When an episode peaks with a nameless, ditsy blonde having car trouble in the opening scene, that's not good.
That about sums up the problem with Criminal Minds Season 12 Episode 12.
There was a humdrum case of the week featuring an abusive serial killer (as opposed to a sadistic serial killer, I guess).
Then, about every 15 minutes, there was a reminder that Spencer, after much of 12 seasons with a minimal personal life, is now saddled with the care of his schizophrenic mother.
In other words, it was a bridge to get from Criminal Minds Season 12 Episode 11, which was a Spencer-centric hour to Criminal Minds Season 12 Episode 13, which will be more of the same (and aptly titled, "Spencer").
Let's start with the case of the week.
One male torso was all it took to get the BAU on the plane to sunny Palm Strings.
It's a good thing there were more dropping throughout the hour.
Kudos to Prentiss for giving condolences early on to the police chief there for the two officers killed last October by a convicted felon who somehow got ahold of an assault rifle. That helps to better tie fantasy into reality.
The unsub turned out to be a gay man in a floundering marriage who started out killing surrogates for his younger spouse who left him before he turned to killing others who just pissed him off.
Let me get out my psychobabble to English dictionary to profile the unsub: His father, the butcher – who was a mean drunk – used to have him cut up the carcasses in his shop, giving him mad skills with a cleaver. Then, after a divorce, his father disappeared.
He had tons of rage from that, but funneled that negative energy into dominating his young partner. But the end of his marriage sent him and his cleaver raging out into the bars of Palm Springs.
In short, he was nuts. Not maniacally nuts like some on this show, but nuts is nuts.
So, instead of the typical TV stereotype of the abused wife trying to escape from her abusive husband, you had the submissive gay spouse attempting to flee from his domineering husband.
That's equality for ya.
I think the unsub was asking to get caught. Why else would he have kept pulling off those murders close to his home?
I know the idea was to bring his spouse running back to him out of fear, but really.
The first people the BAU look at are friends and acquaintances, and it was only a couple degrees of separation from the last murder victim to the unsub.
It's not hard to connect three dots.
And hey, stash the cleaver under a floor mat in the van. There's just no good explanation for a bloody cleaver and bloody clothing in the bathroom.
So, not one for the ages.
Anyway, even though the case took up three-quarters of the hour, that wasn't even the prime focus.
It was the waking up of Spencer Reid.
It started with Reid thinking that all he needed was a comprehensive plan to make everything work. He could handle both work and his mother, once he figured out how to do it.
That's just the thing. By distracting my conscious mind, you allow my subconscious mind to form a plan at up to ten billion times the speed.Reid [to Prentiss]
Then he got a call from an understanding nurse essentially telling him that his mother needs him there, that only he can handle her.
At the end of it all, he realized that he can't do it and needs to find a better solution. Reid's a smart man; he just needed to get past his emotions.
Prentiss: Spencer, I couldn't be more proud of you.
Prentiss: Because it's difficult caring for family. And it takes tremendous strength to ask for help.
That's what I like about Prentiss as leader. She's an emotional mother hen constantly checking up on her charges. I could see Hotch swatting Reid on the shoulder and saying "Buck up." That's probably not what he needs to hear.
Previews hint at Reid being in some kind of trouble. As many viewers have feared, has that beautiful mind finally run off the tracks? After all, mental illness runs in his family.
I'm just hoping that this mother storyline is just a blip for Reid, and not the beginning of his end. After all, they've rarely traded up when original characters leave and replacements are brought in. Rossi for Gideon was a draw, maybe, but otherwise ...
To catch up on Reid's infrequent appearances this season, watch Criminal Minds online.
What did you think of the case of the week? Was there some subtlety I flat out missed? What should Reid do? Comment below.
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.