Criminal Minds – Recap & Review – The Stranger

photo: cbs

Criminal Minds
The Stranger

Original Air Date: Apr 13, 2011

JD – Sr. Staff Writer

Apparently our profilers like to watch horror movies in their free time, which makes all the sense in the world. I know that when I’m off from my real job, I like to watch movies about all the worst parts of it. I guess it’s whatever floats their boats, though, as this episode starts out with Morgan, Garcia, Reid and Seaver on their way out of a slasher film, discussing it.

My husband pointed out that this was great timing with the new Scream (er, Scre4am?) movie coming out. I just thought it was convenient that the team is talking about the movie as actual similar events are taking place San Diego.

A young woman walks down a dark alley to her apartment where she comes face to face with an unwanted guest. He chases her when she runs, and she screams at him to go away, but he doesn’t listen. How incredibly rude. And things don’t get any better for her, as you might have guessed.

She’s the third brunette college student in her early twenties to have been killed in her own apartment in under a week. With the killer moving so fast, the team books it to San Diego. The team decides on the jet that the killer must be stalking the girls before killing them, as college and part time work would make their schedules sporadic.

Hotch and Rossi head to the medical examiner and learn that not only is our unsub killing fast, he’s also learning to like it and be more confident in it fast. Morgan and Reid head to the last crime scene, where they come to a similar conclusion; the unsub is smearing blood on the walls now, displaying more power and pleasure in the kill. Seaver talks to the most recent girl’s roommate and finds out that she had been taking part time jobs from wherever she could find them.

That could have been how the unsub found her, Rossi thinks, so Garcia gets digging into personal records to find out where she’s worked last. Meanwhile, the unsub is already texting our newest victim, whose at a babysitting job. She snaps a picture of herself for him, then goes to check on the crying baby before she can send it. When she goes to take a picture of the baby, thought, she notices the unsub in the picture she just took of herself, behind her in the window. Creeeeeepy. But now it’s too late. She turns around, and he’s there to start slashing.

But that’s not all he did. Morgan and Reid discover the next day that the unsub had organized all the baby’s supplies, probably fed the baby, and found the babysitter’s picture of him. Except instead of deleting it, he posted it to her twitter, and continued to tweet as her hours after her death. Morgan gets Garcia on checking into who she’d been contacting, and the team is ready for a profile. They speculate that their unsub already has his next target in sight, and guess what? They’re right!

They’re almost always right, right? Except this time our unsub winds up with two extra people to deal with.

This episode was good, but nothing to write home about. The story felt a little cliche, especially with it being set up in the context of the slasher movie. I think that was a bad move, considering we all knew the way those stories usually go, and the episode didn’t really offer us any twists. Plus the the whole “mommy issues” deal the unsub was had was ineffectual, and he didn’t really seem all that into cutting her up. All that violence and rage, and then he’s just putting little superficial cuts on his step-mom? What?!

What’s most interesting, though, is the subplot with Hotch and Strauss in which she first insists that he needs to be evaluated like the rest of his team, then turns around and tells him that she might need him to take over for her sometime soon. With the news that Thomas Gibson doesn’t yet have a new contract for next season, this makes me a little uncomfortable. They better not push him off the main team and into Strauss’ job. Even if we might still see him that way, we wouldn’t see him as much, unless they drastically change the way the BAU normally operates. Though given the way this last season has gone, I wouldn’t be shocked.

Oh, also? I loved her “I don’t do that either” when Hotch offered to be her ear, though. Great line!

So what do you guys think of “The Stranger”? And isn’t that just the lamest episode name ever? Give me your two cents!

If you’d like to follow JD’s TV stories from TTC and beyond, you can follow her on Twitter at @JDeckerTV.

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8 Responses to Criminal Minds – Recap & Review – The Stranger

  1. Lisa says:

    I know you don’t feel the same, but every scene with Seaver feels forced to me. I like RN but the Seaver character does not fit with the team. I thought the first scene seemed contrived and cringe-worthy. I did, however, think Hotch, Rossi and Strauss acted their faces off. Excellent work from all 3 of them. Joe Mantegna makes every scene he does so effortless…I really miss his chemistry with Paget, though. I liked the plot but thought the final scene with the unsub and stepmother…well, I hate to keep using the same words but, yeah, contrived.

    • jd says:

      Actually, I don’t disagree in this case. This is the first episode that she seemed weird to me. In the last scene especially, with her talking to the step-mom, it just felt very scripted. Well, it is, but you know what I mean. Unnatural. But yeah, generally speaking, I like her. This week was just… off.

    • ichorinmyveins says:

      I didn’t watch last night’s episode because of Seaver. The first episode without Paget proved to me that I really couldn’t tolerate Seaver’s presence. She ruined my suspension of reality experience and brought out the anger in me that she’s doing what could have been Paget’s lines.

  2. Meg says:

    “I know that when I’m off from my real job, I like to watch movies about all the worst parts of it.”

    I love this!

  3. Gills says:

    At first I thought ‘hey, Seaver’s useful this week, cool’, and she was, for the first time since her introduction, but it felt too easy, in my opinion. Not exactly forced, but she’s young, and very inexperienced, and she was just too flippant about it being basically her first solo outing. I expected Rossi to give Hotch serious grief abot taking her into a hostage situation and letting her take the lead. They’re not giving s relateable development with her, everything’s either rushed or way too slow, and she’s not even close to filling the Emily-shaped hole that’s still there. It was a solid B ep, no more.

  4. Evie says:

    I think the small cuts on his stepmom was about torture and fear and to let her slowly bleed out until he was ready to start stabbing her. Also I think his previous victims had cuts like that too. If you recall the M.E. stated that they have multiple defensive wounds and they must have put up a fight, I think it has to be something like that.

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