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Alynda Wheat's Beat Cop: 'The Mentalist' and 'Castle,' tricks and treats

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mentalist_lI love Halloween episodes. They’re less cheesy than Valentine’s Day drivel, and generally funnier than Christmas and Thanksgiving episodes (plus, we don’t have to deal with guest-star relatives). This All Hallows Eve week we got two gems: The Mentalist and Castle. Since y’all always say I give The Mentalist and Criminal Minds short shrift, I’ll start with the faux-psychic (particularly since there was no meeting of the Minds this week).

Anybody who’s been watching procedurals as long as we have (I know you’re out there, McMillan & Wife fans) has to appreciate the occasional homages to Columbo thrown into The Mentalist. In Thursday’s episode, Jane (Simon Baker) tracked down the murderer of an architect almost no one seemed to like much. Was the killer the wife he once cheated on? The lady whose family manse he bought? The ghost of the mausoleum’s original owner? Nope, none of the above.

Anybody who watches True Blood knew it was the former owner’s nephew, Drew Abner (Michael McMillian). How’d we know it was Li’l Abner? Because McMillian plays creepy Rev. Steve Newlin on Blood, so by the Transitive Property of Evil, we knew he did it. Just like every time you see Garret Dillahunt (The Sarah Connor Chronicles) you know he’s gonna be one long stretch of bad road, like on last week’s SVU, when he was an out-and-proud pedophile. The Transitive Property of Evil may not be iron-clad, but it gets you there most of the time. At any rate, the Columbo moment came when Jane questioned a local antiquarian (at least I think that’s what he was) about the murder. Just as Jane is about to go, he has a question. Again he’s about to exit the shop, again with another question. It’s classic Columbo, only Peter Falk never ended those encounters by calling the interrogated a “deceitful old bag of bones.” That’s pure Jane.

Of course the big news of the episode is that Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) finally told Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti) that he loves her. While it’s true that I have a stated preference against procedural relationships, that’s mainly to keep the primary stars of the show from getting together too soon, and killing the chemistry. In this case, we never have to worry about that since Baker and Robin Tunney have sexual chemistry that could be measured in micrograms. But when secondary characters pair up, particularly in secret, that’s big fun. I can’t wait till someone finally does bust them, then Jane reveals that he knew all along. Of course, looking at next week’s preview, it looks like Jane is the one getting busted. Did a certain malicious jerk of an agent find the bug someone planted under his desk? Seems so.

Which brings us back, as everything does, to Castle. Nothing on television makes me happier these days, and that includes Hoarders, Mad Men, Judge Judy, and the Fox Sunday cartoons. Once again, little moments won the day, rather than the case itself (vamp kid staked through the heart by the wicked stepmother who’d offed his mommy). Can we just go ahead and declare Nathan Fillion the funniest non-comedian on scripted television? Please? The look on his face when he popped up as a “space cowboy” in one of the show’s wink-wink refs to Firefly was—man, I hate to use this word—darling. (Yeech, I’m mad at myself for sounding so prissy.) “There are no cows in space,” Alexis (Molly C. Quinn) blithely informed him. Then he had the quip of the night with, “You wanna bite me? You buy me dinner.” Then there was his maniacal laughter, holding (of all things) a Dremel. Why must he be so awesome?

Of all the ingredients in Castle’s success, perhaps the most critical is that this show marks the perfect marriage of player and part. Rick Castle is a man we want to hang out with, almost as much as we want to talk Dr. Horrible over black-and-white milkshakes with Fillion, himself. Take the scene where Alexis frantically calls Dad because her friend Paige accidentally (we’re giving her the benefit of the doubt, right?) imbibed spiked punch at a Halloween party. There was a moment when Alexis begged Castle not to call the girl’s parents. And because Rick Castle is Cool Dad, for a moment it crossed my mind that he might relent. But no. He called the parents, ready to take the heat from Alexis, and did the grown-up thing. Listen, I adore my dad, and I’m certainly old enough to take care of myself, but if my father ever wants a parental hiatus, I’d be more than happy for Rick Castle to step in.

But what did you think, Coppers? Do I swoon too much over the mystery writer? How long do you think Jane will be in the pokey? Who’s deeply curious to see how Criminal Minds goes when Morgan (Shemar Moore) takes over as boss? And should we cry about Trauma getting the axe? Speak to me. And remember, let’s be careful out there.

Photo Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS