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Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon!

By J.K. Barlow | TV | October 15, 2009 | Comments ()

By J.K. Barlow | TV | October 15, 2009 |


dexter_morgan.jpg

The theme of this episode, "Blinded by the Light," is community and the lone wolves that threaten it. Also, Dexter is a gate, his sociopathic tendencies are graffiti, and community is the nice orange paint that covers it. Or something.

Dexter's at a suburban backyard barbecue. He monologues that this tradition originates in the Ice Age, when men would get together to cut up woolly mammoths in a spirit of camaraderie, thus ensuring the creation of their community-minded polo shirt-wearing descendants. On that note, he blends up a strawberry-tequila smoothie that looks like blood. Coincidence! He's making the rounds with a tray of booze for the grown-ups and soda for the kids when Astor rejects his offer of a drink. She's too busy making eyes at that stocking-capped, drumstick-wielding cutie across the way. Luckily, Cappie doesn't want a soda either. It must be love.

Rita thinks this social occasion will be a good place to ask why Dexter didn't tell her he had a concussion. She's been talking to a doctor and is wearing a big straw hat. It's a bit much. She is not impressed, and demands his car keys, saying she'll be driving him around for the next week, as per doctor's orders. Dexter tries to say he just didn't want to worry her, but ultimately capitulates. He reasons that this will help him the next time he wants to request a night off. You know. To kill somebody.

At this barbecue all the talk is about a vandal who's descended on the neighborhood. Apparently he's broken Kate's birdbath, knocked over the Anderson's water fountain, pulled down the Garcia's basketball hoop, and spray-painted the Schwartz's trash cans. What an ethnically diverse suburb! He also knocked the seahorse off Andy's mailbox. Andy is a recent widower and the father of Jess, the stocking-capped drumstick wunderkind, who is now randomly spraying things with a SuperSoakerâ„¢. Andy says it's pretty suspicious that the vandalism started right around the time Dexter and Rita moved in; he's joking, but it still inspires a Dexter monologue about being the lone wolf in a cul-de-sac full of sheep.

Elliot, who is totally not a lone wolf, jokingly pushes Cody into the pool, earning hearty laughs from everyone. Dex, in the spirit of the moment, tries the same thing with Astor, to resounding silence. Rita scolds him, and Astor is humiliated. I'm humiliated, and I'm not even there. Clearly, Dexter's talents lie in other directions.

In a dark minivan, Arthur Mitchell (a.k.a. the Trinity Killer) sits in the backseat while a weeping Tarla drives up to an empty warehouse. He tells her to stop the van. A moment later they're on the top floor, at a big open window, and he's telling her to jump. "It always ends like this," he says, and "it's already over," which is the same thing he said to Lisa Bell. "Why are you doing this to me?" Tarla whimpers. He answers, "You know I'm not to blame here." Come again? He places her outside the railing. He knows all about her family and threatens to hurt them if she doesn't jump. She begs him to push her, but he won't. Trembling and sobbing, she lets go, and falls. By the look of him, this gives Arthur a great deal of relief. "Oh... Mommy," he says, as he passes her by. He takes a small glass vial out of his pocket, licks his finger (bad move), and dips it into the vial, collecting some of whatever's in there - some kind of powder. He wipes it on the ground next to Tarla.

Next morning, Dexter goes out to get the paper in his pajamas á la Tony Soprano. Behind him we see a crude angry face spray-painted on the wooden gate, and as he turns, he sees it too. Harry shows up. What's the consensus on Dexter's chats with Harry? Do they happen in real time as he mumbles, or is silent? Or are they mental flashes that really last no time at all? Let's hope it's the latter, because in the former Dexter looks a little crazy sauce. Harry says he's been tagged, and even though he's not the only one, he's got to clean it up. Otherwise people might wonder: why him? Even if he's stressed, he can't let things slip. Dexter, seeing an empty spray paint can by the fence, notes he's not the only one letting things slip. Will this be another abuse of the Miami PD's resources? I think yes.

Deb and Anton live in a cute little pastel-yellow building. As Anton strums his guitar, cute-musician-boyfriend style, Deb asks (not un-bitchily) why he never makes the coffee in the morning. Anton says it's because he doesn't want it enough. So you never drank coffee before you moved in with Deb? Uh... good news! Anton's band has got a three-night-a-week gig at a local hotel, meaning he won't have to work on the cruise ship anymore, and he'll be home every night. I guess Anton's not a real subtle guy, because he doesn't seem to notice that Deb looks less than thrilled.

Rita is driving Dexter to work and singing along to "Karma Chameleon." My God, Dexter, get out while you can! She knows all the words! She also won't stop to let Dexter get a coffee, because he's already had one. You know what, Rita? If you don't want Dexter to drink two cups of coffee in the morning, take him off the freaking night shift. No wonder you're so perky. Dexter mentally counts down the days to his "freedom."

At the police department the team's got nothing on Johnny Rose, the Vacation Murderer. They've talked to everyone they can think of, and his immediate family is under surveillance. No one's talking. Deb will be transferred to this case soon if she can't get any breaks with Lisa Bell. As Dex walks out of the elevator, Quinn not-so-casually presents him with two club-level seats to a Miami Dolphins game, because Dex is apparently the first "friend" he thought of when he needed to get rid of them. You know, that's not a problem I often have. In the kitchen, Vince Masuka catches sight of the tickets and wonders who he has to fuck to get such perks; Dexter hands them to him, fuck-free. Guess he's not a football fan. Masuka is awed.

Angel announces that Tarla's been found. Naturally, they're thinking it's a suicide. In a bit of lazy storytelling, Dex immediately thinks this might be Trinity's next victim, even though Angel hasn't mentioned the woman's age, and Lundy didn't mention how Trinity's next victim might die. Like, are dead women so very rare in Miami? I guess it's just a ruse to get Dex, Deb and Lundy together at another crime scene, because Deb immediately volunteers herself, Dexter, and an unwilling Quinn for good measure. Dexter catches a ride with Deb and Quinn, and sits in the back seat, where he can "feel the bass in his spine." It's loud.

On the concrete in front of the warehouse, where Tarla is sprawled, the team has congregated. Masuka rattles off the relevant info -- the bytes that are all that is left of Tarla's life. He also notes that there are no signs of violence previous to the jump. It's looking pretty open-and-shut, and then Lundy shows up in a really amazing hat. It's like The Man in the Yellow Hat's hat, only white. Quinn asks why Lundy's interested in the suicide, and Deb gets all bristly, saying it's weird that Tarla would drive all the way from Fort Lauderdale to jump off this abandoned warehouse, and that she'd rather treat it as a homicide until they know more. Quinn gives in. Lundy walks around dictating notes into a tape recorder. Deb apologizes for the scene at Lundy's hotel the other night, but Lundy admits he's glad that Trinity has brought him to Miami. Oh Deb, don't fuck it up with Anton. Lundy also tells her that if this is Trinity's victim, she'll have been married with two kids, and there also may have been a similar case on this site thirty years ago. Dexter reflects on Trinity's confidence, and is inspired.

What happens next is difficult to put into words, but I'll try. What happens is we see a monster truck, painted sky-blue and intricately detailed with lightning bolts, pull up to Dexter's house. The truck is blasting country, and I mean country music. It is Vince Masuka's truck, and he is driving Dexter home, and accepting Dexter's thanks with an "Anytime, pardner." It's truly awe-inspiring. But instead of ending the episode on this high note, the writers make the bold choice to follow Dex up the walk, where he is blinded by very bright security lights on the house next door.

In the living room, Rita is talking to a police officer, a sight to which Dexter does not respond well. Relax - it's just the neighborhood watch meeting, which Rita has volunteered to host. Dexter didn't get the message. While Dexter surveys "his community", the enthusiastic cop advises him to familiarize himself with his neighbors' schedules, and gives him a whistle and a headlight for patrolling. His job is to watch and report.

Widower Andy strolls over to represent the Neighborhood Beautification Association. They want Dexter to paint over the graffiti on his gate, and I want to know why people willingly subject themselves to such associations. Elliot says he trained his security lights on Dexter's lawn on purpose, as a favor. The vandal's latest misdeed has been breaking into and trashing the Walker's guest house. Elliot: "Next thing he'll be stealing our women! Can't let him steal our women, now, can we?" Dexter: "No! They're our women!" He's talking a little too loud; trying a little too hard.

Everyone's signing up for neighborhood watch, which pisses Dex off, but he hides it well. Looking up, he sees the graffiti designs on Jess's shoes. Jess is busy just charming the shit out of Astor by telling her he has to go to community college next year instead of the University of Miami because his dad got laid off. So, this college-age fellow enjoys tagging along with his dad to neighborhood watch meetings, where he hits on thirteen-year-old girls? Awesome, Astor. Lock that down. Jesse and Astor tell Dex that the neighborhood watch is lame, which it kind of is, but Dex doesn't mind because he's set his sights on Jesse's empty Diet Pepsi, sure to bear fingerprints. He takes it, and then makes Astor want to die by telling her the little lady is up past her bedtime. Unbelievably, he doesn't seem to realize how embarrassing this will be until after he says it. She's not a little girl anymore, and that is news to Dexter.

The next morning Dexter is painting over the graffiti on the gate, and Astor, on her way to school, rolls her eyes at his offer of a high five. Looks like Dexter's in need of a fatherly chat, and Harry shows up right on cue. Apparently Dexter's always been good with kids, but not so much with the rest of humanity. That's because kids' simpler emotions are easier for Dexter to understand -- he's "something less" than a whole person, or at least that's what Harry's always told him. Harry continues to warn Dexter against getting too comfortable with his new lifestyle. He needs to remember it's nothing more than a front. Observing Dexter's work, he advises him to use something a little darker - for the gate? Dexter assures him that nothing will show through.

After Rita drives him to work to the sounds of Bananarama, Dexter is in the lab, comparing fingerprints. It looks like the fingerprints taken from Jesse's Pepsi can are also found on the empty paint can. Got him! Now he can catch the vandal and get the neighborhood watch off his back at the same time. They're cramping his style.

Meanwhile, Quinn's discovered that Tarla Grant was, in fact, a married mother of two. Deb is jubilant. Quinn has some understandable doubts; he thinks Lundy sees serial killers everywhere he looks, and if we weren't privy to Arthur Mitchell's nocturnal activities, I might agree with him. Deb jumps to Lundy's defense, and Quinn's not surprised, considering Deb's been wading through thirty-year-old files all afternoon at Lundy's suggestion. LaGuerta strides in and announces that she's unsealed Johnny Rose's juvie records, revealing the name of his high-school girlfriend, Nikki Wald. Nikki testified against him in a shoplifting trial, but even so, she's the only new lead they have, and Angel wants to track this girl down. LaGuerta says she'll go with him, but it looks like they're thinking of making a little crazy good pit stop, if you know what I'm saying.

Deb's found a thirty-year-old case that's identical to Tarla Grant's, and what's more, the family in that case never believed it was a suicide. But Quinn remains skeptical. Apparently people die next to that warehouse all the time. Still, Tarla didn't have any apparent reason for offing herself, so Quinn agrees to keep the case open, though you get the feeling he's just humoring her. Deb is indignant. Just then Anton, Deb's tall, cute, built, live-in musician boyfriend arrives to take her out for lunch, and she bites his head off, saying she's got a fuckload of work to do. Anton just stares at her. Deb agrees to a working lunch. What a sweetheart.

They head outside to interrupt Dexter's treasured lunchtime solitude, and Lundy's right behind them. Deb totally blows the introduction, presenting Anton as "M-my lover.... F-friend. My boyfriend." Smooth. Talk turns to Tarla Grant just as Dexter stuffs half a sandwich in his mouth and runs off, leaving Deb stranded at a table with her fella and ex-fella, who couldn't be more different. Maybe Harry knows what he's talking about. Deb gushes that Lundy was right on all counts about Tarla. Anton doesn't know what anybody's talking about, and Deb ain't too forthcoming with the details, although she does let Anton get a peek at some crime scene photos. Is she allowed to do that? Deb is basically Lundy's Girl Friday, giving him what he wants before he even asks for it. And all Anton's getting are some nods and profanity.

All aglow, Angel and LaGuerta are walking up to Nikki Wald's apartment, talking about what a long shot she is. Nobody's home. Angel spots a young woman walking up to the building and introduces himself as a cop before noticing that this young lady is accompanied by none other than Johnny Rose himself. Gunfire ensues. No one gets shot, but the couple is gone before Angel and LaGuerta can catch them. Angel hopelessly calls in an alert on a gray sedan headed north. Nice going, guys. Whatever could have put you off your game?

Dexter's crouched in the dark outside Andy and Jesse's house. Andy heads out to his weekly poker game, and just as Dexter predicted, Jesse's out of the house as soon as Dad is gone, charmingly whacking flowers with his drumsticks. Dexter pulls a black mask over his face, prepared to give the kid a little scare, when he is spotted by the neighbourhood watch. Brilliant. What do you think aroused their suspicions? Jesse takes off, looking pretty suspicious himself, while Dexter leads his pursuers on a chase through the hedges and pools of suburban backyards. Not really following our "observe and report" directives, are we? Not surprisingly, Dex evades them, and pulls off his mask just in time for Elliot's security lights to scar his retinas once again. Next morning at breakfast, Elliot wants Dex and Rita to see the vandal's latest work: he's broken into somebody's car, released the brake, and sent it rolling into Elliot's lawn, crushing Cody's bike in the process. Rita is appalled.

The team's back at the warehouse, where Masuka's pushing a cartful of dummies up to that sixth-floor window to simulate Tarla's jump, or verify that that's what she did. Quinn asks how they're supposed to simulate a running leap, but Masuka says people don't kill themselves that way; they just let go. He follows that solemn observation by trying to hock the Dolphins tickets Dexter's just given him -- the ones he got from Quinn. Quinn is pissed, and grabs the tickets.

Then this conversation happens:

Masuka: "Must be weird for you, Lundy coming back." Deb: [defensively] "Why would it be weird? You're weird." Masuka: "None of my business, I know. But if I loved someone and that person was gone, and then I moved on and found someone else, and then the first person all of a sudden showed up again... I don't know, I've never had that problem. But it's gotta be a little confusing." Deb: "Maybe. ...A little." Masuka: "So then maybe, if you know that it's supposed to be weird and confusing, then maybe it's a little easier to handle."


I kept waiting for him to work in a dirty joke, but he never did. Couldn't you just die? It's so sweet! Vince Masuka is more aware of his surroundings than he lets on; he's not just a caricature. And after the monster truck, it's probably good to remind us of that.

Dexter and Lundy are waiting down below to watch the fall. Lundy reveals that Trinity's trinity is always thus: lacerate a young woman's femoral artery in bathtub; force a mother to jump to her death; and bludgeon a man. Masuka takes one of the dummies, who he has dressed in a short skirt for maximum panty viewing, and tosses her out the window. Two dummies have now fallen into a position eerily similar to Tarla's. Because, as we already know, she really did jump.

Dexter wants to know how many cycles Trinity's gone through. Lundy says there have been fifteen that he knows of; but given these thirty-year-old cases they've been finding, there may well be many more. That makes Dexter so happy he actually smiles, but when he catches Lundy staring at him, he clarifies that it's only impressive "in a very evil way." Good save. Lundy, who's as talkative as an Arctic summer day is long, marvels at how difficult it's been to prove Trinity's existence. No one at the FBI would buy it. (Good thing the Morgan kids are so gullible.) Trinity has succeeded because he's a lone wolf, drifting through life with no family or friends to get suspicious of him and turn him in. As Lundy says, "He's foregone all but the most rudimentary of human connections." Both men identify with this, though Lundy's the only one who admits it - I guess because he's not a serial killer. Lundy says this description just as easily could be his; he was married for twenty-nine years, but the hunt was the only thing that excited him. "Now here I am at sixty, watching dummies fly off a roof." Tragic, yet hilarious. Lundy's intrigued that Trinity's back in Miami, but wouldn't say he's coming home; "people like us don't really belong anywhere." Chills.

A small varnished wooden table holds a whiskey bottle, a pitcher of water, two glasses, and two framed black-and-white photographs, vintage 1960s at the latest: one of a young girl, in what looks like a school photo, and the other of a happy couple. Arthur Mitchell places a floral urn in the table's center. He takes out the glass vial he had at the crime scene and pours its ashy contents into the urn, replacing the lid carefully. He sits down in one of two chairs and pours a glass of whiskey, then a glass of water. He pushes the whiskey towards the empty chair, picks up the glass of water, and says "Drink up," clinking the whiskey glass with his own. "You're next." He drinks the water.

Now Quinn is actually walking through the police station with his journalist girlfriend Christine Hill. That's bold. She wants to know all about the vacation murders, but Quinn says she'll have to wait for the press release like everyone else. He does, however, mention that LaGuerta and Angel almost got killed yesterday, and warns her not to put a negative spin on anything - I guess so they don't get pissed off, in their fragile states. If she does, he'll get angry, but then she'll get turned on - what to do? He promises to be "angry in a very withholding way." He catches sight of Deb and Masuka and tells her to scram.

It makes Deb angry, but Masuka insists the lab results show that Tarla was a jumper. Quinn makes things even worse for Deb's murder theory by revealing that Tarla had just been diagnosed with a small tumor, thus supplying a motive for suicide. Deb persists: there were no text messages, no suicide note. But Masuka and Quinn aren't buying it.

LaGuerta and Angel are going to be debriefed on their shooting incident tomorrow morning, and she and Angel get their stories straight: lunch and a flat tire delayed their arrival at Nikki Wald's house, and certainly not a quickie (or a not-so-quickie -- an hour and a half?) in a hotel with room service. With that off her mind, LaGuerta heads over to Deb's desk and tells her to lay off with the homicide bit. Tarla Grant killed herself and that's that. She makes short work of Lundy's "theory" and tells Deb that while she's free to pursue this on her own time, she's probably going to be too busy to do much about it.

Dex strolls into the office talking on his cell - Cody stepped on a piece of glass. Poor kid. As soon as he hangs up, Quinn walks into the lab and demands to know why Dexter is rejecting all of his attempts to "make things good." Dexter cuts to the chase -- he doesn't care if Quinn's a dirty cop. Quinn takes this badly. He risks his life every day, he says, and still can't afford the down payment on a condo. Maybe Quinn should sell his car. That car looked pretty sweet. Dex was under the impression that Quinn had family money, but Quinn says not anymore, not that it matters. Just don't call him dirty. Fine, Dex says, but he still doesn't care what Quinn does, as long as he keeps Deb out of it. Quinn says he can't understand, because he's not a cop. "Cops," Dexter monologues, "another community I'm not part of."

Deb drives Dexter home, and they sit in the car for a while talking about their complicated lives. Dexter doesn't want to enter his crowded, wife-and-three-kids house, and Deb doesn't like living with Anton now that he's always home. And Lundy, Dex asks, is that a good development, or a bad one? Deb doesn't know, but points out how fucked up this is: "We're complaining because people want to be with us." Good work, Harry! Neither Deb nor Dex thinks Tarla Grant committed suicide, even though she definitely jumped. She must have been afraid of something.

When Dexter walks in, the house is surprisingly quiet. Cody's made a fort under the table. At Rita's suggestion, Dexter apologizes to Astor, who's reading a magazine called Teen Dish. Do kids still read magazines these days? I was under the impression they were all online, posting suggestive photos of themselves in public forums. Dex monologues that a normal person would know what to say in this situation, but he's wrong -- and he also does an awkward, but good job. He says he knows Astor's not a little kid, but sometimes he can't help being dumb. Astor, surprisingly, says it's okay to be dumb. Thanks, Dexter says. It's nice.

Angel and LaGuerta have an elevator moment, but she pulls away. She can't act naturally around Angel; even if people won't think twice, she will. She worries about misinterpretation. Angel says forget it, and pulls her close. "I need this as much as you do."

In a bedroom across town, Quinn is getting massaged by a topless Christine. Have we had boobies before on this show? Didn't we see Rita's, a few seasons back? I don't remember. Perhaps some of our more booby-minded readers can remind me. Anyway, Quinn is bitching about Dexter. "First of all, who the fuck is named Dexter?" Heh. Believe me, you don't want to know. Christine says Dex seems okay to her, but Quinn dismisses him as a lab geek. Quinn's exhausted from all the dummy-throwing, and Christine gives really good massages, and Quinn spills about Lundy's theory. Oh Quinn, you idiot, you're not that tired. The thing Christine and Lundy have in common is that they always get their man.

Deb and Lundy are at a sparkly, shiny bar. Lundy's dishing that he's got evidence of Trinity in eight different cities across the country, but this is the first time, as far as he knows, that Trinity's hit the same city twice. He orders Deb another drink. Deb asks why he can't just relax and enjoy his retirement, but he tells her what we all knew anyway: hunting serial killers is how he relaxes. That's fucked up, Frank. I guess Deb's fucked up too, because in Lundy's opinion, she's just the same way - only prettier. Not flirting, he says - just stating the truth. Damn right. Deb gets a text from Anton asking if she's working late, to which she answers in the affirmative. He calls. Don't get take out, she says -- I'm still working. He says he loves her and she says "Me too," a little too quickly for my liking. Oh man, Deb. Why you gotta screw things up? Two lone wolves can't be happy together!

Dex is all set to break into Andy's house and scare the shit out of Jesse. He hears the sounds of vandalism -- breaking glass and sirens -- as he picks the lock and pulls the mask over his face. He's wearing his head lamp, which, as he enters Jesse's bedroom, reveals Jesse sound asleep in bed. Then Andy comes in the front door, carrying a wrench over his shoulder. Ah-ha! Dexter's not the only one with secrets. He follows Andy into the garage and turns off the light, then starts threatening Andy in a raspy, Batman-esque voice. He warns him to stop it, or "I will come back here and leave with your head in a bag. I already have the bag." Awesome. Andy, freaked out and blinded by the headlamp, pauses a moment and then lashes out, starting something of a scuffle. He doesn't want to stop. He loves breaking shit. His wife is dead, he lost his job, his son hates him, and the bank is foreclosing on his house. He hates his neighbors and everything they represent. He doesn't care if Dexter kills him, so Dex threatens his son's life instead -- and it works. It's over.

Dexter walks onto his lawn and those goddamn lights switch on again, so bright they illuminate the face on the gate, barely hidden under a hasty coat of paint. And yes, there's Harry, saying it's "a stain so deep it can't be erased." Dexter says nothing, but grabs a rake and takes out the security lights with a couple of well-placed hits. And Rita comes out just in time to see him do it. They stare. Roll credits.

Aw, hell.

****

Closing thoughts. After this episode anyone with half a brain is going to think Trinity's killing off his family, over and over again. But are we being intentionally misled? In any case, when we finally hear his story, you know it's going to be a doozy. Deb's probably going to screw things up with Anton, but is that a bad thing or not? Is Lundy right about her lone-wolf status, or is he wrong, or worse -- manipulative? What's his deal, anyway? And I swear to you, if this vandalism thing turns out like the Dexter-is-a-drug-addict fiasco of Season Two, I am going to lose my shit. I really hated that development.


J. K. Barlow lives in Europe, which stresses her out. She doesn't currently have a blog -- or not one she wants you to see -- but she can be reached at i.barlova at gmail dot com.



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