Criminal Minds Review: Head Games

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This week's Criminal Minds episode provided a satisfying procedural story, undiluted by distractions of The Replicator, or by any overly-disturbing scenes. 

It was a full-on puzzle piece, which the BAU had to decipher and resolve without needing to dive into any of the team members' back stories.

The Time Capsule Crime

The story of "Pay It Forward" involved a man who sat in jail 25 years ago and watched while a woman's alleged rape was covered up to protect the son of the town's favored industrialist who ran a carpet business. The Unsub subsequently murdered and decapitated the alleged rapist and secretly stuffed his head into a time capsule which the town then sealed and buried, to be opened again in 2013.  

His intent, hidden for all those years, was to eventually ensure that all those who were involved in the alleged rape were provided his brand of vigilante justice.  

I suppose, given the previous episodes, that this story might strike some as a little boring. I found it a welcome and refreshing change, more along the lines of an episode of Law and Order: SVU: a straight-on criminal investigation episode, designed to tax the viewers' minds and keep us guessing until the end.

Unlike most Unsubs, this particular criminal was able to hold back on his murdering spree for 25 years. Reid's explanation was remarkable and maybe even a little bit amusing:

Sheriff Collier: How did this guy keep from killing all those years?
Reid: We call it self-initiated predation cessation. Most serial killers are unable to control their own impulses but some seem to be able to self-regulate. It's like they have an on-off switch that they themselves are able to control. | permalink

Self-initiated predation cessation. Kind of a fancy way of saying that the killer simply held back his impulse. 

One of the more ominous scenes involved the Unsub's meeting with Todd Backus, who was fishing for trout:

Unsub: They biting?
Backus: Oh nibbling. Did manage to hook a good sized trout about an hour ago.
Unsub: Yeah? Where is it?
Backus: Oh, I tossed it back. Catch and release.
Unsub: Is that the law?
Backus: More of a common courtesy. Keeps our lakes and streams full of fish for everybody.
Unsub: Thats nice. Except for the fish. Hook goes in your mouth, gets torn out, you get tossed back so somebody else can do the same thing. | permalink

By the time Backus figured out something wasn't quite right, the Unsub's gun was out, at which point he pretty much lost his head, so to speak.

At first the team worked on the idea that the Unsub was targeting people he saw as hypocrites: his first victim - Wade Burke - was seen as a clean-cut kid who did not wrong. Turned out Burke had a history involving several run-ins with the law, including a hit-and-run while intoxicated. Another victim was a bigamist, and yet another was an anti-drug crusader-journalist who happened to be growing pot in her yard.

But the real motivation for the Unsub was as the title suggested: he saw what he thought was a crime and he wanted to "pay it forward" - kind of a twist on what that phrase usually means, in terms of the usual "acts of kindness."

The woman he eventually married was, he thought, a rape victim who deserved justice. When she finally blurted out there is something about that night you don't know, after which she confessed that she had made up the rape story, he turned on her and was about to kill her when the BAU showed up to stop him. 

(See this episode's Criminal Minds quotes for more)

Interesting to see that his willingness to put his gun down and not shoot his wife was based on his belief that he would be found not guilty by reason of insanity, a presumption that Blake put to rest quickly.

Final notes:

  • You may have recognized Melissa Crider (who played the Unsub's wife, Leanne Tipton) from her work as Rita Brady in the series 24
  • The next episode, entitled "Alchemy" is scheduled to air in May .
  • The song at the end was "Tomorrow" by Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors.

What did you think of the episode? Were you bored or did you enjoy it? Now that we have three episodes left (including the final episode which is two hours long) what's your impression of Blake? Do you think she finally fits with the team? Do you have any new thoughts about The Replicator?

Pay It Forward Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.1 / 5.0 (67 Votes)

Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter


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Criminal Minds Season 8 Episode 19 Quotes

Tory. There is something about that night you don't know.

Leanne Tipton

There is no present or future; only the past, happening over and over again now - Eugene O'Neill.