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Criminal Minds Review: A Monster's Dance with Karma

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It isn't often that an episode of Criminal Minds is as compelling as this one turned out to be. 

On "Restoration," the spotlight focused on Derek Morgan, who was the first to figure out the connection between two murdered middle-aged men, as a result of words that were written at each crime scene "look up to the sky."

That phrase had been uttered many times by Morgan's childhood abuser, Carl Buford, who was doing time in prison for a series of murders. The BAU finally identified the Unsub as another of Buford's victims - a man whose past came back to haunt him when he learned his son had been molested by a swimming coach. 

In a fit of rage, he murdered him... and then when there was no catharsis from that act, he went on to murder other men who he thought were probably child abusers.  Basically any man who was comfortable around kids. The BAU finally tracked him down at his ex-wife's home, where Morgan was able to talk him down by relating his own past to him, a dark past involving their common abuser.

CM Picture

This episode was well-researched, well-written and well-acted by all. Shemar Moore's portrayal of a man whose covered emotional wounds had not yet healed was equally matched by Julias Tennon's portrayal of Carl Buford, an unrepentant and manipulative child molester. 

We first saw Buford back in Season 2 when Morgan was accused of murdering some boys. It was later discovered that Buford had killed them and had set Morgan up as the culprit. It was for these murders that Buford was serving time in prison, where Morgan confronted him in this episode in order to obtain a list of the kids he abused.

The tension between the two as they battled in darkness was terrific, as we saw Buford attempting to establish dominance while Morgan did his best to play him. I think many have encountered people like Buford, which is why I believe the character was so well-written: people who have an ability to manipulate others in a manner that is next to impossible to break. 

I would almost believe Morgan strategically set himself up to be the slightly less powerful of the two, were it not for the fact that he excused himself afterward to go throw up. At any rate, we had this important exchange, which came back to bite Buford hard at the end:

Buford: You still like mint chocolate chip ice cream?
Morgan: The U.S. attorney has offered you immunity. They won't charge you with molesting any of the boys on this list, as long as this list is complete.
Buford: Or was it butter pecan?
Morgan: You leave even one name off that list, this deal is dead.
Buford: You threatening me D?
Morgan: With my hand on the Koran. See, right now you're in here for serial murder. And I bet that gives you a whole lot of cred out there in the yard, am I right? But what do you think would happen if the brothers in here learned what you were really guilty of? So let me be direct, Mohammed: start writing. | permalink

The writing was on the wall at that point, wasn't it?  Yet for some reason, Buford still - and stupidly as it turns out - held back a few names, one of which turned out to be the abused Unsub.

The litter of broken souls in this episode was heart-breaking: the brittle druggie who provided the name of the Unsub; the Unsub who didn't consciously realize what was triggering his rage; and Morgan himself. He thought his past was behind him, but we saw so much pain in him.  At the risk of repeating myself... that was some amazing acting by Moore.

The title of the episode was important too: the Unsub was unconsciously attempting to obtain catharsis through his murders and Morgan was finally able to obtain a sort of restoration, brought about by his confession to the TV cameras about his childhood abuse. He did so, knowing full well the prison televisions would pick it up and Buford's life would come to a painful end. Yet once he learned of his death, we didn't see the pain go away, did we? 

And of course this subtext was all tied into the opening scene, which speaks of Morgan's character when he corrected Rossi by saying: wait a minute, now. You know I don't renovate. I restore. Morgan is never about trying to change anyone; he's all about making things right and bringing justice.

The writers picked the perfect closing line to all of this too:

Morgan: For darkness restores what light cannot repair - Joseph Brodsky. | permalink

Final notes:

  • Reid's detailed explanation of Borderline Personality Disorder, and how it informed the Unsub's behaviour was brilliant  Kudos to the writers for doing it so well.
  • In the midst of the darkness of the subject material, the writers managed to get in a few laughs, one from Garcia and another from Reid, as are recapped in our Criminal Minds quotes section for this episode.
  • Thankfully, there was no focus at all on The Replicator. I think that storyline would have diluted the intensity of this episode's subject matter.

What did you think of the episode? Do you think Morgan can start to heal, now that his abuser is dead? Do you think he would have honored his deal with Buford, had Buford given up the correct names? (Confession: I wouldn't have.) 

What about Buford? Do you think his conversion to Islam was real or a sham?

Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (86 Votes)

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

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"Profiler, Profiled" is the single best episode of CM there has been. It's good to see the continuation of that story.
The one thing you forgot to mention was the music playing in the background at the end. It was an instrumental version of "What A Difference A Day Makes", which rather fits the entire episode. Kudos to the writers for having Rodney and his son hugging at the end of it all. Those two share more than blood. And since I'm a Shemar Moore fan from way back (back in his Young and the Restless days), it's easy for me to say that he went there with this one. You could feel his pain.

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Great episode. I hope everyone took notice and learned from it and understand that the pain of what Morgan went through will continue for the rest of his life. It never goes away and even during the times when you don't think about it, the aftermath of being abused stays with you, it changes your behavior, and it changes the way you look at or trust others. When a child is sexually abused, trust is destroyed and it is difficult to regain the ability to trust. It is difficult for some to be able to commit to a lasting relationship and for some, they never know the true meaning of what it is to love someone without a barrier standing between them because of the abuse. The issues that come with abuse take many forms and some are never able to live with the consequences and will compensate in many different ways. angelic, I can only hope that you are able to continue on the path you are on and encourage you to stay strong and vigilant in your determination. I know there are times when you want to give in to the demons that sometimes haunt you due to sexual abuse at the hands of a family member or friend. And believe me, the demons are real and anyone who does not believe those of us who have been a victim, the only way you will ever understand is to be subjected to it yourself. I can only say "Thank You" to Criminal Minds for this episode and the way the writers, directors, producers, and especially the actors handled it. This one is truly worthy of a Grammy at the least or a special acknowledgment for addressing the subject so well.

Wolfshades

@sonde: I agree. I kind of knew instinctively when he asked Hotch to excuse him while he "hit the head" that he was going to go throw up. His revulsion of the man came through so clearly. How he managed to maintain any sense of calm while the guy was trying to work him, manipulate him, was amazing - and it proved to me how great an actor the guy is. Actually - both of them in this case.

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One of the most rewarding, satisfying dramas on TV. This episode is a standout. Rates a 6 out of 5 stars. Members of my family have had to learn to deal with and overcome the effects of molestation, though not me personally. I do know it's an on-going process that ever only ends at death. By that I mean it's a life-long process. I am so happy that Buford got what he had deserved for 40 years... in real life I would say "hope it hurt like hell". Buford's conversation to Islam was a sham and I hope no Muslims were offended by it. That perv's only god was himself. On the other hand, Morgan's most courageous moment of this entire series was standing in front of those cameras and admitting what had happened to him as a child. May I just mention once again that more of Dr. Reid would greatly be appreciated. The one show this season that actually featured him was so heart-breaking we (the royal we, of course) would love to see more episodes in which he plays as important a part as Morgan did in this week's show.

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His finding of religion was a sham, it was just another "cloak" for him to wear in repertoire of roles to play to appear in a certain way to others. When Morgan took his hand that was a powerful move on both sides; Buford feeling that he had once again manipulated Morgan the way he had so many times in the past (Uber creepy) and on the part of Morgan to be able to touch this vile creature, in an adult capacity where he had gone beyond the point of fear; the part where he pukes indicates that while past the fear of this man, his disgust is still just as strong.

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This was a great story. I watched it and cried....as a victim of incest from my stepfather who also sold me to his male and female friends it took me along time to comes to terms of what I went thru. I chose to make a good life for myself and go thru every step of counseling, BUT its still a struggle everyday. I still have the nightmares and still deals with the smells and common sites that still haunt me. I chose to do good in my life and be a good parent to 3 great kids. This was a great performance. It should what both sides of the coin could be, but the feelings are always the same!Life is always about choices!It didnt phase me abit when Buford was killed! life has way!
Thankyou Shemar Moore and Criminal minds.

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I don't think him finding finding "religion" was a sham, I think he did find it but it was just being use wrong as for the name does it really matter if he gave them or not just Morgan said the unsub was not on the list.

Kaydee

Phenomenal episode. Shemar was excellent. The story was well written and very well acted. As for Buford: #1 finding "religion" was a sham, he used it as a coverup for his own protection which was very evident at the end; and #2 his dying doesn't change anything for Derek. You can move on from the past but the ghosts never really go away. Powerful and compelling storyline. It moved me to tears.

Sue ann

I thought the episode was excellent, start to finish. Shemar Moore really impressed me, as he seldom has. I have my doubts about whether he will ever heal entirely, and the man being dead really changes nothing. I think he would have been forced to honor that deal. Lawyers. He had not told on Buford up until that point (to the other prisoners), so it would have just been continuing to be silent. No, I think his conversion was a sham. Had his conversion been real, he would have provided a complete list of names. He had no honor, and true followers have honor.

Tiva

I agree great episode I loved when Morgan told the press what happen to him and his other victims watching and the prisoners watching as well I knew Buford will be killed also. I was happy the cop told Morgan hes sorry and I liked cop felt bad for not seeing who Buford really was it shows that you don't really know someone as well as you think you do in tv

Criminal Minds Season 8 Episode 18 Quotes

Buford: You still like mint chocolate chip ice cream?
Morgan: The U.S. attorney has offered you immunity. They won't charge you with molesting any of the boys on this list, as long as this list is complete.
Buford: Or was it butter pecan?
Morgan: You leave even one name off that list, this deal is dead.
Buford: You threatening me D?
Morgan: With my hand on the Koran. See, right now you're in here for serial murder. And I bet that gives you a whole lot of cred out there in the yard, am I right? But what do you think would happen if the brothers in here learned what you were really guilty of? So let me direct, Mohammed: start writing.

For darkness restores what light cannot repair - Joseph Brodsky.

Morgan