Criminal Minds (2005– )
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The Instincts 

A child abduction case in Las Vegas causes Reid to have strange nightmares which appear to be connected to an event in his past.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Penelope Garcia
Amy Bridges
Craig Bridges
Claire Bates
Det. Ashby
William Reid


The team travel to Las Vegas to investigate the abduction and subsequent murder of 5-year old Ethan Hayes whose dead body was found in the desert but in a visible location, newly clothed and seemingly starved during his abduction phase but somehow with nutrients in his body without visible evidence of an I.V. marking on his body. Another adolescent, Michael Bridges, has been abducted but assumed not yet dead. The tie between the two abductions is that the killer has contacted both sets of parents telling them they are the cause of their child's abduction. This case is especially difficult for Reid whose hometown is Las Vegas and whose mother has been institutionalized there for the better part of her adult life. In addition, he has been having nightmares of late of himself and the team chasing the killer of a six-year old child. However, this child is seemingly someone he may have known from his own childhood. Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


TV-14 | See all certifications »




Release Date:

5 November 2008 (USA)  »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


One of the rare episodes where Hotch smiles. See more »


Aaron Hotchner: [opening quote, voiceover] Amos Bronson Alcott said "Who speaks to the instincts speaks to the deepest in mankind, and finds the readiest response."
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Criminal Minds Theme
Composed by Mark Mancina
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User Reviews

Personally thought it was a return to form for Season 4 and 'Criminal Minds'
19 November 2016 | by See all my reviews

After being disappointed by "Catching Out" (though it will be re-watched again to see if the opinion remains the same or not, it is unlikely as it has been seen twice already and the reaction has been the same), both "The Instincts" and "Memoriam" were returns to form.

While "The Big Wheel" (a rare perfection episode), "Zoe's Reprise" and "Conflicted" are Season 4's best episodes, "The Instincts" and "Memoriam" are up there too. "The Instincts" is a Reid-centric episode, and while Reid has always been one of the most interesting, well-developed and entertaining 'Criminal Minds' characters the development to him here is simply brilliant. Of the Reid-centric episodes, "The Instincts" is up there with the best of them, being both harrowing and poignant.

Matthew Gray Gubler's superlative acting has a lot to do with it, and he is more than ably supported by the rest of the lead actors, the chemistry and bond within the team still shines brilliantly. As well as a hard-hitting and quite moving Jane Lynch, in perhaps the most serious role she's ever done and what a performance she gives, and Kari Matchett, whose character is so easily rootable.

Immediately impressive also is the atmosphere. "The Instincts" has to be one of the most atmospherically creepy, hard-hitting and suspenseful Season 4 episodes, both the calls from the unsub and the nightmares are incredibly eerie. There are also a couple of entertaining moments, such as Rossi and JJ's exchange in the desert, and some insightful ones, such as the profiling and Morgan's analysis of Reid's nightmare. "The Instincts" is superbly written, Diana's lines really made me feel something, like shock and tears.

Storytelling is compelling, exciting and suspenseful, with a twist regarding the unsub's real identity that one does not see coming. While there is no way that one can condone the unsub's actions, due to their trauma and what triggered their crimes one can't help feeling a tinge of sympathy. The episode is very well made visually, and one cannot complain about the way it's scored and directed too.

To conclude, a wonderful episode, much better than given credit for from the previous reviews (respectfully) and a return to form for the season and the show. 10/10 Bethany Cox

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