The good news was that Matthew Gray Gubler returned from whatever personal project on which he was working.
That meant that Reid was back from his teaching sabbatical to help out on Criminal Minds Season 14 Episode 11.
What does this mean in real terms? Well, Reid being there makes any episode better.
Why? I'd have to say believability. When Reid proclaims something, it just feels right. He's the master of minutia.
It also comes down to a viewer's comfort zone. I'm more likely to accept a conclusion from Reid, Rossi, JJ, and Prentiss because, well, they've put in the time. They're the veteran profilers.
Lewis, Alvez, and Simmons seem perfectly capable, but we haven't been getting to know them for a decade. To me, Lewis feels like a professor, with Alvez and Simmons seeming more like cops. And likely they'll never get the chance to reach veteran-profiler status.
It is no one's fault. Change is bound to happen on any long-running series.
Everyone has their favorite Law & Order lineup (any unit with Jerry Orbach) or CSI team (it was on borrowed time after William Peterson left). And not all shows can transition as seamlessly as M*A*S*H (kids, ask your parents).
Reid provides that wunderkind feel, offering a detailed analysis of the pros and cons of exposure therapy or exclaiming "Addresses" after looking at a table covered with numbers. That never gets old.
Unlike some, I won't just turn off an episode because Matthew is off doing some indy art film which he finds more creatively satisfying. The rest of the cast deserves better than that.
Anyway, let's hope Reid is sticking around for the handful of episodes remaining this season. Criminal Minds needs that extra 20 percent or so of enjoyment that he provides on each episode in which he appears.
Frankly, I can't blame Gubler for stepping out for about a third of the season. How many times can one get psyched for yet another unsub taking vengeance on the people that he perceived as wronging him?
I mean, CSI died because viewers got tired of watching close-ups of hair and fiber. Follow the evidence. Got it.
Yes, Dustin didn't get the help he needed from his doctor and his parents. And things went downhill from there because people don't have any choice in the direction that their lives take.
Does that give him the right to kill not just the doctor and his parents, but the doctor's wife and a couple of strangers in the wrong place at the wrong time? No, not really.
So, for a change, bucking the pattern of this season, it was difficult to feel sorry for the unsub.
They get points for the creative use of the doorbell camera in the opening scene. It's good to see those cameras are useful for something more than thwarting porch pirates like providing one bizarre clue for law enforcement and a WTF moment for the homeowners.
I could understand why it took the BAU a while to get a handle on this unsub. There was no rhyme nor reason to his choice of victims, with a beloved local pediatrician and his wife and a running couple from out of town. His methodology made little sense either.
But good old investigative techniques paid off. What caused the unsub to go to the rental home? The woman caring for the home proved to be the key witness who pointed the team to the unsub by dredging up a painful memory from the past.
It's nice to have a case every so often that Garcia doesn't solve with a Google search at the 45-minute mark.
It was good to see that Alvez and Garcia were on good terms again, now that she didn't have to share her office with him anymore now that Prentiss does not ground him.
Was Alvez really so dense that he didn't get the concept of "Happy wife, happy life"? It seemed so.
The "It's a Wonderful Life" references at the end were enjoyable if a little late. But, since the housewarming party was entirely Lisa's idea, why not reschedule if she got called into work? One simple text chain would take care of that.
After seeing the horrors they experience on a daily basis, is it any wonder the BAU members are frequently drinking at episode's end?
To catch up before the shortened season wraps, watch Criminal Minds online.
Were you glad to see Reid back? What was Alvez thinking? Did you have any sympathy for the unsub?
Comment below on our first episode of 2019. Happy New Year!!
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.