Criminal Minds 705: From Childhood's Hour

A child is locked in a bathroom, and he begs his mother to stop whatever she's doing. It turns out that what she's doing is searching her dresser for a pair of scissors! Uh-oh. Then it turns out that the kid is in a hallway and I'd guessed wrong about the bathroom thing - but who has an interior opaque glass door on anything but a bathroom?

 Profoundly freaking out, the mother dials someone on the phone, then takes her son out in the car and leaves him on some house's lawn. The child doesn't want to do this again, but the mother says he must, then drives off. Moments later a creepy van drives up - the child is shocked that the driver, who he knows, has come to meet him. Man, she'd better not have sold that kid to a child molester.

At roughly the same time Joe is meeting one of his ex-wives for breakfast. It seems she'd like for them to get back together! But will him constantly being called in to battle serial killers interrupt their lives once again? He invites her over for dinner one night to see if they can work.

Okay, the mother claims the situation isn't as sinister as it might seem - she's called the police, claiming that she dropped the kid off at his grandmother's, but didn't know what happened to him since then. This seems like quite a lie, since the drop-off scene was two days earlier. If she was really supposed to have dropped the kid off at his grandmothers, wouldn't said grandmother have called to let her know that the child never arrived?

I'm not entirely clear why the team is working on this case at all. A single child was abducted two days ago. It's not like they're saying that this is part of a series of St. Louis child abductions, and that they have to put a stop to it. This one kid went missing, and the entire FBI profiling all-stars team showed up? That's super-unusual for this show - unless of course the case is within easy driving distance, like the mall. Then again, in the mall show, they actually suspected the abduction was the latest in a series, even though it wasn't. So I really don't know what's going on here...

The kid is still alive, luckily (although little kids never get killed on the show, so I'll understand it if you're not surprised), and being cared for by a young guy who keeps him locked in a bedroom. He also refuses to tell the kid why he's being held, or where the mother is. Mysterious!

During the flight Garcia reports that the mother is clinically depressed, and has tried to kill herself an unsettlingly large number of times! Do they suspect her of doing in her own child? When they land the team splits up, visiting the mother at the police station, their empty house, and the supposed drop-off site.

Greg and JJ go to see the mother, who admits that she was feeling suicidal on the day of the abduction - thus motivating her to get the kid out of the house, lest he witness her topping herself. It seems that she called the grandma to say the kid was coming, but didn't bother leaving a message or anything - because of depression! Yeah, depression's bad, but she didn't wait to see if her son got inside the house? That seems like a stretch.

Derek and Reid confirm the depressingly messy hovel the mother lives in, but it seems that things have been quite tidy in the son's area - in fact, the mother seems to spend all her spare money on the child... but where's it coming from if she's too depressed to work?

The kid is still in captivity, and tells the guy he'd like to go home. The evil guy instead interviews the kid, offering to 'help' the kid's mother by 'making her pain stop'. At least she's relatively safe, since the cops will be staying with her in case there's a ransom call or some kind of murderous gloating.

Over at the police station the team has cleared the grandmother (who was out of town) and mother of any involvement, as well as checked the alibi of all the kids' teachers and associates. The only possible explanation is that someone was stalking the kid, and grabbed him at a vulnerable moment! Weirdly the team assumes that it must have been someone that the kid knew. This is true, but the conclusion they're jumping to has no real basis. They think that since there are plenty of people around the neighbourhood at the time of the abduction they would have noticed a kid making a fuss during his abduction. Unless, of course, there were two abductors, and one quickly snatched him while the other drove the van, as happened in the fairy-tale episode Reid directed last year.

Okay, the episode just got dumb. While the kid is drawing a picture with crayons, the show cuts to the mother, who's alone, buying groceries at an all-night market. This allows the killer to walk up and offer to take her to her son. Of course, what he means by that is to tie her up and brutally murder her with a knife. So this woman is dead because the team didn't follow even the most basic of kidnapping protocols - they also missed a chance to capture the killer.

You people suck at your jobs. At least now we know why the contrived plot has the entire team flying out for a relatively unimportant case - if the show had already established a pattern for the killer, the team would have known how important it was to DO THEIR JOB and look after the mother, which would have deprived the audience of the brutal slaughter that the producers imagine they're interested in.

The next day the team looks over the slaughtered corpse, then call Garcia, asking if any servicepeople had been by her house recently. At no point does anyone pause to remark on the fact that this death is entirely on their heads. Also they assume servicepeople because the killer 'had personal information' about the mother - specifically he fixated enough on her suicide attempts that he recreated the wrist-slashing while also brutally stabbing her. I don't know a lot of wrist-slashers, but don't they tend to wear long sleeves when plumbers drop by, specifically to avoid letting people know about their suicide attempts?

The cop then runs up and announces that another child has been abducted! This time it's a drug addict's son, who was grabbed while she was buying pills! Derek gets the Prentiss Award-winning line of the night, as he tries to prove her complicity.

No, there weren't. In between her child being abducted and you arriving on the scene there was at least a half an hour of a woman running around, screaming and looking for her child, followed by at least one cop car arriving to confirm her story before the detectives - and you - were called in. Drug dealers aren't going to stick around after a cop car has pulled up to the park. At least this time the team is smart enough to put the mother into protective custody, so that she can't possibly be murdered. Although, if they wanted to add a little risk, John Douglas-style, they could always put her back in her apartment and wait for the killer to show and try to grab her. Not like they haven't used people as bait before. Three episodes ago, for example.

The kid is having his own problems in the killer's house. Not only is he disturbed to learn that he'll never be going home again, but his new 'brother', the freshly abducted one, is freaking out about the whole situation. The kid considers grabbing the killer's blood-soaked knife, but can't go through with it. The killer, for his part, justifies his actions by saying that like a wolf, he's just trying to make the herd stronger by killing people who can't take care of their children.

And now things - as they so often do - get really stupid. While the team is outlining the profile (he's probably killing moms because his own mom was awful, and can convince kids to go along with him because he wears a trustworthy outfit), the show depicts the killer racing over to the latest mom's house, knife at the ready.

Then he chickens out because he sees a cop in the house with her, helping her gather possessions so that she can be taken into protective custody. That's right - the cops don't notice him, because they weren't looking around to even a cursory extent. Faced with a reasonable certainty that the killer was going to attempt to kill the mother, they were offered two choices. A: bring mom straight to the police station and keeping her under wraps, then watching the house surreptitiously until the killer arrived and was immediately captured  - perhaps by the policewoman who kind of resembled the mom and was waiting in the house. 2: Have uniformed police officers escort her to the house in a police car so that she can collect a toothbrush, thereby frightening off the killer, and putting everyone's life in danger.

Great move, team.

The killer makes a strange decision - frustrated by his inability to kill the mother, he takes the younger child and releases him into a bar! One that apparently has no security cameras anywhere around it!

They bring the child home and ask him how he knew that he was going to be abducted. His answer? A superhero called and told him! What does this mean? The child explains that his phone has a picture of a superhero on the 911 button, ensuring the child will no who to dial in case of emergency.

So it's a 911 operator who gets close to children who repeatedly call to get help for their loser mothers! Then we see him getting a call from a 13-year-old girl who was just attacked by her mother's boyfriend, thus giving him someone to look in on after the police have settled things.

Is it just me, or is this guy going to be the easiest killer ever to catch? They've just learned that he - in all likelihood - took the calls from the two abducted boys, since his MO is to jot down the personal information that comes up onscreen so that he can look into it later. Since all details of every 911 call are logged in a computer file, including the person who answered the phone and dispatched help-

Didn't that little kid just solve the case for them? Isn't all that's left just a little paperwork? Apparently so, since the team calls Garcia and asks her to check who was on duty when all the calls went in, but wasn't on duty when the attacks happened. It seems like they should be able to search for a specific call, but we'll let them pretend their jobs are more complicated than they actually are.

While waiting for Garcia to solve the case, Emily and Joe chat about his upcoming date with his first wife. Good for him!

The killer is up to no good at the same time - he headed straight over to the little girl's house, and arrives just as the cops are carting the mother's boyfriend away, much to the sleazy mother's protestations. Oh, this won't go well for you, skank.

Garcia finds the dispatcher - he's extra suspicious because he ducked out of his shift that night abruptly after just a couple of hours in. They rush to his house and that of the latest victim, but discover that they're too late - he's already moved the girl and her horrible mother to wherever he's keeping the kid from the start!

While the team tries to figure out where the killer might have hidden - specifically the addresses of the foster homes he lived in as a child after his mother killed herself. Speaking of his mother killing herself, the show depicts the killer trying to get the girl's okay to murder her own mother by telling her his backstory. It's depicted in an unusually bizarre and artistic fashion for the show, with the killer remembering his mother dressed as an angel, and in black and white.

Definitely not a run of the mill choice, Criminal Minds. Bravo!

Not that any of this matters - the team is on their way, and they're bound to arrive in time to save the day! While driving, Reid finds it odd that the mother would have jumped off a bridge, since that's not a feminine way to die. Interesting opinion, but not at all true. Plenty of women jump off of things - especially into water.

While the team rushes to save the day, the mom tries to get her daughter to kill her, since she believes this is the only way to keep the killer from killing both of them. Of course, that opinion is based entirely on the word of the kid from the beginning, and he has no real reason to believe that, since it's not like the killer ever threatened his life - and when the next kid's mother refused to die, it's not like the killer did anything bad to her son.

Still, the team gets there just in time to reveal that the killer pushed his mother off the bridge, and then shoot him (sadly) non-fatally.


Except for Joe's date with wife number 1. Turns out that she's got Lou Gehrig's disease, and she wants to know if Joe will pull the plug when she gets too sick! And by pull the plug, naturally they mean pill overdose, since it's ALS, and she won't be hooked up to a respirator or anything. Or if she will, she wants to decide before that happens. I really don't know what the final stage symptoms of ALS are.

Kind of a downer week for Joe - but at least he's finally getting a plotline all to himself, huh? Who's left without one... Derek?

Let's see - Greg had the fake Zodiac, Mandy had Frank, Reid had his Mom and Dad, Emily had Doyle, Garcia got shot and met Xander, and JJ had a baby. The closest Derek ever came was that thing about his molestation as a kid, but that was just one episode and it didn't really impact anything. Even Joe's killer Santa/retarded clown episode was closer to a 'plotline' than Derek's ever had. The only thing's he's ever had was Eric Close's daughter, but that was never plumbed for any real dramatic depth (given his own dead cop dad), and it ended super-abruptly.

Since all the emotional plotline stuff will be Joe's this year, here's hoping season 8 is finally all Derek!

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

Man, it almost was this week! They did a great of using the details of the guy's crimes to figure out what kind of person he was - and then a five-year-old went and ruined all their hard work by just flat-out telling them who the killer was.

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

The killer let a witness go who both knew what his job was and could identify his face. Also, they could have just watched the house they knew the killer was planning to attack. That would have worked, too.

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

2/10 - I'll give them them the guessing about killing his mother - although that was of so little use it's barely worth mentioning as an achievement.


outahere said...

I only used to ever be subjected to the final moments of Criminal Minds when tuning in for the desired program being shown next.

It got to be a joke with us, the "Uber Angst" moment, with mega-bummer vibe music. Yes, we'd enjoy a brief laugh at the TV version of The Door of Hell closing to appropriate music.

You have made this program an accessible "hit" as a true comedy favorite!

I keep waiting for the line: He died hungry.
...since nobody ever actually eats anything!

5 Stars 100% ~ keep up the fantastic work!

Anonymous said...

Given that they have had ready and instant access to archived issues of small-town newspapers which might be digitized but would not be searchable among other non-searchable data sources, I was taken aback by Garcia's claim that finding the 911 operator who took both boys calls would be difficult.