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Fresh Off the Jumbo Jet

By J.K. Barlow | TV | November 12, 2009 |

By J.K. Barlow | TV | November 12, 2009 |

I’m not sure if too much happens in “Slack Tide,” or not enough. The writers may think that the title gives them license to sort of meander along and not do much of importance, but if that’s what they were going for, I’m not sure why they would try to pack in so many story lines — Dexter gets to know Trinity, Dexter looks for extracurricular activities for the kids, Dexter stalks and murders an innocent fashion photographer, Deb continues and then drops the CI investigations, Deb convinces LaGuerta to let her look into the bludgeoning, Quinn turns into Doakes Lite, people suspect Angel and LaGuerta are intimate, Angel and LaGuerta miss each other, Trinity is grumpy, Trinity builds a coffin. That’s it in a nutshell, folks. Readers with short attention spans can stop here.

The surfeit of storylines means that nothing is treated in depth. The episode is like a really long movie trailer; they leave a lot of scenes out, but put way too much in, and it just doesn’t satisfy. I understand that sometimes there are parts of the storyline that you just have to deal with, but I don’t have to enjoy it.

We open with the whole Morgan family lounging on “Slice of Life”. Astor and Cody are fishing off the stern, Deb is reading in the captain’s chair, and Dex and Rita are stretched out on the prow with Harrison’s carrier between them. White boat, blue water: idyllic. Then Dexter’s phone rings; it’s the station with another dead body. He’s gotta go. Deb has a lot of work to do too, and according to Rita, some of that work is moving into Dexter’s old bachelor pad. Called it.

In the Everglades, Dex finds Angel, Quinn and some uniformed cops outside someone’s backwoods shack, standing around a gutted alligator. Is this even in their jurisdiction? Anyway, the scope of Miami Metro homicide has not expanded to include animal cruelty; the gator has swallowed a human arm. Apparently the guy who shot the gator was going to eat it. Ew! Do people do that? I blame the economy.

According to Dex it’s an adult female arm and the bite was post-mortem. It also appears that her wrists were bound before she died. This means the gator was snacking on the corpses of murder victims, which is maybe A GOOD REASON NOT TO EAT ALLIGATORS. I mean, shit, are we going to start roasting vultures now? Dex dumps the arm in a plastic bag, and Angel mobilizes the search for more body parts, with Dex putting in a request for the head. Quinn laughs awkwardly. Everyone stares at him, but it was kind of funny.

Dexter’s return home begets a clamor for his services, because no one can get anything done until Dexter comes home. Christine Hill’s card is on the counter, along with a message for Deb to call her. Dex picks it up suspiciously. Apparently Christine’s still trying for that “hero piece” on Deb, but Dexter really doesn’t want a reporter around. His thoughts are interrupted by the sound of the neighbors fighting; he asks Rita if she thinks things are going better between him and her, and she does. But they’re still in therapy.

Dex is sitting in his car, mentally composing a letter to Dear Abby. It doesn’t really matter that Dear Abby is dead, because Dexter knows the only person who can help him balance his unique demands is Arthur Mitchell. Dexter’s sitting in his car outside a hardware store for the purpose of “bumping into” him. Arthur greets Kyle with his usual joviality. While they load the van together, Dexter asks why Jonah isn’t here to help; Arthur says he’s busy, and advises Dexter to encourage his kids’ outside interests, as he does. Dex can certainly see the benefits of that strategy for today’s busy serial killer. Dex clearly wants more, so he puts on a sad face and tells Arthur that he’s new in town and doesn’t know anybody, and would like to spend more time together. They agree to meet at Arthur’s house at six-thirty the next morning. I have never been that lonely.

At the Cuban food truck, everyone from the station is welcoming Deb back, even people she doesn’t know. Even the guy who works in the truck. He gives her a free coffee. As Deb points out, she never really left, and she’s uncomfortable with all the attention. As they head back to the station Christine Hill makes a beeline for Deb, but Dex successfully deflects her, introducing himself while Deb disappears into the building. Christine isn’t going to let a little thing like that stop her, but Dex is persistent; he says that, as a favor to him, he’s asking her not to write the story. When she won’t let it go, Dex bluntly tells her to “stay away”, and Quinn walks up just in time to hear it. They have a little face-off, with Dex becoming uncharacteristically aggressive; he reminds Quinn of the dirt he has on him, and insinuates that if Christine doesn’t stay away, there will be consequences.

Deb’s late on purpose to a meeting, because apparently too much welcome-back makes her hide at the end of the hall. She tells everyone she’s fine and to get over it, then asks what’s up with the photo of the arm (helpfully labeled “severed right arm”) that’s projected on the screen. They applaud her anyway, then move on to the arm, which belonged to nineteen-year-old Estrella Carazo, a citizen of Nicaragua with an expired visa. According to forensics Estrella probably died less than four days ago, and her arm was eaten about a day after that. She was a waitress and model, and four days ago had a shoot with the well-known photographer Jonathan Farrow. His work is somewhat … dark. The day after this scheduled shoot, she didn’t show up at her waitressing job. As for Farrow, he was arrested on suspicion of rape in New York seven years ago, but the charges were dropped. However, according to Angel, the lead detective on that case thinks the victim was paid off. Farrow has an army of lawyers but has agreed to come in for questioning. Dexter clearly hopes to hunt Farrow on his own.

As she adjourns the meeting, LaGuerta accidentally calls Angel by his first name, then hurriedly corrects herself. The tension does not go unnoticed by Deb, who mentions it to Quinn; the two of them conclude that Angel and LaGuerta are doing it. As Quinn says, “You put two people in a room together long enough, eventually they’re going to fuck.” Deb tells him he should have that tattooed across his fat head. Jeez, Deb. What’s with the mixed signals?

Dexter is using work time to research extracurricular activities for the kids, making sure to leave out the favorite pastimes of his youth. Just then Farrow arrives with his entourage. Dex sneaks out to investigate; the beleaguered assistant is taking messages for Mr. Farrow even as Farrow is being led into the questioning room. As Dex turns on the surveillance feed, Harry appears — he’s back! — and says Dex has better things to do. Like kill Trinity. Dex repeats that he doesn’t think Trinity’s a threat right now, having come to the end of his cycle, and Farrow might present a more immediate danger. He turns his attention to the interrogation. It seems that Farrow is a Brit, which of course is code for “villain” — I wonder if he knew that when he moved to the States. He’s chosen to work the “cocky bastard” angle here (a classic choice), denying any knowledge of Estrella’s existence. When Angel hands him a photo, he remembers her, and specifically her ass, which was apparently perfect for selling rum. He says their photo shoot lasted from nine until noon, at which point he went to another shoot and worked all night.

Out in the office, Harry asks Dex why he’s really stalling on the Trinity front. Dex tells him what we already know — that he has too much to learn from Trinity. Harry tried his darnedest to teach Dex not to be like Trinity, but he taught a lot of things that have turned out to be wrong. His word doesn’t carry such weight anymore. He thinks waiting is risky, but Dex counters that life is a risk.

Back at the interrogation, Farrow is describing Estrella as “F.O.J.J.” or “Fresh Off the Jumbo Jet.” Is that a real expression? Because it’s kind of lame. What he means is that she was a bit rural. Hey, that’s no crime. Because he hasn’t offended them enough with that line, he continues to say that he could make Deb famous: “I just need to get you in my studio, whip your clothes off and rough you up a little bit.” It’s all Dex needs to hear.

Quinn is helping Deb move into Dex’s old apartment. Man, this chick moves a lot, right? When she reveals that the apartment used to belong to her brother, Quinn gets curious. Why has he kept it so long? Deb tells him it’s just that Dex is “slow to evolve.” On his way out, Quinn runs into Dex at the door. Given that they’re not on the best terms, he takes the opportunity to needle Dex about keeping the apartment after he got married. “What kind of guy does that? What are you hiding, Dexter?” Dexter mutters, “Stay out of my life.” Come on, Dex — you’re cleverer than that. Save the ultimatums for your inner monologue.

Unnerved, Dexter asks Deb if she’s always going to, like, have people over. Deb sarcastically says yes, and then cheerfully informs Dex that she’ll be picking up Lundy’s Trinity research right where he left off. She has all the evidence Lundy collected except for the stuff that was stolen, and is going to use it to try and convince LaGuerta to let her keep investigating. Dex hopes that LaGuerta will take it all as some crazy conspiracy theory, but Deb is confident that she’ll be blown away. Just then Dexter spots Harry’s CI files. He’s further shaken — he didn’t know Deb had them. He feels a little better when Deb tells him she’s having coffee with one of them tomorrow — it can’t be his dead mother, then. But he’s worried that she’ll find out about Laura Moser, and through a series of connections, the real Dex. “Let me know how it goes,” he says quietly. Deb promises to do so.

Dex gets home from work, greets the family, and kisses the baby. Rita tells him neighbor Elliott’s girlfriend moved out, but I can’t see why we’d care. Eager to take back some me-time, Dex has come armed with pamphlets on after-school programs to tempt the kids’ interest. For Cody he’s got the Young Sailors Club, which is an instant hit. Unfortunately he strikes out with Astor — she turns down soccer, ballet, and the Little Scientists’ Association. Well really, Dex, what were you expecting with that last one? No wonder she thinks you hate her. Even the baby can sense the tension.

Early next morning, Dex and Arthur are barreling through the forest in Arthur’s van. Arthur seems preoccupied, Dexter pensive: “Two serial killers go for a ride…” In a clearing, Arthur opens the back of the van to reveal an array of cutting tools. “Choose your weapon,” he says. Given his expertise with the chainsaw, Dexter goes for the axe. Arthur takes the chainsaw, the hacksaw, and the regular saw, and they walk into the woods. Until now Dex has been unaware of the project, which is to cut down a tree. Arthur tries to start the chainsaw and can’t, cursing as he rises to his feet, and throwing his hands into the air when Dexter offers to lend a hand. Wishing we’d slept in, perhaps? He is definitely in a foul mood. Dex starts the chainsaw with one pull and revs it; Arthur looks further annoyed. Without offering it back to Arthur, Dex gracefully holds the saw to a tree trunk and fells it in one clean cut. Arthur just acts pissed the whole time.

While Arthur measures the tree, Dex asks what to do when one of your kids isn’t interested in any of your suggestions for outside activities. Arthur tells him not to make suggestions; in one of his more insightful moments, he says, “They’re just children, Kyle. You let them do whatever they want, they suck their thumbs and diddle themselves all day.” So true. When Dex asks why they don’t just buy lumber from the hardware store, Arthur snaps that he doesn’t want that lumber, that this is better. Pretty rude, but then, Dex is being kind of annoying. He wonders what’s put Arthur off his game.

Driving home, a deer jumps out of the bushes as if on cue and slams right into the front of the van. It’s seriously wounded. Arthur observes it with horror and gasps that he didn’t mean to hit it. He wants to leave it there, but Dex insists that they need to put it out of its misery. He hands Arthur the axe, but Arthur can’t do it. The tables have suddenly turned; Dex is the one who knows what to do, who’s in power. A spectral Harry urges Dex to just take the axe and finish Arthur off. Dex asks if Arthur would like him to do the deed, and Arthur is relieved. It’s weirdly intense. As Dex prepares to deliver the fatal blow, Arthur turns away; it’s a chance to kill Trinity, but he doesn’t do it. He takes one swing and kills the deer, and its blood is vivid on the blade.

Later, as Dex walks into the station, he eavesdrops on Quinn, Angel, and LaGuerta. Seems they can’t get a search warrant for Farrow’s house. LaGuerta is dismayed, but Dexter isn’t. If the police can’t get Farrow, then he has a better chance having his own way. Angel is sure Farrow killed Estrella, and has found records for three other Latina models that have gone missing in the past year — all illegal immigrants. At least one worked for Farrow; the theory is that he preys on them because their illegal status makes an investigation less likely. Angel wants to nail this shit-eater. LaGuerta advises him to find another way.

As LaGuerta walks by Deb’s desk, Deb, in a moment of lunacy, asks — off the record — if she and Angel are really in a relationship. I suppose those little girl-talks they had earlier this season made Deb think this was an appropriate question, but LaGuerta doesn’t respond well to it. She vehemently denies it and tells Deb she thought another woman would have more sensitivity about these kinds of rumors. Deb looks like she wishes she’d kept her mouth shut.

Dex is researching Farrow on a celebrity gossip website called “TinselWeb”, which is a ridiculous name. Apparently Farrow likes to party, and that’s how Dex is going to track him down. That night, Dex is parked outside Farrow’s studio, watching the assistant lock up for the night. Now, when the hubby and I first watched this scene, we were maybe a little drunk, and eating noodles while sitting on the couch. This combination of factors was a little distracting and it’s possible we weren’t paying the closest attention; but even so, the first thing that occurred to both of us was that the assistant was the one offing the models. I mean, if he locks up every night, doesn’t that make more sense? Not to Dexter, who does not even pause to reflect before breaking in. He climbs the stairs and shines his flashlight across a brick wall decorated with expensive electric guitars. The computer and desk lamp have been left on. Dex starts scrolling through photos, eventually coming across some creepy shots of Estrella Corazo. He grabs a spray bottle and a black light and starts inspecting the floor for blood; he quickly finds some, in a trail leading all the way across the room to a fragment of fingernail embedded in the wall. In the morgue, he confirms that it’s Estrella’s.

In his garage, Arthur is obsessively sanding a plank, which we assume he has made from the tree that Dexter cut down.

At the lunch area behind the station, Deb meets Valerie Hodges, an attractive, but somewhat overdressed woman who looks to be in her fifties. It took her a while to call back because she was on a cruise; “rich old men love to spend money on me.” Charming. She seems to think Deb wants to hire her as a CI and starts talking about sources and fees, but Deb gets right to the point: Did she and Harry have a romantic relationship? Valerie balks at the word “romantic”, but yeah, they definitely screwed on a regular basis, and she wasn’t the only one. In fact, she’s pretty sure Harry picked his CIs “based on how good we were in the sack.” She’s about to go into detail, but Deb, shaken by the loss of her long-held ideal, cuts her off and hurries back into the building.

She runs straight into Dexter’s lab where she tells him everyone was right, and she should never have started looking into this stuff. Harry was fucking Valerie and who knows who else. Unbeknownst to Deb, Harry is right there in the office, musing that “It’s every father’s nightmare — disappointing his children.” Yeah, you just never know what’ll please ‘em. Dex says this doesn’t sound like Harry, even though he’s the one who tipped Deb off to the infidelities in the first place. Maybe he assumed his mother was the only one. At Harry’s thank-you, Dex shoots him a dirty look. Careful, Dex. Be subtle. Deb is saying she doesn’t know who Harry was anymore, but Dex says nothing has changed; it’s just that everyone has secrets, and some shouldn’t be found. Deb says she doesn’t have secrets like that. Dex hurriedly says, “me neither.” He kindly offers to deal with the CI files. When Deb leaves, he picks up his mother’s and feeds its contents through the shredder, but can’t completely destroy the photo; “I can’t let her be cut up again.” The reaction seems involuntary - is he expressing real emotions? He puts the half-shredded picture in his desk drawer.

Rita is doing dishes and Astor, her homework, when Dex walks into the kitchen with an acoustic guitar. Astor, interested in spite of herself in that uniquely teenage way, asks what that is; Dex says it’s a guitar, and it’s for her, because she’s taking guitar lessons. She takes the guitar and says “we’ll see”, which is pretty much a home run if you’re talking to a thirteen-year-old. Rita warns him that you can’t force kids into things, and asks Dex if he’s ready for his big night. Big night? Yeah, looks like he’s inadvertently committed himself to an overnight camping trip with the Young Sailors, starting tomorrow at eight a.m. He’s signed up to take four boys. He says he’s got a big weekend, but can only offer “stuff” as an explanation for what he’ll be doing. It doesn’t wash. Looks like he’ll have to kill Farrow tonight; he leaves quickly, saying he has to prep the boat.

Dex follows Farrow’s vintage convertible through Miami’s nighttime streets, and pulls up outside of a club. Quinn, in turn, is following Dexter. Really? What, was he just waiting outside of Dexter’s house? That seems unlikely. Dexter, dressed in his worn-out murderin’ clothes, gets easily into the club by breezing past the bouncer and saying he’s on Mr. Farrow’s list. Yeah, right. Farrow is in the VIP section, getting grinded by a couple of nice-looking young ladies while his assistant answers the ever-present cell phone. Quinn walks in — wonder whose list he was on? — spots Dexter leaning against the bar, and orders a drink for himself. Dexter watches Farrow bury his face in some girl’s tits and reflects that he doesn’t have all night, so he stops a busboy and asks him to tell Mr. Farrow that a homeless man is throwing up in his car. Farrow leaves the club about ten seconds later. Dex is hot on his tail until he spots Quinn on the other side of the dance floor. “Can’t be a coincidence. This whole thing just got too risky.” Ya think?

But it’s okay; he has a Plan. Turning to the hot girl next to him, Dex points at Quinn and says, “Can you believe he’s here?” Hot Girl says, “Uh, who’s he?” Dex: “That’s QUINN!” Hot Girl has never heard of him. Dex tells her she’s making a big mistake, and she saunters over to introduce herself. This scene is ridiculous. It’s like one of Barney and Ted’s pick-up routines on “How I Met Your Mother,” but with fewer suits and more ugly, worn-out henleys. With Quinn sufficiently distracted, Dex makes a quick getaway. Quinn catches on pretty soon, but not soon enough.

Driving home, Dex reflects that he’d better actually stock up the boat. In a suburban garage across town, Arthur is still working on that wood, angrily planing it then bending down to make sure it’s perfectly straight.

Next morning, Dex speeds across Biscayne Bay while the four little sailors cluster excitedly on deck. Shouldn’t the Young Sailors actually be learning to sail? He bellows out a brief history of the bay while the boys watch the water, not caring one bit. He reflects that if he can’t kill Jonathan Farrow he should at least make the most of this father-son time. They dock at a place which appears to still be in the city — I guess they can’t actually camp in the forest, what with all the corpse-eating alligators — and Dexter struggles up the dock with all the camping gear while the boys scamper away in front.

Deb is at the station going through the Trinity research. She looks at LaGuerta, sitting at her desk, then gets up and tries to lift the box. It hurts too much, which appears to give her an idea; she takes just one red folder and walks to the office.

At the campsite Dexter is teaching Cody how to make a bow-line hitch while they set up the tent. He excitedly promises more hitches to come, but Cody would rather go throw dirt clods with the other kids. Yeah, that sounds like fun. Question: is Cody a lousy actor, or do the writers just give him bad lines? Dex is disappointed, but lets him go. Harry shows up to ask what’s wrong, and Dex grouses that Trinity’s technique of keeping the kids busy isn’t really working out as he’d hoped. Harry, who I think is getting jealous inasmuch as a manifestation of Dexter’s subconscious can get jealous, suggests that Dex should therefore kill him. Harsh. But Dex wants to get Farrow out of the way first. He stares across the bay at the Miami skyline, which looks like it’s probably a five-minute boat trip away.

In a non-scene, Deb struts out of LaGuerta’s office with a look of satisfaction.

Dex is making more bow-line hitches when his phone rings. It’s Deb, bragging that she got the go-ahead to do a Trinity investigation, except not really — as a strategic move, she’s only asked permission to investigate the bludgeonings, “so I can investigate Trinity without LaGuerta knowing I’m investigating Trinity.” Dex has to admit that was smart, but he isn’t thrilled, especially when Deb vows to catch Trinity and avenge Lundy’s death. He looks annoyed as he ends the call.

Quinn (QUINN!) walks up to Angel and asks if he and LaGuerta are doing “a little bump and grind.” Angel gets pretty angry and nips that right in the bud, and Quinn apologizes and walks away quickly. “Payaso,” Angel mutters. It means clown. He walks right into LaGuerta’s office to report the incident. LaGuerta said she got the same question from Deb, and Angel theorizes that it’s LaGuerta’s fault — she can’t stop staring at his ass. They joke a little bit about that, and LaGuerta says she misses him. Angel misses her too, but they’ve made their choice. Her expression as he leaves is a little regretful.

The Young Sailors are sitting around the campfire and one of the dads is telling that tired old story about the hook in the car door. I guess there’s a first time for everyone. It works like gangbusters, and then it’s Dexter’s turn. He stalls, but after some prompting, begins to tell a genuinely creepy story about the “man of three”, Trinity, a monster, who was “born in a bathtub filled with blood” and roams the countryside killing innocents. I guess the other dad thinks the kids are looking too creeped out, because just as Dexter is getting to the bludgeoning part, the guy jumps in with a lame finish about hitting his thumb with a hammer. The kids laugh. Way to spoil the mood, guy. He looks at Dexter a little strangely, but honestly, if it’s scary-story time, shouldn’t the stories be — well — scary? I bet this guy drives his kids the one block to school.

Now Trinity is fitting two boards together in his garage of death … and carpentry. He looks sweaty, haggard, and very troubled.

Dex has a cute little moment putting Cody to bed and then surveys the sleeping campsite. Everyone’s asleep and it’s nine o’clock — maybe he can take care of Farrow after all. He sneaks down the dock, clambers into his boat and starts the motor. I have a sneaking feeling someone’s going to see that and know he’s up to no good. They won’t know what kind of no good, but still — isn’t he worried word will get back to Rita? I mean, he’s left their child alone in a tent.

Farrow, returning home suspiciously early for a Saturday night, is surprised to see bright flashing lights in his studio. Walking over to investigate, he’s attacked from behind by Dexter, who has resorted to strangling for lack of any horse tranquilizer. A good serial killer always keeps a small vial, just in case.

Dexter has somehow had time to make an elaborate set-up in Farrow’s studio, with blown-up images of Farrow’s supposed victims projected on the wall, flashing on and off. Farrow is panicked and demands to know what’s going on; he’s tied to some kind of panel that’s illuminated from below. “This,” says Dexter, “is the decisive moment.” It’s apparently a phrase often used by a photographer whose name I didn’t get — anyone? When Dexter explains what’s happening, Farrow denies killing anyone — like they all do at first — but somehow his reaction feels more genuine than the others’. He insists he only photographed these women. Too bad they’re dead, but “life is hard, and it’s brutal and ugly and way too fucking short. That’s why I shoot what I do — beautiful women.” Dex: “Who are bruised and cut and bleeding.” Farrow screams that it’s just for the contrast, and because of his pictures those women will live on forever. Dexter retorts that nothing lasts forever. Then he chops off his head.

Dex dumps Farrow’s body parts into the ocean and monologues about the good sailor. While he does so, we are treated to a montage: Trinity in his garage with a completed coffin — his family really is understanding; Deb going through Lundy’s personal effects; Angel and LaGuerta saying goodbye at the elevator; Cody emerging from the tent to find Dexter cooking pancakes al fresco. The man on the dangerous sea, learning to work with the elements, is used as a metaphor for life in general. Nice try at pulling it all together, but I still say this episode’s a mess.

Monday morning, Dex emerges from the elevator to the jarring sight of Farrow’s personal assistant in handcuffs, being led into questioning. The feel-good music stops. According to Angel, he’s been booked for the murder of Estrella Carazo, and the case is airtight — camera footage, DNA evidence and all. Dex walks to his lab in a daze, while Harry watches him sadly from across the room. Alone in the dark room, Dex sinks to the floor and breathes, “I killed an innocent man.”

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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