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Flame Red is the ninth episode of season one of The Mentalist. It aired on December 2nd 2008 in the US and May 21st 2009 in the UK.


Rigsby at work

Rigsby, the arson specialist, at work

The CBI team is enjoying a light moment in the office. Jane asks Lisbon to picture in her mind a shape inside another shape. After some verbal manipulations, Jane declares that she was thinking of a triangle within a circle. Never wanting to concede that Jane is right, Lisbon initially denies that he has guessed correctly. Honesty prevails, however, and Lisbon admits that it was a lucky guess. Patrick enjoys the awe his 'mind reading' skill inspires in those around him. Teresa suggests it was a lucky guess but Patrick explains that it was just the 'calibration key', which will allow him to be able to read her inner most thoughts. Of course Teresa reacts with skepticism and challenges Patrick to tell him what she is thinking at that moment. Once again, Patrick reads her mind, he says, "You're thinking I am so glad Jane is joking around and he can't actually read my mind." Her denial is unconvincing and Patrick smiles in triumph. The fun is interrupted when Cho approaches them with a new murder file. The team heads out to the small town of Marquesa.

The CBI detectives walk through a field led by Police Chief Trey Piller of the Marquesa Police Department. They approach a burned out vehicle. The victim, Rich Garcia, was in the vehicle but the fire burned at such a high temperature that there was little left of the body. Patrick surprises Piller when he comments on how difficult it must be to bury someone with whom he served. Piller tells him that he and Garcia had served two tours overseas with the National Guard. Rigsby, as the arson specialist, examines what remains of the burned out car. Piller seems a little nervous when he asks Rigsby if he will be able to determine if it was arson or and accident. Rigsby establishes that the crime scene was not contaminated and goes to work. He determines that not only is it arson but it is also murder. Since the garage door was padlocked on the outside and an accelerant was used to start the fire, it leaves little doubt in his mind. The method used to set the fire was very sophisticated and a type of rocket fuel was used as the accelerant. This indicates a very professional job.

The CBI Team begin their investigation with Van Pelt and Rigsby going into town to speak with Mitchell Reese, the man Garcia was going to visit the night he was murdered. Lisbon and Patrick enter the Garcia's house to speak to the widow, Susan Garcia. Jane walks around seemingly disinterested in the investigation all the while doing what he does best…observe. Police Chief Piller introduces them to Mrs. Garcia who appears to be genuinely mourning the loss of her husband. They are also introduced to Ben Machado who is a real estate agent in the area and also served with Piller and Garcia in the National Guard. On several occasions, Pillar touches Susan's arm or hand only to have her subtly pull away. Of course, this does not go unnoticed by Patrick. While Lisbon questions Susan, Patrick walks around looking at pictures while he eats a cupcake. He bumps into the rather hostile Maddy Garcia, the daughter of the Rich Garcia. Patrick learns that her dad use to have his military mementos in a glass case but for reasons unknown to Maddy put them away. This seems curious to Patrick but Maddy is unable to enlighten him as to his reasons. He also finds out that Susan and Rich were having marital difficulties. Maddy is very bitter towards her mother as she suspects she was having an affair.

Patrick joins Lisbon and Susan Garcia and listens to her explanation of the events of that night. While telling her story, Tommy Olds, a mentally challenged man enters the room with contribution of corn chips. Maddy overhears her mother describe Tommy as a handy man around town who is 'challenged'. Maddy argues that Tommy isn't challenged; he is retarded. She angrily accuses her mother of never telling the truth and storms out of the house. Patrick asks Susan if she knows why her daughter is so angry with her. She dismisses Maddy's outburst as teenage angst. Patrick then bluntly informs her that Maddy is angry with her because she suspects her mother's lover, Trey Piller, killed her father. Although Susan vehemently protests the accusation, Patrick calmly explains how he has come to that conclusion. He suggests there are two possibilities, which might explain the murder. Firstly, they killed her husband together and she now regrets her actions or secondly, Piller acted alone in order to have her to himself. Susan, more subdued now, denies this suggestion. She explains that when her husband came back from the war he was changed and their relationship suffered. Finally, she admits the affair but continues to deny any involvement in the murder.

Back in town, Mitchell Reese is working on an old car while Rigsby and Van Pelt try to coax him into giving them information about Rich Garcia's last night alive. Van Pelt tries to deflect Rigsby's more aggressive tone by commenting on the c car Reese was fixing. She gets Reese to tell them that Rich Garcia was with him the night of the murder until about 10:00 p.m., talking about cars. Reese suggests it is a strange coincidence that two men from the same town and in the same National Guard unit died in a fire. He explains that Dave Martin was burned to death three years ago. Van Pelt gets a call to another fire.


Trey Piller's house is burning

The CBI team rushes to the site to find a raging fire at Police Chief Piller's house. There is screaming inside and Rigsby charges into the house to help. After a few terrifying seconds, a chair is thrown through the window and Rigsby flies out of the window with Piller on his back. His arm is in flames and Van Pelt rushes to put it out.

Later in the hotel room, Van Pelt is bandaging Rigsby's burnt arm. He is heavily medicated and feeling no pain. Chief Piller is in critical condition. Lisbon and Patrick come in with the latest news. Piller was apparently drugged and woke up as smoke and fire filled his room. The attempt on his life seems to exonerate him in the murder of Rich Garcia. Cho enters with news that the fire had the same M.O. as the previous fire. They used the same incendiary device and the same accelerant. Once again they believe that real skill was required to start the fire. Lisbon sends Cho to re-interview Susan Garcia while she and Patrick go to Aldensgrove to see where Dave Martin was killed.

At the Garcia's house, Cho posits that it is quite a coincidence that Dave Martin was from the same unit as her husband and they both die in fires. Susan Garcia explains that Dave's death was an accident. He fell asleep with a cigarette and burnt his place down to ashes. They find out that Dave was in business with Trey, Rich and Ben. Dave was a heavy drinker and often found himself in legal difficulties. They bought five acres of land in Aldensgrove more or less to provide a home for Dave. Tommy Olds is living there now taking care of the property. Cho verifies that Ben Machado is the only living partner in their business.

Lisbon and Patrick arrive at Aldensgrove to look around. Tommy Olds peeks out of the trailer and greets them. While Lisbon questions Tommy, Patrick looks around the back end of the trailer. He notices a copy of Moby Dick with a stack of children's books and toys. He wanders over to what appears to be a fenced in garden. Lisbon follows. There is quite a lot of water around the garden even though there is a drought. Tommy begs them not to tell anyone because he fears they will make him move and he won't have anywhere to live. Lisbon suggests that the water seems to be coming from under the ground. Patrick explains that it is an aquifer, probably worth millions...clearly a motive for murder.

Back at the motel, Van Pelt sits with Rigsby who is more than a little loopy from the pain medication he has taken. Rigsby tells her that Grace is such a lovely name. In his drug-induced haze, he tells her that he is in love with her. Grace is quite disturbed by this revelation. She explains that although she likes him, they work together which makes any relationship too complicated. She tells him that she loves her job and has worked too hard to get where she is to jeopardize it. She becomes aware that her words have fallen on deaf ears as Rigsby has fallen asleep.

Cho and Van Pelt visit Ben Machado's home but when Grace knocks there is no answer. When they move to check out the barn, Machado begins shooting at them. They identify themselves as cops he stops shooting and they handcuff him. Cho searches the barn and finds six containers of ethyl ether, which is the accelerant used to start the previous two fires. At the Marquesa Police Station, Cho and Van Pelt interrogate Machado. He insists that he is being framed, that he knows nothing about the accelerant in his barn. He tells them they are trying to kill him because Garcia, Piller and he were all in business together. Cho reminds him that if Martin, Garcia and Piller are all dead, he would be the sole owner of the land in Aldensgrove. He would own all the land with the aquifer, which is worth millions. He continues to deny his involvement in Garcia's death. Patrick, who has been watching the interview, enters the room. He smiles pleasantly at the detectives; he turns to Machado and tells him he thinks it was Dave Martin who started the fires. He argues that his body was never found. Furthermore, he is trying to get revenge because Ben, Rich and Trey tried to kill him so they could have Aldensgrove for themselves. Ben denies it, of course, but Patrick has planted the idea that Dave was still alive. He gets up to leave and tells Cho and Rigsby to release him. Lisbon is angry that Patrick has taken the liberty of releasing him without the proper authority. Patrick argues that they have to use Machado to catch the killer. When Lisbon challenges him on placing a man's life in danger, Patrick calmly asserts that Machado killed another man in a gruesome and horrific manner and deserves death, and that he fully intends to inflict a painful murder Red John on catching him.

With this exchange, we see Patrick, a seemingly pleasant and mild mannered detective has a rather dark side born from the tragedy of his family's demise.

Cho and Rigsby are staking out Machado's house, presumably protecting him from the killer. They see Machado enter his house. Rigsby begins talking about Reese as a viable suspect. They decide to leave the stake out to talk to him again. As they drive away, Machado leaves his house with gun in hand and moves slowly towards the garage. As he looks around the barn, the door behind him is slammed shut and locked. Someone is in the barn with him. The intruder pours the ethyl ether all over Machado and flicks on a lighter. The intruder insinuates that he is Dave Martin returning for vengeance. Machado runs to the door of the barn screaming for help. The intruder descends the stairs from the loft, following the panicked Machado to the center of the barn. As he steps into the light, a horribly scarred person appears. The intruder continues to taunt him asking him why he killed him. Machado finally admits he and his friends were indeed responsible for setting the fire that killed him. In desperation he apologizes for his part in the murder. Machado is stunned to see 'Dave' pull off a mask exposing Patrick who holds up a recording device in his hand. With a smile on his face, Patrick asks Machado if his confession made him feel better. Machado grabs a large machete and threatens Patrick. Patrick tries to calm him while calling for Cho and Rigsby. Patrick realizes that Machado is still doused in the accelerant and pulls out his lighter to hold Machado at bay. Machado backs off but another voice calls to him from outside the barn. Machado looks to Patrick for some explanation but Patrick is as confused as he is. All of a sudden, a Molotov cocktail is thrown at the door starting a fire, which grows exponentially because the accelerant Patrick had spilled. Cho and Rigsby drive up as the barn becomes engulfed in flames. They call for Patrick and are relieved to see that he and Machado have escaped somehow through the back way. They notice Tommy Olds in the field behind the old tractor watching and give chase.

At the Marquesa PD, Cho begins the interrogation of Tommy but he seems oblivious to the circumstances that bring him to the police station. He is confused by the questions and repeatedly asks for a soda. Outside the interview room, Lisbon is perplexed at how although all the evidence points to Tommy, a mentally challenged man couldn't have used such sophisticated means to start the fire. Patrick smiles knowingly and enters the interview room. He asks Cho if he could take over the interview with Tommy. Patrick begins...


Tommy Olds reveals his real personality

When questioning Tommy, Patrick tricks him into correcting him on the name of Captain Ahab's ship in Moby Dick, a book that Tommy owns a copy of despite it seemingly being far too advanced for him. Patrick informs Tommy that he has realised that Tommy has merely been pretending to be impaired all this time, compliments him on his performance and tells him that, as he is going down for the murders, he might has well reveal his true self. The CBI team subsequently watch in amazement as Tommy, realising that the game is up, transforms effortlessly into his true personality. Patrick asks him if he is a split personality or just a good actor. Tommy denies he has any mental challenges. He admits that he was just playing a part. He found out that if people thought he was mentally challenged he was protected in a way. People would excuse his bad behavior because they thought he just didn't know any better. He explains that when the company obtained a permit to exploit the aquifer at Aldensgrove, he realized what they had done to Dave and began to avenge his death. He confesses to the murders of Rich Garcia and the attempted murder of Trey Piller. Patrick tells Tommy that revenge doesn't come cheap but to Tommy it was worth it. He argues that it was redemptive but dismisses Patrick as not being able to understand. Patrick stares at Tommy, knowing he may face the high cost of revenge himself one day. Tommy asks Patrick to tell Maddy Garcia that he was sorry he hurt her.

Lisbon and Patrick deliver the message to Maddy. She lashes out angrily threatening to set Tommy on fire if he ever gets out of prison. Patrick tries to calm her. He tells her that revenge is a poison and that it is for fools and mad men. Lisbon looks over at Patrick trying to reconcile what he was saying to Maddy with the discussion they had had about Red John earlier. As they stand on the porch ready to leave, Lisbon comments that Patrick seems to have changed his mind about revenge but Patrick tells her he said it to the teenager because it sounded good. It was mere nonsense and he reasserts his earlier position.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

Production Notes[]

Series Continuity[]

  • Rigsby, under the influence of painkillers, tells Grace that he loves her for the first time.
  • Jane and Lisbon discuss revenge and justice and have a conflict of opinion.  Jane states at the end of the conversation that he will kill Red John when they find him.  Lisbon says that she will stop Jane and arrest him if he tries to do so.

Character Revelations[]

  • Rigsby used to be on an Arson unit and is an expert in analyzing crime scenes for arson.


  • Cho refers to Rigsby under the influence of painkillers as both a "mummy" and "King Tut".
  • The fictional town in which this episode is set, Marquesas, is a nod to Moby Dick author Herman Melville. Melville's book is based in part on his own experiences as a whaler. He joined the crew of the "Acushnet" in early 1841 but deserted since he found the conditions on board unbearable. Melville deserted the ship at the first stop, Nuku Hiva, capital of the Marquesas islands.

#Jisbon moments[]

  • In the beginning of the episode Jane "reads" Lisbon's mind and they flirt during it.
  • At the end of the episode Lisbon and Jane run from the porch to the car while holding hands.
Season 1 Episodes
Pilot  · Red Hair and Silver Tape  · Red Tide  · Ladies in Red  · Redwood  · Red Handed  · Seeing Red  · The Thin Red Line  · Flame Red  · Red Brick and Ivy  · Red John's Friends  · Red Rum  · Paint It Red  · Crimson Casanova  · Scarlett Fever  · Bloodshot  · Carnelian, Inc.  · Russet Potatoes  · A Dozen Red Roses  · Red Sauce  · Miss Red  · Blood Brothers  · Red John's Footsteps