Criminal Minds 213: No Way Out Part 1

Here’s the problem with watching these episodes on DVD. I don’t look at what’s coming next, but I can always see the title when I’m starting the episode. So I know that there’s going to be no resolution this time around. Which makes it kind of hard to get into the episode’s mystery, because he structure ensures that I the know exactly how things are going to end.

How can I be so sure? Because it’s one of those ‘starts at the end’ deals.

After a gratuitous gore shot:

Mandy and Derek walk into and sit down at Keith Carradine’s table. They have a genial conversation about milkshakes and people’s names. Keith’s name is ‘Frank’, and he’s kidnapped someone. Mandy and Derek want to know where the woman is – she’s in trouble, because Frank’s a twisted serial killer!

But he’s a twisted serial killer with a plan – despite the fact that there are twenty cops outside, itching for a chance to blow him away, Frank assures Mandy that they’re going to let him go once he finishes his milkshake.

And he’ll succeed – how do we know this? For two reasons: A – this is the end of the story, and the rest is told in flashbacks, and B – the ‘part 1’ in the title. If Frank doesn’t get away, how could there be a part 2?

But let’s take a ride anyway, huh?

Inside the diner Mandy starts telling the story of why he’s there, and we flash back to a day earlier. It seems they’re in town because, over a ten year period two corpses were found with the same rib bone missing. They’re also able to track down dozens of other seemingly unrelated corpses from around the country, each one missing the same bone.

It seems that Frank’s been killing for thirty years, making him the most prolific serial killer of all time! They rush out to the desert in the hopes of finding the killer - the corpse is fresh enough that he might still be around! And given that, in the real timeline they’re talking to him in a coffee shop, they’re not wrong.

Oh, and the town sheriff is a woman, meaning she’s the one he kidnapped. I will bet any amount of money on this fact.

Meanwhile, in the past, Reid and Emily arrive at the police station just as a crazy woman is ranting about the fact that ‘he’s coming back!’ Obvious foreshadowing, but despite the fact that the team knows they’re looking for a serial killer who’s passed through this part of America a few times, they don’t see a potential lead in her ramblings. I suppose that’s excusable, she is a crazy woman after all.

Less excusable is the fact that Emily doesn’t find anything suspicious about the woman’s whistle, which she drops, and Emily picks up:

Yeah, that’s only onscreen for a second, but it’s clearly made out of a human rib bone.

Again, Emily knows that they’re looking for the rib bone killer, and when she picks up a rib bone, she doesn’t get the possible connection.

Out in the field they examine the corpse, and discover that not only was it torn apart with surgical precision, but that Frank butchers people while they’re still alive! Oh, and that he travels along the interstate, killing people.

Back in the present Mandy and Frank continue their mind game, with Mandy announcing that he wants to rescue the sheriff, and Frank responding that Mandy doesn’t care about victims, he only cares about catching people to prove his abilities.

Then we get a little more information about Frank’s history – he’s killed hundreds of people, with no pattern to the victims. Young and old, male and female, he just kills because he loves to kill. Finally Mandy gets to Frank a little by suggesting that he’s incapable of love. But why does that bother him so?

Over in the past the sheriff’s department announces that they’ve got the entire city locked down, and that they can put roadblocks up statewide if need be, which explains Frank’s need to take the sheriff hostage, I suppose. That hasn’t happened yet, though, but the sheriff finally clues in to the connection between the killer and the crazy lady’s story, which I guess makes up for Emily’s inability to recognize a rib bone when she saw it earlier.

It seems that a long time ago crazy lady was kidnapped by Frank, but she was so crazy, even then, that she interpreted the experience as an alien abduction, and didn’t know to be afraid of Frank. Frank, for his part, found her lack of fear enthralling, and fell madly in love with her. That’s why he comes back to the town over and over again, he visits her and drops off toys made of human rib bones.

Okay, so that explains why he’d be tetchy about being unable to love, I guess.

Frank also points out that all society is corrupt and cruel, as evidenced by his anecdote about a woman who died in her apartment in Manhattan, only to have no one notice it for a year. His stories are interrupted when the sheriff’s wife shows up in the diner, toting a shotgun, demanding to know where his wife is being held. At that moment Frank pulls out a bowling bag that’s exactly head-sized. Is the sheriff’s head in there? Nope. It’s just another one of his victims.

But who is it? Frank claims the head is his ticket out of town, but he’s nebulous as to how.

Over in flashbackland they start searching for Frank in an RV park, which encompasses a suspiciously large number of RVs for a town that doesn’t seem to have more than a dozen cops:

Anyhoo, the search doesn’t go great, largely because they don’t start in the most obvious place – at the house of the woman he’s clearly obsessed with. Instead of just searching around her property they have to break down his movement pattern to figure out that he takes a vacation in town every time he passes through. They also act like it’s a revelation that he might just be dragging a trailer, as opposed to driving an RV. Seems like they should have thought of that.

Oh, and here they are profoundly not stopping box trucks that drive past their roadblocks, which could just as easily be his killing room:

After hearing that the police want to take the night off Mandy freaks a little, and storms off to look for the RV himself. Garcia also turns up a cell phone call from town, which was attempting to mislead the team out of town. That info comes too late to keep Frank from kidnapping the sheriff – why did he do this? Not just for leverage, it seems, but because the sheriff had allowed crazy lady to stay at her place that night. It’s only after this action that they finally figure out that Frank’s obsessed with crazy lady, which we got like twenty minutes ago.

Out at Crazy Lady’s house they find wind chimes of rib bones, and then the flashback story syncs up with the sequence of Mandy interviewing Frank.

You know, supposedly the cops gave Mandy fifteen minutes to break Frank or they’d come in blasting, but it’s taken them like half an hour to tell the story of how they got here. And that’s watching it. I’ve got to imagine Mandy explaining all of this in the world of the show has got to be taking even longer…

Anyhoo, parked out at Crazy Lady’s place they turn up Frank’s trailer, and find the sheriff totally alive and unharmed inside it! Yay!

But wait, how does he plan to get away now that the sheriff has been found? I’m confused. And what was the fifteen minute time limit about?

Mandy and Frank talk a little more about love, and his obsession with Crazy Lady, then the cops bust in and everyone’s phones start ringing. Why? It seems that the severed head in the bag belonged to the school bus driver, and other corpse in the trailer was the teacher. Frank murdered him and took twenty children hostage, then hid them out in the desert somewhere.

Now the cops are faced with a dilemma – keep him in custody and let the kids die of exposure, or let him and the crazy lady go together? That’s right, the crazy lady’s in love with him too!

Frank announces that if they let him leave with crazy lady he’ll never kill anyone again – which is a nice thing to say, but how can you possibly believe anything a serial killer says?

The cops have no nerve, of course, and they decide to let Frank go. He drives Mandy out into the middle of nowhere, then points to where the kids are, and walks off into the desert with Crazy Lady.

The end.

No, I’m kidding, there’s a little more. Mandy promises that he’ll never stop looking for Frank, and I imagine that he’ll succeed in catching him next week, but for now, the story ends with no resolution, except for the fact that Mandy saved the kids. Which is a net positive, I guess.

Unless Frank kills more than twenty additional people after Mandy let him go, in which case it was a bad play.

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

They didn’t solve the crime, Frank turned himself in. Then still managed to get away with it.

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

Well, had they noticed Crazy Lady’s rib-bone whistle when she was showing it off, something tells me they would have taken her claims seriously much sooner, and perhaps been waiting for Frank when he came for her, before killing the driver and teacher, and kidnapping the kids, as well as the Sheriff.

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

N/A – We’ll defer this until next week when they actually catch the guy.

But I would like to take a moment and point out a pretty big profiling problem this week. The whole ‘twist’ of the episode was that Frank did, in fact, feel love for his crazy lady victim. Which would be an incredibly shocking revelation if we, the audience, had any reason to believe that he couldn’t feel ‘love’ except for the word of Mandy, which has proven, time and again, to be really unreliable on the subject of serial killers.

Which is kind of odd, given his supposed position in his chosen field.

My point is that even Mandy’s reasoning is faulty – he announces that sexual sadists like Frank don’t have normal emotions (not a shock – he’s aroused by pain and dismemberment), but no one who studies sociopaths would ever claim that they’re robots who operate with a Spock-like removal from all emotional concerns. While it’s true that people like Frank lack all empathy, they can still have intense emotional experiences, it’s just that all of their feelings will be narcissistic in nature.

Which is exactly what Frank’s feelings towards the Crazy Lady are – he never demonstrates any particular concern for her state of mind or care for her feelings, his only interest is in indulging and cultivating his own feelings about her. While that may not fall within the strict definition of love that Mandy naïvely adheres to, it’s well within the realm of experience for many sociopaths, and as a trained psychologist who’s supposedly expert in these people, it’s something Mandy really ought to be familiar with.

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