Criminal Minds 610: What Happens at Home...

Outside a walled suburbia, a Scorpion lurks in the dirt, gradually climbing a wall and infiltrating the placid lawns of this planned community. This is the show's way of letting us know that we're dealing with an unusually artistic episode of Criminal Minds. Or that someone had a CGI scorpion model commissioned for fun, and figured out a way to write off the cost as a business expense.

A woman is working alone in her house on a product-placement brand laptop when she hears something outside. Stepping away from her novel-in-progress, she's distracted by a car passing outside just long enough for a hooded man to sneak up behind her and loop a garotte around her neck! But how did he get inside the house? Anyone paranoid enough to live in a gated community would obviously have a security system, wouldn't they?

So I'm calling it now: the guy in charge of security for the whole community will turn out to ironically be the one killing people. Unless the lack of a security system is just a writer's gaffe.

While the team runs down the case, we learn that this is the third identical murder in the gated community in the last two months. Which is just a ridiculously fast timeline. Also, after the second murder revealed that this was a trend, wouldn't this place have been torn apart until the killer was caught? These are people demanding safety, and it took three victims before the FBI was called?

More importantly, how is the husband of the latest victim not already under arrest? Here's my evidence - the first victim's family was away, leaving her alone in the house. The second victim's husband and children were camping in the backyard, leaving her alone in the house for long enough to be murdered. This third victim was apparently strangled to death while her husband and daughter were asleep just rooms away.

Um... huh? This isn't an instant death. She was strangled for a number of brutal, struggle-filled minutes. How did anyone sleep through that? Of course, this ridiculous theory doesn't account for why the daughter didn't speak up, of course, it's possible she's being threatened by the father, who knows? Also, it being the husband wouldn't explain getting past security systems, and I really want it to be the head security guy - for irony's sake.

There's a fun note when they mention that since all the people living in the gated community are white and upper-middle class, it's going to be difficult to use the profile to narrow down their suspect any. So they're saying all middle-class white men have histories of violence? Because you don't just start sneaking into women's homes and throttling them one day.

Greg explains that they going to defeat the homogeneity problem by examining a 'different set of parameters', which Joe is working on right now. Which is a nice way of saying Joe is off recruiting Clarice Starling to join the team. God, how I wish I was joking. The next scene actually opens with her jogging on the obstacle course. Oy.

It seems that Clarice is a low-grade agent that Joe knows because of something terrible from her childhood. He brings her in to consult on the case. Why? She's the child of a serial killer, and they hope by exploring her background, they'll know what to look for in the children of the killer! She doesn't just want to be interviewed, though - she wants to go along with them to work the case!

Okay, so they're not exactly doing the Clarice Starling thing, it's more Rachel Nichols' character from 'The Inside', a childhood victim of a serial murderer who feel compelled to chase down killers as a consequence. Not exactly original, Criminal Minds. Although, since this is Criminal Minds, what is?

After the credits the team is introduced to Clarice, who lets them know about her background as the daughter of a serial killer that Joe and Greg caught. No one has the least bit of a problem working with her, so I'm wondering why the show made as big a deal about it as they did. Then it's off to New Mexico, where the planned community is located! On their way in, they pass a creepy-looking security guard who I now hope is the killer.

Because come on, look at those sideburns!

They meet the local authorities and do the old 'split up immediately' thing, with Derek and Emily heading to the crime scene while everyone else looks over the existing evidence. The lead detective considers himself an amateur profiler, and he lays out what kind of person they're probably dealing with - family man, skilled labour, obsessed with control - the twist is that, as he puts it, he's just described '64 of the 71 men who live in the subdivision'!

Seriously? There's only 64 possible suspects? How is this a challenge in the least? When they were tracking down the Boston Strangler or Son of Sam the cops had to wade through thousands of names, painstakingly eliminating them one at a time. You have five dozen suspects. That's nothing. All you need is someone who doesn't have an alibi for all three murders. How many people like that can there possibly be?

This might be the easiest case the team has ever worked.

Garcia sends over files on everyone - none of whom seem to have a criminal background, which is a little odd. Reid collects the files, then is confronted by sideburns, who's oddly defensive about his authority being usurped. Which, sadly, moves him neatly into red herring territory. They then look over the videotapes of the detective's interviews with the community's men, in which he apparently didn't lock down anyone's alibis, somehow.

Finally we get a look at the husband of the latest victim, who's angry that no one has stopped the killer yet. Which is totally understandable. Emily does a characteristically bad job of consoling him, while not doing even the most basic checking to find out if he saw or heard anything on the night in question.

Derek shows up and gives us a clue about who the killer's been getting into houses, although it doesn't make the most sense. Supposedly the garage doors in the community only have five different codes - which is all well and good, but being able to open a garage door doesn't explain why the alarm system didn't go off when they entered the house proper. Or is this some kind of incredibly shoddy

That's setting aside the fact that garage doors aren't in the least bit quiet. Maybe not loud enough to wake up the neighbours, but our latest victim was sitting alone in her office - DIRECTLY ABOVE THE GARAGE DOOR:

Quietly working on a book. How could that beast have opened without her hearing it? Even if she'd been listening to music it would have rumbled through the floor! Is this something the team is missing, or terrible writing? I'm so confused!

There's a little heart-to-heart between Clarice and Reid, where she wonders if he can tell her about her dad's crimes. She's curious, you see, and claims to only know what she was told and what was in the papers. Gosh, I hope this is the most awkward come-on in the history of hitting on people, and not a serious request.

Your dad killed 25 women. There are books about his crimes. Episodes of American Justice. Probably a terrible slasher film by Uli Lommel. You don't need to ask a freak with a photographic memory about it if you're curious.

Greg interrupts their conversation to announce that they're going to hold a town meeting to talk about the crimes - just in case you were worried that Ed Bernero (who wrote this episode) didn't watch Millenium. Greg's got a scheme, though - he tells the head detective that the killer will display something he can't control when he's at the meeting, and they're going to be watching for it! Of course, this is a lie, but he wants the locals cops to spread the information around, leading the killer - who will presumably be unable to resist going to the meeting - to act too restrained and nervous about giving anything away.

Derek sends the latest victim's files over to Garcia, hoping that she was keeping a journal that might point to her killer. They also check the technical backgrounds of their suspects - why? They figure that the killer wasn't just randomly checking out houses hoping to murder someone if their garage door opened, he must have been targeting them when they were vulnerable, meaning he can open whatever garage door he wants! Which is a great theory and all, except that you don't really need a technical background for that. I'm fairly sure that there's an Iphone app for popping doors.

So, it's official then - they're not going to find it odd that no one heard/felt/noticed/was brought to alarm by garage doors opening post-bedtime. If there's one thing women left alone in the house when their families are out of town AREN'T hyper-vigiliant about it's the sound of their garage doors opening in the middle of the night.

Over at the church, it's time to prepare for the big meeting. They do the standard asking for witnesses rather than suspects, hoping, like in the first paedophile episode, that people will be more likely to come forward if they're not risking accusing their neighbours of a horrible crime. Meanwhile, the killer is out looking for his next victim - because every killer is a spree killer. More importantly, why is there a woman so blase about her safety as to be hanging out in her house, alone, at night, when she knows that there's a serial killer running around her neighbourhood, killing women at night? When this woman gets home she sees a note from the husband saying that the family's off at the town meeting - which is nice and all, but maybe they could have showed up a little late, and kept the wife from being murdered?

Although, in a way this is a good development, since based on the number of people in the church:

There's only like ten possible suspects left, if that.

Of course, this team doesn't know the killer is out stalking his prey, so instead they're watching the crowd, looking for a tell-tale sign of nervousness that will give away the game. Clarice, for her part, is watching the kids, who, according to her, will have a super-attentive and giving parent. One note: the kid won't have a pet! Because Clarice's father wouldn't ever give her one!

I'm not sure why they think that this guy's treatment of his children will mirror Clarice's upbringing. Considering that we've got no sign that this killer is in any way similar to her dad (her dad killed young women who were strangers, this guy kills full-grown women who are his friends and neighbours), why would he treat his children the same way that her dad did?

Still, even though there's no basis for it, they're using the dog absence as a way of narrowing things down, so when it's announced that 18 men didn't show up for the meeting, they act like cross-referencing the lack of pets will somehow be key. Simply checking those guys' alibis for the other three murders doesn't seem to cross anyone's mind. Also, they seem to have narrowed down to those 18 people without actually knowing about the latest murder. Turns out my assumption of Greg's plan was wrong - they weren't hoping the killer would show a tell while trying not to, they were sure that he wouldn't show up because he knew the FBI was looking for him. This assumption is based on the idea that the police department is so incredibly gossipy that in the two hours they had to spread the message (that they were supposed to keep to themselves) about the killer having an unmissable tell, literally every single man in town would have heard the news.

Let's say that the killer worked late that day, and as he was pulling into his driveway, his neighbour, who was just leaving for the meeting, yelled that he should come along to the town meeting about the murders. In that instance the killer would have shown up, completely unaware that he was supposed to be exhibiting a magical 'tell', and he would have been cleared of all involvement by the FBI. Because the didn't bother thinking their plan through in the least.

There's a character scene between Clarice and Emily on the way back to base, with Emily telling Clarice about how profiling is a process in which you can never tell which piece will be important until you see the whole puzzle. Or, you know, Penelope just tells you who the killer is, and all your intellectual faffing-about winds up being a waste of time.

Clarice also offers more backstory - her father is in prison for life, and she hasn't talked to him since the conviction. Is she joining the cast? Because they're giving her plenty of places to go, story-wise, which is generally not a priority with guest stars.

Clarice and Emily head to the files to check which families had pets - Red Herrington drops by to say he has that information, but in order to get it Emily will have to drive with him to a security office. Because it would be such a hassle for him to go, grab the info, and bring it back. Or just call when he gets there. I know they're trying to play up the whole 'he might be the killer' angle, but this is just ridiculous.

Over at the latest victim's house, Greg gets the Prentiss Award-Winning line of the night:

Um... moron? The latest murder happened when 70% of the town's male population was in a room with you. You don't have to start from the beginning, you have to start from whoever you can't personally give an alibi to!

Turns out this is mostly moot, since Clarice, for absolutely no reason, decides to bring the teaser murder victim's laptop back to her family. Yes, they were theoretically done with it, but no one told her to do this, and she didn't tell anyone where she was going. Which can only mean one thing: the husband is the killer, and she's going to spend act 4 being menaced by him.

They get there by having her apologize to him - she feels guilty for not knowing her dad was a murderer, and assumes this killer's family will feel the same way. The killer then invites her into the house to talk with his daughter, and I feel like an idiot for not noticing earlier that the guy had just one daughter, so that Clarice was going to have the opportunity to work through her emotional problems by catching a guy just like her own dad. Ugh.

So, is she going to kill him, or need to be rescued? Probably rescued.

When the team gets back to the base they discover some of the suspect files were missing - turns out the detective left out the files of the victims' husbands. Because he's a moron. That's right, not only did the teaser victim's husband have a history of assault, but he had a tendency to wander around the neighbourhood in the middle of the night. Yup, the guy was the detective's prime suspect right up until his wife was murdered.

Let's put that in the starkest possible terms, shall we? A woman was murdered, and the only other people in the house were her daughter and the prime suspect in a series of identical murders. And the detective used his presence there to ELIMINATE him as a suspect? Oh, but it's the husband, so of course the detective eliminated him. The guy's a cop - he's taken FBI courses and studied homicide. How on earth could he not know that, statistically speaking, a woman is more likely to be murdered by her husband than anyone else?

All of them morons.

Anyhoo, Clarice gets herself into trouble by talking about the families of killers, which the killer is unusually curious about. Greg and the team rush over to help - Clarice is incapable of physically defending herself, you see, so when the killer pulls a knife she slinks away in terrible.

Now that's an FBI Agent!

She chats with the killer, telling him about her backstory, letting him know how sad she is for his daughter's fate. Then Greg shows up and shoots the killer to death, solving everyone's problems. Which leads to yet another slo-motion 'isn't it sad that a serial killer is dead' sequence.

I wouldn't be so hard on this sequence if it weren't for the terribility of this song. More importantly, though, it's not clear why Clarice is so sad about this result. Maybe it's shock at seeing a guy shot in front of her, but she's looking to the little girl like she sees herself, and is worried for that little girl's future. Seems to me like jealousy would be a far better response. After all, that little girl has a little something called closure - no lengthy trial, no indefinite fail sentence, no letters trying to reconnect. It's going to suck for a couple of years, but eventually this won't have an effect on her day-to-day life the way it does on Clarice.

On the plane back, Clarice explains that she went to the house in order to apologize to the family of a victim, since she's never had the chance to do that. Um... yes you have. I'm sure not all 25 women's families are dead, so you could have done that at literally any time, you've just chosen not to. Doing it here and now is safer and more selfish, trying to get rid of some of your guilt without the risk of someone getting angry at you. Really a scumbag play, and utterly unprofessional.

Clarice announces that she'll never do it again. Ideally she would never get the chance, but since they're positioning her to join the team (despite having demonstrated no particular affinity for crime-solving), I'm sure there will be plenty of other opportunities to screw up/prove herself. She then tells the story of her dad murdering a puppy she brought home when she was a kid. Which is sad and all, but I'm still going to go ahead and question why they think 'not having pets' was a useful clue, when it's not at all uncommon for serial killers to have them. Hell, the whole idea of a killer who wants to self-identify as tough having Dobermans and Alsatians is so common as to be a cliche.

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

Dear lord no! They brought in a new profiler, and she had zero insight to offer! Yes, she figured out who the killer was, but that's only because she put herself in danger through selfishness and narcissism, leading to the killer acting incredibly creepy once he had her in a confined location.

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

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

1/10 - Let's set aside the noisiness of garage door openers for a second, and just marvel at this case. The detective had a prime suspect. And didn't mention it to anyone. It somehow didn't come up in conversation with the profilers who wanted to know everything about the case, even in the context of telling them 'man, it's odd that she got murdered, when her husband was my prime suspect - weird, huh?' Gosh, there's nothing about this show that makes sense, is there?

Also, there's 71 men in the town - you wouldn't check all of them for histories of violence? Why not? It would literally take Penelope just five more seconds. Come on, show. I'd say you're better than this, but it's been 120 episodes. I know you're not.


Perpetual Beginner said...

Generally not an episode I much liked. I will however, defend the terribly mixed emotions over the serial killer's death on the part of our newb. There may well be some jealousy in there that the little girl won't have the shadow of a living father hanging over her - which would likely be mixed with guilt, because however awful newb's father was, she probably doesn't wish him dead. She still has a chance, even if she never takes it, to try to understand why he did what he did, which chance the little girl doesn't have, nor will ever have. Plus some flashback memories to a traumatic night when her father was hauled away by the police are quite possible. Plus having somebody shot to death close enough to get blood spatter. Plus anger at herself for being such an idiot.

Basically, it ought to be a right mess inside of newb's head at this moment, and other than the awful song, I don't think they did a bad job of portraying it.

As opposed to the horrible job of plotting in this episode. I mean really, I can hear and feel our garage door going up when I'm sound asleep in our bedroom on the opposite side of the house. It's unmistakeable, and alerts me instantly any time I'm not expecting it.

Anonymous said...

What gets me is that they will have yet another person joining the BAU who would never be allowed to join the BAU in real life. After completing training, an agent has to work for the FBI for three years before being eligible to apply to the BAU.

feenix219 said...

I don't remember, but I vaguely have the feeling that Greg didn't meet Joe until he came out of retirement with the squad.... is this whole history between them contradictory?

Anonymous said...

I love how these guys are worried about triggering Rachel. Very different from Coyote on The Inside triggering her as often and as deeply as possible to get better insights from her.

Hanna said...

Your comment made me courious and I went back to episode 306, where Rossi first appears. He and Hotch greet each other as old friends. They knew each other before.