“Exposed,” this week’s installment of Lie To Me, is a corker, with a taut plot, excellent guest stars, and interesting revelations about Lightman. Cal is forced to reveal some secrets and finds that once the safe door is cracked, it’s not so easy to lock it up again.
The show opens with Cal snooping on Foster and Burns in a diner, where Cal divides his glares between the pretentious skimpy entrees and Gillian’s boyfriend. Gillian tries to remind him of their boundaries, but Cal brushes her off with “What, me? Pry? On you?” and then proceeds to ask her if she’s keeping a secret for Burns, because he can tell something is being hidden. Burns is trying to handle a phone call from work, but he returns to the table to try and take the wind out of Cal’s sails by admitting he is a DEA agent and the lies he has to tell as part of his job are what Cal is sensing.
One of the themes of the show is that Lightman’s abilities leave him with trust issues and his personality drives him to ferret out every secret he senses. Cal gives both of these characteristics full rein as he disregards his partner’s hints that he’s overstepping his boundaries and keeps up his snooping on Burns, dragging Reynolds into his schemes to learn more about the man in Gillian’s life. The question, of course, is why, though Cal gets to dodge the answer for a while when he and Reynolds witness Burns getting kidnapped and his snooping turns into a real case.
Gillian is still upset at Cal’s sneakiness and Cal knows he’s crossed a line. He guiltily tells his partner, “I’m not going to explain myself, okay?” and then proceeds to try and do just that. He finally decides he’d better come clean with his surreptitious surveillance and gives Gillian the combination to his safe so she can find the file he has on Burns. The safe is a nice metaphor for the defenses and secrets which Cal uses to keep people from really knowing him. If he’s going to open that door for anyone, it makes sense it is Gillian and it also makes sense that the catalyst for Cal taking this risk is her interest in another man. Despite Cal’s other flirtations and his ongoing complicated relationship with his ex-wife, Foster occupies a special and as yet undefined place in his life. With this episode, we’re getting closer to Cal showing he’s not happy with their status quo.
The plot revolves around Burns’ DEA identity, as he’s been kidnapped by Little Moon, son of drug lord kingpin Big Moon, who was recently killed by person(s) unknown. Little Moon is sure Burns was involved in some way and at the least knows the identity of the killer. Burns’ ex-partner Russo seems to agree, as she was secretly meeting Burns to warn him of his danger. The set-up is complete when Russo goes off on Big Moon’s underworld boss and tries to kill him. Cal steps in to save the crime boss and then asks him in repayment to make Little Moon hire him to get the truth out of Burns. Somewhat unbelievably but worth the suspension of disbelief, Little Moon does. Foster insists on joining Cal and the two of them are driven blindfolded to Little Moon’s hiding place while Russo is taken to Torres and Loker for more questioning.
Both interrogations take place simultaneously, which is very effective as we try to figure out Cal’s game with both Burns and Little Moon. He has a few moments alone with the battered Burns and Foster and quickly tells them he’ll try to set the bad guys against each other. He doesn’t have time to share the details how, though, and both Foster and Burns are unsure Cal’s methods will leave Burns alive, nor do they have a good read on how bothered he would be at Little Moon killing what Cal admits is his rival.
Burns plays his part in what he hopes is Cal’s game and fights him every step of the way, saying of Gillian, “Admit it. You want her.” Cal bluntly answers, “Yes, I do. In the worst possible way,” and his delivery tells us we can believe him. The thread of truth that runs through the tension between the two men helps to convince Little Moon he can trust Cal, but it also makes Gillian wonder how far he’ll go. The writers do a bang-up job making it difficult to tell whether Cal is protecting Burns or trying to wring the truth out of him about Big Moon no matter what the consequences.
Meanwhile, Torres and Reynolds tackle Russo, who has secrets of her own. They eventually pry out of her she became so lost in her cover identity she got involved with Big Moon and is pregnant by him. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the DEA decided Big Moon was getting too dangerous and ordered her to kill him (are we supposed to accept this as business as usual in the DEA?). She couldn’t, so Burns stepped in and did it himself. He is the killer Little Moon wants. The question is: does Cal know?
Cal starts his interrogation saying he thinks Burns is the killer. But he quickly moves on to suggesting Burns was protecting the real killers, plural, and uncovering Russo’s part in what happened. Little Moon wants the second name and is prepared to kill Burns to get it. Cal points out the flaw in his plan when the young gangster hurts Burns so much he apparently can’t talk. Lightman seizes the opportunity to send Foster away while he gets very tough with Burns.
Foster has to leave Burns in Cal’s hands and her cries as she is led away that Cal is going to get Burns killed have a ring of truth to them, though she is also following Cal’s game plan. She is an emotional wreck as the FBI pounce on her driver, because it’s going to be touch and go on whether they can extract the hideout’s location before someone gets killed in the complicated game Cal and Burns are playing.
Burns shows the same amount of coolness under pressure as Cal as Cal plays chicken with him to gain Little Moon’s trust. I cringed as Lightman tried to make Harris, Little Moon’s henchman, use a knife to puncture their prisoner’s apparently collapsed lung. It’s a testament to Roth’s portrayal of his complicated character that I really thought he might go through with it. However, Lightman actually has someone else entirely in his sights and he uses the incident to turn Little Moon’s suspicions onto Harris.
He accuses the boy of being a DEA snitch and Big Moon’s killer. At this point, we know from Torres’ interview with Russo this isn’t the case and in fact Burns did the killing. But we don’t know what Cal thinks he knows and it is very disquieting watching him turn suspicion on the young man, wondering if he’s protecting Burns or really thinks Harris was involved. Either way, Cal’s ruthlessness rivals Burns and their shared characteristics fall into the problematic range when viewed as a possible romantic partner.
Little Moon and Harris end up pulling guns on each other as Harris protests his innocence and Little Moon tries to decide if he believes him. He does—but he has no shortage of ruthlessness himself as he shoots his friend anyway because he pulled a gun on him. The FBI finally find the hide out in the nick of time, but there will be fallout for Cal and Burns.
Cal shows he has an appreciation for the ruthless side of his nature as he asks after Harris. He is relieved to hear the young man will survive, and we can hear the guilt in his voice as he argues with the attendant over whether Harris is a boy or a man. Cal’s assertion he is a man under the eyes of the law sounds very weak even to his own ears. From this encounter, Lightman has to go to Burns, where he affirms that he did discern Burns was the real killer. The scene is the type Lie To Me does so well, with truths like this juxtaposed with the equal truth that Burns loves Foster and was just doing his job. The DEA agent is a complicated man. And one with a lot in common with Cal, which is nicely summed up as Cal compliments his rival with “You are one of the best liars I’ve seen in a long time,” and Burns simply returns, “Back at you.” Gillian obviously has a type.
The episode marks the end of the Burns arc and it was very well executed from beginning to end. Gillian has to say goodbye to the man with so many secrets she’s not sure she ever knew him but does know she cared for him. Kelli Williams does an excellent job conveying Foster’s pain as she watches Burns exit her life. Cal makes sure to stand at her side, signaling that his declaration of feelings for his partner is not going to be buried away.
His decision to open his safe of secrets to Foster has some unexpected consequences: Emily takes the opportunity to find out some family history. Besides reading her grandmother’s diary (Cal’s mother committed suicide), she finds a paternity test her father did on her. Needless to say, she is not happy to find out he needed to check.
In a lovely call back to the opening scene where Cal was prying into Gillian’s secrets, he joins his daughter for lunch in the same diner. Emily calmly tells him what she found in the safe. The contents of the diary will be left for another episode, as she zooms in on what most concerns her: Cal’s need to check her parentage. If there is one person Cal always tries to let in, it’s his daughter, but he has real trouble explaining his motives—because they are simply based on mistrust and a need to know. These are exactly the issues Zoe has raised in the past on why their marriage failed. Emily lets her father know she thinks he has some issues in relationships as she tells him his lack of trust in people will end up with him alone. She’s got a point—but Cal surprises her, but maybe not so much us, as he declares he is not alone and joins Foster who has come for lunch on her own at the same diner. Emily clearly approves.
I hope we do, too, as the writers are evidently going to bring the characters’ attraction to the fore. It’s a dicey move in any show. However, Lightman and Foster have a friendship which should allow the writers to take their time and keep the relationship believable. I think the show has a good chance of avoiding the Moonlighting curse.