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[S3E18] Special Master Part One

3.18 & 3.19 - "Special Master, Parts 1 & 2"In a very well-crafted season finale, Philip Stroh returns to warn of 3 impending murders and offers help on the case, but only in exchange for changes in his sentencing arrangements, and a personal chat with Rusty."Sorry to be so much trouble."In a very Silence-of-the-Lambs opening, Philip Stroh arrives with his entourage, which consists of several guards -- while sporting chains and cuffs around both his hands and his feet -- to a courthouse to continue meeting with the Special Master to discuss his deal made on behalf of adjusting his own sentence for insight into other crimes that he could provide. It was his 16th visit, and everything was relatively lax in the room with Judge Schaeffer, as they talked like they were old friends. Oh wait, that's exactly what they were: old law school buddies. Because that sounds like a great idea: let's let Stroh chum it up with an old friend while trying to reduce his sentence! What's impartiality anyway?Judge Schaeffer (from here on out, "Stephen") was coming in from a jog and started sloppily eating a sandwich at his desk. It irked Stroh, and Stephen allowed Stroh to clean out Stephen's laptop keyboard with canned air. This was right after being explicitly instructed to only give Stroh a pen and paper. Wow, what a smart judge! After Stroh returned the canned air, Stephen just left it on the desk. (Seriously, this man is a slob...What gives?) In what was apparently a recurring act, Stroh dropped his pen on the floor while discussing things with the judge. Stephen Schaeffer picked it up automatically, noting that it wasn't funny, and gave it back to Stroh. During their conversation, which weaved in and out of off topic, Stroh's intellect gleamed like a little twinkle in his eye as he insulted and spoke in circles around his daft friend... Billy Burke has always been great in this role, giving Stroh the proper combination of predatory calm and charisma to both make him come off as unnerving as well as entertaining to see in an argument.D.D.A. Emma Rios then barged in to remind Stroh that they're well into the Special Master sessions and he's given them nothing. If he wishes to have his sentence reduced, he'd better cough something up quickly. He then describes a future murder, from the victim's gender to the setting that she'll be found, and says that if they want to prevent a murder, they'd need to get to addressing his demands for his sentencing, and quickly. Rios called his bluff, only to then have the Major Crimes team stumble upon the exact scene Stroh described: A woman's body was found in an abandoned home, wearing a strange bracelet with the symbol for "male." Stroh then made himself clear that 2 more people will die that week if he doesn't have his changes made to his sentencing (including housing him in a minimum security prison) and if he doesn't get to speak to Rusty Beck."Looking for hookers!"In their following investigation, they search for someone they nickname "Burning Man." This individual takes the focus of all of Major Crimes as well as some help from Chief Fritz Howard given the tie to Stroh. After identifying the first victim as a prostitute, they get their hands on a pimp not too far from where they found the victim only to find that one of his own prostitutes had gone missing earlier that day in a Gold Oldsmobile Cutlass. As they expand their search to the surrounding area, Sharon and Emma Rios work out a way to let Rusty interview Stroh in order to see if they can prevent another death before Burning Man strikes again. They also provide him with 2 bodyguards Stroh's quarters in his cell are searched through as well, only a few books included in his possession, so there wasn't any way they could tell that he had been feeding information to anyone in order to plan these murders.In one of the best scenes of the episode, Rusty met Stroh in an interview room, where he confronted him for his murder attempt. It was clear that Rusty was terrified to be in that room, but he was also angry about the hell Stroh had put him through in the past 2 years. Stroh turned his argument around and stated that Stroh had improved Rusty's life, as being a witness agains Stroh took him from the streets to a caring and loving household with a high school and college education and a family to go home to. Rusty spat out that he'd changed Stroh's life as well. Stroh's look in response to Rusty's quip was menacing. But he softened up, and kept his poker face. Then Stroh began to spout off a lot of mystical-sounding bluster. He alleged that his and Rusty's fates were tied, and that it was approaching the end. He wasn't clear on what "it" was or what "the end" meant, but given his murderous history, it couldn't possibly be a positive ending. Some of his rantings were taken into consideration for the Burning Man's investigation.The team closes in on what is likely the next location of the 2nd prostitute -- another abandoned or condemned house with the electricity hacked back on. They find the 2nd prostitute's body in the house, thinking that Burning Man must be in the middle of his mission getting it ready to burn the house, but suddenly the house catches on fire, (later it turned out that the killer had simply set a timer for the electric fire) and most of the team has to find their way out of the back, with the dead woman's body to retain any clues from her murder. As they run to escape, Buzz catches on film the same symbol on the wall light up in a pattern of oil. Sharon calls for more information to be taken from Stroh, since the body count is at 2.Emma bursts in on Stroh's Special Master's session with Judge Stephen Schaeffer to tell him if they lose the 3rd girl, the deal goes away and more conspiracy to commit murder charges will be added to his existing list of charges. He says something demeaning and outright angering, but she has to leave given it's a confidential exchange of information with Stephen. After she leaves, Stroh drops his pen on the floor again. Stephen complains but leans over to get it, only to be attacked by Stroh and his handcuff chains. Stroh then grabs the loose canned air, turns it upside down, and sprays the ice-cold aerosol into his old buddy's face until Stephen is out. Stroh then takes the can and sprays his chains to break them. He stops, writes the words "Find Jesus of Nazareth" on the wall, then changes into Stephen's jogging clothes and walks out the door as if he were off to jog."A pattern has begun to emerge."Late into the case, Sharon and the team break open the door after the Judge doesn't respond, to find him on the ground. As Sharon is documenting the scene, she finds Stroh's message. She immediately calls for the books that Stroh had in his cell. They provide a book of astrology that might have some bearing on the case. Sharon calls in an astrologist to see if she could possibly shed light on what Stroh or the Burning Man thought they were working towards in their astrological endeavors.They search through all older records that have to do with people claiming to be Jesus of Nazareth, and eventually find a young man who was originally a client of none other than Philip Stroh's over a decade ago. Meanwhile, the astrologist arrives and immediately starts to chart out the past dates of the kills Burning Man has done in the past few years. They then map it out across town and she makes a discovery that he's forming the sign for Sagittarius, and there's still 1 area left for his next kill. Stroh was able to chart it not because he had any kind of "visions" or ridiculousness, he just knew the killer and tracked his progress over the last few years.This time, they showed up early enough to the scene that the victim was still alive, and Burning Man was just outside the house getting it ready. Detective Sanchez is the first to see Burning Man after finding where he kept them, bound in the back of a seedy van, and immediately dishes out some pain. I was amazed that guy didn't die right there in Julio's hands given the types of punches he was throwing (and once again, I am reminded of Tuco -- you know, same actor, but different show, where he absolutely killed someone with his bare hands just from punching them to a pulp?), but finally the team pulled him off the killer, identified as Markos Christakis. They immediately interrogate him about Stroh's whereabouts, but he clearly has nothing to do with the plan, he was just the bait to draw attention away from Stroh long enough to get away. Stroh's only real plan was to invoke his right to act as his own lawyer, and setup a ruse to get close enough to Judge Schaeffer to kill him and take his identity. The only thing Burning Man said was that Stroh was likely doing what he'd always told Markos to do: have a plan for once you've made your escape. We see glimpses of Stroh gathering money, changing clothes, and then getting into a car. A friendly driver welcomes him. That predatory glint in his eye again, he eyes his knife as his Uber driver takes him out of Sharon's range.So, it looks like we won't be finishing up the Philip Stroh storyline anytime soon.Still, it was a very exciting finale, and everyone involved was pitch perfect. We'll see if next season things can be shaken up a bit to not feel like "Rusty is in danger, and there's a case of the week also" part 4.Major Crimes returns this summer on TNT.Sidenotes:- Apologies for how absurdly late this review was. I have many excuses I won't list here, but know I've been itching to write this!**Having said that, I may not pick up Major Crimes next season for reviewing if there is no demand for it -- it's a lot of effort (especially when I'm fitting in reviews between work and sleep as well as other reviews), so if you enjoy my reviews of Major Crimes and you're interested in them continuing for season 4 just let me know! - Dr. Morales (Jonathan Del Arco) is never in the episode for more than what seems like one scene, but he always makes it count. He's concise, snarky, and livens up the mood around such a dark subject as identifying bodies.- Rusty meeting his 2 bodyguards had me cracking up. He's not one for subtlety is he?- Could they not have been any clearer in saying "don't give him anything other than paper and pen?" They told that moron over and over again, but he just couldn't tell that Stroh was setting him up for the big one.- Fre$h immediately Lawyer! Lawyer! Lawyered up...- Finally, while the episode was quite thrilling on its own merits, it was another straight up "mystery" where I figured out what Stroh was going to do at the beginning of the episode (well, maybe not all the crazy astrology stuff) in assaulting/killing his old friend and getting away with his running clothes. I wish this show could keep a decent secret from me!What did you think of this week's episode? Start a discussion below in the comments!About the Author - Wilson Crawford Wilson is an avid fan of television, music, and the occasional video game. He enjoys well-written, thought-provoking characters and series that get better with age. Current favorites include The Good Wife and Mad Men. Past favorites include Damages, Fringe, Breaking Bad, 30 Rock, and Veronica Mars.Recent Reviews (All Reviews) //

[S3E18] Special Master Part One



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