Suspect Behavior 101: I don't know what this episode is called, because I don't have a DVD, and the episodes aren't titled.

I've been asked - not by many people, this is largely not something that the public cares about - but I have been asked just when my reviews of Criminal Minds are going to catch up with the show's newly-airing episodes. The answer, of course, is in 2013. I'm halfway through the fourth season now, while the show is halfway through its sixth. This means that, should I continue at this pace, I'll arrive at the end of the sixth season around the same time that Criminal Minds is completing its (inevitable) seventh - the, over the spring and summer I'll largely catch up on the seventh season, merging with (hopeful) eighth towards the end of 2012 (depending on how long seasons 6 and 7 are), definitely in the new year.

So, with the prospect of reviewing current episodes of Criminal Minds some two years off, I'm left with a dilemma. Do I attempt to get in on the ground floor of hot new show 'Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour', risking the possibility that it's going to spoil plot twists from coming seasons of the original show - twists about whose content I'm wholly unaware? Well, not wholly, I've seen enough glimpses of commercials on mute to know everyone's alive. Well, Greg and Joe and Emily, anyhow.

Obviously I'm going to at least watch the first episode, given the title of this post, but be forewarned: if the show looks like it's going to be spoiling things from the other show, or like it won't fit neatly into my 'critiquing profiling in fiction' format for the reviews, I reserve the right to call this review, and any further coverage of the show, off at any time. So, without any further ado, because, let's be honest, that was a lot of ado, on to the show!

One final piece of ado - if there was a backdoor pilot establishing all these characters, I didn't see it - so expect me to be a little more confused than someone who watches Criminal Minds where they're supposed to.

Now, and seriously this time, the show:

There's your statement of premise, people. We're going to be watching a show about exrta-hardcore secret profilers who fly around the country on a moment's notice whenever the director of the FBI has a fire that needs tamping down. Which is a completely distinct and unique premise that in no way resembles a team of regular profilers who fly around the country on a moment's notice whenever someone notices a serial killer is attacking an area.

And what's that about bureaucracy? Does Greg even have a boss? I know we had that whole mishegoss in the second season about the woman trying to kill his career and Emily spying on him, but since then there's been absolutely no oversight to anything the man or his team does.

But I'm not here to talk about Criminal Minds. I'm here to talk about Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour. Which totally isn't going to get tiresome to write over and over again.

It's an idyllic day in suburbia as children play in a yard whose safety is expressed by means of a gauzy, diffuse filter placed over the lens:

(for once that isn't just my low-res screencaps!)

The little girl runs across the street to hide in their game of hide and seek, but it isn't her brother that 'finds' her. It's a psychopath with a van and a picture of another little girl who's supposedly missing! Okay, I guess the guy never learned that it's dogs you're supposed to be looking for when abducting children, not other children. Children like dogs, but strangers with pictures of little girls are kind of creepy.

Also, who doesn't teach their kids to never ever ever get near a stranger's car?

The show then immediately cuts to the team's hilariously decrepit office:

I know this isn't a comedy show, but how can you not laugh when you seen that place?

The team, which includes Forrest Whittaker and four people whose names I'll learn as the show goes on, watch news about the abduction which, according to the chryon, took place half a day earlier, meaning the little girl has less than twelve hours to live, statistically speaking. Confirming that this is probably a stranger abduction (seems like the brother hearing a van drive up and roll off would suggest that), the team packs up and gets ready to fly!

Forrest then notices someone in the next room, toying with the boxing equipment in the crumbling gymnasium that the team's office overlooks.

First off, glad to see that Richard Schiff is getting work, although I'm a little disappointed that the director of the FBI isn't Michael Ironside, who met Reid in NA that time, but the show didn't let us know exactly who he was. Secondly, they're working out of a condemned gym? Seriously? Thirdly, why is the director of the FBI hanging out with Forrest Whitaker?

Hopefully that last question will be addressed as the scene progresses. Richard lets us know that Forrest is into martial arts, then points out that one of the team members is named 'Sims':

And that his backstory is that he killed a child molester some time back, and was jailed for it before getting a pardon and joining the FBI. Richard is seemingly worried that Sims might also kill the kidnapper of this little girl, should they catch him. Which is both kind of like worrying that the chef is going to put too much whipped cream on your hot fudge sundae, and the kind of thing that could have been handled with a memo or phone call, rather than Richard (The Director of the GD FBI) coming down to wherever the hell this office is at two in the morning.

Also, why are they only getting onto this case at two in the morning? It's an amber-alert child abduction. Sure, they still have to fly there, but shouldn't the FBI have gotten involved immediately?

The team arrives at the kidnapping site (which may or may not be Wisteria Lane) the next morning, a full 17 hours after the abduction (meaning there's 7 hours left on the deathclock), and find the police there, ready to fill them in. Wait, police? This is a nationally talked-about kidnapping, apparently (given that the team was watching a news report about it, and they had to fly four hours to get there... actually, hold on a second, I'm going to make this its own paragraph...

The kidnapping occurred in Cleveland, Ohio at 2PM - we know this because the scene in the office was twelve hours after the kidnapping, at 2AM. When the team arrives in Cleveland, it's seventeen hours after the kidnapping. Couple of things here, first off, what time of year is this taking place? Criminal Minds has been pretty good about setting episodes at the time of year they're aired - including moving a Santa-Slasher episode from Christmas because of the writers' strike - but that can't be happening here. Take a look at the scene:

First off, Cleveland is cold in the winter, and secondly, the sun doesn't even rise until after 7AM, so why is it high enough to be casting such short shadows? But let's set that aside and assume this pilot was originally meant to air back in September, and just got pushed back to mid-season. That still leaves the question of how it took the team five hours to get from Quantico or Washington (where I assume they're based, given that the director of the FBI hangs out at their offices in his civvies in the middle of the night) to Cleveland. You can drive that in seven hours - how can it possibly take five to fly?)

Now where was I? Oh, right - why are they talking to cops? This is a nationally-relevant kidnapping, shouldn't there already be FBI agents on the case? There's got to be a field office closer than Virginia, doesn't there? Just off the top of my head, maybe at 1501 Lakeside Avenue, Cleveland, OH, 44114? Phone number 216-522-1400 (Ask for Cheryl to find out the daily specials in the FBI cafeteria!)

Forrest assigns the rest of the team to try and track down hint of the kidnappers' origin or current location, and in doing so I get a better look at the remainder of the team. In addition to Sims, the murderer, there's a gravelly voiced Englishman who things a hoodie is an appropriate thing for an FBI agent to wear to a crime scene:

A blond woman-

And Janeane Garofolo-

Who hasn't had a line yet. I'll get you names as the show continues. Although it would be nice if the characters used some. Proving that being a profiler is now the equivalent of being a patrolman, Forrest literally assigns one half of the team to check satelite footage and traffic cams, and the other to peek in dumpsters and storm drains to see if the local cops missed a body.

Because there's nothing better these highly-trained psychologists could be doing with their time. At least we get a glimpse of drama, as the englishman is troubled by Sims' desire to be the first one to get to the kidnapper.

Forrest heads into the house to meet with the family, hoping their dynamics can provide him a vital clue. We learn that while the kidnapping happened the father was crouched in the driveway, working on fixing his daughter's bike as his kids played hide and seek. It's supposed to be a chilling statement about how vulnerable children are, but it seems like a bit of a stretch. How could he not hear a van pulling up directly across the street? I live on the twentieth floor of a building and I can hear trucks parking in the lot below through an open window.

He has them list all the people the kidnapped girl comes in contact with - another thing that you'd expect them to have already handled. Outside Janeane (Griffith) talks to a crazy-eyed woman who claims to know about the kidnapping-

She's lying though, and just wants attention brought to her own missing child. It's a stunning indictment of America's institutional racism, and Griffith promises to help her out. Then she turns around and gets super-indignant about the situation to her boss, even though no one on the team disagrees with her about how shocking it is. I suppose the producers wanted to be sure the storyline 'landed' with the viewers at home. Could this be related to their case? Well, the victims were of a different race, and child molesters are the most preferential of all serial killers, so I'm going to say 'no', but this is the world of Criminal Minds, so we'll call it a maybe.

Just in case we missed the heart-wrenching social implications of the storyline, the teaser ends with Crazy-Eyed-Lady putting up a poster of her own missing girl under this week's victim's poster.

See, one is black-and-white and handwritten while- kidding! Don't worry, I'm not going to beat you over the head with this stuff the way the show does. Wait, are we seriously just at the end of the teaser? I've written nearly two thousand words about the pre-credits stuff? Okay Count, time to dial it back a little. You're obviously excited to be writing about something current for once, but don't get carried away!

Okay, apparently Garcia is also on this show (whose opening credits maintain the Criminal Minds tradition of abhorrently-photoshopped group photos)! Good for her, cashing two paychecks while believably pointing out that, as a full time computer analyist, the first team really doesn't give her enough work to justify a full-time salary.

Although it would have been nice had her boyfriend Xander been their full-time tech guy, with cameos by Garcia.

Oh, this is embarrassing - unlike Criminal Minds where I have to rely on the DVD menus, this show actually does put titles up. This one is called 'Two of a Kind', which will be reflected on the listing for this week's episode in the archive, but I'm keeping the title of this post as-is, so people will always have a reminder of my conclusion to jump to negative conclusions.

The team sets up in a local police station (and not the FBI office at 1501 Lakeside, for some reason) and starts going over the facts of the case. Assuming that the kidnapper was looking for any little girl, not that one specifically, the team guesses that they must have been driving around the suburbs, just looking for an unattended little girl. So shouldn't they be asking about strange vehicles in the neighbourhood? Seeing if anyone noticed a van? For some reason they start talking about the missing little black girl, which seems like it's going to just draw focus away from the crime that they're actually there to solve. Okay, sure, it could turn out that the two are related, but the odds are so long that it seems insane to devote any real resources to the far-harder-to-solve two week old case than the one that happened less than a day ago.

Forrest heads back to the house to interview the brother, hoping that he'll remember something important. He does - that a windowless blue van sped away just as he noticed his sister was missing. What, really? How is 'Was there a windowless van driving around' not the first question asked of everyone in this case?

Also, I'd like to pause for a moment to share with you just how creepily intense Forrest Whitaker is in this scene.

You know you're talking to a kid, don't you? It seems like your face should reflect comfort and empathy, rather than 'soul being devoured by inner demons'.

Garcia then vid-conferences into the team's temporary office, which now features a preposterously large television set:

Did they bring that thing with them? I'd hate to think of Cleveland PD wasting money on something that extravagant. Also, is that Garcia's office? Because it sure doesn't look like it.

Is that a window? She doesn't have a window! Oh god, did I just find out that Garcia isn't on normal Criminal Minds any more, and that she's working for CMSB (it's even an awkward acronym!) full time? Man, that would suck - especially for the Criminal Minds team, since 80 percent of their cases are solved by Penelope just telling them who did it.

She doesn't have any luck with the van, but one of the names on the sex offender's list was also on the parents' list of people the victim had contact with - a guy who runs programs for the public library! While the rest of the team runs out to check on the child molester, crazy-eyed mother arrives, so Forrest and Griffith elect to waste time with her while they could be helping rescue someone who may not be dead yet.

Half the team gets to the park and-

Fingerless gloves and a trenchcoat? You're an FBI agent! Come on, people! Then Sims gets a phone call that I'm excerpting here, because I would like it if someone would please tell me what he says.

Seriously, I have no idea what that man just said. I listened to it 5 times, and nothing. Any ideas?

Sims runs up on the child molester and drags him away to be questioned in private while the other two cops look for him. He goes a little overboard, assuming that the only child molester in the area must be the kidnapper, but the rest of the team is there to rescue him before things go too far - he's got an alibi!

Forrest interviews the crazy-eyed woman, who reveals that her daughter's abduction was witnessed by a Korean man, and she was taken into the exact same van!

BTW, how was that van not spotted in the chichi suburbs? Wouldn't it stick out like fifteen stacked sore thumbs? Which, now that I've typed it, is a really horrible image, and I apologize for using it.

Now that they know they're working on one case, they can more effectively pool their resources to catch the maniac, who is revealed, in the next scene, to be keeping both little girls alive in a sick parody of a family home!

Checking into background of the first missing girl, Garcia discovers she was actually the third - two other black girls went missing in the same neighbourhood in the past year! Forrest reacts to this information in a typically Forrest-y way.

Hey, CBS? I know it was a coup-and-half to secure Oscar(tm)-winner Forrest Whittaker for your prurient little crime show, but did you bother to stop and think for a second that the broad strokes of his jumpy, twitchy, almost impressionistic acting style might not be best-suited to this particular subject matter? Just putting that out there.

There's plenty of crying and trauma in a scene with the kidnapper, who tries to watch a video with the kids, but gets freaked out when they notices his shrine to his previous, now dead victims. He suggests a board game to help break the ice, but, you know, lead balloon.

The team looks into the previous cases, discovering that the cops are so overworked that they haven't been able to get any good leads on the missing girls. Their only clue? A hairband belonging to one of the girls found far from her home. Based on this information they guess that the victim's body must be buried in a vacant lot near where the band was found, so the team immediately heads over there to check it out!

Yes, this is actually their plan. Have five people who could be doing much more important things with their time walk around a vacant lot, hoping to spot some disturbed earth. This is the plan that won out over 'bring in one of those dogs that can smell a corpse under five feet of concrete'.


Naturally they find the bodies in short order, and they at least do a single smart thing - they have the site restored to its pre-discovery fashion, knowing full well that the killer will probably return to bury more bodies there once he's tired of his current victims. A little more drama flares up, when Forrest notices that Sims seems more interested in catching the killer than rescuing the victims, but I'm not exactly sure where that's coming from. Yes, it would be sad if those little girls die, but if you have to pick between saving them and catching him, you've got to pick catching him, because far more little girls will die if he's allowed to escape. Bird in the hand, right?

Not that anybody's going to die, but still.

A trip to the coroner reveals that the victims are kept alive for 1-2 weeks before being strangled, and they weren't raped before being murdered! So what is his sick motivation that causes him to abduct children and play house with them? And why are the two little girls so stupid that they can't figure out to play along with him until they see an opportunity to escape?

Garcia is able to track down another vital clue - that the dolls the girls were buried with are purchased right before the murdered! Now if they could just figure out who was buying them, they'll be set! The team interviews the mothers about their daughter's dolls, hoping to find some connection. Interestingly, the black girl doesn't like dolls! In fact, her only friend is the white girl living across the hall!

Dear god - normally the killer buys his victims a doll to comfort them before he murders them, but now he's kidnapped a friend for her! And he's about to be pushed to the breaking point, because the news finds out about the dump site, meaning he has to accelerate his timeline!

They guestimate that the killer is trying to recreating his own family - so they search for cases where a white guy lost his own half-black daughter! They immediately discover a violent spouse-abuser who was suspected in the disappearance of his daughter from his estranged wife's house - and he lives in Cleveland, so he must be the killer!

The team rushes out to catch him just as the guy leaves in his van - so how are they going to catch him? Simple - since his daughter wasn't at the dumps site they found, she must be somewhere else, logically he'll take the new victims there! How could they possible know where that is, though? Even simpler: They ask Garcia if he has any connection to the area, and he does! He partially grew up in a property his grandparents owned by the lake!

The team rushes out there, gun at the ready, and finds the house empty. So they search the forest around the property, which in no way looks like the same sparse southern California forest where every single other rural Criminal Minds chase scene is shot:

Unsurprisingly it's Sims who comes across the killer as he's digging the grave - but will he murder the killer, or try to take him in? Sims announces that he's done murdering suspects, thereby redeeming him in our eyes, supposedly. The killer starts complaining about being forced to murder his daughter, and Sims tries to diffuse the situation by telling the killer that he regrets his own murder, and that he's living proof that redemption exists if you're willing to reach for it.

Again, he needed to be redeemed for killing a child molester, which was a net positive for society. That's like needing to be redeemed for donating money to charity. This guy killed three little girls, including his own daughter. A little harder to get a pardon for that one.

The killer finds my argument more persuasive than Sims', so he shoots himself in his head. Meanwhile the team rescues the little girls, resolving the situation satisfactorily for 40% of the families involved!


Except for a brief scene where Griffith points out, again, that if a white girl hadn't been kidnapped, they never would have solved the case, and then a coda, in which the team returns back to their home base to discover that the director of the GD FBI, who it seems does, in fact, own a suit, is waiting to congratulate Sims for not killing that guy, and to promote him to full FBI agent.

Aw, isn't that sweet?

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

Here are the psychological insights that they used to catch the killer. 1 - The lack of rape suggests a fatherly connection to the little girls. Certainly useful in identifying the specific man they were looking for, although had he not possessed what the show considered a non-traditional family history (interracial marriage! Shocking!), it wouldn't have been at all helpful.

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

Well, the episode was largely about indicting the police for not looking into the deaths of black girls, so maybe not - but with that white girl missing they undoubtedly would have caught the guy eventually (the blue van was too good a clue not to have led to the guy's capture). Maybe not before those little girls were dead, however.

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

6/10 - A promising start to the new show, from a profiling standpoint.

Slight problem, though - they establish that the killer was incredibly ritualized, and his behaviour had both literal and metaphoric importance. He equated the dead girls with his daughter, and cared enough for them that he buried them with their dolls.

So why did he dump them in a completely open and public vacant lot? Here are the three reasons to do such a thing-

1: Disregard for the victim.
2: Inability to move the bodies a long distance without attracting attention.
3: No access to a private secondary location where you have no threat of discovery.

None of these three are true. He cared for the victims, he had a van and a garage, allowing him to load the girls up, and he had a private plot of land where his daughter was buried. Why not bury the other girls there? Because if he had, they wouldn't have been able to come up with a way for the team to find him.

It may be more psychological than the average Criminal Minds episode, but it's considerably worse-written.


Perpetual Beginner said...

I think you may be overestimating how much a windowless van would stand out in a nice suburb. Sitting in my own living-room in a fairly nice middle class suburb, I can see three windowless vans from my window. There's a heating & cooling van parked next door, one from the cable company a little further down the street, and a white one without markings across the street - no markings; I believe it belongs to a carpenter. A lot of contractors, utilities, and other such use windowless vans, so unless you're in a neighborhood so posh that they have back entrances for the help, you're likely to see some around. Granted most will have some or another company logo, but not all.

Vardulon said...

I'm sure you're right about the frequency of vans appearing in the suburbs. It wasn't so much that I expected people would call the cops about a van driving aimlessly around the neighbourhood, more that no one would remember the van the next day. That seemed like a stretch.

Anonymous said...

"Don't worry, [Couve? Somebody's name, I imagine?], if he's here, the three of us can handle him."

Anonymous said...

Almost right (above), but it's Coop. Team leader.