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Criminal Minds - The Bunker - Review: “Paranoia”



And we’re back! After a last minute delay due to the World Series, the show got back on schedule this past week with its latest episode – and, like with “Killer App” a few weeks back, a rather timely one it is, too.

If you’ve been paying attention to the news at all this year, you’ve no doubt noticed that doomsday prepper conversation has become commonplace once again, thanks to all the stories involving North Korea’s weapons program, along with other scary real world that have popped up lately. It’s a setup ripe for exploring on a show like this, since the FBI can and does deal with survivalists, preppers, and “end of world” cults. Combine that premise with a dash of some “team members in peril” scenes and voila! You have all the makings of what should be an edge-of-your-seat episode.

Well, this case didn’t quite enter “edge of your seat” territory, but for the most part, it did deliver on the “good, creepy case” side of things. It didn’t have the kinds of twists and turns that previous cases have had this season, and you had a general idea of where the story would go. But even then, there were still some unexpected, and even sympathetic, elements that added some proper tension to the proceedings and kept things from being completely predictable. They provided an interesting setup with the cult as well. It was a little different from the other cult-related cases we’ve seen on here before (“Minimal Loss”, “The Forever People”), too, which added to the haunting nature of the story.

This episode is also notable for the fact that Aisha Tyler has now joined the “cast members who direct episodes” club alongside Joe Mantegna, Matthew Gray Gubler, and, back in the day, Thomas Gibson. And she proved herself quite adept behind the camera – the techniques she used fit well with the disorienting, freaky, claustrophobic nature of the case.

Mainly, the biggest problem with this episode came in terms of the pacing, along with an unrealistic ending. We can’t even use the whole “making time for a side story involving one of the team members” explanation as an excuse for those issues, either, because the side story this week was pretty simple and incredibly brief. It just felt like this is a story that could’ve been expanded on a little further, or, barring that, they may have needed to cut down on certain aspects to try and balance things out a little better.

But even with those issues, the episode was still pretty good overall. So as always, let’s get into it and see how everything played out.

The Case:

We start off with a woman walking through a parking garage alone late at night, chatting on her phone, so you know right away this scene isn’t going to end well. Sure enough, after coming upon a flier resting on the windshield of her car, the woman is immediately snatched away by some unknown figure, and so begins our latest case. This woman, named Allie, is the fourth one to go missing within the past five years. All four women were all taken late at night, and with the exception of one being abducted via home invastion, the rest all disappeared after late night shifts at work. None of the women’s disappearances look to be robberies, and even more chilling, there’s no activity on their credit cards or at various ATMs, nor any cell phone activity.

The women were professionals, too. Allie was a chef, and the other women were a doctor, a dentist, and a teacher, and there’s no particular racial preference. Might we have an unsub who’s jealous of their careers? An unsub who was jilted by one of them for choosing their work over a relationship, or a “lowly man” getting turned down? No bodies have been found, either, which is one potential saving grace. Course, it also means the unsub’s likely been holding them captive somewhere all this time.

While the team works out their various theories and starts gathering information, we find out what’s become of poor Allie. The good news is that she’s alive. The bad news: She’s in a very unfamiliar place. At first, wherever she’s being held actually doesn’t look too bad – she’s in a nice, cozy bed, there’s some little trinkets on the nightstand, and she’s not injured or otherwise incapacitated at all. If it weren’t for the weird green light glowing in from her window, I’d say you could probably pick worse rooms to be held captive in.

The moment she realizes she’s locked in her room, however, and opens her window to see that there’s some sort of simulated blue sky/green grass setup outside, that’s when we know this isn’t going to be your usual “unsub holds somebody captive” story. Things get even weirder when two women enter her room, speaking in ways that further indicate something is very, very off here. Allie immediately manages to fight her way past the women and makes it into the hall. Her attempt to escape is hindered, however, by any lack of an exit and a creepy person in a hazmat suit.

Since this case is a local one, the team can pretty much work right from the office. An officer comes to greet Emily and JJ, and mentions that a woman named Joanna wants to talk to somebody. Her sister Chrissy, has been missing since she was sixteen years old, and every time she hears about other women going missing, she comes to check and see if these disappearances can lead her to her sister. Shades of “Mosley Lane” here, and the similarities are even more notable when JJ offers to meet with Joanna.

As Joanna opens up about her sister, at first, JJ’s not sure if Chrissy is connected to this rash of disappearances. She wasn’t accomplished and professional, like the other women. Rather, she’d had problems with drugs and alcohol after her parents’ divorce, and dropped out of school. She’d also been known to run away before, only to return home and then repeat the cycle. Chrissy had been trying to turn her life around shortly before her disappearance, though, by going to rehab, getting her GED, and meeting with a counselor. Joanna is clearly distraught over her sister’s welfare, which hits home for JJ, given her pain over the loss of her own sister years before. So despite her doubts about the connections to their current case, she agrees to help Joanna find her sister.

Turns out, however, that Joanna’s suspicions may actually have merit. Garcia discovers that another young woman, Kylie, went missing shortly after Chrissy. And like Chrissy, Kylie was a troubled runaway, and there were many other runaways being taken within the last couple years as well. Garcia’s investigation reveals another wrench in this increasingly messy situation: Kylie was pregnant...and so was Chrissy. Joanna did not know about her sister’s pregnancy, either. The pregnancy would explain part of Chrissy’s desire to attend rehab and get her life back on track.

So this unsub’s taking both accomplished women and teem runaways. The question now is, obviously, why? The team’s becoming increasingly sure of one thing, though: if this unsub is kidnapping women and children, and keeping them captive, they’re likely looking at some kind of cult scenario.

Elsewhere, Rossi and Matt discover the flier and sort out the ruse that this unsub’s using to lure their victims away. They also note that there’s no traces of blood at the crime scenes, so the victims are likely still alive for some reason or another.

“I just want to go home.”
“This is your home.”


When next we check in with Allie, the two women have managed to wrangle her back into their care, introducing themselves as Irene and Dr. Childs, and are showing her around this strange place. Allie only gets more and more creeped out, and seeing cameras everywhere kicks her fighting spirit into gear once again. She holds a pointy object to Childs’ throat, but the stress of the situation soon gets to her, and she faints. Oddly enough, Childs seems to be rather sympathetic to Allie’s frustration and fear, but she merely continues to do Irene’s bidding.

The next time Allie wakes up, she finds herself being prepped for some kind of medical procedure by Dr. Childs. Allie tries to appeal to Childs’ own memories of the life she’d left behind, and asks her how she can live with herself for doing what she’s doing. Her questions seem to be striking a chord with Childs. Later, Irene is alerted by a man who’s part of this cult, a guy named Lawrence, and he states that they “need to get rid of her”. Does he mean Allie or Dr. Childs?

We get our answer soon after, as the team is called out to find Childs’ body along the side of the road. She committed suicide (and, judging from Luke’s observations of her injuries, had tried to kill herself before), and was dumped along the side of the road. So now this cult’s crossed over into inadvertently causing somebody’s death, and what’s worse, they soon abduct another victim, a pediatrician named Paige. Unlike all the other women, however, Paige is abducted in broad daylight, and it’s captured on a security camera. This proves significantly helpful, as Reid discovers a clue that could explain this cult’s motivations. He notices that Lawrence made a point of looking at a digital clock on a building right before snatching Paige, and realized the time on the clock was 11:57.

Why is that important? Because 11:57 is where the minute hand of the doomsday clock has been recently set. Seriously. The doomsday clock was a symbolic device set up by atomic scientists in 1947 as a way to warn the world of the likelihood of a global catastrophic event, such as, say, a nuclear war. Midnight is zero hour, aka total destruction, and the closer the minute hand gets to midnight, the more dangerous the global situation. The hand has been moving closer to midnight these past five years., and fun fact: the closest the minute hand has been thus far for real is two minutes to midnight, back in 1953, during the Cold War. Sleep well, everyone!

So because they want to honor the clock, every professional woman who’s been kidnapped was taken between 11:50 and 12:00, and each new abduction kept inching closer to 12:00. The abduction of professionals indicates the cult leaders think the apocalypse is either happening now, or is nigh, and they need to prepare now for survival in a post-apocalyptic world by having experienced people to help start the world anew.

The cult even goes so far as to make their victims watch a video full of apocalyptic images, and the one Paige is made to watch after she enters the cult is downright terrifying. It doesn’t seem to hold any sway on her, though, as the first thing she tells Allie upon meeting her is the fact that their abductions are all over the news. Paige and Allie attempt to convince the others that they’ve all been brainwashed...including Chrissy! Yes, it turns out she’s alive, and what’s more, she’s got a young son! None of the others seem on board with Paige or Allie’s arguments, though, so it’s up to the two women to get themselves out at this point. Shortly afterward, Allie and Paige take Irene hostage, and make it abundantly clear that she will set them free.

Back at the BAU offices, the pieces are fully coming together now. Garcia discovers more information about Lawrence and Irene through an online group that likes to chat about doomsday prepping (as you do), and we learn that Lawrence was a civil engineer turned survivalist and prepper. Irene, meanwhile, was a substance abuse counselor for troubled youth, and took advantage of her position to spread her “end of days” beliefs to the people she was helping as a way to lure them in. People like Kylie and Chrissy, who went to her as part of their rehab. Pretty gross abuse of power, that. It’s not long before the team figures out where this safe house is, and Reid and JJ soon discover the underground bunker. After slipping inside the bunker, wouldn’t you know it, an alarm is tripped, and Reid and JJ get trapped. They try their best to stay calm, but Reid reminds JJ that the carbon dioxide levels will kill them within a short period of time. Thanks, Reid.

As Reid and JJ try to figure out the code to break them out of this trap, Allie, Paige, and Irene soon appear, as do Lawrence and all the other women and children. Reid and JJ start attempting to tell the women and children the truth regarding their situation, and JJ also mentions Joanna to Chrissy in an attempt to snap her back to reality. Their speech seems to work, as Chrissy then proceeds to knock Lawrence out, and Irene gives up the code to free Reid and JJ that sets them free. Soon after, everyone’s out of the bunker, and Lawrence and Irene are taken into custody, while the cult followers emerge into a world they’d either forgotten about or never known. Joanna and Chrissy, meanwhile, are reunited, and Joanna also gets to meet Chrissy’s son, who, as we learn, is named Joe, in a nod to Joanna. Aw.

A heartwarming ending, for sure. I was truly happy to see Joanna and Chrissy reunited – I felt the show did well at investing us in their story, to the point where I was legitimately worried about whether or not Joanna would see her sister again. The end scene with them and Chrissy’s son was very touching and well-earned. I also liked JJ connecting to Joanna over her worry about her sister. I couldn’t help thinking JJ’s connection unintentionally might’ve revealed a deeper personal reason for her concern, too. We know JJ’s sister Rosaline committed suicide when she was seventeen, but we’ve never learned why. Given the way JJ reacted to learning about Chrissy’s struggles with drugs and alcohol, and her constant running away, could that mean that Rosaline struggled with similar issues? It seems like this could’ve been the opening to fill in a few more blanks about Rosaline, and has me wondering if we’ll get those answers down the line.

Speaking of caring about victims, I also really liked Allie, Paige, and Chrissy. We didn’t get to know Paige as well as we did Allie or Chrissy, but the fact she immediately sided with Allie and they worked together to escape was cool. Chrissy’s takedown of Lawrence felt true to her rebellious streak, as well as her desire to protect and take care of her son. And Allie is the sort of person I’d want on my side in any kind of fight. She did what I think a lot of people would do in her shoes in an attempt to save themselves, and risky though some of her actions were (she could’ve easily been overpowered and lost her weapon at any time), she realized that she needed to use the drastic measures of this cult against them.

My biggest issue with the ending is that it felt very pat and abrupt. For one thing, given how deep and how long these victims’ brainwashing went, no way are they going to suddenly snap out of it simply because somebody told them Lawrence and Irene were lying to them. And no way would they be so quick to believe two FBI agents, either. These cults thrive on a deep fear and mistrust of the government, after all – that’s kind of how they gain their power.

For another, everyone surviving and escaping the bunker is fantastic...but these people are going to have a seriously long road of healing ahead of them. The adults who were kidnapped will need to learn to readjust to normal society, and the children have to learn of a new world entirely. The bunker is all they’ve known up to now. I think it would’ve been far more realistic to show some of them either refusing to leave, or having a mental break and needing to be carted off to an institution, or having somebody on the team mention at the end of the episode that some of the people are in therapy or struggling to readjust. That realistic, difficult outcome against the touching reunion between Joanna and Chrissy would’ve made for a sharp, powerful contrast, and given the team quite the mixed emotions to wrestle with.

I also feel it might have worked better to minimize a few of the “Let me show you around the bunker” scenes, just had Allie attempt to take Irene hostage once instead of twice, things like that, in order to give some of the scenes towards the end a little more time to breathe and play out. Maybe the team could’ve gotten the information on Lawrence, Irene, and the cult by about, say, the halfway point in the episode. thus allowing Reid and JJ more time to explore the bunker and adding to the tension of them being trapped. They could’ve gone back and forth between Reid and JJ’s attempt to get free and Allie navigating Irene through the hallways as well, to really ratchet up the anxiety of the situation. Letting us only get the briefest glimpses inside the bunker would’ve added a bit more mystery to the cult as well, making the discovery of them, and the depths of the bunker's setup, as surprising to us as they were to Reid and JJ.

There’s also the issue of Emily letting Reid and JJ go out to a bunker holding a cult on their own. First off, Reid and JJ kind of have a bad history of getting in trouble when they go off alone, and Emily knows that. You’d think she would’ve made sure there was backup before they went down there. Second, considering Reid’s had a history of being held captive by a cult leader (another thing with which Emily’s quite intimately familiar - “Minimal Loss”, anyone?), and given his current PTSS issues, it would’ve made far more sense for her to suggest somebody else go with JJ instead. At the very least, we should’ve gotten a moment with Emily checking in on Reid and JJ at the end to make sure they were okay.

And, as some viewers have noted, there’s also the issue of Reid and JJ not realizing that the code to set them free would’ve obviously been 1200. One could perhaps chalk that up to their panic over being held captive, but considering we’ve seen how clever these two can be when they’ve been in danger in the past, that argument doesn’t quite wash here. For as interesting as the storyline was, and as creepy as the cult was, this lack of attention to obvious details does tend to weaken some of the punch and the intensity of the situation.

Back to happier topics, though. As noted, Aisha Tyler directed this episode, and she proves she can match the talents of Gubler, Mantegna, and Gibson. The shaky camera work may have been a little much for some viewers, but it did allow us to feel as out of sorts as Allie did. It felt like we were running through those halls right alongside her. The way Tyler filmed the hallway scenes In general was especially well done – you felt as trapped and closed in as anyone wandering those halls would’ve. Allowing the viewers to connect with the action worked well, and I’m all for her stepping behind the camera again.

And the episode continues its relatively happy ending with the team naturally discussing how they’d spend their last days on earth, should the worst ever happen. Normally that wouldn’t be a fun topic, but these guys manage to make such discussion interesting. It turns out they are way more chill about that potential scenario than I would be, and their answers are sweet and expected. Reid would be in Paris with his mom (aw). Emily hasn’t really considered the idea before, and Garcia doesn’t want to. Luke would be in the mountains Matt wants to be with his family, same with JJ. Tara would hang out on a beach. And Rossi? He’d be at home, enjoying a fancy meal, before hanging out at his patio and having a drink.

Me? I’m with Matt and JJ in wanting to be with my family, but I also know I’d be freaking out, so I’m with Garcia in not wanting to think about such a scenario at all. Hanging out with the BAU on Earth’s last day would definitely help make it all go down easier, though!

So that’s our creepy apocalyptic discussion for the week. Let’s move on to lighter topics now, shall we?

Meanwhile, back at Quantico:

“The apartment is no longer a sanctuary.”

Only one bit of non-job related news this week, but it’s rather significant: Garcia’s moving! Yes, apparently she’s trying to look around for a new apartment, and JJ’s offering to help aid in her search. She claims she and Sergio (yeah, she’s still got him!) need more room for their things, which leads her friends to tease her about her tendency to hoard all sorts of trinkets and knick-knacks and such, and she also notes that there’s a guy who lives in the apartment across from her who likes to do naked kung-fu. Apparently that’s just too much for her to look at day in and day out, and I can’t really say I blame her with that.

I also can’t help wondering, however, if part of her reason for moving has to do with the memories of her shooting that were dredged up in "Lucky Strikes". Her slight anxiousness when trying to explain her reasons for moving seems to indicate that might be a factor. And her current apartment has so many other memories tied to it, too, namely some with Morgan (coming out of her shower in nothing but a towel, anyone?). So maybe she feels she needs to go big with any changes she’s trying to make to her life as a result.

If that is the case, I’m hoping that she can talk to Emily about that issue at some point, because she too tried to look for a new place to live shortly before taking off to London. Given Garcia had briefly threatened to quit during the whole thing with Reid last season, and all the stress she’s been through lately, who better to help her figure out how to deal with her problems than somebody who’s been there already? Maybe she can help in the apartment hunt, maybe she can talk to Garcia about her own reasons for quitting all those years ago, and suggest ways for Garcia to manage her stresses so she doesn’t have to make that same kind of choice. I feel that could make a nice little bonding moment between the two women.

And, of course, I’m also curious where Garcia will decide to end up. Will she find a new place fairly quickly, or will she move in with another single teammate for a time (complete with wacky hijinks!) while she keeps looking? Or will she even wind up moving at all? Time will tell, of course, but I’m interested to see how it will all play out.

What did you think of the episode? Did you feel the case hit a little close to home? Did the cult ring true enough? Were you surprised by the news that Garcia wants to move? How do you think her plans to move will play out? How would you spend your last day on earth? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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