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Criminal Minds – The Sandman – Review: “Blindside”

Ah, this show sometimes, I tell you. They sure do seem to love messing with us fans.

We all got lulled into a false sense of security at the end of the “Derek” episode, didn’t we? Morgan had survived his attack, he’d proposed to Savannah, he was going to be a dad. Things seemed okay for somebody in the BAU world at long last.

Thing is, though, the episode following this latest one is entitled “A Beautiful Disaster”. It’s also being directed by MGG, and as he revealed in an interview last summer, one of the regular team members will be leaving the show in that episode. So far, this season has been hinting at the likelihood of Morgan being the one to leave, given his intense involvement in the Dirty Dozen takedown, and that possibility has become even more apparent ever since the events of “Derek”. Sure, it’d be sad to see him go, but if he left because he wanted to focus on a new life with Savannah and his kid, we could be okay with that. Maybe the “beautiful disaster” ominously hinted at in the upcoming episode wouldn’t tie into Morgan’s life at all.

Then “The Sandman” episode came along, and officially shot any hopes of Morgan having a completely quiet, uneventful exit straight to hell. There’s still a chance that he and Savannah may make it out of the events of the upcoming episode okay, but if the end of this one, as well as the promo, are any indication, fans are right to be worried and doubtful.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves by talking about future episodes, however, we should focus on what actually went down in the latest episode.

The Case:

“Mr. Sandman, bring me a nightmare.”

Remember the old legend of the Sandman? Supposed to sprinkle dust in children’s eyes at night to help them have good dreams?

Well, apparently someone in Wichita, Kansas is taking that generally pleasant folklore and turning it into something quite evil. A person comes into a family’s home and sprinkles dust in someone’s eyes, all right…but not the child’s.

Instead, they’re attacking the parents. Shortly after we see them prep the parents with the dust, a child screams for their mom, and all hell breaks loose. The mother desperately tries to find her son…but all we see is general moving blurs as she stumbles about her house. I quite liked that effect, it really added to the general horror and uncertainty of the situation. Evidently Joe Mantegna, who directed this episode, took a few lessons from Gubler in how to put viewers in the perspective of the person in danger.

This unpleasant Sandman does more than just sprinkle blinding dust on parents’ faces and break into their homes, however. He also glues the parents’ eyes shut. Ouch. The worst part is yet to come, though, as he then proceeds to murder the parents, Mr. and Mrs. Brewer, and kidnap their child Ronnie. So now not only do the BAU have to deal with a murder scene, they’ve got a child abduction to focus on as well. Yaaaaaay.

Before even making it to Kansas, the team’s already got a few assumptions and theories to work with: The unsub is definitely well-organized, but given there were three people to try and control, they aren’t ruling out the possibility of a team effort. Tara (yeah, she’s back this week after a brief absence!) is puzzled about the nature of Ronnie’s abduction – if he was the unsub’s main target, why not just take him when he’s on his way to school or something?

Hotch comes up with a chilling potential answer, though – the unsub may get a thrill out of taking a child from a place they’ve always believed to be safe. Rossi also thinks the unsub may have a personal vendetta against parents in general, and breaking into their home and stealing their child away is a good way to punish them for something. Such pleasant thoughts being shared here, I tell you. But regardless, it’s a starting point for their profile, so that’s something.

JJ also wonders if the sealing of the eyes is a sign of remorse. Reid thinks it might be a symbolic gesture, however, and it’s at this point where he proceeds to charm everyone by informing them of a darker version of the Sandman tale in which the unsub pops the children’s eyeballs out to feed to their young. Thanks, Reid. Again, though, best not to rule any possibilities out at this point, no matter how twisted and disturbing they may be.

Once the team arrives, Hotch and Morgan go to the station to see what new information is available. They learned early on that neighbors had reported seeing a white man in a white van, but unfortunately, as local officers report, nobody was able to get a license plate or any other specific details, since the van was on the main road a distance away from the house. Now that the team knows this family’s in a very rural farming area, though, and their neighbors were farmers or farm hands, they’re starting to think that perhaps their unsub could be someone who worked for the family.

Rossi and JJ, meanwhile, go to the Brewers’ home and check out the crime scene. They find no tread marks, meaning the unsub must’ve parked on the main road and made his way to the house on foot, which would confirm the neighbors’ report regarding the van. The family’s doors and barns were always unlocked, too – very trustworthy people, the result of small town life, as JJ notes. Having lived in a few small towns as well, I can confirm she’s quite right about that.

Once inside the house, Rossi and JJ make a few more discoveries and observations. Mrs. Brewer was found in the hallway, but Mr. Brewer was still in his bed. Therefore, he must’ve been the first one killed, which is a very common occurrence in these types of crimes. Elsewhere, all the blood and things knocked about indicate that poor Mrs. Brewer stumbled around her house for a very long time before dying. So that’s a disturbing thought.

Rossi and JJ also notice something odd about the floor during their investigation. There’s fresh scratches, and a bunch of heavy objects moved about. The theory is that the unsub moved everything…but why? Protection? Blocking off people’s escape? And why did he let Mrs. Brewer run around her house for so long in the first place, if his endgame was to kill her? It’s also revealed later on that the unsub left absolutely no blood at the crime scene. What’s there is strictly the Brewers’. So this guy knows how to clean up and get out.

As for the remaining team members, Reid and Tara, they go to the morgue to learn more about the victims’ cause of death, and run into a very familiar face (to Reid, anyway) in the process. Remember the case from a few years back where an unsub used tornadoes to try and recreate a loved one they’d lost? The coroner on that case is helping the team out yet again on this one! So that was a rather neat little surprise, and a nice bit of continuity.

Anywho, the coroner informs Reid and Tara that Mr. Brewer died of blood loss after having his throat cut, while Mrs. Brewer suffered blunt force trauma and damage to her skull. Two different methods of murder, and two different murder weapons. This has Reid rather puzzled, since that’s a very uncommon thing with these sorts of cases. The coroner also notes that Mr. Brewer’s eyes didn’t react to the glue that had been applied to them, which means he was already dead before the unsub messed with his eyes. Later, Reid learns the glue had been applied to the victims at 5:15 am…but the neighbors didn’t notice the van until 6:20 am. This must mean the unsub hung around the house for an hour…but why? Add in the fact that it’s hard to track where the glue came from, and that leaves the team rather stumped for the moment on these particularly unusual details.

Morgan, meanwhile, learns at one point that the local officers are looking at possible sex offenders in the area, but that doesn’t seem to be turning up much in the way of leads. That’s a good thing, though, both for Ronnie’s sake as well as Morgan’s. This case is clearly getting to him as it is, and his mind’s already in a weird headspace with everything else going on. He certainly doesn’t need to think about children being abused on top of all of that.

Sadly, the news does get worse in another way, with the devastating discovery of Ronnie’s body. It’s revealed soon after that he was asphyxiated, and was dead for at least seven to eight hours before being found. This means he was likely killed shortly after being kidnapped. That’s another puzzling aspect to an already unusual case – why would the unsub go to so much effort to kidnap a child if all he’ll do is kill them shortly thereafter?

“You’re about to be a dad. You know. You have to expect the world to start to feel different.”

Morgan can’t focus on those questions, though. He’s getting more and more distracted as time goes on, and finally Reid catches him out when trying to discuss the case with him. This leads to yet another in the increasing string of really lovely moments with Reid and Morgan that have been happening throughout the season, as the two men have a heart to heart talk about Morgan’s current state of mind.

He’s stuck on the fact that Ronnie was found in his pajamas. Morgan was there when the local officers found Ronnie’s body, you see, and no surprise, that image hasn’t left his head ever since. He compares the general “hardness” of all of this to asphalt, and discusses with Reid how soft and innocent children are, and struggles with the fact that they couldn’t save this child in time.

Reid astutely points out there’s more to Morgan’s reaction to this case, however. Obviously, the fact that he’s about to be a dad is weighing on him, too. He now fully understands firsthand what Hotch and JJ go through every time they deal with cases like this, and since this is his first case of this sort since finding out he was becoming a dad, it’s understandably that much more overwhelming as a result.

Fortunately, he also reassures Morgan that he and Savannah will be great parents, and reminds him that cases like this are why they do what they do for a living, so that Morgan’s own child can hopefully grow up in a world that’s a little safer.

I won’t argue that it would’ve been nice to see Hotch or JJ have this particular conversation with Morgan, since, obviously, they would best understand his general mindset, and would be able to give him some advice on how they deal with these situations. I especially would’ve liked seeing Hotch discuss this with Morgan, both because they’re fathers and because we haven’t really had much in the way of good moments between those two men in recent years. Morgan gained more respect for Hotch as a leader after stepping into his shoes for a time back in season five; their shared feelings about fatherhood are a new level on which they could connect, and it would’ve been really nice to see that.

But of course, I’m certainly not complaining about another sweet moment between Reid and Morgan. Especially considering Reid spent so much of his childhood without a father figure. He understands the necessity of a good father in a child’s life, and can sympathize with Morgan’s own lack of a father figure in his childhood. So his reassurance has a special meaning in that regard, a reminder that just because someone grows up without a parental figure, that doesn’t mean they’re automatically doomed to fail at parenthood themselves.

The conversation is also poignant considering we know Reid’s expressed his own desire for a family in recent years. Perhaps seeing Morgan getting a wife and child is a reminder to him that he’s still got a chance for that in his own life someday.

We don’t have much time to linger on this sweet and tender moment, though, unfortunately, because by this point, another family is at the mercy of the unsub. This time, the child in danger is a young girl named Josie, and we also hear the man says something unusual to the mom: “Eleven.” What on earth does that mean?

As Tara and Hotch survey this latest crime scene, they note that it looks very similar to that of the Brewers at first. Father’s dead, child’s missing, general M.O. is the same, unsub spent an hour in the house.

There are two notable differences this time around, however. First off, the mother, Ellie, survived. She’s in the hospital with injuries, but she’s alive. Second, the daughter’s older than Ronnie. This leads Tara and Hotch to realize they may not be dealing with a pedophile – those people usually have a preference, and the chances of them deviating from that preference are rare. At least that’s one piece of good news in an otherwise bizarre case.

So who are they likely dealing with? A family annihilator (anyone else getting Karl Arnold vibes at this point, or is it just me?). They kill the father first, then the mom, then the child. The unsub is a sadist in this case, but not because they’re getting off on the pain. Rather, they get off on the panic they inflict on the family. This man would enjoy watching the mothers run around the house in blind terror, and would enjoy the fear they instill in the child they kidnap. The team also believes that the unsub may be blinding the parents as a means of punishing them, because the man feels that his own parents neglected him as a child, notably his mother. This lends credence to Rossi’s initial theory on the plane about a personal vendetta.

Morgan thinks the unsub may still have the child held captive, since there’s been no sign of a body. If the unsub does need to kill in a specific order, and knows the mother is still alive, he might be waiting for her to die before killing the child.

Reid makes another discovery as well. There’s an hourglass in one family photo, and not in another. It seems the unsub took that hourglass, and uses that to time out how long he stays in the house. An oddly old-fashioned method, which fits well with the unsub using an ancient folktale as his method of attack.

JJ and Hotch go to interview Ellie at the hospital. She tells them about the use of the word “Eleven”, informs them that the unsub wore goggles, and confirms her family doesn’t own an hourglass, which proves the unsub brought that item with him to their house.

Garcia does a little more digging about the hourglass. It was handcrafted…but she can’t specify by whom. There’s also a strange discrepancy with the types of sand the unsub used. The sand used for the eyes was brought in from New York, of all places, but the sand for the hourglass is local…and they’ve found bone and tooth enamel mixed into the hourglass sand. Ewwwww. Considering we’ve been seeing glimpses of the unsub poking about with some old teeth and a skull throughout the episode thus far, this latest information confirms my sinking feeling about this part of the story. Just when we thought this guy couldn’t get any creepier.

Thankfully, Garcia does make a breakthrough with the New York aspect of the case. She sends Reid a list of cases of child abductions from that area that seem similar to this one. In a neat echo of the Gibson-directed “Lockdown” from last season, we get another entertaining scene of Reid whipping through the list of files, though without the sped up time lapse aspect.

It doesn’t take Reid long to find a case that hits a lot of the same buttons, and that’s where the team first learns about a man by the name of Patrick Sorenson. Patrick grew up in New York, raised by a single mom with substance abuse problems. When he was nine years old, he was abducted by a pedophile. He tried to call his mom for help, but she didn’t hear him? Why? Because she was asleep in their car in their backyard at the time of Patrick’s abduction, after having gotten plastered. Nice. To add insult to injury, when Patrick was recuperating in the hospital, his mom up and left with nothing but a goodbye note, and he never saw her again.

Afterward, Patrick wound up in the foster care system until adulthood. He remained in his home state, though, at least until six weeks ago. But what made him come to Kansas?

The other thing that made this case jump out at Reid? When Patrick was held captive by his abductor, he was made to stare at a certain object while being abused. That object? An hourglass. Aha… The creep also tormented Patrick by telling him that if he didn’t cry until after the time ran out on the hourglass, then his life would be spared. Patrick also happened to be found exactly eleven hours after having been taken. And so it all comes together.

The realization of what the word “eleven” means just further adds to the team’s determination to solve this current case. Josie was taken at 4:30 am. If the unsub’s holding her for exactly eleven hours, the team has until 3:30 that afternoon to try and save her.

Hotch has another interesting theory regarding the mothers in both cases: Ellie wasn’t meant to die, nor was Mrs. Brewer. He doesn’t think Patrick used two weapons at the Brewer crime scene. Rather, Mrs. Brewer’s skull fracture was due to her slipping in the blood and falling, and the heavy objects were meant to try and prevent her from falling down the stairs. Patrick had intended the mothers to survive because he wanted to confront them over what he perceived as their bad mothering.

Therefore, Hotch comes up with a plan involving Ellie. He asks JJ to have her appear on the news and “speak” to Patrick as though she were his mom. She is not to reference her own child specifically in any way, no mention of the name Josie, or the word “she”. By doing this, the team hopes that Patrick will feel placated by this apology, and decide to let Josie go, since he’s finally getting what he wants. Ellie films the video as promised, and all goes off without a hitch. Patrick’s been watching this entire story play out on the news, so he’s definitely going to see Ellie’s message. But will it work?

Soon after, Garcia finds out the name of Patrick’s mom: Betty Sorenson. Turns out she spent much of her life in Kansas after she abandoned her son. She died six weeks ago, however, and Patrick was called as her next of kin, thus explaining his sudden appearance in Wichita. The morgue had kept her body while waiting for Patrick to come and identify her…but he never showed up.

Tara goes to the morgue to see if Betty’s still being held there, and she and the coroner make a very horrifying discovery. Betty’s body is gone. Anyone want to take a wild guess where she’s actually being held? Remember those bone fragments? Yeeeeeeeeah. Norman Bates on line one!

As incredibly creepy as this latest discovery is, however, it does help the team narrow down Patrick’s potential hiding places. Dragging a corpse around would normally raise some suspicion in a populated area, so he’s likely hiding out in a rural area on the outskirts of town. They need to find out where he is fast, though, because it’s now past 3:30 pm.

The team gets a lucky break this time, as the unsub, affected by Ellie’s video message, allows Josie to call the number given. Unfortunately, in Ellie’s excitement and desperation at finally hearing her daughter’s voice, she slips and mistakenly says Josie’s name. Patrick doesn’t respond well to this, and so ends the phone call. Looks like Josie’s definitely not getting out of there now.

Garcia’s attempts to trace the call fail, but she does manage to find the tower the cell phone pinged off of. Turns out there’s some abandoned buildings in the area near that tower…and a van with New York license plates is there as well. Patrick is soon greeted by Rossi, who is pointing a gun at him, and Morgan, who is, thankfully, holding Josie in his arms. Patrick attempts to attack Rossi, but he’s shot down in no time, ironically covered in his own dust as he dies. Josie, meanwhile, can now be reunited with her mom.

I rather liked the case this episode. The use of the Sandman legend was a creepy touch, and the case in general had a weirdly old-fashioned, simple nature to it that made it that much more chilling. Sometimes some of the unsubs the team deals with can be so grandiose and out there to where it borders on unrealistic, so it helps to have these quieter, more haunting cases every now and again to balance things out. Cases like this are also more interesting because there’s more chance for some unpredictability in how they play out – the use of the hourglass, the human fragments, the fact that both crimes weren’t one hundred percent similar in terms of who did and didn’t survive…those little details and differences kept me guessing and invested in the story.

The quiet nature of the case also worked well alongside everything going on with Morgan. It tied in well to Morgan’s fears and worries about parenthood, about protecting his child from the dangers of the world, about his own ability to recover from all he’d been through, and added an unsettling, eerie bit of foreshadowing to the terrifying events that played out at the end of the episode.

That said, there were a few nitpicks and lingering questions, most of which were tied to the personal storyline involving Morgan. So let’s get into that part of things now.

Meanwhile, on the personal front…:

As the episode starts, we see Morgan returning to the BAU after the events of “Derek”…six months later. Yes. The show has done a six-month time skip. We further learn that Morgan got married during that time period, and see that Savannah is very well along in her pregnancy at this point.
Obviously, though, considering Morgan’s still reeling from the events of “Derek”, he’s still a little uneasy about returning to work. That’s nothing new, of course – we’ve seen how various team members have struggled to cope with returning to such a high-stress, incredibly dark job after whatever torment and torture they’ve been through. Now it’s Morgan’s turn to experience that.

His first stop upon entering the building is at the wall of fallen agents. Morgan takes a moment to gaze at Erin Strauss’ photo, looking quite reflective as he does so. Considering his recent haunting vision in which the rest of the team was gazing at his photo on that wall as they mourned him, it’s only logical that wall would spook him that much more as a result, as a taunting reminder of how close he came to death.

Then later, when he’s in his office, we see Morgan pulling out a file about the recent case that led to his kidnapping. Not surprisingly, he’s still haunted by it, still obsessing over it. We know how intense Morgan can be when he’s obsessed with a case (remember his hunt for Doyle?), so seeing him with this file, watching his mind drift as memories of his attack come back to him…all of that begs the question of how far he’ll go this time to get all the answers he’s looking for.

Fortunately, he has a happy occasion to momentarily distract him, in the form of a welcome back party thrown by his teammates. Savannah’s there, too, to celebrate, and there’s some cute jokes and banter about Morgan’s impending fatherhood. Rossi trying to keep the party a secret from Morgan was rather amusing, but Morgan feigned his “surprise” at the team’s party fairly well.

Rossi isn’t done with the fun distractions, however. He tells Morgan about a poker group he regularly meets with (with rockers like Joe Walsh and Bill Withers among his game buddies – not bad, Rossi), and extends an invitation to Morgan to join him for a game at some point.

Morgan happily accepts the offer. It’s a good chance for him to clear his head, and he even gets a nice little bundle of winnings from the game, money that he can put towards his child’s college fund or other necessities. He has to leave soon, however, because he’s got to take Savannah to Lamaze classes. So while that nasty case may still be hanging over Morgan’s head and taking up some of his headspace, otherwise, married life is good, Savannah’s pregnancy’s going along nicely, he’s back with his friends and back at the job that’s been a part of his life for so many years.
As Morgan’s leaving, however, he takes a moment to look back at Rossi and his buddies, a sort of reflective glance. It’s the sort of glance that leaves you vaguely unsettled, because it implies something bad is coming.

Sadly, that proves to be the case here. Morgan and Savannah are meeting up and talking about baby stuff and her classes and possible godparents. Garcia naturally wants to be godmother, but Savannah obviously wants her own family to be involved as well. Just all sorts of lovey dovey banter and general cuteness going on here, and it’s impossible not to smile at it all.

Then we see a target sign from a sniper rifle, pointed right at the happy couple.

All of a sudden, the screen goes black, and the only things heard after that are a gunshot and Savannah screaming Morgan’s name. And judging from the promo for the next episode, things are just going to get even worse for the newlyweds.


I’m not sure how I feel about the time jump. I’m not surprised there would be one, since they’ve done that with other team members before whenever they had to take time off after a traumatic event. But six months? I feel like there’s so much we missed out on during that time. It would’ve been nice to see Morgan and Savannah’s wedding, for instance, or, at the very least, get a glimpse of the preparations or seeing them celebrating immediately afterward or something. And sure, Morgan would’ve spent some of those months with wedding preparations, the ceremony, and the honeymoon period, as well as preparing for his baby, but what did he do the rest of that time? What avenues has he been taking to find answers regarding his abduction? What discoveries has he made, what theories has he come up with? Hopefully we’ll find out more about that in the next episode, presuming that investigation doesn’t take a backseat to whatever other craziness may unfold then.

I’m also wondering about Morgan’s specific focus on Strauss’ photo on that wall, and what that means for him in the next episode. Was that, along with that disturbing vision Morgan had in the “Derek” episode of the team mourning his death, unfortunate foreshadowing, a warning of something us fans will need to prepare for?

At this point, as I see it, there’s three main ways this story could play out:

1.) Morgan loses his wife and/or child, and is so broken as a result of that tragedy that he quits. Sure, the others have all managed to work through the trauma of their own losses and attacks they’ve suffered over the years, but it’s only logical that some of them might have a harder time dealing with so much trauma in such a short time span at some point. We saw how Gideon handled the death of Sarah, so maybe Morgan will be following his lead (though hopefully, without the same tragic end that eventually befell Gideon).

The thing is, though, if Morgan been this gang’s target all along, why would they attack Savannah first? This leads us to the second possibility.

2.) Clearly these people want to set Morgan up for some kind of final showdown, to properly finish him off. What better way to lure Morgan to them than threatening him with losing those he cares most about? If that’s their plan, does this mean Morgan will suffer the same fate his dad did, and die in the line of duty?

Heck, for all we know, is this attack tied to that gang, or is it an entirely new threat? I can’t imagine what new threat could possibly rear its head at this point in the season’s run for the team, or why this new person would want to hurt Savannah, but it is something to consider all the same.

3.) Morgan and Savannah could both survive this threat, as could their baby. As a result, Morgan is even more determined to never put her and his child through the same pain and grief his own family went through when they lost his dad.

Therefore, he decides to quit the BAU, choosing to focus on a much quieter and safer life with his newly growing family. The two of them were right outside the hospital when the shot rang out, after all, so it’s certainly not like they have to go all that far for help, which could bode well for their survival chances. I don’t think I need to tell you which of these three options I’m hoping we’ll get to see.

But obviously, we must wait until Wednesday to get those specific answers. In the meantime, feel free to share your own speculations and theories regarding what you think will happen. Or you can be like me and continue to freak out and climb the walls until then. Whichever.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Did you find this take on the Sandman story intriguing (and creepy)? Did the six-month time jump work for you, or did it leave too many unanswered questions? What are your theories regarding who took and tortured Morgan, or who tried to kill him here? Who do you think got shot at the end of the episode? And what do you think this means for Morgan’s chances of survival next week?

About the Author - Angela
Angela resides in the state of Iowa, in the town that was the inspiration for the Music Man. She loves to read and write, and enjoys a wide variety of music. She also enjoys various TV shows, including ""Criminal Minds"", ""Community"", ""Sleepy Hollow"", ""Bates Motel"", and ""How to Get Away with Murder"", as well as older shows such as ""Frasier"" and ""The Twilight Zone"". She will be reviewing ""Criminal Minds"" for SpoilerTV.
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