Sunday, March 27, 2016

CRIMINAL MINDS Season 11 - 1118. A Beautiful Disaster - Review

Hello again. The folks at Criminal Minds Round Table decided to subject the readers to another review from me, so here I am again. I will preface this by saying that I went in to this episode knowing that it was Shemar's last one. My Bothan spies social media savvy friends online supplied me with links to articles as well as Twitter and Instagram posts from Shemar and various people associated with the show. Shemar basically telegraphed that he was moving on while avoiding outright admitting it, and it was clear (at least to me) that he was the one departing. I was fairly certain that Erica Messer would not be able to bring herself to kill Morgan, so I had no fears for his safety, although I was concerned that they might kill off Savannah to make an excuse for Morgan to become a full-time stay-at-home-dad. That would not have gone over well with me, as it would have made Savannah the 7th female to be killed to induce angst for a main male character.

I am currently re-watching the episode as I compose this so I can notice things I missed the first time and have details fresh in my mind. As such, this will follow my stream of consciousness. Life has been crazy for me lately, so my brain is not at it's peak. I hope the following will make sense. My apologies for any typographical, spelling, and grammatical errors that ensue.

The episode started out with a sense of urgency that immediately grabbed me. I found it interesting that they started with Morgan rushing in to the hospital carrying Savannah instead of having the "Previously, on Criminal Minds..." blurb. I liked how we could see the name of the hospital on the wall in the form of shadow and how it was disrupted by Morgan entering and casting his own shadow. I also liked that it was called Bethesda because Bethesda Softworks is the company that makes the Fallout and Elder Scrolls video games.

I normally am not a fan of having the camera move around a lot, but in this case it worked because it was still steady enough to not give me motion sickness and it helped to convey the chaos and panic Morgan was experiencing. Shemar did a good job of conveying that sense of helplessness and shock.

Something I found odd: wasn't Savannah shot outside of the hospital where she worked? If so, why didn't the staff recognize her? And wouldn't at least one of them have known how far along she was in her pregnancy? Or was she shot outside of a different hospital? I can't recall.

I like Garcia's mug with mushrooms all over it. Garcia loses points for answering her work phone with just "Hello" when she didn't know who was calling-- even if it was after hours. The appropriate way to answer would be to identify her department and her name, but I understand they had to cut at least 17 minutes from the episode, and phone etiquette is often abridged on TV and in movies, but sometimes it bugs me.

I liked how they shot the scene of Garcia telling JJ and Reid about Savannah-- where we didn't hear the dialog, but we could see the frantic energy of them jumping in to action and running out. I even liked how the redhead extra in the background moved as if to see what was going on rather than seeming to remain oblivious. Little details like that help to add realism to a scene. Too often, the bystanders have no reaction at all when they really should.

I liked the double pat on the shoulder Rossie gave before walking away. Again, it was a small gesture that conveyed nonverbal communication and normal human interaction. The cop, for his part, looked suitably upset about the situation.

I loved how Hotch immediately went into leader mode as soon as he got out of the car. There was no hesitation for niceties, and he just took command of the situation before he even shut the SUV door. There was no harshness in his tone, just all-business taking charge. He was outwardly in control, but there was an underlying sense of urgency that Thomas conveyed well.

I know they wanted the drama of Morgan not being allowed on the crime scene and all, but I wish that someone had stepped in sooner to tell the cop to let him through. I heard that Joe said AJ was feeling very ill while filming the previous episode and I wonder if she was still under-the-weather when this one was being filmed. Her "Hey Hey, he's an agent; let him through" line sounded like she was tired with a tinge of stress. But maybe that was what they were going for.

I get that Morgan was frustrated and feeling helpless, but I didn't like the angry tone he used when he was demanding information. Having Morgan get angry and express outrage seems to be one of the go-to writing choices for Erica Messer. I wish they had done the scene differently. They could have had the cop initially refuse to let Morgan through and Morgan could have called to a team member to say "Tell them I'm with you!" or he could have pulled out his badge. I wanted to see the team members approach him to see if he was OK and then invite him over with the rest of the group. It seemed that Hotch's sense of being in command deflated a little bit when Morgan arrived on the scene. I did like how Garcia attempted to calm Morgan down a little. Ideally, Hotch would have been the one to wave Morgan over since he is the boss. Nothing against JJ, I like her again (I disliked her for a long while after her return as a different character, but they toned her down a lot), but I want to see the person who is the unit chief actually showing that he is in charge. Instead, of staying in charge and in command, Hotch seemed to switch to a more passive role. I wanted to see him look Morgan directly in the eye and maybe put a hand on his shoulder and tell him that he was in charge and that they were doing what they could in that situation. Instead, Hotch's body language switched to show lower confidence. His head turned and he seemed to not know where to look. On one hand, maybe Hotch was feeling empathy to Morgan's sense of panic because he knew how it felt, but on the other, I wanted to see him stay in charge.

I'm surprised that Garcia didn't immediately run to Morgan and put her hands on his arms and ask if he was OK, or at least offer some comfort. You would think that would come first before jumping straight to Morgan demanding info. I did like how Reid immediately started asking Morgan for details after Rossi said they had no further information. He knew Morgan was probably ready to burst and being told there was nothing was going to make him stew if they didn't distract him with other things. Plus it is important to get the details as soon as possible after an event, while said details are fresh in the mind of the witness. I still wish Hotch had not been standing there silently (other than when he told Garcia to check surveillance footage).

I missed the first time I watched that Tara was donating blood in case Savannah needed it. I don't know if they are the same blood type, but it was a nice gesture and it explained Tara's absence at that point. I also liked how the Morgan looked at his arm at the mention of blood because it reminded him that Savannah's blood had been on his arm and hand.

Morgan not being able to hold still and sit down made sense. If you've ever had to wait on doctors in an emergency room while worrying about a loved one, you know how nerve wracking it can be. I thought Morgan's line about Garcia's blind optimism was out of place because Garcia was just trying to let him know that he wasn't alone and he had people there for him. There's a difference between being optimistic and being available to comfort someone. Of course, Morgan probably expected she was about to break into a pep talk, but there was still something a little off to me. The scene was well-blocked and well-acted though.

I liked how Garcia took one look at Hotch's stressed expression and knew to leave. Hotch looked like he was holding his breath a little. Was it just me, or was his face actually a bit red? I know that in real life, its likely that Morgan would have been taken off the case, but given this show's track record, I thought it was a bad idea to have Hotch tell Morgan he was off the case. I understand some of the reasoning behind it. I liked how Hotch stayed calm and that Morgan even brought up how Hotch stayed involved with the Foyet case, and Hotch just said "And how'd that turn out?" Ouch. I did like that Morgan seemed to regret bringing it up and that he apologized. It was a nicely done scene and the reactions were believable. I just took issue with the choice to completely remove Morgan from the investigation-- especially since Hotch knew first-hand what Morgan was going through and also because he could reasonably predict how Morgan would react. They could have told him he needed to stay at the hospital, but still kept him in the loop and let him feel like he was contributing. I'm surprised it seemed like none of them conducted a cognitive interview to walk him through what happened to see if there were any details that could help. If they hadn't shut him out, he would have been much less likely to go rogue over the rouge reference. While I think Morgan's anger was understandable in this situation, it just didn't need to happen and I don't like Angry!Morgan. I liked Morgan in the earlier seasons when he was calm, intelligent, and professional.

Of course, on the flipside, maybe Hotch was trying to spare Morgan from going through what he went through and it was just a poor judgment call on his part because he was distracted by his own negative experience. He's human so he can make mistakes, but I still have trouble buying that Hotch would think it was a good idea to tell Morgan he was being shut out when he knew Morgan really needed to feel included.

I've noticed that when Matthew is directing an episode, he tends to stand up a bit straighter and Reid seems to have move confidence and authority. And Hotch comes in and confirms that they expected him to take the news of being taken off the case very badly. So, why even tell him he was off the case in the first place? Savannah was in surgery. Why not let him sit in and contribute? If he started to be disruptive, they could always tell him he was upsetting the balance and they needed him to be calm so they could focus. It took me a moment to remember who Bradley was and if I hadn't already watched the episode once, I would have no idea who the Montolo family is/was. Interesting that the team didn't include Rossi in the "extracurricular" investigation. I wonder why.

OK, so they showed pictures of the people they were talking about to make it a little more clear. Not sure I get why Hotch jumped to the conclusion that Chaz Montolo staged his own death. I think they said that dental records and such of the dead matched-- so how did he accomplish faking his death? It would be more likely that he was killed too-- not that he had faked his death. So, that was an illogical leap. I like that Hotch was the one with the idea but it would have been nice if there had been more evidence or *something* to support that leap. It would have made more sense if someone on the team had been looking at the security footage and thought the one man's face looked familiar.

I liked that Hotch took command again and was delegating. He knew that Morgan was too angry to listen to him and figured Reid might be able to calm him down. Just as the camera was panning out of that scene, I saw that JJ put her hand on Garcia's back, which was a nice subtle little moment.

I liked that Reid was honest with Morgan about why he was there instead of Garcia. He knew that trying to BS would probably only alienate Morgan. I liked that he offered Morgan some green tea and that Morgan actually took it. So, three heartbeats in ten seconds equals 200 beats per minute. If that is 20% higher than his usual stressed heart rate then his usual stressed heart rate is around 166. I was calculating this because I read some discussion of people objecting to the medical science behind the heart rate. Anyway, I liked how Reid changed the subject and responded with science babble when Morgan demanded information on what the team knew about the Unsub. I did like that Morgan calmed down a bit, but I call BS on him leaping to the conclusion that the Unsub was a father because Reid mentioned "paternal instinct" as a deadly bias. Morgan reading more into that was not believable to me.

Interesting that the Unsub was the one who called Garcia. I wonder who she thought had called to inform her. The Unsub clearly expected them to recognize him on the security footage and seemed to be taunting them by smiling up at the camera. Do hospitals still even have payphones nowadays? They don't have them where I live-- but they don't have ANY payphones where I live. I guess they needed to conveniently have the Unsub put the paper in the coin return slot.

Morgan then thinking about the Unsub at the payphone seemed a little contrived to me. Unless he subconsciously recognized the man's face, it didn't make sense for him to focus on that-- at least at that point in time. It seems more likely that he would be remembering the moment when Savannah was first shot instead. Now, if they'd had him have that flashback AFTER after he was told about JJ finding the message in the payphone, that would have been different.

I admit that if I were Morgan, having Tara say it was a "miracle" probably wouldn't sit well with me. Savannah was still in surgery and could still die or lose the baby at that point. Yes, it happened in front of a hospital, but I wouldn't categorize that as miraculous-- especially when the next bit of speculation was that the point was not to kill. I read in an interview with Erica Messer that a longer scene of Tara talking to Morgan was included in the seventeen minutes of footage that had to be cut from the episode. I thought what remained was fine. I like Tara's new wig. It's more flattering than the old one.

Then in walks Hotch. At least he was still sharing some information within earshot of Morgan. I didn't think the Unsub looked like a homeless guy, but maybe that's just me. He looked more like guys I see at Walmart from time to time. His jacket was too clean and nice, his hair looked relatively clean, and basically he looked cleaner than a lot of guys I see around town. Morgan immediately jumping to the conclusion that it was Chaz Montolo seemed a bit contrived as well. If he didn't really see the man's face and Chaz was thought to be dead, why would that be his first conclusion?

While I understand that JJ has a personal investment in this because she lost a baby due to a violent attack and Savannah being hurt brought back that memory and pain, I disagree with her decision to defy Hotch's orders. She should have immediately gone to the rest of the team and shown them the message and then Hotch could have called Morgan in to ask him about it in front of the rest of the team so they could see his reaction. Had they not banned him from working on the case, he might have been more honest and forthcoming with them. It would have made more sense for JJ to have gone to Hotch and told him she disagreed about taking Morgan off the case and asked him to include Morgan instead. Hotch is reasonable and may have agreed. And it was rather crappy of Morgan to lie to JJ's face (and it was clear she knew he was lying) after she extended him the courtesy of giving him info before giving it to the team. Also, are you going to tell me that of all of the places Morgan fixed up, only one of them had a feature in red? Again, another contrived leap.

Garcia saying "It's not fair and it needs to stop" sums up how I feel about the entire Dirty Dozen plotline. Only, instead of "fair" I would substitute "interesting" or "good" because the entire arc has been the low point of the season for me. It didn't make sense and it never interested me. According to Erica Messer, they initial plan was for Morgan to leave in episode eight, but things got bumped back so they had to drag the story out for longer.

I did like that Hotch realized Morgan was lying to him, and this stupidity and unnecessary conflict could have been avoided if they'd had Hotch show his usual intelligence and keep Morgan included in the first place. It's one of those moments where I'm watching TV and facepalming. Sure, it led to some nice acting from Thomas and showed that Hotch realizes what's going on, but he shouldn't have made the initial mistake in the first place. It was just out-of-character. I wish they'd had Hotch try to fix things by saying he wanted to bring Morgan back into the fold so they wouldn't be divided or have had him task someone with keeping an eye on Morgan because it was predictable that he might go try to hunt down Montolo. That was a thought that occurred to me the first time I watched, so it would not have been an illogical leap.

Morgan driving while talking on the cellphone made me think of how holding a cellphone and yabbering while driving is becoming illegal in many places. Surely Morgan could get some sort of Bluetooth setup with his vehicle so he could push a button and answer his phone. My 2013 Honda Ridgeline pickup truck (which is much more awesome than Morgan's truck-- I mean, it has a freaking trunk in the pickup bed!) has a setup so I can link it to my cellphone-- and I have a Bluetooth Beanie (hat) so I can push a button to answer my phone and it works as a headset during cold weather. The scene also seemed to echo the one where Hotch was on the phone with Foyet when Haley was killed, but it wasn't as powerful to me. Morgan just refusing to share info with the team was just the height of stupidity. I don't care how stressed and angry he was, it was just out-of-character and I thought it was insulting to his intelligence. It also just felt too plot-driven. Especially after what happened to Haley and Maeve, you'd think he would have learned that going alone is not the right thing to do.

Random note to self: the house number was 2221. I wonder if there was any significance to that or if it just happened to be the address that was on the house or if it was random. The glaucoma eye actually did add to the creep factor of the Unsub. Am I the only one who kept wanting Morgan to just slap the gun out of the Unsub's wobbly hand and take control? Of course, it would have made the episode much shorter. There was good tension in the scene between Morgan and the Unsub, but I do question why the Unsub blamed Morgan for the death of his son. It's another illogical leap, although, since it seems the guy is somewhat mental, it isn't too far fetched for me to begrudgingly accept. He couldn't find the real culprits (I think they were dead) so he found someone for revenge by proxy. A little cognitive dissonance mixed in to make him feel justified, and we have our Unsub.

Chaz putting one bullet in the revolver and trying to elicit a confession seemed like a less interesting version of the scene from Revelations when Tobias had Reid at gunpoint. It was pretty much a rip-off of that episode complete with Morgan saying "No" and the Unsub pulling the trigger only to have the gun click. I do like the reference to Morgan's side hobby-- renovating houses. Although, when would he actually have the time to do it? A little too contrived that it seemed the first property they looked at was the one where Morgan was being held captive, but it's not totally unbelievable. Sometimes investigators just get lucky. I actually felt sorry for Savannah that Morgan wasn't there for her when they were taking her away. It just made Morgan seem so much more selfish to leave her there like that, and I am irritated with the writers for that.

At least Morgan did admit that he was the one responsible for his own decisions when he thought he was going to die. And I think they were trying to mirror Haley's goodbye to Hotch in some ways-- including the team all listening in. It was filmed well and had good suspense, although I was 90% certain that Morgan had turned the gun on the Unsub or pushed the gun aside when we heard the gunshot.

The first time I watched, I thought it was dumb of Morgan to assume that the house didn't have a landline. I mean, just because he didn't put one in didn't mean someone else couldn't have paid the phone company to add one. However, the fact that the Unsub used a cellphone to call Garcia instead of the landline actually made a little more sense. Morgan trying to bait the Unsub to pick up the gun was akin to Rossi baiting the Unsub in Nelson's Sparrow to pick up the gun. I think we were supposed to assume it was going to end the same way. I'm glad that Morgan resisted the urge to shoot him though.

Morgan being there with Savannah as they were handed the baby reminded me of some sappy fanfics, but I'm OK with a happy ending. Savannah looked too healthy and perky for someone who just got shot and had to have a c-section. I liked the transitions where we saw people framed through windows in doors and the camera panning to the wood then changed to shots of people in the hallway. Everyone just seemed genuinely happy when Morgan announced it was a boy. Garcia and Reid simultaneously hugging Morgan was sweet, and Rossi got in his kiss on the head. And even Hotch gave Morgan a hug!

I liked the moment at the incubator with Hotch and Morgan both looking at the baby. I also thought it was sort of evident. Knowing that Morgan was leaving, I realized that he was going to tell Hotch he wanted to retire when they panned away.

Each team member got a moment with Morgan toward the end and you could really get a sense that the cast knew what was coming and were going to miss Shemar.

Now, I do wish that when they cut back to the BAU that they had Morgan's retirement party complete with cake and let everyone say goodbye to him all at once and then maybe have a few private goodbyes. It wasn't that I didn't appreciate that the characters were going to miss him and that the cast were saying goodbye to Shemar, it was just the timing and the way it was done that made it a little bit tedious for me. If they had set it up differently, it would have been better. Maybe if people had stopped to talk to him while he was on his way out or something it could have worked.

I did get a genuine sense of sadness from AJ when she was hugging Shemar for their goodbye-- and I admit that I felt it was the actors more than the characters in that scene.

When Morgan went to say goodbye to Reid and started saying "I know you hate goodbyes, kid... and change" I imagined outtakes of him adding to the list of things Reid hates-- like germs, the beach, creamed spinach...

So the baby is Hank Spencer Morgan. That set my brain off on a weird track because Hank is a diminutive form of Henry and there was a show called Forever where the main character was Henry Morgan and his partner was portrayed by Alana de la Garza who currently plays Clara on Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. Also, JJ's first son is named Henry, so it is sort of like there are two Henrys-- although it seems that Morgan is probably just putting Hank on the birth certificate.

Reid's crying at the end seemed very heartfelt and real and it was sweet to hear Morgan and Reid say "I love you" to one another. Matthew decided to tease the Reid/Morgan fans on Instagram by posting a fan-made photoshopped image with a caption about the two of them posing for it at the mall. LOL. That said, as sweet as the scene was, I thought it ran on a little too long. They could have had it where we see them without hearing all of the dialog and maybe had some music playing while they embraced and looked at baby pictures. With Morgan's hand on Reid's head, it seemed like a good ending point, but then they had Morgan having to say goodbye to Garcia.

According to Erica Messer, the Garcia/Morgan goodbye scene was longer but was cut for time. Garcia was talking it a lot better than I'd expected, which was nice. As an aside, I started watching the shows Arrow and The Flash a few months ago and there is a character named Felicity who talks a LOT like Garcia. The same type of pauses, rambling on rapidly, etc. Even her voice sounds a bit similar to Garcia's. Oh, and they even gave her an origin story similar to Garcia's Black Queen episode where she used to be all goth and was involved with a guy who later came back to be a villain. Anyway, I couldn't help but think about that when Garcia was telling Morgan she'd be "pissed" if he stayed because he needed to take care of the baby. Now, I know that Garcia and Morgan were BFFs throughout the series and at times Garcia seemed unhealthily attached to Morgan, so it made sense that they would have a special heartfelt goodbye, but again, I felt that the scene dragged. We didn't need the lines about not being blind optimism. I kept checking my clock and waiting for the episode to end at this point. Even upon second watching, I feel like it just lasted too long and the episode lost momentum entirely. Also, the dialog was a bit too cheesy for me. Just so much dragging-- much like this review. LOL.

It was nice to see Reid look up and nod at Morgan when he was leaving. I just wish that the whole ending had been constructed better, and I wish that Hotch and Rossi had gotten more of a goodbye. Maybe if each member had gotten to say something about Morgan at a retirement party in the office, and then it could have been interrupted by a case and they had to go and then we could have had Morgan walking out with his box and looking back at the team and smiling and then had the elevator scene and ending quote.

Now, despite all of my gripes, I did actually enjoy the episode for the most part. On first viewing the beginning kept me engaged. I just had a few nitpicks about the contrived profiling parts, but it could have been much worse. I think I would have re-worked the story to have had the team include Morgan in the investigation, but then it would have been much harder to have the scene of Morgan being held at gunpoint. Honestly, I felt that bit was not necessary. I'm not a fan of having characters behave out-of-character because it is the only way to get to a certain plot point, but I've seen worse examples and this was no slow clap, so I can shrug it off.

In terms of exit arcs, I think this was probably one of the better ones in that the character was not presumed dead, there was more build to it, the character wasn't ruined, and the reasons for leaving were not too contrived. As I said before, I could have done without the Dirty Dozen part, but it was nice to see a character leave on a happy note and not seem too last-minute.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see how they write for Garcia now that she won't have anyone to do the inappropriate banter with. I admit that I won't miss that part and I didn't like how obsessed Garcia seemed with Morgan at times, but they still had a nice friendship. I'm hoping she can have more appropriate banter with other characters now. Since they left the door open for Morgan to return, they don't have to make him completely leave the FBI. He could still be working at Quantico teaching self defense to cadets.

I may be in the minority here, but I actually hope they bring Aisha Tyler in as a full time cast mate to replace Morgan instead of trying to get someone completely new. I like Tara, even though some people find her bland. So long as they don't over-use her, I think she is a nice addition to the team and Aisha gets along with the cast very well. Even though I didn't always like the direction they took with Morgan on the show, I did like that they sent him off on a happy note and that they left it open for him to make guest appearances. He wasn't my favorite character, but he was an important part of the dynamic and he will be missed.

TL:DR? Not the best episode but also not the worst. The team as a whole got a decent amount of time for later seasons. I give it a B.

I liked the last cast shot with Savannah in the wheelchair. It was cute.

~~~~Sesquipedalian (Guest reviewer)


  1. Good review, Sesky. I agree that there was a lot to pick at if one were wanting to spend the time, but it was a satisfactory goodbye to Morgan overall. I, too, hope they keep Tara as a cast member and don't add to the number of profilers.

  2. Who are these six killed females?

    1. 1. Gideon's girlfriend Sara (killed by Frank)
      2. Kate Joiner -- someone Hotch was fond of (killed in either Mayhem or Lo-Fi)
      3. Hotch's ex-wife Hayley (killed by Foyett in season 5)
      4. Reid's doomed love interest Maeve (killed by Diane)
      5. Rossi's ex-wife Carolyn (suicide)
      6. Erin Strauss-- who was having a fling with Rossi (killed by the Replicator)

    2. you forgot an old girlfriend of Rossi, begining of season 5, she was killed too :(

  3. Good review although I do disagree with your comment that the Morgan/Reid farewell scene dragged on - I thought that scene was absolute perfection and the best part of the episode.
    A very comprehensive review of a pivotal episode, thank you.

    1. Yeah, I think it comes down to personal preference in terms of those types of scenes. For me, something was off. I mean, the interaction was heartfelt and sweet, but I kept thinking that maybe they could have done things a little differently with either the music or the pacing or something. I can't quite put my finger on it.
      Maybe if he'd been at his retirement party and noticed that Reid had slipped out and then excused himself to go talk to him and then had Garcia waiting... If it hadn't seemed so spread out and seemed more like everyone was there to bid him adieu all at once but he still got individual time... I dunno. My life is crazy right now so it is hard to concentrate.

    2. agree, and I wouldn't say Reid/Morgan was perfect, JJ scene was pointless and AJ Cook was overdressed, but Garcia scene was even worse, in my opinion. Moreover, as it was pointed out above, he wasn't leaving the city, just the job.

      JJ (season 6) and Blake scenes were better done, even Emily's in season 7 were less soapy than Morgan's.

  4. excellent review sesquy!

  5. Sorry Sesqy I'm so darn late to the party. Your review was awesome!

    And Sir Elyan, your screen caps were amazing as well. You hit all of Sesqy's points wonderfully!

    Great job all!

    1. Thanks!
      One if the nice things is that the admins let me suggest specific images and where to put them. Although, I had to stop myself from asking for a picture every single paragraph because I love pictures. LOL.

      I shared low quality images of the stuff I wanted in specific places and then mentioned some of the ones that I forgot to capture and Sir Elyan took the time to get those specific shots in higher quality as well as add some nice extra ones as well.

      I thought about requesting the end having a gif of the doors closing on Morgan, but that seemed too final and I wanted to end on a happier note so I felt a closeup of the "family" photo would be a better way to end.

  6. A brief correction: I meant ten heartbeats every three seconds-- not three every ten. Oops.


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