for Noel’s death. She’s sorry. But it’s going to take more than a few apologies for Charlie to bounce back from this. He has little sympathy for her.

Sarah catches up with Charlie outside the room. He tells her he heard about the money, what she was willing to do for him. Sarah points out it wasn’t just her, but Joe too. And it was nothing he wouldn’t do for them.
“Well, I don’t know, I really do like that house I just bought.” Oh, Charlie. Using humor to avoid really talking about your emotions. No one is surprised.

After the team share a drink, grateful to still be together, Charlie heads home via the same track. The changes in this character may be subtle, but he’s growing. He knows now that closure is an important part of healing.

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