For Jack Malone, the past never vanishes.
Tonight’s episode of “Without a Trace” (10 p.m., CBS) makes that clear.
As Malone (Anthony LaPaglia) and the missing-persons team search for a woman strikingly similar to a murder victim he almost saved 12 years earlier, more of the hero’s troubled history comes to light. Actor Tim Matheson (“The West Wing”) directed the episode from a script by Jennifer Levin.
In revealing more of the driven, melancholy Malone, the episode showcases LaPaglia’s immense talent -- the best thing about this otherwise unremarkable, if watchable, series. Malone, we learn, carries guilt from more than one distant death, a burden he shoulders with such lived-in weariness.
The man who committed the original crime, Randy Thornton (Keith Brunsman), remains in prison but the team learns that he was visited recently by Graham Spaulding (Conor O’Farrell), the coolly creepy pedophile Malone arrested in a seemingly unrelated case.
The shades of “Silence of the Lambs” are acknowledged with a one-liner, but still.
Malone soon realizes that, in an effort to taunt him, the vengeful Spaulding is imitating the modus operandi used in the original case. Later, he learns that Spaulding has uncovered painful secrets about Malone’s own family.
Malone also realizes that if he doesn’t catch Spaulding quickly, the missing woman will die.
It’s going to be another close call, in a case that hits especially close to home.