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