Last week’s Criminal Minds left us with one hell of a cliff hanger when beloved Special Agent Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore) was drugged and abducted. This week, we picked up right where we left off. The episode, rightly titled “Derek” opened with a truck pulling into an abandoned piece of land where an isolated house stood. As a group of men removed a coffin-sized wooden box from the truck, it was assumed Derek was being held inside. Once the box was inside the house, they dismantled it to reveal a cross-type look contraption, and with a few cuts of fabric and the removal of a bag, Derek is shown to restrained, strung up like Jesus on the cross. With what can only be described as high-tech torture equipment, Derek is hooked up to a heart rate machine and when his captors realise his resting heart rate is way too normal for someone whose been taken hostage, the bad stuff begins. We learn that Morgan is using dissociation from reality to protect himself from the physical pain of the torture. This dissociation includes imagining a future with Savannah that includes two children however as the torture continues the image devolves but not before Morgan meets him. And by him (Guest Star Danny Glover), we mean his father.
As the credits finish, the team has assembled at headquarters and are on the case. Rossi (Joe Mantegna) is keeping a close eye on Savannah trying to gently find out any information that could help. Meanwhile, the captors aren’t holding back, the next mode of torture to be used – white phosphorous, a highly flammable compound. Throughout the episode, moments of reality are cut with dream-like sequences in which Morgan and his father look back on his life while at the same time trying to figure out the case. We go as far back as to the day Derek’s father was killed. Cut to the squad room and Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) is trying her hardest to keep her emotions in check but who is she kidding, it’s Morgan for god’s sake. With a couple of quiet “he is going to be ok”, she and JJ (AJ Cook) are sent to Morgan and Savannah’s house to investigate if they were being watched.
Through these dream states, we learn that Morgan holds a lot against his father for dying that day and not only that his faith in God was incredibly tested. Shemar Moore dove head first into this character this week, and unwrapped a lot of the internal demons we as an audience we may not have always seen. As Morgan does his best to not show weakness his captors become agitated and as they cut him down, with the help of his father, Morgan unleashes a one man attack on the men holding him hostage. It is a valiant effort, killing all but one of the men. Criminal Minds is known for their hard-hitting, hard to watch Unsub’s but the torture scene and visceral pain of Morgan that Shemar did so well to portray, had me and probably everyone else wincing with him.
Thankfully, Morgan and Savannah have not had peeping toms but something so much worse – the CIA. Meanwhile, Derek attempts to interrogate the last surviving member of the team that captured him with no luck whatsoever. He is obviously in pain, and as he searches for something to dull it we are given another seen that has us wanting to look away but not being able to. He pours copper sulphate (something Reid taught him) on the burn and that acting that Shemar delivers, well, I have no words. Throughout his ordeal, his father remains by his side as he revisits some of the most traumatic times of his life, specifically his sexual assault when he was 15. Admitting he was embarrassed and somewhat returning to his child-like state he worries that his father is ashamed of him. But fear not, he is proud. Elsewhere, Garcia and JJ have discovered that the group that has Dereck are a group of freelance contractors from the British Special Air Service. As Garcia does what she does best, they link it to the leader who has orchestrated the entire thing. In the process of doing this, Derek catches the remaining captor using a phone – something he lied about previously. Quickly swallowing the sim card, the phone is rendered useless. And if we thought we were done with gruesome, think again. The following scene shows a ruthless Derek having killed the captor, now searching through his bloodied stomach contents for the sim card. Success follows and he’s able to restate the phone. The team gets the signal, the coordinates; they are on their way.
Even with the team on their way, Morgan is fading quickly, fighting to stay alive. As he experiences more delusions, heartbreakingly so of himself dying, we know the team are cutting it fine. But they are moments too late when the leader of the entire operation bursts through the door, in what we see as a final stand-off, turns out to be one final play. As the UnSub lunges for Morgan, stealth Dr. Reid fires two straight to his chest. The team huddles around him, evidently traumatised at seeing someone so strong so broken, as he is taken to the ambulance. When on route to the hospital he flatlines – Derek Morgan can’t die – and with one last conversation between him and his father, his fear is admitted but his father reassures him, fight, it’s now time for him to go be a dad.
After the successful rescue, we cut to a hospital room where Garcia and Savannah are by his side. As he stirs, Garcia stands. He has been unconscious for three days, and without another a word but just a glance, Garcia knows he is ok, he is back and gives him some time to talk to Savannah. Remember when Emily Prentiss died? Or when JJ was tortured? Reid was kidnapped? Garcia shot? This last scene, and entire episode, measures up to the emotional hit of those that came before. And the final scene, in which Morgan apologises to Savannah for being late to dinner and more so he’ll never be late again for her or… their son/daughter, hit right where it matters. If Shemar Moore hadn’t already moved you earlier, this scene most certainly would do that. To add a little bit more icing, he proposes to Savannah and she accepts. For someone whose longest relationship previous to this was with Garcia, to watch this character evolve into who he was this week has been spectacular. Shemar Moore was MVP, no doubt about it, showing us the range of his ability; not only his physicality but the emotional and mental skill he has to continually impress as Derek Morgan.