Criminal Minds 306: About Face

This week’s episode opens with a compelling image – the beauty of nature, serene and idyllic as birds take wing. Then their reverie is interrupted by the sound of a gunshot! One of the birds is killed, delivering a profound message – there is no situation so beautiful that it can’t be ruined by the evils of man.

Oh, wait, maybe that’s not what they meant, since the duck hunter is played by Joe Mantegna, who’s replacing Mandy as the team’s lead profiler this week. Did they mean for Joe to be introduced representing evil? I’m guessing no.

It seems Joe is a famous former profiler who’d long ago quit to use his gifts to sell books and get high-paid speaking engagements. If this sounds familiar, it’s because he’s playing a fake version of John Douglas, who would help found the BSU and then go on to write a series of books about it, while providing the inspiration for basically every profiler character in fiction. What’s interesting is that the show already has a ‘fake John Douglas’ character, played by Geoff Pierson in the Keystone Killer episode from the first season. Sadly, I guess Geoff wasn’t a big enough name to build a show around after Mandy had left.

Also interesting? The fact that Joe’s old badge has a photo on it that barely resembles him.

Anyhoo, Joe heads in to meet with the evil AD and demand his old job back. She has no no choice but to agree to Joe’s terms (he wants a job, and nothing else), because he’s so damn famous and skilled that she’d look foolish trying to hold him back when the team needs help.

Personally, I suspect that he’s just joining the team so that he can use its resources to solve his pet case:

Before heading into the office he pockets that charm bracelet. What little girl could it belong to? I’m guessing that his daughter disappeared some years earlier, and he’s been haunted by his failure to catch the culprit all this time.

With any luck, we’ll see if I was right by the end of the episode!

Speaking of episode, isn’t it about time for a murder?

So this woman in Texas is heading home, and she discovers a missing persons flyer of herself on her front door:

Alarmed, she calls a detective, who she knows personally, but he assures her that it’s probably just a pre-Halloween prank. But that night when he swings by the house to check up on her the woman has disappeared - and the inside of her house has been papered with the fliers!

Also the killer left an incredibly creepy mask which suggests that, for a first-time killer he’s got an incredibly elaborate MO.

Time for the opening credits, which I’m actually really interested to see this week.

For the past three episodes since Mandy’s departure Greg has been headlining the show – now that Joe’s going to be in first position, will Greg be fine with going back to second?

Also, did anyone take this opportunity, like JJ back in season 2, to update their picture in the group shot? We’ll find out after the opening credits!

Turns out Greg made the daring move to the end of the opening credits, getting an ‘And Greg’ billing. He’s also standing right next to Joe in the group shot, actually clipping into him in a way that doesn’t make sense. Here it is!

Now let’s compare it to last week’s group shot-

Wow, everybody got a new pose – and it’s much more attractive looking as well. It’s not so dark and compressed any more. Great work, opening credits photoshop guy! Except for the cutouts, which sucked. And the weird fact that Greg is in front of Joe, but Joe is closer to the camera. Which is also bad.

You know what? From now on I’m going to make sure to check the group shot at the beginning of every season. Or whenever there’s a cast change. Whichever comes first.

It’s Halloween at the BSU, and Reid is extremely into it. Derek, not so much. Emily refuses to take a stance. This is all just a distraction until Joe arrives to meet with Greg and officially join the team.

They go over the notes on their first case together – the woman who disappeared was brutally raped and had her face removed! They try to figure out what the significance of the mask and removed face is, but don’t come up with the obvious ‘he’s anonymizing them, and therefore has identity issues’ solution.

While the team is on the way to the city another woman finds the death-poster on the fence outside her house. What will become of her? Well, since she’s out in public, I’ve got to assume she’ll run to the nearest house, call 911, and then go into protective custody until the killer is caught.

Oh, wait – that’s what a human would do in this situation, as opposed to the actions of a character who exists only to be murdered by a serial killer. Whoops.

They’re not wasting any time with the ‘charm bracelet’, either. I’d figured they would tease this out over a couple of episodes, but nope – on the plane Joe has flashbacks to a crime he wasn’t present for, where something brutal happened while three children were huddled in the corner:

So they saw their parents get killed, and were unrelated to David. I was really wrong about that one, it seems.

When the team arrives at the city, they find that the new woman is missing. Yup. She didn’t run for help. You know, unless she was grabbed right when the scene ended, this is madness.

It’s a puzzling situation at the various crime scenes. No one can figure out how the killer could have A: stalked victim 1 in a suburban neighbourhood, or B: postered victim 2’s face all over a fence in broad daylight, without being noticed. Derek and Emily theorize that he stalked her from the bushes behind her house, which is a great idea, except it still leaves the question of how he got her out of the house and to his car – which he parked where? Was he walking to her house to stalk her?

Back at base the team gets some information from Garcia – supposedly victim 2 bought a shotgun 12 hours after she was kidnapped! But then it turns out she wasn’t kidnapped at all, she’s just holed up in a motel room in Dallas with the shotgun, waiting to kill anyone trying to abduct her. She calls the cops and tells them she can’t stay awake much longer, so she needs rescuing now! The cops rush over there, but when they arrive (it can’t be more than ten minutes later), she’s already gone!

Wait, what? In the ten minutes after she got off the phone, she fell asleep, the killer somehow knew this, and had time to kidnap her without being seen and set this up in the motel room?

Here’s the bigger question: why did she get off the phone at all? In that situation, where a person is afraid for their life and worried about falling asleep, and you’re just 20 minutes from rescuing her, wouldn’t one person keep her on the phone to make sure she was safe until the cops got there?

I’ve only had to call 911 once in my life, for a friend who had cut himself in a moderately embarrassing accident – and in that situation the operator kept me on the phone talking me through the injury support until the ambulance arrived.

Isn’t this a profoundly more serious situation that more clearly demands constant monitoring? Speaking of, why did she go to this motel alone? Who doesn’t know to go to a public place in this situation?

God, this is a stupid show sometimes. There had better be one hell of an explanation for how the killer is able to abduct people without being noticed. It’s not like disappearing into a crowd. You’re lugging a body around.

While the team works the profile Joe calls Garcia for some help on his own personal case. Which leads to an entire scene set in Garcia’s office that doesn’t result in a single glimpse at her murderboard. Damn you, Criminal Minds.

The gist of their profile is that the guy feels ignored, especially by the women he covets. This sequence suggests that he spends ages stalking the women in question, which conflicts pretty severely with the fact that he grabbed victim 2 just hours after victim 1’s body is discovered. In the world of Criminal Minds, all killers are spree killers.

Hoping to trigger the ire of the identity-obsessed killer, Joe releases the existence of the masks to the media, with instructions to spread the word around that the killer is impotent. Greg objects to the plan, but it winds up going really well, as the killer phones Joe. Also useful? The fact that both women have a connection to a single local workplace. Which is the same place he’s calling Joe from! Joe makes fun of him over the phone, hoping that they’ll trigger him into making a public fuss.

The team heads over to the building to look for him, and Joe is sure that he’ll be in the lobby, watching the cops. While they’re searching the place Reid finds out the killer’s identity, which, conveniently, turns out to be the shiftiest looking guy in the lobby!

Shifty pulls a gun and is quickly shot to death, and victim number 2 turns out to be hidden away in his home.


Questions left unresolved at the end of the episode include, how did the killer drive into the people’s neighbourhoods without his car being noticed, how did he get their unconscious bodies to said car without being seen in A) the early evening and B) the middle of the day? ‘He was plain looking’ doesn’t really cover those extreme situations. And that’s not even getting into the second victim’s near-suicidal stupidity.

Oh, and Joe and Greg have a confrontation about how the team is being run now. I’m guessing they’ll all be the greatest of pals in a week or two, so this isn’t worth noting. What is worth noting: Just how long will it be before Joe gets to solve the case of the brutally murdered parents? I’m guessing they’ll save that one for close to the season-ender, or thereabouts. Somewhere around 318 or after. I doubt it’ll end the season because they like to do two-parters and event television, and I don’t see three kids with murdered parents the kind of case you devote more than an hour to.

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

It absolutely was. It’s possible that they were just raising the bar for Joe’s first episode, and we’re looking at disappointment next week, but his manipulation of the killer’s psyche to get him to contact the authorities definitely falls under the ‘profiling’ umbrella.

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

Oh, definitely. They very quickly discovered a connection between the two victims, and simply asking around the office which of the people who works there gives off the biggest ‘serial killer’ vibe would have no doubt nabbed them the man they were looking for.

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

5/10 – Maybe I’m being generous and grading this a little too high, but I don’t care – it’s been so long since we’ve seen anything approaching psychology on the show that they deserve some credit.


Here’s the point every week where we check to see if they gave us another look at Penelope’s murder map, and compare it with the one I’m keeping. So, did we see the map?


Why am I not surprised? It’s a little annoying that we actually saw her office this time and still missed out on the map, though. Come on, director-of-the-episode, don’t you know an opportunity when you see one?

Here’s how our map looked last time:

And now let’s just tag Carrolton, Texas on there-

And look, we’ve got an updated map! Yaay!


Knitwit said...

It's kind of ironic that Joe is introduced by shooting a bird, when Mandy was the bird enthusiast.

Jessica said...

Not ironic. Literally what the writers intended. It was a huge deal when Mandy left, and they wanted people to forget about him.

K said...

What happened to the damn dog? That’s my biggest question.

The Shak said...

It's 2020 and we still dunno what happened to the dog.. ☹️

The Shak said...

It's 2020 and we still dunno what happened to the dog.. ☹️

Anonymous said...

Stupidest thing about this episode: 1: Victim 2 doesn't call 911 and sit in the police station surrounded by police officers until the killer is caught, and 2), This:

Morgan: You can get a cell interceptor at any electronics store.
Texas detective: You can?

Really? You're head of the POTUS's Secret Service detail in The West Wing, and you somehow made detective in Texas, and you didn't know that creepy serial killers can listen in on calls made on cell phones? Not that I knew this, but you're a f***ing detective. This hasn't come up before? Cell phones have been around for 10 or 15 years at this point; nobody in law enforcement in Texas ever found this bit of info useful?