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All fans know that "The Mentalist" plays fast and loose with police procedure, and even reality, in most of its episodes. We enjoy the banter between Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) and Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney), and their relationships with the whole CBI team. There's humor, drama and surprising plot twists to keep us entertained. Even "The Mentalist" must have a line it won't cross, however, a place where the storylines become just too implausible. After the Season 3 finale, we have to wonder if Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti) is truly a viable CBI agent.
Green Recruit Grace
Van Pelt has always been the most emotional, romantic and caring member of the CBI team. It's not bad to have this type of personality, but Grace's feelings have often caused her to be more gullible than her work counterparts. In the beginning, this was a realistic part of her character. She was a novice, and her lack of experience caused her to make some questionable judgment calls. As a result of her green state, Lisbon often left Grace behind in the office to work on fact-finding and follow up with forensics and witnesses. Now that she's out in the field more, Grace's too-trusting nature continually puts the CBI team and others at risk. Is it time for a change?
In Grace's defense, her new boyfriend Dan also got the jump on Agent Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) in this Season 1 episode of "The Mentalist." Jane, blinded by an earlier car bomb blast, figures out Dan is the guilty party a little too late. He and Grace are both held hostage, though Dan is really out for revenge against Jane for the damage his "psychic" readings caused Dan's family. Rigsby is unconscious in the bathroom, the result of turning his back on Dan after a little man-to-man chat about Grace. Jane manages a diversion and the he and Grace try to escape by car, but he's blind and she's handcuffed. Luckily, Lisbon shows up in time to shoot Dan and save them. The contrast between Lisbon's steely confidence and quick thinking, and Grace's helplessness, really showed how green Grace still was.
"Red Sky in the Morning"
In the Season 2 finale, Jane is horrified when "real" psychic Kristina Frye (Leslie Hope) taunts Red John by daring to analyze him on TV. Though Kristina continues to deny the danger, she submits to CBI protection. Unfortunately, Grace leaves Kristina to take a nap in a room with a giant sliding glass door. When Grace goes to check on her, at Jane's request, she discovers that Kristina is missing. It's confirmed later that Kristina has been, apparently quite easily, kidnapped by Red John.
"Blood for Blood"
In Season 3, Episode 14 of "The Mentalist," Grace is once again put in charge of a witness. This time she hears a noise and decides to wander outside, leaving the witnesses alone in the house. She predictably gets struck from behind, and while she's out, one witness is killed and the other is missing. Jane luckily finds the scared young girl who simply fled the house, but an investigation is begun over whether Grace remembered to lock the door behind her when she went to investigate the noise.
While she's managed to lose another witness, Grace did win points for sticking by her CBI team. When Agent LaRoche (Pruitt Taylor Vince) offered to make her case "go away" in exchange for her spying on her coworkers, Grace turned him down flat. She was also exonerated in the case against her, as it turned out the murder was an inside job by the girl in protective custody.
"Strawberries and Cream"
For the Season 3 finale, "The Mentalist" finally revealed who Red John's mole was. You guessed it, Grace's fiance, FBI agent Craig O'Laughlin (Eric Winter), was the guilty party. While Grace was obviously more cautious in her dating by choosing government men, she still didn't prove very adept at judging character. She also made nearly fatal choices in this episode. Though Jane initially thought he had cleared O'Laughlin, Grace showed extremely poor judgment by announcing--in a crowded area--that she was going to protect Madeleine Hightower (Aunjanue Ellis) and her family. It was even more unprofessional for her to invite Craig along, simply because she wanted her boyfriend to keep her company on a "long drive."
Considering that Jane's plan had not been fully executed, and Grace didn't yet know the final results, why would she dare compromise Hightower's safety by bringing in an outside officer? No one wants to believe that their fiance is guilty of such a crime, but if Grace had stuck to proper protocol, things might not have ended in a deadly shootout that nearly took Lisbon's life.
While Grace ultimately did her job and shot Craig full of holes, will there be any questions about why she brought him along to the secret location in the first place? Will there be any consequences? While part of the show's charm is the CBI team, especially Jane, getting away with bending the rules--at some point it simply becomes farce. That's fine if the show is billed as a straight comedy, but "The Mentalist" likes to tackle very serious crimes and emotions. Grace possibly needs some time on the bench to decide if she's really cut out for active duty in the CBI.
The show wasn't afraid to make Jane a depressed loner earlier this season, as he struggled with what had happened to Kristina. Though I'm not a big fan of the show going too dark, Grace should display some emotional fallout from being betrayed by her fiance and nearly getting everyone killed. With the aftermath of Jane killing Red John, or who we assume to be Red John, Grace's story might end up on the back burner. It would be a disservice to her character, however, to let her just continue on as she has.
What do you think, "Mentalist" fans? Does Grace still deserve a spot on the CBI team? Is she any more dangerous to them than Jane has been?
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