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Dexter Recap: Dex, Lies, and Videotape

Jennifer Carpenter as Debra Morgan in Dexter (Season 8, episode 4) - Photo: Randy Tepper/Showtime - Photo ID: Dexter_804_1817

Some people, when they watch a serial drama, are constantly thinking ahead. Those people try to guess what’s going to happen next. They usually like to share their theories with everyone around them, loudly, like spoiler-alert machines set on “annoy.”

I am not one of those people. I enjoy being in the moment — letting a great story take me on a ride without looking around every turn for the next surprise. When I watch an episode for a second time, I’ll often wonder how I didn’t see something obvious coming. So I’m curious if everyone had a lightbulb moment last night, like I did, regarding a key character. Maybe it’s all a big misdirect, but I think we see a major revelation coming soon.

Before we dig into that, let’s review another excellent episode. Along with the acting, both the writing and the pacing have stood out this season. And even the killer that Dexter is stalking is interesting, which isn’t always the case. Just as it looked like he’d be combing through Dr. Vogel’s case files for weeks, Dexter seems to have found his Brain Surgeon, who also has a thing for feet. (Nice line when Dexter realizes his mark, A.J. Yates, is a cable-phone-Internet tech: “I need to know if murder is part of the package.” Cue rim shot!)

As was set up last week, the head-shrink triangle between Dexter, Vogel, and Deb is fully realized from the start, as Vogel takes Deb back to the shipping container where LaGuerta breathed her last. It’s a little jarring to see these two talking openly about the murder and Deb’s guilt, since the last time we saw them they had barely met. We clearly missed a lot since Deb was tranquilized — Vogel explaining she knows all the Morgan family secrets, then Deb telling her to fuck off. Deb is surprisingly cooperative; we later see her crashing at Vogel’s pad, running on Vogel’s treadmill, and sitting her ass on Vogel’s table. How did such a borderline suicidal hard-ass decide to open up to another therapist? An optimist would say the writers have so much great stuff in store that we didn’t need to waste time as Deb warmed up to the doc. Let’s go with that.

Over and over, in ways subtle but mostly plain to see, Vogel continues her deft manipulation of the Morgan sibs. When Dexter says he needs Deb in his life, Vogel hits him with some real talk — Deb is a mirror reflecting his best self, and now that it’s cracked, all he sees is the monster within. When Dexter finally accepts his place in this world, he may want Deb, but he won’t need her. Heavy stuff. And mission accomplished, as Dexter looks sufficiently mind-effed. (One thing Vogel, and the show, never address is Dexter’s feelings for his son. Doesn’t his capacity for fatherly love prove that he’s got something of a heart? I guess even a psychopath would warm up to a kid that cute, feeding pancakes to Dan the Elephant and playing kissy-neck.)

Back at the shipping container, Vogel plays hardball with Deb as well. You shot an innocent woman and you’d do it all again! The tough-love therapy seems to work, as Deb has a breakthrough of sorts: “How do I make it right?” she pleads. Vogel keeps hammering her point home — you’re a good person, you made the best of an impossible situation. From the start, Vogel has been reinforcing their identities as opposites: Deb is the good soul who feels deeply but is flawed; Dexter is a killing machine who is perfect when he’s not trying to replicate human emotion. Those two profiles can’t co-exist, it seems. Vogel, as Dexter sees, is trying to split them apart.

Elsewhere at Miami Metro, there’s a new case to solve, though that really doesn’t go anywhere, and Quinn somehow passes his sergeant’s exam, resulting in perhaps his best line ever: ““I’ve just never been this happy to get back a positive test.” (Great thing to say to your girlfriend’s brother.) Maybe Batista has a soft spot for Quinn thanks to the money he gave him for his restaurant (which Batista apparently still owns). Will anyone ever find out that money was dirty? Will we learn that Quinn somehow cheated on that test? Doubtful. But he still has feelings for Deb and it’s a safe bet his time as sergeant will be short-lived, if he even makes it that far. As for Masuka, watching him talk dirty to his long-lost daughter was creepy-funny (of course he was a sperm donor in college) and seems to set him up for an actual adult existence before this is all over. (And no, I don’t think his daughter will end up dead. Dexter’s cute new neighbor, Cassie? Maybe — especially if they’re hooking up when Hannah returns.)

By the end, it looks like Deb’s made real progress; as she bonds over daddy issues with Elway, she passes on chugging a Tecate. But two videos change everything. First, Dexter finds a file on Yates’s computer showing Vogel has been keeping notes on him. Suddenly it’s clear — she’s using him and trying to keep him away from Deb. “You were experimenting on me with Harry,” he says, “and you still are.”

Then there’s Deb’s return to Miami Metro. It’s one of those moments, looking back, that I should have seen coming. Her exchange with Quinn felt too tender; her glow as Dexter saw her smile, too angelic. She wasn’t returning to her old life — she was saying good-bye. The second video triggered her suicidal streak, as she snuck into Vogel’s office and watched Harry’s final therapy session before he died. Dexter reveals that Harry committed suicide, and as Vogel had been drilling into her, Deb is just like her old man — she can’t live with knowing Dexter’s true self. Of course we knew they’d survive after Deb grabs the steering wheel and drives them into a lake. The question is, what state will their relationship be in after Deb tried to kill them both? Surely Vogel will use that to her advantage, as proof that Dexter can’t trust his sister anymore.

What we’re seeing now is a different side of Vogel, beginning with her conveniently forgetting to mention that she’d once recommended Yates, her former patient, for brain surgery. Later, as Yates is about hit Dexter with a Taser, he’s stopped cold by the mere sound of Vogel’s voice. “She found herself a hero,” he says. (Which suggests that Yates isn’t the Brain Surgeon. Why would hearing Vogel freak him out if he’s stalking her? And why would Dexter’s presence be a surprise to the guy who sent the his-and-hers gifts?) As we see in the videos with Harry, though, Dexter’s dad never saw him as a heroic figure. He was a menace to be managed. In the first video Deb sees, Harry wonders, “What if The Code doesn’t keep him in check? What if this has all been some mistake?”

Then there’s the other tape Deb sees, Harry’s last will and testament, as it were. “The Code is a theory, an idea,” he says. “I don’t think I can live with this.” We’re reminded in the flashback scenes before the episode that Matthews long ago told Dexter that his father committed suicide by overdosing on heart medication. That’s reinforced by the video Deb sees, as Harry sounds like he might do something drastic. But what if Harry had a different plan? What if his solution for his guilt wasn’t killing himself, but killing The Code? What if he’d decided to institutionalize Dexter, for his son’s own good, for the public’s safety, and for his own sanity? An overdose could easily be induced, especially by someone whose own moral code allows for substantial wiggle room. Someone who’d have no problem experimenting with patients. Someone who’d found the perfect subject and refused to let him, or the rules she’d created for him, go. If Vogel killed Harry, this line doesn’t bode well for Deb: “I see a lot of your father in you.”

Photo: null/Copyright: Showtime 2013