28.5.11

Suspect Behavior 113: Death By a Thousand Cuts

It's High Noon in a mall as a nervous, sweaty man stumbles his way through the crowd. Is he sick with a disease? Are they finally doing the ebola episode of our dreams?There are weird pauses in the episode as he passes people, as if he's scanning them for some reason - spotting an old man across the hall, he quickly follows the guy into a bathroom and shoots him in the face! But why - and why did he nervously check his watch beforehand?

Oh, it's because someone is holding his wife/child hostage, and will kill them if he doesn't kill a stranger. How do I know that's the plot? Because essentially this exact thing happened in the game Heavy Rain. Which I was not fond of. Not boding well for the episode, guys, ripping off a mediocre videogame like that.

In a nice touch, the gun has tape on the handle which would theoretically repel fingerprints:

Just like in the Godfather! Which, contrary to the findings of recent polls, I have actually seen. Even the part where Talia Shire's husband beats her up just so she'll call Sonny into town to help, which sets him up for the tollbooth ambush. Was that an obscure enough plot point that I've proven my Godfather Bona Fides? Because if you'd like, I could name the five fake crime families of New York in the movie! Actually, come to think of it, I totally can't. But Alex Rocco played Moe Green, who was a fake version of Bugsy Siegel, which I totally didn't get until I saw Godfather 2!

Okay, back to the show - where Forest is making a speech about the philosophy of murder to an FBI class. In an amazing coincidence, the subject is what drives people to murder! He feels that we all have darkness inside us, and the serial killers they're studying are people who've simply given into their darkest urges. I guess this is because explaining that serial murder is caused by a combination of bad genetics, childhood abuse, and availability of victims was a little too long for the scene?

Simms shows up and springs Forest - they've got a case! In a nice bit of continuity, the last face in the slideshow is William Sanderson, from a bunch of episodes ago!

Although, given the plot of that episode, shouldn't it have been a splitscreen of him and his son?

Back at base they get the details of the case - three victims with completely different characteristics. A homeless woman, a drug dealer, and a grandfather - the only connection is that each one is a life that a random person might justify as being less valuable than the life of the of the loved one they were trying to save! I know this because I played Heavy Rain, but how long will it take the team to find out?

They try to figure out why the guns are all identical, hoping to catch some insight into the connection, but there just isn't enough to go on. So they're off to Dallas! Meanwhile, the killer puts the latest picture on the wall. Who is he, and why is he doing this? Hopefully we'll learn more after the opening credits!

The team heads over to the DA's office, as opposed to the FBI Field Office at One Justice Way. Seriously, how great is it that the FBI building is at 1 Justice Way? First things first, they map out the locations of the various murders. That and the guns are literally all the information they have, sadly. They question the possibility of it being a gang initiation or terrorist attack, but no one mentions the time that actually happened at the beginning of season four of regular Criminal Minds. They head out to profile guns and locations, then Forest takes Janeane aside - it turns out she's been offered a position running an anti-terrorism team, but she's not sure whether to take it! Well, considering that it's what she's trained to do, and that she adds nothing to the team, it seems like a good career move to me...

The type of gun used is an old magnum police special, one that hasn't been made in a decade. They're so far out of circulation that it's impossible to figure out who's been buying them in bulk! They're not having a lot of luck at the crime scene either - they're puzzled by the killer's choice to aim his gun at three different people before shooting, and then take a picture afterwards. What could it all mean? Man, they should just ask Garcia. She plays videogames, after all!

Now it's off to a park, where a guy is at a picnic with his pregnant wife! Naturally she'll be kidnapped by the killer-

And he'll be pressed into action!

Luckily the team doesn't have to do any profiling, since there's a video of the guy who shot the person in the mall, allowing them to ID his car, and then him! Wow, seems like something the cops could have done on their own, right? They pay the guy a visit, and he's understandably cagey. The team confronts him with the evidence, and they figure out what's going on when his still-terrified son shows up. A kidnapped son? Really? This couldn't be more Heavy Rain if it tried.

The teacher immediately breaks down and gives up the whole game. He asks not to be arrested, and he makes a good point - after all, he's not the killer, he's just the weapon that the killer uses. As he proves by revealing that he only killed the person at the mall!

Oh, and the killer is French Stewart-

So, now the husband is alone in the park (no one noticed a cowboy kidnapping someone in the crowded parking lot), and he receives a phone call from the killer. We all know where this is going, so let's skip ahead, shall we?

The team is giving the profile, and they offer the completely useless information that the son had to offer, namely that he's a white guy with a southern accent. Really? In Dallas? Shock! Okay, he's the only character in the show that actually has a southern accent, since this is filmed in LA, but I'd just assumed we were supposed to be taking that as read.

The profile? Ex-law enforcement (based on the guns), god complex (based on him trying to turn people into murderers). Of course, he's not actually turning them into murderers, he's just using them as weapons.

Luckily people saw the husband yelling at the park, and they've gathered up the descriptions of the people, which they feed to Garcia, hoping that they can track him down. The problem with this scene? The timeline is way, way too tight. The call about the abduction in the park couldn't have happened until the husband drove away - which happened at 2:30. He was supposed to kill someone at 3, which hasn't happened yet. We're supposed to believe that a cop could have gotten to the park, gathered up a wide variety of witness statements, and turned them over to the FBI within thirty minutes? As if.

Garcia narrows the field down based on a guy being middle-eastern, working at a hospital, with a wife named Carolyn who's pregnant. She finds the guy quickly enough - but how are they going to the farmer's market that he's supposed to shoot up in time? GPS on the cell phone, of course!

The team arrives when there's just a single second left - but will they get there in time to create the worst possible outcome, i.e. he shoots someone but isn't able to take the picture, so it's all for nothing? Before we find out, let's pause to single out the worst extra in the world!

Yup, there's nothing more boring than a man pointing a gun into a crowd, is there, lady?

The team runs up and puts their guns on him, demanding that he drop the gun. Knowing that he just has a few seconds left, the husband elects to shoot himself in the head, hoping that will count.

It does! And Forest counts the husband's suicide as a win over the villain's scheme to turn regular people into killers! Although that's only one way to look at it. The other way is that the guy had six guns pointed at him, and he was worried that if he tried to shoot one of the FBI Agents and got shot to death himself, it wouldn't count! You know what? Let's just call it a moral victory and move on.

The wife arrives at the police station, offering some information about the killer. She gives a physical description of his extensive scars and missing fingers, so that should go a long way towards identifying him - along with the red pickup truck, of course.

They clue they fixate on is his use of the term 'stay' to describe a reprieve. Which only really comes up in terms if stays of execution - could he have been a prison guard? Garcia checks for three-fingered guards, but the guy she comes up with is dead. They decide to look a little further, into people who've been involved in executions, at which point French turns up. Um.. why didn't he come up on the three-fingered list?

There's also a hilarious continuity thing here, as Garcia says that he lost the fingers when he was twelve, while the file paints a different picture.

Which hand? Man, you suck at being a medical file, don't you?

Alright, now they have a name, face, and reason for the rampage (family murdered in front of him with the same weapon when he was a child) - but no address! The closest thing they have is his aunt's last known!

The first place they go, however, is to the prison to talk to some of French's co-workers. His former partner thought that French enjoyed the executions a little too much - liked taunting people about their upcoming deaths. He was even responsible for a botched execution, ensuring that the lethal injectee wasn't sedated before being murdered!

Luckily the partner is the one who told French where to buy a new gun, so they're able to get hooked up with the gun dealer, hopefully providing a clue to his location! The aunt isn't a huge amount of help, although she lets them know that they never caught the guy who killed French's family. He also had the unsettling habit of hiding out in houses where crimes had recently been committed. Oh, and he would cut himself, including chopping off his own fingers! Then, at the end of the scene, French's aunt says something incredibly inappropriate.


Do you want people to think you're in on it, lady? If they don't think that, they're at least going to give you a slap after you say something so horrible. Also, if you'd just gotten this guy the psychological help he needed instead of covering up for his self-mutilation, then he likely would have been a healthier adult, and not gone on a rampage! Moron.

Now it's back to profiling! Based on the cutting they figure he's a masochist - so why is he acting out so sadistically? They also try to use the linguistic evidence of him never making himself the subject of sentences, which is supposed to mean that he's a puppet, but that's not really relevant. After all, the kind of sentences he uses “Now you're going to watch your husband die”, for example, doesn't really have a place for him in it. Also, for a masochist submissive, he sure was bouncing around the room enjoying that guy's suicide and all, wasn't he.

Despite all this evidence, the team figures that he must be working with a mastermind - although the only decent evidence of that idea (French doesn't seem to be bright enough to have thought all this up on his own), doesn't ever come up. If there's an evil partner, does that mean that literally the only other character we've met, his partner from the prison, is it? That would be convenient!

Simms and Janeane go to meet the gun dealer, but he's shot just before telling them about the guy who bought the police specials from him! Simms is also shot, but non-fatally, and he manages to find cover behind the car. The two-man theory turns out to be true, and while both of them are cowering from the sniper's fire, a second killer runs up and knocks them out with a rifle butt to the head!

Looks like Janeane is going to be forced to play a game of death with Simms' life on the line! I mean, it's got to be Janeane, right, what with Simms being injured and all, it wouldn't be cool to send him out.

Also, I guess this proves that it was the guard at the prison, since no one else knew when and where they were meeting the gun dealer. The second the rest of the team realizes that they're missing, they should really put out an APB on that guy.

Wow. I was totally wrong. They left Simms and took Janeane, and want Forest to shoot someone! In the next fifteen minutes!

On the upside, though, by checking with the killer's established love of crime scenes, they're able to find satellite imagery of the site of a triple murder that's been abandoned for weeks, but has French's red truck parked outside of it! So they'll be able to rush over there and rescue Janeane from the evil partner, who's holding her hostage! Unless, of course, they're in a secondary location. Which would be awkward.

I don't know why they aren't also running over to the partner's house, just in case. Logically they have to know he's involved, right? I mean, Simms is alive, and he knows that the gun dealer meeting was a trap, so literally nothing else could be going on here.

There's a little debate between Janeane and the partner over whether Forest is going to shoot someone to save her life. She doesn't think he will, but the partner doesn't care one way or the other.

Here's the twist! French wants Forest to kill him because he doesn't have the guts to commit suicide! Forest would rather talk it out, however, although I'm not sure to what end. The SWAT team breaks into the house where French was hiding out, but it's obviously not where Janeane is being held. Remind me again why they didn't have a second team storming the partner's house?

With just seconds left, Forest has a decision to make - shoot French, or let Janeane get shot? What does he decide? There's a gunshot on the soundtrack, but we don't know what it means, because this episode is-

Which would be a neat trick, considering that the show was canceled.

THE END

Although I don't know why they're treating this as a mystery - unless there was a second team after all, and the shot was the partner getting killed at the last possible second, Janeane is dead. Even if Forest elected to shoot French, he'd be doing so as the time ran out - it takes like a minute to photograph a body and send the picture to the partner, which is well over the time limit.

Also, since they now have the partner's telephone number, couldn't Garcia have just traced his cell phone? He's got to have the thing on, doesn't he?

Wow, I'm not going to miss this show.

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

This is once again confuses 'knowing a lot of things' with profiling. The key that led them to the killer's identity was knowing the importance of his using the term 'stay' and talking about how a last-minute call wasn't going to save anyone. Anyone who's ever seen a movie about death row knows what that means, and could have given them the same advice.

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

The main bits of evidence that moved the case forwards were all fairly run-of-the-mill. Watching surveillance tapes, interviewing witnesses. Not a lot of special skills required.

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

1/10 - Gosh, this one didn't make sense at all. If it was all the Partner's idea, and French hated going along with it, why was the murdering based on French's life? You could say that it was part of an attempt to make sure French was held culpable should everything go wrong, but he didn't seem too concerned about revealing his involvement to the team by sending them into that ambush. It seems like they were so set on having a twist that they weren't concerned about it making the whole episode fall apart. God, this show was a mess.

Would this episode have played out any differently had the regular team been running things, or was there some advantage to having a rogue Red Cell that operates 'outside the bureaucracy'?

I know I say this every week, but I have literally no idea why Forest's team was on the case, other than the fact that at the beginning of the episode he was giving a lecture about a subject that had thematic resonance with this week's murder. Although I doubt that's the criteria by which Richard Schiff is assigning teams to cases.

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