Criminal Minds 316: Elephant’s Memory

Operating under the belief that there’s nothing that can’t be improved by Johnny Cash (a convincing belief, to be sure), this episode opens with a guy driving home to the strains of ‘When the Man Comes Around’, Johnny’s musical version of the Revelation of John in his letter to the seven churches of Asia. Then his house blows up.

Two cops respond to the crime, only to wind up gunned down by a killer hiding at the treeline. It seems this guy had it all planned out! Also, for no clear reason, the deputy was filming the fire with a cell phone camera when he was shot. Okay, we all no the reason – it’s so that there can be contrived footage of the killer.

Then it’s time for more personal stuff, as we see Reid hanging out with a support group for cops with drug and alcohol problems. He explains that although he’s clean now, he’s been craving drugs lately, mostly since the emotionally wrenching sight of having a rapist/torturer/murderer/corpse mutilator gunned down in front of him. Yup – seeing an evil monster get what was coming to him may drive Reid back to drugs.

I don’t know if I’ve said it before, but man this guy is a wuss. Just two episodes back, Greg was willing to beat a serial killer to death with his bare hands. Mostly for fun. I guess what I’m trying to say is:

Man up, princess. You’re an FBI agent. Start acting like it.

His introspection is interrupted by a phone call – the team is being asked to help out with the murders, so he has to flee the session. He’s interrupted by Michael Ironside!

Who is apparently a high-ranking member of the FBI, although they don’t specify which one. He gives Reid some helpful advice, and makes me hope we’ll see more of him.

The team hassles Reid about being late – which is a little odd, since he delayed taking their call for maybe sixty seconds, and then talked to Michael for just ninety. Can’t imagine that he took that much more time getting there than the rest of the team, seeing as the call came in… actually, it’s not clear what time the call came in, but half the team looks sleepy.

We get another detail about the crime, though – apparently the first victim’s daughter was in the house when it blew up! Yikes, this killer isn’t messing around!

When the team gets to Texas they meet sheriff Chris Mulkey, who tells them that victims at the house weren’t anyone special. Guy worked in a factory, the daughter was ‘a little slow’. More importantly, one the cops who was shot was shot an additional time in the head when he was already on the ground – this means the killing was ‘personal’. Which is a good assumption, except for the fact that the team has no sure way of knowing that the cop was dead, or that the killer knew he was dead, when the shot was fired.

Still, this groundless supposition leads them to the fact that the guy and the cop had something in common – the cop’s son was dating the guy’s daughter! They head over to the car to look for ‘Owen’, the son, at his house. There’s no sign of him, and the gun safe is empty! Owen’s room suggests a kid obsessed with death – and Reid is weirdly critical of the dead cop. Does he have a problem with neglectful fathers because of his own abandonment? I’m going to save the show a lot of time explaining things, and just say ‘yes’, then never speak of it again unless it directly impacts a storyline. Actually, where is Reid’s dad?

More tsuris outside the house, where the widow of the second murdered cop shows up, somehow having discovered that Owen is the killer. It seems the whole town thought Owen was a freak, and would be all too happy to see him dead. Then they get word on the radio – there’s been another murder, this time a teen that Owen hated… but why? They also notice that Owen stole mostly cookable food that needed refrigeration – which means that he’s hiding out somewhere, and not on the run. They also discover that Jordan, his girlfriend, wasn’t killed in the explosion – she’s hiding out with him!

We then get an interlude with the young lovers in their hideout – but whose place is it, and will the cops be able to find them there? In their conversation it’s revealed that Owen’s been keeping the whole ‘murder’ thing secret from Jordan, and that she thinks they’re trying to hide out until her evil father stops looking for them.

Reid and Greg go to the high school to get a few more details about the killer’s life – it turns out that he had an undiagnosed learning disability, which led to him feeling isolated and alone. Reid announces that this makes all of his behaviour make sense! Greg, in one of the stupidest lines the show has delivered all season, announces that an undiagnosed learning disability couldn’t have caused this kind of rage and violence without severe emotional abuse – except three scenes back we learned that Owen was severely emotionally abused. So why would Greg possibly bring that up?

Finally we hear about Owen’s motives – it seems that when his father forced him to join a sports team it led to him being stripped and publicly humiliated, and the video was put online! Between that and the fact that his girlfriend had been molested by an older student before they were dating (the clerk that he murdered) – he’s got ample targets for his misdirected rage. In a turn that surprises no one, it seems that the kids who humiliated Owen didn’t show up at school that day! Uh-oh.

Among all this, Reid keeps railing against the parents and teachers for not stepping in to put a stop to all the abuse and exploitation. It seems like this episode is going to have a pretty important point to make at the end. Oh, and Owen uploaded a video of him gunning down his three tormentors. Despite the obviousness of the crime, Joe feels that it’s necessary to announce his specific insight – that he’s revenging injustices!

While giving the profile Reid won’t stop blaming the cops for not intervening. Greg finally takes him out of the equation, and sends him off to profile Owen’s room – hoping to find another clue to his current whereabouts.

It’s bugging me why the killer looks familiar to me. Was he on Harper’s Island or something? (Just checked the internet – apparently he was on ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’, so there you go.)

Owen and Jordan are having dinner in their hideout when the owner of the house shows up. It seems that he usually goes out of town until the end of the month, so Owen has to kill them to keep their secret safe. Although this means that they’re probably going to have to move soon.

Hanging out in Owen’s room, Derek and Reid commiserate about high school horror stories, what with the abuse and mocking. It seems that Derek has moved on, while Reid bears the scars of his experiences. Wow… I’m starting to understand why he loves drugs so much.

They actually come up with a scheme among all of their self-pity. Have Jordan’s friend call her and tell her about the murders, assuming that this will cause Jordan to flee, and Owen to kill himself. The scheme goes really well – Jordan is distraught from hearing the news, and goes to ask Owen if he’s actually a killer.

She doesn’t have to, though, since the moron is burying the body of his latest victim like ten meters from the front door in broad daylight. Half-wit.

Jordan flees the scene, leading Owen into an understandable freakout. Will he kill himself, or go on a shooting rampage? I’m guessing the second, since this is a television show, and they’ll want to end on an action-y note.

The team rushes out to Owen’s hideaway, but he’s already disappeared from the scene in his victim’s truck! How will they figure out where he’s headed? He’s left a note saying something about his mother’s necklace, so they assume Owen’s going to swing by the graveyard, or his home. It’s neither, though. Instead he’s heading to the police station, which Reid knew, because he remembered a photo of Jordan wearing said necklace. Why didn’t Reid tell anyone? Because he wanted a chance to talk Owen down before he’s killed by the cops in a hail of gunfire.

Which Reid successfully does, through commiserating about what losers they were in high school. It’s very touching, and meant as a redemptive moment for Reid – both working through his own trauma, and saving a kid the way he’s failed to say that rapist/torturer/murderer a few weeks back.


Oh, except for a scene on the plane where Reid explains his motives, just in case the audience couldn’t follow along the utterly clear drama.

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

Well, not solving – Reid was able to talk the killer down, though, so that’s definitely a partial credit right there.

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

Every other part of the case was solved conventionally – the killer was identified immediately, his motives were obvious, and they used people who knew him to track him down. The only deviation was that he didn’t get shot at the end.

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

3/10 – Profiling wasn’t involved in solving the case at all, but after Reid’s utter failure to talk down that last guy, he deserves some points for getting Starkweather to put down his gun in this episode.


This week’s episode was based on the Starkweather/Fugate murders of 1957. The way the show delved into high-school bullying wasn’t that from the truth, in point of fact - as in the show Charles Starkweather (famous primarily for being the murderer with the most crime-appropriate name) had troubled experiences in high school, and became fixated on a celebrity. In his case it was James Dean – which the show nodded to by having a picture of Dean’s crashed car on the wall in Owen’s room.

Socially maladjusted, at 18 years of age Starkweather began dating the 13-year-old Caril Ann Fugate. Sometime later, after Starkweather murdered a gas station attendant and Fugate’s entire family, the two hid out in her house for a few days, then drove about the area, killing whenever they needed money, a vehicle, or a place to stay. There was no particular motive to the individual crimes, and they fit the perfect definition of ‘spree killers’.

A county-wide manhunt eventually tracked them down as they attempted to steal a traveling salesman’s car, and after a brief car chase the two were apprehended. Starkweather was executed in the electric chair, while Fugate, jailed at age 15, served 18 years for her role in the crimes – she was out of jail by 33, and is currently retired in Lansing, Michigan.

As of this writing, her victims remain dead.


Last time around our map looked like so:

This week I’ve got a slight problem – like North Mammon before it, West Bune, Texas doesn’t seem to be a real place. So I’m just going to drop this dot right in the middle of the state like so:

So at least we know there was a Texas-based crime this week.

Hey, I just remembered where I’d seen the mob guy in the witness protection episode from! He was the federal Marshall on Lost! I don’t know why I thought that was important to mention!


Anonymous said...

West Buna, Texas is an unincorporated town in the Texas Panhandle just to the north of Borger (about 45 miles NE of Amarillo).

Vicendum said...

I saw this episode last week...I'm positive right at the beginning, before they figured out it was Owen, it was mentioned that West Bune was a border town, as they initially thought it was the drug cartels that blew up the house.

Anonymous said...

Who is the actor that played Owen? I can't find him anywhere!

MD Bairrington said...

West Bune Texas is actually near Galveston and Beaumont Texas

Anonymous said...

wow those are three wildly different approximations for where this town is...id say you nailed it by just dropping it dead center of the state.

Bau jr said...

West Bune is probably San Angelo. In the final part with Reid and Owen you can see that the town is on route 67 and midway between Odessa and San Antonio. Only place I can see that looks like it would have a town center like that around there would be San Angelo.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the town is called Bunavista. I happen to be from Borger lol.

Cooper said...

The actor playing Owen is Max Kasch, and while I had to look up the name, he is far more well known for his recurring roles on Desperate Housewives than a bit part on Always Sunny.

Cooper said...

Oops, Max is his brother, his name is Cody. But it is Desperate Housewives.