Criminal Minds 510: The Slave of Duty

After last week's episode, it occurred to me that I've now written well over a hundred of these things, and my point - that the difficulty that writers have coming up with stories about psychology helping solve crimes reflects the real-life uselessness of profiling - has been made a few dozen times over. That's not to say I'm giving up on the show, I've obviously developed a fondness for it, and I'm interested in continuing to score it, if nothing else - I will, however, be writing less exhaustive reviews of each individual episodes. Rather than going plot point by plot point, from now on I plan to offer a broader overview of the episodes, pause to detail some of the stupider things that happened each week (including the Prentiss Award, if applicable), and then score it at the end. Really, pretty much the same thing, only (hopefully) a little shorter.

So, with that in mind, let's start with the first post-Reaper episode of Criminal Minds!

Things start off with Greg's wife's funeral, where we learn that she had no friends or family, apparently.

It's not that I'm ever unhappy to see Nicholas Brendon, but what's he doing carrying the casket? I'm pretty sure they never met.

Oh my god, it's that guy again - the one I'd never seen before who kept getting lines last week! Is he joining the cast or something? Why is a minor FBI functionary carrying the casket?

There's a terrible line in Greg's eulogy, where he references the fact that she died 'protecting' their son. It's not really bad writing, I suppose, since he'd want to put the best spin on the situation, but in point of fact she passively allowed herself to be murdered, and had the Reaper been more interested in murdering Jack than he was at arranging a tableau to shock Greg, their son would be dead as well.

The overall dramatic arc of the episode is 'Will Greg go back to the FBI or not' - of course, since we all know that he's going to return, it's difficult to get too worried. I'm sure there'll be a character-based explanation at the end.

Of course, this isn't Magnum PI, we're not going to have a whole episode dealing with personal stuff, there has to be a murder as well - this week it's a serial killer in Nashville!

Upper-class women are being murdered in their homes - but the killer didn't just do them in, he created elaborate fantasy scenarios with floors covered in rose petals and meals served. So the deranged murderer thinks he's dating these women! He's also something of a stalker, watching the routines of these women so that he'll be able to take them by surprise - his latest victim has just hours to live... will the team get to her in time? Of course not.

They get a few clues from looking over the crime scene and talking to the coroner - the killer is oddly polite, pulling out chairs and pouring wine for his victims, only killing them when they stop playing along with his sick games. Which is just what his latest victim is being forced to do right then! She's smarter than the rest of the victims, however, going along with his plan, even allowing herself to be raped by the psychopath! She doesn't try to flee or slit his throat during the night, however, which seems like a bit of a stretch.

Things only go wrong when the latest victim's boyfriend arrives home, ruining the killer's fantasy. Oddly. the killer seems super-surprised that she has a boyfriend - I thought he was stalking her? Both of them are killed because the victim doesn't warn the boyfriend or help him fight the killer at all.

You know, even if the boyfriend was out of town all week while she was being stalked, at some point the killer broke into the house and looked around while setting up his fantasy - how could he have missed a man's belongings doubtless strewn throughout the house?

The team goes over their profile - guy comfortable with upper-class people, doubtless frequenting the same establishments that the women did in the weeks before their deaths. They search the country clubs and museums, but find no leads - how are they going to find the guy on such a short timeline? Oh, that's right, it's a short timeline. Despite the fact that in each case so far the killer's attempt to build a fantasy has been thwarted and a murder was the result, Joe announces that this time he won't wait a week - he'll go again tonight! Because, as I'm sure we're all well aware at this point, all killers are spree killers.

Then it's time for Garcia to solve the case, as is her wont. Running through the victims' GPSs, she discovers that one of them only ever drove to and from work - that's just how busy she was. Presuming that the killer didn't fixate on her in either of those places, the team decides the meeting must have taken place at her single deviation from the routine - a trip to a fundraiser at a botanical gardens!

After Reid threatens the garden manager with  gun (also nice work getting a guy on crutches to walk down stairs, crew) she gives up the information they need - the venue used valets! Which is a perfect way to get someone's keys and home address! Although I've always been told to keep my car and hoe keys on separate chains for reasons of safety and convenience - I guess he's targeting women who don't take that precaution?

Also, where is this guy working as a valet that he's able to get Friday nights off to go murder people? Isn't that the busiest night of the week for companies that employ valets?

The same valet company had connections to all the women, so now it's just a matter of finding out which individual worker was at all of those events. But first, let's pause as Reid offers the Prentiss Award-Winning line of the night!

No, Reid even if he already with another victim you'll still be able to catch him in the act. The whole point of this guy is that his little fantasy goes on and on for hours. What did you think 'in action' meant?

They swing by his employer's office, and describe what they think the killer might be like, and he gives them a name. Which seems a little like psychological insight, but really, they could have just cross-checked against the venues where the other women were spotted. Now it's time for the facile explanation for the villain's actions! His fiancee (who looks basically like the victims) was cheating on him, and their engagement broke up six weeks ago!

Wait, what? In a single month he went from guy about to get married to a vicious, elaborately-scheming rapist and murderer? Let's just close the book on this episode, shall we?

The team rushes to his house, but he's not there (not sure why they bothered - they knew he was working), so they check all the high-class women who were went to the place where he was working. There's only one brunette! Of course the team rushes to her house and rescues her, but there's still time for one stupid thing, as Penelope checks the possible victims against the 'geographic profile'.

Why is this so stupid? Because geographic profiles only apply to killers who hunt in a 'comfort zone' around where they live - which, to be fair, is most of them - but this killer's hunting is based on A: Where his job sends him and B: where his victims live. He's killing the first brunette woman he sees who seems to live alone and has a house that can easily be broken into - I doubt he's being picky enough to reject one that lives in a nice house towards the edge of town.

Before arresting him, Emily taunts the killer with the threats of all the times he's going to be raped in prison. Which seems like a decent enough attempt 'revenge', except for one thing. He's a white guy, in the south, who's physically powerful, a rapist, quick to anger, and skilled at beating people up. Something tells me he's not going to be the victim in prison.


Oh, and Greg goes back to work. Duh.

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

There was lip-service given to the importance of profiling, what with telling the dispatcher about what type of guy they were looking for, but that was pretty much it.

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

It mostly was. Despite all the talk about the killer's backstory and motivation, the case came down to figuring out what the women had in common, and then following that lead. Not exactly a challenging case this week.

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

2/10 - So, that didn't go too badly, huh? A few thousand words less than usual, but still, a relatively complete picture of the episode. Of course, a third of this episode was about Greg, and I ignored all of that, so who knows what next week's going to look like?


Perpetual Beginner said...

The explanation I've seen floated for Greg's "protection" line, is that Haley chose not to fight because the sounds of fighting might bring Jack out of hiding and put him back in danger.

Which might be plausible, but there's nothing to support it particularly.

Randi said...

I think that minor FBI guy is the same agent who took Elle home back during the Fisher King thing. Why he's getting screentime/lines a few seasons later, I'm not sure.

Vardulon said...

Screentime? Why does he still have a job?

Anonymous said...

Who the hell is Greg? His name is Aaron Hotchner.