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'The Killing' recap: Hey, Joe, are you the Pied Piper?

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Ladies and gentlemen, we have a legitimate suspect. At last.

Do I think he’s the Pied Piper? No. But it’s nice to have a plausible possible perp.

“The Killing’s” third season had heretofore only advanced the reddest of herrings. But now Joe the cabbie -- mentioned but unseen in the premiere, observed briefly last week -- has stepped to the front. He even has a last name: Mills. And next week he’ll have detectives Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder hot on his trail.

But as “Head Shots” begins, he’s not even on their radar. Instead, their eyes are on the seized pornographic video of the underage Kallie Leeds, crying as a voice asks if she’s a virgin. Bullet is with the detectives, and identifies the location as the motel run by Mama Dips (last seen in the season premiere). She also notes that Kallie is wearing the ring she was holding for Bullet, which Bullet hadn’t given to her until the last time the missing girl was seen -- three days ago.

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Holder and Linden plus backup hit the motel with a warrant and, past the defiant Mama Dips and behind a false panel in the office, find a rudimentary filming studio, its stained, torn wallpaper easily recognized from the videos taken from the pimp/pornographer Goldie. (And, in case you missed that innocence is defiled here, there’s a cotton-candy-blue teddy bear with its wrists and ankles cuffed.) The motel’s customers are rousted, and some are taken into custody.

The search for the missing girl takes Linden back to Kallie’s mother, Danette, who is initially still flippant with the detective. Asked if she’s aware her daughter is a prostitute, she dismisses it as a “phase.” (Wow.) But, told to sit down and shown the beginning of the video, Danette appears to begin to understand the gravity of the situation, and even hints at remorse: She tells Linden that Kallie had knocked on her locked door that fateful night; she didn’t answer it. Kallie had been told she couldn’t stay, as Danette’s boyfriend would be over.

This episode marks the second time one of the street-surviving teens has been raped: Bullet suffered at the hands of Goldie in the premiere, and now Twitch is taken horrendous advantage of by his probation officer. The young man then relapses into drug use. Bullet tries to be a friend, attempting to dissaude Twitch from seeking a fix and from getting into a fight, and then helping the battered would-be model back to Lyric, Twitch’s girlfriend and Bullet’s crush. But doing what’s right has a price: She sees Twitch and Lyric start to become intimate, ignoring her presence, and leaves.

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Holder is a man in demand. His girlfriend, Caroline, pops back up -- she’s an assistant district attorney, and there’s a surreptitious display of affection, though Linden spots it. Her tug-of-war over Holder isn’t with the lovely lawyer, though, but with Carl Reddick, his current partner. Reddick hasn’t been shy about his disapproval of Linden, and he’s started talking smack straight to her. As they watch Holder interrogate Mama Dips, Reddick tells her that his partner is getting good “now that he’s learning from a pro -- finally.” Just you wait, Carl.

Some investigation notes: The killer isn’t particular about victims’ race, just gender and age range. Goldie, at age 15, tried to rape an 11-year-old and threatened to cut her ear to ear (how the killer slays his victims). The count of victims identified by dental records is now at seven. And, finally, a girl on one of Goldie’s videos is matched to one of the killer’s confirmed victims.

Goldie isn’t just waiting around to get charged with all those murders: He’s on the move, with an unidentified woman in his car. Reddick and Holder give chase, and Goldie goes straight to the media gathered at the killer’s dump site for an impromptu news conference. That woman? His “moms.” He has something to say: “Goldie Willis ain’t no pied piper leading little girls to their death.” And he says police aren’t telling the media about a missing girl who might be with the killer right now.

Danette is watching this on TV at home, but a phone call pulls her away. She’s happy to hear from her boyfriend, who will be coming over later.

“Pied Piper” seems to have caught on, as special investigations leader James Skinner says the mayor used the sobriquet. And Skinner, livid about Goldie’s TV appearance, chastises Reddick and Holder: “You let this clown hijack your investigation. The public’s panicking.”

Tensions are high, and when Reddick disagrees with Linden on the next move, she finally pushes back. “Carl, why are you still here?” she asks. “What are you doing here? I mean, really. Have you ever wondered why you never made sergeant? Well, I’ll tell you why. Because 23 years of experience and all you are is in the way.” Ouch.

She’s heading out to do things her way, and Holder follows her. Just like that, they’re back: It’s in those half-smiles they show as he puts the car in reverse. It’s a good thing, too. Holder makes more progress with witness Tiffany, a now-woman who was seen as a teen in one of the porn videos, than Linden earlier made solo, telling her she’s still pretty -- “Look at you, you got it goin’ on, girl” -- and asking her why would she want to protect the man who did that to her.

Over on death row, Ray Seward seems to be warming -- as much as he’s capable of warming -- to his cell neighbor, Hill. And Hill, who has so far mostly alternated between this-is-exactly-what’s-happening dialogue and a coach's halftime speeches to Ray about standing up to the guards (dubbing him “Spartacus”), becomes more of a character. Ray, who last week used a razor to remove the chest tattoo honoring his son, shows Hill some of his other “tattoos” -- scars from prison gangs and his father. They even share a laugh. Prison guard gang leader Francis Becker sees that, and doesn’t like it. He later tries to split them by brutally punishing Hill for Seward’s disobedience, beating the former until the latter takes his medicine. Seward finally swallows the pill, and Hill, whose show of solidarity was already a stretch, chides him for giving in.

If Seward didn’t kill his wife -- if the Pied Piper did -- time is running out on proving it. That’s what Holder and Linden are discussing when they get a hit on a search (presumably based on info from Tiffany): Joe Mills. The kicker: He’d been arrested at the motel earlier but has been cut loose. 

And “Head Shots” closes with Danette opening the door for her boyfriend: Joe Mills.

Suspect Derby

Joe has the field to himself for the moment. But he might have an alibi for Kallie’s disappearance if he was indeed at Danette’s. Danette told Linden only that she’d told Kallie her boyfriend was coming over, not that he actually had. In any case, I’m not sure Kallie would have gotten in a car with Joe after we saw her duck his notice earlier. Also, it’s unclear what his tie might be to the biohazard bags that held the Pied Piper’s victims’ remains. If Joe is the Pied Piper, his pipe appears to be … fast-food potatoes. He gave Lyric his hash browns last week, and this week Tiffany recalls the man with whom she made the video let her have his fries.

Lingering questions

What’s the story on Joe?

Where’s Kallie?

What happened to the chaplain who Ray bloodied in the premiere?

Last things

“Pied Piper,” if it sticks, is originated by an early suspect, Goldie. That strikes me as unusual. Most often, it seems, unidentified serial killers’ nicknames originate with journalists. The recently deceased Night Stalker (Richard Ramirez), for example, got that name after a brainstorming session at the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.

The Bullet-Holder interactions are among the best things about this season, and one this week was the best yet. It starts with Bullet mocking a carrot-munching Holder: “Man, you look like a rabbit. Like some big, hairless, albino Bugs Bunny.” From there, it’s a friendly swapping of rabbit factoids -- they have three eyelids, Holder says; they’re unable to vomit, Bullet adds.

Aw.

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