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Criminal Minds – Recap & Review – To Hell…And Back

photo: cbs
photo: cbs

Criminal Minds
To Hell…And Back

Original Air Date: May 20, 2009

JD – Associate Staff Writer

In four seasons, Criminal Minds has done four different finales that have left me utterly emotional in one way or another. Last season it was an adrenaline high, jumping out of my chair and shouting. This season, I was wrecked. Er, emotionally wrecked, not drunk or anything, and not just over the final few minutes.

We start out in a bad neighborhood in Detroit, where the streets are lined with prostitutes, homeless, and drug addicts. A man is driving around watching them. He gets out of his car, sticks a gun in the back of his pants, then goes through the crowd, his gait awkward. But no one gets shot. Instead he appears upset, and leaves.

So where does one go when feeling down about that sort of thing? Canada, of course. Only our guy has an interesting way of saying hello to the border patrol. He pauses by their booth, then floors it, driving the car around in a circle and crashing into the booth. When the border control gets him out of the car, he confesses to ten murders. He has the pictures of the victims on his passenger seat (and miraculously they’re still in the seat after that wreck!)

Back at the BAU, we get the run down. Mr. Lead-foot is William Hightower, who claims to have murdered ten people and dumped their bodies across the border. He was a Sergeant in the Army until two months ago. He lost his leg, and was discharged with a Purple Heart and a commendation for valor. He hasn’t given a dump site, and refuses to talk to anyone but the FBI.

Hotch sends Morgan and Prentiss off to check out the neighborhood the victims were taken from, while the rest of the team goes straight to the Mounties.

The officer in charge of the Case, Jeff Bedwell, turns out to have been a student of Rossi’s, and he’s prepared for them when they get there. He seems to think Hightower fits the profile. Rossi tells Bedwell that Hightower won’t want to talk to anyone but the person he perceives as in charge, so they head off to let Hotch have a few words with him.

And by ‘a few words’ I mean that Hotch is Very Hotchly, and it doesn’t take very long to get Hightower to admit that he didn’t actually kill those people. He eventually gives away that all he wanted was to make sure the murders were investigated. See, his sister went missing off those streets, and he started noticing more disappearing. He went to the Detroit police three times, and no one did anything.

Cue the pigs! Cue the start of the many, many shots of said pigs. You will have had enough of them by the end of the episode. Anyway, some really big lumbering guy has one of the missing people tied up on a slab. He treats the guy to a nice spinal cord injury, via a hammer to the neck, and then sucks some sort of fluid out of the back of the victim’s neck with a syringe. Yum.

Hotch and Rossi get Hightower released into their custody, and Garcia finds something interesting. On the nights of the abductions, medical facilities near the area had break ins. They decide theunsub must be keeping the victims alive to enjoy their torture more.

The team talks to Hightower’s mother, who says that her daughter disappeared shortly after cashing her welfare check, and they team quickly puts together that all the missing people had been cashing their checks at the same place, a run down motel nearby. Which is where we meet Kelly, also known as Victim Number Two of the episode. As victims go, she turns out to be pretty awesome. Take lessons from Kelly, guys. You never know when you’ll be abducted by a guy with an unhealthy love of pigs and neck breaking.

The team rushes to get Kelly, and find nothing at the border cross, but Hightower suggests the Civil War era underground railroad that runs from Detroit to Canada. They scurry off again and find a car hidden in trees where ourunsub left it to boat Kelly across the river. Garcia checks the VIN, and they find one Mr. Mason Turner, a former medical student who lives on a farm. The team flees to the farm, where they find Turner in bed. Hooked up to a ventilator. And paralyzed from the neck down.

Somehow, this doesn’t quite add up.

All hell breaks loose, with Bedwell convinced that the FBI wasted his time, until Morgan finds a bin outside the house, filled with shoes. And I mean filled. Just when they start to wonder where the bodies are, Spencer pipes up. Pigs are omnivores. There probably won’t even be bodies to find.

My favorite parts of this episode were Rossi’s interactions with Mason Turner, turning the mirrors Turner has set up to see into other rooms, and insisting that they are having a swell time together, and wordlessly threatening to unhook Turners breathing tube. It’s not subtle, but it’s effective, and so veryRossi . (I might have mentioned just a couple times how much I adore that man. Maybe. Just a couple of times.) Turner admits that it’s his brother Lucas who’s killed all those people. He says his brother is crazy, and the FBI should shoot him first and ask questions later.

Rossi gets a picture of Lucas to the team, and Hotch gets Garcia to the farm to dig through Turner’s laptop. Turner is not happy about this turn of events at all. Morgan isn’t very happy at the moment, either, but for totally different reasons. Hightower told them in his interrogation that he’d given his sister his dogtags to wear. Guess what they just found?

Reid finds find the hayloft in the barn where Lucas sleeps, and finds some child-like drawings in it. He tells Hotch that he seriously doubts Lucas is psychotic. His drawings suggest he’s mentally retarded, and this type of retardation and psychosis almost never go hand in hand. Before he letsHotch leave, though, Reid makes a point to ask if he ever had a feeling that a case was going to end badly. Hotch dismisses it, but now I certainly have a feeling it won’t end well.

Normally I would end it here. I don’t really like spoiling the endings for you guys, but I don’t really think I can talk about a season finale and not talk about the ending. That would defeat the purpose. It’s the ending of the finales that get us pumped, right? So if you haven’t seen it and want some modicum of suspense even after reading most of the plot, stop reading now, because I’m just going to keep chugging along to the end.

Things get even creepier when Garcia finds out what was on Turner’s laptop. Apparently, they were doing experiments to try to fix Turner. Garcia can’t even bring herself to say what they did, and Turner goes on to point out that not a jury in the world would convict a man who never even touched the victims. Looking back, I’m not sure whether I’m happy or sad thatHightower heard all of this.

Meanwhile, Kelly and Lucas are in an underground cave. Lucas had been waiting for a call earlier, and Kelly kept telling him to go outside to get it. Since then they’ve struggled, and Kelly managed to get Lucas to go out of the cave to get her food, which is how she found his cell phone where it had fallen out of his pocket. She then begs him to let her use the bathroom outside, and she really is sweet with him. She understands what he needs, and he finally takes her above ground where she tells him she needs privacy. As soon as she gets it, she makes a call, and Garcia intercepts it.

The call doesn’t last long when Lucas finds out Kelly is calling, but it’s long enough to get a location, and the team rushes off to find her. When they get to the underground cave, Kelly pleads with Lucas not to fight. She’s a good girl. She knows he didn’t mean it. She tells him to hold his hands up asHotch pulls her away, and Lucas does what she asks. Except that as soon as he tries to stand up, the SWAT team fires.

Morgan screams at them to stop, but it’s too late, and while this is happening at the cave, Hightower is taking his revenge on Turner, who was left alone in the chaos. He grabs a gun left behind, and shoots Turner before JJ and Garcia even have a chance to react.

No, Reid. That didn’t end well, did it?

The team heads back to Quantico, all miserable, and Hotch gives us a voice-over instead of our standard closing quote. As he says, sometimes there are no clever quotes to sum things up. He heads back to his apartment and immediately pours himself a drink, taking a long sip… and then a hooded figure comes into focus behind him.

Hotch turns to see George Foyet (remember him from Omnivore?), dressed in his Reaper garb, pointing a gun at him.

“You should have made a deal,” Foyet say, then the screen goes black, and a gunshot sounds.

Eep! Hotch!

This episode really is very reminiscent of second season’s Legacy (which is one of my favorite episodes), and a lot of people aren’t liking that much. They’re saying this was too redundant. But here’s the thing: The cases are totally dissimilar aside from the victim pool, and where that’s concerned, we’ve seen the same types of victims over and over and over anyway. And when going to this grand a scale, killing almost ninety people, there’s not really another way someone could get away with that if they chose victims with even a slightly higher profile.

I didn’t have a problem with the episodes similarities at all, and thought the case was an interesting one. It was a two hour finale, but it kept me involved enough that I barely noticed the extra length, plus Kelly was really one of the coolest victims we’ve had in a while. She was smart and proactive, and she listened to her captor. She was doing a little profiling herself!

Now to the part we’re all thinking about. Normally I wouldn’t even bother to worry that a show might kill off a main character. Season finales almost never play out the way they look. If it hadn’t been for the recent writers layoffs on the show (in which they let go several of their best writers) and subsequent rumors that we would lose a cast member, I wouldn’t be worried this time. And I’m not, really.

Except that I am… just a little. People are going on and on right now about how the show couldn’t get away with killing its “lead”, but the show has an ensemble cast. There were people that thought the show was going to fall apart when MadyPatinkin left, and in my opinion, we actually have a more cohesive cast now. Not to mention that they usually don’t pick on the same character at the end of each season two seasons in a row. Last seasonHotch got blown up, and this season it’s implied he’s getting shot? Weird.

That said, I do think it would be a bad move to kill Hotch. I was telling someone earlier this year that Hotch is the one character the show can’t survive without (I can be very melodramatic at times, if you hadn’t noticed). Hotch is the center, their support, their moral compass. We need Hotch. They simply can’t kill him.

Thus far, though, my show has never let me down, so I’m standing with them here, instead of the people in a tizzy about Hotch’s fate. My show will do right by me.

And if they don’t, I’m just going to have to go to CBS and handcuff myself to the doors until Reid finds some miracle genius solution to raiseHotch from the dead.

No joke.

So what did you guys think? Loved it? Hated it? Worried about Hotch? Ready for the new season already?

…Ever going to eat pork again?

Give me your two cents!

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