Criminal Minds 417: Demonology

It's time for a halloween-themed episode of Criminal Minds! Which, given that this episode probably originally aired in March or April, seems a little weird. Although they copped out on doing a Santa killer, so let's move on. How do we know it's Halloween-themed? Because the episode opens with music that's designed to remind people of The Exorcist, while an exorcist heads into a room to confront a guy tied to a bed!

At possibly the same time (unless the guy she's meeting turns out to be he's the killer), Emily goes to a bar to meet with...

Boyd Crowder! Yay! Nice to see there was work for him between the Shield and Justified, isn't it?

Turns out they're old friends, and he's there to report the murder that happened in the show opening! Apparently he was a known drug user who had a heart attack (a common side effect of exorcisms!), but he'd told Boyd that he was 'next', and that some people had already killed someone in Georgetown named Tommy V! Georgetown, incidentally, was where the movie The Exorcist was set. Not that I'm calling anyone unoriginal.

Emily has Garcia check on the cases (Tommy V died of dehydration - also a common result of exorcisms), then asks Greg if she can take some time to investigate the death of her closest friend. Meanwhile, the real killer, who I guess I didn't get a great look at before now-

Is burning a picture in a porceline wash basin. But is this man his next target, or the man he just killed? I guess we'll find out after the opening credits!

We did learn, though, that the killer really is a priest or monk - because, seriously, where else but in a church's living space are you going to find a wash basin these days?

Okay, in the next scene we see pictures of both victims, and discover that the burned photo was a third guy. So there. Luckily the team wasn't working on anything else, so it wasn't a big deal to drop all their cases and start looking into the death of Emily's friend. So she and Derek head down to the morgue (completely a great idea, making her look at her dead friend's corpse), where the coroner admits that the dead guy could have been drugged with Adrenalin, causing his heart to overstress. Emily, for her part, has a flashback to her teenage years, when the dead guy was comforting her about something. I'm sure that's going to be important later. It seems the first victim had a history of mental problems, and the second was a drug user, so no one thought it was strange when they turned up dead!

Not even victim 2's parents, Roxanne Hart (from Highlander!) and James Remar (not from Aliens!), who are suspiciously unhelpful in talking about their dead son's case. Victim 1's widow doesn't have a lot of help to offer either, although she does mention that her husband's psychosis caused him to curse god, which she wasn't cool with. Both of the scenes show evidence that the victims were tied to a bed, but before they can investigate any further Emily comes up in conversation, and the parents throw them out. So there's some bad blood there... did she get him hooked on drugs?

Emily explains that it wasn't anything so simple. The family was extremely religious, and they felt she was a bad influence. Which obviously isn't the whole story, but let's move on to... the connection between the victims! Both traveled to Galicia, Spain during the same week - it's a popular pilgrimage for Catholics, according to the show. This strikes the team as odd, though - while victim 1 was certainly held in the grips of religious mania, victim 2 was a lapsed drug addict - why would he go?

The team moves on to the similarities between the deaths and exorcisms, but Derek is weirdly defensive about the idea, admitting only that they might have a killer who 'ritualizes his killings as exorcisms' - although when you're tying someone to a bed for three days and praying over them without letting them eat or drink, isn't the only thing separating an exorcism from a murder the intent of the guy doing it?

Joe decides to run the exorcism angle by his good priest buddy-

Bruce Davison (Willard)! They have a generic conversation about the nature of evil, but it doesn't really go anywhere, other than Bruce offering a warning that by studying serial killers, they 'invite evil into their lives'. The show cuts immediately from that church to another, where the killer and his apprentice (that's right, he has a younger priest helping out, lest we miss the reference), prepare to track down their latest victim. In this case, it's a man suffering from headaches so bad that he can't even wait in a traffic jam! Instead he leaves his taxi in the middle of the road and runs off into the rain. It's been raining in every scene in the episode, BTW. I'm sure there's some thematic importance to that, but it's obviously lost on me. Unless, you know, the rain miraculously stops once the killing is over, like in SeSevenen. Then even a blind person couldn't miss the meaning.

When the headache man arrives home he finds the priest waiting for him, along with 3(!) muscular sidekicks!

Wow, so this killer has really dragged a lot of people into his psychosis, hasn't he? Or there really are demons. Between Suspect Behaviour going all Millennium in its second epsiode and now this, who knows?

The team arrives at the headache man's house - although he was bound and tortured the medical examiner has announced that it was likely an aneurysm that killed him. The connection? He was in Spain at the same time as the other two victims! The headache man's fiancee arrives to answer some questions about how religious the dead guy was, but I'm distracted from the conversation by Reid, who continues to wear his gun in what can only be described as a threatening, confrontational manner:

I know you've got a lot of self-confidence issues, guy, but carrying around a non-standard firearm and implying through body language that you're ready to shoot grieving relatives isn't the most healthy way of dealing with them.

Also, haircut. Now.

Proving that she really shouldn't be on a case with this much personal involvement, Emily queers the interview by getting pushy and demanding to know if there was an exorcism, which just gets them thrown out of the house. Derek continues to be inexplicably opposed to the idea of an exorcist/killer, despite the fact that they now have three victims who died while tied to beds after thrashing around for a few days. Why? Is it because the producers thought the episode needed someone to be the 'reasonable' one, only the writer didn't know what reasonable looks like, so Derek just winds up seeming slow?

The team has a debate whether they should continue investigating the case - the cops haven't invited them in, so it's a little iffy whether they should be there at all, but then Garcia offers a connection between all of the victims - one of them posted to a message board about having lost his faith! Hold on, that's not a connection unless all of them did it. More interestingly, however, a priest died in Galicia the week all three were there, and apparently there are rumors that he was murdered to interrupt observance of the high holy days!

Murdered by who? Satanists?

Greg thinks it's worth looking into, which is good, since Boyd swings by the office to check on their progress. He looks sweaty and unkempt while doing so, which suggests that he's going to be the next victim - although, as the third in the episode, he will likely survive the ordeal. Joe interrupts Emily's conversation with Boyd, and takes her on a trip to Georgetown to talk about the movie 'The Exorcist' and the real-life case that inspired it. He seems to believe that there was just a lot of fuss over a schizophrenic, which leads to him to question why Emily is so sure that victim 2 was murdered. Not sure how that segue works, but let's move on to Emily's backstory. When she was fifteen and a wild teenager in Europe (mom's a diplomat, remember?) she got knocked up, and when victim 2 supported her through the whole abortion process (the flashback, remember?), it led him to question his lifelong devotion to Catholicism. The only detail she leaves out is who the father of her baby was, which means it was Boyd.

It's all very emotional, although I'm not sure why they had to go to the wreck of the Exorcist house to have the conversation.

Joe confronts Emily with the possibility that victim 2 was part of a conspiracy to murder that priest in Spain. She doesn't believe it, but goes along with him to run the theory by a number of local priests, all assembled by Bruce. Bruce winds up being the only one who's of any use, mentioning that priests often have to be hospitalized for exhaustion after multi-day exorcisms. Checking into the admission records of catholic hospitals nets them the killer's name, and the team immediately heads right over to talk to him:

Now you put the gun away? What's that about?

The killer immediately admits to being at the scene of the deaths, but produces his diplomatic immunity papers - he's an Italian official! Despite this status, he agrees to go with the team back to the FBI and let them interview him. I'm not entirely sure why. He does have a motive for killing all the victims, though, as he was good friends with the dead priest. The killer denies murdering anyone, and announces that it was the demons that caused their deaths. He also lets slip that there's another victim coming. Which, as we previously established, will be Boyd.

Greg shuts down the investigation at the behest of the state department, and Emily doesn't take it well, so she and Joe head over to victim 2's parents' house, and confront them with the fact that the exorcism has come to light. Since all the subjects of the exorcisms have died, they ask who the fourth victim might be, hoping that they'll somehow know. James Remar maintains that his son was possessed, and that's why he took part in the exorcism! Since James and Roxanne don't know who their son spent time in Spain with, Joe attempts another tactic - the priest believed victim 2 was a conduit for demonic forces, and anyone he spent time with might well be next!

Then it's time for a twist(-ish) as Emily mentions they must have known victim 2 was spending time with Boyd, since they called him to tell him about the death! Only the parents didn't call him... Boyd knew because he was the fourth member of the trip to Spain!

This leads to a super-confusing scene where Boyd admits that he's a demon:

So, uh, that happened. The team then rushes over to Boyd's house to stop the exorcism, while Greg and Joe get on the phone with the Vatican, hoping they can pull some strings to get rid of the priest's diplomatic immunity. They don't manage to jail him, but they do get the priest kicked out of the country - he warns that they've failed to do their job, since Boyd is still demon-possessed. Boyd, after being rescued, apologizes for not supporting Emily around the time of the abortion, and seems like a reasonable enough guy, considering that he supposedly took part in a motiveless murder four months ago, and four hours ago admitted that he was possessed by a demon to a murderous priest.


Seriously. That's the end.

While a song plays Emily walks around in the snow (which the rain has turned to), and swings by a church. Does god have a place for her? Why is she bleeding from her nose - is it a stigmatic recreation of victim 2's injuries?

Hey, I don't care! I'm more interested in whether four strangers actually met up in Spain and murdered a priest they'd never met for no reason. If they did, were they possessed? If they didn't, how did the exorcist select and track them down?

Also, god-damn-it, why did Boyd admit that he was demonically possessed? Did four different guys all have the same preposterously similar mental illness?

This is the least-resolved episode of Criminal Minds ever!

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

Does asking Bruce Davison how to find the killer count as profiling? No? Then there wasn't any profiling at all this week.

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

The facts of the case pointed to exorcism. They went looking for an exorcist. I find it hard to imagine a more conventional investigation than this week's.

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

1/10 - This week's case was especially odd in that they didn't even offer the barest pretense of a psychological aspect to the crimes or solution. While an alternate theory was offered for the case that inspired The Exorcist was offered (schizophrenia or tourettes - although the fact that, according to Joe, the guy was living comfortably in Georgetown without psychological problems suggests something else...), no competing explanation was involved for the four people who got murdered. Yes, Victim 2, who we found the most out about had a history of drug addiction and problems with the church, but what about the other three guys? Why did they appear possessed? Sloppy writing this week, guys.

Oh, and hey, what was going on with the priest's muscular white sidekicks? I'm pretty sure those guys didn't have diplomatic immunity. Did they get arrested?

God, this week was a complete mess.


BedazzledCrone said...


The Hoff said...

Ugh! Thank You! That had to be one of the most ridiculous episodes ever. Seems to me that they wanted to be X-Files for a week.

Perpetual Beginner said...

Interesting. The confrontation between Boyd and the priest reads as ambiguous to me, rather than as a confession of demonhood. And I could see a severely pissed off and not-to-stable person deciding that if they're not going to listen to reason anyway, he might as well give them a show.

Irritating episode, though. Just not up to par at all.

Anonymous said...

I HATE the way Reid carries that stupid wheel gun. There's a reason that law enforcement carries a) semi-automatic handguns and, b)on their strong-armed hip. Just mime trying to draw that gun from a holster without being in a standing position. Can't do it. And imagine trying to sit with that thing. And he has, what, 6 shots total? Good thing adrenaline never causes your hands to shake or reduces your ability to shoot straight. Good thing that no one's ever survived being shot a few times and take out a few law enforcement officers. That would be ridiculous to even consider.

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b & b hotels india said...

Thank You! That had to be one of the most ridiculous episodes ever. Seems to me that they wanted to be X-Files for a week...............

Maaian said...

I actually liked the episode, especially because they gave Emily some depth finally. I do however agree that there are alot of loose strings left

Maaian said...

I loved it, it gave more depth to Emily finally. That said there are a lot of loose ends...

Anonymous said...

So why didn't they arrest Emily's friends parents as accessories? They admitted that they were in the room, and clearly they were not at all sorry.

feenix219 said...

4 strangers didn't meet up... two were old childhood friends, and the other two hooked up over the internet for people who lost their faith. they blamed the church for their misery and killed the priest because of it. great episode, great atmosphere, and i love the x files. :)

Unknown said...

Missed the fact that Boyd makes a comment at Derek (when Derek is pulling priest dude off of him) that indicates he knows about his childhood abuse and distrust in the church..knowledge that he shouldn't have. So, probably a demon.

Unknown said...

I came here for this comment!! No one notices that part!! That was a MAJOR PART!!

Unknown said...


Gabytta said...

I just saw the episode,John Cooley, shouts "Don't protect him. They didn't protect you When you were A little boy" so he was a demon called Belial. That's was awesome to notice at the end. When you believe in God, you believe in the devil also.