Criminal Minds 612: Corazon

The episode opens with some intercutting between Reid, nervously waiting in a hallway, and the skyline of Miami, identified via a helicopter shot of that one street we always see:
Until this moment I didn't realize that there was a park across the street from those businesses.

So we'll take the murder in Miami as read - a dude being confronted with a white bird before being killed suggests that this is some kind of black magic ritual (Santeria? Is that the right word?) - and move on to the more important plotline: What's wrong with Reid? He's now suffering from persistent migraines, which may be the sign of a physical ailment, or possibly a clue that his hereditary schizophrenia is finally showing up. Is it weird that I spent ten seconds trying to figure out how to spell hereditary but schizophrenia just flowed across the keyboard?

Over at FBI headquarters they're running down the details of the case - three people have been brutally murdered in their homes, with shells placed over their eyes and mouths, and religious paraphernalia left about the scene. This leads Reid to offer the Prentiss Award-winning line of the night:

I don't want to tell you how to do your job, Reid, but isn't the fact that it's religiously significant a KEY PART of the signature, rather than a competing explanation? In that you can use the fact that the killer knows about this (presumably obscure) religious rite to help narrow the field?

Also, unsurprisingly, the killer's timetable is accelerating, because like all killers, he's a spree killer. They'll have just two days before the next victim turns up! Not that they'll be able to prevent it, of course.

They're talking about the case on the plane (again suggesting that they could skip the FBI office meeting - I guess they paid a lot for the set, and need to use it...), and Reid confirms for me that it is, in fact, Santeria they're dealing with, specifically a 'trickster god' that the shells are used to worship. Rachel is somehow the only one who notices that Reid is sitting in a dark corner cradling his head, rather than prattling on constantly the way he normally does. She doesn't make a big deal about it, though, so Reid is saved from making a teary confession of his fears until later in the episode. Actually, he probably won't do that, but I'm just hoping Gubler will get himself an Emmy-submission scene, finally.

Greg and Emily look over the crime scene, and notice that all of the black magic insignias were drawn before the murder, and that there was no forced entry - this alone lets them know that the victim was willingly taking part in some magical ritual before the murder! So they're looking for someone he would have trusted as a religious leader in his community.

Speaking of which, Derek and Reid have made it over to the community centre, where they learn that the latest victim had cancer, and was being treated for it with magic! Just when it looks like they're about to be handed a suspect, the people working at the community centre shoo witnesses away before they can offer the name of the people who helped the last victim with his illness.

Since they won't be able to get any help from the community, the team sets Garcia on finding them an academic expert on Santeria, hoping he'll have run into potential suspects during his travels, or at least have some insight into the rituals. While they're busy waiting around for someone to do their research for them, the killer brutally murders the guy who talked to them at the community centre. Which suggests that he has to be one of the workers there, since who else could have possibly known that he was talking to the cops?

Reid and Derek go to meet with the professor, who lets them know that they're dealing with 'Palo-mayumbe', a far more evil version religion, focused around grave-robbing and getting power from the spirits of the dead. Significantly, the prof stresses that this is an incredibly obscure and secretive religion, and that he's currently working on the first-ever detailed study of it. This means that either he's the killer, or he knows who the killer is - after all, he's got to be talking to a practicioner if he's writing a book, and how many of them can there be in that one neighbourhood? Even the entire city?

The main problem? Their killer has been stealing fingers, which means that he's probably worshiping a deity who requires the fingers from seven victims!

Let's skip over the profiling scene, since these are all pretty much the same, and all of the rank-and-file cops have never once used the information to help catch the killer, making this a wasted exercise. Garcia shows up with more important information, however - all of the victims had their names show up on the sign-in sheet at the community centre soup kitchen that they visited the previous day!

Wait, how does she know that? The place is incredibly low tech and so secretive that they won't let anyone who eats there talk to the police - you're telling me that they have a computerized sign-in sheet? And that Garcia was totally comfortable illegally hacking into it, since there's no way the people who work there would have co-operated without a warrant?

So off they go, back to the community centre, where the suspicious manager is in the middle of a chicken-slaughtering ceremony. This leads to Derek overreacting slightly and drawing his gun - although maybe not. We never see it in his hands, but if you check out his shoulders in this shot:

Derek is clearly holding something in both hands - and the priest certainly drops his knife incredibly quickly. And in the next shot-

His holster is empty. This is remarkably bad community interaction, Derek. These people already don't want to talk to you, and now you're pulling a gun on them? Don't tell me you felt threatened by the knife - you've been told time and again animal sacrifice is a key part of their religion, and there's barely been a scene in this episode where you weren't confronted with dead animals. You can't be shocked.

In the end, the priest goes along with Derek and Reid, largely because of a meaningful look he shares with the younger man. Has he used his magic powers to detect Reid's illness? WIll Santeria save the profiler? Oh, and speaking of magic powers, when Reid walks out of the community centre, he notices the gate of a chain-link fence clinking in the wind - why is this significant? It's the same gate that the show kept cutting to during Reid's earlier headache/murder montage. I'd just assumed that it was the gate outside the victim's house, but now that doesn't seem to be the case - is the implication that those shots were in Reid's head, rather than just an editor's conceit? If so, has a brain tumor turned him psychic? Because that would be awesome! Although it would make the show's continuing insistence on not having them battle a werewolf look additionally ridiculous.

The priest turns out to be an ex-con who spent 15 years in jail, and used to be part of a gang that chopped people up with machetes! Which officially establishes him as a red herring, given that we're halfway through the episode and he's in a jail cell.

Reid goes in to talk to him, showing off the pictures of the victims. Turns out all of them were people who came to the priest in order to be cured of a variety of illnesses! He's also able to tell that Reid is suffering from migraines, although that observation might be less supernatural in origin than a simple guess based on the fact that Reid is squinting in the incredibly dim light of the interrogation room.

Joe, Emily, and Rachel head to the community centre to look for evidence in the priest's room/talk to his assistant, and it's worth noting that Rachel still isn't carrying a gun-

Even after a serial killer tried to murder her last week. Seems like she should look into that.

Also, did they get permission to search the priest's room? He's voluntarily talking to them at the station, not under arrest - and they sure as hell didn't get a warrant. Are these guys desperate to make sure he never does time?

While Joe and company find drugs, an evil altar, and a bloody shoe in the room occupied by the priest's assistant (is he the killer? That would be a twist, given that unlike the professor, he's had no dialogue.), Derek confronts the priest with pictures of all the people that were cut up by his gang. The priest doesn't acknowledge Derek's presence, however - he's too busy hypnotizing Reid by staring into his eyes and tapping rhythmically on the table, then chanting Somehow the fact that this hypnotism is lost on Derek, who just lets it go on and on.

Oh, and the teen showed up at the community center, then fled - worried that he'll go to jail, even though the incriminating search of his domicile was entirely illegal.

After the priest's religious mania has ended the team debates what to do about him. Reid offers to go back in, saying that since he remembers the bizarre words that the priest was saying, he can get a translation from the guy with no trouble.

A couple of problems here. 1 - it seems that Reid only ever uses his eidetic memory in situations where someone either was or should have been recording what was being said, making it redundant. 2 - you're trusting a possible killer to honestly tell you what he was saying? Doesn't it make more sense to have the statements independently translated, and only then run it by your suspect, so that you can test his statement versus the truth, and judge his motives accordingly?

The priest claims that Reid has 'bad spirits' getting in his head and making him sick. Which is a pretty good guess, actually. He also warns that right now someone is in danger! All of this interesting - but what's much more interesting is Reid's outfit, which I'm only now noticing involves a watch being worn on top of a cardigan:

You finally get a decent haircut and then immediately spoil it like this? It's like you don't want people to take you seriously. Also, why are you wearing a cardigan in Miami? The guy in front of you is wearing an open linen shirt and he seems perfectly comfortable. You must be sweltering.

Even hearing about his assistant's crimes (turns out the shrine in his room has human fingers and brain in it - I guess I was wrong about the professor) doesn't convince the priest that his teen ward his responsible, and he demands the opportunity to find the boy and prove his innocence. Before we get a ruling on that, however, the local cop offers a piece of evidence that makes the whole show seem terribly written: on the last victim the tongue and hands were cut off (and out) before death! Which raises the question: how did no one hear that? The killer followed the man into his apartment building, clubbed him on the head, and then dragged him into his room for torture. The guy lives in a cheaply-constructed lower-class Miami slum - how thick could those walls possibly be? Is the show really trying to claim that no one heard a man screaming as his tongue was torn out? How could they not?

The priest offers to perform a ritual that will identify the killer, so he summons a few spirits to consult. This involves merely giving his expertise on ritual - he announces that no real priest would take a brain and leave a head, or simply toss a tongue in a jar. This convinces the team that the tongue is 'signature' not 'ritual', and that it must be meant as a way of silencing someone! I'd personally guess that it was meant to silence the man who it was torn out of - you know, the one who was talking to the police directly before being murdered in order to keep his mouth shut.

While the priest runs off to find his assistant (with no accompaniment?!?!), the team wonders aloud about just how good the evidence against the assistant is. There were no fingerprints at any crime scene, but a bloody shoeprint carelessly left? And then that shoe was just lying around the assistant's room, along with body parts from the victims? It's all too perfect! Especially the part Joe focuses on, in the second-dumbest line of the night-

Really? You think the killer knew what kind of person that the FBI was going to 'profile' and then specifically picked a patsy who fit your (apparently easily predictable) theories about criminal behaviour? Doesn't that seem like a stretch to anyone else? Also, doesn't this rely entirely on the patsy not having an alibi for any of these crimes - which might be a stretch, since his full-time job was being the assistant to a priest? And what would have happened if he'd returned to his room (that the killer somehow snuck into) and found all the evidence, then called the police to report it? After all, the killer would have no possible reason to think that the cops would search the assistant's room, seeing as he wasn't a suspect, and they didn't have a warrant.

God, this is a terrible plan.

Luckily the team manages to talk their way into figuring out that the prof is the killer - based entirely on  the fact that he's publishing a book about the murders. Isn't it only natural that he'd want to make the public be super-worried about the religion he was the most prominent expert on? Also, they assume that he'd taken on the kid as an assistant, and given him the shrine full of human body parts as part of his training.

Seriously, why didn't he kill the teen? Having a guy around who can just tell the cops you did it makes absolutely no sense.

Meanwhile, the professor has knocked out and kidnapped the priest from the community centre, and then disappeared. But where could he possibly have taken him? It's up to Reid to figure it out with a psychic vision - the house next door with the chain-link gate. Which Reid completely goes to alone, despite the fact that there are literally a dozen cops within twenty feet of him when he figures it out.

I seriously have no idea why he does this.

Still, everything works out just fine, with Reid keeping the professor chatting just long enough to let the rest of the police figure out where he's gone - not that he needs the help, since the killer is so distracted by his bad planning that Reid is able to grab a pipe and club him into unconsciousness.

The priest then gives Reid a charm as a way of saying thank you - then warns that Reid will be needing its protection. Greg finally takes notice of Reid's increasingly erratic behaviour, but he continues to lie about it. Some time later, Reid goes to see his doctor and discovers that he doesn't have a tumor - which means that it's probably schizophrenia, which he's not ready to accept!

Does this mean Reid is finally getting another character arc? If so, good for him! Let's hope it goes better than the 'addicted to opium for a couple of weeks but then everyone forgot about it' one did.


Even though Rachel was in this episode, I don't think she had more than three lines. Which raises an important question - who thought adding a sixth profiler to the team was a good idea? The show already has five different characters who offer interchangeable theories, what possible benefit could come from tacking a sixth one on there? I always gave JJ a hard time for not being a useful character and never helping solve crimes, but at least she had a distinct role that wasn't exactly the same as everyone else's.

Other than that one episode where they accidentally gave her Emily's lines and no one noticed.

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

Almost not - it was clear evidence and the expertise of witnesses that wrapped this up.

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

Actually yes - the way they figured it out was by confronting two experts with a piece of evidence. One told the truth about its significance, the other one lied. The fact that he lied for no reason at all, and that the lie in no way served to protect him is unimportant - that pointless lie drew their attention to him.

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

2/10 - Seriously, why did he lie about the tongue? Saying 'the killer doesn't seem to know a lot about the religion' would have actually served to make you less suspicious. Also, just how in on these murders was the teen? No one but him could have told the killer that victim number four was talking to the cops - which means that when that guy wound up beheaded, the teen would have full-on known that he was working for a serial killer. Sure he had a troubled childhood, but serial killer apprentice? Seems like a stretch.

Also, why did the team at no point simply ask the priest/assistant/community 'Hey, who's been around here a lot, talking about this obscure religion?' That professor doesn't seem like the type to ever keep his mouth shut, and even insular communities should be fine opening their mouths to incriminate a cultural tourist looking to exploit their traditions for his own fame.


Anonymous said...

Does anyone else not like Seaver at all? Because I can't stand her..

Chris Abbey said...

After watching the episode and before reading your review, my first thought was, "Why always Santaria? Why doesn't it always work in these shows? And why not a f-ing werewolf?" My second thought was, "How come the whole team except Reid (an agnostic) is Catholic? And now Reid is a believer in the supernatural, too? C'mon show." Santaria, yes. Werewolves, no. At least we have our boundaries.

Vardulon said...

Fun fact about the team's Catholicism - this is a throwback to when the books about profiling were written in the 80s. Throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s the FBI specifically recruited as many agents of Italian and Irish descent as they could, looking for people with cultural insights that would help them deal with the mob and IRA. As a byproduct, for a while there the FBI was an almost exclusively Catholic organisation.

Of course, all of the characters on the show (save for Joe, who fits this criteria exactly) were recruited in the 90s and later, and don't fit in that demographic category, so it's basically just research being misapplied.

BedazzledCrone said...

Clearly somebody (writers/producers/directors - they're interchangeable on this show) thinks this is the early beginnings of Reid's schizophrenia - but since this show is not thought through as a whole (unlike B5 or the STs), who know when that arc will reappear. It is so like his autism (really???) and his heroin addiction.

What actually amazes me is how everyone on the team is completely oblivious to what is going on with their fellow team members - even when they are aware of issues. That Reid doesn't want to admit the possibility is actually completely normal (and he doesn't know better than others - physician heal thyself; a lawyer who has himself as a client is a fool - etc., and psychologists and psychiatrists, well ..........), but for the team to ignore this throughout the episode is just what one expects from the writers of CM.

Do they actually avoid writing story arcs because they are afraid that they are going to be cancelled? Every year?