Criminal Minds 505: Cradle to Grave

In a dark basement somewhere, a woman is giving birth. Her pleas to be brought to the hospital go unanswered, but in the end the delivery proceeds without incident.  It becomes clear, based on their matching blue shirts, as well as the fact that they're in a cage, that both the new mother and her female attendant are prisoners. Their warden, and the presumptive father of the child, comes to claim his progeny, and the mother is understandably distraught at the prospect of turning over her child.

The father, for his part, is disappointed to discover that the child is female, and takes the little girl away, after locking his two prisoners back in their cell. You know, there was just one of him, and neither of the women were restrained in any way. I can't help but think that this would've it been a good time to, oh I don't know, tear out his throat with their teeth?

They don't, though, so it's going to be up to the team to figure this one out. Before they get the case though, Greg finds the "chief" waiting in his office to give him some bad news – which we don't hear just yet. Wait, did he just call her chief? Is that a position they have in the FBI? Seems she's his boss, shouldn't she be something like an assistant director? Like Skinner on the X-Files? This seems like something I should check into.

Greg doesn't share the news with JJ, which leads me to believe something is happening with his with his wife, although she and the son are dead of course, the show wouldn't just drop news like that at the top of an episode. The next day Derek as enters the office he receives a text message from Greg. Oddly, he's the only member of the team that Greg has contacted about this new case – what's with the cloak and dagger? Derek asks what the e-mails were about when he sees Greg, and Greg tells him, even more suspiciously, that there nothing to worry about, and they should just get to work on the case of the dead runaway we saw give birth the beginning.

We learn that this latest runaway was just one of three victims who turned up over the past five years, women who have been forced to bear the children of a serial killing rapist. Yep, we're in for an unpleasant one this week. Although, I'm forced to question whether the woman who was helping the teaser victim was another prisoner are not; according to the records, all of the killer's victims have been blonde women, and she clearly had brown hair. Although, now that I look back on it, the mother had some pretty serious roots going on there. If she's been a captive for two years, has he been letting her dye her hair the whole time?

I guess we'll see how this all works out after the opening credits!

They do little profiling on the plane, first name-checking Gary Heidnik and that German freak before announcing that the guy can't be choosing blonde women because they resemble a woman who rejected him, or failed to give him children, and there has to be some other motive. Obviously, the motive is that he wants to have blonde children, but let's pause for a second to question Joe's rationale for his conclusion. Joe believes that in order for the killer to be motivated by rage against a woman who wouldn't bear his children, he would have to be similar in age to the girls who been kidnapped, and this killer is too experienced for that.

Let's break this down, point by point. First: he wouldn't have to be the same age as the victims, the woman who rejected him would have. Second: Joe thinks he's too experienced in clever, but what is he basing that on? The women were kept in the basement for an average of two years each, then strangled and dumped on the side of a road. All that's required is the ability to kidnap someone? And keep them in the basement for two years. Not exactly rocket science. Third: if the women are kept for about two years each, and the first victim was found five years ago, then he's likely been doing this for seven years at least. Couldn't he have been around 20 when he started, and gotten all this experience that Joe talks about along the way?

A trip to the corner gives them a wealth of useful information. The mothers were all weaned off of drugs and given medication to ensure healthy, successful pregnancies. At first they question why he would do this, reasoning that "since he hates the mothers, he must take the children too", which seems like an exceptionally stupid thing to say-if he hated children, why would he keep knocking up his victims? The characters naturally jump to the conclusion that this is some sort of human trafficking situation, and he's breeding white children to sell. Reid and Emily come to the mind-bogglingly obvious conclusion that while the location of the dumpsite might not help them find the killer, tracking the babies based on their estimated birth dates might give them a line of inquiry. Which, you know, duh. I think they're a little too quick to dismiss the usability of the dumpsite and kidnapping site in a geographic profile. If the two locations were hundred and 70 miles apart, as is stated, and simple logic dictates that he would want to both find women and leave their bodies is far from his home as possible, it's rational to assume that he would live at a point equidistant between the two locations. Add to that generalization the fact that an hour and a half drive is enough for just about anyone to feel like they're "far" from home, and they should start searching for the babies in towns 90 miles from both sites.

 Looking for the babies is going to be easy though, because all adoptions in the state are closed! Wait, doesn't Garcia regularly get access to private citizens' medical records in 5 to 10 seconds after being asked? How could adoption records be any more difficult? The social worker they visit does have another option, though, when JJ announces that they can't wait around for a court order because it would take too long. Her idea: since all babies adopted in the state are given a test for pre-existing medical conditions, it simply a matter of checking the mothers, or baby's, if some tissue remains on the corpse, DNA against all be adopted babies in the state. Wait, that's going to take a shorter amount of time than a court order? Yes, they've got the blood of these children, but they haven't run DNA tests yet – and it a few thousand dollars a pop, who's going to put up the quarter million dollars it would take to sift through this haystack looking for a needle?

Over at the field office, the parents of the first victim have arrived. Why? Because the team wants to dig up the corpse, hoping to find some of the babies DNA – which was none either of the two recent victims. Wait, hold on, they just had the idea to look for the baby's DNA, which means that it was easy enough to check the corpse they currently have. But how did they check the corpse that's been in the ground for two years? Did that all happened off-camera? Shouldn't these two exhumations be happening simultaneously? Also, what kind of a timeline is this episode happening on? Getting parents to okay digging up bodies, performing autopsies on skeletons:

Doesn't all of that seem unbelievably time-consuming? This is worse than when that girl made it from San Diego to Rhode Island for police interview 20 minutes after being called.

The corner in the scene gets a line so stupid he would win the practice award, if he worked for the FBI. He announces that they missed the umbilical cord the first time around because he'd assumed that the girl was just another victim of the Straits who'd lived too hard a life, and paid the consequences for it. So, first, not sure how you'd miss and umbilical cord given its placement on the body; moving on to less visually disturbing issues, if he didn't know about the pregnancy and umbilical cord and whatnot, how did the FBI find this victim? In the first act we were told that all of the victims were linked by virtue of the fact that there autopsies shown that they had given birth immediately before being murdered. If were supposed to believe the corners current claims, how did that pregnancy wind up in the file?

Also on the stupid front, the corner announces that the child should be "four or five now", as if he didn't know when the girl was murdered. Here's a hint, moron – there was still and umbilical cord piece in the victim's body, the day she was murdered was the baby's birthday. And don't tell me he might not know what day she was murdered, he performed the autopsy, and has now just performed a re-autopsy, meaning that he just looked at the file from the first procedure – no one in the world, other than the killer, is in a better position to know that baby's birthday.

God, this is a stupid show sometimes. By which I mean, of course, all the time.

Somehow the money showed up for the DNA tests, though, and Penelope has already confirmed that the baby wasn't adopted in New Mexico - so they're going to have to stretch their investigations into other, neighbouring states! Luckily, since they're the FBI, they're in a position to do that without too much trouble. Greg, continuing to act twitchy, asks Derek to put together a 'preliminary profile', even though they know essentially nothing about the killer. What's going on with him this week? Did Derek get another job offer?

Joe reveals that Derek isn't a problem at all - Greg's getting heat from upstairs! Is it just me, or is this development completely out of left field? Sure, maybe he's been a little distracted, what with the Reaper stalking him and all, but he's still catching a murderer every week like clockwork. What could they possibly have to complain about? Is he not turning his paperwork in a timely fashion?

Hopefully they'll stay out of his way, since a new victim is being kidnapped that very night, delivered to the killer by a scummy drug user who he employs for just that purpose! Although that's not much of a ticking clock, since the killer is going to wean her off drugs, get her into good shape, impregnate her, and wait for her to deliver the child before killing her. That's at least a year before she's in danger of being murdered. They'll still rescue her in like 48 hours, though, I'm sure.

The next day Penelope is looking into the adoption in the surrounding states, and she pauses to ask a disgusting question - if they find the 4-year-old girl alive and living with a good family, wouldn't it be more traumatic if she's pulled away and given to her grandparents?

The answer, of course, is no. And I can't believe she would even think of it. Yes, she was raised by her relatives after her parents were killed, so I'm sure that she's predisposed towards liking adoption, but this is an entirely different case. This girl is the product of a vicious crime, and her father murdered her mother. That's going to come up later, and it's going to be bad, whoever she's living with. Adding to that stress the fact that she was placed with her current parents, in one way or another, by her murderous father, the only moral, healthy move in this situation would be to give that child to her grandparents.

Greg continues hassling Derek about the profile - the only conclusion that he drew was that the prenatal drugs means that the killer is most likely working with a woman (because it would be easier to get prescriptions for her than to steal them, I suppose - although they should really be looking into thefts), and Greg demands more random guesswork from his subordinate. JJ saves Derek from an awkward situation by showing up with a more useful clue: they've found the little girl!

It seems that my theory was wrong - the killer dropped the baby off in Arizona, meaning that the killer must live there! More importantly, they find themselves wondering why a twisted sexual sadist and torturer would take such care in making sure that the babies were taken into good homes - which doesn't track. Although I'm not sure why they were sticking with the 'sexual sadist' thing up until this point. Yes, he's a rapist and a murderer, but producing children seems to be the focus, which is a completely different kind of motivation, and they should have been basing their investigations on that for days now.

Meanwhile, the new victim has woken up in her cage, where the rules are explained to her by Carol, the girl in the next cell who, in an unsurprising twist, is revealed to be pregnant! Still not sure why she's a brunette-

But let's move on, right? I'm sure that's going to be explained later on.

Now it's time for the profile - he's a sexual sadist, and she's a submissive victim! He gets to brutalize women, and she gets the babies! It's every bit as awful as you'd think!

Then there's a little more drama - the grandfather wants the child back, but the grandmother is so concerned about damaging her psyche that she's willing to leave her with her adoptive parents. Look, if you people are infirm or something, that's fine, but don't imagine that it's going to be less psychologically traumatic to leave her with the people that her evil father brought her to. Man, I'm taking this episode way too seriously.

By checking on children who were abandoned around the time of their mothers' deaths, at churches of the same denomination as the one the first baby was dropped off at. This leads to  Reid delivering the stupidest line of the night:

Yeah, that's a triangle. You'd think he would know the difference. By studying the babies who've been dropped off, the team finally finds the connection they've been looking for - the villains get rid of the littler girls, and keep the boys!

The team rushes off to Phoenix, and we finally get a look at our ticking clock: The brunette is going to deliver her child! And if it's a girl, she's going to be killed!

While preparing a list of doctors for them to talk to about the drug situation, Derek finally discovers what Greg's problem is. JJ lets him know about Greg's meeting with 'the chief', and tells about Greg having to 'justify every decision' that he makes lately. Wait - is he seriously annoyed because of paperwork? That was just supposed to be a bad joke...

The doctor then solves the case while talking to Joe - it seems that the drugs the women are given aren't the optimal choice for getting someone pregnant, but they can also be used, in that combination, to treat a specific disease! Now they just have to check for women with that disease who are also married to sex offenders!

Before we get there, though, Derek finally confronts Greg about the paperwork thing. He demands to know why he's got to write up a plan for how they're going to go into a house and rescue the children without any of them being killed - he's never done so in the past! Whoa - hold on a second there. Let's look at both parts of this, shall we? First off, why is he writing up a plan before they know the details of where the killer lives - seems like cart before the horse. More importantly, Greg announces that Derek hasn't ever had to write one up because he always did the work himself, after the fact.

Seriously, he says that. The way this team operates is that Greg lets Derek just 'wing it' whenever they have to rescue someone or arrest a suspect, and then, after it goes well, he writes it up as if it had all been a brilliant plan that was executed perfectly?

This is like a microcosm for everything that's wrong with profiling! Also, Greg deserves to have his team taken away from him.

Matching breast cancer survivors with sex-criminal husbands find them one pair, with a requisite tragic backstory that's supposed to explain their crimes (not going into it here), and the team gets ready to go on their rescue mission! At the same time, Carol has successfully delivered a baby boy (phew!), and the killer arrives to steal away his latest son. The new victim passively stands by and watches this happen, doing nothing but ineffectually begging to let Carol spend a little more time with her child.

Why is this bothering me so much? The killer walks into the room with no weapons of any kind:

Meanwhile, the new girl is literally holding a pair of scissors in her right hand, fresh from using it on the umbilical cord.

Come on. If you're not willing to stab someone in the neck with a pair of scissors to save yourself from years of torture, inevitably ending in your murder, what is your life even worth? It's not even like the evil cancer-victim wife could lock them in - she's in the room as well, and too weak to fight!

The team develops a ridiculous plan for the raid: send in JJ and Emily, hoping that two women can gain the trust of the kids and get them out of the house, preventing a hostage situation. Which is great and all, but why is a PR person putting on a vest and grabbing a gun? Do you not remember how poorly this went when you tried it with Eddie Cibrian? More importantly, if the killers are so obtuse that they haven't noticed the SWAT van in their driveway and the dozen armed men running up to the house:

What are the odds that you can't just knock on the front door and shoot the killer when he opens it? Your profile indicates that the mother's obsessed with the children - would she really use one as a hostage?

Anyhoo, the plan goes great, the children are freed, including the latest baby, who has to be rescued from the wife after a tense sequence where the creepy lady is holding the child in her lap. Well, I say tense - there's really no reason they couldn't just shoot her in the head and take the baby. It's sitting in her lap, the worst thing that's going to happen is that it will lie there until Greg or Derek picks it up.


Except that they let the child stay with her adoptive parents - even though the five-year-old son they rescue is also the child of the first dead girl, and is turned over to the grandparents. Yes, that's right, they split up a full-blooded brother and sister. Half-wits.

Also, the family situation of the other two girls is never resolved. Thanks for that.

Oh, right, and Greg turns the team over to Derek so that the higher-ups won't get in their way until this whole 'Reaper' thing is resolved. I'm guessing that the net effect of this development on future plotlines will be close to nothing.

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

This time, yes - they correctly intuit that rapists are incapable of caring for children, meaning that another person, a wife or girlfriend, must have been involved. This was a decent conclusion, that actually helped.

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

Pretty much. The case was largely solved by tracking the drugs in the system of the dead girls, and checking that against the sex crimes offenders list. All pretty basic investigative work.

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


Oh, and remember that 'geographic profiling' of Reid's?

Note that the center of the 'radius' is essentially the middle of downtown Phoenix. Now take a look at where the killers live:

One of the generic rural farmhouses where all the killers on this show invariably hang their hats! Accurate as ever, Reid.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't really call it splitting up the two siblings since they probably don't even know each other exists. And do you really think its a good idea to yank the girl from the life she's already used to? If it were me, I'd want to stay with the people I've always known, have my questions answered as I ask them, and get to know my "real" family on my own terms.

Anonymous said...

It absolutely isn't right to take a child from the only home she's ever known, with loving parents, just because someone else decides they want her. JJ was incorrect to tell the grandparents the law was on their side, and I don't know why she did. The child was legally adopted after being left at a church.

Even if there had been an issue of consent not having been given for the adoption - the mother was already dead, the father had abandoned the child and the grandparents' opinion is not usually sought when an adult chooses to give up their child for adoption.

Do you need reminding that these wonderful grandparents are the same people who raised their daughter to be a drug-addicted runaway?

Anonymous said...

Also, why didn't the killers take another girl sooner? I get that maybe they only like to have two girls at any one time, but it'll take ages to get that new girl healthy before they can "use" her -why put yourself in a situation where you've got two heavily pregnant girls and both may "need" to be killed if they produce girls?

On that point, how harsh is that? The first girl produced a healthy boy first, but was still not given a little leeway when her next child was a girl. Why so impatient? Surely it takes longer to get a new girl ready than to keep using the same one, who's proven she can bear sons. Not that I'm a proponent of such archaic beliefs - doesn't the sex of the baby come from the father?

Why did the brunette say that if anything happened to the baby she'd be killed? She then said, in practically the same breath, that she'd had a dead son - and it didn't matter that he was dead, he was still a son, so she was forgiven. So really the danger lies in having a girl - and no matter how carefully you give birth, you can't alter that.

Kalieka said...

In the opening scenes where the pregnant woman is giving birth while the other woman held captive actually delivers the baby, I doubt either of the two women were in any shape to take on a full grown, healthy male who has already proven effective in subduing multiple women at a time. Just saying.

Preach on! lol Still enjoying your rationalization of the facts in the episodes.

I know I am a little late to the party, but, hey... I can still play pin the tail on the donkey, right?? :-P

Sorrelfue said...

Can I ask why you kept calling hotch Greg? It jsut kept throwing me off

The Hidden Object Guru said...

Hey sorrelfue, it's just a running gag I'm fond of. No one ever objects to me calling David Joe, though. It's a little weird. Anyhoo, check the right side of the blog, there's an explanation there.

JP said...

What struck me about this episode is the boy they found and the new baby both being named Michael. Say the situation kept going for more years before they were caught -- would they have had a house full of boys all named Michael?

Anonymous said...

That's not downtown Phoenix.

It's an area of neighborhoods of full-size single-family midcentury homes on large lots. Some large enough to keep livestock on.

Hanna said...

As a German, I have to point out that Josef Fritzl - the name-checked German guy is actually Austrian. His story is so horrible that I am almost glad you didn't do the fact check on him.

He kept his daughter in a cellar without any natural light for 24 years and had 7 children with her. Some of them got to join his upstairs-family and some of them he kept with their mother in the tiny cellar. His eldest graddaughter didn't see the sun until she was 19. I am not going into more detail here because that is all I remember and I can't bring myself to research this case right now.

Hanna said...

Also I have to say, this time you're the half-wit.

Yes, the trauma of finding out about her parents will be traumatic for the little girl. But it's not like the father gave her to friends of his. He left her at a church and someone adopted her.
If she ends up with her grandparents, this is also because of the father. If he hadn't raped and killed her mother she wouldn't even exist or live with her grandparents who might just be worse equipped to rais a child at their age than the couple who got approved for adoption.
She can have grandparents that are her grandparents and still live with the only family she has ever known.

The trauma of removing her from her parents (and yes, her adoptive parents are her parents) would be much more traumatic than the realisation that they only have her because of a monster. Yes, being the product of a horrific crime can't be easy, but being ripped out of your family is far worse.

It's not like the girl is a baby who doesn't remember anything.

I really love your intelligent commentary on this show but this time you were just plain wrong. Seriously, if you still believe this, please talk to a therapist.

Anonymous said...

Didn’t this happen in a previous episode? The grandparents discovered a boy and they ripped him from his home while he was playing catch with his other brother??

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure Strauss is the Chief of Staff for the BAU. Also pretty sure that the FBI structure and ranking system is pretty easy to look up? I dunno.

Also just a note: it really does seem sometimes like you just want something bad to say about this show. Why have you watched and reviewed every episode if you dislike it so much?