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Criminal Minds - Elliott’s Pond - Review: “Lost and Found”

And we’re back! Hoping all fellow Americans had a happy Thanksgiving break last week, and that everyone’s managing to survive the Christmas rush thus far. Be a good time to take a breather and discuss the most recent “Criminal Minds” episode, no?

We knew we were undoubtedly in for a wild ride with “Elliott’s Pond” simply because of the fact that it was the tenth – yes, tenth – episode of the series to be directed by Matthew Gray Gubler. Anyone who’s watched this show for any length of time knows how wacky and out there the episodes he directs often tend to be, and this one was no exception. It wasn’t quite as surreal as some of his other episodes (“The Lesson”, “Heathridge Manor”, “Alchemy”), but it still had his spooky stamp all over it regardless.

That wasn’t all that made this episode exciting and noteworthy, though. We also got an official, and startling, resolution to the “temporary duty” storyline that the show had been using to explain Hotch’s absence these past few episodes, and the setup of the team was dramatically changed in the process as well. Quite a bit to take in in the span of one episode, huh?

Thankfully, it all ultimately resulted in one of the stronger episodes of the season thus far. Time to break all of this down.

The Case:

We’re starting off with three kids, whom we soon learn are siblings (two brothers and a sister, to be exact), hanging in a wooded area, tossing rocks into a pond. It's late at night, so you know right off the bat this scene won’t end well. These kids are either going to be victims or stumble upon victims.

For now, though, it seems the worst thing they’ve got to worry about is an upcoming weekend visit to see their dad. Apparently he’s with a new woman named Shelly, and they don’t like her, because she says mean things about their mom. There’s not much they can really do about it, though, so they agree to make the best of the trip and turn their focus back to their nighttime activities.

The eldest sibling, who’s on a bike, then challenges his brother and sister to race him on foot. They accept, and soon after all three kids find themselves heading straight into a cornfield. And whaddaya know? They quickly get separated. Always stay away from cornfields in these stories, people. Cornfields are bad places. The younger siblings then stumble upon a wounded animal, but before they can figure out what to do with it, there’s a sudden bright light behind them. As they turn around, their expressions turn to horror.

Next thing we know, we’re hanging out with another group of three kids at night, all boys this time. One of them is telling the other two kids a spooky story – and the story involves the three siblings we just saw earlier! According to this boy, the older brother in that opening scene is responsible for his siblings’ disappearance, and possibly their deaths as well. Another boy suggests aliens took them away. So evidently the mystery of the three siblings is some sort of local legend. Is it true? Is it made up? It’ll be a while before we get our answer.

In the meantime, the three boys, all on bikes, take off. They’re hoping to trek the same path these long-gone siblings supposedly took. Ah, the innocence and recklessness of youth. Unfortunately, it looks like history may be repeating itself, because they too wind up in the same cornfield the siblings wandered into...and just like the siblings, they also disappear.

Unlike the siblings, however, it doesn’t take us long to find out where they wind up. One of the boys wakes up in what appears to be a dank, dark basement. He turns on a flashlight, calls out for his friends, pokes around…

...and notices the lower half of a body sticking out on the floor. A noise briefly distracts him, but the next time he turns back, HELLO CREEPY GUY! Yep. This is not going to be your typical case.

Time for a brief rundown from Garcia. The missing boys’ names are William “Bones” Jarvis, Josh Harmon, and P.K. Riggins. They’ve been missing since nine pm the night before, and they won’t be able to contact anyone, because they left their cell phones at their homes. Their parents became concerned about them when they hadn’t returned home by nightfall, because they’d never stayed overnight anywhere before. They’re also close friends, and spend all their time together. So if one boy’s being held somewhere, it’s likely all of them are being held somewhere.

The team gets a couple possible clues as to who might’ve taken them, and where. Turns out there was a mental institution in the area that burned down back in the 1950s. Many of the patients escaped, and wound up hanging out in nearby abandoned homes. Perhaps the kids wound up there.

The local police chief, Cooper, also fills the team in on the mysterious case of the missing siblings. Seems the story is real, and the disappearance happened back in 1983. The older brother, Deeley Henson, wasn’t taken that night, but his (twin) siblings, John and Allie, were. They’ve never been found since, and Deeley’s fallen off the radar, becoming an alcoholic and a town outcast, thanks to the belief that he’s responsible for his siblings’ disappearance, and possibly death.

Is the legend about Deeley killing his siblings true? And if so, is he also responsible for the abduction of these three boys? Can one person even manage to abduct three children at once, or are they looking for a team? These are the questions the team are left to deal with as they start working the case.

Tara and Rossi immediately go talk to the boys’ parents. They continue to insist the kids aren’t the sort to run away, that they’re good children who’ve never caused trouble. They thought the kids were going on an adventure, or making one of their little movies. One of the parents shows Tara and Rossi a film of theirs, and Tara and Rossi notice a man in a truck pop up. Hm. That’s unnerving. They get a name – Jimmy Ridley – and decide to take a closer look at him. He has no prior criminal history, but still...

Elsewhere, Reid and Emily explore the cornfield where the disappearances happened. While there, a man rides up on his bike. He’s not the friendliest guy, either – he immediately starts grousing at Cooper and blaming him for the fact he doesn’t have a driver’s license. It’s revealed that his name is Deeley Henson – yeah, that Deeley Henson – but when Reid asks him to answer a few questions about the case, he’s weirdly evasive and rides away.

The team finds more footage of Ridley’s truck at the cornfield, thanks to a nearby security camera., and immediately head out to Ridley’s place to investigate further. Their exploration of the house continues to bump him up their suspect list, for there’s photos on his Christmas tree of the Henson twins, as well as the missing boys. Yikes. Things get even weirder when, upon hearing a rattling noise in the kitchen, the team finds Ridley hiding out in a cupboard under the sink. They also find various weapons and evidence he’d been stalking the children, as well as one of the kids’ bike helmets. Oh, yeah. Time for an interview with this guy.

Ridley does admit to having stalked the kids, and taking and keeping photos of them, but he insists it’s not because he wanted to abduct them. Rather, he was angry at them for taking pictures of him, and trampling around and trespassing on his property. He wanted proof that they were there in case he needed to file a complaint.

As for the helmet, he insists one of the boys left it there the night prior, but no kids went inside his home. The boy’s hat fell off when he got spooked by Ridley shooting a gun into the air to scare them off, and Ridley kept it as a result. So he’s not exactly the most pleasant guy in the world, he’s….but he looks like he’s telling the truth. And Luke doesn’t feel he’s sophisticated enough to abduct these kids, either.

Reid and Luke decide to head out to Deeley’s house to try and interview him again. Luckily, this time, Deeley decides to open up a little more. He remembers the night John and Allie went missing, claiming to have last seen them at Elliott’s Pond (ahhh) before they disappeared. The police dragged the pond, but found nothing. The wound of losing his brother and sister is still clearly raw for him, and he’s still understandably bitter about the way the town, and his parents, treated him afterward. It’s hard not to feel for the poor guy, especially when he reflects on how his parents shunned him.

Luke and Reid head out to the very pond Deeley mentioned, and it’s there Luke discovers one of the boys’ backpacks! They immediately call the local officials out to help search the area...and to their surprise, Deeley shows up to offer his aid as well. A few hunting traps are discovered in the search, and Deeley informs Luke and Reid that a guy by the name of Old Man Clemmons used to set a lot of traps there. One of the traps looks pretty new, thus implying somebody’s still using them. Might they be connected to the boys’ kidnapper?

Garcia fills the team in on Clemmons’ background. His first name is Reginald, and it appears he’s a well-known figure in the area. He liked to put traps around the woods, was a real “live off the land” sort of guy. He was also mentally insane. He’d been known to go on and on about weird conspiracy theories, and believed in aliens and feared the end of the world. He also had a history of assault with a deadly weapon, and had once abducted a child because “he was lonely”. Looks like we’re getting warmer…

Clemmons also harmed himself, and between that and his criminal history, he wound up in the mental institution that eventually burned down. He was released a year before the fire, however, eerily enough. But, like all the escaped mental patients who fled after the fire, he did eventually take refuge in an abandoned home.

And the biggest reveal of all? He’s the one responsible for kidnapping the Henson twins in 1983. He took them after he saw them wandering by his property, and the team presumes that if they’re still alive, they’re residing in his home, and the boys might now be there as well. Jackpot! But will they make it in time to save them, and will they manage to save the three missing boys as well?

Strangely enough, as scary as the boys’ plight sounds, when we see them at the house, they look to be physically unharmed. Even when their captors, a man and a woman, lead them into the kitchen, they feed them, and tell them not to be afraid. Otherwise, the man and woman spend most of their time talking in other rooms, or randomly popping up out of nowhere and startling the boys a little. They’re creepy, for sure, but otherwise seemingly harmless.

Still, obviously, the boys clearly do want to get out of here and go home. They come up with a plan: Josh will pretend to be ill, while the other boys work to find an escape route. At first, it looks like their plan will go off without a hitch, as their captors are distracted by Josh biting the man’s hand. Unfortunately, Bones finds their lone exit is blocked, and the woman shows up with a shotgun. Perhaps these unsubs aren’t so harmless after all.

As the BAU's about to learn, however, they wind up killing two birds with one stone in regards to solving this particular case. When they arrive at the house, they stumble upon the woman who’s pointing the gun at Josh. Cooper's with them, and he asks the woman if she remembers him. That seems to be the magic question, as it gets her to put her gun down and allows Reid and Luke to get the kids to safety. Oh, yes, the woman remembers Cooper very well. Because her name is Allie Henson.

Yes, it turns out that Allie, along with her brother John, were the people holding these boys captive all this time. After they were abducted by Clemmons in ‘83, he’d managed to brainwash them, to the point where they obeyed his every command. Clemmons isn’t around anymore, but Allie and John decided to continue the cycle he’d started, and kidnapped the three boys, both in the hopes of converting them to their way of life, as well as to help themselves feel less lonely. They had no plans to hurt the boys at all. They just wanted companions.

The weight of their lonely existence has clearly gotten to Allie, though, as she immediately breaks down after Cooper calls her out. He does his best to comfort her, however, and things get even better for Allie when a familiar face appears. Deeley has joined the team in their raid on Clemmons’ home, and finally, finally, he’s reunited with his brother and sister again after over thirty years apart. It’s a truly touching moment, and it was impossible not to get a little misty-eyed at seeing them together again. As for the boys, Emily and Reid get the boys back to their parents as quickly as possible, and we’re treated to another heartwarming family reunion.

I really enjoyed the case in this episode. As noted at the start of the review, sometimes the cases in a Gubler-directed episode tend to be particularly bizarre and “out there”, and while I personally don’t mind that, because I like that this show’s willing to go off the strange and beaten path from time to time, and break the same time, some of the more freaky cases look like they’d be more at home on a supernatural-themed series than a procedural crime drama. It’s understandable that some of the more otherworldly cases can kinda throw off viewers who want to keep their genres separate.

This case, however, was much more simple and more along the lines of the sorts of cases the team is meant to investigate. It fit in right alongside an episode like “Mosley Lane”, and even shared a few similarities with that episode as well. That’s not a criticism, though. The similarities were more sentimental and emotional in nature, and there were still enough differences in both cases’ plots to keep each story unique and interesting. The fact that this was the tenth episode of the series Gubler’s directed makes the “Mosley Lane” comparisons all the more apt, especially since Erica Messer was a writer for both that episode and this one. Kinda like coming full circle.

Even though the case was a simple one, however, there was still no doubt we were watching a Gubler-directed episode. The creepy basement, the odd, almost alien-like look of adult John and the ghostly appearance of adult Allie, the jump scares, the spooky urban legend about the Henson twins and the mental institution…it was all in his creepy wheelhouse, and played like the sort of story you tell your friends around the campfire.

Oddly enough, I also got a bit of a Spielberg-esque vibe from this episode. Everything with the boys looking for adventure, hanging out together and exploring new territory, had kind of an ‘80s coming-of-age movie feel to it, and reminded me of some of the family-oriented movies I used to watch when I was a kid. The mere mention of aliens kept making me think of ‘E.T.’ the entire time as well, to the point where I half expected one of the boys to ride away into the skies on their bike, complete with his alien buddy. All the scenes with the boys seemed to echo a time gone by in the way they were filmed, and I really liked that touch. It gave the case a slight magical feel to balance out all the creepiness, and added to the moving nature of the Henson siblings’ reunion at the end.

I also enjoyed getting to know the main players of this case. The boys’ friendship was sweet and fun, and I loved seeing how resourceful they were when trying to escape. John and Allie were just the right mix of eerie and sympathetic, and Deeley...geez, my heart just went out to that poor man, thinking of the pain he'd gone through the past thirty plus years. Cooper was great, too – he worked well alongside the team, and genuinely cared about helping everyone involved, from the missing kids all the way up to the unsubs themselves.

And, of course, I’m a sucker for a happy ending, and I’m glad we got that on this case. Everyone made it out alive in the end, something which doesn’t happen very often (certainly hasn’t happened much this season thus far). It was nice to see the team being able to celebrate this case ending well, too – they certainly needed that, given the rather dramatic personal changes they had to deal with.

Meanwhile, back at Quantico:

All that talk we've been hearing thus far this season about Hotch being away on “temporary duty”?

Yeah. Forget all of that. Apparently, that was nothing more than a cover story. After a brief talk with Emily in his office, Rossi then takes it upon himself to inform the team what’s really going on with Hotch (and he does so by telling them, “We need to talk”, which, way to unsettle everyone’s nerves there, Rossi).

So what’s the true story? Well, it turns out that shortly after the team worked the Crimson King case, Hotch discovered that Peter Lewis, or Mr. Scratch, as we know him, had been essentially stalking him and his son, to the point where he was actually looking at a video of a soccer game Jack was participating in. Creeeeeeeeepy.

Naturally, Hotch immediately started to keep his own tabs on Lewis as a result, eyeing his every move, and agents were assigned to twenty-four hour surveillance of him and Jack. Things quickly got even more frightening, however, when Lewis actually showed up at Jack’s school. Yeow.

As a result, Hotch had no choice but to put himself and Jack into Witness Protection. That alone is enough to concern the team, but then Rossi drops the big bomb on them: Hotch has also officially resigned from the BAU altogether. He and Jack will be staying completely off the grid so long as Peter Lewis is out there, and the team won’t be able to see or talk to him again anytime soon. If ever.

Needless to say, the team is shocked and horrified by this revelation, and we see the impact of this earthshaking news on them throughout the episode. JJ and Reid discuss the changes, and JJ expresses sympathy for Hotch’s decision. Reid’s obviously sad about losing Hotch, but for somebody who often struggles with people coming and going from this team, who could barely hold back the tears when Morgan left last season, he seems to handle the news relatively okay. Tara and Luke are the poor newbies who seem kind of at a loss of how to really react, given they haven’t worked with Hotch nearly as long as everyone else. They’re sympathetic, sure, but they’re left to just kind of forge on with the changes.

Garcia and Rossi, surprisingly, seem to be the ones who struggle the most. Rossi kind of acts like the parent who tries to keep the family together after the other parent leaves, and Garcia can barely focus on the case. When Rossi calls to check in on her, all she can talk about is what the last thing was that she said to Hotch, hoping it was something good, and her rambling speech about this particular worry speaks to what she no doubt tries to avoid worrying about every time her friends take off on a case. Her worry does lead her to make a point of telling Rossi she loves him at the end of their conversation though, and he says it back, which, awwwww. That was a rather sweet moment.

There is one silver lining in all this chaos and fear, however, and that comes in the form of some very good news for Emily Prentiss. She has been picked to take over as the team’s unit chief – and at Hotch’s request, no less! Emily hasn’t officially accepted the offer just yet, however. She would obviously love nothing more than to work with her friends again, but it’s a pretty heady, overwhelming offer to consider, too, and naturally, she’s a bit hesitant at the thought. She’s set up a good life in London, after all, she’s got her boyfriend Mark to think about (as Tara reminds her at one point, when she suggests Emily call him to discuss this big news), and she’s also concerned about wanting to live up to the incredibly high standard Hotch set.

“I think we’ve been through a lot of changes, and...we always figured it out. Morgan left, and now Hotch, but if you stay, I think it’ll be okay.”

Thanks to a little extra nudging and pleading from JJ and Reid, however, she ultimately decides to accept the job. Yaaaaay! Her response indicates she was likely going to say yes even without their input, but it never hurts to get that extra reminder of how much you’re wanted back. The sheer relief on JJ and Reid’s faces as she says she’ll stay echoes mine completely.

At the end, Garcia calls the team in with the same four ominous-sounding words that Rossi started the episode with. But fear not, her use of those words is merely a ruse! She simply called everyone together to celebrate Emily’s new position on the team, which they do with glasses of champagne and an incredibly touching, heartfelt speech from Rossi.

As for Emily’s boyfriend Mark? He’s coming to visit the following week to talk to her about this. So we’ll see how that plays out.

The subject of how Hotch would be written out has been discussed and dissected ad nauseum among fans ever since Hotch’s abrupt departure from the show. Many feared he’d be killed off, but I wasn’t on board with that theory, mainly because I couldn’t see the show being willing to make Jack an orphan. Plus, I still like to believe that whatever other issues are going on between Thomas Gibson and the network, the cast and crew in general still think fondly of him, and of the Hotch character. They kept the door open for Gideon for years despite Mandy Patinkin’s abrupt exit back in season three, after all, and the only reason he was ultimately killed off was because Patinkin made it abundantly clear he had no interest in returning to the show.

It would’ve been so easy for the show to just kill Hotch off and leave it at that, too. Save them all the time and trouble of creating a storyline to explain his absence. But I think the fact they didn’t go that route, the fact that they’re willing to make it so he’s alive and still out there somewhere, is a promising sign of how they hope this whole mess can eventually be resolved. All things considered, this is probably about the best option they could come up with under the circumstances. They couldn’t keep on with this temporary duty business forever, because eventually people would wonder what the heck he’s doing that’s keeping him away so long, and viewers who haven’t been closely following all the behind the scenes drama would be asking when he’d be coming back, or why the team isn’t keeping in regular contact with him. And it’d be pointless to say he just up and quit one day with no logical reason, and rather tacky to turn the real life drama involving Gibson into a story for Hotch to explain his exit.

The fact is that it’d have to take something extreme to make workaholic Hotch leave the BAU, and what’s more extreme than yet another attempt on his family’s life? Jack already had to deal with the nightmare that was Foyet invading his home, and then last season he had to watch his father get arrested (also in their home) by SWAT members. No way would Hotch want to put Jack through that hell a third time. Tying Mr. Scratch to Hotch’s exit also makes sense, since it was clear from last season that they’d planned for him to be a thorn in Hotch’s side again this season. It's an easy way to keep at least part of whatever storyline they’d initially planned for Hotch intact.

And while the idea of Hotch and Jack being in hiding is certainly not ideal, at least we can be assured they’re alive and hopefully safe. Better yet, this setup also seems to indicate the show wishes to leave the door open just in case the network and Gibson eventually make nice, and they allow him to come back, if only for a guest spot and to bid a proper goodbye to his team and the viewers.

If there is one major hiccup in this setup, it would obviously be in the fact that Hotch’s family is in Witness Protection. Haley and Jack went into Witness Protection, too, when Foyet was on the loose, and, well, we all know how that played out. Heck, Hotch wouldn’t even put Garcia into official WP last season because of his memories of what happened to Haley. So it seems odd that Hotch would willingly allow himself into that setup, or subject his son to that life all over again.

At the same time, however, maybe he literally did not have any other choice. I mean, when an unsub is actively stalking your son’s school, you kind of start running out of viable options that don’t involve hiding away. Especially when you’re a well-known FBI agent. So yeah. Not the happiest of outcomes, no, but as Rossi himself noted, at least Hotch and Jack are together, and hopefully the third time will be a charm for them in terms of being able to stay safe from an unsub’s wrath.

This setup will also no doubt add to the team’s motivation to hunt Mr. Scratch throughout the remainder of the season. We know, thanks to the season premiere, he’s going to be making things personal for the team at large this season. Everything with Hotch will just be another example of that. Because as we’ve seen over the years, you mess with one member of the team, you’re messing with ALL of them.

“We stand beside one another, through good, through bad, because we’re family.”

And speaking of the team, I really appreciated that we got to delve into their individual reactions to everything with Hotch throughout the episode. Obviously JJ would understand Hotch’s desire to keep his family safe. She understands the risks a parent is willing to take. So I liked the nod to that connection between her and Hotch. Reid’s reaction was also a pleasant surprise, because it shows he’s starting to learn how to better handle people he’s close to leaving. This is the third father figure Reid’s had that’s left unexpectedly, but unlike Gideon and William, Hotch had a valid reason for leaving. He wasn’t cold enough to just up and abandon Reid and the team at large with nothing but a letter. Reid knows his reasons here, he understands them, and therefore, he can deal with it better as result. Oh, he’ll still worry about him, sure. He’ll still miss him, sure. But he’s learning how to soldier on, and that’s a refreshing change of pace for his character.

On the flip side, Garcia’s reaction was a nice bit of catharsis for viewers. She got to vent, she got to be upset, she got to be angry, she got to show all the emotions that fans have been experiencing ever since this craziness with Hotch/Gibson went down. It was a subtle way for the show to let us viewers know that they get how we feel, and assure us that they feel similarly. The cast and crew have taken a bit of a hit from some angry fans in recent weeks, and I think this was the show’s attempt to try and placate them and let them know they’re on their side. Whether it’ll be enough to reassure those upset fans, I don’t know, but I appreciate the show trying to get that message across all the same.

Rossi’s speech was another great example of the show’s attempt to address the viewers point blank. On the one hand, it acknowledged the struggle that the team, and by extension, the fans, have had in learning to adjust to all the team/cast changes throughout the series’ run. It’s never easy to say goodbye, and the people who’ve left will always be missed. On the other hand, his speech was also a strong reminder that if the show and the fans could make it through all those other changes, they’ll be able to make it through this one, too. I completely respect and understand some fans choosing to stop watching, of course, but I also hope, whether one keeps watching or not, the sincerity of Rossi’s words comes through all the same.

Another great thing about this storyline is, of course, the fact that it’s wonderful to see Emily stepping up into such a prominent role. I couldn’t help thinking back to her awkward first meeting with Hotch all the way back in season two throughout the episode, and that just makes seeing how far she’s come in that time all the more amazing and cool. The fact that Hotch himself handpicked her to lead the team just further indicated how big a deal this is for her – she had to prove herself to him all those years ago, she memorably accused him once of not trusting women as much as men. Now he’s trusting her to lead his entire team. That speaks to his growth as a character, too, as well as the deep level of respect Hotch and Emily have developed towards each other over the years. Not surprisingly, Emily’s actions this episode proved that Hotch made the right choice, and it’s nice that Hotch can take comfort in the knowledge his team will be in good hands.

And of course, it’s just always great to see Emily back and working with her friends again in general. There’s a longtime chemistry and history between them that will always remain special, and this episode did a sweet job of proving that. Plus, after CBS’ boneheaded decision to let Paget Brewster go back in season six, I can’t help but get a kick out of the fact that a woman they felt was totally replaceable is now back full-time and running an entire team on the show. That’s a nice bit of poetic justice right there.

Of course, the celebration over Emily’s new position can’t last too long, as they’ve still got work to do. Next episode looks to be rather intriguing and creepy, and we’ll get to learn a little more about Tara Lewis in the process. Plus, it’ll be directed by another cast member, Joe Mantegna. So that should be fun.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Was the case classic Gubler in terms of creepiness? Did the ending hit all the right emotional notes for you? Did you guess right in terms of how Hotch would officially be written out, and was his exit a satisfying one for you? Do you think the show’s trying to leave the door open in the hopes that he’ll return someday? Are you excited about Emily officially becoming the new unit chief? Share your thoughts in the comments!