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Matt's Inside Line: Mentalist Casting News, Plus Scoop on House, Fringe, Justifed and More!

Who’s returning to meddle with The Mentalist? Which House doc will land in great jeopardy? Which Fringe loose end might finally be picked up? Read on for those scoops, plus other teases from TV’s hottest shows.

The Mentalist | I’ve got some exclusive casting details from the CBS procedural, and Part 1 involves another appearance by cult leader Bret Stiles, played by the always entertaining Malcolm McDowell. He will be in a sweeps episode airing Feb. 23 and also guest-starring CSI alumna Louise Lombard as the Dean of a college associated with the Visualize Cult. The CBI crew will question Lombard’s character when a student’s brother is found murdered.

Exclusive: The Mentalist Taps Diane Farr, Bonnie Somerville and James Frain For February Sweeps

House | The Feb. 6 episode, guest-starring Emmy winner Jeffrey Wright, has been described as potentially an “instant classic,” and exec producer Greg Yaitanes, who directed the hour, is calling it “the work I am most proud” in his 16 years of directing television. Now having screened the episode, we can see why. Wright, as a mentor of Foreman’s who is leading a disciplinary hearing scrutinizing House’s rogue antics, is one of the good doc’s most formidable foils to date. But the case of the week that House is specifically being held accountable for is just as much a star, revolving around a chemistry teacher who collapsed while out for a run. In the course of treating the patient, one member of House’s team – by defying the boss man’s orders – winds up injured in a way that has shocking repercussions. On the lighter side of the hour, House engages in a war of pranks that at one point evokes Greg Brady’s bad hair tonic experience.

Ask Ausiello: Spoilers on House, Once Upon a Time, Bones and More!

Fringe | OK, you wanna know about The Zeppelin Man who was introduced in the animated segment of last season’s “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide” and is fated to kill Olivia? Here is what exec producer J.H. Wyman told me about that loose thread: “We ourselves get frustrated with other shows that only ask questions and leave things up in the air and don’t really answer them, so we really take pride in saying, ‘Look our drama is strong enough that we can actually answer the questions.’ Let’s just say that we’re going to try and get you satisfying conclusions for all those things that are up in the air.” For example, Wyman shared, “You’ll learn a lot more about the Observers this year. And yes, you probably will understand a lot about that guy in the zeppelin.” Now let’s just hope that the show bosses get one more season to tie everything in an extra-neat bow!

Fringe Update: Season 5 Discussions Underway, J.J. Abrams ‘Hopeful’ Show Will Be Back

Justified | Now that you’ve met Ellstin Limehouse (played by Boomtown‘s Mykelti Williamson), you may wonder what sort of fresh hell he’ll stir up for Boyd, with whom he is about to have the not-the-friendliest of pow-wows. “He’s like the Godfather of ‘the other side of the tracks,’ and Ava has a past with him,” Joelle Carter told me. “If [Ellstin and Boyd] cross each other, it will be hard for Ava, because her loyalty is with Boyd now but she has this past with this man who really helped her out at a time when she needed it.” Detailing Ava’s backstory with the baddie, Carter shared, “A lot of the women who get battered, when seeking refuge, would go to that part of town, because the men wouldn’t follow them [there] — and Limehouse in particular would protect them.”

Exclusive: The Finder Hosts 7th Heaven Reunion, Casts George Stults as Geoff’s TV Brother

The Finder | One key difference between Walter and Isabel and Bones‘ own Booth and Brennan is the sex factor – meaning that the spin-off’s improbably attractive twosome had and have no bones about… er, jumping into bed with… each other. But is there more to this match-up than making whoopee? “They’re ‘friends with benefits,'” Mercedes Masohn tells TVLine, “but as you will see, we do sort of make things a bit more monogamous” in an upcoming episode — though taking such a step won’t come easy. “Isabel has trouble expressing her emotions, so it’s a lot of ‘Will she realize, and will he realize, that they are in fact perfect for one another?'” says the actress. “It’s not just a work thing, it’s not just sleeping together – they’re just all-around great for each other. They’re ‘yin and yang.'”

Switched at Birth | On Feb. 7, viewers will meet Kathryn’s mother Bonnie, aka Bay’s (though really Daphne’s) grandma, to be played by Family Ties matriarch Meredith Baxter. Previewing the mother-daughter dynamic, Lea Thompson tells me, “We have our own issues, and she has issues with the switch.” Specifically, Bonnie will give voice to some of the pricklier issues regarding the discovered switch and who has come into her family. “Her prejudices come out and we get to talk about that, which is interesting,” says Thompson. Of course, also interesting is the DNA that Thompson and Baxter already “shared” going into this. “It was really fun for me to work with her, because of Michael [J.] Fox and our connection in both playing his mom at the same time [in Family Ties and Back to the Future]!”

If there’s a show you’d like the Inside Line on, email mattmtvguy@gmail.com, and maybe it’ll get some love the next time around! (With reporting by Alyse Whitney)