[Warning: This article contains major spoilers about Sunday's episode of The Mentalist. Read at your own risk!]
Jane and Lisbon (Robin Tunney) once again find themselves working a case with one of Jane's seven five Red John suspects. This time, it's the smug Ray Haffner (Reed Diamond), who joins forces with CBI after a prominent member of the Visualize cult (of which Haffner is a member) is murdered. Turns out the victim, a gymnastics champion, was a killer himself — and died as he was trying to cover up murdering a former student with whom he had been having an affair.
By the end of the episode, we learn that Visualize hired a private investigator to become friendly with Cho (Tim Kang) and plant a bug on his desk in CBI. However, Jane figures it out and surreptitiously re-plants the bug on her. But when Visualize's second-in-command, Jason Cooper (Robert Picardo), knows nothing about the bug, Jane realizes that it's actually Red John who hired the PI — who's either working with Red John or is his next victim. It's option 2. Red John (clearly someone the investigator recognizes) goes to her apartment and kills her moments before Jane and Lisbon arrive on the scene. Before she dies, she gives Jane a key clue about Red John: he has a tattoo of three dots on his left shoulder.
TVGuide.com turned to Eoghan Mahoney, who wrote "The Red Tattoo," to weigh in on tonight's episode and the latest developments in the Red John case. Plus: What are his thoughts on those conspiracy theories about Grace Van Pelt's (Amanda Righetti) possible involvement? Read our interview to find out:
This episode teases a connection between Red John and Visualize.
Mahoney: Because [Haffner] is a member of Visualize, by his very presence he also sort of brings the specter, the shadow, of Bret Stiles (Malcolm McDowell) along with him. So you have this effect of, either he's Red John, or is he like John the Baptist, the one who sort of comes before Red John? Is this Red John or is this just this tool of Red John that is showing up to sort of throw Jane off? Who's the puppet master behind it? Is Bret Stiles doing all this to sort of screw with Jane's head even more than he has in the past? And Robert Picardo, who plays Jason Cooper ... does a really nice job. We don't have Malcolm McDowell in this episode, but there's something about Jason, who I think does a really nice version of saying, "There's something coming, and it's making me nervous."
Is Haffner working with CBI a case of "keep your friends close and your enemies closer"?
Mahoney: That's exactly what we [wanted]. I think that's what Jane is sort of confronted with. In the past, certainly when he went up to Napa, it was really an act of Jane saying, "I want to take a case that's going to get me up there so that I can start looking at McAllister.' But in this case, you're investigating a case that's a mysterious case to begin with, and then suddenly there's Ray Haffner in the room. It's this feeling of, are we being watched? Is this case being thrown in front of us so that somebody can be observing and manipulating us? Which is a disconcerting thing for Jane to be confronting, and I think adds to this growing sense of tension and anxiety about what's happening in the world around us.
At one point, Haffner tells Jane there's a "comeuppance" heading his way and makes reference to the fact that he has friends in CBI. Can this be seen as an allusion to the "Tiger Tiger" conspiracy that was teased in last week's episode?
Mahoney: Yes, I think that's exactly right. Ray Haffner is a guy who used to work in CBI. He's a guy who has connections all through law enforcement. We're giving the audience information that our team might not have yet. The team takes this as, is this a Red John threat? Is this a Visualize threat? But I think you're exactly right, and I think the audience hopefully is going to pick that up. What Haffner's talking about is there's chatter in the world of police. A lot of people have this sense that there is a secret society out there. And there are rumors that Jane has really pissed those people off, and that's a dangerous thing to have done.
What's his motivation in warning Jane and Lisbon of bad things to come?
Mahoney: It's important to remember that Ray Haffner has not had a particularly pleasant experience with Patrick Jane. [Laughs] And while Ray Haffner really does have a genuine fondness for Teresa Lisbon, Patrick Jane to him is just a nightmare. He's the guy who screwed up Haffner's chances of sort of moving up in the CBI. To some extent, I suspect [Jane is] part of Haffner's motivation for leaving CBI. Jane is that guy who's just always one step ahead. For Haffner, throughout this episode, he's very happy with the idea that there's a case that Jane seems to be stumped by. Unfortunately for him, of course that turns out not to be the case. But essentially when he's saying to him, "You've got a comeuppance coming," he devoutly wishes that to be true. And from the rumors he's heard, he's pretty confident that that's going to happen.
With the "Tiger Tiger" conspiracy in mind, to what extent is Red John working alone at this point?
Mahoney: That is a mystery that the team is confronted with, and I think Jane is going to sense clearly that there's the threat of Red John, and then there's this other threat. Is this Red John, or is this an entirely separate other thing? Are they connected? If they are connected, how? Certainly we've heard Red John say "Tiger Tiger" to Jane personally. But again, is that Red John just screwing with Jane? Is that giving him clues that are helpful, because why would he do that? Or is it giving him clues that are going to lead Jane into traps? I think that's one of the things that Jane now has to figure out. He's putting together all these clues that he's got, but which ones are the ones that he can trust? What's the direction that he should be heading in, and where are the traps that Red John is leaving for him?
Elsewhere in the episode, newlywed Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) tells Cho he's the happiest he's ever been. Is that an ominous statement, or are we just being pessimistic?
Mahoney: [Laughs] It is always dangerous in this world to start thinking that you're very happy. At the moment, they are really happy. But what tomorrow brings, we aren't allowed to know that.
A lot of viewers are suspicious of Van Pelt. Is that justified?
Mahoney: The audience is right that Grace Van Pelt has gone through some dark times in the past. But I think that they should look at Grace and Wayne as two people who are really happy. They've finally come to that place that's been sort of denied them for a really long time. And being there is as blissful as they could have hoped. But unfortunately, there seem to be gathering shadows and dark clouds around them.
While Jane's busy with Visualize, Rigsby is starting to see red flags around Bob Kirkland's death. Will that be revisited in future episodes?
Mahoney: The team is being given information about the death of Bob Kirkland (Kevin Corrigan) that is leading them in a direction where they're realizing that things don't seem to be adding up the way they should. In the next few weeks, we will learn even more about that.
The Mentalist airs Sundays at 10/9c on CBS.
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