Criminal Minds 409: 52 Pickup

This week it seems that the team will be taking a trip into club country - where pretty girls are hit on by sleazy pick-up artists. Some split off from their pursuers, so accept the advances. And some wind up... dead! Or at least that's what we assume will happen to one of the blond women who make the mistake of sharing a drink with a tool in a stupid hat.

Yup, she's dead in the very next scene, and it was done in a shockingly brutal fashion, as were his other two victims - he slices open women's guts and then forces them to mop up their own blood while slowly dying! That's some serious ick. Although I'm not sure why the women go along with it. After all, they're already quickly dying, probably on the verge of blacking out - the episode tells us that you can survive for a couple of hours with your guts in pool on the floor, but how much of that would you actually be conscious for? Moreover, what motivation could they possibly have to pick up a brush?

Hopefully some of this will be addressed after the credits! (Although I doubt it will be)

While flying to Atlanta to investigate the team discusses inconsistencies in the MO. The first two murders happened in quick succession, and were followed by a year off. He also went from killing prostitutes to rich socialites! What could explain this? Replacement JJ suggests that the rich girl was specifically targeted because she was known to the killer, thus explaining the change in type of victim, but she's shouted down by the rest of the team, who point out that sadists choose random victims because they like to dehumanize them, and that's easier to do with a stranger.

Of course this is complete nonsense - there are plenty of torture-loving serial killers who've killed people they know. I have no idea why they're just throwing out bad information.

The team decides to work up two approaches - the kind of person who'd kill prostitutes, and the kind who would go after a socialite. They focus on regular witness statements first, though, and discover that the killer was so unremarkable that everyone was looking at his stupid hat, and no one remembers what he looks like. They visit the family, who are reluctant to talk with the FBI - at least they are until replacement JJ lies about being able to empathize because she had a sister die. We know that this is a lie because the rest of the team give her funny looks while she's talking to the mother. I'm guessing Greg's going to have a problem with this.

The interview with the sister isn't exactly helpful - she explains that the guy used generic douchey pick-up schemes to disarm the girls, but has nothing useful to offer. When leaving the expected dressing-down from Greg comes - suggesting that they don't ever lie when working on a case. Which is so silly on its face that I'm not even going to bother going through all the times they've done just that. So let's move on-

To the police station, where the team spitballs ideas about the killer's identity. They focus on his change in target and personality as the key element, and intuit that he must have learned how to pick up women from a professional! You know, Criminal Minds is really late to the party on this whole Frank TJ Mackey thing, but I find the whole vibe around these guys so loathsome that I'm happy to watch yet another show get some shots in.

Before they can look into local classes on the subject there's another victim - this one is different, however: she fell out a window before he could gut her, which means he'll still be looking to indulge that particular perversion - perhaps that very night? Remember: Every serial killer is a spree killer on this show.

They then jump to a ridiculous conclusion - because he was wearing sunglasses at the latest bar and a hat at the previous one, Reid intuits that he must have been trying to draw attention away from a distinguishing feature on his face, such as a scar or birthmark! And naturally, it must be above his left eye! For no reason!

That's the assumption - that the guy was wearing a costume to keep people from noticing his scar, while walking through a bar full of people who have cameras and might have easily remembered his face.

Yikes, this is badly written.

Anyhoo, a waitress recognizes the idea of a scarred pervert, and phones the FBI about him. But before we get to that scene, they check in with the only pick-up artist in the city whose class the killer could have possibly taken! Okay, I'll let them have this cheat in order to compress the timeline, but come on - only one guy in the city suggests that the losers dress up?

Things are looking up, though, when the pick-up artist 'Viper' turns out to be popular character actor Currie Graham!

Yaay! Always great to see that guy, huh? He spouts some nonsense about psychology and evolution - the language is all themed around predators and prey, which makes the team say that anyone who wants to pick up women is the moral equivalent of a serial killer. Geez, team - I don't like the guys and even I think that's a little over the top.

Naturally Currie refuses to hand over his client list, because that's what witnesses do in these situations. He also tries to hit on Emily, which is obviously a dead-end. He even suggests that he could pick up Emily in a club, which should be a fun scene down the line.

A background check into Currie reveals nothing, and Greg demands that Garcia hack into his files to discover his client list. Which is apparently something she can easily do. Does he even have a computerized list of his clients on a networked computer? Why do they have any reason to think that he would?

The waitress shows up at the police station - it seems she used to be a prostitute, and she would have been his first victim, except for the fact that she slashed him across the face, giving him that scar! She reports that he rambled on and on about 'the help', which, added to the cleaning thing, means that he spent time as a janitor or something like that for a rich family - since only rich people ever refer to servants as 'the help' (because it's more condescending!) - you know, given that the important victim was the daughter of a super-rich family, maybe this is a connection the team should be following up on?

They don't, though, instead offering their useless profile to the bullpen of cops before heading out to the clubs to look for the killer in person. They also suggest that Emily should act as bait for Currie, hoping that by flirting with him she'll be able to find some information about the killer. There's also some nonsense about how well replacement JJ is working out on the team, but scenes on this subject are utterly pointless, since JJ is going to be back from maternity leave soon, and the guest star's clock will run out.

The scene at the club is strange on a couple of levels - Reid is nervous around women to the point where he has trouble handing out flyers, and then Derek decides to teach him how to take control of a conversation. In this case, it's by using a magic trick to charm and flirt with a lady bartender. Which is all well and good, except that this kind of behaviour is exactly what Currie has been pitching - so when the second half of the scene has Emily being unaffected by his 'game', the 'win' isn't especially crushing. He does offer them a clue, though - one they could have gotten if they'd simply asked him about his method. The first exercise in it? Insult and belittle the woman who made them feel most powerless!

Um, wasn't that replacement JJ's idea? That there was a big switch in victimology because he had a connection to the rich girl? Did they seriously just waste half an hour (two days in-show) because they didn't want to take advice from the new girl?

Talking to the family again, the dual elements of 'cleaning' and 'sexual abuse' springs something to mind-

Wait a second... you knew there was a guy who, when he was a child, used to peep on your daughters and one time tries to strangle one of them while they were both in their underwear, and then when she was later murdered by a serial killer, you didn't think that was worth mentioning? And because the kid's mother was a cleaning lady, we now understand him complaining about being called 'the help'.

Then, proving just what a classy show this is, they let us know that the rich girl totally deserved what she got, because she looked on and smiled while the rich mother brutally spanked the killer (for naked strangling her daughter).

Now that they know (in general terms), who the killer is, they're able to identify the company the rich family hired their 'help' from, so it's only a matter of time. Which leaves just one plot element to cover: Where's the final victim for them to rescue? We already had a teaser kill and a second victim, now it's time for someone to get saved!

That victim? The bartender who Reid flirted with! She spots the killer trying to pick someone up, and then, for no reason, rather than using a bar phone to call the police she wanders off all alone into an alley where he can pounce on her. Can they get to his kill location on time?

They cross-reference names on Currie's list of students (which Garcia has illegally obtained... somehow) with the killer's first name, and they get a hit on the single Bobby who took the guy's course in the past year! Lucky that, huh? The team rushes over to his house as he's tormenting the bartender (before cutting her open), which gives us no insight into how he convinced women to continue cleaning after starting to murder them.

In a final stinger, we discover that he's been caring for his invalid mother, and that's likely the 'stressor' that started him killing people! As if that's something we still care about at this part in the show.

The one bright point? Greg totally admits that replacement JJ was right all along about the killer's connection with the rich girl. It's certainly a nice gesture, one that will undoubtedly be forgotten when replacement JJ leaves the show in four episodes tops.

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

Certainly it helped a little this time around, although not as much as it could have. In fact their over-focusing on their preconceptions about what a 'sexual sadist' should be blinded them to searching for an obvious connection between the killer and victim. As if Paul Bernardo's first murder victim wasn't his sister-in-law. Come on, people!

Also, while their trickery and psychological baiting with Currie certainly netted them a clue, it's a clue they could have gotten had they just asked him politely about his method, rather than being pointlessly combative and dickish in their interactions with him. Not exactly an expert interrogation technique.

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

Well, the guy kept going to bars that were full of people who saw his face and probably took his picture without realizing it. This was basically the ultimate 'it was just a matter of time'.

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



Perpetual Beginner said...

To be fair, I don't believe Hotch was reaming Jordan for lying (as noted, that would be ludicrous), but for lying to someone ostensibly on "their side". Lying to the suspects is apparently perfectly kosher.

Vardulon said...

The thing I found strangest about Hotch's reaction was that his main problem was that the mother might have found out, which would ruin their rapport with her.

As if there was some way could find out if some FBI Agent whose name she doesn't know is lying about her childhood.

Anonymous said...

our little reid is growing up. yea! maybe the bartender/reid relationship will continue in future episodes? i guess we shall see. with big brother derek mentoring him, his star should be on the rise. nice to see him blooming, the little tyke.

Maaian said...

Always good to see Courtney Ford in a TV show (the bartender). I thought this was one of the best episodes of the series! They really went back to good ol CM

Anonymous said...

I didn't get the impression the boy was strangling the girl - I saw it as inappropriate inter-class touching/partial nudity - which I'm sure is what was intended as the mother never suggests there was any violence and the girl wasn't distressed. She said, 'he made me'. That's what you say if you're caught half-naked with a boy in a closet, not if you've just been half-strangled.
Otherwise, good review, as always.

Anonymous said...

Greg also seems to have forgotten how he was only too happy to lie to dying mom in that San Francisco arson case and tell her that her family survived. To be fair, she wasn't going to make it - but if some other hospital worker accidentally let it slip, finding out she had been lied to would have been a whole lot worse. Great double standard there, dude.