Criminal Minds

The Wife:

And so another season of Criminal Minds draws to a close with a bomb . . . only this time, it was a C-bomb! What what! C. Thomas Howell up in your faces, bitches! But I’ll get to Tommy later when I discuss the two-part season finale. But first, I must discuss three other episodes:

4.22 “The Big Wheel”

Criminal Minds often does some of its best character work when it allows us to identify first with the episode’s villain, even sometimes to sympathize and root for him. Certainly, I-don’t-know-why-he-isn’t-a-fucking-star-yet Anton Yelchin got a great character episode in season three’s “Sex, Birth and Death” (see also the Official Documentary of Matthew Gray Gubler on The Gube’s website, in which Yelchin does a great job of sucking up to The Gube and pretending like he’s an acting god; it’s good stuff), and here CBS favorite and Moonlight star Alex O’Loughlin got a great role in an otherwise totally obvious and uninteresting episode. O’Loughlin played a loner cameraman/photographer/videographer with OCD who, after witnessing his father murder his mother and watching a tape of the act repeatedly, murders women resembling his mother each year on the anniversary of his death. Only one year, he murdered a woman who had a blind son and, besieged by guilt for robbing a boy like himself of a mother, he later befriended the boy and planned to atone for what he had done. O’Loughlin’s Vincent found his victim’s son after he was placed in a foster home through a kind of Big Brothers-Big Sisters program and promised the boy he would one day take him on a Ferris wheel, alluded to throughout the episode by the repetition of two concentric circles (either drawn on the boy’s palm or circled around the date of the boy’s birthday). I don’t really know what a blind kid gets out of a Ferris wheel (wind? the feeling of being high up?), but Vincent managed to spirit him out of his home to fulfill his promise of taking the boy to the Ferris wheel, only to poison himself at the top of the ride and slip away into death while the boy simpered at his side and held his lifeless hand.

Even when I think about Feed, he's still cute.

Even when I think about Feed, he's still cute.

I’ll admit that I’m one of many, many humans on this planet powerless to the unstoppable sexiness of Alex O’Loughlin, and he is definitely hot in thick black glasses (with or without a camera mounted to them). And even hotter in long johns!

4.23 “Roadkill”

I didn’t like Deathproof and I didn’t like this episode.

Although, fundamentally, the motivations for murder with one’s vehicle were proven different in this episode (misdirected guilt vs. vehicular rape), I still find something about vehicular manslaughter to be unsettling. Could it be the fact that it would have been really, really easy for any of the victims in this episode to simply run off the road? Or, in the case of the parking garage, not to run up the parking structure, but, perhaps, back into the building from whence you came, weaving between barriers of vehicles the whole way? I guess in the very least I can say that I’m pleased Reid validated my dislike of Tarantino’s Deathproof by actually talking about vehicular rape.

In a semi-related note, I’d like to mention that my husband has been watching All-American Girl a.k.a. the sitcom starring Margaret Cho that is so totally not based on her stand-up at all, and he showed me the “Pulp Sitcom” episode last night, featuring her then-boyfriend Quentin Tarantino as a videotape bootlegger. I am glad he gave up acting. Because he really sucks at it. The only thing he’s good at is showing up for a brief cameo in Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror to have his junk blown off, which is kind of an apology for positing that a rape-act should be retribution for a rape-act, if we read the vehicular rape theory into Deathproof. And kind of not.

4.24 “Amplification”

Rarely does CM do something I find frightening, but anthrax is pretty scary, yo. Especially whacked-out mutant strains of anthrax unleashed onto unsuspecting groups of people! Especially when my darling Spencer Reid accidentally exposes himself to some of that super-mutant anthrax and nearly fucking dies! Not okay! (I mean, as a viewer, I was pretty sure Reid would live as he is so crucial to the show and all, but, still – how heartless would I be if I didn’t tear up when he called Garcia to record a message to his schizophrenic mother to tell her, as he sputtered and coughed from the anthrax in his lungs, that he was proud to be her son?) In addition to the horror of this episode’s threat, I have to say that it was one of CM‘s better thematic episodes, as well. With Reid’s sacrifice, we’re asked to ponder a central conceit bandied about during this episode, “Is it better to sacrifice the few to save the lives of many?”

J.J. and Emily struggle with their own interpretations of the question. When Hotch forbids the team from calling their families to warn them about potential outbreaks, J.J. wonders what harm it could do to call home and tell her nanny not to take her infant son for his daily park stroll. Hotch tells her it would be unfair of them to use privileged information to save their families when they couldn’t give the same information to the public they serve. Similarly, when Prentiss and Rossi investigate the home of the unsub, a curious neighbor comes up to them and inquires if she should get her children indoors, after seeing some commotion at the house. Prentiss seems like she’s about to tell the woman about the anthrax, but instead informs her that the house is infested with toxic mold. They shouldn’t come near the house, but her children should be safe to play outdoors. It would be wonderful for both J.J. and Emily to share their information and save a life, but both would be at the greater cost of potentially letting that information spread uncontrolled, causing panic and endangering more than it would save.

Hotch comes up against his own interpretation of the phrase when he goes against an army general for control of the anthrax investigation. They debate principles of information dissemination, with the general taking the opposite line of the BAU (and also totally not getting profiling, like, at all), asserting that its not appropriate to sacrifice the lives of the few to save the lives of many . . . thus completely destroying the hopes of anyone who practices utilitarianism of working in government . . . even though that’s basically the point of government . . . but . . . whatever. Eventually, General Witworth comes around to working with the FBI, especially when Garcia is able to track down Nicols’ assistant, a grad student doing a case study on anthrax with whom Nicols, a former government researcher, was more than happy to share his work. It’s this man, Chad Brown, rejected for working at government labs numerous times, who planned to initiate a large-scale anthrax attack that would cripple military presence in D.C. With help from Garcia, Reid discovered most of this while trapped inside Nichols’ home laboratory, nearly dying from anthrax, but not before discovering the cure for the mutant strain lodged in a safe, unsuspecting place: Nichols’ inhaler. So when Hotch and Morgan intercept Brown as he’s about to attack the D.C. subway system, Witworth steps in and pretends he wants Brown to recreate the strain of anthrax for government use, giving him the recognition he desired and getting him to hand over his bag full of lightbulb anthrax bombs while Morgan handcuffs him.

And thanks to Reid finding the cure, he and three other victims of the park attack survive. And thanks to the rest of the BAU, D.C. goes on, unaware of the threat to the lives of its citizens. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Good stuff, Criminal Minds. Good stuff.

4.25 “To Hell and Back”

As its own fucked-up, two-hour horror movie, this would be pretty great. I totally love the idea of a quadriplegic Garret Dillahunt forcibly controlling his mentally challenged younger, pig-farming brother with guilt and convincing him to kill transients and extract their spinal fluid in the twisted hope that, one day, mentally-challenged pig-farmer brother will be able to follow research and restore Dillahunt’s motor functions. I totally love that. I totally loved that there were never any bodies after Lucas and Mason’s experiments because, just like when Dillahunt was on Deadwood (both times, in fact), they were fed to the pigs. I loved that Lucas collected the shoes of his victims, and I loved that his most recent abductee, a crack whore named Kelly, was so good at convincing him to follow her lead instead of his brother’s that I really think she could have a career as a suicide counselor or a hostage negotiator once she gets out of rehab and into community college.

And I have to admit, the unnecessary shootout at the end, in which the SWAT team rains bullets on Lucas because he wants to make sure his new friend is okay, while the man who brought this case to the BAU, Sgt. Hightower, enters into the farmhouse to straight-up assassinate the defenseless Garret Dillahunt? That was pretty brutal. The BAU never wants to end a mission in bloodshed, and sometimes, there are not neat quotes to sum up a day’s events – especially when that day’s events truly end with George Foyett sneaking up on Hotch in his apartment, and the episode ends with the sound of a gunshot and blackness.

I kind of don’t care about Hotch, and I do deeply love how fucked up George Foyett is – especially because it’s clear to me that C. Thomas Howell will be around for a mutli-episode arc at the beginning of next season. By attacking Hotch, Foyett has gone outside of his normal methodology, which means something here is seriously wrong, and I can’t wait to find out what it is. The threat of a C-bomb is way better than the threat of an actual bomb, and that coda, complete with Hotch’s excellently creepy voiceover about the summation of events through quotations tells me we’re in for a wonderful season opener next year, in which I think we might actually lose someone important to the show . . . unlike this season’s opener, in which the person who died was someone no one cared about.

The Wife:

Our DVR was getting close to capacity, so this weekend was very procedurally focused for me. But before I start talking about Criminal Minds, I’d like to suggest that you all visit Matthew Gray Gubler’s personal website. I discovered it a few months ago, and even though I already harbor a fairly well-known crush on the good Dr. Reid, I am now head-over-heels in love with the actor behind him. Gubler has worked with Wes Anderson, used to be a fashion model and is also an artist, drawing some truly strange and macabre little watercolors and sketches. You’ll either love him more for this website, or become slightly afraid of him. Either way, you should check it out. He’s amazing.

4.17 “Demonology”

An episode about exorcism that I no longer really remember, sufficient to say that it took place in Georgetown, which is funny because that’s where The Exorcist was filmed and also funny because I happen to know that a linguistic consultant for the show sometimes guest lectures at the school.

I do remember, though, that this was a good character episode for Prentiss, who is rocked by the death of her friend, a friend who stood by her when she had an abortion in Rome at 15 and helped her walk into church with her head held high, despite what everyone in the room thought of her. Some very good work by the multi-talented Paget Brewster in this episode, but nothing else stand-out.

(Husband Note: I do, however, remember the presence of Walton Goggins as one of Prentiss’ old friends, and that I could not take him seriously because of how pathetic he as a character became during the final season of The Shield. I hate to typecast actors, but he was so good as the show’s truly tragic, wretched second lead that I can’t see him as anybody else. Sort of like how Dylan Baker will always be a pedophile.)

4.18 “Omnivore”

Besides Matthew Gray Gubler, you know who else is amazing? C. Thomas Howell.

First of all, dude works like a motherfucker. He may have never been a star, but when I see someone with 127 credits to their name since the age of 11, I’d say they’re living the dream that only a lucky few get to experience: being a working actor. Tommy is perhaps best known for his work in The Hitcher and the movie that should have made him an 80s teen star, Soul Man (but kind of didn’t because he was kind of in blackface . . . just watch it . . . it’s not as horrifying as it sounds, but why anyone thought Tommy would make a convincing black man, I’ll never know). But I know Tommy best for somehow beating Hal Sparks on VH1’s Celebracadabra, a short-run series where “celebrities” learn magic. Look, I love Tommy, but Hal Sparks had that shit in the bag. In any case, Tommy is a totally likeable human being . . . which just goes to show you how good of an actor he is in this episode of CM.

(Husband Correction: He is definitely known the best for Red Dawn and The Outsiders, but yes, we are in agreement that C. Thomas Hwell is the muthafuckin’ man.)

I am hurt and confused that The Wife does not remember my brilliant performance in Red Dawn. Wolverines? No?

I am hurt and confused that The Wife does not remember my brilliant performance in Red Dawn. Wolverines? No?

Given that he had top billing of guest stars in the episode, it was not at all a surprise to me that his character, George Foyett, was actually The Boston Reaper, a serial killer that had made a pact with the police 10 years ago to stop killing as long as he was no longer pursued, a pact that would soon expire. Foyett was the Reaper’s sole survivor, and that’s because Foyett, a hebophile (someone who is sexually aroused by teenage girls), had murdered a girl he was allegedly going to propose to and then inflicted 67 stab wounds into himself to throw the police off his trail, all the while being able to assume another identity (his own, non-killing identity) and profess the “real” story about the Reaper to the media, thus gaining the kind of fame serial killers like to have.

Once the team figures out that Foyett is the killer, they arrest him, only to find out that he has engineered his own escape from jail – the arrest and escape were something he had been plotting in the ten years he lay dormant, all to feed into his own legend and narcissism. Frankly, I think that was a great twist and it opens us up to another episode with C. Thomas Howell in the future. And that’s only a good thing, because I now cannot get the image of Tommy with blood running down his chin out of my head. And that’s disturbing, because it was kind of sexy.

4.19 “House on Fire”

And that truly brilliant Boston Reaper episode was followed by something of a non-starter involving a serial arsonist in a small town, all because the town drove away a due whose “love map” went all wonky when his parents died in a fire, thus giving him an unnatural attachment to his sister. Lost’s Sam Anderson guest starred as the town doctor, basically playing another version of Bernard, and Michael Rooker had very thick facial hair as the town Sheriff, which really threw me off because I’m used to a clean shaven Rooker.

The best part of this episode, though, was Garcia having to play profiler by digging deep into the victim’s pasts to find any connecting threads at all. She’s excellent at digging, and there were some good character moments for her here when she realizes that she likes to pour through information, not the minds of people.

4.20 “Conflicted”

I never really did “Spring Break” the way MTV wants you to do Spring Break, so I have a hard time picturing people voluntarily going to warm locales just to drink a lot and have random hookups. I can, however, picture a scenario like the one in this episode where Alpha male Spring Breakers are being raped and murdered, presumably by a male-female partnership.

And they’re right – except that the male/female partnership are the same person, hotel housekeeper Adam Jackson and his alter personality, Amanda, who surfaces to protect Adam. And when Amanda is arrested, she becomes the dominate personality, locking Adam away inside her.

I should note that in addition to guest star Roma Maffia (Hey there, Liz Cruz!), this episode also featured Jackson Rathbone as Adam/Amanda. I thought that Rathbone was incredible in this role, because that Amanda was definitely one fucking crazy bitch, and I am now even more impressed because I should have known him from Twilight. He plays Jasper, and he seems to be one of the most hated things about the movie as it always looks like Jasper is getting an enema. Rathbone is a good actor, I’m just pretty sure that working with material from Stephenie Meyer is nowhere near as good for stretching one’s acting abilities than twisted shit in a guest spot on a procedural. Or maybe Jason Alexander is better at directing actors than Catherine Hardwicke? Either way, I’m now looking forward to the later movies in the series where Jasper actually has things to do.

Sorry, I just got a flash of that one time I created an army of vampires during the Civil War.

Sorry, I just got a flash of that one time I created an army of vampires during the Civil War.

(Husband Note: I just had a fun time calling the episode out on its bullshit, as the “Texan island” where the episode took place was just Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles, right the fuck next to the airport. Had the camera moved slightly to the right in some shots, I would have seen my clearly SoCal alma mater. I don’t know a whole lot about the islands off of Texas in the Gulf, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t look like an episode of The O.C.)

4.21 “A Shade of Gray”

A sociopathic child incapable of feeling remorse kills his little brother and his parents hire their cop friend to make it look like it’s part of an ongoing serial kidnapping case to get the BAU involved. All I could think of is that this is all probably guest star Gretchen Egoff’s fault, because she should have made that little sociopath a pizza sandwich.

Oh, man, I miss Journeyman.

The Wife:

Wednesday nights are rough enough with Lost alone and are especially rough now that there’s Idol, ANTM and Make Me a Supermodel. It’s a reality show power block, and when faced with models making fools of themselves and wannabe popstars, it’s really difficult to make the decision to watch a procedural. I love Criminal Minds, but it’s just been getting backlogged on my DVR, so with due respect to other fans and to those involved on the show, here’s a catch up on the last four episodes or so.

4.13: “Bloodline”

In Bloodline, the BAU team investigates kidnappings of young blonde girls and discovers that, over the course of about 100 years, there have been other isolated disappearances. Not only do the kidnappers take the daughters, but murder the parents in their sleep so the girl will have no one to return to. The team ties these kidnappings and murders to a Romani (gypsy) family trying to find a wife for their young son. The mother of the Romani boy was once kidnapped herself, and developed a wicked case of Stockholm syndrome.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty cool episode, especially the twist with the boy’s mother and the extra twist at the end as she whispers to her son in Romani: “Don’t tell them about your brothers.”

4.14: “Cold Comfort”

This episode had a semi-Buffy reunion with a quick guest spot from Nick Brendon and Mercedes McNab (Harmony) as the victim, Brooke Lombardini. A string of missing blonde girls (always blondes as the fetish object on this show) prompts BAU involvement when some of the girls start turning up dead and, even more oddly, embalmed, each with double pierced ears and the same haircut.

As Brooke’s mother, Lolita “Catface” Davidovich gets her missing daughter’s necklace out of evidence and takes it to a psychic who believes he can read a person’s aura if he has contact with something of theirs. Rossi is not cool with this for a variety of reasons, citing the spread of false hope and the potential of conning victim’s families. J.J. is less sure, touched by Davidovich’s desperation to find her daughter, and eventually takes a piece of evidence to the psychic. The psychic her that he sees Brooke near a rocky shoreline, which makes J.J. think that their unsub has taken the girls to his parent’s home on Mercer Island. Only Mercer Island doesn’t match with any of the other evidence, including wire transfers from the unsub’s father to support his income for the four years he’s been killing, living off his trust fund and off the map.

A former medical student, the unsub was raised by an au pair from Denmark, a petite blonde named Abby with a bob and double pierced ears, who suddenly died one day when his parents were on vacation. For three days, he stayed curled up next to Abby’s body and has been trying to recreate her ever since. He kidnapped girls and held them until they admitted they were Abby, and then he killed them, dressed them up as her and raped their corpses.

The team catches him just in time in a warehouse, with Rossi boldly proclaiming that he was as far from Mercer Island as he could get . . . until Hotch takes a tarp off the window and reveals a painted mural of a lighthouse on a rocky shoreline.

J.J. apologizes to Rossi for bringing in the physic and potentially leading them down the wrong path. As a new mother, all she could see was a mother losing her child and she wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Rossi tells her that those feelings are valid and that believing in psychics is fine, as long as J.J. always remembers that she should believe foremost in what they do at the BAU.

Thats my son with Abby. I always knew he harbored a weird oedipal crush on her.

That's my son with Abby. I always knew he harbored a weird oedipal crush on her.

Cybill Shepard was also in this episode as the unsub’s mother, basically playing her character on The L Word as a powerful woman who constantly belittles her husband. (This character, too, was probably going to have an affair with Alice Piezecki and leave him.) It was a guest star-a-palooza, and a decent episode with a nice tension between faith and fact.

4.15: “Zoe’s Reprise”

In the Cleveland leg of his book tour, Rossi meets a young criminology student who tells him she believes there’s a serial killer in Cleveland due to the increased homicide rate. When she tells Rossi of the facts of the case, he says that he currently doesn’t see any serial involvement (as each murder location and type and victimology are wildly different), but tells Zoe to continue her studies, contact him for any career advice she might need and tells her to never stop until she’s got the answers she’s looking for.

When Zoe turns up dead at one of the previous crime scenes, Rossi blames himself, believing she never would have gone investigating if he hadn’t encouraged her to be so intrepid. Her mother doesn’t want anything to do with Rossi, and is incensed when she finds out that a guilty Rossi decided to take care of the funeral.

As for the serial killer, it took Zoe’s murder for people to realize that she was correct the whole time. He started as a copycat killer, unsure of his style, which is why all the murders prior to Zoe’s were so different. He killed first as Cleveland’s own Butcher of Kingsbury Park (who picked up dudes at gay clubs, killed them and left their bodies in the park), as the Son of Sam (shooting couples in cars), as BTK and even as Jack the Ripper, until, with Zoe, he finally found his signature: strangulation, sealed with a tender kiss to the forehead, wiped away with alcohol. The team doesn’t discover the bit about the kiss until two victims after Zoe, and Rossi has to ask Zoe’s mother to return her body to the morgue so they can examine her forehead and see if there’s a kiss. Zoe’s kiss wasn’t wiped away with alcohol, so from her body they are able to get the name of her killer and track him down.

They catch him in what they believe is an act of murder, only to find out he was just trying to have sex in public with his girlfriend – something he does often because it’s the only way he can get off. With him and the girlfriend in custody, Prentiss discovers that he took Linda to every single one of his crime scenes to have sex. The unsub tells Rossi that there are more bodies, which Reid is easily able to locate by comparing the sex list to the framed images on the unsub’s wall. It wasn’t enough for him to simply visit the crime scenes. He had to look at them every day in order to relive the experience.

Also a fan of Rossi’s work, the unsub tells him that he hopes Rossi can write a chapter on him in one of his books someday. Still guilt-ridden, Rossi returns to lay flowers on Zoe’s grave and runs into her mother, who asks if Zoe’s killer was captured and jailed. Rossi assures her that he is, and she tells Rossi that Zoe would be proud of that fact. Rossi goes on to cancel his book tour, and J.J. tells him that he was the reason she joined the BAU. Fresh out of Georgetown, she didn’t know what she wanted to do, but after hearing him speak, she applied to the FBI.

I enjoyed the sentimentality of this episode, as Rossi can sometimes play a little too gruff, but the murders themselves were no big mystery. The minute I saw them, I called copycat. (Thanks to my husband for showing me the film of the same name a couple months ago.) For people who study serial killers, it was most surprising to see the BAU team try to argue other methods of explanation such as escalation of violence or escalation of intimacy to explain the differences between the crimes, rather than seeing the obvious that, at the very least, the murdered couple shot to death in their car looked like Son of Sam and the strangled prostitute looked like Jack the Ripper.

4.16: “Pleasure Is My Business”

In this episode about a high-class call girl who kills her wealthy clients, I learned a couple of valuable pieces of information.

  1. Should I ever want to become a Madame, real estate makes a good cover with flexible hours.
  2. FinderSpyder has become the fiction search-engine du jour, officially outliving the last show it appeared on, Journeyman, in which I thought it was supposed to be LexisNexis. (If it is intended to be LexisNexis, the killer hooker in question has a background in journalism, time traveling, or time traveling journalism.)

(Husband Note: I too started to notice the widespread use of the fictional Finder-Spyder, a mixture of LexisNexis and Google, last television season when it showed up not only on Journeyman, but also on Moonlight. Now I see that there’s a Wikipedia page detailing its appearances, including two I should have already caught (on Prison Break and the guilty pleasure Hidden Palms). The link is here.)
When wealthy Dallas businessmen with a $10K hooker habit start turning up dead, the Dallas cops call in only Hotch, hoping to keep this as under wraps as possible. Hotch requests his team when it appears that there is a single serial killing prostitute, but he has to fight with the corporate lawyers working to cover these murders up as natural deaths for the entirety of the investigation.

The call girl, Megan, kills men who walked out on their families only because her father abandoned her family for a pro. For a female serial killer, the goal is only to kill, never to find some kind of sexual release. She contacts Hotchner when she hears from a client that the FBI plans to cooperate with the corporate lawyers to cover the whole thing up, desperately pleading with him to expose these men, and that she hoped he’d come and catch her because the men she killed were bad men who needed to be punished for leaving their families. She eventually lures her own father to come to her, and he tries to get her to give over her client list so that none of the men he works with will be exposed when she’s arrested. She hands over her Blackberry, but removes the SIM card. By the time Hotcher arrives, she’s poisoned herself, but as she waits to die, she hands the SIM card to him, telling him to stay with her until she succumbs to death.

Of these four episodes (and clearly, I watched “Bloodline” long before I watched the others, given how little I was able to say about it), “Pleasure Is My Business” was probably my least favorite. It tried to be one of the episodes that gives a good psychological portrait of the killer, but it mostly seemed to toss out information about the nature of high-class sex work. I find that information valuable, but I found the characterization of this killer weak. Glad to see a female serial killer, of course, as they’re unusual in the world and the world of this show, but there have been better storylines involving women. Any storyline, for instance, involving a mother who murders or kidnaps children is instantly more harrowing than a prostitute murdering her johns to teach them a lesson. There can be a nice reversal of power in that kind of story, as there is in Monster, but it just wasn’t here.

I’ll try to do these bad boys two at a time in the future, because writing up four is really daunting.

The Wife:

I have a lot of catching up to do on Criminal Minds, I know. I got so caught up with all the other great stuff on TV before the holidays that I just let all these deliciously fucked up things sit on my DVR for weeks. There are a couple I watched while doing something else, holiday related, so I’m afraid my five-episodes-in-one catch-up won’t be as detailed as my usual writing about this show.

4.7 “Memoriam”

This episode was a great conclusion to “The Instincts,” with Reid staying in Vegas to continue his personal investigation into the murder of Riley Jenkins. During the course of his investigation, he reconnects with his father, whom he hasn’t seen in 17 years and with whom he is still incredibly angry. Based on information from his mother and a dream he relives through hypnosis, Reid begins to suspect that his father may have killed Riley and others, which would explain why he so suddenly left his family and why Reid remembers seeing his father burn bloody clothes in the backyard. As the investigation progresses, however, Reid learns from his mother and father the terrible truth about Riley’s murder and the murder of another boy around the same time, Gary Michaels: Riley’s father, Lou, had definitely killed young Gary, and Diana Reid walked in on the event, slipping in Michaels’ blood and covering her clothes in it. Realizing that she looked like an accessory to murder, Spencer’s father helped his wife burn the bloody clothes so that she could not be implicated in a crime she didn’t commit. Through this investigation, Reid puts his demons to rest and learns to forgive his father for being absent from his life for so many years.

As a nice coda to a two-episode arc about dead children, JJ gives birth to her son and the whole team is there to welcome the newest member of their family. Reid and Garcia are named as the baby’s godparents, with Reid promising to get baby Henry into CalTech with one phone call (because Yale was Reid’s safety school, and no godson of his will go to such a lowly place as Yale).

4.8 “Masterpiece”

And then that great episode was followed by something truly puzzling and bizarre, featuring Jason Alexander in a long white creepy wig with a mild soft-spoken Southern accent as a killer playing mind-games with Agent Rossi, who had previously convicted Alexander’s character’s brother of a violent crime. Alexander saw the elaborate torture and kidnapping scheme as a way to get back at Rossi for . . . doing his job? Alexander’s character also was obsessed with DaVinci and ancient Pythagorean geometry, devising his entire scheme around the golden ratio, which he knew would be very easy for Reid to solve, because Reid knows everything about everything. I have serious issues with the ideas presented by Alexander’s character, who claims to be a follower of DaVinci, but believes in killing humans simply because humans are a blight, an idea that is antithetical to DaVinci’s humanist principles. This episode was just freaking bizarre, and the casting of George Costanza in the role didn’t help. I just look at Jason Alexander’s face and all I see is a man who was once nicknamed Coco by his boss because he acted like a whiny monkey.

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? I will personally punch the casting director and the wardrobe stylist in the face for this episode.

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? I will personally punch the casting director and the wardrobe stylist in the face for this episode.

Although, I now know that Reid holds three doctorates (in chemistry, engineering and mathematics) and two bachelor’s in psychology and sociology. I’m totally intimidated and in awe of this character. I want to be like him when I grow up. And for the record, I laughed at his existentialist joke.

4.9 “52 Pickup”

I really liked this episode about a serial killer learning tricks of the trade from a pick-up artist for a variety of reasons.

1. The pick-up artist was clearly based on Mystery, star of that lame VH1 show that teaches losers how to get ladies and key player in the book The Game. You can tell Viper is supposed to be Mystery because he wears a large, fuzzy stovepipe pimp hat. Constantly.

2. Jordan really got initiated into this case, working side by side with Prentiss to catch Viper off-guard and demonstrate that none of those mind games work on the kind of women you’d actually want to have real relationships with. (Smart girls, for one.)

3. Reid got a girlfriend! He picked up a hot bartender by asking her for information on skeezy patrons with a magic trick. The Barney Stinson method works, my friends. Chicks dig magic.

It was also just a good case that involved everyone on the team using their skills well — and it was pretty funny, as far as Criminal Minds episodes go.

Wow, youre right. That hat really does make him look like a tool.

Wow, you're right. That hat really does make him look like a tool.

4.10 “Brothers in Arms”

I was doing something else entirely while I watched this episode, so I don’t remember any of it.

4.11 “Normal”

A crazy, unsettling episode in which The X-Files‘ Mitch Pileggi drives around batshit crazy straight up SHOOTING PEOPLE IN THE FUCKING FACE ON THE FREEWAY! Specifically, blonde women who drive luxury vehicles just like his wife, Faith Ford, who I realized during the course of this episode that I know way better as Corky Sherwood from Murphy Brown. Californians already have enough trouble merging; they don’t need Mitch Pileggi forcing them into confrontations at alternate merge sites in numerous construction zones just so he can shoot them in the face. It was interesting to see Mitch Pileggi play something other than a nose-to-the-grindstone hard-ass, and I actually found his foray into crazy-as-batshit to be quite terrifying, especially when we were shown scenes in “wacky Mitch Pileggi vision.” Also horrifying: the revelation that when he takes his family hostage and drives them at insane speeds through L.A. before crashing into a cop car on the freeway that his family wasn’t in the car with him at all because he’d already shot each of the blonde women in his home to death in their beds.

Yeah, I know, these write-ups are half-assed. I’m sorry. I also decided to go to sleep last night instead of watching Top Chef, so, for the five of you who care what I have to say about Top Chef, I’m sorry about that, too.

The Husband:

That episode, 4.10, that my wife doesn’t remember, it wasn’t worth remembering. Morgan got all hissy about cops dying in Arizona, Guillermo the drug dealer from Weeds shows up, and that’s about it.

As for 4.11 (“Normal”), Criminal Minds has redeemed a season full of missed opportunities and meh stories (except for the season premiere, half of the cult one and two-thirds of the Pick-Up Artist). Without question, this joins the premiere, plus episodes s1’s “LDSK,” s2’s “Sex, Birth, Death” (which re-airs on A&E this week), s2’s “Open Season” and all the Frankie Muniz stuff in s3’s “True Night” as one of my favorite episodes of this positively screwy and violent CBS procedural. Sure, the final twist was cheap, but it was also extremely effective. Mitch “The Shocker” Pileggi strikes again.

The Wife:

This episode of Criminal Minds highlighted the concept of the dangerous mother, which reminds me always of the last remaining fragments of Ovid’s Medea:

“I gave you your life. Now you wonder — will I take it, too?”

Both the killer in this episode and Reid’s mother represent the threatening mother. The killer was a woman recently released from a mental facility whose recently-born son was taken away from her by the state. After the loss of her son, her psychosis kicked in again, causing her to abduct 5-year-old boys, breastfeed them and kill them after seven days, effectively re-enacting the loss of her child. The capture of this woman and safe rescue of the second abducted boy is all thanks to Dr. Reid and his intensive knowledge of the minds of crazy women, having been raised by one.

The investigation took place in Reid’s hometown of Las Vegas, NV, where his mother has been living in an institution for years. On the flight to Vegas, he has a reoccurring dream about finding the body of a young boy in the basement, and trying to save a crawling baby. The team proposes that his dream is likely just related to the case and that, according to Freud, anytime you see a baby in a dream, it represents yourself – a thought which Reid immediately shoots down. He keeps having different versions of the dream throughout the case, including a vision of his mother with his childhood imaginary friend Riley at the funeral for the first victim. Morgan finds evidence for an abducted boy named Riley from when Reid was a child, which Reid finds highly coincidental knowing that his friend Riley was, in fact, imaginary. Hoping to gain some insight into which institution the unsub may have been released from, he visits his mother and asks her doctor for assistance, which he unfortunately cannot provide. What Reid does gain from this, however, is that his mother may not be quite as crazy as everyone may have initially believed, even though she still seems to exhibit some signs of paranoia, insisting that she left Reid’s father when Reid was seven years old because she felt her son was in danger.

“It helps if they think you’re crazy. They don’t argue.” — Mama Reid

Only after the unsub is brought into custody and the second abducted boy is safe does Reid realize that his mother may have been entirely correct about her son being in danger. As he sleeps in her room at the institution, pouring over little Riley’s case file, he has the dream again: this time realizing that the body of the boy on the floor just may be the friend he thought was imaginary, and that the man hovering over Riley’s body is Spencer’s own father.

Good night, sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Good night, sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Knowing that Spencer’s father may have been a killer – and that Reid has repressed that information for years – really informs his decision to go into this line of work. As Morgan intimates, he could have done anything he wanted to do with his life, as smart as he is, but he chose to become a profiler. I’m extremely interested to see where this goes in the future and also hopeful to see more of Jane Lynch as Reid’s mama, who was apparently only pretending to be so crazy and dangerous to protect her greatest asset: her son.

The unsub reminds me more of the Ovid line than Reid’s mother, of course, but I see the Medea-like nature in both women, and, really, in any woman. How terrible would the world have to be to get to a point where the greatest protection you feel you could afford your child is death? It’s quite possibly the darkest aspect of femininity I can imagine – the ability to both give life and to take it away. This is why goddesses are so feared in so many cultures and, possibly, subconsciously, why women have held such a low place in society until today. Oppression is a way to control that which you fear most. This is some crazy goddess-based feminist theory that I could certainly go deeper into, but not while I’m enjoying an afternoon beer, so I’ll keep it brief. Women are dangerous and powerful and we as a society try so hard to forget that by wrapping maternity up into this loving, pastel package. And it is all that, too. Certainly. But you have to admit: Ovid has a point.

The Husband:

It’s time for another session of making shit up involving actors in this episode that I know from other shows and movies! I’m not going to provide any links, either, so either you know what I’m talking about and you feel proud that you found another insane television freak, or you simply sit back confused as all fuck, thinking I’m nuts (which is probably very true).

The parents, Amy and Craig Bridges, have really been through far too much to even deal with their abducted son, both having very dark, aggressive and various pasts.

Craig, as you might have guessed from his conversations with the BAU, used to be a cop in his hometown of Baltimore, moving up from arson to homicide very quickly due to his great detective skills. Unfortunately, his extreme sense of morality caused nothing less than a fiery gang war when he murdered Luther Mahoney as a result of “self-defense,” resulting in retaliation that almost killed his fellow homicide detective Bayliss and his subsequent resignation.

He was quickly reassigned to Los Angeles under Vic Mackey’s controversial strike team, but when he threatened to turn in Mackey due to his violent impulses and questionable evidence gathering, he was shot and killed.

Reborn in the early 1970s in San Francisco, he once again became a police detective upon growing up, but after he learns the truth of his brother’s time-traveling, he can no longer continue down the “protect and serve” path and moves to Vegas in order to start a family.

But little does he realize that Amy has her own sordid past. In a small Florida town only a few years earlier, she had just divorced her hunky husband and remarried the town’s aggressive sheriff when suddenly mysterious green pods drop into the water one day. Having disappeared for a few hours, she returns and seems a completely different person, oddly attracted to the water and starting up a cult. Her former humanity shines through, though, and she decides to ditch town.

Her college law degree serves her well, so she becomes a legal consultant in Los Angeles for a flailing Friday night sketch comedy show, as their head writer and main director have recently been gathering much ire from the American red states due to their offensive sketches. She tries to start up a relationship with head writer Matt Albie, but when denied, she heads directly for Washington.

What does she do in Washington? Why, aide the evil Vice President Noah Daniels in his bid to become President through any means he can, so she hooked up with lobbyist Mark Bishop to get the right info on how to put Palmer 2.0 down. Unfortunately, she does not know that Bishop is actually a Russian spy, so she is attacked when she gives him faulty intelligence. Done with this, she moves back west to Las Vegas and meets who she thinks is a very sweet man with no past.

Little do they know that their child’s abductor has her own past as a husband-stealing nun, a dog-fucking weirdo and a 1960s widow with a very bizarre secret. But that’s kind of beside the point, isn’t it.

And Reid’s mother was many things in the past, far too many to name, but one would be that before she became hetero, she was a lesbian dog trainer. (Not…like…she doesn’t train lesbian dogs. She is a lesbian and a dog trainer. Though that would be an interesting specialty.)

The Wife:

This is the second week in a row in which Criminal Minds has sent the BAU team out to parts of the world with which I am familiar: the American West. Last week, they caught Vacancy killer Wil Wheaton (or would have, had he not been hit by a semi) in Lake Tahoe, and this week, they went searching for The Wire‘s Andre Royo in California’s Central Valley. So, after being killed off on Heroes, Bubbles decided to become a hobo migrant farm worker who started perpetrating home invasion murders after his brother kicked him out of his quadrilla, or migrant work group. His character follows the quadrilla that abandoned him as it moves from farm to farm along Highway 99 (which runs from Baja to Blaine, WA), but instead of making amends with his family, he catches out of a box car, wanders into a neighborhood, finds a house with no dogs, alarms or outside lights and proceeds to opportunistically murder the inhabitants of the house. Then, he showers, huffs some household solvents, tries on the clothes of the deceased (but covers the body of the male victim in his own dirty clothes), eats a meal, sleeps in their beds and leaves.

“It’s like Goldilocks became a serial killer.” –Agent Emily Prentiss

And finally, one bed was just right and he slept there forever.

And finally, one bed was just right and he slept there forever.

Prentiss got two more funny lines in this episode that I didn’t write down, but she was definitely on a roll tonight. This episode also introduced us to J.J.’s replacement, Jordan Todd (Meta Golding), with whom Morgan flirts at a coffee shop earlier in the episode, but somehow doesn’t seem to realize that she’s just as observant about human behavior as he is. It also introduced us to a lot of hobo symbols, which reminded me of a season one episode of Mad Men, “The Hobo Code,” in which Don Draper reflects on a time when a hobo came to his family farm to work for a day in exchange for a meal. In that episode, the hobo teaches Don what certain symbols mean and explains how hobos communicate to one another that a house has work, food, a doctor, a kindly old lady and so on. This episode of Criminal Minds has a similar scene in which some local transients (including some who, like Bubbles, huff chemical solvents) teach Rossi and Morgan how to read the hobo codes for clues. The use of the hobo code is a lot more interesting in that episode of Mad Men, as it gives the young Don Draper an introduction to the language of symbols used in advertising, but in this episode of Criminal Minds it serves more as a plot device, but was nonetheless cool to see.

The Husband:

This was a nice return to form for Criminal Minds, which has been trying to branch out in the first four episodes this season, something that has come with very mixed results in my opinion. The NY-based second-parter that opened the season was an incredible use of the CM ensemble and a nice bit of action filmmaking – a characteristic that was surprising for this often more…internal show. (Unlike Numb3rs, where pretty much anytime Colby or Sinclair knocks on a perp’s door, a foot chase scene will almost always immediately ensue.)

This week, we got a good mystery, a good unsub (what up, Bubs?) and a psychologically interesting case that goes just that much further in showing us gross crime details than it really needed to. (A major characteristic of CM, I find the murder details on this show far more harrowing and disgusting than those on Showtime’s more uncensored Dexter.) I appreciated the focus on California’s migrant farmer community – even though if you lived anywhere in CA (especially in NorCal), you’d know that the Central Valley doesn’t look at all like that – as it’s a fascinating section of Western American culture that is often ignored.

The Central Valley actually looks more like it does on this map.

The Central Valley actually looks more like it does on this map.

(In other words, no, California is not just sun and beaches and palm trees. We also happen to have the world’s ninth largest GDP in the world completely on our own, plus towns with a lot of fog and rain, snow, deserts, mountains, various religious beliefs and, yes, even Republicans.)
Good ep, good train-based action sequences and a good use all around of BAU’s particular strengths. Just the way I like it.

The Wife:

Oh, Luke Perry, I’d like to send all of the original 90210 fans a copy of this episode in which you play a slightly pedophilic cult leader just so that they’ll stop asking you to come back and do an episode of the new 90210. You were scary. And you look a bit haggard these days. But don’t worry, it’s haggard sexy. Like C. Thomas Howell. Point is, you coming back to 90210 would be bad.

Scary cult leader Luke Perry aside, this episode was a great exploration of the relationships between the BAU team. Prentiss and Reid infiltrate a fundamentalist compound to investigate potential child abuse. They pose as Child Victim Interview Experts from Colorado’s Child Protective Services, a job title that prompts Perry’s cult leader Cyrus to inquire how far humanity has strayed from the path to need a job like that. Unbeknownst to Prentiss and Reid, the Colorado State Police had planned a raid on the compound to rescue the children.

When the raid goes down, the rest of the BAU lead the hostage negotiations in the interest of getting Prentiss and Reid to safety. Hotch puts Rossi in charge of negotiations, sneaking in a bug to listen in and hoping that Prentiss and Reid will work on freeing the hostages from the inside. They do: Prentiss by giving herself up as an FBI agent so that Reid could work on Cyrus, Reid by endearing himself to Cyrus and cleverly guiding the hand of the prophet to get him to release those he deems to be nonbelievers (which Cyrus does by testing his followers with non-poisoned wine that he tells them is, in fact, poisoned).

Paget Brewster is not sorry that she didnt save herself for Luke Perry.

Paget Brewster is not sorry that she didn't save herself for Luke Perry.

When Cyrus hauls off Prentiss to beat information out of her, she communicates with the rest of the team by calling out “I can take it,” a subtle reminder to her colleagues that they don’t need to rush in to save her just yet. Cyrus secludes her from the rest of the compound, but his child bride’s mother comes to care for Prentiss, which Prentiss sees as an opportunity to convince the woman to get her daughter and other children out of the compound before the situation escalates. Meanwhile, the outside team acquiesces to Cyrus’s request for a meal for the compound, especially with Reid’s backing. Hotch writes in code on the food packages to let Reid and Prentiss know that the raid will take place at 3 a.m., further demonstrating just how close-knit these characters are and how well they can communicate with each other indirectly.

The chicken place is open til 3 a.m. Thats all that means, I swear.

The chicken place is open til 3 a.m. That's all that means, I swear.

Jessica’s mother helps Prentiss get all the women and children to the basement so that the FBI can spirit them out the backdoor when the raid happens. Morgan bursts in to the compound and takes out Cyrus before he can blow the whole compound while Prentiss got the women and children to safety, save for Cyrus’s wife Jessica, who ran back in to see her dead husband and ignited the blast, sacrificing herself for her husband’s beliefs.

Luckily, Morgan and Reid got out in time, but not without causing me intense distress at the thought of potentially losing my beloved Spencer Reid! Not okay Criminal Minds! Don’t try to take him from me twice in one season!

Criminal Minds decided to follow up an excellent episode like “Minimal Loss” with “Paradise,” a pretty lame episode that was basically the lovechild of Vacancy and Tarantino’s Death Proof. (In short, couples are tortured in motels and made to look like they were killed by accident in big rig accidents.) The only good things about this episode were seeing Lost’s William Mapother be slightly less creepy and seeing geek favorite Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation) grow the balls Wesley Crusher never had and morph into a psychotic rapist and murderer, who ultimately meets a fitting end when he’s hit by a semi.

For as much as I didn’t like “Paradise” (because I saw Vacancy, people!), I did enjoy that two weeks in a row, Criminal Minds managed to take former teen heartthrobs like Luke Perry and Wil Wheaton and turn them into scary, completely unsexy people.

The Husband:

Nope, no vacancies. Room 8 is technically vacant, because the occupant is my mother and she is not alive, but I try not to advertise that.

Nope, no vacancies. Room 8 is technically vacant, because the occupant is my mother and she is not technically alive, but I try not to advertise that.

Yeah, the episode “Paradise” is like Vacancy and Death Proof, but it’s also like…oh, you know…Psycho. While Wheaton does a pretty damn good Norman Bates – and, to be fair, a good Frank Whaley in Vacancy – the episode didn’t feel like an episode of Criminal Minds so much as a straight-to-DVD movie. (Or, more specifically, straight-to-premium-cable fare like Blacktop with Kristin Davis and Meat Loaf.) I did get a big laugh at the ultimate fate of Wheaton’s character, though, bringing a nice sense of humor that most episodes of Criminal Minds lacks whenever Reid or Garcia are not onscreen. (Seriously, has J.J. ever cracked a smile about anything?) We did, I believe, get the first Hotch Funny ever when he commented on Garcia’s chipper and bizarre state.

“Remind me to have her drug-tested.”

The previous episode also felt a bit un-CM, although I do appreciate them trying to break out of some of their formulas. Problem is, the machinations of the Ruby Ridge/Waco plot felt more like Numb3rs than anything else. In fact, Numb3rs has already done a very similar episode a couple seasons ago, one that slightly bothered me because the FBI team ended up failing the mission, leading to the sacrifice/decimation of the cult due to a few Eppes Brothers mistakes. What bugged me was that such an FBI disaster, in the real world, would be dealt with by a very thorough internal investigation, but in the world of CBS procedurals was never referred to again despite Don and Charlie having been partially responsible for the deaths of two dozen people.

Oh CBS procedurals, will you ever cease to exist? Probably not.

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