We’ve heard plenty about Patrick Jane’s upbringing among carnie folk, and we know about the tragic loss of his family, but we don’t know much about Teresa Lisbon’s family, except that it includes several rowdy brothers. All that changes in this episode, in which Jane is introduced to the Lisbons as prospective husband material, and it’s hard to judge who’s the more uncomfortable.
In any other series, when an episode opens with someone being taught to balance a stick on their palm, you can bet that skill would later be called upon to save them, perhaps from a mad bomber or an escaped crocodile. Not in The Mentalist, where Jane teaches Vega balancing tricks just for the hell of it, and it has absolutely nothing to do with anything subsequent.
In fact the plot revolves around Lisbon’s brother James, who is on the run after being hauled in for questioning as a witness to a killing. Lisbon goes to Chicago in search of Jimmy, and Jane tags along. First stop is the family’s old home, where Jane is roughed up by an intruder, and demonstrates the physical cowardice he’s noted for. But he’s totally observant, as his detailed description of the perp to Wiley demonstrates.
The visit yields some touching evidence of Teresa’s childhood, but not much else. Brother Stan has heard from Jimmy, but thinks he’s in trouble over gambling debts; Jane tests Stan, and is obviously suspicious of his answers.
Teresa tracks down Jimmy via a pal, and Jane manages to convince him to turn himself in by promising that he won’t have to testify – and that he won’t reveal Jimmy’s secret.
Back in Texas, Jimmy admits that he was playing poker with the murder victim, but doesn’t know who did it. He reveals what he can about the other players, including crime lord Holliday, so Jane and Cho set out to buy into the next poker game, with a total lack of success. It takes a second attempt with Lisbon showing some sinewy leg to reel in Holliday, who must be fairly easily tempted. Wouldn’t Vega have been a more seductive option?
Vega, though, is questioning some of the other poker players, including a dodgy lawyer, an ex-sports star and a female entrepreneur, and when the game’s set up, she and Wiley masquerade as a bickering couple to get into the room and wire it up. The sight of a tarted-up Vega jabbering in Spanish is one to behold.
The sting involves a hokey psychic act from Teresa – again – a little card magic from Jane, and a faked surveillance video which convinces the killer that he’s about to be done in. His confession reveals that his motive was jealousy, a jealousy which as it turns out was totally unjustified.
Stan gets beaten up, and, it transpires, is the one with money troubles and the target of Jane’s intruder; Teresa feels guilty for having let her brothers to solve their own problems. Jane empathises – he certainly understands feelings of guilt – but he absolves her of hers.
It’s an unbalanced episode, in which the mechanics of the poker game overwhelm the family drama. It’s not too convincing, either – we have to believe that all the hardened poker players have obvious ‘tells’, and that the investigating cops missed the fact that the murder victim was wearing the killer’s monogrammed shirt.
So the closing moments at a family christening are a bit more satisfying. Jane shows he’s good with kids, and wins the approval of the brothers. Lisbon tells him she loves him; it’s a heart-melting moment, and let’s hope it sets the scene for a happy conclusion. Jane’s still wearing his wedding ring, but how much longer can it be before he slips it on Lisbon’s finger?
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