Strawberries and Cream (The Mentalist)
|"Strawberries and Cream"|
|The Mentalist episode|
|Directed by||Chris Long|
Ashley Gable (Part I)|
Bruno Heller (Part II)
|Original air date||May 19, 2011|
"Strawberries and Cream" is the two-part season finale of the third season of The Mentalist. Together they make up the 23rd and 24th episodes of the season and the 69th and 70th episodes of the series overall. Part one was written by executive producer Ashley Gable and part two was written by series creator and executive producer Bruno Heller. Both parts were directed by executive producer Chris Long and premiered on May 19, 2011 on CBS.
In the episode, Patrick Jane and the CBI unit investigate a seemingly unsuccessful attempt at a gas station bombing. When it becomes clear that Jane's arch nemesis, the serial killer Red John, is involved, Jane and Lisbon reveal that there is a mole within the CBI working for Red John and that their ex-boss Madeline Hightower, now in hiding, is innocent of a murder. While Rigsby, Cho and Van Pelt attempt to protect Hightower long enough for her to turn herself in, Jane executes an elaborate scheme that could expose Red John's mole and potentially draw out the notorious murderer himself.
The episode begins with a man (Jesse Lee Soffer) stopping his car at JD's Gas & Go Food Mart in Sacramento looking extremely nervous. He approaches the station's attendant, Gupta (Ravi Kapoor), but is spotted by two police officers. The man reveals that he is strapped to a bomb, which detonates in the ensuing standoff. The investigation by the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI) reveals the man, identified as Alan Dinkler, was coerced (with the bomb strapped onto him) into robbing his employers, a Cash In Motion store, of $50,000.
Jane (Simon Baker) deduces that the stolen cash was a ruse to hide the real item of interest that was stolen – CDs which contained client transaction records. When Lisbon (Robin Tunney) and Jane check out the gas station, the station attendant Gupta claims Dinkler was trying to get to the bathroom. They enter the bathroom, and find a code "AD-297A6 WINDSOR", which they guess is a location.
Lisbon pursues the possible locations that the code may point to. She ends up at Windsor High School. Jane follows her there, only to find her strapped to a bomb. She receives a call from a person speaking through a voice changer which instructs her to obtain the stolen CDs from the CBI headquarters and deliver it to him. Jane drives Lisbon, but they go to the gas station, and find the person behind the set-up to be Gupta. After a standoff, Jane disarms Gupta from the bomb trigger and the CBI arrives to arrest him. However, he somehow manages to free himself from his handcuffs in the car and attempts to flee, which forces LaRoche (Pruitt Taylor Vince) to shoot and kill him.
It is later revealed that Jane figured out that the code in the bathroom was a fake since the bomber could have directed the person with the bomb strapped on to his/her body by speaking on the phone. Dinkler arrived at the gas station to deliver the CDs to Gupta, but the plan went awry when the police arrived and Gupta was forced to set off the bomb. With the CDs ending up as evidence kept by the CBI, Gupta then set up a trap to get a CBI agent to retrieve the CDs for him.
One of the clients on the list in the CD, Max James, was found murdered just hours prior. While searching James' house, the agents deduce that he was tortured to death by Gupta before the Dinkler incident, who wanted information from him. They find out that James was related to Madeleine Hightower, which immediately alerts Jane that Red John was behind everything, and is hunting Hightower.
Jane returns to his motel room where he has been staying and Hightower (Aunjanue Ellis) seeks him out.
Hightower reveals that James was her cousin who had been sending her money (which explains why Red John was after the transaction records). She fears for her own safety, and has decided to turn herself in. Jane asks her to give him two days. He enlists the help of Lisbon, Rigsby (Owain Yeoman), Cho (Tim Kang) and Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti) in a scheme to find Red John's mole in the CBI.
He manages to extract the list of suspects of the Todd Johnson murder case from LaRoche through a bluff. They are: Brenda Shettrick (Rebecca Wisocky), CBI media relations; Osvaldo 'Oscar' Ardiles (David Norona), Assistant District Attorney; Gale Bertram (Michael Gaston), CBI director; and Craig O'Laughlin (Eric Winter) of the FBI. Jane also suspects LaRoche. In an elaborate canary trap scheme, the agents inform the suspects about the location of Hightower. Each suspect is led to believe Hightower is in a different room at the Pacific Palms Hotel. They install cameras in each room, and whichever room the assassin sent by Red John enters would tell them which suspect is the mole.
The plan works, they catch an assassin on camera inside the room designated to Bertram (605). As the assassin readies her kill tools, including a rope, and weights, Rigsby and Cho bust into the room, only for the assassin to jump off the building, killing herself.
The following day, Van Pelt invites O'Laughlin to accompany her to protect Hightower, taking over from Lisbon. Meanwhile, Jane invites Bertram out to the mall under the pretense of meeting Hightower to discuss turning herself in, hoping to lure out Red John. When Hightower doesn't show up, Bertram gets irritated and suggests Jane has "reached the end of his rope," which prompts Jane to realize that the assassin in the hotel was using the rope to climb down to room 505 – O'Laughlin's room.
O'Laughlin and Van Pelt arrive at Hightower's hideout. Jane tries to warn Lisbon, but it's too late. O'Laughlin enters Hightower's house and shoots Lisbon, who's wearing protective gear. Lisbon recovers and distracts O'Laughlin, who is then shot and killed by Hightower and Van Pelt.
Jane instructs Lisbon to hit redial on O'Laughlin's cellphone and tell the person who answers that O'Laughlin is dead. When Lisbon dials, the phone belonging to a person reading a newspaper (Timothy Carter) sitting near Jane rings and the person picks up, answering: "Never mind. You win some, you lose some, I guess." Lisbon confirms this is what she hears, and Jane realizes the man is Red John. He confronts him. The two converse, with Red John pointing a concealed gun at Jane. As he is about to leave, Red John reveals unpublished knowledge about the murder of Jane's family. Jane then kills Red John with a gun hidden in his pocket.
The episode ends with Jane casually going back to finish his tea, before surrendering to armed security officers who rush to the scene.
"Strawberries and Cream (Part 1)" was written by Ashley Gable and part two was written by Bruno Heller. The first part was Gable's ninth episode for the series, while the second was Heller's twelfth. It was also the twelfth and thirteenth episodes for director Chris Long.
Speculation about the ending
Since the finale aired, fans and television critics alike have speculated as to whether or not Timothy Carter really was Red John. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, creator Bruno Heller further added to the speculation by saying, "Jane wanted to know if this was Red John or not. And the guy gave him proof that he was. The question remains: Was that Red John? The larger question is: How does Jane get away with murder?" Heller went on to say, "What you get from that scene is what you should get. The viewer is supposed to be convinced. Patrick Jane is certain it's Red John... Thing is, Red John is a master of the mind game. If Red John wanted to die, maybe this is how he wanted to die. Or maybe he just wants Jane to think he's dead." When asked whether or not this meant the end of the Red John storyline, Heller simply said, "Well, look at it this way. If you... killed your worst enemy, would that be the end of the story? No. It would be the beginning of a whole different story."
The episode was met with very positive reviews. Christine Orlando from TV Fanatic awarded the episode 4.8 stars out of five, saying in her introduction: "Wow! The Mentalist season finale gave us some serious closure on Red John with twists, turns—and an ending I didn't see coming..." She called the opening scene "terrifying" and appreciated a scene in which Lisbon prays, saying "I liked that Lisbon's Catholicism was brought into play... it was nice to see Jane take control in those moments, letting her know she wasn't alone." In his review, Jeff Jensen from Entertainment Weekly called the final scene "game changing" and "epic", particularly praising Bradley Whitford's performance as "scary-good" and going on to say, "When Whitford put on the creepy high voice that Red John has used to speak with Patrick in the past, I was chilled. And sold."
Upon its original broadcast, "Strawberries and Cream" garnered 14.11 million viewers and a 2.8/7 ratings share in adults aged 18–49. This is down slightly from the 15.22 million viewers and the 3.2 ratings share achieved by "Red Sky in the Morning", the second season finale. "Strawberries and Cream" was the seventh most watched program of the week.
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- Jensen, Jeff (May 20, 2011). "'The Mentalist' finale: Red John revealed! But do you believe it?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 2, 2011.
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