List of things we know about this season’s lead villain, Jordan Chase, that we didn’t know last week:
• He wears soccer sandals in the shower.
• On a chain around his neck, he keeps a vial of some mystery woman’s blood.
• He looks reasonably good with his shirt off.
• He’s a classics buff who credits Plato’s “notion of the fractured self” with inspiring the cult/life philosophy that’s made him millions.
The episode begins with Chase and Dexter on adjacent treadmills, sweating. The code requires that Dexter find iron-clad proof of Chase’s guilt before putting him on the table, so he decides to book some private sessions with the guru. A key element of Chase’s pop psychology involves breaking down the subject, which is where the obscene sweating comes in. “Trauma is an opportunity,” Chase preaches. “It’s your one chance to put yourself back together however you want.”
“I just wanted access to his office,” Dexter thinks to himself as Chase screeches like a spinning instructor. “Instead, I’m stuck here running in place.” Dexter gives nothing up, of course, which intrigues Chase so much that when Dexter asks him what his particular opportunistic trauma was, Chase actually answers. “The notion of a fractured self, it’s from Plato’s symposium,” Chase confesses. Dexter’s response is a hilarious “are you shitting me?” look. “For me, it was a revelation,” Chase enthuses. “It was exactly what I needed at the time, so I took it. I took Plato’s idea that we are fractured creatures and I ran with it and boom! A million copies sold. So now you know my secret. You ready to tell me yours?”
“Over your dead body,” Dexter thinks.
Let’s start with how awesome it is that stealing from Plato is Chase’s dirty little secret. (Clearly something twisted happened to this guy to turn him into a permanently blue-toothed, sociopathic cultist, but we’re not sure what it is yet, and for now it’s enough to know that he’s hiding the fact that he ripped off his self-help ideology from the most famous philosopher in history.) And then there’s his interpretation of the symposium. He’s referring to Aristophanes famous speech regarding the original three sexes: male, female, and androgynous. They deigned to aspire to live in the gods’ world, so Zeus, in order to “humble their pride and improve their manners,” decided to split them all in two. The result is that we’re all sad-sack lost souls without our missing other half. “Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the indenture of a man,” Aristophanes explains. “And he is always looking for his other half.”
This bit is usually cited to justify the primal importance of romantic love, how we all need someone else to complete us, to make us feel whole. Not for Chase, though, he thinks that he is his own other half, which is an idea Dexter can relate to. Dexter’s central struggle is the whether or not he needs other people. Dexter waffles back and forth about this question every season, sometimes every episode. As creepy as Chase is, it’s got to be appealing for Dexter to imagine a world in which the answer is as clear as Chase thinks.
Right. So. The rest of the episode is a series of fast-paced plot jumps. Some of the key questions raised: Is Dexter going to have to kill Liddy? Will Deb’s obsession with reopening the Boyd Fowler case lead to Dexter’s exposure? Will Lumen survive the season?
Deb gets called in to find out what the consequences will be for her perceived fault in the Club Mayan shooting. She’s super-nervous in the morning, which for Deb, manifests as slamming drawers while getting ready. Quinn tries to reassure her but ends up dropping the L-world. “Everything’s going to be okay,” he says. “You’ve got everyone at the station on your side and you’ve got a boyfriend who loves you.” Deb is unthrilled. “Seriously?!” she asks. “You’re going to drop that on me now. I gotta go.” It’s classic Deb; the harder she acts, the more vulnerable her real feelings. Back at the station, where she’s been assigned desk duty in the file room, she admits to the clerk that the reason Quinn’s admission makes her panic is not because she doesn’t feel the same way, but because she’s “afraid [she] might.”
Deb gets a look at the Boyd Fowler victims’ file while she’s manning the stacks and realizes that there was enough other DNA on all the victims to suggest Fowler, at the very least, was not working alone. She marches into LaGuerta’s office demanding she reopen the case. The two are at each other’s throats and LaGuerta lets it slip that she didn’t bench Quinn to piss off Deb but to protect Dexter. To Quinn’s credit, when Deb confronts him about it, he doesn’t lie. “Remember those composite sketches of Kyle Butler?” he asks. “I got this crazy idea that maybe it was your brother. Nothing came of it so I dropped it. I’m an idiot, okay?” Deb agrees and storms out.
But Quinn’s got bigger problems than a pissed-off girlfriend. He may have chosen Deb over Dexter, but Liddy (a.k.a. Robocop, love that you guys call him that) has not. Now that he’s got these photos of one of Miami Metro’s finest loading up his boat with suspicious cargo he’s sure Dexter is his ticket back into the good life. “You think you can just pay me off like I’m the corner whore?” he rages when Quinn tries to pay him to stop the investigation. “Bullshit!” Liddy replies. “If this is as big as I think it is, LaGuerta and all those other douchebags are going to be kissing my ass.” Uh-oh. Robocop is a loose cannon.
Meanwhile, back at Dexter and Rita’s, Lumen gets a scare when two shadowy figures try to break into the house. Turns out it’s just Astor and her juvenile delinquent next-door neighbor, Olivia. It initially seems like they’ve run away from home just so they can get shitfaced on liquor pinched from the family cabinet, but after Lumen glimpses a patch of nasty bruises on Olivia’s stomach it’s clear something else is going on. Turns out they had good reason to run away: Olivia’s stepdad, who has followed them to Miami ostensibly to make sure they’re okay, is actually abusing her. Dexter is planning to meet Chase the next morning and poach a bit of blood from the vial Chase wears around his neck. This is not a good time for him to be babysitting his dead wife’s kids and going after a domestic abuser.
Oh, so, yeah, Harry’s back, and he’s not pleased with Dexter’s willingness to get involved in this Astor situation. “There’s a reason serial killers don’t have children,” he scolds. “You can’t be killer and dad, haven’t you learned anything? Her mother is dead because of you.” Dexter replies, “which is why I need to make things right and be a good father.”
Dexter makes it to his Chase meeting, is able to snag a slide’s worth of blood, and via DNA analysis back at the office, determines that it belongs to some party girl with a DUI record, not one of the victims. Who is this woman and what is her connection to Chase? And will the risk Dexter took to track her down prove worth it? After all, now Chase realizes Dexter’s been messing around with his stuff; he’s onto him.
The whole delinquent-teenagers scenario provides Dexter and Astor a curious reunion. She starts off all Evan Rachel Wood in Thirteen, surly and mini-skirted. One of the episode’s best lines: “I’m in a battle of wills with my drunk shoplifting teenage stepdaughter and she’s going to win.” But by the end, she and Dexter have really reconnected. He tells her he’s going to take care of the stepdad and he does, by beating the crap out of him. “What are you, man, some kind of psycho?” the abuser asks. “Not today, just a concerned parent,” Dexter responds. Dexter drives the girls back home and, idling outside the house with Astor, he models the paternal pride Harry showed Dexter earlier in the episode. “I’m proud of you,” Dexter tells Astor. Then: “I love you.”
What’s happening here? When the kids moved I figured that was the writers way of getting Dexter out of father-of-three status, but this episode suggests Rita’s kids are key to Dexter’s evolving perception of himself. Are Astor and Cody going to be an integral part of his future?
The episode ends with a compelling setup: Jordan calls the Rita-Dexter house and Lumen answers. He leaves a message: “Tell Dexter one more thing,” he says. “Tell him time is of the essence, tick tick tick, that’s the sound of his life running out.” And then: “Take care, Lumen.” It’s genuinely chilling. And it means Dexter no longer has to pretend he’s just a lost manchild looking for direction, and Chase no longer has to sell the holier-than-thou, enlightened-guru act. They can both act as they are: two fractured souls in search of their complete selves.