Hi, this is Dexter. I’m not here right now, but if you’d like to leave a long-winded and flagrantly inappropriate message after the beep, I’ll get back to you just as quick as a lick.
“Hey Dex, just called to check in, do a debriefing on dinner. I thought it went well. Rita’s sweet, very Martha Stewart. And her mom, she’s got quite the rod up her ass, don’t she? By the way, I’m such a twat, I can’t believe I almost slipped up about your mom. Mind you, it could have been worse. I could have spilled the beans about our road trip. That would been a bloody riot. Can you imagine Rita’s face if I had told her you and I spent a night together in a hotel? Aaaanyway…”
Gee, what else Lila? The machine cut you off, so surely there are other intimacies you could have nattered on about. That ridiculously wordy message was the standout moment of this mostly unmemorable plot-mover of an episode, and not in a good way, either. I see three ways to interpret it: 1. It’s just Lila being Lila. She’s an open, uninhibited woman who has eagerly thrust herself into Dexter’s headspace (and later, onto his Johnson), and she’s never been shy about saying whatever’s on her mind, decorum be damned. 2. She’s deliberately setting out to sabotage Dexter’s relationship with Rita because she wants him all to herself. Perhaps she’s hoping—if not consciously than subconsciously—that Rita will be an audience for her little rant, and she can do her part in driving a wedge between them. 3. The writers are taking a major dramatic shortcut.
Of those options, in order of plausibility, I’m going with three, one, and, in a distant third, two. As the scene was happening, I was aghast at how much information Lila dumped on Dexter’s answering machine; it struck me as one of those soap opera moments when an incriminating conversation takes place for the sole benefit of the last person who should be hearing it. Then again, it’s in Lila’s free-wheeling personality to open up whenever she feels like it, no matter the consequences. She’s not the type of person to say, “Hey, it’s Lila. Hope you’re well. Give me ring when you get chance.” She’s someone who needs little more prompt than a beep to start saying whatever’s on her mind.
As for the possibility that she’s deliberately sabotaging Dexter’s relationship with Rita, I acknowledge that’s a bit implausible, at least on a conscious level. She just had dinner with Rita and Rita’s mother and did the best she could to play the good sponsor and reassure her hosts about all the progress Dexter is making. Yet she’s not exactly a reassuring presence, is she? That curled mouth may be saying one thing, but the super-short skirt and knee-high boots say another, don’t they? I loved the tension in that dinner scene between genial text and threatening subtext, and was disappointed to see it trampled upon by an answering machine message.
In any case, the love triangle that had been brewing all season is now official, thanks to Dexter’s bout of Michael-Douglas-in-Basic-Instinct-style anger sex with Lila during the half-day when he and Rita were on a break. Of course, having a sexual relationship flagrantly violates the 12-step rules for sponsors and sponsees, and since it’s on Lila to lead Dexter through the wilderness of addiction, one has to wonder just how far off the grid she’s willing to go. Over at What’s Alan Watching?, the critic Alan Sepinwall argued convincingly a few weeks ago that Dexter is overestimating how much he can really share with Lila; he sees her as a kindred spirit, but if she knew about the true nature of his addiction, might she recoil in horror? I know there’s been a lot of resistance to Lila among readers of this blog, but she’s still a slippery character, and her motives are perhaps the least predictable of anyone on the show.
But mostly, “Dex, Lies, And Videotape” was about getting some narrative business done. After the last episode, we learned that Dexter wiped his boat clean after hours at a marina that Lundy and company had set up with surveillance cameras. So Dexter scrambles to take care of that problem, which he accomplishes through a freak technical glitch and a fire-alarm prank dreamed up by his high-school-age self. Then there’s the possibility of another guy being set up as the Bay Harbor Butcher, but even Dexter, who would like nothing more than someone else taking the heat for his crimes, is so appalled by his copycat’s sloppy efforts that he doesn’t bother trying to frame him. Dexter is concerned by Lundy’s sudden interest in him, but there’s more heat coming from his old nemesis Doakes, who’s back on his tail after he finds out Dexter isn’t really an addict and listens to the audiotape Dex (unaccountably) left on his desk. Perhaps Dex’s subsequent filing of a harassment suit will get Doakes suspended from his job, but he’s not the sort of guy who needs a badge to get things done.
To end on a positive note, I really love what Keith Carradine is bringing to the show, and this episode provided him with his strongest showcase yet. I talked earlier in this post about Lila being the show’s most elusive character, but Carradine is awfully cagey and an excellent adversary for Dexter. At this point, it doesn’t appear that he has a hidden agenda; he’s simply very good at his job—methodical in his methods, usually dead-on in his conclusions, and quietly effective at getting the best out of the people under him. (Even if means playing daddy to Deb, who’s still burned about her father choosing the “other Morgan” over her, and doesn’t want her new father-figure to do the same.) The show has been guilty in the past of turning everyday Miami Metro operations into sub-standard cop show fodder, and Carradine’s character has turned that around. With him in the picture, even place-holder episodes like this one are highly watchable.
• Nice scene with Rita at the end. We’ve learned that Dexter isn’t always a truth-teller, so it was revealing for him to come clean about what happened in Naples and the fact that he did indeed sleep with Lila, just “not that night.” In his words, he’s “leaving the old me behind’? So…who’s the new me?
• Once again, Dexter uses his captive victims as an audience for his confessions, since no one else can be privy to them. A good revelation here to the copycat BHB: He doesn’t need to kill anymore, but he does anyway. How’s that for progress?
• I’m not wild about what JoBeth Williams is bringing to this show, but has anyone else seen Poltergeist lately? Good. Lord.