In 'Practically Perfect,' Dexter attempts to return to his old ways, but new complications arise

By Sandra Gonzalez
October 11, 2010 at 05:26 AM EDT
Cliff Lipson/Showtime
S5 E3
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Dexter Morgan hasn’t been doing his job this season — and we all know I’m not only referring to his work as a blood-spatter analyst. In two episodes, we’ve seen him kill one man, and that was anything but a Code kill. It was Dexter’s messiest work to date. In fact, as some of you pointed out last week, he’s been sloppy in many regards — from touching surfaces sans gloves to having trouble talking his way out of situations. And this week, we saw just what can happen when you try to go back to work before you’re ready. Perhaps Dexter should have waited until he returned to his day job before jumping back into his night one. Because now we have a problem. A problem in the form of Julia Stiles.

We opened the hour rather hilariously, with Deb giving someone the third degree. That someone, we learned, was a candidate in the running to be Harrison’s nanny. “You might have [done drugs]? What the f— does that even mean? You did or you didn’t. You can’t kinda do blow!” she said as she interrogated one girl while Dexter sat to the side. Using a montage of bad nanny candidates for laughs is an old bit, but Dexter-ized, it all felt somehow new. My favorite obvious reject was the cheese lady.

Now admittedly, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Deb. In the past, I found her character to be a strange and jarring combination of tough-minded and needy. It didn’t fit. But this season has brought out the best in Deb. This maternal role she’s taken on toward Harrison is appealing, and gives her some much-needed dimension. Deb is no longer one-note; in fact, she’s playing a lovely tune.

Speaking of music, an Irish lady’s answers to Deb’s questions were downright melodic to Dexter’s ears. Sonia was a recently laid-off nurse with childcare experience. Win! Deb didn’t seem as sold, but told Dexter to go ahead anyhow. Sonya worked out well for the most part, except for a communication snafu that sent Dexter tearing through the house in panic. He thought Harrison had been kidnapped, but Sonya had merely taken him to get fresh air. Sonya seems nice enough — and yet she’s peculiar. As with every character on this show, I’m sure there’s more to Mary O’Poppins than our first impressions.

This week, we also picked up with two pending cases: The Santa Muerte killer and Boyd Formaldehyde Fowler. We’ll start with Santa Muerte (“Saint Death, not Saint S—.”) because, if I’m being honest, it’s nowhere near as interesting as Fowler.

Deb and the rest of the team went out and canvassed the Venezuelan neighborhood where the murder took place, but didn’t make much headway. The neighborhood’s reaction to said probing made the team reconsider its murder-suicide theory. “If the killer is already dead, what are they afraid of?” Deb asked after they struck out. Deb also had a new take on an ATM security tape they had unearthed earlier in the episode. The suspect had appeared frantic and paranoid, which is what you’d expect, perhaps, from a man who’d just killed his wife. But after their findings, a new theory emerged: He was being watched.

NEXT: Dude totally lost his head.

With a new angle, the team called in Officer Manzon to help them. The beat cop had connections in the neighborhood and access to information on the ground level. The information came at a price, however. A man who gave Manzon information about who had purchased a relic found at the crime scene was later found dead in his shop. Headless, to be specific. Eye-less, to be graphic. A cat sat by the corpse and drank from a puddle of blood, to be specific and graphic. (Need I say the display was this week’s most cringe-worthy scene?) Manzon blamed herself for the man’s death, but Deb made it clear that it comes with doing the job. The case was left on that uneasy note.

Meanwhile, Dexter was being put at ease by a crisis counselor, who gave Harrison a clean bill of mental health. At only 10 months, there was no way he could have absorbed the full impact of Rita’s death or the bloody scene, she said. You could see that relief register instantaneously on Dexter’s face. (Yet another great moment for Michael C. Hall!) She didn’t give Dexter the same review, though. “Find something to release your own energy. Do something for Dexter,” she told him. “Dexter will,” he replied.

And Dexter did. The session made our protagonist even more eager to get the Fowler case done. He started by trailing Fowler, but was promptly spotted by the man, who approached Dexter’s table. (I’m glad I watched this episode alone and not in the company of someone with language-sensitive ears. I must have said “Oh, s—” out loud at least five times.) Dexter introduced himself as Daryl Tucker, a recently unemployed Arabica-drinker who likes the outdoors. Ever the (ironically) relatable person, Dexter quickly scored an invite from Fowler to ride along with him for an afternoon. There was a position open in sanitation’s dead animal pick-up department, and he thought “Daryl” would be a good candidate. “You gotta be okay around dead things though,” Fowler warned. Wink-nudge.

With only 24 hours to prepare, Dexter found the perfect spot for the kill: an old tourist welcome center that was well past its days of being welcoming. Immediately, Harry hated the idea. “You’re going to kill in daylight?” he asked, but Dexter brushed it off. They would be isolated; it would be okay. Plus, he said, he needed it. “This kill won’t put everything right; it won’t bring Rita back,” Harry told him. “It might bring me back.”

There won’t be any ambiguity about Dexter’s future, though, if Quinn gets any further in his solo investigation into the Kyle Butler situation. This week, he compared the sketches to a photo he had of Dexter, and it was similar enough for him to make a call to the FBI detective in charge of the case (without ever dropping Dexter’s name, of course). Quinn wanted to set up a meeting with Arthur Mitchell’s family so he could show them a picture of Dexter. Still, as panicked as I was when Quinn was piecing all of this together, my gut kept telling me that this, like other attempts to bring Dexter down, will lead to nowhere. Then again, every time I think I have something figured out with this show, I’m proven wrong.

NEXT: A new spin on being trapped in the closet.

Case in point: Batista’s thought-to-be-pointless rumble with a fellow officer last week. If you remember, he had gotten into the scuffle defending LaGuerta’s name, and this week, it came back to haunt him. Someone from internal affairs visited LaGuerta to deliver news that Batista was going to be investigated and possibly charged with assault with a deadly weapon. The officer Batista has fought with had collapsed with internal bleeding the night after their confrontation and was filing charges.

Speaking of collapsing, Dexter got Fowler to the appropriate spot by calling into Sanitation and falsely reporting a dead gator. He brought Fowler down using his normal method (needle to neck), but one thing he hadn’t factored in was the tranquilizer gun in Fowler’s hand. He took a dart to the belly. (One of the  aforementioned “O, S—.” moments.)

Dexter woke up in the back of an ambulance with Fowler by his side. The EMT then asked the obvious question: If Dexter had been the one shot by the tranquilizer, why was Fowler unconscious, too? They hadn’t found Dexter’s needle. Fowler did the unthinkable and covered for Dexter, saying he had passed out in shock. As they were being rolled into the hospital, Dexter kept an eye on Fowler. And Fowler kept an eye on Dexter. Then, in a sea of ER curtains, they lost sight of one another. Fowler rose from his bed, grabbed a surgical tool, and approached Dexter’s bed. He pulled away the curtain, only to realize Dexter was already gone.

When Fowler returned home, Dexter went for it. But once again, he left prints EVERYWHERE. He didn’t use gloves, and unless he went back to clean up, he left prints all over the dining room. Oh, Dex.

Using an apron (with a “Natural Born Griller” logo!) and dishwashing gloves instead of his normal gear, Dexter improvised the kill. He even had to use newspaper instead of plastic, which really doesn’t seem like a suitable replacement since anything wet (like blood!) would easily bleed through it. (I’m disturbed I take this into consideration. Seriously.)

As he sunk the knife into Fowler, Dexter waited briefly for a feeling of normalcy. But it didn’t come. “No church bells. No Hallelujah chorus. Nothing feels different. If anything, I’m emptier,” he said. The only thing he did hear was a noise from a locked closet in the corner. Dexter approached and opened the door. In it was, presumably, Fowler’s next victim (guest star Stiles). She tried to escape but passed out as Dexter foiled her attempt. “She saw everything. She saw me,” Dexter said.

O, S. O, S. O, S!

I can honestly say that I never saw that coming, and (being a spoiler-phobe) I still don’t know anything about Stiles’ character, but what a way to say hello!

NEXT: The episode’s best lines of dialogue!

I’m excited readers, but what about you? What did you think of the episode? How are you liking Officer Manzon? How do you feel about the Santa Muerte killer plot? Did you, too, find it a little funny that the FBI is “up to their necks” in the Trinity case when we, the viewers, have moved so far past it? Wasn’t that picture of Harrison’s first step the cutest? Most importantly, did you like the introduction of the new character?

QUOTEABLES

“True warriors are humble men.” –Masuka, who also believes in tactical retreats

“What are you gonna do, wear a bib?” –Deb, re: a killer with no blood on his clothes

“I’m just not used to checking the fridge for notes [Voice over]…just notes from other serial killers.” — Dexter. (See: Ice Truck Killer)

“This man is a knight in shining armor. You should be polishing his lance.…I meant that metaphorically — not how it sounded” –Masuka

“Damn. Don’t people just shoot each other any more?” –Masuka

Fowler: “Who are you?”

Dexter: “Just a fellow traveler who also likes to pick up dead animals.”

TV ADDICTS, STOP WHERE YOU ARE! Embedded below, listen to the second edition of EW.com’s TV Insiders podcast. Dalton Ross, Michael Slezak, Michael Ausiello, Tim Stack (EW’s resident Gleek), and yours truly break down the week in television—specifically Glee, Dancing With the Stars, and Survivor—and present it to you in an easily digestible audio format. Or click here to download TV Insiders to your MP3 player!

Michael C. Hall plays a serial killer who only murders evildoers in this gruesome drama
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