Home / TV Recap: Lie To Me‘s “Depraved Heart” Looks At The Lies We Tell Out Of Love

TV Recap: Lie To Me‘s “Depraved Heart” Looks At The Lies We Tell Out Of Love

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With "Depraved Heart," Lie To Me really hits its stride, answering my questions on how the writers would make two cases interesting when only one involves Lightman. The solution: explore and complicate the relationships among the team, so that scenes from one case resonate with the other. This week, the spotlight is on families and the lies we tell to protect them. In particular, the writers pick up Torres’ question to Lightman in "Unchained": "Who made you what you are?"

The episode opens with Lightman and his daughter Emily having a father/daughter talk in the car on the way to school. Or rather, Emily is trying to give her father advice on letting go of the past and moving on in his romantic life, and Lightman is deflecting. One of the joys of the series is the way the writers showed lie detection techniques such as spotting deflection so thoroughly in the initial episodes they can now depend on the audience to pick up the clues in people’s faces and voices. I was worried the show would go over the same ground , but instead the writers assume we were paying attention.

Lightman is so anxious not to have this conversation with his daughter he jumps from the car, which is stalled in some kind of traffic jam, to find out what’s happening. The policeman’s evasive answers ignite his suspicions and he soon realises he’s at the scene of a suicide. Cal spots a woman from the US Attorney’s office who used to work with his ex-wife and disregards the tension between them to push for details. The investigator admits that surprisingly this woman of Indian background had a sister who jumped to her death from the same bridge two days earlier, but warns Lightman there is no reason for him to get involved.

Tim Roth as Cal LightmanLightman is determined he will get involved, and we get our first hint there is an important back story here when Emily asks, “Didn’t you used to study suicides?” Her father’s quietly delivered “Still do” signals that whatever interest he has in suicides is not confined to the past. It also resonates with Emily’s suggestion in the car that Cal is stuck in his past and it’s time for him to move forward. But what is he stuck on and why?

Lightman’s fixation with the suicides is so apparent even a policeman remarks, "I don’t know why you’re so interested, Cal." But he helps Lightman interview the dead girls' brother, Arun, and their mother, anyway. The interview doesn’t reveal much about the circumstances of the suicides, but it does frame Cal’s interest in the case. The girls’ mother tearfully asks why her daughters would take their lives without reason — and Lightman promises that if there is a reason, he will find it.

That scene segues into Lightman alone in his office watching an old film tape of a woman telling someone off camera how fine she feels and how much she wants to be able to go home for the weekend visit to her family. It’s clear she’s a patient of some kind talking to her psychiatrist or psychologist. It’s also clear Lightman is disquieted by this tape, lost in thoughts that do not give off happy vibes. The scene reflects the end scene of "Unchained," where Torres is lost in unhappy thoughts as she gazes at a picture of her family. In that scene, Lightman walked in and began to analyze her feelings, letting her know her unhappy childhood with a violent father made her a natural lie detector. This time around, Torres walks in on Lightman. She makes what she thinks is a simple remark about the lady on film seeming very sad. Lightman’s quiet response of “Yeah,” along with his quick shutting off the projector, alerts her that her boss’s emotions are involved. Being Torres, she’s determined to know more.

She realises she’ll not get anything more about the film tape from Lightman, so she shifts to her other pressing question: why are they investigating a suicide? Cal’s answer is the same one he offered to the dead girls’ mother — he needs to find the reason. After noting shame on both girls’ faces, he finds a connection to the US Immigration Office. The Immigration officer who dealt with the girls’ visas is abrupt and rude with Lightman and Torres — and he’s lying. Cal shows how ruthless he can be as he threatens to phone the officer’s wife to say her husband is having an affair. The man protests his innocence and Cal agrees, but says his wife will never look at him the same again anyway. The Immigration official breaks and says he knows the two girls stripped at an Indian themed strip club, and he was lying before because he’d been there during work hours.

Cal soon tracks down the club and discovers the two girls had been secretly filmed for a pornographic live feed to India without their permission and their brother had been furious when he found out. He tackles Arun again, suggesting he had been so angry he’d driven his sisters to suicide. The brother admits that he did react angrily, but his sisters were the joy of his father’s life when he was alive, and when Arun prayed for guidance, he realised he needed to make peace and bring them back to the family. Acting as an extension of his father, he wanted to protect them. On that note, Torres lets Cal know a third Indian girl just committed suicide by jumping in front of a train.

Lightman’s reaction is to set his team to work on finding out connections and yelling for Foster. Thus far, Lightman and Foster’s relationship has been close and supportive. They clearly go back a long way and they both know a lot of each other’s secrets. Foster has had a very serene presence, even when dealing with the pain of losing her adopted baby. This episode has some suggestive scenes of the deep waters under both exteriors. We’ve never heard Cal call for Foster with quite this kind of faintly angry urgency as he says, “Where the hell is she, anyway?”

This complication in office relationships is picked up in the B story with Foster and Loker and for a similar reason. Like Lightman, Loker’s attitude to the case reveals he has some kind of personal issue with it. He is very angry at the idea of wealthy people being allowed to rip off poor people. The two team members are trying to uncover where Joseph Hollin (Daniel Benzali in a very strong performance) has hidden assets he got in an investment scam. Hollin, who is dying of cancer, denies having hidden money, and his daughter is furious at what she sees as the harassment of her father. She bitterly says, “One man makes a mistake. Now it’s going to haunt our family forever.” The line resonates with what is going with Lightman’s case, as something is clearly haunting him.

Loker is furious at the daughter’s attitude, to the point Foster refuses to allow him to join her in questioning the daughter. We realise that the two colleagues have very different aims in the case. Foster wants to recover the money so the investors don’t lose their pensions. Loker wants the wealthy crook to have to pay for the crime. The two soon realise that the crux of the case is the father’s desire to protect his daughter. He isn’t the crook, she is, and he’s taking the fall. Foster tells him she knows “the worst lies we tell out of love. But I’d want my family to learn from their mistake.” Hollin offers her a deal where he will convince his daughter to tell him where everything is so he can give it up to the investigator, but she agrees to keep his daughter out of it and let him take the blame. To Foster, this is an acceptable compromise that gives the cheated investors the best outcome. To Loker, it is a cop out that allows rich people to think they are above the law. The tension between the two is palpable.

The tension comes to the fore when Foster gets a call from the investigators telling her she’s no longer needed on the case because they know the daughter was the real crook and they’re arresting her. In vain, Foster says Hollin was ready to give up the money, so the investors wouldn’t lose everything. It’s too late — the criminal charges will be filed. For the first time, we see the steel behind Foster’s velvet glove as she realises that Loker is the most likely leak of the daughter’s guilt.

Foster calls Loker to her office for a confrontation — one Loker appears to pass. But the ambiguity of their science is illustrated as Loker plaintively responds to Foster’s “okay” with “Okay you believe me or okay I’m not showing any signs of lying?” Sure enough, Loker drags Torres into an office and to her horror confesses he was indeed the source of the leak. He took a sedative to fool Foster. Ironically, the guy in the office who swore never to lie is now up to his neck in a huge deception. Torres wants to know why Loker had to tell her, and he says it’s because she’s the only one he trusts. She has a unique presence in the office, partly because she’s new and partly because she’s a natural, a background that seems to be a little disturbing to her co-workers, perhaps most particularly Lightman.

Lightman’s reaction to Torres’ natural ability has been a continuing theme since she was hired. He’s been mentoring her, but at the same time, a little touchy about her natural ability vs his learned skills. His poking at her background as he tries to understand her natural ability has had a side effect he’s not that happy with — Torres is now equally interested in why Lightman studied lie detection. The suicide case raises questions in her mind about the nature of Lightman’s interest, and Loker tells her Cal has been obsessed with the woman on tape — Louise Mason — for years. Loker thinks the woman was a patient of Cal’s professor in his university days and she was the reason Lightman discovered micro-expressions. The woman passed her interview based on this tape, but killed herself over the weekend. Lightman had the idea to slow down the tape and when he did, he noticed the signs of agony everyone had missed in real life. Unfortunately, it was too late for Louise. Torres immediately suspects that Louise was not just any patient. She knows Lightman had to have some connection to her.

Foster already knows Lightman is very personally involved in this case. When she is able to connect with him back at the office, he tells her with a hint of reproach he could have used her a couple of hours earlier. Foster asks if she can speak with him in private, but Cal is having none of it and insists she talk to him in front of the staff. She finally asks him if he is all right and says she can delay working on her own case. She’s clearly worried about him, but Lightman will not let her in. However, when his daughter comes by with dinner for him and wants to talk about suicide, he is upset as tells her she shouldn’t be thinking of things like that. Given his own preoccupation, he seems to be trying to protect his own daughter, one of the themes of the episode. But from what? Foster gives us a clue when she tells Cal that no matter how many times he finds an answer for why someone committed suicide, nothing will change. And it will still not be his fault. Foster is sure Lightman is projecting his own guilt issues on the case, leaving us to wonder again: who is Louise Mason?

Torres is certainly wondering, and she tackles Foster, telling her she saw guilt on her boss’s face and wondering who Louise really was. Foster rather abruptly blocks her questions, telling her “just because you see everything doesn’t mean you understand it.” She is protecting Cal, but the question of understanding is taken up by Lightman later in the program. In Louise’s time, no one knew about micro-expressions, so trained researchers had no way to pick up on her despair. But Torres is not a trained researcher. Cal asks her if she can see the agony on Louise’s face and she admits she can. She says she’s sorry, and Lightman tells her never to be sorry for something she sees. Given that he is haunted by what he didn’t see, we see his logic. But we also see that Lightman is aware that a natural would have caught Louise’s agony even in her time period. This case helps reveal the source of Lightman’s tension over Torres’ natural abilities and his own trained skills.

Lightman eventually finds the connection among the three girls is that all three were working as surrogates in terrible exploitive underground conditions for the immigration official the team had previously talked to. Like Loker, he got away with his initial lie, in his case because he used part of the truth to obscure what he was withholding. In “Depraved Heart,” we get a glimpse into the limitations of Cal’s science, as well as its strengths. A lack of tells may only be because they are obscured, rather than not there.

The immigration official, like Hollin’s daughter, is determined to get away with his crime, and like Loker, Lightman is determined he will pay for it. If the U.S. attorney investigator can prove the immigration guy knew the third girl was going to commit suicide and did nothing, he can be charged with a “depraved heart” crime. Lightman again reveals just how far he will go to make this man pay as he pretends a friend of his is the dead girl’s father who knows that his daughter called the immigration guy shortly before she jumped. Cal pushes all the right buttons and the perpetrator cracks and admits she did call him. He feels no remorse at all and cannot believe he is being held responsible for the suicides even though he created the horrible conditions that led to them. The parallels between Cal’s attitude to this man and Loker’s attitude to Hollin’s daughter are clear and make judging Loker rather difficult. Both men have a private reason to react so strongly to the cases. The only one we figure out, however, is Lightman.

The case over, Lightman goes home to his daughter. He puts on the film of Louise Mason and asks Emily to watch. She does with a lighthearted quip about popcorn, but her father is very serious. In the next frame we realise why — Emily identifies the woman as her grandmother, Cal’s mother. Softly, her father says he has something to tell her. Continuing the theme of fathers protecting daughters, he decides that keeping the suicide a secret is actually not helping his daughter, and she will come into contact with the issue whether he likes it or not. Of course, it also helps the daughter understand the father, something Cal is less comfortable with. The closing scene, however, is of the two coming together and sharing something. Unlike the Hollins family, one mistake will not haunt this family forever.

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About Gerry Weaver

  • Clare

    Good review, Gerry. “Depraved Heart” was an especially interesting episode – and surprisingly, the first one that I really disliked so far. I guess it was the entire atmosphere of the whole hour. Lightman was aggravated and Foster was intolerant. There was an impatient feeling all around. And then: Loker lied! after being relentless with his personal prejudice in the case. Whoa. (Do you want to lose your job, Loker?!) I read comments from fans that showed disbelief and distaste at his unprofessional move. It was an extremely uncharacteristic action.

    I can’t quite pinpoint the exact part of the ep that didn’t make it great; it was definitely a collective thing. But the one point of great interest was Lightman’s mother. That told a lot and hopefully will tell more.

  • Clare

    And one thing I forgot: I was puzzled by the fact that there was no opening credits as there is with every show, every time. One can usually expect the opening theme/music, but in this case it was oddly missing. Not that it necessarily matters, just something that makes you think twice…

  • Gerry

    Thank you for the comment! Nice to have you stop by. What put you off the episode was what drew me in, I think. I liked that the relationships among the team are being complicated. I think Foster does a great earth mother, but it would be a pretty boring character if she has no issues of her own. I thought Loker was a very thinly drawn character until the episode, a bit one-note, so I was glad to see him get snared in a whopper of a lie. I don’t think it should be easy to live a life without lies. I’m not sure at this point we can really say what is uncharacteristic and what isn’t, because we’re just getting to know the characters. We know what they’ve told us, but we haven’t seen them reveal themselves through action for long enough yet. I think we got some nice shading to the characters last night. Are you curious about what Loker is going to do, now that he has to hide so much from Foster and Lightman?

    And yes, Lightman’s mother–that was an excellent twist to his story. No wonder he’s driven.

    Thanks again for the comment! Always nice to chat about Lie To Me.

  • Drama Minx

    i basically saw 2 parts of this episode when it was rerun on July 14, 09. I was simply blown away by the exchange between Torres and Lightman at the end. It was so fraught with tension as he stared at her, with an inscrutable expression- some heartbreak, some anger, I can see now- during that scene I actually held my breath. I coudln’t wait to see what would happen next.

    I thought it was sexual tension, since they stood so close. But after reading your epi recap, I see it was more of an intimacy issue: Cal didn’t expect this and is actually quite threatening to Cal, who can fool so many. This interpretation explains why when Torres came to stand so close to him, he pushed her away with three fingers to her chest. I mean, that was kind of agressive for a teacher to a student, esp a man to a woman.

    But I also think that he is starting to get a bit “into her”, which i don’t think he meant to happen. When you learn about a person, and their background, and they can read you and get inside not just your head but perhaps you heart, your relationship has take a turn. And it doesn’t hurt that she is young, gorgeous and intense, and he is tortured, charismatic and intense.

    I think the writers are setting the stage next season for some sort of climactic exchange between these two around their unwilling but increasing bond!