Criminal Minds (2005– )
4 user

25 to Life 

Morgan regrets his decision that a prisoner is ready for parole when the man murders someone days after being released.


Charles S. Carroll


Jeff Davis (created by), Erica Messer | 1 more credit »




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Joe Mantegna ... David Rossi
Paget Brewster ... Emily Prentiss
Shemar Moore ... Derek Morgan
Matthew Gray Gubler ... Dr. Spencer Reid
Kirsten Vangsness ... Penelope Garcia
Thomas Gibson ... Aaron Hotchner (credit only)
Rachel Nichols ... Ashley Seaver
Kyle Secor ... Don Sanderson
Philip Casnoff ... James Stanworth
Jayne Atkinson ... Erin Strauss
Greg Collins ... Bill Codwin
Edita Brychta ... Mrs. Stanworth
Joy Darash ... Young Mary Rutka
Mike Hoagland Mike Hoagland ... Young James Stanworth
Phil Levesque ... Tom Wittman


Hotch is off on leave, leaving Rossi in charge. Hotch has provided an electronic OK for Ashley Seaver to complete her remedial training at the BAU, she who wants to atone for the mistake she made in the strangled women case in New Mexico. With support from Prentiss who would act as Seaver's agent supervisor, Rossi provides his reluctant OK. Meanwhile, the parole board has asked the BAU to do a risk assessment on Don Sanderson, who has served his minimum twenty-five years of a life sentence for killing his wife and daughter. A former medical resident, Sanderson has always professed his innocence, telling a story of two men and a woman who he saw commit the murders. Rossi delegates the task of the risk assessment to Morgan, who sees in Sanderson a man who has lived solely for the sake of his now grown son, Joshua, and being able to tell him what he knows to be the truth. Morgan provides his approval for Sanderson's parole. Two days after his release, Sanderson is charged with the murder... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


TV-14 | See all certifications »






Release Date:

15 December 2010 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

16:9 HD
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Did You Know?


The song played near the end is "Far From Home" sung by "Five Finger Death Punch". See more »


When interviewing a convict to see if he is worthy of parole, the interview would happen in a meeting room, not in the convicts cell where the convicts on either side of his cell can hear everything being discussed. See more »


Erin Strauss: My office will handle the press from here on.
Derek Morgan: That's unnecessary.
Erin Strauss: You don't need any more distractions. He looks genuinely distraught. He's very convincing. I can see why you fell for it. I don't need to remind you that your reputation's on the line here.
Derek Morgan: That's not what matters to me right now.
Erin Strauss: It should.
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Criminal Minds Theme
Composed by Mark Mancina
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User Reviews

Found it rather ho-hum
27 October 2016 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

As far as Season 6 episodes of 'Criminal Minds' goes, "25 to Life" is better than "Today I Do" and especially "The Thirteenth Step", and there are worse episodes of 'Criminal Minds' overall.

This said, while a long way from a low-point episode it is a rather ho-hum one that started off well but lost its way after the third crime and got more and more ridiculous. While there are worse episodes in Season 6, and of the show, "25 to Life" is to me a lesser episode of a show that is a personal favourite, especially in the first five seasons (from Season 6 onwards 'Criminal Minds' did become hit and miss, with an especially underwhelming Season 11, the little seen of Season 12 has not made me jump out of my chair with excitement).

"25 to Life" started promisingly. Morgan's compassion for Sanderson, his belief in his innocence and his going to great lengths to securing him parole sees a lovely and more sympathetic side to Morgan. Sure he is empathetic with victims and like at times a big brother figure to Reid, but he's tough as nails with the criminals, whether talked about, apprehended or convicted so this compassionate side to a convicted soon to be paroled criminal understandably strikes some fans as odd. That side to him was incredibly effective and beautifully played by Shemar Moore. Kyle Secor also does a great job as Sanderson, so much so that you are convinced that it isn't him and want the real person to be found. The rapport being Moore and Secor comes across really well.

In fact, all the acting is very good, with exception of Rachel Nichols who plays Seaver with her usual blandness. "25 to Life" is a very well-made episode, shot with style and love and an atmospheric but audacious look. The music is haunting and melancholic, never being intrusive or inappropriately melodramatic. Some of the writing in the first half is thought-provoking, intelligent and with enough to keep one gripped, while the concluding reunion was very moving.

However, "25 to Life" does lose its way significantly after the third crime and unfortunately never recovers. The episode by all means wasn't perfect up to then anyway, Seaver again is useless, out-of-place, annoying and with a personality and range of a broomstick and there's too much of her and not enough of much more interesting and likable characters like Reid. Strauss is as cold and dictatorial in leadership as ever, and while Hotch's absence doesn't bring the episode down single-handedly he is missed. The episode did drag at times, and was pretty formulaic where you do become too convinced too early on that it was the doing of somebody else, the one time in the episode where that is questioned is when the second crime is committed where one does temporarily does question whether he is innocent or not.

It is once the real unsub's identity is revealed where the episode falls apart. The way they found out did feel random and tacked on, and there just wasn't much to the unsub himself, nothing to make one feel anything for him, not even hate, in fact the character and his position came over as far-fetched. The reason for the family murder is not made properly clear, even if it was explained it wasn't clear enough and it needed to be elaborated upon much more.

Particularly bad however was regarding the team confrontation and arrest, the scene has to be down there in the top 5 of the most badly written, unrealistic and intelligence-insultingly ridiculous scenes of Season 6, with the self-righteous writing, the team acting out of character when accusing without proper proof in front of people and that painful slow clapping. Am amazed that anybody, especially Morgan, kept their jobs after that. The script showed good potential in the first half, but Garcia's flippant remarks in the profiling and the whole writing for the confrontation stuck out as sloppy.

Overall, rather ho-hum, started off well but lost its way after the third crime and crashed and burned after the revelation of the real unsub. 5/10 Bethany Cox

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