Review for Criminal Minds Episode 12×13, “Spencer”
“Look, you aren’t alone in this any more, okay?”
Wow. Gut punch. This was my third time watching it and I feel just as tense and as hopeless as the first time. This review might be a little messy, and is going to be much more stream-of-consciousness than some of my others because I’m just feeling so raw about Spencer’s predicament and my emotions are scattershot. I feel like someone that I love immeasurably is being treated unfairly, and dangerously, and that it could eventually lead to me not seeing him any more, and for that I won’t deny that I’m truly, selfishly, scared. Spencer is in real trouble and that damnable recording of the cognitive interview won’t leave my mind. I just know it’s going to be instrumental in him NOT being exonerated and I’m stressing, big time.
While we know he didn’t kill Rosa, it’s hard to see him going through any of this. Being drugged, being unable to grasp any details that might help himself… and his mind, his most powerful weapon against evil… he can’t access it. Through Matthew’s remarkable performance we see him barely able to function without that access, and it’s heartbreaking. His soft-spoken answers to everyone, even when he was still high from the speedball he was shot up with, were crushing me. Thanking the officers, thanking the BB people for coming, standing when his team came to him and his calm frustration at not being able to remember? GAHHH. The flash of cogency when he talked about the jimsom weed was like a gasp of fresh air in a smoky room. And Emily’s relieved reaction was as my own. Did anyone else flinch and cringe at the Revelations flashback (fuck you, Revelations!)? Highly effective.
Seeing everyone’s concern for him, and them NOT being paralyzed by what was happening was heartening and I was cheering them on. Everyone rose up and hit the bricks and pounded out everything they could while still remaining within the law. I loved that Penelope was ‘mad’ at him, and I loved JJ’s frozen face. Seeing her nearly jump out of her skin while her eyes told all as it was evident she was struggling to remain composed was a great play by AJ Cook.
Ah, JJ. It remains to be seen just how she’ll deal with this, and I appreciated that as always, she was the first to embrace him, to make him promise ‘no more secrets’, and to let him know that he was not alone, any more. I don’t like to imagine what she’d do if Reid’s situation goes South. I can see her stealing the jet (at gunpoint if need be – cool!), getting him a fake passport/credentials like she did for Em’s recovery in Paris, and swooping him off to another country just so he would survive. She’s nothing if not ‘mama bear’, with her Spence.
Others have said, and I agree, about being pleasantly surprised by which the Mexican authorities, medics, field officers, and warden were portrayed. Usually shows will take the easy route and try to villainize authorities in other countries, but these guys had it together, extremely professional, even kind at times. They were suspicious, as well they should have been, but they didn’t beat up Reid, or try to browbeat a confession out of him, the just kept asking questions, protected him from the skeevy guy, bandaged him up (also hey guys, that’s a defensive wound, right? Maybe shoulda oughta called attention to that a little more), gave him water, and let him know what was going on every step of the way. Way to go, show.
I adore Rossi but this time he seemed out of sorts, like he was at a total loss at what to do. He kept stating the obvious which is annoying af, but I chalk it up to him being extremely confused and concerned for our good doctor. Luke’s gentleness with Spencer was so cool to watch. He called him ‘brother’ and had his arm around his shoulder when he took him back to be extradited. I appreciated how Luke didn’t try to go all ‘Morgan’. Derek – and don’t get me wrong, I sorely missed him this episode – would’ve practically yelled at his ‘kid brother’ to not worry, and his own intensity and anger at the futility of the situation might have made matters worse. Still, please show up soon, Derek. We miss you, and Reid needs you.
Prentiss was fantastic. Paget has really perfected Emily’s grace under pressure, and how she’s able to think on her feet when her team needs her to. She was respectful but firmly demanding in Mexico, and that’s exactly how she should’ve been to get the evidence they needed. She did everything right. Her reactions as the news kept coming about Reid’s situation were both in-character and proxied us, the viewers, too. Tara played the truth-teller this time, and she kept us (and Penelope) grounded. Her shock at Reid’s kidnapping and drugging by Hankel was realistic and warranted. Kudos.
The Beyond Borders people played it cool and I liked that they showed up, and offered future help if it was needed, too. I was glad they weren’t in it overmuch, as this episode belonged to our team. Damon Gupton is a very believable actor, and Stephen was very sympathetic to Reid’s predicament, a good way to score points with this viewer. Although I still believe the team is far too big right now, and can’t conjure any real attachment to either him, or Luke. I do like them both, just consider them extraneous.
Erica and Kirsten write exceptionally well together, and I’ll happily look forward to any future collaboration. The fact that Kirsten used a Neil Gaiman quote at the end made me smile. They’re good friends in real life, and I’m a huge fan of his work so I was happy with the shoutout.
Altogether I’m really tense and excited to follow Reid on this unprecedented journey, and to see where he ends up. I can only hope and fervently wish that he’ll be stronger as he emerges from this mess, and that the additions to the team doesn’t signal a departure for him at the end of the season. Please don’t break my heart for reals, show. Let Spencer come back to himself, to JJ and the team, to us. Let him be the hero he is.
Written by: Erica Messer and Kirsten Vangsness
Directed by: Glenn Kershaw