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Final showdown looms for 'The Mentalist' and Red John 

For six seasons, fans of "The Mentalist" have been rooting for Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) to find the elusive Red John, the man who murdered his wife and daughter a decade ago. Through the years, the producers have offered clues and even narrowed down the suspect pool to seven people Jane had already met. On Sunday, the California Bureau of Investigation consultant will finally catch up with the dangerous killer who leaves as his signature a smiley face drawn in the blood of his victims. 

Sonja Flemming / Today
Patrick Jane of "The Mentalist" finally comes face-to-face with Red John, the serial killer he's tracked since the madman murdered his wife and daughter.

In last week's episode, Red John's identity was revealed as Gale Bertram (Michael Gaston), the CBI chief. This week, an intense manhunt ensues, but there may be more to the story, warned executive producer Bruno Heller during a press call.

Heller said he decided to end the mystery now so that the rest of the series can examine how Jane moves on with his life without this mission being the priority. The series jumps two years in the episode that airs on Dec. 1, featuring new sets and a new direction for Jane. Baker directed the episode.

"It’s been really strange because whatever happens in the course of a series, there’s reasons and things you sign on for that show," Baker said. "It’s a very important element to the character that you make a connection with immediately. A lot of those things were laid to rest in this episode. So it did feel incredibly personal to me."

Baker, who was nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of the investigator with amazing instincts, said he felt the weight of paying off the highly anticipated story.

"For me, I did feel this sense of pressure because we’ve been working toward this for so many years and it’s pushed the character from the very beginning," he said. "I felt I have to somehow live up to that in that one moment. The one moment in the life of the character where he’s stepping up into the unknown."

  • Slideshow Photos

    Cliff Lipson / CBS ENTERTAINMENT

    The Mentalist

    After six seasons, Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) will finally get revenge on the elusive Red John on "The Mentalist." Baker and executive producer Bruno Heller revisit the series' seminal moments exclusively for TODAY.

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    Where it began -

    Simon Baker and Robin Tunney are shown in the 2008 pilot episode of "The Mentalist." Patrick Jane (Baker) uses his powers of observation to solve crimes and Special Agent Teresa Lisbon (Tunney) resists him every step of the way. Creator Bruno Heller recalled the scene was shot in front of a house "around the corner from where I live." Baker said: "I think it's still my favorite episode. Little baby Robin, so sweet."

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    The phone call -

    In the first season episode "Red John's Friends," Patrick Jane hears the voice of Red John, who murdered his family, for the first time. "I remember this very clearly," executive producer Bruno Heller said. "Right after this moment is the first contact with Red John via a phone call. Also the cryptic 'he is a ma' on the wall in blood. Is he the man? Or many? Or magic?" Simon Baker recalled: "This was one with a locked door mystery that Jane solves with a fishing line and a newspaper. One of my favorite tricks."

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    First smiley face -

    "I cannot for the life of me recall why Red John hired a skywriter, but it was a fun gag," said the show's creator and executive producer Bruno Heller of this first-season episode, "Red John's Footsteps."

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    Red right hand -

    The murder of Agent Bosco (Terry Kinney) occurred right in their own office during the third-season episode "The Blood on his Hands." Simon Baker recalled it as a "sad day" and said Kinney was "great to work with. A wonderful actor that brought a lot to the part and the show." Heller said he wished the show could have kept Bosco but his death "gave us a great creepy confession scene."

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    Red John's first appearance -

    In season two's "Red Sky in the Morning," the first episode where Red John physically appeared, Patrick Jane was wrapped in cling-film and his archenemy recited William Blake's "The Tyger." "Baker did Red John's voice and it stuck," Heller said.

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    Visualize this -

    Patrick Jane v. Bret Stiles. Jane went up against the founder of Visualize when a member turned up dead in the third season's "The Blood on His Hands." Guest star Malcolm McDowell played Stiles. "Malcolm McDowell is--and I say this as a compliment--a rude, arrogant, devil-may-care bastard," executive producer Bruno Heller said. "He brings great edge and energy and wit to every scene he's in." .

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    Tiger Tiger, oops -

    Simon Baker made his directorial debut in the third season's "Red Moon." "The burnt guy said 'Tiger Tiger,' then died," recalled executive producer Bruno Heller. "But nobody on telly could hear what he said. Oops."

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    Red queen -

    In the third season's "Red Queen," the CBI investigates the murder of an antiques dealer. "(That's) Aunjanue Ellis with a gun at Baker's back," said executive producer Bruno Heller. "I think this is the one where Van Pelt's fiancee turns out to work for Red John."

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    Showdown at the mall -

    Bradley Whitford guest-starred in "Strawberries and Cream," the third season's two-part finale. Simon Baker says he "really enjoyed the way this showdown with Bradley Whitford played out. It is, to this day, one of my favorite scenes from the series. We were incredibly lucky to get someone as gifted as Bradley to play that role." Shooting in the mall "was a nightmare," added executive producer Bruno Heller. "Terrible sound and 500 people watching every take."

  • Blinking Red Light

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    Right under your nose -

    A blogger (David Paymer) who has dedicated his life to finding a killer turns out to be the murderer in the fourth season's "Blinking Red Light." Simon Baker directed the episode: "What I thought was interesting about this episode was that it was the first time the audience was intentionally ahead of Jane with the knowledge that Paymer's character was the killer. The episode became about how Jane could stop him; a first for us in the series."

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    What happened here? -

    This scene from the fourth season's "Red is the new Black" is a mystery to those who created and performed it. "This is the first picture where I have absolutely no idea what is going on in the scene," said executive producer Bruno Heller. "That's Catherine Dent, though."

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    Tiny smiley face -

    Red John talked to a little girl in "Red Rover, Red Rover" in the fourth season. Executive producer Bruno Heller: "Creepy. The little girl has just spoken to Red John. (Simon) Baker is brilliant with kids and always gets a good scene from them." Maybe it's Baker's at-home training. The Australian actor has three children.

  • The Crimson Hat

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    Sin City -

    "This (season 4 finale, 'The Crimson Hat') episode was interesting because we played with time in a way we hadn't before," Simon Baker said. "We leapt forward six months and Jane appeared to have lost his focus. It was the introduction of Lorelei Martins (Emmanuelle Chriqui), a complex character played in a sweet, broken way." The scene was shot in downtown Los Angeles, with the Mayan Theater standing in for a Vegas hotel. "We took Baker to Vegas for a couple of shots and it was mayhem on the Strip," executive producer Bruno Heller recalled. "Las Vegas tourists love Simon Baker too much."

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    Get a clue -

    "Kevin Corrigan gives you the best and oddest line delivery of any actor working," executive producer Bruno Heller said of the season five episode, "Red Sails in the Sunset." "Mysterious and cool. This is the episode in which Jane gets the clue that will eventually solve the case."

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  • The Red Barn

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    Put on a happy face -

    "All I recall about this one was there was a very long debate about big the smiley face should be. I have no idea why," says executive producer Bruno Heller. The scene is from fifth-season episode "The Red Barn."

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    Beat down -

    In the fifth season's "There Will Be Blood," there sure was a lot of it. "Emmanuelle Chriqui got to be a real bad-ass on this one," executive producer Bruno Heller recalled. "It was hard to get her to beat people as hard as needed because she is a gentle soul."

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    The jig is up -

    An important episode for fans, "Reg John's Rules" answered some key questions in the fifth season. "I was pretty happy about the audience getting some tangible informationm" Simon Baker said. "A process of elimination. It was something the fans could hold onto and look forward to." Executive producer Bruno Heller said the revelations "took a lot of storytelling courage. No vamping or misdirection was possible once we've laid the names out."

  • The Desert Rose

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    Scary Lisbon -

    In the sixth season's "Desert Rose," there is a "strong if oblique clue as to who Red John really is," said executive producer Bruno Heller. "This was a nice scene. Genuinely scary, which we tend to avoid." Simon Baker referred to it as a "horrifying image." "Love Robin and love what she has done with the character over the course of the series," he said. "Her level of commitment and professionalism is unmatched. I've been blessed to be her screen partner for these six years. Thank you, Miss Tunney."

  • Red Listed

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    Another one gone -

    Kevin Corrigan returned in the sixth season's "Redlisted" only for his character to be killed off. "He gets killed by Drew Powell as FBI Agent Smith," executive producer Bruno Heller said. "They do a lovely scene together. It's rare for two guest actors to do scenes without the principals and hold the frame so strongly." Although he's not a fan of torture scenes, Simon Baker said Corrigan "made this one a lot more fun. He brought a breath of freesh air to the set, inventive and risky as an actor.His death scene was so nicely understated. I was very disappointed that he was killed off."

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  • "Fire and Brimstone"

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    The Three Amigos -

    A lot happened in the sixth season's "Fire and Brimstone." Executive producer Bruno Heller called this a "big scene." "If this stuff doesn't play, the series is in trouble," Heller said. "(Simon) Baker pulled it together brilliantly." Baker: "And then there were three, with three dots. A room full of interesting guys. I really enjoyed working with all of these guys. All very different and unique. It's one of the best parts of working on a series for a long period of time--getting to watch different actors and the different appraoches they have to their work."

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    Red John splatter logo -

    The series' iconic symbol for its Red John villain means different things to different people. Simon Baker: "Such a dark and creepy symbol. I loved it from the moment I first saw it. It has been the identifying brand of the series." Executive producer Bruno Heller: "If I never see another smiley face, I will not be unhappy."

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Heller and Baker revisited the show's seminal Red John moments exclusively for TODAY in a slideshow of images tracing Patrick Jane's journey with the smiley face killer.


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