Criminal Minds 122: The Fisher King

The episode opens outside a creepy manor house:

Which makes it just perfect for a Halloween episode!

Of course, this is the first-season ender, so it’s not a Halloween episode. And this post is going up two weeks before Christmas, so it’s not even a Halloween post. The only thing Halloween-y about it is that I’m actually writing it on Halloween. Of course, it would be unprofessional to let that seep into my writing, so let’s pretend this part of the intro didn’t actually happen, and just move on.

It seems that deep in the basement a beautiful woman is being held captive by a monstrous burn victim!

Man, I can’t believe that this isn’t a Halloween episode.

A big house, girl in the basement? Sounds like they’re getting ready to loosely adapt The Collector, the first psychology-intensive serial killer story! About time, given that without it, there would be no Criminal Minds at all.

Over at home base the team is getting ready for two weeks off. Derek and Elle are going to a swanky resort, Greg is relaxing with the family, Mandy’s isolating himself, and Elliot is acting really cagey about his own planned family visit.

It seems that their vacation is going to be interrupted, though, since the burn victim has pictures of all of them in his evil study!

Hell comes to paradise first, as the beach resort that Derek and Elle are (platonically) relaxing at seems perfect at first, but soon reveals a dark underbelly in the form of a dead body! But we’ll get back to that a little later. First we check in with Greg, who’s cleaning out a garage, and Mandy, who’s waiting for a lady friend to arrive at his cabin. A cabin which, interestingly, has an elaborate security system. Then the lady arrives, and they have a romantic dinner. How do they know each other exactly? Hopefully we’ll find out soon.

Over at the pathetic end of things, tech girl spends her vacation at work playing world of warcraft, and blonde girl doesn’t have a vacation, and Elliot has gone to visit his schizophrenic mother, played by TV’s Jane Lynch! In a theme that’s running through the episode, Elliot’s crazy mother imagines that he’s a knight going on adventures, and tech girl’s fake-WoW is Camelot-themed! I’d ask if all that means something, but it obviously does based on the title.

More romantic falderol from Greg, revealing that he and his wife were high-school sweethearts. Awww. Is there going to be a murder soon? Ah, Greg got a phone call from the killer, who announces that Greg’s got to save someone, and not worry about the corpses. What corpses? Oh, right, the beach. Where was I with that? It seems after Elle went to sleep someone created a trail of blood leading right to her door! It doesn’t get better anywhere else, as tech girl finds that her game-playing as allowed someone to hack into the department’s computers, while Mandy has received a suspicious package in the mail. Its contents? An old baseball card and a severed head!

I think they’re taking the whole ‘Collector’ thing a bit literally, but hey, two bodies isn’t bad, right?

Oh, wait, there was just one victim – a body in Jamaica, and a head mailed to Mandy. That is some fast postal service. No, it isn’t, actually. The dead guy was killed two days earlier, meaning that Elle can’t have done it. Well, at least we know that she won’t wind up in a Jamaican prison, right?

Ther are still more clues on the way, with blonde getting a rare butterfly in the mail with another clue, and Reid having a key left for him with his crazy mother’s nurse. They’re not kidding around with the rip-off now. Hell, the act even ends with a cutaway to the abductee, who’s coughing in such a way as to suggest pneumonia, which is what the victim died of in the book!

Oh, lawsuits? Why does no one file you?

The team goes over the identities of the corpse and the man who likely killed him, one ‘Frank Giles’. Since the message to Greg referred to the first ‘victims’, that means that Giles isn’t the burn victim, but rather another of his victims.

So it’s now clear that the burn victim is playing a cliched serial killer game with them, demanding that they help Reid find ‘her’, presumably the pneumonia girl we’ve seen in his basement. You know, if you want them to find her, an address is a good place to start.

Something to think about for next time.

They get to Giles’ apartment and find that he’s been murdered with a sword! Which, if you’ve got to go, isn’t one of the worse ways.

The impalement leads to some preposterousness, as the body was positioned to cast a shadow at a certain time of day. But the time of day was hidden in code based on the medieval method of telling time! Which Reid happens to know because his mother was a professor of medieval literature before she went insane.

For some reason the team doesn’t immediately stop and ask whether Reid knows the killer at this point. The killer is obviously fixated on him, crafting this whole ordeal as a quest for Reid to undertake, and he’s using specific language that only Reid would know about.

I know they’re distracted by the fact that they turn up a DVD from the burn victim in the room, but they don’t watch it until they’re back at the office. During the car ride back shouldn’t this have come up?

Or maybe it did, and was lost in the cut. Who knows?

The DVD is the standard killer’s outlining of his scheme. He tells them that they all have to play his game, and that he’s sending them a clue to allow them to complete the quest, but that they’ll need a book to understand it. Things get even personal when Greg’s wife is the one to deliver the message! That’s right, even Greg’s house isn’t safe!

Wait, there’s only five minutes left in this episode. Is this a two parter?

Damn, it is.

In Greg’s wife’s envelope is a series of numbers from a ‘book code’, where you write down a page, line, and word number so that only people who have the same edition of the book could possibly decode the message. The only clue to the book is that it has ‘inspired many adventures like this one’. Well, if you’re talking about getting the police to chase you, it hasn’t, because that’s never actually happened in real life. Of course, if you’re talking about kidnapping a woman and shackling her in your basement, then yeah, you must be talking about ‘The Collector’, because that book has served as a blueprint for far too many actual serial killers. Enough that, if I had a chance to go back in time and kill one person, it would be Hitler.

But if I had a chance to go back in time twice to kill two different people, it would be Hitler and George H.W. Bush before he had a chance to plan the Kennedy Assassination.

Okay, there’s actually a long list of people in the past I’d kill. Let’s just say that somewhere on the list the name John Fowles appears, before he had a chance to write The Collector.

(Quick note – I just had to look up John Fowles’ name, and it turns out the cover of the book’s first printing featured a key, lock of hair and butterfly, the items that they were sent. So this isn’t a rip-off, it’s an ‘homage’. Not sure why he sent a baseball card.)

Hoping to find the man that delivered the letter to Greg’s house, the team holds a press conference with the suspect sketch they made. Despite the fact that they realize that this will piss the killer off (he specifically told them to solve the crime themselves), and they’re doing it purposefully to provoke him, Greg then sends Elle home to get some sleep without any security. Where she’s promptly shot in the head by the burn victim.

Seriously. That’s the end of the episode.

Elle’s dead, and there was no resolution.

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

No solve yet, this is a two parter. But for the record, no psychology has yet been used.

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

I’m not judging, but yeah, only conventional police techniques have been used so far.

I’ll give the score next episode, and count it for the second-season totals, as opposed to the first. Just FYI, though, that resolution isn't going to be for a little while, since next week I'll be recapping the first season of Criminal Minds, and scoring the overall effectiveness of profiling in catching criminals, according to the show's writers and producers. The two Fridays after that are Christmas and New Years, where I'll be posting some themed articles.

So let's all meet back here on January 8th for the resolution of this cliffhanger!

Yeah, that actually seems like a long time, doesn't it? Well, at least it's still not as bad as the four months people had to wait to see the reveal when it originally aired.

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