Saturday, October 11, 2014

CRIMINAL MINDS Season 10 - 1002. Burn - Review

To begin, I would once again like to thank the wonderful CMRT staff that has asked me to be a guest reviewer for this season. I truly appreciate their kind invitation.

Off to the races…

From the top, I'm going to be honest. I had my doubts about this episode, especially the “B” storyline with Garcia. However, like always, I'm a wait, watch and then judge person so I kept that pretty much to myself. My first watch of the episode as it aired on CBS pretty much confirmed that.

To do a decent review, I need to watch the episode more than once. As I've mentioned before, I do that watching it online, wearing my headphones. I catch so much that I missed in the initial airing. And I'm now glad I did that for this episode.

The opening sequence of the death row scene was interesting until I saw the overhead camera shot of the “inmate” dressed in orange. When I noticed a certain particular part of anatomy, I knew it was a Garcia dream. The shot of Morgan in the viewing room tipped it off more.

We get so few and far between scenes of just Hotch and Garcia together, I cherish every one. And after those too few scenes (House on Fire [S4] and Compromising Positions [S6] come to mind), Hotch understands Garcia more than the average viewer is led to think. So I found the office scene very believable. And I loved the “get up, sit back down” part of that scene. It was totally Garcia; and Hotch, being the true gentleman.

The extended promo put out by CBS (don't get me going on THAT subject) pretty much spoiled the Morgan/Garcia scene. However, I agreed with Morgan. Janine Sherman Barrios wrote some great lines of tough love from Morgan that Garcia needed to hear.

I loved the Round Table briefing, starting with Rossi's snark line about a “Morgan/Garcia love child” with Morgan calling him out. “Busted,” and Rossi's impish grin. You all know I'm a fangirl of Rossi after Hotch. I love me some Rossi snark!

And then we move on to our unsub. I don't know why Janine refuses to listen to the Criminal Minds fans. We don't want to see the unsub in the opening intro. And yes, sometimes it is necessary to see to the devolving of the unsub. This episode wasn't it. The CBS press release didn't help with naming C.S. Lee as the guest star and naming him the unsub. I knew going in that the unsub was Asian and the goggles with the red lenses couldn't hide that, including the camera shot through the water.

In my first watch, and doing an online chat during the episode, I couldn't hear what was being said in the background. The headphones provide me the clue, and I knew we were going to visit Dante's Inferno. “Abandoned hope all ye who enter here.” I immediately thought of the season 3 scene from Lucky with Rossi saying that in Italian and Reid translating for the team. And by the way, was I the only one that noticed the unsub seemed to be wearing a ladies swimsuit underneath his plastic protection? I don't know if I'm right; if it was; nice touch. It further showed the angst of the unsub's feeling of being broken down and ashamed for some action in his past.

The farther backward you can look the farther forward you can see. Winston Churchill.

Act One was solid for the most part. The bus stop scene with Garcia could have totally been edited out to give us viewers more time with the team. It simply wasn't needed. I could have also done without the scene with Garcia checking into the prison; however it did fit into the further plot line.

Morgan and Reid at the ME's office provided another clue with finding the Roman numerals in the rooftops of the victim's mouths; and deducing there were two previous victims started to add to the profile. But I did notice one thing that seemed a bit odd to me. Reid picked up a second dental instrument to examine the second victim's mouth. Umm, excuse me, but the victims are dead. Why did he need a new instrument? He couldn't cross contaminant DNA or anything else. But if it was Reid being Reid, I can accept that. It just struck me as odd.

I enjoyed the team pairings. For the second week in a row, Rossi was paired with Callahan. In my world; this fits. Callahan obviously has the profiling chops; yet she is still the rookie on the team. To have her paired with “elder statesman” and BAU co-founder makes perfect sense to me. Plus I think this is a writers' room plan: put Joe with JLH to get the fans to like her more. Yet, the two found another significant clue to the unsub's M.O. And I like the quirky bits of humor they show about JLH's character.

Hotch and JJ's interview of the victim's families provided a further clue about the unsub. Even though we saw the unsub up front, Janine wrote a script of the team slowly building their profile. My kudos to Set Designer K.C. Fox; (s)he gave the SPD a totally tripped out headquarters. Significantly, it had a wooden statue in the lobby that is part of the Native American culture of the area I love to visit. That was a great touch.

The scene of Morgan and Reid discussing what was going on with Garcia, following up on their conversation on the jet, was fantastic. I really liked Janine looking back at season 1, pulling in Reid's experience in L.D.S.K. Reid was right; ultimately, it's the victims that need justice.

Through her tweets during filming, Janine sang the praises of having Karen Gaviola directing the episode. I know she's one of Janine's favorites. But I didn't understand Karen's symbolism of the two long hallway shots of the team developing the profile. I would have much rather had more camera shots of the team doing their work in the conference room. Janine should stick to Constantine Makris that directed the brilliant episode Strange Fruit from last season.

Cue up the unsub moving on to burn his next victim alive. This is a heinous death that I would rather not see (like in Devil's Night [S6]). However, I understand that serial killers can use different kill methods and this is one of them. As Garcia once said, this still gets an “ick, ick, icky” for me. And I still didn't understand the goggles with the red lenses.

Act Two started off with Garcia in her shabby hotel room. It was great touch to paint the scene of how bad it was with the stripes of (I can't come up with the proper word) showing the AC running before Garcia described the room to Morgan in her voicemail. Gaviola gets props for that little tidbit. Baylor's phone call to Garcia provided a foreshadowing of Garcia maybe getting some closure.

Examining the sixth victim, Reid put together the clue of the unsub using the circles of death from Inferno. I've never read the piece so I would've had no clue to this. I totally enjoyed the lengthy profile the team gave, explaining how they connected the poem to the unsub's profile. That was great writing on Janine's part.

That led us to the unsub targeting his next victim (which should have been the first shot of the unsub through the rear-view mirror of the vehicle) as the team worked the profile. I really like Garcia; that said I totally enjoyed a technical analyst, aka Kevin Lynch giving concise answers without all the rest of Garcia's usual additional verbiage. And welcome back to Criminal Minds Nick!

In my first watch, this is where the “A” storyline fizzled for me. I didn't get the connection of Nathan Chow and him being a campus bomber to the unsub. While Nathan was obviously a fractured kid with the scene of him walking through the dorm hallway, it made no sense to me. In Act Three though, it all come together.

Yet, before that could happen, we got the scene with Garcia finally meeting Greg Baylor face to face. It started with another long hallway camera shot that I didn't get, finally putting us in the room. This is the part of Janine's script that chased away my skepticism of the “B” plot line away. Baylor called it: Garcia was there for herself.

In between, we got the team working the profile more. God love Janine for giving me a snippet of Hotch and Dave working a profile off each other. But there is no writer currently on the Criminal Minds staff that can script a scene to match these two senior profilers working off each other like Oahn Ly did in Identity in season 4.

And then Baylor revealed his true feelings. He was alone and Garcia was the only one that reached out to him. This scene was powerful. And for me, it brought home Janine's idea for this plotline. Garcia had to make a choice. And when he finally walked out, the long hallway camera shot did make sense to me; it was perfect as Garcia kept calling his name. However, if that was Gaviola's symbolism with the earlier ones, it was too little too late.

Then we got the final connection to the unsub through Hotch profiling Nathan Chow's edition of Inferno with the team adding in. Through Reid's account, we got to see the background of Justin Leu's tortured life. Those were great vignettes that tied the unsub plotline together, along with the scene of Leu changing the grade on the student's paper. This is one of the reasons that I love Criminal Minds; how, with the team's profiling, it all comes together.

Enter Morgan and JJ. I was proudly one of the peeps that ranted against this duo taking down unsub after unsub in the later part of last season as the rest of team disappeared; particularly Hotch and Rossi. Don't get me wrong; I'm not against the pairing of them together. It fits for me most times, given that Morgan re-certified JJ when she came back to the team. I'm just against them being together so much, always being the ones that take down unsub after unsub. As a proud AARP cardholder, those of us over 50 have game. That includes Hotch (even though in Criminal Minds canon he's not there yet) and Rossi.

Yet the scene, with Leu seeing his father instead of his victim had merit. It showed me Leu's total breakdown of his psychology that drove him to kill.

This brings me to the scene with Garcia sitting in her hotel room, making one last desperate call to Morgan with a plea for help. And then we go to Baylor making the “Dead Man's Walk”. I know I've sung the praises of the wonderful music crew of the Steffan brothers and Scott Gordon in reviews before. Yet, I loved the song that was selected as Baylor made that walk and into the death chamber. I'm not into the current music scene, so a shout out to my Aussie friend Monkster for identifying the song/performers; The Gilded Hand by Radical Face. It was perfect. And so was the ending. Plus, I noticed the different lighting between that scene and Garcia's dream. Hers was dark; this one completely different.

Final analysis: and to the true heart of the episode. Janine wanted to give Kirsten Vangsness a vehicle to show her acting chops; Kirsten got it and delivered. Although I could have done with a little less of her “water works” aka tears. The last scene with Garcia and Morgan was fantastic in my book. Morgan, in his infinite wisdom, by not answering her calls, was giving her tough love. Garcia needed to make this journey alone. The final scene of Garcia, traveling in the taxi cab alone through the dark, late night streets of DC was spot on. Her solo journey was completed. And kudos to Janine for not letting Morgan be her security net or blankie. Garcia needed to make this pilgrimage alone, ultimately understanding who Greg Baylor was; and all on her own. Yet having Morgan there (and total props to whoever perfectly re-created the courtyard outside Garcia's apartment that we saw in Penelope [S3] including the number of the address on the brick front wall) was the ending that Garcia needed. She made the journey on her own. THEN she needed her friend who beforehand refused to be her crutch. Yet he held her up for her in the end.

You may have noticed me recollecting previous Criminal Minds  episodes from this episode. I don't know if that was intentional on Janine's part. Or me just being an over observant  Criminal Minds fan. Either way, I liked it.

All of you that know me; I tend to be the “happy, positive” Criminal Minds  fan. I hate to cut down my favorite show in public. On my first watch of the episode, I found the “A” storyline fragmented at best. I too felt like there was very little team, especially Callahan in this episode. As I've said; I realize that was wrong. And my misgivings of the “B” storyline proved to better than I originally thought.

Still, this wasn't Janine's best effort (even after further watches); so it was a major disappointment to me after the great season opening episode that Erica Messer wrote. I had expected better from Janine. This episode didn't give my cheerleader pom-poms a lot of props.

Rockie's final grade: B- (And being the cheerleader that I am, I tend to grade on “high” curve)



  1. It was the same thing for me—the first time I watched it, I thought it really badly done, but the second time, I realized I'd missed a lot and it was much better than I'd previously thought.
    I liked your review. You touched upon all the things that I noticed the second time around, and on the same things that annoyed me.
    I might up it to a B, though. :)

  2. I agree with much of your comments about the case which were well put. However, I have now watched the episode 3 times after reading many views and comments and I'm sorry but I still find the Garcia subplot unbelievable and melodramatic, as was much of KV's acting. The whole premise of it still makes no sense to me and it comes over that her saving Reid's life wasn't important to her. Also I know it's TV land but the manipulation of the time frame for the execution to fit the story still irks me. Maybe if they had let her PTSD simmer and pop up towards the end of the season it would have been more believable and wouldn't have been so distracting. After all, we are going to see JJ;s PTSD some 3 years after events in Afghanistan and PTSD can be triggered much later. I would rather have seen her dealing more with Reid and how she felt after saving their lives than this OTT angst over Baylor.

    1. thank you mary for these words, it's exactly what I've been thinking

  3. Great review, tons of detail I wouldn't have seen no matter how many rewinds. I came away with something different. The death penalty issue is a hot spot like politics and religion. Garcia saw herself in the chair and that's her greatest appeal, her humanity and empathy (listen up, Morgan). She wanted lifetime incarceration for Baylor, not absolution, and that's how it evolved into a death penalty statement to me. As much as I liked Morgan, I am blown away by his callous treatment of Garcia, particularly in light of their so-called friendship. My super sore spot is name-calling, like scum for Baylor and crazy for Garcia. It's not the what, it's the why, and an educated and experienced Morgan should know that. Of course, Aaron did not judge and I will stifle my accolades for TG/Aaron. Morgan turned into a fair weather friend, supporting Garcia conditionally. He refused her pleading phone messages and abandoned her on this highly charged journey but was there for her destination. I would have slugged Morgan at the end. It wasn't like this was a bad haircut for Garcia. Baylor was right in that we do what we do for ourselves, even if it is altruistic. That's human nature, it's not a bad thing, and it will never change. Many people who are alone know what it's like not to have a witness to your life. Through Morgan's heartless actions, Garcia realized Baylor needed a witness to his dire end, no judgments, no analysis of faulty DNA or past abuse, mental illness or whatever. All that being said, the juvenile Garcia is wearing thin. I want more of that glimpse of her with Aaron in Compromising Positions. It's been ten years of kittens and panda bears and bows. The huge white bow on her dress at the execution was distracting, not to mention a death row fashion faux pas. Grow the character up. KV has great potential as a dramatic/comedic actor rather than a caricature.

    1. I agree about Morgan seeming like a fair weather friend. No matter what his reasons were, I don't see he had the right to abandon her like that. I do think that Garcia had to go it alone but I wish that hadn't entailed Morgan chewing her out as he did and ignoring her calls.

  4. Sometimes, even with dear friends, you just can't take the journey with them, no matter what. Think of having a female friend who insists on living with an abusive man, emotionally or physically, in spite of having the means to leave. I saw Morgan's POV that way, I love you but I can't watch you do this to yourself. .

  5. Agree completely, but a dear friend offers resources and shelter to the abused person, and if she refuses, then for sure it's not my journey. I understand Morgan's disagreement with Garcia, but not his mockery and dismissal of her. I don't understand how a domestic violence situation compares to Garcia's decision to be with Baylor during his final hours as he accepted his fate for his crimes. I did not want Morgan to go with Garcia to the facility, only to be her soft spot to land while away. With friends like that… we all have different ideas of friendship and that's what makes the world spin. As for me, I will never speak to Morgan again. And this is why Aaron/TG is my leading man.


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