Criminal Minds 420: Conflicted

Wow, you know how I'm always complaining about how In Medias Res openings ruin every surprise a story has to offer? Check this one out. A mysterious woman with a deep, scratchy voice is talking to a therapist. She's strategically shadowed to keep us from getting a look at her.

Both the therapist and Reid demand to know where 'Adam' is. There's only one possible way to interpret this scene as it plays: That the killer they're interviewing is a man in drag, and that 'Adam' is the base, male, personality that has been pushed down by this murderous female one.

Yet I guarantee you this episode is going to try to play that revelation like it's a surprise.

The show then cuts back a week, to South Padre Island's 'Spring Madness Break' celebrations!

A group of college kids are checking into a hotel when one guy gets a message from his girlfriend announcing she won't be there until the next day. He immediately goes looking for someone else to have sex with, and come across the drag killer, who he mistakes for a woman long enough to wind up tied to a bed, raped, and suffocated with a plastic bag.

Hold on - you let a stranger tie you to a bed? And you let 'her' tie you face-down? Even in the best-case scenario, what did you imagine was going to happen?

Immediately afterwards we see 'Adam', now in his man clothes-

Get off the elevator. He works as a maintenance man in the hotel where his alter ego kills, it seems. Convenient! Also, his alter ego is an idiot. Turns out this is actually the next morning, though, and when Adam goes to clean out the hotel, he finds the victim's dead body!

It seems he's the second victim raped and murdered in that hotel in the past three days. They mention that the hotel had lost 20% of its occupancy after the first murder. Which seems kind of low. Also, it's not really plausible that anyone would be left in that hotel by the time the team arrives at it.

They talk to Julie, the manager, who lets them know that the lobby is covered by cameras, but I'm guessing they won't prove useful. Since they don't know about the drag aspect they have to ask the victims' families whether they were gay. Meanwhile Derek and Reid go to talk to the killer, who's twitchy, nervous, can barely make eye contact, and complains that sometimes he gets headaches.

Somehow, even though they're looking for a male killer, this guy (who works at the scene of both crimes, and found one of the bodies) doesn't seem like he's good for it. Hell, in his conversation with him he even mentions that he grew up in the area, and has a deep-seeded hatred for the kind of frat douches who swarm Florida on spring break.

Yet he remains not a suspect. God these people are half-wits.

Again, because drag doesn't occur to them, they assume they're dealing with a team - where a woman lures them to a room, then a man enters to handle the raping and murdering.

Cut to a pool party where a couple of guys are drunk enough to not realize what they're looking at is obviously a man-

The out-of-focusness of this shot represents inebriation.

One of them goes over to meet the 'girl' with her giant man-hands, and he's killed soon after. Which makes three victims in four days. Because in the world of Criminal Minds, every serial killer is a spree killer, and no one in the general public responds to that fact as normal human beings would.

In a weird writing thing, the sheriff announces that the latest body was found posed 'just like the others'. Well, one was stuffed in a closet, the other dumped in a bathtub. What could that have meant? Also, this time there was no fake checkout, encouraging a maid to clean the room and destroy evidence. Which should suggest that they're less familiar with the new crime scene. All pointing to the first hotel being more important. Joe gets there eventually, but it's by making the bizarre assumption that the killer was scared off of the first hotel by the fact that the FBI was there - meaning it has to be a guest or employee!

Which is true, but it's not allowing for common sense on the part of the killer. After all, after you've gotten away with a crime twice in one place, would you really push your luck in the hopes of hitting the hat trick?

Garcia then solves the crime by finding a piece of video footage showing Adam getting into a fight with the first victim while trying to protect a woman who was getting pushed around. The team rushes to the roof and arrests him, then tries to extract a confession from him. Reid tries to get some information, but the team is terrible at interviewing people, so it doesn't go well. All we learn is that Adam doesn't remember attacking that guy, thus proving that he's got a multiple personality disorder. Which, considering he had a lifetime of abuse, should be an easy analysis.

The team is too busy chasing after Julie, the hotel manager who's been taking care of Adam for years, to bother with psychology, though. But don't worry, I'm not going to waste your time synopsizing the obvious red herring storyline, since the show already wasted mine.

Although this does lead to a weird twist in the show's formula - instead of rushing to save the third victim, like usual, they're rushing to interrupt casual sex (Julie is out trolling) while the killer is already in custody! There's another cut to the present, where the killer (who looks and sounds nothing like Julie, lest we think that was actually the case) talks some more about how they'll never find Adam. Um... how could this possibly work with what we've seen so far unless it's a case of MPD? They've already got Adam in custody - why would they let him go?

Back in the past Reid continues trying to get a confession out of Adam, catching him in lies but making no real progress. Eventually he admits that he has blackouts, but then Reid accuses him of being a drug user, and Adam shuts down a little. The team gives them both polygraph tests which prove inconclusive - which leads them to let the two go!

It's Reid who finally notices a connection - when Adam has a blackout he has completely different body language! So it must be Multiple Personality Disorder! It seems Julie has figured Adam is the killer as well, and slips by his room to look for proof. She finds it, in the form of a creepy wall of mirrors:

As well as the killer's dress and murder rope-

Hold it right there, chachi. Are you trying to tell me that after getting a viable suspect (he was in a fight with the first victim right before the first victim was murdered), they didn't bother searching his room? They went to a polygraph but they didn't bother opening a door?

God, this show is terrible. You know what, let's just cut to the end. Julie confronts Adam on the roof, trying to get Adam to admit what he did. Then the multiple personality shows up and throws her off the roof. They rush to intercept Adam at the house of the guy who abused him for his entire childhood, turning him into a twisted killer.

For some reason, they talk Adam out of just killing the guy. As if the abusive monster living another day is some kind of victory. The funny part? All of the monstrous abuse the guy did was years ago, and the statute of limitations has long since run out.


Except they never bother to tell us if Julie survived her fall. When last seen, she'd fallen off a roof, but was still talking while barely able to move.

Oh, and there's a hilarious scene where Derek tries to comfort Reid while winning the Emily Prentiss award for stupidest thing said by an FBI agent.

Really, Derek? Sometimes you can't save everyone? Most of the time don't you act like saving anyone at all is a huge, unique victory even though you do it literally every week?


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

They had a videotape of the killer having a beef with one of the victims - that kind of pointed right to him being the killer. But the thing that really cracked the case was a diagnosis of MPD, so I'll give them partial credit this week, despite the terrible writing of the next category-

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

They didn't search his room. Oh my god, they didn't even search the guy's room. What is wrong with these people? There's a videotape of him fighting with one of the victims and you didn't bother searching his room? Come on!

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



Maaian said...

Im interested in how you figured out the drag thing so quickly, because while it was glaringly obvious that Adam was involved that didnt occur to me.

Olga said...

What bothered me was the fact that when they showed a close-up of the present-day killer's hands while she was smoking, they were obviously woman's hands!
Also, South Padre Island is in Texas, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

The Emily Prentiss award??? What does that mean??

You really hate this show huh?

cycloptera said...

"In a weird writing thing, the sheriff announces that the latest body was found posed 'just like the others'. Well, one was stuffed in a closet, the other dumped in a bathtub. What could that have meant? "

If you watch initial discussions of when the bodies were discovered, they were found 'posed in the fetal position, stripped of their clothes, vulnerable' and thats the same way the third body was posed - posing means how the bodies were placed after the murder, not the location of the bodies that were found.

I think you are quite funny in a sarcastic way, but you try very hard to find negative things to say about everything - for someone who was so quick to get that the unseen was a man in drag in the first 2 seconds of the episode, you missed out on the meaning of the positioning of the bodies - don't jump to conclusions in your rush to dismiss everything in your critique

Esh said...

What was wrong in Derek’s comment? Your justification is irrelevant in this situation. Reed was sad that he couldn’t save Adam from the alter and you don’t have to be a profiler to say that we can’t save everyone. It seemed like the thing that would make Reed feel better.

Anonymous said...

on a scale of 1 (dirty harry) or 10 (revenge of the nerds), I’d say you’re a (10) tremendous dork:)

Anonymous said...

on a scale of 1 (dirty harry) or 10 (revenge of the nerds), I’d say you’re a 10 (tremendous dork:)

Anonymous said...

love love love Jackson Rathbone he did such a amazing work portraying Adam and if any of you did not know the women at the beginning and the end in the pink scrubs is actually Rathbone himself

Anonymous said...

Was it ever determined in this episode if the three victims allowed themselves to be tied up or were forced to do it? I also found it hard to believe that all 3 of them would allow themselves to be tied up by someone they just met. But I suppose if they were on Spring Break and were too intoxicated from too much drinking and partying, they might not be thinking too logically. I'm also surprised Reid didn't ask Amanda when he was talking to her if they all allowed it.

Anonymous said...

Jackson Rathbone was indeed great as Adam/Amanda. The contrast in their personalities was kind of shocking, but it made for a great episode.

It would've also been nice to see a little more of the guys who played the three victims instead of them only being on for a few minutes and having so little lines. They were all very good looking and I know at least two of them had done some modeling prior to this episode (Rick Malambri who played Daniel Keller and Brett Novek who played Carl Cade). I noticed the actor who played William Browder is not listed in the cast credits for the episode, I assume because he is only seen in post-mortem photos and grainy surveillance video after the body of the second victim was found.

But overall, a great episode.

Anonymous said...

It's true that the "Drag Killer" thing has been done maybe a time too many, but in this episode it was necessary for the killer ("Amanda") to dress in drag so that "she" could lure her victims (straight Alpha Males) and kill them the way that she did. She wouldn't have been able to do that as Adam.

Anonymous said...

If you’re reading this comment, please understand this “reviewer” of sorts harps and does nothing except find negative things to say no matter how good or bad the episode is.