Writers for “Criminal Minds” are notorious for bringing seemingly inconsequential bits of some episodes back to life as topics of future episodes. During season 6, episode 23 gave us a glimpse of BAU Agent Derek Morgan’s cousin Cindi, who was missing and presumed dead at the hands of the unsub in “Big Sea”. We see her again as episode 20 in season 7 opens with Morgan’s sister, Desi, driving in Chicago when a car pulls up beside her and she is certain that it’s their cousin Cindi in the passenger seat. She rolls down the window and hollers at her, then follows the car as it speeds off. After Desi’s vehicle ends up getting hit by another vehicle, Morgan’s mother calls him to the hospital.
After listening to Desi’s story, Derek (played by Shemar Moore) tries to convince her that it couldn’t be their cousin she saw, that our minds can sometimes play tricks. She isn’t convinced, insisting that the woman was close enough to get a good look at, and that Cindi even mouthed the words “I’m sorry”.
Morgan calls Hotchner and says he might have a case there in Chicago, and that he needs to come clean about something -- during “Big Sea”, he lied when he told the family that Cindi was one of the bodies found so that the family could have closure and move on. Derek explains that there is now some evidence that she is alive, and Hotch says the rest of the team is on the way.
Morgan meets with his aunt at the hospital and has to explain to her why he lied about Cindi’s death, and is rewarded with a slap.
Clues about a gun lead the BAU team to John Hitchins, who allegedly was stalking Cindi (played by Shanola Hampton) but supposedly committed suicide two weeks after she went missing, then to Malcolm Ford, the man that Desiree saw driving the car her cousin was in.
Ford realizes that they’re in trouble since Cindi was spotted, so packs up some things from their house and tells her they’re leaving. He’s seen burning some documents in the fireplace before they drive off.
After Garcia finds Malcom Ford’s address, Morgan and Dr. Spencer Reid head out there, but they’re too late and find the house empty. They did see evidence of a woman living there, and found some papers partially destroyed in the fireplace.
Ford drives to a home and introduces Cindi to Dominic and his wife Susie, and says the couple is going to help them. He gives Cindi permission to speak, which suggests a dominant/submissive relationship. After thanking them for their help, Cindi says to Ford “We’re not going to the cabin”? (A cabin is mentioned several times, so it obviously has some significance to the storyline).
Susie takes Cindi inside for a tour of their home, and discusses marriage and communication, stating that he talks, she listens. Leading her to a room in the basement filled with various S&M and bondage restraints and gear, Susie tells Cindi that it’s her room, and Cindi can have the bed.
Ford is talking with Dominic about servants and ‘the company’, some sort of network of dominants/submissives. He gives him a phone number to someone in Toronto, presumably a safe house for them to escape to.
One of the papers retrieved from the fireplace was partially legible and appeared to be a contract of indenture signed by Cindi, where she agreed to be Malcolm Ford’s slave. The BAU team deduces that Cindi is suffering from an extreme case of Stockholm syndrome. Other language on the contract speaks of an underground, often referred to as ‘the company’, where slaves are traded at will.
Ford drives Cindi to a spot where he said someone is to pick them up (presumably the contact for Toronto). Cindi is crying, he tells her to stop, she says “Yes, sir”. Because she is still whimpering, Ford chokes her with the seatbelt and tells her to get the cabin out of her mind, then orders her into a convenience store to get him something to eat.
Cindi grabs some canned spaghetti and puts it in her purse while watching the video surveillance camera. The clerk eyes her, then Ford enters and takes her out of the store. The alarm goes off, so he takes the food from Cindi’s purse and hands it to the clerk and walks away. The clerk calls 911as they drive away.
Garcia hears the 911 call and realizes that the subjects match Ford and Cindi’s description, so the team responds. Agents Hotchner and Rossi stop Ford’s van, tell him to exit the vehicle with his hands where they can be seen. Morgan arrives on the scene and continues to search the vehicle, but Cindi isn’t there.
Ford realizes who Morgan is, and starts toying with him. Derek puts a gun to Ford’s head, demanding to know where Cindi is, while Ford smiles. Rossi tells Derek to stay and process the scene, not letting him ride back with Ford (concerned at what Derek might do to him).
Watching the footage from the surveillance camera, Morgan notices that it was canned spaghetti that Cindi stole, and that she was looking right at the camera – she knew Morgan would come looking for her and was sending him a message.
Meanwhile, Ford’s interrogation isn’t going like he thought, because he was expecting Morgan to be the one questioning him. JJ and Prentiss are in the interrogation room chit-chatting, Ford tries to butt in, but they’re playing him, showing him they’re the authority figures. He tries to gain control, harasses JJ because she’s working with a baby at home, and insists that he and Cindi never fight because she knows her role.
Morgan is finally allowed in to interrogation, and Ford looks worried, asks what time it is. Morgan ignores him and opens an envelope with the canned spaghetti in it. Although Ford insists that it was dinner for him, Morgan knows that’s not true, and goes on to talk about how he and his sister ate that type of food at Cindi’s house when they were growing up, and that Cindi took that particular food and made sure she was seen on camera to get the message to Derek.
When a lawyer shows up, Morgan wonders why because Ford (played by Chad Coleman) didn’t invoke. Cindi walks in and says that she did. The lawyer says that if Ford is being held on kidnapping charges, they need to let him go since Cindi is there and obviously not being held against her will.
Ford is released and tells Cindi she did good when they get in the van. She smiles when he says they’ll go to the cabin.
The team analyzes what just happened and says it’s not Stockholm syndrome, but perhaps battered wife syndrome. Morgan says no, she wouldn’t have behaved that way without a reason. She said she needed to cook for him, but would she be cooking canned spaghetti for him? It hits them that perhaps she has a child.
Garcia digs up information on the lawyer, finding that he had a mail-order bride from Russia. While interrogating the lawyer, they threaten to bring in his Russian wife to ask her about ‘the company’. The lawyer caves, and when questioned about where they keep the children, he gives them the information.
It’s dark, and Cindy and Ford are seen walking towards a cabin. Someone asks if they want them to wake up the boy, and Cindi says she’ll do it. She enters a room and kisses a boy, waking him. He asks what she’s doing there, since it’s not Christmas. Ford enters and grabs them both and leaves the room.
BAU agents show up with SWAT, shining lights around the area. They enter the cabin and ask about Malcolm Ford, and a woman answers in Russian. They realize that Ford has fled, then see the room with perhaps dozens of children all sleeping on pallets on the floor.
Morgan goes out back to search for Cindi, Ford reaches out and gets a strap around his neck, and they struggle. Cindi has a gun and tells Derek to step aside, but he talks her down and takes the gun from her. Prentiss and JJ arrest Ford for kidnapping, child endangerment, and the murder of John Hitchens.
Cindi calls her son over and introduces him to his Uncle Derek, who she says has come a long way to meet Anthony. The three walk off together.
“Be Still” by The Fray plays as the show ends.
Follow Marie Anne’s talk about TV by clicking subscribe at the top of the page. It’s completely anonymous.