Criminal Minds 603: Remembrance of Things Past

A family gets ready to drive to a football game on a windy night! The whole thing is shot like a slasher film, mysteriously open doors and windows, a woman alone in the house briefly, but it's all a misdirect - it's actually the family's absent daughter who's being murdered! And her killer forced her to call her parents to talk about being murdered!

Then the show cuts over to Joe, who's trying to work on his new book - Greg calls him in because this case resembles something he'd worked on in the past. Although apparently there's no 'signature' this time, not that we're told what the original signature was.

Over at the office Garcia is sad about JJ's absence, and has taken to standing outside her office, looking forlorn.

Okay, prediction time - they gave her that office number because they were planning on bringing her back in episode 620! I know that theory is based on the show demonstrating any pre-planning at all, which is of course unsupportable given the show's history, but I still hope it's true.

Then it's time for the briefing - before we start, though, Derek mentions that he's still in touch with Ellie, Eric Close's orphan daughter. Random character note, or are they building to something? Joe then drops by, and they're able to start the case. A guy tortures and murders young blonde women, and then has them call their families. Joe feels like he almost caught the guy back in the 90s, and he's been out of the game for almost twenty years. Could he really be coming back as a seventy-year-old killer? The hands of the killer, shown in this pre-credits cutaway, suggest not:

But I guess we'll see!

The team runs down the case on the plane - seriously, why do they even meet at the office? It's not like the vote about whether they're going or not. Also, I haven't missed JJ at all. The important points - the women are being abducted in broad daylight, from public places. How is he managing this? The team isn't interested in speculating, they find it more relevant to totally misuse the term 'signature' in explaining why they think it might be a copycat. It seems that the original victims called relatives and left messages about the torture (only a couple actually got people on the phone, since the calls were usually made late at night). In the original cases the women were forced to say that they enjoyed the brutal torture, but that hasn't happened in the two new murders. This is the missing 'signature' that they're discussing. Which is just a brutal misapplication of the term. A signature is anything the killer does to fulfill their own needs that doesn't materially contribute to the crime. The entire phone call scenario is a signature, not just the 'blaming the victim' tag. They really should have announced that the signature has changed - not that it was absent.

The team divvies up to cover different aspects of the case, and the hunt is on! A look at the corpses reveals that, like the original victims, they were cut up and electrocuted - but in a twist the killer clubbed them over the head to abduct them, rather than managing to talk them into an isolated location as the original killer did. Frankly, I'd like to hear how he managed to talk twenty different women to their deaths - seems like a bit of a stretch.

Next we meet the new killer, as a pretty girl chats with him while he brings groceries to his cruel, decrepit old father who he's charged with caring for. Oh, pretty neighbour - will you be the second victim, or the one who gets rescued? I'm pulling for you to be third!

I've got to give the show this, anyhow: at least they're not stretching out the mystery. This scene makes it painfully obvious what's going on - the old man is the original killer, and now he's convinced his abuse-victim son to help him kidnap and murder new victims. Just to make sure we don't miss the connection, the son has driven up in his van, which features an ad for his services as a bonded and licensed electrician.

The team interviews the various family members and discover that the speeches the women made didn't sound entirely like them. Could there be some significance in the monologues being scripted? I suppose if they matched the originals exactly it would confirm that they're dealing with either the same killer or someone with access to the transcripts from the police department. In any event, they should just be assuming it's the same killer at this point - copycats are basically the rarest thing imaginable, and unless you have some concrete proof that you're not dealing with the same guy (different DNA or fingerprints, for example), you should absolutely be working under the assumption that he's the same person.

Oh, and the reason for the change in MO is made explicit in the next scene. The evil father is suffering from Alzheimer's, and his abused son spends most of his time trying to jog the old man's memory. Of course, the old man would rather go out and murder, since despite the fact that his original list of victims involved 20 people over eight years, or one every five months, now he's a spree killer, and hopes to manage three in as many days.

Checking out the crime scene the team discover a video of one of the women being abducted - while leaving a pharmacy in a crowded parking lot, she heard something and then ran off towards her killer. But why? We get a sense of it in the next scene, as a woman walking in the park discovers the old man's ruse. He runs up, looking disheveled, and announces that his caretaker has suffered a heart attack, and needs her help!

What, really? On what planet does this not immediately result in the woman dialing 911 or the parking lot lady running back into the pharmacy? This isn't like a lost dog, where someone might be willing to help. These are situations where random women have no skills to assist in a medical emergency, but are completely capable of attracting qualified help. So why didn't they?

So anyhow, she's dead, and her body turns up the next day. Once again, the murder is a recreation of the last victim in the original set. Not only are the wounds exactly the same, but the script the killer makes them read from is the exact thing that the young woman said twenty years earlier! Why is he so obsessed with he last kill?

Somehow they still think that it's a copycat, and Greg wants to release a profile to that effect. Joe's desire to hold the profile leads to the Prentiss Award-Winning line of the night:

This is all based on feelings and guesses, Greg. How can you not know that? Also, since the profiles never help catch anyone, what does it matter. And hey, if the original killer is now 70, as Joe is guessing (what was that based on again?), wouldn't that explain the change in MO?

Now it's time for more with the killer and his son. They have a standard abuser/abusee chat, and the son offers a telling detail - he first helped out when he was a child, and a woman tried to escape the house. That's right, a ten-year-old tackled a serial killer's victim in order to help out. Ouch. They're already picking out their next victim, which is going to be just as easy as ever: obviously no one's awareness will be heightened even though a serial killer has killed three people in that town that week, and the manner in which the two killers operate is now common knowledge.

So that happens. But meanwhile, the team has figured out that it's a father and son team - the rest of the team dismissed it, but Joe insists that it's the only possible explanation. Why did they dismiss it? Because inherited sexual sadism is so super-rare! That's right, rareness led them to dismiss that out of hand, but not the possibility of a copycat. Because there have only been like five father/son serial killer situations, as opposed copycat killings, which has never happened. Idiots.

I'm being hyperbolic, of course, there was the New York Zodiac.

Now convinced of Joe's profile, the team just has to figure out how to save the latest victim! I'm kidding - there's still twenty minutes left, and the latest victim isn't playing along with the whole 'leave a creepy message' thing. The dad would have rather just killed their next-door neighbour, but the son correctly points out that there's no way on earth they wouldn't be caught if that happens. Unconvinced, the dad murders the latest girl in a fury, officially entering the 'devolution' phase of his spree.

Over at the police station, the detective in charge of the case wants Joe to talk to the press - apparently the fact that a father-son team is involved has leaked, and fears need to be allayed! Wait, how did that leak? The FBI team only came to that conclusion an hour ago in a sealed room. Why did they tell anyone? Isn't this 'leak' situation really on them?

The team then decides to take a different tack - instead of focusing on the last victim, since that's the one that the killers are trying to recreate, why not look into the two victims whose families weren't called! That seems like a good lead, right?

Hey, why aren't they tracing the phone calls? Even if they're being made from a cell phone, there should still be a record of what part of town the cell phone was located in.

So the team looks into the people who didn't make calls: one was the first, so they write it off as a developing MO. The other was the eighth victim. Her story:

I don't know what program Garcia is using, but it's terrible.

The team clues into the connection - this victim had a father and son of the correct age, and the only logical reason they'd have to not make her phone someone is because everyone could have possibly phoned would have been in the room with her. Which is cute and all, but why didn't any of those victims describe the killer to their parents' answering machines? Seems like a missed opportunity, since they obviously knew they were going to be killed.

Anyhoo, now that they've identified the killers, we're faced with the greatest failure of profiling yet. All those years ago Joe was in the room with the killer, and missed it. Now maybe he was just taken in by the performance of a grieving husband, but here's the thing: every other victim was a single young blonde woman living alone. The eighth victim was a 30-something wife and mother who lived with her family. All the victims were electrocuted, and the woman's creepy husband was an electrician. How hard should this have been to figure out?

Time to set the ticking clock: while the team runs over to the killers' house, the son leaves to kidnap his next door neighbour. So while the old man is being arrested, a young woman is being dragged off to a warehouse somewhere! Will the team be able to find her? Of course they will, but how?

In a great moment, Joe dramatically arrests the old man for the murders committed so far in the episode. Except he only gives three names - there were two teaser kills, the woman in the park, and the latest victim. Yes, the latest one's body hasn't been discovered yet, but are they not aware of her? It seems like the mysterious disappearance of a woman exactly fitting the victim profile in broad daylight would have gotten to them.

There's a hitch in finding the son - he drives up to collect his dad, sees the cops, and then drives away. For some reason the cops weren't looking around for the van registered in his name.

Joe tries to get the old man to reveal his son's location, but he doesn't have much information to offer. He does mention that he used a piece of electro-shock therapy equipment to badly burn his victims. A simple records check reveals that the old man rewired an incredibly creepy mental institution that was subsequently shut down:

Why wasn't more of the episode set here?

The team rushes over there, and instead of simply shooting the son, they make him feel bad about his life by revealing that the victim he helped subdue was actually his mother!


Oh, and there's another call to Derek from Ellie. Emily thinks it's a bad idea to keep in touch, and that she should be getting help from a professional. Um, isn't Derek a trained psychologist? If not, what's he doing on the team?

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

Bad profiling allowed the guy to go on killing for twenty years, taking an additional sixteen victims. Then it helped a little, letting them figure that the only person who would help a serial killer years into his decline would be his son. So it's basically a wash.

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

In any wife's murder the husband is always the prime suspect. Add to that truism the fact that this victim didn't fit demographically with the others, was abducted from her own home, and the husband had the training necessary to kill her in the manner the murderer used, and it's kind of inexcusable that they didn't get him twenty ears ago.

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

2/10 - Also, how did Joe profile that the killer was a guy in his late 40s back in 1983 when the killings started? They had no forensics and no witness statements. All they knew was that a guy was able to talk single women in their early 20s into an isolated location, and then kill them brutally. Why on earth would he jump to the conclusion that he was dealing with a man in his 40s? Wouldn't someone their own age be far more likely? Also, isn't it super-weird for a man to only start killing in his 40s - shouldn't there have been a trail of earlier crimes building up to the serial killings, meaning that the supposedly innocent husband of a victim would have had a history of assault, sexual and otherwise?

Man, if they're not even going to play by their own rules, what's the point?


Anonymous said...

slightly off topic i suppose but hey, you brought it up in your great review: i would go farther, vard, and say i like the show better w/o jj. much like an ex girlfriend - i didn't realize how annoying she was until she was gone.

plus it frees up the other characters to have more natural sounding dialogue and doesn't require rediculous out-of-character jj dialogue, some of which you pointed out in previous reviews, just to give jj screen time. finally interjects new blood and potential for conflict in story lines - such as garcia struggling in her new role and new girl's mistakes.

imho, great move criminal minds!

Anonymous said...

The really annoying thing about this show is that it makes real psychologists look bad. If you're talking about a father/son killing team, what's the likelihood that you're talking about "inherited sexual sadism"? Real psychologists, which this team don't even pretend to be (they're mostly ex-cops/lawyers/CIA) know a little something about the survival strategies of children suffering severe abuse and living in constant fear and hypervigilance - we've all heard of Stockholm Syndrome.

And incidentally, why was the son burying the last victim in the garden? Don't they usually dump them around the city?

I think I liked it better when you were giving blow-by-blow analysis - there's just so much idiocy to cover!

Anonymous said...

Why are they interviewing an old man with Alzheimer's without a lawyer or an appropriate adult!

And why did the son say he'd left a note telling his father where he was going, but according to Emily the note only said that he was going to get "a prize"? You already told your father you were going out! The note was supposed to tell him where!

Why are the team obsessed with the idea of pokers and curling irons? The pathologist told you that they were electrical burns! You do know the difference?

Vicendum said...

I remember thinking that this episode reminded me a lot of Rossi's entrance arc (arguably the only real time David Rossi was actually a *character* as opposed to someone who had lines) in that this became another of Rossi's "unfinished business" cases. Not only was the recycled storyline jarring, no mention or allusion to it was made in previous episodes- this was a case Rossi brooded over, yet it just popped up "out of the blue".

I will give this episode this much- at least there's a *reason* for the spree killing (Alzheimer's), instead of some contrived instances that don't make sense except for entertainment purposes.

Unknown said...

The titles. Oh god the titles! They have an incredible selection of vinyl albums here. It's not the biggest record store Iv'e seen (in that it's not Amoeba Records) but it was more than I could hope to explore in a day. A week? Possibly. free background checks texas