‘Stop Me Before I Hug Again’ starts with the aftermath of a murder: the victim was, we are told, raped, stabbed, and strangled. Gosh, I thought: by the standards of this show this is a bit grim. At that precise moment Brian’s subconscious reaches the same conclusion, and conjures up a beloved children’s TV star from his past, who suggests replacing the unpleasant words with more palatable ones. Thus the victim was “sent to an awesome farm in the country” by a “serial hugger”. And huggers don’t get cool nicknames any more, they’re named after ice-cream flavours. So the perp in this case, whose thing is to snip off the ring finger of his victims, is no longer the Marrying Man: he’s Mr Pralines and Cream.
In order to help with the hunt for Mr Pralines and Cream the team is joined by brilliant, intense, cool, bit-of-a-blowhard FBI profiler David Englander, who’s been after him for years. So when Brian, with the inevitable assist from NZT, solves the case in like 40 minutes, Englander invites him to Quantico for a couple of days hanging with the cool kids. “Will you stop shouting ‘road trip’?” Naz demands of Brian, who totally wants to go. So Naz lets him, but insists Rebecca goes with him to supervise his NZT intake.
My shipping antennae were twitching at this point, but what Rebecca really wants to talk about – and Brian really doesn’t – is the possibility that Senator Morra is on NZT, enhancing his reflexes to the point that he was able, literally, to dodge a bullet during last week’s assassination attempt. (Also, he’s gone from being a loser writer to a viable Presidential candidate in a couple of years.) She’s completely right, of course, but Brian does not want her going there, so he comes up with a risky plan to disprove her theory. Unfortunately for him, Rebecca is nearly as good a detective off NZT as he is on it, so – although he doesn’t know it yet – this isn’t going away.
Meantime, though, Brian has been reading Englander’s book about what a great profiler he is, and reviews the case of Mr Butter Pecan, the nickname of Andre Hannan, a serial hugger on death row. Brian is convinced that Hannan is innocent, and doesn’t budge when he finds out that Hannan offered a detailed and accurate confession, nor when Hannan passes a polygraph test on his admission of guilt. The completely deranged solution to the mystery will involve a crooked therapist, a tech zillionaire, the electronic manipulation of memory, and a shaved dog.
Fortunately, I don’t need to believe a word of it to find it terrific fun. The word-substitution device – delivered with a straight face throughout – is mostly a delight (and also conceals a serious-ish point about the glorification of brutal killers, in both fact and fiction, which can perhaps wait for another day). The shifts in tone are handled as adroitly as ever. Jake McDorman and Jennifer Carpenter are just lovely. And, most of all, the episode is as imaginative and witty as ever. By this time next week we should know if Limitless has been renewed. I really hope it is.