Criminal Minds 623: Big Sea

Down in Florida some barge-workers come across nine corpses on the ocean floor - the team is immediately called in, without a briefing sequence of any kind! Expedient! Garcia can turn up only six outstanding missing people in all of Jacksonville, and three of them are children - so the killer has to be finding his prey elsewhere!

Wait, they don't know how to restrict the timeline - are they seriously telling us that in the history of Jacksonville, Florida - a city of something like a million people - there have been only six disappearances that weren't resolved? Even if you restrict it to just ten years (as the next scene suggests that we do), that doesn't make the least bit of sense. Still, they're going to spread their search out to surrounding states, hoping to get lucky.

Then three more bodies turn up, and they're faced with an unfortunate reality - now that this dumpsite is public, the killer can go literally anywhere else to dump his victims.

Speaking of victims, we see the killer on his boat, gutting some fish, while the latest victim screams from below decks. Fun!
Derek explains to the local cop that they're pretty sure the killer is a fisherman. Why? Because he dismembers the bodies by cutting them apart at the joints, which only an experienced fisherman or butcher would know to do! Hold on, would a fisherman actually know all about jointing? Don't they mostly gut fish, when they deal with the fish at all, instead of just selling them en masse? What kind of fish would require jointing? I'm by no means a fish expert, never having caught anything larger than a foot, but I've seen plenty of fish gutted, and none 'disassembled at the joints'.

I'm sure an experienced hunter would know how to do this, but let's face it, if a killer spent ten hours trying to saw through a single bone with a serrated knife on his first victim fifteen years ago, I'm sure he'd gradually figure out the 'joint' thing as a better method for disposing of bodies.

I know the killer actually is a fisherman, but this is a crazy jump to conclusion. Also unsupported by the facts is the conclusion that the guy is local. They figure he must be since he knows to go and dump bodies during the fishing off-season, when he'll be relatively alone in the water. First off, they don't know when he dumped the bodies - they guess years because there's a layer of sediment between each set of remains, but that's not exact enough to guess times of year. Also, it's not hard to find out when the local fishing season ends. Google 'fishing season Jacksonville'. Ask literally anyone who works in the local fisheries. It's not obscure or hard-to-obtain information.

Garcia looks for local boat owners, but there are 31 thousand of those, so it's going to be a long search. Derek tells her to narrow it down by picking only boats that can be operated by a single person, but that's a mistake. At this point they can't be sure they're not dealing with a pair of killers, so why make that restriction? Also, since they don't yet know that he's actually killing people on the boat, couldn't he just bring a bag full of body pieces with him on a larger fishing vessel, and dump them overboard one night? After all, people wouldn't notice the smell, being surrounded by chum and all.

Also, Derek is a little distracted, noticing that an 'African American female' was killed in 2004. Has he been reminded of a case he worked on way back when?

Reid has some observations to make about the corpses - early ones have signs of disease and drugs use, so they're probably low-risk, prostitutes and the like. But then they get healthier and healthier... but why?

They give a press conference, looking for people who can identify the missing persons. This is both for investigative reasons, and because they hope that by creating a media circus, the killer will be convinced to stick around and watch the horrors of his crimes unfold in the public eye.

Derek's aunt sees the press conference, and calls him to ask if one of the bodies might be his long-disappeared cousin! Oh, so that's what that was about. Derek says that it can't be her, but doesn't seem convinced. The cousin was being chased by a stalker, and disappeared from Charleston, which isn't too far off. Apparently two weeks later the stalker killed himself, so they have no way of confirming whether he killed her or not. Then Joe says something weird-

Led to who? The stalker? You already knew who he was, then he killed himself after she disappeared. Were they led to his corpse? What is that line supposed to mean? That the profile says the stalker probably killed her, so he assumes she's dead? You don't need a 'profile' for that - stalkers regularly kill the people they're obsessed with. That's why they're such a problem.

Too bad they hadn't layered this whole 'dead cousin' in over a few season, so it wouldn't seem completely out of the blue.

Now it's back to the killer, who goes to his victim and blows drugs into his face... but why? Also, this is a twist, since the 1-year killing cycle suggests that the guy won't just run out and grab a new victim. which would suggest that this is a 'captivity' episode, and the victim will be rescued. But the victim is a man, and they don't get rescued. This is going to be a weird week, one way or another.

Over at the police station, people with suspicious stories about disappearing victims show up. One has a postcard from a woman who disappeared - could it have been written under duress? More importantly, she disappeared from Charleston - just like Derek's cousin!

Reid has more bone-related theories. One victim was brutally beaten to death with a hammer while still alive - also he was older than the other victims, and an alcoholic! Could the killer have murdered his father? Perhaps! Although unless you can identify the corpse, that's not really useful information.

Confirming that the Charleston victim is one of the corpses, they now had a confirmed hunting area for the killers. They also finally decide to narrow down the boats by assuming that he's killing people on the trip from Charleston to Jacksonville, which is quite reasonable. Then things get a little weird, when Reid announces that the postcard might not have been written under duress - since the victim had Parkinson's, and there's a Parkinson's drug that both stops tremors at small doses and makes people completely susceptible to suggestion at large doses. Maybe he's using that to control his victims? Of course, we already know that he is, what with the blowing dust into their faces, but let's pause for a second and consider this twist.

Setting aside the outlandish plot turn of a drug that's super-effective at controlling people, how did the killer find out about the drug? He couldn't have gotten it from the victim - she had Parkinson's, but wasn't taking medication for it, since she wanted to go out clean. Are they asking us to believe that the killer - completely coincidentally - killed a Parkinson's sufferer with a Parkinson's drug? Isn't that an incredible coincidence?

Also, why are they not immediately tracking down people who have access to large quantities of it? It can't be that easy to get.

Speaking of the drug, the killer has used it to get the victim to tie up his other victim - the first man's son! Ah, so that's how they can justify male victims to be rescued! Oh, and then he gets the dad to grab a knife, revealing that he causes people to stab themselves to death!

It turns out that there are a lot of suspicious postcards turning up, and since they were all theoretically dictated by the killer, Reid hopes he can use the specific language choices as a clue for the kind of person they're looking for! Joe and Rachel also raise the important question - how does a fisherman get more than a dozen people to climb out onto his creepy torture-boat? Simple, he must run a charter business, which would give him plenty of opportunities to talk to people and find out who fits his murder criteria!

What's that criteria? All of the victims were running away from something, so he was looking for people who were running away from something, and therefore wouldn't be missed! Joe then looks for some clues relating Derek's cousin's disappearance, since she seems to fit the victim profile. Did she have some connection to Charleston, would she have run there? All Derek offers is that his cousin didn't like the water - at a family outing where everyone went paddleboating, she remained ashore - so she probably wouldn't have gotten on a charter boat. This is all well and good, but isn't the fact that Derek's mother didn't get a postcard the way bigger clue pointing to the fact that she's probably not among the victims?

Then there's more torture, but there's no point in synopsizing that, so let's move on to the profile!

The team thinks that because the postcards all mention people running away from their responsibilities, the killer must hate people trying to start new lives. This probably stems from the way his father (and first victim) abandoned him as a child! Which is interesting, but not super-helpful to the assembled cops. Oh, and Derek's aunt has flown down, bringing along a hairbrush with the cousin's hair on it so that he can get a DNA test. You know, lady, they can just take your blood and look for a familial connection.

You know, it would have been completely reasonable for Derek's missing cousin to be white, but there's a weird taboo in American entertainment about addressing that aspect of being a mixed-race child. It's such a taboo that way back when we met Derek's mom I'd just assumed he was adopted, considering how unusual it is for American television to go there.

More with the victims - they don't want to die, it's sad, let's continue.

In Derek's conversation with his aunt he discovers that his cousin couldn't get on boats because she became terribly seasick whenever she got into one. He extrapolates that his cousin wouldn't have accepted a charter, so that can't be the ruse the killer is using to find victims! Unless his cousin isn't one of the victims.

Still, they decide to look for connections between the victims, suggesting how the killer might have found them. Not only did none of them have any connections in Charleston, but none of the victims have any records of traveling to Charleston. How is that possible? The team decides that the killer must be grabbing people 'en route', so while they drove down there? But one of the victims was a Parkinson's sufferer with bad tremors - could she have driven?

More boat stuff - the dad vomits on the floor, somehow knowing that the killer will untie him and make him clean it up. Does he not know how long the zombie dust lasts? Anyhoo, the dad attacks him, the fight goes back onto the deck, and both men go over the side. The son unlocks himself and runs outside, just in time to see the killer breaking the surface. Then, instead of grabbing one of the dozens of spiky or dangerous things lying scattered around the deck-

-and using them to club the killer as he tries to climb back into the boat, the boy simply retreats timidly. Hey, kid? You now deserve to die. So enjoy that.

Although you're obviously going to be rescued, because kids we've met never die on this show.

Back at the office, they're trying to come up with a theory about how he's meeting his victims. Here's what they come up with - when they get on at small, rural terminals, people sometimes buy train tickets after getting on the trains, so the killer could be a conductor! Of course, since all the victims were from different states, and not all from small towns, wouldn't there be records of the tickets they bought that gradually led them to the killer's line? Also, how would a conductor find out which of the thousands of passengers he sees every week fit his ridiculously specific criteria for victims? I've been on dozens of train rides, and never seen anyone chat with a conductor, let alone follow them back to their boat after the trip.

Hey, the dad's body washed up on shore! The team figures that for him to overpower the drug's influence, he must have been abducted along with his child! So they have Garcia search for people 'starting over' in Florida, presumably after a custody battle. You'd think since they know what the guy looks like they could just search driver's license and passport records - but let's look at another criteria they use. They get the 'big list' by checking all change-of-address forms for people moving to Charleston or Miami - and he's on the list somewhere. But that's paperwork tying him to a specific location in those cities - we were specifically told that none of the killer's victims ever had ANYTHING linking them to the cities. That's why finding a connection was so far. Is the killer just getting sloppy, or are the writers?

Oh, and none of the family members knew anything about a train ride. Except for Derek's aunt, who thinks a train ride must have happened when she was a child - but then she remembers it was a flight, and she traveled as an unaccompanied minor. Will that be useful?

They check for unaccompanied minor paperwork that was filled out for the dead guy's son, and discover what line he'd used to travel to visit his father in the past. Okay, here's where it gets strange - the line is a limited that runs just from Charleston to Miami - so that in no way explains the lack of any records explaining how the dozen victims got from where they lived to Charleston/Miami before getting on the train. Heck, if this is a trip the son had taken a bunch of times, and his father was coming up to Charleston to pick him up, why wasn't there a ticket of them buying the tickets? Also, they're still not explaining how these victims got to the boat.

Anyhoo, like they predicted the killer works as a conductor on the line, so it's just a question of finding him. Either he'll be at the dock where he normally stores his boat, or the cannery where he used to work as a teen!

They rush to the two locations, and find the guy at the cannery, taunting the kid by making him gut fish. Once again, they drive onto the scene sirens blaring, as if their only priority is to let the killer know they're coming. Somehow he doesn't hear them, but he still manages to take the kid hostage when they rush onto the dock. Derek offers to not kill the murderer if he lets the kid go, and this proves a persuasive argument.

Later Derek goes to see the killer in his cell, hoping to identify the varied victims. Derek asks how he abducted the various victims. The first picture was a meth-head, so he just offered her meth to get her back to the boat. The second picture was a guy leaving his wife. The killer doesn't explain how he abducted him from the train. Surprise, surprise.

The killer then suggests that they didn't find his only graveyard, and he may have killed far more people - Derek uses psychology to prove that isn't true (he'd buried everyone with his dad), but it's actually provable in a far more concrete way - the guy has a day job, and he spends a week with his victims, boating around the Atlantic. He could have only been killing when he was on vacation.

Now Derek drops the photo of his sister, and the killer immediately knows that she's related to Derek somehow - of course, the only way he could know this is because she wasn't one of the victims, so there's your answer, even before the DNA evidence comes in. So it's up to Derek to let his aunt know that they still haven't found the body. Only he doesn't do it - he lies to his aunt in order to give her closure. Which is probably the nicest thing to do, given the circumstances.

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

A little - they found a dead guy in the water, and extrapolated that the only way he could have fought hard enough to overcome the drug was so that he could save his son. That led them to the train, and their killer! So yes, I'll give them a little credit this week.

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

Since there's no way they couldn't have known about the trains, I'm going to suggest that the cops searching the financial records of the various victims would have undoubtedly led to the same result.

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

5/10 - Yeah, they never explained out this unbelievably creepy guy-

Could have gotten a dozen people to follow him from a train to a boat. The charter theory made sense, but in their attempt to give the episode a twist, they wound up making it nonsensical. Think about it - the killer has to make a note of all the people paying cash, find one of them who fits his criteria, somehow get that person to come to a stranger's boat, and also be able to take a week off work every time he finds a victim to avoid risking his job.

How could he ever find a single victim?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That kid had so many chances to kill the killer, its ridiculous.