SPOILER ALERT: The recap for the "Are We There Yet?" episode of "Dexter" contains storyline and character spoilers.
Oops, Dexter did it again. As he and Masuka break down the evidence at the crime scene of next-door-neighbor Cassie's murder, Dexter wonders if his obsession with the newly-resurfaced Hannah had distracted him from his new protégé, Zach, and led to Cassie's death by Zach's hand.
Then Dexter finds out Zach wasn't Cassie's killer… but his continuing obsession with Hannah does leave open the opportunity for another surprising murder, the murder of another person Dexter had come to care about.
Here's how we got there:
At Cassie's apartment, Dexter immediately suspects Zach as the murderer, as the method of killing matches exactly with how Norma Rivera (who Zach did kill) died. Later, Dex runs tests on the blood he stealthily swabbed from underneath Cassie's fingernails, and it's Zach's blood.
Dexter assumes his young mentee has struck again, and he tells Dr. Vogel, who was treating Zach, that her patient has to die. She wonders if it will be harder for Dexter to kill Zach now that the two have started to bond, and Dexter says no. Dr. V doubts that's true. She also asks Dexter if he had ignored Zach to be with Hannah, which hits a nerve with Dexter, who is already worried that he has some responsibility for Cassie's death.
Because, yes, Dexter has been preoccupied with Hannah. He's clearly still in love with her, and if she's to be believed (she is a serial-killing manipulator of men, after all), the feeling is mutual. When Dexter visits her at the marina to take her photo for a new passport so she can flee, the attraction between them is palpable. Dexter asks her to accompany him on a trip to Fiesta Key, where he has traced Zach.
And because Mr. Morgan doesn't have quite enough complications going on in his life, sister Deb is also on his case to take care of their Hannah problem. He tells her Hannah is no longer a threat, which Deb understandably doesn't believe, since, you know, Hannah poisoned them a mere few days ago.
"I'm on top of it," Dexter assures her.
"Are you on top of it, or are you on top of her?" Deb asks, sounding just as much like a jealous love interest as a concerned sister. Just sayin'.
"I Liked Knowing You Were Out There"
Anyway, Deb isn't going to rely on Dexter to take care of her/their Hannah problem. She already put a tracker on Dex's car, and now she's drawing boss Elway into the mix. She goes to the money-lovin' private eye and tells him she knows Hannah McKay is in town, and there's a $250,000 cash reward just waiting for them if they can be the ones to find her. He's in.
Hannah isn't in Miami, though, not at the moment… she's with Dexter, on the way to Fiesta Key. Along the way, he fills her in on the Zach situation, and on his new relationship with Dr. Vogel, the woman who "created" him and his code-following dark passenger. Hannah also asks him why he never tried to find her when she broke out of jail. Wasn't she a problem he needed to solve?, she wonders. "I liked knowing you were out there," he says.
[Related: Check Out Our Recap of Last Week's 'Dexter']
Dex and Hannah take a road trip break at a beachside café, where they enjoy a shrimp feast and flirty conversation — the closest the two of them have ever come to having a normal date. Too bad their fun and laughter is interrupted by the arrival of two cops at the café, which ends the meal and any pretense that they can ever have anything resembling a normal life together in Miami.
"Are We There Yet?"
Arriving at Zach's motel room in the Keys, Dexter breaks in and sees that Zach has been paying attention: The room is set up as a kill room, Dexter-style, complete with plastic sheeting covering everything and a shiny new set of knives open on the bed. Harry appears and tells Dexter Zach didn't do so badly, considering it's his first effort. No, he didn't, Dexter agrees, and says he'll use the room himself… on Zach.
Zach returns to his room and finds Hannah and a very angry Dexter waiting for him. Dex immediately accuses him of killing Cassie, but Zach says he didn't do it. He prepared the room for Shawn Decker, a creepy high school classmate who once told him he killed a girl while having sex with her. Zach can even prove it; he has time-stamped photos of his stalking mission, and, oh yeah, Shawn's dead body in his trunk.
"I decided to go after a killer… someone who deserves it," Zach says. Dexter is more than a little bit proud of his overly eager yet committed mini-Dex. Zach was actually following Dexter's code without even knowing such a code existed.
Dexter still points out the holes in Zach's plan, or lack thereof, and decides he and his mentee will take care of Shawn's body and Zach's DNA-littered car, while Hannah cleans up the room.
"Dude!" Zach says in approval of Hannah. Dexter: "Do not 'dude' me. Get in the car."
After Hannah cleans the room, she takes out the garbage and is greeted by a gun-toting Deb when she returns to the room.
Deb wants her to put handcuffs on; Hannah refuses, and says she'll tell everyone what Dexter does. Go ahead, Deb says. No one will believe you. "Believe me, better people than you have tried," Deb says. (RIP, LaGuerta.)
Hannah continues her fast-talkin', saying they've all done things they regret, but she's now being led by a stronger force: Dexter. She says she doesn’t enjoy killing, but sometimes that's the only way she knows how to deal with a problem. She could have killed Deb with the poison, she points out, but didn’t, because she knows how much Dexter cares about Deb. "I didn't want to hurt him," Hannah tells her. "He loves me, too… do you really want to hurt him?"
Dexter and Zach return to the motel at that moment, and Deb, realizing something — something bad and complicated, given this assembled crew — has happened, hightails it out of the room. "F--k it. I don't want to know. I don't want to know anything else ever," she says.
Dexter and Hannah, with their little serial killer guy in the backseat, drive back to Miami. It makes for one handsome, but seriously twisted, family-like portrait, especially when Zach asks, "Are we there yet?"
A Very Special Dinner Party
The trio arrives back in Miami and make a pit stop at Dr. Vogel's to tell her Zach is alive and well (well, relatively speaking), and that he is not Cassie's killer. Vogel invites them in for dinner, where she meets Hannah for the first time and observes how much Dexter and Hannah care for each other.
"The truth is, you make a good couple," she tells them. "And probably a bad one, too."
Then, because this is not a regular dinner party, but a gathering of three serial killers and the doctor they call The Psychopath Whisperer, there are no games of Charades or Pictionary. They look at blood splatter pics from Cassie's murder scene instead.
Dexter wonders again how Zach's blood got under Cassie's nails… could someone have messed with Zach's car door handle, so that Zach would cut himself and bleed on the handle, so his blood could be planted on Cassie to frame him for the murder?
As the night winds down, Vogel takes Zach home and Dexter drives Hannah to her hotel, where they say goodbye and discuss her future plans. She promises to let him know where she ends up… instead, they end up in bed. (Dexter Morgan trivia: He leaves his socks on.)
Later, Dex goes home, opens his door, and finds Zach sitting at his desk with Vogel's favorite song, "Make Your Own Kind of Music," playing. Zach appears to be dead, and when Dexter spins him around and we see the back of his head, we know it's true. The back of his skull is missing — the very spot where the anterior insular cortex, the part of the brain responsible for making us feel empathy, should be.
And in an episode-ending montage, Deb unpacks her cop uniform from her closet, Dexter dumps Zach's body in the ocean, Elway makes a call to report a Hannah sighting in Miami, and Vogel receives another jar, containing what we're guessing is Zach's anterior insular cortex.
Dexter follows up his body-dumping excursion with a trip to the docks, where Hannah is about to board a plane to flee the country.
"Don't go. Stay with me," he asks, as they embrace.
"Dexter" Short Cuts:
Harrison cuteness alert: When Quinn refers to him as "the kid," Dexter's offspring turns around and tells him, "My name is Harrison!"
Chief Matthews, when he sees Nikki saging the lab, asks Masuka what she's doing. "Clearing the bad murder juju out of the lab," he says. Matthews: "Does she realize this is a department founded on bad murder juju?"
Joey Quinn does not want to let go of the Zach Hamilton angle. He's convinced Zach is a killer, and he continues to pursue his suspicions, much to Dexter's chagrin. Quinn even meets with Cassie's boyfriend, Oliver Saxon, to show him a photo of Zach and ask if he knows him. Oliver says no, but that he looks familiar. Add Oliver, along with Deb's boss Jacob Elway, to the list of "Dexter" Season 8 characters who we suspect are hiding some serious secrets that will impact the rest of the season.
Despite pulling him into her Hannah pursuit, Deb tells Elway she's abandoning the hunt — and the potential $250K payday — and that she isn't sure she wants to continue working for him. She's considering a return to the Miami PD, she says. Could this be setting up that "Dexter" spinoff we're hearing so much about?
During Dr. Vogel's impromptu dinner party with two serial killers and a young, aspiring one, she was still concerned with good manners. "Elbows," she tells Zach when he leans on the table.
Also during dinner, Hannah asks Dr. V what inspired her to go into the psychopath biz. Vogel quickly changes the subject. Obviously, that's a juicy piece of backstory to which we have not yet been privy.
When Hannah thanks Dr. Vogel for dinner, Vogel responds, "Oh, it's refreshing to see a girl who can really eat." Me-ow.
"Dexter" airs Sundays at 9 PM on Showtime.