Criminal Minds: JJ

None of the new fall shows have piqued my interest sufficiently to get me to, like, watch them, let alone recap them, so I’m switching gears and turning my attention toward Criminal Minds, CBS’s workhorse crime procedural about a gaggle of smart, adorable, boundlessly likeable FBI agents who profile serial killers. For the most part, crime procedurals simply aren’t my bag, but Criminal Minds, now in its sixth season, is a notch above the rest of the pack, thanks to consistently solid writing and an excellent cast.

Let’s give this a try, shall we?

A pair of smarmy young thugs are arrested in connection with the disappearance of Kate Joyce, a young woman who vanished while partying with friends in Atlantic Beach, Maryland. Kate was last seen leaving a club with the guys, Sydney Pearson (Michael Welch) and James Barrett (Christopher Marquette), who admit to having consensual sex with her, but deny any wrongdoing; the Natalee Holloway parallels are obvious and deliberate. The local police can only detain the suspects for 72 hours without formally charging them, and all attempts to wheedle out a confession have come to naught, so the BAU -- Behavioral Analysis Unit -- is brought in to continue the interrogation. While JJ comforts Kate’s anguished parents (Gil Bellows and Rya Kihlstedt), the rest of the team sets about questioning and analyzing the suspects.

That’s the main plot, which takes a backseat to everything else going on in this episode. This is the final appearance on the show of sweet, kick-ass JJ, original cast member AJ Cook having been fired due to budget cuts at CBS, and the episode is pretty much a gigantic, chiffon-swathed valentine to her, complete with teary goodbyes and a misty flashback montage at the end. Well, fair enough. She’s earned it.

Even though the kids manage to pass polygraph tests, they’re clearly guilty as all hell, so the team whips out their bag of interrogative tricks -- Morgan plays Sexy Bad Cop, Rossi plays Grumpy Cop, Reid plays Barely-In-This-Episode Cop, and Prentiss plays Friendly, Flirty Cop With Phenomenal, CornNuts®-Trapping Cleavage. Really, I’ve never taken note of Paget Brewster’s breasts before, but they’re front and center (literally!) in this episode, and they’re pretty magnificent.

Eventually, the team pieces together the story of Kate’s disappearance. After raping Kate, Pearson and Barrett took her out in a boat and tossed her overboard, and thus were able to skate through the questions on their polygraph tests (technically, they didn’t kill Kate, and technically, they don’t know exactly where she is). Based on information provided by the suspects, the Coast Guard finds Kate in the water, alive and clinging to a buoy.

So that gets wrapped up swiftly and tidily, and the rest of the episode is devoted to JJ, who’s been offered a flashy, high-profile job at the Pentagon as a liaison to the Department of Defense. She’s turned the position down, repeatedly, but higher-ups in the FBI step in and strong-arm her into accepting it. This seems a little fishy, but the ways of government employment are strange and mysterious -- maybe this sort of forced transfer really does happen? Possibly? Everyone mopes around like unhappy and confused little bunny rabbits, terminally bummed by the news (Reid: “They can just take you away???”).

Anyway, Hotch tries his best to convince his boss/longtime nemesis Section Chief Erin Strauss (Jayne Atkinson) that JJ needs to remain a part of the BAU. She’s not unsympathetic, but she maintains she’s powerless to stop the transfer. “What do you want me to do?” she asks him. “Lose my job so she can keep hers?” Ever stalwart and restrained, Hotch manages to refrain from telling her that’d be swell, seeing how Strauss used to actively scheme to get him fired.

So JJ is sent on her way, amidst a flurry of hugs and tears (from everyone except Hotch, who unbends enough to give her a firm handshake and some crisp words of encouragement). It’s a nice goodbye for this much-liked character. Hey, you know what would have been even nicer? Not firing Cook in the first place.

There’s not much else to say, other than to note that Reid, who is one of the relatively few socially-maladroit super-geniuses with a standing account at Vidal Sassoon, got himself a sassy new short hairdo (I’m sure there are sites out there, probably several, that have analyzed The Many Haircuts of Spencer Reid in great and loving detail), while Morgan is still conducting bizarre psychological experiments on his coworkers by trying to persuade them the weird fuzzy lines scribbled on his chin are actually a goatee. I remain unconvinced.

Special Criminal Minds bonus: The entire cast, sans Shemar Moore, appear to be Twitter fiends, and several of them have their own personal websites. Here’s an overview of their sites:

Paget Brewster:
Straight to the point, and it made me giggle. A+

Matthew Gray Gubler:
Delightfully bonkers. A+

Joe Mantegna:
Slick, stylish and professional. Points deducted for insufficient care with copy-editing (“Tony Bennette”? Really?). A solid B.

Thomas Gibson:
Oh, lordy, it’s buggy. Just try to navigate your way through this puppy without getting completely derailed. Gibson has been apologizing for months via Twitter for the state of it. As well he should -- it’s hilariously disastrous. I have no choice but to hand him an Incomplete.


Ingrid Richter said…
Hooray! Glad you're recapping "Criminal Minds", Morgan - you got me thoroughly addicted to it when I was out visiting last month.
Morgan Richter said…
Well, it seems to be the only show I'm currently, y'know, watching, so I figure this makes sense. In some ways, it's an odd pick for recapping, as the subject matter doesn't really lend itself well to snark (aren't serial killers hilarious?), but the charm of the show comes from watching smart, appealing characters being smart and appealing. And if nothing else, Reid's hair is always a fertile subject for mockery.
Ingrid Richter said…
Criminal Minds reminds me a lot of Silence of the Lambs in tv-form. And that's a very good thing.
Morgan Richter said…
Yeah -- I think the show has kind of settled into a nice niche, and the quality remains both pretty consistent and pretty high. I'm hoping they'll be able to weather the cast shakeups this season okay.
Anna said…
I don't really want a JJ- and Prentiss-less CM, so I'm simply a lot less enthusiastic about the show these days. I don't look forward to that at all. :(

But that mess aside, what I liked about this episode was that finally, finally, it was not a serial killer case. Season 5 had been entirely too crowded with serial killers. They used to mix it up with arson, rape, kidnapping (that sounds sinister...) in the early seasons, and I was afraid they'd go the sensationalistic route of worse and worse killers every week.
Seeing a more low-key episode was a welcome change...
Morgan Richter said…
I hated losing JJ, and I can't stand the thought of the show without Prentiss. The whole situation just stinks, frankly, and it definitely diminishes my enthusiasm for the show. None of the cast members/characters are expendable.

I did like the focus on straightforward profiling on this episode, not to mention the relatively unsensationalistic crime. Not a bad episode at all, but having JJ leave is a depressing turn of events.

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