Tonight on The Mentalist, “Red Herring”, we begin with a $100,000 Best Chef competition at the Westing Resort. We see Chef Jeffrey Barge in the kitchen with his sous-chef Eliza. Jeffrey is barking out orders as the staff gets his meal presentation in order. Jeff is sweating profusely and drinking a lot of water. When he goes out to the judging panel and audience to discuss his creations, he suddenly collapses. We see his blurry view of the world as people crowd around him, calling for a doctor.
Next up the CBI are at the scene, so we know Jeff didn’t survive. Though it’s not yet determined to be a murder, one of the competing chefs is the daughter of a senator, and several high-powered phone calls means Lisbon is on the case. The team talks first with the event coordinator Duesterberg, who had earlier gotten into a fistfight with the victim. The fight was over missing truffles, a $1000 ingredient Jeff had paid for himself and wanted Duesterberg to replace. Duesterberg referred to Jeff as a “genius” and said the fight was “an accident”.
Scoffing at the genius remark, Jane takes a bite of the dead chef’s work and proclaims it too salty. He checks with the coroner, who’s examining the body, and gets him to look inside the victim’s mouth. There are definite signs of poison. “Bad tasting food, bad taste buds,” Jane explains.
Rigsby, who had also been eating the event food, looks ill as he puts his plate down. Chef Jeff died from ricin poisoning, however, which takes several hours to manifest. Lisbon orders the team to look into what Jeff may have eaten before the competition and check for the poison.
Cho talks with the other chefs in the competition, trying to find out who may have wanted Jeff dead. The chefs start to turn on one another, and eventually Cho discovers that Chef Ludo stole Jeff’s pricey truffles. “I didn’t steal them,” Ludo protests. “I rescued them from a terrible fate.”
Lisbon and Jane talk with the victim’s wife, Abigail. Turns out the two have been separated for some time, and she claims not to have seen him for months, due to his drinking problem. The victim’s brother Kevin interrupts the interview to tell the detectives that Abigail is a scheming liar. He says that Jeffrey had started a program and been sober for 2 weeks. Jane surmises that Kevin is angry because Abigail inherited the business and the money.
Abigail then confesses that Jeff called her at 12:30am to apologize, but she didn’t listen and hung up.
We next join Rigsby and Jane in Jeff’s hotel room at the site of the contest, and it looks like it’s been ransacked. Rigsby thinks someone’s been looking for something, but Jane guesses that Jeff did it himself. He notes the closed drawers and the punched mirror and thinks Jeff had a bout of self-loathing. Coupled with his recent aggressive behavior at work and then tearful calls to his wife, Jane thinks it indicates a relapse. He checks the apartment for hidden alcohol and discovers a bottle of gin in the toilet tank. Rigsby tests it and finds it positive for ricin.
The team gathers the chefs together and Jane accuses Ludo of spiking the gin. He protests, and then Jane calls out the tattooed chef Hannah. Apparently she looked the most relieved when he accused Ludo. Under interrogation, Hannah confesses that she bought the gin in an effort to get Jeff drunk, so he would lose the competition. She insists that she didn’t have anything to do with the poison.