This week’s Lie To Me, “Fold Equity” was a good episode which raised some interesting questions about Cal and Gillian’s relationship—but unfortunately also raised the more meta question of the impact of shuffling episodes around. When viewers have to wonder whether what they see on screen actually matters, that’s not good news for the show.
“Fold Equity” starts off with Cal muttering how much he misses Vegas and Reynolds jauntily abandoning the case to play the tables, because as far as he can see, there’s no crime. The feel of this story is very different from the tense narratives of the past few weeks, where the stakes were extremely high in human terms rather than monetary. Vegas is a very different world and one we quickly realise Cal would rather adapt to than reject. He, Foster and Reynolds are there at the request of tournament organiser Ellis to find out where missing player Jake is for the final table of the World Poker Championship. The story’s hook is that the four other players Cal has to interrogate are the world’s best liars, and it’s not a bad hook, especially when each of the players is intent on playing each other and Cal. One in particular, a blonde, leggy and very cool dame called Poppy, lets Cal know he can get lucky any time he wants.
Despite the missing young man, the episode’s focus is on the relationships among all the key players, and of course, the one we care most about is between Cal and Gillian. Everyone is gaming everyone, except perhaps Foster, who seems genuinely concerned Vegas is bad for Cal—both in terms of his hopefully former gambling addiction and apparently his attraction to women who really know how to lie. A key piece of dialogue between Lightman and Foster nicely sets out the dynamics between them:
Cal: “One job in Vegas is not going to turn me back into an inveterate gambler.”
Foster: “Course not. But you have to understand the pull this town has on you.”
Cal: “Things change.”
Foster: “But people don’t.”
Cal: “You’re smothering. There’s no smothering in Vegas.”
Cal’s choice of “smothering” to describe Foster’s attitude is interesting, because it so closely resembles “mothering,” and Foster did have a rather motherly attitude to Cal last season. Even then, though, the hints of attraction were still present and this season, those sparks have been flying. And in this episode, Gillian’s attitude holds no hint of mothering at all—she’s unhappy at the idea of Cal getting involved with the blonde woman, enough to show up dressed to the nines by the end of the show.
Cal’s attitude is a little harder to pin down, though lust for Poppy is certainly present. He’s one of the players in this kidnapping drama and having a ball, perhaps because his fellow gamers are so good. We soon find out that old timer Mason faked the kidnapping to get rid of playboy Amadeo, not realising Amadeo had been faking his playboy ways to irritate Mason into being off his game. Mason’s playing piece is off the table and three remain.
Cal quickly realises Poppy had her own game going and had been meeting with Jake to convince him success wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and he’d regret winning. But Poppy has another hand to play and with a sultry smile tells Lightman, “You can’t read me and you like that.” To Foster’s annoyance, he apparently does, despite Poppy’s rather mean remark that the way Foster walks, she thinks she’s too good for anyone. Cal says to the blonde woman, “[Foster] feels women like you bring out the worst in me.” I have to say Lightman did little to prove Gillian wrong, as he trots off to bed with his suspect. Mind you, the grampa pajamas he has on when we catch up with the two of them post-coital made me smile. The garments couldn’t be more of a contrast to Cal’s usual cool cat attitude—not that he allows them to impact his confident swagger in the least. Nor does the discovery of a body that is not Jake but is a well known poker coach banned from Vegas.
Poppy, of course, has been holding out on Cal in terms of secrets at least, and he has to raise the stakes of the game they’re playing by having her arrested unless she comes clean. But with someone who lies as well as she does, Cal can’t even trust her confession of knowing where Jake is and that she knew he was being coached by a well known poker coach banned from Vegas. There’s more to be learned, so Cal puts out some bait and sure enough, Poppy leads him to the Russian player, Vos, whose investors decided to eliminate Jake’s advantage by offing his coach. Cal also realises Poppy and Vos are an item and she was playing him when they slept together.
Foster rather hopefully asks Cal if he slept with Poppy in turn because he was playing her, but Cal bluntly tells her that though he suspected Poppy’s game, he didn’t have sex for that reason. He’s clear that he was indeed attracted to the gambler. And that’s where the meta question raises its disturbing head. For the past few episodes and certainly in last week’s “Secret Santa,” Cal and Gillian have appeared to be moving closer to each other. Gillian spent Thanksgiving dinner at Cal’s and seems to be getting closer to Emily. Cal and Gillian were open about how much they care about each other when Cal was in danger in Afghanistan and I was frankly surprised to watch Lightman brush off Foster’s concern about Poppy so lightly. I was surprised he found Poppy’s insulting remark about his partner sexy. His attitude in Vegas toward Foster made me feel I have to re-evaluate what I thought I’d been shown last week.
And I can do that—relationships evolve and don’t necessarily go in straight lines. But given that I know “Fold Equity” was supposed to be shown earlier in the season, did the writers mean for me to re-evaluate? Relationships may not travel in straight lines, but I assume the writers’ room has a plan for developing Cal and Gillian’s connection and “Fold Equity” was not supposed to contrast so starkly with “Secret Santa.” In an episode focused on relationships, it’s a little annoying not to know if what seemed to be revealed about Cal and Gillian’s dynamic matters to where we are now in the story. Lie To Me is much more relationship-oriented this season and FOX should take note that shuffling episodes around matters.
I can only assume that we are supposed to think Cal has just reminded Foster of the line she drew between them last season when Cal was upset at the idea of her husband cheating on her. I am interested to see where that leaves the two of them next week. Given that Torres just signaled interest in a gob smacked but probably appreciative Loker, water cooler chat at The Lightman Group should be pretty juicy.
There’s a juicy piece of news for Lie To Me and The Shield fans as well. Shawn Ryan is bringing six former cast members from The Shield to guest star in an upcoming episode in the spring. The episode is titled “Pied Piper” and in it Lightman will have to face the possibility he sent an innocent man to his death. Catherine Dent, Kenny Johnson, David Marciano, Benito Martinez, Cathy Cahlin Ryan and David Rees will reunite as guest stars.