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Criminal Minds - Saturday - Review: “A Day in the Life”

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To quote Monty Python: “And now for something completely different…” (RIP, Terry Jones).

Things start off on their typical dark note, and this episode’s beginning is especially ominous. Alarms are ringing across the BAU offices as the camera pans out to show what looks to be a very horrific scene. Bodies litter the room. It’s a virtual massacre. Reid enters the bullpen at this point, trying to check on a couple of the victims, only to find they’re beyond help. He then hears a scream from somewhere, and runs into the hall, alone, gun pointed out and ready to take down whomever committed these heinous crimes.

Just then, a big, burly-looking man appears – and he’s wielding a bloody ax. He advances on Reid, and Reid goes to shoot him...but his gun jams. He keeps desperately trying to fire as the murderer gets closer and closer. The man raises his ax to strike…

...and it’s all revealed to be a terrifying nightmare. Apparently Reid’s been having quite a few of those lately, to the point where he’s starting to see a therapist to talk about them!

But more on the circumstances surrounding his discussion of that dream later. There’s quite a few storylines to work through this episode alongside Reid’s, and there’s a specific reason for that this time around. Longtime viewers know that every so often, the show likes to depart from its typical format and do something a little different, and this episode is no exception in that regard. “Saturday” is very reminiscent of “The Fisher King”, in which we get to actually see what a day off is like for these people.

Of course, this show being what it is, there’s still a case, but thankfully, it’s one that’s solved pretty swiftly, and which doesn’t even need the full force of the BAU, unlike in “Fisher King”. The team members that don’t work it still have some interesting things happen to them as well, but for the most part, it’s certainly one of the lighter, and more importantly, funnier, episodes we’ve had in some time. Given all the team’s been through lately, that kind of lightness is very much sorely welcome. It’s also notable for being directed by one of the show’s original writer/directors, Ed Bernero (who wrote the “Fisher King” two-parter, making the comparison even more obvious)! A nice blast from the past!

Despite all the good things in this episode, however, there were a couple elements that were rather ominous in nature, that feel like they’re not fully resolved just yet. If that’s the case, then perhaps this will eventually be more like “Fisher King” than initially thought.

But we’ll address those moments when they pop up. Since the case is so brief, we’ll get that out of the way first, and then we’ll jump into seeing how the team’s free day goes.

The Case:

“It’s bad, right?”
“Yeah, yeah, it’s bad.”

The only reason the team gets the case in the first place is due to Garcia spending the day at the BAU office. She’s not there for work, though; rather, she’s participating in a fun competition (more on that later). The fun is interrupted, however, when a young woman named Elizabeth speaks to her. She claims somebody is stalking and harassing her online. Garcia looks at Elizabeth’s computer, and a slew of messages pop up that confirm Elizabeth’s worst fears. The messages are really nasty, with the stalker claiming they will find her and choke and/or gut the life out of her. Yikes.

Garcia calls Emily, Tara, JJ, and Luke together to help out (and in case you’re wondering, JJ was pulled away from dealing with a boys’ sleepover, and Tara had plans to have dinner with her dad). The messages are typical incel (“involuntary celibate”, for those who are curious) rants, but they also consider a possible ex-boyfriend. Sure enough, they soon find said ex, Billy, whom Elizabeth had dumped right around the time the stalking began. Billy says Elizabeth was “clingy and bitchy”, but Elizabeth claims things ended because he brought an engagement ring three months in and she was all, “Slow your roll” (I would react the same way). JJ and Tara interview Billy, and he’s a cocky piece of work, bragging about a threesome he had the night before. There’s plenty of photographic evidence to prove it, too, much to JJ and Tara’s disgust.

That story, however, actually winds up clearing Billy’s name in the end, as having a threesome kind of takes you out of the incel category. Tara does suggest they keep Billy around, though, both because he might prove helpful in other ways and because, as she points out, if they have to be stuck here on a Saturday, so does he. Heh.

Garcia and Luke, meanwhile, go to Elizabeth’s apartment to find any possible clues, and they discover that the stalker installed his own device in Elizabeth’s home, recording every aspect of her life (and I mean every aspect). They search for the device and find it…right under the floorboards in Elizabeth’s bedroom. CREE-PY. They also find a few tissues under there, which, ew. It seems that the surveillance stopped six months ago, and that’s when the nasty messages began.

Garcia asks Elizabeth if she’s talked with any guys who believed she’d rejected them unfairly, and she starts freaking out at this point. She insists she’s been a virtual shut-in ever since everything with her stalker began, so there’s nobody she could think of that she’s talked to. That’s when Garcia hits on something interesting.

As she and Emily listen to the recordings, Garcia notices that Billy’s voice is much louder than Elizabeth’s, as the microphone’s on his side of the bed. The stalker’s targeting Billy, likely struggling with sexual feelings towards him. When the team mentions this, Billy suggests they look at a neighbor, Hayes. He’s a locksmith, thus allowing him access to apartments, and he’s into livestreaming, which Billy suspects is a cover for his creepy voyeurism. Sure enough, when they track down Hayes, they see a ton of photos of Billy all over the place. Hayes’ response? “I loved him.” He’s taken in, and Elizabeth and Billy can now breathe a sigh of relief.

Not a whole lot to say about this one. I liked how they kept the case pretty simple this episode, with everything else going on. It was especially nice to have a case in which nobody was physically attacked or killed, and didn’t have the typical “team takes down unsub as they’re holding their final victim hostage” setup. I also liked the twist that Hayes was after Billy, and that the unsub wasn’t telegraphed so easily. I also appreciated the mockery of the incel community, and the subtle way this case highlighted the issue of cyberstalking, especially in regards to how it impacted Garcia throughout.

The Dark Web:

“The last thing she needs is some random person who won’t understand making her feel bad.”

And just why did this case bother Garcia so much? Well, as she explains to Luke at one point, she’s currently going through a similar situation. There’s a guy named Alexi Stanovich, who lives in Russia. He’s been stalking her for some time now, asking why she’s not “barefoot and pregnant” and going so far as threatening to kill her. Luke is aghast that she didn’t share this information with anyone, but she explains that he’s too far away for them to catch, and the internet being what it is, people say awful things like that online all the time. And, as Garcia notes, women like her are just expected to shut up and deal with it. Sadly, she’s not wrong about that. Garcia also explains that those kinds of comments are the reason she has trouble looking at crime scene photos, because her forays into the online world can provide her with things that are just as horrifying as gruesome pictures.

After they solve the case, Garcia thanks Luke for all his help. He in turn tells her to keep tabs on everything with Alexi, and offers to do his part to help her nab this creep. She, thankfully, accepts his offer.

Oh, and the reason Garcia had been at the BAU office on her day off in the first place? She was hosting a hacking competition. Apparently she was so into it that she brought some music to play to get everyone pumped up, and, as Emily learned via phone call, the music was...rather loud.

The introduction of Alexi in some ways felt kind of abrupt, especially since, given that ending, it doesn’t seem this will be the last we hear of him. If this case does continue, it seems a little extraneous, considering we’ve already got the season-long hunt for the Chameleon. I would’ve been fine just letting Garcia have a fun day along with the others and leaving it at that.

To say nothing of how, given how many times Garcia and the team have been stalked via internet, you’d think they’d have the tightest security by now (I mean, seriously, is it really a good idea to have a hacker competition at a federal government office?). And I get the issue with Alexi living in another country, and Garcia’s fears, but still, after all she’s been through, it does seem odd she wouldn’t have told at least one other team member before now.

Still, I did appreciate her point about all the awful things women are expected to put up with online, and Luke’s protective concern for her throughout was sweet, too. If Alexi does rear his head again, I look forward to seeing how he and Garcia, and perhaps the team at large, can take this guy down.

Okay! On to the happier stuff!

New Arrival:

“Don’t you have so many kids at this point that the big ones raise the little ones?”

At the Simmons house, Matt is busy setting up a crib for the upcoming baby. Rossi has come to help him out, and Emily’s providing the snacks: wine and donuts. Kristy, meanwhile, is making a few pregnancy snacks of her own, and just observing everything.

Unfortunately, Matt’s having some difficulty actually putting the crib together, and his frustration is made all the worse by the fact that he hates the color. (it’s red). Problem is, it’s custom-made, so he can’t return it. Rossi suggests painting over it, but Matt tried that, and it’s not made for that. Emily and Kristy don’t help matters by ribbing him about the crib, either.

The issues with their baby’s new bed aren’t the only thing weighing on Matt’s mind, though. Five kids are a lot to support, after all, and while Matt and Kristy are okay financially now, over time, things are going to get more and more expensive. Luckily, a discussion with Kristy gives Rossi an idea to put Matt’s mind at ease.

While in Matt’s office (soon to be the baby’s room), Rossi notices a journal on a dresser entitled “Simmons Stories”. He asks Kristy about it, and she explains that thanks to Matt’s travels around the world over the years, he had plenty of stories to regale his kids with. Kristy suggested he write them all down, which he did. Aw. Rossi really likes this idea, and he suggests that Matt take those stories and turn them into a proper book. Matt’s skeptical of the idea at first, but Rossi’s very encouraging – he’s got plenty of experience writing books, after all, so he’ll happily help Matt out. And it’ll bring in some extra income for the family.

Just as Matt accepts the idea, Kristy interrupts with the news that her water has broke. It’s not long after that that the Simmons family welcomes their new baby into the world, and it’s a girl! Matt tells the team that they’ve named her Rose Mary, as it was “the closest they could get to Rossi”. Again, aw.

This was a very cute story. It was nice to see some team members actually get to enjoy the full day off, and yay for a new addition to the BAU family! I also really love the concept of the “Simmons Stories”, and Rossi’s offer to help Matt make a book out of those. It’s a fun way for them to bond, and another great example of Rossi’s generosity towards his teammates, nosy though he came off at times.

And seriously, Matt’s very lucky to have Kristy, ‘cause she is cool as a cucumber in times of stress.

Somebody’s Watching:

“I’ve talked the guns out of the hands of psychopaths, I can handle one kook who hired a lawyer.”

Emily’s story is perhaps the weirdest and most hilarious of all. She gets called away from her time with Matt and Rossi, only to receive some shocking news: she’s been served! Apparently, a former neighbor of hers, a guy named Brian, has decided to sue her, claiming a fifth amendment civil rights violation. Say what? Emily explains to the others that he has a history of insisting that he’s being watched by the government, and since she works for the FBI, well… She also explains that he has a wife that’s “way out of his league” and a large cat that he’d walk on a leash. Sounds like an interesting guy! Emily wants to go to the office and call him in to sort this all out, but Rossi’s wary. If he’s a conspiracy theorist sort, it’s best to not engage those folks any more than necessary, if at all.

After sobering up and having a mint to clear her “wine breath” (courtesy of Garcia), however, Emily goes ahead with her plan. She’s surprised to learn that the guy’s beat her to her office, and what’s more, Garcia tells her that he’s brought his own crime board and everything. Oh, this should be fun.

Soon, Emily’s stuck in her office, listening to Brian’s very elaborate and bizarre explanation of why he believes she’s keeping tabs on him. She does acknowledge that there are cameras keeping tabs on people out there, but insists the FBI is not watching him. She then asks how his wife is doing, and shocker of shockers, Brian tells her she left him. Emily’s response is priceless: “You two were such a...couple.” She believes Brian is targeting Emily because he can’t deal with his divorce.

Then Brian asks Emily why she faked her death all those years ago. Cue the record scratch and me snapping my head up like, “WHAT?!”

Emily, naturally, struggles to figure out how to respond to that. Thankfully, she’s saved by an interruption from Tara, who updates her on what’s going on with the stalker case. Seeing Tara then gives Emily an idea. She’s clearly not getting anywhere with Brian, and Tara does resemble his ex-wife (again, a great response, this time from Tara: “Somebody married that man?” The women of the BAU are just so done with all of these guys’ nonsense today, I love it). So why not have Tara try and talk to Brian instead?

Tara reluctantly agrees to this plan, and luckily, it works. She confirms that somebody is watching Brian, but it’s not the people he thinks, and explains that if he goes ahead with the court case, he risks exposing the wrong people. Brian can’t have that, so he agrees to back off. She then escorts him to the elevator, where he continues asking her for help, such as “a Deep Throat who could Deep Throat me”, and OMG I CAN’T WITH THIS GUY. When the elevator opens we see a doctor standing there, and Tara explains that this guy can put Brian in touch with those who can help him. And with that, their weird day ends.

This story was hilarious. Emily trying to deal with this weird guy was so fun to watch, and I liked Tara helping out as she did, too. She was great at playing into his delusion, and as strange as he was, the ending was a genuinely nice touch, with Tara bringing in the doctor. No matter the situation, they still care about helping people who need it.

Like with the Alexi situation, though, I do wonder if Brian will pop up somehow, some way again, too, because his comments about Emily faking her death were quite the curveball in an otherwise funny story. Add in the fact that the person who served Emily knew she’d be at Rossi’s, and that seems like somebody’s keeping tabs. Something else to perhaps keep an eye on as the season continues.

Meet Cute:

“Whoever this conversation was with, she’s put a smile on your face I haven’t seen in a really long time.”

Perhaps the most notable “day off” storyline this episode happens with Reid. As mentioned earlier, Reid’s been seeing a therapist these past few weeks. They’ve discussed his weird dreams and the unresolved issues with JJ. The therapist tells him his dreams are quite normal for people in law enforcement, but she’s curious what he thinks his dream means. Reid being Reid, he starts trying to profile the ax murderer. The therapist cuts him off, and he then begins talking about JJ.

Once she steers him back on track again, they discuss the fact he’s worked here fifteen years, and yet he has no healthy outlets to properly deal with all he sees on the job. He can’t even talk to people outside of work, because the only friends he has are those he works with. The therapist then suggests he avoid thinking about work at all today, and instead try having a “normal” conversation with a “normal” person.

Later, Reid’s in the park talking on the phone to JJ. He’s eager to help with the stalking case, but JJ assures him they’re good. While they’re talking, however, he’s interrupted by a young boy who comments on his strange haircut, and the encounter has him flustered. Just then, a woman shows up to usher the boy away. She’s annoyed with Reid, thinking he was pestering the kid, and Reid tries to explain the situation. The woman soon has bigger concerns, however, as she sees her car being towed away. Reid tries to diffuse the situation, to the irritation of the tow guy.

The kid, in response to their suddenly being stranded, starts to have a panic attack. Reid distracts him by doing a magic trick (which kind of falls apart when a nearby guy finds the penny he tried to make disappear), but it does manage to calm the kid down, and the woman seems a little more at ease as well. She thanks Reid for his help, and starts to head off, planning to call her sister to come pick up the boy (yes, turns out he’s this woman’s nephew, not her son). But the boy insists Reid join them, and his aunt eventually agrees, on the condition that she and Reid don’t exchange names or phone numbers.

A short time later, the woman and Reid are sitting together and chatting. She mentions teaching art to elementary school kids, which Reid finds interesting. The woman, doubtful, wonders if this is his way of trying to pick her up, and Reid explains his whole “normal conversation” thing to her. He also starts to mention his creepy dream, but she’s not interested.

At that point, her sister Michelle shows up to take her kid home, and that’s when we learn this woman’s name: Max, short for Maxine. Michelle is not even remotely subtle in mentioning that Max is very single before leaving, and Max is embarrassed by all of this. Reid shrugs it off, though, and Max seems interested in hanging out with him further. She asks about his dream, and he not only discusses that, but also explains all that he and his teammates have been through.

Surprisingly, none of this scares Max away. She suggests that Reid’s struggling to deal with his fight or flight response, explaining that she’d been through a similar thing earlier when she first met him, before he proved himself trustworthy. She then playfully shoves him into some nearby lawn sprinklers to indicate her point, and he pulls her back, carrying her through them in turn as they share a laugh.

As the day winds down, Max and Reid stop at a stand where they each buy a couple D.C. shirts. Reid then gets a call about Kristy, and he wants to be there for Matt and his family, so this is it for them. But, he notes, he would like for them to meet up again. Max asks exactly what he does for the FBI, he explains he’s a profiler. “Good,” she says. “Find me.”

At the hospital, JJ can’t help noticing Reid’s new wardrobe, and comments on it. He explains having “a conversation”, and JJ can tell exactly what he means by that.. She can tell that he’s itching to go see this mysterious woman again, so she encourages him to do so, reminding him he has plenty of time to help with babies later.

Reid doesn’t need to be asked twice, as he immediately runs off to find Max. He returns to where they first met, hoping to find her there. Initially, it seems he’s guessed wrong. But then he sees her sitting atop a picnic table. “Took you long enough,” she says upon seeing him, and they walk off together.

I think the most shocking thing about this episode was that Reid actually had a full on nice day. No danger as a result of a case, no bad news about his mom, no weird situations with Max, the way there were with Maeve. He just had a good day, period. It was really, really nice to see that. I loved Reid’s interaction with her nephew, and seeing him actually letting loose and laughing and having fun was a pleasant surprise.

I like Max herself, too. She was just different enough to where she wouldn’t be a carbon copy of him, but her love of art and her ability to analyze his dreams and keep up with the stuff he talked about makes her a good fit for him. It also helps that she’s played by Rachel Leigh Cook, who was in two movies I loved as a pre-teen/teenager (the Baby-Sitters Club movie and She’s All That). She has a genuine likeability about her, and a breezy chemistry with Gubler.

The talk between Reid and JJ was a nice touch, too, with her being supportive of this potential new chapter in Reid’s life. Whatever happens with Reid and Max going forward, all I ask of the show is that they treat her well. I’m hopeful they will, because it seems the show has been doing a pretty decent job of moving away from killing off love interests in recent years, but still, it’s easy to worry anyway. So here’s hoping things turn out all right for Reid. And the rest of the team as well. I want more happy days like this for all of them.

What did you think of the episode? Did you enjoy the change in format? Which storyline was your favorite? What do you think of Max? Do you think Alexi and/or Brian will pop up again later in the season? If so, how? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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