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The Mentalist – Recap & Review – Throwing Fire

photo: CBS
The Mentalist
Throwing Fire

Original Air Date: December 17, 2009.

Liz – Associate Staff Writer

Filthy rich baseball talent scout and agent Barney Sloop was found bludgeoned to death in his zen rock garden on the property of the baseball academy named from him. He scouts teenaged boys from all over the world who then come with their dads to Sloop Academy in order to be sold — I mean, signed off to the highest bidder. Just as Jane deciphers the rock map in the garden, an errant baseball from the team warm-up beans him in the head, knocking him over — thus giving us our plot device for viewing flashbacks.

Somewhere in Iowa in 1986, a psychic boy wonder is entertaining a tent full of carnival goers. He correctly guesses that he is holding a sterling silver cigarette case, but he goes off the rails and guesses that it belonged to a recently deceased someone who the woman was very close to. The man he’s with (his father?) berates him for it later, confirming what we’ve suspected for ages: Patrick Jane has always been just a little on the daring side and made it up as he went along.

Back in the present, Lisbon and Cho are getting Jane back up on his feet and he brushes it off with his usual dry humor, and despite Lisbon’s insistence doesn’t make it to a doctor. They go to his trailer-like home on the Academy’s property and begin to have a look around. They talk briefly about his wife Leslie, and how they separated after their son died. After Jane ticks off Sloop’s partner in the school, insinuating greed and jealousy, Lisbon smartly sends him away while she talks to the boys of the academy — none of them have anything bad to say about Sloop.

At the station, Grace and Rigsby are working on tracing Sloop’s wife, and instead find his twenty million dollar payout life insurance, sole beneficiary being Leslie Sloop. So when they go to look for her, they find her not at home and her baseball playing boy toy ticked that she stole his car, off to see “her angel.” Rigsby and Grace waste no time in getting their butts to the cemetery where Michael Sloop was buried. They find Leslie there, and she puts a gun to her head. Grace talks her down with talk of her sister and how she did it for her. (Later Rigsby brings it up, sort of, and she answers shortly with, “I don’t have a sister,” which is what I remembered, but I have to wonder if one of her brothers or a friend had a suicide experience — it didn’t seem completely manufactured.)

When they have Leslie at CBI headquarters, she shows a lot of hostility towards Barney and his new “Zen and Acceptance” lifestyle. They prove to have had a rather turbulent relationship, as she claims that she occasionally slept with one of the baseball players he scouted to make him angry. The night of the murder she went to a movie with her boyfriend and they had an argument in the lobby, and she went to see Barney, but she says that he wouldn’t answer her, and that he was sleeping. He was dead by this time, but apparently she is simply not that observant.

At this point we come to focus more closely on two of the ballplayers: Snake and Scotty. Snake’s father is rather easy going, while Scotty’s is a hyper perfectionist, and always yelling at Scotty. Jane has another brief flashback, of observing the mark that his dad set up for them in that town: a girl who is dying of cancer and her grandmother. A witness comes forward (okay, is bodily caught by Cho) who saw one of the ball players having an altercation with Sloop. He fingers Scotty as the culprit, but Jane observes (quite acutely, perhaps recognizing the feeling) that Scotty was angry with his father and his control, rather than Sloop.

Another, longer flashback. The Janes are in their private reading with the girl and her grandmother, and this girl is the very picture of dead girl walking, with oxygen tank and all. In a presentation that screams of the showmanship that Jane will still display in his later years, they present a crystal that supposedly has healing powers. Patrick runs out, his conscience pricked just a little too much, and the elder Jane calls him out for it: “You’re either with the show or you’re not, you’re either a loser or you play the losers.”

At the school, Jane and Cho get into the locker room in order to speak with Snake and Scotty without their dads hovering, and for what it is, it’s kind of an intense exchange. It starts looking like a pep talk and — Simon Baker is quite amazing in this — he turns the intensity up JUST enough to give it a sense of urgency and wizened experience when he says, “Don’t let other people run your lives, not even your dads.” Then he puts his mindreading skills to use to confirm a hunch. Scotty is delighted to let Jane guess his birthday, but Snake refuses. Hm…

In the last flashback, young Patrick returns to the tent with the dying girl and her grandmother, and “demonstrates” the crystal’s healing powers. When the lady wants to buy the crystal for cash and his father refuses, his guilt again gets the better of him and he storms out. When his father catches up with him this time, instead of yelling at him, he is cheered at making a tidy, ten thousand dollar sale of the crystal. He hands Jane a bill for a job well done and then goes to play poker. If there were any questions as to why Jane is hopelessly screwed up, consider them answered. The Red John thing is just the frosting on a very miserable cake.

The mystery is then solved — Mr. Gallidos, Snake’s father, committed the murder because Sloop had found out that they were passing twenty-two year old Snake as seventeen. When they take Mr. Gallidos away, he just leaves his boy with some good, solid, playing advice. It breaks my heart a little. Perhaps even better news is that Scotty hired an agent, to break away from his controlling father.

I won’t lie, my favorite part of the episode was the flashbacks. That kid who was playing young Patrick Jane was on the money, and even though I hate to say it, but everything Patrick Jane makes a lot more sense. I almost feel like we should have known that he came from carnie stock. All in all, an episode that really shows what this show is about: the psyche of a damaged man looking for closure to a life gone wrong — although we had no way of knowing how early that life had jumped the rails.

What did you guys think?

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