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Nothing Says Thanksgiving Like a Serial Killer

By J.K. Barlow | TV | November 27, 2009 |

By J.K. Barlow | TV | November 27, 2009 |

Dexter considers his collection of knives and chooses the best one — for carving the turkey. They can’t be those knives then, right? I guess Rita keeps theirs in a black roll-up thingy too. Dexter probably suggested it. That’s right, folks, it’s the Thanksgiving episode, that staple of all American series. But I can’t recall just now if “Dexter” has ever had one, and I’m not going to check. You can remind me in the comments.

Creepy Kyle Butler is sitting across from the Mitchells’ house, watching Arthur break his son’s baseball trophies in pieces as punishment for quitting baseball. As far as I know, Dexter hasn’t bugged their house, nor is he using binoculars (thank god), so he probably doesn’t know what’s going on exactly. He guesses it’s something bad though, by the way Jonah storms out of the house, jumps into Dad’s prize convertible, peels out of the driveway, heads to a deserted area by the freeway and proceeds to beat the shit out of the car with a baseball bat. Alter-ego Kyle demonstrates both perceptiveness and lack of same by following Jonah to the deserted area, walking up to him, and asking him what’s wrong. Dexter, seriously: back off. I’m frankly surprised the Mitchells tolerate him as much as they do.

It seems Arthur Mitchell is not just a generally pleasant person with periodic intervals of crankiness, followed by homicidal rage. He hits his son, and isn’t all too kind to his wife or daughter. Jonah has quit baseball because he’s run out of ways to explain the bruises to his coaches, and describes life in the Mitchell house not as life, but a tour of duty. Well, he’s good at faking it, then, because he really had me convinced a couple of episodes ago. He suddenly realizes what he’s doing and says Arthur would kill him for revealing their family secrets. Mr. Butler promises not to say a word. Jonah says, “You should have just let him die.” Yeah, maybe. Dexter generously offers to go with Jonah when he breaks the news about the car. Jonah says maybe it would work if Kyle came for Thanksgiving tomorrow. No problem! There’s a lie for that.

The police station is swimming with old man criminals uncovered by the DNA sweep. Dex hopes that will keep everyone away from Trinity, at least over the holiday, but knows it’ll take some serious work to pry Deb away from her precious case. She intends to work on it all weekend. She goes over a few of her theories with Dex, some of which are right on, though she still thinks Trinity is unmarried. Dex pleads: didn’t you used to love Thanksgiving? Yeah, says Deb, before mom died and it became Harry in front of the game with a TV dinner. You know, Harry is charming me more every day. Furthermore — and this is news to Dex — Deb is lead detective on Trinity, now that Angel’s been moved to The Case of Who Shot Deb. Dexter asks her to clarify — it wasn’t Trinity? — and feels stupid for not decoding the bullet’s trajectory sooner, but appears convinced. Pushing that aside, he makes a last-ditch attempt to get Deb to his house for Thanksgiving, but she’s adamant — no turkey this year.

Now here’s Angel with an update: he says the DNA sweep has led to breaks on three rape cases, one burglary case, and two homicides. Score! Nail those motherfuckers. Deb wants to know if there are any other leads; Angel promises that they’ll catch her shooter and then tells her to focus on her own job.

In LaGuerta’s office, she and Angel discuss a suit brought against them by the ACLU. LaGuerta estimates they’ve got seventy-two hours before they’re shut down, and as Angel points out, they won’t get much work done over the holidays. LaGuerta will be working the weekend — it seems her whole family lives in Cuba. That’s gotta be rough. Angel’s daughter will be having dinner with her mother, meaning that Angel will be around too. This revelation ratchets the sexual tension up to muy caliente.

Dexter comes home bearing pies. As he inspects the 22-pound turkey — good lord — and Rita stocks the fridge, Dex tells Rita that he has to spend three hours tomorrow in Monroe County filling in for an absentee blood guy. It’s a pretty well-thought-out fib, except for when he tells her he’ll be making triple overtime. How will he fake that? Rita is bummed for a second but then says that Elliott, at least, will be there. Dex says, “Good old Elliott.” Rita is distressed to hear that Deb might (might?) not make it to the dinner, and starts going on about establishing family traditions and how Deb should know she plays an important part.

Instead of passing the message on himself, Dex records a video of the kids tearfully begging their aunt Deb to have Thanksgiving with them. Deb watches it at work and feels bad; she sighs, then spots Masuka in his white lab coat, working away at the DNA samples. She walks over to ask him about his plans for tomorrow. He says he has none: “Whatever about tomorrow, right? It’s just another day where people eat turkey. I can eat turkey any day of the year.” Something about Vince makes me feel all maternal sometimes, and maybe the same thing happens to Deb, because she asks him to be her wingman. He barely lets her finish before he accepts, and then suggests switching his role to “thigh man”. Not feeling so maternal now.

What’s the Official Christine Boobie-View Count at by now? My educated guess is five. She exits a steamy shower smiling at Quinn, who wraps her in a towel. She wants him to come over for Thanksgiving dinner, but he’s weirded out by spending the holiday with her because it makes things all serious. Listen, Quinn, if you’re putting your job on the line for this chick things had better be serious. But Christine doesn’t want to spend Thanksgiving alone (who can blame her?) and so she makes some pretty grandiose claims about her skills with pecan pie. I am sure you can imagine the pie jokes that follow.

Arthur Mitchell collects his morning paper to find a screaming headline: OCEANGATE BLUDGEONER REMAINS AT-LARGE. He absently wishes a happy Thanksgiving to a passing child as he locates the journalist’s name and photo: yep, it’s Christine Hill, queen of pecan pies.

At home, Dexter reviews his plan: at the Mitchells’ by one, and then home by four. Rita and Good Old Elliott are puzzling over how to fit the turkey into a too-small roasting pan. Cody imparts some information about the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving — corn and eels — and Astor mentions the subsequent genocide of the Indians and the Pilgrims’ ensuing moral righteousness. According to Rita, mentioning genocides is just a phase. Dexter is worried — sincerely, I think — about screwing up his kids by being late to their first Thanksgiving, but Rita reminds him that parents damage their kids no matter what. This is meant to make him stop worrying, though I can’t see how.

At the station, Deb is staring at a wall of crime-scene photos mumbling “ashes to ashes…” Quinn, not finding this weird, finishes the sentence with “doughnut to doughnut” and plops a box down on the table. He’s at the station avoiding Christine, who can be “a little intense.” You don’t say? Deb says she won’t stop calling to schedule the interview. It’s almost as if Deb promised to give her one. Anyway, Deb’s going over Trinity’s kill patterns; they mostly happen in July, August, December or April. They’re both too blinded by their supposition that Trinity is a lonely drifter to see the obvious conclusion to be drawn from that. Maybe they would have figured it out if Christine didn’t show up with a foil-wrapped plate of something or other. She’s interested to hear that Deb is taking off soon, and hopes that means that Quinn can take off too. Deb’s pretty funny in this scene, wearing a big shit-eating grin, punching Quinn on the shoulder, enthusiastically encouraging him to go. He goes to ask LaGuerta, and Deb and Christine have a little chat in which Christine calls herself Quinn’s girlfriend, says how messed up he was after Deb got shot, and then delivers a creepy little speech on how awful it must be to look into your loved one’s eyes as he draws his last breath. Wow, she really is intense.

Elsewhere in the station, a uniformed cop takes a white-bearded old man into custody while Angel looks on. LaGuerta reacts with shock; apparently the guy was a homicide suspect from a ten-year-old case and Angel just got him to confess. He invites LaGuerta along to notify her husband; she says okay, and Angel smirks like he’s hoping to get some nookie on the way back.

Creepy Kyle rings the Mitchells’ doorbell, holding a container of store-bought cookies. They weren’t expecting him, and their demeanor is less than welcoming, but he just stands there looking awkward long enough to break down their defenses. He says it’s the first Thanksgiving without his family, so they relent and invite him in.

At the Morgans’ house, Aunt Deb walks in with an accordion file and some festive balloons. She asks where Dex is and accepts the Monroe County story without question, muttering “He’s more like Dad every day.” The kids manage to guilt her away from her work and over to a puzzle, where they’ve got the corners all done. Of course you do, kids. That’s the easiest part.

In the kitchen, Rita has just realized that she won’t have room for the turkey, broccoli-cheese casserole, sweet potatoes and plum pudding in her tiny oven. Good Old Elliott comes to the rescue: he’s got two ovens in his kitchen! That’s it, Elliott, get her alone. As they head out the door with their various pans, they run into Vince, looking cute as a button in a nice clean shirt and holding a tray of little cakes. I am so excited, and I do mean SO EXCITED, to spend more time with Vince. He tells Deb the cakes are lava cakes — “a river of chocolate love that melts in your mouth” — and they are his specialty.

Dex is in the Mitchell’s kitchen, helping Arthur and Sally prepare the meal. They won’t be eating anytime soon, though, because it’s a Mitchell family tradition to watch the game first. Chopping carrots, Arthur grouses that Jonah seems to have forgotten the holiday; his wife sweetly asserts that Jonah will certainly come, because he knows how important Thanksgiving is to his father. Arthur gives her a cold look. Next, she draws close to Arthur and asks if maybe Rebecca can “come out now”. Arthur supposes so, and goes to get her; in answer to Dexter’s question, Sally says that Rebecca is not grounded, but doesn’t elaborate further.

Angel and LaGuerta have come to a nursing home to inform Carl Haas that his wife’s killer has been caught, and are surprised to find him in a coma. He has been in one for several years, and Angel didn’t know. Still they request some time alone, and with LaGuerta’s help, an emotional Angel manages to tell him that the killer has been found, and that he’s sorry they didn’t find him sooner. There’s a framed wedding photo of the couple on the man’s nightstand. Even LaGuerta gets a little teary.

Back at the Mitchells’, Arthur is escorting Rebecca out of her bedroom; she politely greets Mr. Butler. Arthur invites Dex to a “pre-game football toss,” and Rebecca heads for the kitchen, looking at Dex just a little too long as she exits the room. Dex, just to be extra-creepy, watches her go. Arthur remarks that he has at least one perfect child.

In the garage, Arthur can’t find the football. Dex suggests a baseball, which Arthur finds a ridiculous suggestion. He starts going on about how traditions matter, give children a sense of history and what’s expected of them. The expectations are apparently generosity, common sense, and obedience, and also there’s some crap about duties and responsibilities. Just then, ignoring Arthur’s loud protests, Dexter uncovers the coffin. After a pause Arthur explains that he made the coffin when he was still confused, meaning of course suicidal. Dexter admires the craftsmanship; Arthur thinks he’ll donate it to charity, since he won’t need it. Dex thinks, “No, you’ll be buried at sea.” They find a football — Jonah’s — but it’s deflated. Arthur doesn’t like that at all. He opens the garage door and walks out.

Harry has been remiss in comparing Dexter to Arthur this episode, so it’s about time he makes an appearance. When Dexter asks what kind of father keeps a coffin in the garage, Harry counters with the obvious question; what kind of father keeps blood slides in the garage? At that moment Jonah, exhibiting remarkable courage, pulls up the driveway in the wrecked convertible. His story is that it just mysteriously got trashed while sitting in his friend’s driveway overnight, and he’s really sorry; Dexter’s jocular remark that “that’s why God invented car insurance” does nothing to alleviate the dread. Arthur silently walks to the garage, and comes back with a crowbar. I guess even he’s above savagely beating his son in public, because all he does is wedge it into the wheel well, move it around a bit, and declare that the car is now fit to drive. He then cheerily invites Dex and Jonah to watch the game, which is about to start.

Either the puzzle is finished or the kids got distracted, because Deb’s hard at work (with the baby on her lap) and the kids are tossing a Wiffle ball around the house. Rita tells them no Wiffle balls in the house. Deb is amazed that Rita can manage so many kids at once, but Rita says this is nothing — just think about summer vacation. A discussion of school vacations flips a switch in Deb’s mind: she realizes Trinity must work in the school system. She hurries to the terrace to call Quinn, taking the baby with her (yay baby!), eager to get back to the station and follow this lead. Quinn talks some sense into her, pointing out that nobody else is working today and they won’t get anywhere. Moreover, he hasn’t eaten yet. Deb accepts his judgment with an exasperated “fudge”. Oh come on, Deb, it’s okay. I’m pretty sure you can swear freely until kids are like eighteen months old.

Christine brings Quinn a slice of pie — is that all she made? — and gets him to agree that this has been a nice Thanksgiving. Then she calls herself Quinn’s girlfriend. Quinn is one of these charming fellows who doesn’t like labels, but Christine says she just wants to know he cares about her. Quinn kisses her, but Christine has a better idea; she thinks a blow job is in order. Oof, after Thanksgiving dinner? Good luck with that. But it works — Quinn moans, “You are so my girlfriend.”

Arthur Mitchell is yelling at the television, but Jonah remains calm when their team fails to do … some important thing. Thinking Jonah is safe for the time being, Dexter excuses himself and goes off to do some sleuthing. His first stop is Rebecca’s room, which is all decked out in pinks and purples and unicorns, too young for a fifteen-year-old. Even more disturbing are the locks on the window and outside the door. Does Arthur lock her in there?

Dex wanders into the front yard, where Rebecca is cutting roses, looking all dewy and innocent. She tells him her dad likes roses. “Everything for Dad, huh?” Dex asks, and asks if the locks are for him too. Rebecca is startled by this. Apparently Arthur says the locks protect her, but when Dexter asks if they really do, she doesn’t answer.

Back in the living room, Arthur cheers a good play and high-fives his son, but this isn’t just innocent father-son bonding; he grabs Jonah’s hand and holds it fast, then takes the index finger and twists it until … he breaks it. It’s awful. Jonah looks like he’s about to throw up, poor kid, but Arthur is utterly cool. He says it’s punishment for the windshield, and that beautiful things should be honored. He then walks over to the urn that used to hold Vera and polishes it.

In the garden, Rebecca reveals that she once ran away, with terrible consequences. Dexter tries to comfort her, tells her it won’t always be like this. She can leave when she grows up, but it looks like Rebecca wants to do some growing up right now — she says if she can stay with Mr. Butler, and if he’s nice to her, she’ll do anything he wants. Gulp. Dex does his best to deflect this, but she still goes in for the kiss; she won’t take his rejection and tries a second time, just as Sally walks out. She orders Rebecca into the house. She then turns to Dexter and tells him that whatever he may have done or is going to do to her daughter, she doesn’t care — just as long as he doesn’t tell Arthur. Dexter’s as appalled by this as I am, but promises, wondering what Arthur is doing to his family.

Sally goes back into the house. Dexter’s phone rings and it’s Rita, wanting to know when he’ll be home. He tells her he’s about an hour away — that’s optimistic. She then delivers the startling news that Cody, after throwing a Wiffle ball onto the roof of Dex’s shed, then climbing up to get it, fell through the roof into Dexter’s sacred space. Dex considerately asks if he’s hurt, which he isn’t, but is shaken by the fact that Elliot considered pushing in the air conditioner before taking off the door to get him out. With the shed doorless, Dex is more eager than ever to get home. Rattled, he tells Harry that no one can get into the false bottom of his trunk, but Harry doesn’t think he should be so sure.

Dex walks back into the living room and is about to make his excuses when he spots Jonah taping up his finger. I don’t think Arthur ever would have done this if he knew Mr. Butler knew what he knows, or if he knew that there was no Mr. Butler, but as it is, when Jonah explains that he hit his hand against the table, Arthur just laughs, “My son the klutz.” Dexter sits down on the couch and, apparently, resolves to stay a while.

Angel and LaGuerta are in a parking lot at the beach, drinking Icees mixed with Jose Cuervo Silver. On a beach in Miami? Now that’s a Thanksgiving. Angel starts going on about mortality and all that, the chance occurrences that led to Haas’s wife’s death and Haas’s coma. You know where this is going — “I love you,” he declares. LaGuerta removes his sunglasses and looks him in the eye. “Are you saying that because you’re afraid you’ll get hit by a bus?” Ha! I’m totally going to use that line. In part, he says, but he also just wants her to know it. He starts to shout it until she covers his mouth, laughing. But LaGuerta doesn’t want to say she loves him, and this is because she’s afraid Angel will get hit by a bus if she does. Apparently the fear of Angel getting hit by a bus can produce varied results. But she gives in and tells him she loves him too, and also to watch out for buses. They kiss. Aw, you know what? That was kind of sweet. Also, their full names are Maria Esperanza de Alma LaGuerta and Angel Juan Marcos Battista — do with that information what you will.

Now, I’ve always been of the opinion that sweet potatoes are sweet enough and the addition of marshmallows is overkill, but I suppose we are in the southland here. Rita burns herself removing those sweet, sweet potatoes from Elliott’s oven and exclaims, “Rats!” Apparently she’s not just dressed like a 1950s housewife. He comes to her rescue with a bag of frozen peas, beseeching her to “Give peas a chance.” Hilarious. Elliott says he likes taking care of her, and then kisses her, and she kisses back. Rita gets a hold of herself before that gets out of hand. Apologies follow. Elliott thinks they have a connection because they’re both lonely — Rita protests way too loudly that she has Dexter, but Elliott points out that Dexter’s never around. I guess that hits too close to home, because Rita runs out, leaving Elliott to carry the sweet potatoes all by himself.

As we’ve guessed by the through-the-window shots, someone’s been watching and that someone is Vince. It’s kind of odd they haven’t seen him, since he’s right up at the door, practically breathing on the glass, but apparently they haven’t, and what Vince has seen is too much for him. He walks down the steps and throws the chocolate lava cakes into the trash. Why would he do that? Clearly, he’s unbalanced.

He comes back into the Morgans’ and tells Deb he’s not feeling well and is taking off. Deb won’t hear of it. She tells him that if he goes, she’ll be the only single person here, and she’d rather not think about why she’s single. Hey, Elliott’s single! I guess they haven’t been properly introduced. Her plea melts Vince’s heart, and he promises to stay, but he’ll need booze. Deb goes off to get some and Vince sits on the couch across from Astor, who’s holding Harrison on her lap. He smiles and she says, “Are you the one my mom told me not to talk to?” Vince: “Awkward.”

The Mitchells are sitting around the dinner table, holding hands and saying grace. As Arthur carves the bird, the other Mitchells list the things they’re thankful for. They all make a point of saying how much they are thankful for THIS BEAUTIFUL HOME, and look at Arthur as they say it. Sally is thankful for her kids. Rebecca is thankful for an extension on a school paper, and Jonah tops them all by saying he’s thankful for God. All right, then. Arthur is thankful for his car. Ouch — someone get that knife out of his hand. Creepy Kyle Butler is thankful for … yams. That is, comfort food. He says, “Thank you all for the comfort of your home.” And Arthur says, “…where no one said they were thankful for me.” He directs that jab at Jonah, causing Jonah to say he isn’t thankful for his father. Sally tries to diffuse the situation and her husband calls her a cunt. Dexter protests. Arthur suggests that he leave. Dexter says he’s staying, Rebecca says she’s certainly thankful for her father, and then Arthur calls her Vera. And thus, the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan.

Sixteen-plus years of anger come spewing out of Jonah. Rebecca’s not Vera, nor is she a prisoner, nor is she eight years old. His father’s whole life is a lie. He grabs a Four Walls plaque and shatters a mirror with it, then knocks all the photos to the floor. He accuses his father of sucking the life out of his family, and Arthur lunges; Rebecca tries to stop him but he tosses her across the room. Now Jonah has Vera’s urn in his hands. The force with which he says “Fuck you, and fuck Vera” shows that Vera is held in high reverence in that household; he follows it up by tossing “Vera” across the room. His father attacks him, pushing him down in the chair and closing his hands around his son’s neck. Sally and Rebecca hold each other, terrified. Dexter takes off his belt and wraps it around Arthur’s neck, not just choking him but using it to pull him down and drag him across the floor to the kitchen. Once there, he slams the door behind him and grabs a big knife. Holding it behind his back he holds Arthur down on the floor and growls, “I should have fucking killed you when I had the chance.” That’s when Sally and Rebecca burst in, scream at what is, surely, a very disturbing scene, and throw themselves at Arthur, hiding in his embrace. Dexter, who got up as soon as they came in, runs out.

Harry is a passenger on the ride back home. Dexter punches the steering wheel, and Harry tells him that he screwed it up; now Arthur knows he’s a monster, and he’ll see him coming. Dexter is sweaty, breathless, and angry; he said he couldn’t help himself, seeing how Arthur was destroying his family. Harry, predictably, says that’s what happens when you live with a monster. Forgive me, Harry, but I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen to you and Deb. Dexter screams that he’s nothing like Arthur. Arthur uses his family as “human shields.” Sure, Rita was a cover at first, but now she’s much more than that. He shakily replaces his wedding ring.

Dexter gets home just in time for dinner. Rita welcomes her husband extravagantly, running up to him, throwing her arms around him and exclaiming, “I am so happy you’re home!” My hubby laughed heartily at that. Vince watches disapprovingly. Rita starts delegating tasks, and Cody apologizes to Dex about the shed. Dex hugs him and says what matters is that he’s okay. Speaking of the shed, Dex wants to go make sure it’s safe.

The shed looks pretty ordinary except for the missing door and the chunk of ceiling on the floor. The slides and the trunk are untouched … well, Harry’s sitting on the trunk. He starts asking uncomfortable questions, as usual. He reminds Dexter that Trinity was supposed to teach him how to live life as a serial-killing family man; look how that’s turned out. Shut up, Harry.

Deb and Cody are setting the table. Cody asks, “Are the spoons supposed to go outside the knives?” Deb, looking uncomfortable, replies, “Surprise us.” Cody asks if he can see her scars, and they have a pretty frank discussion of the shooting, Deb confirming that she did, indeed, watch “that guy” die. It’s when she’s recounting how she looked him in the eye that it hits her: no one told Christine that’s how it went down. How did Christine know that Deb watched Lundy die? Deb gets on the phone to Quinn and demands to know if there’s any way, any at all, that Christine could have known the confidential details, if he’d let anything slip, left anything lying around the apartment. He says there’s no way; after the Lundy story, he learned his lesson. So, how tall is Christine again? Deb’s got an uncomfortable suspicion.

At the dinner table, Dexter considers his family and friends, and whether or not they are who they claim to be — whether or not they have secrets. Brother, you have no idea. Harry shows up again, and Dexter looks at him, startled; maybe for the first time, Rita notices and asks if everything is okay. As Dexter starts to carve the bird, Rita starts to suggest that everyone say what they’re thankful for, but Dex nips that in the bud pretty quick, on the pretext that he doesn’t want the food to get cold. Not to be silenced, Cody chimes in that he’s thankful for Dexter. Adorable! Let’s eat.

Quinn and Christine are kissing goodbye at the door because Quinn is too tired to stay over. Why? Couldn’t you just … go to sleep? No, I guess Christine would take care of that. Quinn says he’ll see her tomorrow, and Christine says she’ll see him every day after that. Christine closes the door and sort of waltzes across the apartment, all in love. When she’s almost at her bedroom, there’s a knock on the door. Whispering “Joey,” she skips back to let him in, but when she opens the door, it’s not Quinn. It’s Arthur Mitchell, a.k.a. the Trinity Killer, glaring at her angrily. But that’s not even the most shocking thing. The most shocking thing is what she says next: “Hey Dad.”

Boom! I don’t know about you, but I didn’t see any of that Christine shit coming — the shooting, being Trinity’s daughter, nothing. Except, of course, the boobies. I saw those coming. I’m just blown away that Christine has this huge significance. So what do you think? Did Christine do it and, if so, did she do it at her father’s bidding or out of some psychotic, misplaced jealousy? Of course Deb will try to convince Angel next week, and I wonder how successful she’ll be. But does Christine know about her father? And how long will it take before Arthur discovers that Kyle Butler is really Dexter Morgan?

As for the rest of them, Rita and Elliott deserve each other as far as I’m concerned, and frankly seem like a better couple anyway. But what’s up with Vince? Childhood trauma? It would make sense, wouldn’t it? And what was the baby’s best moment? I welcome your comments.

J. K. Barlow is a stranger in a strange land. Some years, she gets two Thanksgiving dinners, but this year she didn’t get any. You can email her at i.barlova at gmail dot com, but only if you don’t mention turkey with stuffing.

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