After a bit of a hiatus, Criminal Minds returned to the unsettling torture stories which appear so often in this series.
In "Nanny Dearest", the team investigated a series of yearly abductions and murders where the only common element was that the victims were all nannies... and that they were left to be found on the same date each year: May 13. Also, in each case (except for the last), the children they were with were left at churches or hospitals, unharmed.
One of the earlier victims - Tara Rios - managed to escape from the Unsub and, because of the trauma she suffered, also managed to blank out the details of her abduction.
Though the BAU interviewed her a number of times over the years, she was unable to recall anything: her PTSD protected her memory from being burned with cigarettes. It was therefore understandable when she at first refused to assist JJ and Morgan in recalling her capture.
It wasn't until she saw the pleas from the parents of the latest kidnapped baby that she decided to do what she could to help. Eventually she was able to bring back certain details about another woman had been captured with her - and that the Unsub had a huge dog. The BAU was able to figure out that there was one park in particular where the Unsub walked his dog and, after locating a couple who recalled the Unsub's first name and the name of his canine, they were finally able to track down his home address through veterinary records.
During his ritualistic cigarette torture of his latest victim, the squad was able to interrupt him and eventually JJ shot him dead.
The case was of particular importance to JJ this time, as it involved a scenario with which she was entirely familiar: she and her husband often had to leave her boy Henry with a nanny because of their jobs. I have to admit that I kind of shuddered just a bit when she was bathing Henry and this happened:
Henry: Why do you always go to work Mommy?
JJ: Well, because there are people out there that need my help, but I will be back soon.
Henry: How many days?
JJ: I don't know, buddy. But I promise I'll be back as soon as I can. And we always keep our promises, right? | permalink
That "keep our promises" line was filled with tension. Sometimes people can't keep their promises - and so there was a worry that maybe this time, she wouldn't be able to come back to her son and husband.
Speaking of promises, JJ's emotions over the case were so strong and she wanted so badly to find the perp that she said something she shouldn't have said:
Tara, we are going to be with you the whole time. And you're going to help us catch this guy. I promise you. | permalink
She knew as soon as she said it that she had stepped across a line, as she looked at Morgan. But, as the strong person she is, she didn't vacillate or hold back: in fact she referenced that promise again during the episode.
It's interesting how so many episodes give the viewers a glance at the motivations of the various Unsubs. In this case, his motivation was a nanny who had, in her hurry to get him to bed as a child, left his sister in the bathtub where she drowned. While I'm always a believer in the need to understand the motivations of anti-social behavior, there are some cases where that understanding does not in any way mitigate the guilt or horror of what they've done. That was certainly the case here.
Many children grow up in abusive households and manage to come through as kind, patient and successful members of society. I failed to see the motivation for his turning into such a loathsome sociopath, a man who took his time and stalked his victims so carefully before capturing them and brutalizing them. Only two words come to mind: disgusting and abhorrent. I was glad to see JJ shoot him down in the street.
Any parent will identify, too, with her need to go home and hug Henry as soon as she could, too. She needed that catharsis.
Another interesting exchange happened between Hotch and the distraught mother of the kidnapped baby. They were on the elevator together:
Melody Payton: How can you be searching for her from in here?
Hotch: I understand what you're going through.
Melody Payton: You don't understand anything.
Hotch: No, I actually do. | permalink
We know the truth of his assertion, given the violent death of Jack's mother Haley. He knows all about family and tragedy.
Which reminds me: we haven't seen Hotch's girlfriend Beth in a while - since Criminal Minds season 7 actually. Wonder what's up with them?
What are your thoughts on the episode? Did we get to see enough of Henry and Will, especially given that this was pretty much JJ's episode?
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.