Criminal Minds – Recap & Review – The Big Wheel



Criminal Minds
The Big Wheel

Original Air Date: Apr 29, 2009

JD – Associate Staff Writer

I have to admit that when I heard Moonight’s Alex O’Loughlin was guest starring as the Creep Of The Week in The Big Wheel, I was extremely skeptical. I never watched the show, but I heard plenty to make me never want to. But what I was treated to in this episode was actually a pretty good performance, coupled with an interesting story and a totally irrational desire to get new glasses that aren’t quite as similar to Vincent’s. Thank you, contact lenses.

Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). We jump right in with the Creep Of The Week waking up in his bed. He puts on his glasses and starts getting ready for his day, opening and closing every door twice, switching slippers between the bathroom tiled floor and the rest of the house’s carpet, pulling out a perfectly cut sandwich and rotating the plate twice before cutting it in two. He heads out to start his day, stepping over cracks in the pavement, sanitizing his hands when he helps an older couple retrieve something they dropped… And I thought not wanting my food to touch on the plate was bad!

Already I’m thinking, ‘This guy can’t be our unsub! He wouldn’t want to get blood on his hands!” But guess what? Creep Of The Week walks into an open house and stabs a Realtor, then guides her over to the couch to watch her die. Oh, and wait! TV and movie cliche coming up! Blood trickling from the mouth! Watch in awe at the originality, my friends.

So this all goes down in Buffalo, and the BAU gets wind of the case when our unsub sends a tape of the murder to the police. He was wearing some sort of hidden camera. They wonder if the unsub is teasing the police, but the unsub had other ideas–at the end of the video, he writes ‘help me’ in red ink on the wall of the show home. So the BAU decides to do just that, help him to prison. Directly to prison. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

The team brings Garcia along for the ride on this one, and it’s always nice to see her get more screen time. She discovers a treasure trove (depending on your idea of treasure) of stabbings in and around Buffalo over the past ten years, and the team starts narrowing them down as best they can to try and figure out which of the victims could be the unsub’s.

Reid takes a look at the most recent victim’s planner and determines she was left handed by the pressure put on the paper by her pen (pretty neat, genius!), but noticed the number twenty-nine is written in red ink by a right handed person. The unsub is right handed and just happened to be using red ink on the wall. Connection!

Morgan, Prentiss and Hotch all head to the crime scene to reenact the murder, Morgan using a hand-held player to watch the killer’s video for accuracy. And discover, aha (!), that the camera must have been hidden in the unsub’s glasses. So, he’s good at camera technology. The team starts looking into local camera shops while Morgan, Prentiss and Hotch head down the street the unsub walked, piecing together why the unsub stopped so often. Obsessive Compulsive, Prentiss says! And the crowd goes wild.

Back at the local Police Department, Reid is already putting together a timeline of events, determining the unsub kills about every year, but trouble is brewing elsewhere. The unsub’s very nosy friend has come to visit him at his home, and he lets her in, but obviously doesn’t want to at all. He’s uncomfortable and tries to get rid of her, but unfortunately, she sees the start of a news report on TV and stops. The police sketch that they got from the elderly couple the unsub helped in the video is on the screen, and the unsub’s nosy friend notices the resemblance. Oh, dear. Goodbye, nosy friend. Nice to have known you.

The next day the team finds her body dumped, her arms folded over her chest, and they quickly put together that this wasn’t a planned kill. Not only did the unsub’s friend not fit his type, but this is the first body he’s actually dumped, rather than just leaving them where he kills them. Of course, we all know why, but now it’s up to the team to figure it out, and they might have some help. One of the local camera shop owners thinks he knows the guy in the sketch, and off the BAU scampers to their next set of clues.

It shouldn’t really be surprising that the episode was as good as it was, given it was written by Simon Mirren, who’s written some simply stellar episodes for us in the past (Riding the Lightning, both parts of No Way Out, et al.). I did find it strange that I had initially thought the episode might have been written by a newcomer over a couple of minor things, however. For example, on the jet, Morgan implies he’s never seen a serial killer ask for help before, when we’ve seen it happen on this show, or when Hotch wonders aloud why Alice was positioned the way she was, with her arms crossed over her, when we’ve also seen that before as a sign of remorse. Hotch answers his own question a few moments later, but it didn’t sound rhetorical when it was asked. Did anyone else notice those things?

Somehow, though, as nitpicky as I can be, those things didn’t take away from the episode for me. I actually sort of liked Vincent, and I can’t put my finger on why. I felt sorry for him at the end. Should I feel weird about that? I also absolutely loved the relationship between him and Stan and the way they related to each other in the final scene. Plus the scenes with Morgan and Stan were just amazing. Prentiss and Morgan are, in my opinion, two of the best team members to deal with kids, and it’s been some time since we’ve gotten to see that with Morgan. Both scenes where Stan is talking to Morgan and touching his face, I was hooked.

Nitpicky things aside, I thought this was a great episode. What about you guys? Give me your two cents!

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11 Responses to Criminal Minds – Recap & Review – The Big Wheel

  1. Angela says:

    I’ve never seen Alex O’Loughlin act before and I wasn’t overly impressed. It was a good performance, but it didn’t make me sit up and take notice or anything. I was very impressed with the kid playing Stanley, though. And, I do like Morgan with kids, and while I appreciate his tackling and action hero skills, I also enjoy any episode where he gets to do something else.

    I also picked up on Morgan saying they had never had an unsub ask for help, and I knew they had.

    Didn’t love the episode, didn’t hate it. It was nice that everyone on the team got to piece together some part of the puzzle. I also didn’t feel sorry for Vincent, although it seems I’m the odd one out in that opinion.

    • jd says:


      I was wavering on my sympathy because he wanted to be stopped, but I think had it not been for the last scene, I might not have really felt sorry for him. Something about the way he interacted with Stan, and how I was just SURE he was going to kill Stan there for a moment, but instead he was sweet.

  2. mcgarrygirl78 says:

    I was definitely impressed with the child actor who played Stanley. He was simply amazing. A sympathetic but not a wussy kid. I loved him from the word go and couldn’t figure out why but at the end I realized he looked very similar to Henry Thomas when he played Elliot in E.T. and that got to me.

    Anyway, I loved this episode. I usually cringe when we get ‘sympathetic’ Unsubs but I loved Alex O’Loughlin’s discomfort in his own skin and his horror at what he’d done to Stanley while not seeming to feel the same thing for his poor mother. I loved the team interaction, Garcia being out in the field, and the way Morgan interacted with Stanley.

    • jd says:

      He DID look like the E.T. kid, didn’t he?! I was trying to figure out why he looked familiar, and that it totally why! Thank you! πŸ™‚ I thought he was really great, too, though. At first I wasn’t really sure I was going to like him, but he was pretty cool, the way he related to life and wasn’t afraid of anything.

      I like sympathetic unsubs! I like that the show gives us the full spectrum, and that they allow for it to not all be black and white, good cop/bad cop, you know? πŸ™‚

      • mcgarrygirl78 says:

        Sympathetic Unsubs are great, it’s just that they always leave me feeling so horrible because here you are feeling sorry for someone who just stabbed a bunch of people.

        It’s always sad, and I could do without sad murderers. Though you are right, Criminal Minds gives you the full spectrum of nutties.

  3. carfiniel says:

    Like you, I felt bad for the unsub. Clearly he needed to be stopped, but he did reach out for help. Then again, he showed, in a way, that he had control over his actions when he didn’t hurt Stanley. (Though I suppose you could argue that since Stanley didn’t fit the victimology, he was safe anyway…)

    I loved Morgan’s interactions with Stanley. Like you, the scenes when Stanley was touching Morgan’s face really got me. The first time, you could almost see Morgan losing his heart to this kid, in a sense.

    Something that struck me was at the end, in the Ferris wheel, the lighting against the unsub’s face almost looked like a confessional booth.

    • jd says:

      He didn’t fit the victimology, but Stan also reminded Vincent of himself. Stan was the reason he realized what he’d become and made him see he needed to get help. I can almost see it as being like a out of body experience, of sorts, Vincent was watching himself when he first saw Stan… if that makes sense… so I don’t think he could control NOT killing Stan, just as much as he couldn’t control killing the women he chose.

      you could almost see Morgan losing his heart to this kid, in a sense.

      Oh, that first time Stan touched Morgan, the expression on Morgan’s face just killed me.

      Ooh, and nice observation! Vincent sort of was confessing to Stanley, in a way.

      • carfiniel says:

        Yeah, and I definitely liked that double meaning of the episode title, as well. The Big Wheel – the Ferris wheel, but also the cycle of Vincent being victimized and then becoming the victimizer and then seeing himself in the victim…

        I confess, the introduction of the gang-bangers to the storyline threw me for a loop. I wasn’t expecting that, though I suppose it was a good way to have Vincent start to fall apart, and gave him a convenient death at the end that was NOT at the hands of the BAU.

        The episode had its little flaws, but I definitely thought this was one of the better episodes of the season.

  4. jd says:

    Mcgarrygirl78 –

    I always do feel a little bad about feeling sorry for unsubs, because I rarely feel sorry for the victims. It’s so backwards. But I think that’s probably because we spend more time digging into the unsubs lives and knowing what caused them to do it, whereas we don’t get that so much with the victims.

  5. jd says:

    Carfiniel –

    Yeah, the gang bangers did sort of throw me out of it for a minute. It was so random! It was nothing more than a plot device, and I wonder what they could have done differently. Maybe have another victim fight back? Would have fit more with the story… Still, I liked it.

  6. Pingback: Alex O’Loughlin’s Killer Performance Reviewed | Alex O'Loughlin Rocks!

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