Raise your hand if you saw this episode title and the last verse of Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta” popped into your head. Or is it just me?
Anyway, this episode sees the team on the trail of Faith Maples, who’s played by Jennifer Morrison (also known as Allison Cameron on House, and the real-life girlfriend of Chase star Amaury Nolasco). She’s downright nuts, killing people across the state of Texas (starting with her deadbeat boyfriend), and probably traumatizing her young daughter in the process. That kid’s going to need therapy. Sporting a Texas accent, Morrison leaves Cameron well behind.
Annie and the Marshals are on Faith’s trail two days after the boyfriend’s death, frustrated at the lack of viable information. They visit the boyfriend’s house and begin to poke around. Annie and Daisy note that Faith pampers her daughter, and wonder where the money is coming from. No sooner have they started that than Annie gets a tip on the location of the boyfriend’s car, indicating Faith is headed for either of her parents’ places; she splits up the team to cover both. Apparently everyone also thinks this is a good time to discuss Jimmy and Annie’s relationship or lack thereof. One of my biggest pet peeves is TV characters who decide to drag out their personal lives in the middle of something important.
Faith’s mother tells Annie and Daisy that two months ago, Faith contacted her talking about a fiancee named George, and we find out from Faith’s dad that his daughter shot and killed her brother in what may or may not have been an accident. Obviously, this woman has had issues for awhile. At least Jimmy finds out where Faith’s dad wired money to, giving them someplace else to track her to. She’s there picking up another guy that she can take advantage of, and by the time the Marshals catch up, he’s dead. Another body to add to the show’s count. Where’s our fugitive? She’s approaching a car accident in the apparent middle of nowhere. Since the local police are, of course, distracted and/or dense, they let her drive right by.
Marco finds out that there’s no birth certificate for Faith’s daughter Dakota, causing Annie to question if the girl is her daughter at all. She’s also able to pinpoint Faith’s next location, at a Halloween costume store, which she jets off to “if Jimmy’s done avoiding me.” Enough, already. We get that you two have issues. Not to mention that said issues are not world-ending in the first place. Of course, by the time the Marshals catch up, Faith has already blown through again, this time without Dakota. Is the kid dead? No, she’s imaginary. Thankfully, there’s a commercial so we have due time to process this bizarre plot twist.
It’s no secret that Faith is mentally disturbed, but invisible child is a pretty far stretch, especially as Annie points out that they’ve seen photos of the kid at the dead boyfriend’s house. While we’re still wrapping our heads around this logic, Luke drops the bomb that Faith’s former fiance George was the driver in a car accident that caused her to lose an actual baby. As we all go, “Uh-oh,” she turns up on said ex-fiance’s doorstep. He sees it as a second chance, which only pushes at her illusion, leaving her literally torn between him and her would-be daughter. When he tells her that Dakota is dead, she shoots him too. Moments later, Dakota disappears, and Faith comes crashing back to reality.
This is going to be ugly.
Annie and the Marshals arrive to find George’s body, but no sign of Faith. In the backpack she left behind, Luke finds a picture of the real child that Faith has been using as her pretend daughter – the girl in the other car in the aforementioned accident years before. Just moments before Annie can reach the girl’s mother, Faith is abducting the child. Like most kids that age, though, the girl is prone to asking questions, which unsettles Faith even further. When Faith slips off to the bathroom, the girl tells a nearby adult she’s been abducted. He’s calling the cops when Faith shoots him twice in the back. Make that three in the episodic body count.
Once the team finds the poor guy’s body, Luke realizes Faith is heading back to her mother, ostensibly to prove to her mother that the death of her brother wasn’t intentional and that she can raise a child of her own. (Score one for Luke, since we’ve seen him screw up more often than not.) It’s an awkward not-family reunion in Madisonville when Annie literally flies in on a police helicopter. Since we established in the previous episode that Annie is reckless to the point of being practically suicidal, it comes as no surprise to see Annie jump from the helicopter onto Faith’s getaway big rig and hang on as it nearly goes over a bridge. She’s able to save the child, and also unsurprisingly, Faith plummets to her death when the truck goes over moments later.
All of this talk about family prompts Annie to consider her own criminal father. She decides to start looking for him herself, which one can only imagine will come to a head by or at the end of the season.
“Paranoia” is easily Chase‘s best episode so far, though it does elicit some of the usual groans I have about the show in general (how many people are going to die on this show before somebody brings that up?). It’s anchored by a fine guest-starring performance by Jennifer Morrison. I could take her or leave her on House, and she’s never screamed “psychotic serial killer” to me, but she gave an appropriately deranged performance here that made the overall plotline compelling. While I admit I rolled my eyes at the “invisible child” twist, I have to admit that it made for a great second half of the episode. It’s not overwrought, it’s not overdone; thanks to Morrison’s performance and some good writing, we actually get into Faith’s head even if that’s not where we want to be at all.
There’s only one major concern for me with this hour. I can only hope that the writers don’t overstretch the tension between Annie and Jimmy, or start making a “will they, won’t they” out of them, but given the fact that the previews for next week show Jimmy looking perturbed while Eddie Cibrian hits on Annie, I’m worried that subplot is going to be stretched out even longer. Next week we’ll find out…