Criminal Minds 302: In Birth and Death

This episode opens, as so many before it, with Eddie Cibrian (of TV’s CSI Miami! Whoo!) making out with a woman in slo-mo with a red filter!

But then it turns out that he’s just tenderly touching a torture victim! You got me, Criminal Minds. Excellent work. So Eddie’s the killer, huh? Not entirely surprised. You know how guest stars are. They just love to murder people.

Then it’s time to check in with the team – Mandy’s missing, Greg hasn’t come back yet from suspension, and Emily just didn’t show up for some reason. With a drastically reduced team, it’s time for the case run-down. Eddie’s been kidnapping women and tearing their hearts out! Ick!

Dude, you want to cut out women’s hearts, I get that – job’s a job, right? But what’s with the hammer and chisel while they’re still alive? Are you too good for anaesthesia and power tools? Plus, if you do it while she’s alive, you’re going to get blood all over your basement (garage?) workshop! Have you no sense of decency, my good man?

We’ll find out about Eddie’s sense of decency after the opening credits!

Speaking of opening credits, Mandy’s still in them, so I guess he hasn’t officialy quit yet. Back in the world of the show Greg shows up at the office, dropping the news that he’s planning to transfer out of the unit to avoid getting run out of the FBI by the nefarious blonde lady.

Damn you, blonde lady! Why do you hate Greg so much? Is it his hair? It’s his hair, isn’t it?

Greg’s plan to transfer is complicated when Emily shows up, announcing that she’s quitting the Bureau as well! It seems that the pressure of stabbing Greg in the back has been too much for her. The scene also lets us know how Greg’s going to get his job back – the AD announces that she’s going to be running the team until a new leader is selected from another department.

Ah, so this is going to be one of those ‘bureaucrat finds out how things happen in the real world’ stories. An acceptable way to go, show.

So here’s the killer’s MO – Eddie abducts women from public places with no witnesses, holds them for two days, and then tears out their hearts! Will the team be able to solve the case in time to prevent any more deaths? JJ doesn’t think so, and has the file sent to Greg, whose mind she thinks would be vital to solving the case.

The team gets to the latest crime scene, where they find Detective Greg Medavoy working the case!

Well, this should wrap up quickly. That guy always does a good job. They go over the facts of the case with Greg 2, and the AD goes out of her way to insult the local detectives for not calling the cops in sooner. Ah, putting people on the defensive – that’s how you solve crimes!

Greg’s got some troubles of his own on the home front – his wife catches him looking over the murder file, and demands that he take the white collar crime job he’s been offered! Greg reacts to this in an interesting fashion – he immediately calls Derek to offer his input on the case. Which proves to be a little hilairous: He notes that all of the victims were kidnapped between 3:10 and 3:25, and their bodies were all dumped between 7:50 and 8:05, two days later. Since Milwaukee (where the murders are happening – should have mentioned that earlier) schools start at 8:10 and end at 3:10, Eddie might be someone who works in the school system!

Only he couldn’t possibly be, if Greg would just think about it for a second. Yes, those are school hours – but only for students. Teachers and administrators get there before school starts, and stay after it ends. Janitors get there after school starts and stay long after it ends. Even bus drivers are occupied long before and after the school day. In the fifteen minutes before and after school the people who work there are incredibly busy. Which Greg really ought to know.

The timeline points far more directly to someone with a school-aged child, who’s killing around his parenting schedule. Although that only makes sense if the timeline was at all believable. Since the women were all abducted from public places, I can buy there would be a fairly accurate window in which they disappeared. But how do they know when the bodies were dumped? This latest body (the fifth), was dmeped in the alley behind a business, and it just so happened that the guy who runs the place arrived at 7:45 and saw no body, but then discovered it when he was carrying something out back at 8:10. So it’s an incredible piece of luck that they have a body dump time for one of the victims – how could they also have 15-minute windows for the other four? Is it really possible that they could know so much about when the bodies were left without someone having gotten a look at Eddie, or at least his car?

I guess this is just one of those leaps of logic that the writers were hoping we wouldn’t pay attention to, huh?

Speaking of iffy logic, we then discover how Eddie kidnaps women – he has his son announce that he’s lost, and ask women to help him, then threatens the boy’s life to get them to passively come along with him.

Wait, there was a little boy wandering around at all of the abduction scenes, and no one noticed that? And all five women went off with the lost child to an isolated location instead of going to store security for help locating his father? And all five women acquiesced to a thraet not aginst themselves, but rather the child who was being used as a tool to kidnap them? Huh?

Luckily the team is on the case this time, because this is the first public abduction site that has video cameras recording the abductions? I feel like this show and I have very different definitions of the term ‘public place’. I was watching an episode of FlashForward recently that featured a traffic camera set up, for no reason, on the middle of a bridge facing perpendicular, so you only got the briefest flash of cars, but had a great view of the far sidewalk.

Isn’t that what teleivision shows have taught us? That all modern American cities have turned into Orwellian hellscapes of constant surveillance?

Derek relies the school connection to realize that Eddie must be using his own child as bait for the killer! Which is a great assumption, except for one thing – why would he only use his son to kidnap children right after school lets out? Doesn’t he have hours of alone time during which he could be doing this? And why would he only dump bodies while driving his son to school? That seems like a really big logical leap to make.

Hilarious line in the profiling sequence? “There’s no sexual element in the crime, so he’s trying to make a point with the heart removal.” Um, guys? Every single time any victim has ever been stabbed, you’ve said that it was a sexual crime, and the killer was probably impotent. This time the victims were viciously stabbed over and over again in the chest, and then their hearts were removed (Heart-Love-Sex), and suddenly you think there’s no chance there was a sexual element to the crime?

Are you all drunk? Did they let you into the editing room so you could seee all of Eddie’s scenes before you came up with a theory?

Now a scene with Eddie reveals his twisted motivations and plans – he wants the women to play-act motherhood during a family dinner with his son. Which involves him letting her sit there, with a fork and knife in her hands, somehow sure that she won’t just up and stab him. Why wouldn’t she? Why wouldn’t any of them? For fear of scaring the small child? Would any woman prioritize a small child’s psyche over their own life? And it’s not like she doesn’t know she’s going to die – Eddie keeps pickled human hearts on a shelf in his basement, and the heart-removal crimes have been well covered in the media. Every victim after the first had to know exactly what was coming.

And you know what’s coming? Bad writing! So, we feature the kid is something like eight or nine, right?

There he is, doing some homework. What does he announce it is? “Multiplication.” When the victim comments that it must be difficult, the kid says “Extra credit. The rest of the class is still on long division.” Which I suppose is designed to make us think the kid is exceptionally bright (and exceptionally evil!), except for one thing. You learn multiplication first. While memorizing the Times Tables up to twelve is certainly time consuming, it’s a relatively concrete endeavour, where one number added a series of times becomes another. Long division, on the other hand, involves seeing how many times a simple number fits into a long, seemingly unrelated one. Teachers expect you to know how to work 16 into 7986 – and while they won’t ask you to figure out anything past the decimal point, they will want to see your work, a column of numbers running down under the equation with an answer on the top.

Gosh, drawing freehand with a mouse is something I really suck at. Also, please note that doing long divison actually requires you to already be able to do multiplication.

Man, I haven’t done long division in like fifteen years. I’m a little amazed I remembered what the sign even looks like.

Anyhoow, my point is that the writer of this episode is so out of touch with, well, everything, really, that he/she/it didn’t even remember which kind of math was harder.

Other things the victims are allowed to do is be left alone in the kitchen (which is full of weapons), and running to the windows, which are somehow so incredibly soundproofed that this mailman can’t hear a woman banging on them and screaming her head off.

Good thing for Eddie that guy didn’t turn his head slightly, right? Or hear the reverberations of a hand banging on a wood frame.

Back in the FBI half of the story Derek calls Greg for help – hoping that he’ll kick in on the case because he always prioritizes family-related crimes. Which is true of the character, mostly because he’s the only one with a home life that they ever go into. Which makes me wonder how long before they play the ‘wife and son get kidnapped by a serial killer’ card. Since they were already almost threatened at a mall by terrorists we know the writers are willing to use his family as victims, so it’s just a question of when they pull the trigger. I’m going to guess… halfway through season 4? Yeah, that sounds about right.

So, despite his wife’s disapproval at the idea, Greg elects to help out anyway, since he technically hasn’t been transferred yet. It seems Mandy’s quitting has left the team with a void that just can’t be filled by an untrained bureaucrat. Greg’s wife just can’t accept his obsession with catching serial killers, so she basically announces that she’s kicking him out if he doesn’t stop solving brutal murders for a living.

So it looks like he’s between a rock and a hard place – except that I don’t think Greg will be quitting the show, so the marriage must be over. Greg picks up Emily on his way out of town, and they’re off to help out!

Once again making the team kind of look like idiots, everyone is shocked by the suggestion that instead of looking for Eddie, about whom they know nothing, they should be looking for the son, who they have perfectly clear video of.

Um… you weren’t doing that already? You got the video and you figured out that the son must be in school (from the preposterously accurate kidnap and drop times), so I just naturally assumed you were already canvassing the schools looking for the kid. No, it seems that everyone in the FBI’s profiling team as well as the Milwaukee police department can’t figure out to take a photo of the kid to all the schools in the area they think the killer lives in. It took a press liason to noodle that one out.

Yikes. No wonder there are so many active serial killers in America, if these are the people chasing them.

So they head off to the schools and… give the guidance counsellors a profile of the child! But don’t show the picture! Or, since the crime was committed just one day ago, directly after school ended, show all the lower-grade teachers the photo, hoping that they’ll remember what the kid was wearing one day earlier!

These people really aren’t acting like they’re involved in the desperate search to rescue a victim from a serial killer, you know. Not that the woman really has a prayer. In Criminal Minds, as I’m sure you’ve noticed if you’ve watched evern a few episodes, there’s always the teaser kill, the person who dies (or whose body is found) right at the beginning, then at least one more victim during the show, before the final victim is rescued in the last reel.

God help you if you’re grabbed by the serial killer anywhere before the halfway point, because your odds of making it to the credits profoundly suck.

The team decides to find the killer by going through the files of troubled children, which don’t seem to have been seperated by skin and hair colour, even though they know that the kid is white with blonde hair. Is this anti-profiling laws going amok? No. Just bad writing.

The team’s incredibly slow search technique has failed miserably, as the plot required it to, forcing them to encounter yet another body dump site. Which the AD doesn’t deal at all well with, tripping down the slope and freaking out at the sight of the body. Wow, this bureaucrat is really being presented as a complete incompetant. I mean, I’m sure political maneuvering can get you places in the FBI, but don’t you also require even some minor amount of law enforcement ability?

Realizing that the kid might be a perfect child, rather than a misbehaving one, they go back to the schools and check if their other child profile works – once again not bothering to show the picture. Just the profile manages to get them the kid’s name. Miraculous, right?

But we need a ticking clock, so it turns out that a nurse drove the kid home from school today, and now the father’s going to murder her! And the AD won’t let them kick down the door, even though the nurse’s car is sitting outside! This is maybe the worst-planned murder ever. Eddie claims that he’ll just tell the authorities that the nurse left and was never seen again, but when her body shows up missing a heart, there’s no doubt that they’d check out his house a little more closely!

Hey, wait a minute – the AD won’t let them kick down the door? Because there’s no exigent circumstances? And no member of the team is willing to volunteer an ‘I heard a scream from inside when I was around back’?

You know, this is the same thing that happened with that ridiculous paedophile episode – are we seriously supposed to believe that cops will lie about smelling pot to search a suspect’s car in a relatively inoccuous situation, but won’t lie about hearing a scream to rescue a victim from a serial killer?

In a move as preposterous as it is cliched, they have the child invite Emily in, telling her to signal if she sees anything. Emily in danger, bad guy arrested (sadly they don’t have an excuse to shoot him), nurse rescued. I never find the action wrapups very satisfying.

The AD finally relents though, admitting that the team works well together, but promises Greg that he’ll never move up in the ranks if he stays at the behavioural sciences unit. Greg announces that he’s fine with that – oh, he says he’ll consider it because he has to ‘discuss it’ with his wife, but since she’s already given him a divorce ultimatum over the whole situation, the very fact that he’s considering staying means that he no doubt will.

Which means I guess we’ll be seeing even less of Gay Jack’s sister.

Until she’s kidnapped mid-way through season 4 to ‘raise the stakes’.

(it’s cool – I’m sure you’ll find other work)

In other news, the FBI proves that it has no idea how to spend money by giving Penelope a high-tech science map!

The idea is that you put a little LED on the map and it flashes red, and then you can turn the LED and it becomes green. So they put a red dot on the board whenever they investigate a serial killer, and turn it green once the case is solved. Nice idea, right?

I wonder if we’ll ever see that board again? If so, you’d better believe I’m going to be tracking it. And, like the pictures on Gideon’s desk (which this will no doubt be replacing, since Mandy’s left the show), hopefully it will offer some decent continuity!

Oh, and speaking of Mandy leaving, Reid finally goes out to Mandy’s cabin and finds the letter. No, Mandy didn’t kill himself, he simply left America, checking out the kinds of low-rent diners you’d associate with nomadic serial killers.

I guess once you’ve been doing it this long, even when you quit your job it’s hard to give up old habits, huh?

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

Good lord, no. In the most basic sense, that they were able to infer from the fact that women were being brutally murdered that the killer had a problem with women, I suppose you could call that profiling – but it didn’t really help them solve the crime. Other than that, there was just the ‘profiling the kid’, which appeared to help, but since the kid kidnapped his own school nurse right as they were asking the question, it didn’t have much time to help.

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

They had a picture of half the kid’s face and what he was wearing one day earlier. The kidnapping happened within fifteen minutes of school letting out. Go to every elementary school within a fifteen minute drive (ten, if you figure they had to find parking and pick a lady), and show the picture. There, your crime is G-D solved, morons.

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

1/10 – Seriously bad showing for psychology this week. I know that the focus of this week’s episode had to be getting the team back together after last week’s bombshells, but it’s like they weren’t even trying with the writing.

Not ‘having the wrong actress read the lines’ not trying, but damn close.


Unknown said...
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Anonymous said...

the Greg you keep referring to...his name is Aaron. Aaron hotchner. Or hotch by the bau. And ur making fun of the writers not knowing about math when u said ur surprised u can remember the division symbol?

Anonymous said...

understanding references 101

Bugmenot said...

Gay Jack's sister happens to encounter a serial killer in season five episode nine, which was the show's hundredth episode.

Vardulon said...

First off, thanks for reading the reviews! Despite your unrelenting negativity, you're obviously one of my most faithful readers and critics, which I suppose makes you the 'me' of Criminal Minds Reviews?

Seriously, though, don't you think if I was trying to pretend to be psychic I'd delete all of the reviews where I make many, many bad guesses about who the killer is and what's going on? Or do you only see evidence that supports your theories? If that's the cast, I completely understand, as someone whose read all of my reviews, I'm sure you've noticed me doing that myself from time to time :)

I hope you continue reading and enjoying the reviews going forwards into the new seasons (which I promise I'll catch up with very soon)!

Jeremy B. said...

I pictured this person crying as they wrote this. ITS HOTCH…..