Digesting Hannibal – Season 1, Ep11

Episode 11 – Rôti

Hannibal serves dinner with Dr. Chilton.  They discuss Abel Gideon, and how Chilton tried to convince him that he was the Ripper.  Hannibal points out how that primarily works with those without a stable sense of self (Will), rather than with psychopaths.  This reflects on much of the series, with Hannibal attempting to control Will, who has the ultimate unstable sense of self.  I watch this always on guard that anyone could be Hannibal’s next victim, especially Chilton.  It turns out that Gideon is accusing Chilton of making him kill.  Chilton asks for advice, and Hannibal instructs him to deny everything.

Chilton talks about his hopes that psychic driving would work to break him down.  Hannibal corrects him, noting how manipulation must be hidden or else it’s ineffective.  He should know, of all people.  So Gideon “pushed back” once he was aware he was being manipulated.  Yes, most people don’t like being manipulated into thinking they’re a serial killer.  It even seems possible that the murder of the nurse itself could be part of him retaliating against Chilton.  

Will sleeps, sweating with not to be unexpected intense dreams.  It includes the totem of the bodies, washed away by a tidal wave.  He awakens, only to see the clock melt, and himself wash away.  Still a dream.  It’s difficult to tell how much of his dreams are from his trauma vs. Part of his encephalitis.  Either way, Will needs help with someone he can trust.  

Gideon is led away from the hospital by guards into an armored transport, on the way to court or something.  He’s suing Chilton.  Not clear how he got an attorney to take that one on, but it does have merit.  Gideon tells him he’s going to tell the world that Chilton tried to convince him he was the Ripper.

In the transport, Gideon talks at the guards.  He killed his family because it was easier than getting a divorce.  There’s still something comical about hearing this out of Eddie Izzard’s mouth, even though it’s supposed to be creepy.  He kills them both, sight unseen.  Sometimes it’s creepier to not show the act, but just allude to it.  

At the crime scene, Gideon has escaped.  Will metronomes the murder, as usual watching himself enact it.  Jack inquires if Gideon still believes he’s the Ripper.  Will says he’s having “a differing of opinion.”  This is opening up questions to be answered in the episode.  

Hearts and other organs hang from trees near the scene, like Christmas ornaments.  Katz lists off a slew of weapons that Gideon now has.  The Ripper wouldn’t have left organs behind.  So Gideon is sending a message with this, possibly to the Ripper himself.  The ornaments approach clearly puts the organs for viewing, to attempt to show the murder in a different way, to contrast with the Ripper and for all to appreciate.  

Will and Alana talk with Chilton.  They point out that the escape is beneficial to Chilton, in avoiding the lawsuit and humiliation.  True.  They might be insinuating that Chilton was involved.  Which Chilton then inquires if they’re accusing him of, and they deny it.  Chilton denies any involvement in manipulating Gideon.  He goes on to say that Gideon “wasn’t insane when he murdered his wife.  Killing her drove him insane.”  There isn’t a whole lot of rationale to that, unless the murder was done by accident and the guilt tormented him.  But using the legal definition of insanity as mental illness causing inability to discriminate right from wrong (a simplified definition I grant you) or even to have out of control impulses, there’s no clear evidence that killing his family caused him to lose the ability to distinguish right from wrong, or to lose control of impulses.  So that just makes no sense.  Blame is thrown back and forth.  Alana make the case that whether he believes he’s the Ripper or is even confused by it, he’ll kill again.  I’d say his identity is really immaterial as to whether he’ll kill again.  He didn’t kill those guards because he’s confused about his identity, but to escape.  Chilton pushes the blame onto them, baiting them into a fight.  This keeps the focus off of him, and makes it about the fight in the room rather than the past.  

Jack preps the FBI on Gideon.  A transplant surgeon, armed and dangerous.  As Will listens, Jack’s voice fades a bit.  The room appears filled with antlers, and Jack appears to be talking to Will about Will.  “You are armed and extremely dangerous.”  I have had occasional patients who really do dissociate like this, hearing everything said as being about them, when it isn’t.  That can also be a characteristic of psychotic disorders, called ideas of reference.  Will is actually hearing You when Jack is saying He.  Will really is imagining all this, but losing touch with reality.

Will sits with Hannibal, recalling this episode.  “I don’t know who I am anymore.  I don’t feel like myself.”  In the context of Hannibal’s conversation with Chilton in the beginning, it thus seems that this is a clear invitation to Hannibal to manipulate Will, even to do psychic driving (though again their definition seems incorrect), if he hasn’t already been doing it (without showing us).  “I feel crazy.”  I have blogged about this feeling, which often involves a loss of sense of agency or control.  Will notes his biggest fear is not knowing who he is.  He believes that this is Gideon’s fear too, and that he has been changed.  Unless Chilton was really using psychic driving, like the full sleep deprivation brainwashing mental torture approach, it’s unlikely to really be able to disturb his sense of self so completely, mainly because Gideon is a psychopath.  Hannibal thinks Gideon will seek out the Ripper, to gauge who he is.

Will and Jack review Gideon with the team (Katz, Price, and Zeller).  They are reviewing all his communications.  Will doesn’t think they’ll find anything.  Zeller notes bodies had organs removed post-mortem, and they had lobotomies.  Katz corrects him that it wasn’t a lobotomy since he only scrambled the brain not removing any of it.  Actually Zeller was right, it’s a lobotomy.  A lobectomy is removal of a lobe of the brain, lobotomy is just cutting it.  Will begins hallucinating water leaking out of one of the storage lockers.  Will raises that the lobotomy (again, that’s what it is) was what was done to him.  They scrambled his brain.  True, to a degree.  Therapy hopefully doesn’t brainwash people, but helps them be more comfortable with who they are, and maybe closer to who they want to be.  That wasn’t what anyone did here.  And again therapy for psychopaths largely doesn’t work.  Jack suggests they get a list of everyone that tried to treat Gideon, which will include Alana.

Will visits Alana.  They have a little flirting about getting closer, and he invites the idea, when he’s more stable.  His head feels warm to her.  And he’s already on aspirin.  Then how about a tylenol?  She expresses some worry for Gideon’s wellbeing.  She believes he can’t be completely held responsible for his actions because he was subjected to “an outside influence.”  If he really was brainwashed (they seem to value the aesthetic on this show, and that must be viewed as a crude word), then “outside influence” is understating it a bit.  But the suggestions about what was done to him, even by Chilton, repeating an idea thousands of times, isn’t quite brainwashing, nor is therapy.  They hypothesize what would happen if Gideon finds the Ripper.  Will believes the Ripper would kill him for rudely taking credit for his work.  This is obviously setting up our expectations for a showdown this episode.  

Freddie Lounds gets a call from Gideon, who’s pretending to be a psychologist Dr. Carruthers, and wants to work with her on an article.  We can presume the psychologist he’s pretending to be is one of his former evaluators, and now a victim.  

Lounds walks into the Carruthers’ office, only to find Gideon having killed the man and given him a Columbian necktie.  Yep.  Could see that coming.  

Jack and Will look over the crime scene.  Jack reviews that Carruthers had diagnosed Gideon as being a “pathological narcissist who suffers from psychotic episodes.”  So let’s pick that apart.  Yes, he’s a narcissist, as he believes he’s superior to others.  He’s pathological because this has caused problems in his life, such as killing people and believing he could get away with it.  Psychosis, though, we haven’t seen any evidence of.  No clear evidence of hallucinations, paranoia, or even magical thinking.  Will thinks this is about surgically operating on those that messed with his mind.  But he still thinks like a doctor, draining the blood a leaving it to be donated to the red cross, with a note.  They think he’s also showing off before meeting the Ripper.  The motives have been really muddied now.  Is it revenge?  Is it an identity crisis?  Is he trying to court the Ripper?  Does he plan to kill the Ripper?  I would opine that the identity thing is crap.  He might be vengeful towards those who tried to mess with his head, but not likely he is actually confused, based on the little character info we know (that he’s a psychopath).  They click on the computer, and find a tattlecrime article by Lounds about this very murder.  Will knows Gideon must have Lounds.

Gideon has Lounds tied up in the observatory.  She offers to write a big story about him.  She even feigns believing that he’s the Ripper.  He calls her out on that.  “It’s like remembering something from your childhood… and then you realize sadly it’s just some photo in an old book.”  Now this I would buy, that memory is plastic and malleable, even in psychopaths.  But that’s different I might say than altering someone’s reality.  The false memory syndrome of the 80s showed that people could construct very vivid false memories.  Some hypothesize though that there’s always a part of a person that knows what’s true and what isn’t.  Gideon seems to have just such a part.  Lounds realizes the article is aiming to draw out the Ripper.

The team reviews another body, a psychiatrist with the same Columbian necktie, but this time with a severed arm.  Will intuits that the Ripper isn’t going to risk exposure, and that he killed this psychiatrist to tell Jack where Gideon is hiding — in the observatory where the last severed arm was.  Interesting to communicate through dead bodies.  Apparently a letter or email  wouldn’t suffice.

Back in the observatory, Gideon now has Chilton on the surgical table.  A trade again – you messed with my mind, I get to cut open your abdomen.  We watch him made a midline incision, sans general anesthetic.  Gideon of course doesn’t use gloves, since infection isn’t really a concern of his.  Gideon removes what is probably a big appendix, followed by a kidney and philosophizes with it in hand.  He slaps Chilton with his hand, smearing his face with his own blood.  Gideon holds his hands up as if he’s maintaining the sterile surgical field, even though he isn’t.  Force of habit, if we needed a reason.  He’s also removing non-vital organs so far, which to me means the writers probably aren’t going to kill off Chilton, just put him in a little false jeopardy.  

Will and Jack drive to the observatory.  Jack tells him he should wait outside, and that he looks like hell.  Will says he feels “fluid, like I’m spilling.”  He knows he’s sick, but presumes it’s a cold.  Jack scolds him to take better care of himself.  So now the dynamic has flipped, with Jack pulling him back, and Will pushing himself.  If we trace back, this seems to have transitioned around the time Bella got sick, which presuming that’s deliberate, would explain the shift in his behavior towards Will (plus Will getting as sick as he is) as his priorities change.  “It’s hard to shake off something that’s already under your skin.”  He nods off to sleep.  Will is suggesting the seeds have been planted by Hannibal, it’s hard to reverse that.  

A tactical squad moves in on the observatory.  Jack advances with a shotgun.  Will leaves the car and watches from a distance, but sees a stag in the woods.  He follows it.  The squad finds Chilton with his bowels exposed.  Lounds bags him.  Bagging someone refers to a manually worked ventilator, called an ambu bag.  Gideon watches from afar, outside the building.  He gets in his car.  He talks to the backseat, saying he was expecting the Chesapeake Ripper, or are you he?  It’s Will.  Interesting that the stag led Will to this car.  We could imagine then that the stag isn’t just a meaningless hallucination, but has purpose.  In a show as well thought out as this, most things have meaning.  Will points a gun at Gideon, telling him not to turn around.  To Will, Gideon looks like Garrett Jacob Hobbs.  Is this another opportunity to kill a killer?  Will is clearly sick, and Gideon recognizes it.  He asks who Will’s doctor is.

Hannibal opens his front door to see Will and Gideon.  If someone was as medically ill as Will is, he should be in a hospital.  Encephalitis can kill.  I wouldn’t want someone in this state showing up at my front door.  I’d just call 911.  Will talks about not being able to tell what’s real.  Gideon sits nearby.  Hannibal tries to reorient him, but Will only cares about if Hobbs is real.  Hannibal tells him there’s no one there, and that Will came here alone.  Now this is a bit of a stretch to have him not remember driving, though in Will’s delirious state it might work.  This tells to Gideon that there’s some manipulation going on.  Will’s eyes roll back and he starts shaking.  This is probably supposed to be a febrile seizure, though if his whole body is convulsing it’s unlikely he would still be standing.  On a side note, Hugh Dancy appears to have a great ability to roll up his eyes, which per the hypnotic induction profile (Siegel), is one indicator he may be capable of responding well to hypnosis.  

Hannibal recognizes it as a “mild” seizure.  Seizures are risky, particularly if they lead to status epilepticus, which is a continuous seizure where someone stops breathing.  Gideon identifies that Hannibal doesn’t seem worried about this.  Hannibal inquires if he’s that man that claims to be the Ripper, stating as fact that he isn’t the Ripper.  Gideon asks if Hannibal is the Ripper.  “A terrible thing to have your identity taken from you.”  A beautiful double entendre, rich with subtext.  It speaks to Gideon’s situation, while revealing Hannibal’s alter ego as the Ripper.  Gideon says he’s taking back his own identity, “a piece at a time,” including his psychiatrist.  Hannibal furthers this line, asking if Alana was one of his psychiatrists.  Gideon says she was.  Hannibal offers up her location.  A curious twist.  One would think that Hannibal would want to finish off Gideon over the grudge of taking credit, but instead offers up Alana.  The only seeming explanation for this is that he doesn’t want to take out Gideon himself, but give him a way that the FBI can dispose of him.  Knowing that Alana has a protective detail means he’s sending Gideon into a trap.  More manipulation from Hannibal.  

Hannibal gives a super-brief neurological test to Will.  He really just tested his motor ability, ability to speak and follow one-step command, and his facial nerve (one of the cranial nerves in the medulla).  This definitely doesn’t rule out a stroke, but covers a couple of basics for a mini-screening exam.  Plus no one wants to watch a five-minute neuro exam on TV, as it isn’t story.  He tells Will that he had a seizure, that he has a fever and was hallucinating.  Will insists he saw Hobbs.  “He’s a delusion disguising reality.”  Kinda.  He’s insisting on a hallucination.  It’s true, he DID see him, it’s just that it wasn’t real.  So a delusion (fixed false belief) isn’t quite the right term here.  Hannibal leaves, stating he’s worried about Alana, and that he’ll call Jack to take Will to the hospital.  He even tells Will that he killed Hobbs once, and can do it again.  The normal protocol would be to call 911, communicate everything to the paramedics, and call Jack to go protect Alana.  But Hannibal is just playing a cover story.  He leaves, leaving car keys, which Will snatches up.  Will, still pushing himself, must be going to Alana.  Hannibal returns to the same dining room and now removes his coat.  As usual, his manipulation plan works well.  

Gideon watches Alana from outside her home.  Will limps up behind him and draws his gun, but doesn’t shoot.  He instead walks up next to Gideon.  Gideon talks about not being sure if he’ll ever be himself again, after thinking he was someone else for so long.  I’m not gonna go into the brainwashing thing anymore.  We just needed more to establish how severe it was.  It was never shown, and the amount explained isn’t sufficient.  To Will, Gideon is still Hobbs.  Gideon wonders “if I kill her, how he would kill her, then maybe I can understand him better.”  It’s a very interesting idea, this loss of identity and wanting to figure it out.  It just doesn’t connect for me with the way it’s explored here.  There’s a little gap, which I think could be fixed if we saw him killing and actually exploring his own identity during the process.  

Gideon also says “I’m you.”  And as he talks about killing Alana, asks rhetorically “I wonder if then you’ll finally realize what you’ve become.”  Hannibal must have fed him information on this game, to turn Will into a killer.  Alana hears a shot, and looks outside to see Will having shot Gideon.

Jack and Will discuss the outcomes over a drink.  Chilton is getting surgery but might survive.  Will is alive, but has 105 degree fever.  That’s severe, and heading to brain damage territory.  White blood cell count is double the normal level without an infection source.  White blood cells indicate an immune overactivity, most commonly with infection but not necessarily.  Jack isn’t worried, since even with the fever he was able to take out Gideon.  A strong constitution.  Hannibal recommends that Jack take away Will’s gun.  Jack disagrees.  He made a direct suggestion that hit resistance, so he tries an indirect approach.  1.  Experience shapes us.  2. Will had extreme and dangerous experiences.  3.  How might that change Will?  The question is left unanswered for Jack to fill it in, which is a therapy (and hypnosis) approach to planting ideas.  Unlike Inception, where it’s difficult to plant ideas, it’s actually deceptively simple.  In this case the question is also opened for us, the audience, making us wonder what will happen to Will from this.  There will be consequences.  

Will lies in a hospital bed, on oxygen.  Doubtful he’d really need oxygen unless he isn’t breathing or has a problems with his lungs.  Alana sits next to him.  Him being actually sick reveals who really cares about him.  In certain family systems models this shows who he’d have the healthiest relationship with, by being able to switch roles (he’s now one-down in the sick role, when before with her he wasn’t).  

Hannibal sits with Du Maurier in therapy.  He notes that Will is troubled, and that he wants to contain it.  She counters that based on the metaphor he chose (containing an oil spill) that Will has some value to him.  She suggests that he might be more interested in Will’s “madness” than in Will.  He doesn’t go for that, though.  He volunteers that he identifies with Will — someone who knew from a young age that he saw the world differently, felt things differently than others.  This seems to give us hope that Hannibal is a monster who wants to be human, who wants to not feel alone and to connect to another who is different.  And yet there’s the nagging fear that everything is a facade, including everything he says in his own therapy.  That doesn’t seem to make sense, though, since he has no reason to have to be in therapy unless he wants to be — there’s no external benefit from it.  

She inquires if he identifies with his “madness” also.  He basically says yes indirectly, through talking about the benefits of madness for the world (like a medicine), since she seems to describe it like madness is a bad thing.  He notes the main benefit is the “opportunity for friendship.”  This still seems muddled – he says he wants that, and yet manipulates.  The best explanation I could imagine is if a monster had its monster-like nature, yet aspired to be human, it might try to do things human-like, yet often default back into it’s monster-like nature.  That is giving Hannibal the benefit of the doubt, though.  She sets boundaries, noting that Will is a patient, and if he feels an impulse to move forward, he must instead pull away.  So now he’s a patient again.  Hannibal says he doesn’t want to just watch Will lose his mind.  “Sometimes all we can do is watch.”  Hannibal has never really watched.  Ever.


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Digesting Hannibal – Season 1, Ep11
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Paul Puri

Dr. Puri is a board certified psychiatrist, in private practice in Los Angeles. He practices multiple forms of psychotherapy, including hypnosis, in addition to managing medications. He attended medical school at University of Rochester, and specialty training at University of California, San Diego. He is currently on the Vol Clinical Faculty at UCLA. In his non-clinical time he writes TV pilots, and designs iPhone apps.

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