Criminal Minds Review: No Fork in the Family Tree

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It was difficult to decide which was more deliciously bizarre in this unique episode: the crazy murders involving barbed wire and the brute strength twisting of heads... or the revelation about the stunted family tree.

In the end, the tree won out. 

On Criminal Minds Season 9 Episode 20 the BAU team was called to investigate two murders in Wheeling, West Virginia, in which both victims belonged to opposite sides of feuding families.

Both the BAU and the families themselves were sure that someone from each of the clans was targeting the other. The BAU was certain that the reason had to do with their family businesses, which they thought likely involved meth.

They were all wrong. 

The murders had nothing to do with inter-family hate, nor did they have to do with their livelihood. In fact, the BAU finally discovered that they were producing biofuels, not meth.

Turns out the Unsub was just about as twisted as the family tree from which he fell. His adopted mother had died (who he was keeping literally on ice) and he just wanted to know his family history. 

He knew he was a product of incest, but he wanted to know if his birth mom had cared for him at all. Ugh. 

This episode was truly cringe-worthy and was offered up - I'm sure with glee - under the excellent direction of Matthew Gray Gubler. 

Like all exceptional Criminal Minds episodes, this one didn't portray - or needed to portray -  any bloody violence to be good. Instead, there was just the suggestion of it, thereby allowing viewers to engage their imaginations. 

We didn't see the woman get her head ripped off by the chains of a fleeing car: we just knew that's what happened. 

Similarly, we saw the shaking boots of the guy who was first murdered and then heard the sickening crack, which indicated his head had been twisted beyond its natural bounds. Gruesome, terrible and as close to perfect as you can get for a series like this.

Adrienne Barbeau, who played Cissy Howard, was a joy to watch, as it seems she always is. The intensity of her determination to protect her family was utterly stark and believable. As was her shame when finally confronted by her distorted son.

I've never seen Tobin Bell (who played Malachi Lee) before, but his bleary-eyed dismissive contempt of JJ and the BAU is deserving of mention as well. 

As for the story, I'm actually glad they never caught the Unsub. In fact, once JJ assured Blake that he had to be dead - I mean, they shot at least thirty bullets into the water and in fact Rossi had to reload -  you knew right away that he wasn't.

Of course, this means we haven't seen the last of this Unsub, whose name we never learned. 

Now it's your turn. What did you think of this story? Try out the poll and then expand on your answer in the comments!


Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.6 / 5.0 (37 Votes)

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



I also don't think we've seen the last of this unsub.........but I suppose us die hard Criminal Minds fans could be reading too much into it...........there have been others we haven't seen again................I also agree that any episode that MGG directs is JUST many does that make that he has directed?


Why, oh why, do they always want. to potray West Virginians as backwards hillbillies? I am from that beautiful state & I have never met anyone like that. I love this show, but I wish they would do more research on the area they are portraying.


Just like Jason in Friday the 13th films and Michael Myers, of course this truly unnamed killer will come back. And we KNOW he's alive. It has nothing to do with bullets in the lake. It's in the last 30 seconds of the episode when we SEE HIM ALIVE. Duh.

@ Paige Turner

I couldn't agree with you more. I live in Pittsburgh but go to Wheeling on business on a regular basis. Lovely small city. I was mortified how Wheeling and its residents were portrayed.

@ Paige Turner

Did I say otherwise? From my review: As for the story, I'm actually glad they never caught the Unsub. In fact, once JJ assured Blake that he had to be dead - I mean, they shot at least thirty bullets into the water and in fact Rossi had to reload - you knew right away that he wasn't. Of course, this means we haven't seen the last of this Unsub, whose name we never learned.


Obviously Douglas Wolfe didn't watch the last 30 seconds of the episode. Of course the unsub's alive. He's like Jason.

@ Paige Turner

I get the distinct impression you didn't read the last two paragraphs of my review.


I was horrified by the way this episode portrayed Wheeling, WV. I live in Pittsburgh but travel to Wheeling regularly on business. This small city has a lovely waterfront, an active art and music scene,nice restaurants, a professional hockey team, and it's citizens are lovely. I've never met anyone who talks like a hillbilly and they all have a full set of teeth. None of the characters portrayed in this episode resembled anyone I've ever met in Wheeling. If a TV show is going to portray a crime as ugly as incest,they should have it happen in a fictitious city rather than cast a undeserved stereotype on such a nice place.


Such a great episode. I really liked the fact that we where led to belive the familys was cooking meth and then it turned out it was biofuel. And then it was a truley "hillbilly" thing after all with the incest. The guest actors was really good too.


Good episode, but I thought it had a few inaccuracies...I would have believed the scene more if it were Southern West Virginia, where the Appalachian tradition and the image of feuding families seems more realistic. Being born in north-central West Virginia, I know that the Wheeling area is traditionally more industrial, more like Pittsburgh, PA or the "rust belt" areas of the country than "hickville" with all the hillbillies running around barefooted with shotguns. I also thought it a little stereotypical, the angle of incestuous family members in the West Virginia hills, I mean, really, hasn't that bit been done to death?? It's true that I didn't see that one coming, but when it happened I just groaned and rolled my eyes.

@ Andy

Andy, I agree with with mcuh of what you say about the portrayal of Wheeling. See my post above because the way the showed the city actually really pi$$ed me off. But I'm guessing you don't live anywhere near Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh quit being industrial back in the 1970's and is now a center for first class medicine and medical research, educaton, technology, and finance.


MGG directs the creepiest episodes and Why, why, why are they always the ones where I am home alone!!?!?
This was a Great episode, back to the CM roots!
I HOPE we see this unSub again, however I remember several others who "escaped" and we never saw them again - remember the Pedophile who walked the Appalachian trail? He was never caught nor seen again!

@ Leesa

I know. MGG really seems to love the creep factor, as all of the episodes he has directed have been uber creepy.


How many people think this is not the end of us seeing this unsub? will we see him again in the season finale

@ Michael

I agree, I bet he will be back at some point.

@ Liz

I think he will be Blake reaper

Sue ann

Tobin Bell did a guest shot on Stargate SG-1 in 1998, in which he played the leader of a group of humanoid refugees with superior intelligence, and in his character's case, an insultingly superior attitude. He was utterly brilliant in the role. (Omoc of the Tolan) I have not seen him very much, but when ever I have seen him, I totally believed he was whatever his role said he was. He is a scary good actor. It was good to see him again. Adrienne Barbeau is always a pleasure to watch. I became a fan when she was on Maude, and in The Fog. She did a nice turn on Dexter, and this role was good enough (IMHO) to garner her an Emmy nomination. Criminal Minds is an amazing program ... I liked having Garcia make verbal love to the whole team now, rather than just to Morgan. That was getting old.

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Criminal Minds Season 9 Episode 20 Quotes

Blake: Start shooting! Start shooting!
Morgan: Where?
Blake: Everywhere!

JJ: How are you doing?
Blake: My hair smells like a dirty sock but...other than that, I'm fine.
JJ: Okay. How are you doing?
Blake: I just, I couldn't breathe.
JJ: We put 30 bullets into that water. He's dead, Alex. He's dead.