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Without a Trace WAS GOOD.

  I'm as shocked as you are.

Despite the fact that I was nearly crying from sleep deprivation and desperate to go to bed - and the football game delaying it by 40 minutes didn't help either - it still (dimly) registered in my brain that this was a frickin' fantastic episode.  I eventually set the timer record and turned it off so I could wait to view it the next day, when I was coherent enough to appreciate it.  Wow, so glad I did.

This was amazing, and not just because of a near-complete lack of Jack.  It was SAM-CENTRIC!  But not Jack-and-Sam centric.  Which is the best possible format for an episode.  It became obvious from the halfway through the teaser that there was some parallel between this case and Sam's past.  That was where I started thinking it would be handy if I read spoilers, because they never did really explain that connection, and I think it would have helped to have some kind of interpretation for them.  Ah well. 

But before I get into that, I want to talk about the case.  This episode had a beautiful, classic feel.  When I say I miss "the old days"?  I mean cases like this, where you can actually feel a connection with the victim.  The MP of the week was not only a beautiful young woman (reminded me a little of Robin from 'How I Met Your Mother,' only with freckles and more intense eyes), her personality was easily one of the most compelling I've seen in months.   I treasured every scene she had; the range of emotions was incredible and her story jumped off the screen.  This poor troubled creature - who, by the way, had beautiful artwork; I wish I had a talent for art like that...failing that, I wanted the bridge painting - once with a promising future, whose mental health spiraled downward with one horrible tragedy in high school from which she never quite recovered.

I had to rewind the ending twice to figure out what happened though - it was so abrupt, I mean, what the hell?   I couldn't figure out what had happened to her at first; eventually I realized that she had confronted the other boy from that day and threatened to tell the truth, and somehow this led to him smacking her on the head with the shovel...but I still don't quite get it all.  So, he borrowed the car to dump her body at the bridge?  Or did he go with her to the bridge and kill her there?   Either way, when I realized she was dead, that it was her body buried under those leaves, I felt like I'd been kicked in the gut.  Damn it, the ONE time I desperately want them to find the person alive and unharmed...

Okay, on to the Sam storyline, because that was a REALLY abrupt ending!  It definitely felt like a "to be continued" moment...well, heck, with the storyline overall, I think they could have stretched it into a 2-parter.  But the way they chose to end it was very strange.  Sam's look of shock as she momentarily sees her own face in place of the victim's, a shudder of horror to shake it off, the flashback of the striking shovel, and then boom - credits.  Huh?  Despite having watched this show from the beginning (albeit with an admittedly haphazard viewing for s.4), since I'm not a full-out fan of this show, I can't remember all the details of character histories, even for my favorite characters.  I know Sam's childhood had its share of unpleasantness, but all I remember - vaguely - is the episode where she goes on undercover assignment, staying at that motel, and befriends the little girl who reminds her of herself.  Frustratingly, I don't remember why that was significant, and Wikipedia is not being its usual fount-of-information self.  All I get is that she grew up in a 'troubled' home.  SO.

From the way she ripped into the MP's stepfather on such a level that didn't sound too different from investigators' regular harsh questions but was apparently enough to make Elena take notice, is it possible that Samantha was sexually abused as a child?  Because that would go a long, LONG way towards explaining her promiscuity in the office.  I think I'll go ahead and believe it.

And lastly, I AM SO ON BOARD FOR A DANNY/ELENA SHIP.  Please note, I did not get to see last week's episode, because I had to drive be driven back to school for the new semester.  Having read the boards after seeing THIS episode, I'm moderately bitter about that.   But I will prevail!  Because they were so cute with their 30-second scene last night!  Danny had the same sort of dopey-in-love look he's been wearing for a season and a half, but now that Elena's responding with flirty, secretive smiles of her own instead of shooting him down, it's adorable.  Okay, that wasn't really what won me over.  What won me over was Danny's use of the phrase "for the three of us", just the idea that he seemed excited about doing something fun for Elena's daughter.  Happy family unit!  I can create many, many, many daydreams out of Danny as an adoptive father.  Squee!

I will not let myself be dragged down by the fact that all relationships on this show are headed towards impending doom. Leave me in peace with my fantasies.

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