Review for Criminal Minds Episode 12×13, “Spencer”

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

17 thoughts on “Review for Criminal Minds Episode 12×13, “Spencer”

  • February 19, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    This episode surely stood out. Thank you for bringing it all together for us!

    • February 19, 2017 at 9:25 pm

      Hey, glad you liked it!

  • February 19, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    Loved it!!!!!!

  • February 19, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    Also, I love all things Paget Brewster!!!! So her being back on Criminal Minds making it tons better!!!!! 🙂

  • February 20, 2017 at 3:38 am

    I love CM and this episode did not disappoint me. I knew it would be beyond good. Matthew Gray Gubler is amazing. He made me feel his confusion and fear. Every actor brought their best and it showed. I know all things must come to an end, but this year, please.

  • February 20, 2017 at 4:01 am

    If the article with Erica Messer is any indication, it sounds like this is a storyline they’d be willing to let spill over into next season if they get a season 13. So I think that seems to imply Reid’s not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. I could see this season ending on some sort of cliffhanger with Reid’s situation, whatever it is at that point, that will lead us into whatever they have planned for season 13.

    As for this episode…agh, yes, your sentiments are mine exactly. I LOVED the way the team rallied around Reid throughout the episode, that was my favorite part of the whole thing. Emily threw her weight around and it was awesome, I love that Luke, Stephen, and Tara were immediately on board with the, “Yeah, Reid’s totally innocent, this arrest is BS” mindset despite not knowing him anywhere near as long as the others have, and Luke was so, so, SO good with Reid throughout. They had some really sweet moments together that I liked a lot.

    And JJ’s reactions. Man. I loved the way they connected her memories of the whole Hankel thing to everything with Reid, and seeing her so concerned and protective and flat out worried about him. I like your idea of her going all out down the line to help Reid-I really hope the show explores that connection and interaction between those two more as this storyline plays out. It’d be great to see how their close bond is further shaped by this.

    That said…

    Still, please show up soon, Derek. We miss you, and Reid needs you.

    YES. So much yes. There is absolutely no way in hell Morgan would not be there to help Reid through this. No. Way. Really hoping the show’s planning a surprise appearance by him down the line here-I’d love to see him back for this. That’d be great.

    The “Revelations” nods were utterly heartbreaking (Reid echoing the whole “I’m not weak” thing again, omg why show), but I really appreciated how they used them here. I thought at most we might get a passing mention of Hankel with this drug storyline going on, but no, they went all out with the references. I know fans have complained in the past about how the show seemed to kind of drop that drug addiction storyline back in season 2, so I wonder if this will allow us to learn more about just what that time was like for Reid back then, and what the exact turning point was for him to get clean, and how the team helped him through that time. That’d be kinda nice.

    But yeah. This episode was so good, and yet like you, I just wanted to hug Reid so much throughout it. It was so tough to see him in such a state (I’m still reeling from the fact that he was drugged with cocaine, of all drugs. Just…damn). Gubler definitely did a fantastic job with the episode, though. I’m both very intrigued about this story arc and very nervous. I just want Reid to come out of it all okay. And I want his mom to be okay, too, as well as, of course, the rest of the team. Fingers crossed!

    Nice review.

    • February 20, 2017 at 9:40 pm

      Thank you for these comments. I am so on board with everything you expressed and would love to see an exploration of his addiction recovery. Nicely said!

  • February 20, 2017 at 4:03 am

    I can’t see how he can come out of all this and be the same Reid. Coming to realize their is no hope for his mom is going to be devastating ( my mom has alzehiemers and I am going thru this for real). His time locked up and everything is going to change him. He won’t be the same. There is no way

    • February 20, 2017 at 9:42 pm

      I’m sorry you’re going through this. He won’t be the same, I agree, as all experiences change us, but I hope he’ll be stronger for surviving the challenges. He’s a hero, in point of fact.

  • February 20, 2017 at 4:17 am

    Agree with your review 100%
    We need Derek back – it would make no sense for him not to show up in this important storyline

    Rossi was pretty annoying in this episode totally agree!

  • February 20, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    Great review! Completely agree with everything you said and damn can Kirsten and Erica just write every episode of CM?! They always knock it out of the park and they always seem to do a lot of call-backs which I seriously love! The beginning quote they used was also used at the beginning of ‘Revelations” i believe. Although a lot of things stuck with me this episode, I just can’t seem to get JJ out of my mind. The pain in her eyes (as you said) was incredible yet she stayed so composed on the outside. Amazing acting by AJ! I also loved the small little mention of her bringing the boys over to visit Reid’s mom. I really have a soft spot for JJ and Reid’s relationship-It’s the most important relationship in the show to me. Going from Reid asking her out on a date in S1E4 to them being the best of friends who would do anything for each other in S12. Great character development. Emily also deserves a shout out for this episode. I loved her hesitation to delete the recording then a few scenes later straight out lying to the detective to protect Reid (I do think that will come back to haunt them though) overall incredible episode. “Sick Day” and “Spencer” this season have just been outstanding.

    • February 20, 2017 at 9:46 pm

      I thought AJ’s acting choices were fantastic. Her drawn, pinched expressions when she was talking to Spencer, her eyes… just blew me away. I too love JJ and Reid’s relationship and can’t seem to stop writing stories about the two of them.

      YES, Emily’s lie about the recording is uppermost on my mind. They are going to USE THAT to give Reid even more grief. But truth is, it still doesn’t prove anything. I’m hoping he’ll make it out of the woods, no matter what!

  • February 20, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    DEFINITELY an AMAZING episode! I think it goes without saying that MGG’s performance was just amazing.

    The way JJ was concerned almost had me on that shipper boat. I agree with Luke… love how gentle he was with Reid. While I miss Morgan in these kinds of situations, Luke and his gentleness was great.

    And Paget… oh Paget. What a portrayal of our beloved Emily. She just embodies the role so well and really shines as Unit Chief in this episode.

    • February 20, 2017 at 9:47 pm

      Almost? What else can I do to pull you aboard? 😉

  • February 21, 2017 at 10:50 am

    Dear Tari, thank you so much for your wonderfully written review of this episode. While watching “Spencer” I had to remind myself “it’s only a television show, calm down.” Yet, I couldn’t. Various forms of pop culture, whether they be movies, film, music, visual art or television, reflect, influence and are touched by our culture and society as a whole. They get us a on a very cellular level. We see not only as they are, but also, as we are. This episode, and Spencer’s arc regarding this horrific journey, will stay with me long after the final credits role.

    Matthew’s performance did not ring one false note. Erica and Kirsten’s script was a master class. And every other performance from the cast was par excellence.

    I’m keeping fingers, toes and eyes crossed, that Spencer with survive this fully whole. I hope it reminds me that as often as he extends empathy towards others, he has to extend empathy towards himself. I want him to go on a journey of self-reflection, self-care, self-healing and most of all, self-healing.

    And I thought you might be interested in this quote:

    “I believe in aristocracy, though — if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but power to endure, and they can take a joke.”
    ― E.M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy

    • February 21, 2017 at 11:15 am

      Thank YOU so much for this amazing comment! Man, I hope people from the show read these comments so they can see just how much their hard work means to the fans. Responses like yours and everyone else’s here warm my heart! It’s so nice to see how others are similarly affected by the episode, and the show in general. LOVE IT!

    • February 22, 2017 at 9:47 am

      Ugh, sorry about the typos and other grammatical errors in my post (film, movies-same thing) and will should be in the place of with in the first sentence of the second paragraph. Between the Spencer-arc and my severe insomnia, I don’t know whether I should charge my phone or bum rush a Trump press conference.

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