Criminal Minds 501: Nameless, Faceless

The episode opens, appropriately enough, with a video recap of Greg's contentious relationship with 'The Boston Reaper', famous for both being a copycat of the Zodiac Killer without that being mentioned by the group, even though they mentioned the fact that Jill the Ripper was a copycat, and also shooting Greg at the end of last season. So how did that work out?

We don't know! Because, although the show is trying to tease us by having all the characters called out of bed the morning after their ordeal in Sarnia and dispatched to an apartment building, it's obvious they're not there to discover Greg's corpse, or even evidence that he'd been kidnapped. How can I be sure?

None of them are alarmed by the place they've arrived. And while they're not especially close as a group of co-workers, there's no way that one of them doesn't know where Greg lives now that he's moved out of the home he shared with his wife and child.

So why are they there? A random guy was shot a bunch of times in the chest! The twist? A doctor was sent a note saying that a murderer was going to kill his son, and that if he kept his son hidden, each day another person would die instead! He signed the note 'LC', and then wrote those letters on the floor next to his two victims!

The team rushes to talk to the doctor, which leads to a scene of what can only be described as oppressive body language:

He's the victim here, guys, sure you want to all gang up like that? While they're talking about the case, the son overhears the stakes of the case, and instead of sticking around and risking another life, he decides to do something inconceivably noble and sneaks out the window to go to school! Hopefully this won't result in any other children getting shot! Also, the team is growing understandably concerned by Greg's refusal to answer his phone. Will they find him in time to save his life? Obviously yes, since he's still in the opening credits. But let's see what happens after the credits!

The team stops Doctor from rushing out to save his son, rationalizing that he'll be safer in school than anywhere else, and they can arrange a careful evacuation and protecting him in class without attracting too much attention. That's all well and good, but I feel like people should be a little more startled by the son's decision. Derek tries to rationalize it away by saying that the son sees his father's job, and this is just his own way of attempting to save lives. Which is all well and good, but the kid has to be a saint of some kind - there's a difference between diving into a river to pull a drowning person out (an acceptable level of personal risk to incur while attempting to save a life) and stepping in front of a bullet meant for someone else. It's not like the kid is in the Secret Service.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm a coward who can't be trusted to save your life in a crisis. Sorry, future people whose lives I'll endanger.

Garcia goes through all of the doctor's surgeries, hoping to find a connection that will reveal why a gunman is targeting the doctor's son, but killing middle-aged Hispanic men in his stead. Nothing immediately jumps out at them, but, as usual, I'm sure her research will bear fruit. Meanwhile, the team locks down the school to ensure that no one who isn't supposed to be there gets in.

Going over the doctor's patient list, they tell him to narrow the grudge-havers down to 'males', because women tend to add adjectives when they write death-threats. That kind of seems like a tenuous guess, I'd have said 'women tend not to carry out elaborate supervillainous death fantasies that involves publicly shooting strangers over and over again with pistols'. But that's just me.

Why are they not immediately narrowing it down to fathers who have lost sons? If a guy was mad at the doctor over losing a person (or something done to him), he could just shoot the doctor, but to specifically deprive a father of his son while making the point that he can't protect the child? In this case the crime being committed actually does say a lot about the person committing it - so why isn't the team picking up on that? They give lip service to the idea that the killer is a father, but then they continue going through the pile of every single person the doctor has operated on in the past six months, rather than just cutting out everything but the teens and children he failed to save.

The one upside of their huge workload is that it sends Emily over to Greg's place, hoping to grab an extra set of eyes to help work the case. When she arrives there she discovers...

A giant hole in the wall with no blood around it! Oh, so he just fired that giant magnum near Greg's head to make a point. Gotcha. Wait, why didn't one of his neighbours call the police? I can hear someone playing the bass too loud next door, you're telling me the whole floor didn't hear that gun go off?

There's also a lot of blood on the floor, but no Greg, which is odd, because kidnapping isn't the Reaper's MO. That's the name of the fake Zodiac, in case you've forgotten. Hey, will anyone think to warn Justin Louis? Emily calls Reid to let him know about the Greg situation, and he announces that they'll 'profile the scene' later on. There's actually a pretty big clue in his addressbook - the 'B' page has been torn out!

Wow, over at the doctor's office Reid finally says something useful. I know, shocking, right? His premise is to pick days when the doctor both saved a Hispanic man and had someone else die on the table! That narrows it down to just six cases! Wow, why is this taking so many hours? Sadly, the doctor can't remember anyone threatening him in those cases, or any others, for that matter.

While everyone else is busy worrying about Greg, Garcia simply phones all the hospitals in the area, looking for him. She finds a John Doe who was dropped off by Derek - of course that couldn't have happened, he was sleeping at the time! Eventually they remember that Reaper stole Derek's badge, and they know what's going on!

There's movement on the doctor's case as well, when Reid asks him to focus on the specific wording of the letter and compare it to the notes in the case files. Which is a ridiculous idea, since the killer never saw the case files, and it's not likely that the writeups that the doctor made hours after the surgery would accurately reflect things he said to the grieving father.

Somehow his memory is sparked anyways, and he remembers a case where two people were injured in a car accident - a hispanic man and a teenaged boy. He saved the man's life, but the boy came in already brain-dead, so there was no point in attempting to operate on him. The boy was just taken off life support a few days ago, too - which has driven his father to snap!

Emily swings by the hospital to check on Greg - he's been stabbed a number of times without any vital organs being hit! This, of course, is what the Reaper did to himself to make him seem like a victim. I guess he wants Greg to have matching scars to ensure that Greg will be obsessed with him? Reading over Greg's chart, Emily notices a major clue:

And it's not that a chart error wound up listing Greg as weighing 193 Kilograms, it's the LC initials, which were how the letter was signed... but what do they mean? Emily asks a doctor, and discovers that it means 'Living Children' - that there's someone to go to for questions about whether to take him off of life support, if that becomes an issue!

Okay, let's break this down for a second before getting to the Prentiss Award-Winning line of the night, which, as usual, comes from Reid. Why would that be on Greg's chart? Yes, he has a living child, but that child is three years old. Not exactly capable of making those decisions. If they know he has a child, they know the child's age, so why put that abbreviation? More to the point, once they find out who Greg is, they undoubtedly know that he's got an ex-wife who he probably still holds his power of attorney in case of grievous injury, or if he did get around to revoking that, he has a younger brother who'd be asked to make the decisions.

Either way, there's no reason for the 'LC' to be on the form except to let Reid jump to a ridiculous conclusion.

No, Reid, that's not what he was trying to say. Here, let me show you the text of the letter he sent.

So the letter is “I'm going to murder your son. If you don't let him out of the house, I'm going to murder other people.” The doctor didn't let his son out of the house, and the guy did murder other people, just as the letter promised. How could the initials 'LC' at the bottom of the letter possibly be interpreted as “Psych! I'm totally going to kill you after killing two random people for no reason!”

It couldn't. They just wanted the characters to look smart by not being surprised when the killer is waiting outside the doctor's house with a gun.

Yup, he was just standing in the middle of the street, holding a gun. He was able to do this because there wasn't a police car outside the doctor's house, looking out for the killer. Because everyone in the world of Criminal Minds sucks at their job.

Reid tackles the doctor to the ground, taking a bullet in the leg for his trouble. Then he tries to talk the crazy man out of using the gun so that he won't have to shoot. Reid isn't good at his job, though, so he's forced to shoot the man in the chest. Luckily the doctor is right there, and he's able to save the killer's life! Which means he'll be able to spend the rest of his life in jail for serial killing! Which I guess is a good outcome?

With the plot wrapped up at the thirty minute mark, it's time to check in on Greg! They talk about his ordeal, and as I mentioned earlier, the motive for stabbing was to replicate Reaper's own injuries. He immediately realizes the significance of the missing page from his addressbook, though: His wife, gay Jack's sister from Dawson's Creek, often goes by her maiden name - Brooks!

Oh my god, Greg's family being threatened is finally being used as a plot point, just as I predicted would eventually happen when they split up! So, let's go to the records and see how long the countdown lasted!

Okay, in Episode 303 I predicted the wife would be kidnapped, and while that hasn't happened yet, the threat of it is looming! Which means it took over 40 episodes before they finally went for it! Good work, guys! So, is she going to be kidnapped this week, and it will all be resolved next time? Let's find out!

She's not answering her phone, and a SWAT team is dispatched to the house - to keep us on edge, they cut away to Greg's conversation with the Reaper the night before. It's a good enough scene, with Greg refusing to be frightened by Reaper's posturing, but I was distracted by one thing.

They switched out the gun from last time. Here, in the season ender, Reaper was using a bizarre, stylized, over-the-top magnum like the ones he killed the people on the bus with:

But in Greg's flashback, it's just an ordinary long-barreled revolver.

Which they deliberately keep out of focus, possibly so we won't notice the shift. Was the prop gun not available, or did someone just forget?

Once the team arrives at Greg's old house, they discover... Greg's wife was upstairs, doing laundry with an Ipod on. I guess that's why she didn't hear the phone? Really? She missed fifteen minutes worth of ringing? Ah, whom am I kidding - this is the team that let someone get kidnapped by a serial killer because they didn't want to bother staying on the phone with her. They probably just called once and then gave up.

The important thing is that Greg's wife and child are fine! Greg, however, is having a flashback to the stabbing, in which Reaper takes his shirt off and talks extensively about his scars - and as I predicted, he wants to give Greg matching ones. During his taunting he also takes an opportunity to rewrite history, announcing that the team didn't catch him until he wanted them to. Yeah, but no. You started killing again because your deal expired, and then your plan was to fake your death and then get away with it, then they caught you before you managed to kill Justin Louis. You only got away because of the incompetence of the jailers at the Boston P.D.

Now for a little wrapup - Greg's family is being sent away into protective custody by the Marshal Service. Greg, for his part, has become obsessed with the idea of tracking down and killing Reaper. So obsessed, in fact, that he lies to the team and tells them that he doesn't remember all of Reaper's taunting. But why? Greg's wife then gets the second-stupidest line of the night, when she asks Greg if he's absolutely sure that she and the son have to go into hiding - are they really in danger?

She asks this of a man still lying in the hospital bed he was placed in after a serial killer stabbing him a dozen times.


I guess it's time to start the countdown to the family actually being kidnapped... like Frank, I presume this is going to wait until the end of the season, and maybe even be a two-parter! How can I be so sure we'll be seeing the family to follow up on this storyline? Check out who's playing the Marshal in charge of protecting him:
It's popular TV character actor DB Sweeny!

I can't believe we're going to have to wait months for this resolution! Also, I wonder how long they'll jump ahead for the next episode. What with Reid shot in the leg and Greg brutally stabbed, episode two of the season has got to be a couple of months later, right? Or is Greg going to take a couple of episodes off?

For the end of the episode, Joe swings by Greg's hotel room to talk about how staying on the job keeps people safe, and that he can't lose faith in his team. He even talks about how 'no other team in the world could have done what they did in just six hour'. By which I assume he means “Shoot a man who shows up carrying a gun at the house of the person he'd threatened to kill in a formal letter”.

Actually, I'd argue that any number of 'teams' could have handled that. Or even individuals.

Hell, if the doctor had a couple of dogs it probably would have all worked out just fine.


Also, why are they acting like it would be such a challenge to find Reaper? Shouldn't he be the most wanted man in America? Shouldn't every newscast every night open with an update on the hunt for the nation's worst at-large serial killer, a man who everyone knows the name and face of?

God, this show is terrible sometimes.

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

There was a little bit of psychology involved in helping the doctor remember the time the killer creepily accosted him in a hallway. But the jump he made to figure out what the killer 'secretly meant' by the letter was so ridiculous that it devalues literally everything else said in the episode.

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

Actual, competent, professional law enforcement officers would have had plainclothesmen surreptitiously watching the house in case the killer turned up. So yes.

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

1/10 - Dear lord, guys, this was a weak one. I know you needed half the episode to be about Greg, but if you wanted to to a character piece, why have a crime-of-the-week at all? Why not just find the injured Greg and spend an episode futilely chasing the Reaper?


Perpetual Beginner said...

While the writing for this episode left much to be desired, I was quite impressed with the film crew. The actors who played both Reid and Morgan were injured off season (knee injury and a break with a walking cast), but they managed to work having Reid sitting most of the ep, and filming Morgan only from the waist up into the flow of the show pretty smoothly.

Anonymous said...

They also worked in an injury for Reid that justified Gubler using his crutches for several weeks. Admittedly some fast thinking.

Anonymous said...

Stop calling him Greg.

Anonymous said...

Seriously why is Hotch called Greg

Anonymous said...

Hotch wasn't incorrectly listed as 191kg on the chart - the show's based in the US so he's listed as 191lbs...

Vardulon said...

Actually, anonymous (May 28, 2016), if you look at the picture, you'll notice that the entry for weight has a line to right a number, then a place where you can mark whether the number is supposed to be 'kg' or 'lbs'. The 'kg' has been marked with an X, while the 'lbs' has not. Just as the 'male' box has been marked with an X above. Seriously, though, how funny is that form? Someone just randomly wrote the patient's name in the middle of an unrelated section? Bizarre.

Anonymous said...

It is a hilarious form. Also, hospitals tend to refer to people as "patient", not "subject".

Cooper said...

Agree with most of what you said, but even you said during your review of Omnivore that he was giving them all the information they needed. He kept Derek's credential's. Planned a faked death, but also an elaborate prison escape (he had the schematics of all local maximum security prisons). He had 10 years to plan. He had at least 3 different scenarios so that he could exercise control 1) Greg takes the deal, and lives with the consequences like the other cop, 2) Fake his death and live on the lam as a very prolific serial killer, and 3) escape prison and be America's most wanted. This show can have terrible writing, but I think the Reaper story arc is well done.

Hanna said...

Wait, the Prentiss Award was not at the end when Hotch says "If he stops killing, we have no way of tracking him?"
They do know his name and what he looks like. When he stopped killing the last time, they didn't catch him for 10 years because 1. nobody knew who he was and 2. they stopped looking.

If they just gave his photo to every law enforcement official in the country and hang his wanted poster at every bus stop, airport and mall and show his face in the news and also they send their pro team of profilers after them (the show still pretends they are helpful), then how long can it take to track that guy down?