Tonight we got a dual episode of The Mentalist with “Throwing Fire.” The episode begins at Sloop Academy, a training camp for up and comer baseball stars. One of the academy’s founders is discovered dead in his Zen garden, killed by several blows from a baseball bat. As Jane, Lisbon, and Cho begin their investiation, the team continues practicing. A stray ball hits Jane and knocks him out cold, causing him to drift into memories of his father Alex (played by Nick Chinlund).
The flashback begins with a circus duo act of father and son, with young Patrick Jane playing the “boy wonder” who can “see” objects even with a blindfold on. Emboldened by his success identifying an audience member’s cigarette case, Patrick does one of his well known readings of the woman, guessing the case belonged to a recently deceased grandmother. After the performance, Patrick’s father chides him for going off the script, and tells him there’s no sense in a con that doesn’t bring in the cash.
Jane eventually comes to, and being Jane, refuses medical care. Throughout the episode he acts even more strange and flakey than usual, with occasional fainting spells. The investigation continues, however. Lisbon and her team discover that the victim Sloop had adopted the Zen lifestyle to cope with the accidental death of his 3 year old son.
Rigsby and Van Pelt track down Sloop’s unstable ex-wife, who is sleeping with one of her former husband’s players, and who has never gotten over her son’s death. They find her drunk and morose at her son’s grave, holding a gun and prepared to commit suicide. Van Pelt speaks very movingly of her sister who selfishly decided to take her own life without considering others. She manages to talk Mrs. Sloop down enough to get the gun from her safely. Later, Rigsby asks Van Pelt about it, and she says she doesn’t have a sister. Rigsby goes along with the idea that she made it up, but he’s definitely thinking that she may mean she doesn’t have a sister anymore.
Jane accuses Sloop’s partner Freddie (Jude Ciccocella) of being greedy and killing Sloop for financial benefit. He’s not sure if Freddie is guilty, but Freddie’s angry response and attempted physical attack on Jane show that he’s capable of enough anger to murder. Lisbon and Cho interview the players, all of whom say that Sloop was a great mentor and that none of them had a reason to kill him. Jane sits outside with some of the parents and players, and Snake’s father tells him how helpful the academy is. They discuss how professional teams now want kids younger and younger, and it’s important to get the aspiring players signed before you’re they’re considered too old to play.
Throughout the investigation, Jane has more flashbacks, remembering how his father upped their confidence game. Alex tells young Patrick that he spent a lot of time and effort finding their next mark–at a hospital. Patrick is excited until he sees an elderly woman pushing a young girl in a wheelchair. He questions his father about the morality of stealing from a dying girl. His father tells him that they won’t make any difference in the girl’s imminent death, but they’ll give her a few days of hope. Patrick participates in the scheme under pressure from Alex, and the two promise the sick girl the use of a “healing” crystal to remove all of her tumors. The grandmother pays $10,000 for the crystal, but Patrick doesn’t stick around to watch the transaction. He feels too guilty, but his father thinks his tears were part of the performance, and gives him $100 for his part in the con.
After rounds of interrogation, Mrs. Sloop confesses to getting drunk and going over to see her husband–who was “asleep” and wouldn’t talk to her. Lisbon realizes Sloop was already dead when she found him, and the realization is what snapped the last of her sanity. A landscaper points out player Scotty in a line-up, whom he saw arguing with Sloop the night of his death. Scotty confirms he was there, and it shocks his overbearing father, but Freddie intervenes before the interview gets any further. Later, Jane tells Lisbon that security footage should show the two star players, Snake and Scotty, practicing on the field when Sloop was killed. Lisbon is frustrated that they’re running out of suspects.
Jane goes back to the academy, where the players are about to try out in front of professional scouts. Jane talks to Scotty and Snake, telling them he knows they’re innocent. He also gives them a pep talk on not selling their souls, not even to their fathers. He speaks from experience. The boys want to know what his talent is, and they’re skeptical when he says he reads minds. Jane plays a trick on Scotty, “guessing” his birthday and writing it on a baseball (in truth he secretly etched it in after Scotty told him the date). He asks Snake to try it as well, but Snake seems uncomfortable and says they have to head out onto the field.
Jane pursues him, insisting on performing the trick. Snake’s father intervenes, saying the boy was born in 1992. Jane seems perplexed, saying he’d guessed it was five years older, the age of Snake’s brother. Snake’s father gets angry and goes to attack Jane, but Cho is there to protect Patrick. Jane accuses Snake’s father of killing Sloop when he discovered Snake’s real age, and Snake’s father confirms it. He only went to talk to Sloop, but got angry and hit him with the bat. In order to get the father to give himself up quietly, Jane asks Freddie if Snake can try out anyway. Freddie agrees, saying the boy will get a lesser position, but it’s still worth a shot–for twice his fee. Snake’s father agrees, and is arrested while his son watches in shocked horror.
After all the excitement, Jane once again slumps down to the ground. Scotty tries out, doing well and striking out a player. His father still berates him for not doing better, and says he’ll go to make the deal with the scouts. Having taken Jane’s advice, Scotty tells his dad that he’s hired a professional agent to make the deal for him.
Lisbon tells Jane it’s time to see a doctor, but he continues being stubborn, insisting there’s nothing a doctor will do for him. He acts a little woozy at the top of a flight of stairs, and Lisbon hurriedly moves to grab him–and then there’s the trademark Jane grin. He’s only messing with her.
Watch The Mentalist on CBS, Thursday nights at 10/9c.
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PHOTO: Simon Baker as Patrick Jane, The Mentalist “Throwing Fire” screencap, c2009 Primrose Hill Productions, Warner Bros. Television, CBS.