Criminal Minds 204: Psychodrama

And you thought regular bank robbers were bad? This one likes to strip people down and then force certain selected pairs to simulate sex with one another! The team is on to him, though – they know he’s a serial killer just waiting to happen!

Before they can fly out to California to help catch the guy it’s time for some interpersonal drama, as Greg’s wife drops by to remind him that their child has medical problems. What’s that? A child with a mysterious, unnamed ‘condition’? It seems to me that this will be a well that they’ll be able to mine for years of angst for their main character! Score!

But on to the actual plot of the episode. One the way to LA the team tries to figure out the killer’s specific motivation is, so as to better predict what he’ll do next. He escapes on a bike, which makes him difficult to catch, and wears a mask, so no one can recognize him! They use a little ‘geographic profiling’ to figure out where the robber likely lives, then head down to the crime scene to suss it out. From this they glean an important piece of information – he only attacked a guard at one bank robbery… but why?

They make the intuitive leap that he beat this particular bank had a guard in uniform, while all the others were plainclothes. Which means he has a problem with authority – they assume this means he was in the jail or army, and had a bad experience of it. Another logical leap leads them to assume it wasn’t the army, because army people know how to work together, and this robber worked alone.

Unless, you know, he was so bad at working with other people that he was washed out by people in uniforms. Which would fit their profile exactly, come to think of it…

A key piece of evidence is missing from the last robber. The robber had forced a 60-year-old woman to get it on with a 30-year-old man, and then had the bank manager and his wife simulate sex in front of their teenage children, who happened to be in the bank at the time. For some reason, though, the tape has been erased! It seems that after the robbery the bank manager was so flustered that he ‘accidentally’ erased the key tape. Which raises the question of just how stupid are these cops?

There’s been a robbery. Anyone could have been in on it. Especially the bank manager, what with something like 80% of bank robberies being inside jobs. Yet they let him handle key evidence? Because what, cops can’t be bothered to push the eject button on a recorder?

Oh, and the profilers spend far too much time trying to figure out what his choice of victims could have possibly meant. Um, I’m not a trained psychologist, but maybe that he was molested as a child by his mother? And that, since he picked an old lady and a 30-year-old white guy, she’s still alive and he’s still got a problem with her?

Also, I’m going to save everybody a lot of time and reveal what turned out to be on the erased tapes: Nebulousness!

Yeah, the father admits that he wanted to delete the tapes because he didn’t want anyone to see his family’s humiliation, but the team doesn’t actually ask him what happened until much later in the show, even though they already stated that they’re sure it’s vitally important to identifying him.

They’re oddly cagey about admitting what happened – it’s implied that he forced the parents to sexually abuse their own children, but they refuse to come out and say it, so I can’t be sure. I wonder if this was a censorship issue…

You know, they could have just asked anyone else who was there what happened. What with the robber forcing everyone to watch the entire thing. Just a thought.

There’s a quick red herring about changing heights of the robber, but they figure he’s wearing lifts, and mercifully move right along. But why they’re pulling all of this nonsense the robber hits another bank. In this one someone manages to call 911, though, spoiling his game. He still escapes, but a meter-maid sees his face before he knocks her out with a single punch.

Then there’s a sweet car chase, but you’re not watching the show, you’re reading about it, so that’s not especially important now, is it? The whole sequence is notable only for the fact that he evades them by driving across a culvert, and despite the fact that he’s only fifty feet away, none of the cops elect to, you know, just shoot him.

Sure, he’s on a motorcycle, but why not take a shot? Isn’t that why it’s called ‘taking a shot’?

Back at the new crime scene the team discovers that the robber has finally started killing people – in this case he beat a man to death for not taking his clothes off. Also he’s not stealing money any more. So let’s just call him the ‘killer’ from now on.

The characters take a break for more character stuff, as Greg announces that he missed his son’s first steps. Yawn. More importantly they finally get around to looking at ex-cons who live in the area, but there are 300 of them, so it’s going to be a while. JJ suggests narrowing down their search by looking at sex offenders, which leads them to a pimp. Um, yeah… weren’t you operating under the theory that he didn’t know that he was sexually motivated until he started stripping down people at his bank robberies?

Which makes the pimp they track down yet another red herring. Oy.

While time is being wasted the killer heads into a diner and shoots up the ceiling.

This is noteworthy because when they go to a closeup of the gun, the image has been reversed for some reason.

I’m fairly sure this is a reversal, not just the insert guy firing with the wrong hand – the prop gun has a standard ejection system, meaning that the shells fire off to the right when you shoot it. This gun is clearly ejecting to the left.

Anyhoo, the killer tries to get a child to punch his own mother, and when he won’t, the killer murders the kid.

This finally leads them back to the psychology portion of the evening, as Greg freaks out about the idea of being children being harmed because of his problems with his own absentee fatherism. After the aforementioned interview with the bank manager, they finally get that the robber was always focused on children because of his own abusive childhood. Seems like this should have been obvious, but whatever. They also make the connection that he’s forcing people to act out his own past abuses, as a kind of therapy. It’s also a therapy that was used in a California prison at a certain time, allowing the team to figure out which of their potentials must be the killer.

This doesn’t prove to be the most helpful information, though, since even a trip to see the killer’s mother and then the hotel he lives at can’t help them figure out where he might be.

Since he loves abusing families the team assumes he’s headed to the nearest park, which proves to be a dead end. He’s actually at a large nearby birthday party! A quick confrontation leaves the killer injured and no one else hurt.

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

Not really. The key clue to tracking him down is identifying him was being able to recognize a type of therapy he was acting out – basic knowledge of psychology is necessary for that, rather than insight into human personality. The other key element ‘geographic profiling’ is actually one of those painfully obvious things that they try to sell as a science – basically it boils down to the idea that any criminal will commit crimes close enough to his home that he’ll feel comfortable, but far enough away that people won’t recognize him.

It can be precis’d as “Well, duh”.

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

Oh yes. When caught he was wandering around a neighbourhood in broad daylight, carrying an SMG. The only reason no one called the cops on him is that it would have harmed the show’s denoument.

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

2/10 – The funny part is that psychology could have actually helped them narrow the case down, it just didn’t. If they’d made the leap that his love of beating up moms had something to do with an abusive childhood they could have done a background search on that and maybe found him sooner. But somehow the ‘he’s an abuse victim’ didn’t occur to them until they were actually face-to-face with the mother.



Anonymous said...

I'm unsure as to why you keep referring to Aaron Hotchner as Greg?

Vardulon said...

The most likely reason for your confusing is that you are considerably younger than I am.

Unknown said...

Funny, very funny. Dharma & Greg Montgomery

Anonymous said...

im just mad they dont say what type of abuse. I assume its something awful, but what,

Unknown said...

Why do you keep referring to Aaron Hotchner as Gregg???

Anonymous said...

This..isn't very accurate. Not only do you continuously refer to Aaron Hotchner as Gregg, but you called the cops stupid. The banker took out the tapes BEFORE he called 911. Hotchner (I'm pretty sure it was Hotchner) even asked him why it took him 9 minutes to call the cops.

Unknown said...

vardulon is clever and has watched more than one TV series...
Greg is Aaron.

Unknown said...

Lol Greg

Orkneytim said...

My take on the bank manager and bank vault scene with family.

The key dialogue in the scene where Gideon is trying to get to the bottom of what abuse takes place in the bank vault is this:-

Wife: Go ahead why don't you tell him what he did to us, {pause} what you let him do!

Husband: He had a gun, he was going to kill me.

[Wife leaves with the children. Give husband a long dirty glare.]

Husband: He took my family from me. {pause} They can't bear to look at me anymore.


The wife is saying to husband, Tell the FBI ie Gideon, what he, (the unsub) did to us, the "us" being to me and my children.

She is demonstrating that she is already completely alienated from her husband.

The end section of the sentence after the pause "what you let him do" refers to the actions of husband as initiated by the Unsub's coercion using the gun threat.

Basically she is saying :- "tell the FBI what you did to us because you failed to stand up to him and allowed yourself to be coerced.

I think that the grotesque reality of this situation is that the unsub coerced the husband into having sex or simulated sex with his wife, then his daughter, and finally his son.

It would explain several things.

1) the complete family "dealbreaker" as evidenced by Hodge's dialogue with Gideon shortly thereafter,

Hodge: "I wonder how someone gets over something like that"

Gideon: "They don't."

2) the explicit expression of that level of abuse would be far too hot a potato for network television, hence a level of censorship is applied, and the unthinkable level of abuse is implied in the dialogue.

Very nasty concept. You have to wonder about the mind of the scriptwriter given that level of sickness.

Unknown said...

Surely the unspoken act (given what we then learn later about the unsub acting out the psychodrama where the 'sons are getting control over their mothers') is some sort of real or simulates act between the son and the mother? Hence the other pair that were forced to commit a sexual act in the same robbery were a 60 year old woman and a 30 year old man, and the fact that the son comes up to Hotch and Gideon after and asks "is it true that if my dad interfered he would have been killed?".

This is clearly about sons and mothers.

Deansy said...

For me the whole episode was spoiled by Gideo NOT shooting the unsub as he made his escape along the waterway - he was well within range, there was no civilians to consider so why??

Hanna said...

is anyone else bothered by the fact that this highly skilled team of FBI agents almost never wear gloves when handling evidence?
In this episode most notably when Elle picks up the UnSubs drugs and Mask when searching his hotel room.
It's one of several episodes in which I have noticed this complete lack of respect for police procedure.

In that one episode with the undercover cop in the mob Derek took the gun from the guy's apartment out of the wall leaving his fingerprints all over a potential murder weapon. And at that point they didn't even know it belonged to a cop yet.

So I have to conclude that they are not only bad at their job but have never watched any cop show and TV - because if they had they would know that all of that evidence is now tainted.

Sure sometimes they just shoot the killers, but we have to assume that some of these cases go to court. Do they want them to go free after trial? Maybe it's self preservation. If all the baddies are in prison, they have nobody to profile.