Mentalist Review: Episode 5×14 “Red in Tooth and Claw”

Review of Episode 5×14: “Red in Tooth and Claw” (AKA “Ultimate Death-Match: T-Rex vs. Triceratops!”)
by castiello

Overall: Cho and Rigsby duked it out over their favorite dinos, Lisbon went to bat for her youngest team member, Van Pelt got all geeky about a computer class, and Jane danced mental circles around a group of over-stressed grad students. Despite a predictable case, this episode had just enough humor, sweetness, and team involvement to make it memorable.

Lisbon: She fainted at the sight of a worm-festooned corpse…What’s up with that? It seemed highly out of character for this normally-unflappable and non-squeamish agent. I can’t ever remember Lisbon being “icked out” by a body before. Jane, yes – but not Lisbon. Usually when a woman faints on television, it means her character’s either pregnant, or seriously ill. However, the moment seemed to be played purely for comedy, with no follow-up mentions that would typically come after illness- or pregnancy-induced swooning. Therefore, I took it as a weird, not-quite-in-character moment that most likely doesn’t have any further significance in the series (other than letting the audience know that Lisbon has an issue with crawly things).

One of the things I loved about this episode: the way Lisbon talked about Van Pelt. There was clear affection in Lisbon’s voice as she told Bertram how much Van Pelt had been gushing over White Hat. And in a way, I’m kind of glad Lisbon didn’t send Jane to help Bertram with his poker face. Bertram told Lisbon there was no money for the training program, and she took him at his word. It didn’t occur to her that if she got Bertram in a better mood, the funds might magically appear. I like that she still has enough integrity not to think of manipulation as a solution for every problem. That said, I also like that Bertram gave her credit for a plan she didn’t come up with. She has out-maneuvered him in the past, and it’s good that he sees her as someone who can go toe-to-toe with him and come out on top.

Jane: Sometimes, I feel like Jane is my kid. Sometimes, he acts so selfish, spoiled or immature that I just want to cringe. Sometimes, when he gets out of his car at a crime scene, I want to say, “Please, please don’t embarrass me…” In this episode, however, he did the exact opposite: he made me proud. Here, we enjoyed the return of gift-bearing Jane (it’s been a long time since those fancy watches and necklaces…) and helpful Jane, a guy who – without being asked – goes out of his way to do something kind for his friends. In teaching Bertram how to win at poker, Jane helped both Van Pelt and Lisbon. It didn’t risk anyone’s life or cost anyone anything (except that one judge), and was possibly one of the nicest things Jane’s done in a good long time. Any time that Jane is thinking of others, rather than himself, is a time to celebrate!

I did feel his hurt, though, that no one said “thank you” for the gifts. That was kind of rude. Sure, the presents weren’t as expensive as the ugly watches, but in a way the dinosaurs were much more thoughtful – he picked out something he thought each team member would appreciate. If Van Pelt had been there, I have no doubt she would’ve said “Thanks, Jane!” with a big grin on her face. One thing I did question, however: Where was Lisbon’s gift? Or, maybe poker lessons with Bertram were the gift. Getting to tell Van Pelt they’d secured the funding for White Hat was probably the best present Lisbon could’ve received.

Van Pelt: Her excitement about White Hat made me excited for her! I could feel her gloom when she thought she wouldn’t get to go, but I knew it would work out in the end. I think the writers found a good explanation for her character’s absence – it fits with her expertise, and could make for some really cool storylines when she gets back. She’ll be able to help solve cases even faster with her super-awesome hacking skills – hey, maybe she can even hack the Visualize database and get Jane the info about the Ellison farm! The only thing that bothered me about VP’s storyline in this episode is that maybe the writers could have thrown in a mention or two about White Hat earlier in the season, so it didn’t just pop up out of nowhere.

Cho/Rigs: These guys were at it again with their hilarious banter, arguing over whose dinosaur was better. They gave the ep a healthy injection of humor (Cho: “I stopped asking questions a long time ago…” Rigs: “Don’t play with spiders, kids!”) but also balanced it out with the first serious mention of Rigsby’s feelings for Van Pelt in a couple years. I was one of the people who actually didn’t mind how quickly Rigs and VP got together romantically – or how quickly they broke up. In the seasons since then, we’ve gotten to see both of these characters in other relationships – we saw Grace engaged to a man who tried to kill her. We saw Rigsby propose to the mother of his child. We’ve seen both of them change and grow through their experiences, and all the while Amanda and Owain have skillfully played that underlying connection – a connection that gives me no doubt that when these characters finally do get back together, it’ll be better than ever before.

Bertram: What a baby! And a sore loser! Jeez Louise! I do love that we’re continuing to see the poker games, though, and that Lisbon continues to use these opportunities to gain information and make allies. Season Five has done a good job on the card game continuity front, but not such a good job on the FBI rivalry – what happened to that FBI Agent who wanted to go out with Lisbon? Do we still see him at the games? Have we even heard the FBI mentioned lately? I thought they were going to be the big “enemies” this year. Of course, with the new episodes spaced so far apart, it’s harder to view the episodes as a continuum. If I’m ever lucky enough to own this season on DVD, I’ll see if the episodes hang together better when viewed right in a row.

Random Notes: I knew the killer was the Moth Kid pretty much right away. I actually thought he’d faked the new moth somehow and the other girl found out, which didn’t turn out to be the case, but nonetheless I did know it was him. And that it involved the moth. Having the killer revealed so soon didn’t bother me, though, as I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Jane’s brain in action (Memory Palace, I *heart* you!!!) and the scene with Rigsby and the spider was priceless. Also fun: Jane’s version of “bingo” (featuring the word “bad-ass”!). I thought the show did a good job portraying just how much stress the students were under – the lengths they were driven to spoke volumes. I did wish someone would have told that poor cop ex-boyfriend that his girl wasn’t cheating on him – they usually have more of that type of resolution in the show’s final minutes. Having the moth named after the dead girl was a sweet touch, though – another example of how kind-hearted Jane was being in this ep. Oh, and one final note about Jane: he used his wedding ring to deflect a romantic advance. Haven’t seen him fall back on that in a long time. What does it mean?

Final Thoughts: Not a big, mind-blowing episode, here, but lots of little treasures. The team seemed like a family – bickering, teasing, and helping each other. Hope it’s not too long before the next episode, and I really hope it’s not too long before Van Pelt rejoins her colleagues. We’re all gonna miss her so much!!!




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