"Ready for the answer?"
And it seems that, now, Stella finally is. In a sharp contrast to the fear and self-doubt she showed in "The Ride In" when she told Mac about her HIV exposure, here she's still frightened and facing a very uncertain future, but she's determined both to live her life as well as she can in whatever time she still has, and to face the truth, no matter what it might turn out to be. It's this latter that's the most important part of her emotional state right now, and an integral part of her personality overall: Stella will always insist on dealing in truth, no matter how painful or uncomfortable it may be. It might, sometimes, take her a little while to get there -- she's strong, but she's also human and vulnerable -- but in the end, she will always prefer to deal with things with as much honesty and self-awareness as she can muster. Lies and evasion can sometimes offer comfort, but not for long; in the end, all they can do is stave off the inevitable.
What's also important is that this realization and renewed self-confidence also give her the courage to reach out to the people who care about her and ask for help. In "Heart of Glass," Stella didn't tell Mac about her exposure right away, because, as she explained to him in "The Ride In," she thought she could deal with it on her own. Here, she seems to go to him pretty quickly after making the decision to find out the truth, and she's firm and confident in the way she explains to him what she wants to do. It's a nicely-done scene all around, and the understated tenderness between the two of them is palpable; here's yet another reminder how well she and Mac know each other, and how much they rely on each other.
To put it another way: here's yet another reminder of how much these people are family to each other.
(Compare this, also, to how the group with the death pact have formed their own ersatz family: their doctor emphasizes both how much they had bonded with each other, and how infrequently that sort of thing happens. The pros and cons of the decisions they make are another subject -- and beside the point here -- but what's important is, again, that sense of a created family, and how much the pact they made would have been dependent upon a trust that goes above and beyond the usual bounds of friendship.)
There are some complicated things going on with Mac and Peyton in this episode. Not necessarily bad, but complex. On its most basic level, this storyline is about Peyton going through a frightening experience, and how she and Mac both react to that. As for what's going on between the lines, well...let's take a look at it in a little more detail.
First: Mac's concern for Peyton after she's injured is heartfelt, and it's also nice to see that he knows how to express that concern without hovering too much or treating her as if she's fragile or weak. He knows when to push her, and to insist that she get medical attention, but he also knows when to back off. For her part, Peyton handles her injury and trauma well, and in a fashion that's not entirely dissimilar to how Stella deals with her own problems. She's clearly very shaken, particularly at first, and is able to acknowledge that, but also displays a nicely stubborn refusal to give into that fear.
This speaks to her strength of character; it may also indicate that, for other reasons, she doesn't want to acknowledge to him just how shaken up she really is. Compare to the final scene in "All Access," when it's very clear that both Mac and Stella are downplaying their own pain in order to reassure the other that everything is all right, and equally clear that they're both aware of the lie. I don't know, here, if Mac and Peyton are as aware of the fronting they're both doing, but it's a similar dynamic.
Where this whole storyline becomes even more interesting, and where we start to have to really read between the lines, is when Cort, in a great jump moment, suddenly returns to life after being pulled from the river. Peyton gets defensive here, rather quickly, when she insists that she examined the body herself and that she has enough experience to know if a person is dead or not. Mac is also quick to tell her that he's not accusing her of anything -- "I'm not attacking you" are the specific words he uses -- but he's equally quick, at first, to jump on the notion that she might have been wrong, and, being Mac, he does come across as pretty doubting of her during their conversation.
It's easy enough to chalk both of their reactions up to how shaken they are, and it's true that the fact they're both still frightened forms a part of what's going on here, but I don't think it's the whole story. In the past, they've both been equally quick to leap to certain conclusions when they've disagreed with each other over work issues -- see their argument over Hawkes and what Peyton did or didn't say in "Murder Sings the Blues" -- but mostly, I think this is informed by the issues that led to their break-up several months ago. They've since reconciled, of course, and we've seen in recent episodes that they seem to be on more stable footing with the relationship, but that break-up raised a lot of issues related to how much they trust each other, and we seem to be seeing subtle echoes of those issues here. Peyton is reacting to what she's just been through, but she also may be, unconsciously or not, reacting to what she's been through in the recent past with Mac. And Mac, who's determined to make this work, but who's also not always one to indicate to people whether or not he regards them as reliable, and who is aware of how he hurt Peyton in the past, may be reacting to this as well.
Further evidence for this is that Peyton is the first one to pull away and to return the conversation to business when Mac is trying to comfort her again after they figure out the whole mouse hibernation deal. Prior to the break-up, we saw that she was much more open with him, and much more willing to give and take physical affection or reassurance. Now, she seems to be playing her cards a bit closer to the vest, and, while she's not hiding the fact that she cares for Mac, there's a caution in her approach that wasn't there before.
If that's the case, kudos. Because, as I've been saying all along, Mac may very much want this to work, but that doesn't mean that the issues that existed before have magically gone away. They're still there, and depicting the struggle to deal with them, rather than glossing over it, is something that makes this relationship emotionally believable.
Cop loyalty comes into play here again, as Flack is the one to warn Mac that pursuing the case may turn some political heat on him. While Gerrard isn't mentioned by name, that situation is very much an undercurrent here.
I enjoyed Danny's morbid fascination with the rat with the ear on its back. In a nice touch, the whole conversation Mac is having with the lab guy about what they're doing is relegated to the background so that we can watch Danny stare at the thing. His attempts to figure out a polite way to phrase WTF is that thing? are great, as is the way he taps on the glass to try to get the rat's attention.
He and Mac also have a nice give-and-take during their walk-and-talk after leaving the lab, and earlier, when Danny first tells Mac that the silk came from a goat.
If we're back to bubbly!Lindsay now, I'm all for that, as long as they stick to it on a consistent basis. She had a nice moment relating the legend about the flower, and I liked the smiles everyone exchanged when she launched into the story.
Mac is really rather oddly cheerful about the idea of hibernation, as well as the implied corollary with the larger idea of being able to cheat death. Geeker joy, or indicative of a wish that death sometimes could be cheated? Both, maybe.
Fashion Watch: Stella wears her gray trench with the white piping. (And I have to point out that jackets with piping are featured as a hot item for spring in the new May issue of Lucky -- Stella is way ahead of the curve!) Later, she wears a black fitted leather blazer over a black knit v-neck with a gray and white band just below the breasts.
Flack wears a navy overcoat with a cobalt blue shirt and a diagonally-striped tie. Later, he has a chalk-striped black suit with a pewter-colored shirt and a silver tie with a pattern of blue squares. Very Men's Vogue as always, my friend.
Mac wears a black suit with a blue shirt throughout.
Hawkes wears a black overcoat over a midnight-blue crewneck sweater. Later, he wears a plum-colored shirt. Danny wears a light gray henley with three-quarter sleeves over a white wifebeater, and jeans.