TV Recap: The Mentalist - Pilot

We join our intrepid team of The Mentalist (Patrick) and Debra from Empire Records (Teresa) at the murder of a young girl, Mercy, whose father is Rex Van de Kamp/Congressman Haffley and whose mother is Donna Abandondo. The neighbor boy is arrested for the murder, but Patrick suspects from some rather creepy photos on the fridge of Rex and Mercy in a photo booth that perhaps it was the father who killed her. Patrick asks him if he killed his daughter, as the mother starts to cry. The father gives some half-hearted blustery denials and then the mom shoots him.

Okay, so far… unimpressed. I had the dad pegged by the demeanor of him and the mom at the press conference on the lawn. This does serve to get Patrick suspended, though, so Teresa tells him to leave when he shows up at the double-murder of a married woman (Allison) and a male doctor (Gregory) who is not her husband. Patrick argues that this is his case because it looks to have been done by the serial killer Patrick hunted but never caught called Red John, so named because he leaves a smiley face of blood on the wall by his victims.

There is a weird flashback to Patrick’s former job as a hack TV psychic, assisting people in a Crossing Over with John Edwards type of thing. He fills the show hosts in about his hunting of said serial killer. Back at the crime scene, however, he tells the team that this wasn’t Red John’s work because the smiley face would have been put on the wall as the first thing for people to see before the bodies are found. A calling card, so that the survivors know what horrors they are about to find. Creepy.

The team questions Dr. Wagner, the family practitioner, about the murders, who happens to be a colleague of Gregory’s. He reveals he prescribed off-the-book birth control to Allison, but that her husband had a vasectomy 6 years ago. Whoops. Patrick then squeezes the doctor for some sleeping pills but the doctor won’t fork any over without a consult.

At dinner, Patrick tells the team the husband couldn’t have done it because he’s a choker as a professional golfer and wouldn’t have the stones to go through with it. So I guess Chris Evert is safe from Greg Norman. Good to know. There is then a fairly pointless conversation between Patrick and team member Grace Van Pelt about the other side and communicating with dead people. Grace thinks it’s real while Patrick says it’s all a sham.

Back in his hotel room, Patrick is slipped a note under the door. I hope it doesn’t start “My Special Agent” because then he’ll probably get shot and have visions of a giant. It turns out to be from Red John and Patrick gives chase but cannot catch the mysterious note-leaver. Patrick spends the rest of the night in a diner, writing in a red diary. The next day Teresa knows he didn’t sleep and makes him an appointment with Dr. Wagner.

In a throwaway red herring, there are tests done on the note Patrick received and a hair matching the golfer’s brother is found in the envelope. Patrick then goes to see the doctor and when asked what keeps him awak at night, we flashback to Patrick telling the TV hosts that Red John is true demonic evil and that he burns bright, which will help Patrick find him. That night, Patrick arrives home to a note on his bedroom door telling Patrick not to slander him on television and wait until he sees what he’s done to Patrick’s wife and child. Interesting. Patrick, of course, has told Dr. Wagner nothing of this.

Back in the present, the doctor gives Patrick a prescription for sleeping pills, even though he knows everything Patrick told him was a lie. Patrick asks after Gregory’s diary, saying he could’ve sworn somebody said Gregory kept one. He makes an analogy to Dr. Wagner of a magician using a beautiful woman as an assistant to distract the audience and says he’ll have Gregory’s office searched the next day for the diary, then hugs Dr. Wagner goodnight.

Dr. Wagner immediately ransacks Gregory’s office, only to be surprise by Patrick, who took the doctor’s keys when they hugged goodnight. Snerk. Patrick immediately “finds” the red diary under a bookcase and thanks Dr. Wagner for his help. Dr. Wagner draws a gun and demands the diary, but realizes it isn’t Gregory’s when flipping through it.

Upon being asked how he started to suspect Dr. Wagner, Patrick Scooby-Doos that the doctor said he didn’t know who Red John was, yet has books about him in his office, that as the family doctor he could get access to the brother’s hair, and that as the doctor he’d be able to hack up another human with no problem. The doctor confesses that Gregory was going to destroy Wagner’s work in Africa by embezzling money, so he killed Gregory for the greater good. Allison was just the Magician’s Assistant, meant to distract the audience. After a short chase, the team arrests Dr. Wagner.

At the office the next day, Patrick flirts a little with Teresa, but then that night goes back to the same house where his family was murdered. He sleeps in his same room, only devoid of furniture, on a twin mattress on the floor, underneath the bloody smiley face on the wall. Okay, that was sufficiently creepy and sad.

Nice. This is like House, only not as misanthropic and not as complicated with the medical jargon and rare diseases. I’m down so far. I give it a B+ for this week. There is huge room for improvement, but it was a strong start.