Criminal Minds 414: Cold Comfort

Michael Biehn! Yaay!

This is the second image of the episode - one of my favorite actors going over a board of missing girls, and writing 'deceased' under one of their pictures! Hopefully we're in for a good one this week! It seems Biehn is a detective who's been working on this case for a while - the mother (Lolita Davidovitch!) of one of the missing girls comes to visit him, wanting to know if she can get a piece of evidence. Why? She's got a psychic working the case, and hopefully it could lead to the capture of the killer!

This is so great - eighty or so episodes in and we're finally getting a profiler vs. psychic episode! And the psychic is played by beloved character actor Vondie Curtis Hall!

Will it be as good as the numb-three-ers episode with (I'm guessing) the same premise (missing girls, psychic tries to help, scientists scoff, but then it turns out he was kind of right, and we're left wondering)? Probably not, but that's only because the psychic in that episode was played by John Glover, who's on a whole other level as far as beloved character actors go.

Man, how great would it have been if they'd gotten Glover to play the same part here?

Anyhow, I'm just guessing that it's going to have the same plot, since that's the most obvious place the show could go, and Criminal Minds is, if nothing else, about always taking the path of least resistance. It's a lot like fire and water in that way.

Back to the show! Psychic feels the necklace and has a vision, but we don't find out what it was. Instead we cut to a thematically relevant scene of Garcia and Xander checking out horoscopes! Derek and Emily don't believe in them, so they read Emily's horoscope, which suggests that a cold demeanor will hamper romantic opportunities, and that she can improve her chances by offering an affectionate gesture. Will this, like the psychic's abilities, prove to have some validity later on in the episode? Only time will tell!

JJ's back! Another yaay!

And she's finally engaged to Jr.! Man, this has been an episode of nothing but good news, and we're only like three minutes in!

The team gets the rundown - four missing girls over nine months, and the first has just turned up. She was embalmed, and then buried in the side of a hill! He preserves the corpse, keeps it for three months, and then grabs another! Ick!

While flying out the team talks about the killer - they obviously know that the killer wants to hang onto his victims, but how long does he keep them alive first? Is there a chance that the latest grab (Buffy's Mercedes McNab!) is still rescuable?

Digging through the body dump site the team comes across a discarded necklace... and more corpses! In fact, each one has a crucifix necklace with them, meaning that the killer thinks he loves them, and had a Christian upbringing! Also noteworthy? The victims all worked at high-end establishments. A spa, jewelry store, and fancy restaurant. Which means the killer is both rich, and knows how to embalm people. Greg announces that this narrows the pool of suspects 'a little'. Really? How could there be more than three guys in the area that fit those criteria? Is this a town full of super-rich undertakers?

When talking about evidence in the latest case, Biehn mentions the psychic - and how he apparently helped find a child in Portland last year! Joe isn't a fan of psychics, it seems - he's worked with them in the past, and finds that they give people false hope at best, and send the police looking in wrong directions at worst. The psychic offers clues nonetheless. “A fenced-in area, the colour orange, 867”. Will these be significant? Only time will tell!

Joe tries to scare the psychic off by calling him a con man, and Vondie responds that plenty of people don't believe in what Joe does, either. Wow, it's like they're speaking directly to me!

According to the coroner the women were all killed by having their blood drained, had their hair cut and ears pierced to look identical, and then their corpses were raped after death! Again, ick. Hey, remember twenty years ago when the X-Files wasn't allowed to do a show about a necrophiliac because the network though that was too offensive to put on television? Wow, how far we've come, right?

The team talks to all the people locally who work in the death trade - seemingly forgetting that they have to be searching for someone rich, which groundskeepers tend not to be.

Also, that's a super-threatening way to wear your gun, dude. Trying to get confrontational with people, suddenly? What's that about?

They do find a clue, however - a few years back a body was dug up and its jewelry and clothes were stolen. They also get access to a red herring - an apprentice mortician who liked to put blonde wigs on the female corpses and do their makeup. Which seems like it would be a good lead, except for the fact that the killer has to be rich! This isn't the kind of person who had to work his way into the mortuary business from the ground floor. He could have learned it anywhere with his cash. Pay attention, people!

Okay, making them look a little smarter, the team does eventually dismiss the wannabe mortician based on his lack of cash. Although that's the kind of thing they could have discovered before going to talk to him.

Someone calls 911 claiming to be the latest victim, but Joe doesn't believe it. The girl is still alive, though, because the show cuts to her ordeal, as the killer cuts her hair and calls her a strange name. Tracing the phone call identifies the twenty mile radius in which the cell phone was located when it was dialed - sadly, this isn't hugely useful information, because a lot of people live there. Realizing that the girl has been kept alive far longer than it would take to change her appearance, the team figures that the killer is trying to fully transform his victims into someone he remembers. And when she plays along, he'll kill her! But why?

So he can recreate his childhood, it seems. We know this because he wants her to read the most poorly proof-read children's book ever. Seriously, bigify that image and marvel at what a terrible job the prop designers did of transcribing a children's story.

The cops, meanwhile, are wasting time arresting the necrophile red herring. For no reason Emily and the team wastes their time interviewing the necrophile, even though they know there's no way he could possibly be the killer. It would be fine of Biehn was interviewing him while the team looked on disapprovingly, but why is Emily involved? The necrophile admits that he was obsessed with a local celebrity who died, and put her shoes on the corpses who he molested. This reminds Reid about the grave robbery he uncovered, which he had apparently dismissed because of idiocy. Even though the body's clothes and jewelry were stolen - notably two sets of earrings, an important thing to observe, considering all the victims had been given dual ear-piercings after their abductions. Also the grave robbery corpse was the same general age as the current victims.

Again, he dismissed this without even checking if she was blonde. Half-wit.

Checking the background, they discover her disturbing backstory - she was the au pair for a super-rich family - and while they were on vacation she died, leaving the little boy alone with her corpse for half a week before she was discovered! So, you know, for the third time tonight, ick. The most important note? The mother is played by Cybil Shepard!

So now they know who the killer is - but how will they be able to find him? JJ's plan is to turn the killer's last letter to his family over to the psychic. Joe, working another angle, elects to check the family's financial records to see if they've been secretly supporting him. Vondie gets a reading from the letter, announcing that the girl will be found near a visible rocky shoreline. Joe, on the other hand, discovers that the husband, completely emasculated by his wife holding the purse strings, has been secretly in contact with the son, providing him with money as a way of undermining the wife's authority. They go to the father to ask where the son is, and he tells them.

Well, that was anti-climactic.

The team busts in just in time to save the latest victim, which leaves a single question unanswered - where's the evidence that the psychic might have been right? Just out the window, it seems:

A picture of a rocky shoreline! Oh, and he dressed the girls in an orange dress, so that was what the 'colour orange' prediction was about. And I supposed the 'fenced-in area' could count as the grated door she was kept behind. But what about 867? And Emily's horoscope? Tantalizingly unresolved!


Except we learn about Joe's hatred for psychics. They were desperate one time and listened to a psychic, which wound up taking the investigation in the wrong direction, and the missing boy died. Which really wasn't the psychic lady's fault - after all, by your own explanation of the circumstances, there were no other leads, and she was your last resort. So either way, dead kid. You're not angry at a psychic for making that kid die, you're angry at her for getting your hopes up. Not cool to take that out on all other psychics, Joe.

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

Not even slightly. They were looking for a necrophile. They found a grave robbery whose demographics exactly matched their victim type, and checking into her background told them who the killer was. Psychology didn't enter into it.

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

Completely standard investigative techniques this time, Bob.

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



This week's episode was loosely based on the crimes of Ed Gein, who they name-checked in the episode, which is kind of odd, since the show generally pretends that the killer who's crimes they're referencing never existed. In the episode they're featured in, anyhow.

The show's flashback did a fairly good job of laying out Gein's crimes - missed his mother, dug up corpses to make a woman suit. They didn't mention the far more unsettling elements of his MO, however, which involved the fact that he tried to buffalo the corpses, using every part to make furniture, lampshades, 'leather' pouches and, (it makes me a little sick to type this), supposedly a belt made entirely of nipples. I may never eat again.

So was psychology at all involved in Gein's capture? Nope. After getting away with killing one woman (a tavern owner) in 1954, he tried for another one in 1957, shooting a hardware store owner in her own shop. The owner's son remembered that Gein had been in the night before the murder, and mentioned that he was coming back the next day. When police went to search Gein's house, they discovered the victim's dismembered body, as well as the evidence of all his grave robbing.

He was convicted of murder and sent to a mental institution, where he remained until his death in 1984.

With only two murders to his credit, he doesn't technically qualify as a serial killer, although he clearly would have liked to have killed more, it was simply a lack of intellect that got him caught before he could rack up any real numbers.

And really, thank god for small miracles, huh?


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Anonymous said...

Um, I've been reading your reviews for a while. I find them funny even though I still enjoy the show.

I have to point out though - that ring J.J. is wearing isn't an engagement ring, it even explains in the show (did you miss that)?

It's the birthstone of her baby son, Henry, she and Will both got a citrine ring to match each other.

I'm sure you know by now, but they don't get married for a long time in the show.


Hanna said...

I don't like psychics. I think they are lying and preying on vulnurable people. So yeah, scum of the earth. Maybe there are a few who are actually crazy and believers themselves, and they should get professional help.

But Joes point of the psychic giving the mother false hope is so terribly timed. So the psychic has the mother believing that the victim is still alive. And yet, with every other victim (they ultimately safe) there is this exchange between a local cop or family member and Hotch: "Do you think she is still alive?" - "Unless there is reason to believe otherwise I always work under the assumption that they are". Which will sound to a concerned parent like "yes, she definitely is". Not much different from what the phsychic is doing.

Also, they never scold any cops for promising family members that they will bring the loved ones home alive. just in the last episode the cop told the team "I swore to her mother that we would find her alive". And nobody even said: "that is absolutely unprofessional, you should never do that" is that not false hope?

It's concerning when Brooklyn nine-nine does a better job of depicting professionalism in the police than CM.

Hanna said...

oh and also Joe is a dick to the victims mom. Why play her the whispered 911 call only to tell her it is impossible to identify someone from a whisper.
You have a mother desperately clinging to the hope that her daughter is alive. then you play her a whisper which could be anyone. Of course she will believe it's her daughter. That woman could sound nothing like her daughter and she would still say it's brooke. Because she needs it to be Brooke. Profilers should know that. Morons.

Whats the point in playing it for the mother? Other than then just being a jerk and telling her that it could just be some prankster? "This may be your daughter begging for help. Or some random weirdo. We think some weirdo. But we wanted to give you some false hope. which is very different from what the bad guy psychic is doing." Isn't that just cruel?