Occasionally, an episode of Criminal Minds leaves you feeling more than a bit unsettled when it’s over. Maybe it’s because of what you’ve seen the UnSub doing to victims for the past hour. Maybe it’s because of what you saw one of the team members going through, whether it’s related to the case or not.
Rarely it’s because the UnSub got away. Unless the show is setting up a recurring UnSub as it has done a few times in the past nine seasons, usually the team manages to apprehend, or when left with no other choice, kill the UnSub before the hour is up.
When you come across an episode and see that it’s directed by series star Matthew Gray Gubler, you have even more reason to suspect you might want to keep a light on somewhere in your house and double-check the locks on your windows and doors when you go to sleep that night. That couldn’t be truer after watching “Blood Relations,” an episode that as a whole is not only disturbing and creepy, but also one of the most disconcerting hours of the season.
[Video] Criminal Minds Sneak Peek: A Real Horrific Horror Story and Feuding Families>>>
A Family Feud Going Back to Moonshine Runners
Fans of the show and MGG-directed episodes know that he likes to pay homage to horror stories, and that they’re in for a treat when it comes to one of his episodes, and what better way to open this one up than with a scene that could be right out of an old horror movie as a woman stumbles through the woods beginning in black and white somewhere in West Virginia in 1965? Someone approaches her, she looks up and…
It’s present day, outside Wheeling, West Virginia, and a man checks outside his trailer when he hears a noise. Enter barbed wire as a noose, and bam, he’s killed – and his head is completely twisted around. Clark Howard is the second victim, with the first being Mathias Lee, and he too met an unfortunate death when he was caught in a bear trap launched from a tree and lined with barbed wire. With those two deaths, all the BAU knows is that this UnSub is very strong and he has the advantage on his home turf. If you’re not already wary of this UnSub just from seeing the crime scene photos, well, just check him out sitting in a cabin, decapitating a doll with wire. This is just the first five minutes of the episode, which says a lot about what follows.
The two victims had filed lawsuit after lawsuit against each other, devolving into complaints that just can’t be done with male anatomy, as Reid notes. At the morgue, Morgan notices burns on both victims that could indicate they were cooking meth, so it’s possible that they were both selling it as well and were in competition. Reid learns that three farmers had barbed wire stolen, meaning that the UnSub likely has a third victim in mind, meaning more terrifying visuals to come.
Cissy Howard refuses to talk to them about her son’s death if Malachi Lee is around, so naturally the team decides to set them up to run into each other. There may be “bad blood” between the two families, as Sissy calls it, but what the profilers learn from the parents of the deceased comes from their interaction when they “bump” into each other in the elevator. Malachi asks Sissy if she’s visited her father’s grave recently, and she asks him the same, so it’s time for Garcia to do some digging. She discovers that back in the prohibition days, the Howards and Lees were competing moonshine runners, but the bloodthirstiness died down until recently, and they think it’s started up again because Clark and Mathias were dealing meth.
Meanwhile, Miles comes home to find his wife chained and barbed wired to a car, and while he tries to free her, he’s too late and all he can do is watch as the car speeds off. Her head is taken clean off. The next day, he insists that he’s not in the meth business, and, well, it turns out they should trust him because he’s not. They still need to figure out what’s going on and soon, because that makes two dead Lees and only one dead Howard. What they need is an answer about the family business, so they head to the Lees’ farm to get one, and they do, but it’s all legal and no drugs and just a dead end.
The Truth About Malachi and Cissy
Another seemingly dead end is the legend of the Mountain Man, a.k.a. Caleb Howard, who really has just changed his name because he’s smart and wanted to get away from his family. He’s just a good guy who works at the local youth center and cares about people. However, when he reveals that Cissy was the one who suggested he change his name, they begin to put the pieces together because she did the same thing.
Cissy Howard used to be Magdalene Lee, Malachi’s sister, and she’s the next one the UnSub goes after. She’s ready for him, but he takes her instead of killing her and ties her up in his cabin of horrors. He doesn’t want any money she offers; he just wants her to say hello to his mother, whom he had secured on a wire frame earlier and now has in a box with salt. As the UnSub explains, his mother kept him away from other people because she knew they wouldn’t understand, and while she wad dying of cancer, she told him about a deal she made in the woods. Now it’s time for the UnSub to decide if Cissy will live or die, depending on how much she confesses.
What does Cissy have to confess? The BAU has finally put it together, after spending too much time thinking it had to do with the old feud over illegal substances. Hotch brings Malachi in again, and this time, he talks. Cissy got pregnant at 16, but while girls in the family had conceived younger, this time it was shameful because it was Malachi’s child. They were kids, they loved each other, and they didn’t care it was incest. They had a shack where they’d go, and it was in that shack that Cissy went into labor, but Malachi got scared and just ran. That opening scene in black and white in 1965? That was Cissy in the woods, in labor, and the person who found her was the woman who raised the UnSub. The woman helped Cissy give birth, and she did hold him for a moment, only to ask what was wrong with him. (You slept with your brother, Cissy.) His new mother declared him “perfect.”
The UnSub goes to hang Cissy, having decided to send her to hell himself, but she tells him that they’ll know everything he did if he kills her there, so when the FBI arrives on scene after Malachi tells them about the shack, it’s empty. They search the area, and after Blake spots Cissy against a tree, the UnSub tackles her into the lake. They struggle, the gun goes off a few times, she seemingly shoots him, and they both go underwater. When Blake gets out, the others shoot into the water (30 times, as JJ later reveals), and he’s assumed dead as they wait for the lake to be dragged, but what Malachi and Cissy did can’t be buried or left in the lake. They have to face their families.
But Wait, It’s Not Over…
Somewhere in Kentucky, a couple has headed to a cabin in the middle of nowhere for a vacation, and when the woman goes to freshen up, the man goes to investigate suspicious noises. He thinks everything’s okay when she appears and is in the middle of losing clothes, but that’s when the UnSub grabs him from behind. How did he escape that lake?! It looked like Blake shot him at pretty close range, right? Scary stuff.
Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 9pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)