PLOT AND PACE...
... otherwise known as the basic elements that determine the quality of any episode.
As I did know this was Ticona Joy's first ever written script I wasn't expecting perfection, just a well researched (Ticona is Criminal Minds researcher), well plotted episode that, at the same time, would show the inexperience of the writer. I found about what I expected.
The prep work she did was painfully perfect. A simple foray into Wikipedia allows to find a slew of similar cases to Lauryn-Anne Harrison's gang rape, by frat students and/or college sports stars who were subsequently protected by those who should know better, but more important, who should use their positions of power to protect the victims, not the criminals. "Painfully" indeed...
About the pig mask that surprised many of us: a friend mentioned that could be a homage to Amanda Young, a character of the Saw franchise who wore a similar disguise in those movies. Would like to know if this is true.
The plot had a small hole that disconcerted me. Rossi tried to explain how Sheila managed to move her victims from the abduction site to her torture chamber, but fell a bit short; although Christy was petite, Sheila didn't look big enough or strong enough to be able to move the men, even if it was a small distance, especially since it also included a set or rickety stairs.
The storytelling would have been better served cutting a couple of the torture scenes out, or shortening all of them; we don't need to see the unsubs hurting the victims, our imaginations can fill the gaps better than any image, thank you very much! That saved screentime should have been used to expand the cognitive interview Reid did. Instead of doing just one to a single party attendee, interviewing several more party-goers would have given more credibility to the process; different people remembering different parts of the sequence of events that led to the gang-rape would have been much more believable, instead of being just one guy seeing everything.
- The pace was wrong: when the BAU suspects/hopes the victims may still be alive, even if only for the fact that no bodies have surfaced, they hit the ground running and don't stop running until the case is solved. Never got the impression they were in a hurry to find the victims in this one, never heard in my head the "tick, tock" sound of the clock eating the victims' time.
- Sheila Harrison portrayal: don't know why they cast this actress to play such a pivotal character, but I didn't believe her. Sheila wasn't grief stricken enough, furious enough, mad enough, nor unbalanced enough. To me Sheila wasn't expressing any of those feelings enough to justify any of her actions. I don't like dramatics or overacting, and yet many other actors convey any or all those feelings without having to resort to that.
TO COMMIT OR NOT TO COMMIT...
... otherwise revealed as Derek Morgan's conundrum.
This line: "Meanwhile, Savannah vents her frustration to Morgan about the amount of traveling he does for his job." from the episode press release sit badly with me. Fortunately was misleading...
Derek Morgan is a really good FBI agent and profiler, but unlike Hotch, I think profiling is a job he is good at, not part of who he is. Savannah Hayes is a professional in a similarly demanding field who, contrary to Haley, has already proved to herself that she needs nobody to have the life she wants.
How Morgan handled Savannah's disappointment for another canceled dinner with her parents was smart of him, he didn't dismiss her feelings, he tried to make sure she was all right... and because he has had commitment issues nearly all his life, and of course, because he is a man, promptly managed to royally screw up! Loved Savannah's reaction: she was angry indeed, but she didn't rage at him like a spoiled-brat would have done; she made very clear what the root of the problem was, and dismissed him to think about it.
The scene between Morgan and JJ in the plane could have been fun, and certainly what she says to him is pointedly accurate, BUT... JJ imitating Morgan was a bad copy of the funny tweets from Paget imitating Shemar way back when he still didn't have a twitter account, and that took the fun out of that scene for me, because Paget was genuine, and funnier by a mile. Why had Morgan have to have that conversation with JJ instead of someone else? Do (all) the writers want us to believe that now the only person any of them can confide in and get good advice from is JJ? The relationships among the characters forged through the previous seasons are to be dismissed and forgotten? Canon and/or variety mean anything to them?
Morgan: You know? I think I liked you better when you were the Press Liason...Me: No, Derek, I don't think so, I KNOW I liked her then.
Derek Morgan committing to fight for a life with the woman he loves, - taking such leap of faith and trust, - was probably the biggest step forward this character has taken to finally solve the trust issues that had hindered him since well before we met him, and that had troubled him at one point or other with many of his colleagues since the series debuted. Shemar nailed the scene; the air of vulnerability Derek exuded when he declared his love to Savannah said it all.
Aaaaaaaaaah, Savannah is very smart... "I've seen you driving. I'm driving!" I like her!
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM...
... otherwise known as SSA Jennifer "JJ" Jareau.
Was she badly used during this episode? Many could argue that no, she was fine in most of her scenes. Many too could argue that once again she was too prominent, maybe not as much as other times in quantity, but definitively in quality, and in one glaring instance completely out of place; JJ, the rookie, is the one deciding when "to give the profile"? REALLY??? In one little line she took the decision from Hotch, - the Boss, experienced agent and profiler, - Rossi, - the Senior agent, who can't be more experienced in a field he helped create, - and even Morgan, Blake and Reid, who all one way (years as agents) or other (years as profilers), or both, outrank her.
JJ has gone from being the smart, intelligent, witty, funny, and compassionate agent who us, the viewers of Criminal Minds, could relate to, and who gave us "permission" to feel for victims and families to the fullest, and even the agents themselves, to being a know-it-all superagent that strongly resembles the worst examples of the Mary-Sues of the fanfiction world, making me not want to see her on my screen with the same intensity that those fic characters make me scramble for the "escape" button in my keyboard.
JJ was my favorite female character from her first scene on Criminal Minds, when in the 2nd episode of Season 1 she floored Elle with information about herself, her job, and her offer of help for anything she may need. That ended on the 2nd episode of Season 6, when the character I had loved for over 5 years, the character I fought along many, many others to keep with us, and later to get back, was yanked from my show to never be seen again. We got a look-a-like back, but she had lost all the qualities that made her unique, lovable, and in some instances, just plain extraordinaire.
I didn't fight to get this JJ 2.0, I didn't ask for this JJ 2.0, I can't stand this JJ 2.0. JJ, sadly for me, disappeared into the horizon in "J.J." to never return: "There are [...] people we can't live without but have to let go."
~~~~Sir Elyan The White