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TV Recap: Lie To Me‘s “Undercover”

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This week’s Lie To Me, "Undercover," has two main themes: the boundaries between the Lightman Group members and the difficulty in balancing the needs of the individual over those of the group. I had a little difficulty swallowing the scheme Lightman cooked up for his staff this week, and I found the discussion on rights just a touch didactic. Overall the episode was solid, if a bit uninspired. Sadly, Cal’s ex-wife Zoe did not make an appearance this week, so we’re still waiting to see the fallout from that particular piece of boundary crossing.

The A story this week is an investigation by Cal and Gillian into whether the shooting of a black teenage boy, Andre, by policeman Adam Duke (Marty Papazian) was justified. Duke says he only shot after Andre pulled a gun and his partner Kuransky (Currie Graham) says he found a gun by the boy’s injured body after he fell from a roof. The black community is very suspicious about the gun and accuse the police of shooting Andre in cold blood. The mayor’s office wants answers and wants them fast, before the city explodes in violence.

Lightman and Foster discuss the caseCal and Gillian are willing to try and stop that violence, but soon find a puzzling conundrum: both policemen tell the same story, but Duke is telling the truth and Kuransky is lying. Adding to the puzzle, Foster notices in old police interview tapes that Kuransky has been lying for years. She wonders if he’s got post-traumatic stress disorder, but the answer lies down another path. Cal learns Kuransky is an FBI mole when the FBI pull him in to warn him off the case. Lightman is less than impressed with being leaned on by the feds, giving us another glimpse into his murky history as we learn he’s had access to top secret information at the CIA in the past.

Lightman learns Kuransky found a sleeper cell of Al Qaeda terrorists in the police force, planning a major attack soon. Duke is part of the cell and about to tell his partner the names of the other members. The FBI want Cal to stop looking into the shooting, allowing young Andre to go to jail on Kuransky’s word, so the terrorist investigation will not be compromised. They too want to stop the city from exploding in violence, and in their view, the rights of the group override the rights of the individual. Cal is not so easily convinced.

He and Foster have a talk that strays ever so slightly into the didactic as Cal argues that Kuransky is lying about the case and Foster says that given her husband was in the Pentagon on 9/11, she doesn’t want to impede the FBI from doing its job, whether the cop is lying or not. She also suggests Kuransky may appear to be lying because he’s been undercover so long, he’s become dissociative and stressed.

Cal decides to check the validity of the terror threat with Fletcher, a pal from his CIA days. I was delighted to see Fletcher is played by Kevin Tighe of Emergency, for those in the age bracket to remember that series. He confirms the CIA believes the threat to be real and asks Cal to let the case go. But Cal has an issue with allowing innocent young boys to go to jail on his watch. He tells Foster there will be complicating factors on many of their cases and they have to decide if the threat of group violence overrides Andre’s right to freedom. The topic of civil rights versus national security has been hot since the events of 9/11; I just wish the conversations discussing it felt a little more natural and less like a speech.

Lightman and Foster decide Andre’s rights are their priority, so they tell the police investigation Andre was telling the truth about having no gun. Something about Kuransky’s tale still bothers Cal, though, and he finally pinpoints what’s troubling him: if Duke has been undercover as an Al Qaeda agent for years, he too should show signs of dissociation and stress. But he doesn’t. Why?

Cal realises Kuransky is a rogue agent, lying to his bosses about Duke. A dig into the agent’s past reveals why. His military daughter was killed by friendly fire, which was covered up by the government. Kuransky has no doubt on where he stands on the rights of the individual versus the state. He cannot forgive the government for lying about his daughter’s death. Kuransky feels his daughter was owed the truth, ironically a feeling Cal shares, both about the daughter and about Andre.

However, the show stops short of really testing the tension between the rights of the individual and the state by having Cal’s commitment to the individual result in the exposure of the real terrorist cell, so everyone ends up safer. The letting go of the tension in some ways is a shame, as the issue is very real and hard to balance. Lie To Me occasionally suffers from being just a little predictable and the writers have to find ways to keep the dramatic tension high.

The B story had a few issues of its own. It picks up Loker’s lie in "Depraved Heart" to Foster on whether he exposed the Ponzi scheme to the authorities. Loker dragged Torres into his lie and now both of them have to worry about Lightman realising their part in the investors losing millions so the guilty woman could be prosecuted. Torres’ boyfriend, Dupree, tells her in his opinion, friends do not drag friends into their messes, and if they have to lie to keep their secrets, they do so alone. Torres asks whether that means he keeps secrets from her, and Dupree laughs that of course he has big secrets because he is a very good friend, which sounds like foreshadowing to me.

Torres and Loker have to define their boundaries as they both face an inquiry on whether they took part in the leaked information. To Loker’s relief, Torres is a stand-up girl, leading him to call her “good people” to Dupree. Dupree smacks him down by reminding him he is an Ivy League guy, with lots of support, while Torres will be without any resources if she’s fired. Loker is left to ponder how ruthlessly he involved Torres in his lie, while I wondered how Loker’s rich background fits into his hatred of rich folks getting away with crime.

Loker soon learns that Lightman didn’t have to ponder on what happened with the Ponzi scheme at all. He knew immediately that Loker was the whistle blower and that he told Torres. When Loker confesses all, he realises the whole inquiry was just Lightman testing Torres’ loyalty to the group. Loker is taken aback at how ruthlessly Cal is treating Torres, but Lightman deals him an even harder blow, as he reduces him to the level of unpaid intern if he wants to stay working at the Lightman Group.

I was a little taken aback at how easily Torres and Loker are fooled by Wexler the fake investigator. I know they both are focusing of lying rather than detecting, and they are scared, but it feels a little odd these lie detecting marvels don’t suspect a thing when they are interrogated by a fake. I can only assume Cal found the world’s best liar for his scheme.

Cal’s own boundary issues come under the microscope, as we get more information on Foster’s cheating husband. Cal decides he won’t just stand idly by while Gillian’s husband cheats under her nose. He “accidentally” arranges to meet the woman in question, embarrassing Alec Foster. Later he sees Gillian hugging the same woman. When he asks who she is, Foster fobs him off, saying she’s an acquaintance. In the episode’s final scene, Gillian admits to Cal she was lying. The mysterious woman is Alec’s sponsor to help him get off cocaine and Gillian knows all about her.

Gently, she tells Cal that his desire to protect her is sweet, but it really is important for the two of them to respect the boundaries they have in place about acting on what they think they know about each other. I wondered whether that applied last week, when Foster had no compunction in telling Cal what to do about Zoe, but Cal doesn’t bring that up. Instead, we follow him walking alone out of the building, to … Zoe, perhaps? With all this focus on boundary breaking, Zoe must be somewhere in the vicinity!

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About Gerry Weaver

  • http://pwinn.tumblr.com/ Phillip Winn

    Cal’s comment in the last second of the show sounded odd to me, so I rewound: definitely dubbed in. Not because that’s not what he said the first time, but because they wanted it to be more clear, no room for confusion. Interesting.

  • http://pwinn.tumblr.com/ Phillip Winn

    Oh, also, it’s possible that the investigator didn’t know he was being used, and was honestly trying to find the leak.

  • Gerry

    Hi Phillip, thanks for dropping in! I guess it is possible the investigator thought he was conducting a real inquiry, but I don’t know that it makes sense to me that Cal would risk the agency’s well being to conduct a test on Torres. What if she had folded? Once Cal sets a real inquiry in motion, he can’t just stop it when he wants. It would be out of his hands. My impression was he set the whole thing up himself.

    I think you picked up on a very interesting point with that “Night, love.” It does suggest that there’s more to come with the relationships among Cal, Foster, Alec and Zoe. Zoe clearly resented Foster’s interference last week. Foster resented Cal’s this week, though resentment may be too strong a term–she appreciated the sentiment, leading me to wonder just exactly what the sentiment is. And I also wondered if Foster is still fooling herself to some extent, and Cal knows that but will back away at her request. We had a lot of scenes with Alec lying and I may be wrong but I think at least one of them was to Foster with no one else around. Why use code words when they are alone? That use of “love’ by Cal does suggest complications will be ensuing.

  • http://www.lietomescoop.com Kate

    “Zoe clearly resented Foster’s interference last week. Foster resented Cal’s this week, though resentment may be too strong a term–she appreciated the sentiment, leading me to wonder just exactly what the sentiment is. And I also wondered if Foster is still fooling herself to some extent, and Cal knows that but will back away at her request. We had a lot of scenes with Alec lying and I may be wrong but I think at least one of them was to Foster with no one else around. Why use code words when they are alone?”

    Apparently eps 10 and 11 were swapped, which means originally this was to air before Zoe was introduced. If it had been that way, it may have been even more puzzling for Gillian to tell Cal to stay out of her life, while getting involved in his.

    As for whether she’s fooling herself: it’s possible. Or, maybe she does know something but just doesn’t want Cal getting involved. It did seem like he sensed there was something more going on. (Something she was trying to “hide”.) And you bring up a good point about Alec lying to her when no one else was around. (I think there may have been a scene or two in “Love Always” where that happened. Though, now I’m not sure if they’re saying he was using at that time, and maybe that’s why he was acting strange.??)

    Anyways, good recaps! :)