[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Sunday's episode of The Mentalist. Read at your own risk.]
On Sunday's episode of The Mentalist, Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) not only rescues Lisbon (Robin Tunney) from her encounter with Red John, but he also gains a crucial piece of evidence in his hunt for the serial killer. Jane realizes that Red John's mystical knowledge of Jane's past must have come by way of Red John visiting Jane's former psychiatrist Sophie Miller (Elisabeth Röhm). Although Jane's suspicions prove correct and Sophie is found dead, Jane is able to access a recording of Sophie's notes from her session with Red John.
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Although the notes aren't specific enough for Jane to know exactly which of the remaining six suspects is Red John, executive producer Tom Szentgyorgyi says Jane is now back in the driver's seat. How will Jane use this tool to his advantage? What's really going on with Red John suspects Gale Bertram (Michael Gaston), Sheriff McCallister (Xander Berkeley) and Reede Smith (Drew Powell)? And why did Red John let Lisbon go? Read on for Szentgyorgyi's answers to those questions and more.
In the premiere, Jane seemed paralyzed by Red John's tricks, but now he seems to have some of his mojo back.
Tom Szentgyorgyi: Ever since the finale of Season 5, when Red John apparently magically reached into Jane's head and killed a happy memory and also figured out who the seven suspects were on Jane's board, it felt like Red John had gotten a step up on Jane. This episode gave Jane a chance to get that step back by answering at least one of those two questions: How did he find that happy memory of Jane's? He found it by going to Jane's psychiatrist and using her as a way into his mind.
But Jane now is using that same psychiatrist to get inside Red John's mind.
Szentgyorgyi: Whether it's something that's going to help him identify Red John in the short term or something that's going to help him take down Red John in the long term is still a question. Jane knows he's been given a tool, or perhaps a couple of tools, but he's not quite sure how those tools should be used. Sophie was a genuinely important person to Jane. As he predicted, she was insightful about Red John in ways that Red John did not expect she would be. There's a sense from that scene that, from the grave, Sophie is handing Jane something that he's going to find quite useful.
Is it possible that Red John was feeding Sophie what he wanted her to believe in case Jane was able to trace everything back to Sophie?
Szentgyorgyi: Maybe he was putting on a performance, but as Jane said, Sophie had a really good eye for people, and the performance could not entirely fool her. There's a canary in the coal mine aspect in that moment because she says, "This guy is not what he appears to be, and I can't really tell you why. There's no identifying clinical behavior, but there's something dark in this person." She really did sense what was in front of her and a little more than that.
Was visiting Sophie Red John's fatal flaw?
Szentgyorgyi: I think it says that Red John is perhaps a little off his footing. As Jane says, he went to see Dr. Sophie Miller when he really didn't need to. He could have gotten that information without talking to her, which suggests that maybe he is flailing around a little bit in trying to deal with Jane's pursuit of him.
So, we should assume that Jane is definitely going to capitalize, right?
Szentgyorgyi: Jane is definitely more energized and he's going to continue to be more energized with each passing episode, simply because he's getting closer. It's not an open hunt anymore. There's a limited number of targets, and with each turn of the plot, he is getting closer and closer to the true target. There's a strong sense that the advantage in the hunt is shifting to Jane's side.
Speaking of targets, in this episode, we see three of the suspects together in one room.
Szentgyorgyi: There's more going on there than even Jane knows. As Lisbon intuits when she sees McCallister, Smith and Bertram in the state capitol, there's something weird about these three guys getting together. And she's right. Clearly they're up to more than clearing out meth from Napa County.
What do you think it says that Red John didn't kill Lisbon?
Szentgyorgyi: What he did with Lisbon is also a sign that perhaps Red John is being knocked a little off his game. Did he intend just to mark her like that? Did he intend to do more and change his mind? We're not sure, but it's definitely not the Red John we've seen before. Just as part of the episode is the effect of the hunt on our team — Lisbon is finding that even her dreams have been infected by the list of suspects — there's also the growing sense that it's having an effect on Red John as well.
Will those dreams continue to haunt Lisbon or has she learned her lesson?
Szentgyorgyi: I think she realizes that she needs to take more careful steps. Jane's concern in Episode 1 — that any obvious police maneuver like bugging the suspects is simply going to give Red John a tool that he can turn around and use against you — has been proven true, and she's not going to do that again. She was fortunate that she only burned her hand on the hot stove and she didn't do worse.
Will what happened to Lisbon force Jane to change his approach?
Szentgyorgyi: He feels an enormous amount of protectiveness over Lisbon and is deeply disturbed by what happened to her. But I think he also feels confident that, if they follow the course he lays out, she'll be alright. I think if he really thought his pursuit of Red John was going to risk Lisbon's life, he would find some other way to pursue Red John.
The Mentalist airs Sundays at 10/9c on CBS.
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