This week's Lie To Me is a solid episode, but still shows the writers grappling with how to use the entire cast effectively. In "The Whole Truth," everyone in The Lightman Group focuses on the same case, which is generally an approach I think serves the show better than the group splitting into two. However, though far from weak, the case never ratchets up the tension the way the A-story in "Beat The Devil" did, for example. Nonetheless, there is a lot of interesting exploration of Cal and Zoe's relationship, with a side dish of Loker and Ria flirtation. Both guest stars, Jennifer Beals and Melissa George, are excellent as the kind of strong women Cal Lightman can't resist, but perhaps should.
The case of the week involves Clara, a young pretty woman accused of killing her much older husband, Victor. Cal is hired by the prosecution as an expert witness. The complication is that the lawyer for the defense is Zoe, his ex-wife. Despite Cal's protestations he's just interested in finding out the truth of the case, Foster, Loker, and Torres know that Cal brings a lot of baggage to anything involving Zoe.
That baggage makes the courtroom scenes between the two very entertaining, as both take turns trying to manipulate the jury while scoring points off each other. Jennifer Beals' Zoe is a complex, interesting, driven, intelligent woman and the sparks between her and Cal are very believable, even if the antics Cal gets up to on the witness stand are not. I had a difficult time swallowing Cal turning on the judge and reading her emotions in a very insulting manner, since he must get a good deal of business as an expert witness and needs to work within that system. I love the character Roth has created in all his eccentric, pugnacious glory, but he still has to be credible in his job, especially since the job itself has credibility issues.
Those credibility issues play into the exploration of the limits of Cal's science we've seen before in the series. On one level, the episode is about Cal's need to expose the whole truth so the jury members are not manipulated by their perception of the truth. Perception is as important as facts in the courtroom and both Roth and Beals have a field day showing how their characters' dramatic grandstanding shifts sympathies from one side to the other as the judge vainly tries to corral the shenanigans.
But even when Cal decides he is on the same side as Zoe, he knows he has his work cut out for him, because Zoe's earlier accusation that his science has a serious margin for error and therefore limitations in a court of law is true. He himself tells the judge, "No one can tell the whole truth. It's subjective, filtered through our own experiences and that's the real truth." On top of that, it's not enough to expose who is lying—the real key is why.
The reason behind the lie is something both Foster and Lightman have to illuminate, Foster with the dead man's son, Damian, and Lightman with first Clara and then Leo, Victor's best friend. While prepping Damian for how to manipulate the jury to believe him—a strategy that in itself casts doubt on the reliability of lie detection—Gillian realises the young man's apparently truthful assertion he was seduced by Clara is really an obsessive fantasy. Leo, however, believed Damian, which added fuel to his jealousy at Victor's love of a woman he deems unworthy. Leo's feelings about Clara do have some basis, however, because Clara has stealing money from Victor to pay a blackmailer. Clara doesn't blame Leo for being angry about her theft, but her motivation was actually to protect her husband from scandal, since he was a willing participant in a threesome sex tape with her and a supposed friend. And just when we think we've untangled the "why" behind all the lies, Cal reveals one more. Victor was dying and Leo actually killed him in an assisted suicide.
Everyone involved has a subjective view of the truth which justifies the lies they tell and this time, Cal is able to get the whole truth revealed so his client goes free. But emotions have been leaking all over the case, and they continue to splash all over as everyone says goodbye. Clara, who has been a very convincing grieving widow, transfers her gratitude toward Cal to something more flirtatious. I found it a little jarring to see her so obviously checking out Cal as a romantic prospect as soon as she's cleared of her husband's murder, but Melissa George is so good in the episode, I'll still be glad to see her again if the writers decide to follow up on the flirting.
Cal's emotions, as Foster observed earlier, were mostly splashing in Zoe's direction, and what we learn about their relationship is the real meat of "The Whole Truth." Roth and Beals create a very believable chemistry that is best compared, as Cal does, to Chernobyl. Cal and Zoe had a marriage fueled with angry sex and despite enjoying seeing them together, I understand why they are divorced. I have very mixed feelings on the two of them still sneaking off to spend the night and that makes this relationship very intriguing. I'll miss Jennifer Beals when she leaves Lie To Me to co-star in Shawn Ryan's new series, Ride-Along.
Loker and Torres don't have much to do professionally this week—a little jury reading—so their function is mostly to advance their ongoing flirtation. Loker's reaction to finding out Torres had an affair with an older woman is funny—and the fact both Loker and Cal assumed the lover was a man is also intriguing as another example of how difficult it can be to get the whole truth.
I'll give this episode a B+ for the solid script. I think the writers still need to work on creating a main case that requires the full attention of the entire cast, but the second half of season two is shaping up to be excellent.