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Criminal Minds Review: Escape from the Abyss

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Criminal Minds is sometimes hard to watch when the story involves an Unsub who is torturing innocents. It hits way too close to home when we see one or more of the BAU team members being subjected to it.

Criminal Minds Season 9 Episode 14 was titled "200," as it marked the 200th episode of the series.

Expectations for this installment were high. And I can say for sure that it met them with flying colors. 

For starters, it was a smart move to make the focus of this milestone episode all about the BAU and not some nameless Unsub.

I'd be tempted to say that it was a treat to see Prentiss again - and Strauss, even though she appeared only in flashbacks - were it not for the gravity of the story itself.

We've been teased throughout Criminal Minds Season 9 about JJ and Cruz's secret, which was finally revealed. We got to see  JJ's back story, covering the time she took a hiatus from the BAU (in real life, AJ Cook was let go from the show, then brought back). And it was believable.

It explained too how she grew from being a communications liaison officer to a profiler, as she had to hone her skills in finding a way to reach the Afghani captive woman in order to obtain terrorists' intelligence and identification.  

Too bad she didn't realize she was working with monsters.

Writers will never go wrong in expecting their audience to come along for the ride and figure out certain truths for themselves, with minimal guidance and few clues.

One important such clue outlined the theme of this episode, which was found in this quote, from Hastings to JJ, upon her arrival at the U.S. Operations Camp:

Don't get comfortable. This place changes people. I can't imagine what it'll do to someone like you.

Hastings

He was, of course, referring to himself. And perhaps Askari.

Maybe Askari and Hastings weren't the only monsters in this story. They had adopted the techniques of their enemies when interrogating their captives, and in the process became monsters themselves. Yet, the State department - and in particular, Undersecretary Rosemary Jackson - also exhibited a monstrous outlook, willing to see JJ and Cruz as necessarily expendable in their zeal to discover the traitor in their midst.

JJ Is Abducted

Jackson never directly answered Hotch's question: So Agents Jareau and Cruz get written off?

He got his unspoken answer, though, and he ran with it, knowing the State Department was not going to lift a finger to help. If that isn't monstrous, I don't know what is.

Safe and Sound?
Will JJ be returned safe and sound and what secrets from her State Department days will be revealed on the 200th episode of Criminal Minds?

The hallmark of the BAU team, the thing that makes the show compelling and brings us back week after week, is the unstinting commitment and love they have for each other.

It's the reason Hotch wouldn't back down to the Undersecretary, and it's the reason the team tried to pull out all stops in their efforts to find JJ, including accessing files they weren't supposed to and getting unauthorized access to S.C.I.F. (Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility).

What a relief to find out that Cruz wasn't a traitor, but instead had JJ's back. He's a true stand-up guy, and makes for a great replacement for Strauss.

Final notes:

  • The details that went into the story were impressive, right down to the use of "Blackbird" as a code known only to JJ and Prentiss - used at the perfect time.
  • The version of the song"Blackbird" was sung by Sarah Darling. It was released as a single.
  • It was disappointing to see Garcia having to resort to using Pig Latin in order to get a message to her team. The State Department - who should have been on their side - might have otherwise scuttled the BAU's chances of rescuing JJ and Cruz.  
  • Also: no one in the State Department knows Pig Latin? Maybe there's another subtle message there too, in response to the Undersecretary's jab about the BAU's "course hands".
  • While the need to make the 200th episode memorable is understandable, it seems this story could well have been stretched over a few more episodes. All of the elements were there: international intrigue, the heightened drama about JJ being kidnapped, the whole three-year back story.
  • Criminal Minds returns in two weeks, with an episode entitled "Mr. and Mrs. Anderson".

What did you think?  Did the 200th episode live up to your expectations?  What did you think about seeing Prentiss and Strauss again?

Were you satisfied that the amazing story began and ended in this one episode, or would have preferred to see it lengthened over a period of a few episodes? 

 

Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
  • 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.4 / 5.0 (82 Votes)

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

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Initially I LOVED this episode...though a i mulled it over afterwards i felt like it could have been a lot better. It did seemed a bit over the top when compared to the other episodes - sounded like a fanfic story, not that i mind all that much ;).
I completely agree in thinking it would have been better if they had extended it into an arc. Just felt as if they packed in too much into one episode. I felt kind of overwhelmed with the amount of info thrown at me. We had to follow the BAU as they tried to find JJ, her secret assignment and connection to Cruz was finally revealed (we find out how close JJ and Cruz are), there is a bomb dropped on us as we learn of her pregnancy and the loss of the child (that would have been a great issue for a separate episode but felt a little unnecessary in this one) , and to top it all off they bring Emily back (more than halfway through the ep i might add- i was hoping to see more of her).
It was a lot of plot without the heart or character development of most of the other character centric episodes (there were practically no scenes showing how the rest of the team felt about what was happening- this is especially apparent when compared to, say, "Revelations" in season 2 where we got emotional reactions to Reid's kidnapping from everyone (JJ's guilt, Morgan's anger, Hotch's response to and understanding of what Reid said, etc.) I would have liked to see more of Emily and -maybe im alone on this but also more of Strauss- i always found the relationship between JJ and Strauss interesting.
Overall a great story, definitely kept me gasping and glued to the screen, but on an emotional level, not on par with CM's greatest eps.

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Why is everyone giving this episode so much hate!! I think the storyline was well planned, and think A.J was BRILLILANT!! Loved the way they had the episode about her, and not Hotch (nothing against him!) but think overall the episode was amazing.

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@ CrimMindsFan

Well, anyone who hate it has the right to say it aloud, and anyone who love it too. I hate it, because it didn't look as an episode of criminal minds, because the plot was too ridiculous and because I really hate the way they destroyed a once likeable character as JJ. That character is dead to me from now on. I regret signing the petition for getting her back.

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Interesting that TV fanatic Douglas Wolfe has only given two option in his poll at the end of the article, and both which only considered the episode to be amazing and if it should be long. What about the option that this episode was a huge disappointment ?

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@ Dan

I would definitey voted for Huge disappointment.

Wolfshades
@ Dan

You know what, Dan? You're right. It honestly never occurred to me to put that option in. I should have. Point taken. Thanks.

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I don't know about you guys but other then Gracies origin This season has been a let down I kinda of wish they were still hunting "The Replicator

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This episode was as bad as I though it would be. They really expected us to believe that JJ and Cruz were their options to run such a relevant mission when the CIA has a whole army of spies? And that right after that mission they were placed in their regular posts as if nothing happened? And the miscarriage is so obviously placed there to make us feel some sympathy for JJ? Miscarriage happens. It happened to me, twice, so what? People is supposed to put up wit whatever cra_ I do for that? And of course the episode lacked of
A) real profiling
B) a good use of Prentiss character ( Garcia, as always lately, found everything on her laptop)
C) intelligence put in action.
There was once a show that allowed us to catch a glimpse of the people that grew up to become serial killers, and the people that grew up to catch them. Three characters were relevant then: Hotch, Morgan and Reid. And now they are barely there.
Sorely disappointed...

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What a load of rubbish, seriously a miscarriage was the great big dark secret. The amount of money they spent on the PR for the build up for the great 200th eposide was not worth it, if JJ having a miscarriage was it. This show has never dealt will personnel truma well, or been realistic in anyway, so on that level they still have not fail. Good job the studio has money to spend on advertising as getting good writers seem to be a struggle especially for CBS.

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@ Jade

This show went down the hill after the CBS fired the best writers back in 2009...

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@ Jade

The misscarrage wasn't the big secret. It was the mission in Afghanistan that was the big secret.

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@ Hege

Her being in Afghanistan is hardly a secret, at one point Hotch was in Pakistan at the start of season 6. Isn't this part of their job as agents? The surprising thing about this show is they are trying to portray JJ as this strong career woman yet she cannot master birth control. Isn't this her second unplanned pregnancy storyline? So we are suppose to believe this strong career focused woman not only gets herself pregnant but then put her and her unborn child in a vilotile situation. Hardly think she puts any effort into her career or home life. One thing this shows family characters have in common is they are very selfish and put their own needs before their kids.

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@ Jade

Ahh no, JJ said that her and will were trying for a baby and she hadn't anticipated finding out over there.

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@ Jade

@Emily - How could it be a planned pregnancy? That sounds like the stupidest storyline even for the CM writers. When has JJ expressed an interest in another child, and how to the writers plan on added that to the storyline. What JJ is going to be a pregnant field agent?

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@ Jade

It wasn't an unplanned pregnancy I don't think, she said her and Will had been trying for another kid. I agree that she shouldn't have gone back to Afghanistan though.

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It was very disappointing. Not what I consider a Criminal Minds type of episode. There were just too many inconsistencies to count. I couldn't understand the need for Prentiss since the information she had, could have been given to the team via video conferencing. But, on the other hand, since it is being portrayed that JJ and Emily remained in constant contact and were best friends, I can see why Prentiss would want to be there. Aside from the inconsistencies with JJ and other things, AJ Cook was outstanding in this episode. There was too much misleading information being released and leading up to the episode airing, the fandom was still split on the merits of even having this kind episode for the very important milestone 200th episode. I'm just glad it's over.

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@ Jules

Well, maybe Hotch and Prentiss never heard of Skype...?

Wolfshades
@ Jules

The need to call in Prentiss, at least at the start, was sketchy. But as a plot device - particularly being the only one who would understand about "Blackbird" - she worked well, I think. I think the bigger goal here was to make the 200th episode memorable. More than anything, that's why she was there. Strauss too, now that I think of it. Did we really need Strauss running the operation in Afghanistan? Seems doubtful. I was glad to see them both.

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@ Douglas Wolfe

They did make the 200th episode memorable but as one of the biggest disappointments to the long time fans who remember what made CM the big success that it is. The team were secondary to Prentiss which was sad. To bring back an actress who quit, to over shadow the actors who stuck with the show through the highs and the lows, was a huge insult to them. Bring her back for some other episode. One less important. Strauss was not needed in Afghanistan. I was happy to see Jayne, just not this episode. Our team got lost in all the flashbacks, returning actors and ones who really were just taking up time and space. It's over and thank goodness for that. The hype leading up to this episode, was more about Prentiss than our team saving JJ. I think Jeanne Tripplehorn said it best. They were still together because of the original cast. Thomas, Shemar, Matthew, AJ and Kirsten. With the help of Joe, Paget and then Jeanne. Prentiss didn't carry this show. It was a team show and should have been celebrated that way.

Terrie

I don't agree that this should have been stretched out over 2 or 3 episodes............especially since they are not on with a new one next week. It looks like nobody is wanting to have anything new on during the Olympics............... I liked the episode.........I think Prentiss was brought in because she was in contact with JJ during her time at the state department........If you've read the other articles here then you know Paget Brewster has said she's open to coming back from time to time .............

Saad702

I liked this episode but it felt to short. They should have extended the episode a bit. Give more time to the reunion at the end. JJ was great. AJ Cook is brilliant. Seeing Prentiss was also quite good. Hotch and her have come a long way. I hope that we get to see Prentiss again. I love her....

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This was great! I have been critical of JJ's transformation during her time away. This explained it and I loved the episode. I think Criminal Minds is better this season than seasons 6-8. It was so nice to Prentiss again. I have one thing to point out. JJ's husband tells her in the episode with the tornados that things were better when she worked at the Pentagon because she had a 9-5 job. Being away in Afghanistan is hardly 9-5. But this is just a small detail. I love this show, i love all the charaters and loved the 200 th episode. Well done! 200 more episodes please... -:)

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@ Hege

Well, especially since season six nobody gives a damn about continuity. They did two different versions of Garcia landing at the BAU, and they said she had some brothers, and then that she was an only child. They said Reid went to Caltech, and then to MIT, and the writers even acknowledged their mistake. The list could keep going and going, but you get an idea. Whatever any character said in previous episodes doesn't have to have any connection with what may be done in the future.

Saad702
@ Hege

She was only in Afghanistan for short intervals. When she was in DC she was there from 9-5.