We often hear complaints about certain Criminal Minds episodes: one is not utilizing the bigger name guest stars and the other is to spend so much time with the UNSUB that the team seem like the under-utilized guest stars. We want both! Great utilization of the guest stars and lots of team time! Another complaint is when we know who the UNSUB is from the beginning versus discovering who they are gradually. There are arguments for both, and there is room for both, but the second scenario seems to be the preferred episode style.
We are a group of picky fans.
At first glance, or at least for the first half, I was afraid that this episode was going to be an UNSUB-centric, team barely there episode, with a gratuitous half-naked and extremely oiled-up Morgan to start the episode. Seriously, the man looked as if he had been dipped in a vat of oil instead of just having stepped out of the shower (note to whoever it was that oiled up Shemar, try a lighter type of oil – oh, and where can I apply for that job, phew *fans self*). Fortunately, the second half completely redeemed the episode for me.
Dean Cain played the UNSUB, a compulsive gambler, who at the beginning of the episode, we see killing a man in an Atlantic City casino office. As a ruse to avoid the police, he sits down at a slot machine and hits a jackpot. He hits it big at the casino after the kill and thereby we see his MO – when his luck starts to fade, he kills again and his luck gets better at the tables. We find out a little later that the MO had been established less violently even earlier: he had been fired from his job for punching out his boss and on his way to a job interview, buys a lottery ticket and wins $250. He blew off the interview and took his winnings to Atlantic City.
The BAU is called in after the first murder because the man who was killed was surrounded by eight, one dollar bills and an 8 playing card – highly ritualistic; and he was connected to organized crime.
We see a confrontation between the UNSUB and his wife at the casino when he is on his winning spree. She is tired of his gambling and tells him she wants a divorce and that she was going to her sister’s house.
The UNSUB’s luck goes sour and he kills the hooker who had been coming on to him when he was winning and then gave him the cold shoulder when he lost all his chips. Again, he littered eight, one-dollar bills and an 8 card around her body, thus causing the press to dub him the “Circle of Eight Killer”.
The UNSUB makes the connection about his luck getting better after he kills someone when he hears a news broadcast calling him the “Circle of Eight Killer”. He buys a gun and kills a gas station attendant, but it didn’t make his luck better. His friend asked him if he had gotten gas at the station the night before because if he did, it would seem that the Circle of Eight Killer was killing people who only knew him - he had known the man he killed and the hooker. Another light goes off in the UNSUB’s head. He has to know his victim to change his luck to good luck. The UNSUB wants to buy into a million dollar poker tournament, so he follows a man who he sees cashing in a boatload of chips to his hotel, murders him and steals the money, and buys his friend a gift, a super expensive watch he had been wanting. He gives it to his friend while they are walking through an alley and while his friend was putting on the watch, he kills him, pulls him out of the way and runs off after leaving $88 dollars on the body.
At this point, we are 30 minutes into the episode and I was thinking, man, this is going slow, the team has barely been seen, this is a terrible episode.
After the commercial break, things changed. The team finally showed up. The team is with the body of the friend and they find out there was also another murder of a hotel guest who had been robbed of $50,000, but $20,000 had been left with the body. They find out through the technical wizardry of Garcia that there is a poker tournament with a $50,000 buy-in starting that afternoon. THE LIGHT BULBS GO OFF.
The FBI wouldn’t front the money to buy-in to the tournament, so the team starts working on Rossi to fund the buy-in. He wants to go in himself, but Emily and Reid talk him into letting Reid go instead. Reid bragged that he was banned from casinos in Vegas and Laughlin (and somewhere else I couldn’t hear because he was talking so fast, Reid-style) because of his card counting ability and then goes on to start explaining a mathematical formula for winning at poker when Rossi says poker was much more than card counting. WIN! Reid being geeky and Rossi being Rossi.
At the tournament, Reid scans the room and figures out who the UNSUB is by his behavior and the fact that he had a magic eight ball keyring. He finagles himself a seat next to him and starts in on haggling the UNSUB, quoting facts and then staring him down. It was awesome! After Reid wins a hand, he reaches for the magic eight ball and the UNSUB freaks out! The UNSUB then accuses Reid of trying to get his chips. Reid signals the team while security is hauling him away. Hotch runs in and tells them Reid is an FBI agent. In the meantime, the UNSUB grabs a bunch of this chips and starts running out the back way. The team runs in to try to apprehend him, but he gets away leaving another dead body in his wake.
Through the combined wizardry of Prentiss, Rossi and Garcia, they figure out who the UNSUB is and where to find the UNSUB. He goes to find his wife at her sister’s house. He takes them hostage, the team converges at the house and Rossi confronts him. He finally lets the hostages go and then turns his gun under his chin and kills himself.
Cute moment on the plane: the team talks about their favorite gangster movies, and when JJ asks Rossi what his was, Rossi says he has had too much of the real thing to be a fan of mob movies playing on the fact that Joe Mantegna has been in a few gangster movies.
Question: why did they keep showing shots of Dean Cain’s red-rimmed eyes? To show how tired he was or his devolution?
The gratuitous oiled-up Morgan scene: Garcia is sleeping in bed, the phone rings: it is JJ calling Garcia into the BAU. Garcia is extremely hung over because she had a fight with Kevin and hit the wine. She hears the shower go off and then there is a knock on the front door. Kevin is at the door apologizing for storming off. Garcia had thought Kevin was in the shower, so she is confused, and of course hung over and had forgotten what had happened the night before. She shuts the door, turns around and there is Morgan in a towel, holding the phone saying they had been called into the BAU. Garcia is flustered, grabs her things (she had slept in her clothes) and opens the door, pushes Kevin from the door frame and leaves Morgan in her apartment without Kevin seeing that he was there. All during the episode Garcia was jumpy around Morgan, not giving him sass, etc., and after the case Morgan talks to her and it comes out that she called Morgan when she had been drinking and he came over, they watched a movie, ate popcorn and he slept on the couch, because he didn’t want her going out in her inebriated state. Sorry Garcia and Morgan shippers! Garcia and Morgan’s friendship is a wonderful thing and I personally would hate for them to ruin it by sleeping together. Garcia feels the same way because she thanked the gods for preserving the most precious of friendships!
All in all not a great episode, but a good one. I am glad the team finally showed up at the mid-point or I might have actually thought about changing the channel.