The time: 1986. The Place: Durant, Oklahoma (better known as 'the sticks'). Two teen boys are discussing girls, and how you have to be able to prove that you made out with one, you can't just say it and expect the claim to be taken at face value. This is the kind of 'dare' that almost always leads to rape/murder in these kinds of stories. One is retarded, the other not. I don't know if that fact is going to be important, but there you have it. The retarded one (now an adult) begins narrating about his childhood, lying about how happy and important it all was while home movie flashbacks tell a different story. The narration turns out to be the retarded man filming himself with a camera, essentially making a documentary about his life. Does this mean that Criminal Minds is finally taking on the popular 'fake documentary about a serial killer' genre? Almost certainly not!
The retarded man enters his childhood hovel, revealing that inside he's got a-
Crying woman tied to a chair! Wow, just 85 seconds into the episode. That's got to be close to a record, doesn't it? She begs for her life, but the retarded documentarian is unimpressed, announcing that he has no plans to hurt her even as he grabs a dropper of clear liquid (acid?) and applies it to her taped-open eyes.
Meanwhile at Quantico we learn that JJ has completed her training to be a real profiler, rather than just the team's secretary and PR person! So are they still not going to have one of those? This is a puzzling choice - after all, it's not like the team needed a sixth profiler. As I mentioned about the inclusion of Rachel last year - does having six interchangeable viewpoints somehow seem more convincing than five?
There are only two distinctive roles on the team - Reid presents geographic profiles (although really anyone could use a compass on a map...) and Garcia reads a computer screen out loud over the phone after it's decided who the killer is. There used to be a third distinctive member of the team, and it was JJ, who presented the cases and sometimes talked with grieving family members. But now that she's back, she's just going to be another generic profiler? Weak, Criminal Minds.
Or, and Reid ducked out on brunch with JJ over the weekend because of some tsuris involving his mother. Will we be seeing more Jane Lynch? Have they killed her off? I can't wait to find out!
Garcia and Joe are chatting about Italian food on the way into the conference room, where everyone's appetite is quickly spoiled by the details of the case - women are being brutally tortured, blinded with acid, then murdered! The team blathers on about the possible meanings of eye gouging, wasting a little time before Greg has a good idea: have Garcia check into who has access to Sulphuric Acid. Oh, and the two victims died within three days. So it's another spree killer - also, after one blond coed in a town of 16 thousand people was raped and tortured to death, her battered body dumped in an alley like garbage, other women who look exactly like her weren't chilled to the bone, nor did they start taking greater precautions.
Seriously, the women were abducted like five blocks apart:
Although this is a case of the show being a little inconsistent - Garcia says the abduction sites were 'five miles' apart, but the map makes a profoundly different argument.
Then it's back to the retarded documentarian, who's brought his camera to film his brother, who's presumably the 'alpha' in this serial-killing team. The show hasn't really pointed in that direction yet, but it would make dramatic sense for the retarded brother to be kidnapping these women, confining and blinding them so that the older brother can torture them at his leisure. It wouldn't make logical sense, though, since we'd be expected to believe that a retarded guy is capable of kidnapping young women off the street in broad daylight without anyone noticing.
On the plane they reveal that two other victims were also raped and had their eyes removed in the months leading up to these fresh crimes. A prostitute and a runaway! They casually use the term 'high-risk' to describe them, where they talked about the coeds as being 'low-risk'. I've always found this classification system to be a subtle form of victim-blaming. It literally refers to whether you have a high or low risk of being murdered by a serial killer based on your current situation in life. Wouldn't we get the same point across by flipping this around and basing it on the killers (who are the ones we're more concerned with, anyhow) - in that system we'd call the prostitutes and hitchhikers victims 'low-risk' since the killer wasn't actually putting himself out there, and the married women killed inside their own homes in broad daylight 'high-risk' victims because the killer had a far higher chance of getting caught!
This may not catch on, but I think it puts the focus where it ought to be.
Oh, and JJ is concerned that Reid resents her because he blanked her on the brunch invitation. Is he still upset about the 'fake Emily death' thing?
Yup! While JJ and Reid are looking over the abduction site, he makes a catty comment about Emily's disappearing act, then refuses to have a serious conversation. Ah, petulant child Reid, my favorite version of the character. No, wait, I meant the inverse of that.
Emily and Derek are looking over the dump site, which is near a homless shanty-town. Literally around the corner from a few makeshift tents. How did no one see anything? Then it's back to the station, where Greg is telling a woman's parents the details of their daughter's brutal murder for no reason I can fathom. The only thing he really wants to know is whether the clothes each girl was found in were their own. Both families confirm that they weren't - and since the clothes in question were a white shirt and denim shorts, it seems that the killers are clothing them like teen girls dressed in the 80s, perhaps to resemble that girl that I assume the brothers raped and murdered in the prologue.
There's an interlude with the retarded documentarian and his brother's family that has a lot to unpack in it. There's a young son and a teen daughter (uh-oh...), the parents are nervous about the homeless retarded guy videotaping her homecoming dance, which is imminent. Also, the couple's marriage was recently on the rocks, but they're reconciling, which upsets the retarded documentarian. Is this marriage stress what caused the husband to go back into the murdering business with his brother? And now the retarded documentarian is worried that his brother will be pulling away?
A few hours later we see the retarded documentarian's ruse - he waits for women to get off buses, asks them for directions, then puts a knife up to their back and walks them towards his truck. This makes sense, although I'm not sure why at least one of them doesn't simply run away and start yelling. Sure, many people would just be docile in that situation, but it's not a good enough ruse to work all the time, and man, would this guy be easy for the cops to find if one woman ran away.
Over in the morgue, we're treated to an image that, frankly, shouldn't be allowed on television.
Thanks, Criminal Minds!
Greg and Joe note that the corpses have had their senses of smell destroyed by acid as well - why is the retarded documentarian escalating things? Also they've located where he found the 80s clothing - the killer was foolish enough to sell the victims' clothes at the same place he bought the classic outfits. Yet the guy doesn't remember the retarded documentarian apparently. It's possible a cutout was used, however, so this may not be bad writing yet.
More documentary footage, as the retarded documentarian prepares to mutilate his latest victim, pouring acid down her throat to destroy her tongue! And, you know, kill her immediately as it tears through her throat.
Then we're over at the dump site (is this all happening the same day? Man, this show's timeline is never very clear), where he's left the latest body. Between the brutalized senses and the fact that the killer hangs out with homeless people, the team is ready for a profile - it's a smelly homeless man who was rejected by a specific woman in the 80s, and now he's killing women who look like her in order to get up the nerve to kill the actual target of his fixation!
Of course they're right, and the woman he's fixated on is his sister-in-law, fixated to the point that he breaks into their house while everyone is out and rifles through her underwear. So ick. It seems I've misjudged the brother, and he may be only involved insofar as his decision to get back with his wife triggered the retarded documentarian's murdering spree insofar as the guy's last chance with the woman he's nursed a hopeless crush on since he was a kid.
This also suggests that the retarded documentarian is pretty good at getting away with murder all on his own, which is kind of a stretch.
Oh, and the team's assumption that the retarded documentarian is focused on a specific woman who's still around and he's working up the nerve to go after is based on nothing at all, and even though it's correct, it's improperly narrowing down the search. After all the woman he's fixated from the 80s could easily have moved away, died in unrelated circumstances (triggering his anguish) or even been his first victim. There's just no way to tell at this point.
Yikes! The sister-in-law has come home while the retarded documentarian is busy rolling around in her bed like a creep! How's he going to get out of this one? Maybe he's not - when the sister-in-law gets to her bedroom she finds the disturbed underwear and is suitably creeped out. Will she solve the case for the team?
Time fr a JJ-Reid heart-to-heart about his whiny, dickish unprofessionalism! He's angry at her for lying to him, and plays the martyr, claiming that he almost went back to heroin because of the anguish! And it's all JJ's fault for keeping it a secret! Except, you know, stupid as it was, she was trying to keep everyone safe from an international terrorist, and in this one case, incredibly dumb though it may have been, intentions count.
He then storms off in a huff, because stoking drama and making things all about yourself is exactly what you should do when a retarded documentarian is out there brutally torturing women to death. By all means make the rest of the team drop what they're doing and chase after you.
Christ, what an a-hole.
It's dinnertime at the brother's house! The sister-in-law is creeped-out, as she seems to suspect that the retarded documentarian may have been involved in the underwear mishap. Then things take the (predicted) turn for the creepy as the retarded documentarian's niece has transformed herself into the spitting image of her mother as a teen.
Lucky for you that you're the third victim, teen. Or have they ramped it up to four now? Will there be another intermediary victim before the retarded documentarian attacks her?
Back at HQ Reid comes in with a theory - what if the retarded documentarian isn't physically filthy, but just mentally disabled, and uses his apparent shortcomings as a way to lure victims into a false sense of security! Brilliant deduction - although, as usual, it's based on no evidence. Greg's response is to search halfway houses for people matching their profile - why weren't they already doing this? And interviewing people at the homeless encampments near which the bodies were found? Also he restricts the searches to halfway houses that were around in the 80s, assuming (for no reason) that the retarded documentarian would have been on the street while he was a teenager. Yeah, I can offer no reason for this leap of logic, and the show's not interested in offering one.
As everyone's leaving to check out the lead, Greg takes Reid aside and tries to take the blame for the ruse, and Reid refuses, insisting that JJ is at fault. Jeez, Greg, couldn't you have just told him to suck it up and do his job? As his supervisor, isn't that your job?
Oh, right, all these people are terrible at their jobs. I sometimes forget that.
Derek and Emily get a list of people who've been living in the same halfway house for thirty years, but recently left after getting their own car - it's somehow a long list - and Greg has Garcia check it against the people who work with sulphuric acid. Also Greg thinks emotions on the team will even out if they all do something social together, like hang out at Joe's giant mansion he 'earned' by peddling self-aggrandizing tales of his days as a mindhunter to the morbidly curious public.
Over at the Homecoming's after-party the niece if feeling a little under the weather, and runs off to the curb to be alone. None of her friends go with her, despite the fact that three blonde women matching her general physical description have been tortured to death in the past week. In fact, no one in this town seems to talk about this incredibly brutal and prominent crime spree at all.
Just then the retarded documentarian drives up, having waited for his niece to isolate herself so that he could swoop in and do some murdering. He ushers her into his truck, which can't possibly end well. Other than the fact that she'll be rescued, of course.
The next morning the team has discovered that none of the halfway house people are connected to the murders (did they all have easily checkable alibis), but they've got a better lead in that niece has been reported missing by her parents!
Then the show gets really stupid, as the detective in charge of the case explains that the after-party where the kids all went to drinks was 'smack in the middle of the killer's comfort zone'. Okay, two things - from a plausibility standpoint, are we really supposed to believe that the highschool kids, who can theoretically party anywhere in town, choose to do so downtown in close proximity to where homeless people squat? Secondly, since the retarded documentarian was actively following his niece, wouldn't it make more sense for the grab to have happened out of the comfort zone, letting the team know this one was somehow significant? Not that you could really tell that - after all, as a drunk girl sitting alone on a curb out of eyesight of her classmates, she's basically the ultimate target of opportunity.
Meanwhile the retarded documentarian makes a speech about how he kills because he likes it, just like he enjoyed it when he killed animals as a child. Yawn. Then it's into the hovel to psychologically torture his niece. Obviously this doesn't merit covering, so let's move on to what's next.
At the motel Joe and Reid are confounded by the change in MO, finally realizing that niece must have been the target - after all, she had to have known her captor because she didn't scream! Except none of the other victims screamed either, morons. Derek has better luck in the brother's house, where he finds out about the hair colour change and the fact that she was dressed up like her mother. Add that to the simple 'do you know any crazy people' question and the parents volunteer the name of the retarded documentarian. Naturally the brother doesn't think the retarded documentarian could possibly be the killer, but the sister-in-law is so obviously uncomfortable with the whole situation that it's easy to drag the truth of retarded documentarian's inappropriate behaviour out of her.
It seems that during a high-school party they were playing spin-the-bottle, and she made out with the retarded documentarian, which led to him being sexually obsessed with her. Then a bombshell in victim-blaming is dropped:
"No, the events did. The events in which you told a violent retarded guy to leave you alone."
During this conversation, Derek also wins this week's Prentiss Award:
Guy, all the brother said was that he didn't get enough oxygen during birth, leading to retardation. Why are you assuming frontal lobe damage?
The scene also goes a little nuts when Derek announces that the reason he's surprised by the retarded documentarian's name is that while his family calls him 'Sy', his real name - the one on the halfway house form (because apparently he did stay there, after all) is Ben. Which raises an important question: why did you say you'd interviewed him already?
And why didn't you notice that, irrespective of the whole Sy/Ben thing, that the latest victim has the same last name as one of the homeless people YOU JUST TALKED TO? When did you talk to him, anyhow? Hasn't he been off torturing his niece? And how did a 40-something homeless man with a car who sometimes works in garages NOT fit your profile? Unless the name confusion means that you couldn't find the guy because he goes by 'Sy' rather than 'Ben', but if that was the case you should have mentioned that you failed to track the guy down, not claimed to have talked to all the
Armed with the killer's identity, you'd think his brother would be able to remember the hovel they used to hang out at when they were teens, but instead Derek and Emily walk the family through memory-recall tricks to help figure out what the retarded documentarian smelled like and what he was carrying when he arrived at their house the last few times. Eventually they remember that he likes to stop at a local coffee shop on the way over to the brother's house. The team has a plan - leave a message for him at said coffee shop, since this is one of the days that he'd normally come over to the house!
What's their plan? To have the retarded documentarian think he has to come over to the house, thinking that the brother has been jailed so that he might 'comfort' his sister-in-law. It's all a plan to get him into the house so that they can grab him while also putting the sister-in-law at risk. You'd think they could just arrest him whenever, since they know where he'll be, what he looks like, and what car he's driving, but I guess it's more important to invent some peril?
They literally let him get close enough to hug the sister-in-law before moving in, ensuring that her life is in danger before the arrest. Morons.
In the interrogation room the retarded documentarian agrees to tell where his niece is so long as he can bring in the brother to taunt him about the way he'd brutally tortured the guy's daughter by burning her hands with acid. Then, for some reason, the team keep the brother from smashing the retarded documentarian's face into pulp.
Heading back on the plane, Emily talks with Reid about heading to the team-building exercise at Joe's house, but as always, he's whiny and childish about it. Emily seriously has to beg him to come along, and even then he only says 'we'll see' about the possibility of going.
Meanwhile, the brother decides to watch the tape of his daughter being brutally tortured - because he's an idiot? Oh, and the retarded documentarian also brags about the time he slept with the guy's wife in order to keep her quiet about, oh, I don't know, sleeping with him? She's really got no reason to ever touch the guy. Seriously, why would this guy do any of this?
Except for Reid showing up for dinner. Aw, he's forgiven everyone! How sweet!
1 - Was profiling in any way helpful in solving the crime?
A little? They knew the killer was hanging around homeless areas, so it's not really a stretch to ask the families of victims if they know anyone homeless. I'm trying to find some psychological explanation for their decision to let the killer torment his brother and sister-in-law by bragging about how much he enjoyed torturing their beloved daughter. Is this episode some kind of an ad for euthanizing the brain-damaged?
2 - Could the crime have been solved just as easily using conventional police methods given the known facts of the case?
Dear lord, yes. They knew they were looking for homeless people who have a car. It's a town of 16 thousand - how many of those could there possibly be? They never even asked around the homeless community to check who the killer might have been. Also, why was the city not shut down? Three brutally raped and murdered teens in four days? Yet homecoming wasn't canceled or some kind of a curfew put in place? What's wrong with this city?
So, on a scale of 1 (Dirty Harry) to 10 (Tony Hill), How Useful Was Profiling in Solving the Crime?
1/10 - This was essentially 'victim-blaming: the episode'. A woman is held responsible for a gross guy's crush on her, and he uses social pressure to convince her to make out with him. Then we're expected that she'd do something far more horrible - have sex with him - in order to keep him quiet about the making out? Even thought there were dozens of people at the party who knew it happened? Then the guy started killing people because she rejected him again years later? And it was all the brother's fault that the retarded documentarian was filming his brutal rapes because when they were kids the older brother didn't believe he could get a woman? Is there anything that wasn't horrible about this episode?
I never thought I'd see an episode of Criminal Minds where the killer says 'In exchange for my help, I'd like the opportunity to further psychologically torment my victims' and then the team - instead of using PSYCHOLOGY to get the information out of him anyhow, simply says 'yeah, go for it - torture that guy all you want.'
Also it's completely unbelievable that none of those women wouldn't have screamed or tried to escape.
Yes, I was completely wrong about the brother being involved, but frankly, that would have been a less unpleasant option than the way the show allowed the team to facilitate the retarded documentarian's attempts to ruin that family's lives.