Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour 102: Lonely Heart

This week's episode opens with the same title card as last week's, restating the premise that the show is about rogue profilers who answer only to the Director of the FBI (Richard Schiff). Of course, the only thing rogue about them last week was that they dressed so unprofessionally they made Reid look like Joe Friday, so my continuing bafflement at the premise of this show has led me to add an additional category at the bottom of the reviews. Find out what it is soon!

The episode itself begins with a woman recounting her experience luring a man to a hotel room, having sex with him, and then murdering him. She's talking to a man about this, and it's clear that she was operating entirely under his instructions. So this means she's under the thrall of a serial killer who can't do the murdering himself, so he's using her as a tool. I'm going to lock in a guess now, and say the killer is dead, and exists only in her head. Although that was the basic plot of 'The Angel Maker', so they might not want to go back to that well so quickly.

We also learn that the woman is wearing a blonde wig:

Because no one's real hair is that pale.

Then it's over to the team, who we know are led by a rebel because Forest Whitaker (whose name I misspelled both parts of last week - Yikes!) rides to work on a motorcycle while the Rolling Stones play on his iPod. What does this scene teach us? That 'Street Fighting Man' is no longer a prohibitively expensive song to license.

We also learn that the code to get into the office is 3699#. There's an insert of Forest punching in the code that's impossible to miss, which raises the question of that number's importance. Could something traumatic have happened to Forest on March 6th, 1999? Or June 3rd, if the character turns out to be Canadian? If so, that's a terrible number to pick for your secret code, since the serial killer who's taunting you about the fact that he killed your family 12 years ago will undoubtedly know the day on which he did it.

The team lays out the new case - 3 victims, all killed in hotel rooms over the past two weeks. Because every killer in the world of Criminal Minds is a spree killer. The show then cuts to the white-wigged killer alone in her apartment, hearing the svengali's voice in her head, thereby offering more evidence to my 'dead serial killer' theory. Will I be right? Let's find out together, after the opening credits!

As if it wasn't preposterous enough that the team works out of an abandoned boxing gym, when they arrive in Cincinnati, Ohio, a local detective informs them that there was no space at the precinct, so they'll have to work out of a creepy, cobwebbed, condemned hotel:

Was there also no room in the John Weld Peck Federal Building, on 550 Main Street, Cincinnati, Ohio, 54202? Because it seems like that would be a better place to hang your hat than a house that looks like it's going to have a portal to hell in the basement.

Going over the facts of the case, the team is shocked to discover the latest victim was wiped down with bleach after the crime - she'd only used that substance on the room before, never the victims! They're sure this means that 'something has changed' to cause her to shift her MO, but isn't it far more likely that she's just getting better at killing? As we're told time and again on these shows that the killers do?

They question the concierge at the latest hotel about how the victim managed to avoid cameras in the building, and he reluctantly informs them that there's a service entrance at the back which is used by hookers to enter the building under the radar. Which is both something she'd have to know about, and therefore a good lead, and not an explanation for why she isn't on any cameras. We saw her get on an elevator, which certainly has a surveillance camera. Also there was an elevator operator on it, so there's a witness who could mention the obvious wig.

Forest and blonde woman go to check out the corpse, and discover that the stab patterns have gradually changed - we know that it's because she wanted him to die slowly, because she and the ghost were discussing that in the opening, but the team is still at a loss. A conversation about the victims and killer's MO goes on for a minute and features nothing but generic serial killer mumbo-jumbo, except for a constant reference to the killer's MO as 'devolving', which is the opposite of what's happening. Yes, the wounds were less efficient at killing, but she's gotten more careful about cleaning up after herself, so how can you call it a devolution?

The team then stakes out the last two high-class hotels in the city that she hasn't hit yet, but come up empty because the killer has moved on to a popular nightclub in the city. There she lures a man, possibly the owner, into a VIP area and butchers him while people dance just a few feet away! Daring!

When the team gets there Janeane says something that wins a new prize I've just invented, The Emily Prentiss Award for dumbest thing said by an FBI Agent this episode! And now, the winning line:

So, just to be clear, she thinks that the killer knowing that her MO is public is a reason for her to not change it? And the FBI pays her real money for saying things like this?

The key element they notice about this crime scene is that he was dragged to a couch so that the killer could watch him die slowly - there's even a chair at each crime scene, so she can watch them! Forest uses his proximity to the dead body as an opportunity to take out his rosary and give him the last rites-
Which seems a little odd, given the circumstances of him not being a priest, and the guy being long-dead. Also probably not Catholic.

Penelope does a search for murders in which people wanted to watch people die slowly, and it leads them to a teenager who was stabbed four years ago by a killer who wanted to watch her die. The team goes to visit her, and discovers that she'd become enamored with a creepy older guy who gave her the attention she'd craved. When he wanted to use her to recruit other girls to be tortured, she balked, and he stabbed her. She managed to pretend to be dead (the knife missed her heart), and she called the police after he left. Why didn't she call the cops on him if she knew who he was? There's the twist - he's a serial killer who was already jailed by the time she got out of the hospital!

Okay, so I was wrong about the 'dead' thing. The killer is just getting a groupie to do his murdering.

Leaving the house, Janeane points out that the serial killer can't be their 'unsub', since he's in jail. Forest, in the second-dumbest line of the night, tells her that the bond between the mother and daughter is 'rock-solid', and if the serial killer could get between that to turn the daughter evil, he could convince anyone to be his willing pawn of murder!

Except you're seeing the mother-daughter bond three years after her only child was stabbed to death by an older boyfriend that the mother didn't even know she had. Of course they're closer now, the mother has become super-protective of the daughter she used to neglect. The killer targeted her because she seemed like a shy, withdrawn loner. Knowing that you're looking for someone like that is going to help your profile a hell of a lot more than assuming you're dealing with a master manipulator who could turn anyone into a killer.

They go to visit the killer, talking to him in a creepy interrogation cell, complete with a one-way glass observation window.

Do they have those in prisons? This isn't a criticism, I honestly don't know, and it seems a little odd to me. Forest goes into to play some mental chess with the killer, offering him a soda while trying to get under his skin.

That's what you call a missed opportunity for product placement. Not really a surprise, though - it's hard to imagine a company who would want to be identified as the beverage choice of serial killers.

The killer tells them he knows a woman is doing the killing, which they take as confirmation that it's his doing. They start searching through the lists of all his groupies, hoping to find someone especially creepy. In the third-dumbest line of the night, the blonde one mentions that this revelation 'widens the pool in a bad way, guys' - which is the opposite of true. You've gone from 'any white woman whose approximate height we know in her mid-20s to mid-30s in the entire city of Cincinnati or its environs' to 'any woman fitting those criteria who has had direct contact with one man, all of whose correspondence and meetings are tracked'. That's actually way, way easier to track down.

Well aware that the serial killer is a control freak, Forest storms into the room and threatens him with being sent to solitary, cutting off all communication from the outside world. Instead of crumbling, he demands to see his lawyer. Meanwhile the team tracks down a red herring, in the form of a loser who runs a bookstore. We know she can't be the killer because she lives above her store, and we've seen the killer in her own sparsely-decorated apartment. Also, the woman in the video footage they saw was wearing a nearly-white wig, while this woman is a natural much-darker blonde.

The creepy note in this whole pointless diversion? Garcia doesn't even hesitate before breaking into the woman's medical records to discover if she's been treated for depression. The FBI in action, folks! Warrants are for pussies!

The serial killer's lawyer arrives, and for some reason absolutely no one is shocked when it turns out that the lawyer is a woman. Really, team? You find it totally normal that a violent misogynist would trust his legal affairs to a woman? More importantly, though, this is the first scene where Forest's mumble-intensive underplaying goes from being a bizarre choice for the character to actually causing confusion in the scene.

Nothing against Forest, but couldn't the director have told him that he has to enunciate more clearly if he wants us to know whether he's saying 'are' or 'aren't'? The difference is kind of vital to the threat.

Proving that he really doesn't know how to come across as strong, Forest keeps making the 'solitary' threat over and over again, as if repetition will somehow make it scarier. The serial killer doesn't buy in, and, against his lawyer's advice, continues taunting Forest with how preposterous his theory sounds. The lawyer then shuts the interview down, and demands to talk to her client alone. Forest leaves the room, but we don't actually see whether they turn off the camera in the observation room. I mean, they already don't believe in warrants, why should attorney-client privilege bother them?

A little later Forest gets word that the herring he sent the team after was red, so he's left wondering who the killer could possibly be. It's only then that he realizes the serial killer spent the entire meeting bossing his lawyer around, and therefore she must be the killer! The lawyer has already left the prison by the time he calls the front desk, though, which means they're going to have to track her down before she takes her next victim!

How will they manage it? By tracking the GPS on her cell phone or modern car? Nope, for some reason that option doesn't come up. Instead, Forest challenges the serial killer, giving him one more chance to co-operate. The serial killer responds with a bizarre speech-

That doesn't seem to mean anything. I mean, maybe he's trying to say that Forest is flailing around the same way those kids are, but it's not the same thing at all. First off, what are the kids going to do, give up? Secondly, Forest is inevitably going to catch this woman - it's a single woman that every cop in Cincinnati now has the name, address, and car information of. It's just a question of if she gets any more bodies on the way. The serial killer is forgetting that this is Criminal Minds, and they always save the third victim.

The whole team tries to figure out who the serial killer would have sent his lawyer to murder next. Janeane heads in to confront him, hoping that a non-submissive woman will put the killer off his game. She puts pictures of all the women in his life on the table in front of him, and when he looks at the teen that he failed to kill, Forest figures out that she must be the next logical target. The team rushes over to the house, and manages to shoot the lawyer just before she stabs the teen to death:

That was a close one, huh? Now all that's left is for Forest to do a little gloating - although this scene proves to be almost unbelievably weird. The serial killer asks Forest if he believes in god - it comes up because they're a symbol on Forest's holster that represents the archangel Samael - we don't get an insert of the holster, sadly, but the fact that a serial killer would recognize this symbol is pretty strange - although it makes sense that Forest would wear it, since Samael is representative of god's vengeance. Also strange? The fact that Forest points out that Marcus (that's the serial killer's name) can be derived from the name of a demon, Marchosias. Even stranger is the fact that the two men play the scene as if they're literally a demon and angel in disguise, and this conflict is meant to be a microcosm of the battle between good and evil. Forest even asks Marcus who are he's working for, and Marcus coyly responds that telling would 'ruin the surprise'.

Is this show turning into Millennium? Because, for the record, I would be okay with that.

Forest then ruins things by claiming that he was 'three movies ahead' in the chess game they were playing. Yeah, Forest? If that was true, you would have had people waiting at the teen's house, and she wouldn't have come within two seconds of being stabbed to death before being rescued. Your team had to rush over there in a car because you only figured it out at the last possible moment. You were literally one move behind.


Except for a final scene where Forest goes to talk to his priest (Bill Cobbs!) about his obsession with sin, and the sketches he makes concerning man's relationship with darkness and divinity.

It's heavy-handed nonsense, and definitely points in the direction of a move towards Milleniumity. Which, again, I'm entirely behind.

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

Oh, most definitely. Observing the key behavioral component of watching the victims die led them to the MO of an existing killer, which broke the case. This is actually a good example of the principle that the signature can be the key to tracking down the killer.

Although they still needed a surviving victim to just flat-out give them the killer's name, so I can't give them full credi.

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

Well, she was killing men in public places surrounded by cameras and people looking women over very closely. It was only a matter of time before someone recognized her. Especially considering that she had to drag around a bag big enough to hold knives and a giant bottle of bleach.

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


And now I'd like to introduce the new category that I'm adding to reviews of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour. Considering the fact that they're supposedly a 'rapid-response team' who operates 'outside the bureaucracy' of the FBI, reporting only to Richard Schiff:

Would this episode have played out any differently had the regular team been running things, or was there some advantage to having a rogue Red Cell on the case?

Not even slightly. Except for all the jibber-jabber about angels and demons you could have subbed out the character names and filmed this as an episode of Criminal Minds. Richard Schiff didn't even call them to assign the case, so who knows why they were involved?

Oh, and in a final note, I'm pretty sure that Marcus is a Roman name, rather than a demonic one. What with there having been a Marcus Aurelius and all.

1 comment:

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