Original Air Date: Mar 3, 2010
Meg – Reviewer
Wow. So the first time I ever fill in for JD and recap Criminal Minds, I get the episode with the sinister child-immolating granny? Nevertheless, this episode—while creepy with a capital “WTF”—was actually pretty awesome (not to mention directed by Dr. Reid himself, Mr. Mathew Gray Gubler).
We open on a family strolling about the Ashburn, Virginia “Winter Festival”—which is noticeably unwintery (especially considering Ashburn got buried in the recent “snowpocalypse” – but I’ll suspend my meteorological disbelief for now). The mother (played by Grey’s castoff Brooke Smith) gets distracted by a woman running through the crowd yelling that she’s lost her son. When Brooke looks back, she realizes her impossibly cute little daughter is gone.
Knowing that they have the best chance of recovering the missing girl, Amy, within the first 24 hours of the abduction, our BAU heroes get cracking on the case. Dr. Reid irritates me by obscuring his cuteness with a mop of hair that looks like it was on the losing end of a grisly fight with a an electric eel. But I digress…
After seeing a news report on Amy’s abduction, a woman shows up at the BAU claiming that whoever took Amy also took her missing son, Charlie. JJ immediately recognizes the woman as Sarah Hilridge—an alcoholic whose son was taken eight years ago and who pops up every time a child disappears. The scene between JJ and Sarah is moving, as Sarah reveals just how broken she is from her loss. Talking with the BAU, Sarah describes the day she lost Charlie, explaining that she had been distracted by a woman yelling about losing her son. A collective light-bulb blooms over the heads of the BAU team.
Meanwhile, little Amy is in captivity—in a dark room with funky wallpaper and some small holes in the wall. Amy approaches one of the holes cautiously. And even though I can sense it coming, I still jump when an eye pops into the hole. It’s a little boy who tries to ask Amy her name. Unfortunately, he’s interrupted when a woman swoops into the room and starts beating the crap out of him. Later, the stern-looking older woman (am I hallucinating or was she the Muffin Buffalo lady from Wonderfalls? Let me know in the comments if you recognize her). The woman (aka Grandma Creepypants) sings eerily to the boy she was attacking earlier. She puts him in a cardboard box. Is he alive? Still singing, Grandma shoves him into a burning furnace (Sweeney Todd much?). I sincerely hope he’s dead…
Amy wakes up to see a boy standing over her. He asks her name, tells him that he is now her brother and that Amy’s new name is Allison. Terrified, Amy hides under the bed when the unsubs (it appears there is also a Grandpa Creepypants involved) look for her. They are sooooo disturbing. Seriously – this is like what would happen if the Natural Born Killers went straight-edge and turned into deranged geriatric childnappers.
JJ goes to talk to Sarah, finding her at home with a cigarette and drink. Sarah shows JJ her very own “murder board” where she has collected articles and research on abducted children for the past decade. JJ begs Sarah to stop drinking. I don’t know—if she can put together an entire conspiracy wall while on the sauce, I’m pretty impressed.
The team strategizes. Morgan surprises me by coming out of left field and asking JJ if she now believes Sarah’s claim that Charlie is alive because JJ is now a mother. Yeesh. Prentiss identifies herself as a “non-mother” and says she believes Sarah too. Morgan backs down. The team realizes that the unsub is probably working with Charlie and another accomplice. Even worse, they realize that the unsub has been abducting children for almost a decade. Garcia does her computer magic and identifies 12 other missing children that fit the profile. Sarah recognizes most of the families from a support group she attended. The team is reluctant to contact 12 families and cause them more pain if they have been moving on with their lives. Sarah, who would know, says any parent would risk that pain if they had a chance their child was still alive
The team starts focusing on families in northern Virginia on isolated properties who have been visited by social services in the past ten years. Garcia comes up with 23 matches. Morgan grimly notes “we’re knocking on the doors of 23 families and all of them have done something wrong to a kid.”
Morgan and Prentiss arrive at Unsub Manor and chat with Gramps. They immediately sense that he is suspicious and Prentiss notices a picture of a boy that looks suspiciously like Charlie. As Prentiss and Morgan talk to Gramps, Grandma covers Amy’s mouth with her hand, whispering “if you make a sound, I’ll kill your mommy.” She sticks Amy with a syringe.
Prentiss calls Hotch, while Morgan and Gramps stare each other down. Meanwhile, Grandma has stuffed the kids in a hearse and escaped to the crematorium. Inside, Grandma burns teddy bears and dolls while Amy, Charlie, and another Unidentified Girl Abductee (UGA) cower in the corner, fixated on the flames. As if she couldn’t be any more EVIL, Grandma tells Charlie to put the catatonic Amy in one of the coffins so she can be furnaced. Charlie pulls a gun on Grams. She laughs at him –probably a bad idea considering he then shoots her in the gut.
The BAU raids the house and finds Charlie’s polaroids of all of the other kids. When the team looks for Gramps, they are told he is in the bathroom. Immediately, they race to the bathroom and break in, because in TV-land any recently-arrested perp who goes to the bathroom will automatically either escape or kill themselves. With Gramps, it is the latter.
Back at the BAU, Reid gives Sarah an inspiring pep talk as she frets that Charlie won’t remember her or want her. The elevator doors open and Charlie just looks so fragile. Sarah cries. JJ cries. Charlie cries. I cry. UGA and Amy are also united with their parents. However, nine other families crumble at the realization their children aren’t coming home. Ouch.
Wow. Hats off to Mathew Gray Gubler for a brilliant episode. I still have lingering questions—why did it take eight years for Charlie to stand up to his captors? What was it about Amy that helped him get the courage to rebel? But questions aside, this episode was incredibly moving and terribly scary. What did you think of Mathew Gray Gubler’s directing job? Did you like the episode? Leave some comments and let me know your two cents!