Review of Episode 5×17: “Red, White and Blue”
Overall: There are some episodes that make you proud to be a fan. Episodes that take your breath away with a whirlwind of great writing, excellent directing, and stellar performances. Episodes that you actually want to show to other people – people who don’t ordinarily watch The Mentalist – just to give them a taste of the phenomenal series they are missing. This episode fell into that category. “Red, White and Blue” was a shining example of network television at its finest.
Jane: How much do I love it when Jane is kind to vulnerable people? How much do I love it when he uses his impressive skills for something that is purely good, rather than deceptive and morally questionable? Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis much! He was awesome in this episode. Just plain awesome. Every moment he spent with Pete, from helping the young soldier remember Lucy’s murder to teaching him how to create his own memory palace, was sweet and wonderful. I ate it up like a pigeon in a parking lot, chowing on a dropped hot dog bun. Even Jane’s apology sounded unusually sincere. And sincerity, from Jane, is a rare and beautiful thing. My absolute favorite Jane moment in this episode, though, was when he said a simple and heartfelt thank you to all the soldiers who were suffering from traumatic brain injuries. His voice was so soft and rough with true emotion. Simon outdid himself. That big puddle on the floor over there used to be my heart.
Lisbon: Okay somebody needs to make an “Army of Two” banner or wallpaper featuring Jane and Lisbon, because that scene was just too funny. The way they kept on singing the song together made me laugh. And of course, it took all of two seconds for Jane and Lisbon to prove that their team deserved the case. No surprises there. I liked that Lisbon contributed to the sleuthing, so it wasn’t just Jane showing off. Still, I did wonder why Jane couldn’t read the music himself – doesn’t he play the string bass?
Lisbon’s sensitivity and respect toward Pete was a highlight of this episode, just like Jane’s was. You could see it in the gentle way she told Rigsby, “You might have to remind him who you are and what you’re doing…” And when Lisbon tried half-heartedly to insist that Pete was still a suspect in Lucy’s murder, I love how all it took was a look from Jane to make her say, “Okay, fine, he’s not a suspect!” Another great Lisbon moment: she was the one who figured out that it didn’t fit Lucy’s character to file an anonymous complaint. The plot was well-developed enough that I came to this realization right in tandem with Lisbon, feeling like I was investigating the case alongside her.
Cho: Fantastic B-plot, perfectly suited to his character. It was so nice to see him doing something other than talking to Rigsby about Van Pelt. I love great partner moments at least as much as the next person, but Cho was overdue for a solo storyline, and the one he got in this episode was better than I could have hoped for. You could just feel the contempt he had for the irresponsible unit leader. Allowing unit members to get harassed? Not carefully investigating a sexual harassment claim? When soldiers are relying on each other in life-or-death situations, this crap can’t be going on in the background, and Cho knows it. He urged the unit leader to reinvestigate Rose’s claim, essentially telling the guy to “Be someone your unit can respect. Be someone I can respect.” Cho’s salute at the end of the episode said more than words ever could.
Rigsby: Not too much for him to do in this episode, although I did like his line about finding dates in prison. Rigsby’s disgust for the murderer in this episode matched the audience’s. As the doctor went on and on, complaining about his alimony payments and then emotionlessly describing Lucy’s death, you couldn’t help but hate him. Lucy had done so much good, from protecting a fellow soldier who’d been sexually harassed to devoting herself to aiding veterans with brain trauma. The world needed someone like her. To see her robbed of her life by someone so self-involved and generally worthless as the doctor made me a little sick, and I could see that emotion on Rigsby’s face as well. What a waste.
Randomness: Great red herring, showing that one soldier with the box cutter – I thought for sure he was guilty of the murder. The casting and writing in general were superb. I got to know and care about the guest characters, which isn’t something that happens in every episode. Normally when I write reviews, I either have to look up the names of the minor characters, or I simply write, “guy with the leather jacket,” “the victim’s sister,” “the killer,” etc. But in this case, I found that I remembered their names on my own. Pete, Rose and Lucy became as real to me as Lisbon, Jane, Risgby and Cho. My only (very minor) complaints for this episode were: A.) No mention of Van Pelt, and B.) No mention of the events in the previous episode. And honestly, I’m not even sure those are true complaints, because although part of me wanted some continuity, some way to place this episode in the order of the season, another part of me thought it was absolute perfection as an isolated, completely stand-alone story.
Final Thoughts: I’ve said before that I live for the episodes centered on Jane, Lisbon and Co, and am generally not that interested in the stand-alone, “crime of the week” eps. This episode, however, was the rare exception to that rule. Once in a while, when the writing and the directing and the performances all align, we get something incredible, like “The Red Mile” or “Ruby Slippers.” Episodes where I cried for characters I’d only just met, because their stories moved me so deeply. “Red, White and Blue” is another one to add to that list. One of the best eps of the season, and one of the best stand-alones of the whole series.