Criminal Minds 423: Roadkill

The episode begins with a smoking man watching a California mountain highway from a hill by the roadside.

Is he the killer, lying in wait for his next victim? I'm going to say yes. Especially when we get a look at his eyes, which are red from tears (or possibly allergies). Some amount of time later a woman leaves a parking garage without noticing that tubes in her undercarriage have been cut, leaving ominous pools of liquid all over her parking space. This sabotage causes her car to break down on the selfsame mountain highway - in an amazing coincidence, just as her cell phone's signal goes out!

In what can only be described as behaviour so stupid that it can't be believed, the woman then walks further down the road while trying to find a signal - your phone was working thirty seconds behind you - why aren't you walking that way? She doesn't get a chance to see the error of her ways, though, as a black pickup rolls down the highway and runs her down! How does it accomplish this? Well, it seems that like most fictional characters, this victim decides the best course of action is to-

Run straight down the middle of the highway. I can't say I've ever had a car try to run me over, but I've both had someone on a bicycle and a horse and carriage try to run me down, and in each situation, you know what my instictive reaction was? To get off the road as fast as humanly possible.

Hell, I don't know why I'm trying to compare this to my own personal experience - I'm sure everyone who's ever been near a road has observed the same “get off the road” instinct whenever a squirrel notices a car bearing down on it.

So what I'm saying is, I guess, this woman dies because she was dumber than a squirrel.

Meanwhile, Garcia is working away in her office when Xander comes to visit. He's got some news - he might be up for a job with the NSA... a job out of the country! What does this mean for their relationship? Drama! Interpersonal drama! Which is totally what we come to the show about serial killers for! Oh, he invites her to come along on the job - the NSA are always looking for good people - but as if she's leaving the show. Is this it for Xander, though? The suspense is killing me, not unlike that truck is killing women!

Speaking of, the team is on the case - but it's not going to be as easy as simply calling around to body shops, looking for a damaged car - the guy does his own repair work! Hey, do you think they'll check to see if anyone has been ordering a lot of front truck grills? I guess we'll find out after the opening credits!

Assuming the killer is a male (he's killing women, after all), they mull over the idea that a large truck could be overcompensating for impotence, and that the murders might even be a kind of 'vehicular rape'. Jesus Christ, again with the vehicle rape? Shut up about this stupid theory, would you, Emily? The team mentions that rape and thrill killing are 'very different profiles'. Of course, that doesn't really matter, since profiling won't actually be used when catching the killer.

Looking over the crime scene, Joe notices the obvious - that it's too much of a coincidence for the woman to have broken down in the path of a serial killer. Unless, of course, the serial killer was just driving around, waiting for a victim (like he did with his first kill, a jogger). Seriously, though, we know he's right, but it creates a problem - how could the killer, even if he'd been stalking her, possibly know that her car would break down in a place with no cell-phone service, where there was almost no traffic? The woman worked odd hours, it seems, but what if she'd had errands to run after leaving the office, and wound up with a criminally sabotaged car in the parking lot of a grocery store?

Oh, it turns out he was stalking the jogger, too, although that murder was even more preposterous. The woman was running up an even more isolated path, and his car was hidden by a container. That means two different women heard a car coming and didn't get off the road.


Meeting in a local police station, Reid continues to get weirdly confrontational with his gun placement-

Not only does he not lock it away in a desk (what if a felon being moved through the office grabbed for it?), he doesn't even put a jacket over the thing. Wow, is this guy violently insecure. Really, it's only a matter of time before he starts killing people himself.

They talk to the latest victim's widower, asking him if he'd noticed the stalking. He remembers seeing a truck parked across the street from his house, and thinks he would be able to identify it if he saw it again. Yay, and eyewitness! The least psychology-y way to solve a crime!

Oh, and the guy from the beginning (Dale Midkiff! The world's hardest-acting man!) is having trouble at work, being as he's so distracted by news articles about the murder investigation - is he the killer? Again, I'm going to say probably.

Greg and Joe head by the impound yard and find out about the sabotage, which leads to the preposterous suggestion that he could have figured when the engine would break down. While this is happening, the killer is out searching for his new victim! Sadly, since this is the second victim of the show, she's not going to make. The team makes the obvious points - look for mechanics, since he's fixing the truck himself, and unemployed ones, since he's got the time to stalk people.

All of this guesswork doesn't happen quickly enough to save the second victim, who turns out to be a male doctor, who gets cornered in a parking garage! In a rather preposterous turn of events, after jumping out of the way when the car tries to ram him the first time (bravo!), the doctor elects to-

Run down the middle of the ramp, rather than simply standing behind one of the garage's abundant number of concrete posts. Moron.

Looking over the crime scene, Joe finds some cigarette butts on the ground where the truck had been parked - they were apparently 'field-stripped', an army thing that involves taking the filters out and disposing of them and the paper separately. It's nice that the cop was able to identify this quirk (and use it as a clue), but I've got to ask, if the guy was worried about leaving traces, why wouldn't he just keep the cigarettes in his ashtray?

Also, this parking lot is attached to a hospital. How on earth could there not be surveillance cameras at the entrances and exits? This obvious line of inquiry goes unmentioned - they consider the more important reveal to be that all three victims drove sporty red two-doors! So that's how he's picking his victims, and it turns out they all drove the same road to get to work every day, so that's where he's finding them!

Can't they just stake out that road and wait for Dale to drive by in a black pickup? Oh, wait, it's not Dale - we get a look at the killer's profile in the next scene, and it's clearly a different guy. So why are we following Dale?

Anyhoo, it seems the common denominator road is super-dangerous, and has a record number of accidents for that part of the state. Could the killer be trying to avenge his own crippling in an accident? Probably, but Reid thinks it's something else, in the Prentiss Award-winning line of the night.

Dude, up until an hour ago you thought a dude was raping women with a truck. Nothing is inconsistent with your 'profile'. I wonder, is this whole show just a secret indictment of the way these guys just constantly lie to build up a mystique while simply changing and refining their incredibly broad guesses as new facts come in? Way back in the second episode Mandy revealed that he was the kind of guy who'd lie about his own abilities in order to impress people over that whole 'why did the Footpath Killer stutter?' thing - could it be that this is a trait he passed on to all of his proteges?

Naturally, the utterly random guess turns out to be right - the guy is killing because his wife was killed in an accident, one caused by a red car, one would assume. Oh, and he's crippled as well.

The description goes out to the public, and Dale is shocked when he hears it: it seems that he's the guy who was driving the red car that killed the villain's family!

Well, at least we know why we've been watching him, anyhow.

While we wait for Dale to get to the office, I'd like to pause and consider just how specific their list of facts has gotten: injured in crash on specific road, ex-military, white male, owns a black (probably) truck. That can't be more than like five guys in the whole state. I'd like to point out that in a comparable real-life situation where a killer was known to be driving a Blue Toyota, the cops literally got a list of everyone with a blue Toyota. I don't see why it would be should different with this black pickup truck situation. Oh, and in a hilarious twist from the Blue Toyota case, the killer, Michael Ross, was actually the first guy the cops visited - he just happened to live closest to the police station.

Now, back to fiction!

So Dale confesses to causing the accident that started this all off. He was driving while too tired, and he was distracted by a ringing phone. This led him to swerving into oncoming traffic - the other car went off the road, and then he kept on driving! Dale is sure the truck was the same one as the killer's - and since he's got a red car, there has to be a connection! Using the five-month window that Dale provides as a guideline, they go to a VA hospital and discover a guy who loves drawing pictures of a murder truck-

Wait, why did they need the time window or any other clues at all? Couldn't they just walk into the VA hospital and say “Do you have any patients who want to murder someone with a truck?” Wow, is this guy easy to catch - and I'm using as my barometer last week, when Steve actually sent the cops video of the street outside his house!

The backstory is that the guy was crippled in an accident where his wife was killed. He had amnesia right after the accident, so he didn't remember who'd run him off the road, but he's been drawing a red car ever since. There's a problem with tracking him down, though - his house was foreclosed on, and he has no current address! Garcia tries tracking down spare parts for a 70s pickup (hey, they actually did it!), and it leads them right to his house!

One problem, though - he's gone when they get there. Out looking for his next victim, no doubt. What with all killers being spree killers in the world of Criminal Minds. They find pictures of his next victim, and in a happy coincidence, the picture has a visible license plate number in it! This allows them to track down the man - an avid biker - and race to catch him with his bike club! Can they possibly get to him before the truck runs him down? Well, he's the third victim, so... yes.

Anyway, while they're racing to stop the killer, the team finds something shocking, something game-changing, in that it's a last-second twist that only serves to make everything confusingly incoherent, while not affecting their attempts to catch a murderer!

There was no other car in the accident that killed the guy's wife. He was driving the red two-door, and so he blames red two-doors. 'But wait', you say, 'if that's the case, why didn't the team already know about it? After all, weren't they reading the actual police report of this guy's accident like five minutes ago?'

Yes. Yes they were. They specifically mention that the report didn't include any reference to another car driving him off the road, then explained that amnesia was common in these kinds of accidents. There is literally no way that the police report didn't list the make, model, year and colour of the car they were in when they crashed. Unless not one of them bothered to read the key piece of evidence their 'profile' was dependent on.

And even if that's the case (you know, them sucking at their job), how could Garcia have missed it? She's supposed to be the only competent one, damn it!

Oh, right, the plot - Prentiss calls Greg to give him the new information, even though it will have no effect on his behabiour at all, and could only serve to distract him while he was racing to stop a killer. Luckily Greg is a decent driver, and he manages to run the killer off the road. The cop who's along for the ride then confronts the villain with the fact that he was the one responsible for the accident, which enrages him enough to motivate him to get his car in gear and drive off, perhaps killing an innocent bystander!

So, for the record, profiling just made the situation worse.

Luckily no one is killed, though, as the murderer drives his truck off a cliff. As usual, Derek and Joe are distraught by this development, and as ever, I can't for the life of me figure out why.


Oh, hey, what about Dale Midkiff? Yeah, he did run somebody off the road, but the person wasn't hurt, and it wasn't a truck - he was just so distraught that things got all muddled up in his head.

Wait, their big clue about someone being run off the road on that stretch by a red two-door was entirely based on a coincidence? What the hell, people?!?!

Then there's the Garcia storyline. She ruined Xander's chances of getting the job by hacking into the NSA database and getting them to shut down the project! How romantic of her to sabotage America's intelligence-gathering apparatus like that! Especially when he probably wouldn't have gone anyhow! Also, do the people who work on this show really not know that the NSA isn't allowed to operate outside the United States?

Half-wits. All of them.

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

Yeah, no. Psychology really didn't come into it at all this week - coincidence told them who they were looking for, and that was about it.

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

They knew what the truck looked like, and that he was repairing it - that's more than enough information to catch a killer simply through paperwork and phone calls. This case could have been solved without ever leaving a desk.

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

1/10 - A really dire showing this week, guys.


Anonymous said...

The problem with Reid is that they give Matthew Gray Gubler too much input into the character. Reid's character is basically Gubler's (if his Twitter feed is anything to go by - e.g. obsession with Hallowe'en and silly haircuts).

Speaking of Reid's character: they did an almost passable impression of Asperger Syndrome for Reid in the earlier seasons, but have apparently now decided that all an Aspergic person really needs is a little confidence and he'll just snap right out of it! Wonderfully psychologically accurate.

Anonymous said...

And didn't a militia man already tell Reid not to carry his gun in such a poncy way? Maybe he should have listened.

Anonymous said...

In hindsight, maybe they had an idea of the NSA's reach beyond our borders. That's definitely it...

I have been reading these for like four days and, to further prove how fulfilling my life is, realized I have seen way too many episodes of this show. I love it but I know it's just awful. Thanks for articulating why. It adds a whole nother level to my sad enjoyment of this show.