Criminal Minds 517: Solitary Man

This week opens with a creepy man watching a house where a little girl is being put to bed - in Voice Over he tells a fake fairy-tale about a lonely King looking for a Queen. It's a misdirect, though - the little girl is the creepy guy's daughter, and she's in foster care. The Queen he's looking for? A new mother for the little girl! Sadly for the Truck Stop Waitresses of America, his method of finding that mother is to abduct and murder them. Although it sounds better in the stories he tells, of course.

So last week was an allegorical story about an evil which who burned children in an over, and this week is about a killer who frames his murders as fairy tales. I don't mind them going back to the well, of course, but it's weird doing it two weeks in a row, isn't it?

The team is on top of the case, to the point where Reid has already used Geographical Profiling to decide on a city where the killer lives. Except his basis for this is almost complete nonsense, and the Prentiss Award-Winning line of the night:

So he's only committing crimes along these two interstates, and that's the town the interstates meet at, but why would he necessarily live there? If there are no other interstates around, couldn't he simply live in a town off an exit anywhere within fifty miles of that intersection? Or is it inconceivable to the team that a serial killer would be able to drive an extra hour to find a victim?

Here's a little map I've made up - those are the five sites of the murders. All you can say for sure is that he likely lives somewhere between all of those dots. Obviously you'd want to guess that he most likely lives relatively close to where his first victim was found - but that wasn't one of the criteria offered by Reid when describing his calculations, so I don't know what they're basing this idea on. The highways he kills on converge at Albequerqe, NM - so why would they assume he was based not there, but in an exurb some 20 miles away?

So let's guess that they're completely right, and that's where the killer lives - will they get there in time to save his latest victim, who he's just picked up in a diner? Probably not, but let's find out together after the opening credits!

The team gets to the vicinity of the murders and splits up. Joe and Reid check out the latest body-dump site, which leads to an odd bit of writing, as Joe teases Reid about how long it will take him to struggle his way down into the ditch. Of course, given the size of the ditch:

Reid's balking at the idea seems like kind of a stretch. This is really the worst ditch they could find?

Greg and JJ are busy explaining to the police chief of their local town that a serial killer probably lives there, but the man is skeptical. Greg explains their reasoning, then goes on to suggest that if the killer 'keeps to his timeline' (all killers being spree killers, remember), there's going to be another body on his doorstep. Which seems like an odd prediction - given that they're dealing with a killer who shows no sign of mental degeneration, why would his latest victim be closer to his (supposed) home, rather than further away?

Meanwhile, the latest victim is trapped in a special containment zone the killer has built into his truck. Once they're inside he uses a speaker to interview the women about their suitability for stepmotherhood, which has yet to go well for anyone. Luckily he team has determined that he's a trucker based on the diesel fuel found on the bodies. Not that it's going to save this victim, but the next one should be fine with this lead on their side.

Hey, speaking of the next victim, we meet her in the next scene, when a mother and her teenage daughter pull over at a rest stop. He grabs the mother, reasoning that a woman who already has children will make an ideal stepmother. The team notices the change in MOs - the killer normally grabs women from bar parking lots - and searches for its significance. Realizing that he must have happened on a new victim while dumping the old one, they search the surrounding area and spot the corpse. Will there be any clues on it? Sadly, no. But his acceleration is important!

The team manages to intuit that he's looking for a companion, but can't figure out why he went from much younger women to a suddenly older one. The fact that she's a mother should loom large, but somehow doesn't. Perhaps I'm biased because the show told us his motive in the first scene. In case we missed it, though, the show lays out the plot yet again as the killer tells his daughter a bowlderized version of the abduction - which involves flashing back to the entire abduction, a scene we just watched three minutes ago. Weird. Was this episode running short?

In the scene with his daughter, we learn the killer's 'stressor' - he was given a deadline where his daughter would be adopted by another family if he didn't put his life together within six months! It seems that the way he's decided to cope with this is by abducting and murdering women. Which seems a little odd to me - this doesn't tend to be the kind of behaviour that just crops up one day. And if he's had such a severe psychotic break that he's suddenly comfortable killing people, how is he still working?

Derek and Joe get a list of all the truckers who stopped in the local depot around the time of the kidnapping. Garcia then runs down the background of all the independent contractors among them. It seems that truckers who work for companies are kept to such tight timelines that they wouldn't have the opportunity to serial kill anyone. Which is good to know. Garcia's record search narrows it down to less than a hundred, which is something. There's a brief interlude with the victim's daughter, in which she asks how many women they retrieve alive. Emily doesn't answer, presumably because the daughter wouldn't like what she heard. Of course, that's not the case, since the real answer is 'among women who've been abducted once we're actively on the case: fifty percent. And that's a hard number - since your mother is the second woman he's abducted while we've been here, and the first one died, you're definitely getting her back!"

The team finally tweaks to the 'mother' thing, and look for truckers who might be looking to replace a dead mother. How do they get to 'dead' rather than 'divorced'? Joe explains that a man like this would never try to take a child away from her mother, since men who work the open road think of themselves as chivalrous knights. Which is kind of an odd leap, given that of the 75 independent truckers that Garcia looked into, 26 were involved in custody battles, and 18 of them were competing with a living mother.

There's a new body out on the side of the road, and we're supposed to be afraid that it's the missing mother for a moment. It's not, though - the killer has murdered the social worker in charge of his daughter's case! They rush over to the daughter's current residence, hoping to intercept the killer when he goes to nab her. Luckily they get there first, so the killer is stuck with no choice but to use her as a human shield. Trying to save her, the team has the little girl talk to the killer, convincing him to let her out of the truck. The moment she's clear the killer shoots himself, nabbing us the happy ending we've been hoping for.

Well, I've been hoping for, anyways. The show seems to think that a serial killer's death is somehow sad and dramatic. Check this out:

What do they care if he kills himself? It's not like they have to clean up the cab of the truck. Are they super sad that they guy saved the state at least ten million dollars?


Oh, except for the show edging on a dark ending when they announce that the people who were going to adopt the daughter backed out because of the murders... but then an aunt showed up out of nowhere to take her in! Wow, that was pointless.

Then the show tries to go for a 'but the killer was still out there' ending by showing us a murderer picking up a hitchhiker in a truck. What does that have to do with this week's killer? Well, they kept talking about the Highway Serial Killer Database this week, so I suppose that they wanted to remind us why it was so important. Still, though, that's a little more of a horror-movie kind of ending than I've come to expect from this show.

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

You know, there was actually some good psychology on display this week, with the team understanding the importance of using the guy's daughter effectively against him. Sadly, the fact that the Geographical profile that got them to the area in the first place was utter nonsense subtracts a few points.

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

Dear lord, yes. One of the victims spotted a trucker, and then the killer they were looking for murdered a woman that a trucker had a problem with. This would not be a difficult connection to make. More importantly, though, I'm not sure how the daughter of the last victim didn't get that license plate number. Let me set the scene for you. She's sitting in a parked car, waiting for her mother to come out of a rest stop. She somehow doesn't notice a man walk into it instead. Let's give her that one, say she as distracted by texting. She wasn't distracted enough that she could have possibly missed her mother being carried out, kicking and screaming. After that happened, the killer had to carry her across a parking lot, get her into the back of the truck, seal her away in a secret compartment in the end of the trailer, get into the driver's seat, and pull out of the parking lot.

Total time taken? At least five minutes. I understand why the daughter couldn't get behind the driver's seat and follow the truck - mom had the keys - but how could her 911 call not gotten a State Trooper there in five minutes?

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

5/10 - Not bad this week, Criminal Minds. The psychology, I mean. The episode itself was kind of middling. Also I still don't understand the two fairy-tale episodes in a row.


BedazzledCrone said...

Did you also note that psychology guy said "Mexico" not "New Mexico"?

& are a bigger number of typos an indication of how pissed off the Count is with an episode?

feenix219 said...

I thought it was funny how the blond didn't hesitate to go with the killer, who literally dropped everything including finishing his meal to leave with her... :D

If there was an aunt to help out, it oculd have saved the entire events of the episode...

cycloptera said...

does no one find it weird that when he was in the truck before dying, and using 'the mother as a shield" she was on one side of him and they "didn't have a shot" but his other side was open? so someone could go around and shoot him from that angle? why does that not bother anyone?

Hanna said...

What I don't vet is why the girl is up for adoption. I have no idea about the American System but where I live a child who has a living parent that can't take care of them but might be able to some day, would be placed in foster care but never given up for adoption against the parent's will.
Maybe he'll get his shit together, meet someone or change jobs. Social services has no idea that he's a murderer so I have no idea why they want to take his daughter away permenantly. Seems like they could have saved a lot of lives simply by telling the man that he can raise his daughter as soon as he changes jobs and rents an apartement.
Apart from the kidnapping you a mother thing, he seems to be a good dad.

Anonymous said...

For those who can't figure out why it was sad the he killed himself, he was a man desperate to keep his daughter. (his only family as it was stated) He tried his damnedest to do all he could to take care of her but the court system didn't care because she missed too much school. That's right, school. A little girl was taken away from her last surviving parent because of the mandated schooling bull crap. Not even that he was purposefully negligent. Just that his best wasn't good enough. And the court ignored all of that with its judgment because "that's the rules".

A daughter who misses a bit of schooling but stays with her father who loves her vs. A father going insane from losing his wife and soon his daughter and starts killing people. Who was to blame for all of it? The court system, or basic human emotion/reaction?