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"Criminal Minds" Masterpiece (2008)

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21 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Masterpiece

10/10
Author: noway234-1 from Australia
24 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The title really says it all, this episode is one of the best episodes of the entire season if not the series. From the moment the episode starts it earns it's name, the opening shot showing us the room where the children and their care worker are being held is so slow and precise, going into the room with the paintings. Everything about the short screams perfection.

The undeniable star of the episode though is Jason Alexander playing Professor Rothschild, a character that is so creepy and subtle that you'll forget all about George Costanza. His performance is subtle and brilliant, the shot where the throws the photos of some of his victims down the stairs is beautiful and creepy all at once. One key thing about Jason's character involves a plot point known as the Fibonacci sequence, or 1 1 2 3 5 and so on. At 2 points he does this action, most memorably with his thumbs during the interrogation but more subtly (I only learned this when I watched the special feature on the DVD) when he's talking to Reid and Rossi in the college his hands make the sequence. Tiny actions like this sell the character that is both brilliant and terrifying and easily one of the creepiest unsubs this show has had for a while.

As I said this episode is a masterpiece. The team show their intelligence and use every skill they have to try and best Rothchild's little game. As every minute went on I was glued to the screen to see what would happen next, every single second of this episode is in itself a masterpiece. A must see episode.

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8 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Disasterpiece

3/10
Author: ttapola from Finland
15 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I can imagine someone coming up with a pitch, "Hey guys, what if we did an episode that has elements of The Silence of the Lambs (IMDb Top 230 #26 at the time of this review) and Se7en (#28)?" And someone would say, "Oh, those films are *old*, we need something more contemporary, like the Saw franchise." Then, someone would say, "Hey, let's add some The Da Vinci Code-esquire stuff and just throw them all together, so no-one accuse us from ripping off a specific film." Possible.

This episode starts with a Saw-type montage, cross-cutting between color shots of a house surrounded by woods and black & white shots of a woman and some children, who are scared. We then see a white van leaving from the house and passing the camera, to some "very ominous music". The camera goes down through the ground and reveals some sort of prison chamber with a surveillance camera embedded in the wall. We are shown the room behind the camera, with The Last Supper painting and some strings and various geometric figures. There's the Golden Spiral formed from rectangles using the Golden Ratio. We see the Vitruvian Man and some spirals. Finally, the camera settles on a monitor showing what the surveillance camera sees and a counter that is running a countdown and there is 11 hours and 56 minutes left. The woman bangs the protective glass of the camera in desperation.

Rossi and Reid are the recruiting speakers for the FBI at a university. They are approached by a mysterious man dressed in white (just like the van, that's "subtle"). He introduces himself as Professor Rothchild, and shows them shady photos of "seven homicide victims", as he informs them. He then tells the bodies have been destroyed with acid. When asked if he killed the women, he tells that "there is still time to save the others", 9 hours specifically. Now, this is all very John Doe from Se7en: both gave successfully eluded the authorities, supposedly have victim(s) held hostage somewhere and turn themselves in dramatically. I must say, Jason Alexander is a revelation here. His acting here adds one star to the total. Even when the script tells him to "dramatically" throw the photos through the air onto the stairs in a shot which is *for no actual reason* overlaid on itself, just a bit to either side and in slow motion, probably because someone thought this would look very cool to the Saw generation. It doesn't. Less is more. Observe Silence... and Se7en.

Okay, the script tries very hard to impress an that's usually when scripts fail spectacularly. There is cryptic dialog, suspicious body language, puzzling figures, diagrams and a pendant. And Professor Rothchild tries *very* hard to out-Hannibal Hannibal, out-John Doe John Doe, out-Jigsaw Jigsaw. It *almost* works. I was very surprised when it seemed this episode would actually live up to its scriptwriters' ambition, but then there is the Epic Fail at the all-important Endgame of the last act.

For a moment, this really seemed to be destined for an actual 10/10, especially at the scene where Rothchild points out to Rossi that he forgot to ask what the rules are. But the house of cards comes crashing down when Professor Rothchild fails to anticipate that his interrogation is videoed. REALLY? He's a criminal mastermind, has successfully played the agents and fails to foresee this *obvious* detail. I don't know whether FBI actually videos all interrogations, but ONLY an idiot wouldn't suspect that. It just doesn't fit in Professor Rothchild's character. It doesn't make *sense*. Also, his reaction to Prentiss is a bit hard to believe. Sure, some men cannot approach women, but his extreme reaction to Prentiss is made ridiculous when Rossi explains that Rothchild can *calmly* sneak up on a woman *as long as he doesn't see her face*. C'mon! And what about Rossi figuring out it's all a ruse to trap and kill the agents? He says Reid figured it out. Sure, first Garcia limits the previous, unknown victims from the possible 39 missing brunettes in central Virginia logically to 8 probable ones and notices three are from the same town. Hotch notices two that are from another town. Reid's reasoning about the pendant is also flawless (although the montage representing his brain working is just plain silly). The towns have been selected according to the Fibonacci Spiral and the number of victims in each town conforms to the Fibonacci Series: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, ... (although he forgets to mention the 0). 0 represents the place where the victims are taken to.

Rothchild's trap is masterful. The room *outside* the holding room is rigged to fill with acid and kill the five agents, leaving the prisoners unharmed. But that twist is not enough for the writers! Also, should it have worked, the main cast would have had to be replaced. Thus, the viewers *know* it won't work. *Had* it worked, this series would have had the biggest cajones in the world. Instead, we get the following Epic Failure: Rothchild quotes Rossi's books - and what do you know, the quotes are found from the books by taking random numbers from the Fibonacci Series. That's just seeing what you want to see! It's insane. But Rothchild isn't insane - he won't be able to plead to insanity because Rossi proves Rothchild is thinking rationally. The quote locations are just a stupid "trick" from the writers. But the biggest insult to the viewers is omitting crucial scenes that would reveal us that Reed has figured it out and that the agents neutralize the trap, because that is the only way for Rossi's "twist" to work. And how did he do it? He figured that Rothchild was not about to kill 10 people! WTF? From the beginning, Rothchild has been saying that 5 will die. Where did that 10 come from? Answer: Stupid writers. Aargh! 3/10.

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