Criminal Minds 605: Safe Haven

A woman is tied up in a room upstairs. Meanwhile, a killer downstairs idly flips television channels on a kitchen television. Based on this look we get of him, he's obviously pretty young. The parents try gamely to make their escape, but the mother's heart really isn't in it since her children have already been murdered, so their deaths are inevitable.

Now it's time for the meeting room, where the team discovers that this is the second family to be murdered in just two days! The only information they're able to glean is that the fathers are somehow the focus of rage - other members of the family are killed relatively bloodlessly, but the fathers are brutally stabbed to death... but why?

We'll have to wait a moment to find out, since there's some extraneous plot to deal with. Remember Eric's daughter?

Yeah, me neither. Anyway, she's in Quantico to visit Derek, since she's being abused by her foster family. Will she be taken in by Derek, since he empathizes with her struggle, being the child of a murdered cop himself? I certainly hope so, since that would be an interesting turn for the character, and it's not like Derek gets many of those.


On the plane they learn a couple of interesting things about the scene - in each house a dinner place had been set for a guest and there was no forced entry... could the families have known their killer? I also haven't heard any discussions of fingerprints yet, which is odd, given that the killer was walking around touching things without wearing gloves.

The show is being weirdly lazy about disguising the fact that the killer is an evil teen - usually in their 'flashback' sequences they have a generic killer, since the team has no idea who they're looking for. But check out the ghostly figure in the playroom-

Clearly a really young killer, even wearing jeans like their villain. The only difference is that he's not wearing a hoodie. Odd.

Over at the police station the team has a different take on the murders - they think the killer is targeting mothers, since being bashed in the face killed them slowly, while the vivisection of the husband was done post-mortem, likely out of curiosity. It's a good observation... but will it help them catch the killer?

They try to figure out how the killer could get the family's complete trust and have the chance to be alone with the children when he's so profoundly crazy. The show then thinks it's doing a clever twist by having a priest drive up to help a hitchhiking kid on the side of the road.

Who could be more trustworthy than a reverend, since both families were super-religious? Of course, the audience already knows the killer is a teen, so the twist that the rev is going to wind up dead doesn't work as well as it might.

The team finally clues into the killer's identity when they find that the reverend was murdered in mid-drive, and then his arm was dissected. Impulsive plus cutting up for fun = a child, it seems. Reid then goes a little further and says that the lack of sexual experimentation with victims (weird code word for rape?) could be because he's prepubescent. Except the killer-

Is clearly in the neighbourhood of 14, and doesn't have a high voice, so that's not likely.

He's currently at a rest stop, waiting for some help. When a family arrives at the rest stop he claims that a bus left without him, and he's stranded on his way to Chicago. The family offers to take him to the police so that they can track his mother down, and he happily accepts. Which is odd, given that his MO is to get them to their house and kill them. Is he going to stab them in the car again?

Oh, and I'm calling it now, the family who picked him up? Single mother and two kids - the kids are not getting killed. We're midway through the show, and this would normally be the second set of victims, but the show has never once in over a hundred episodes killed a child past the teaser. These kids have lines, they're safe.

When they get to the police station the killer is able to worm his way into the family's home when the kids see a tattooed thug being brought inside, and guilt the mom into letting the kid stay with them overnight before going to the cops. Here's the thing, though - what would have happened if there hadn't been a thug outside the jail? We're asked to believe that this killer is incredibly streetwise and expert at spinning lies to ingratiate himself to families - but dumb luck keeps him from being turned over to the cops? That's not really satisfying.

There's some B-plot stuff with Derek investigating Ellie's neglect and trying to have her transferred to Virginia. Man, this might get interesting!

Reid has a guess about where the killer is from based on two things - A: Nebraska's 'safe haven' laws were written so that any child could be abandoned at a hospital, not just a baby, and the first mother worked at a Nebraska hospital. Logic would dictate that must be how she met the killer! Although you'd think as a nurse who works with the public that she'd know better than to bring a child disturbed enough to be left at a hospital home with her, but let's move on.

Over at the new victims' house, the mother makes the killer dial 'home', so that she can leave a message with his 'mother'. He calls the first victim's answering machine, and the mother leaves a message detailing her name and how she came to meet the killer. This message is picked up the next day by Reid and Joe, which gives them their first concrete lead! Now it's simply a matter of getting over to the woman's house!

When they arrive at the house, the children are fin (told you!) but the mother and killer are missing! Hold on a second... what is the team doing at the house?

They found out that the killer's latest victims are in Des Moines. They are in Council Bluffs when they recieve this information. So rather than simply calling the cops (or FBI) in Des Moines and having them raid the house, apparently they thought it was important that they do the raiding themselves. Here's the thing, though-

While the 80 might be the straightest road in the world, and sirens can certainly speed up a trip, that's still a hundred and twenty miles. Did they say to themselves 'sure he might be killing the family right now, but what's another hour, in the great scheme of things?'.

God, they're terrible at their jobs.

The kids don't know where their mother and the killer have gone, other than that they left in the car, where they are right now. The mom is trying to reason with the killer and talk him down, but he's unimpressed. I'm equally unimpressed, because this show just lost me. Why? Because the mother could kill him at literally any moment. Allow me to demonstrate.

She is wearing a seatbelt. He is not, because he's dumb, impulsive child who doesn't like being restrained. A simple turn into a tree, telephone pole, or yes, even a wall, while travelling as slowly astwenty miles an hour will leave her almost completely unharmed (between the seatbelt and airbag), while he will be sent into the dashboard/windshield with all the force of a sledgehammer impacting his head. The end. She hasn't already done this, however, which suggests she won't. Which makes everything that happens her own fault.

We do learn his motivation, though - he wants to get back to his mother's place to get revenge on her. If he wanted to get home, why didn't he just steal a car from one of the families he murdered? It's not like these people don't have automatics. Wouldn't that have been far easier than hitchiking and then murdering whoever picks him up?

It turns out the first victim had talked to a friend about placing an abandoned child with them (how come this didn't come up earlier?) on the night she died, and the kid gave a name and place where he lived. The team jumps to the conclusion that while names are easy to fake, who has another town ready in their mind? They search town records for teens with histories of mental or behavioural problems.

While that's happening, they try to resolve the B plot in the least interesting way, by Derek asking Garcia to track down Ellie's mother. Yawn.

In other news, the killer has the new victim drop him on the side of the road near his house, then stabs her. Which, again, is entirely her fault. He then steals a skateboard and races home.

Going by kids with behavioural problems who haven't been in school in a few days (there's an easy-to-access record of that?), the team narrows the possibilities to thirty-odd kids, but that's too many to visit. Although if you assigned five people you could call all of those houses in less than ten minutes, give them the situation - whoever abandoned a spree killer would, I'd imagine, be happy to invite a police cruiser over to their home if they heard he was coming back.

More importantly, though - how is the killer not already at his house? According to the kids he left with their mother in the middle of the night - Newton, IA, where he's headed, is just thirty miles from Des Moines - even counting them having to drive out of the suburbs, that's no more than an hour's trip. How could the team possibly catch up if they didn't find out about the journey until six hours later?

The killer's MO is to tie up the children of the families, so the team extrapolates that he'd probably do that to his own family as well, so they look within the sample group for younger siblings who have recently been hospitalized with injuries.

The team rushes over to the house, where the killer is holding the mother and daughter hostage. They're playing out a little psychodrama - the long and the short of it is that the killer is evil because the mother was awful to him his whole life. Why? It seems that she was pregnant with twins early on, and that one kid absorbed the other. So she treated him like a murderer his whole life and he became one.

Sadly, when the FBI arrives they're able to arrest him without incident, instead of simply shooting him to death. The kid then brags that since he's 13 (really? Okay...) he'll be out of jail in five years anyhow. Derek says that he'll go to every parole hearing to make sure that doesn't happen. Except he won't have to - there's no way this guy won't be tried as an adult. He may be 13, but he brutally murdered 10 people, including four children in two states - by comparison, I was able to find an Iowa case where a 14-year-old girl beat a single old woman to death and went away forever. So yeah, he'll never see freedom again.

Even if it turns out that he only had 9 victims, since the idiotic woman survived her stabbing somehow.


Oh, and the Derek storyline is wrapped up in the least interesting way possible, with Eric's ex-wife showing up to take custody of Ellie, absolving Derek of all responsibility.


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

This time it almost was - analyzing behavioural characteristics told them their prey was likely a child. Unfortunately, that guesswork in no way helped them in their search for the specific child they were looking for - although the guesswork about the abusing younger siblings was of value.

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

In every single way. Oh my god did the cops drop the ball this week. Not only did they find out how to catch the killer in a completely traditional way (the phone message), but they only didn't know that they were looking for an evil kid because no legwork had been done in Omaha. The kid was dropped off at a hospital. A nurse took him home and called friends about a foster placement. The next day her whole family was dead. Somehow the cops didn't look into what she'd done in the last day of her life, or checked her phone records. There were multiple people who could have told them exactly who the killer was that first morning, and hospital security cameras could have gotten them a picture of the killer. This is some of the shoddiest policework ever depicted on this show.

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

3/10 - Seriously, Derek almost gets an interesting arc, and then it just disappears? What the hell, Criminal Minds?


Perpetual Beginner said...

Yeah - so much could have been interesting with this episode, and then wasn't.

The age thing is actually plausible though. We're a slow-maturing family, and my 13-year-old son is just hitting the outskirts of puberty. His voice has mostly changed (it may yet get deeper, but it's definitely already dropped, no squeaking), and he's growing, but no real interest in sexual things yet. I expect some to show up momentarily, but for right now he is physically a very close match for this perp. Not in the least murderous, though.

And I have sympathy with the second mother. I expect I would have a hard time deliberately sending a kid so close to one of my own through a windshield, irregardless of the knife-wielding aspects. Especially given that he hadn't murdered, or even especially hurt her kids, just frightened them.

Anonymous said...

Note how hard Morgan was on Ellie's mother for leaving her child - do you think he would have been so hard on an absentee father? Yet another example of women having to work twice as hard as men to prove themselves worthy - would a father who'd left the family have written the child a letter every single day?

Pandaparty said...

Also, if she'd crashed the car, he probably would have accidentally stabbed himself with the way he's holding that knife.

BedazzledCrone said...

This has been bothering me since the end of the first episode of the 6th season. This is a child with no one – but she is a child of a cop – were there no cop families willing to take her in? Given the absolute horrors that this team has seen in foster homes, how in the hell could Derek leave her to a foster home in the first place without at least checking it out? To quote the Count – god this is a terrible show. P.S.: why didn't they get Penelope to locate the mother in the 1st place ......................