Criminal Minds 506: The Eyes Have It

As the episode begins, a creepy, shadowed man is putting ice in a cooler, then packing up some odd tools in his white van. Is this guy the week's serial killer, since there's literally nothing more the show could do to state that beyond putting a neon sign announcing it over his head - or is this a clever misdirect, and he'll be revealed to be the first victim of the night?

Of course it's not a misdirect. The audience doesn't care when the victim's not a pretty girl, don't you know? The killer watches them from a parking garage with binoculars, then slashes both of their throats!

Over in Washington, Derek is hanging out with the murder victim's sister from two weeks ago (should I learn her name? If she shows up for a third episode, I will.), talking about his recent promotion and her gradually getting over her brother's murder. Will they start dating? It seems like it! Especially after she hands over a cross that belonged to her brother - which is extra resonant because of Derek's own rocky relationship with his faith!

Derek maps out the team's plan to go and look into the opening murders to the 'chief', then goes out of his way to make it abundantly clear that he's only in charge of the unit until this whole 'Reaper' thing gets sorted out. Which is a great sentiment, and makes him look like a real square G.

Hey, remind me why they're not looking for the most wanted man in America right now? Shouldn't there be like a million dollar reward for information leading to this guy's capture? Wouldn't Nancy Grace be on top of this every single night?

Anyhoo, onto the actual case. Remember the dead teenagers? Yeah, their eyes were scooped out. That's what the weird tools were for. Ick. They were the second and third victim of the killer - and like all killers on the show, he's a spree killer: if they don't stop him immediately, he's going to kill again! And, of course, they won't stop him right away, since he'll need to take that mid-episode victim to raise the stakes.

Also, he keeps the eyes in his fridge. Which, according to the team, is strange for eye-gougers, who tend to leave the body parts in question at the scene. And, I know this is a little disgusting, but they didn't mention that some kind of a special tool was used to remove the eye. Given that the ones in that jar were pristine (at least as pristine as removed eyes can get), and that the faces of the victims were almost untouched-

It seems pretty obvious that some manner of specialized implement if being involved in the process. It's not like he just dug in there with a knife and sawed around until... you know what, that image is making me a little sick. Let's pick this up after the credits, shall we?

The story picks up on the plane, where the team continue to debate the importance of various points of the crime scene. All of the victims had different eye colors, and the first one's body was dumped, while the second two were left where they fell. Does this mean the killer was worried that he could be linked to the first victim? Is the killer suffering from religious mania, as is suggested because apparently all killers who gouge out people's eyes do it because they see "the devil" in them?

More importantly, though, since they always wind up having these long conversations about the murders while they're flying on the plane, why do they ever go over the case notes back at Quantico? It's not like the team ever turns down the case that JJ presents to them, after all. Isn't it a huge waste of time having a meeting about the case at the FBI building then driving to the airport (presumably in one SUV) and spending four hours on a plane together? Would be a much more efficient use of time to simply do the case presentation on the way? Or does the show need to amortize the cost of the fancy office set?

There's a bit of an awkward moment at the end of the scene when Derek parcels out the assignments in the standard way, but he's given pause when he hears that the families of the victims would like to see the team leader – he's clearly not prepared to be called that yet.

Reid and Greg had down to the police station and talk to the officer in charge of the case. They learn that there was a 22 mile distance between the killings which they find suspiciously odd: according to the characters serial killers tend to have a much smaller hunting ground. In case you weren't timing this - it's been less than 1 minute in the show between the characters wondering what the significance of the killer dumping the first body was, and Reid exclaiming that it's very unusual for a killer's victims to be taken such a wide distance apart. Can they really have forgotten that the team doesn't know where the first victim was killed? Do they expect us not to remember that when it was the key point of information we learned in the previous scene?

Wow. Halfwits.

After learning from Garcia that no eye gougers have been recently released from a mental institution, Reid drops some upsetting knowledge: occasionally eye thieves will devour the object of their obsessions. And if that were to disgusting enough idea, this show then immediately cuts to the killer eating a hard-boiled egg:

 We had a much better look at the killer this time and he turns out to be an unkempt freak with scraggly facial hair and long greasy locks. Not useful information for the team, but it will allow us to eliminate suspects as red herrings a little later on, I'm sure.

Derek and JJ go to visit the family of one of the teen girls, the Asian one as it turns out; whose race is immediately explained when it turns out the family are strict Buddhists who believe that she won't be able to rest unless her eyes are burned with her corpse. I say that her race needed to be explained not because I find it implausible that there are Asians living in Oklahoma City, of course there are, but I find it super unusual that there are Asians on the show criminal minds. For those keeping track, this is happened basically never in the show's almost 100 episodes up to this point. It's possible I'm exaggerating a little here, and the episodes of just run together in my head so I'm forgetting some obvious Asians who ought to jump to the forefront of my mind, but other than that one semi-famous character actor who was their LA liaison on the first season stalking case, I can't remember a single other Asian actor ever having been on the show. Which shouldn't really be a surprise, I guess after all I'm sure we're all familiar with the famous song "Nobody's Asian in the Movies".

There doesn't seem to have been anyone with a grudge against the first victim, but his position in the order of death along with the fact that his body was dropped in a remote location that the killer must've known still suggests a connection between the two of them. The ME calls with some important information: while the first eyes were torn out a little more roughly, the latest victims had their eyes almost surgically removed. This, along with the fact that the killer laid in wait for the victims at the parking garage, suggests that this guy is going to be incredibly hard to catch. Why? He simply doesn't demonstrate the kind of rash behavioral characteristics that are supposed to be so common with this type of killer.
They also make a big deal about his lack of a "cooling off period", although I'm not sure why, given that every single killer they've caught lacks one of those. I'm not even sure why the characters on this show know the term “cooling off period”, since that's a phenomenon that doesn't exist in the world of Criminal Minds.
We're 15 minutes into the show so it's obviously time for another victim. A woman gets separated from her jogging group when she pauses to take a drink, and when she starts up again the killer uses a tripwire to knock her down, then brutally murders her and steals her eyes. The whole thing lasts around 30 seconds and is one of the creepiest kill scenes the show has done. Which is kind of odd, actually. There's one thing this show loves, it's drawn out, super cruel kill scenes. I wonder what caused this one to be so restrained and effective? Different director this week perhaps?

While Reid and JJ are dead ending in their search for eye doctors turned bad, the rest of the team finds evidence of the tripwire out at the crime scene. Adding the trapping to throat slashing and lying in wait, the team comes to a reasonable conclusion: they must be dealing with a hunter! Actually, that would go a long way to explaining why his murder tools were sewn into a piece of leather that he unrolled, rather than some kind of a case with a zipper. Still no mention of the specialized tool he must be using to take the eyes out, though, which seems like a bit of an oversight on their part. Well, them and the ME, really.

In the next scene there's some blather about how unusual it is that the killer seems to be improving with each attack, while these types of killers normally collapse in on themselves. I would personally argue that the second attack was more impressive than the third, taking out two people without resorting to traps, but I don't even know why they're treating this guy as a normal eye stealer, since he already doesn't feature any of the criteria they announce one of them is supposed to have. What good are having these all-important profiles if they're not even going to use them to narrow down who they're looking for?

Oh hey, speaking of, guess who's responsible for that woman getting killed the night before? The team! Surprising, right? It turns out that they didn't announce to the press that there was a serial killer murdering people at random. Even though they knew they were dealing with a madman who killed three people in three nights and had every likelihood of keeping the streak going. If it was major news in Oklahoma City that there is a twisted serial killer tearing the eyes out of anyone who was caught on their own, do you really think that woman would've gotten separated from her group? Do you think she would've gone out jogging on an isolated a wooded path in the first place?

Dammit team, stop murdering people!

There's subplot stuff about whether Derek is doing enough to stay on top of his duties as manager of the team, specifically talking to the chief, but I'm kind of tuning all of this plotline out, since Greg is obviously going to be back in charge of the team by the end of the season, once they've dealt with that whole reaper thing.

The team gives their profile that afternoon, and then the show cuts to that night, where we've lost all connection to reality.

Yup, even though people know that there's a twisted serial killer out there gouging the eyes out of people's heads after brutally slashing them to death, a killer on a timeline wherein he performs these heinous acts every single night, this couple has still gone out into a park for a date. I feel like these two might deserve to die. Especially after they see a creepy guy fiddling with a transformer box down the path from them and then all of the lights go out. They still take their time and nervously debate what they should do. As if "running in the opposite direction of the psycho" wasn't an option. It's not even that dark:

Certainly not dark enough to require that the villain wear night vision goggles, which he does. Frankly, it shouldn't be that difficult to get away from a guy who's got a carry a toolkit with him, and is only capable of seeing through a camera. While it's nice that the show was mixing it up by having more than the normal quota of victims, there's really no reason for the characters to be this stupid for the episode to work. You know, if someone had a near miss just once, it would still be scary. And it would also reflect the fact many, many, many serial killers have near-victims get away from them, in fact, most of the time, that's how they get caught.

When the team arrives at the local office they discover that's Derek spent all night there thinking over the case. He hasn't come up to any conclusions, which suggests that he should've just gone back to the hotel and slept. While discussing the ways in which the case doesn't make sense, something odd the comes up. Derek finds it hard to believe that they're looking for a doctor who is also a hunter as well as being a mental patient. Which makes me wonder: why do they still think he's a doctor? The entire doctor supposition was based around the fact that he had enough expertise with using a knife on a living creature to remove the eyeball in a careful fashion. The moment the team started assuming that he was a hunter, they should've recognized that was an alternative theory to the while 'doctor' thing, rather than merely an addendum to it. They should be working looking for one or the other, not necessarily both. That doesn't stop Joe from getting the dumbest line of the episode though:

The team find something on that the new crime scene; of the couple only the woman had her eyes harvested, the man, who had an eye injured in the fight with the attacker, was left unmutilated. The team immediately jumps from this information to the conclusion that the killer must be searching for perfect sets of eyeballs, and naturally, the only person he would need those would be a taxidermist! So, to follow up on Joe's prediction, here's the manner in which the profile made sense: It was wrong.

The taxidermist theory immediately pans out, when a quick search of the the first victim's records reveal that he had recent dealings with a local taxidermy shop. The proprietor of which, it turns out, had an unbelievably creepy son:

Hold on a second there – while looking into the background of the man who had his eyes removed by a brutal serial killer, they didn't notice that he'd written a check just six weeks ago to a taxidermist? A taxidermist whose son has been jailed for torturing animals to death? It occurs to me that the team and I have very different criteria for what constitutes a thorough background check.

Now that they know who the killer is it's simply a matter of tracking him down!

First we're offered a look into his motivation for the killings, though. It seems that the bank was planning on taking away the killer's taxidermy shop, which made him stressed, and then the first victim was so unimpressed by the killer's ability to do the eyes on a stuffed trophy properly, that the killer elected to smash his head in with an ashtray. This, naturally, led to his obsession with collecting human eyes, which he's no doubt using in the trophies that people are buying from him.

I know this is just going to reveal my own ignorance when it comes to taxidermy, but I'd always assumed that taxidermists just just bought glass eyes from some sort of a manufacturer, rather than making them themselves. Unless the victim was talking about the killer doing a terrible job of installing the eyes inside the trophy. A problem that I doubt using human eyes would fix. Again this might just be something I'm naïve about, maybe all taxidermists are also glass workers.

So how are they going to track the killer down? They rush to his place of work, but find he's already out on some deliveries – the team does discover what he's been doing with the eyes though:

Look, I know the point is that he's crazy, but no one would ever accept delivery of a Lynx with human eyes. Way too creepy.

By searching the killer's ledger they find a connection to all of the murder sites: they were all in areas where he delivered a finished product on the same day. Now it's simply a matter of catching him at his latest delivery. Of course they're moments too late and have to run through the neighborhood, desperately searching for the final victim, a woman who's stupid enough to be walking around on her own at night in a city where a mad slasher is killing literally anyone he comes across.

She's fine though, managing to spray the killer with mace, which delays him just long enough that Greg can run and and rescue her; sadly not by shooting the killer. The killer also does his part in delaying the death until Greg can get there - while in every other case he's immediately slit the victim's throat and then gone after their eyes, in this case he pins her to the ground and attaches a bizarre contraption to her face-

While she's still alive. Thanks for the help, madman!

There's a ridiculous beat where Derek critiques Greg for not awaiting backup before taking the killer down – I say it's ridiculous because Greg arrived literally one second before a knife was jammed into the woman's eye. What would waiting around have accomplished?


Except they wrap up the Buddhism storyline, with Derek turning the dead woman's eyes over her to her family: creepy and heartwarming!

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

Not especially. I'm looking for a way to attribute the 'taxidermy' thing to psychologic insight, but it was really more process of elimination.

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

So the dead guy didn't mention to a single person he knew that on the day he died he was heading over to the taxidermist's to pick up his severed head? And the cops didn't look into his movements in the weeks before he died at all? How was this freak not already caught?

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

1/10 - Yeah, weak work this weak, fellas. Also, it suddenly occurs to me that the contraption on the woman's eye in the picture above was supposed to be like that thing from Clockwork Orange, with her eyelids being pulled wide apart by the arms so he can go in and scoop the eye right out. Obviously there's no way they were ever actually going to put one of those onto a actress' face, so maybe they should have just left it out of the episode...


Anonymous said...

You've got a couple blocks of text the same color as the background.

Other than that great post as usual

Vardulon said...

Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for the heads up - you'd think by now I'd have learned how to use blogger, but apparently not.

Anonymous said...

I know this post is really old, but when I searched Criminal Minds recaps these were far and away the best ones I've read. And I completely missed that this was filmed (? maybe just took place in?) in OKC, which is weird because I've lived there many many years and could not tell at all.

ANYWAY. Love the recaps :)

Bugmenot said...

@Anonymous, most portions of most episodes of most TV series are filmed in LA, except for a few establishing shots.