Criminal Minds 905: Route 66

The episode opens with two teens making out in a classic car parked out in a field. Because it's the past? Seriously, can't they find someplace better for this? Or is it a fetish? We haven't seen a lover's lane murder since those '60s cosplayers got killed at the start of the Leopold and Loeb Zodiac tribute episode, or if we have, I don't remember. Let's see how this goes for them!

The boy gets a little fresh, and the girl starts screaming - luckily her father is there to immediately smash the guy up with a crowbar! Like, really immediately. As if he'd been hanging out five feet away, waiting for screaming to start. Otherwise his arrival was an incredible coincidence.

Over at the office, Greg is napping on his couch, a file in hand. You work too much, Greg. He phones home to tell 'Jessica' that he'll be there soon. So I guess that's his nanny? Because his girlfirend lives in New York still, right? Also I don't remember her name.

Then he gets a plot-convenient amber alert through an app on his phone-

The girl from the beginning is missing! In Kansas. I don't know how Amber Alerts work, since we don't have them where I live, but don't apps like that normally curate the alerts to where you are? Why is he getting an alert from halfway across the country? If he was browsing facebook and a friend of a friend posted it, that would make sense, but this seems strange.

Then the camera pans down to show off his jacket and nametag, as if they're introducing this character for the first time-

That's just odd. Also Greg calls home to say that he's pulling an all-nighter. Maybe he knows this girl, and you can set up an app to prioritize the kidnapping of people you know, whereever they live?

Greg brings everyone in for a chat about the crime, and they're understandably confused about why they're working a parental abduction case. So am I. Greg offers that because the father is an ex-con and he beat the boyfriend nearly to death it's worth looking into, but this is so profoundly not their kind of case that I'm still not clear why he even heard about it. I checked the Amber Alert statistics, and it seems to generally be a statewide thing, rather than a national one. Also in 2013, when this episode is set, there were nearly 200 Amber Alerts does Greg personally look into all of them?

Oh, then Greg faints. Is he working too hard, or is something else going on?

Hopefully we'll find out after the credits!


Criminal Minds 904: To Bear Witness

The episode opens in a garbage and broken-glass strewn hallway where a man in bare feet stumbles along, almost stepping on a rat as he presses himself against the wall. He squints his eyes against a relatively moderate amount of light from the overhead bulbs, so perhaps he's been drugged? He chases a mysterious figure out of the building into the blinding light of day, yelling at the person to stop!

The figure doesn't listen, though, driving off in a van while the stumbling man yells after him. Then a garbage truck arrives, and the stumbling man begs for help catching the van driver before he gets away! Intriguing!

Then it's over to JJ, who's jogging in the park with Esai Morales, who mentions that they have things to discuss. Is he the new boss who's been hinted at for a couple of weeks now? Why else would the old lieutenant from NYPD Blue suddenly be on Criminal Minds?

Over at home base, Reid and Jeanne are doing crossword puzzles to prove how smart they are, and Reid thinks it might be possible to do one without looking at the clues. Which is, of course, the stupidest thing that anyone could ever say, because of course you could - it's called creating a crossword. As someone who does a crossword puzzle or two every day, I'm quite aware that in a standard 15x15 grid, there's only so many ways that the black spaces can be arranged while maintaining the standard letter length and overall number of clues. Any number of crossword puzzles can be built in a normal puzzle grid - without the specific clues, you'd just be building a pattern of interlocking words, with no way of knowing whether it was what the puzzle author intended, making it almost impossible to be right. This is only not the Prentiss Award because it has nothing to do with the case.

Wow, I guess I take this 'crossword as shorthand for smart' thing kind of seriously, don't I?

Joe then asks the standard question 'do you really do those in pen?' which is supposed to be a 'smart person' thing, but I've never really understood it. In this day and age, who has a pencil?

Time for the rundown! The opening incident happened in Baltimore, and involed the stumbling guy having a dual lobotomy! The team talks a little about the history of the procedure, and how it was used to 'cure' people of mental disorders. The guy has a neat little spike hole next to each eye, so the lobotomy was probably done with one of those old-fashioned spike and hammer kits! Which... ugh.

Esai then arrives and introduces himself. JJ pretends not to know him already, so there's a story there, and he invites himself along to work the case with them as a way for everyone to get to know each other! Weird move, since going on a case got the last person who had this job killed, but whatever, it's his life.

JJ stops to chat with Esai after everyone else has left, asking why he didn't warn her he was the new boss! Esai claims that he only found out after arriving at work that very day, which seems hugely preposterous, since this is a fairly major reassignment, and after they decided they weren't giving the job to Greg two weeks ago, they doubtless would have talked to candidates. But why is he lying to JJ?

We then drop by the hospital to check in with the lobotomized man, who's apparently suffering from locked-in syndrome! He tries to talk to the doctors, but doesn't realize that he isn't saying anything!

A horrific image to leave us with before the credits, show!


Criminal Minds 903: Final Shot

The episode opens in a business park at lunch, where a huge crowd of people are milling about. Considering how expensive that is to stage, and the title of the episode, I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that there's about to be a mass shooting of some kind. Another sniper? That would be the show's third, if you don't count mercenaries!

A blonde lady walks over to ask a cute co-worker to lunch, then is shocked when he gets sniped! The sniping then begins in earnest, with people running and screaming and, in some cases, falling to the ground, badly injured or killed. Blonde lady survives, though, by hiding behind a garbage can! Good for her.

The killer, who's pretending to be a painter in an under-renovation office across the street, quickly disassembles his sniper rifle and dumps the pieces into a paint can. He's also wearing a ski mask, for reasons that elude me.

Seriously, the gloves make sense to me, because he wants to leave no evidence, but the face mask would be uncomfortable in the warm September in Dallas weather, making him sweat and risk leaving more DNA at the crime scene. I could see wearing a knit cap or something to guard against losing hairs, but the ski mask is just a terrible choice. It's not like there's a risk of someone seeing him while he's shooting. He stuck a rifle out a window and fired for ten seconds, then fled. No one was watching the rifle barrel.

Over at Quantico, the team rushes out of the office to respond to the mass shooting, while name-checking a bunch of real-world terrorist attacks that happened in recent months, which seems a little distasteful, actually. Greg tries to remind everyone to keep every possibility on the table, but it's clear that the rest of the team is going in assuming that it's an act of 'domestic terrorism'. Which is always a weird phrase to me, as if it makes a huge difference whether a terrorist is from the country they're attacking. Yes, knowing motivation can help you solve a crime, but do we really need a separate word for if an American fires into a crowd of Americans people than if a Libyan does?

Then we get a recap of things we already know, as footage plays of the crime scene investigation while news broadcasters question whether it was the act of domestic terrorism, or the work of a lone madman. As if those things are mutually exclusive.

Then it's time for the credits, which seems a little quick, since we're just three minutes into the episode, but sure, let's get this party started!


Criminal Minds 902: The Inspired

After last week started off the season with one of the most terrible and unpleasant episodes in the show's history, let's see if they can top it post-twin reveal!

The show opens with the twin being let out of jail, and the twin's lawyer announcing that he's going to sue the department. For what, exactly? And why is he being let out? He led the police on a high-speed car chase, endangering lives, and then lied to them by not telling the police his name while he was being booked.

There's a ridiculous bit of the lawyer's speech where he says that 'profiling doesn't work, and this proves it', as if his guy was arrested because of a behaviour profile, and not, you know, because he's the identical twin of a serial killer who just shot a guy after taking a room full of women hostage and forcing them to eat rotting human flesh.

Jeanne, in the SUV with Joe, ponders what the odds are that there would be identical twins. I feel it's like... one in a couple hundred live births? Something like that? Twins aren't actually that uncommon. Now if these guys are completely unrelated yet live in the same city, then those would be some longer odds. And since we find out that the have different last names, maybe that's what they're going with! Although separated at birth is more likely.

According to Reid, the odds of twins are 3.5/1000, and Wikipedia says 4/1000, so my 5/1000 guess wasn't really that far off!

The team gets to the station, and the cop explains that because the twin is a paralegal, they had a whole firm itching to bust him loose. Which seems plausible, although the high-speed car chase and lying to cops seems like it would be a hard thing to get kicked.

Garcia explains the backstory - the twins were separated at 3, and a few years ago the twin got his adoption records unsealed, and found out about the existence of his brother - but there's no evidence that they're in contact! Well, given the fact that he apparently knew that his brother was a serial killer, motivating him to lead the cops on a chase and then lie to them, I feel like Garcia's probably missed something.

Wow, the scene with the twin's lawyer is dumb. Greg asks him - quite logically - if it's a coincidence that he was arrested right when they were looking for his brother, and the lawyer responds that the twin was working the night shift when the murders were happening.

Which is so... just yikes. Not only is that not an answer to the question that was asked, it doesn't his accuse his speeding, reckless driving, and lying to police!

Things get so much dumber in the next scene, as Camryn Manheim arrives at her home, and the killer rushes from his car across the street, so he can confront her about the twin brother he's only now finding out he has!

That's right - the entire city of Glendale, AZ is hunting a spree killer who's armed and dangerous, yet that killer was able to park - in the vehicle that is registered to him - across the street from his mother's house without being immediately caught. Is everyone in this world an idiot?

Seriously, show people, at least have Camryn get home and find the killer waiting inside, so we can imagine that he parked a mile away and walked over while wearing a hoodie or something. God. It's like the producers of this show not only want to do stupid things, it's important to them that they do them in the stupidest way possible.

Then it turns out there's a reason for the god-awful writing - before the killer can get to the house, though, the twin looms out of the darkness and clubs his brother over the head!

This should have an intriguing explanation... after the credits!


Criminal Minds 901: The Inspiration

And we're back for season nine! The episode opens with Derek and JJ involved in a high-speed chase, which is basically the opposite of their jobs, but whatever, it's the first episode of the season - old writers leave, new writers join, some of whom probably used to work at NCIS, so I'll try to give them a break. I wonder if this 'In Medis Res' stuff means we're going to be jumping back in time to find out how this crazy situation got started?

Derek finally uses a pursuit interruption technique to stop the sedan they're chasing, but they wind up in the middle of the road - with a huge truck bearing down on the passenger side of the SUV! Is JJ about to be killed?

I guess we'll find out in two days, because yeah, they jumped back in time.

A couple are hanging out in their apartment, annoyed that their upstairs neighbour seems to be hammering well into the night. Of course, it's not hammering at all, but rather a tied-up woman kicking the floor, desperately trying to call for help! Dark!

The annoyed lady heads upstairs to yell at her inconsiderate neighbour, but before she can realize there's a kidnapped woman inside, the killer shows up in the hallway behind her!

I feel like that's the guy from the Mentalist who pretended to be mentally disabled so he could get away with crimes, but I'll have to check to be sure.

The killer assures the neighbour that it's just his annoying roommate, and offers to put a stop to the noise. So yeah, no last-minute rescues here, I guess.

Then it's over to Quantico, where everyone is complaining about their plans for the weekend being interrupted by a call into work! Hey, who's running the place now that Erin's dead? Also, how did Reid manage to find an even more unprofessional haircut? I didn't think that was possible?

Also, get a semi-auto and wear it at your hip, you ridiculous poseur.

We get an answer about Erin presently - Greg's taken over all her duties on a temporary basis, and now he's been offered the job full-time! Which would mean leaving the show, so I guess that's not happening.

The case rundown begins, and Greg and Derek start off the night with some truly terrible analysis, pointing out that the brutal rape and murder can't possibly be about robbery, since the victims' jewelry was left on their bodies.

Um... Is it ever about robbery? Has it been about robbery once? If it was about robbery, would they have called in the FBI in the middle of the night, idiot? Even the time you were chasing bank robbers it wasn't about robbery, it was a sick sex game between two serial killers who robbed banks and killed people to get aroused. Do you even watch your own show?

Also, why are they here in the middle of the night? Yes, there have been two bodies in the last three days, because every killer is a spree killer (hereafter EKIASK - I'm starting season nine with a dedication to streamlining things!), but that's the case every single week. Has the killer kidnapped a senator's daughter or something? Could this not wait until Monday? Or at least Saturday morning? What is gained by asking their pilot to fly across the country to Arizona on zero sleep?

Instead of explaining why this case was so important, they just all head for the plane! Which seems really, really odd.

Then we move back to the killer, who's leading the woman into a park for his execution ritual. I've got a question about this - was that his apartment, or hers? The woman from downstairs didn't really seem to recognize him, but that means nothing, they live on different floors. If it was her apartment, why did he leave to go get tools? Shouldn't he have had them with him when he broke in? Also, what tools was he going to get - he brandished a cleaver, but his thing is raping women, then leading them to a park, having them kneel on a cross, and shoot them in the heart. What was the cleaver for?

But if it was his apartment, has he done this to all the women? Isn't it incredibly risky to bring a victim back to your home, where you'll have to walk her up a staircase, past dozens of potential witnesses? I'm so baffled by this. Hopefully explanations are coming soon.

Then the killer shoots his newest victim, and we cut to the credits!


Criminal Minds - Season 8 Recap!

What a year, huh? You wouldn't think that the Criminal Minds producers would be able to make a worse season of television than Season 7, but somehow they pulled it off!

Well, I say 'somehow', obviously we know how they did it - with a tireless dedication to only using the most contrived storytelling devices and most idiotic plot twists imaginable. Also, sometimes the team didn't actually solve the case. Not only were there two zeros this year, but they were just two episodes apart!

On the bright side, the episode featured two different Matthew Gray Gubler-directed episodes, and even though one of them was pretty mediocre (cough Alchemy cough), the Brad Dourif episode, while terribly scripted, made me once again long for the day he'll be free from this show and able to direct television and movies full-time, since that's where both his true talent and obvious passion lies.

What a season for terrible episodes, though. Because my reviews were written over so many years, I lost track of just how bizarrely dire this season was. Is it really possible that the worst possible version of 'Strangers on a Train' existed in the same season as a teenage girl came up with the worst multiple-murder plot in the history of fiction? That the absurd idea of people making a terrible video game real happened the same year as the serial killer who they let go on murdering nannies because they couldn't be bothered to do follow-up interviews with a traumatized victim?

This is the season that saw the return of Greg's brother Hotch, which was nice, but then the episode ended with him being carted off to jail for no reason that I can think of. Meanwhile, two different times this year team members killed people, either by putting out a hit on them the way Derek did, or by straight-up murdering them the way Joe did. This is the kind of behaviour that got Elle kicked off the team, but no one has a problem with it because the other team members actually like Joe and Derek?

I mean, hell, I like Joe and Derek too, but I'm not giving them a pass for murdering people.

So, let's take a look at the numbers!

Season 8 of Criminal Minds had 24 episodes, leading to a possible score of 240. Their total profiling score was 47/240, or 19%.

So, from the raw data, this was technically a slightly better showing for psychology than the previous year, but from a writing standpoint, this is the series' low point! I don't know that I mentioned this enough when it was happening, but can we all just take a moment and reflect that this season had two different multi-episode arcs about people stalking the team. They did two stalker storylines the same year. That's just crazy.

And... one last time - it took them literally the entire season to notice that the Copycat only started copycatting their crimes the week after Jeanne joined the team, meaning that he was focused on her. How are they this bad at their jobs?

See you back here next week for Season 9 - episode one! Will it be an improvement over the season ender of Season 8? It would be kind of difficult not to, don't you think?


Criminal Minds 824: The Replicator

 The episode picks up just where the last one left off, offering us the fate of Erin! It's dumb! Instead of one of the more visually interesting crimes from earlier in the season, Mark just gave her an overdose of MDMA, or possibly the super-poisonous PMMA, although I'm not sure where he would have gotten that.

While she wanders down the street in a daze, Mark walks along with her, talking about how disappointing her life has been. God, Mark Hamill's a wonderful screen presence, isn't he? So glad to see him taunting people murderously - it's the role he was born to play!

Then we cut over to Derek and JJ - like a genius, she's calling Josh to warn him about Mark Hamill coming after them more directly (although they don't know about Erin yet - Joe called to check on her, but Mark didn't answer) - when Garcia calls to apologize for screwing up and getting people killed. Which she absolutely did.

Funny story - as Xander works on the computers, he points out that the kind of access Mark has can't be gained remotely. You have to be on a hardline - a physical cable leading into the FBI mainframe. And since they're assuming that he's not an FBI agent - which they absolutely should not be, but whatever - there's only one other place he could have gotten access: Penelope's apartment!

Yes, that's right, a random apartment outside of DC has a direct access terminal into the FBI mainframe, because sometimes Garcia likes to work from home. Your terrible security practices just got people killed, Penelope. You should feel so much worse than Greg's brother Hotch did last week. Seriously, retire and let Xander take over your job. He's obviously more reliable.

Wouldn't it be neat if the guy Xander was jealous of had been paid by Mark to get access to the computer? That's probably not it, but it would have been a nice multi-stage reveal, with different episodes setting up that she could work from home and that she was still comfortable inviting strange men without security clearance into her apartment.

While Reid and Greg head over to grab Jeanne from her hotel, Joe rushes to Erin's place - why were they not all staying in the same hotel? Does the Bureau not get a bulk rate somewhere when agents have to stay in town? He finds that her room has been tossed, and sees suspicious mini liquor bottles lying all over the floor! Greg runs into the room, and asks if she could have wandered off, drunk. Which is the last thing you'd think when a serial killer just sent you a text message saying he was back. But whatever, Joe needs to explain that she's doing well, I guess.

Okay, Mark Hamill just became my favorite guest star ever. Why? Because when he calls Greg from Erin's phone, his first question is whether people get confused by one character being named Erin, and another being named Aaron. Yes, Mark, it absolutely does, and the writers should be ashamed of themselves for giving two different characters the same-sounding name. He then explains that he's calling because Erin's almost dead, and points out that this is just like that whole Reaper situation, where he failed to save his wife's life. The big difference being that Erin's dying because she didn't put a security chain or bolt on her door, and Greg's wife died because, upon hearing the Reaper was coming for her, obeyed an insane instruction to go to her home, rather than just driving to the nearest police station or federal building.

Up on the roof, Joe and Derek find no evidence, and wonder why Mark left the window open, unless he wanted them to find something. It turns out that the something he wanted them to find was Erin, who's by the bench just a block down the street. I'm not sure why they had to come up to the roof to find her. Just sending people running down the street in both directions would have gotten the job done in a fraction of the time.

Hilariously, this immediately proves true, since by the time Joe takes out his phone to report on Erin's whereabouts, Greg is already calling him to announce that he's found Erin. Also to ask him to call an ambulance. Great idea, but maybe you could have just called the ambulance yourself, and informed Joe later?

Erin has some news to report! Mark threatened her family, said he'd be 'racing them home', and forced her to get super-drunk at gunpoint. What about the PMMA? Did he spike one of the mini-bar bottles? Then Greg hugs her and she dies, without any of the blood from the eyes, and just a tiny bit coming out of her nose. Not a great copycatting, there, Mark.



Criminal Minds 823: Brothers Hotchner

We're finally there! It's the two-part season finale, where they'll once again look into the whole copycat situation! Although they may not solve it, due to the show's occasional fondness for end-of-season cliffhangers. I guess we'll see!

Not this time though, since this is just part one.

The story starts in a classy New York bar, where Greg's younger brother is tending bar! Wait, wasn't he a chef? Am I remembering that episode from seven years ago incorrectly? A waitress needs a manager's card, but Hotch doesn't have it, and directs her to another staff member, who's busy in the bathroom with a woman!

In the bathroom stall the couple is furiously necking, but then the woman complains about being hot and thirsty - has she taken an overdoes of MDMA? Hotch comes in for the supervisor's card, and in the twenty seconds the guy is distracted, his lady starts bleeding from the eyes and nose! So it was tainted MDMA?

Hotch rushes back in to help, but the woman has already stopped breathing - and the supervisor is too shocked to do anything! Probably worried about having given her tainted MDMA.

Meanwhile in another part of New York, Greg is in bed with his girlfriend, who he and his son are visiting! I'd forgotten she moved to New York. For some reason I'd remembered it as being further away.

Hotch calls Greg's cell phone, asking him to come down to the crime scene. Greg, being a solid G, obviously heads right out. In doing so, he reveals that he was - in an amazing coincidence - already in New York, which is definitely going to cause some friction, because Hotch clearly did not know that.

Hotch fills in Greg on the news. His restaurant didn't work out, so he's a bartender now! The cops think the woman OD'd on MDMA, which is a strange reaction, considering the blood pouring out of her face. Hotch also tells him about a woman who died in a similar circumstance a week earlier. That woman? His girlfriend, who he worked with, and was definitely not on MDMA when she died! I don't want to tell Hotch how to run his life, but your brother is a nationally famous cop, when the local guys didn't believe you about your dead girlfriend and wrote it off as a preposterous OD, maybe give him a call then rather than waiting for another victim?

Now for the big question: Could there be a serial killer poisoning drugs in Manhattan nightclubs?

Probably, or the episode wouldn't have opened this way.

Greg loops Erin, Joe, and Garcia in on the crime - apparently there have been five deaths! The cops think it was bad MDMA, but the cause was actually such a high dose of the stuff that it caused their bodies to boil over! I'm not a scientist, so I won't offer a comment as to whether that's remotely possible.

They compare it to the 'Tylenol Poisoning' of 1986, and suggest that this could be another case where someone is targeting a specific person, but poisoned a huge number of people to cover it up. Kind of unfair to assume that, though, since absolutely no one knows the motive of the Tylenol poisoning, since no one was ever caught for it. Recent theorizing suggests that it might have been the Unabomber!

Erin announces that she's going along on the case - is she going to get murdered? Will the copycat up his war on Jeanne by murdering the woman who ruined her career? Or will Jeanne do it, because she's working with the copycat?

That's right, I haven't let my dumbest theory ever go!

Then we cut to a rave, where a bunch of people are dying from a mass poisoning! Who could be responsible?

Let's find out after the credits!


Criminal Minds 822: #6

In 'Downtown Detroit' two kids are looking to break into a suspiciously nice car that wound up parked one a narrow street. There's probably a body in the trunk or something, but before we get to that, what's with the 'Downtown' part of the title?

 Is that the kind of tag they've ever put on a location before? There's a huge amount of towns that make up the greater Los Angeles Area, but I've never seen specificity when the head to LA. So what's with this 'Downtown' nonsense? Did the tourism department of Detroit threaten to stop advertising on CBS stations if they didn't remove a reference to Detroit being a lawless hellhole where street crime is ever present? But the episode couldn't be re-shot, so they negotiated a additional word to suggest that only a small section of Detroit is a crime-ridden hell hole?

Anyway, the car is unlocked when the kids go to break in, but are stymied when the car turns out to be keyless. They say that the 'clicker thing' must be somewhere in the car, but I don't think that's the case. After all, if the clicker was in the car, wouldn't the start button work? Isn't that the whole point of keyless systems, that you just sit down with the thing in your pocket and you can star the car right away?

Turns out I was right, the kids finally just try pushing the start button, and the engine turns over! They start to drive the car away from the curb, but hear a thump from the trunk. Could the corpse have finally arrived?

Yes, and it turns out there's two of them? The kids prove to be quite stupid, deciding the convenience of finding the key on one of the bodies is worth the risk of being implicated in a murder, so they decide to dump the bodies and steal the car. The woman with the keys turns out to be alive, however, and begs them for help! The kids are too scared to do anything but run away.

Which, you know, bad luck for her.

Over at Jeanne's house, she gets a phone call from her husband, who is a MSF doctor! He pretends to be in a foreign country so that he can surprise her by showing up at the door! Do you think she's told him that they're being targeted by a serial killer?

Jeanne's happy to see her husband, but worried that he's suddenly back from abroad! Penelope texts with a job, but she wants to prioritize the relationship. In the end, she goes to work, in order to fail even harder than the other characters at justifying her paycheck.

Time for the case rundown! Married couples are being abducted, tortured with dozens of small knife wounds, then killed and dumped in their cars! That's depressing, but in the 'good news' column, it turns out the kids immediately ran for help and called the police! But the ambulance was there too late to save the woman.

They're psyched to find and stop the guy before he kidnaps another couple! Of course, they're too late for that, as we immediately cut to the next victims. Who he grabbed overnight? So he dumped the car yesterday, and he's already got two more locked up somewhere! The first thing we see is the woman with blood all over her white shirt - does the killer give them those clothes, so the blood will 'pop' more, or does he only grab people wearing white shirts?

Then the husband leans into the frame in a light blue shirt with no blood on it, and my theory is blown all to hell. I will make an obvious prediction, however - the killer makes the couple stab each other! The wife has a knife buried in her stomach, and she tells the husband to take it out, killing her, because 'it's time'. He does, she dies, and I guess we'll find out what all this is about after the credits!


Criminal Minds 821: Nanny Dearest

Still no updates on the whole copycat situation, so with just two episodes left in the season, I guess they're making us wait until the finale, right? Or maybe there'll be a scene next week setting up the finale?

Either way, the episode opens with a screw-up, titling the first scene as '1 YEAR AGO', when really this is the present, and the rest of the episode is one year later. Who taught these people about context?

Anyhow, in a bathroom lit only by candles, a guy in rubber gloves is preparing a scalding-hot tub! Or perhaps it's full of chemicals. I suppose we'll find out when he finishes dragging the gagged and screaming woman into it. No, even after we see the dunking, there's no clear answer as to whether it's actually dangerous, or this was some kind of sick baptism ritual.

There's a solid transition from the murder tub to the one where JJ is bathing her son! The kid asks why she has to go to work, since he'd rather she be around all of the time. She starts to offer the whole 'people need my help' thing, which is crazy, since she hasn't had a clear role or value to the team since Garcia took over picking the cases, but there's no time for her justification to continue, since Josh Stewart walks in, making me immediately happy!

Seriously, that guy is one of my ten favorite actors, and he's not on the show enough. Maybe someone could give him his own show? Wait, maybe someone has!

(one trip to IMDB later)

Apparently he's currently on season two of the show 'Shooter' (presumably playing an evil sniper, although that's based on nothing but his appearance in Dark Knight Rises), as well as a miniseries about Lewis and Clark!

Good for you, Josh!

Where was I? Oh, right Criminal Minds.

JJ heads off to work after handing off parenting duties to Josh, which makes me wonder if he's a full-time dad now. I certainly hope so. Seriously, after you've had a bomb vest strapped to you and survived, it's time to call the whole police thing quits and take early retirement. I'm sure you can get some kind of a stress pension for that, can't you?

At the office we get a breakdown of their new case! Every year a nanny taking care of a child is kidnapped, raped, burned with a circular object, then drowned in a tub. The children are dropped off at a hospital, church, or other safe space, completely unharmed. The killer makes sure that her body his found on a specific day, which is now just two weeks away, so the team is on the case!

Seriously? You waited until it was just two weeks away? Were you so busy with something else that you couldn't be working the case out of California and getting off to your occasional 2-day solves?

The killer murders people up and down California, so there's no way of knowing where he'll strike next! But one of his would-be victims escaped and moved to Seattle, so while most of the team will be heading to LA because it's an easy place to film (also that's where the killer dumps the bodies, and maybe holds the still-living victims, but come on), JJ and Derek will try to get more info out of the escaped victim.

There's also a Prentiss-Award winning line, as Reid, condescending dick that he is, seriously assumes that the rest of the team doesn't know what day of the month it is.
Big help there, Reid.

Over at the Griffith Observatory, the killer has decided to get super-lazy, abducting a nanny who was already in LA! Will the team be able to save her in time (they have at least twelve days, unless he refrigerates bodies), or will the killer start spree killing?

Let's find out after the credits!


Criminal Minds 820: Alchemy

The episode opens as a man in a vest has a staring contest with an owl. This looks as strange as it sounds. Then he hears the yelling of a child from the hallway, and sees a wall bulge outwards as if Jake Busey were hiding behind it. So I guess he's got a mental disorder? Or perhaps this is a dream?

He tears down the wallpaper and finds that behind it is a wall of meat, which promptly swallows his arm-
Well, this is certainly unusual for an episode of Criminal Minds. Are we sure I didn't accidentally turn on an episode of Supernatural? Or did Matthew Gubler just direct two episodes this year?

It turns out to have just been a bad dream, as the man, looking quite different with a flannel shirt and messy hair, wakes up coated in sweat. He rushes to a nearby phone to call for a doctor, and the voice on the phone announces that there's a doctor in room 209. Which seems like a weird thing for an operator to do. Is she just another figment of his imagination?

Then things get still stranger, as the show cuts immediately from him walking through the suspiciously ajar door 209 to a bunch of police officers running through the woods at night with pistols and flashlights. Their dogs lead them to an arm, which proves to have no body attached to it! It does, however have the same ring that its middle finger that the confused man was wearing in the last scene!

There's another hard cut, this one to Reid, who's presenting Joe with his theory of the case - people are being abducted in small towns around Rapid City, South Dakota, and then being cut up and having their body parts strewn about the woods! Apparently local police didn't know about the connection because one of the bodies was dumped inside a reservation, which is a completely different jurisdiction.

Since the brutal reservation murder is and FBI matter it should have been investigated already, but the characters note that the FBI doesn't really care what happens on reservations ever since two FBI agents were murdered in one back in the 70s. Which is true, and kind of super-unprofessional of them.

When listing the things that they 'know', Garcia mentions that there was no evidence of robbery or sexual assault. Um... the two bodies were stripped of their clothes, dismembered, and the pieces dropped in the woods. Did the killer also leave their full-of-cash wallets next to the bodies? It seems like you're basing the 'no robbery' on the fact that one of them was still wearing a single ring, but there's any number of reasons a killer could have left that on. Not the least of which being how singularly weird it looks to see a hand with just one ring on the middle finger.

The team notices that it was strange that the bodies weren't stripped by animals. It seems that they were full of poison, which explain the rough night the guy was having at the start of the episode! There's also strange welts all over the most recent victim's back, which resemble something called 'cupping' from holistic medicine. I'll just take their word for it, since it sounds like something I don't want to look up.

Meanwhile, over in Rapid city, a guy is about to leave a bar when a woman in a creepy old-timey dress asks him to walk her to her car, so as to avoid her abusive ex-boyfriend. Is he the next to be abducted by her evil cult? I don't have any proof that she's a strange cultist of course, but she did go into a bar in this dress-
Wearing minimal makeup and no jewelry but a picture locket. It's weird. Also, considering this episode is set in April in South Dakota, they seem badly underdressed.

She flirts with the guy a little, and notices that he's driving a rental car. She invites him to stay at her motel rather than the dump he's currently at, since that's where all of her murder supplies are. Naturally she doesn't say that part, but we know it's true, since she clearly has the same voice as the woman from the phone.

Over at the lodge she comes on to him while her partner watches through a hole in the wall! Is this going to be an adaptation of that true-life story of the motel owner who built an entire motel just so he could spy on people? Only now he's also a serial killer?

I guess we'll find out after the credits!


Criminal Minds 819: Pay It Forward

Another week, another lack of 'previously on' copycat clips, suggesting a lack of progress on the copycat case. At least with Frank and the fake Zodiac killer you could believe the team would stop chasing them, since they stopped killing once they disappeared. At least until they reappeared. They know for a fact that the copycat is out there scheming for another kill. Erin said he's gone 'dormant', but in serial killer terms that means years without a kill, not weeks.

Although everything is a little skewed in a world where every serial killer is a spree killer, of course.

The episode begins with a Mayor in 'Bronson Springs Colorado' giving a speech about how it's the best town in America, past, present, or future! This scene is set in 1988, 25 years before the episode airs, so presumably we would have heard about Bronson Springs at some point if that were true.

Hey, are they going to seal up a time capsule with a person in it? That would be great.

Literally the next shot was them installing a time capsule. I watch too much television. It's too small to have a body in it, though, so that's a relief. Maybe the killer wrote a confession detailing his plan to kill one person a year over the next twenty-five years?

The workman drag the capsule out in the present day, and it's in pristine condition, as if it's only been underground for three hours! Wink.

They pop it open and find a mummified head inside! This is a lesson - go with your first instincts, people. As the fuss begins, this man-
Walks off into the crowd! Could he be the killer? Why is he so familiar to me?

Then it's over to Quantico, where Garcia is explaining the details of the crime! A young blonde guy had been decapitated years ago, it seems - although it's unclear from her description whether people knew that he'd had his head cut off back when he was first killed, or if he simply disappeared. Seems like that would be important.

Then, just a day after the head was discovered, a retired sheriff's deputy (who - possibly importantly - was already on the job 25 years ago) had his head cut off at the side of the road just outside of town. That's right, there's a Highlander on the loose!

Jeanne points out that it was an unusually long time between kills. Reid suggests that such a long dormancy period isn't unheard of, mentioning that BTK, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Keystone Killer, Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac Killer.

Okay, so let's address those one at a time.

BTK didn't have a long gap between kills - he stopped killing, but then wanted attention again, and got caught when he asked for it. Maybe he was going to kill that next woman, maybe not, there's no real way to know.

Jeffrey Dahmer stopped killing for a couple of years.

The Keystone Killer was the show's version of BTK, so it isn't worth mentioning.

Jack the Ripper should never be brought up, since nothing about the case is useful in the study of modern criminology.

The Zodiac Killer did stop. So Reid is 1/5 for this information dump. Although it's questionable how relevant a guy who stopped killing is in a discussion about a guy who didn't.

They raise the possibility that it could be a copycat, since over a million people saw the video of the severed head rolling out when it was posted to - well, probably not YouTube, given the subject matter, but somewhere online. True, but that wouldn't make much of an episode, would it?

We then drop by the guy from the crowd's garage, and watch him put the cop's severed head in his freezer! Also, I'm pretty sure that he's the evil prison guard from Prison Break, although the fact that we've just seen him in profile twice isn't helping me identify him.



Criminal Minds 818: Restoration

The episode begins with a complete lack of 'previously on Criminal Minds', which means no copycat this week! Seems like an oversight for the team. I mean, don't they understand that every time the team goes out and works another crime they're just giving the copycat an excuse to kill another person? And it's not like they're contributing much to solving these new crimes. Considering that it's Garcia doing all the actual work, couldn't Forrest Whitaker's team go out and work these cases?

Anyhoo, the episode actually starts with a guy closing up his corner store! Before he can close the door two adorable kids ride up on their bikes asking to buy some candy, and this soft-hearted guy lets them into the store. This, naturally, gives the killer a chance to rush up and tackle him when the kids ride off on their bikes and he's turned to lock the door. He drags the owner inside, shuts the security fence, and that's the end of the scene!

One thing, though - his plan revolved around clubbing the owner while the door was still unlocked, then getting him inside before anyone noticed them. So why didn't he attack the first the time the guy was closing the door? He was just as close to locking it when the kids drove up on their bikes, so shouldn't the killer have been attacking then? If the guy had succeeded in locking the door, then the attack turns into a mess. He has to club the guy, grab his keys, unlock the door, and drag him inside - this takes much longer, and gives the victim a huge amount of time to call for help, fight back, and attract attention.

It's not like the killer saw that the kids were coming - they rode in on bikes around the corner just as the door was about to be locked. Seems awfully convenient that he didn't attack that first time, even though it made him considerably more likely to get caught.

Then we cut to one of Derek's properties, which he's busy renovating! Did you remember that Derek owns a large number of rental units? I did, and am a little worried about that, since it never comes up on the show. It's possible I know too much about Criminal Minds.

Joe drops by with some booze, which should prove helpful for a safe work environment. Then agian, Derek is tearing out plaster walls and removing old windows without wearing a mask or safety goggles, so maybe safety isn't a priority of his?

Before they can get drunk Garcia calls with a case - one that's so important they presumably have to run in on a weekend! It's worth noting here, I think, that other than holes in his jeans and work gloves, there is literally zero difference between the way Derek dresses to renovate a house:

  And how he dresses to go to work at the FBI.
Food for thought. Thoroughly unprofessional food.

It seems that the convenience store owner was the second man beaten to death with someone's bare fists! Also the men had their pants and underwear pulled down, but were not sexually assaulted. Not a lot of info there, and considering the ten-day gap between the murders, I'm not sure why the team had to come in on a weekend for this.

I'm kidding, of course, the killer will definitely start killing one person a day from here on out.

JJ mentions that Derek should check in with his family while he's in Chicago, but he announces that he's not going to let them know he's in town until the case is over. Which is kind of a dick move. How often do you get a chance to see your mother or your sisters? Including, you know, the one who was a sex slave for five years until you rescued her? Even when on the road you don't work the cases 24 hours a day, Derek, you can get dinner with your family.

In Chicago, a man shows a woman and her kid out of a store, and the killer notices him placing his hand on the kid's shoulder. It troubles him quite a bit. Is this guy getting revenge on child molesters, or at least people he thinks are child molesters? This could get quite personal for Derek!



Criminal Minds 817: The Gathering

So, this episode probably isn't going to be about profiling Highlanders, despite the title, so I'll put my disappointment aside and get to the show!

We start with another 'previously on', which I guess means they're finally taking this copycat business seriously. Then it's an office scene where the team is wondering where the killer is getting all of his information from, since the press didn't know about key elements to many of the crimes that were recreated by the copycat. Plenty of people in the various police departments did, of course, but who could get to all of them without drawing suspicion on themselves? The FBI or Homeland security, probably.

Joe then wins one of the earliest Prentiss Awards ever, during this exchange:
"Why didn't he help his career out?"

I know that you're a money-grubbing creep who salivates at the idea of turning human tragedy into fat stacks, but there are other motivations, Joe. You're dealing with a guy with a monomaniacal obsession with mocking your efforts and ruining your lives, and you think that he'd try to get ahead in his hypothetical journalism career while also serial killing people? This says more about your priorities than it does the people you're chasing, and the fact that you're bringing them into your profile suggests that you're even worse at your job than I'd thought you were.

The guy probably isn't a real journalist, but Jeanne is half-right. As we learned from Se7en, and, you know, reality, there are plenty of people looking to bribe cops for juicy details about crimes, and plenty of cops happy to take that money. So while the law enforcement connection is more likely, you'd be smart to have each of those jurisdiction's cops check who might have been talking to reporters about the crimes.

Reid then offers a truly stupid observation, that if the killer was learning just by watching them he'd have to be in two places at once, since he was dropping a Ray Wise-copycat corpse in Pheonix while they were investigating the Matthew Lilliard crimes in Miami. Except you have no reason to think that, since the copycat hasn't tried to recreate those crimes. I don't think he's just following them around, of course, but they have no evidence to disprove that yet, despite Reid's assumption.

Update! It was pointed out to me that the dead woman at the end of the last episode was supposed to be a recreation of the Lilliard crimes, and I missed it because the show gave so little care to personalizing that victim. After all, the Lilliard crimes were about soliciting prostitutes, taking them into alleys, and smashing their heads in with hammers. This was a woman - whose identity is still a mystery to us - was brought to a warehouse and used as the centerpiece of a giant stalker evidence orgy. So I think it's understandable that I missed the connection.

Special thanks go to the commenter who pointed this out, because it made me rethink this entire scene, which made me notice something even more preposterous about the scene. This whole debate they're having is focused around 'who could possibly have the inside information about these crimes, when details weren't released to the public?'

The problem is that those details absolutely would have been released to the public, and the team (also the show's writers) should definitely know that. Here's the thing about 'withholding information'. It's done so that during an active investigation the police are able to gauge the veracity of confessions and tips they receive. If a woman is stabbed to death with scissors and a guy comes in and says he slit her throat with a straight razor, then there's a good chance he's not the killer. Details are likewise held back to prevent people from copycatting crimes.

Here's the thing, though - that's only during active investigations. Once the perpetrator has been caught or killed, the case is closed, and the information starts coming out in a great rush. The only reason to keep it secret at that point is to prevent a potential jury pool from being contaminated by the details of the crime. Which is precisely why all of the crime's gruesome details will definitely come out - Prosecutor's offices have an obvious incentive to ensure that potential jurors walk into a courtroom already disgusted with the defendant.

And if the killer is dead, there's flat-out no reason not to start talking about all of the disgusting details immediately.

So really, this entire scene is a giant waste of the team's (and our!) time, and if the show later has them determine who the copycat is based on their access to this 'restricted' information, it will be hilarious.

Conversely, if this whole line of inquiry gets dropped, and the show never again mentions how the copycat found out the details of the crime, I pledge to not criticize them for doing so. Also, if they have the copycat be like 'I just read about all the details on a true crime blog' I will compliment the hell out of them.

Then things get just so dumb, as Garcia offers up a photo from their softball championship game:
 Yes, the show doesn't know how reflections work. Unless, of course, the copycat was taking that shot from about ten feet away. Which would have been hard to miss. Also, if I was the killer and I'd wound up with a photo where my subjects were out of focus but a reflection of me was sharply visible, I probably wouldn't have printed it out. Unless it's all part of leading them into a trap?

Then their boss comes in and tells them to stop working on the copycat case, because he's 'dormant' and there are more important cases to work on. Which is, you know, crazy. A guy is stalking FBI agents, actively recruiting other serial killers, and slaughtering people all over the country, and the FBI's reaction is 'well, he's not a spree killer, so it's not worth our time'? What is wrong with the world of Criminal Minds?

This leads to some amazing looping by Joe, as the producers attempt to justify the team failing to do their job.
Yeah, Joe. That'll cover it.

Then it's over to the land of fake snow, as we see people running out of a bar in Minnesota! A drunken boyfriend tries to accost his girlfriend in a parking lot, when a stranger walks up and punches him, then runs him off. The woman isn't particularly concerned that the stranger knows the boyfriend's name, but gets creeped out when he proves to know her name as well!

Proving that bystanders and security cameras don't exist in this world, the stranger is able to club her into submission and then throw her into her own car. Wow, lucky for him that she's completely alone in a well-lit, highly-trafficked parking lot, huh?

Time for Garcia relationship drama! In a coffee shop in downtown Washington DC (which is like 40 miles from where she works) Penelope runs into a guy she's casually dating! Amazing that the guy turned up at this random coffee shop she goes to during her 90 minute commute to work? You know, half an hour downtown during rush hour for coffee, then an hour to the FBI headquarters, which apparently doesn't have coffee?

I know she calls the coffee shop her 'hood', but isn't the idea of her living in downtown Washington DC even though she works an hour outside of town a little crazy? It's not like she's from there, after all, she was recruited into the FBI for her hacking skills, and she what, decided that two hours of commuting time and a much higher rent to live in a crime-riddled city was a fantastic idea?

Anyhow, Xander is miraculously also there (did they go together? I'm so confused!) and is freaked out to discover that Penelope is dating some guy!

Then it's time for their case briefing! In the past two days two women have been brutally stabbed to death and had their tongues ripped out! The team discusses the possible symbolic importance of the act - were they liars? Did the killer want to silence them? And then it's off to the plane.

Where this briefing could have taken place. Seriously, why not just meet at the airport? It's a half-hour drive from their offices, so aren't they wasting time driving all the way in just to get two minutes of exposition before getting back in their cars?

Then it's over to the killer, who apparently writes books about his murders? Many of which feature hilarious pun titles?
Why is the Nicole one in a different font, and underlined? Does he do a new edition when he's actually killed someone?

Maybe, because he then reads from a book about a woman whose house he broke into through an open window. He killed a guy there, then dragged her off so she could be his forever! I guess this happened a while ago? Because the cops haven't connected it to the two current murders, and, more importantly, no a lot of people are leaving open windows in Minnesota from November through April.



Criminal Minds 816: Carbon Copy

Alright, between the title of this episode and the fact that it's starting with a 'previously on' means that it's time to finally get to the copycat killer episode that they've been promising for months! The clips reminded me that the copycat killer went back to the cities that the original murder took place to kill in. I feel like that's going to make them a little easier to catch if they have to criss-cross the country looking for victims.

Also, kidnapping a woman to marionette should have been pretty hard in that tiny town where the Brad Dourif episode took place. You'd think the people would be on edge and observant.

Then we get a flashback to the Reid's Girlfriend's Stalker episodes, which is weird. Are they saying the two stalkers were working together, or did they just want to get the Zugzwang line in there? Fun fact: Despite what the show says, 'Zugzwang' isn't the moment that a player knows that they're going to lose. It's actually a term roughly meaning 'forced move'. It's the moment in chess when it's your turn, and whatever move you make will put you at a disadvantage, but you have to make a move anyway, because there's no 'pass' in chess. It's not a situation that you necessarily can't fight your way back from, but it is dire.

But I'm getting way, way off track. Let's get into the actual episode!

The copycat (I'm assuming) has a woman tied up in a basement and he's planning to fillet her with some knives. She doesn't want to be killed, obviously, and begs for her life, but he's having none of that, and tapes her mouth shut so he can murder in peace.

Over at the office, the boss comes by to apologize to Jeanne for damaging her career some years earlier, and offers to make amends. Jeanne doesn't seem too psyched about it. I look forward to hearing more of this backstory soon!

Or immediately! The very next set of lines involves JJ explaining that a bust went bad and the wrong guy was arrested, and the boss made sure Jeanne took the fall! Is that why the copycat is after her now?

Then JJ gets some flowers with a "ZugZwang" card, and I guess that means he's copycatting something that wasn't really one of their cases now? Was the girl in the basement supposed to be a stand-in for Reid's lady friend? Okay, she can't be, because then the copycat would be committing suicide and killing her at the same time, which wouldn't be much of an ending to this storyline.

Although it would be hilarious.

They address the possibility that the ZugZwang call had been the copycat all along, which makes a lot of sense, while raising a huge number of questions! Also they're calling him 'The Replicator', but I won't, both because 'the copycat' has three fewer keystrokes in it, and because the FBI isn't supposed to be naming serial killers, dummies. Or is it just female agents who aren't allowed to do that, Joe?

We finally get some details on the Dourif copycat killing. It's a woman who was murdered and turned into a 'human marionette'. Except no, her limps were just dislocated and she was stuffed in a dumpster:
Do you think that's the same contortionist/dancer who played the victim in the previous episode? Maybe they just slapped a wig on her and figured that was good enough. I think we can see the edge of her hairnet there in the dumpster shot...

Anyhoo, the boss gives them the go-ahead to fully devote themselves to the copycat case now that he's in contact with them. They immediately find out about a new case! The basement lady has been drained of blood and had her eyelids cut off - but they effectively answer the 'same city' question by letting us know that this death was in Philly, far from San Francisco where those crimes took place. Not for nothing, it's also where the flowers were sent from!

Then it's over to the killer, who's printing more photos of the team! Hopefully we'll find out why after the opening credits!