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Criminal Minds Review: "The Thirteenth Step"

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"The Thirteenth Step" was a grisly, intense and disturbing episode of Criminal Minds, even by the high standards set by the CBS procedural in each of those categories.

What could have been a cliched plot - law-breaking, madly-in-love couple on the run from the world - was uniquely done and well-executed, however. Not to mention frightening.

Perpetrators Sydney and Ray are both in AA, but they've already broken "The Thirteenth Step," an unwritten rule for not becoming romantically involved early in sobriety.

The consequences proved fatal for anyone in the Midwest who got in their way.

Crazy People on the Run

To the extent that two guest stars can make an episode, Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights' Tyra) and Jonathan Tucker (The Black Donnelleys) did so as Sydney and Ray.

Both were terrific as the troubled couple “working the steps” in a murderous, drunken spree so terrifying you grew nervous, shaking whenever they came back on screen.

The original, Criminal Minds-style spin on the oft-repeated Bonnie & Clyde saga was AA, and the examination of the couple's past as they took on the hardest steps (7-9).

Suffice it to say, the program didn't turn out as planned for these two.

Bastardizing the 12 steps in haphazard and delightfully devious (for them) ways, the twosome stole the show this week, commanding our attention much more than the BAU.

Palicki, who we loved on FNL and the unfortunately-axed Lone Star, showed real versatility, innocently toying with her candy ring-pop one minute, bashing heads in the next.

This show can be over-the-top melodramatic at times, but this week it felt anything but. Seen through the eyes of these crazed companions, the violence served a purpose.

From the moment we met Ray at his AA meeting, you knew it was going to go horribly wrong. Shooting up the entire room was just the beginning of their downward spiral.

The grip of addiction is stronger than people realize, and Reid's observation that they were "working" on 7-9 gave the team an insight into the twosome they were tailing.

Adrianne Palicki on Criminal Minds

Having become completely unhinged, Ray and Sydney turned the AA principles around by trying to force people - their abusive parents, namely - to make amends to them.

When they're eventually cornered, Morgan uses psychology to turn them against each other, and fittingly for this episode, the climactic scene was as frightening as it gets.

After freeing the hostage, Ray lays Sydney down in the store, kissing her with passion, with the kind of false elation they'd shown all night. Then he chokes her to death.

"The Thirteenth Step" practically gave me nightmares, a testament to how harrowing and real the characters seemed, despite the bizarre, made-for-TV circumstances.

In the night's brief subplot, Prentiss meets Sean McAllister, who had been trying to track her down. He tells her that Ian Doyle has vanished from prison. He’s off the grid.

Emily asks if he’s headed there and if she’s in danger. Sean says they all are. Presumably this blast from the past will be revisited. Think the show will kill off Prentiss?

Also, Reid and Seaver ... anyone see the connection there?

What did you think of last night's Criminal Minds? What moments stood out to you the most? Share your thoughts by leaving comments below.

Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
  • 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.1 / 5.0 (77 Votes)

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.

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I like this epsoide. the killers were psyhcos Man the shot at that guy how many time tho

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wooow one of the best episodes ever!!!!!! liked it a lot!! More episodes like this. Deam great

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I was really disappointed in this episode and hope this isn't the direction that Criminal Minds intends to go in the future. The episode was violent and sexual but also redundant if you've seen either Natural Born Killers or Kalifornia. It was very much as if the writers phoned this one in. The actors we watch this show for were completely under utilized, replaced by stringy-haired Syd. By the way, what happened to Reid's headaches? Are they just gone now? Overall, this was really weak.

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AND TO THE PERSON WHO FIRST COMMENTED ON THIS, OF COURSE ELLE ISN'T COMING BACK! SHE WENT FUCKING INSANE AND SHOT A GUY IN COLD BLOOD!

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I DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT 'ASHLEY'!!!! BRING BACK JJ!!!!

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Does anybody have some news on Spencer and ashley????????

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I liked this episode because it's still something to think about. The evil was just plain evil -- killing as easily as raising one's voice (a kind of impotence when they weren't with each other). I'm not sure I believe the Morgan twisting Ray with psychology so easily at the end. I do agree this was more like Kalifornia or such than an episode of a TV show -- but also think it's a plus show reminds us that the team's understanding of bad guys to catch them might seem to make them human in our eyes, but the serial killers in both the show and in reality are far beyond any normal ken (like let's not imagine the character some season's back who was kidnapping women to find a mother for his daughter and killing the rejects had anything like a father's love for his daughter by normal standards,etc.)!

Dala

oh my god they are so definitely going to kill emily off... earlier when episodes ended like this i thought 'well.. they wouldn't let them die in any way' but just hearing of her having to quit the show soon.... wasn't there something like they wanted to keep her under some circumstances like she won't appear as often as before or something? i hope they will keep her! she's so great!! she belongs to the BAU-family!!

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Didn't care for the episode at all....too violent, too sexual in nature and too disturbing for TV. I don't care what the reasons for any of it was I was pretty disappointed in the whole thing and feel like I wasted an hour of my life I can't get back!

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This episode is bound to become a classic and one that stands out for years to come. It was riveting and very disturbing. As for Prentice, I will be very upset if she is killed off. It was bad enough to lose JJ, but eliminating another female lead will be unforgivable.