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TV Review: Lie To Me – “Control Factor”

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This week’s Lie To Me continues to develop the show’s re-focused vision on the character relationships and on Cal Lightman in particular. As the title suggests, control is very much on the characters’ minds, with a side helping of trust, as Lightman reluctantly heads to Mexico for a holiday and Foster reluctantly works with an old protégé of Cal’s.

Cal’s ability to trust and give over control is stretched to the limit as Emily demands to be taken seriously while working on a case with her dad and his former, possibly sleazy, protégé impresses the heck out of his current staff. For the most part, the episode works very well, though I had a couple of quibbles in both the A and B stories. Nevertheless, new show runner Ryan’s tweaks are serving the show nicely, and I expect the emphasis on the character drama will continue to build my interest now that a couple of longer term arcs are being set up.

The episode opens with Foster in a very wifely manner trying to hustle Lightman out the door to go on vacation to Mexico with Emily. She accuses him of not trusting his staff to do their jobs without him. Lightman protests he has absolute faith in his staff, but convinces no one, as he usually keeps a very tight grip on the reins of the Lightman Group. Whether Cal has enough trust to allow other people control in what he considers his domain, professional or personal, is the dominant thread tying the two cases this week together.

Cal and Emily have a gentleman’s agreement while in Mexico that Cal will treat Emily like a grown-up if she behaves. I always like episodes that feature Emily, as I think Hayley McFarland has wonderful chemistry with Tim Roth. As we saw last week, Cal is having some difficulty accepting his daughter’s growing independence and his daughter is not slow to point out he doesn’t find it easy to trust her. Their shared vacation forces them to confront again where the lines of trust and control are between father and daughter.

Lightman and Emily on vacationTo begin with, Lightman’s control issues are centered on his office — despite his assurances to Foster about trust, he’s set up his computer to monitor The Lightman Group via webcam. Emily chides him for not letting go of work — until a man from the American Embassy shows up to ask Cal to help track down a missing woman whose 12-year old-daughter is now alone in the resort. Emily is immediately drawn in, empathizing with the young girl and sure her dad can solve the case. She pushes Cal, who doesn't need a particularly hard shove, to get involved. And since they are on vacation together, that means she gets involved, too, which initially doesn’t bother her dad as much as I thought it might — and perhaps should.

Neither the local police nor the US State Department are following up on the missing woman, as the story around her disappearance is that she was seen first shooting up in a bathroom and then flirting with a number of men at a hotel and leaving with one. However, her young daughter, Tyler, tells Cal she set up an Internet date for her mother and she was supposed to meet the man for dinner the evening she disappeared. She gives Cal the photo from the dating site and tells him her mom is a great mom. Emily throws herself into the case, insisting that she and Cal go to the police and help Tyler find her mom.

Cal actually takes his daughter down to the police station, despite the reservations he must have about why exactly no one wants to act on the case. Given that his answer is pressure from drug cartels, I’m not sure why he’s so willing to have his daughter talking first to the police, who warn him off, and next to the bartender who supposedly saw Marla, the missing woman, leave the hotel. To my relief, he decides he needs to ask Torres down to act as bait for whomever is snatching women, and takes Emily back to their hotel to look after Tyler. Woven throughout these scenes is Emily’s absolute faith in her father, trusting that he will find Marla.

Torres also finds she needs to trust Cal, as she asks Cal, “So, you’re setting me up on a blind date with a potential murderer?” Cal’s plan is to have Torres go out with Mr. Internet Date to see if he killed Marla. He fails to mention to Torres he put down enjoying dirty limericks on her internet profile. She doesn’t fail to mention to Lightman that a man named Jack Rader is helping Foster on her case. It seems this Rader is a blast from Lightman’s past and not a welcome one.

Lightman demands Torres tell him anything she picks up on Rader from the rest of the Lightman Group — he himself can’t just ask, of course, as he is supposed to be trusting his staff. The control issue gets an airing as well, when Torres gives her opinion that ratting on the staff is overkill. Cal dismisses her by telling her he’s not interested in her opinions, thus showing exactly why he may need to worry about a rival scoping out his company.

He doesn’t handle his daughter much better when he returns to the hotel to find her chatting up Mr. Internet Date at the poolside. With a roar of rage, Lightman first chases off his suspect and then chastises his daughter for acting like Nancy Drew in dangerous circumstances. Cal doesn’t seem to remember he allowed his daughter to act like Nancy Drew earlier, albeit with him present, which for Cal makes all the difference. Emily, however, is outraged at being yelled at for helping and stalks off. Torres opens her mouth to comment and Cal stops her with a simple “Don’t.” He doesn’t need a natural to point out he handled the scene badly.

Cal sends Torres on her limerick heavy date and she dismisses Internet Date as a murder suspect, if not of serial cheating and bad poetry. The night is far from over, though, as a man following Cal threatens to hurt Emily if he doesn’t drop the case. Cal takes his photo to discourage him, which seems a little optimistic to me, given that the issue with Marla’s case is no one is willing to investigate it. Cal isn’t sure whether the guy was sent by the drug cartels or the police or both, so he pays a visit to the police detective in charge of the non-case.

The detective, it turns out, is a good guy with his hands tied by nasty politics, and after Cal helps him with another case, he offers Cal a lead: the names of a couple with whom Marla was seen chatting. The couple is innocent of any wrong doing with Marla, but interestingly to Lightman, are in Mexico to pick up frozen embryos from anonymously donated eggs they purchased. Cal senses they’re finally getting close to an answer.

A visit to the fertility clinic reveals the mystery: the program is actually a scam where parents are told they can pick the description of an anonymous egg donor, only to receive eggs from whatever young woman the clinic can bribe into coming to Mexico to be the donor, which is exactly what Marla did. Unfortunately, the clinic’s doctor is not actually a doctor, and the egg extraction went horribly wrong, leaving Marla at death’s door.

Cal cracks the case, keeping his daughter’s faith in his ability to solve all. In a lovely scene, the two try to define a line of trust they can both live with: Cal argues that as a parent he reserves the right to be suspicious and overprotective, while Emily reserves the right to throw tantrums and spend all his money. From their smiles, they both acknowledge the love that helps smooth over the lapses in judgment.

Torres’ ability as a natural has more than one chance to shine in Mexico. She’s also able to catch a look of jealousy on her boss’s face when she mentions Fosters seems to be gaga over this Jack Rader character. Lightman is none too happy about Torres’s catch or Jack Rader and he tracks the progress of Foster’s case and Rader’s actions on his laptop. I thought this device was very effective in keeping Lightman involved in both the A and B stories, something that is crucial to keeping both cases interesting.

Foster is handling a case involving tainted blood being distributed to hospitals, and this part of the story works mainly to introduce a nemesis arc for Lightman. The CDC representative who calls Foster in to help figure out if any of the potential suspects are lying also calls in Jack Rader — a former protégé of Lightman’s who now seems much more of a rival. Rader is charming and skilled and devious — a chip off the ol’ block, except Cal thinks he’s a media whore with no morals.

Lightman follows the progress of the case on his webcam and interferes where he can, as when he sets off the sprinklers in the building to stop Rader from talking to a reporter about the case prematurely. Foster has her own suspicions about Rader and in a staged argument for a suspect’s benefit, the two nevertheless square off for real, with Foster telling Rader she is in charge of the case and won’t brook his interference to get back at Cal. Rader responds by telling Gillian he thinks they share an attraction — and the charged air doesn’t contradict him.

Agent Reynolds’ assessment of Rader isn’t far off from Cal’s — sneaky media hound — but Cal’s rival impresses Foster and Loker with his know-how as he and Foster eliminate suspects and finally end up with two lab techs who don’t seem to be lying about interfering with blood supplies, but do seem to be anxious. Foster nails the case when she realises the two men have an illicit drug lab within the larger drug lab and their product laced blood bags were accidentally mixed up with legitimate blood deliveries to hospitals.

The real thrust of the story, though, is on trust and control: Foster’s suspicion that Cal won’t be able to trust them to do their jobs without him is echoed by Rader, who says that’s why he left Lightman. He’s able to tempt Foster to view him as a potential suitor and Loker to view him as a potential employer, both of which Lightman regards as betrayals, though he’s careful in how he handles Foster. Rader may not trust Lightman to dispense praise where needed, but Lightman doesn’t trust his former employee not to steal his research, poach his employees or raid the supply cabinet. And given that we witnessed the poaching in action, Cal’s suspicions seem to be more than jealousy, though there does seem to be some of that, too.

I'm looking forward to seeing how Lightman handles this apparent threat to his domain. Hopefully, this will be an arc which will have repercussions for everyone at the Lightman Group, as we need to tie the cases and the relationships together in a tangled knot. I’m liking what I’ve seen so far.

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