Carlton Wilborn, Simon Baker

He's not in Kansas anymore. The Mentalist's Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) will suddenly find himself over the rainbow when a ghastly murder has him grilling female impersonators. "The charred corpse of a young man is found handcuffed to the steering wheel of a car, and the main clue at the crime scene is the broken heel of a ruby slipper," says exec producer Daniel Cerone, who also wrote the episode, airing Thursday (10/9c, CBS). "The discovery sends Jane into a nearby cabaret called the Pink Noir, where a male drag show is in full swing."

The episode (titled "Ruby Slippers") is peppered with references to L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its sequels — some easily recognizable, others strictly for Oz know-it-alls. "We have fun but we don't play the situation for laughs," says Cerone. "This is a story about a victim of bullying and how that resonates with the drag queens who all grew up feeling different. That said, they are also among the murder suspects."

The broken heel belongs to the club's star attraction and resident den mother, Glennda Snow. After an extensive search, the role went to actor and life coach Carlton Wilborn, who was Madonna's lead dancer on her Blonde Ambition and The Girlie Show tours. "It was a really tall order because we needed a force of nature — a brilliant actor who could dance and look fabulous in a bra and heels," says Cerone. "We lucked out with Carlton. He's not a drag performer, but he spent years working with one of the great divas of our generation." Close enough!

The guest cast also includes real-life drag queen Shangela Laquifa Wadley, a popular contestant from RuPaul's Drag Race. "This episode is so out there with its twists and turns that it could have gone wrong in so many ways," says Cerone with a laugh. "But each department really stepped up — hair, makeup, wardrobe, casting. We are really proud of this one."

Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!