Criminal Minds 422: The Big Wheel

The episode begins with Steve McGarret from Hawaii 5-0 putting on glasses and making his bed. I know that doesn't sound crazy, but he does it in such a way as to suggest that he has OCD, turning knobs an obsessive number of times and the like. So, just in case you were wondering, yes, OCD will lead you to be a murderer. Okay, to be fair, there's a genuinely creepy image in all of this:

Yup, he's brushing his teeth in front of a mirror that he's covered with a black garbage bag. Yikes! Even if he wasn't about to murder someone, this would be freaky. He is, though. After having some breakfast and getting dressed, Steve heads over to an open house and stabs the realtor to death, taking basically no effort to conceal his identity. He parks half a block away and walks to the house, and talks to a car full of people on the way. Hell, the guy even fills out the guest book in the open house, although we don't see what he writes, so maybe that's not the biggest clue.

The team is on the case because Steve did something super-crazy, which also explains why he blacked out the mirror: He videotapes his whole life using a camera hidden in his glasses, and he sent the tape of the murder to the police! This raises a fairly major question - how much of the tape did he edit? Because if they've got him driving to the crime scene, they know where he lives.

Actually, this looks to be one of the easiest cases they've ever worked on - not only did the people in the car he talked to provide the cops with an eerily accurate sketch, but the video from Steve's apartment shows a huge professional-grade video editing setup, complete with sound mixing board. Not too many of those could possibly be sold in Buffalo every year, right? So just go to all people who work in professional video production (and supporting industries) with the sketch, and you should have this guy in like a week.

I wonder if that's what they'll do? Let's find out after the credits!

On the plane, the team looks over one of the notes the killer left, a 'HELP ME' scrawled on the wall. Derek announces that a serial killer asking for help is a 'new one on him'. Oh, Derek, did you just prove yourself unfamiliar with one of the most famous serial killer cases of all time? I’m disappointed. Not surprised, but disappointed, and I'll get to it more in the FactCheck segment below.

Emily at least suggests using the videotape to track back to where the guy lives, but we discover that it has been edited at some point - the vid is just nine minutes long, but he killed that lady at 4 in the afternoon. Here's the thing, though - at first glance, it looked like an uninterrupted piece of video, so the footage of him leaving his house, getting into his car, and driving away have to be legitimate - which means there is definitely footage of the street he lives on - which must have overnight parking, narrowing down the possibilites. So what's stopping them from just going to people who know the city fairly well (cab drivers, bus drivers, garbagemen, cops) and showing them the scenery in those first few seconds on the street? Surely someone knows where that is - and if a business is visible at any point - which there, you know, absolutely is-

Then this should be the easiest-to-solve crime ever! Of course, with a team this dumb - they actually take time out to note that because he didn't steal any jewelry, he's probably not profit-motivated. Because there was really a chance that the OCD-suffering guy who was compelled to send the police a video of his crime was just in it for the money - 'm sure they're going to waste all kinds of time faffing around about psychology before just stumbling into the solution. The video, in addition to showing where the guy lives, had a glimpse of a videotape being played - it's an earlier murder, from between ten and twenty years earlier! Oh, and Steve has a lot of other victims as well - the scene intercuts with him editing some of the footage together.

The team, looking over the evidence at the crime scene, notices the note Steve left in the guest book - a '29' circled a few times in red! And tomorrow is the 29th! This is key information because, like all other killers in the world of Criminal Minds, Steve is a spree killer.

As per my prediction, they waste some time talking about why he picked the house (there was a woman alone in it!), and act like they've made an amazing discovery when they announce that his camera must have been hidden in his glasses. Their reasoning for this? The victim didn't seem alarmed on the video, even though there was a camera two feet from her face! A better way to figure this out? Ask the people who he talked to at their car whether he was holding a camera. What with them being alive, it requires less assumption, and is more reliable.

They finally send the description out to camera shops based on the glasses idea, which is good, but the video equipment seems like a better lead. The team also figures out that he's OCD, what with him avoiding stepping on cracks in the video. Again, if you're scouring it this closely, why not get a better look at WHERE HE LIVES?!

Speaking of where he lives, a friend of Steve's stops by his apartment to chat. Like Red Dragon, it's one of those uncomfortable scenes where a woman comes on to a serial killer. Also like Red Dragon, Steve makes his living in the service film industry, recording weddings and the like. The friend proves to have picked the worst possible time to drop by, as the following picture turns up on the television while she's there:

Friend winds up stabbed to death (what with her being the second victim and all), and dumped under a bridge - letting the team know that he's got a connection to the woman. Of course, this isn't hugely useful, because she has no ID. While the team gives them the profile (and reveals that they found the camera shop he goes to - his name is Vincent!), Steve watches a blind kid play outside. Preposterously, the kid's playing by riding a scooter down the street while clicking his tongue to echo-locate. Which is just all kinds of preposterous. Not the echo-location, that's just barely possible - but the idea that he could hear it over a scooter? Kind of a stretch.

The team notices a huge change in his behaviour - until recently he brutally overstabbed every victim, but the last couple have been executed quickly and cleanly, but why? Penelope, for her part, tries to figure out who the woman getting murdered in the old video is - operating under the assumption that she's got to be his mother, and witnessing her death drove him to be a serial killer himself. Which is utterly possible.

It turns out the blind kid is the child of one of Steve's victims, and he's been looking out for the little blind boy ever since. I guess because he was set off by witnessing his own mother's murder, he feels a kind of kinship with the little boy - these strange new emotions have him no longer wanting to kill, but he can't help himself, so now the murders are less brutal! See, it all fits together nicely!

It turns out the 29th is the kid's birthday, and Steve has some big plans in mind for blindy, but he's saying what they are aloud, solely so the audience will be tantalized. Seriously, he tells the kid by writing shapes on the little guy's hand. Which, you know, ick.

The team visits the blind kid, hoping he'll have some information about Steve, although I'm not sure why he would. They have actual photos of the guy, and kind of know where he lives. How can what this kid didn't see be of any use? Spoiler alert: It's not.

More interesting are the travails of Steve, who walks away from his car in the hopes of dodging some cops who are canvassing the neighbourhood, and then runs afoul of some vicious thugs! Naturally, he stabs one of them to death, but he's shot in the process! Will he survive long enough to take blindy on their evening of fun? Probably not, given the amount of blood lying on the floor of his apartment:

Steve patches himself up as best he can, sticking bread in his bullet wounds, and then wrapping his torso in Saran Wrap, hoping to buy himself just enough time to make an evening of it. Then he watches the video of his mother being stabbed to death one last time before heading off to meet his fate.

So, how are the team going to catch on? Through contrivance, of course! A conversation with the surviving gang member reveals that he heard Steve making the echo-location sound before stabbing that guy - so he must be hanging around Blindy! They rush back to the house to intercept Steve (as usual, there somehow wasn't a single cop in all of Buffalo closer to the house than they were), but they're too late! Blindy has run off for his evening with Steve!

The team acts under the assumption that Blindy is in danger, even though we know that's not the case. Blindy, for his part, has kind of figured out that Steve is the guy who killed his mother, but he's not entirely ready to deal with the fact, even as Steve basically confesses and begs for forgiveness while they're driving around.

The show gets crazy stupid, as the writers/editors somehow missed the fact that they'd already learned Steve's real name from the camera shop - the second Derek hears that the killer is named 'Vincent' he calls Garcia, as if telling her that really old information will somehow be the key that cracks the case. Amazingly, it does get them a full name, since Garcia is able to cross-reference it against murder cases from the 80s.

Hey, wouldn't it have been better if they'd have done that eight hours ago when she found out Vincent's name in the first place? Also, nice to see that, as usual, Garcia solved the case!

They search Vincent's house, but don't find any evidence of where he's taken the kid. I discover, however, that like Garcia, Steve shares my taste in HP swivel monitors!

They conference everyone at once, hoping they can talk a clue out of thin air. The foster mother reveals that Steve and Blindy enjoy building things together - one of the last things they built was a model of a ferris wheel! So they must be going to a carnival! In an amazing coincidence there's only one in the entire city, so the team rushes over there to catch Steve before he can finish off Blindy. Which, of course, we know there's no danger of.

The team arrives at the park once they're already on the ferris wheel, but since Blindy was never in any danger, it's no trouble to get him off the chair while Steve bleeds to death.


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

Wow, it so profoundly wasn't. Their insights, such as “He's OCD” and “They Like Ferris Wheels” didn't help in the least!

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

Witnesses saw his face. He sent videos of where he lived to the police. Steve basically did everything he could short of walking into a police station to ensure that he was jailed. So yeah, the cops could have handled it on their own.

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

1/10 - Oh, Penelope, what would the team do without you? I know that's a rhetorical question, but I'm going to answer it anyway: They would never catch anyone, ever.


While this episode clearly wasn't based on any actual case, it's worth noting that the team's insistence that they'd never heard of something as bizarre as a killer begging for the police ot catch him. Which is a little odd, since they're all supposed to be experts on serial killing, and William Heirens, the Lipstick Killer, wrote this on the wall of his second victim (in lipstick, hence the name):

For heavens
sake catch me
before I kill more
I cannot control myself.

It's kind of on the famous side. Of course, Heirens probably wasn't the killer, he was beaten and threatened into confessing, and is currently in his sixty-fifth year of a most-likely wrongful imprisonment - but the killer's identitiy aside, the note to the police is incredibly well-known, and it's absurd to think that any of the characters wouldn't be familiar with it.

Then again, it took them a hell of a long time to realize what 'Dear Boss' meant, so...


Anne B. said...

I know this post is from a million years ago, but there was also an episode before Mandy left the show (Season 2 Episode 11) where the serial killer begged for help/to be stopped - the one with the prudish lobbyist who was carving into the abdomens of prostitutes he murdered around Capital Hill.

hschafer7 said...

I realize I'm years late but I just had to ask - why do you even watch this show? I've read several of your reviews and it's obvious you don't like the show and constantly speak negatively about every little thing. So why watch it and also, why take the time to document each and every part of every episode. Glutton for punishment?