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Criminal Minds - Lucky Strikes - Review: “Flashback”

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So far, it seems season thirteen has proven to be a pretty strong one for this show. We’ve had three really good, exciting episodes involving intriguing cases and some really nice character moments. Only one episode, the second one (“To a Better Place”), has proven to be on the weak side, but even then, that only applied to the episode’s case, which was rather predictable in nature. There was still some good stuff on the team side in that episode, with Reid’s reinstatement to the team and the uncertainty surrounding his return.

Judging from the events of “Lucky Strikes”, it seems this episode will go into the same category as “To a Better Place”. It’s a mixed bag full of intriguing ideas and storylines that are marred slightly by some weird choices in the storytelling, and little opportunity for the show to properly explore said storylines and let them breathe. Which is a shame, because this episode provides our second opportunity in as many months for a visit from original team member Derek Morgan. He comes to help a friend through a tough time, and while we do get some lovely moments in relation to that, it’s hard not to feel like there could’ve been so much more to his return.

Morgan isn’t the only familiar face returning for this episode, either. We also get a visit from one of the show’s most memorable, and grotesque, unsubs, and fortunately, that aspect of the episode generally fares much better. It’s not entirely perfect, but we do get a Halloween-worthy creepy case, complete with a few twists and turns along the way. Let’s dig into this strange little episode – and word of warning, I would recommend you not eat anything while reading the case portion of this review.

The Case:

Let’s step back in time for a moment, all the way back to late 2007 and an episode named “Lucky”. The BAU gets a case in Florida, and it’s a rough one. Prostitutes are being murdered, and the case becomes even grislier when the team learns that their unsub is forcing each new victim to consume the fingers of his prior victims. Yeah. Graphic stuff. Eventually, the team manages to nab the unsub responsible for these murders. His name is Floyd Feylinn Ferell, and he’s had a longtime interest in cannibalism, going so far as to create human cookbooks and claiming he was possessed by a flesh-eating demon.

Floyd had spent many years in an institution after biting his baby sister Lori (!), but despite the concerns from medical professionals that he was too dangerous to be released, he was let go anyway at the age of eighteen, and so began his murder spree. Thankfully, he was caught and put into an institution, but he left a lot of scars along the way. The most horrifying revelation was that Floyd had put the remains of one of his victims, a woman named Tracey Lambert, into a stew that all the search party volunteers had eaten. There are no words to describe that level of depravity.

In short, Floyd is every person’s worst nightmare come to life. Unfortunately, as this episode begins, we and the team learn that, to our collective horror, he may be resuming his crime spree. Garcia informs the team that a teenage girl stumbled upon the body of a young woman named Rebecca. She was discovered in a rest stop bathroom...and her fingers are gone. What’s more, it looks as though she’d been force-fed fingers from another victim. Luke, Tara, and Matt are all filled in on the 2007 case involving Floyd, and everyone agrees that Rebecca’s murder has his stamp all over it, as it mirrors his earlier murder of a woman named Abby to a T.

Despite the similarities, though, they don’t ultimately think Floyd’s responsible, given he’s still locked away. That's good. It does mean, however, that it seems they’ve got a copycat on their hands. That's bad. With this in mind, the team steels themselves and prepares for what looks to be yet another gruesome trip down to Florida. As they make their way out, we flip to seeing Floyd in his room at the hospital. When he’s offered something to eat, he responds with, ‘Not tonight. I’m already full.” Dun, dun, dun...

At the police station, Emily and Luke try and attempt to keep news of these crimes under wraps, both to avoid giving the killer the attention he’s seeking and to keep the townspeople from freaking out. When Rossi and Tara visit the morgue, the coroner’s explanation of how Rebecca died further leads them to see that this copycat is following Floyd’s crimes to the letter. There’s one odd detail, however: Rebecca had five fingers from another victim in her body. The force feeding of fingers was a piece of information that was never released to the public, so how would somebody else know about it?

That’s when the team gets a shocking bit of news that forces them to potentially reconsider their copycat theory. Apparently, Floyd’s recently been allowed to make supervised visits home, because the medical staff believed he’d managed to temper his urges through medication and therapy. What’s more, since his release was a mental health issue, not a criminal one, the staff apparently felt no need to tell the FBI, “Hey, we’re going to release a psychotic cannibal killer back into society, that cool with you?” Needless to say, the team is quite angry about this turn of events.

“I can’t be late. Jesus Christ waits.”

And who is Floyd visiting? His sister Lori! The same person he tried to bite when she was a baby! And what’s more, she’s got a kid of her own now, and doesn’t seem to be at all fazed by the fact that her son seems very freaked out by his uncle, or the fact that her brother continues to speak in a creepy as hell monotone. No, she keeps on defending him to Reid, Luke, and Matt, insisting he’s merely “troubled”. Understatement of the year, right there. He’s even making a point of going to church now. Matt accompanies him on one of his visits, and indeed, he doesn’t seem to be bothering anyone.

To further muddy the waters, Floyd’s also got a lawyer who’s threatening to sue the FBI, claiming he was set up for the crimes back in 2007. Seriously. Despite ALL the disturbing evidence to the contrary, according to her, Floyd’s innocent, and the person killing people now was killing people back then, too. What’s more, Floyd himself is echoing her claims, insisting he was manipulated. It’s all very confusing and my head is spinning and the team’s equally as befuddled. Could they have actually made a mistake ten years ago? Was somebody else pulling the strings the whole time? Does Floyd have an accomplice now? Old interviews with Floyd seem to indicate references to a “friend”, as well as allusions to Satan, but there’s nothing conclusive on that front.

With Garcia and JJ’s help, Tara and Rossi manage to track down Floyd’s sole surviving victim, a woman named Sheryl. She’s still understandably got a lot of mental and emotional scars from her earlier trauma, going so far as to move away,, but she manages to give them a bit of information. She remembers being kidnapped in the afternoon, and waking up in the trunk of a car later that evening. She also remembers Floyd referring to a “we”, seeing people wandering around, and hearing the police siren when Floyd’s car had been stopped during the volunteer search for her. And she remembers being in a building in between her kidnapping and the event with the police.

Elsewhere, Reid and Luke, with Lori and Floyd’s permission, investigate Floyd’s home to see if they can find any further proof of either his guilt or innocence. They find some pretty damning stuff – there’s weapons of the sort Floyd would’ve used to kill his victims, as well as a creepy, Satanic-looking shrine...with a pentagram. There’s also the fact that the monitoring system for his ankle bracelet is outdated, making it quite easy for him to slip away and commit crimes undetected.

“I knew when I first met him, I needed to do what he wanted me to.”

Luke and Matt later interview Floyd himself, and he insists he’s merely doing all he can to keep his “dark side” in check, and offers to help the team find the real killer. He too makes mention of the warehouse, stating that he simply took Sheryl there by order of his partner (whose name he claims not to know), and rubbed her legs. Nothing more. Reid and Matt investigate the warehouse, and it’s there they find another victim, a woman named Evonne. She looks to have been this unknown killer’s first victim, and an inspection of her body confirms that Floyd is not responsible for this latest string of crimes. She was killed when he was locked up, and what’s more, the bite marks on her body don’t match his.

In fact, the attack on Evonne’s body seems like that of somebody who’s learning and making mistakes along the way, meaning they couldn’t possibly be experienced enough to have killed the victims in the original case. This killer’s being manipulated by Floyd, not the other way around. An interview with Evonne’s fiancee further clinches the case for them. She mentions Evonne knew her brother Marcus well. He was a strange man, she says, and struggled with alcoholism and other issues, but he’d supposedly been working to get better. Supposedly.

She also mentions that he went to church. Aha. Once the team sees a picture of Marcus, Matt recognizes him, too – he’d noticed him when he went to church with Floyd. It’s all clear now: Floyd met Marcus at church, the two men realized they shared an interest in cannibalism (talk about your weird bonding moments), and Floyd started training Marcus to follow in his freaky footsteps. As they come to this conclusion, they get the news that Abby’s mother’s gone missing. She’d antagonized Floyd at the church earlier, and this apparently angered Marcus, to the point where he wanted to kill her for “disrespecting” Floyd.

But because Floyd revealed the location of the warehouse, the team believes Marcus would instead take Abby’s mom to Floyd’s old home instead. They’re right, and manage to get to the house just in time to save her. They then try to tell Marcus that Floyd was using him, but despite their attempts, Marcus is so brainwashed that he insists he’s the killer and Floyd is innocent. before committing suicide.

Marcus’ confession poses another problem for the BAU as well. So long as he claims he’s responsible for all the murders, Floyd’s lawyer can use that as proof that he’s innocent, and the medical staff will feel it’s okay to release him once again. Rossi tries to plead with the hospital board to not believe Marcus’ confession, but they ain’t having it. Fortunately, the team gets an eleventh hour victory in the form of Marcus’ autopsy report. It claimed that he’d been the one to eat Rebecca’s fingers (...ew…) but a scan of Floyd’s stomach will prove that he was actually the one who ate them (again, ew). That fact proves his guilt, but what’s more, his whole manipulative scheme proves his mental competence to stand trial. Therefore, instead of staying in an institution this time, he’s going to go straight to prison. And there’s no way he’ll ever be let out again.

We’ve had quite a few references to prior cases and unsubs over the course of this year, it seems. There’s been nods to Hankel and Doyle. Cat Adams made a return visit at the end of last season, as did Lindsay Vaughn, of all people. So it seems fitting this episode would continue what’s looking to be a throwback theme. Mind, of all the unsubs I’d pick to see again, Floyd wouldn’t be my top one, simply because the case that first introduced him is one of the show’s most disgusting ones (that’s not a knock on the episode itself, though, mind, as it is a good one in and of itself).

But given the side story with Garcia being referenced this episode, it made sense that they would call back to the original case as a result, too. The icky nature of the case aside, I did think this made for an intriguing premise. Floyd tended to be a real loner sort, so on the surface, the idea of him wanting to work with somebody else shouldn’t seem to fit. But if he met somebody who shared his horrifying interests? I can totally buy him latching on to that, and taking advantage of Marcus for his own benefit. The tension over whether or not he’d be released was well done, to the point where I actually thought he might be able to slip by once again. As the team themselves noted, he’s been lucky before.

I do feel, however, that the whole thing of Floyd possibly not being the actual killer was an unnecessary angle to add in. I’m intrigued by the idea of the team making a serious mistake with a case in and of itself, and given the show’s recent success with twisty cases, it makes sense they’d want to try that here, too. But considering how memorable Floyd and the “Lucky” case are, I don’t think we needed to dangle the possibility of a retcon throughout the episode. There’s making a mistake, and there’s outright fumbling a huge case from ten years ago. It just wouldn’t fit with how competent we know this team is. I think they should’ve just stuck with focusing on a copycat from the get-go and left it at that. Not only would that have made the case more believable, but I also think it could’ve freed up a little time that could have been used to expand on the side story with Garcia.

The idea of Floyd possibly being innocent also didn’t work because it made the medical staff and his lawyer look completely incompetent. All that evidence pointing to Floyd ten years ago, his history with his sister, his obviously unsettling demeanor, and they still kept insisting he wasn’t guilty? Seriously? To say nothing of how ludicrous it is to think that a hospital would allow a man like Floyd to make a visit to a home where a child lives. Even if we want to go with his “he’s innocent” theory, he’s still clearly unstable. His sister’s judgment wasn’t that great, either. I sense the show was trying to make her seem like a desperate, lonely woman, with the mention of her husband dying, and I can see the idea of her wanting to believe her brother’s innocent. But she just ultimately came off as incredibly naive at best.

I also have to question whose bright idea it was to let Floyd come to the same station where Sheryl was being interviewed. Taking Floyd to the police station makes sense, as they’d want him to be in a place where they could keep an eye on him. But Sheryl should’ve been interviewed somewhere else entirely, especially given how uncomfortable she clearly was with being at the station. Maybe have a protective detail on her, too, since the team knew Floyd was out and about.

Course, then again, Floyd sure seemed to know how to outsmart the police in “Lucky” ten years ago, after all. They stopped his car with a victim inside and didn’t even bother to check it. And there was that priest Morgan encountered that had a sort of flippant attitude about the entire situation initially. And the hospital staff did okay Floyd’s release back then, too, despite all the evidence telling them that was clearly a very bad idea. Maybe incompetence is par for the course here. If that’s the case, though, then I hope the residents move elsewhere, fast, ‘cause they’re obviously not safe there.

As for Floyd and Marcus themselves, they were both suitably creepy, though oddly enough, I did feel the slightest twinge of sympathy for Marcus. Just the slightest. The results of Floyd’s manipulation were deep, and maybe if he’d gotten help sooner, things would be a little different. He shouldn’t be out on the street, mind, but he clearly needed to be in a mental hospital. Just maybe not this town’s mental hospital.

The obvious issues aside, though, I did like the case, simply because of the interesting premise. I also liked Matt asking Reid if he actually ate that stew that had Tracey’s remains. Somebody had to ask eventually. Reid doesn’t confirm one way or another, but his answer does indicate that nasty detail did affect the team’s eating habits for a while, understandably so.

Floyd wasn’t the only unsub who haunted the team this episode, though. The mere memory of another killer was enough to bring back a whole host of issues for one team member in particular.

Meanwhile, back at Quantico:

Back at the beginning of this year, we had the episode “Spencer”, which tapped into references to Reid being held captive by Tobias Hankel. It was a good way to give a nod to the fact that it’s been ten years since that memorable ordeal, one that had a major effect on Reid’s life going forward. So it’s fitting that we bookend this year by acknowledging another team member’s personal trauma, which coincidentally also happened ten years ago (2007 was a bit of a rough year for the BAU, evidently). This time, the team member getting the focus is Garcia, and she spends the episode struggling with memories of the night she was shot by a date of hers.

Refresher time part 2: While the team dealt with Floyd in “Lucky”, Garcia had met a nice-looking guy who introduced himself as James Colby Baylor. He was in law enforcement, and because of their similar lines of work, as well as her coming to his rescue over a tech issue, he and Garcia hit it off. Baylor asked her out, and after wrestling with a bit of self-doubt over his interest in her, Garcia agreed to a date with him.

Unfortunately, it turned out his name was nothing more than an alias to cover up his more sinister motives. His real name was Jason Clark Battle, and while he did work in law enforcement, he had a serious hero homicide complex, and was actually a killer in disguise. He believed Garcia was getting wise to his crimes, hence why he got close to her, in the hopes of putting a stop to any investigation. At the end of their date, he shot her, and the team had to work together to take him down and save Garcia.

“There’s just me, and I’m supposed to get all of the answers for all of you all the time.”

The fact that the ten year anniversary of Garcia’s shooting is coming up would be more than enough reason for the memories to come flooding back, but it’s the nature of this particular case that really pushes her emotions into overdrive. Why? Because in “Lucky”, her shooting happened immediately after the team had wrapped up the original Floyd Ferrell case. As a result, Garcia goes into a funk for much of the episode. She’s snapping at her friends, having panic attacks, and struggles to focus on the case. Emily has JJ stay behind at the office in order to keep an eye on her, but even that doesn’t seem to help much.

That’s when JJ decides to call in the big guns. Garcia soon gets a call, and immediately brightens upon hearing the voice on the other end. It’s Morgan! Her day improves even further when she realizes he’s actually come to see her in person. After they share a sweet hug, Garcia leads him to the room where his old office used to be, and Morgan sees that it’s exactly the same. Garcia hasn’t had the heart to change anything, apparently, and still goes into that room from time to time whenever she misses him. Aw.

“We always could do that, couldn’t we? No words.”

The two settle in, and discuss Garcia’s struggle to deal with these memories creeping up. She feels like she should’ve moved well past that ordeal by now, and she’d been doing just fine for so long, but as we’ve seen with this team over the years, painful memories can show up in the most unexpected ways and at the most unusual times. Morgan does his best to reassure Garcia, and even opens up about his own memories of that night, where he’d prayed for her to be okay. The reminders of how much Morgan has cared and still cares about her seem to do wonders for Garcia, as she starts feeling much better. A little present in the form of a cute video of Morgan’s son Hank also manages to put a big ol’ smile on Garcia’s face, as well as this viewer’s face.

After the team returns home, Garcia meets up with them to apologize for her behavior, and decides to make it up to them by inviting the group to her place for a night of fun and some much-needed drinks.

I loved the idea of revisiting Garcia’s shooting for an episode. It fits nicely with what seems to be a burgeoning theme this season of team members facing their past traumas. Emily reflected on her fake death experience in “Wheels Up” and Reid’s got his PTSS, so having Garcia confront her past seems appropriate. And the way Garcia showed her struggle was pretty well in character, as she’s never been the sort to contain her emotions. I felt for her when she was having her panic attack in the bathroom, and liked the moments when she got all snippy with others. It’s always interesting to get these little glimpses into the not-so-pleasant side of her usually bubbly, friendly personality, because there’s such a dramatic contrast there that I like seeing explored.

Unfortunately, the way the show dealt with her emotions felt rather…rushed? One minute she’s having panic attacks in the bathroom, the next Morgan’s there and she’s all, “Okay, I’m all better now!” I can totally buy Morgan’s visit helping relieve some of her stress, but I think the whole thing would’ve worked a lot better if she acknowledged at the end of the episode that she still had some stuff to work through. Maybe she decided to go to some support group, or see a therapist.

I also think her memories of her shooting, and the freakouts she had in regards to it, would’ve worked a lot better in the context of her still reeling from some of the more recent things her friends have been through. She was rattled by Reid’s prison ordeal, to the point she’d considered quitting over it. She was heartbroken over Walker’s death. And she had to deal with seeing her friends being injured in a car crash. All of that piling on could’ve forced her to confront the idea of everyone’s mortality, making it the springboard for her remembering her own brush with death and explaining the “Why now?” of it all.

I also felt they could have done a lot more with Garcia’s chat with Morgan. Her decision to go out with Battle was in part because of a lot of personal insecurities about herself. How has she come to terms with those insecurities in the ten years since? Morgan’s always made her feel so safe – does she still feel that way? How does how he interacted with her compare to how she interacts with Luke?

Morgan’s time in the episode only added to the rushed nature of the storyline. For one thing, his appearance was once again very brief. I’m happy to see Morgan return to the show, but maybe they should wait until he’s able to be there for a good portion of the episode before they write stories where he helps a former teammate through some personal trauma. For another, it didn’t give us a chance to really explore in depth how the events of ten years ago affected him, too. He acknowledged how scared he was for Garcia, yes, but even that was fraught with errors, because he mentioned being at the church praying for her the night she was shot.

Except that’s not how the events of “Lucky” played out. He was in the church trying to come to terms with the horrific nature of the Floyd Ferrell case, and its impact on his struggles with faith, and was there before Garcia got shot and he'd heard about it. And since he knew she’d be all right minutes after he arrived at the hospital upon hearing the news, he didn’t need to pray for her survival.

That error aside, his discussing Garcia's shooting made sense, but it would’ve been interesting to see his reaction when Garcia told him that Floyd had reared his nasty little head again, too. Perhaps he had his own theory that Garcia could pass to the team. Or Morgan’s memories could have led to an interesting conversation about faith, and if and how those views have changed.

On a different note, I’m totally fine with Morgan spending time with Garcia, because their friendship is a wonderfully unique thing, but I wished he’d stuck around for the team gathering at the end. I’m still waiting on a good heart-to-heart talk between Morgan and Reid, and considering Morgan’s own brief experience as acting unit chief years back, I would love to see him and Emily talking about what it’s like to fill Hotch’s shoes. It’d also be fun to see him getting to know Luke and Tara better. Hopefully, if and when Morgan makes future visits to the show, we can get some of those types of scenes.

Speaking of Luke, the show should have allowed him an opportunity to try and help Garcia as well. I really liked the concern, shock, and anger he showed upon hearing about her shooting at the beginning of the episode, and we’ve seen those two forging a nice little friendship of their own, so it would’ve been nice to see him offering support. Morgan can’t be there every time Garcia needs help, after all, so I want to see her leaning on others more, too. Heck, considering JJ was the one who ultimately killed Battle to protect Garcia all those years ago, their spending time together here would’ve been a perfect opportunity to have their own little conversation about that whole ordeal.

I don’t want to be a total downer about this storyline, however, so I will once again say that it really was nice to see Morgan. It’s always fun to get a visit from a member of the old gang, and Morgan’s appearance reminds me why he’s still so beloved and missed among many fans. And I loved the way he and Garcia settled back into their usual banter. Like I said, there is just something truly special about their friendship, and watching them together never fails to make me smile. I also greatly enjoyed getting a glimpse of Morgan’s son Hank.

There are a couple questions about Morgan’s current life that the show still has yet to answer, though: Where is he living now, exactly? He’s clearly not living close by – if he were, he’d be able to stick around longer, I think, and they’ve made reference to him needing to fly. The logical assumption would be that he’s moved to his hometown of Chicago, but it’d be nice to have some official confirmation as to whether or not that’s the case.

And what’s he doing for a living now? Or has he decided to be a stay-at-home dad? These aren’t major pressing issues, no, but we fans like having these little side facts on hand. So hopefully the show can answer those questions sometime as well. Also, in regards to his old office at the BAU, it’s sweet that it’s been kept the same and all, but does Garcia really have the power to make sure nothing’s done to it? That seemed a bit odd.

We’ll have to ponder those questions on our own for the time being, however, as the show continues on to new cases and storylines. And the next episode’s case looks like yet another creepy one. Not cannibal killer-creepy, thankfully, though, which is good. Think we can go a good long while without another one of those kinds of cases.

What did you think of the episode? Did you enjoy seeing Morgan return, despite the brief nature of his appearance? What do you think he’s up to nowadays? Was the exploration of Garcia’s traumatic past satisfactory? Were you convinced by the idea that Floyd might actually be innocent? How creepy was it to see Floyd again? Did this episode ruin your appetite? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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