Criminal Minds 314: Damaged

Okay, I got pretty pissed-off at last week’s Criminal Minds, and went off on a pretty long tangent. Gonna try to dial that back this time around. I’ll try not to get overly upset, but I really hope that the episode doesn’t do anything to set me off. Meet me halfway, Criminal Minds!

The episode opens with a nightmare – Joe is still haunted by that murder he was never able to solve, and those three orphaned children. Will this be the episode he finally solves the case? I hope so. Also, the dream lead to a weird continuity error-

That’s a bloody axe lying on the floor. A few episodes back he said that the mother an father were ‘bludgeoned’ to death. Unless he was working with the back end of the axe, I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count as bludgeoning.

Then it’s over to Garcia’s apartment, where Joe wants to berate Penelope for failing to put together a decent file on the twenty-year-old murder. She pleads both inability to find information, and that she was on a date with Xander when Joe knocked on the door. Both are compelling arguments, so Joe leaves in a huff.

Meanwhile a young woman is leaving a strip club – is this the little girl who saw her parents’ get killed? Of course it is! She’s menaced by a loser outside, but pulls a knife to protect herself. It’ll be harder to protect herself from the truck that’s following her, though – whose occupant left an adorable stuffed animal on the dash of her locked car-

Whatever you were trying to get across with that doll, you failed. Unless you were trying to get across ‘I want you to be creeped out before I kill you’, in which case, bravo on that one. Stripper drives home, with the truck keeping a good distance behind. Will it manage to catch her? Let’s find out together – after the opening credits!

Joe immediately heads to Indianapolis to work the case, leaving the rest of the team behind. He also left his office trashed when he left, creating some consternation among his fellow employees. We also get a rundown on Greg and Reid – they’re headed to a prison to interview a serial killer before his execution! The warden warns them that there’s likely something odd about the killer’s request – he’d never shown any interest in talking to anyone for any reason, so why an interview with the FBI?

Then we get a look at the messed-up kids’ family life. They’re poor and depressed, and don’t find the toys as creepy as they ought to. Why? Because one arrives every year for each of them, and for some reason they think that Joe is the one sending them. Why do they think this? Hopefully it will be explained.

After a brief on how to call their way out of the cell if they’re done with the killer – who proves to be that character actor from everything, who I remember best from Fight Club-

Greg then lets the guards take off the killer’s chains, which seems like a really poor choice. Of course, Greg is having some bad times with his soon-to-be ex, so who knows? Maybe he’s distracted.

Over at the office Garcia spills the beans about Joe’s extracurricular activities, leading Emily and Derek to follow him to Indianapolis. They take the jet, despite it not being an official case – meaning that they’re probably engaged in a pretty big misuse of public funds.

Joe meets a local detective outside the murder house, hoping to discuss the case – but the detective doesn’t know anything. As cases go, it’s really, really cold. Then Joe drops a bombshell – he’s so obsessed with the murder that he bought the murder house!

Just minutes into the interview with the killer, and he’s already acting creepy, demanding to have a window opened. He immediately starts lying about his childhood, which Greg doesn’t have time for, leading him to get immediately combative. Can they get what they need out of him?

Xander drops by Garcia’s office, but the camera angles remain so restrictive that we never get a glimpse of the murdermap, so no updates there. There’s some cute couple stuff between the two of them, with Xander saying that he’s going to straighten things out with Joe so that they don’t get in trouble. Garcia’s not happy about the idea. It’s all very cute and has nothing to do with the murder.

On the plane the team goes over Joe’s case, trying to find some clue that he’s missed. They don’t – left unexplained is how Joe ended up on the case in the first place. It’s a brutal murder, but a one-time occurrence, and nobody asked the FBI to help out. I hope that’s a question that gets resolved before the credits roll.

Over at the prison Reid tries to get information out of the killer while Greg continues trying to pick a fight. Killer explains that he doesn’t really want to take part in the conversation, he just wanted to get some fresh air before dying. Greg tries to leave, but discovers that no one is responding to the buzzer – how is that possible? It seems the killer arranged for the interview to happen when the guards were outside with the prisoners! He wants to murder the FBI agents – which was probably a bad choice, since Greg is looking to kill someone with his bare hands!

Sadly the fight is interrupted by Reid, who tries to delay the fight by explaining to the Killer why he kills people. He makes an extended speech about genetics, parenting and childhood abuse – coming to the conclusion that he never had a chance of not being a killer. The speech lasts long enough to get the guards back into the office for a rescue.

The team finally tracks Joe down at the hotel bar, where he explains how he got the case – he’d captured a serial rapist, and was in town anyway when the call came in. Joe tagged along with the detective, and was the first person on the scene. The axe belonged to the family, it seems, meaning the killer may not have planned the murder before coming to the house. Despite the brutality of the murder, there were no prints anywhere in the house. How could a killer be both randomly brutal and so careful?

Well, usually it’s two killers. So, you know… maybe you could look into that?

There’s a little more ‘white trash’ business at the house of the kids before Joe drives up with the team. Stripper tells him he should just give up and stop reminding them of their tragic lives. He agrees to go away, and then she mentions the gifts – which Joe didn’t know about until just then! Finally a break in the case!

Derek has a theory about the case – it was a mentally disabled killer who, Lenny-style, kill people without knowing it! They wind up accidentally murdering people much the same way as Frankenstein so often does! But how can they find the monstrous dullard?

Garcia looks for petty crimes that a developmentally disabled person might have committed, and finds a few clusters that roam around the area, stopping in each city for two weeks at a time… just like a carnival! Which would also explain the cheap toys. The kids remember going to the carnival the day before the murders (it’s not clear whether they mean the murders were that night, or the next), and then stripper remembers being followed around by a creepy clown, which caused her mother to get so freaked out that they fled the fair!

Because it’s the anniversary of the crime, and the carnival is in town at the same time every year, the very carnival they’re looking for is in town. They interview the carnival manager about the clown, who’s every bit as creepy as you’d want him to be-

With the clown caught his dad, the manager, asks the team to go easy on him, since he doesn’t really know what he’s done. During this sequence there’s a cute shot – they frame Emily’s head in front of a sign that reads ‘Legacy’-

Creating a cute nod to the most famous killer clown at all.

Although there’s no evidence he ever actually killed anyone while dressed as a clown. Wouldn’t that have been great, though? For the mythology?

The father explains how the crime happened – the clown followed the family home, and went in that night to play with the kids. Supposedly the father came after the guy with an axe, but that seems like a stretch – the murder happened in the bedroom. Who keeps an axe in there? Of course, it’s the father giving the confession, so I guess it’s okay if he gets a few of the details wrong.

With the case wrapped up, Joe gives the house back to the kids since he’s not going to be obsessed with it any more. He also returns the charm bracelet, which the grandmother had given him to hold on to until he was able to solve the case. The kids let him keep the charms, which seems mighty nice of them.


Oh, except for a scene where Xander confronts Joe about keeping his nose out of his and Garcia’s business. Well, that’s a fine button, I suppose.

Oh, then Greg signs his divorce papers. And he’s left-handed. Way to go, Greg!


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

Oh, definitely – but I can’t give them full marks because they didn’t actually solve a crime this time. Reid didn’t figure anything out, he just used what he’d already researched in detail about the killer to delay him for ten minutes. He definitely deserves half-marks for finding a practical use for psychology that the rest of his cases weren’t able to offer, though-

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

If you’d consider Greg beating a man to death with his bare hands ‘conventional’, then yes, absolutely.

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

6/10 – Which might be the highest mark yet this season!


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

Nope. I mean, there’s a scene of Derek explaining that the toys mean that they’re probably looking for a mentally retarded adult who doesn’t know his own strength, but that’s incidental to actually solving the crime. Knowing about the clown was really all they needed.

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

Yup. And, as the payoff of a 20-year impossible-to-solve case, this was kind of a letdown. They basically just asked the kids who did it, and the stripper told them.

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

2/10 – I can’t stress how disappointing the roundup was on this case. What kind of investigation had they done the first time around? Did nobody ask where the kids were the previous day? Was there no evidence of their trip to the carnival lying around? Even if Stripper hadn’t remembered the clown when she was five, you’d think asking around the carnival would have netted them something. Like, for example, the kind of mentally-deficient yet physically strong person that the cops love to frame for unsolvable crimes? Although, in this case, they would have been framing the guy who did it – which would have been a nice twist.

Also, I can’t understand how it took this long to crack the case. The second Joe finds out about the gifts, it’s over. The kids say that they only recently stopped calling him back – meaning that for something like 16 years they’d been talking to him intermittently. How is it possible that the gifts never came up once in all that time? The stripper says ‘we thought they were from you’, as if that explains it – have they never heard of thanking someone for a gift? Were they raised in a barn?

Finally, I’d referred to the killer as an ‘Evil Santa’ in an earlier episode’s writeup, but this episode explained that Joe only associates the case with Christmas because the parents were murdered with an axe that had been bought to cut down a Christmas tree.

That explanation didn’t sound right, so I went back to check-

I knew I wasn’t crazy. It’s an understandable retcon, though – this episode must have been pushed back by the strike, forcing them to delay the anniversary of the crime until March.

Hey, do you think when the story was originally broken, the killer was actually going to be an Evil Santa? If only there was some way of finding out…


See? I wasn’t too angry with the episode, even when it got stupid at the end. Oh, right, the map-
That was the map that pissed me off so much last time, so here’s the much more acceptable Evil Clown map, with Indianapolis, IN tagged:

See you next time!


Anonymous said...

who is "Greg"?

Anish Annadurai said...

It's Thomas Gibson's character Aaron Hotchner on Criminal Minds.. apparently nick named Greg for his previous role as Greg in a sitcom Greg and Dharma.

Anonymous said...

I loved this episode. Specially when the older agent tells the killer "Unfortunally for you I am not a 5 foot 100 pound girl", while getting ready to fight for their lives. Fearless and epic.

Unknown said...

Weirder still? A few episodes before, in BIRTHRIGHT, Rossi told a Detective that his "one that got away" case was 21 years old, and was told not to let it get to 22. But here in this episode it's all-of-a-sudden the 20th anniversary? Just three episodes later?

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Cooper said...

I was surprised that they had Derek be so rough with the "Lenny" character. He said himself he likely just wanted to play, and they all deduced that he likely had never harmed anyone before or after. Watching him play macho with the child like man made Derek look sadistic. He didn't have a dog in this fight, so what was up with that. I think it would have been far more emotional if they talked to him and coaxed him out of hiding like a child and showed the scared man being handcuffed.

Hanna said...

In what world would all the guards leave at yard time? I know that US prisons are often overpopulated and underfunded, but you are telling me, that they locked in two unarmed guys with a serial killer and then they all just left? And there aren't any cameras in the room and a guy watching from somewhere?
I don't know a lot about US prisons, but that just seems like a stretch.

Also I absolutely agree with Cooper. That scene just makes Derek look like a dick. Maybe it was that way because he didn't get to do any other tough-guy-stuff in this episode? he didn't even kick in a door.

Anonymous said...

Yes! That was the first thing I noticed because I just watched that other episode as well.