I don’t usually have a big problem with creepy. I have a bit of a crush on Vincent D’Onofrio, as a kid I watched “In Search Of,” and I’ve seen “The Silence of the Lambs” more times than I care to count. But tonight’s “Lie to Me” — while compelling, intelligently plotted, and very well acted, kind of freaked me out.
Ten years ago, Andrew Jenkins (Daniel Sunjata) is pretending to be a doctor when he meets his twelfth victim, Michelle (Clea DuVall). During the ’90s, he abducted, blinded and raped 12 women. And while he’s in jail, there’s now a copycat, having claimed six more victims in the past three months. And a la Clarice Starling with Hannibal Lecter, the FBI wants to find out what he knows about the copycat. So they send Cal to Jenkins’ prison to infiltrate, but though his tactics seem to be working at first (he’s even the recipient of a pretty convincing beating), Jenkins the consummate liar sniffs him out. He’s so pathologically good, in fact, that he’s like the evil Lightman. Or lightbringer, as the case may be.
Jenkins gives them an address for the copycat, but it turns out to be the address of the latest victim. And since time is of the essence — the copycat binds and gags the women and makes them watch tapes of other victims before blinding and violating them — they bring Jenkins to the questioning tank at The Lightman Group. First complication: Gillian’s mad — because Cal screwed up, they’re fulfilling Jenkins’ fantasies and giving him the attention he craves. Second: Ria’s unhappy at being tasked to go through all Jenkins’ sick bastard fan mail to try to find a suspect. Third: the guy’s good — a very clever liar who’s proving tough to get any kind of read on.
Cal and Jenkins do a dominance dance for a while, and it looks like they’re coming to a draw. But he lets moments of truth slip out, and Cal gathers them up like string. One clue directs them to a creepy, disgusting fanboy who ends up having a shrine to Jenkins — and who they bring in to help analyze the fanmail. Blech. The next suspect is Jenkins’ prison guard, who it turns out has been threatened into delivering messages from Jenkins to his copycat/protege. FBI Special Agent Reynolds (Mekhi Phifer) is generally a great foil for Cal, except in this interrogation, where the volume gets a little bit high.
Meanwhile, Gillian’s spending time with Natalie, the latest victim, who wants to help but whose memory has mercifully fled. Gillian brings in Michelle to talk with her, which helps on a couple of fronts. And then, horribly and shockingly, Gillian is attacked while leaving Natalie’s house. Punched and dragged along the ground, she’s left safe and relatively in one piece when Cal and Reynolds interrupt the attack, having intercepted the message to the copycat. It’s a really difficult scene to watch — redeemed by the way Cal comforts her and how they interact when he goes to see her in the hospital.
Ria wants to bring Michelle in to talk to Jenkins, hoping that confronting a victim might make him open up. Cal angrily vetoes the idea, but Ria does it anyway, and the interaction between victim and criminal is chilling — though DuVall’s strong, calm performance is fantastic. She repeats questions in the same way Cal did, but before they get anywhere Cal interrupts, escorts Michelle out, and angrily throws Ria from the room, screaming at her for disobeying. Cal loses it a little when Jenkins essentially says he’ll keep trying to hurt Gillian, and then the conversation turns to the mentor/protege relationship. The difficulty with Ria is the separation phase of the relationship, and eventually the protege will surpass the mentor.
Then Cal plays his ace: the copycat has killed the latest victim — he closed, and he’s the new flavor of the day as far as public attention is concerned. Which is all a lie, and a gamble. It’s a brilliant cat-and-mouse move, and Jenkins gives up a key piece of the timeline, allowing them to very quickly find the house where the current victim has been tied up, and apprehend the copycat, who turns out to be Michelle’s husband. He’d written fan letters to Jenkins, and had deliberately sought out Michelle to get close to him. When she testified at Jenkins’ parole hearing four years ago, her husband lunged at Jenkins, faking anger at the criminal, and their relationship began.
Figuring out that Cal had planned everything, including his screw-up while undercover, Ria realizes what kind of mad genius she’s working for. Even Gillian didn’t have any idea — thank goodness the guy’s using his powers for good and not evil. But she’s unhappy that he used her. Too bad — Cal’s who he is. But the best part — besides the fact that the victim was recovered unharmed — is that we get a new member of the team. Cal tells Reynolds that the FBI wants to put him on retainer, and that means Reynolds is becoming a de facto member of The Lightman Group. Phifer is fierce and smart as Reynolds, and he brings a different temperament — not to mention a gun — into the mix. I look forward to seeing more next week.
What did you think? Am I just a girl or did this episode seem especially intense? Did you have an inkling about the copycat, or were you surprised at the turn?