In direct opposition to the season 4 premiere's slow-burn pacing, "Unraveling" opens with a literal bang. And unraveling Sarah is. She and Holder pay a visit to the lab, where frequent gunshots and blood-red-paint-splattering dummies prove incredibly unsettling for the guilty Linden. She certainly can't offset her nerves with any solid leads in the case. Testing proved that Kyle was on his knees, which could mean he was under the gun or offering himself up in penance. Either way, the lab guy calls it a "scientifically unique situation"—perhaps the best euphemism for f---in' grisly bloodbath I've heard in a long time. Linden is so visibly disturbed, she has to leave abruptly. Holder follows her to the restroom and tells her to get it together. She explains that it's pretty difficult considering she's got her dead lover's daughter harassing her. She conveniently (or, more likely, consciously) leaves out the bit about Bethany wearing Kallie's ring, so Holder assures her it's nothing. When another shot blasts, Linden's visibly shaken demeanor and her second jittery exit of the morning disprove Holder.
Back at St. George's, Rayne tries to keep control of her flock, using a surprisingly tone-deaf family metaphor considering the circumstances. Outside, Kyle stares at the flag of St. George slaying the dragon, and it's clear that no one—not even Kyle himself—knows which of the two he is. To wit, one cadet brazenly asks in front of the assembly: "Ma'am, didn't he do it, ma'am?" And the despicable Knopf walks out with a cig in his mouth and snarks that 6-year-old Nadine "got it right in the face. Too bad, she was going to be one fine piece of p---y one day." Given the smoke plumes rising from Knopf's mouth, maybe it is clear where Kyle falls in the saint-versus-dragon equation. At least for now.
Over at the SPD, Linden and Holder listen to the 911 call placed by the Stansburys' neighbor Emmett Deschler. When they visit Deschler, he's the kind of weirdo who nonchalantly cops to "eschew[ing] formal engagements and social gatherings," and who philosophizes, "My home is my camera obscura. I believe that pain and suffering is true art. ... Happiness creates a laziness that allows us to forget, but pain teaches us a lesson, which forces us to grow." Pro tip, EmDesch: Don't say weird crap like that to homicide cops. Perhaps too preoccupied by her own dramas, or maybe just unfazed by this kind of talk, Linden moves right along, which is hilarious on its own. Bonus points to Holder, who gets in a Velvet Elvis shout-out. (He doesn't know art, but he knows what he likes, amirite?)
There are some unusual aspects of Deschler's story, like the 5 a.m. time and his calm tone in his 911 call, but his statement does lead the detectives to the Stansburys' beach house, just below the main house (and the site of the murder). A housekeeper who lets them in notes the family's remarkable neatness, saying eerily, "It's like nobody lived here, only ghosts." Well, judging by a bag of clothes found in the beach house, ghosts and a baby hooker.
The partners revisit Phoebe's room to check the clothes in the bag against the ones in her closet—they don't match. More importantly, they find a stash of sexy, half-naked photos she's hidden in the back of a frame. Linden quickly figures out the angle from which they were taken and, lo and behold, it visually traces right back to Deschler's place. They return to Deschler's home, where he ups the creep factor to 11 as he quivers about his "special" relationship with Phoebe. Holder subdues him while Linden stumbles upon a room wallpapered with pervalicious pictures of Phoebe in various states of Lolita. It's pretty clear that Deschler will turn out to be a run-of-the-mill pedophiliac voyeur, but it's certainly effective while it lasts.
NEXT: Holder explores new frontiers of sexual innuendo