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TV Review: Lie To Me – “Veronica”

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“Veronica,” this week’s Lie To Me is very appropriately named after the guest star’s character, because Annette O’Toole as Veronica beautifully grounds this episode about family relationships and playing God. The shading she brings to a woman battling both Alzheimer’s and inner demons brings out the shading in Lightman’s character as well, and that’s always a good thing, especially in a season examining the darker aspects of his personality.

Roth excels at bringing both a physical and emotional intensity to Lightman. The only problem with this approach is Cal sometimes can seem over the top if either a case or a guest character doesn’t appear to merit Lightman’s intense reactions. Fortunately, this season the writers are examining the line Cal walks between pushing for facts and bullying for dominance. More and more, his friends, colleagues and daughter are willing to call him on it when he gets too antagonistic for the situation. Even so, the audience needs to get regular peeks into Lightman’s more sensitive and empathic side to balance out his rougher edges. “Veronica” brings out exactly these qualities in Cal as he tries to help a woman sort out her fractured memories of betrayal and murder.

Tim Roth as Lightman and Annette O'Toole as VeronicaThe plot revolves around Veronica, who enters the story through being hit by Emily’s car when Cal’s daughter makes the mistake of combining texting and driving. The older woman rebuffs Emily’s efforts to drive her to the hospital, as she’s convinced someone called Charlie will murder her if she goes there, just as Charlie killed her sister, Rose. Emily knows she’s out of her depth and calls her dad for help. And though Cal’s default approach to most people is cocky aggression, he is very sweet with Veronica, as he recognises she must have something like Alzheimer’s.

A client suffering from Alzheimer’s is an inspired idea from the writers, as Cal must follow Veronica in and out of lucidity. Both actors shine as the sick woman shifts between seeing Cal as himself and Cal as her dead husband Bert, and Lightman follows her without missing a beat. Given that Veronica seems to be running from a murderer, Foster thinks they should involve the police, but Cal knows it’s unlikely the police will be able to handle this case with the sensitivity it will require. He has to enter Veronica’s world as she sees it to discern the true nature of her fear. Foster and Lightman compromise by Foster, somewhat to Cal’s horror, contacting Wallowsky off the record for help. They also get some unexpected help from Loker when he enters the room mysteriously sporting cuts, bruises and a shiner, eliciting a response from Veronica that reveals she used to be a nurse.

Lightman begins by following Veronica’s intact long-term memories to her former home she shared with her brother-in-law, Gus Sloan (an excellent Jim Beaver, familiar to Supernatural fans), after her husband died. Cal reads shame on Gus’s face and he and Foster play a game of good cop/bad cop as Lightman jabs Sloan ruthlessly about taking advantage of his sick sister-in-law by selling her things, especially her piano. But Gus refuses to be labeled, saying he had to commit Veronica when she got too ill and he had to take out a reverse mortgage to afford her nursing home, Horizons Extended Care and Residence. He’s also certain Charlie is a figment of Veronica’s imagination because she’s ill.

Cal follows up on the nursing home clue by returning Veronica to its care, while his team review the interrogation tapes (I assume provided by Wallowsky) from the original investigation of what happened to Veronica’s sister, Rose. Not only did she exist, she was the subject of an unsolved murder investigation–with Veronica as the chief suspect. Foster notes that the Veronica’s responses indicate she does indeed know more than she let on to the police. Finding out what she knows, however, is going to prove a real challenge, as not only is she struggling with her disease, the drugs her doctors give her to calm her interfere with her functioning as well.

At the extended care facility, Cal is joined by Emily as he takes Veronica back to her room. Veronica is having a lucid moment and recognises Cal is not Bert. Lightman meets her doctors, Hamel and Olson, and Dr. Olson agrees to wait a few hours before medicating Veronica, so Cal can question Veronica about her family relationships. The move pays off, as Veronica watches home movies and identifies not only Rose, but also Charlie, who was her fiancé before she met Bert. Cal has no trouble picking up her break up with Charlie was very painful.

He also has no trouble finding Charlie and, dropping the kid gloves with which he handles Veronica, he jumps all over his new suspect, saying, “Oy, Charlie, Veronica Sloan says you killed her sister.” Unsurprisingly, Charlie orders Cal to leave, but Lightman is not done yet with him. He gets his team to go over family photos with Veronica, Rose and Charlie, and while they focus on the facial expressions, he focuses on Rose’s full bosom and hand on her stomach. She was pregnant and the logical guess is Charlie was the father. Cal tackles Charlie again and he admits to his brief liaison with Rose, but denies killing her. Instead, he tells Cal that despite loving Veronica, he was willing to “do right” by Rose, but her family wanted to kill him, not welcome him. His clear implication is he believes Veronica killed Rose.

Foster pushes her partner to admit it’s a possibility Veronica did and her Alzheimer’s is masking her guilt. Cal decides he has to take advantage of the way the sick woman identifies him as Bert and sets up a scene at her old house to get to the truth of what happened to Rose. Veronica enters the house knowing who Cal is, but she soon shifts into the past, seeing him as Bert. But he’s not a comforting Bert, he’s a Bert who tells her, “You didn’t want Rose to have Charlie’s baby.” Veronica breaks down and admits she forced her sister to have a back room abortion, during which her sister died. Both as a sister and as a nurse, she feels responsible for killing her sister.

In Cal’s eyes, she was indeed involved with her sister’s killing, but she genuinely believed she was doing the right thing at the time. He firmly believes his original assessment of not involving the police in what happened to Rose is still correct. But while he now knows the truth about what happened in the past, Veronica names four more people she says Charlie killed. Foster checks them out, only to find they all names from people in Veronica’s past and they are all still alive. However, Cal rejects the idea Veronica’s fears have no basis in reality. He feels she mixing up people from her present with her past, including Charlie. Somewhere, someone she sees as Charlie has indeed killed four people.

The logical place to investigate is the nursing home, and Cal roams the halls, hoping to pick up on something. Peeking in on a young man in a coma from a motorcycle accident, he chats with a grieving father whose daughter just died. He gives Cal a card from her to Veronica and tells him Veronica liked his daughter and called her Rose instead of Gretchen. He quickly gets Foster to check how many deaths the care facility has had in the last six months and she arrives with several names, along with the dead patients’ photos. Veronica identifies four of them as the people from her past she says Charlie murdered. All that remains is for Lightman to identify her Charlie.

He’s sure the facility has an Angel of Death, but Dr. Hamel vehemently denies the possibility, asking Cal, “Do you always enjoy this level of antagonism?” Cal is unfazed, answering, “Yes, it’s like oxygen to me.” In this case, the stakes are high enough and Veronica likeable enough, my sympathy stayed with Cal, as he demands to interview the entire staff.

The staff interviews reveal a microcosm of the professional numbness people in high stress professions often adopt. One young man is still unjaded enough to say he loves his job and he says Dr. Olson still does, too. That’s enough to point Cal in Olson’s direction, even though Dr. Hamel says in this profession, many patients just want to surrender, so the high death count is not surprising. Cal, a fighter himself, just asks him about the patients who still want to fight.

Ominously, Cal finds Dr. Olson in Veronica’s room, watching her sleep. The two men have a game of cat and mouse, as they “theoretically” talk about the reason Olson killed Gretchen. The doctor has no remorse and says she was riddled with disease and wanted to die. Cal accuses him of playing God, but that doesn’t faze Olson, either, who says, “We play God in many different ways.” Veronica wakes up and sees Olson as Charlie, whom she now realises she has to ask for forgiveness, as she, not he, was involved in killing Rose. The doctor eyes Cal over her head, saying, “Of course I forgive you, Veronica. The question is, can he?” Olson tries to make Cal question his willingness to judge the doctor for causing a death, but Cal is unswayed.

He realises the doctor’s white coat is the trigger for Veronica identifying him as Charlie, so he must be the killer. How to trap him is the question. After a little chat with Loker at Cal’s house, during which Loker thanks Cal for pushing him out into the field and Cal reminds him, “You do what we do right, it’s going to hurt,” Lightman comes up with his plan.

Again, a scene is set up, but this time it plays into Olson’s desires. Loker disguises himself as the gravely injured young man in a coma, and Olson takes the bait. He sneaks into the young man’s room and adds what he thinks is a lethal injection into the IV line. Cal springs the trap, letting the police and Dr. Hamel into the room. Olson is still unrepentant, saying he tries to prevent pain. As Cal has just told Loker, he is no fan of avoiding pain at all costs, nor does he accept taking the choice away from people whether to fight.  His simple reply is “Shame on you.”

The episode ends with a nice scene with Emily, as Cal concentrates on his own family relationships. Last week, he admitted he is having difficulty accepting his daughter is growing up, particularly in regard to dating. This week, he shows he’s not the only one who has lessons to learn in their evolving relationship. As a consequence of Emily’s texting while driving, he tells her she has to choose between her phone and the car keys for a month. He expects this to cause Emily some pain, but she simply chooses the phone and calls Liam for a ride. Father and daughter have a stare off, both acknowledging they are upset with the other, but also acknowledging the love. It’s scenes like this that make me adore this relationship.

Overall, this is a strong episode, centering around an excellent guest star who makes us care about her demons and root for Cal to help her. I give it an A-.

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About Gerry Weaver

  • Jo Markz

    Excellent review. I did find Veronica’s confession a little bit vague and subtle. I missed the indirect nurse and death by abortion inference. I thought Veronica was more complicit in the death of Rose because of her jealousy and Rose’s pregnancy with Veronica’s former fiance. Good job!

  • Gerry

    Thanks, Jo! It’s always great to get comments from readers. I understand completely why you found what happened to Rose rather vague. I did, too. I understood the abortion reference, but I’m still puzzled why the botched abortion wasn’t in the case notes the team got. I assume an autopsy would have given that information to the original investigators. That would also help explain why Veronica was the main suspect in the original investigation. But having all that mentioned would have taken away most of what Cal had to determine this episode, so they went for vagueness instead. I loved the episode anyway, but that vagueness is why I gave it an A- instead of a solid A.

  • Jo Markz

    I re-watched the episode and realize now that the abortion was performed in 1968 prior to Roe v Wade and the police were investigating Rose’s death as a murder. With Veronica they had motive but no evidence–Veronica was a nurse, the sister of the deceased who was also the ex-girlfriend of the father of her sister’s baby, etc. But the police didn’t investigate who performed the illegal botched abortion having the autopsy report? Oh well, like you said, that is puzzling.

  • Gerry

    The police apparently didn’t even put in the reports that Rose was pregnant and died from an abortion, because Cal had to deduce that and get Veronica to admit it. It makes sense that the police knew, because they suspected Veronica, but the writers kept that whole murder investigation scenario very very vague. It’s a good thing watching Cal with Veronica was so interesting!

  • Eileen

    Please share the name of the song that repeatedly played on the Veronica episode. The character also played the song on the piano at the end.

  • Gerry

    I’ll have to investigate that. I’ll post it if I find it!

  • Jo Markz

    The artist is Susannah McCorkle – and the song is “The Waters of March.”

  • Gerry

    Thanks, Jo! I asked Daniel Sackheim and he added that the song is by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

  • Eileen

    Thanks Gerry and Jo for sharing! I appreciate this. It’s a beatiful song and I’ve heard it previously, but no one knew the name. Thanks again!

  • Jo Markz

    Thank you, Gerry. Also, for your information, Eileen, I think the duet that were singing the LP version that Cal was playing in Veronica’s room is Al Jarreau and Oleta Adams.