Is this the year The Mentalist's Patrick Jane finally catches Red John? Probably not, but creator Bruno Heller is promising some major movement in the case.
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"We're going to get much, much, much closer," Heller tells TVGuide.com. "We're going to take an investigative leap forward, further than we have in the previous four seasons. Up to now, we've kind of been stalking him. This season, conceptually, we get a location for him. The running chase starts now."
Perhaps the key to that reveal is Lorelei (guest star Emmanuelle Chriqui), the cocktail waitress-turned-Red John disciple Jane (Simon Baker) had a fling with in last season's finale. Now that she's in custody, Jane will stop at nothing to learn what she knows about his nemesis.
"He's like a hunter getting closer to his prey," Heller says of Jane. "He's more intense. He is, in a very real sense, happier, more excited, more galvanized and kind of on his toes. It''s like he can taste it. This is the closet he's gotten to Red John — ever. Essentially, Jane will do anything to seduce her to his side of the struggle. That involves using as much charm and charisma as he can. [But] is he trying to catch Red John or is he trying to seduce this woman?"
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That's the very question Agent Lisbon (Robin Tunney) will be asking herself. "It puts him into both professional and personal conflict with Lisbon, who is anxious and concerned about how far Jane is willing to push things," Heller says. "It's not exactly a love triangle because no one could admit to those sorts of feelings about each other, but it certainly makes for a very complicated office life.
"I think Jane genuinely has some attraction for Lorelei," Heller continues. "But how much of that attraction is real and how much is Jane being manipulative? Jane assures Lisbon that it's purely business, but it's very hard to believe that when you see Jane and Lorelei together."
But Lisbon isn't the only person trying to keep Jane away from Lorelei. The new season will see an increased FBI presence on the show as Agents Anna Schulz (guest star Polly Walker) and Gabe Mancini (Ivan Sergei) try to take over the Red John investigation. "Keeping hold of Lorelei is a challenge," Heller says. "She's a hot potato. Red John is trying to get hold of her and the FBI is trying to get hold of her. Jane has been told by Red John himself that he has someone in the FBI. So, even if he didn't want to keep Lorelei for himself, the FBI would be that last people Jane wants to hand her over to."
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Indeed, Heller says one of the new FBI agents should most certainly not be trusted. "Jane doesn't know which of them to trust or whether to trust any of them," Heller says. "But at the same time, they have exactly the same feelings about Jane. Who is telling the truth? Who is Red John's friend inside the FBI? Who is an innocent victim? That is what plays out with the FBI over the season."
Also on tap this season: the return of cult leader Bret Stiles (Malcolm McDowell), the appearance of a young woman claiming to be Jane's daughter (Dove Cameron) and a deeply personal case for Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) involving his father (William Forsythe).
Look for Lisbon to get personally and emotionally entangled in a case around midseason as well. "Lisbon gets involved in a case that really cuts her to the quick because a witness that she had encouraged to step forward is killed by a really nasty villain," Heller teases. "He's not a hidden serial killer-type villain, but someone who is out there strutting around, apparently untouchable. Lisbon gets her own little nemesis and is a bit like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive — a relentless man hunter."
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Heller says the experience may help Lisbon better understand the vengeance that drives Jane to catch Red John. Does that mean the show will further explore the personal relationship between Jane and Lisbon? "I wouldn't say that they're exploring it, but I think the audience gets more of a chance to explore it," Heller says. "[This season] exposes the sort of raw edge of their feelings more than they have in the past, but that doesn't mean that there is a 'My God, I love you!' moment. That isn't really how life works. It's much more about things they don't realize about themselves that the audience realizes before they do. "
So, could Lorelei's presence in the CBI be just another trick on the part of Red John? Could Jane once again be playing into the psychopath's hand? "Yes and no," Heller says. "Red John is always playing games, but I can promise that the audience will learn things about Red John that are not tricks. [There will be] concrete information. If this was Moby Dick... there he blows!"
The Mentalist premieres Sunday at 10/9c on CBS.