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Criminal Minds - Truth or Dare - Review: “Second Chances”/Season Fourteen Summary



And we’re back! Time for a recap of the final episode of season fourteen, before we kick off the final season.

The fourteenth season of “Criminal Minds” was, up to now, at least, the shortest one in this show’s entire run, which felt kinda weird, both in terms of how quickly it flew by and having the show end in the dead of winter instead of the typical May sweeps period. And to top it all off, it’s been almost a full year between last season and the upcoming final one.

In some ways, though, I think that large time gap may have been a good thing., “Truth and Dare” was a...controversial season finale, to put it mildly, and even now, it’s still causing a bit of debate. But perhaps the time in between also allowed some new perspectives on the finale as well for some.

But I’m getting way ahead of myself here. You’d be forgiven for thinking not much else happened in this episode, given all the debate online over one particular storyline, but there was also a case and a happy occasion for one particular team member to deal with as well. The case wasn’t much to write home about, frankly – we’ve had other cases in prior season finales that were significantly more dramatic, and the whole thing felt like more of an afterthought to everything else going on. The only dramatic moment that did happen had nothing to do with the actual case itself. But honestly, I’m fine with that. The show’s had more than its fair share of “Will a team member survive?” cliffhangers, so it was rather nice to not have to deal with that concern this time around.

The happy occasion, meanwhile, which was Rossi’s wedding to Krystall, was much more fun and worth talking about, brief though it was. Given my feelings about the case, I personally would’ve been fine with the show completely forgoing a case altogether and just having complete focus on the wedding and the other personal stuff going on. But of course, that’s not how this show works. Still, the wedding made for a nice balance to everything else that happened, though it is a shame that it seemed to be overshadowed by the drama going on elsewhere.

Enough rambling, though. Time to try and wade through all the craziness and controversy this episode brought. **Cracks knuckles**

Know When to Hold ‘Em:

“Guess I’m a better liar than you thought.”

Things start off fairly innocently – we actually catch the team having some fun for a change! They’re all gathered in the conference room, preparing to play a game of poker. Rossi isn’t with them, though, as he’s prepping for his upcoming wedding. Luke and Reid are the last to join the others, and as they arrive, Luke is praising Reid for getting a score of a perfect hundred during target practice. He’s genuinely impressed, and jokes that Reid should start carrying two guns with him. Hint number one.

Why all this celebration and game time? Well, it’s been two days without any new cases, and the team apparently doesn’t seem to have any other actual work to do, I guess, hence a chance to kick back and have some fun. JJ warns the newer team members about Reid being banned from casinos because of his skills, and this leads Reid to go into a detailed explanation of how he figured out the system. The newer team members aren’t fazed, though.

At one point during the game, JJ is up against Reid. He’s certain that she’s bluffing with the offer she’s made him, claiming she’s got a tell, and decides to go all in. Luke, trusting Reid’s abilities, does the same. JJ reveals her hand...and she’s got a straight flush! She wins! Reid is amusingly surprised by this, and JJ says the above quote about being a good liar. Hint number two.

Of course, the fun times cannot last, as Garcia then gets a notification about a case.

The Case:

As the team soon learns, somebody is going around Los Angeles committing two crimes at once. He barrels into people’s cars, and then he gets out and shoots the drivers point blank. So far two people have been murdered – a woman named Andrea and a man named Paul – but as the team continues to investigate this case, they realize that the unsub is being manipulated by somebody else, and the person manipulating them has a hit list.

The man who’s being ordered to commit these crimes, Mark, is soon shot to death by a local cop when he refuses to be taken in quietly. But before he dies, he claims that he had to follow orders, because if he didn’t, his wife Lynn would be killed. Sure enough, the mastermind, Casey, has followed through on their threat against Lynn, and soon after, he’s picked out his new patsy, a woman named Melissa. Casey’s also kidnapped Melissa’s daughter, Candace, and threatens to kill her if Melissa doesn’t do his bidding.

This all leads to Reid and JJ trying to chase Casey down, only to find themselves being held hostage alongside Melissa inside a store. Casey then proceeds to play a tense game of truth or dare with JJ, and the game leads to some pretty significant revelations – more on those later – but just as he’s about to shoot her, Reid manages to pull out another gun he'd had hidden in his ankle holster (aha!) and takes Casey down with one shot. Melissa, along with the store manager, are injured, but will survive, and Candace is rescued soon after as well.

And what was Casey’s motive for this crime spree? Revenge. According to one of his targeted victims, Charlie, he’d been involved in a reckless incident at a bar in which he ran down and killed four people. Casey claimed that Mark had dared him to do the crazy stunt, but Mark denied it, and was therefore not implicated in the crime. Charlie, meanwhile, was a witness for that case. As for the victims themselves, Andrea was Casey’s lawyer, whom he felt hadn’t done enough to keep him out of jail, and Paul was the jury foreman who’d helped to convict Casey. His hostage, Melissa, was the judge, and had been exceptionally harsh in her condemnation of Casey’s crime.

As noted, this case felt kinda “meh”. It wasn’t all that dramatic – even Reid and JJ being held hostage wasn’t enough to get people’s blood pressure up, because we all knew they’d make it out of this alive. Plus, Reid’s been held captive so many times that it’s become something of a running joke at this point. I also would’ve liked more explanation on how Mark was able to escape each crime scene despite having so many witnesses around, and how Casey was able to track down and keep tabs on all these people on his hit list. Los Angeles isn’t exactly a tiny town, after all.

All of that being said, I did like the twist of there being two unsubs in the end, and one of them being manipulated by the other. I would’ve liked perhaps a little more glimpse into that relationship at some point before Mark’s death. I also thought Casey’s motive for targeting these people was interesting. And I really loved the way JJ interacted with Casey. Defiant and protective as always, and her confessional moments were heartbreaking and emotional.

I also liked how Reid taking Casey down felt so reminiscent of the ending of “L.D.S.K.”. Bringing up his own time in prison in an attempt to bond was a good touch as well – I like these little reminders of how much Reid’s time in jail affected and changed him...and thankfully, for the better, at that.

Now, let’s get on to the real meat of the story that’s had people talking for the better part of a year.

Confessions:

Once JJ offers to play Casey’s game of truth or dare, that’s when things take a VERY interesting turn. After picking the “truth” option, Casey warns her that if he suspects she’s lying or stretching the truth, he’ll kill Reid. With that understanding, JJ still agrees to tell the truth, so he begins by asking if she’s ever shot anyone. JJ says yes, and Casey then asks her if she enjoyed shooting those people.

JJ, of course, says no. That doesn’t sit well with Casey, so JJ tries to distract him by turning the game his way. Casey won’t play along, though, demanding she confess something she’s never told anyone else before. JJ tries a couple options: there’s only four people in this world that she trusts, and she wanted to name the baby she’d lost a few years back Maggie. Casey remains unimpressed, however. He wants her deepest, darkest secret. Something she would never dare say out loud. Not even to Reid.

That’s when JJ drops one HELL of a bombshell. She turns to Reid...and admits that she’s always loved him! The implication is clear: she means she loves him, as in the romantic sense. Why had she never told him this before? She was too scared to say so, she claims, and things are “just too complicated” right now. Reid’s not sure what to make of this, but Casey is delighted. This is the juicy stuff he was looking for! It still wasn’t going to be enough to save JJ and Reid, but of course, Reid ultimately foiled his evil plans.

Afterward, there’s a curious moment of furtive glances between them. Even Rossi seems to notice something is a bit off. But the whole saga doesn’t end here. Oh, no. At the wedding, we get a couple more of those glances, and during Emily’s toast, in which she talks about the concept of fate and two souls who are meant to be together, there’s a lot of focus on them. Hmm.

A short time later, JJ gets a moment alone with Reid, thanking him for saving her life (Reid, in response, mentions he’s been wearing an ankle holster since he got out of prison, which is interesting). She tries to explain her confession further, claiming she needed to get Casey’s attention, but Reid just has one question in response: truth or dare, did she mean what she’d said? JJ picks truth, and is about to answer, when, of course, they’re briefly interrupted by Emily. Reid assures her everything’s okay, but holy crap, you could seriously cut the tension with a knife here.

JJ then heads off, finding Will and giving him a hug. Subtle. Reid observes this scene for a moment, looking reflective, before he joins everyone as well. And as the episode ends, the Johnny Mathis song “Chances Are” plays in the background, with this particular line standing out: “Chances are your chances are awfully good.”

Soooo. Yeah. That happened.

As noted, this part of the episode set off the fandom something fierce. I can’t speak to places like Twitter or Tumblr, as I’m not on those sites, but I know that when it comes to the boards and sites where I spend time (SpoilerTV being among them), most of the reaction to this storyline has been very negative.

Full disclosure: I am a Reid/JJ shipper. I’ve always thought the idea of them together makes a lot of sense, and find this development rather interesting. But I’m not here to convince anyone of my shipping preferences. I will say that I’m as surprised by this twist as anyone, mainly because the show isn’t known for pairing off team members. So the fact that possibility is being dangled now? I can see why that would be shocking. I also understand why those who don’t care for this pairing would be bothered by the idea of them getting together, especially if they like another pairing that never came to be on the show.

And whether you like this pairing or not, I can also see where the way they went about this wouldn’t sit well with some. This isn’t exactly the way I would’ve written it. For one thing, it seems weird that Casey would be so invested in this kind of a confession, as it didn’t really fit with the issues he was dealing with. I think Casey’s reaction would’ve made a lot more sense if his crime spree were tied to his own issues regarding a lost love, or if his dare gone wrong had something to do with that topic. As it was, the connection between JJ’s confession and Casey’s crimes felt rather disjointed and flimsy.

Setting that issue aside, though, I think it might be best to focus on the “why” of this storyline. Not so much “why these two”, as that would take a long time to explain, I think, but rather “why now?”. It’s a valid question, I won’t argue that. JJ is married, has been for years, she and Reid had one date way back in the first season and have remained friends ever since, so looking at those facts alone, I can see why some feel this came out of nowhere.

First off, I’ll say that while the show’s not gone there with actually pairing off team members thus far, they have teased the idea with a few potential couples over the years (Morgan/Garcia and Hotch/Prentiss) being a couple notable examples that got some major attention back in the day). So it’s not that surprising to me that they finally decided to test those particular waters, especially not when it’s the only possible pairing that’s actually had anything resembling a date. For some reason, I’ve always felt that if the show ever were to actually go there and seriously consider putting any team members together, they’d wait and do so as the show was winding down (perhaps to avoid seasons’ worth of team pairing ship wars or something? Who knows). Sure enough, this seems to prove that theory.

Second, given the aforementioned throwbacks to the past we got this season, since the first season started off with a hint of a Reid/JJ attraction, this to me felt like the start of a bookend of sorts, a way to compare and contrast and see how they’ve changed over the years, both individually and in terms of their relationship, platonic or otherwise. Whether that was the writers’ intention or not, it does seem a fitting full circle moment.

Do I think JJ’s telling the truth? Yes. She has kept secrets and lied before, yes, but in that particular moment, I don’t think she’d lie about something like that. Not when she knows the stakes at hand. And her expressions afterward indicated there was some level of truth to her words as well. There’s a lot to unpack with JJ’s comment about “always” having feelings for Reid. It seems many people are of the belief she means that literally, like, from almost the very beginning of the show or something. And maybe it does.

But it can also be meant in a figurative sense, and I think that’s the more likely option here. Perhaps she may have only recently realized just how long or how deep her feelings ran. Perhaps something’s happened that brought feelings she thought she’d moved on from all those years ago back to the surface. There’s all sorts of possible avenues here. I also don’t feel that her having feelings for Reid in any way diminishes her history with Will. If her feelings for Reid are intended romantically, it can simply be a “what could’ve been” kind of thing. One can be in a perfectly happy marriage and still occasionally think about the other ways their life could’ve gone had it been someone else.

Granted, there is also the fact JJ mentioned things being “complicated”, which could indicate something deeper going on. Will and JJ’s history may be long and good, but they’ve also had their ups and downs, and JJ’s been through a hell of a lot in recent years. That could easily tie into the “what could’ve been” scenario mentioned above, thus leading her to have some conflicted feelings about both Will and Reid. Especially when you consider that Emily did mention the concept of parallel universes during her “twin flames” speech, as well as the episode where JJ and Reid were discussing the concept of imagining different futures.

As for how Reid would handle it? If she had completely made up her confession, he would be upset, and rightly so. We’ve seen how he’s reacted when she’s lied to him in the past, after all. But I think it’s clear here that he knows there’s at least some truth to her words, and I think he would also understand why she kept her feelings hidden. If he’s still got any feelings for her in turn, his reasons probably aren’t too dissimilar to hers (notably, that she’s married and has a family). They clearly deserve to have a proper talk about all of this, and I hope they do get that opportunity.

As of now, however, it doesn’t seem like they’re actually going to wind up together, largely because there’s talk of a potential new love interest for Reid next season (which makes a lot of the reaction to the finale a little more amusing to me). But since I do like Reid and JJ’s friendship as well, I’d be fine with that, too. If the main takeaway for these two next season is that there is a deeper love there, but this just wasn’t the timeline for them to be together or whatever, then so be it. That seems to me the most likely outcome right now, and if they want to placate both sides to some degree, that may be the best way to go. Ultimately, I just appreciate that the show’s addressing any possible feelings between them at all, even if they never act on them.

If they do ultimately go through and put them together as the series winds down, though, I hope they do so in a way that’s respectful to both Will and Reid’s potential new love interest. In that case, I can see a time jump of sorts, since ten episodes won’t be enough time to really show the breakdown of a marriage or a brief relationship that won’t last (and really, who’d want to actually see that anyway?). I certainly don’t see Reid and JJ starting up some torrid affair on the show or anything like that, and there’s so much the show will want to tackle for the team as a whole in these few episodes, so I’d like to think they’d try and avoid some big drawn out drama in order to get them together as a result.

So! Now that we’ve got that drama out of the way, let’s turn to the happy portion of the episode – a wedding!

Going to the (Chapel) Hall of Love:

“I don’t have to go.”
“Yeah, you do.”


It’s two days before Rossi and Krystall’s wedding, and they’re at the building where they’ll hold their ceremony, giving it one last look and finalizing their plans. They don’t get to spend much time there, however, because unsubs gotta unsub, and Rossi gets called in to work the Los Angeles case. He promises her that he will make sure he’s back in time for their wedding.

Rossi is true to his word, as the case is indeed wrapped up just in time for the big day! How convenient! Seriously, though, I’m glad he did make it back in time, because it turns out to be a lovely, albeit brief, wedding. The ceremony itself is done almost like a highlight reel, as it skips over the vows and just shows Portia walking her mother down the aisle, as well as Krystall and Rossi exchanging rings and a kiss. But we do get a nice scene of Portia helping her mom get ready and giving her her wedding present: a honeymoon to the French Riviera. Ooh, la, la! We also get a sweet moment between Rossi and Joy, who managed to make it in for the wedding. All is well with Joy’s family, and she and Portia ave hit it off, to the delight of her dad.

Of course, the rest of the team is there, as are a couple of the team members’ significant others. Luke’s girlfriend Lisa had to work, and Emily explains her reason for not bringing Mendoza – it’s “too much” at this point and time. But JJ’s husband Will is there, along with Matt’s wife Kristy. And Kristy has some news of her own: she’s pregnant! With their fifth child! They’re overwhelmed, but happy.

We even get a guest appearance from legendary singer Johnny Mathis as well – he’s Rossi’s best man! Rossi is talking Krystall up to Mathis, saying his music played a big role in the development of their relationship. Aw.

“This isn’t his first rodeo, as they say. Strangely enough, though, he’s never been to an actual rodeo.”

Later, at the reception, Emily gives a toast, making a few lighthearted jokes about Rossi’s proposal and constant trips down the aisle. Afterward, the team cuts loose on the dance floor, and all the stress of the recent case, Rossi’s worries about Lynch, and the weird situation between Reid and JJ, are forgotten or put aside for the time being.

And so ends season fourteen.

As noted, I wish the wedding wasn’t so brief. I just kept thinking about JJ and Will’s wedding throughout (which is ironic, considering the circumstances), and how much of that we got to see, and wished Rossi had gotten the same kind of treatment. I didn’t need to hear the vows, really, but...I mean, you get somebody like Johnny Mathis and he doesn’t sing at the reception? We only hear one of his songs in the background as the episode ends? All he did was show up for a couple moments to chat with Rossi, and sorry, but somebody of his status should have a little more screen time than that.

I also wish we could’ve actually seen Joy interacting with Krystall and Portia. I love that she attended the wedding, as I’d hoped that we’d get an acknowledgment that she would be part of Rossi’s new family. But it would’ve been cool to actually see them all hanging out together, maybe taking a few family photos, or chatting it up in the background or something.

And speaking of wedding attendees, the reasons for Lisa and Mendoza’s absences make sense. But why no mention of Morgan and Hotch? Obviously they couldn’t physically show up, but it would’ve been nice to have at least a brief explanation for why they weren’t there, and imply that they’re keeping in touch some other way. That guest list in general seemed awfully small, really – there were no other members of Krystall’s family showing up for her side? No other notable friends or hers, or of Rossi’s? Surely these guys know other people outside their little world!

All of that being said, however, given the stressful case and the awkwardness with Reid and JJ, it was nice to have something pleasant to celebrate as the season wrapped up. I’m probably as surprised as anyone else, Rossi included, that he’s gotten married again, and to a former wife, no less! But I have enjoyed seeing Rossi and Krystall’s relationship develop, and they clearly seem to be in a much better place in their lives, to where it’s easier to believe they’ll make it work this time around. So yay to the happy couple! And Rossi did keep things pretty low-key overall, so considering that, it makes sense they wouldn’t make it a major focus of the episode.

Season Fourteen Overview/Final Season Wishlist:

Given how short this season was, it feels a bit hard to properly judge it the way I would prior seasons. I could critique the lack of any overarching storylines, or the fact that the events of “300”, “The Tall Man”, or “Luke” were barely touched on any further, because if the season had been longer, we may delved into that stuff more. But I also don’t doubt that the show still would’ve only given the personal struggles some team members went through an occasional mention at best, and that’s especially frustrating with episodes centering on newer team members like Luke. His episode felt like a good beginning to a season-long storyline exploring his character in depth...yet we’ll never get that now. Plenty of shows with short seasons can still do serialized storylines, so there’s really no reason this one couldn’t have done that, too.

At the same time, by its very nature, the procedural format means a show like this is more episodic in general, and given the initial uncertainty of whether or not season fourteen was the end, it makes sense they’d keep things more simple for a change. That’s not to say there weren’t any strange cases at all, mind – the cult in “300” was quite out there, for sure, and even killers like the Tall Man had some sort of weird story associated with them. But for the most part, the cases generally felt a little more old-school. I also liked the focus on each individual team member to some degree, and getting a glimpse into newer team members. And I appreciated having a little more focus on some happy storylines as well, notably with the burgeoning romances.

The old-school approach was especially fitting considering all the “early years” references we got throughout. A case involving the son of a memorable unsub from season three, the cult in “300” harkening back to a case from season four, learning the details of Reid and JJ’s date from the first season, the show expanding on the history of a special gift from Roz to JJ… All those little nods to the past were a neat reward for everyone who’ve stuck with this show over time, and a good opportunity to reflect on how much things have changed since this show began.

Since the upcoming final season will officially be the shortest one the show’s ever had, I hope they’ll continue in the “keep it simple” vein with their cases. We know the Chameleon will be a threat throughout much of the season, but if that’s the lone major danger they’ll have to deal with, then that’ll make it much easier and more interesting to see how all of this unfolds.

And, of course, I hope that all of the characters get some kind of nice closure on their lives and storylines, too. Whether they stay with the BAU or move on to other things, if we can end the series with everyone happy with their choices and in a good place in their lives, I’ll be satisfied. It’d also be cool if we could get a nice little update on what became of the team members who are no longer here (an appearance from a couple of ‘em would be neat, too, but I’m not expecting that). Even just a one-off sentence or something would suffice.

Just a couple more days to go now! I look very forward to what’s to come, and being able to discuss this show with you all for one more go-round.

What did you think of the episode? Were you surprised by JJ’s confession, or had you seen it coming? Are you on board with the potential Reid/JJ setup or not? What do you think this will mean for them, and for Will, going forward? Did the double unsub twist surprise you? What are your hopes and predictions for the final season? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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