Dexter Morgan -- crime-scene investigator by day, serial killer by night -- could be learning his greatest lesson ever.
"This guy is very much aware of the profile he is avoiding," Michael C. Hall, who plays the scheming Dexter, once said to me. "As a result of that, he has cultivated a persona that goes against it, in terms of his social skills."
Over the years, Dexter has gone from being a loner to a married man (now widowed) with a young son. All this time, he's been able to keep his double life a secret.
In the season finale of "Dexter" (airing 9 p.m. EST Sunday, Showtime), he's facing one of his biggest challenges. His latest enemy is a serial killer (Colin Hanks) who leaves religious imagery on his victims' bodies.
He and Dexter have been playing a cat-and-mouse game for weeks, with the result being Dexter's foe knowing far too much about him. Working on such tense stories can be taxing for Hall.
"Dexter is dark, and shedding him can be work," Hall said. "Maybe I should have a ritual to help me get rid of him at the end of the day."
This season finale will be emotionally charged. It will take their chase one step more as Dexter's pre-school son gets caught between Dexter and this mad man.
Though Dexter has been compromised before with other such enemies, this particular situation looks to be a bit more dire.
Producers say developments from this finale will start setting the stage for the series finale, coming in two more seasons.
Other highlights for the week of Dec. 18-24 (listings subject to change; check local listings):
-- "Survivor: South Pacific" (8 p.m., CBS). A winner is named after the jury makes its decision.
-- "Homeland" (10 p.m., Showtime). The Claire Danes espionage drama wraps up its first season.
-- "Who's Still Standing?" (8 p.m., NBC). Contestants who fail to answer trivia questions right away are dropped into a hole in this American translation of a hit British series. The goal is to win $1 million.
-- "A Chipmunk Christmas" (8:30 p.m., ABC). Alvin and the other chipmunks help out an ailing child around the holidays.
-- "Divas Celebrate Soul" (9 p.m., VH1). Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah and Jennifer Hudson are among the divas paying tribute to soul music and notable cities that shaped it in America.
-- "Best in the Business" (8 p.m., Discovery). Ben Bailey of "Cash Cab" is host of this competition that pits the best of America's workforce in a contest of their skills.
-- "Too Fat For 15: Fighting Back" (8 p.m., The Style Network). Teenager Tanisha from North Carolina went from 510 pounds to 231.5. The season finale of this weight-loss reality series will chronicle how she did it and where she is now.
-- "The X-Factor" (8 p.m., Fox). A winner is named in the first-season finale.
-- "Prep and Landing" (8:30 p.m., ABC). Two of Santa's elves slack off in their prep work before Christmas and have a lot of work cut out for them as a result.
-- "Hollywood At Home" (8 p.m., HGTV). Mark Ballas ("Dancing with the Stars"), George Jones and Carly Patterson open up their homes and share their personal style with viewers.