Criminal Minds 707: There's no place like home

The week opens on a parked mobile home during a thunderstorm - not a happy opening, and things are only going to get worse from here! The driver is in the middle of a nightmare so severe that it's got him sweating profusely. He's woken up by a thunderbolt, which lets him know that it's time to drag his captive out of a storage container for some reason. The killer's explanation? "It's coming!" Also he seems to have two captives-

One in the box he's opened, and the other in the green box he knocked on to announce "its" imminence. The killer drags his victim outside, then stands outside shirtless in the thunderstorm so that he can, I don't know, stay clean while he beats his victim to death with a tire iron?

Back in Quantico there's some stress between Jr. and JJ - he misses the days when she worked at the Pentagon, and therefore had weekends off and kept semi-regular hours. Her counterargument is that the case she's been called in on revolves around missing kids - what if it was their son? Wouldn't Jr. want someone looking for him? It's a nice argument on her part, except for one thing:

The 'kids' (really teens) are already dead. So looking for them isn't going to do much good. Also, why are they just getting the call now? Based on the 911 child abduction episode from a couple of weeks ago, doesn't the team fly across the country every single time anyone younger than 18 goes missing?

At the office Joe comes in to help work the case - he's had a few days off after the whole 'assisted suicide' mishegoss, and he's ready to put his nose back to the grindstone! What's the case this week? The killer murders teenage boys, then leaves their bodies in the path of oncoming tornadoes for some reason! Is it to destroy evidence, make it look like the tornado did it, or because he has a sexual fixation on tornadoes because of a childhood trauma?

Given the nature of this show, probably the third.

Greg also announces that he's especially alarmed by the guy killing one person a week in the past two weeks. What about this alarms you, Greg, the fact that he's killing at a much slower rate than every other killer you chase on the show?

While this seems like a preposterous premise for an episode, it's true that there are enough tornadoes in the US that someone driving around that area might just be able to find one a week. Compared to Tim Curry's ability to psychically predict every blackout in the US over a period of thirty years, that's nothing special.
Emily and Derek head to the latest body dump site, and debate with the cop about whether the corpse was left in the trailer park, or whether it just happened to land there after the tornado tossed it about for a while. Either way, they're going to have to look for someone who knows enough about tornadoes to be able to get in and out of their general vicinity safely. Off to check on some stormchasers, and see if any of them have a history of brutalizing teenage male prostitutes! Which is what the two victims were, BTW.

JJ talks to one of the victim's mothers while Greg chats with the other dead guy's foster brother. It seems that the victims like to protect other people - could that be how the killer is selecting them? And if so, how - by using the other person he's got locked up as bait to be rescued?

We get a little of the killer's MO as he drives up to a makeshift homeless kid's camp in his camper and offers one of the boys there some cash for a 'party'. An older teen says the little boy is too young for whoring, and volunteers to go with the killer instead. Wait, if in each of these cases he was approaching a group of teens and taking the one who was in charge, how have the police not heard about it from the other kids?

I'm kidding, of course - even if teen hustlers felt like they could go to police with their problems, there's no way the police would take them seriously until corpses were actually found, which only happened just yesterday.

Reid and Joe head to the morgue to get a look at the dead bodies, and the coroner confirms that they were drugged with cough syrup, kept tied down, and then brutally murdered before having limbs torn off! Reid then jumps in with the Prentiss Award-winning line of the night:

'Who' he's trying to remember is his victim. 'What' is the fact that he brutally murdered the child. How is it that you've been doing this for almost a decade without developing a familiarity with the concept of 'souvenirs'?

Oh, and the killer locks his latest victim into the box so that he'll be passive as they drive into the path of the oncoming tornado. Then he pops open the second case and talks to its inhabitant, which seems to be the severed arm that he took off a previous victim.

I mean maybe that's a whole corpse or even a living person, but the makeup people have gone out of their way to put severe wrist restraint markings on the arm, which suggests it's the remnant of that dead torso we saw last scene.

Yet another piece of evidence for my 'Criminal Minds shouldn't be allowed to show these things on television' case.

The new victim shows up the next morning in a wrecked field - but the predicted tornado never occurred, meaning that the victim is unusually intact!

Well, as intact as arms, legs, and a head can be. At least the whole 'collecting body parts to build a man' theory is all but confirmed. Time for the profile! They give some background about Jeffrey Dahmer, the real-life killer this is most closely inspired by, but don't offer much actionable information other than 'he probably lives in his van, which isn't in great shape. Oh, and he buys a lot of ice if he's preserving an assemblage of body parts.'

More important (from the show's POV, anyhow), is the fact that JJ gets a call from Jr announcing that their son is in the hospital - he's been sick lately, and his fever got bad enough to give him a minor seizure. Her response? She's going to immediately fly home to help out! Greg tells her to go ahead, since they can work the case without her. Which is 100% true - beyond giggling at super-inappropriate times, she hasn't actually been super effective as a profiler this year.

Reid uses logic to figure out something important - if the guy is taking progressively more important parts of his fantasy body (leg, arms, torso - no head yet), then they've probably just haven't yet found the earlier victim with the other missing leg. They have Garcia search for grave robberies or stolen bodies, really anything where a left leg is missing. They come across a 47-year-old man whose body was defiled in a funeral home during a tornado. Yeah... that'll probably be your guy. The team is confused about why a murderer of teenage boys would start with a middle-aged man, and come to the conclusion that sex isn't a factor - he's just looking for easy victims among the youth. Weirdly no one brings up the possibility of the killer having some connection to the initial dead guy, even though it seems like that's an avenue worth exploring.

Another area of enquiry to check out? Why haven't they been canvassing the places where homeless kids hang out, looking for people who saw the killer? If these kids have semi-permanent camps then the police must know about them - why no interviews?

Then it's back to the killer - while buying ice he sees a teen looking after what must be his little brother! He tries to accost the two guys, but they don't have any interest in getting into his camper. Then, when he follows them down the street in the pouring rain and asks for directions, the teen decides to not only stop and answer (that's right, engage with the creepy guy who just stalked you) but also lets the guy get close enough that he's able to club the teen with a crowbar! We don't see what happens to the little brother.

Meanwhile, JJ is unable to fly back, what with all the bad weather. Sad. The little brother arrives at the police station with his parents, who are eager to discover who's kidnapped their not-at-all-homeless son. Hey, check it out - the victim they're going to rescue isn't someone discarded by society! Shocker!

Since they've decided that being protective of a younger child is the thing that all of the dead teens share, they theorize that the killer might just be trying to recreate his older brother! Garcia searches for older brothers killed in tornadoes over the past decade (where else would the obsession come from), and find only two surviving younger brothers with criminal records. Checking their pictures against a composite sketch the little brother made, they find a match!

Wait, composite sketch? You watched the kid get brought into the police station like five minutes ago! When did he have time to get interviewed by a sketch artist? Wouldn't it have been a far better idea to just show the kid the two pictures? Oh, wait, then they'd have had to pay the child as an actor, rather than as a prop. I get it now.

Then it's time for some backstory - as a child the killer was molested, but the villain was acquitted at trial. This led the killer's brother to try and beat the molester to death, but while he was busy doing that a tornado intervened, killing the two men while the little brother (now killer) his in a drainage ditch! This is all fascinating, but how does it help locate the killer? Oh, that's right - not at all. Assuming that the killer will want to complete his murders where the tornado is at its strongest, the team mobilizes, heading out to look for the camper. Two problems with this plan - they have satellite weather information, so they have a much better idea of where the tornado is headed than the killer possibly could. Mightn't that actually lead them in the wrong direction? More importantly, in these terrible conditions of pouring rain, total cloud cover, high winds, and total power failures, how could they possibly hope to find a trailer tucked away in the bushes somewhere off the road? After all, that's where he's committed the other two murders we witnessed.

Oh, and Reid thinks that, like Frankenstein, the killer believes that he can use a tornado to bring his brother back to life. Not that that has anything to do with anything.

Inside the camper the killer brutalizes his victim to subdue him, patiently waiting for the storm to grow severe enough to justify completing his ritual. The message finally comes that a tornado is on the way, so the killer races to catch it. At the same time the team splits up to head into the path of two different storms, hedging their bets. Moments later they learn that a stormchaser happens to have seen a camper heading towards the twister, giving them a road and direction of travel!

I actually feel a little sorry for the producers this week - this is all set during a tornado, but in all the driving scenes it's impossible not to notice the utter lack of rain and high winds. They can wet the road all they want before shooting, it just doesn't help.

So anyhow, the killer is dragging his victim into the middle of a vacant lot, presumably far from the road, while an incredibly optimistic amount of light shines on him from the side.

As the killer prepares to hack his victim's head off with a hatchet the team miraculously shows up just in time to usher the victim into a storm cellar while the killer carries his mostly-completed frankenstein into the storm, where they're swept into the sky, accomplishing irony!


Other than some more JJ relationship stuff. Plenty of apologizing and such, along with a phone visit with their son. Cute!

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

I'll absolutely give them partial credit this week, since they matched up the type of victim with the killer's MO and used it to extrapolate a motive.

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

It seems like a number of people saw the killer, but no one bothered to look for or interview them. That's some great work, cops - I know ignoring marginalized victims is kind of your 'thing', but this is a serial killer we're talking about. Maybe it's time to set those prejudices aside?

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

4/10 - You know, I can't stress how preposterous it is that they could find the guy. You can't see anything during a nighttime storm like this, let alone a camper parked behind an abandoned farmhouse on a rural route. Hell, how were they even able to see the street sign letting them know which road to turn down?

Criminal Minds FactCheck - Jeffrey Dahmer Edition!

One of America's prominent 'cannibal killers', Jeffrey Dahmer made a habit of picking up men - some prostitutes, some not, then raping and murdering them. His backstory is almost the platonic ideal of a serial killer. Sexual acting out as a youngster mixed with cruelty to animals, gradually escalating in severity until he was killing men and cutting them to pieces.

The story of his capture is a fascinating one for two reasons. The first part is a testament to the prejudice and casual cruelty that police officers often display when dealing with the gay community. Dahmer had drugged and raped a 14-year-old boy, but then the victim managed to escape and wandered off into the street. The police were called, but when they arrived Dahmer was able to convince them that the boy was his lover, and they were just in the middle of a fight. Despite the protestations of the women who called the police - who explained that the victim was a local child who didn't speak English - the cops turned the victim back over to Dahmer, who murdered him soon after. If this story sounds familiar, it's because Criminal Minds partially recreated it during their 'Wayne Williams' episode a few years back. Then, as now, Criminal Minds was nervous about doing an episode about a gay murderer, so the victim in that episode (who, thankfully, was rescued) was a young girl.

The second interesting facet is how the Dahmer story is a perfect example of one of the key difficulties of being a gay serial killer. While men killing women generally have a physical advantage over their victims that they can press to great effect if persuasion and drugging fall short, men killing men often find themselves in a position of being physically equal to, or even weaker than their intended victims. This - not the police officers who noticed a terrible smell in Dahmer's apartment when returning that poor child to his awful fate - was the cause of Dahmer's comeuppance. An intended victim proved too strong to overpower, and after escaping Dahmer's clutches the man was able to flag down a police car, and since he was an adult man capable of speaking English, he could convince these cops of his story, and lead them back to Dahmer's pad, where they quickly made an arrest.

This episode - beyond picking up male prostitutes and chopping them up, had little to do with the Dahmer story, but that's par for the course, as Criminal Minds and reality rarely intersect.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good review, but why have you blanked out the first paragraph?