There are so many missing persons in “Missing Persons” that I don’t know if I can tally them all. So let’s just hit the main ones, starting with the first.
MP#1 is a panicked young amnesiac (played by Noel Fisher), who Hank and Britt meet when he locks himself in the bathroom of their favorite diner. Britt’s not impressed with the situation, and actually has a dismissive theory about what might be going on—“Think he’s in there flogging it?” he cracks—but Hank is more concerned, because he’s had some experience with people acting scary-crazy in public places, and thus is more anxious to get this lost little lamb back into his pen. Plus, he thinks there might be a reward. (“Half-court shot at best, and you know it,” Britt grumbles.) So Hank coaxes Mr. Anonymous down to the beach, where they consult with a former-doctor-turned-ice-cream-man about a strange pill they found mixed in with the kid’s breath mints. Dr. Ice Cream examines the pill and determines that it’s an anti-malaria drug which has been known to cause disorientation. Hank and Britt then haul their “client” down to the police station to get him fingerprinted, and two things happen: 1. They learn from Det. Gustafson that the anti-malaria drug is sometimes used as a roofie; and 2. The kid sees a bulletin on the wall that freaks him out, and leads him to punch out a cop and flee. Hank commandeers the bulletin in question, which leads him to….
MP#2, Jessica Sampson, a college student who’s been missing for a couple of days. Hank plans to skulk around until he can locate Jessica’s roommate at her apartment complex, but Britt—cutting to the chase as always—grabs the nearest co-ed and asks, “Do you know where I can find DeDe?” In no time, they’re in the apartment of a skittish young druggie who tells them what little she knows about Jessica: mainly that she’s into eastern cultures (giving Britt the opportunity to drop some faux-Confucius: “Man who walks backwards through turnstiles is going to Bangkok”) and she was planning a trip to Cambodia when she disappeared. Hank takes this info and consults with the young tech whizzes that we haven’t seen since Episode Two. The geeks hack into an airline’s database and determine that Jessica was going to Bangkok with an Adam Fisher, who paid for both tickets with the same credit card, but not at the same time. Hank and Britt head over to Fisher estate, which is empty save for Jessica, who’s been beaten and bound and shoved in a closet. As they’re sending her off to the hospital, our boys learn from Jessica that she wasn’t too pleased when Adam decided to join her on her trip, and that he—influenced by his medication—flipped out when she balked, and tied her up. The incident was so outside his usual behavior that he dissociated, and lost his memory. But now that it’s all coming back to him. Adam’s disgusted with himself, and plans to commit suicide by getting the cops to shoot him. His first step: doing to DeDe what he did to Jessica.
Throughout the investigation into who Adam is, Britt’s more than a little put out. He’s mad that they’ve taken on another case with no clear payoff. He’s mad that Hank wants to do a job that the police could do just as well. He’s mad that Hank doesn’t treat their partnership like a real partnership, and instead makes decisions that are expressly against Britt’s wishes, and then makes jokes about it, as though Britt were just playing the part of the comically annoyed sidekick. But mostly Britt’s mad because of….
MP#3, Katie, who’s still overwhelmed with anger and self-loathing after cheating on Britt. He senses that something’s wrong with her, but thinks it’s just anxiety over his imminent proposal, which he’s sure she knows about. (Britt compares his hidden engagement ring to Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart.”) Whatever the reason, the couple is clearly out of synch, in that way that all couples get sometimes—even those who aren’t keeping awful secrets. After they make love, she’s distant. He asks about school—which only reminds her of what she did and who she did it with—and she tells him that she’s been learning about “ethics in euthanasia.” It’s a topic that may apply to her relationship if things continue the way they are.
Meanwhile, in between Hank’s attempt to solve the Adam mystery, he has his hands full with the woman who made him sympathetic to Adam’s case in the first place. MP#4 is Steph, who’s been having such a great time living with Hank and reminiscing about their childhood and their parents that she’s begun to regress. She calls to their mother, who’s not there. She ventures outside and strikes up a childlike conversation with a neighbor, then heads across the street to play games with a little girl who’s been left alone by her parents. Except that the little girl is actually MP#5: a hallucination. The generic drugs that Hank’s been buying don’t seem to be working. Later, when Katie comes over to sit with her, Steph looks at her and asks, heartbreakingly, “Are you really there?”
As with last week’s Terriers, I have a few quibbles with “Missing Persons.” I was excited about the case-of-the-week when it started—especially since we were back to one of those cases that Hank and Britt just stumble into—but it didn’t have as many unexpected twists and clever legwork as past Terriers cases, and while I appreciate that it tied thematically to our overarching character-plots, to me the ties were too close. Having a client’s problems so fully encapsulate the problems that Hank and Steph are going through just seems way too neat for my taste.
That said, again like last week’s Terriers, “Missing Persons” ends with a powerfully emotional scene, as Hank drives Steph to her fancy new hospital (paid for thanks to some of those can’t-touch-or-we’ll-get-in-trouble Robert Lindus bearer-bonds… so I’m sure that’ll be an issue soon). In a reversal of how these kinds of scenes usually go, it’s Steph who realizes he needs to check herself in, and Hank who resists her leaving. Her goal is to get better so that she can take care of him, while he feels like taking care of her gives him a steadier footing, and someone to pal around with who really understands him. (Actually, Britt and Gretchen and Gustafson all understand Hank fairly well too… they just find him exasperating to different degrees, while Steph’s more accepting.) What can you say about a show that takes such a nuanced approach to the way its characters relate to each other? I’d say that it’s a show that can survive the occasional weak case or overdetermined theme.
And besides, I can’t complain too much about any hour of TV that deals with the questions of mind, memory, and the malleability of personalities—all subjects that I personally find fascinating. (It’s the reason I love Fringe, and Dollhouse, and pretty much every movie Christopher Nolan’s ever made.) I love the idea that even before Adam knows who he is, he knows he feels guilty, and I love his fear that the medication only brought out a side of himself that’s always been there—which is a classic film noir notion. I love Hank assessing Adam’s condition with a very relatable analogy, recalling those nightmares we all have where we do something “so terrible you can’t take it back.” And I love Britt digging deeper into the meaning of amnesia and trying to determine the difference between “the shit you know” and “the shit you remember.” Sure, it all relates back to Katie’s post-fling personality change, and Steph’s uncontrollable breaks with reality. But these are also questions that we all need to ask ourselves now and then, just so we can take stock of ourselves. Because our minds, not unlike our sock drawers, are complicated places.
-Maureen Ryan has a nice piece up at AOL about Logue and Raymond-James’ publicity tour. I also recommend Ryan McGee’s “Five Reasons To Watch Terriers,” Jace Lacob’s “Open Letter To FX,” and Alan Sepinwall and Daniel Fienberg’s podcast with Shawn Ryan. And now, how about a quote-a-rama…?
-“I do two things well, Steph. The other thing, and making you cry.”
-“That’s the problem with amnesiacs, they don’t get the movie references.”
-“He remembers he likes Push-Ups.”
-Capital of California? El Centro.
-“Where’s your school spirit?”
-“Wish I’d showed up for the SATs.”
-“Easy, Tony Montana.”
- “You know what they say about college girls: They’re young, dumb, and full of scholarly ambition.”
-“Why are Finnish people so good at Halo 3?”
-“I am not a sidekick, dude.”