Criminal Minds 521: Exit Wounds

Some fishermen are working away on a boat, beheading fish, as you do. The female one of the pair makes the mistake of letting the male one go home early, so when she's left alone on the dock a murderer is able to rush up and kill her! And when I say 'rush up', I mean teleport in front of, like he's Jason or something. She actually gets to say 'oh, it's you' and be relieved before the stabbing. So we're well into slasher-movie territory this week.

Then it's over to Washington, where JJ and Emily are on a coffee run, debating whether the latter should go out with Mick, who apparently was flirting with her a couple of weeks back. Since that show went nowhere, I'm guessing their relationship didn't either. Garcia then shows up with shopping bags, leading to some comedy about her spoiling JJ's son! Hilarious.

Everyone is gathers in the office to hear about the case - and when we discover the details, it turns out that the opening scare could never have happened. Why? Because the woman who was murdered turned down the opportunity to have her shipmate wait around and escort her to her car. She scoffed at the idea, in fact. Why is this unbelievable? Because she was the third victim in five days. In a town of 1500 people. You're only allowed to laugh off the idea of being stabbed to death by a stranger on your way home from work if that exact thing hasn't happened to two people you know in the last four days.

If ever there was a situation where you'd start using the buddy system and being careful after dark, it's this one.

It's weird how the writers don't seem to understand how the murders that get committed would effect the larger world. It's most notable in small-town cases, where people are never as alarmed and hyper-vigilant as they would be afterwards, but also the subway shooter was completely mishandled.

Okay, the point is that they're flying to Alaska and Garcia's coming with them. There's some nonsense about wanting to make sure she keeps them hooked up to a satellite that Greg has tasked to handle their computer traffic while they're in the field. Really? That's the kind of thing they can do to hunt a serial killer? Seems like a stretch. Especially when you only need to handle a lot of computer traffic because you're bringing Garcia with you. Wouldn't it make more sense to just call her on your satellite phones when you need something, and have her tap into the mainframe right there in the FBI building?

As they fly in there's a little conversation about the varied races and genders of the victims, which leads to Joe saying something that's both horrible and completely inaccurate. Since the killer went from shooting with a rifle to stabbing with an arrow he announces that the killer probably didn't 'get what he wanted' from the long-distance kills. Nothing wrong there, but then he goes on to explain that because the last victim was an attractive woman, that means the stabbing was a substitute rape. Which creates an unpleasant and dangerous associate between someone's attractiveness and their likelihood of being a victim of sexual violence. Wow, should Joe know better than that.

Some nonsense ensues when they they reach the docks. Here is the plane they were traveling in from Anchorage to Franklin:

Now check out how many people supposedly get out:

All seven team members, a pilot, co-pilot, and their luggage. That's not a tiny plane, but it doesn't have room for nine people and a bunch of computer equipment either. how difficult would it be to announce that the rest of the team was going to be on the next plane in? That would go a long way toward explaining why it's Derek who introduces himself and the  team to the local deputy. Actually, that's really odd... was this script originally written to take place during the brief window when Derek was in charge?

Derek and Emily interview the guy who was there just before the last victim was killed. Their questions in no way lead to an explanation of how someone walks home alone while there's a spree killer running around shooting people for no reason.

The evidence so far - he's getting better at murder every time, and is now cutting up bodies post-mortem because he likes the thrill of it! Over at one of the crime scenes a trail of blood has been covered up by the authorities - she explains that there's a rabid bear around tearing up small animals, and any loose blood could attract it into town. Wait, small animals being slaughtered? Are you sure that's not your killer? Seriously, I know this is a hunting town, so a lot of violence can be overlooked, but how does no one in the town have any idea who the killer might be? I know I give profiling a hard time, but like that one episode of Wiseguy, this is the sole situation where profiling might actually help solve a crime. If everyone in town knows everyone else, just put it out there - young guy, maybe he liked hunting a little too much, wet the bed longer than he should have, was caught starting fires... just put this stuff out there and the first person to come to mind is probably the killer.

Greg runs into problems down at the police station, where people are locked up because of a barfight concerning the murders - one guy accused another, it was all a big mess. Greg suggests having a town meeting, but the Sheriff announces that doing so would be almost impossible since people are so spread out and contrary. After all, people don't move to Alaska because they want to do what the government tells them. Oh, there's also a red herring - the son of the woman who runs in local hotel had returned to town just before the murders started. He's so obvious that he can be easily dismissed. Wow, it's been a long time since there was a mystery on this show, hasn't it? For weeks and weeks we've just been dealing with a crazed killer that the team had to stop, but the audience knew all the details of. This actually feels a little weird.

Later that same evening Garcia is on the phone with Xander when there's a satellite problem. She heads outside to check the relay, and does it alone, somehow forgetting that there's a killer running around. This leads to her wandering off into the darkness to check out suspicious sounds, and seeing the latest murder! The killer runs off as Garcia tries to help the victim - but he dies before her screams can attract any attention.

Now things get a little loopy - the victim was a fisherman who Derek had met on the dock that morning - he was busy packing up his boat, planning on getting his family out of town until this whole 'murder' thing blew over. So why was he still in town 14 hours later? Why was he wandering around town during curfew when there was a killer on the loose - the team tries to cover for that little plot hole by explaining that the killer 'brought the body to the hotel' to taunt them. Except that isn't what happened at all.

The stabbing and screaming was only just happening as Garcia got there. Let's not forget, the guy was alive when she arrived. Also, the victim was a big guy, around 200 pounds at least. How would the obviously not-very-big killer Garcia saw have moved him?

One last crazy note - Reid announces that the killer is accelerating his schedule, and Emily suggests that it's because the victim was openly planning to leave town, which might have motivated the killer to get him. Here's the thing, though - this spree killer is murdering someone every second day. In order for this to be 'ahead of schedule', this murder would have to be taking place one day after the teaser kill. Which makes the whole opening not make sense. That woman was killed at 8PM at the earliest. Assume another couple of hours to find the body, call the police, call the FBI, and get Greg in on the plan, and by the time JJ is called to round everyone up, considering the time difference, that would mean JJ, Emily, and Garcia were out getting coffee and shopping for gifts at around 2AM.

Someone needs to get this show's producers one of those whiteboards the characters use to keep track of timelines.

Now it's time for the profile! It's the standard stuff - look for anyone emotionally immature or prone to violence who might have suffered a loss lately. No one springs to the minds of the cops, which suggests they don't know the town as well as they ought to. Then it's off to the schoolhouse, where the local teacher can hopefully shed some light on things. She points her finger at the red herring, who was super-obsessed with hunting as a kid. Which is great and all, but it can't be him. The guy lives at the hotel. The murderer ran away from the hotel when he was spotted. They would have noticed that he wasn't in his room.

For his part, the red herring plays along, acting as suspiciously as possible while butchering the idiom:

Most people, geniuses. It's 'most people don't know that - I'm not most people.' You can't be many people. By definition.

Just to be safe, they leave the son in jail overnight to test whether he's the killer. Garcia tries to clear him by saying that she talked to the guy, and since he knows she doesn't carry a gun, if he'd been the killer, he would have attacked her. Which is great in theory, but there are two problems with the logic. Point A: if he has a psychotic episode when he kills, he might have fled just because being spotted shook him out of it. B: Even if he was coherent and recognized her, she was thirty feet away from him, in the dark - there could have been more FBI agents right behind her, and even if she didn't, there was more than enough time to scream for help before he could get to her. Running away would have been the smarter choice.

I don't know why I'm putting so much effort into tearing down her grounds for dismissing him when he's obviously not the killer - I guess I'm just so used to Garcia solving the cases for them that it hurts me to see her using the kind of stupid reasoning that the main team relies on.

The mother is upset about her son being jailed - she's unconvinced that he could be involved. The sheriff gets her to leave by saying maybe the stupidest thing ever: "It's one night - if nothing happens, you can pick him up in the morning." Um... no, that's the opposite of true. You're keeping him in jail to test whether he's the killer. If nothing happens he's not cleared. It's only if there's another death overnight that he'll be cleared of any involvement.

Garcia is hard at work looking for a connection between all of the victims thus far - and it seems that each was planning to leave town sometime soon, which would tend to back up the profile's theory that the killer was motivated by separation anxiety. Separation from ancillary people in his life, it would seem. Luckily Garcia is using a magic computer, one where she can simply type in 'who else is leaving town', and moments later the only other person out of the 1400 who's planning on departing soon (she's going to college) pops up onscreen!

The team heads over to the woman's workplace to sequester her. There's an additional threat, because she's pregnant, but it doesn't matter anyhow, since she wasn't the next target... the red herring's mother was! She's brutally stabbed to death while the team is out investigating the case. Wait, where was Garcia? Did the woman who runs the in have a separate house that she lived in apart from it? If so, that seems like a stretch, given that her business was run by her and her husband alone for years.

Since the new victim doesn't fit the 'leaving town' pattern, they have to figure out why she was murdered. They ask the son if he has any ideas who might have had a grudge against either him or her mother. When they bring up the idea there might be someone who was obsessed with the mother because he'd been kicked out of his own home and stayed with her, the son immediately perks up and excuses himself. Obviously he knows who the killer is, and wants to go get himself some sweet, sweet revenge!

The team finally realizes the significance of the slaughtered animals, and jumps to the conclusion that a teenager must be their killer. Add that to the fact that the red herring's college application essay (how did they get that? Would it even be online?) makes reference to a younger kid that he helped out, and suddenly the team realizes that they're looking for an abused local. Naturally the schoolteacher knows who it is, a local child who was massively abused, and is now home-schooled. The sheriff volunteers that he'd often have to stop by the killer's house to deal with reports of abuse - but the family would never testify.

Whoa... hold on there a minute. You knew you were hunting a serial killer, and you knew about a massively abused teenager, but you didn't mention it to anyone? What the hell kind of law enforcement officer are you?

They catch up with the kid down at the marina, where a posse wants to gun the killer down. For some reason the agents feel it's important to stop them from doing so, and that's what happens.


Remember in the backdoor pilot episode, where I found it strange that Gina was setting up a portable satellite dish indoors? Well, suggesting that I was right to be skeptical, here's Garcia-

Taking down the dish she'd set up outside and had to work on when that murder happened.

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

Their profiling really didn't come to much this week - especially since they missed - for days - what Joe refers to as profiling 101, the dead animals in the woods. More importantly, though, this is a small town, and everyone supposedly knew one another - no one said 'hey, maybe it's the reclusive abuse victim who's doing it?'

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

Yeah, pretty much. He killed someone that he had a direct connection to, and the inn owner's son knew who the killer was almost right away. It might have been a posse that got him, rather than the cops, but in the end, that's not much of a difference.

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

1/10 - So they went to Alaska this week! That means the team may be getting close to solving a murder in every US state! They'll probably never go to Hawaii, though, so the card may never be fully punched. The other thing keeping them from getting all fifty states? The truly shocking number of murders in Virginia.

Oh, and for the record, here's the size of the killer:

If he didn't move that guy's body, why was a fisherman who was supposedly fleeing town hanging around the inn at 4AM during a curfew? If he did move the body, how could he have ever physically managed it?

You know, seeing Xander here reminds me how much smarter it would have been to make him the in-house analyst for Suspect Behaviour. That one change could have gotten the show renewed. Also better scripts and a lead actor who wasn't napping during line readings might have helped.


Pseudo-Intellectual said...

God, this episode was pretty bad. But hey, I was happy to see Karen Strassman get work in something that wasn't anime, so that once the dubbing industry inevitably collapses, she'll have something to do besides video games!

K Alice Sandry said...

I really love these recaps. As a writer, I totally agree. And, as someone who can't stop watching criminal minds despite the ginormous plot holes, lazy scripting, unexplainable greek-chorus-like nature of the bay team, and pretentious quotations, I really appreciate these.

wasparkman said...

You missed their biggest mistake - a whopper of a factual error - the Sheriff's Dept. of imaginery Franklin, AK could never exist because, by statute, the State of Alaska has never had any Sheriffs. Functions filled by sheriffs elsewhere fall mostly under the auspices of the Alaska State Troopers. Other law enforcement is by community or (rarely) borough which is what Alaska has instead of counties.