Criminal Minds 407: Memoriam

Part 2 of the cliffhanger,folks – we’re going to find out what was going on with Reid’s nightmares! Was his dad a murderer? Of course not, but I’m sure there’ll be an interesting story to explain the dreams.

Speaking of his dreams, Reid announces to the team that he won’t be heading back to Quantico with them, but doesn’t explain why he’ll be remaining in Las Vegas. Every but Derek accepts his alibi of wanting to spend some more time with his mother, but Derek doesn’t say anything, so Reid is free to head over to a local police station and ask after the case file. It’s delivered to him by Xander Berkeley, of 24 (and a million other things) fame! Xander was one of the cops on the case – he compares this murder to the Jonbenet Ramsay case, which may be the most open they’ve ever been with their talking about the real case an episode was based on. This episode, like that true-life tragedy, revlovles around a child found dead in the basement of their own home, with no sign of forced entry suggesting that an intruder had committed the act. Will the similarities to the Ramsay case continue, or will this week’s case actually be solved?

The latter, I’m guessing.

Helping the latter occur is… the rest of the team! Yeah, Derek and Joe didn’t get on the plane either. Knowing full well about Reid’s stress, they’ve decided to hang out and help Reid solve the crime, for which he’s already got a prime suspect… his own father!

You know, that works better as a pre-credits sting if hadn’t also been the cliffhanger sting at the end of the last episode. Not really so dramatic if you didn’t give us any new information, guys.

Back at headquarters the replacement JJ ‘Agent Todd’ is being shown around the offices, and is surprised to learn that the team has split up – will she be able to work in this kind of non-traditional environment? More importantly, will we care, since she’s only going to be around until JJ’s off of mat leave?

In Vegas the team goes over the case – the victim was a latchkey kid who was murdered in his own basement after a little league game. The comfort the killer showed with the surroundings suggests that he might have known the child – and since Reid’s childhood home was less than a kilometer away, he naturally jumps to the conclusion that his father could be the culprit! Time for a visit with Jane Lynch to get some background! Jane vehemently denies any suggestion that he was a paedophile, but reveals that he coached the victim’s little league team! Even though that makes him the most likely suspect, there’s no way the show is going there, so let’s move on.

The Todd/JJ scenes continue, but get really weird as they give us a glimpse into why the team generally does such a poor job: Bad management! Todd asks how JJ decides which cases to bring to the team, and JJ explains that it’s a kind of profiling – the place where they can stop a murder from imminently occurring is the place they should go next. She offers two cases to Todd, and I’m going to share the test with you, to see what conclusions you can come up with.

Case 1 – Mother and two daughters stabbed in their sleep.
Case 2 – Two men with no connections drowned in bathtubs exactly one month apart.

So, where would you go, and why?

Todd explains that they should go to investigate Case 1! While case 2 is obviously a serial killer, which means another man will die in a couple of weeks if they don’t catch him (or a million other things don’t stop him), case 1 is more important, she explains, because the perp is most likely a ‘family annihilator’, the case of a father killing his brood and then running off. Why is that one more important, you ask? Because, according to Todd, anyhow, every extended family relative of the annihilator is now a target. Which seems like kind of a stretch to me. I haven’t extensively studied family annihilator cases, but it’s not like John List murdered his kids and then drove around the county offing his cousins. They tend to just snap and then leave. Yeah, there was that one guy who shot his entire extended family during the holiday festivities and then shot up his place of work for good measure, but that doesn’t really seem like a good comparison.

In fact, there’s a pretty giant hole in the reasoning that JJ and Todd offer for their decision – they’ve already identified the killer in case 1 – so what further use could the team possibly be? Assuming they’re correct, and it is the father, what more will the team accomplish by flying there to ‘help out’? Are they going to sit outside the houses of relatives, hoping he shows up? Will they hang out at bus stations in neighbouring cities, quickly glancing between the crowds in front of them and some flashcards with the killer’s face on it, marked up with some common disguises? Because that’s basically all that can be done to help catch the guy at this point – and none of those things seem like a pretty good use of the team’s time, does it? Shouldn’t they be headed off to the case where investigation and, um, ‘profiling’, might actually be of some use?

Hell, if it was so obvious that the father was the killer, why did the local cops ask for the FBI’s help in the first place?

Reid swings by the victim’s father’s workplace, hoping to discover more about his father. The father is 100% sure that Reid’s dad wasn’t the killer. He even tips Reid off as to Reid Sr’s location – he’s still working at the same law firm that he’d been at when Reid was growing up! Reid is heartbroken by the news that his father was just minutes away for his entire childhood, yet never stopped by. Which, come to think of it, is a really scummy thing to do, considering that he abandoned his son to live with a crazy person. You’d think the least he could do is stop by to ensure she wasn’t feeding him chopped up bibles for dessert or something.

A visit to Reid Sr’s office doesn’t go fantastically well, what with Reid being incredibly combative and accusing his father of murder like he’s David Caruso or something. Feeling aggrieved, Reid Sr. won’t give them access to his files without a warrant, which, of course, they can’t get, since their only evidence are Reid’s dreams. Reid’s solution? Have Garcia break into his father’s computer, thus ensuring that they’d never be able to convict his dad of anything, since any information his files lead to would be fruit from a poisoned tree.

Reid gets a slightly less morally questionable lead when he arrives back at his hotel room and discovers that someone has slipped a paedophile’s rap sheet under his door!

A rap sheet and set of photos that look amazingly current and un-aged, despite the fact that they’re from 20 years ago. How do we know the age of the file immediately? Because Reid remembers the guy approaching him in the park where he played chess!

At least now we know why Jane was so adamant about moving the family – killer paedophile in the neighbourhood! But will Reid continue thinking his father is the killer nonetheless? He still has Garcia criminally pursue Reid Sr’s personal information., and discovers that there’s nothing suspicious in it – in fact, the only noteworthy thing that they found on Reid Sr’s computer is a copy of everything ever written about Reid! Which is kind of sweet, but he still really ought to have called. The team has Garcia track down more info on the paedophile, while Reid heads to a psychologist for some hypnotherapy so that he can separate his dreams from his memories.

The session goes really well, and he’s able to remember an incident from his childhood where his father was yelling at his mother about something, and then the next morning, Reid sr burned some bloody clothes in the back yard!

Did Jane Lynch kill the paedophile because he approached Spencer after killing the other kid, and then Reid Sr. had to cover it up? That seems like the only possible explanation for this flashback, since Sr’s obviously not the killer.

Reid goes to visit Jane and demands some help with the case. He ruins any chance of getting useful information from her by insisting that his father is the killer, to which Jane reacts very badly. Even after botching that Derek and Reid catch an incredibly lucky break when they see the victim’s father coming out of the police station as they’re walking in. Instead of pursuing that lead, though, they try to get Xander to arrest Reid sr based on the absolutely no evidence they’ve gathered. Amazingly they’re able to convince him to grab sr and put him in a cell overnight, hoping that doing so will shake some information loose. And not lead to a wrongful arrest suit that uncovers the FBI’s completely criminal search of his home computers as well as all his public information.

Meanwhile, Garcia has tracked down the real killer, who seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth right after the murder! This backs up my ‘Jane Lynch did it’ theory pretty strongly, if I do say so myself!

In B-plot new, JJ goes into labour! Congrats!

Throwing all common sense out the window, Reid elects to interview his own father at the police station! Reid sr, like a genius, refuses to talk without a lawyer. Until Reid asks him a second time, when he just volunteers the paedophile’s name, but warns Reid that he ‘doesn’t want to go down this road’. Okay, so Jane Lynch has to be the killer, right? Why else would he be protecting this information so passionately?

We get a confirmation of the murder in the next scene, when we discover that they’d found the paedophile’s body in the desert years ago – it seems Vegas didn’t know about it because he was buried in another state, so no elaborate notifications were ever made. The team immediately comes to the conclusion that the bloody clothes Reid sr was burning must have belonged to the killer paedophile, and not the victim! Which you’d think would be great news, because now they can all just go home, but for some reason Reid wants to continue investigating.

It seems there’s a print recovered from the paedophile’s body, so they decide to run it, hoping that it will identify the killer – but it doesn’t belong to Reid sr! Which surprises no one but Reid… wait, it’s the victim’s father? What? How is Jane Lynch not the killer? This isn’t dramatically satisfying at all? And what about the bloody clothes? Sure, there’s still seven minutes left in the episode.

The victim’s father does the solid thing and keeps the identities of the people who helped him to himself, revealing only that he was sure the paedophile was the killer because ‘someone’ had told him that the paedophile had approached Reid in the park. Jane then shows up to confirm what the father said, and confesses the entire scheme.

It seems that she informed the victim’s father and identified the paedophile, then waited in the car while the father went inside the paedophile’s house and beat the man to death. Filled with curiosity she went inside some time later and found the dead body – which is when she got covered in blood, so all of that makes sense now.

Reid sr fills in the rest of the story, burning the clothes and such – he even suggests that Jane’s guilt drove her even more crazy, and that he left because he couldn’t deal with the aftermath of the murder. Which is a better reason than most, I suppose.

You know, if this was a better written show, they’d have used this opportunity to explain Jane’s obsession with chivalric codes and the knights of the round table – she couldn’t deal with the guilt about being party to a murder, so she’d searched a moral code to live by that would be completely fine with the actions that she and the victim’s father took. It all would have dovetailed together so nicely from a writing standpoint, and as a bonus it would have had the kind of pseudopsychological patina that the show loves so well. Of course, the writers have probably forgotten that aspect of her character by now, so it’s understandable that they missed the opportunity.

That’s it for this week’s episode – they put a decent man in jail for something that can barely be called a crime, all because Reid was too much of a dick to simply sit down with his father in a private environment and ask nicely what had happened.

Great work, team!

Oh, and JJ had the baby, meaning Jr’s dropped by the show! Which is great, because I was wondering if he’d officially become a Virginia cop yet… a question that won’t be answered this episode. But at least we know that Reid and Garcia are the godparents, though!


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

Not by any measurable amount, no

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

They came to the police asking about a murder case. The cop dropped off a file revealing the killer. The killer’s body had been found years ago. The victim’s father’s fingerprints were on the killer’s body. The case was solved by Garcia and some lab technicians.

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

1/10 – The only reason they’re not getting a 0 this time is because even though they could have solved it this way again, they didn’t just ask Reid’s mom who the killer was. So bravo not going back to that well, Criminal Minds!


Anonymous said...

i totally agree with your analysis of the todd/jj scene regarding the two files and which one to take for the team. i was thinking the exact same thing, but you analyzed it in writing better than i could have. another nice review. thanks!

Bugmenot said...

Maybe Todd/JJ are forced to pedantically follow the definition of "serial killer" and in case 2 since there are only 2 victims they aren't as sure that it is the work of a serial killer, as opposed to case 1? In any case, case 1 should never have reached the FBI!

PC said...

I just want to agree with your observation that having Jane Lynch be the killer would have been the more morally ambiguous and therefore dramatically satisfying outcome. I was disappointed that CM missed such an obvious tee-up.