“Lady Killer” is an episode that’s clearly trying to subvert audience expectations and do something different with the storytelling. On a few memorable occasions, the most notable probably being the first-season episode that introduced Elias, the show has used the viewers’ (and the characters’) preconceived notions of what a bad guy looks like to lay a trap, and let a sympathetic-seeming villain gain the upper hand. “Lady Killer” goes the other way, setting up a character whose behavior, viewed from a distance, seems so smarmy and creepy that he must be a stalker, and is probably a serial killer. Then it turns out that he’s a fine fellow, someone to be protected and helped out and even granted passionate-looking smoochies by Carter, no less. Given how much ink I’ve spilled arguing that this is a complicated show that has the capacity to reach for something more than the easy, kneejerk satisfactions of a formulaic violent procedural, I should be thrilled by this, and I do appreciate it, in the abstract. Truth be told, though, my eyelids were getting a little heavy and my mind starting to wander until Reese made my evening by gratuitously punching a mean old man in the face. (Stellar support is provided by the recording technician who decided that Reese’s fist connecting with the Grinch’s features should sound like a rhinoceros butting a stump.)
The misunderstood party is Ian Murphy, who uses the dating pool of Manhattan as his personal harem, picking up and making time with and discarding one attractive young lady after another. The best joke in the episode was simply how quickly everyone did the math and concluded that if The Machine coughed up the number of a guy who was doing that well sexually, he must have bodies piling up in his crawlspace; these are lonely people, after all, and this, like Fox Mulder’s legendary pile of porn in the closet and deep interest in Adult Video Guide, seemed to be the show’s way of acknowledging what loneliness can entail. (Never has Shaw’s eagerness to pull the trigger—“Can I shoot him yet?” she asked, repeatedly—been so Freudian.) And when the heroes invade Ian’s living space and find the files he keeps on his conquests, full of details and personal information, it’s confirmed: Something sinister is going on.
Except it’s not. Ian, he explains, is just observant. Preparing a meal for Carter, he makes a point of telling her that he’s taken her nut allergies into consideration. Aha, says, Carter, and how did you know I have nut allergies? Well, duh, says Ian, the night we met in the club, I noticed the expression on your face when you pushed a tray of nuts aside. It turns out Ian is Sherlock Holmes, except he uses his powers of observation and deduction not to catch criminals, but to solve the mystery of how to keep his balls from ever turning blue. He seduces women by anticipating their needs, and he does that, he says, through “research.” And if that sounds like a recipe for a series of mechanical, shallow one night stands, well, that’s sort of what he’s after. These tightly researched assignations help him keep his mind off the one true love he once knew, before he made his fortune (after a mysterious relative dropped six figures in his lap) and was just a piece of “poor white Southie trash.” She was rich, and her family did not approve, and then she died, but it was the real thing: No research, he sighs, was necessary. What he doesn’t know is that his deceased lady love bore him a child, and rather than risk the boy ever know that he has white Southie trash genes stored inside his aristocratic frame, his grandfather has been trying to have Ian whacked. That’s how Reese comes to hit the old guy in the face, in a moment that I just watched again, as my reward to myself for having done the heavy lifting of describing that plot.
This story didn’t work for me, but there was some fun stuff around the edges, particularly the chance to see Carter, Shaw, and Paige Turco’s Zoe all dolled up and hitting the clubs to play Charlie’s Angels, using themselves as bait to catch the serial killer who wasn’t a serial killer, with Fusco making a funnier Bosley than David Doyle ever did. But the real news of the week is Root’s escape from the mental hospital. Before she beat up her doctor, Bruce Altman, and left his office to go do battle with the hit man coming to kill her, she told Altman what she was going to do, and then since we knew what was going to happen, the director only had to show us part of it, which must have simplified the shooting schedule a great deal. Not that I’m complaining; while I wouldn’t mind getting to see every second of Amy Acker escaping from a mental hospital, I’d rather see her talking about how she’s going to escape more than I’d want to see almost anyone else do anything at all. The climax features a few minutes of Acker in full action-babe mode, but when she finally heads out into the world, free and unfettered, she’s managed to not hardly kill anyone. She rightly points out to Altman that this is progress of a kind, but I still find it unsettling.