Criminal Minds: Season 3, Episode 19

Tabula Rasa (14 May 2008)

TV Episode  |  TV-14  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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A suspected serial killer who's been in a coma since 2004 due to an accident when he was arrested wakes up 4 years later, with no memory of his past, not even his name. While he is tried in court, in which Hotch is testifying against him, the rest of the team investigates his past further.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Lester Serling
Cece Hillenbrand
Brian Matloff
Mr. Corbett
Nina Moore
Detective Jarvis


Four years earlier in Roanoke, Virgina, the BAU were in pursuit of Brian Matloff, alleged to be the Blue Ridge Strangler who killed three women. While Morgan was chasing him, Matloff fell several stories from a building roof. Miraculously, Matloff survived, but fell into a coma, from which he has just awaken. The authorities may have problems now in convicting Matloff since he claims to have amnesia, and their only key witness has since passed away. All remaining evidence is circumstantial. Surprisingly, Matloff agrees to a cognitive memory recognition exercise, since regardless of guilt or innocence he states that he wants to know who he is/was. However, some argue that if Matloff does not regain his memory, he is no longer the person he was and thus no longer a threat to society. So, is this a ruse perpetrated by a cold blooded killer? An unknown woman who was Matloff's sole regular visitor may be able to shed some light on the case. Regardless, the father of one of the Blue Ridge ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Release Date:

14 May 2008 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


The title, "Tabula Rasa," is a Latin term that literally means "erased slate." It is used philosophically to refer to the state of a person's mind before it has any experience of the world -- and here refers to the suspected killer, Brian Matloff, awakening from a coma with no memory of his crimes. See more »


[Hotch is on the stand being questioned by the defense attorney, Lester Serling]
Lester Serling: Fact is, behavioral analysis is really just intellectual guesswork. You probably couldn't tell me the color of my socks with any greater accuracy than a carnival psychic.
Cece Hillenbrand: [standing] Objection.
Lester Serling: Withdrawn.
[Not expecting an answer, Serling turns away from Hotch to head back to his seat]
Aaron 'Hotch' Hotchner: Charcoal gray.
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Criminal Minds (TV Show Intro / Main Song Theme)
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User Reviews

A most interesting idea
9 January 2010 | by (NJ, USA) – See all my reviews

If a killer wakes from a coma with no memory of his crimes, is he still guilty? That's the intriguing premise at the heart of this episode. Hotch, Reid and Morgan come back to a case they had pursued 4 years before. The suspect fell off a building and was in a coma. (The suspect is played by the same actor who plays Radzinsky in LOST!) Now he's woken up, and the DA is ready to prosecute. EXCEPT the suspect has no memories at all, especially of the murders he committed. The case has to go forward, with key witnesses dead or moved away, and very little evidence.

One of the victim's fathers (whom I will always remember as Brenda and Brandon's dad on 90210) is desperately seeking justice for his daughter. He and Reid bonded 4 years before. Reid worries that the father is becoming unhinged. Their scenes together are wonderful, and shows how empathetic Reid has become as he's matured.

The highlight for me is Hotch testifying about the science of behavioral profiling, which the defense lawyer is trying to paint as pseudo-science. Hotch brutally tears away the lawyer's image. A buzzing Blackberry has never seemed so funny before.

The actor playing the killer is terrific as well. He forms a relationship with one of the guards after he wakes. Could he have done this before? Is he really a different man than the one who murdered those girls? And if so, should he be punished? All very thoughtful and interesting stuff.

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