Friday, March 27, 2009

Criminal Minds - Recap & Review - House on Fire

Criminal Minds
House on Fire

Original Air Date: Mar 25, 2009

JD - Associate Staff Writer

We're just going to ignore the way I've had the Talking Heads' 'Burning Down The House' and 'Love--Building on Fire' stuck in my head for a few days now and jump right in here, shall we?

People trapped in a burning building. This is normally a surefire way to make me cringe at my television. I was sort of surprised that this episode didn't induce that reaction. As I watched it, I had thought it was a pretty solid episode, but the longer I let it sit around in my head, the less and less I like it. In fact, I could barely remember many of the details of the episode when I sat down to write this, and that is never a good sign. This is the second Criminal Minds episode written by Holly Harold, a new writer to the show this season, and the second mediocre offering she's given us (the first was the less than Stellar Brothers in Arms earlier this year). Can we have a three strikes and you're out rule?

Continue reading...



  1. We're in the good old Hoosier state this week, where we come to a small town movie theatre showing a classic, The Blob. We have the whole spectrum of movie goers, hormonal teens to families, all ready for a night of some of the worse (and funniest) horror of their lives. Except that what they get is real life horror, as a dark and nefarious stranger walks into the theatre, skulking around in darkness. This just got a lot less funny. He splashes the theatre liberally with gasoline, lights a wooden match, and suddenly the theatre has just become a little more cozy and romantic.

    Okay, maybe not... The horny teens in the back of the theatre see the smoke first, yell out 'fire' in a crowded theatre (I have to be honest; that's so cliche that I had expected no one to believe them), and then everyone is running for their lives. Who wants to take bets on whether they make it out? Odds are, for it being this early in the show, you probably have a pretty good idea. And considering the first thing they do is run towards the smoke... well, I don't exactly think the town lost any of its brightest residents.

    Back at Quantico, JJ is right there with the run-down. This has been the second deadly fire in the little town of Royal, Indiana, in two weeks. There have been thirty-one victims, no survivors. The local police had a series of smaller fires without victims recently, but never expected anything like murder, and they were right to expect that; Reid tells us most arsonist aren't murderers, and any victims they have are accidental. That's not exactly the case here, though, so the team sets off to Royal to investigate.

    On the jet, Garcia is there via the trusty laptop. Reid tells us the unsub is most likely a local male between 17-30, as only 12 percent of arsonists are female. Garcia sets off to check out local fire fighters and EMTs. She'll also start flagging anyone who was a first responder at the fires more than once, or with a juvenile record of setting fires or vandalism. JJ expresses concern they might send such a small town into a panic; the thing might turn into a witch hunt. That's exactly what it is, though, according to Hotch, and Garcia is none too happy to find that she's expected to be the witch hunter.

    Once in Royal, JJ and Hotch go to view bodies, and we get probably one of the most striking reminders of just how bad this is as Hotch and JJ walk through a room lined with body bags. Hotch tells the local detective that the unsub is likely local, and that they're going to have to dig deeply into everyone's past. Meanwhile, Prentiss and Morgan head to the theatre to get a run-down on exactly what happened, while Rossi sets off to visit with emergency responders at a different crime scene. He does his best I'm-going-to-stand-in-your-space-to-make sure-you're-understanding-me song and dance as he tells them the team needs to know about every time the town may have kept something quiet and unreported, and then we're back at the field office.

    Garcia discovered a series of fires in another Indiana town. Reid theorizes they could be the same unsub, given that both the arsonist in those cases and the murderer-arsonist have used wooden matches, which aren't very common. When Reid asks if there's any overlap between the victims and she explains that in a small town there's nothing but overlap, Hotch isn't impressed. He insists she dig deeper; she tries to plead out that she isn't a profiler, but in the end, Hotch wins the argument with his patented Look Of Doom.

    Things are not so happy in the colorful world of Penelope Garcia, and they don't really get any better for her as the episode goes on.

    Overall, I think this episode did a fine job of... just being an episode. I'm not sure how else to explain it. It set itself up nicely and followed through, but it just didn't leave a mark on me in the least. As much as I utterly love Garcia and love to have her more involved in the cases, that just didn't make the episode any better. Which is sort of amazing, considering I'm of the opinion that if you inject any episode with more Garcia, you can almost never go wrong.

    Maybe Harold overshot the concept. As another fan mentioned, it is a little strange that Garcia was asked to shoulder as much of this case as she did in this episode, when that much is never asked of other team members. Perhaps Harold took the idea of writing a Garcia-centric episode too far and in the end wound up skewing the entire team dynamic too much. I'm not entirely sure yet, even after letting the episode marinate in my brain juices for a while.

    I will say, though, that last scene was absolutely stellar. It really only needed hugs to make it better, even if we all know that wasn't going to happen.

    What did you guys think? Did the episode light you ablaze with glee for the Garcia love, or did you just want to set fire to your TV? Give me your two cents!

  2. I agree that this episode was just an episode. I did love Garcia, I loved her emotion and her utter Garcia-ness but in her taking on most of the repsonsiblities of the profiling the rest of the team seemed to be twiddling their thumbs. She did shine, she always does, but I dont think it did as well as an episode like say Demonology, where it was central to one specific character but others stood out as well.

    I thought the case in this episode could have been fascinating but fell kinda flat and the end, with the brother and sister in the dance hall was just blah. I thought he would at least drop the match and set himself a blaze. I think the writer spent so long on Garcia that we didnt get enough why on the Unsub.

    The end with Hotch and Garcia was sublime though. It always is when Hotch shows his appreciation for his team.

    I am going to agree on the three strikes and you're out rule.

  3. I seem to be in the minority of Criminal Minds fans, because I liked both Brothers in Arms and House on Fire a lot. I wouldn't say they ranked as my most favorite episodes, but they're better than decent for me. B level.

  4. Angelwriter -

    The response to this one seems to have been a bit divided, I think. Sometimes, though, I think I might be a little too critical. ;)

  5. Mcgarrygirl78 -

    Oh yes, she definitely did shine, but Kirsten Vangsness is just utterly fabulous. I think you could dress her up like a tree and stick her in the background and she still might be capable of stealing a scene. ;)

    You're right, though, demonology is a GREAT example of a character centric episode that allowed the rest of the team to play their parts in the case too.

    I think the writer spent so long on Garcia that we didnt get enough why on the Unsub.

    EXACTLY what I was saying. Totally just threw the entire team dynamic, which wasn't necessary at all.

  6. I think the writer spent so long on Garcia that we didnt get enough why on the Unsub.

    What I got for the "why" was just too creepy for words, I didn't want any more. *shudders*

    The whole story line was a little lost on me, I skeeve out with burn stories (the burn patient was just unnecessary IMO - I didn't need the visual of a poor woman in that much pain). I would have called the whole episode a wash if it hadn't been for the last scene with Hotch & Penelope. His explanation of why he needed her & thanking her for her job ~ that scene was worth watching the episode. It's sappy, but I do like seeing him as a boss who appreciates what his team does & what it does to them. And he does need to smile more, his life has lost all it's giggle since the divorce.

    (This was a marinating week I think. I am still marinating Private Practice, I just can't wrap my head around it lately. I think I'm falling out of love, quickly.)

  7. Bella -

    What I got for the "why" was just too creepy for words, I didn't want any more. *shudders*

    Call it morbid curiosity, but now I really want to know. You can't just say that and not explain! ;) There was more ick to be gathered from it than just incest and I missed it?! :)

    Well, the burn victim did give them crucial info. No one was surviving the fires, and they needed someone who was there to give them something. They wouldn't have figured out he had lived there and moved away without her. But yes, it was a little... I don't know.

    That's sort of sentiment I'm having about this episode a lot, actually.

    I would have called the whole episode a wash if it hadn't been for the last scene with Hotch & Penelope.

    Oh, yes, I totally agree. She's expecting him to yell at her and instead he tells her how much she means to the team. Just lovely. :)

  8. Gotta agree with you. I was kind of meh towards the episode, and it really made no sense to me to have Garcia doing the work she did. Yes, she digs around, but surely it's up to the profilers to put all that information together?

    Brothers in Arms didn't stand out for me either (in fact I just had to hop over to IMDb to remind myself what it was about), so perhaps a three strikes and you're out rule would be a good idea...

    Even that final scene, which I loved, wasn't enough to redeem the episode.

  9. lethendy -

    I remember initially thinking this was better than Brothers in Arms, but as I said above, the longer I think about this one, the lass I like it. Now, I'm pretty sure is I rewatched BiA, I would like it more than this one, which is saying quite a bit.

    (in fact I just had to hop over to IMDb to remind myself what it was about)

    Oh, good--I feel better about my own lack of recall on this one now. ;)

    And the last scene didn't redeem it, but it made at least one thing in the episode memorable. I won't be forgetting that scene, even long after the episode completely disappears from my mind.

  10. The thing I liked most about this episode is that it's set in my home state, and Ms. Harold did a fantastic job of capturing small-town Indiana. I spent the whole episode swearing the theatre looked just like the one in my grandparents' small town, which WAS built in the 40s and divided into two screens in the 70s. So kudos to her for doing her setting work.

    More distracting for me was the police chief who looked like a Union general from the Civil War. The makeup people might have made him shave that beard off...

    I loved the scene at the end with Hotch & Garcia, and that's what I choose to remember from the episode.

    (Am I the only one who kinda liked that Garcia obviously felt bad for incest-boy?)

  11. Carfinel -

    Given I often hear the accents are off across parts of the country, it's cool to know they captured small town Indiana pretty well!

    More distracting for me was the police chief who looked like a Union general from the Civil War.

    LOL! He SO did!

    I loved that Garcia felt sorry for the unsub. You know, the incest-boy part, not so much I would guess, but she is a defender of humanity, in a sense, and I can see her being horrified by what she learned happened to him, certainly enough for anger.

    I love love the tiny shot of Reid as she's telling the unsub's story too, and how you can almost tell he's thinking about how tormented he was in school. Gubler never forgets, and it's lovely.


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