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Criminal Minds Review: Arsenic and Old Twine

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The law of unintended consequences figured largely in this entertaining whodunit story.

It helped too that Brian Baumgartner (Kevin Malone on The Office) guess starred as the troubled unsub on Criminal Minds Season 9 Episode 22.

We're so used to seeing him playing a comedic role that it was weird and fun to see him portray such a creepy dead-eyed character. 

In most episodes, we don't even get to see who the unsub is until later on, once the BAU has figured him out.  Viewing him from the get-go here made it easy to watch him; to try and figure out what made him tick. 

His uncertainty and fumbling at his retirement celebration, coupled with his suppressed rage once he learned that his friend had gotten him drunk all those years ago, made him into a kind of character puzzle. 

Clearly he was unraveling, but what was it that motivated him... and why was he so awkward? Was he a delayed learner? Certainly he seemed at least to be a social misfit.

And that friend of his was clearly painting a target on his own back, wasn't he? The fact that the unsub changed his mind about going after his last victim in favor of going after his friend instead was completely believable. I actually expected him to target him right after the retirement party, where his obnoxious friend got some laughs at his expense.

The Greek mythology fantasy angle was unexpected - and it's this that I think proves the value of the writing on Criminal Minds. It's rare that a case, or even a sequence of events, is predictable.

I like, too, how they've gone back to the method of plunking the BAU right into the sequence of criminal events, working out how the unsub manages to do his deeds. There was a time when I thought it was gimmicky - and maybe it still is - but when they stopped doing it, I missed it.

The brightest part, of course, was the "Career Day" scene when Hotchner came up with a brilliant plan to show Jack's class what it's like to be a profiler. It was entertaining and it got them involved.  

Then there was this exchange which got me laughing out loud:

Susie: I did a profile on Miss Springer.
Miss Springer: Me?
Susie: Yeah, you like Jack's dad.
Miss Springer: I'm not sure--
Susie: When you talk about your cat, you talk real real fast because you really like your cat. You talked real fast like that today, not like with the other dads.

Makes me wonder where Beth is these days.

Final thoughts:

  • The first example of the law of unintended consequences was the fact that the unsub's friend deliberately got him drunk so that he'd miss his flight twenty years ago. I don't care what his reasoning was - that was a creep move. The result was that he stayed to help his mother and was able to save up a lot of money prior to retiring for good. The unintended consequence was that he also got sick from the asbestos in his work environment.
  • The second was the fact that missing the shuttle to the airport twenty years ago also meant that he wasn't involved in the accident that killed all of the other passengers on the bus.
  • I don't understand how someone missing a flight would mean they had to stick around for another 20 years. Surely, there's another flight the next day or week? Uh oh. Maybe we found a plot hole there. 

What are your thoughts on this episode?

Twenty years ago, the unsub tried to quit his job and head to Greece with the little money he had left, but got drunk instead and missed his flight. 

Does it seem reasonable to suggest that missing the flight meant that he had no choice but to stick around?

 

Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
  • 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (21 Votes)

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

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Good episode. Jack sure had changed a lot. Hardly recognised him. Funny excange with the teacher.

Terrie

Good episode! The highlight had to be the ending with Hotch with Jack and that exchange.......