Criminal Minds 205: Aftermath

The story begins, as I’m beginning to understand that most stories do, at home base in Quantico, where the team is being briefed about a nefarious serial rapist. His twisted MO? He phones them and leaves a voicemail announcing that he’s standing right behind them, and then, because he’d broken into their house, he is! The already-puzzling aspect? For the first group of victims he attacked young women from a bible college, and now he’s gone after single women in their 30s… but why?

I suppose we’re going to find out after the credits, aren’t we?

Before they arrive there’s yet another victim – like all of their serial offenders, this one works really, really fast. So that there can be a ticking clock later in the episode. Spoiler alert.

Demonstrating some intelligence, they decide that the change in targets is the most important element to focus on. They split up and speak to both sets of victims – a bible college woman brings up an interesting question: after the first two rapes they massively tightened security, but still the rapist managed to get into the school. He also knew a suspiciously large amount of information of the victim’s lives, as if he’d been extensively stalking them. Hell, he even knew the name of one girl’s family dog!

During all this the team drops some real science about the types of rapists out there, and that this one specifically is a power-reassurance rapist. I’m not going to go into a long series of details about it now, because I’m not in a ‘getting myself depressed’ mood, but basically these are timid, pathetic stalkers who imagine themselves in relationships with their victims, and see the attacks as ‘dates’. Of course that’s an incredibly simplistic description, but the important point you should single out is that they’re the least violent kind of rapist, and almost never kill their prey.

In a useless scene that then becomes a character beat, Elle is weird and squirrely when they all head back to the hotel for the night, forgetting stuff in her car and being generally off. Reid tries to talk to get about it, but she’s more interested in getting drunk than having a heart-to-heart about her recent shooting. Will that be important later? I can only assume so.

While hanging out at the hotel the local detective and Mandy go over the details of the case, and unleash a few more facts, most importantly that only an estimated 20 percent of all rapes are reported… meaning that there could be as many as 40 more victims out there! Of course, there aren’t going to be a large number, because women are more likely to report an attack if there’s a famous serial rapist going around that the police are desperate to catch – that way they know that their attacks are going to be taken with at least a modicum of seriousness.

It still works to generate a lead, though, when the team uncovers a bible college girl who comitted suicide right when the MO changed! They have a hard time getting the parents to admit it, but then the dad finally cracks when his wife leaves the room. Because they weren’t smart enough to use interrogation 101 and interview them seperately. Turns out the daughter killed herself because she’d become pregnant from the rape, and her devout religious status made abortion an impossibility.

Hey, wait a minute, didn’t she kill the baby anyway by killing herself? Didn’t she commit the sin of abortion after all?

Oh, you know what? This is a topic I probably shouldn’t be addressing in this particular venue…

The rapist’s motive comes into focus – he was going after religious girls because he thought they wouldn’t want to have abortions, and when one comitted suicide he’s moving on to single women who’d gone to fertility clinics, based on the assumption that since they wanted a child anyway, they wouldn’t get rid of it!

They have a bit of a hard time at the fertility clinic, which has only one man working there, and he has no connection to the bible college. Actually the bible college thing is my question – they never bother to ask if he knows anyone who also works around the college. They do find their answer, however: he sells a ‘getting to know you’ questionaire to a direct mailing company, the same one that the college uses!

With a lead in their possession they head over to the direct mailing company, and discover that everyone who works there has access to the questionaires. They struggle through the mountain of files, looking for a clue about who the rapist is going to attack next. They come across a woman who checked off all the same boxes on her form as the three existing victims, but they’re too late – when the police arrive at her house they knock and then leave. The woman didn’t answer because the rapist already had her tied up!

Wait, is that the same actor playing the rapist? Because we saw him in profile in an earlier scene, and he some facial hair, which I’m not really seing outlined in the mask…

Also, don’t the cops find it suspicious that a woman’s car is in the driveway, but she’s not home when they knock at like 9PM? Didn’t anyone tell them that they’re dealing with a rapist who hides in homes, and then ties up the women when they get inside? Elle gives the cops a hard time about that, but no one really answers the question. And the scene is designed to make Elle look like she’s even more on edge.

Which makes it more puzzling that they elect to ask Elle to go undercover as a potential victim – wait, they know she’s emotionally unstable, and just two nights earlier she was drinking heavily while everyone else was working. Why do they think she can be trusted with this duty? Couldn’t they just have the lady cop or a local FBI agent do it?

Also, and this is just a ridiculous contrivance to increase drama, they tell her to hide her gun somewhere in the house she’ll be staying at, because he won’t enter a house until she’s left it, and there’s no way he’ll try to enter the house if he sees she’s carrying a gun. Because, you know, it’s not like she’s got somewhere she can keep it totally out of sight while walking around and not look suspicious at all. Like, oh, I don’t know, some kind of a leather bag with straps or something…

Purse. That’s the word I’m looking for.

You know what the hilarious thing about this scene? At the exact moment that Mandy is telling her she can’t risk being seen with the gun, so she’s got to hide it in the house, you know what image is playing onscreen?

Yes. It’s an image of her hiding the gun in her purse.


Moving on and cutting to the chase simultaneously, it turns out Elle was so profoundly not ready for the undercover gig. When she leaves the house that night instead of going to her car and driving away she runs across the street, grabs a guy out of a car, and puts him under arrest.

The good news? He was, in fact, the rapist. The bad news? They didn’t have probable cause to arrest him, so they can’t get his DNA. The team wants to try to talk him into a confession, but as the show has so amply demonstrated, they’re terrible at that, so nothing comes of it.

Oh, and for the record, here’s what he looks like:

See what I mean about all that moustache and goatee not fitting under the mask so cleanly?

So Elle completely destroys their case, which I find fairly believable from her character – she was never good at her job, and in the four episodes since her shooting she’s been even worse. The big question is: Why did they put her undercover at all? Let’s face it – the character has been well past the edge since she got shot. Of course, since they’re all professional psychologists it kind of seems like they should have noticed the problem.

With the rapist identified, but currently uncatchable, it’s time for the team to leave. But not before Elle swings by the rapist’s apartment and murders him.

Note the terrible stance she’s using. One hand, straight arm… that’s how you can tell a moral murder on a TV show from an immoral one, you know – good guys use two hands, bad guys one.

So I guess that’s it for Elle, right? I guess someone could make an argument that she was justified or something, but given that she went alone to the guy’s apartment she’s going to have a hell of a time explaining how she didn’t go to murder him.

She plants a gun on the body and all, but I don’t see her lasting another episode.

Because this one’s over, rather anti-climactically.

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

Dear lord, no. Their insight into the traditional behaviours of a power-reassurance rapits offers them absolutely no useful information. If that wasn’t bad enough, they failed to notice that one of the members of their own team was hanging by her last thread, or bother to do anything about it if they did notice.

Really awful showing this week, guys.

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

It was. They solved it through the most basic system of all, looking for concrete connections between the victims. Hell, I’m not sure why it took them this long or why the cops had to bring the FBI in – once they had two victims who’d gone to a fertility clinic within three days of getting raped didn’t they think it was worth following up on? Apparently not.

Again, it’s only when you’ve got REALLY stupid cops on the case that you have to call the FBI in, apparently.

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

1/10 – As stated above, not only did profiling not solve the case, but it actually failed to keep one of their own members from straight-up murdering a guy.

Um, also, where did Elle get an extra gun to plant on the rapist? Does she carry one around with her at all times? It seems like she probably didn’t know Ohio well enough that she could have grabbed an untraceable weapon within the maybe hour between the guy being sprung by his attorney and her gunning him down in a parking lot.

That’s some sloppy writing right there.

Oh, and hey – let’s talk for a minute about some writing that moves into truly awful territory: Remember earlier when I wondered if they were going to explain how he got through the tight security at the bible college, even going so far as to rape these women in their own dorm rooms? Well guess what – they didn’t even try to explain any of it.

Nope. When he’s brought in someone even mentions that they ‘still don’t know how he managed to break into homes without a trace’. Here’s a guess – really good at lockpicking. What I want to know is How did he get past guarded campus gates and into and out of dormitories during the hunt for a serial rapist on the college grounds?

Apparently the show felt it wasn’t worth addressing.


FACT CHECK – There’s no real case like this out there – in fact, when Reid is asked to mention any similar cases, all he can come up with is Gary Heidnik, the creepy guy who kept prostitutes in a hole in his basement.

This episode is significant for another reason, though – it’s another one of Criminal Minds’ patented cop-outs, pretending to be an episode about a kind of criminal who’s incredibly hard to catch (bomber, sniper, arsonist, and now serial rapist), and then turning around and giving them a preposterous or contrived motive that leads to an easy-to-follow paper trail.

It’s disappointing writing, although instructive in its failure, because it sheds some light on just how hard it is to write a show about psychologists helping out with crime solving.

How would a profiler catch a serial rapist? He wouldn’t. Because you can’t.

John Douglas (The Mindhunter!) wrote a whole book about how serial rapists and stalkers are almost impossible to catch (or stop, in the second case), and the only thing he, the world’s most famous profiler, had to really offer on the subject was a guide to help women understand which type of rapist was attacking them, and what to do in each situation.

Yeah. It was a rough book. Fun fact, though – the writing staff clearly read it for research while working on this episode. Not only is their description of the types of rapists fairly clearly cribbed from the text, but the only reason to bring the relatively obscure Heidnik up at all was that he’s featured in the photo section in the middle of the book.

The book is 'Obsession’ by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker, if you’re looking for a copy after my description.


Anonymous said...

I'm pretty shocked by the vitriolic comments (like the one above), since I find this writing incredibly entertaining, and as someone who doesn't quite have the stomach for the level of gore depicted I very much appreciate the thoroughness of these recaps.

Unknown said...

I actually find this guy to know his stuff. He is also pretty funny.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I liked what you said and I have something to add. This episode would have been so much better if we found out that the suspect wasn't the rapist, and that the actual rapist didn't get caught. It would have followed real life a bit more and it would have been harder on Ellie knowing that she killed a innocent man on purpose.

Anonymous said...

Am watching through the show and appreciate your blog - the only decent recaps online that I could find. Usually shows have a wiki page of some kind that I can skim if I missed a plot point (this is background tv) but this show doesn't, and so far seems to love leaving gaping plot holes and unexplained threads. Anyway ty for your very old writing.

Anonymous said...

Castle Vardulon, I thank you for reading and noting the "plot changes". The shoe contradicted itself SO many times. I loved the show and that is why it probably had 100% of my attention. AFTER Season 5, CBS saw they could "get away with this" and the inconsistency's increased MORE & MORE!
Thank you for you message.

Anonymous said...

TO Castle and Anonymous: I realize it is AUGUST 2, 2022 but I wanted your opinion on 1 of the 3 newest Dick Wolf shows, FBI Most Wanted. Do you have any input on that show?
mix*pix (Nashville, TN)