Criminal Minds 406: The Instincts

The episode opens with the team rushing through a series of dark, unfurnished rooms while swinging around flashlight-enabled handguns. The whole thing suggests a training exercise - at least it until Spencer goes off alone and the angles go all impressionistic - which looks more dream-sequence-y. Spencer wakes up from his nightmare on the plane, then shows off his perfect dream recall - they found a six-year-old boy stabbed to death. Why is he having the dream? Could it have something to do with the case they're on, which involves a killer who abducts children, keep them alive for a week, calls the parents to taunt them, and then leaves the suffocated child in a field.

The ticking clock is established right away - a new child went missing yesterday, so just six days to save his life! Not that he's in a lot of danger - they've already got one dead body, and while the structure would have this kid dying before they finally saved the third victim, Criminal Minds is really, really nervous about killing off children. I don't think there was even a second onscreen victim in that 'red-headed child loves murder' episode. Although I'd obviously have to go back to check that. Maybe I should do it during the opening credits!

It's old home week here at Criminal Minds! The team is in Las Vegas, Reid's home town, so we're almost certainly going to get a visit from Jane Lynch, playing his psychotic mother! Will she help them solve this crime as well? One can only hope, otherwise the only reason for her to show up would be to cash a cheque.

Not that I begrudge her this, of course.

Also cashing a cheque this week is popular TV presence Reed Diamond! He's playing the father of the missing child, who isn't dealing well with the disappearance. Dealing even worse is the wife, who blames the kidnapping on her husband's insistence on the child becoming more independent - he was snatched while walking on his own to a friend's house down the street.

Over at the Morgue Derek and Reid get some fill-in about the dead child's condition when he was murdered. He'd lost some weight, and he didn't have any food in his stomach or intestine... but he wasn't starving! The doctor says he has 'no idea' how a child could be getting nutrients without eating food, which seems kind of stupid, since he's a doctor, and has to have heard of Ensure and other meal replacement drinks. I'm not saying that's what the kidnapper is feeding this kid, but it's the first thing that jumps to mind when you hear that someone's been nourished without eating any solid food.

Emily and Joe head to the dump site of the previous body, take a moment to sarcastically comment on Vegas CSIs who want to pretend to be cops and go trampling over crime scenes.

Which is entirely distinct from Psychologists who want to be cops, and so go chasing after criminals with guns drawn, rather than just reading files, interviewing people in locked rooms and writing E-Mails to police departments around the country.

The dump site trip isn't a complete waste - they figure out that the killer probably left the corpse near the road so that he could drive by and look at the body! They call Greg and report this, and he takes the initiative to ask the dead child's family to open up the funeral to the public. The reasoning is that this is the kind of criminal who will likely want to show up and witness the family's grief!


Oh, wait, didn't they already know this? Hasn't the killer been calling the victims' families to taunt them? Doesn't that already establish him pretty definitively as the kind of killer who wants to witness the family's suffering as closely as possible?

JJ goes to comfort Mom, hopefully creating a situation where the viewers' heartstrings are pulled because of JJ's impending motherhood! Hey, speaking of, where's Junior? We haven't seen him since the season ender! They bond a little, and then the expected phone call arrives! Dad wants to take it, but they have the mother do it instead - it seems the emotionally distant parent is the better one to be on the phone.

Okay, this is weird- that's clearly a woman's voice.

Between the voice and the fact that women are more likely to commit non-rape-themed child abductions (which they know this is), why is the team continuing to assume they're dealing with a man?

Right, the writers are making them look stupid so that the audience can be surprised! 'Clever(TM)'!

Later on Reid goes on to have another nightmare about a dead boy behind a washing machine. Or that a might be a dryer. I've never seen many front-loading washers, but people tend to put dryers on the left and-

Where was I?

Right, in Reid's dream after the team discovers the body Reid realizes that he's covered in leeches! But what could that mean? That he's freaking out about the similarities between this case and something from his childhood, obviously!

The next morning Mom is nervous about going to the funeral, and while Greg tries to convince her, Joe is busy giving the profile. Which is basically useless, because they're operating under the nonsensically restrictive idea that the killer must be a man. Kids of an exact age being kidnapped with no sexual element - doesn't that sound like a dead child replacement to anyone else?

A little less useless is the idea that they should be on the lookout for 4WD vehicles, because there were truck tracks leading to and from the dump site. Although even that advice is kind of crazily bad, since Emily tells them to 'memorize license plates', as opposed to, you know, taking pictures or writing the numbers down in notebooks. Yikes. The rest of the cops can't be as incompetent as the team, though, so I'm sure at least some of them brought pens.

Back at the house the family is heading out, while Reid continues flagellating himself about the bad odds of getting the child back alive. Which is true and all, in the real world, but it would be nice if Derek, while attempting to comfort his team-mate, should point out that literally every week they rescue someone from a serial killer. Seriously, I don't think there's been a single week where at least one person hasn't been saved. Even the bomb disarming from Episode 2 counts.

Now it's time for a depressing trip to the funeral, where I notice something that should have really been obvious:

You only need four pall-bearers to carry a child's coffin. Ugh.

As the funeral proceeds the team's eyes sweep the crowd - which one of these people could the killer be?

I'm picking her. Because they cut to her one shot after Mom looked up, suggesting that she got a 'vibe' that she was being watched. Although Mom persists in referring to the killer as 'he', even after this blonde lady looks straight at her, so I don't know how useful her theories could possibly be.

Also, Reid is now having hallucinations about the dead child from his past:

As well as himself and Jane Lynch attending the dead boy's funeral:

Cheque cashed! I wonder if she's on the show at all in seasons 5 and 6, what with the whole Glee thing continuing to happen.

Reid then announces to Derek that he's 'been here' before - well, Reid, given that you can guess the age of the child and remember how old you were when you started dreaming about him, shouldn't it be a simple enough matter to look over the tombstones and put a few possible names to the face?

That's not the main plot of the episode, though, which concerns Emily noticing the obvious red herring filming the funeral on his cameraphone.

They pick the guy up and waste everyone's time. Well, mine and theirs, but I'll save yours - he's an evil child molester! But not the criminal they're looking for.

While the time is being wasted Derek actually follows up on the stuff Reid was too cowardly to, and discovers that a child named 'Riley Jenkins' was raped and murdered just up the street from where Reid lived as a child - and Reid had an imaginary friend named Riley when he was little!

(Wait, are imaginary friends an actual thing? I hear about them in fiction all the time, but I've never encountered someone who had one. Not that I ask everybody I meet, but still...)

I don't think they've got enough time to wrap all of this up in one episode - is Jane Lynch going to be back next week as well? If so, yay!

The family is disgusted to learn that they haven't found the killer - just an unrelated paedophile. Mom asks how many are out there, and Greg responds that she doesn't want to know.

But if you do, go nuts.

The show then cuts to a station wagon with a mysterious driver heading out to where she's got the child held. The killer immediately calls the FBI and starts giving out clues like candy at Halloween - talking about judging how the child is dressed, which a male offender would almost certainly not- oh, hey, Reid finally noticed that the killer is obviously a woman. He also think that the term 'lock down' and the fact that she'll only talk on the phone means that she's probably a mental patient.

Also suggesting that the killer has a history of mental problems? That she's kidnapping and murdering children!

Penelope lets them know that mental health files are notoriously hard to break into - so he heads over to his Mom's asylum, hoping that a doctor there can hit the old 'psychiatrist phone tree' thing to find out about a woman with a dead child. He also stops by to talk to his mother about the dead kid from his childhood, so at least that plot's inching forwards! Even if Jane is insisting that there was murder in the neighbourhood. She does admit that the whole family up and moved after Riley's funeral because Jane felt that Reid was 'in danger'.

Then the doctor swings by to say that he wasn't able to turn up any info - but at least Jane has some helpful trivia: she went of her crazy person medication when she was pregnant with him! Which is what might have happened with their killer - what an amazing coincidence! This leads Reid to the natural next step, that this psychopath is breast-feeding the children, which is why they don't have food in their system!

Which would look exactly like eating any meal replacement or formula, so I'm not sure why a medical examiner would consider this to be a mystery.

Meanwhile the team shows Mom the video footage of the funeral, and she picks out the woman from the screen shot above! Excellent work, editors - I couldn't have figured out who the killer is without you!

Once again Penelope saves the day, getting a hit off the face they identified! They find out that her newborn baby was taken away from her recently, and now she's kidnapping little boys to replace them! Now it's simply a matter of driving out to her house and arresting her. Which they do.

Wow, this was an easier case than usual, huh?

So now there's just a little more to be done with the Reid storyline - he remembers a little more about his dream. There's someone in the basement with the dead body... Reid's father!

Played by a new actor! Now that's a cliffhanger for next week!

Although Reid's father obviously isn't the killer. I mean, the one thing we know about this case is that a little boy was murdered, and then Reid's family moved soon after because Jane Lynch thought her son was in danger. The whole family moved. She didn't take Reid away from his father. So obviously the threat was in Reid's neighbourhood, not Reid's house.

Still, I'm sure this will be a satisfying one to solve next week. Unless it winds up just being a B-plot again, which would suck.


Except for a crazy scene where Derek refers to saving the child as 'as good a day as they'll have on the job'. Except for every other week on the job, when they also rescue people.

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

Sort of - they used inference about the killer's behaviour to infer that the killer would go to the funeral, but their guestimation about it being a man wasted everyone's time, and put the child's life in further danger.

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

The case was solved by showing the mother a video of the crime scene, and then asking her which of the people in the video made her feel uncomfortable when she looked at them. She picked out the killer.

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

3/10 - It took a little bit of insight to know that the person would go to the funeral, but that's it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

seems to me sending jj (pregnant with a boy) to comfort the mom with a missing boy is just plain insensitive. if i'm a mom w/ missing boy, the last person i want to comfort me is a pregnant fbi agent whose embarking on the most wonderful day of her life. jeez. like some lemon juice on your paper cut anyone?