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The Cringiest Moment On Criminal Minds, According To Fans

A series like "Criminal Minds" is built on the thrill of the chase as our intrepid team of FBI profilers track down the deadliest serial killers week after week. Suspense is built on mounting tension and increasing pressure, which the writers of the show deliver week after week to keep the audience invested and coming back for more. Normally, this formula is reliable, which is why sometimes something that seems innocuous, and maybe even inspiring on the printed page might lead to a healthy dose of cringe when it comes out of the mouths of even the most skilled actor. 

What happens when something the writer believes will be a show of hope and endearment turns out to be something akin to nails running down a chalkboard? You get an episode like the first episode of "Criminal Minds'" 13th season, "Wheels Up," and what could be the series' cringiest moment.

The source of the cringe

In a recent Reddit post, user u/_mayhemily_ had this to say about "Wheels Up," specifically referring to the end, where everyone is repeating the words "wheels up" while standing in a circle. "Maybe it's just me, but I was so turned off by that and it felt so forced and cringey, especially after what I thought was an otherwise incredible episode," they wrote.

In the episode, the team is desperately searching for their kidnapped leader, Emily Prentiss (portrayed by Paget Brewster), who's been kidnapped by a serial killer and tortured for information regarding the whereabouts of two former members of the team in witness protection. Driven to the edge of sanity, she reveals upon her rescue and reunion with the team's members that she relied on a two-word mantra, "wheels up," to get through the ordeal. This is a shortened version of an expression she and former profiling team leader Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner used. "Wheels up in 30" meant that the private plane would be ready to take off in half an hour and the team should be ready to go in their seats. 

The episode ends with the team taking some time off as each member responds to Prentiss with a recitation of the mantra. It's meant to be an endearing moment, with the team committing to their core principles and vowing to come back strong after they take their well-earned rest. Instead, it comes off with a healthy dose of cringe.

A slight misstep for a season premiere

While "Wheels Up" is a taut and suspenseful opening to "Criminal Minds" Season 13 with twists and turns aplenty, it is slightly undermined by this one questionable moment. There's nothing inherently wrong with the mantra and its use in keeping Prentiss sane as she goes through her horrendous ordeal. However, the decision to have the cast parrot the line toward the end of the episode does come off unintentionally goofy, ruining an otherwise endearing situation when a simple statement of support or friendship would have sufficed. 

Thankfully, it's a line uttered by a group of talented and veteran actors, so the cringe is blunted ever so slightly, and the moment is eclipsed overall by the show's great performances and writing. It's not awful, but it is a slight bit of turbulence that offsets what would otherwise be a smooth landing for an otherwise thrilling debut episode of the season.