Criminal Minds 312: 3rd Life

The episode opens with scenes from a young woman’s brutal murder, intercut with flashes of her mangled corpse lying in a ditch. For obvious reasons, I’ll spare you having to look at any images of it. The team is already on the scene, looking for some ‘missing girls’, and wondering if this corpse will be identified as one of them. The parents of the two girls are waiting around the scene – one of them is Brian McNamara, and the other one is a widower who brought a pal to the crime scene!

The twist? They don’t know which of the two girls is lying dead on the ditch, since her face and hands have been brutalized! Also, there’s something clearly up with the widower dad-

That’s just crazily creepy, isn’t it? He even offers to try identifying the mutilated corpse. What’s going on with that guy? Other evidence includes an audio tape of one of the girls being murdered! But which one? Can they really ask the parents to listen to the audio? The team seems to think it’s important that they know which girl they’re looking for, although I’m not sure why. In either case the remaining girl is being held hostage by a group of vicious torturers – will knowing the identity of the living girl really effect how they conduct the search?

Anyhoo, they all listen to the tape together. Broadcast aloud for the whole room to hear. Which seems like a stretch – haven’t these people heard of headphones? So what’s the identity of the dead girl? Find out after the opening credits!

It’s Brian McNamara’s kid. Which means we’ll be spending a lot of time with creepy widower and his pal over the course of the episode, I’m guessing.

While Greg and Emily head to the theatre that the girls were abducted from, the credits play and we discover that a ‘Gina Mantegna’ stars in the episode. Will nepotism lead to bad acting, or is it just a coincidence? Only time will tell!

A search of the living girl’s room reveals that she’s weirdly contained, with no personal touches or decorations in the room. A video blog by the dead girl gives some insight into her relationship with her dad, who always seemed very creepy. Even better, the living girl’s life story and first name is taken directly from a book that Garcia is familiar with, and the dad’s computer proves weirdly difficult to access. What does this all combine to reveal? That dad’s in the witness protection program, obviously.

Seriously, what else is that guy on the right doing there but being Widower’s handler from the Marshall service? The team assumes that the creepy relationship between living girl and her father is due to child molestation, which makes him angry enough to try and punch them – Marshall pulls him back, revealing his gun, so he finally has to reveal the true reason for the sterile surroundings: What we guessed two minutes earlier!

I’ve got to ask, though – according to the storyline they’ve been in the Witness Protection Program at this address for like six years. Isn’t that enough time to get some family photos up on the walls?

Time for a cutaway to the living girl, who’s tied up in a large public bathroom somewhere! Actually, I’m not sure what the point of that cutaway was, so let’s move on.

The other family gets home, and Brian is suspicious of the amount of police attention being paid to Widower, and he demands to know what’s going on. He doesn’t get any answers, though – and there aren’t any he would like. The team is busy wasting some time looking into Widower’s mob connections – as if the mob looking to get back at Widower would kidnap two girls in public rather than just the one they wanted more privately.

Oh, and we finally discover the purpose of that cutaway – it’s to establish that the living girl is a moron! She gets so annoyed with a dripping faucet in the bathroom that she walks over to it (that’s right, her hands are tied behind her back, but not to anything else, and her feet aren’t bound) and, instead of trying to tighten it by turning around and using her hands, or just pushing it with her foot, she immediately does this:

In the process she both damages a tooth, and loses all our respect. The killers come into the bathroom a moment later, ready to perform a little more evil! They threaten her with a knife in a scene that goes on far too long, the camera always avoiding their faces so that we’ll think they’re mob hitmen, as if that plotline is anything but a red herring. Living girl proves to be exceedingly level-headed, explaining to the two killers that they’re going to be dead extremely soon. She doesn’t mention that her dad is a professional murderer, or anything – which is good, because it should really be a surprise.

The cops turn up evidence in an abandoned house in the middle of a shuttered housing project– it’s where the murder took place! We get a few more details of the crime, blood, torture, cigarette burns, blah, blah, blah. At least they finally figure out that it wasn’t mobsters committing the crime, rather a group of rank amateurs. They find a blood trail near the scene, and decide to search all the empty houses for signs of a body. Greg finds the corpse in the ‘Last House on the Left’, a ridiculous nod that kind of renders the FactCheck I was going to do moot. It’s a teen who’s been stabbed to death! There’s a cell phone next to his body – will this lead to the killers?

Obviously yes - since the team isn’t too fond of using psychology to solve crimes, they need really clear evidence like this if they ever want to catch people.

While the team wastes a little time explaining the psychological dynamics of gangs, Garcia does something a little more productive by looking up yearbook photos to get an ID on the victim.

Meanwhile his friends are trying to figure out a way to bargain their way out of the situation they’re in – the plan? Hold the girl hostage with a gun (mumblemumble hand-wave) and then go free! The poor planning is part of the plot this time, though, as the two remaining young men in the killer gang are profoundly stupid.

Greg and Emily visit with the dead boy’s dad, looking for information about the dead boy’s friends. The father is able to remember that the older thug’s name is Ryan – while Garcia discovers that Katie had a crush on the dead boy, and that’s what got them into all this trouble in the first place!

Over at the police station we discover that Brian wasn’t telling the truth when he said he didn’t know who the dead boy’s gang was – when he gets Widower alone, he reveals the identity of the other killers, but only after Widower promises to murder them in cold blood! He immediately heads by the younger thug’s house, grabs a shotgun, and shoots younger thug in the knee with it!

Excellent work, Widower! He then demands the location of the living girl, and gets it. Back at the lab Reid uses geographic profiling to determine that the kids are likely hiding in the abandoned high school! Reid’s closest, and gets there just after the Widower.

This leads to a tense confrontation where Reid attempts to talk the Widower out of killing the older thug, but as he’s unable to come up with a single convincing argument for why the older thug, a rapist and murderer, shouldn’t be killed, the Widower goes ahead and shoots him. You know what the best he can manage is? Hoping that the Widower won’t kill someone in front of his daughter. She already knows that he’s a murderer, and has been threatening the older thug with that fact for at least a day – you think she cares if he executes a rapist/murderer? Who brutally tortured her friend to death in front of her?

So, with the heroic mobster having killed the villains, the show wraps up with him and his daughter being moved to a new life in a new town! Happy endings all around, then! Well, except for the family whose daughter got brutally tortured to death. This result kind of sucks for them. Although they have the comfort of knowing that their daughter’s killer died horribly while suffering abject terror – so that’s something, right?

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

Like the train o’death way back in season one, this time the team in no way solved the case. It was resolved, as so many cases are, by a mobster with a shotgun.

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

Oh, probably. Ordinary canvassing turned up the dead boy, and had there not been a mobster in the picture Brian’s information could have been used by the police to track down the younger thug, which would have gotten them to the older thug in plenty of time to save the living girl.

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

0/10 – They did not solve the case.


No murder map onscreen this week, so let’s take care of Garcia’s job for her, shall we?

That was last time’s map (hence the Virginia cluster) – now let’s add Chula Vista, CA:

You know, the actual BSU has east and west coast branches. It’s not just six guys flying across the country whenever somebody gets kidnapped.

Really, how did the team even get on this case? Until a body turned up it was just two missing girls, and the team was there just five hours after the body was found. Is that possible? Doesn’t it take that long just to fly from Virgina to California?


This episode was based on the film ‘Last House on the Left’, in which a group of drug-addled criminals brutally rape and torture two young women to death, only to then find themselves ironically murdered by the parents of one of their victims!

Like the recent remake, the story has been softened so that only one of the girls is killed – and the mob twist was added to both give the team a red herring to waste time on (filling 40 minutes every week is hard work!) and keep the audience from having to deal with the troubling idea of ‘regular parents’ taking violent revenge on the men who victimized their child.


Anonymous said...

it's Aaron hotchner not Greg

Anonymous said...

Thomas Gibson [Aaron] played Greg on "Dharma & Greg" do you really think he puts this much effort into the analysis and doesn't know the lead character's name?

Cooper said...

One point for Vigilante justice, this is one of the best (most satisfying) resolutions to a case. I don't always root for Vigilantes (they frequently target people that they "think" are guilty, proving why our legal system is set up the way it is) but this one was delightful cheering on the badass-high-functioning-pyschopath Dad.