26.12.08

Criminal Minds 105: Broken Mirror

Synopsis – Trish and her boyfriend leave a party and on the road home they come across a SUV blocking both lanes. Despite the fact that we’ll later learn Trish is the daughter of a prominent US Attorney, who for her entire childhood has had a protective detail, and should know that she’s always in danger of being kidnapped to leverage her father financially or politically, she doesn’t find this immediately suspicious and demand that they drive away. This leads to the boyfriend being murdered and Trish being kidnapped.

Due to the existence of the aforementioned important father, the team is called in immediately to work up a profile of the kidnapper, who’s given them less than a day to come up with the money for her ransom. It turns out that Trish has an mirror twin sister (that means they’re mirror images – one has the heart pointed right instead of left – oddly, she doesn’t wear a medic-alert bracelet with this information, even thought that would be unbelievably useful toe EMTs and doctors were she ever to get into an accident) named Cheryll who can sense her sister’s anxiety, no matter how far away she is. Using this gift, she insists that her sister is alive. Elle, helping absolutely nothing, points out that Cheryll is a physics major. Cheryll responds in the episode’s stupidest line of dialogue:

“If you’re asking why a science major would believe in something non-scientific, I don’t. I just know what I feel. My feeling is that my sister is still alive.”

Well, first off, you DO believe in it, you said that both before and after claiming you didn’t. More importantly, belief in both science and so-called ‘supernatural phenomena’ such as psychic bonds between twins, are not mutually exclusive. Most importantly, depending on what field of physics she’s involved in, Cheryll might well think that quantum entanglement - the idea that she and her sister’s bioelectric fields and connected in a way unaffected by proximity, and that one’s changing circumstances or moods might affect the other – is an utterly valid scientific theory to put forward based on her first-hand experience with it.

Back at the mansion, the FBI has finished sweeping for bugs, and sets up their equipment to monitor the inevitable call from the kidnapper. They warn the father that the kidnapper could be motivated by anything, and not to assume his status as a wealthy man or US attorney might be responsible.

Derrick (the black one), has a theory about the kidnapper, namely that he killed the boyfriend for a personal reason, as opposed to expediency, because the boy was shot in the face. Of course, this could just as easily be the sign that the kidnapper was a professional killer who wanted to kill him as quickly and surely as possible. This possibility isn’t broached.

Finally the call arrives, and the kidnapper announces that he only wants to deal with Cheryll. The team quickly preps her about how important it is to make the killer feel empathy with the victim. The killer instantly turns her overly scripted language back on her, mocking her while announcing he knows how the FBI handles kidnapping calls. Then he asks Cheryll a lot of personal questions before letting her talk to Trish, who, very drugged, says that she can see the moon. This lets the team know she’s not blindfolded, the kidnapper plans to kill Trish rather than release her.

When the kidnapper calls back, he announces that Cheryll must handle the entire money drop procedure – somehow they don’t immediately realize this means he’s going to try to kidnap her as well, and they send her off to make the drop. Luckily they were following her, and figure it out at the last minute, managing to foil the kidnapper’s attempt, but not capture him in the process (there was just the one car following).

In the next call, the kidnapper breaks down and finally admits that he’s a crazy man who’s sexually obsessed with the twins, an ‘erotomaniac’ who believes that their offhand glances to him meant they were in love with him. Mandy Patinkin decides that because the kidnapper is in love with the twins he’s not likely to kill the one he has until he’s got both of them. So he hangs up on the killer over and over again until he’s angry enough to make a mistake.

And what a mistake it is. When the killer calls back, he announces that he knows the names and bios of everyone in the room standing around the phone, making an attempt at amateur profiling. They clue into the fact that, in order to know all of that, the killer must be an FBI agent, yet they still decide to send Cheryll to a safehouse with an FBI escort. Once there, the only non-team FBI agent to have had a line in the episode turns out to be the kidnapper. He knocks out Derrick with a taser before being captured by Elle. Then he gives up Trish’s location so we can have as happy an ending as possible in an episode where no one has mentioned the guy who actually got murdered for like half an hour.

It’s not public information who’s been assigned to the case, which means the killer absolutely has to be one of the agents who was in the house with them. Yet when they send the girl off, they send her off with FBI agents? Really? Given what they know about erotomaniacs, wouldn’t just putting all of the agents who were introduced to them and also were absent for the phone calls into custody and searching their houses quickly get all the evidence they need?

“Un-named Kidnapper”

1 - Was profiling in any way helpful in solving the crime?

A little, this time around. Profiling the killer as an erotomaniac who’s obsessed with the girls is responsible for Mandy’s assumption that provoking the killer is a good idea, which leads directly to the capture.

2 - If so, was the profiling plausible, or was it more magical and out of left field in the way it helped?

Once again, the profiling was very plausible – the show’s been so good about this that I’m going to retire this category for now, bringing it back only in the case of someone jumping to a ridiculous conclusion somewhere down the line.

3 - Could the crime have been solved just as easily using conventional police methods given the known facts of the case?

Actually, yes. The team is so set on using their psychological abilities to solve the crime that they overlook a pretty big clue, endangering everyone’s lives. After Mandy has provoked the killer into attempting to profile the team, no one seems to notice that their involvement in the case wasn’t anything approaching common knowledge. Let’s overlook the fact that in order to find out about the team he would have needed to access their personnel files – which no one bothers to check into. In fact, their computer girl is noticeably absent in this episode – the very fact that he knew they were on the case pegs him as someone who had been in the house with them at some point. With that information in hand, it would be the simplest thing in the world to ask ‘Okay, who was here at some point, and then wasn’t around for any of the calls?’ Also asking ‘which of the FBI agents who have been in the house has a background with the girls’ might have been a good idea. Either one would have pointed directely to the killer.

So, on a scale of 1 (Dirty Harry) to 10 (Tony Hill), How Useful Was Profiling in Solving the Crime?

5/10 – For the first time in the show, the real breakthrough was earned through Mandy’s knowledge of criminal nature. Of course, their failure to do even the most basic of policework and really look for a motive or background for the crime is what forced them to rely on psychology at all.

One last note – the idea that, after they’d figured out the kidnapper was an FBI agent, they would send Cheryll to a safehouse with anyone other than members of their team is so ridiculous that it seemed like they had to be setting a trap. Then it turned out to just be abysmal writing.

Thanks, Criminal Minds.

Also, how did the FBI team monitoring the call back at headquarters not notice that the head of the team kept ducking out just before the kidnapper made each call? It’s hilariously bad writing, but even so, I like to imagine the Agent walking back in and saying ‘What? I missed the call again?!’ in an exasperated tone like he’s on an episode of Polka-Dot Door.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You use all the character names except Gideons....you use the actor's name- why? Its a bit strange. Is he your focus? Plus you felt the need to point out that Derrick was the "black one"...why? Anyone interested in reading about a specific episode has probably seen other episodes and knows who Derrick is. If they havent seen any episodes then adding that extra info is useless and doesn't have any value except to you. Are you a racist?

Vardulon said...

First off, thanks for your interest in the reviews! As for your questions - I refer to all the characters by the name I know them best by. So Gideon is "Mandy Patinkin", Aaron is "Greg", and the rest of the cast is their character names. As for Derek, that's simple - at this point I still hadn't really learned all the characters' names, so I was still reminding myself that Derek was the black one and Reid was the white one.

They didn't really get personalities until later in the season, so remembering which was which was a challenge for the first few reviews.