Criminal Minds 217: Distress

Man, punks are just jerks, aren’t they? This week on Criminal Minds they open the episode trashing a construction yard! And then one of them snaps the neck of an innocent security guard! Or maybe it wasn’t a punk at all, since he silently dispatched the guy immediately, stripped him of his weapons, then disappeared silently into the night. In a fashion not unlike that of a ninja!

A team profiling session reveals that three separate people have had their necks snapped in identical ways – and the chase is going to be taking place in the highest-crime area of Huston! Will we never learn who this mystery man is?

Actually, I don’t know about the team, but we certainly will. He’s an ex-special forces guy with PTSD. How do we know this? It’s not just the broken necks (although that’s part of it) – just as the profiling session ends we see a couple of people walking down an alley, right past this guy, hiding among the garbage:

If that didn’t make it clear enough, when this image is onscreen some stereotypically ‘middle-eastern’ music plays. Just in case we could have avoided the entire mystery being spoiled.

Seriously, why would you spoil a mystery so completely?

Anyhoo, on the flight to Houston Reid commences being a complete dick about his newfound status as a heroin addict, reacting churlishly when Greg suggests that Emily help him geographically profile the crimes. The faster this storyline wraps up, the happier I’ll be.

A trip to the crime scene gives Mandy and Derek all the information they could possible require – not only does one of the punks get dragged forward by his mother, possibly offering a clue about the killer, but Derek finds a homeless man’s hidey-hole in the building next door!

They have a possible profile ready to go – a homeless man who’s been displaced by all the recent construction! They immediately start looking into the local homeless community, but neglect to mention that it takes a very specific kind of skill set to snap people’s necks without any struggle whatsoever. Seems like that should have come up in the mini-profile, if they didn’t want the army stuff to be a halfway-point twist, that is.

Meanwhile in the heart of construction territory Rambo is awoken by the sound of a building being pulled down above the sewer he’s sleeping in! And look who’ll be playing our Rambo this week:

Yup, it’s that guy! Popular character actor whose name I don’t know, but was the most talkative member of Fight Club to not be Jared Leto or Meat Loaf! Good to see him getting work. Three years ago.

It seems his particular psychosis has him seeing images of a young black boy whenever he hears loud noises, so I can only assume he was involved in some kind of a Black Hawk Down situation where he had to kill a kid, and it messed him up.

Messed him up enough that when a construction worker heads into the sewer to check on the damage from the collapse, the killer snaps his neck like a dry twig. Man, that guy’s good at his job.

Mandy and Derek go to that crime scene as well, and turn up the killer’s most recent bedroll. With two of the murders happening where the killer slept, they come to a quick conclusion – the victims just happen to be people who disturb his territory. Meanwhile Reid and Emily check out the local homeless shelters, where Reid continues to act like a dick, making a previously uninteresting character now actively unlikeable! Great job, show!

They finally mention the expert killing thing, and in a lucky coincidence at that very moment a local store owner gets into a fight with the killer, but is rescued at the last moment by his daughter. It seems the killer doesn’t want to murder anyone in front of their children. Which is totally a characteristic you don’t want in a soldier, I’m guessing.

Still, the important part is that the killer’s heart grew three sizes that day, and after decidedly not killing the little girl’s father he apologized to her, then ran off when he heard a loud noise nearby. So now they know he’s a married mental patient and they’ve got a good physical description of him. Add this to the fact that he’s put an SOS on the roof of a building, and they finally manage to clue into the fact that they’re dealing with a Rambo who still thinks he’s in a war zone.

This is enough information to let them know exactly who the killer is – his wife and army buddy show up almost immediately, since he disappeared on his way home from work three days earlier, and has already been reported missing to the police.

Hey, look – the buddy is played by that guy:

Good week for recognizable character actors, isn’t it?

The team presses the buddy for information about the killer’s combat record, assuming that it will help them track him down. We finally get the story behind his flashbacks: they’d been forced to hide out under heavy fire for a number of days, and in order to save their lives, the killer had been forced to kill an 11-year-old who was part of the enemy militia.

Yeah, that’d do it.

So now they’re faced with a problem: how to get Rambo to break cover, and realize he’s not in Somalia? They plan to search for him with a SWAT team, but then realize just how badly that could go, and decide that trickery might be the better way to play it. They discover that he stole a radio from a construction site, and endeavor to use it to contact him, creating a fake recall order.

It seems like it should be fairly easy to bring him in at this point, but I’m guessing Rambo won’t survive the episode. This is American television, and it’s intensely moralistic, so despite the fact that his mental illness was created by service to the US government, the fact that he killed four innocent people won’t go unpunished by the people in charge of drama.

The buddy gets Rambo on the phone and arranges a pickup, but the cops manage to do a lousy job of securing the area. Yes, despite the act that they know loud noises set him off they let a group of jackhammer operators continue working nearby. They also failed to secure the back entrance, allowing a small child to ride into the construction site on a bike. Rambo tries to save the kid, and a sniper shoots him.

Violins play. Because it’s sad.

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

Just a little. They came to the PTSD diagnosis fairly realistically, but it didn’t really play into tracking him down.

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

This was almost as conventional as it gets – a survivor identified him, his family reported him missing, and his best friend told them how to find him. I’m not sure what, if anything, the team brought to the table.

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

3/10 – The knowledge that Rambo was suffering from PTSD certainly affected how they dealt with him, but given that they failed to bring him in, we can only be so impressed by their effectiveness.


Jim said...

When are they going to mention hyperbaric oxygen therapy and (possibly, as the drama allows) the science proving that it works for the treatment of TBI and PTSD? Or for that matter, carbon monoxide poisoning - for which HBOT is actually approved?

The CSI: Miami episode "Backfire" also comes to mind.

Campaign to Congress for TRICARE to pay for hyperbaric oxygen treatment for TBI and PTSD by the International Hyperbaric Medical Association

Anonymous said...

I actually think this program might be better if ALL the main characters had hidden drug usages if some kind such that their interactions and approach to crime solving might make a little more sense...

Anonymous said...

All they had to do was secure the area. That's it. Everything would have been fine. How hard is that?

And they keep reassuring each other that they did the best they could like nobody could have done a better job. Anyone could have done a better job.

Anonymous said...

He's the oldest looking 11 year old that I've ever seen.