“Ancient Chinese Secret” which is hands down a fatal though convincing verdict for Backstrom, introduces a burgeoning romance within the squad, and reveals Gravely exhibiting some of her lieutenant’s less attractive characteristics. But what about the… I mean… Where’s the… Let me start again. After last episode’s powerful reveal about the Lacy Siddon abduction — the case which unhinged Backstrom’s psyche seven years ago — some serious follow-up was in order, was it not? The continuity of that whole storyline seems to have stalled the hard-won momentum “Bogeyman” spurred. Or, did it? Could it be that the sticky strings binding the overarching drama together were simply of the more subtle variety this time round? Something to think about, without a doubt.
It seems at first glance that “Ancient Chinese Secret” fell victim to a serious case of schizophrenic scheduling. What the what? As logic would suggest, several episodes of a new show must be completely ready to air prior to the premiere. What can be changed at the last moment, however, is the order in which those episodes appear on the schedule. This episode didn’t seem to follow the previous one smoothly at all for me — until I began to really think about it. More on this later; let’s get into the case.
Backstrom Recap: Can Backstrom Outrun the Bogeyman? >>>
The Psychic Who Foresaw His Own Murder
Moto and Backstrom meet the team in Chinatown to examine the murder scene of Davis Gu, a psychic who was sliced and diced in the shop he owned with his twin sister Celia. Niedermayer immediately freestyles his ‘Theatre of the Energetically Morbid’ rendition of the facts. It appears the victim anticipated his murderer’s visit and fought with every last ounce of energy in his body. Missing from the parlor is a Chinese astrology wheel, causing the team to wonder if the killing was robbery related.
The twin sister Celia engages in self-flagellation to commune with her dead ancestors and can only come up with a reference to a red door being key in the case. There are a million red doors in Chinatown, so this is no help at all.
As Backstrom and Almond follow up two seemingly dead-end leads — a disgruntled customer named Albert Reid, and Lady Mah, a psychic who was the victim’s competition — Niedermayer searches through the detritus of the Davis’ belongings and finds three laundry invoices for $5,000 each. Paquet works her magic and determines that the invoices and cash point to a money laundering ring hidden behind the facade of a laundry business. It turns out that what’s really going on is an underground gambling ring which Davis was involved in with a rather cunning businessmen, Dominic Chan, who owned the laundry. Is Chan the murderer? No; he alibis out.
Murderers and Psychics Make Strange Bedfellows
So, how were Davis and Chan colluding to make money? Davis would give fortunes predicting sudden wealth to his affluent customers. Paper flyers placed right outside Davis’ establishment advertised Chan’s underground gambling ring. The gambling was rigged making it virtually impossible for any patron to win anything. Any business that charges thousands of dollars in exchange for the deluded hope of future riches is going to be obscenely profitable as long as it maintains control over the organization and the people who run it. Chan was an expert at this.
Backstrom crashes the underground ring with Officer Frank ‘The Enormous Black Man’ Moto and Nicole ‘The Ginger Dwarf’ Gravely to confiscate all the loot and paperwork.
Niedermayer and Paquet Sitting In a Tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G
Niedermayer and Paquet have a bunch of giggly eye sex in the early scenes of “Ancient Chinese Secret” and again I’m wondering if I missed something. It seems that they must already be hooking up, but by the end of the episode it’s hard to tell how serious or how far they’ve gotten into the tryst. By the end of the episode, Niedermayer is volunteering to be Paquet’s knight in shining armor and I am bummed that this has all happened so quickly. This doesn’t do much for my secret crush on the man. Okay, not so secret. He is dishy, isn’t he? Clean cut, sharpely dressed, tall and dark. His voice is low and sexy without trying to be. He’s amazingly secure in his manhood, and he seems to have a lot of energy. He’s totally cake-able (worthy of being celebrated with cake and maybe nothing else). Am I wrong? #NotWrong
In Walks the Real Deal
Around the same time that Paquet discoverd that there was one gambler who outsmarted the system and took away $100,000 from the laundering/gambling business, a young and very small Chinese man, Jimmy Fei, who claims to be one of the elite super psychics of China, appears at the police station with the fishing knife that killed Davis. Wha?
Backstrom runs Fei through the ringer, but the little man won’t give up the name of the killer because he knows Backstrom will not believe him. To prove his psychic abilities he takes out seven pre-written slips of paper and hands them over. On each is written a name and a prediction. The team goes into a separate room to look at their fortunes. Everyone spills what their fortunes say and they all seem to make sense. This is when we learn that Paquet is actually running from someone nasty, hence Niedermayer’s offer to be her savior later. The only fortune left unread is Backstrom’s.
Something is Fishy in Chinatown
While Paquet was working out the codes in Davis’ gambling book, investigating the laundered money, and I forget what else, Niedermayer is troubled with the coroner’s explanation of Davis’ wounds and his ruling on the murder weapon. Niedermayer figures out that it wasn’t the sword missing off Davis’ wall that skewered him, but a very common fishing knife with a little hook on one side of the blade.
Since the blade is so common, Backstrom gets the name of a vendor who sells real knives down in Chinatown. The vendor who sells out of the back of his van fingers Albert Reid from earlier. Hmmm. Interesting. Come to find out that Albert had gambled away $60,000 that he didn’t have at Chan’s underground den of iniquity. Albert, being the loser that he is, still had possession of the murder weapon. Doesn’t he watch CSI? What’s wrong with you, Albert?
It All Boils Down to Motive
But why did Albert kill Davis if he was no longer pissed at him for giving him a bad fortune? He didn’t seem to have any motive at all. Digging deeper (literally) Moto finds a fortune in Chan’s garbage. The fortune said, “You will be betrayed by your partner.” Chan decides to kill his partner, Davis, preemptively, but he doesn’t want to get his hands dirty. Albert, who still owes Chan $60,000, agrees to kill Davis in exchange for Chan forgiving his $60,000 debt. Voila, the case is closed.
I Am Backstrom. I Will Be Dead In One Year
Finally we see Everett looking at his own fortune from Fei. It’s not good. As a matter of fact, it’s about the worst kind of fortune you can ever get. This is almost the final straw. The final straw, I predict, is going to make a guest appearance next week. Things have got to start going up pretty soon or there won’t even be a chance for a second season without the main character.
Backstrom On a Broader Canvas
I submit that what is really going on is that you can’t just toss out a complex character in 140 characters or fewer. Upon closer inspection of the progression of episodes, you will see that things actually are moving together toward what I hope will be a satisfying (and redeeming) full picture of the character of Backstrom and the events of his life. I don’t want him to be perfect at the end of the series. I don’t like things tied up in pretty little bows. That’s not how real life is. Life is messy and Backstrom’s is messier than most. What I do need is for him to be on a path toward having a purpose and a will to live not just a productive, but a fruitful life.
Looking at the broader canvas, or at least what we can see at it from the first six episodes, here’s what we know and in the sequence it has been revealed to us.
1) Backstrom came back to work after a disgraceful stint in Lost & Found yet displays extreme distrust of the system within which he works.
2) He had an abusive father and neighbors that stapled his balls to his thighs, making for a traumatic hellish childhood.
3) Everett was once engaged to someone fantastic but from whom he separated a decade ago.
4) Stress over the lies he propagated about how he took Lister down in the premiere render Backstrom sleepless and more stressed than usual. This is not common behavior in a hardened cop.
5) Backstrom almost loses his job over charges of misconduct.
6) Backstrom is proven right in his long-standing conviction that Lacy Siddon was abducted rather than murdered and that Talia Lennox was abducted by the same Bogeyman.
7) After copious warnings from Dr. Deb and three separate cardiac events (or panic attacks), Backstrom receives the prediction that he will be dead within a year.
Things are coming to a very serious head. Slow and steady. That’s my point.
The Poo is Hitting the Propeller Hard for Everett Backstrom
So, Backstrom already knows his physiology is just not going to make it if his spirit is not willing. Maybe not even if his spirit is willing. The thing is, he has to be convinced of this and get motivated. What will do it? Things have to get really, really bad first — which they have. Then there has to be a glimmer of hope; some kind of affirmation of who he is — like the proof that he was always right about the young abducted girls. Then he needs to believe he has the tools and support to go forward. Do we have that? You betcha. Ex-fiance Amy is back in the picture and there’s clear chemistry between them. Though he tries their patience with his comportment, his methods and much more, he increasingly has their support with each episode. Even Gravely and he have connected several times. Are you seeing the picture now? Granted, the man is a mixed-up, inappropriately behaved officer who has a lot to work on. Can he do it? Time will tell. The final key here is that he’s been given a life sentence by Dr. Deb and now the psychic. The poo has indeed hit the fan. As my dad used to say, “It’s time to sh*t or get off the pot.”
The stage has been set; the players are in place… almost. The next episode of Backstrom, “Enemy of My Enemies,” features the return of Ex-future wife Amy and the first appearance of Backstrom’s monster father. Things are bound to come to a head. This is an episode you will not want to miss.
Backstrom airs on Thursdays at 9pm on FOX.
(Images courtesy of FOX)