10.8.18

Criminal Minds 919: The Edge of Winter

It's night, it's the woods, and, you guessed it, a woman is screaming for help as she flees for her life! Because, you know, Criminal Minds. A helpful Chyron lets us know that it's 2013, but since I'm not super-clear on when this episode originally aired, I'm going to guess that's fairly recent, like the year before the episode's present day.

Could I find this out in slightly more time than it takes to type this sentence? Sure. But that's not my brand, so...

The lady runs out of the woods, and is immediately hit by a car! Was it a super-effective killer, or just a preposterously-timed accident?

In the present day, we head to an institute for the mentally unstable in New York State! Derek has arrived to help prep the victim before the trial! The doctor working the case is surprised to see a profiler doing that, but he explains that profiling is only 10% of what they do, and trial prep is an important part of the job.

While I'm sure that's closer to true in the real world, if it was a part of the team's job, I'm sure it would have come up more often in the past 200 episodes. We're expected to believe that in addition to solving 25 serial murders a year they're also flying around the country - individually or in groups - to help out local DAs? That seems like a stretch.

The victim is playing solitaire when Derek arrives, and she looks to be in pretty solid shape, so I suppose the truck impact wasn't too severe! Nice to know that someone's obeying the speed limit on a dirt road in the middle of the night.

Derek wants to prep her for cross-examination by going over all of the details of the case, both her experiences, and the things they've turned up in their own investigation over the past year! Wait, are we expected to believe that the team continued investigating the case after catching the guy, because that's absolutely not their MO. Let's just assume he meant 'we' in the 'all law enforcement' sense of the word.

Specifically, they're going to go into more detail about what happened to 'Ben', who she saw being carried out into a field by two goons, beaten to a pulp! Time for a flashback to fill us in on some of that backstory!

He was turned into a human scarecrow. Ick. The victim thinks she should have done more to stop the murder. Was she one of the killers? If not, I'm not sure how she would have.

Then it's over to the team who (in the past) are getting the details of the case! It seems three victims were stabbed to death with farm tools and dumped in public, all within the last ten days. So it's off to New York.

More present day stuff, as the victim sets up another flashback! Wait, whose flashback was that scene in the office? It seems like the show is so desperate to keep to its standard format that they're just throwing out the whole 'Derek coaches a victim' concept whenever they feel like it.

Anyhow, in the victim's flashback, another victim has stolen a key from the killers, and they break out after the villains have gotten drunk. But they make too much noise, and as they flee across a field, the other lady is shot in the back! The victim keeps running, though, because really, what can you do when the killer has a rifle and you don't?

Let's see how the flashbacks continue after the credits!

29.7.18

Criminal Minds 918: Rabid

The episode starts outside a mini-mart in Milwaukee, where a lady is laden down with packages. My first thought is, honestly, "is this the same mini-mart from two episodes ago? I know they reuse locations, but that would be crazy, so probably not." It's night, and she's wearing a short skirt and light jacked, so I guess it's weirdly warm in Wisconsin this April? Wasn't there slush everywhere and people in Parkas just three episodes ago?

The lady hops on a bus, where almost nothing bad ever happens. Except for, you know, a creepy weirdo who won't stop ogling her. Then, when she gets off the bus, he disembarks as well, trailing her down a dark alley! Is this the least amount of mystery ever, or is there about to be a surprising twist as she kills him, or they're both killed by a third party?

Creepiness slightly defused, when it turns out he just got off the bus to give her an item she left on the bus seat! Still creepy, though. Then show then follows the guy down the street, where he's murdered by a hobo! Or perhaps... someone pretending to be a hobo? I mean, we don't see the guy's face, so who knows?

Then it's over to a running track, where Garcia and Reid are training to pass the field fitness test! Which apparently involves an 8-minute mile! Which isn't especially daunting, but they're both extremely out-of-shape, it seems. Which I believe from Garcia, since her job is typing, but it's weird that Reid can't manage this. Garcia points out that the whole thing is pointless, since he's never had to run a mile quickly in the field, which I'm pretty sure isn't true. If he'd been a better runner maybe Van Der Beek wouldn't have caught him and got him hooked on heroin.

That might a low blow.

Time for a briefing! Three bodies were found in the woods by a park ranger, two men and a women, all showing signs that they'd been tied up for long periods of time before being murdered! Not that they'd be able to tell that yet, if at all.

How do I know that for sure? Simple - the bodies were found THIS MORNING. I know I spend a lot of time harping on the ridiculous timelines of this show, but this is just insane. I did some quick research to explain just how crazy this is.

The episode aired on March 12th, and we can assume the episode is set on that day as well, since that's just how Criminal Minds works - it's why we were robbed of that evil Santa episode all those years ago.

On March 12th, sunrise in Milwaukee is at 7:15CST. Garcia received her call about the case at:
Which is 6:09 in Milwaukee - a full hour before sunrise. Of course, she didn't get a call when the bodies were found. She got a call from Greg, after he got a call from the Justice Department, after they got a call from the Milwaukee FBI, after they got a call from the Milwaukee Police Department, after police officers confirmed that there were bodies in the woods, after they were called by the park ranger.

What's the minimum amount of time all of those calls could have taken? Two hours? And an hour for the cops to get out to the dump site in the woods, confirm that the corpses are real, and report back to their superiors. So that's three hours, which puts the time window for the ranger to have found the bodies somewhere around 3AM local time.

Also, the bodies were under a couple of inches of dirt:
Which makes it even more incredible that they were found in the pitch darkness.

I know it's weird that I bring this up every episode, but it's truly strange - what do the writers think they're accomplishing by not having the characters just come into work and finding out that they have a case because a body was found a couple of days ago, and the FBI has decided they should work the case? I say 'The FBI' since they no longer have someone deciding what cases the team works on. Garcia obviously isn't doing it. Is Greg? He's the one calling everyone in, but even he seems to just be getting word that they're working the case from someone else.

Where are these cases coming from? Does anyone even know?

Okay, back to the show - the newest body is of a sex worker who was killed six weeks ago. So maybe the creep was just locked away somewhere, rather than being killed by the hobo?

That theory is confirmed in the next scene, where it turns out that the killer has an actual jail that he keeps people in!
Well, possibly a kennel, but in any event, it's a pretty impressive setup just for keeping people captive! The killer sets up a video camera and sprays the creep with water, telling him to drink so he won't get dehydrated... yet. Is this some kind of a study the killer is performing? Does he want to document the effects of starvation and thirst on humans?

I suppose we'll find out after the credits!

15.7.18

Criminal Minds 917: Persuasion

In a dark room, a woman is crying.

You know, I feel like that sentence is Criminal Minds' entire raison d'etre. That's every episode of the show in just eight words.

A man enters the room, and the woman asks what the doctor wants - she's willing to do anything! His response? To club her with a pipe and drag her into the darkness. Because this is Criminal Minds.

Then we're in a diner in Las Vegas (will Reid's Mom show up?) when a backpacker enters! He asks for a job, but the waitress says they're not hiring! We notice that the waitress seems to be dressed in the same outfit as the woman from the beginning, so that explains why we're here now! The connection is confirmed when the waitress mentions to one of her regulars that 'Frieda' is late for her shift.

The customer heads out to talk to the backpacker, and accuses him of trying to pick the wallet of someone in the diner, and then offers help! It seems the customer is a magician, one with an oddly generic business card!
Will they become some kind of a criminal team? Only time will tell!

Some ATVrs find the corpse of the waitress and another woman dumped in a field, then it's over to Quantico for the briefing! The women haven't been identified, and they were killed via drowning after being tied up and clubbed! There's no leads yet, but as the team points out, Las Vegas is the most surveilled city in America, so hopefully they'll get some evidence soon!

Hey, can you tell that a corpse has been drowned after it's spent nearly a month being turned into a mummy by the sun?
Her soft tissue has all been transformed into jerky, but they already have a cause of death they're sure of? Doesn't that seem like a stretch? Or are they just assuming she was also drowned because she was found near the other body? Wouldn't it be hilarious if it was an unrelated victim of a different killer, and they've just made some bad assumptions?

I don't know a lot about fabrics, but that print looks pretty colourful - am I crazy, or would three weeks in the Nevada sun bleach that pattern out a little? I mean, look what's happened to her skin, wouldn' the pattern on the shirt show a little more wear than that?

Oh, and speaking of Vegas, we cut back there and see people walking happily along the sidewalk while someone - maybe the backpacker, it's hard to tell - screams for help underneath the street's drainage grate, before being dragged away! Was it the pickpocketing backpacker who got killed? Hopefully we'll find out after the credits!

8.7.18

The Lady or the Tiger Has Been Solved

I was reading Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, as one does, and the preamble to one of the stories extensively discussed Frank Stockton's “The Lady or the Tiger”. I had only a passing familiarity with the story – I remembered it ended on a cliffhanger, and it was up to the reader to decide which ending was more likely. According to the preamble, the author had written a sequel, but it was similarly unsatisfying, which had led another author to, many decades later, write a sequel for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine entitled "The Lady and the Tiger", which wrapped up the story in a satisfying fashion. Sadly I was unable to track that story down, but I was able to find the sequel to The Lady or the Tiger, published one year later, a short story called “The Discourager of Hesitancy”. Reading it, I discovered something interesting – not only was it not as unsatisfying as had been reported, but it seemed to provide the ending for “The Lady or the Tiger” that the original story lacked. I believe that Frank Stockton offered a solution to the readers who were desperate for any resolution, and he did it in a manner so brilliantly obscure that I could find no evidence that anyone has come across it.

16.6.18

Criminal Minds 916: Gabby

The episode opens with a few shots of abandoned businesses and rotted out homes to establish that this episode is set amidst an environment of urban squalor. Then they cut to a perfectly nice low-end suburban street, because the show shoots in Los Angeles, and they don't have access to the kind of wrecks you can find in Mississippi there.

A woman is dropping her daughter off to stay with her sister for a week. They offer some exposition about how the mother won a raffle for a week-long cruise, and it's her first real vacation away since the daughter (who's like 5-6, something along those lines) was born! The aunt has prepared a child's playhouse for the front yard, so the visit should go great! Unless a killer shows up, murders her, and steals the daughter. That would be less great.

Later that week, we see the aunt pile the kid into a car to go for a nighttime drive. She explains to the neighbour that going out for rides helps the little girl get to sleep, then as they're driving off, the little girl and the neighbour lady exchange some sign language! Which they know for some reason? Is one of these characters deaf and I somehow didn't notice?

We cut to the aunt sitting in her car at a gas station, waiting for there to be no witnesses before she runs into the store to buy some food. Maybe we're supposed to think that she's waiting for the guy to drive away because she finds him creepy and doesn't want to leave the niece alone in the car with him at the pumps, but then again, the niece is sleeping, lying across the back seats, so there's no reason to think that anyone even knows she's in the car.

So while the aunt is in the store, a minivan drives up, presumably grabs the kid, and then drives off. Did the Aunt sell the child to someone? Because it's kind of crazy to imagine that a kidnapper would have been been following them this whole time and managed to land on this incredibly lucky moment.

Seeing the empty back seat, the aunt starts screaming for help, and the guys inside call 911!

The team immediately jumps on the plane and flies there - like, immediately. Preposterously immediately.
That's the sun just coming up to the front right of the plane - which is a little weird, considering that they're flying west, but whatever, let's just assume that they mean it to be like 7AM when this scene is happening.

Assuming they're almost in Mississippi, that's like a two-hour flight, meaning they had to get on the plane at 5AM. So let's figure the abduction happened around 10PM, that means that the cops showed up, took statements, decided they couldn't handle the case, called the local FBI, who kicked it upstairs to Washington, and someone there decided that the serial killer people should be working on it - even though it's just a missing girl, not a beheaded little girl - and then called Greg and woke him up at like 3AM, and then he told everyone else to get moving, all so they could be on a plane at 5AM.

This is just so far from how the police actually work. Would it have killed the show to have them arriving at noon the next day? A plausible amount of time later?

Oh my god, it's so much worse than I thought. All of that figuring I did above? Yeah, it's even worse - it's been just three hours since the abduction during the plane scene. I don't know how far they are into the flight, but that means the idea that they were all gathered up and put on a plane happened even faster than I'd calculated. Also, how can the sun be coming up? Was that abduction at like 2AM? Damn, this show is crazy.

In their pre-file they point out that the abductor would have had to have been stalking the little girl - and perhaps even gotten the mother sent away on that trip! Although that might be a stretch, since it's my own interjection. Bigger issue, though, is that they talk about having 24 hours to find the girl before it's too late!

Weird that they would still be saying that, since just six episodes they did a story about how that was a meaningless rule of thumb.

We catch up with the minivan driving down a rural road and dumping something body-shaped but wrapped in black plastic into a river! Has he already murdered the little girl? Was the little girl already dead, killed by the aunt (who's actually the girl's cousin, it seems) and this is a friend helping make it look like an abduction/murder? It's not like we actually saw the little girl moving in the back seat during the convenience store scene.

Hopefully we'll find out after the opening credits!

9.6.18

Criminal Minds 915: Mr. & Mrs. Anderson

At a cold gas station a backpacking young woman walks up to a familiar character actor and asks if she can get a ride with him. He demurs, and starts to drive away, then stops and invites her in. So which of the two of them is the killer? Probably him, right?

He offers to take her as far as he can - which is the motel up the street where he and his wife are staying. It has a bus stop out front! She immediately agrees to this, which is a little suspicious, since that's not much of a ride.

During the ride, the man asks questions designed to reveal whether the young woman has anyone waiting for her, or if anyone knows where she is. It's a no in both cases, just FYI. They get to the motel and the man gives her some cash to take the bus, but then his wife comes out and invites the woman inside, saying there's about to be a storm, and she'll freeze out in the cold waiting for a bus!

So, is the wife the one who's more psyched about killing in this pair? Because the husband wasn't trying very hard to get this lady into their motel room. The show cuts away before we see what happens.

At Quantico, Garcia and Derek talk relationship stuff, and then run into JJ - it's her first day back after getting tortured last episode! Time for the case rundown! Two women have been thrown half-naked into ditches at the side of the road - please note the complete lack of snow, even though both were killing in and around Pittsburgh, and the show went out of its way to show a bunch of snow on the ground in the first scene.

The women were strangled, stripped but not raped, then wrapped in shower curtains. Joe intuits 'a lot of rage', although the women weren't tortured in any way other than the strangling that killed them, so I don't know what Joe is basing that on. The team wonders why no sexual assault, since the vast majority of serial killers are rapists, so they guess maybe the killer is impotent. But they can't figure why the killer would cover the bodies, which is usually a sign of remorse.

We've got a pretty good idea about that already, since we saw that the wife was a little more into killing than the husband, but to be fair, we have access to more information than they do.

Also, the two bodies were dropped in the past two days, so yes, they're already spree killing.

Then we see the couple with a marriage counselor, who interrogates them about their homework to put the spark back in their marriage. Have they been working on that? We see a flashback to the murder, and it's revealed that the reason the women aren't being raped is that the sexual component of the crime is that the couple has sex after the husband strangles the women to death.

Thanks for that, show.

2.6.18

Criminal Minds 914: 200

Okay, if I'd known when I made that prediction about JJ's storyline that 914 was the 200th episode, I'd have guessed that it would be the place for all the secrets to come out. This is the downside of trying to go into episodes completely clean - you miss out on chances to make super-accurate predictions.

So let me make one more bad prediction before the episode starts - we'll get another visit from that background agent whose job is giving people rides home, last spotted being let in to the office by Mark Hamill last season!

Now, on with the episode!

Picking up soon after the last episode left off, JJ is dragged into a room with a bag over her head, shackled to a chair, and then drugged! Is this a chemical interrogation? We're finally going to get that backstory from the year she was off, though, since it's a middle-eastern guy doing the ejecting, and then pointedly middle-eastern music pipes up on the soundtrack and we cut to a view of one of those eight-sided towers I don't know the name of!

Back in 2010, JJ arrives in Iraq, where she's met by Erin, who is still alive in the past! She starts explaining that it's an incredibly secret job that she's taking on, but then the speech gets interrupted by the introduction of Esai and Helo from Battlestar, who are outside of a tent, arguing over who screwed up their attempt to interrogate a terrorist!

JJ meets Helo, who's not psyched that she's been brought on board to mediate interrogations - he'd prefer to just torture people to death, as he just got finished doing! In a great moment, it's acknowledged that JJ has no training in profiling or interrogation whatsoever, so it's not really clear what a media liaison/case manager is doing there.

They never did explain why she was able to start profiling when she got back, did they? I mean, other than Garcia having stolen her old job. Was it a subtle dig at the art of profiling, suggesting that if you just hang around these people for a couple of years, you'll become as good at faking it as they are?

As JJ is escorted out of the tent by Esai, she sees the wife of the dead guy, who she's supposed to interview, and then meets their interpreter... the guy who drugged her in the present!

Speaking of the present day, Josh arrives at the office, bringing their son, who's not named William the 3rd, as far as I can recall. Josh tells them to call Esai - he knows about the secret mission, of course, and JJ said to call Esai if she ever mysteriously disappeared! Naturally Esai has also mysteriously disappeared, information that is brought by Anderson, the chauffeur/agent who's rarely on the show!

So that's one prediction correct! I'd make more, but I have no idea where the episode is going, and won't pretend that I do.

Speaking of Esai, he's dragged into the torture dungeon as well, and they're both hung from pipes, as the translator gets ready to go to work! I hope this doesn't get too gruesome - I guess we'll find out after the credits!

25.5.18

Criminal Minds 913: The Road Home

It's raining... somewhere... as a man writes a note while sitting in his truck. He tried to make something right, and failed, now he's asking for forgiveness. Then he goes to the glove compartment, grabs his pistol and - will he kill himself, or someone else? Well, the pistol has tape all over the handle, which might be intended to repel fingerprints, but who knows?

The man - you may recognize him as the reclusive nerd from Real Genius, or the other guy in Napoleon Dynamite, but to me he'll always be Broots from The Pretender - sees some kids in coasts walking to a gazebo to get out of the rain. Apparently he's in a public park?

The show cuts away before we see him decide to kill someone else instead of himself, and suddenly we're in Joe's office, as he stares at a gun lying on his desk. It's an old-timey semi-auto, and it came with a note. Maybe an old army buddy? I've got to stop making guesses about things that aren't related to the plot, and just watch the show.

Turns out Joe is worried because the gun is a gift from Mescach Taylor (his army buddy from the homeless burner episode) - it's a Vietnam-era army sidearm with custom-made handgrips designed to look like the Vietnam War Memorial! But how could a recently homeless fellow have afforded that? Did he liquidate all his assets and buy extravagant gifts for his friends prior to committing suicide? Joe has tried to get in touch, but Mescach has disappeared, not showing up to work or his at his housing unit! Greg tells Joe to fly out to LA and check on him.

Back at the park, the three youths start harassing the old men playing checkers in the gazebo, and when they flash their guns, Broots appears and shoots them to death! Two of them, anyhow - the third is smart enough to run away full speed.

It's time for the team to get involved! Although they really shouldn't, given the details of the case - he killed the two guys at the gazebo, and chased the third to a gas station a mile away and shot him. That really does sound like the kind of standard gang violence that the FBI is profoundly disinterested in. So they add another person getting shot at a bus stop a little while later to justify the team's interest. It's off to Cleveland!

Where Broots his back at his flop, pouring out his whiskey because he's found self-actualization through murdering scumbags! Just like that Death Wish movie! Then it's off to the gun store to buy boxes and boxes of bullets for his gun! Hopefully some extra magazines as well, because, you know, it's kind of awkward to ask the gang toughs to just hang out while you reload a clip.

What's he going to do with all that ammo? Let's find out after the opening credits!

19.5.18

Criminal Minds 912: The Black Queen

It's 2004, and we open in a interrogation room inside the San Diego field office of the FBI. There's gothed-out lady sitting at the table. We don't see her face right away, but it's obviously Penelope, right? This is when she got caught for hacking? I don't know why, but I guess I always assumed it had happened earlier. Had she really only been working with the team for a month or two when the first episode started?

Greg enters the room to chat with Penelope about her crimes, and they don't do a very good job of making either of them look a decade younger. That takes more expensive computers than are available to the people at Criminal Minds.

Greg immediately offers her a job because someone talented at hacking into pharmaceutical companies would naturally have the skills and temperament necessary to hunt serial killers. Preferring a job to jail, Penelope signs up. Then Derek comes in, and wow, did they not bother at all to try younging him down:

That's some preposterous facial hair for you to have had back in 2004, Derek. I know Shemar Moore wouldn't want to shave it and grow it back for continuity reasons, but wow, should he have been written up for looking unprofessional. On the other hand, it's nice to know that at some point in his life, he was capable of dressing like a professional!

In a super-cute scene, we then cut to Quantico in the present day, where they're having a sexual harassment seminar because of Penelope and Derek's incredibly unprofessional behaviour! Greg then pulls Garcia out of the meeting to go and visit the attorney general - I guess something from Garcia's days as 'The Black Queen' (of course she'd be a big X-Men fan) have come back to haunt her!

It seems that when Garcia was recruited, the team was also in town to arrest a super-hacker who also killed a bunch of sex workers! And now the Justice Department website has been hacked to demand justice for the guy! It seems that a bunch of online would-be sleuths have decided that he's innocent, and are making a fuss until the case is reopened. So the team is going to do just that!

Because they're known for giving in to the demands of extremists, I guess?

Let's find out after the credits!

4.5.18

Criminal Minds 911: Bully

Before I press start on the episode, let's just take a moment to notice that Criminal Minds reached the point where it can have an episode whose number is '911'. Will this be a emergency services-themed episode? Are the producers kicking themselves for not shifting 'The Caller' into this slot?

Let's get this thing rolling!

A man walks into a basement which is supposed to be dilapidated - we're shown dripping water and a rat, but there's an almost shocking level of organization displayed on the toolbox visible in one shot. Heck, the the screwdrivers have even been arranged symmetrically! It's a weird situation where the set dresser can't stop themselves from doing a good job of setting up a work bench, even if it shouldn't be that good looking.

Also there's dust cloths over things to protect them from the elements. This is not an ill-cared-for location.

The man opens up a huge chest in the middle of the floor, removing two chains with padlocks. He helps a woman stand up out of it, but just as he's about to start molesting her, he hears a creak on the floorboards above. So he chains her to a pipe so he can focus on the unexpected intruder.

Which, naturally, turns out to be the team, who are busting in and arresting him! Jeanne tries to talk him into dropping his gun because the woman he's hiding behind 'isn't his mother'. Apparently he'd been sending the team taunting letters about his crime?

Then, proving my long-standing point that they should have their fingers on the triggers during tense standoffs like this, the man has plenty of time to move the gun away from the woman's side, aim it at Jeanne, and pull the trigger before any of the FBI Agents get around to shooting him.

They say not to put your finger on the trigger until you're ready to shoot, and their not being ready to shoot just almost got Jeanne killed.

Yes, Jeanne is fine. Just grazed in the arm. Think of how awful it would have been if we didn't have her around to... um... she was supposed to profile linguistics, right? That never really comes up, does it?

Outside, as the killer's body is carted away, Jeanne gets a phone call from her father! Something has happened! Is she going to be getting another character episode? We haven't had one of those since she decided not to quit the team even after her husband stopped being an MSF just to be closer to her!

On the plane, Garcia checks in on the tip Jeanne's father sent - a guy was stripped of his clothes, forced to put on women's underwear, and then beaten to death! Also, a year earlier two teens were beaten to death in an alley, without all the fetish nonsense. Could they be connected? The team is going to go to Kansas City to find out, even though Jeanne's dad isn't actually on the force any more!

While the plane is on the way, we cut over to the presumptive killer, a roided-out nutbag who works on his boxing skills while listening to speed metal! Because sure, why not.

20.4.18

Criminal Minds 910: The Caller

A woman is woken from her rest by a phone call. On the line is a child-like voice saying 'I'm gonna get you', It's obviously been happening a lot lately, so she hangs up the phone in anger. Her husband enters the bedroom, asking about the call. She says that it's frustrating that cops wouldn't investigate the calls. Would you have to investigate them? Couldn't you just check your call display? Also, making harassing phone calls is a crime, and there's no reason they wouldn't be able to file a police report, especially if this has been going on for some time.

The wife asks the husband to talk to the retired cop at his workplace and see if there's anything that can be done. Although I don't know what that would be, if they live in a place where cops won't charge people with crimes.

Anyway, the husband says it's not worth worrying about, and that the kid will get bored of calling. I don't doubt that the guy would be this much of a jerk about his wife's concerns, but it's still rough to watch. Also, maybe he made the call? He walked into the room immediately after it ended, so that's not impossible. Like how in Scream they wanted you to think Dewey might be the killer by having him be unreachable in his room while the killer was calling Sydney at Tatum's house.

The next day when the couple wakes up and preps breakfast, they're dealt two nasty surprises! 1: Their son is missing, and 2: their front door is covered in blood!
The only conclusion? Their son has been kidnapped by people who are very bad at reading the bible! It's the people with blood on their doors who don't lose their kids, dummies.

Moments after the discovery of the door, the child voice calls back to claim responsibility for the crime! The dad is standing right there, though, so obviously he's not the one making the calls.

We cut immediately to the briefing room, where Garcia is running down the case. Has she gotten a raise now that she does twice as much work? I certainly hope so.

They try to explain the police's non-response by saying that they had determined no laws had been broken. Which is just wrong. It's absolutely a crime to phone people and threaten them, even if you're just a child. The problem is that there's no way for the writers to get around this problem - for the story there need to have been a bunch of calls, but if the cops had looked into it they'd have either found out who the criminal was, or that they were using extreme measures to disguise the call's origin.

Of course, if the second was true, they'd have escalated the case, because a child wouldn't have the ability to mask a call, and an adult making these calls while pretending to be a child is immediately more threatening.

So the show just gives bad advice to the audience, telling them that if they're getting days worth of creepy and intimidating phone calls, there's nothing they can do about it.

Thanks, show.

Then we get an interesting reveal - Mandy dealt with a case just like this fifteen years ago! Creepy calls, abducted kid, the whole thing.

Joe and Greg then win a Prentiss Award for this exchange:

Um, if that's the case, you don't need to rush. He's already dead. Here's the timeline - the parents notice the child is missing, and call the police. The cops show up, talk to them, realize how serious the situation is, decide to call in the FBI. That goes through proper channels until it gets to Garcia, who approves the case, and calls the team together.

That whole process had to have taken at least two hours - especially since Garcia has had time to put together a visual presentation including a photo of the kid and the bloody door:
So even if, miraculously, the child was abducted one second before the parents woke up, it's still been more than two hours since the abduction, since the parents had to spend at least half an hour getting dressed and ready for the day.

Also, the team is now going to spend more than two hours on a plane heading for St. Louis, where this all happened. So yeah, if the killer is known for killing kids within two hours, you haven't got a prayer.

Then the show cuts to some footage of the investigation, for no reason that I can think of.

Credits!

13.4.18

Criminal Minds 909: Strange Fruit

A couple is in bed - still awake - when they hear some kind of a loud crash from outside! The man gets a gun from the nightstand and tells the woman to stay in bed. Which is just a crazy thing to do. If you're together, then you know where the other one is, and there's less chance that one of you ends up shot because you forgot the other one. Also, you know, you can both help each other fight, so there's that.

He gets to the door and looks outside, then tells the lady to call the police... but why?

The show is teasing us pretty hard here, because it immediately cuts to the next day, where it turns out that it was just a broken water main. Which is absolutely worth calling 911 about, but not in an alarmed tone. Seriously, before you told your wife to call 911, you'd say 'it was just a water main breaking, don't worry about it'. Unless you like tormenting her, I guess. This sets up what will presumably the real crime this week, since the city hydro people have to tear up the neighbour's yard, but the neighbours haven't been seen in a little while...

Buried in the yard? Dead in the house? What will it be?

More sneakiness with JJ and Esai - she wants to tell people that the two of them are on a special assignment, which is why they keep sneaking off for chats, so that people will stop thinking they're having an affair. I predicted we wouldn't find out their backstory until at least episode 15, but maybe they're speeding things along!

Confusingly, JJ and Garcia meet Joe coming off the elevator. Garcia chides him for not reading his text messages better - the crime scene is just five miles away! But, wait... it's a work day, isn't it? I mean, JJ and Esai were already there having a meeting, so it's not the morning - there has to have been time for the water guys to find something in the neighbours' yard or house, and by the time they started looking it was already broad daylight... did Joe just not bother coming in to work today?

It seems that there were two bodies buried in the back yard of the house - well, skeletons, really - and there's no initial clue as to how long they've been there! So the couple who's been in the house for 35 years might be on the hook, or might be in the clear!

More importantly, though, why are six FBI agents hanging around in a back yard? This is two very old skeletons. It might not even be murder, let along serial murder. This is the definition of a local matter. If they'd found three or more bodies, that would be one thing, but this is just weird.

It's like there's a sub-theme this year about how half the cases don't seem like something the team should have been called in on. Between the parental kidnapping, the killed mass shooter, and now two skeletons in a yard, that's a third of the episodes so far this year where it absolutely strains credulity that the FBI would be involved at the stage the team shows up.

In what has to be the most confusing phrasing I've heard in ages, we're told that the Johnsons have lived in the house for 35 years, Mrs. Johnson is currently home, and 'The husband and son work at the father's construction company, they're on their way home now'.

Wait... is that the husband's father, so the grandfather? Or is the husband also the father in that sentence? If so, why would you change how you referred to him halfway through the sentence? Also, irrespective of who the owner is, why not just say 'the family construction business'? Why do you have to make everything so difficult, writers?

Anyhow, when the son hears about the dead bodies, he runs off down the street, but Greg catches him really easily. Oddly, he had to walk away from a truck that he had the keys for to flee on foot. Why not just get back in and drive away?

I'd say we'll find out after the credits, but we absolutely won't.

6.4.18

Criminal Minds 908: The Return

It's night, it's Chicago, it's a diner - are people about to be mass murdered? Hopefully not, since a little girl with a teddy bear just entered along with a woman who we'll assume she has some familial relationship to.

While the mother and daughter try to decide on a pie, the waitress pours coffee for a brooding man by the window, who does little more than stare at his middle-of-the-night breakfast plate. Is it just a coincidence that another man enters and takes a seat from which he can watch hoodie man?

Maybe it is, because the new man is a cop, and the hoodie guy gets super-nervous when he hears the waitress reveal that information! So nervous, in fact, that he starts shooting the place up!

Yeah, it's not often a crime show starts in a diner without the place getting shot up.

Chicago containing the scene of the crime means we'll be getting a lot of Derek this week, so it's right over to him, waking up at his girlfriend's place! She's headed in to work for a doctor emergency, leaving him to walk her dog! They're a cute couple.

Then he gets a text from Penelope saying that they have a prefile meeting in thirty minutes. Which is just crazy, because it's 2AM. She didn't even call, yet she expects him to be up and looking at his phone? Maybe she would have called if he didn't immediately text back, but it's a weird assumption to make, thinking that someone who works a 9-6 job is going to be awake at 2AM.

Also, he's got to shower, get dressed, and drive onto a military base. That's probably going to take more than an hour. Why does the show keep pretending that these cases are important enough to wake them up in the middle of the night? It's a mass shooting - yes, it's important, but what are they going to accomplish at six in the morning that they can't accomplish at noon?

One last point - if it's such a vital thing that they've got to get on top of it immediately, why are they going into the office at all? Why aren't they meeting on the plane? They've got a three-hour flight waiting for them, can't they get the briefing there?

On the way into the office, Derek complains that his lady rushed in to work in the middle of the night, and Penelope points out that it's a hilarious thing for him to complain about, given that he's at work at 2:30AM. It really is, and it kind of makes him look like an idiot or a jerk for not realizing it himself.

Here's the twist: The killer is already dead! The cop shot him moments after he shot the waitress, so he wasn't able to kill everyone! Why is the team being brought in? Because the killer was a 16-year-old who'd been missing for four years, and security cameras caught someone dropping him off at the diner just before the shooting! Could it have been an assignment from the creepy cult leader who abducted him?

Probably, given the show we're watching, but it's a weird leap to make, and doesn't seem high-profile enough to warrant a middle-of-the-night wake up. Think about it - as far as the cops are concerned, there is not a killer on the loose. There's a dead mass shooter on the floor of a diner. Yes, they have footage of someone dropping him off, but who knows what that's about? Maybe it's a friend giving him a ride who didn't know about the crime. Absolutely you should want to talk to him, but given the facts in evidence, is this something you'd want to bother the FBI with?

Now, if the camera had picked up the guy handing the kid the gun, then yes, you'd know he had a partner in crime, and that he was probably following orders, and a massive threat was still out there. But they don't have that.

These are the kinds of problems you can solve at the script stage, people. Your show doesn't have to be this bad.

We then cut to Chicago, where the mother and child are being interviewed by the press. Watching them from the crowd is... A black guy in a hoodie!

Are we supposed to be terrified? I mean, I guess it's probably the driver of the car, but since the cops already know that the driver is a black guy in a hoodie, shouldn't they be singling this guy out to ask some questions of? Really stupid for him to hang around the scene of the crime just now, isn't it?

Maybe they'll have caught him by the time we get back from the credits!

30.3.18

Criminal Minds 907: Gatekeeper

It's early in the morning, and a guy is woken up by his alarm! This upsets his bedmate, who is not on a London-based work schedule the way he is. They make plans to see each other again soon, and notably, there's an open window next to the woman's ground-floor bedroom. Who does this? There's not even a screen on it to keep bugs out.

That's a misdirect, of course, because as the guy is walking away, calling his friend to talk about the nice girl he met, he's strangled by the stalker who was watching him leave the building! The killer steals the guy's wallet, takes some photos, and we're out!

And over to a karaoke bar, where 'As Time Goes By' is being sung. Joe and Reid are talking about how this is the bar where Joe met his wife. It's a charming little story about how his wife, who presumably worked at the bar, would constantly write letters to the Beatles to encourage them to come to this tiny dive, and then Ringo eventually did! It's cute and all, but did the producers really think the fans needed an explanation for why Joe had a picture with Ringo Starr in his office in the season-ender? Because they profoundly didn't - Joe's a famous author, it's not crazy that he would meet other famous people at events.

They get a call to come in to work - in the middle of the night, on their day off. Was the dead guy the governor's son or something? Then Joe finds out that his bar is closing, because other bars nearby had siphoned away all the marine traffic! Damn them!

We get the introduction, and discover that three men were killed over some kind of recent time period (they don't specify), but the stolen wallets had nothing to do with robbery, they think, because the killer didn't try to charge anything to their credit cards! Their preliminary pre-file then just gets into some serious nonsense, announcing that it's significant that the killer was well-planned enough to be lying in wait for a victim, but not smart enough to deal with him being on the phone.

Except they have no idea that he was lying in wait. He could have passed the guy on the street, taken out his garrotte, and strangled him, then pulled him into some nearby bushes. Also, how would he have 'adapted' to the phone call? Waited until the guy wasn't talking any more? Used a ruse to get him to hang up? They have no reason to believe that he cared about being heard killing the guy, so why would he? They also assume that he's 'mission-oriented' and has to kill the victims, rather than wanting to. Again, all of this is based on nothing more than three dead guys who were strangled while walking alone at night.

Then it's time to overthink stealing the wallets - is he stripping the men of identity, because he feels he doesn't have one himself? Is he desperate for recognition? They certainly think so, but can't explain why that would matter to the investigation!

Then it's over to the killer, who's making a murder scrapbook while 'itsy bitsy spider' plays on the soundtrack, because someone told the producers that children singing nursery rhymes over awful imagery was effective. Significantly, the killer has stalker scrapbooks of his victims, revealing that they weren't random at all! And the next two pages have some guy with shaggy hair and then a pregnant woman!

But how is he selecting his victims, and why?

I suppose we'll find out after the credits!

23.3.18

Criminal Minds 906: In The Blood

As the episode begins, a modern-day Sisyphus is carrying a boulder up a mountain so that he can add it to the pile. What's under the pile? A woman begging for her life, of course! This is an episode of Criminal Minds, after all. I'd wonder if he considered himself a modern-day witch hunter pressing an evil woman to death with stones, but then he just smashes her head with a rock, so no, I guess not.

Naturally, it's time for a comedy scene, because why wouldn't you follow a woman getting her head smashed in while she begged for her life with some light wackiness? The scene concerns Garcia prepping a Day of the Dead party, and finding out that no one takes her seriously enough to find her attempts to be scary very frightening. More importantly, though, why is she trying to make a Day of the Dead party scary? It's not Halloween.

Then, Reid does his Dirty Harry impression, which involves a man with a supposedly perfect memory botching one of the most famous quotes in film history:

Seriously, who got this wrong? The writer? The actor? The character?

Greg's back from the hospital in time for a rundown! They throw out some random guesses based on the fact that the woman was extensively tortured, and wearing a ceremonial robe. Joe thinks that the stone cairn over the body looks like a tomb, but that's only because no one working on the show knows the word 'cairn'.

They ask how Greg convinced the brass to fly them all out for a single murder. Dudes, last week you traveled cross-country for parental kidnapping. You guys do whatever you want, basically.

Then it's over to the killer's hideout, and I guess I was wrong to dismiss the witchcraft angle, because the dude's got an evil book stand with pentagrams hanging off of it, and a roaring fire going in the fireplace, even though it's morning. The killer tosses his victim's clothes into the fire, and then whips himself severely. So maybe it is a witchfinder general. This is the Halloween episode, after all!

Let's find out after the credits!