Criminal Minds 207: North Mammon

I suppose it was only a matter of time before Criminal minds tried to get in on the whole torture porn thing. I mean, they’re kind of a horror-themed show, right?

In this case, it’s a situation where three girls are kidnapped on the night of a sleepover, which happens to be on the exact same night as a pep rally! But who’s done it? And why did they live in a town with the preposterous name of North Mammon? Why not just move down the road to Greed City, TN?

Okay, girls grabbed from a sleepover – not exactly Saw territory, I know, but believe me, it’s going somewhere. And that somewhere is in a small underground concrete chamber with adequate ventilation. The killer opens a vent to talk to them – and he wants to play a game! The rules are simple: If they do nothing, then they’ll all die of dehydration. But if one of them is murdered by the other two, those two get to leave!

Yeah, it’s one of those moral quandry deals. And one of them has a bad cold that’s going to turn into pneumonia what with her being buried alive and all, so it’s just a question of who’s got the guts to kill who?

I’m obviously not going to cover their bickering and scheming in detail – what would be the point? So look forward to not hearing about the girls until the ironic twist part of the proceedings.

Back at home base we discover that JJ has some connection to the missing girls. Her aunt knows one of their mothers, and called in a favor. It seems that no one knows they’re missing, because they were forced to leave suspiciously identical messages on their parents’ answering machines, claiming that they were leaving on a road trip.

They’ve been missing for five days, and the phone message said they’d be back on Friday, meaning that whatever’s going to happen, it’s going to happen over the next two days. When they get to town they find the local authorities are a little skeptical about the missing children – we also learn the importance of that coming Friday – it’s the big state championship football game, which the pep rally the previous Saturday was for!

The team checks the crime scene and goes to talk to the parents, one of whom is mysteriously missing and no one can find. The show them moves into generic ‘secrets of a small town’ mode, where Mayberry turns out to have a dark underbelly. All the girls play soccer, and were therefore ignored by their families because it’s primarily a football town. In a note that’s sufficiently pointless to necessitate it being vitally important later on, they mention that the sheriff was a football star back in the day.

Two more important clues turn up almost immediately – a bunch of cigarette butts are found across the street from the kidnap house, and the girls’ car turns up abandoned in a lot. During the briefing of the cops and parents the missing father finally turns up, and beligerently demands to know what’s going on. JJ takes him aside, and the briefing continues. They point out that twisted abductors who set aside areas to contian their victims are incredibly good at concealing their hiding places. They mention John Jamelske, a Syracuse man who built a rape dungeon, which is all well and good, but did they have to accompany the explanation with this image?

Seriously, we know that’s not what’s happening to the girls, so how is it illustrative of the sitation or helpful at all?

Okay, moving right along, we learn two important things – one, the missing dad has run off, and two, the cigarette butts belonged to a soccer coach. The disperate threads dovetail together nicely when the missing dad bludgeons the soccer coach with a tire iron.

It seems that the coach had statutorily raped a 17-year-old some years back, and the missing dad, a lawyer, had gotten the charges dropped. So naturally he assumes the soccer coach must be the killer. The cigarettes are pretty good evidence, especially because they’re popular fake cigarette brand ‘Morelys’, like the ones that the Cigarette Smoking Man and dozens of other characters have smoked over the years.

Meanwhile a garbage man turns up one of the soccer uniforms in a motel dumpster just outside of town.

The team collects it and immediately lets the garbage man go. Despite the fact that they just got finished telling the police that the killer would likely insinuate himself into the investigation somehow. And what could be a bigger insinuation than coming forward with the miraculous discovery of a key piece of evidence?

Yeah, garbage man’s pretty much got to be the killer at this point.

But since we’re not going to skip ahead twenty minutes, let’s look at the evidence that was just handed to them on a silver platter. It seems that staying at that very motel until just recently was missing dad, who hides out there for a few weeks each year being a secret gay guy. In another key note, both he and the soccer coach also played high school football with the sheriff.

So now, in addition to kidnapping the girls, the killer is planting evidence designed to implicate missing gay dad and soccer coach in the crimes. But what could they have in common that leads to them being targeted?

Oh, right, they all played high school football together. Right. So, how long will it take the team to figure that one out?

They get all three families into a room, and none of them have anything useful to offer. Instead they just snipe at each other about their various personal problems. Meanwhile the killer is letting two girls out of the bombs shelter he’d kept them in. But which two?

I’ll give you a hint – one was nice, one was dying of pneumonia, and one was a total bitch, who was trying to convince the nice one to help her kill the dying one, since she had the least chance of surviving, anyways.

Ready with your guesses?

Yup, the bitch wanted to kill sicky, and while she was trying to convince nice girl to go along with her plan, sicky gathered just enough strength to murder bitch first.

So that’s all wrapped up, and all we’re left with is the identity of the killer. I mean, obviously we all know it’s the garbage man, but how are they going to figure it out?

After one of the parents clues in to the football connection the girls are able to pick the garbage man out of an old team photo. It seems that the garbage man had been on the championship team twenty years earlier, and an injury had ruined his career and destroyed his life. He blamed the other members of the team for his problems, feeling that they’d turned their backs on him.

When they arrest the garbage man he pulls the old ‘I never touched them, so I didn’t commit murder’ sophistry that’s so popular in the Saw franchise. Of course from a legal standpoint he did, in fact commit murder by putting them down there and telling them to kill each other, and since kidnapping is punishable by the death penalty, it really doesn’t matter whether he swung the hammer at all.

According to the garbage man he was just trying to show everyone how secretly vicious people are, going through lives just pretending to be decent. I’m not sure how this was supposed to be a controversial message – it’s pretty much common knowledge that if someone has the choice between killing another person or dying that they’re going to kill that person, isn’t it?

The episode ends with some more character stuff, this time about JJ’s background. The gist is that she’s happy to manage the team, and has no interest in becoming a profiler.

Yeah, I don’t care either.

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

They in no way solved the crime. So no.

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

Again, the crime was not solved in this episode. The killer won, then let the girls go, and they just said who did it.

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

0/10 – Yup. I’m going there. By dint of them not actually solving the case, I’m calling the profiling team’s involvement a total failure.

Hell, by not adhering to rule god-damn 1 of criminal profiling “Investigate anyone who helps out with the case”, they basically got that girl killed. After all, if the garbage man had been in an interview room he never could have given the girls the hammer that was used in the murder, and a simple search of his house would have turned them up.

God, these people are awful at their jobs, aren’t they? I can’t decide whether it’s daring or terrible that Criminal Minds is basically a show about cops who aren’t any good at catching murderers.

If this was a little more overwrought I could almost buy it as a CSI:Miami-style ‘secret comedy’.


Bee said...

Seriously. It's so clear that this is one of the FEW episodes you've watched. This show is incredible. I'll be honest it has some pretty lame episodes, but this show as a whole can not be compared to CSI:Miami.

You need to watch more than 2 episodes before making an accusation like that, damn it!

...Anyway, watch "The Fisher King Pt.1/2", "Lo-Fi", "Mayhem", and if you really want to be just...amazed, "100".

I recommend just watching "100". Sure you'll be confused (because, again, I'm guessing that you've only seen about 2-3 episode) but you will be pleasantly...pleased.

Vardulon said...

Now that's weird - I've been accused of a lot of things in my day - being needlessly cruel, overly picky, dickish for the sake of being dickish... and every one of those criticisms has some validity, as they are based in my well-established inability to ever enjoy anything ever.

But not watching Criminal Minds? That is certainly a new one. You'd think writing four pages about every single episode of the first two season would kind of disabuse people of that notion, but no, apparently not.

Anyhoo, thanks for reading, and rest assured, I'll get around to '100' relatively soon. I mean, it's the hundredth episode, right? Because of the title? And since I just finished my review of low-fi, which has to be somewhere around 65, then I should be there soon.

Although the review of it won't be up until next year, obviously.

Fury said...

I watch CM despite (because of?) being driven INSANE by how gloriously inept the 'team' is. I can't decide if I enjoy reading your review before or after watching the episode more...

Anonymous said...

you hit the nail right on the head. disgusting, cliche episode, full of borrowed horror. also it is a play on a famous serial killer who tied brothers to a board and watched them beat each other to death, claiming that the survivor could leave. he killed the survivor anyway.
all gross, poorly written/ stolen crap.

Feurona said...

It's pretty annoying to see them not really try to solve the puzzle but just stand there until it solves itself. However, I think that by this time they realised the original way of the show was starting to look kind of ridiculous so they wanted to switch it up to show that sometimes they can't profile the unsub at all and sometimes they can't get there in time, perhaps because they are getting seriously affected by the passed events and can't think straight. They are really starting to show some real good character development and I think that this failed case really adds up to it. The one thing I don't get is why they didn't show how the whole thing turned out? I really do wonder if in such case they would charge the guy with more time than the girl who actually killed her?? Would she even do time?(It was self protection in a way) I would hate to be the judge on that.

Anonymous said...

I loved the concept of this ep but the execution was so shit.. to get to the stage where you would be cool with taking a hammer to your bestie you would have to be seriously deprived of water & food - mainly water and actually looking death in the face. By the time you're at that stage, you sure as hell would look a lot worse than those girls - dizzyness, cramping, chapped lips, lethargy, thick dry tongues.. they wouldn't be able to clearly chit chat as they do and stroll about as nice girl and bitch girl do. When they are found they would also have needed immediate hospitalisation.. not just being cool with sitting in interrogation rooms with a glass of water with a perfect model like pout.
Can't they at least TRY for realism?!
But yeah pretty entertaining to watch how gloriously inept the team is as one of the above commenters said!

Anonymous said...

Im wondering why the girls didn't use the hammers to get out. I mean if your gonna throw in some hammers with no supervision, why not use them as tools!

woodchuck2004 said...

This was one of the few episodes in which I was able to solve the crime in my head before they figured it our.

woodchuck2004 said...

This was one of the few episodes in which I was able to solve the crime in my head before they figured it our.