After Clarice’s behavior at the press conference last week, you’d think she’d riding a desk for the foreseeable future. That wouldn’t make for much of an interesting show, though, so they concoct a way this week to get her back into the field. The team is heading out to a stand-off, and Krendler doesn’t want Clarice left to her own devices.
So onto Tennessee, where the stand-off is between the ATF–that’s Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, for my UK friends–and a local…sect? Group? I’m not quite sure what to call them, even if the episode description calls them a “fringe militia group.” There’s clearly something weird going on, but it doesn’t have the same cult or militia vibes that we usually see in these situations. I mean, besides all the guns. And like, welcome to the South, where I thought everyone grew up with a reloading room in their house. (Fun fact: Depending on where this compound is supposed to be, it’s probably only a few hours away from me.)
Anyway, that’s why we’re all here–an unknown someone shot an ATF agent. I know that sounds familiar. On that note, I was thinking about the title of this episode. I’m not sure exactly what it refers to. But I couldn’t help but think of ghosts in the context of this episode. The ghosts of things like the Waco siege, which ended in unimaginable tragedy, hang heavy over situations like this. But hey, at least we won’t have to worry about this stand-off ending in the deaths of any children, because there aren’t any here.
Wait, scratch that. Clarice sees a little boy outside. She tries to talk to him, but doesn’t get much further than her name before he runs back into the compound. It seems like a failure at first, but then he’s back out, hollering through a megaphone that Novak (Tim Guinee), the leader of this bunch, will speak to the lady.
Unsurprisingly, he wants to talk to Clarice because he recognizes her name. Beyond that, I think he wants to talk to her for two reasons. Number one, he wants to go up against the clever Clarice Starling. And if it’s not that, then he believes her to be another wounded bird he can cage. I mean, yes, she’s got her issues, but I think she’s still stronger than this clown understands. At the same time, when a conversation with Novak brings up memories of her brother, it upsets her enough to send her off to the bathroom, where Novak watches her through a one-way mirror. He also uses the opportunity to stir up the confrontation.
There’s a bit of shooting, but they get to a ceasefire pretty quickly. Speaking of pretty quickly, Novak sure does cave to the demands fast, doesn’t he? He agrees to give up the shooter, but only if it’s the local sheriff who handles it, not any of the federal agents.
If that seems suspicious, then there’s good reason. Clarice learns from the boy that the sheriff is in on everything going on at the compound, which includes commercial sexual exploitation, among other things. And it was the boy who shot the ATF agent, because he was trying to get some help. So after the sheriff leaves with the alleged shooter, Clarice waits for Novak.
She tells him a story from her childhood that seems to flatter Novak, and she lays it on thick. Then she springs the trap, using Psychology 101 to make him feel inadequate, like the sheriff is the real swingin’ you-know-what in these parts. Novak, a narcissistic dummy, can’t help himself. He brags about how he’s the real power, the one in charge–not the sheriff and not [insert about a dozen other names]. Of course Clarice got it all on tape. And she doesn’t even let Novak have all the dummy acclaim, either! She’s like, “You’re under arrest, mister.” Nevermind that she’s unarmed, and basically alone in the house with him. Luckily, Esquivel is actually a good sniper.
I’m not sure, though, that the shooting was justifi–okay, we’re moving on. The AG plays the tape for the sheriff and then he’s hauled off to prison forever. Haha, no. That doesn’t happen, either. Instead, the AG uses the tape as leverage to get the sheriff to clean house. Clarice is grossed out by this, but AG Martin is like, “Grow up, Clarice–this is how the world works.”
And it is kind of a gross ending, but then again, maybe Clarice should be grateful that people are willing to let things slide. She got to come on this trip, after all, and even though she disobeyed here just as much as she did before, this time she did it in a mission-winning way. So Krendler’s impressed enough to let her stay on the team. Now all she has to do is keep it together.
7.5/10 – This is still basically just a dressed-up CBS procedural, but this episode was incrementally better than the pilot. Let’s keep that momentum, please.
Note: I referred to Kal Penn’s character as one name last week, because that’s what he was billed as originally. This week, all the promo stuff says his character’s name is Shaan Tripathi, so adjust your notes or whatever accordingly.