Let me state as clearly as I can that the series, itself, stands head and shoulders above most network fare. The Mentalist features a fine ensemble of actors whose characters arrived fully developed and realized with excellent chemistry and interaction. And the storylines have been consistently original and intelligent. Even the secondary storylines have exhibited careful attention to detail and fine craftsmanship. But this episode was gag-worthy. Was it the writers' week off? Because this episode was very unlike them. Rather than being well-crafted, it seems more like they just dipped into the file of "hackneyed murder mystery plots" and slapped it together.
I think this is at least the third time just this month that a series has used the already overused device of a murderer killing a string of people in order to obscure the true target. It was original when Agatha Christie did it; it isn't anymore. Still, even with that, they could have had some fun with it, thrown in a few twists. But they didn't bother. Heck, they didn't even bother to build a compelling secondary storyline for this episode. No, instead, they played out the cliched plot line in the most cliched way possible. The killer includes himself in the list of targets, but, of course, no one can figure out that that whole sloppy scenario didn't fit with the killer's otherwise meticulous MO. Even the "reveal," where Jane draws the killer out by seeming to arm the killer's own undetonated weapon is about as overused a plot device as there is in television.
The guest characters themselves were cardboard cliches, not the fully developed and interesting characters this show has done so well this season. Even here, the writers had a chance to surprise but chose to bore. Since, especially in these times, our sympathies would naturally be with the poor former employee and against the "rich and shameless," why not do the unexpected and actually have the unsympathetic rich idiot indeed be an innocent victim? In fact, the only thing surprising about this episode is how long it took everyone--even Jane--to figure it out. I saw it coming a mile away. The Mentalist is better than this. Here's hoping this was just one bad week in an otherwise continuous stream of gems.