Saturday, April 25, 2009

Criminal Minds - Recap and Review - A Shade of Gray

Criminal Minds
A Shade of Gray

Original Air Date: Apr 22, 2009

JD - Associate Staff Writer

The first thing I thought when this week's episode ended was how much I'm going to miss Deb Fisher next season. A Shade of Gray kept me hooked for the full hour as the BAU investigates a series of child abductions and murders. I have to admit, I thought the beginning bordered on giving away too much--though I'll readily admit it's probably because I've watched the show way too much (impossible!) and noticed body language most people who aren't as in love with the show (read: obsessive) might miss--but then it swept me away from my conclusions so fast that I totally forgot until the show brought me back to them. Good job, show. Good job.

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[photo: cbs]


  1. This episode jumps right in, none of the briefing at the round table stuff. You always know an episode is jam packed when they do this, sometimes to its detriment, but that wasn't the case here.

    Rossi, Morgan, and Prentiss are driving to the scene of a recent child abduction, and pull up in the middle of a press conference being held by the local police and the family of the latest victim, Kyle, a mom and dad and their second little boy. The detective on the case, Lancaster, takes over when the family can't go on, and doesn't deny that there could be a connection to recent cases of abductions where the boys were later found dead in the woods.

    Lancaster is a friend of the family, and Morgan is quick to note that he may be too close to the case. Lancaster scoffs, Morgan and Rossi exchange foreboding looks, and Prentiss heads inside to talk to the family, where she tells the family that the unsub is probably someone the family wouldn't be alarmed by and had probably been in the house before. Way to be reassuring, Prentiss!

    Rossi and Lancaster go up to look at the room Kyle was abducted from, which is torn apart. Kyle obviously struggled. Meanwhile, Morgan has found a point of entry, a window in the basement, where someone who had to have been small slipped through.

    At the local PD, the rest of the team has narrowed down the list of potential unsubs and Garcia has done some digging. Apparently one of our Pervs of the Episode, Hugh Rollins, has had no cell phone, credit card, or bank activity during the days surrounding the first two abductions. One tiny problem, there's no lapse in activity surrounding Kyle's disappearance. Oops. Either way, now the team is cooking with fire, and they go to bring in Rollins, upon which they find kiddie porn on the computer and a bag full of kids' toys. Meep!

    They see Rollins in the back yard and give chase, Lancaster brilliantly taking a few shots at Rollins along the way, and once Rollins is properly tackled à la Morgan, Morgan takes a few shots at Lancaster for it. Erm, figuratively, of course.

    Of course, the problem is that there is no sign of Kyle, so Rossi tells them they need to check the woods, and he and Prentiss head of that way. The rest of the team takes Rollins back to the station, where the mother of one of the last victims identifies one of the toys as her son's. Kyle's dad, however, doesn't recognize any of them. Oh, and then there's the teensy issue that Rollins, who delivered TVs never visited Kyle's house like the other two boys, and that Kyle was a little too young to be Rollins' type. Okay, 1) Ew. And 2) Uh-oh. Color Lancaster not happy at all. Either way, we're off to find the right culprit now!

    In spite of the way that I felt like I knew who the unsub was from the first couple of scenes (and I was right!), the episode did a good enough job or twisting facts and taking enough turns that I was questioning my first instincts until the story arc bent back around to them again, which I thought was pretty cool.

    This episode was also really balanced team-wise. As much as I love getting bits and pieces of the characters revealed to me in more character-centric episodes, I love the team dynamic too. Fisher, along with her co-writer Erica Messer, seem to really get how all the characters work together, and all their strengths. Perhaps that comes from four seasons with the show in a way that some newer writers struggle with. I am sad, sad, sad to see her go.

    I've heard a lot of people criticize that it was predictable. I don't know if the start of it got me so hopped up that I just never came down, or something else, but I did really enjoy it. I was never bored, no matter what my inclinations were from the start. Apparently for me, it's a case of 'trust your gut... but trust the BAU first', and I let the story take me away where it wanted me to go for the rest of the hour.

    What did the rest of you think? I am curious to know if anyone else noticed the body language in the first two scenes that lead me to my conclusion, or if it was something else that tipped the people who figured it out off. Give me your two cents!

  2. I thought the body language was quite obvious as well, but to me this was a weakness of the episode. If the body language was that obvious to me, and I'm a person who normally doesn't notice body language, why was it not obvious to the team? Their job is to analyze behaviour, which I assume includes body language, so why didn't they notice it and interview the suspect right away?

  3. I didn't think the episode was obvious at all. I had inklings, moments, and thoughts about one thing, but the action on screen kept taking me in another direction and even though I had figured it out by the end, it was in no way predictable. The performances made it so that it was not. Deb Fisher is an awesome writer and she gave this one her all.

    I was taken from the frist scene in the car, so much so I was willing to let the lack of a plane scene slide (plane scenes are some of my favorite team interaction). This was a very team-centric episode, each member showing their strengths and no one standing out from the group dynamic to "solve" the case.

    I enjoyed it from start to finish, even if the ending left my stomach hurting from its sadness and intensity. I might just be easy to please when it comes to this show. Give me some good writing, a good case, and plenty of BAU teamwork and I am a happy fan.

  4. I have to admit that I thought the body language was very obvious. I thought it very strange that the team didn't pick up on the way the brother was standing slightly apart from his parents.

    I totally agree with you about Prentiss not being all that sensitive when questioning the parents.

    Having said that, I still enjoyed the episode.

  5. rainbow-goddess,

    That is a good point. I noticed because the boy is standing apart from the parents at the press conference and then when they sit down for the first interview, the mother sits on the opposite side of the couch from her son and both parents angle away from him. It was weird. There was one past episode (A Higher Power is the one I'm thinking of; I'm fairly sure that's right) where Prentiss was actually the one who noticed that, where a parent could hardly look at her child. You would think they would notice, but then a point can be made that none of them would jump to the conclusion that a little boy would do this (especially not the boy's brother!), so maybe that's why it slipped under the radar.

  6. Mcgarrygirl78,

    the action on screen kept taking me in another direction and even though I had figured it out by the endYeah, I was like, "It's the kid!"... and then "Wait, maybe the parents... or Lancaster... No, it's the kid!" ;)

    I like the interactions on plane scenes, but they're not the most exciting things in the world. And they jump right into the plots so rarely that I always get a little excited and antsy and that's just the way I like it. Unfortunately that sometimes means it's going to be and action-action-action(!) episode, and I always find those a little lacking in the profiling department. This was perfect though. Got me excited at the start, then slowed down enough to let the team do what they do best.

    even if the ending left my stomach hurting from its sadness and intensityNo kidding! A kid killer is one thing, but when she said he stuffed plane parts down his brother's throat?! My stomach rolled. Creeepy.

  7. Ionaonie,

    Like I said above, it's just possible they just would have never imagined it could be the brother, so they overlooked it? I'm not sure. I think if the audience realized, they should have had suspicions, you know, but maybe they got swept away just like I did. ;)

    Oh, I don't think Prentiss is insensitive so much as that they always have to say such unsettling things to these people. I'm not sure, no matter how sensitive someone tries to be, that you can say something like that and not totally freak a family out. Well, in this case, they knew who it was, but you know what I mean.

  8. Were there obvious moments? Yes, but even if they noticed, they have to cross every "t" and dot every "i" - plus, who wants to consider it might be a cop or a kid? In addition, even the best professionals will be occasionally be blinded by similar crimes - this makes them human and not superheroes.

    While it did seem that Prentiss was being insensitive, asking families some of these questions cannot be easy. You have to force them to become suspicious about everyone around them.

    My first thought (from watching a lot of CM & CSI) did center on the family, but I thought it was covering an accidental death. To have it come around to the stuff about the plane parts and the true issue, that was highly disturbing.

    The reactions of Lancaster and the parents made me curious - why didn't anything stand out about this boy to the people who supposedly knew him best? This is the same problem in real life crime - they always seem like such "nice, quiet" people. Sometimes, that scares me more than the weird folks you see out and about. Do we really know our neighbors?

    Overall, I thought the show was a great team-work balanced show. The villain was disturbing enough at the end to overcome the earlier suspicions, and I look forward to the next episode.

  9. Caitriona-3,

    Yes, exactly. No one would want to think it was a little kid related to the victim who did it. While I agree that a case could be made that they should have noticed, I'm also fine with them not having noticed for exactly the same reasons you listed.

    While it did seem that Prentiss was being insensitive, asking families some of these questions cannot be easy. You have to force them to become suspicious about everyone around them.It seems like perhaps my wording could have been different up there. I wasn't actually trying to imply that Prentiss was being insensitive, but I can see now that it could read that way. What I was saying was that (had they not already known what happened) she surely freaked them out. It's part of the job, and it's not fun, and I think she did a fine job of it, but it's surely not anything that is going to make the families any more comfortable.

    The reactions of Lancaster and the parents made me curious - why didn't anything stand out about this boy to the people who supposedly knew him best?That is an interesting question. You would think that someone would notice, if anything, that he never seemed to be sorry about the bad things he did. I was thinking about this today, though, that during the press conference he looked noticeably upset, and that doesn't seem to fit with 'incapable of remorse'. So maybe he was good at faking it? But that didn't seem to be the case when Prentiss was talking to him near the end of the episode; he very obviously didn't care then.

    Maybe at the press conference he was just mourning the loss of his model plane. ;)

  10. . I was thinking about this today, though, that during the press conference he looked noticeably upset, and that doesn't seem to fit with 'incapable of remorse'Good, I'm not the only one who thought that. I'm used to being 2 steps behind in any mystery, but so many people said the kid's behavior was so obvious, and I didn't see it. Even after finding out what he did, I looked at the press conference scene again, and nothing seemed off. He did seem upset. I suppose his behavior could also have been out of boredom, but I know when I get anxious, I get very fidgety, so he seemed worried there. The only thing that seemed really off (and even then I didn't catch it until a rewatch) was when the mother left to lie down. He rolled his eyes then. But, other than that, nothing until his beat down on the chips.

  11. Angela,

    Yeah, or it's possible maybe he was nervous with all the press. I don't know. I honestly think him being upset in the beginning was an inconsistency for the sake of trying to throw the audience so they wouldn't figure it out, but it makes me feel better to try to tack reasons onto it. ;)

    I didn't catch him rolling his eyes, though! I'll have to rewatch! Thanks!

  12. Thanks for the review! I'm too lazy to review this ep myself, so I'm just tacking onto everyone else's :-D Anyway, I had inklings right from the start that the kid, the parents and the cop were all involved, but I got it the wrong way round, so the ending was still just enough to surprise me! I initially thought maybe the cop was a pedophile who had killed the kid (perhaps by accident?), and the parents were covering for him, while the big brother had seen something but was too scared to say anything? I also thought the writers threw in a cool red herring by saying the wee boy had just started soccer and come out of his shell... I was like, "YOU GUYS IT'S THE SOCCER COACH!" Lol.

    As for the team spotting it; I suspect there were hunches (Morgan in particular, I think, seemed suspicious early on), but the team would be far too cautious and professional to go throwing unfounded accusations at a cop. Can you imagine if they'd been wrong - never get asked back *there* again, haha. And Emily seemed a little suspicious of the parents too, but again seemed to be biding her time.

    Also, I think it's totally fair that they didn't spot the big brother's odd behaviour. For a start, the child-killer angle is statistically very unlikely, and furthermore, the kid clearly didn't drive out to the forest and dump his wee brother's body there. I could just be rationalising, as you said to someone above, but I think it's fair that the team didn't get it straight away.

    I'm with you on well-written whole-team eps. I love a good character-centric ep, but an episode where everyone in the team is on fine form is even better. This one was excellent in that respect. I absolutely loved that every member of the team had something vital to contribute to solving the case, and they each did what they did best (Emily with the little boy was awesome, I thought).

    So all in all, it was a very solid and suspenseful ep.

  13. Yes, this episode was amazing, but there is a part that I can't remember for the life of me, and it's annoying as hell. Anyway, to explain, I work with this guy that seems completely emotionless. He doesn't smile, doesn't look angry, and even his voice is completely flat. He reminds me of the little boy being emotionless, and I was going to tell that to another worker, but I can't remember what they called him. They had said "He is a(n)_____, incapeable of feeling emotion." I can't remember what they called him, was it a psychopath maybe, or schizophrenic? This will bug me until I figure it out, please help fill in that blank.

  14. I´m foreign so please don´t look for mistakes in my writing (today the episode was aired in my country and I was looking for discussions, so I post here also it´s a little bit late...): The behaviour of children when they suffer a loss --specially a close family member-- varies (or differs?) so much, that I feel the team should not be blamed for "not seeing" all the signs: The body language of the boy could have been easily caused by the traumatic experience. Some children don´t show any emotions at all because it is too hard to cope with it and need a special treatment to get close to their feelings. And in the beginning they were searching for a serial killer--nobody would expect this from a child. Pretty scary episode!

  15. I just wanna say Danny should be ashamed of himself and is he happy now Kyle is dead and his throat is stuffed with plane parts because he accidently broke that dumb model plane

  16. Possibly the most haunting bit of television I have ever seen


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