805: “This Little Piggy”

 Original Air Date: Sunday, July 28, 2013

 

This week’s episode proved to be surprising: Dexter, for the first time in eight seasons, actively looked for ways to avoid Debra, and despite his convictions about ousting Dr. Vogel from his life after the death of AJ Yates, we find that he, the doctor, and his sister have formed an “unholy trinity” of a family that can only end up in the fire and the flames. Will Quinn discover Dexter and Debra’s secrets in efforts to prove to Matthews that he was the better candidate for Sergeant than Angie Miller? Should we still be suspicious of Vogel, despite the fact that she seems to have earned Dexter and Debra’s trust? What will the remaining seven episodes of the series hold in store for us? Here is my treatment, with input from Billy [CopaForever] and the added voice of Scott Reynolds from this week’s podcast, for season 8, episode 5: “This Little Piggy.”


Family Ties

This episode opens with an unwanted (on Dexter’s part) family therapy session. Not only is it unusual for Dexter to be pulling away from Debra (as he has been chasing her for the first four episodes of season 8), but it is unusual to see Dexter so emotive, so angry, so hurt, so human. Dr. Vogel has tried to push the idea on Dexter that he is, by nature, a selfish being who strives to preserve himself, and only himself; however, we hear Dexter clearly spell out his concerns for Harrison’s future, had Debra successfully killed him. Scott Reynolds illuminates that Deb “is his … weak spot,” and nothing else gets to him like Debra can. When Dexter storms out, Deb and Vogel have a short conversation, which suggests that Vogel finally buys that he does feel human emotions, something that Dexter has been trying to convince her of since episode 2 (if Yates tried cracking open her skull to scoop out her insular anterior cortex, he probably would have failed because she is just that thick-headed in this respect — and if he succeeded, I doubt he would find one in her head, for she’s probably a psychopath herself). We know Dexter’s mad because he dropped (what I believe is) his first f-bomb of the entire series. He even told the two of them to “go to Hell.” Wow.

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[GIF credit: posthawk]

Despite the fact that we are seeing a humanized Dexter, he tells Deb flat-out that his “condition” doesn’t allow him to understand what she’s gone through – her PTSD, her “fog.” He’s frustrated by his own DNA, and the fact that Debra does not understand him, just as he does not understand her. Billy pointed out to me that the camera angles are meant to imitate the motion of a photo being ripped down the center. They are being torn apart by forces they cannot control, but are attempting to confront them by coming to Vogel – seemingly on her throne (for the shots of her are steady and straight-on, meant to convey “control and a sense of order,” according to Billy). Did you notice the spotlight above her head? Seems to me like they are highlighting the fact that Dr. Vogel is trying to “play God” (this tableau is illustrated nicely by the following GIFs). Billy pointed out that Dexter’s shirt (uncharacteristically a color other than peach or light blue) is indicative of his rage, whereas I see it as Dexter’s freak flag flying (remember the red kite discussion from 801?). Continuing on the discussion of color, the three seem to be fixtures on Vogel’s office. What’s more important is that she’s been studying Debra and Dexter, and may be focusing her energy on them for selfish purposes. If they seem to “belong” in her office, this may suggest that Vogel feels she has a right to test and treat the siblings as test subjects, seeing as they are already involved with each other, and because Vogel cannot seem to satiate her inner mad scientist (have we already forgotten about the Subject-0 files Dexter found on Yates’ computer? I still don’t think that is the end of Vogel’s note-taking on the Morgan siblings).

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[GIF credits: imageposthawk]

I cannot help but think that Dexter wishes he could turn back time to when his sister still worked at Miami Metro, before Debra knew that he was a serial killer, and before LaGuerta was dead. Whenever Dexter reflects upon Debra, we see the quintessential brother-sister shot from probably 10 or so years ago. This image is representative of the fact that Dexter still longs for those times, and will always cherish his little sister. Dexter even has this picture of Debra as her contact picture on his phone, rather than a more up-to-date shot (while we’re thinking about Dexter’s phone, did you happen to notice the blood  background? Or the Facebook app? Facebook: Perpetuating the “normalized” socialization of psychopaths since 2004 – but also proving that even a psychopath cannot resist the addictive nature of social media).

Dexter is overwhelmed by and wanting to escape from family at the beginning of the episode, complaining how family is “a burden,” how “they interfere … annoy … interrupt;” however, by the end we find that Dexter has opened up his stalk-and-kill ritual to Debra (something that I anticipated near the end of season 7 – the transformation of Dexter and Debra into one killer vigilante duo – we haven’t seen this since Lumen left the picture at the end of season 5), come around to the idea of keeping Vogel in his life beyond the murder of AJ Yates, and taking people with him on The Slice of Life to dispose of the Brain Surgeon evidence, brains and body included. I guess what Deb said is true, “a family that kills together …” must stay together as well.

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[GIF credit: katieb1013]

We’ve seen Debra bounce back considerably since the end of 804 when she hit “rock bottom.” She admits to the fact that when she thought of his impending death, she could not “imagine [her] life without [him].” As Vogel defended her, she was taking “the first option that presented itself” when in the fog of her PTSD. As Scott Reynolds muses, “When Jesus didn’t take the wheel, she took the wheel and threw [Dexter] into a lake and nearly killed him.” Of course this throws a monkey wrench into their relationship, but they spring back once they agree to unite to rescue Vogel. Once Deb and Dex reconcile, Dexter asks: “So, what – now everything just goes back to normal?,” to which Debra responds “It was never normal,” which is quite a statement to make, considering the fact that her feelings for Dexter had been off-limits for discussion up until this point. In a way, we’ve seen the resurrection of Debra Morgan this episode, and I’m so glad for it. The fact that she had no reaction to Yates’ death could be indicative of a few things – either she’s seen so much that witnessing her brother stab someone through a mattress didn’t faze her, or she’s so numb to it all that she’s becoming just like Dexter, or she’s becoming desensitized to killing, seeing as this is her third murder that she has either partaken in or was present for (Travis Marshall, LaGuerta, and now Yates).

It’s interesting how Vogel tries to assert herself as a motherly figure to both Dexter and Debra – Dexter pulls away, and yet Debra gravitates toward her. It’s even more interesting that Dexter, after claiming he’d oust her from his life after Yates’ death, decides to keep Vogel around. Vogel knows, as a psychiatrist, how to act and what to say to get the Morgan children’s trust, so she plays on their love for their father: “You never gave up on [Deb]. I’m impressed. I know Harry would be, too.” In this instant, Vogel sounds more maternal than she has all season, which is perhaps what breaks Dexter down into keeping Vogel around. Perhaps she is that one remaining connection to Harry that he wants to keep around? The end scene in the boat is where Dexter says he “wanted to be with family,” which may be indicative of the fact that Dexter is evolving into a more human-like being, something he wasn’t sure if he could become (remember when Rita gave him the choice to stay or leave when she found out she was pregnant with Harrison?). Scott Reynolds, in this week’s podcast, referred to the final scene in the boat as somewhat of an “unholy trinity,” which is an interesting way to look at these three individuals. Although Dexter seems to have come around to trusting Vogel, I still think we should be very suspicious of her and keep our eyes peeled. I still think she poses a threat – a crocodile lying in wait in the Miami marsh.

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[GIF credit: dexters-happy-place]

 

Brain Surgeon, But Not a Rocket Scientist

From Quinn’s briefing, we learn that AJ Yates is actually Albert Yates, a name which he despises, as we come to learn. This fact becomes important for when Vogel turns her knowledge in psychology against Yates during her kidnapping. Miami Metro has already “solved” the Brain Surgeon case following Sussman’s “suicide,” so Yates is now being picked up as another kind of serial killer with a different MO, although we are told that he is responsible for both kinds of killings. I was impressed by Yates’ character up until we saw who he actually was up close and personal. The acting wasn’t anything to brag about (especially when juxtaposed with Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, and Charlotte Rampling), so perhaps this is what I can attribute my dissatisfaction. Perhaps the only thing Yates’ character offered for this season was the opportunity to introduce Vogel as a threatening, yet compelling character who has had quite an immoral professional streak. I was all set for the Brain Surgeon to be a huge serial killer, something of Trinity’s caliber; however, this guy fell short. Yates only turned out to be a pawn – a device to draw in Vogel and to bring Dexter and Debra back together. It makes no sense to me how a cable and internet installation service guy could cleanly crack open heads, scoop out the part of the brain that he lacked, and carry on with his life, even though he had his “cut-by-numbers” instruction guide. He did not come off as that refined of a man to me. All we have to work with is a man with Mommy issues (can you say … Freudian?) who breaks women’s toes one by one (and probably makes them walk around in their heels afterward as punishment) and lets them suffer for days on end because of what his abusive mother did to him – from what he saw from underneath the bed. In a way, she created the psychopath – the monster under the bed, although he felt that the monster was pacing alongside it. Perhaps his mother was a psychopath as well.

One thing I have to give the writers kudos for is the fact that Vogel is kidnapped to the sounds of Mama Cass’ (and I repeat Mama Cass’) “Make Your Own Kind of Music.” Not only did Vogel’s pants remind me of slacks straight out of 1970, but the song reminded Billy and I of “Stomp Out Loud” – Yates took the “make your own kind of music” with household objects seriously – he shattered that class with a wrought-iron stool. In a way, Vogel is his spiritual mother, too, so his revenge on her was fitting in some respects.

One would think that a serial killer has control over his victims, but that was not the case when he took Vogel into captivity. Although he seemingly had the upper hand, taking his time to call her out on her malpractice (“Well it worked really well, didn’t it? You’re a hell of a doctor.”), she appeals to his little boy within. Through some very clever reverse psychology (if you could even call it that – as Billy said “[Vogel] took the power away from him in the situation and turned it on his head”), Vogel took on the role of his mother in the instant he was about to break the first toe on her right foot. She claims with Yates, as she did with Dexter, “[she] wanted what was best for [him]” and “[she] still do[es].” She even tries to convince Yates that she understands his terror, although Vogel has done enough already to convince me that she is a psychopath herself (therefore making it impossible for her to genuinely empathize – rather, she’d be going through the motions. It takes a psychopath to know a psychopath – or is she a sociopath? I don’t know at this point). Yates asks Vogel, “So who’s the guy?,” meaning Dexter, which comes off sounding like he’s asking a partner with whom she has been sleeping.If this isn’t Oedipal enough for you … just wait until the conversation Vogel and Dexter have in the preview for 806 regarding Zack Hamilton.

As previously mentioned, I felt that the Yates story was rushed. Where I was expecting this season to follow the pattern of seasons 1-6, Billy pointed out to me that season 7 did not fit this pattern. We thought Isaak Sirko was the “big bad,” and yet he turned out to be OK. Hannah got in the way (and is still a loose end at this point) and LaGuerta got killed. Last season started a new pattern of character arc development taking precedent over the pattern that we had come to love about Dexter. With this being Dexter’s last season, it makes sense that the writers would focus more on closure for each of the characters, rather than devote the entire series to the capturing of a serial killer at large. Perhaps this year’s “big bad” is Dexter himself, although I think Vogel is the best candidate as of yet for his table.

 

“This Little Piggy” – Going to the Market

When they first alluded to Yates’ shoe collection, I was worried that Dexter was going to start exploring paraphilias; however, it seem as though the writers hopped onto the incest train, as seems to be the trend for everyone and everything in this show (Debra’s feelings for Dexter, the uncomfortable affected sexual on-screen sexual attraction between Dexter and Vogel in the second and third episodes of this season, Maksuka hitting on his own daughter, Debra’s daddy issues, and the list goes on … ). The way in which Yates removed Vogel’s high heel looked uncomfortably sexual, and my brain fled to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” and how he clung to his wife’s skirt, attempting to avoid the dark and looming forest by clinging to the nearest woman he could treat as his mother.

I proposed in last week’s treatment for 804 that the shoes had something to do with Yates’ mother. I thought that perhaps the shoes were his mother’s and that he was forcing women to walk around in them (and if they didn’t fit, he’d break their toes until they did — recall the connection I made to the Brothers Grimm’s “Cinderella”) as some sort of Oedipal fantasy; however, we find that Yates is preoccupied with feet, but for a very different reason. The entire episode is dedicated to Yates’ obsession with women’s toes and the childhood rhyme “This Little Piggy.” The sight of his mother’s feet in her clacking heels as she’d pace back and forth, yelling and screaming at him, while he hid under the bed turned him into what he is today, as we can see by the makeshift graveyard Yates has in his backyard.

The “little piggies” that went to the “market” are marked by the rose bushes, which could symbolize how he loved his mother, but felt  betrayed and slighted out of an authentic mother-son relationship. The thorny bushes are a way of scorning the women with whom he attempted to search for that connection. As Vogel so eloquently states, “What [Yates] does to [his] women – it’s a search for a connection that [he] never got with [his] mother. But what [they] have now – in this moment – [she and Yates] – this is real human connection. What [he] [has] with [his] victims – that only pales in comparison.” Again, she sounds like his mother, and perhaps she considers herself his “spiritual mother,” when she says “My poor boy … all you want is to belong, don’t you.” She just about has him wrapped around her finger when he realizes that she’s had a call in to Dexter to listen in on the chaos for quite some time.This scene calls into question whether Vogel is just going through with the motions with Dexter and Debra to achieve some other end. I’ve already suggested that she’s still got a target on her back, and this furthers the idea that we should be suspicious of her (do you remember how Vogel was so willing to make up a diagnosis to explain Debra’s behavior when she came into Miami Metro to confess? She doesn’t give a second thought to malpractice or using her doctorate to get where she needs to go and do what she needs to).

 

It Runs in the Family

From the moment Zack Hamilton walked on screen, he seemed someone to be suspicious of. The fact that he approaches Dexter to ask him specifically about the crime scene rings all too familiar (Hannah McKay) and he seems to have that hidden sinister side that we saw in Jonah Mitchell (which wasn’t as well-hidden as Jonah’s was). It seems as though Zack has sniffed Dexter out like dogs do – is that a talent psychopaths have? My immediate suspicion was that both Ed and Zack Hamilton were psychopaths, but then I thought for a moment. Perhaps Ed sent Zack, knowing his “talents,” to kill off the maid, Norma Rivera (perhaps if Schwarzenegger had a son like Zack, he would still be with Maria Shriver). If you recall to the Mirror Theory Vogel introduced not too long ago, and the theory that Billy came up with, Ed and Zack Hamilton are yet another reflection of what Harry and Dexter could have been – Harry could have used Dexter’s urges to his advantage and they could have been sitting pretty (it just hit me now that the mirror theory was actually introduced even sooner than when Vogel spelled it out for us — recall when Brian Moser / Rudy Cooper / Dexter’s biological brother placed a vanity mirror into the chopped up Barbie’s hand in Dexter’s freezer). Regardless of whether or not this is a family of psychopaths, the Hamilton family reminds me quite a bit of Arthur Mitchell’s family. Dexter even comments on how normal they seem, but they are rather rough around the edges. When Zack calls his dad “an asshole, not a killer,” Dexter retorts: “Quite a testament.” Zack then responds, “In my family, that’s about as good as it gets.” There is certainly more to this family, as was there with the Mitchells. I think they will differ in the fact that all are aware of the foul play (of either Ed and/or Zack).

Matthews is sure to warn Quinn about how he treats the Hamilton family because they’re a “friend of Miami Metro.” For some reason, this sounds like another cover-up like the one that LaGuerta urged Debra to stop investigating for fear that she’d uncover the fact that Matthews had left the scene of a crime. If Matthews was willing to cover up his dirt, and seems willing to cover up for the Hamiltons, is this any indication of what he could do if he is to find out about Dexter and Debra’s vigilante escapades and/or the fact that Dexter is the Bay Harbor Butcher? Although Matthews seems to respect Harry, I don’t know if it will be enough for him to overlook the fact that he has a serial killer working under him. As Quinn points out, “old rich men don’t like hanging their dirty laundry out, especially when it’s the maid.” Where will this leave Matthews if he does find out Dexter’s secret? And how will he go about taking Dexter down if he does find out? Surely it will look bad on EVERYONE’S part if he’s discovered. How could a bunch of cops and detectives (except for Doakes) not sniff out a serial killer they see every day?

Speaking of family, in this week’s podcast, Aimee Garcia (Jamie Batista) comments on the fact that her character was written into the script as a student working toward becoming a child psychologist. I find this particularly interesting because if Dexter were to have anyone take care of his child, it would be a child psychologist. Since Rita’s brutal and sudden murder, it is clear that Dexter has been plagued with the idea that Harrison was contaminated by sitting in a pool of his mother’s blood, just as he was. Even before he was born, Dexter worried about passing the “gene” onto his son. I have pondered on this blog before whether or not Dexter was a psychopath or a sociopath (but in less articulate terms) and Scott Reynolds, a writer for the show, asserted in this week’s podcast that Dexter was both born with the psychopathic gene and was also influenced by sitting in an inch-thick pool of blood for three days as a child. Perhaps Jamie could pick out psychopathic traits in Harrison; however, “Aimee-Jamie” Garcia attested to the fact that she feels that her character loves Dexter so much and so blindly so (just as Rita did) that she would defend Dexter’s honor to the death if any suspicion were to arise as to what he really was. It is like that she would do the same for Harrison, so perhaps having Jamie as his babysitter and one with a constant eye on his child is both a great service and a great disillusionment.

 

What’s with All the Incest?

On top of the skimmed-over pass at Masuka’s own daughter, the fact that Debra clearly has daddy issues and is now in love with her foster brother – beyond the fact that Yates is still hopelessly searching for a motherly figure among his broken-toed brides – we now have Vogel experimenting on a new psychopath (Zack Hamilton), as the previews for 806 delineate. Furthermore, she wants to “birth” him with Dexter – she wants to help Dexter teach Zack the Code and become spiritual parents together. Now this is the most direct Oedipal connection this entire season, which makes me feel like my prior claims are not all too far-fetched.

 

Loopholes

Billy pointed out the fact that there was no mention of the accident that Debra caused with his car in the lake (or whatever that was). Surely someone should have caught wind of it. Even a passing conversation about it just being “an accident” would have done the job.

Funny Moments

  • When Masuka tells everyone in the briefing room that he has a child, Miller responds: “That poor, sweet child.”
  • Dexter’s one line voice-over: “Serial killer bested by 100-lb. nanny.”
  • Dr. Vogel talking-down to her ‘spiritual son’: “Don’t talk back to me, you little shit.”
  • When reminiscing about her relationship with Dexter over the years, Debra says: “We never really had a choice [to go our separate ways as adults]. If anyone really knew us, they would run, screaming.”
  • Scott Reynolds points out the show’s homage to Goodfellas when Jamie makes Quinn stir the sauce – of course this reference flew right over my head, but that movie is sitting on my desk, waiting to be watched this week.

 

Other

Quinn – Batista – Matthews – LaGuerta — Doakes – together they could incriminate both Dexter and Debra. Will they (the living ones, at least) put their heads together for the task? I think they are all too protective of Dexter, and feel too foolish, to ever bring up such a thought to anyone else until they had concrete evidence. Of course, anyone who has had such an experience also was killed (but not by Dexter — Lila took care of Doakes, and Debra took care of LaGuerta). Who will take care of Quinn if that’s what it comes to?

Someone with PTSD should not have a gun – and yet Debra has been carrying one throughout this entire season.

When we are introduced to Ed and Zack Hamilton, Ed claims that he “loved Norma. [He] would never, ever hurt her,” to which Dexter immediately questions internally: “but does he love his son?” This doesn’t add up. If he’s referring to the fact that he sent out his son to kill Norma, knowing he’d be caught, Dexter is wrong. Ed has lawyers all over the place, ready to protect their family. Something seems off. Did I miss something or is this just a weird way of Dexter questioning whether or not Ed is aware of Zack’s “Dark Passenger”?

Predictions

Will Debra be a regular on Dexter’s hunt-and-kill ritual? As someone on the Showtime podcast said (I think it was Scott Reynolds), “Morgan twins: activate!” I think we will see more collaboration between Debra and Dexter, but to what extent I am not sure. I could see Debra using Elway as a means to get Dexter information to help keep the three of them (meaning Deb, Dex, and Vogel) safe — that is, of course, until they realized that Vogel is a psychopath and really does not care all too much about either of them.

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[GIF credits: spanishfaster]

We saw in the preview for 806 Elway stepping in and decking a guy for touching Debra. I’m assuming she was on an under-cover mission, and he just so happened to be there to keep an eye out for her (Choo-choo! The El-train is moving in full speed ahead!). Did anyone happen to notice Deb’s wardrobe for the mission? It seems as though we’ve regained Lieutenant Debra Morgan – and I am stoked! She didn’t even dress up that much for her job as LT in Miami Metro. This must be a special occasion.

Although Quinn certainly put off his Dexter-hunting instinct because of his love for Debra, I think the season 5 Quinn has returned full-speed ahead. I think this is it for Dexter – I mean, it’s the last episode. Someone has to catch him in the act. I don’t think they’ll let Dexter get away with everything – that will not be as satisfying as knowing that someone has caught Dexter. The fact that Matthews basically challenged Quinn to come up with hard evidence on Zack Hamilton foreshadows the predicament that Dexter will be put in – whether to hunt and take out Zack, or to refrain, knowing that Quinn is on Zack’s (and therefore Dexter’s) tail. I’m really hoping that Quinn and Debra get back together – but it will really complicate things when he figures out that he was right all along, and then has to decide whether to choose Debra over Dexter again, knowing what he knows now.

Hannah McKay is due to turn up in 806: “A Little Reflection,” but she’s really a wild card (speaking of the title — “reflection” — could we have more Mirror Theory examples headed our way? I think Harrison will be in danger for some reason this episode.) I have no idea as to how she will turn up and what she will do when she returns. For sure she’s out for revenge, and who knows if there will be anyone left in her wake. Seeing as the show is entitled Dexter and not Hannah, I think it’s safe to assume that she won’t be the last one standing. I hope to see her on Dexter’s table, personally, and this time, dead.

 

Overview

And now to put a “number” on this episode. Dexterity (neat-handedness, puns, trickery, clever sayings, placements, etc.) will judge all of the small things that I pick up on. The higher the score, the more fun I had picking apart the episode for hidden clues. Entertainment (how much I laughed and enjoyed the episode) will judge how excited I was on average throughout the episode, as well as after it for the upcoming episodes. Xtremity (how dramatic, but also how believable the episode was, edge-of-the-seat, white knuckles, the “holy shit” factor) will judge just how jaw-dropping the episode was.

Dexterity: 6

A lot of what I pulled out of this episode probably was not intentional, so I can’t give the writers all too much credit for the puns and whatnot.

Entertainment: 8

This episode was certainly entertaining in the fact that Debra didn’t freak out again, and because Dexter made that awesomely swift kill with the curtain rod. Talk about improvising.

Xtremity: 6

It was extreme, but on the cheesy, unbelievable end. I didn’t even buy, at first, the fact that the Brain Surgeon killings were over.

DEX-Factor:   6.7

 

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