Criminal Minds Review: Psycho Shell Game

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After a two-week hiatus, Criminal Minds returned with a brilliant brain teaser of an episode. "All That Remains" represented Thomas Gibson's first directing gig for this series and, given the quality of the episode, I hope he'll have many more to come.

The Anniversary Of a Disappearance

The team was called in to investigate the disappearance of two sisters, which occurred on the anniversary of the date that their mother also disappeared. The common denominator was their father, who only reported them missing a day and a half after they were gone.  

Since the same weird delay happened when their mother disappeared, the team took a hard look at him. In fact, the local police were sure he had murdered his wife and daughters, pretty much saying so straight from the start. Once the body of Katie (his daughter) was found, the case became a homicide.  

There was so much that was compelling about this story. I enjoyed the fact that we could puzzle our way through the case without the uncomfortable distraction of gore or torture. 

In fact, there really wasn't any blood to consider - and the bruises and scratches we saw were mostly self-inflicted. There was so much deflection and misdirection throughout the mystery that the hour flew by. First, after the team inadvertently caused Bruce Morrison to snap (while playing back a recording of him trying to break into his daughter's room), we finally got to see his Dissociative Identify Disorder alter ego Johnny.  That was a revelation which instantly explained the delay between his wife and daughters going missing and his calls to 911.  

The cynical sleazy bully who shone through that personality made it seem likely that indeed he had done something awful - even lethal - with his family. Certainly the team was convinced anyway.

Morrison [alter ego Johnny]: So you've got old Brucey in the cage huh? You think that's going to help? It's only going to make him hide longer. What do you what to know? I'm going to have to tell you because the baby's got his pacifier. | permalink

So clever of the team to try and bring "Johnny" back to the surface in order to get him to tell them what happened with Sarah - who I'm sure they thought was dead.  And what a performance by JJ in coaxing important clues from him.

We've seen so many episodes where the last victim is recovered before the Unsub has a chance to kill him or her - watching Sarah come out of hiding seemed like more of the same. I figured that was it:  her father was mentally ill and had killed his wife and one daughter, and this was the only one left.  The only inkling that all was not well came when JJ took her home, and Sarah seemed entirely normal. In dramas like this, almost nothing happens without a reason: why did we need to see her homecoming? What else were we supposed to learn?

When JJ told her concerns to Reid over the phone, and Sarah came to get her tea, the ominous nature of her behaviour became clear. I suppose the only way you can fight with a dangerous psychopath is to become just as devious as them: we saw this with JJ pretending to talk with her children, and at the end when Morgan pretended to go along with Sarah's narrative in this one Criminal Minds quote:

Morgan: Listen to me. I understand. It's okay Sarah - she wasn't going to hurt you. I know - you've been through enough. All right? I get it. Sarah you're safe now, okay?
Sarah: Okay. Okay. Thank you. Thank you. What are you doing?
Morgan: You're a smart girl Sarah. Figure it out. | permalink

I really enjoyed this episode - I think this is the kind of story that makes the Criminal Minds show just shine. You can never go wrong setting the bar high and assuming your audience is intelligent. Hope the writers get this:  brain teasers like this are so much more compelling than spilled brains on the floor.   

What did you think? Did you at any time guess where the story was heading? Did you know about JJ's back story - about her sister being killed when she was seventeen and JJ was eleven? And did you see any holes in the story - something that didn't make sense to you?


Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (124 Votes)

Douglas Wolfe is a staff writer for TV Fanatic Follow him on Twitter



True victims of violent crime have strong emotional reactions when returning to the scene of the trauma. An episode of L&O: CI showcased that. So when Sarah casually walked into the house, I knew that she was the one. I did have an inkling when Sarah showed up with the gun. Great episode. I miss the old days when they would give the profile to someone and have that person say, "Oh, my God." when they recognize exactly who the profile is describing.


Very good episode although there were unanswered questions. Gibson has real talent as a director. But more of Spencer, please. He's such a fascinating character and hides so much. He needs his own "Penelope" to help him through his bad times. And I'd like to see more of his mother... she's fascinating and their relationship is hear-warming.


Michael - if you'll recall, local police had pretty much determined that the guy had killed his wife and had presumed she wasn't missing but dead, but they couldn't prove it. When the exact same set of circumstances arose around his missing daughters, it was at that point their radar went up and they felt they might be dealing with multiple murders. I think it was at that point they decided to call in the BAU. Your question points to the fact that they really didn't do a good job of explaining that though.


Question Im watching it now and I have to ask what does it have to do with Criminal Mind it has nothing to do with killers should't it go to the Missing person Unit of the FBI.


Great episode the only part I didn't like was that Katie was killed. At the bregining I thought how doesn't a father know his daughters are missing for 2 days unless he blacks out and he did something to them then or he has another personality and that personality did something to them. When they found Sara I instantly thought she killed her sister but it wasnt a serious thought I still kind of thought the dad did it. When JJ took Sara home I became supicous of her and then when JJ called Reid and told him she was suspicious because Sara acted completely normal and when her sister died he couldn't even go into her house let alone walk past her room. When Sara told JJ that when Katie was born her mother love her more than her and that's why she killed her own sister I thought wow you where so jealous of your little sister that you thought your mom loved her more than you so you killed her what kind of person does that. When Morgan came down and got the gun away from Sara by pretending to agree with her then Reid cuffing her was great. When Sara still kept screaming no she was going to hurt me I was just like shut up already your caught no one is buying your story. I have to give it to Sara she set everything up perfectly to accuse her father of the crime and the only reason they caught her was because she didn't act like a normal person would after loosing there sister which was basically only mistake. Can't wait till the next episode.


Sarah's room. I kept wondering about Sarah's room because even though the team suspected the Dad cleaned up, it was just as neat in his flashback


this ep was just amazing. thomas did a brilliant job directing, and he should defo do more in the future. Really really loved JJ's part in all of this, between the interigation (which i loved) and at the end with Sera. AJ Cook did a wonderful job, and im glad they mentioned JJ's sister again. That scene between Balke and her was touching. I really hope to see this kind of intelligent, on the edge of your seat, captured episode again soon.


This was by far one of the best episodes of Criminal Minds. It was intelligent, mysterious and most importantly did not give away the ending at the beginning like the normally do in criminal minds. I wonder why the shift in direction? What ever the reason, they should keep it up. You do not have to be so gory and sick and twisted in every episode. It is so much more palatable when you tell a story and allow the viewers to have some participation with their imagination. Thomas Gibson did a fantastic job directing this episode. I hope that the writers get together more often and create great scripts for the viewers to enjoy. The proof will be in the ratings I am sure as to whether or not this was a success.


I thoroughly enjoyed this episode!! It reminds me of something from the previous seasons with the plot twists. I agree with you too Douglas Wolfe. They should keep us guessing throughout the episodes, gore is not always necessary.

Sue ann

Yes, we knew about JJ's sister. A few seasons back, she was telling someone about her, in her office. She has her sister's necklace, which she gave to JJ before she killed herself. That was a plot point in the story that week, about teenage suicides. This was back when JJ was still the person who decided what cases they took. She explained why she wanted to go to take this one case, despite it not being "their" kind of case, because of her sister. (And then it turned out to be "their" kind of case after all.)

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Criminal Minds Season 8 Episode 14 Quotes

Love never dies a natural death. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.
Lost a day and a half - Anais Nin


Morgan: Listen to me. I understand. It's okay Sarah - she wasn't going to hurt you. I know - you've been through enough. All right? I get it. Sarah you're safe now, okay?
Sarah: Okay. Okay. Thank you. Thank you. What are you doing?
Morgan: You're a smart girl Sarah. Figure it out.