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Morgan's Most Iconic Scene From Criminal Minds

Though the horrific crime scenes and menacing unsubs often stole the spotlight, "Criminal Minds" made sure viewers were invested in the main characters of the long-running crime procedural. Over the course of 15 seasons, each member of the Behavioral Analysis Unit received multiple moments in the sun, including the occasional eponymous episode like "JJ," "Spencer," and "Penelope." Through such episodes, the audience gained insights into their favorite characters' histories, motivations, and relationships. Those moments in the spotlight quite often featured what would go on to become a character's most iconic moment.

Supervisory Special Agent Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore) not only had an episode named in his honor, but he also took center stage in other episodes such as "Profiler, Profiled" and "Mayhem." In the latter, Derek arguably had his most heroic scene when he risked his life to drive an ambulance rigged with a powerful bomb away from civilians. But even that bravery can't compare with the courage the FBI agent showed in "Profiler, Profiled," which is where we find his most iconic moment.

Derek's homecoming turned into a homicide investigation

In "Profiler, Profiled," the 12th episode of Season 2, Derek returns to his hometown of Chicago to celebrate his mother's birthday. What should have been a heartwarming homecoming quickly takes a turn when he's accused of triple homicide. As Derek works to clear his name, his traumatic past comes to light.

After witnessing the death of his father, a Chicago police officer shot in the line of duty, a 10-year-old Derek began acting out, getting into fights, and eventually getting arrested. Around that time, he caught the attention of Carl Buford (Julius Tennon), the manager of the local youth center. Buford quickly became a father figure to Derek, and just as quickly began grooming Derek for sexual abuse, which would go on for several years. Only by earning a college football scholarship to Northwestern University was Derek able to leave Chicago and escape his abuser.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Derek confronted his abuser in an emotional scene

Just before the end of the episode, which sees Buford arrested for the three homicides, Derek confronts his abuser in a gripping scene that media outlets like BuzzFeed and Shared have named one of the most emotional moments in the series' history.

After realizing that Buford has molested many other boys in his care and is actually the one responsible for the trio of murders, Derek confronts him at the youth center. Filled with a cold, seething rage, Derek tells Buford how much he feared him as a child, knowing that if he told anyone about the abuse, Buford — who was viewed as a local hero — would be believed over a kid with a juvenile record. Buford initially attempts to gaslight Derek, telling the agent that he's remembering things wrong and relying on false memories. 

Ignoring the bait, Derek continues on, saying he regrets not telling someone about the abuse when he was a child. He then tells Buford that once one child comes forward, others will as well, and eventually the accusations will be too numerous for Buford to dismiss.

Derek's confrontation with Buford is his most iconic scene

Angered by what he perceives as ingratitude, Buford attempts to claim credit for the success Derek has become. With tears in his eyes, Derek shouts, "I pulled myself out of the gutter, all the way to the FBI. I did that!" Still insisting he helped make Derek the man he is, Derek agrees, saying that Buford did indeed make him who he is today: a man who will spend the rest of his life "making sure guys like [Carl] go down." Before getting arrested, Buford twists the knife one more time, telling Derek that he never hurt him and that Derek could have said no.

Three factors contribute to the scene's emotional power. Edward Allen Bernero's script for the episode was tight and compelling throughout, but the lines in the confrontation scene had an added element of tautness and poignancy. With Bernero's lines, Shemar Moore turned in an incredibly nuanced, yet powerful, performance. The words and the delivery were made even more powerful because they came from the character of Derek Morgan. Seeing such deep vulnerability in a character whose usual persona is the definition of confidence and strength elevates the scene to not only Derek's most iconic moment, but also one of the most iconic in the entire series.