Criminal Minds 503: Reckoner

A woman, arriving home with groceries, is yelling at someone over the phone, while also talking to her husband in the next room. When the husband doesn't answer, she looks more closely and notices strange flashes coming from the room. The woman goes to investigate, and is knocked to the ground!

Awaking in a daze, she sees a murderer in a plastic outfit (careful fella, huh?) sawing off her dead husband's hands! Which, you know, ick. The guy was dead at the time, though, shot behind the ear, which marks this as the work of a professional murderer, rather than just the amateur hobbyists that generally show up on this program. Although I'm not sure why a professional murderer is mutilating a corpse and taking photos. That's a little odd... then again, the Iceman was a scumbag, as was the ficitonalized version of him depicted on the show!

Back at the FBI, Greg is watching video of his son playing in a yard. This, sadly, is as close as he's allowed to get to them. And D.B. Sweeny is back, assuring Greg that his family is still safe, even though Greg's Wife called her mother a few times! Oh, D.B. Sweeny, you're going to be soooo dead when that serial killer comes looking for Greg's family.

Joe visits Greg in his office - the new case is in his hometown, and he doesn't want to go! It seems Joe comes from circumstances, it seems, and he has no interest in giving his past a chance to come back and bite him. Greg thinks the case is going to require his insight, although we're not immediately told why. In the briefing scene, we discover that the wife from the opening is missing, and that the 'signature' of people being shot in the brain and heart with a .22 matches a couple of other murders from the area in the past year. Then Emily drops what might be the stupidest line I've ever heard come out of her mouth-

This is why there's an award for stupidity named after you, Emily. Wait, what's that, Reid wants to compete this week?

Christ, Reid, the word is 'restrained'. What is wrong with you people? Is the show just making fun of me at this point? I can't imagine that this is a CSI: Miami situation, where everybody but the actors know they're making a comedy - are they deliberately testing the actors by getting them to say the stupidest possible things and seeing if anyone calls them on it?

One of the victims was starved before murder, another had his genitals removed, and the third - which we just saw, had his hands taken. The team is puzzled because while this seems like the work of a sadistic killer, the mutilations were done post-mortem, so it couldn't have been about torture! What does all this mean?

Well, Reid won't be able to help - because of his injured knee, he's not free to travel! It seems last week he lied about being healthy enough to fly!

The show then does a zoom-in to the crime scene photo, and for a second I thought they were going to do that thing where they push into a picture and cut to the team being there - but while that was a super-popular device for the first few years, it's been almost completely phased out of the show at this point. Now they just zoom in to the crime scene photos that were taken by the killer, being looked at by a mysterious figure!

Is that the killer, or the man who hired him? All we know at this point is that he wears glasses!

Oh, and that he has a murder list. You know, if this show follows its standard format, we just saw Ben killed, Dan's next, and then they'll rescue Boyd at the last possible second!

Is this show that formulaic? Let's find out after the opening credits!

I forgot to mention, there was a shot of half the guy's face when he was looking at the list, and he's an old, out-of-shape white guy, so obviously he's the person who hired the killer, and not the killer himself.

Hey, do you think Neal McDonough is ever going to play a serial killer on this show? I feel like he would be a good fit, what with the evil eyes and having played a serial killer literally everywhere else.

The team gets to the crime scene, and they're met by Deputy Rick Cologne!

Man, it's always great to see that guy!

He lets us know that the wife had a daughter from her first marriage, but that the daughter now lives in San Francisco with her 'real father'. Which is a really odd term to use. Couldn't they just say 'father', and use 'stepfather' for the dead guy?

Turns out the wife isn't dead! They have to figure out why he left the victim alive! They question her about the crime, and it's mostly just details we saw in the teaser, which proves to be a wasted minute. A background check reveals that she's in the middle of a divorce from the new husband - and the daughter was recently sent away! It seems the stepfather had been molesting their daughter! Which is why someone killed the stepfather!

Examining the corpse down at the morgue, Joe assumes that the fact that the hands were removed with a saw means that the killer had not medical training. Which is just idiotic. What if he's a doctor who just didn't care about the quality of the hands and wanted to use a completely non-traceable tool? The bullets also have no rifling on them!

Joe and Derek rush back to the station house to reveal their information (because their phones don't work?), and Joe meets Rick 'for the first time'. I put quotes in there because while Joe is usually a good enough actor, he's completely unable to hide from his face that he knows this actor quite well-

And that's because Vincent Gustaferro, who plays Deputy Rick Cologne, was, along with Joe Mantegna, part of the troupe of actors who worked with David Mamet back in Chicago before they all moved out to LA to get rich. It's nice when people give their friends work, isn't it?

Joe then offers some really bad information, announcing that bullets fired from barrels with no rifling would have 'very little velocity', and have to be fired at point blank range. Of course, that's not really accurate - while the lack of rifling might have some effect on bullet speed over a distance, it would be negliagable at any close pistol range - the reason you'd have to fire at point blank is that a non-rifled bullet is super-inaccurate. The spin doesn't make it go faster - as anyone who's ever thrown a football could tell you, the spin keeps the bullet on course. They immediately determine that he must be using a 'zip-gun', a crude piece of single-shot hardware-

Made from simple piping. Which is a great assumption, except it's not the most likely weapon for a professional killer to use. After all, anybody with a solid background in gunsmithing could  easily put together a smoothbore barrel for any semi-automatic pistol, which would be a far more reliable way to shoot. Zip guns are more the territory of unbelievably poor street gangs from the 40s and 50s.

Now that they're sure a hitman is involved, it changes their 'profile', in that profiles are now irrelevant. Instead, Joe goes to visit his good buddy, William Sadler, who's playing a mob boss! Just like he does in the Jesse Stone movies, also for CBS! Which are based on Robert Parker books, and Joe Mantegna played Spencer in a few A&E Movies! Man, this thing is tightly interwoven.

Joe asks William to help him track down the murderer, but they also discuss a woman from both of their pasts - who Joe loved, but left in order to pursue his career! Did he join the army or something? We don't know a lot about his backstory, come to think of it, but they obviously like each other enough that William is ready to roll on the assassin immediately, so long as Joe can cut a deal for one of his subordinates who was busted for gun-running. It's good to have friends, isn't it?

Over at the police station, they've found a connection between the three victims: all of them were involved in abusing children! Which means there's some sort of 'Avenger' going around killing them! The team immediately assumes that it must be someone in the legal system who was aware of the cases, but there's a problem with that: the latest victim was never charged with anything! Perhaps the daughter or stepfather told someone who loved murder? Rick announces that he's going to have the daughter 'brought in', which seems like kind of a stretch. She lives in San Diego, after all.

Wait, what? How are they in the office the same day? Doesn't she live in San Diego?

Unless there's a San Diego Long Island that I don't know about this could very well be the sloppiest episode of Criminal Minds ever. And wow, that's saying something.

They interview the daughter about her molestation, and the show tries to crib from 'Deliver Us From Evil' in her explanation for why she didn't tell anyone about the abuse. Although, in an earlier scene the mother said she had talked about the abuse, and in the very first scene, the mother said that the father took the daughter away because of the abuse. So I don't know why they're acting like it was a big secret just now. She also told her therapist, it seems - which gives them another suspect!

According to the therapist, he reported the abuse to the police, but it didn't go anywhere because the daughter refused to testify. And the wife, we assume, didn't turn over the nude photos. But if there was a police investigation, why didn't it turn up in Garcia's search? What's that - so the show could waste five minutes of precious running time on a narrative dead end? Okay, that makes sense.

William sets up a meeting with the hitman, then immediately calls Joe - he warns that this is going to be extremely dangerous: the hitman only meets with clients one time, and if he thinks it's a setup, William could easily be killed! While waiting for the killer to show, Joe and Greg chat about the difficulties of having Greg's family on the run, and Joe notices a mysterious car parked up the street.

Greg explains that it's 'countersurveillance', watching to see if the Reaper is watching Greg. Which is a great idea and all, but wouldn't it make more sense not to park what's obviously an FBI car (you can tell by the antenna on the trunk) directly in front of the restaurant that you want a notoriously secretive hitman to walk into? Hell, seeing an unmarked police car on the street makes me switch sidewalks, solely because I don't want to be in the way if they have to suddenly arrest someone - and I don't murder people for a living. I can only imagine how hyper-vigiliant this hitman must be. Or, put it in simple-to-understand terms, he's exactly as attentive to detail as the makers of Criminal Minds aren't.

Joe gets a call from William to remind him how dangerous the situation is, and then the murderer shoots William in the brain.

Damn it! I liked that guy! Also, why would the killer expose himself like this? If he thought it was a setup, why didn't he just blow off the meeting? I guess maybe he wanted to send a message? The team rushes the building, but the hitman escapes, because they didn't have it surrounded. Um... why? Were they assuming that he was just going to walk in through the front door?

A subsequent scene explains how the killer got in - William called the hitman to set up a meeting at 4PM, but didn't call Joe to report on it until 11 that night, giving the hitman time to infiltrate the bar, and overhear the conversation.

Except that's obviously not what happened. Not just because William would stupidly wait hours and hours to call Joe for no reason, but because the scene in which William actually called Joe was clearly set in the afternoon. How can I be so sure? Take a look-

If it wasn't the afternoon, he wouldn't be talking about not opening the bar that night, or giving the boys the night off. If it was 11PM, that would all be moot. This is what happens when you try to fix script problems while shooting an episode - you end up with an unholy mess, where we're asked to simply disregard things that we were shown two minutes earlier.

It's time to give a profile back at the police station! The funny part is that through all of these scenes they're always giving random cops huge information dumps, but those cops never, ever use that information for anything, or contribute to catching the killer in any way. It's really just a super-awkward way to exposit for the viewers, and you'd think there would be a simpler solution. The long and the short is that since all the victims were in the criminal justice system, and that's also a logical place to meet a hitman, the boss must be a lawyer, or cop or something. Although probably not a cop, because hitmen aren't cheap.

Speaking of, the next scene shows the boss talking to the hitman on the phone, demanding 'special treatment' for the next victim, then hanging up and looking at a locket of his presumably dead presumable wife.

Whoa, whoa, whoa... Joe and William talked about Joe missing a funeral for someone he really cared about - this isn't going to all dovetail together, is it? Man, that would be contrived.

It's not at all difficult to figure out the true identity of the killer, since a simple scan of trials for buttonmen turns up a guy who shoots people in exactly the same way as their current killer. You know, this is the kind of information Deputy Rick should have been offering - it puts a human face on the case, rather than just having Garcia read off a screen. The judge in the case is immediately recognized by Joe as a famous judge, who's the husband of the woman he and William were talking about (damn it, Criminal Minds!) - who died when a drunk driver ran into her car two years earlier! Which, of course, set him off something fierce! Add that to his recently being diagnosed with cancer, and they've got a perfect suspect!

All of their work is rendered moot, however, when, just after they figure out it must be the judge, the judge himself walks into the police station, ready to be questioned. It's sad that attentiveness lets me know what the judge's plan is - at the beginning of the episode we saw a list of names, three were scratched out, and the fourth and fifth were Dan Patton and Boyd Schuller. Boyd Schuller is the judge's name. So obviously the hitman is going to kill him before he can stand trail. Although I'm not sure why you'd print out a personal copy of a hit-list with your own name on it. After all, it's not like you're going to live to scratch that last name off.

Oh, and the team stumbles around, trying to figure out who the next victim is. Even though they know the guy treasured his wife, and that the drunk driver who killed her is presumably still out there. Instead of just tracking down this relatively easy information, Joe tries to Cracker the guy by dropping insinuations that he knew the man's wife really, really well. Naturally, even that is super-poorly written.

Hey, Criminal Minds writers? No 6-year-old is even aware of Oscar Wilde, let alone naming kittens after him. If you wanted to make her brilliant and precocious, say she was ten.


The judge talks about how he couldn't deal with 35 years of watching people get away with crimes, and now he finally had to do something about it! You know, the people he killed certainly deserved to die and everything, but I find it hard to believe that they were the absolute worst that he'd come across in 35 years. Also, where's the personal connection that led him to go after people who victimized children? Other than just generally hating people who victimize children, of course. Assuming universal truths about humanity isn't something this show does, however - they feel there's a specific occurrence in everyone's life than can explain each one of their beliefs. So why aren't they searching after it here?

The judge happily admits that he wants Patton, the drunk driver, dead, but that's only because he knows it's too late to stop the hitman. While the team rushes over to the apartment ineffectually, Joe claims that the wife was cheating on the judge with him. Of course, we know that this is a lie, since Joe told William that he hadn't seen the woman in years. Still, it's a scummy thing to do and it's to no positive result - only making the judge feel bad about himself before the sniper shoots him.


Oh, except for William's sidekick tracking down and killing the hitman. Which, I guess, is why he killed William - so the show could have an ending that wrapped everything up in a neat little package.

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

They didn't solve the crime, so no.

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

All the victims were being killed in the well-established manner of gangland executions - .22 behind the ear. I'm sure competent cops would have been able to look up known buttonmen with that M.O. - not that it mattered, since confessing was part of the Judge's plan all along.

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

0/10 - Yup, it's the rare 0 - which I only give when the team had no impact whatsoever in the events, and a third party resolves the case for them. Spectacularly bad showing this week, in an almost unbelievably poorly-written episode!


unknown said...

Just want to point out that the website the judge used to transfer money was called “Offshore Bank Transfers Online”. I mean come on how lazy can the writers get that they make such an unbelievable name for it.

Unknown said...

Just wanted to let you know that "constrained" was actually correct.

justme said...

About the Reid comment he used the right word. Constrained. A way off physically binding, immobilization. Restrained is more of a way of preventing an action.

justme said...

Restrain is used more in the sense of preventing an action: ... Constrain is used more in the sense of placing limits, restrictions, or controls on an action: The beauty of our sport is that there are hardly any rules to constrain you.