29.10.10

Criminal Minds 318: The Crossing

Keri, a Maryland woman, is running her daily errands – the scenes are filmed to let us know just how much of your personal information gets let out in ordinary day to day interactions. She has to give her phone number at the dry cleaner, a pharmacist asks her to confirm the street she lives on, and so forth. Any one of the men standing nearby could find out all they need to know in order to stalk her!

How do we know this is an episode about stalking? When she gets home, this is sitting on her stoop:

So yeah, stalking episode.

The way Keri freaks out when she sees a photo included in the love note, we know that she’s been stalked for a while. Meanwhile Greg and Joe giving an anti-terrorism speech when a Boston cop approaches them about doing a psychological profile of a woman who claims that she murdered her husband because she’s a battered woman. But there was no on-paper history of abuse in the house… so will they prove her to be a liar, or confirm her story?

Over at the home office, Emily and JJ read the letter Keri sent them – she’s looking for help to stop the stalker who’s been after her for two years! The police say they can’t do anything because no crimes have been committed, and JJ tells her that she’s interested, but can’t guarantee the team will take the case. Keri then decides to make her point by drama-queening it up, writing down a list of who to call after her corpse is discovered.

(the stalker has an evil wall!)

Will her gambit pay off? Find out after the opening credits!

But yes, it will.

You know, this is the point in an episode of Numb(three)rs that I would normally start questioning why the FBI would is working this case. Sure, there’s an interstate issue (he stalked her in Georgia, now he’s stalking her in Maryland), but the fact is, the FBI doesn’t handle stalking.

I’m giving them a pass this week, however, and I’ll tell you why. This show, like everything else about profilers, borrows really heavily from the writings of John Douglas. Joe Mantenga is even playing a fictionalized version of Douglas on the show. In real life, Douglas devoted an entire half of his book Obsession to making the case that stalking should be taken far more seriously than it currently is, since it almost invariably leads to violence of one kind or another. Oh, in case you were wondering, the other half was about rapists. So there was some overlap.

Now, back to the show: The team, sans Greg and Joe, who are going to keep working the abused wife case, get to work on the stalking case. The stalker imagines a romantic relationship, and it’s going to rise to violence soon. Derek once again proves that he’s not that interested in stopping crime, he questions the value of investigating a case of stalking. Unlike his ridiculous resistance to the obvious in the suicide episode, however, this week he quickly comes around.

Over in Boston, Joe and Greg find out something terrifying – the wife has no paper trail whatsoever. She doesn’t drive, travel, ever work a job – there aren’t even any medical records other than when she had kids! The team seems a little annoyed that there isn’t a record of physical abuse, as if that’s important.

Um, guys – you don’t even need to interview her after what you just found out. The records essentially demonstrate that the husband kept the wife entirely isolated for their entire marriage, not letting her have any interaction with the outside world. Isn’t that enough psychological abuse for you? I mean, go ahead and talk to get to confirm it, but really, what more do you need?

The rest of the team is in Maryland, complaining to both the local cops and each other about the fact that there’s no one to help stalking victims. JJ points out that they were unable to help a woman in Denver one year earlier – and that woman got acid in the face! They try to track some pattern or history in the stalker’s communications, and ask Keri to make a list of every single person she can think of. It also turns out that Keri has a fiancee – could he be the stalker? No, of course not. But his presence there is certainly escalating things. The stalker sends a pair of heirloom earrings, and they run the envelope, hoping that it will provide a lead.

In the other storyline, Joe and Greg interview the couple’s kids, who maintain that the mother wasn’t abused, in fact, they go on and on about how stupid and worthless their mother is, and how much she’s been a failure at every aspect of parenting. Well, there you go – more evidence of the father’s endless belittling and psychological abuse.

Outside the Keri’s house her dog starts barking fiercely, and she asks her fiancee to go check on him in the most casual way imaginable – which just isn’t believable for a second. This is a woman who’s been jumping at the slightest sound in every scene she’s been in, but suddenly a dog angrily barking at something isn’t worth much concern? Isn’t warning you about intruders the very reason you got that dog, lady?

The gate is open in the yard, and the dog has been let out by the killer! There happened to be a cop nearby, so he’s able to look for the dog, but all he finds is a collar.

The dog has been taken to the stalker’s evil trailer! Where he’s calmed down quite a bit, actually.

Based on the stalker’s personal photos, they realize that he’s trying to make himself look as much like the fiancee as possible! Yet still the local cops are sarcastically disinterested in the case, even though he’s now stolen a dog. Is the fiancee next? They start to carefully comb through Keri’s life, hoping to find the point where he path crossed with that of the stalkers – but will they find it in time?

Joe and Greg investigate the scene of the family murder – despite the way the kids described the mother as filthy and unable to keep house, the place is completely spotless. How spotless? After killing her husband and before the cops arrived, the wife cleaned up all the blood that had splattered on the walls and furniture, so her husband wouldn’t be mad at her. Again, I’m going to stress that they don’t actually have to bother interviewing this woman. She was totally justified in shooting that guy.

Now it’s time for the profile of the stalker – immature, obsessive, weak-willed – the key piece of information is the date that the first letter was sent. They assume that it must be important for some reason.

Poring through Keri’s life, they discover that she went to a women’s health clinic for an abortion! Is it relevant to the case? Well, it is insofar as the fiancee finds out about it and feels betrayed because she didn't consult him first. This leads to him storming out, and finding the front window of his car smashed in. He doesn’t immediately yell for help, though – despite the fact that he drove home with takeout just one minute earlier, meaning the attack on his car just happened, meaning that the stalker is eminently catchable. Hell, he’s watching from the bushes right at that moment!

The team is hanging at the office the next day, where JJ regrets bringing up the abortion. There’s still no sign that they’ve mentioned the March connection to Keri. Meanwhile, the victim herself is walking out of a store, when she sees the stalker across the street:

He pulls one of those ‘disappear behind a passing truck’ deals, then she calls for help – making us wonder why one of the team members isn’t following her but hanging back, so the stalker won’t get the connection.

Hey, let’s check in with Greg, Joe, and the spousal abuse victim! They finally get around to the (totally unnecessary) interview. She freely admits to committing the crime, stating that she felt that she had no choice but to kill him, because she’s been so emotionally shattered by this constant abuse. The cop really doesn’t like hearing this, so she wants to talk to the woman for herself.

Then it’s back to Keri, who’s talking to the team at the office, while a sketch artist does a completely awful job of depicting the man she saw.

Or maybe Keri’s just really bad at describing people. Hilariously, when the sketch is done they get it out immediately, without even showing it to Keri to confirm that it in any way resembles the stalker. Which it doesn’t.

Keri then rushes home to talk to her fiancee, in no way accompanied by the team. Wonder how that’s going to go? The fiancee gets distracted when he sees his dog being walked by a stranger, so he pummels the guy. Meanwhile the stalker has broken into the home and abducted Keri.

Again, the team isn’t keeping an eye at all on the woman who they’re supposed to be defending from a stalker. Half-wits.

At least she’s not dealing with some kind of skinner or torture freak. The stalker is just holding her in his creepy trailer, thinking they’re on a date.

Running the terrible picture through the facial recognition program nets them a few hits, one of whom worked tech support for a law firm that Keri had done business with! They’ve got their man – but where has he taken her? The team interviews the fiancee, suggesting that since the stalker has been changing his appearance to look more like the fiancee, he might try one of the same activities. Apparently the fiancee proposed near Chesapeake beach, so that’s a decent lead!

Before we find out, though, let’s check out the suspicious lady cop’s interview with the abuse victim, shall we? The victim describes the killing in detail – how she murdered the husband and then cleaned the scene, as we predicted, because the husband would have been upset had people seen a messy house.

Back in the trailer the stalker wants to reminisce about the time they first met and he became obsessed, but Keri suggests that they go out for a walk out by the water. The stalker is charmed by this, but brings a gun, just in case. Once they’re out on the pier the FBI moves in, and stalker puts a gun to Keri’s head. He’s crazy enough to believe her lies about them being together, however, and when he lets his guard down, Derek tackles him for a happy ending!

THE END

Except for a scene of Joe pitying Greg for having nothing in his life but work any longer, and a tease from JJ about why she’s been so distracted - she’s pregnant, and she calls junior to let him know about it!

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

Actually, it was a little this time! It didn’t help them identify the stalker – it took him just standing out in public and letting Keri get a good look at him for that to happen, but the insight into his personality let them guess where he’d take Keri once she was kidnapped.

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

Of course, that kidnapping only happened because the team didn’t take even the most basic precautions to keep her from being abducted – they were utterly unprofessional, and it almost got her killed.

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

4/10 – Psychology definitely played a role here, just not enough that it makes me overlook what a horrible job they did of protecting Keri in the first place.

PENELOPE’S MURDER MAP!

Barely any Garcia this week, so no looks at the map. Here’s last week’s-
Now let’s add Silver Spring, Maryland…

Really getting a cluster around Virginia, aren’t we? Is it something in the water? Do the serial killers move there so that the FBI won’t have to travel too far when chasing them?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this is another of the episodes written by the wonderful writing team of debra and erica. my god they write the most horrific soap-opera episodes. as usual the men are overly emotional and the women on the show are tough, rational and determined. love the touch where hotch gets all defensive and sappy about his failed marriage and joe and hotch share their feelings of regret.
reminded me of another episode this dynamic duo wrote where the killer was called the "hollow man" and tough guy derek said "is it b/c he feels all hollow inside?" and jj said "no, it is b/c he uses hollow point bullets."
holy crap this writing pair spits out so much sappy drivel it is damn annoying. they are the worst.