“All Souls and Sadists” (Episode 106)
October 28, 2019
On last week’s Prodigal Son, Malcolm went on an (accidental) drug trip that allowed his subconscious to remind him that he had a box of childhood mementos. At the episode’s close, Malcolm learned that he may have been more involved with his father’s murders than he ever realized. Also, we learned a lot about Dani’s past, including that she became addicted to drugs, back in the day, while on an undercover assignment. Catch up on all of the action with our deep dive recap and review here.
Now, on to tonight’s all new Halloween-week episode of Prodigal Son … BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!!
One Week Ago. You’ll recall that “Designer Complicity” (Episode 4) ended with Ainsley popping up at Papa Whitly’s cell. Tonight’s episode picks up with that conversation that we didn’t get to see. She is trying to match match wits with her dad, but, as often is the case, Papa Whitly has the upper hand because he’s so damned cool under pressure.
Ainsley wants to interview her father, ask him how he could kill so many people and most importantly, how and why he began to kill at all. Papa Whitly disagrees that that’s the most important question.
“Deep down, there’s another question that you desperately need answered and I’m wondering, are you brave enough to ask it?”
Malcolm is at a used car lot, he’s looking for the exact model of wood grain station wagon from the picture he found last week in his shoebox. The used car salesman (William Hill) makes a point of noting the nostalgia for these cars and also, how there’s lots of room in the back for your “kill.” Obviously, he’s talking about hunting but Malcolm does a double take, the salesman has no idea how right he is.
This isn’t the right car; the one he’s looking for has an anchor point in the back, such that you could chain a human too. When the car salesman gives him a look of “WTF?!?”, Malcolm assures him that he’s a cop …
Snort. I love Malcolm and how wonderfully bizarre he is.
Ainsley’s Apartment. Ainsley and her boyfriend/cameraman, Jin (Raymond Lee) are waking up and he’s sensing that she’s still distracted from seeing her dad. He promises her that he’ll be there if and when they get the interview with Papa Whitly and he’ll protect her. After she gets some aggressive texting from Mama Whitly about coming for dinner, Jin sexes Ainsley to make her feel better.
Sex fixes a lot of things, this is true.
Malcolm’s Therapist’s Office. Malcolm is having another session with Dr. Gabrielle Le Deux (Charlayne Woodard). He’s explaining the station wagon and how he is positive these are real memories. Dr. Gaby seems less convinced. Also, Malcolm’s hand tremor is full on shaking in this scene, homeboy is all nerved up.
Dr. Gaby plays along with Malcolm’s belief for a moment and says that if these memories coming back to him are in fact true, that’s a bad sign. It means that Malcolm’s entire psyche is built upon a fragile base, like sand, and that if he goes knocking down too many walls to his repressed memories, it could drive him to become psychotic. He’ll start to have visions and lose the ability to tell what is real and what is not.
“If you follow your trauma to its source, you could revert back to being that frozen, broken child.”
The session ends with her reminding him that her concern is for his well being and she warns him to be careful.
Murder Scene in the Woods. Cut to Gil and Malcolm headed to a murder in the woods. Malcolm isn’t sure this sounds horrific enough to require a profiler but Gil fills him in that the victim was stabbed over a 100 times.
Edrisa is on the scene and reports that the victim, Gavin Parker, died from blood loss from the multitude of stab wounds. The victim’s car door was left open, indicating that he was in some sort of hurry. Dani notes that the stab wounds look different and Edrisa agrees, some are deep and confident, others are superficial.
Malcolm begins his basic profile, this is a care of overkill, the murderer was in a rage state. JT notes the victim’s broken ankle. Malcolm notes a tree branch sticking up out of the ground and deepens the murder profile. It wasn’t planned, it was opportunistic. The victim was being chased down the tree lane and tripped over the branch, breaking his ankle and falling. He notes Gavin’s missing knife from his knife holster and guesses the killer used Gavin’s own knife on him. Edrisa adds that the wounds indicate that the killer straddled Gavin. The killer wanted Gavin to see his face, Dani adds in.
Malcolm counters that perhaps the killer needed to see Gavin’s face, needed to see the pain as he inflicted. Edrisa is so impressed with how good Malcolm is at his job. We agree.
“We’re looking for a nascent sadist. They’re only now realizing the pleasure they feel from inflicting pain.”
Malcolm finishes the profile by surmising this was the killer’s first kill. Gil gives out interview assignments to try and figure this out, including why Gavin was out here at all.
The Parker House. Gil and Malcolm are interviewing Gavin’s wife. She seems much more concerned with wiping down her gym equipment than the news of her hubby’s death. When Malcolm notices a picture missing from the wall, he guesses that they were getting a divorce. Wife doesn’t deny it, they just hadn’t gone public with it yet. She also says that she’s a new trainer at a gym called “Jake’s.” She lights up when she mentions the place and the titular Jake the Trainer. Oh, there is also a son, Isaac (Clark Furlong), but Wife doesn’t seem very concerned about him either although she tells Gil that Isaac is her “everything.”
Out back, Malcolm talks with young Isaac. He has flashes of him and Gil from the night that The Surgeon was arrested and he clearly empathizes with Isaac dealing with the loss of his father. The difference is that Malcolm is now the Gil in his memory, being the adult authority figure. It’s a night comparison as the shoot it.
Isaac reveals that Mama Parker doesn’t seem very sad about Gavin’s death, that she didn’t really need Gavin. He repeats the line his mother gave a little bit ago about Isaac being her everything. Clearly, he’s heard that from her more than once. Isaac also reveals that Gym Jake sleeps over the house and didn’t seem to get along with his Dad.
Malcolm gives Isaac a lollipop, mimicking Gil handing him a sucking candy those many years ago.
Stately Whitly Manor. The Whitly family has gathered for dinner. Ainsley reveals that she’s interviewing The Surgeon. Jessica and Malcolm immediately tag team her about how bad an idea this is with Malcolm being more concerned about her safety while Jessica just outright forbids Ainsley from seeing Martin again. Ainsley doesn’t take her mother’s royal decree very well and leaves the dinner. Malcolm gets up to stop her but Jessica tells him to let Ainsley go.
Alone, they agree for once that the interview can never be allowed to happen. Later, as Malcolm is leaving, he asks Jessica about the station wagon photo. She seems to not recognize the “hideous” car nor have any idea where Martin and Malcolm are in the picture. Malcolm places the time of the photo about a week before Papa Whitly was arrested. Jessica says she and Ainsley were in the Hampton’s at that time while Malcolm was still in school and Martin was busy with work “so he said.”
Jessica is deep in memory as she stares at the photo. She says that Martin loved to camp, the idea of special clothes and equipment made him “giddy as a school boy.” She hands the photo back and excuses herself to get Adolpho so he can drive Malcolm home.
Alone, Malcolm sees a younger version of his father. Young Martin is talking about how they’re going to go camping and it’s going to be fun. They even have a special car for the trip and Mama Whitly never needs to know. Malcolm puts his hand over a candle to try and break himself out of the vision but it doesn’t work. He is still seeing the vision of his younger dad but now, Malcolm’s sleeve is on fire. He takes his coat off and is dousing the flames as Jessica returns. He promises his mother he’s good and in fact, the vision of young Martin has gone.
But Malcolm, you’re fine from good, my friend.
Claremont Psychiatric Hospital. We come back from break and Martin is in a group therapy session at the Psych Hospital. He’s talking about seeing Ainsley and how she wants to have a relationship with him. Which is great, Dr. Higa (James Saito) says, but the point of today’s group session is noticing our signs of aggression. Martin says he’s getting to the aggression.
Martin continues that he’s more prone to aggression when “grappling with an internal dilemma” such as he is right now. On the one hand, he is excited to spend time with his daughter but on the other, there is a reason he’s never discussed his “exploits” on camera.
“The general public seldom understands greatness in its time.”
Dr. Higa thinks there may be a deeper reason for not wanting to do the interview … such as relinquishing the control (which Martin so desires) to his daughter. Another patient, Tevin (Matthew Maher), mumbles that Martin should do the interview. More loudly, he tells Martin that he wishes he could have told his side of the story of killing his parents … that they deserved what they got. Tevin gets overly excited and the orderlies haul him away but not before he’s screaming, “tell your story” to Martin. Martin takes this all in and deadpans to Dr. Higa that he thinks this outburst might have been Tevin’s “sign of aggression.”
He’s got the same sense of humor as his son and honestly, I’m here for it.
The Police Station. Malcolm is staring at the case file on the chalkboard when Dani comes in. He hands her the picture and asks if Dani can run the license plate in the picture. Since it’s a partial and an old plate, it’ll take some time. Malcolm advises her to not ask anymore questions because it’ll definitely be something she doesn’t want to know more about. Gil and JT come in, time for a profile update on the Sadist.
Fun Fact: it takes 3 stabs at a four inch depth to kill someone (JT has a great line asking Malcolm, “where do you get a stat like that?”). Malcolm hypothesizes that their killer accelerated his stabs in order to get in as many as possible before Gavin “expired.” Also, the chance that this was a random killing is unlikely.
Dani chimes in that Wife, whose name is Crystal, has motive given the pending divorce. Also, there are several domestic disputes on the books where it was Gavin with the black eye. Malcolm acknowledges that mom’s a hitter but doesn’t think she did the killing as she’s devoted to her son. Dani says that’s just a thing mothers say but Malcolm thinks it’s more than that.
The Jocasta Complex. Malcolm explains the Jocasta Complex is the maternal version of the Oedipal Complex. The mom depends on the son as if he were an adult male partner, but they don’t tend to be sadists.
“Enter Jake,” says Dani. She explains that Gym Jake has a history of assaults including almost killing a guy in “Bed Stuy using Krav Maga” (a highly effective Israeli martial art). How can we tell if Gym Jake is a sadist, asks Gil? Don’t worry, Malcolm has an idea.
Jake’s Gym. Malcolm is being shown Jake’s Gym by Jake himself. Malcolm comments on the motto, “We defend to the end” and Jake explains it’s not a motto, it’s a philosophy for survival. Malcolm is doing a good impression of a lot of men who take martial arts classes, mis-pronouncing the name and asking about the belts system. Jake gets very serious and explains that Krav Maga isn’t a sport, it’s about inflicting so much pain and damage on your
victim opponent that they can never hurt you again. Malcolm calls Jake on that being a little extreme.
“Life is extreme.”
Jake has Malcolm attack him and easily pins Malcolm into a painful submission hold. He explains that Krav Maga works and is based on “maximum aggression.”
Having done martial arts for several years, I have known guys like Jake and this is not an exaggeration for how the most toxic of them think and act … which is terrifying if you think about it too long.
Malcolm gets back on his feet and indicates he’s not done with Jake yet. Gym Jake comes at him and Malcolm lands a palm strike to the nose and man it’s fun to watch. He plays dumb and says he thought they were going for maximum aggression. Gym Jake rages out and jumps on Malcolm putting him in a choke hold on the floor, asking if Malcolm submits. Malcolm turns his face up to Jake’s and smiles as he watches Gym Jake’s eyes rage and seethe. Gym Jake lets go and asks if Malcolm is some kind of freak.
“Jung would have called me a masochist.”
Malcolm says he’s not really a fan but says Jung would have loved Gym Jake, “an old-fashioned sadist.” WHo are you,” Gym Jake finally gets around to asking. Which is when Malcolm reveals himself to be a profiler and behind Gym Jake, Gil … the cop. “Hi Jake. Let’s talk,” Gil says.
In the park, Dani and JT are doing a jogging surveillance of Crystal. They’re confused why she seems to be running right towards the crime scene, seems counter-intuitive.
Jake’s Gym. Gym Jake is denying being a killer as well as a sadist. As to the latter, Malcolm tells Gym Jake all the ways he responded to the pain he inflicted on Malcolm … definite sadist. Gil adds in that Gym Jake is also sleeping with Gavin’s ex, not a service generally offered to all of his gym clients.
Back in the park, Crystal is digging around at the crime scene and Dani is hiding behind a tree, giving JT a running commentary. When Dani pokes her around, Crystal is gone.
In the gym, Jake says that four months ago, Gavin demanded full custody of Isaac and Crystal lost her shit. She came into the gym furious and Jake taught her how to use that anger, “I taught her everything.”
In the park, Crystal comes up behind Dani, putting her in a devastating choke hold. Dani drops her gun as we switch to her POV and her vision is blurring to white (representing the loss of consciousness).
We come back and with Dani’s last moments of being awake, she frees pepper spray from her jacket and sprays Crystal but good. As Crystal doubles over coughing, Dani regains her gun and advises her to never sneak up on a cop. JT comes running to the scene, gun drawn, and he’s holding a bloody package. He explains it’s a sweatshirt, perfect attire for stabbing your husband to death on a chilly Fall night. Crystal Parker is under arrest.
The Police Station. We see Crystal sitting in an interrogation room. Malcolm is with Gil and he doesn’t like this, it doesn’t fit the profile. Dani comes by and it makes total sense to her. Malcolm says Crystal is a “Jacosta mother, not a sadist.” Gil counters with Crystal being found at the crime scene trying to get rid of evidence. Malcolm says that a Jacosta mother is too emotionally consumed with her son to stab someone 100 times for pleasure.
Dani counters that maybe it wasn’t for pleasure and maybe, just maybe, Malcolm’s profile was wrong. Gil steps forward and draws a link between Malcolm and Isaac and says that maybe it messed with Malcolm’s head.
Interrogation Room. Dani sits across from Crystal and presses her on the crime scene, the sweatshirt and the murder. Gil is standing behind Dani and Malcolm is in the corner. Crystal admits to killing Gavin, fueled by him trying to take her son away. Malcolm is in disbelief. Dani takes Crystal back to holding and Malcolm is still holding that a Jacosta Mother Sadist doesn’t make sense. He says he screwed up. Not about getting the mother’s profile wrong but he says he screwed up by telling Isaac it was going to be okay. And now, Isaac’s losing both parents. Gil tries to make Malcolm feel better by saying, that’s what you say to a kid but Malcolm doesn’t accept that. He lied to Isaac, none of this is okay.
Ainsley’s Apartment. A mostly naked Jin, save towel, and Ainsley are about to get frisky on the couch when Jessica barges in. Yes, Ainsley took her key but it wasn’t her only copy. Jessica is all “cat with a canary in her mouth” smirky, pleased at the naked boy on the couch. She even makes a hard penis joke before dismissing him so she can talk to her daughter, alone.
Jessica is there to tell Ainsley that she went several levels above Ainsley’s head and had her interview quashed. Ainsley cannot believe it, and accuses Jessica of preventing this interview not for Ainsley’s own good but for her mother’s own good. Ainsley continues that her whole knowledge base of her Dad is colored by Jessica’s opinion but she doesn’t think he is just the monster that Jessica always depicted. Mama Whitly wants to know what Martin told Ainsley, exactly.
One Week Ago. We flashback to the meeting that opened the episode. Martin has just dared Ainsley to ask her real question.
“Was it real? Did you love us or was it just some psychopathic act?”
THIS is the exact question that Martin wanted her to ask. Martin tells her that he has thought about her and everything he missed in her life, every day since his arrest. He gets Ainsley to laugh when he details how he imagined her debutante ball going. Ainsley composes herself and turns to leave, realizing how far she let him in. Martin calls to her.
“That imaginary life is the most real thing I know. The one place I get to be a father.”
Martin tells his daughter that he can never forgive himself for not really being there and neither should she. The memory finishes by Martin telling Ainsley that she deserved so much better from him.
Back in the present, Jessica tells, not asks, her daughter that Martin made her love him in that moment. She knows the signs, having lived with it for years. Jessica finishes her thought, that Ainsley went looking for the monster but instead, found a father that loved her.
Ainsley is non-committal on her feelings but tells her mother that the interview is happening one way or another. Mama Whitly needs to trust that she’s raised a strong daughter who can handle this. Jessica, resigned, admits that maybe Ainsley can handle it and then leaves.
Dr. Gaby’s Office. Dr. Gaby notices that Malcolm’s tremor is worse than ever. He blames the case. He blames the feeling that he’s making Isaac’s life worse. Dr. Gaby calls Malcolm on identifying with Isaac the son experiencing loss, and as such, wants to see the best in him. Which is counter to how Malcolm usually views the world. This triggers something in Malcolm, realizing that wanting to see the best in Isaac is a subconscious urge, which causes an unconscious bias. A blind spot, as it were. Not a good thing if your job is to see the worst in people, no matter how dark it may be. He leaves the therapy session.
The Parker House. Malcolm is in the backyard, by Isaac’s rabbits. He’s thinking back to his conversation with Isaac about the rabbits and how they feel sad over the loss of their dad. He walks around to the other side of the shed and notices several empty cages and several small mounds of Earth. Anyone who has ever buried a small family pet knows what these mounds of dirt are. Malcolm starts to uncover one and, while we don’t see what he finds, the strings of doom on the soundtrack and Malcolm’s face tell us everything we need to know.
The Police Station. Malcolm runs into the interrogation room as Gil is about to have Crystal sign her confession. He tells Gil the bloody sweatshirt was Isaac’s and Crystal went to dig it up as soon as Isaac admitted to her what he did. Malcolm is carrying a plastic bag and slams it on the table as he sits down to talk to Crystal. He tells Crystal that she loves her son and she’s protecting him. But, Malcolm says that she’s known he’s different, since about the age of three, he guesses. “What’s in the bag, Bright,” Gil wants to know?
Malcolm ignores Gil and says that she’s been keeping other kids away from Isaac and hiding his small animal crimes. He demands Crystal tell Gil what’s buried in the backyard or else, he’ll need to open the bag here on the table. She can’t. Malcolm starts to open the bag and Crystal cries, “stop” but Gil has already seen the rabbit.
Crystal explains that they took Isaac to a doctor when he was 8; that the doctor said Isaac had a conduct disorder and that some kids are just different. Malcolm is nodding as Crystal speaks and explains to Gil that “childhood onset conduct disorder is an antecedent to sadism.”
Gil asks Crystal if Isaac killed is father.
Crystal breaks down with the story. Gavin came to the house for a visitation and saw Isaac in the middle of suffocating one of his rabbits. Gavin told his son that he was taking him to a psych hospital. So, Isaac ran. Gavin chased after him, tripped on the branch and broke his ankle. Crystal says that Isaac knew Gavin was taking him away from his mother so he felt he had to kill Gavin to keep that from happening.
Malcolm tells Gil they need to secure Isaac or else he’s likely to turn violent on anyone that sets him off. Social services took Isaac home while they await a foster family. Who is at home with Isaac right now, Malcolm asks?
The Parker House. Gym Jake is at the house and he scolds Isaac when he comes out dressed for trick or treating. Jake tells Isaac that his mom is in jail and social services is coming to take him away so pack your shit, no Halloween this year.
Defiantly, Isaac sits down so Gym Jake says he’ll pack Isaac’s stuff for him. Alone, we get a long zoom in as Isaac stares longingly at the selection of kitchen knives hanging on the wall. Ruh Roh.
We come back from break with Malcolm and Gil racing towards the Parker house. Malcolm gets Gym Jake on the phone and asks where Isaac is?Gym Jake isn’t really sure nor does he seem to really care. Over his shoulder, eagle eyed viewers will notice that one of the four sharp kitchen knives are missing from the rack where they were hanging a moment ago.
Under the table, Isaac is hiding, he’s got his wolf mask on now.
In the car, Malcolm is telling Gym Jake that Isaac is very dangerous which is when Gym Jake begins to scream in pain.
Back in the Parker house, Gym Jake is lying on the flor, Isaac has cut his calf muscles. He picks up Gym Jake’s cell phone and Malcolm asks, “what’s happening?”
Isaac says that Gym Jake isn’t looking so strong now and Malcolm tells Isaac to hide upstairs, Gym Jake won’t be able to hurt him there. No response from Isaac. “Isaac?” No response. Sensing things have turned, Gil radios in for tactical support to meet at the house.
The Parker House. Dani and JT join up with Gil and Malcolm and the four enter the house. Gym Jake is on the floor, unconscious but still alive. The suspect that Isaac listened to Malcolm and hid upstairs. Malcolm says he can talk to Isaac.
“I understand him. Please”
Gil agrees, reluctantly.
Upstairs, Malcolm finds Isaac in his room, full wolf costume on, bloody knife in his hand. It’s a chilling image. Isaac says Malcolm lied to him and Malcolm counters that Isaac made a bad choice, that you can’t hurt people like this. But, Malcolm says there i still time for Isaac to change, to get better.
Isaac takes off his mask and asks if he has to go to jail? A special hospital, Malcolm explains. Isaac says they can’t help him because no one understands him, no body. “I do,” Malcolm responds. He explains that when his father was taken from him, he didn’t speak for months, that his feelings almost shut him down completely.
“I know what it’s like to not be okay. To feel that something inside is broken.”
He asks Isaac if he knows that feeling too? Isaac asks if he’ll always be broken and Malcolm says that he doesn’t have to feel that way. He says that he got help and so can Isaac.
Outside, the SWAT Team is telling Gil they have eyes on the suspect and want permission to engage with a shot. Gil is all “negative,” it’s just a kid and they’re bringing him out.
In the bedroom, Isaac wants to see his mom and Malcolm explains that he can and that she loves Isaac and will always be there for him. Isaac hands the knife to Malcolm. They’re standing very close together now.
The Police Station. In Gil’s office, Malcolm is explaining that Isaac is in a psych hospital and Malcolm has added himself to the permanent visitor’s list. Malcolm wonders aloud if, given what he went through as a kid, he could have turned into someone like Isaac?
“Not on my watch.”
Awww, Gil and Malcolm are dad and son goals.
In the bullpen, Dani hands Malcolm the info on the station wagon, including its location.
That night, Malcolm is wandering through a car lot, replaying his father’s words from the vision earlier in the episode. About getting a special car and Mama Whitly not needing to know. Malcolm approaches the station wagon, covered in a tarp.
Malcolm pulls open the trunk door and sees the anchor latch. The sight almost takes his breath away, like seeing a nightmare come true before your eyes.
He flips his flashlight to UV light and shines it back into the station wagon’s cargo area. between the two latch points, the UV light reveals a mess of blood stains. The episode ends with the camera tight on Malcolm’s eyes as he takes in this confirmation of everything he’s feared. It’s a look of pure terror.
Prodigal Son continues to exceed expectations, both as an unpredictable procedural and also as a well thought-out and executed serialized psychological thriller.
Any other procedural would have ended with the itchy fingers of the SWAT Team killing ISaac through the window, just as he hands over the knife. And, I swear, I thought that was going to happen tonight. But, it didn’t. It defied expectation but granting us a resolution that maybe invokes a future that isn’t horrible and bleak for Isaac.
Additional kudos to the show for tying a plot point of Malcolm’s psychology to solving the procedural crime of the week. By discussing his empathy for Isaac with Dr. Gaby, derived from his experience as a kid, Malcolm was able to realize his blindspot in how he was viewing Isaac as the possible killer. It was organic and felt like an earned realization to me. And then, to use tat empathy to talk Isaac down from making additional mistakes he would never be able to walk away from.
Prodigal Son works so well because it all makes sense when you view it in total. Nothing in this show is frivolous though we have a puzzle and we are all working to make the pieces fit together, I am sure that we will all get there and be able to point to every piece given along the way.
Serialized, mystery television is most satisfying when, at the end, you don’t feel like your time was wasted; the mystery makes sense and you can see where all the clues were left for you if you know what to look for.
There is a lot of comments on social media, especial in Prodigal Son’s sub-Reddit thread, about Ainsley being this mysterious character who is maybe the real criminal mastermind. That’s never felt right to me. I think Ainsley is meant to be the Marilyn Munster to Jessica, Martin and Malcolm’s other Munster characters.
She’s the normal one who has been unaffected by Martin’s crimes but, in some way, she’s also been excluded from being a full Whitly family member because of that normality. Her journey is one of dark exploration into what it means to be a Whitly and her need to interview her father is the first step in that exploration … I think it’s a genius choice for this show. To show us someone not messed up explore the darkest parts of her genetics whist mother and brother are trying to distance themselves from that same part of the family tree. I cannot wait to see where her burgeoning relationship with Martin goes …
And who knows, maybe Ainsley will ultimately be lured into a killer life, but I trust this show to take us on a journey that makes sense and keeps us engrossed.
Prodigal Son airs on Fox on Monday nights at 9pm (ET/PT). We’ll be Live Tweeting this show so please, join us!
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