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Jolly Red Elf is the tenth episode of Season 3 of The Mentalist.


The CBI pursues two lines of investigation when a Santa is murdered: Patrick Jane goes undercover in an AA group; and Rigsby and Van Pelt question members of an authentic Santa society. Meanwhile, following the demise of a person in custody at the CBI, J.J. LaRoche is brought in to question the team when it appears to be an inside job.


The episode opens with an outdoor scene at night during Christmas. Suddenly, a man dressed as Santa falls to his death in view of several witness. Jane deems this Santa an impostor, as he smells like whiskey. Jane also deems the seeming suicide a murder.

Our poor Santa is really Benjamin Ripple, a full time Santa nut with a ten year sobriety chip on his Christmas tree. Despite that, Ripple had a .45 blood alcohol level (which is a lot of alcohol), and his mail order business (St. Nick’s Picks) is reported as taking a nose dive, hit hard by the economy. He is also the president of National Society of Authentic Santas.

Hightower gives a press conference to speak of the events of last episode — specifically, Todd’s immolation. She introduces J.J. LaRoche , who is going to head up that investigation. He speaks to Jane outside the interrogation room where Todd was barbecuing and while ostensibly the conversation is about the green lighter in the room with him, it’s Jane and LaRoche sizing each other up.

Rigsby and Grace are at the Santa convention to speak to them about poor Benjamin. While the guy in charge, Santa Bob, is acting sympathetic and regretful about Benjamin’s passing. Another Santa (named Tony) accuses him of trying to kick Benjamin out of office, and Santa in charge shows some true racist colors, objecting to Santas of all nationalities, colors, and creeds entering the association.

LaRoche goes to Lisbon looking for Jane while he’s out, and she calls him to find out where he is. Jane doesn’t bite, but it is revealed he is stalking Virgil Minelli. Minelli is enjoying the retired life. Jane comes to him because with his contacts he can get LaRoche’s suspect list, and therefore narrow down Jane’s path to Red John. Minelli, probably quite right, tells him he’s nuts and there’s no way.

While Cho and Rigsby get a lead about a girl Benjamin had at an event for the Santas Association, Jane goes undercover at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He snags Benjamin’s former sponsor, May Nelson, for himself. His cover is almost blown when LaRoche shows up, observing.

The lead of the girlfriend leads them to Roxy, a call girl who was at the party — but not paid by Benjamin. Roxy was paid by Jack Wilder, who runs a treatment center for rich alcoholics, and uses call girls to advertise. They go into these parties, chat up rich drunks, and then recommend this treatment center that “changed their life.”

Lisbon and Grace go to visit Wilder’s alcohol treatment center, where Jack Wilder cures alcoholics by conditioning — a process by which pleasurable stimuli is made unpleasant by association with other unpleasant things. He is not a doctor and is only a behavioral therapist, but he has nurse Lailah Bloom with him and the patient at all times.

Outside the room, Lailah tells Grace that Benjamin had been showing signs of alcohol poisoning when they took him home. Later, Lisbon and Grace are chatting about it in Lisbon’s office and while it gives them a case, all of their evidence is circumstantial. Jane, of course, has a plan.

Still undercover, he goes to Wilder for treatment, where they hook him up to an electric current and shock him whenever he drinks. Controlling his body’s reactions, he fakes alcohol poisoning and pulls out of it once Lailah sends Wilder to call the ambulance.

Lailah, as it turns out, has killed patients at the clinic — notably, Benjamin Ripple, as part of a long held grudge against alcoholics, fueled by her parents’ drinking problems and alcohol-related deaths. The team cuts it close but manages to save a still very drunk Jane from Lailah’s plot.

Outside, LaRoche awaits Jane to question him, and even though Lisbon clearly thinks this is a bad idea, she lets them talk. LaRoche knows that Todd wanted to tell Jane a secret, and asks him what his best guess about it is. Jane, of course, knows the secret but is keeping that close to his rumpled vest.

In the next day, Jane, showing signs of a hangover, is in an open beach café with Ripple's sponsor May. Minelli arrives, where he acknowledges that Jane was right about he passing his time of his retirement in a somewhat depressed state, and hands over LaRoche's suspect list that he acquired "through back channels". Jane then makes an excuse, so that Virgil can be on a date with May.


Main Cast[]

Recurring Cast[]

Guest Cast[]


  • There seems to be a production error originating a plot hole later in the season, beginning in the latter episode Redacted until the season's finale Strawberries and Cream, concerning J.J. LaRoche's suspect list regarding the murder of Todd Johnson: In this episode, Jane is given such list by Virgil Minelli, but, in latter episodes, Jane tries to obtain the same list.
Season 3 Episodes
Red Sky At Night  · Cackle-bladder Blood  · The Blood On His Hands  · Red Carpet Treatment  · The Red Ponies  · Pink Chanel Suit · Red Hot · Ball of Fire · Red Moon · Jolly Red Elf · Bloodsport · Bloodhounds · Red Alert · Blood for Blood · Red Gold · Red Queen · Bloodstream · The Red Mile · Every Rose Has Its Thorn · Redacted · Like a Redheaded Stepchild · Rhapsody in Red · Strawberries and Cream