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October 13, 2015

Review: The Mentalist - Black Gold and Red Blood

by Bob Sassone, posted Nov 6th 2009 2:40AM
The Mentalist
(S02E06) "No takebacks!" - Jane, to the killer, about her confession

So this episode had two things that scare the hell out of me: prison and mice. I think we all view prison as a place that would freak us out if we ever found ourselves in one. I hate the very thought of being in that situation. I think I'd try to escape like Jane did tonight. What's the worst that could happen, they'd send you to prison?

As for mice, I have a few every winter in my apartment. They come in through the wall behind the fridge looking for warmth and food. Really irritating and gross.

And this episode had both of those things. Gah.

Sometimes The Mentalist is a really unbelievable show, meaning a lot of the stuff that happens is rather unbelievable. Tonight we saw Jane sent to prison for putting the bug in Bosco's office, but I'm not sure if that would happen so quickly in real life. Then we have Jane break out of jail easier than, well, pretending to be knocked out so you could be taken to a prison infirmary (used 1000 times in other movies and TV shows). And then Jane is lucky enough that there's no one in the infirmary except one guard (he sent two other guards back to their posts) and that guy is helpfully scared of mice (like me) and happens to back up into a room that Jane can lock him in. Like I said, unbelievable.

But entertaining! That's the main thrust of every Mentalist episode. Inside the plot structure, there's Simon Baker's great performance and some clever lines and a great supporting cast. Plot is often overrated in stories.

This is one of the few episodes of The Mentalist where viewers could actually put the pieces together like Jane did. I didn't catch the glitter on the dad's face when he visited the jail, the same glitter that was on the murder victim's face. I think it means that CBI is completely helpless without Jane. He has to break out of prison to solve the case.

Some observations:

- When Jane broke out of jail and got one of his nice suits, my thought was "how the hell did he get a change of clothes?" I didn't think they would answer that question, and ... well, they didn't. But at least Cho actually asked him the question (asking as a stand-in for home viewers), and Jane was about to answer before he was distracted by Lisbon. That was clever.

- The Lisbon/Bosco relationship became a little clearer tonight (and muddier at the same time), and in doing so it deepened the show a bit. We now know that Bosco isn't just some nasty villain, but we also know that something happened between Lisbon and Bosco that they've been keeping secret and she used the info to force him to release Jane from jail. So we know that there's a big secret in their past and we also know that Lisbon really does have some feelings for Jane.

- Next week's episode shows Jane and Bosco having to work closely together on a case. You knew that plot was coming.

[Watch clips of The Mentalist and other shows at SlashControl.]

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miles: so is Shawn Spencer on Psych but he doesn't threaten to have someone assassinated if they don't confess to murder within the next 60 seconds, and act like it's a clever trick.

I don't have any other problems with anything else Jane has done on The Mentalist except that one situation in "Red Sauce" - that was truly beyond the pale, and I can't believe the writers, creators, directors, and even the actors didn't find a problem with it. You don't need to be a lawyer (and yes, I am a lawyer) to see a problem with a case being solved by a "confess or die" threat.

On another note, it would be nice if they actually solved cases instead of just got confessions. Confessions are inherently unreliable (and i'm not only talking about coerced confessions which are absolutely unreliable, inadmissible, and illegal). Can someone think of any episode of the Mentalist where a case was solved without a confession? I guess in TV land, confessions are the easiest way to show "the police got their man - case closed, new episode next week."

Monk solves cases. Quite often the suspect says "you can't prove it" and he shows that they can. Without a confession.

November 06 2009 at 9:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jane is uncontrolable with a huge ego. He doesn't care who he hurts as long as he gets his own way.

November 06 2009 at 1:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

litehousebeacon: you misunderstand. He wasn't trying to get the Don's confession. He was trying to get the confession of a woman who had reason to be scared of the don (and due to a phone trick he got the woman to hear the don yelling on the phone "I'm gonna get that bitch!"). Jane told the woman he is a corrupt CBI "consultant" and was getting paid by the mafia Don, who had been looking for her and her dead husband for years (they were in witness protection). Jane said confess to your husband's murder (to punish her by ruining her life and to get rid of the prime suspect - the mafia don or someone working for him) or you die. He also made her believe that the hitman was on the way. Rigsby was walking up and he said "there he is, better confess quick" and she broke down, against her will, and said okay, she did it. Then Jane was all smiley as if he'd done something clever and told Rigsby to "arrest this woman!" when he finally walked in a moment later.

"Confess or die" is as coerced of a confession as there can possibly be. Well, maybe "confess or your family dies" is more coercive, I don't know. But either way, it's unconstitutional.

Katy: as I recall, yes they were complaining that Jane's methods make their job harder, but only that they increase the risk that some clever defense attorney will be able to get someone let off because of Jane's methods [in other words, be able to actually succeed in protecting a suspect's rights]. I think the key focus was on hypnotizing suspects as they're interrogated. They didn't want Jane to keep doing that. And for good reason.

If the woman in "Red Sauce" (yes that is the episode I was talking about) doesn't go to prison, they should tell us that. They didn't have enough evidence to arrest anyone else, they basically showed that the mafia don didn't do it and had no evidence he even knew where the guy was (as he was in WitSec). We're left with the implication that it's another murderer put away by clever Jane. Whether she killed her husband or not (and she probably did, but it's irrelevant) Jane egregiously violated her rights by coercing her confession in the most horrendous manner possible - you'll be shot dead in a minute - there's the hitman walking up to your house - if you don't confess to murder. There is no excuse for that, and it's a blatant violation of federal law.

To be clear, I'm not saying the police (or their "consultants") can't lie to get someone to confess. They can put two suspects in separate rooms, tell one that the other is spilling the beans, implicating the other when that's actually not the case. That's different. They cannot threaten someone to get a confession out of them. Involuntary confessions are inadmissible in court, and in all of TV history I've never seen a more involuntary confession. Well, I've seen cases where white cops would beat a black man until he signed a confession, but those were never shown in the light of being a clever mentalist trick to close another case.

I like the show, but I wish they could undo "Red Sauce"... that one episode is just so horribly wrong. What the hell were they thinking with that!

November 06 2009 at 11:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bruce's comment

It's interesting that you mention that bruce since Bosco brought up that very point with Rigsby and Cho who were willing to bend the rules etc when he asked them and then pointed out that it was not right, that Jane had indeed corrupted them.

November 06 2009 at 1:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, Jane once mentions himself that he doesn't care if the evidence he gets can be used in court or not. All that counts to him is being right. And in episode 2.03 we see a district attorney complaining about Jane's ways of getting confessions and many of them not being of any use in court. I don't think the wife in "Red Sauce" will ever go to prison based on that confession, but without it probably no one would ever have been able to tell it was her and probably someone else would have been framed for the murder of her husband (probably the officer who had tried to kill herself). So, even if it can't be used as evidence, the confession was not altogether useless.

November 06 2009 at 9:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think I'd try to escape like Jane did tonight. What's the worst that could happen, they'd send you to prison?

Escape is a crime in and of itself, so the worst that could and would happen would be more time added on to your sentence.

Jane wasn't in prison, he was in jail. As Bosco said, for some reason that sounded unclear and implausible to me, Jane wouldn't be able to go before a judge to get arraigned until tuesday, or something like that, so he'd have to spend the next 3 days in county jail before being able to post bond (and surely Jane would have made bond and been let out).

There is a lot of unbelievable stuff that goes on in this show. So far, out of both seasons, the moment that bothered me the most was in the episode where Jane was talking and playing golf with that mafia don. At the end he illegally coerced a confession by convincing the suspect that a hitman (an uknowing Rigsby dressed up like a hitman) was on the way, sent by the mafia don to kill her for her ex-husband having been a rat. "Confess or die - that's the hitman at the door now."

Talk about a blatantly illegal, unconstitutional coerced confession that would not stand up for one minute in the most incompetent court in the whole country. That wasn't Jane being clever or tricky, it was him being evil, railroading someone into confessing to murder to save their life. There was nothing "mentalist" about that. I still can't get over that episode, and it's tainted my opinion of Jane ever since. And just so it's clear, the fact that he's not officially a "cop" is completely irrelevant, and he is a de facto cop insofar as he's working as an agent of the state police (the CBI). It's entertaining to watch him solve cases in quirky, not by the book methods, but there's nothing entertaining about watching him violate someone's constitutional rights by coercing a confession upon the threat of imminent death. Sadly, most Americans watching that episode probably thought it was oh so cool and clever. *Sigh*

November 06 2009 at 5:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bruce's comment

That's not really coercing a confession as much as getting someone to confess to their wrongs before they die to clear their conscience. Unless the Don thought his confession, or Jane, could actually stop the Hit man.

November 06 2009 at 9:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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