A/N: I thought this episode was great. Favorite scenes: Jane popping up from behind the desk—probably Jane's best entrance ever, lol—and every scene Stiles was in, especially the eerily knowing taunts of Jane. I'm fascinated with Bret Stiles and Visualize, and many of you long-time readers know I've long suspected Bret Stiles (either he's Red John or has very close ties). I think this episode brings us closer to that possibility. I think his tie, whatever it is, to RJ goes back to these "early days of Visualize" and this Timothy Farragut Bret was accused of killing.
I choose, however, to focus on Grace here. I know many out there are freaking out, thinking, "oh no, Stiles is going to brainwash Van Pelt into his cult." I have more faith in her. Certainly it could have happened to her in previous seasons, but that kiss to Stile's cheek, and her resistance to his manipulations tell me another story. I mean, who was really manipulating whom?
Episode Tag, His Thoughts Were Red Thoughts, 4x16
Grace was filled with trepidation as she ascended the stairs to the attic of CBI Headquarters, as if it were forbidden, like her dad's home office had always been when she was a child. It had contained all kinds of wondrous yet off-limit things, like gleaming trophies in glass cases, autographed jerseys and footballs, signed and framed photographs. Mainly though, it had been her father that had been off limits, at least emotionally. Now, as she stood outside the attic door of another emotionally unavailable man, Grace couldn't help but feel an odd sense of déjà vu.
She hesitated as she reached up to knock, having only actually been to Jane's attic hideaway on one other occasion, some errand for Lisbon. Then too, she'd felt like a little girl intruding into her daddy's mysterious world. But Grace had changed in the past several months; killing one's fiancé will do that to a person. New Grace wasn't a little girl anymore, and Jane most definitely wasn't her daddy. She no longer viewed him as some tragic figure who needed salvation, either. She'd come to realize that Jane was just like most men—lying, selfish, arrogant, manipulative. And given Jane's extraordinary gifts, he was even more masterful of his art than others.
But it wasn't that she didn't like Jane. On the contrary, she still admired his perception, his skill in solving cases, his ability to make her laugh. Her blinders were definitely off, though, and she was no longer in such awe. Jane was just a man, after all, with all their usual failings.
She knocked lightly on the heavy door, and yet the sound echoed in the quiet, empty hall. No wonder he came up here to think.
"Come," he called from the other side.
She slid the door open and entered Jane's dank fortress of solitude. He was facing the windows, reading by the last of the dim light from the setting sun, and he swiveled his chair around to welcome his visitor. His eyes widened slightly as he beheld the redhead.
"Grace," he said, rising to his feet. "This is a pleasant surprise." He paused to evaluate her features—a rather disconcerting habit he had to determine people's moods and desires. "Something's troubling you, I see."
"Uh, you might say that. I wanted to run something by you, maybe get your insight."
"I'll do what I can. Please sit," he said, indicating the only useable chair in the attic.
"That's okay. I feel like I've been sitting most of the day." But she moved further into the dusty room to stand near the window. Jane remained standing too, propping himself casually against his makeshift desk. Grace glanced at the book he'd placed there after dog-earing his spot. Visualize Self. She picked up the cult leader's tome and perused the face of the kindly looking Brit on the dust jacket.
"I actually wanted to talk to you about Bret Stiles."
Jane's expression slid immediately from simple curiosity to intense interest. "What about him?"
"I think he tried to hypnotize me," she said. The new Grace tended to get right to the point these days.
Jane raised his eyebrows. "Really? And you resisted?"
"Yes. But maybe he wasn't trying too hard."
Jane nodded. "Maybe. Tell me what happened."
She related her two visits to Stiles's holding cell earlier, how she'd later let him watch the interrogation of Nora Hill. Jane stopped her frequently for clarification of the cult leader's exact words and actions. At the end of her tale, he grew quiet, one finger lightly tapping his full lips, lost in thought. She could almost see his brilliant mind at work, turning over the details, sifting through the chaff to find the most meaningful kernels. She let him think a minute, but inside, Grace was impatiently churning with her own ideas.
"I want you to teach me how to resist him," she burst out when she couldn't take it anymore.
Jane slowly focused on her face again, having nearly forgotten she was there. His thoughts had immediately gone to the same place hers had, and he'd been mulling over the pros and cons, the risks and rewards.
"Have you talked to Lisbon about this?"
"No. I don't think she would believe I could handle it."
Jane grinned. "She might surprise you, but she's also got that mother hen instinct where her team is concerned."
"Do you think I could handle it?" she asked him. She'd come to him because he was an expert on the human mind, an expert on hypnosis, and they both shared in the hatred of frauds.
He considered her silently, and Grace tried not to become uncomfortable under his probing gaze.
"Yes," he said at last. "With a few pointers. You are on the surface what Stiles looks for in a cult member—easily manipulated, a damaged past, lost and alone. But that's not really you anymore, is it?"
"No," she replied simply. One thing about Jane, it was refreshing how you could communicate with him with an economy of words sometimes.
"You were right to come to me, Grace. What Stiles is doing with this cult is reprehensible, wasting the lives of young people, cranking out mindless drones that do his bidding. Not to mention the fact that for what is supposed to be a peaceful, comforting religion, murder seems to be tied to it much too often for my taste. The only way to take it down would be to rot it from the core out."
Of course, he didn't share with her how Stiles likely had very close ties to Red John, had actually taunted him with his knowledge. If Grace could be implanted into Visualize, he could find a way to both bring Stiles down and, more importantly, discover the whereabouts of his family's murderer.
"That's what I thought," said Grace.
"You realize how dangerous this could be," Jane said.
Despite his desire for vengeance, he would hate for anything to happen to this beautiful young girl. He didn't know if he could handle being responsible for losing another innocent due to his own arrogance.
"Well, you've made it easier now, at least to get inside initially. You have a relationship of sorts with Stiles, built a little trust there with your shared secrets. He thinks he's planted some seeds in you, and is probably even expecting you to come knocking. But he'll be suspicious. You'll have to do things you might not want to do to show your loyalty. And he also knows me. He'd be hyper-vigilant to determine if you are working with me. You'd have to give an Oscar-caliber performance every minute you're around him. And he's very strong, Grace. I'm not saying that you will, but there is the very real danger you could succumb to him. Better people than you have, I dare say. Are you willing to risk that?"
She'd thought of this, of course, thought of what could happen to her if she were discovered. Jane was right; death seemed to follow Bret Stiles like a dark shadow.
"Yes. I hate what he's doing, especially to young, gullible women. What's worse is he's doing it through a false religion. I want to bring him down, Jane."
He could tell she was serious, and he knew how much stronger she was as far as resistance to being taken for a fool again. But he still had his doubts. She wasn't completely dealing with having shot O'laughlin, and there was an underlying layer of rage just beneath the surface. Jane understood this feeling very well. While it could be helpful in Grace's dealings with Visualize, it could also very well lead to her downfall. He'd just have to prepare her well and hope for the best.
"Okay, I'll help you. Keep in mind though that this man is more than just Yoda in an expensive suit. He's a genius, and he is ruthless with those who betray him. I imagine that given recent events, he is rightly very paranoid at the moment. We might have to wait until the dust settles a bit. But we can spend that time building your resistance to him, learning the ins and outs of supreme manipulators."
"That's what I was hoping you'd say," she said with a grin.
"I think it's best we don't tell Lisbon about this, at least, not right away."
"I agree," she said. "She might nix the plan on principle."
"Then kill me for even suggesting it." Jane returned her smile, both of them having a pretty good understanding of their fearless leader.
But Jane knew that Lisbon was almost as dedicated as he was to finding Red John these days. He would tell her what Stiles had said to him, about how he knew Red John was still alive, how he'd figured out that Jane had used Red John to kill Panzer. Jane was certain he could convince Lisbon to let Van Pelt go deep undercover, if he could show he'd trained her to resist Stiles's brainwashing.
"So what now?"
"Now? First lesson." He ushered her into his chair and squatted before her. "Nearly anyone can be hypnotized, but if you teach yourself to stay aware throughout the process, you can learn to immediately pull yourself out of any unwanted trances…"
A/N: I really hope this is what the writers are setting up to happen later. Of course, it has the potential to go terribly wrong, and I fear for Grace, but Stiles knows who Red John is, I'm sure of it. Thanks so much for reading this. If you bless me with a review, please be sure to sign in. I respond to all logged in reviews.
P.S.: Look up the story by Saki (one of my favorite short story authors) entitled "Sredni Vashstar", a line from which the title of this episode was taken. Lots of creepy parallels to Visualize, and, as is Saki's signature, a horrifically ironic ending.
P.P. S.S. :No new episode next week, but there is a rerun tonight (Sat) of "Pink Chanel Suit," and Sunday night "Ring Around the Rosie" (I wrote a tag for that one;). See you in two weeks! (Or check out my new fic "The Ghost and Mr. Jane.") Sorry for the blatant self-promotion, lol.