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Dexter Recap: A Time to Kill

“There is a first time for everything, a first step, a first word, a first kiss, a first kill,” Dexter says before Lumen plunges the knife into her Alex Tildon, her first ritualized, Dexter-sanctioned kill. “Somehow you know when the time is right.”

The time is right for all kinds of things in this episode. It’s time for Chase to reveal his true colors. He’s proving to be the most psychologically astute Dexter foe ever and there are times during this exhilarating episode when it really feels like he’s got the upper hand. Could this be the first season ever in which someone psychs Dexter out? It’s also time for Deb to come into her own as a detective. Remember back in the old days (like one season ago) when Deb questioned her instincts and had a hard time speaking up for herself at work? Now she’s single-handedly figured out that there was more to the barrel girls murders than initially met the eye, put the one random saran-wrap killing Miami Metro knows about together with the barrel girls, determined there’s a vigilante on the loose, and by the end of this episode has theorized that the mysterious Girl No. 13 could be the killer. And finally, it’s time for Dexter and Lumen to get it on. It was unclear whether these two were actually into each other like that, or whether, as profoundly traumatized people, they were even capable of primal sexual desire. No one’s wondering about that anymore, as the episode ends with Dexter and Lumen holding each other in bed. “Harry tried to mold me into the image of the monster he thought I was,” Dexter thinks to himself as Lumen lifts his shirt over his head. “He told me to flee human connection so that became a way of life for me, but with Lumen I’m someone different. In her eyes I’m not a monster at all.”

All right, so this is what actually happens between Dexter and Lumen this episode: Lumen wants to go after Jordan Chase immediately, but now that he’s onto them, Dexter thinks it's unwise. There are still two more guys in the infamous photo that remain unidentified and he wants to focus on tracking down Emily Birch, the woman whose blood Chase wears in a vial around his neck. The plan is to show her the photo and see if it jogs her memory. They show up at Emily’s house and though she clearly recognizes the photo, she refuses to talk to them.

Meanwhile, back at the office, Deb is kicking ass. Thanks to her insight, LaGuerta has reopened the barrel girls case. In the big meeting with the entire department, she neglects to give credit to Deb for realizing the case had been closed permanently. Deb doesn’t really care: She’s matured into the best kind of team player, insatiable and crazy-ambitious, but not self-promoting. But Batista is not as generous. This whole my-wife-throws-Deborah-under-the-bus thing seems to have really irked him. LaGuerta calls him into her office post-meeting and he just stands in the doorway defensively. “This is what you wanted, right?” she says in meek I’m-trying-to-make-up-with-you voice. But Batista is having none of it. “I’ll keep you posted on the case,” he says coldly.

Ouch. This is tricky: I have been annoyed by LaGuerta for most of this season. She just hasn’t displayed the unflappable attitude of a great leader and her tendency to scapegoat others is really distasteful, but she did go undercover to get Batista out of trouble and even that aside, there is something about her that keeps me on her team. But maybe I’m just transfixed by her neon skirt suits. What do you guys think about LaGuerta? Are you over her wishy-washy bullshit, or do you have enduring empathy for her? Also: Um, what happened with the Santa Muerte cases? Was that just a rouse to justify LaGuerta versus everybody-else tension? Was it just a thing to do until we met Jordan Chase?

Miami Metro really wants to speak with Cole Harman, who has suddenly disappeared. Chase is no help; he claims to have no idea where Cole went. Deb is on a tear and marches the team over to Harman’s house, where she finds a telltale spot of blood. (Dexter knows the space well: “The blood was left there when Lumen hit him to save me,” he thinks to himself, as he collects the sample.) They aren’t sure Cole is dead, but Deb is already suspicious. And then they find the discs: thirteen numbered DVDs filled with live-action footage of the guys raping and torturing all their victims. Shudder.

The footage is horrifying. Masuka, Deb, even Dexter — they are all leveled by watching what actually took place in that awful loft. “Despite having considered myself a monster for as long as I can remember,” Dexter thinks, “I’m still shocked when confronted with the depth of evil that exists in this world.” It’s also trouble. Deb met Lumen last episode! If she sees the thirteenth disc, she will put two and two together. Dexter plants a damaged fake in the evidence bin and takes the original home to Lumen.

We watch her watching it on her laptop, and if there were any lingering doubt that this experience has irretrievably changed her psyche, the look on her face eliminates it. Lumen is a killer now and she will get revenge for what was done to her.

Dexter has sent Harrison to Orlando to stay with Astor and Cody and moved Lumen into a new condo. He’s worried Jordan will come after the people closest to him. But Lumen disobeys his orders to stay inside during the day. She goes back to Emily and plays her some of the footage. “This is what happened to me,” Lumen says. “Did it happen to you?” Then the real story comes out: Emily met the guys at summer camp twenty years ago. Jordan was her friend, and he coaxed her out into the woods one day, drugged her, and when she came to she was naked and tied to a bed in some cabin. “Jordan wasn’t called ‘Jordan’ then,” she says, pointing to the portly kid on the far left of the group. “He was Eugene Greer.” He was in the photo all along. And, um, Jordan Chase was a fat kid! This explains so much.

“Eugene never touched me,” Emily continues, “But he talked those guys into it, he told them to seize their desires. I was watching his face and the look that came over his face — it was just a flash, but it’s the same look that he has all the time now. I got dressed and they made me take their picture. This is that photo.”

Lumen is floored. But she composes herself and asks Emily to identify the last remaining guy. “Alex Tildon,” she says. Lumen runs home to Dexter and tells him the story. After some cajoling, she convinces him to allow her to make Alex her first real kill (Dan the Dentist was a crime of passion, this would be her first fully conscious premeditated kill as Dexter’s protégée). But they have competition. Deb and Quinn have already flagged Alex via Cole’s phone records and they go to interview him. He denies knowing anything about anything. Except he admits he’s in a fantasy-football league with Cole, which is hilarious. This Alex guy is a decent liar — that seems totally believable. Quinn and Deb leave suspicious and unsatisfied.

Jordan shows up at the office, pretends to be all upset by the photo of the screaming girl Deb shows him, and agrees to submit to a DNA test. The shot of Dexter peering through the blinds and waving as Deb sends Jordan his way for the cheek swab is satisfying. That’s what’s fun about the show: being able to guiltlessly root for obscene shit to happen to the really bad guys. You just know Dexter is going to give Jordan what he deserves, and that’s exactly what he says when they’re one-on-one. “You know, I’m glad you didn’t touch any of them,” Dexter says, swabbing. “Because this DNA test will clear you and leave you all to me. Your time is up.”

I guess it wouldn’t be fun if Dexter were never in danger, but what happens next makes me really nervous. Jordan is at Emily’s house. She is totally just another one of his disciples! What is it with this guy? I mean, he’s got some kind of magnetic sociopathy that we haven’t seen before on this show. Manson-ish.

“It’s not easy talking to a stranger, but I did it for you,” she says to him, all moony-eyed.

“You told her everything about what happened at the camp?” he replies.

“It was hard, but yeah, I told her the truth like you said even though I didn’t want to. Are you in trouble, Jordan?”

“The girl that you talked to was making waves, but everything is fine now thanks to you.” And then comes the jealousy.

“She was pretty … ” she says.

“Emily, no one could ever take your place, you know that, right? We have a bond and no one could ever break it. You made me what I am today.” She goes over to touch him and he firmly moves her hand away. He can’t be touched, which is I guess why he needs a team of childhood buddies to rape and murder women while he watches? This guy is really twisted. And when I watch him onscreen half the time I’m thinking, You were married to Angelina Jolie, which just makes it all extra weird.

A couple of questions here: Why didn’t Dexter and Lumen ask Emily how Jordan got a fresh vial of her blood for his vial? I mean, what, he was saving that since the early nineties? Also: When Lumen tells Emily that the guys poisoned her, too, it occurred to me that we never really found out exactly how they kidnapped Lumen. Does it feel like some of the whole Lumen story is still patchy? Now that Dexter has so completely accepted her, I’m feeling a little more wary about her. Can she be trusted?

Anyway, back at the new pad, Dexter and Lumen are dressing for their date with Alex. Lumen’s nervousness is incredibly charming. She comes out dressed like a cat burglar and Dexter has to assure her that she looks great. Also, you can tell by the look on his face that he really thinks she does. (Rita, in all her girl-next-door sundresses, never inspired the lusty look Lumen’s black crop cargos does). Then he gives her a corsage (okay, not really, but it might as well be). “I got you something,” he says, handing her a box. Inside is a pair of black gloves. “They’re just like yours!” she explains, touched. They both nod as she slips her hands into them and flexes her fingers. Something about this just feels right.

One small problem is Liddy, wearing yet another fantastically garish Hawaiian shirt and operating his own private little stakeout outside of Lumen and Dexter’s place. He’s recording everything they’re saying and totally now has footage of Lumen fondling Dexter’s knives and practicing her downward thrust. Oops. He’s a nasty, bitter loose cannon, and between him and Jordan, Dexter has some serious problems he isn’t even entirely aware of.

Lumen and Dexter show up at Alex’s house and, um, Jordan Chase is there. Shit. “Right on time” he says as he watches Dexter and Lumen break into the front door. Chase calls Deb at the office and tips her off that Alex might be trying to leave town, so she predictably rushes over with Quinn to stop him. Fortunately, they don’t find the kill room. (Did Lumen and Dexter move Alex when we weren’t looking?) But still: Clearly Jordan is onto Dexter in ways he hasn’t totally anticipated. And it would really suck if Jordan gets to be the one responsible for Deb finding out about Dexter. That’s just so not how it should happen.

One other final thought: The look on Dexter’s face when Lumen plunges the knife in concerns me. It’s a mix of pride, erotic exhilaration, and vicarious thrill, and it reminds me of the look Emily describes on Jordan Chase’s face. It’s that satisfaction that happens when you teach someone else your twisted system and they embrace it wholeheartedly. Lumen doesn’t see Dexter as a monster, she sees him as a really good man, someone who rescued her in so many ways. And through her eyes, Dexter sees himself that way. And that’s what love is, right? Seeing the best version of yourself through someone else? But what about the dark side of that? What about the dark side of our love for Dexter? Bottom line: He’s a murderer. Is the deservedness of his victims’ deaths enough to firmly separate him from someone like Chase?

Photo: Randy Tepper/Showtime