The Following "Mad Love" Review: There's No Need to Drag 9/11 Into This

The Following S01E04: "Mad Love"

Kevin Smith used to do a bit during his Q & A tours about how he generally makes fun of himself before other people can make fun of him, regardless of whether or not they were planning to make fun of him. He steals the criticism thunder of others, leaving them with the response, "Well, at least he knows."

I felt that "at least they know" feeling more than a couple times during "Mad Love." Whether it was Hardy telling Carroll that it's amateur hour, Carroll telling Hardy that he never liked the mask thing, or Maggie admitting that the revenge metaphor should've included Claire and not Brand New Character Jenny, it felt like Episode 4 was self-aware in an attempt to steal all our thunder.

It's almost like The Following knows that this is the point where we decide whether to keep watching or delete the series recording from our DVRs.

Four episodes deep, let's get into this compliment sandwich.

Something good, something good, something good—ah, the sexual politics of the growing polyamorous subcult. I've never been compelled by Carroll or his chess game with Hardy since it seems like the two aren't really playing so much as Carroll's pawns are self-destructing. But, now that Jordy's gone, ostensibly somewhere petting the rabbits, and Maggie is out of the picture, the focus is primarily on these three (well, five counting Joey and poor Megan).

Now that Joe's plan is in motion, Emma, Paul, and Jacob are acting without his immediate guidance. There's no more showing up at the prison to get that hit of Carroll crack to keep them going, no phone calls, nothing to keep them disciplined. So it's interesting to see how they maintain their commitment and what can cause the group to splinter.

During "The Poet's Fire," the group got a dose of that when Paul decided it was time for him to prove his hetero manhood by kidnapping an unfortunately trusting girl and bringing her home for lack of a better plan. This week it was time for Jacob to be a weak link on account that he's not at all like the others, in that he can't bring himself to kill. What made the story interesting was that, instead of breaking apart at the whiff of betrayal and the fair question of whether Jacob really wants to be part of a murder cult, the gang kept us interested with a family-like setting of acceptance.

An audience member could come away with mixed emotions regarding how they plan to "help" Jacob. They didn't kill Megan and they didn't even punish Jacob for letting her go. They just recaptured her in the hopes, I assume, of officially initiating him into their group. You know, to make an honest man out of him. Instead of feeling deceived, they embraced him. Anyone who's ever felt like a black sheep might've experienced a combination of warm fuzzies for a family accepting the odd man out and nausea that the odd man out is odd because he hasn't killed anyone. The show is testing our empathy, which is something I can appreciate.

I can also appreciate good-looking people taking showers together, even if it's a little weird that they're all wearing their clothes while doing so. But we're pretty sure that in a couple weeks, now that Emma and Paul have bonded over almost-murder, this is going to be a nudist free love commune with a hostage, right?

Something that can be improved: Most of the Hardy plot stinks like smelly dog farts.

This is a point of contention with some of the audience, but I have yet to feel any kind of connection between Hardy and Claire, which seems essential to (a) Carroll's entire premise for the murder cult and (b) building sympathy for Hardy not being a story-less cliche. The problem with Hardy's character is that the show is trying really hard to make you believe he's had a hard-knock life. The prototype is a hard-boiled detective, a jaded man who's been traumatized in the past and who's now fighting for redemption (it's what film noir was based on), but it seems like everything plus the kitchen sink has happened to Ryan to get him to this point.

A great many of those things were stacked up in this episode with the introduction of Brand New Character Jenny the Sister. Jenny, who I thought was Claire until the restaurant scene, talked about their family being cursed with death. It was a nice turn of phrase, but the backstory was too much. Mother dying of blood cancer when you're an awkward teenager: That's tough. Pops was killed as a beat copper doing his job: That's enough to create a chip on someone's shoulder (particularly someone who went into law enforcement). We also learned that Hardy surrendered a great love (I guess). So by the time we got to his brother dying in 9/11, it was overkill. We started treading in Nicholas Sparks waters, teeming with piled-on misery. It was a cheap attempt at grief porn.

As much as I don't necessarily love Kevin Bacon's portrayal of Ryan Hardy so far, I'm starting to be convinced that he's doing the best he can with a mess of a character. Where Carroll's motivations for being a serial killer are vague and his game is barely a game, Hardy is too detailed, too storied, to be relatable in any way—unless you, too are a star-cross'd orphan cyborg. And not being able to connect with the lead character is kind of a problem.

Something good, something good. The show moves. This isn't The Killing, where grass grows faster than the plot. It's Episode 4 and they already have an address to close in on. Even if the leads are false, they're leads and there's bound to be action. That's a good thing.

Of course, there are adverse consequences to a show feeling like it needs to move. One of the better examples happened during "Mad Love" where Maggie met her end way too easily. She had Hardy and Jenny by the short hairs but Weston (I know Hardy called him Mike at the end of the episode but he's no friend of mine) came in serendipitously to take her out. This was supposedly a calculated killer and all she got was the opportunity to raise the knife over her head like a soccer mom against an imagined intruder and a single bullet to take her down? At least Rick got two shots.

The Following has problems and not the least of them is chemistry and making sure we connect to the characters. I'm dubious about the future of Carroll's plan since the game has been pretty lame so far, even though puzzles have been promised. There's some possibility of goodness to come but it's not here yet and I can't blame you for being discouraged. I certainly am.



NOTES


– I don't want to pin everything on Williamson because I know a television show is a collaborative effort. But I do like Carroll undermining the pretense of an investigation by dispelling genre techniques. Joe telling Ryan to get to the point with finding out more information on Maggie was a classic post-genre move, the kind that Williamson's Scream franchise is known to use. In fact, their whole conversation seemed to be about incorporating the laughable flaws of the show. Well-played.

– Weston's Hardy obsession and overwhelming desire to be on Hardy's good side, it's seeming more and more likely that he's one of Carroll's moles inside the FBI (a possibility made more interesting by the fact that Maggie killed someone who Weston might've considered a friend). Also, I think I would like the role to be played by the actual Michael Weston (Private Dancer on Scrubs, Lucas on House). Or Michael Westen (Burn Notice), who would solve everything in three weeks, with one of those weeks involving a celebratory cruise.

– Megan. I don't understand. Once you get out, you don't look for another hiding place, especially if they're chasing you. You run forever. You run until you can't run anymore and then you remember there are animals chasing you and you keep going. You don't hide on their property.

– Things crazy people do: shower with their clothes on.

– Seriously, couldn't they have gotten a couple of actresses for Jenny and Claire who don't look the same? How about not-a-blonde? Short hair? A different face? Something. I already don't like Claire as it is. I don't need two of them.


What'd you think of this episode?

Comments (89)
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SO i didnt hate the episode or the show but all in all i can summarize what this show means to me: If i keep playing angry birds on my ipad while i am watching a show ...it still needs a lot of improvement.
Episode 4 was still the best of them all.

And never forget: Dont bring a knife to a gun fight. Should have thrown that knife :)
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I think that/hope that these first few episodes are all a set up to the second half of the season.I mean that the puzzles are going to come either in the next episode but prob. after the big clash where they are holding the boy.So within the next few episodes we should start to see more development with Joe's plan.
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Mmm...you don't like Claire does that have anything to do with the fact that the actress is also Raylen Givens ex-wife/ baby mamma Wynonna that a lot of fans like to hate on too??? I can clearly tell the difference between the second rate actress that played Jenny and the first rate acting performed by Natalie Zea. But hey if the show gets cancelled (Yes I spell cancelled the correct way with two lls) she can always have more screen time on Justified, where I dearly miss the banter between Raylan/Wynonna.
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Agree with the Megan note. At dark, in the woods, and you run ten feet and hide in the barn. She messed up from the get go when she tip toed to the front door and then slammed the door on the way out. Stupid girl.
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I had the same problem with the blondes.
In the flashback with the restaurant I thought he was going with his sister and when the sister came in I thought it was the murderers wife, which led me to think 'Huh, wasn't she a professor or something?'.
It was Dead Poets Society all over again, only difference: I eventually figured out that I had the women mixed up.
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I agree overwhelmingly with this review. The only thing I'm remotely interested in is the impending threesome that's about to occur between Paul, Emma, and Jacob. And like a sad, battered housewife that is somehow enough to make me keep coming back. Too bad the show isn't so bad it's funny in a Revolution type way -- it's just bad.
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I think the show has improved each of the past two weeks. It has promise even if it's got a lot of holes still. At least it appears they're swearing off the Poe theme which would be a positive big time! Agree about Jenny and Claire looking alike, I thought the same thing as Nick until the restaurant scene. It did seem as if they were laying some of the implausible themes bare because it is getting to fish or cut bait time for the show. Agree Weston is in on the cult and he killed Maggie for two reasons, 1.she killed his friend and 2.Hardy needs to play the game until the end.

Show is getting better, but is it getting better enough and how do you carry a show like this long term? Do need more of a game out of Carroll than we've seen thus far.
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Damn it..I will probably start to support Paul, Will and Emma and wish them good luck...after all they are at least interesting.
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Also, the poe stuff got real old real quick.

And imo creating a character to do the killing every week is a very lazy way to develop a story.

It's too bad, I had high hopes for this show.
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Commented before watching this latest episode, ok so they didn't invent a new killer this week, but a new character to be the victims in the sister. Between crap like needing new one week characters every week to the lame actions of these conspirators to the pathetic use of flashbacks, this is some very lazy writing.
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I take that back, they did invention a new killer this week too. Sorry, so much ridiculousness its scrambling my mind.

Last note: the girl buys a ton of magnets along w her other murder supplies and does the FBI chick wonder how that fits into the plan? Nope, she nonchalantly says "this girl is wierd" and forgets about it. Friggin stupid.
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And these twists like the not-gays being secret kinda-gays and one of the killers secretly not being a killer ("but I want to!) are not clever at all.
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This show is terrible in every way. Bad writing, lifeless acting, a whole cast of characters that draw no emotion for me as a viewer. Nevermind the ridiculous idea that a convicted serial killer is allowed to have hundreds of completely unsupervised visits w fans that allow him to develop this whole scheme.
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Chris, not that I disagree with quite a bit of what you're writing but if the show is painful for you tune it out. They've got a couple weeks to fill some of their story and plot holes or they'll be tuning out for you.
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Spot on! This is the end of my "Following" it. Im happy theres an lgbt twist in there but seriously, plot has thinned out and old formula about love triangle of an fbi and a felon has been done all over....next show please!
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Oh and another thing, stop with those flashbacks! Not working anymore...a simple plain old yet effective storytelling is fine with us....
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Come on, people! It's a good show... IF you got stuff to do around the house and you need some background noise and only intent to drop by once in a while to check upon it.
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I know this is a weird complaint but the names of the characters feel so blah and interchangeable. I couldn't name any one of the characters besides Paul and I've watched every episode.
I think the show could definitely benefit from some diversity, the world the show has created doesn't feel believable, it could be a good show but it just feels off. Too much focus on the least interesting characters like Jenny and Claire maybe, I think Weston could be interesting.
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Meagan really is analogous to the story. Doing something smart and then stupid just comes up and slaps her upside the head.

Also Emma said I think twice that she didn't want the kid to know that the girl was there. The second she escapes, she screams get the girl.

And Hardy seriously needs to stop getting his arse whupped. I mean come on man! My grandfather had a pacemaker and he ran 6 miles everyday until the day he died. Stop being a wussy.
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Watching the episode with my sister, quiet and serious and calmly commenting... the 9/11 quote reaches our ears... WE CAN'T STOP LAUGHING!!! Reeeeeeeeally awful story! Both parents, his brother and then he lets his one true love go away "because" he loves her? COME ON!!!!!!!! Epic fail!

Why the hate with Weston? I like him and I hope he's not part of the cult!

Megan... seriously? RUN B***H!!! RUUUUN!!!!!!!!!!!! :-D I think I would've tried to run as fast as possible and once I was surely out of sight, I would climb on a tree till I'm sure they're gone and only then would I start running again LIKE HELL to get out of there! What I did love was the story she made up about our black sheep cutting her just enough to bleed but not die! Smart girl and nicely played!

Crazy people will have a love triangle that I don't know whether it will make them happy or mad! ;-)
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Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many flashbacks!
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When you have a poor story and or writers that can't write the current story, you need flashbacks. See Alcatraz as a case in point.

I can't help but think that the show would have been so much better if this was Hardy trying to capture Carroll.
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I don't think this is a good show. But for some reason I'm still curious about what's going to happen. So I'll see a few more episodes at least. But I kind of hope that the show will wrap things up by the end of the season and then not come back.
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I completely agree that the Ryan Hardy stories are getting weaker as the weeks progress. He has his moments, but Ryan is probably the most pathetic character on this show. At least so far. Jenny did a very good job of pointing out his weaknesses when she walked out after helping him "one more time" and then declared she was getting sick of being around him. And during the discussion about whether Ryan should pursue a relationship with Claire despite his connections to Carroll and the mess he created before going to prison. The point of Ryan Hardy is that he does what he wants when he wants and how he wants to do it. If he wants to sleep until noon because he stayed up until 5am drinking he can do that, he can stop any time he wants. If he wants to disguise his drinking vodka by the bottleful in an FBI building by putting said vodka in an empty water bottle he can do that, let's hope he doesn't get caught and spur an intervention. If he wants to make a half-assed plan to catch Maggie by using himself as bait and rope the star-struck Mike Weston into his plan, Ryan Hardy can do that. But enough of that...

At first I though Jacob was just wussing out on the killing part of the cult so he could continue to be around Emma and Paul. Both of whom he loves and both of whom love him, as Emma astutely pointed out. But as it turns out he is just a wannabe serial killer who can't bring himself to kill anyone. Could Jacob be the one person who actually joined this cult because of a liking of Poe's literary message and not because of a sociopathic urge to kill people/set them on fire? Time will tell. When Emma and Paul appeared in the bathroom covered in mud, I thought they had dispatched Megan in order to clean up Jacob's mess, but when it was revealed that they actually just re-imprisoned her in the basement in the hopes of encouraging Jacob to learn to be able to kill her later on, the term "family" suddenly felt applicable to the three of them. Also, on a somewhat related note, I wanted to point out "that awkward moment" when Jacob walked in on his current girlfriend and his former fake gay boyfriend in the shower together. It doesn't matter than they were still wearing clothes, still an awkward moment.

And yes, Mike Weston would be better played by the real and only Michael Westen (Jeffery Donovan) from Burn Notice. He'd at least have a plan that doesn't include trying to force small talk on an hours long car ride from VA to NYC.
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Weird that Bacon thinks he's Clair's constant reminder of Carrol when there's Carrol's kid there in existence?
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I thought the same thing!
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Last week I said: "Next week is this show's last chance."
I will be watching next week.
However, Megan is an idiot. She already had a headstart, and she squanders it by hiding in the stable? Even I want to murder her now.
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I'm sorry but when serial killers kidnap you and bluntly talk about murdering you - you don't sneak past them and then SLAM THE DOOR! Then you don't run, pause, run, pause, and then hide in plain sight. I find it hard to cheer for victims who clearly are too dumb to save themselves. Hardy is the same way. It seems every episode he is trying to get himself killed. Why did it take his partner so long to get to him? Why would you allow a serial killer to have their way with you especially when you have many other options? I actually really enjoyed the pilot but am having a hard time finding any likeable characters or anyone to cheer for.
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Seriously !!! His mom died, his dad died, his brother died , worse, he died in 9/11 .... What other hidden hurtful secrets could Hardy have ? His cat got eaten by a very mean famished big bad dog when he was 4 and now, he can't have cats anymore for fear of losing them ? Come on, give me a break ! I litteraly laughed out loud when he said all the members of his family were dead... I'm not sure this was the aim of this dialogue...
As for the torture, sorry guys, it's not sexy to see a 50 year old man bare chest ! To see great looking man without a shirt, I watch Arrow. To see cheesy situations, I watch.... Well I don't know coz I don't like corny cheesy situations !
So please, Mister and Misses who writes / produce/ direct the show, could you put all your efforts on the writing of your show, please ? Thank you.
A watcher who've seen to many good shows to lose time with bad ones.
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His Goldfish that he won at the fair..... Dead.
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They seriously couldn't come up with a different name than "Mike Weston"? I mean, did they think shortening "Mike" from "Michael" would make a clear distinction? Just curious.
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agreed with EVERYTHING in this review... and I'm loving the crazy triangle!
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Once again, I ask: Why does everyone want so much reality in tv shows, there's enough reality tv to make us gag. It' nice to escape reality for a decent hour. Not the greatest show, but not bad. Seems like most, especially the writers on this site want every question answered; every crime solved, in every 60 minute period. Just go along for the ride.
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And once again you're conflating reality TV with reality, which is really odd since the former somewhat scripted and VERY edited, and latter isn't (at least not that I'm aware of...AM I IN THE TRUMAN SHOW?!). I really hope you're not conflating some modes of documentary filmmaking with reality, either.

What people look for is not reality in scripted television shows, but a sense of realism, a set of internal consistencies. Now, that sense of realism can vary from show to show as certain shows establish fictional rules (so the rules of The Vampire Diaries wouldn't really apply to The Following, even if both contain surprise stabbings).

Those sorts of consistencies can be difficult to achieve in a show that poses itself as taking place in a realistic setting. As theopratt notes down below, checking the visitors log for Carroll, would make a great deal of sense, and considering that his FBI task force is supposed to be pretty good at its job, it makes them look a little incompetent that they haven't done this. But if they did do this, it would short-circuit the chase and the narrative the show is constructing, so it feels like a contrivance to delay the narrative. Without the show offering a reason as to why they haven't, it breaks the show's narrative that the task force is a good one and creates a weird contradiction in the show's sense of realism, a disconnect between what it tells us and what it shows us.
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And where's his scar!? I'm just assuming that he had heart surgery to repair the damage done by the huge-ass knife. No heart surgery? Just a pacemaker!?! WTF?!?!?
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And I forgot to mention - Poe's Inception quote!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”

Two thumbs up! Carrol's use of that line! He really IS a crazy literature genius!
I forgive all the horrible nonsense they did before.

"I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity." That's the next line I'm looking forward to. Fits Carrol perfectly.

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Something must be wrong with me, I'm deviating from the fold. First there was the general hate for Bieber on SNL while I thought the kid did a decent job (He was worse than Craig? Really people?) Then I was blasted for being Hitler reborn for not like Nagron's gay action in Spartacus, and now this! I thought this was a really good episode!
Purefoy was awesome as always. Bacon was booming. The pseudo-gay guys and the sicko-next-door hot chick were marvelous. Everything just felt real and fun!

The only thing that left me going "eh?" was the professional serial killer lady coming up with a plan that involved a slow death by electromagnet interference. Why didn't she just cut the pacemaker out? I thought for a moment when she was touching his chest that she was going to rip it out with her bare hands (which would have been awesome!) And again, I thought they'd have retconned this by now, but the guy got stabbed through his heart with a butcher knife and got patched up with a pacemaker? This is mind-boggling, seriously. Can anybody explain this to me? A cardiologist maybe? He's suffering from cardiomyopathy. What kind of cardiomyopathy does one develop after being stabbed through the heart? And I'm not being a jerkass here, I really would like to have this explained.

@Nick Campbell - do you have any kind of insider information as to what exactly is the issue with the dude's heart? Do we get a flashback at any point to Bacon in the hospital post-stabbing? Or at least, do we get to see him visit with his cardiologist next episode? If they're going to make his pathology crucial to the episode, shouldn't they flesh it out a little? You guys can probably put this in the WTF segment for this week. I'm literally asking everybody/anybody "What the F--k?" Electromagnetic interference? Has their ever been a serial killer in the history of ever to try to kill somebody by interfering with their pacemaker?
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All I kept thinking during last night's episode was, "Wow, Kevin Bacon looks like shit."
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He should really kick off his Sunday shoes.
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Oh I would love if Michael Weston was in the series
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to me each episode just gets worse. and with the last will be the last i view. Not even the name sake of kevin bacon can save this snoozer.
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Don't get me wrong. I actually like the show and how it differs from many procedural shows, but in my opinion, they are going overboard with the flashbacks. They have flashbacks of Kevin Bacon's character, they have flashbacks of the cult killers, they have flashbacks of Carroll. They are focusing on too many people.

Although it is interesting to see the perspective of the cult/following, I am so not rooting for them. Their issues involve pretending to be gay, and not being able to kill someone as initiation. I just can't follow those characters.
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This episode was disappointing. Having the story unfold like this to add ancillary characters makes no sense. To have Hardy take a "mysterious" call while deep into the investigation and disappear with Weston in tow is just plain stupid. The scenario that unfolded in Brooklyn was so preposterous and meaningless. Kevin Bacon must really have taken a leap of faith when he signed on to this. After 4 episodes I am definitely on the fence now...
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I did not know murder groupies had a sharing circle....
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A few tips for the FBI:

1. Check the logs (and video footage) of every single visitor that Carroll ever had.
2. Check into every student that Carroll ever had, especially after he started killing people.
3. Compile a database of all these people and label them "suspects."
4. Next time you take a suspect down, don't shoot to kill.
5. Use the resources at your disposal, you know, the teams and teams of people in your headquarters and at the houses of the people you're protecting. Three times now there have been situations when only a few cops or FBI officers have been on hand in situations where something was almost obviously going to happen. Do it.
6. Don't just interrogate Carroll as a reactionary measure. You should be working that guy whenever you have free time. I know he'll only talk to Hardy, so that means eh should spend less time drinking and wallowing in his own misery, and more time interrogating.
7. Don't have people running from one place to another at a moment's notice. The same four FBI agents shouldn't always need to be a crime scene, hear that there's been a murder somewhere, and then all get up and rush over to this next crime scene or whatever. At least one of the main characters should stick around at places and actually be thorough in their clue-gathering, not jump up and run off once they've spotted one thing that kinda suggests something might happen.
8. Next time you have a murder game on your hands, I have two suggestions for you. First of all, Back-up. Bring it and use it. Second of all: surround the area. Don't just come in the front and leave the back wide-open. Don't cover the back but then have everyone come running when something happens. Just keep the cult member surrounded. Seriously.
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see, I would just say use "common sense" but then you elegantly spell it out so that even the FBI or Miami Metro could understand common sense;-)
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Miami metro would still mess up.
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Now hold on just a minute there. Last I checked Dexter Morgan is a member of Miami Metro, and that guy is a superb investigator who gets things done. Not only that, but his specialty is tracking done serial killers. Sure, his methods are a bit unorthodox, but he certainly makes sure that those serial killers never kill again. So basically Dexter needs to be transferred over to the task force as a blood spatter expert, though he'll be moonlighting as a total bad-ass. That way he can get these guys to actually utilize forensics ("according to the report of this attack two years ago there were no defensive wounds, almost like the victim just stood there and didn't move at all, which suggests that the victim wasn't a victim at all so I wouldn't trust that wife if I were you."), and then do all of their work for them when they're not looking.

He'd also find a way to kill Carroll and sever the head from this venomous snake. And the best part is that on paper it will look like one representative from Miami Metro somehow resulted in everything being solved or fixed in some way, so everyone will think that Miami Metro must be the best police force in the world. The only downside is that in Dexter's absence the crime rate in Miami would skyrocket.
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i like that idea. Dexter and his dark passenger are most welcome on this task force but the rest of Miami metro are not.
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**Dexter spoilers**

maybe the new Miami Metro--Laguerta dead, batista retired, quinn drunk and needing to die--maybe the newbies will have watched some procedurals on tv to learn more then whoever "taught" the others:-)
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i can see an NCIS and CSI marathon as part of their probationary training. i hear Horatio Caine is looking for work.
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Have the "following" declared a domestic terrorist organization and proceed accordingly under the Patriot Act?
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They've used the Patriot Act in the past against organized crime, so I don't see why not. It would definitely move the plot along if they detained Carroll and were able to sleep-deprive him, etc. to get information. The other thing I forgot to put in my list was "actually use forensics" and "use technology" since in just about every other procedural show they would have used traffic cams and satellites to track the car that brought the three killers and Joey to the farmhouse. And since they have sever or eight or however many fingerprints they have, from that one house, they should run them against EVERYONE they come across. Not just suspects, but victims, witnesses, and themselves. This is seriously one of the most reactionary law enforcement teams I have ever seen on television.
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I may be on crack, but I thought the last minute of the episode was quite poignant. I love this show.
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While I was pretty skeptical about this show from the get-go, this episode went a long way toward winning me over. Now that we're four episodes in, the procedural nature of this show is becoming a lot more clear. Each episode it looks like there will be a lot of backstory about Hardy and Carroll, someone will talk to Carroll in his cell, we'll check in for a bit on our three killers, kid, and hostage at the house, there will be some unnecessary angst between Hardy and Claire, and throughout the episode someone in the cult will be committing a murder game of their own design. For the part, this structure of episode works for me. The conversations with Carroll in jail have been pretty interesting so far, because even though he's in cuffs and locked up, he still has a lot of power, mostly due to what he knows. And as Hardy suggested, or rather basically promised the audience, in this episode is that there is more to Carroll's plan than just young people running around killing people. And unless the writers on this show really want to invite tons of complaints from annoyed fans, there will be a bigger, more elegant plan at play, which I couldn't approve of more.

That's not to say that I don't like the idea of case-of-the-week murder games, carried out by members of the cult that we may or may not know. However, I do think that the basic structure of these games, so far at least, doesn't really work. Sure, this week's game was very off-book and not what the cult will normally have planned, but it was very similar to last week's murder thing, in that it didn't live up to what Carroll said these things were supposed to be about. The first murder was to renew Hardy's reasons for fighting. The second murder was structured to give Jordy a chance to kill Claire, and to give Hardy a chance to stop him. I say structured because Jordy didn't just walk into the room and kill Claire, he waited around until Hardy figured out what was going on, and then demanded that only Hardy be allowed to enter the room.

Last week, however, all of the murders were either committed when Hardy was nowhere around, or when the killers themselves had no way of knowing that he was nearby. And this week Hardy would have died if Mike hadn't tagged along. The coincidences surrounding these last two murder games are too contrived, and are clear indications of the author's hands at work. This problem can be fixed, however, by making future murders more like the second one, where the killer intentionally arranges things so that Hardy will be in the right place at the right time. This way they will still seem very contrived, and their will clearly be the hand of an author at work, but this author will Carroll, which actually makes the show better, since it shows that Carroll is still very much a part of events, even though he's locked up.

The other thing these murder games need to do is be more like games. The writers should take a few tips from the Saw franchise and make these murder set-ups involve either puzzles that Hardy and his FBI buddies will have to solve, or choices that Hardy will make properly in order to walk out alive. Oh, and make these things Poe-themed based on actual, individual works that he's written, preferably stories. Random quotes written on the wall doesn't cut it. And if the writers incorporate these three suggestions into their murder games, then this show will be so much better for it.

Like you, Nick, I also found the three killers at the house pretty compelling this week. They happen to be some of the more interesting people on this show, and I like the various revelations about them. The fact that Will hasn't killed anyone worked really well into not only the plot and the fact that there's a hostage in the basement, but also the relationship between him, Paul, and Emma. And while Poe quotes haven't been used all that well on this show so far, I thought that the flashback of the conversation between Carroll and Will was not only very good on the whole of it, but it also used Poe's poetry in a way that lent meaning and purpose to the scene. So if the writers can just remember what they did there the next time they quote Poe, then things could really be looking up from here.

The relationship arc that I don't really like at the moment is the one between Hardy and Claire. There is some very unnecessary angst between those two. Claire obviously cares for Hardy and probably loves him, but Hardy is pushing away because he doesn't want to be a constant reminder of Carroll to her and her son. Well that may have worked in back in the 00's when Carroll was in jail or on trial or whatever, but this is 2012 and not only does he command a cult of killers, but he's kidnapped his own son. Even if Hardy were to disappear forever, Claire currently has a much more in-your-face reminder of Carroll, and that's Carroll himself, as well as the fact that again, her son has been kidnapped by her serial-killer ex-husband. What she needs right now, more than anything, is some support and stability from someone she trusts and cares for; and, at the moment, Hardy is the only person who fits the bill. And I know that this show, like every standard show on television, is trying to pull an angsty will they/won't they relationship between their main guy and a main gal, but this show really doesn't need that. Hardy's had, and currently has, enough pain, drama, and angst in his life, enough to fill at least five CW shows, so this whole thing with Claire really, really doesn't need to be a big thing, or happen at all.

On the topic of Hardy's depressing past, I can see where the writers are coming with this one, but it really isn't working so far. Already they've given Hardy this heart condition, courtesy of Carroll, in order to give Hardy's character a crutch and reference Poe a little. The addition of his mostly dead family does pretty much the same thing. Poe himself had a very traumatic life, which is probably what inspired a lot of his work. Family members died at a young age, people he loved died, pretty much everyone around him died. So Hardy is supposed to be much like Poe, he's been surrounded by death even from a young age. But at this point it's too much, as Nick pointed out. He's got three crutches: his drinking, his heart, and his past. You know how in those movies they bring the not-functioning-at-all-because-he's-drunk-literally-all-the-time cop (the one who's wife, child, and partner all got shot in front of his eyes) out of retirement because he's the only one who can catch a particular killer? In those situations I can't help but think: surely they could find someone else better suited for this job, right? Well, Hardy is like that cop, except he's too damaged. Even if he had an encyclopedic memory of Carroll, he would never be allowed any authority on a case like this, especially after what he just pulled this week. And considering the fact that he, and just about every other law enforcement official on this show, instinctively shoot to kill, it's hard for him to argue that he shouldn't be sidelined so that he consults when needed, by leaves that actual enforcement work to someone else.

All this aside, this show is definitely getting a lot better. It isn't nearly where it needs to be yet, but it's certainly making progress. And it's nice that this is one of those shows that is so refreshingly new in concept that it's not entirely clear where it's going to go. I just hope that it's not heading to the sign that says "slippery slope followed by cliff and bottomless canyon."
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I agree with most of this, only there's one thing you didn't comment on. One thing that has been driving me up a wall since the pilot -

You seem really into this, so I'm asking in a serious way - What's your take on Kevin Bacon's heart condition? Nobody is mentioning this at all. Is it just me, or is the whole "heart-stab/pacemaker" scenario utterly ridiculous? It just shatters my suspension of disbelief every time they allude to it. (And not in a good lol way.)
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To answer your question, I have mixed feelings about Hardy's heart condition. First of all, it does seem pretty ridiculous that Carroll stabbed him in the heart and he was still able to survive. However, I'm waiting on the flashback to see how accurate a description "stabbed in the heart" is. My guess is that it'll just turn out Carroll stabbed Hardy and the knife grazed his heart, or maybe slightly punctured one of the chambers. That would definitely make the whole scenario far more plausible.

Another issue I have with the heart problem is that I'm pretty sure the writers are making a lame reference to "The Telltale Heart" by Edgar Allen Poe. I say lame because the story honestly has nothing to do with a heart, and has everything to do with another body part being peculiar. Basically the narrator lives next to an old man who has an eye that seemed to be all wonky. The narrator thinks that this old man is giving him the evil eye, or that the eye is possessed and starting straight through him and into his soul. So, in order to continue on in his life without going crazy, the narrator kills the old man and buries his body beneath some floorboards. The old man goes missing and the cops come to question the narrator, who for a laugh chooses to take a seat right over the dead body. He is horrified, however, when he swears he can hear the old man's heart beating, and he's certain the the two police officers can hear it to. He thinks that they're taunting him, and that they know what he did, so he confesses everything to them, even though they had no suspicions whatsoever and thought the old man had just moved away.

The point I'm making with this long description is that if you're going to properly reference the telltale heart with a heart, then you do it with a heartbeat. But if you're going to reference it with an abnormal body part, you do it with an eye. So it would be a more apt reference for Hardy to have had one of his eyes taken out, or somehow damaged in the attempt to take it out, which does fit with Carroll's MO. In this way it would make Hardy more memorably scarred, it would be more in character with Carroll's work, and it would be a better reference to Poe. It would also make Hardy look a whole lot cooler if he had a glass eye, flecks of red in an eye, or something like that. And all the show would need is a contact lens, simple as that.

This flows nicely into what I like about Hardy having a pacemaker. Usually, shows have problems with their villains being interesting, but their heroes being rather dull, and just there to solve crimes. The unfortunately short-lived Alcatraz is a perfect example of this, as one of the major downsides of the show was that the two main characters had almost no backstory, and had one or two character quirks between them. So, one way to combat this is to give your hero an interesting trait, usually in the form of a crutch. And I honestly can't think of a single detective on a TV show that has had a pacemaker because of a run in with their arch nemesis. That doesn't mean it hasn't happened, but it does seem very original. And instead of Carroll having given Hardy a nasty scar, his heart condition makes him a physically damaged man as well as a mentally damaged man. So I like the fact that Hardy has a heart condition because it creates a lot of potential for his character to be interesting.

But again we come to another problem I have about the pacemaker. At this point in the show, everything I like about it is potential, and in particular potential that the writers aren't using. I admit that the use of magnets in this episode was pretty cool and clever, but that's pretty much the only good use of Hardy's heart condition so far. Most of the time, it's not really that big of a deal, since the FBI spend most of their time standing around, sitting around, or slowly clearly a building. And when it does come time to chase a suspect, Ryan shouldn't be involved in that anyway, since he's not technically an FBI agent anymore. They have an army of cops and FBI, not to mention the young and eager to please Mike Weston, at their beck and call who should really be the ones to do all the chases (I know what you're thinking about Weston and about him probably being a mole, but he won't reveal himself until at least the end of this season, so until then he can be trusted to run fast and catch people as long as he's being watched. And he's done a good job of doing just that so far).

And not only are they not using the heart condition or the pacemaker nearly as well as they could, the writers have waited Hardy down as about as many cliche crutches as they possibly can. He's a drunk, he has a history of death in the family, his father was also in law enforcement and was shot down by a criminal, he takes every death on the job personally, and to top it off he very insecure and afraid about getting close to anyone emotionally.

I guess at this point I agree that the heart stabbing scenario is ridiculous, but I'm hoping that the writers will use this opportunity they've created in a good enough way that I'll forgive them for creating such an unbelievable scenario. But so far that hasn't really happened, though we got a glimmer of it last night with the magnets, so maybe things are looking up from here. More importantly though, I'd much rather his heart condition be his main crutch, and have his drinking problems and his intimacy problems put on the sidelines, right where the heart condition is most of the time.

I hope that answers your question. That is, after writing that much I'd hope I've at least answered your question somewhere in there.
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regarding the penetrating injury to the heart there is a lot of information out there and mortality rates and prognosis depends on a variety of factors. Google penetrating heart trauma or something like that then make sure the site is pubmed, emedicine, links to a pdf with scholarly articles in respected journals or other reputable sites.

In the first page I opened I found some info (high mortality rates but you need to look at a variety of factors):
"In a larger retrospective examination of 302 patients, Tyburski and coauthors 6 found gunshot wounds were more lethal than stab wound with respective mortalities of 77% and 42%"
This comes from reference 6 in the article from the JR Army Med Corps 155(3): 185-190 (the original article was in the journal of trauma).

There's a ton of information available on the web and the important part is knowing which sites are more reputable then the others and then finding the time to read through it.

but don't pull the knife out---leave that to the surgeons!

FYI: the most accurate medical site imo is uptodate. It requires a subscription but I think that is just to claim CME credits. If you add the phrase uptodate with the other terms for medical searches then you get reliable information. It didn't have much on penetrating cardiac injuries but I didn't look to long. Here is what showed up when googling "penetrating cardiac injury uptodate"

"
UNLABELLED: The aim of this clinical study is to assess the characteristics of penetrating heart injury and its surgical challenges for urgent surgical approach.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Seventeen patients suffering from penetrating heart wounds were evaluated retrospectively in the department of cardiovascular surgery between 1996 and 2004. All patients were male, with ages ranging from 19 to 36 years, with a mean age of 23.6 +/- 5 years.
RESULTS: Median sternotomy, left anterior thoracotomy, and right anterior thoracotomy were performed to control the bleeding or to reach the heart for internal cardiac massage in 5, 11 and, 1 control, respectively. The right ventricle was the most commonly injured chamber (64.7%, n = 12), followed by left ventricle (17.7%, n = 4), and right atrium (17.6%, n = 3); a left atrial injury was not seen. Mortality rate was 29% (5 cases), and 12 controls were discharged without any complications.
CONCLUSION: Although the most important factor affecting mortality in penetrating heart injuries israpid transport, an urgent approach applied by a specialist team can decrease potential mortality and morbidity rates."
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The problem is not the info on penetrating cardiac trauma, the problem I have is with the lack of info provided by The Following as to the management of Bacon's trauma.

I'd let it go normally, but they're going out of their way to remind you about it and actually making it a centrepoint of the plot. Doesn't Bacon know about electromagnetic interference and his pacemaker? Why didn't the light bulb go off as soon as he saw the woman buying magnets?

And even accepting that the only sequelae of taking a knife to the heart is a bad case of arrythmia, we're also supposed to just accept that he dies within seconds of his pacemaker failing?

I know it's tv and we're suppose to allow for the rules of the fictional universe, but they're presenting this as a real medical problem and my interest is piqued. There's a 90% chance that i'm being anal right now, yeah? But I want to see a freaking ECG for this guy now! Can't they consult with a cardiologist to help them make something up? People do that these days.

And the thing is, if it was a show like Suits or Scandal or Common Law or Burn Notice or Monk or any of those other pseudo-professional shows, I'd let it slide because those shows aren't going for edgy realism, but this is just blatant laziness I find.

"Heart condition"
"FBI"

smh...
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lol, I maybe have to watch over the first episode where they talk about the stabbing. In my head I had it that he was stabbed in the heart by Carrol, and I don't really see Carrol grazing his heart. I mean he's a lit prof, not a doctor/anatomy prof, but he looks intelligent enough to stab somebody in the heart properly enough to kill them.

Unless they go with Carrol intentionally grazing the heart so that Bacon survives for the sequel.

But then too, even accepting that his heart stabbing was managed by a pacemaker insertion, implausible as that seems to me, but even accepting that - Why electromagnets? Why didn't she just rip it out of his chest? Or cut it out with the knife she was wielding? After all the research she did into Bacon, the best she could come up with was forcing his sister to watch him die slowly from a failed pacemaker? Which could have taken days, months? Or do we assume that this mysterious "cardiomyopathy" he's suffering from implies a certain swift death within seconds of going sans pacemaker?

I mean, on one hand I'm more than willing to suspend disbelief and accept that Bacon survived a heart stabbing (maybe he had excellent paramedics and excellent cardiovascular surgeons at hand, FBI maybe get platinum health care), but if they're going to make it a crucial part of the story, I think we deserve some more details though. I want to see his clinic visit at the very least.

I get what you're saying though about the heart condition being a interest point for the character, but I guess I just take issue with how implausible it is. Couldn't he have been poisoned, and left with 10% kidney function, needing dialysis once a week? Or he could be missing a lung. Or gotten a leg cut off, forced to use a prosthetic limb... So many better more reasonable medical conditions to saddle him with... But then you make this point that maybe they're referencing Telltale Heart, and I hope to God that they're not. I really though, I hope that after the last episode they never mention it again.

And wrt to the myriad of crutches, I kinda sorta expect that from Bacon these days. After Death Sentence, the role of tortured hard-boiled upstanding well-meaning citizen is branded into him. I'd be more surprised if he wasn't an orphan or if he didn't have a big brother who died in 9/11. He's to suffering what Nic Cage is to exploding cars and shotguns.
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I get what you are saying and hopefully they explain more as the show goes on. They should do that.
In other words I agree with you about how the show should explain it better. No lightbulbs going off in his head may be due to alcohol which may explain other stuff (it's implied but not directly mentioned in this episode). Also the lack of scar is strange. I went back after you mentioned it and looked at the promos that show him in the shower (lol, bacon and his shower scenes) and I saw the pacer under the skin but no real noticeable scar around or near the lump of the pacer.

I didn't hear them saying anything about grazing the heart and think they implied it was punctured (if I recall correctly they said the left ventricle was punctured). Maybe someone knows what was exactly said.

Disclaimer: I'm not a cardiologist but have a medical background but am not an expert in cardiac issues. Personally Hardy seems to be more of a candidate for alcoholic cardiomyopathy

**boring (to some) cardiology stuff follows""

Typically I think of cardiomyopathy as falling into 3 types: dilated, hypertrophic (reminds me of young "healthy" athletes suddenly dying), and restrictive cardiomyopathies. There can be numerous causes and some people classify them differently (intrinsic vs extrinsic for example).

One plausible explanation is that the knife punctured the left ventricle (and the left bundle branch) causing intraventricular conduction defects hence the need for a pacemaker after the myocardium was sutured up. Another explanation is that a coronary artery was nicked (during surgery or during knife penetration or during pacemaker implantation) leading to a myocardial infarction (heart attack) which then can lead to cardiomyopathy.

Regarding the stoppage of the pacer. If depends on if the pacer is acting on the atria or ventricle. In Ryan's case I believe it is the ventricle. copy/paste (to long to summarize):
Third-degree heart block – With this condition, also called complete heart block, none of the electrical impulses from the atria can reach the ventricles. When the ventricles (lower chambers) do not receive electrical impulses from the atria (upper chambers), they may generate some impulses on their own, called functional or ventricular escape beats. Ventricular escape beats, natural backup signals, usually are very slow, however, and cannot generate the signals necessary to maintain full functioning of the heart muscle.

Also:
"Third-degree AV block may be an underlying condition in patients who present with sudden cardiac death. The cause of death may often be tachyarrhythmias precipitated by the secondary changes in ventricular repolarization (QT prolongation) secondary to the abrupt changes in rate.

Some patients may develop polymorphic ventricular tachycardia when significant bradycardia is present. This is related to prolongation of repolarization with extremely slow rates. This mechanism is also mostly responsible for death in these patients."

I love medicine/health care in real life but realize it is probably dull to most people. If dull then hopefully you skipped reading all this after my warning.

I know this doesn't answer all your questions/thoughts about the show but I like the pacer but which they had a scar. Also wish he was less of a mess and less stereotyped as the washed up cop. Don't get me wrong, I currently like the show and like Bacon (the writers need to flesh out his character more).

I hope they don't show ECGs or Echocardiograms--they are usually BS on tv shows and bother people with medical backgrounds---unless they actually show a relevant ECG or Echo then I might have a heart attack if they paid attention to that much detail!

I like that he has a pacer. Michael on Nikita has the artificial (bionic lol) hand. But to compound it with alcoholism and some many family members dying is to much. At least his sister is alive so he should be happy about that...many people have no living relatives. I do feel bad for him but he needs to look at what he has and not what he doesn't have...

Sorry for the long rambling post but some of it was easier to copy/paste then to shorten by summarizing it.
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yeah, what he said:-)

like all the ideas/suggestions and completely agree that they should involve games or choices

the relationship and interactions between Paul, Will and Emma are fascinating. I hate them but find them fascinating. The bonding of the 3 with the group hug gives it a family feel (maybe Manson like family but still accepting of it's members). I was surprised and am intrigued by that story arc.

I think it is time to meet another "cell" of followers. It's hard to believe these (ones shown meeting at Emma's house) are all that he has as followers. I think they need to step up the pace on Carroll's plan. I think (hope) we are just seeing one small part of the picture and now it is time to expand the picture.

Mike Weston is to obvious but then it may be to obvious to be obvious and hence not obvious...see were I'm going:-) I'd prefer more of a surprise like the wife being in on it even though that's to extreme
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It's far more likely that Hardy would be in on it than the wife. As for Weston, at this point their best move would be for him to be suspected as the mole, have someone else reveal themselves as a mole and make it seem like Weston isn't a mole, and then have Weston reveal himself as a mole after all. I also think that a second cell of followers is in order as well, in fact I said the same thing last week. I think a nice reveal for the end of this season would be the reveal that he has seven other cult splinter-cells, so that Emma, Paul, and Will could be mostly taken down but the show could continue. But regardless of whether or not he has a bunch of cults in his pocket, he almost certainly has a few moles in the FBI, and if Carroll has any amount of intelligence he'd keep these people separate from his normal followers.
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But doesn't the FBI psych evaluate their workers on a regular basis? Weston being in on it is too obvious, but then the guy's wife being in on it was obvious too and they still did it (killing the black guy in the process).

Parker seems intelligent enough to fool the system and be a mole though, so I hope in the end when they do find the kid, she has to step up and kill it and become Carrol's second in command for the next season, putting all her occult crime expertise to use for some real shock and awe.
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The FBI will do a psych evaluation to determine if someone should be allowed to join the FBI. After that, I'm pretty sure that they only do follow up evaluations if you've been through a traumatic experience or are displaying signs of being psychologically unfit for your job. Even if they did do regular psych evaluations, those would probably be yearly or biyearly, not monthly. And even if they were monthly, this show is fast paced enough that it would probably take a whole season for a month to go by. And besides, psychopaths and sociopaths often learn how to blend in with the people around them. The funny thing is that quite a few psychopaths perform better on psych evals than "normal" people, since they've gone out of their way to learn all the "right" responses.

What I was saying about Weston being in on it was that, yes, it is obvious. But if it becomes apparent that they do have a mole in the FBI, and then start to suspect him because he fits the profile, the smart thing for the show to do would be to somehow "prove" that he isn't a mole, and then later have him be a mole. Because they're only other options are to reveal that he's a mole and try and make it seem like it's a big twist, or keep him innocent and a perfect target for suspicion. If they don't take my advice of proving he's not a mole, then immediately disproving it by having him kill someone or do something like that, then the only other way to reveal he's a mole in a somewhat surprising way is to do it at an early point in the show, and not at the end of this mid-season or season like everyone suspects.

And while Weston is the most obvious suspect when it comes to a mole in the FBI, Parker is a close second. So far, people have mainly been guessing that Parker or Weston are moles in the FBI, while almost nobody is guessing that Hardy or Claire are cult members (because either of these would be crazy guesses, but hey, it would certainly be a surprising twist). There's also Agent Mitchell as a possible mole, but she's so far in the background that I don't think people notice her much, so if she were to ever reveal herself as the mole people would probably wonder how a cult member had gotten into the task-force headquarters.

The real problem with a mole in the FBI is that there's not a whole lot of suspects. Generally you want at least four, and preferably five suspects to make things fairly balanced and leave room for genuinely surprising reveals. I suppose it would be pretty surprising if it turned out that both Parker and Weston are cult members, and that they both revealed themselves at the same time, though that would be a bit too unrealistic.
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Also, by now shouldn't they have checked _every single person_ who came to see Carroll? And how many people did they let visit him? "Hi, I'm random guy off the street # 232." "Thank you sir, please take a number for faster service seeing our prisoner."
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What's up with the Person of Interest casting? We've now had two of Reese's dead girlfriends playing parts on Following?
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If you include Natalie Zea, it seems like the casting is wider than just Reese's dead girlfriends -- seems like they're going for every woman that's been a guest on POI. Along with Paige Turco, mentioned below, maybe Amy Acker will be on at some point.
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Good point, Gislef. I noticed also that they are being knocked off on POI and are popping up on The Following. Does this mean they never died and will reappear on POI before going back to The Following, again? Recycling at its best? : )
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Expect an upcoming guest appearance from Paige Turco.
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Zoe Morgan returns tonight (02/14) - just in time for Valentines Day! : )
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Ha - I was thinking the same thing. :)
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Great minds think alike!
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But she's still alive... :)
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Only until Reese hooks up with her, then she's a goner. ;)
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Reading your review and comments on Hardy and Kevin Bacon, I'm starting to realize that NOT making us connect with him might be a super plot a la Psycho, like killing off the character real soon.I know this might be far-fetched, but as you point out this self consciousness of the episode and that FBI and followers are dead in virtually every episode so far, and we're only in number four, makes us wonder at least if it is a possibility. So why not Michael Westen make then a one or two episode stunt and either be replaced by someone new or take over depending on the fate of Burn Notice. Kevin Bacon may even remain employed as a feedback character.Just saying.
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Once I found out Weston's name was Mike, I spent the rest of the episode re-imagining the scenes if Burn Notice's Michael Westen was there. I'm thinking more bad guy bodies, more guns, less blood and Fiona in unreasonable shoes at least twice.
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and Sam drinking a mojito.
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I have no problem differentiating Claire from Jenny. The pair I simply cannot keep straight (no pun intended) are the two guys in the house with Emma, and they've been in every single episode. Which one is which...and does it really matter? All I know is that one is a male model with nice hair and the other is a male model with nice hair.

The Weston character is really frustrating to me. I think he's clearly designed to come across as too eager and too helpful, thereby overtly suggesting he's the mole (at least to me). It's quite possible they sacrificed Maggie to help endear Weston to Hardy, making whatever his Ultimate Surprise is that much more "shocking." If he is the mole, it was telegraphed way too blatantly. However, if it's misdirection and the mole turns out to be someone else in the Bureau, then way too much screen time was eaten up by the feint. That whole question should get resolved quickly so we can move on to more interesting matters, assuming that's actually something the writers can make happen.

I really wish I could just jump right to the final episode and see how it all turns out without having to suffer through all the bullshit in between. With this show, I just want to get to the destination. The journey itself isn't all that much fun.
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Amen. I write the recaps, and I still can't tell Paul from Jacob. It doesn't help that they're trading off whininess now. First Paul was the whiner about Jacob and Emma, and now Jacob is the whiner and Paul is in the shower with Emma. Or is that the other way around?
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I gave up for good halfway through the episode. About all that could bring me back is if I heard that the cult of 20-something douchebags hiding the kid all killed each other and were replaced by compelling characters. Kevin Bacon is wasted on this nonsense, and I hope he finds something better in TV soon because I like most everything else he's ever been in.
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