'Backstrom' Recap: Backstrom is a Dead Man Walking
'Backstrom' Recap: Backstrom is a Dead Man Walking
Catherine Cabanela
Catherine Cabanela
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Round three of Backstrom aired with "Takes One to Know One," wherein sleepless hot mess Everett 'Cranky Pants' Backstrom once again disgusts and infuriates nearly everyone he comes into contact with... including his defenders Det. Sgt. John Almond and forensics savant Sgt. Peter Niedermayer at the beginning. Civilian tech wizard Nadia Paquet continues to see the sex appeal of Backstrom's 'little boy lost and a little bit naughty' persona and suggests what Mr. Sleepless-In-Portland needs is to find a lover. What? Is she applying for the job? He does make a rather sloppy pass at her in the middle of the episode, but, no, she's not applying for the job; much more character development is in order before people start hopping in and out of each other's beds.

That's a great segue into the treasure of the evening: Backstrom's former fiance, Amy Gazanian, played by the lovely Sarah Chalke (Scrubs), has been hired by the police chief to run the Civilian Oversight Committee investigating questionable conduct within the bureau. And she may be the exact element that this show needs to provide a retroactive roadmap to how our antagonistic protagonist ended up in the shape we currently find him. Unfortunately, we don't get to see nearly enough of her this episode.


Emma Germain was a youth minister at the Edification Center, introducing copious opportunities for Backstrom to disparage religion, which he calls 'fairytale crap designed to separate fools from their money.' The first suspect is a crazy demonstrator found ranting outside the house of worship. This woman's tape of her rantings leads to some clues about who was seen entering and leaving the building before and after Germain's murder. 

I Am the Walrus

"I am the Walrus," claims Backstrom to the assembled masses present to mourn the fallen youth minister. At this point, the whole collection of worshipers is looking more and more like a cult than a religion and it's kinda creepy. Nadia 'Madam Ovary' Paquet uncovers that a Vince Cropper was paid $10,000 to supposedly off young Emma Germain. Backstrom learns that Cropper's benefactor was none other than the church leader's wife who hired him to ferret out her husband's infidelity with Germain. Wha-wha-wha... and the plot thickens. Every moment gets creepier and creepier on the cult front as we learn there are secret rules and levels of divinity for those who strive to achieve 'Edification,' or spiritual and intellectual enlightenment. 

Backstrom, who continues to make the unfortunate yet promising Det. Nicole Gravely miserable with his disheveled comportment and his disregard for police protocol, employs a myriad of illegal evidence-procuring tactics to uncover leads which do finally prove productive, thanks to Nadia's technical finesse. 

After a brief visit from one of Germain's equals at the Edification Center, Nadia uncovers the names of all the other members of the victim's particular cohort which the cult calls the 'semester.' Bringing the group together at the station, Backstrom is able to go around the room and correctly call out the transgressions of each member, causing dissent among all. This one slept with that one, that one joined to hide his homosexuality, this other one ratted out the whole group, another one lusted after the victim while shagging a fellow disciple, etc. As a result, they discover that two of the kids were using Emma's office for secret love sessions.

The Automaton Did it

Finally, Backstrom figures out that the killer was disciple Ryan Durst whom the leader, Leon Mundy, somehow persuaded to eliminate a disillusioned Emma after she confessed her desire to abandon the cult. As she was well-loved within the group, her departure would cast doubt in the hearts of many of the other followers who could potentially leave. Why would Durst want Emma dead? For that matter, why would Mundy want her dead? Well, eventually the truth comes out. 

Durst wanted her dead because he was programmed to think he was the savior and she was Satan spawn because she wanted to leave. Durst intended to cut out the rotten flesh to save the healthy limbs of the church's body.

As for Mundy, it all came down to narcissism and greed. Each disciple paid $10,000 per level of enlightenment to worship at the feet of this Mundy creep. How did they afford it? The Edification Center provided them all with loans. If all those acolytes left the organization all the future money would disappear from the cult coffers. And then where would Mundy be? 

Backstrom gets a confession from automaton Durst, but is agitated that he wasn't able to pin culpability on Mundy. This reminds me of the premiere when Backstrom wasn't happy until the skanky poll-dancing girlfriend was cuffed for running a scam on the victim to get all his cash.

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The Cruelest Possible Gravely

After a chat with his ex-fiance, Backstrom decides to go after Mundy from another angle. He examined the murder wall until 2 a.m., then calls Gravely. Together they deduce that they can get Mundy on statutory rape because Emma was 16 years old when Mundy first had sex with her. Voila. When they figure this out, Gravely is energized and wants to find the cruelest possible way to nab scumbag Mundy for all his wrong-doings. Together they approach him in the middle of one of his sermons, cuff him and drag him away. Case closed.

Introducing Backstrom's Ex-Partner

In "Takes One to Know One" we finally meet the woman who brought Backstrom back to life with his position as head of the Special Crimes Unit. Chief Anna Cervantes is a looker -- almost too good looking for a hardened job like police chief. She seems out of place.

Thankfully, Cervantes's history with Backstrom provides a crucial piece of information about Backstrom's ex relationship with the lovely Amy Gazanian. "Amy cares about you more than any other person on the planet," she says. Interesting. Earlier in the episode, however, we learn that the two lovebirds broke up 10 years previously. About this, Backstrom says that nobody loves anybody for that long. Wow. That breakup with Gazanian must have scorched him something awful. 

Backstrom: An Sensitive Artist at Heart?

Gazanian visits Backstom at his barge home to serve him papers for a wrongful shooting of Visser two episodes ago and they have a little tete-a-tete. It's clear that Gazanian remains fond of the man and not 100% insusceptible to The Full Backstrom Package Charm. 

In this final scene together (which leads to Backstrom's breakthrough about going after Mundy from another angle), Gazanian tells Backstrom he's far too sensitive to be a cop and that he's an artist at heart. What? Man, there's so much more that we have to learn by pealing away the Backstrom layers. I have to admit I am intrigued. And, for the first time on the show, I'm feeling some romantic chemistry between our lead and a woman. Let's all pray Gazanian is a frequent flyer on Backstrom.

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Dead Man Walking

Throughout "Takes One to Know One" we see Backstrom drinking and not sleeping. Something is torturing him and it has to do with nightmares of a nasty sort, the focus of which has not yet been revealed. His tenant and roommate, Gregory Valentine finds him splayed out on the floor, in his ratty TV chair, or mumbling/screaming through nightmares. We see him drinking (once again) at the office.

Even You Must Feed Your Soul

While in Dr. Deb's office, Backstrom finally confesses to his physician what actually happened on that pier with Visser. Backstrom had accidentally shot himself, Visser was weaponless at the moment he was killed, Backstrom didn't even know how he pulled the trigger when he shot Visser, and then he kicked the gun into the river. Rainn Wilson convincingly portrays a man traumatized as he unburdens himself. There's something deeply psychological going on here. 

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In response, Dr. Deb delivers a phenomenal speech about humans needing something larger than themselves to believe in. He tells Backstrom that his problems stem from his denial that part of him is divine and connected to all other humans. Now, why is Backstrom like this? Why does he shrink from connectedness? Why does he revile himself? Tune in next time to find out more about what is becoming a foray into the psychological as well as a weekly mystery to be solved by clearly unconventional methods. 

Backstrom airs Thursdays, at 9pm on FOX. 

(Images courtesy of FOX)