Criminal Minds 509: 100

Previously on Criminal Minds:
There's a fake Zodiac Killer out there, and he loves killing like Garfield loves lasagna. For some reason, the country at large doesn't seem very interested in this fact. Seriously, he was able to disappear into the aether with no trouble at all. Try to wrap your head around that - the entire city of San Francisco was obsessed with the Zodiac, and the country was largely aware that it was going on. Now imagine a killer exactly as famous, only everyone in the country knows his name and what he looks like: how long would that manhunt last? Twelve hours? Twenty-four?

John List murdered his family and then disappeared for 18 years, living a whole other life as Robert Clark, without anyone getting especially suspicious. He was featured on an episode of America's Most Wanted, and less than two weeks later he was under arrest.

What I'm saying is, there had better be one hell of an explanation for how this guy managed to avoid being caught.

Alright, so - on to the show!

Things open with huge numbers of police and FBI agents convening on a house in the suburbs of California!

Okay, it's probably not supposed to be in California, but come on. Look at those trees. Anyhoo, the cops seem disgusted and shocked by what they've seen inside, so this is going to be rough, no doubt about it. On the upside, though, Reid's not wearing the leg brace any more! Good for you, actor!

Inside a few cops huddle over a body lying at the corner of a room - it's already covered by a sheet, and there doesn't seem to be any blood around:

So this can't be the shocking death. Next we follow bloody footprints upstairs, where a second body lies next to a bed. But who is it? The show doesn't let us see, but this paramedic:

Seems stunned by the sight. Actually this guy gets like four seconds of slow-motion screen time. Weird.

Now, while the credits are running, let's try to figure out who the bodies are! One of them is obviously the Reaper. He's not getting a fourth episode, I'll state that right now - add common sense to the fact that this is the hundredth episode of Criminal Minds (oh my god I've reviewed 99 of these? Seriously? 112 if you count Suspect Behaviour? I am known primarily by my poor life decisions) and you've got a perfectly dramatic opportunity to wrap up a storyline.

So one of the corpses is Reaper, and the other isn't Greg - he's pointedly not in the slow-mo sequence, but I know he survives since his name came up on SB - so obviously they want me to think the other body is Greg's son or Greg's wife. Well, obviously his wife, since this show isn't killing Greg's son, come on. I don't think it's the wife, either, and I'll tell you why - D.B. Sweeny is playing the Marshall handling her move into the witness protection program. Like I said when I first saw him, you don't put an actor that familiar in such a throwaway part.

So that's Sweeny dead, and the family's fine. I'm calling it now, Cirminal Minds - you didn't fool me!

We'll find out if they fooled me after the opening credits!

As the show proper opens we're finally treated to Nietszche's famous Abyss quote - fulfilling the contractual obligation of every fiction involving serial killers, then we're on to JJ being interviewed by the chief - so the whole episode is going to be in flashback?

After some conversation about whether Greg's been responsible in his pursuit of the Reaper. JJ points out that everyone's been working the case, not just Greg - after the Reaper sent the clippings to the Fox, everyone 'ramped up again'. Which seems flat-out crazy to me. I know I'm having trouble letting this go, but why did you ever stop looking for him?

JJ offers a lead they were working on - trying to track down the combination of drugs that the Reaper had been taking because of his stabbing injuries. She gets a clue when out shopping for baby supplies with Junior!

Hey, Junior, we've missed you! JJ also talks to two random agents on the phone:

Which suggests that they'll be important later, or are production people cameoing - they offer literally no useful information, and it seems strange that an actor would be hired solely to deliver the kind of information that Garcia is there for.

So, what's the clue she gets at the pharmacy? That sometimes prescription drugs can be replaced with over-the-counter drugs! Wait, it took a revelation and six months of searching to realize this? Shouldn't they have just run the Reaper's list of drugs by a doctor right away and asked about them?

God, this show.

Anyhoo, now that they're looking for the combination of just a couple of super hard-to-find drugs, it should make it easier to find him! Also, they figure out where the letters to the serial killer were mailed from, and rush to get Garcia's help in narrowing down the search even further. When Greg and JJ get to her office, it turns out that Xander is there with her!

Wow, this week is guest-star central, isn't it?

Oh, and the flashback structure flips over to Garcia now. It seems even she isn't free from questioning by that nefarious chief!

In her part of the story, she checks out the two cities that the letters were mailed from, and compares it to the people who share the Reaper's prescriptions in that general area.

Here are the two things we can learn from this scene:

1: As usual, the FBI has no trouble violating the medical privacy of every single person in Maryland and Virginia. Also, they're assuming he's going to legitimate pharmacies and not getting his drugs off the black or grey markets.

2: The Reaper might be smart enough to create a false identity and disappear, but he's obviously not smart enough to use a basic re-mailing service to hide where his evil mail is coming from.

Oh my god, I just went to that website - they'll even address and add postage for you to baffle forensics. How is this a legal company?

Assuming that he would have mailed the letters from two points roughly equidistant from his home, the team picks a twenty-five mile radius in the middle, and looks at all the drug users in that area. Greg assumes that The Reaper is such a narcissist that he'd use a name associated with the case - which winds up being Peter Rhea, an anagram for 'The Reaper'.

Seriously? An anagram? Did this guy want to get caught? Also, he's living in downtown Arlington Virginia, surprisingly close to Quantico. As if people wouldn't recognize him.

Also, Greg mentions that they have to hurry, since the Reaper never stays in one place very long. Really? He lived in Boston for like a decade after the last murders, and you've got no idea where he's been since. Why are you assuming he moves around a lot?

Anyhoo, the story now flips over to Joe, who's being asked why the team didn't immediately raid the Reaper's apartment when they found out where he lived. Which is actually a pretty good question, come to think of it. Unless the reason is that they wanted to make sure he was inside, in which case I give them a pass.

Except for the fact that the people waiting for The Reaper are sitting in an FBI sedan, wearing FBI bulletproof vests, just down the street from his apartment. Also, they're two of the only four FBI agents whose faces he definitely knows.

Does it not occur to them that he could be walking home with an armful of groceries right now, and that seeing them could easily spook him?

Tired of waiting, Derek has an agent pretending to be the superintendant knock on the door and then peek inside the apartment. Using the camera they discover that he's not in the apartment - how? By seeing the pile of mail on the floor, a couple days' worth!


The door doesn't have a mail slot. Because why would it. This is an apartment building. God, this is a terrible show.

The hilarious thing? Someone on the show realized the mistake too late to make any changes, so they give Joe a howler of a line, attempting to cover for it:

Yes, Joe, that's a characteristic way that people drop their mail when they're in a rush. That's obviously what the pile of mail on the floor meant. Also, The Reaper is living in a flophouse under an assumed name, and according to Greg he could have only been there a couple of weeks - why on Earth does he have such a huge pile of mail?

Scanning his laptop, they discover that he had an internet alert warning him that people were searching for Peter Rhea, which gave him time to escape! Wait, he knew that an internal FBI search was happening? Seriously? Then he set his laptop to format the hard drive (rather than simply taking it with him), which proves to be the slowest format in the history of computers - when the team looks at the computer, it's still manually deleting one file at a time:

Didn't they wait outside for hours to see if he was still inside the apartment? How could this still be going on? Also, if you don't want the FBI to have the information on your laptop, why didn't you take it with you? Isn't the whole point of using a laptop that you can just pick it up and take it with you?

Anyhoo, Garcia finds photos of D.B. Sweeny on the computer, meaning that the Reaper has been following him all this time, and might even know where Greg's family is! The team rushes over to Sweeny's house - Reid is being questioned by the chief, now, and asked to explain why they didn't send a tactical team to the house instead of going themselves. He explains that it would have taken too long to get 'authorization'.

Um, really? You know there's a tactical team in the room with you, right? I'm sure if you told them 'hey, guys, a serial killer is going to murder a US Marshall right now, do you think you could hop back in your SUVs and go save him?' they would have been pretty reasonable about it.

Or, you know, you could have just called that city's police, who certainly have a unit closer to the house than you are.

The team rushes inside and finds Sweeny already brutally stabbed. There goes my guess. Did they actually kill of Greg's wife? Seriously? That's hardcore, people.

The Reaper shot Sweeny a couple of times, but he wouldn't talk. So he grabbed the Marshall's phone and started dialing all of the preset numbers on it. Oh, and Sweeny dies in the ambulance.

The Reaper gets Greg's wife on the phone and pretends to be another Marshall - he tells her that her location has been compromised to The Reaper, and that Greg is dead! His plan? To lure her somewhere she can be killed by pretending to be a US Marshall!

Which is scary, except that this could never work. Yes, it sounds effective, getting her to throw away her phone and only contact him for fear of the call being 'intercepted', except it doesn't make the least amount of sense. It's not like she's on the run from a globe-spanning conspiracy and can't be sure who to trust. She's running from one man who everyone in the country knows the face of.

You know what can't be intercepted? A landline call to 911. She could drive to literally any police station or FBI office in the world and be completely safe until the Marshall service comes to get her - the fact that the Reaper isn't telling her to do that is amazingly suspicious on its face, and no amount of shock could convince you that you'd be safer with a stranger on the phone rather than a hundred cops.

Although, maybe he's telling her to meet him at a 'Marshall Office' where he'll abduct her, and this will all make sense soon enough. Even if that's the case, it still seems amazingly shady.

Now it's time for Emily's interview!

She fills us in on how they tracked the Reaper's phone - he's still in Virginia, but why, if Greg's wife is in New Jersey? Greg goes rogue and calls the Reaper on the Marshal's cell phone (I'll accept that his phone has to be secret, and doesn't have GPS). The two of them chat for a moment about the Reaper's backstory - it seems that he was adopted by a rich family after an abusive childhood. I seriously appreciate them explaining where he got all the money for his many identities and properties. Greg pleads with him not to murder any more, and just let it end, but just then the Reaper reveals that Greg's wife has arrived at the location he told her to go to:

Which is profoundly not anything you could mistake for a Marshall office, BTW. Also, if she was living under the radar in New Jersey, why does her car have Virginia plates?

They don't have a good idea where the Reaper is, but they're sure that he would want Greg to be able to find them, and he mentioned 'opening a gate' when he talked to Greg's wife on the phone - Greg's old house had a gate in front of the driveway!

Okay, hold on a second - Greg's wife drove to her old home? The one place on earth that a serial killer would know to look for her? When literally any other place on the planet would be a safer place to hide? And when she arrived she wasn't surprised at the lack of a thousand cops waiting for her? And she didn't use her disposable, untraceable cell phone to call any of the dozen FBI agents she knows personally to get their help or ask about Greg?

Greg's wife: Too stupid to live. The producers of Criminal Minds: Too stupid to make television.

Derek calls Greg to tell him about the house, but Greg already figured it out, and he's just a few blocks away. He gets a call from the Reaper, who's in the living room of the house with his wife and child!

So, for the record, Greg's wife, who was being hunted by a serial killer, had no idea what that serial killer looked like, even though his identity was widely-disseminated public information.

God, I hate this show sometimes.

Greg's wife is confused to be talking to Greg (having thought he was dead, remember?), and quickly figures out what's going on. She apologizes to Greg for getting herself and their child killed through her own stupidity (not that she phrases it that way...), and then lets Greg talk to their son for a moment. In a weirdly insane moment, Greg's wife announces that she knows not to show the Reaper any fear, because that's what he gets off on. How does she know this? Because Sweeny told her all about him. That's right - she got the profile without every getting a picture.

(The sound of screaming inside my own head)

Greg then asks to speak with his son, and then awkwardly tells him to 'work the case', after which the son runs off. I can only assume that this is a special codeword they prepared that means the child should run next door or something.

Oh, and just in case you thought she wanted to continue living, after her son is out of the room she doesn't throw herself at the Reaper, fighting with every bit of strength in her for survival. Not like she wouldn't have an advantage, either:

He's a sickly man with massive internal injuries kneeling on the ground, she's a fit woman capable of kicking him in the head. So naturally, after a tearful goodbye to Greg, she docilely lets herself be shot to death.

Greg speeds up to the house and rushes inside, unwilling to wait for backup. He finds the Reaper hiding upstairs and shoots him a bunch of times, but it turns out the old bulletproof vest trick had been pulled, and a fistfight ensues! A fistfight that ends with the Reaper trying to surrender, and Greg dashing the villain's brains out against the floor of the dining room.

So, all sarcasm aside, good work on that one, Greg.

Now all that's left to do is for the chief to sign off on Greg's actions, which she totally does.


Well, other than Greg's wife dying. Which is kind of a kick in the gut. But the son is fine - it turns out that 'working the case' means taking a nap in a storage box in Greg's office, which he liked to do when Greg was working on paperwork late into the night.

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

The crime was not solved. Every single part of the Reaper's plan went completely right, up until the last one, where he got beaten to death.

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

America's Most Wanted. Look into it, FBI.

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

0/10 - It may seem harsh, but they profoundly didn't solve the case. The killer said 'Come and get me', and then Greg did.

And hey, while I don't want to come off as especially callous, I feel the need to point out that all the shell-shocked cops at the beginning of the episode don't make the most sense to me. I understand the team being emotionally distraught, what with their connection to the victim, but the regular cops and paramedics? I'm not saying everyone in that line of work has to be desensitized to violence, but all of them must have seen a body before at some point, and Greg's wife-

Is basically the least-brutalized corpse that's ever been featured on the show.


Anonymous said...

This isn't the first time they've used the "Abyss" quote - and it won't be the last.

Anonymous said...

Totally agreeing with you on the points made in this episode's critique - I really hope the real FBI isn't this inept.

On a side note, I'm pretty sure the male random agent is the one who got in trouble for not "driving Elle home" properly in season 1.

Also, when JJ says that normally they need 3 points to generate an accurate geographic profile, all I can think is that they're going to draw a triangle and say, "he's in there somewhere" (and don't say they've never done that before). Seriously, if that's all there is to it, I could hire myself out as an "expert" in the field.

And does that remailing thing actually exist in the US? That is so cool! They just have everything there...

And WHY doesn't Hayley grab hold of Jack and throw herself through that great big window behind her? Hollywood people are always throwing themselves through windows - it's a known fact that glass doesn't hold up to a body hurled against it. Even though my windows totally do (luckily). She could even have grabbed something, smashed the window and then jumped through it. Her ex-husband tells her to stand quietly and die with dignity, so she does it? Hello, 1500s. It's nice to know you never went away.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and that damn anagram thing? Peter Rhea could, at the very least, have been Peter Reah or Hare (both actual names) or any number of made-up things.

I'm so sick of the team randomly deciding something, just jumping to totally uninformed assumptions, and then spending huge amounts of time and resources acting on those assumptions - and of course their wild guesses invariably turn out to be right. This is not how psychology works! Stop shaming your so-called profession! (Although, when you look at it, not one of the team appears to be an actual psychologist. I find that strange. The most qualified person they have has an undergraduate degree in psychology. That's NOT enough - you'd need at least a PhD in some specialist field of forensic or clinical psychology to be a proper profiler (in the UK at least) - though admittedly Reid does have his dissertation on geographical profiling, enabling him to draw pretty triangles and calculate their radii).

On a happier note, that is one unbelievably cute kid. He's also unbelievably obedient and patient, but I'll let that go. Hollywood children are always better behaved than real ones. He also looks very happy at the end, for a kid whose primary caregiver has just been taken from him under sudden and horrible circumstances. What a little trooper!

Kalieka said...

Anonymous 2: Great comments! That one about 1500s made me LOL. Also it is about time someone brought up how easy some of these geographic profiles are. Dot, dot, dot=triangle=hugely important and carefully thought out profile. Ummm, nope!
Lastly, I do not know any mothers (any Good mothers) who would stand still and let themselves be killed and their child be killed. Mothers can have some super human strength if they think harm is going to come to their children. They would fight like hell to save their child and themselves from and perceived threat.

Still, this is a crime show drama that I will still watch and run to read your reviews and comments after every episode. lol

Cooper said...

Something has been nagging at me. Jack was quite young when Hayley left Hotch. When would he have learned the "work the case" trick--in that house. They say several times that Hotch rarely sees Jack, and he feels like an absent father. I bought it the first time I watched (was surprised that they killed Hayley off), but now I am confused. I did get annoyed that Hayley didn't know his face. That set off alarm bells in my head. That is not just wildly improbable, it is impossible. His face was shown on the news in at least one episode. They should have done that differently.

Anonymous said...

To your comment "did this guy want to get caught?" about The Reaper's anagram alias... Yes, he does want to be caught. If not caught he at least wants to torment Greg and the easiest way to do that is to keep letting Greg think he has him when he doesn't. That's his whole schtick. Duh, (what's that term you use, oh yeah) half-wit.