Criminal Minds 518: The Fight

There's a body in a park in San Francisco. How does one dead homeless man let the police know that they've got to call in the FBI? Got me, but I'm sure it'll be explained! I'm also certain it will have something to do with the overprotective father and his 14-year-old daughter who are mysteriously abducted by a psychopath that same night.

No, not him. But hey, is everyone ready for a pointless downer? Yup, that's right - it's time to cover the backdoor pilot for Suspect Behaviour! Oh, Forest, this was never going to go well for you, was it?

Greg goes to meet Forest at the FUNCTIONING GYM THAT HE RUNS AN FBI OFFICE OUT OF (really, Count, you were surprised this show was canceled?) to hear Forest's theory about his latest case: the San Francisco case! Forest lays it out - men were found badly beaten and then left in a park, shot in the back of the head:

Now, it's possible that you've noticed that those men was clearly shot in the forehead. The show sincerely wishes you hadn't, so can we move on?

Forest gives Greg a little background on the case, which you'd think Greg would already have, since his team is the one that's been assigned it, but then Forest also offers some new information - after a few days of homeless people turning up badly beaten and shot in the head, a kidnapped father/daughter team shows up, also shot in the head, with the father having been badly beaten. Only Forrest has noticed the connection - and he wants his team to look for the kidnappees while Greg works the park victims. They've only got two days before the 'cycle' ends, so how can Greg say no?

Okay, normally I save this kind of thing for the end of the review, but I'm going to mention it here, because what the hell, Criminal Minds: how could SFPD not have made this connection already? A father and daughter missing during the exact times that homeless people being killed may not ring any alarm bells, but if they're all being shot with the same gun, how could it possibly go unnoticed? And don't think that I'm seeing connections where there aren't any-

That's the badly-beaten face of the dead father with a bullet in his forehead, exactly like the homeless guys. You'd have to be blind to miss this connection.

So that's the rule - unless they somehow explain why the killer would use a different gun for the family executions than he would for the homeless ones, this is a terribly written episode. Which would be entirely appropriate for the Suspect Behaviour backdoor pilot, come to think of it.

Oh, and we learn the villain's scheme. He wants the father to turn the daughter over to him. If he does, they both live, if he doesn't - they both die! Will he make the deal? Let's find out after the opening credits!

While flying to the crime scene we've got the standard backdoor pilot stuff to establish. Joe talks about knowing Forest for 20 years, and how if he's disobeying orders, this case has be incredibly important! So important that he's flying commercial because he wants to keep this under the director's radar. Oddly, they keep referring to the director as 'she', which brings up a question: Are they referring to the AD who's always bedevilling Greg as the 'Director', which would be odd, or is this show taking place in a bizarre alternate dimension where the top two people at the FBI are women? If so, one of them was fired and replaced by Richard Schiff before Suspect Behaviour premiered.

Forest's team is introduced with title cards, including Simms' never-explained nickname, "Prophet". In one fun note, the blonde's name, which was never adequately explained to me over 13 episodes of CM:SB, turns out to be Gina LaSalle. The introductions happen during one of those 'setting up the office' sequences, which is pretty standard, except for two things.


Why do they need five laptops when there are only 4 team members?

Why is she setting up a satellite dish indoors? Can you do that? I honestly have no idea. But it leads to the funniest line so far tonight, as we see an actress struggling to remember her lines while having no idea what she's saying!

I kid,  of course - technobabble is hard for anyone to read with a straight face. It does raise an important question, though: Was she supposed to be the tech-savvy one on the team? Because man, did that never come up once in the 13 weeks we spent with her. Actually, she never did much of anything other than complain about a demanding father one time - I'm going to blame the network-forced inclusion of Janeane Garofolo for that one.

Forest's team tries to show off their competence by explaining how they're going to go about finding two missing people in a city of 800,000. The basic idea is check school absences for girls in the age range, then try to contact their fathers. Which would seem clever if it weren't the first thing that literally anyone would consider doing in that situation.

Checking the park and examining the corpse, the team tries to figure out what the a killer strong enough to drag a full-grown man into the woods alone is doing with the homeless guys. The homeless guys who show up with fist-sized bruises all over their body and bloody knuckles. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say... he's bare-knuckle boxing them?

My theory is borne out one scene later, when, in a plot development likely borrowed from an episode of Wire in the Blood, the killer forces the kidnapped dad to fight a homeless man. I know what you're thinking - beat up a homeless man? How hard could that be? But you've forgotten - this is television:

Rather than being sallow and wasted, with his ribs poking out from his undernourished torso, homeless people in the world of Criminal Minds are in super-great shape. Also, they're covered with chest tattoos, so you'll know they were bad people earlier in life, and shouldn't feel bad for them when the dad is forced to beat them to death to save his daughter's life!

Which is what happens. Well, near-enough - the dad beats the homeless man into submission, then leaves him on the floor of the pool. At which point the killer shoots the man from outside of the pool, from at least ten feet away. What about the execution-style powder burns we were told were on all the victims? Consistency, thy name is not Criminal Minds.

Forest's team figures out who the missing people are, leading up to some crazy dickish behaviour on the part of the team:

Yeah, it's nice that you want to justify that guy's nickname and all, but are you forgetting this whole thing was Gina's plan? I mean, sure, it was completely obvious, but shouldn't she get some credit for being the first one to suggest it? Also, when the daughter wasn't at school for two days in a row, how on earth did the mother not get called, leading to these people being reported missing? Shouldn't the police have had this information already?

Ah, that particular note is revealed in the next scene, when the mother explains that she's been threatened by the killer - if she involves the police, the family will be killed! Which would be more of a threat if he wasn't going to kill them anyways. She was scared into submission by the way he sent a video of the homeless guy from the park being shot in the head! The mother points out something obvious: if this has happened twice before, why didn't anyone come forward? Wow, that's a really good question, actually. Forest's answer? "He doesn't leave anybody with knowledge alive."

Wait, what? So let's assume this is the guy's MO, and he's done the whole thing, kidnapping, videotape, threats to the wife/mother. That's certainly what's being suggested. How can Forest say he doesn't leave anyone alive? If the mothers were also murdered, you should have mentioned it earlier.

Wouldn't this ave been easier to write if the guys were just widowers dealing with daughters? That way you wouldn't bring up a question you didn't have an answer to: Why didn't the mothers go to the police after their families were killed? Man, this seems like some quick in-fill writing to plug up a plot hole, but it just wound up raising a whole spate of other questions.

There's a moment of doubt, where Greg says that Forest should go home so that he doesn't get in trouble with the FBI, so Forest tells a story about how they left too early one time, thinking that they'd caught a child-murderer - but it turned out there were two child-murderers working the city! If only they'd stayed a little longer! Okay, that's traumatic and all, but this is a completely different circumstance. You've already confirmed what's going on, and since all the homeless men were kidnapped from within a five-block area, you even know where the killer probably lives. It might be time to turn this over to Greg and the police. Unless you think having a sniper along will somehow help. Spoiler Alert - it never does, because you're all too cowardly to shoot murderers.

On the way to the new body there's some more flat expository dialogue introducing us to Mick and his relationship with Forest. Moving right along, we get to the real point - the team finally notices that the homeless guys were fighting people other than the killer before they died. How do they make this leap? Yeah, there's no good reason to think that's what's happening, so let's just move on. They notice that rubber bullets were likely used on the victims to control them, which means the killer was either a prison guard or in jail - so it's off to San Quentin to see if anyone remembers him!

Also, it turns out San Quentin was where Simms was locked up. They're not telling us what he did, though - luckily I remember. He shot a murderer, and was somehow pardoned for that some six years later. We'll never get a more thorough explanation, sadly, what with the show being canceled. It's not like he was a cop and it was somehow justified, as he explains:

You know, when I first heard that they were going to do a Criminal Minds Spin-off, I thought that a fun addition to the show might have been a psychopath that the consulted with, a la the Ted Bundy's riverman interviews. It seems like with Simms they wanted to go halfway there, but it was so lacadaisically done that I never actually noticed that he'd ever been anything but an FBI agent, albeit one who had been in jail and then pardoned.

Anyhoo, outlining the killer's MO - he's obsessed with the daughter, probably because he's missing one of his own, and he also loves control and the methodology of the guards. Will the profile bear fruit? Of course! That night the team searches the streets in the killer's hunting ground, with Emily walking on her own and Mick on a rooftop, using his sniper training to... um... only be able to search in a two-block radius around a single building? In one direction at a time? Through the incredibly limited POV of a spotter's scope?

How is that going to help anyone?  Mick spots a guy following a junkie and sends Emily after him, but she has a devil of a time catching the man because she was on the street alone, without any police or FBI backup. Why is that, exactly? It's already been established that the cops are supposed to be watching the neighbourhood, and I'm pretty sure there are eight other FBI agents hanging around town who could be helping. Well, six, since Reid still can't run and I think JJ has the week off.

The whole thing was a bust, though, as they were chasing a random drug dealer.

Back to the bumfights! The father wins another one, and still refuses to give up his daughter. The killer then demands that the father finish off the hobo, which he elects to do by punching the prone man over and over again in the face. Really, fighting dad? You're too good to step on a man's throat? You'd rather destroy the knuckles you're going to need for tomorrow night's fighting?

As the team continues to investigate the AD calls Greg to give Forest a hard time, leading to the second-highest ranking person ever to win a Prentiss Award:

Are you serious? The SFPD didn't invite a specific group of people in to help, they invited THE FBI - beyond that they have no interest in how many people actually show up to do the job. You can say that you didn't send him, which is true - but this is just nonsense.

At least this scene offers an explanation for some of the slurred lines we got from Forest over the course of Suspect Behaviour:

"A father and her daughter". That's right, folks, it seems that everyone on the Criminal Minds production team were too intimidated having an Oscar-Winning actor on set to ask him to do a retake whenever he flubbed a line.

Oh my god, this just got stupid. Wow, you have no idea. While Joe and Simms are busy getting the name of the killer in San Quentin  - there was a crazy guy whose daughter died while he was in jail, so he became obsessed with beating people up with his bare hands - Gina and Derek are looking over the daughter's room, sure that she's the key, and the reason the family was targeted. Focusing on the daughter's journal, because she apparently wasn't the kind to keep one, according to Gina, they ask the mother how it came to be. It seems that the family counselor they went to suggested that she do some journaling to help track her emotions. Where was his office? The tenderloin district!

Yes, we're asked to believe that this nice, middle-class family went to a family counselor in the tenderloin district. This is like a well-to-do family in 1985 New York going to a family counselor whose office was around Times Square. Seriously, what family counselor is going to set up a practice there? "You can't miss it - it's above the strip club and below the free clinic. Just weave your way around the people dying of heroin overdoses on the sidewalk and then we'll talk about your communication issues."

It seems that the therapist also did analysis for social services, and the killer might have been in his office getting his daughter taken away some years earlier! Wow, that's a super low-rent place to be taking your family. So they cross-reference people with their kids taken away against the lists of dead children. Which you'd think they would have already done. Also, the whole thing is a pointless waste of time, since, as we mentioned earlier, they already know the name of the killer. His background? He lost custody of his daughter because his wife died and he was too crazy to be given custody...

Hold on, wasn't that the plot of last week's episode? The only difference is that this week his daughter died, so he's trying to replace her, rather than a mother for her. So it's two fairy-tale themed murders in a row, and then two custody-themed murders in a row? Man, those are some specific wells to be going back to, Criminal Minds.

Now that they have the killer's name, they search his ownership records - turns out he owns a gym in the middle of the sleazy part of town. Will the family live long enough for the team to get there and save them? It seems so, because the daughter is smart enough to fake go along with the killer's scheme of getting a new child. She pretends to acquiesce, and the two of them run off, leaving the father alive. The team then charges the scene, saving the beaten dad, and I learn that JJ was, in fact, in this episode after all, as she finally gets a line!

The killer has a difficult time escaping the police cordon with a teen girl in tow, and Forest predicts that, based on the fact that he was locked up for seven years, the killer will instinctively head for a roof. This is nonsense, of course, but I'm excited for this episode to be over, so I'll just let them have this one.

Cornering the killer on the roof of a parking garage, the team tries to talk he guy out of killing the girl for no reason. He agrees, then pretends to jump off a roof! But it was actually a scam, where he jumps onto a ledge, and waits for chance to shoot Emily - at which point Mick blasts him.

While I'm happy he finally shot someone, I've got to ask - if you were watching the scene with your scope and aware of what was going on, wouldn't the smarter play have been to warn your team that the killer didn't actually commit suicide? I appreciate the murder, but that just seems negligent.


Except for a coda where the AD forgives Forest for all his nonsense, and Gina gives him a picture of the girl they saved, so that Forest can start remembering the upside of 'trusting his gut'. Hey, didn't doing that exact thing lead to some serious trouble for Mandy when Frank went about killing all of the people he'd saved in the DC area? Not a road I'd want to go down if I was him.

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

Profiling absolutely helped this week, as it was their description of the killer to the inmates of San Quentin that got them their name. Although I'm not sure why they couldn't just talk to the guards about it.

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

The killer clearly used the same gun in every single murder. Why weren't the homeless killings and the family killings tied together two years ago, and then given the attention they deserved by the media? Why didn't the wives/mothers tell the police what happened? If all of the dead people went to the same therapist, how did the cops not notice? Hell, how did the therapist not notice that on two different occasions, exactly one year apart, her clients were murdered in exactly the same way? Seems like that would have been a major life event for her, wouldn't it?

Five people were killed by bad writing this week!

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

6/10 - Despite the abhorrent plotting, these were two psychologically decent episodes in a row! What show am I watching?


Anonymous said...

The holes in the forehead could be exit wounds. Not that I can tell the difference, but you know. It's possible

Anonymous said...

Do they really let British people and convicted criminals join the FBI? If so, I'm quite excited! I might just apply. (I'm the former, by the way).

In trying to work out where that "Brit" was supposed to be from, I finally concluded that he was meant to be Irish (well, the name was a dead giveaway, even if the accent left a lot to be desired) - which led me to wonder how Emily knew he was British at all? Unless she's well-versed in the subtle nuances of Northern Irish and Republic of Ireland accents?

Anonymous said...

Forest quite clearly said "A father and a daughter". Come on, you know that.

Anonymous said...

"I appreciate the murder" was my favorite line of your synopsis. I love reading these after every episode! Although I do think you are a bit harsh at times; it is a fictional show, therefore some illogical scenes are bound to occur.