Criminal Minds (2005– )
4 user 1 critic

Nelson's Sparrow 

1:43 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $1.99 (SD) on Prime Video

The members of the BAU team are brought back to their origins as they look at one of Gideon and Rossi's old cases.


Glenn Kershaw


Jeff Davis (created by), Kirsten Vangsness | 1 more credit »





Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Joe Mantegna ... David Rossi
Shemar Moore ... Derek Morgan
Matthew Gray Gubler ... Dr. Spencer Reid
A.J. Cook ... Jennifer Jareau
Kirsten Vangsness ... Penelope Garcia
Jennifer Love Hewitt ... Kate Callahan
Thomas Gibson ... Aaron Hotchner
Arye Gross ... Donnie Mallick
Ben Savage ... Young Jason Gideon
Eileen Grubba ... Young Mary Ellen Barnett
Robert Dunne ... Young David Rossi
Phoebe Neidhardt ... Josie Behdart
James Lentzsch James Lentzsch ... Stephen Gideon
Gina Garcia ... Agent Gina Sharp (as Gina Garcia Sharp)
Teresa Huang ... Dr. Weiss


The BAU team members convene at Gideon's isolated cabin where his murdered dead body was found, he killed by multiple gunshots. Each team member, especially those that knew him personally, grieves in his or her own way while they all investigate his murder. While Garcia tracks his last driving trip which included an extended stop in Roanoke, one hour away from his cabin, Hotch speaks to Gideon's now grown son, Stephen Gideon, and Rossi and Morgan examine the crime scene, most specifically trying to sequence the series of gunshots which led to Gideon's death. In piecing together all the information, Rossi believes Gideon was trying to send a message to them before being fatally shot, Rossi who travels back in time to a case the two worked on in 1978 when the BAU was then known as the Behavioral Science Unit. The unsub in that case, he who was never caught, was obsessed with birds, and strangled twenty-something Plain Jane, insecure, brunette women. The recent death of a woman leads the... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


TV-14 | See all certifications »






Release Date:

28 January 2015 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

16:9 HD
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Spencer went to move the chess piece at the end to have "one more game" with Gideon but realized he would have had a check mate and chose to let it be. See more »


[All goofs for this title are spoilers.] See more »


Penelope Garcia: Are you sure?
Aaron Hotchner: It's Gideon
See more »


Referenced in Criminal Minds: The Storm (2016) See more »


Criminal Minds Theme
Written by Mark Mancina
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

One of the standout episodes of Season 10
8 July 2016 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

The best of Season 10 for me is "Mr. Scratch", a contender for 'Criminal Minds' best episodes in a long time and is also one of the show's creepiest and most chilling.

"Nelson's Sparrow" is another one of the standout episodes, a close second best to "Mr. Scratch". While this reviewer understands why one may not be totally enamoured by "Nelson's Sparrow" but to me it was a beautifully done tribute to Gideon, and a worthier send off than "In Name and Blood". That did have a touching scene with the letter addressed to Reid, but Gideon's departure always did seem abrupt as a result of Mandy Patinkin's departure also being abrupt and unexpected and leaving on bad terms, so that was inevitable in a way.

It's not a completely perfect episode. It is agreed that the melancholic music score does get over-the-top at times (not usually a problem with 'Criminal Minds'). More problematic is the unsub's reasons for his crimes, they didn't make much sense, other than that the unsub was delusional, and seemed too disconnected from one another.

However, "Nelson's Sparrow" looks wonderful, stylish, beautifully filmed and with a lot of atmosphere. The theme tune is hypnotic and haunting. The script is tense, very emotionally affecting and tightly structured, and the story throughout is engrossing with a suspenseful shoot-out between Rossi and the unsub, there may have been a feeling of vengeance but it seemed to me that that was not the reason for the scene ended as it did and not a case of turning vigilante (trying not to give it away here), he was saving his own skin and saving himself from being yet another victim of the unsub (which it would have happened that way if Rossi hadn't reacted quickly).

What made "Nelson's Sparrow" so well done and satisfying were the many little character moments, like Reid's emotionally devastating grief, Hotch retelling a story that Gideon told him about the snowstorm (which saw a rare light-hearted side to the usual sober and serious Hotch), the numerous flashbacks revealing Gideon and Rossi's younger selves, Rossi telling Reid of the BAU being nicknamed the BS unit and trying not to laugh, the ugliness of the torture that the unsub put his victims through (who cannot fail to flinch at the sound of dislocating the legs of his last victim?) and the ending reference to the Euripedes quote initially said by Gideon in "Broken Mirror" repeated by Hotch.

Great acting also all round. Joe Mantegna and Matthew Gray Gubler particularly stood out of the regulars, fitting because they were the ones affected most by the situation. Ben Savage as younger Gideon was incredible, getting even the mannerisms spot on which must not have been an easy feat. Robin Dunne shines too, while the unsub is one of the most loathsome in a long time.

In conclusion, "Nelson's Sparrow" is one of the standout episodes of Season 10, close second best after "Mr. Scratch" and compares extremely favourably with the later seasons of the show. 9/10 Bethany Cox

5 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 4 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed