Criminal Minds 708: Hope

Penelope is at a support meeting, offering some backstory! It seems that her parents died in a car accident while they were out looking for her during a curfew-breaking incident. Tragic! You know who might comfort you in re: that? Xander. Where is he, I wonder? Another woman shares her story about how her depression is only getting worse, so Garcia follows her out of the meeting room for a heart-to-heart. It seems this is the anniversary of her foreshadowingly named daughter 'Hope' disappeared, and offering that is explanation enough to get Garcia to leave her alone. Once she goes back to her car she gets a much better reason to be distracted - a letter from her daughter sitting on the front seat of her car!

I'm a little unclear how the letter is supposed to have gotten to the mom if the killer didn't know it existed, but the mother is so full of... hope... that she's willing to set aside that obvious question when a mysterious man shows up, holding a few of her daughter's 'missing persons' flyers. He announces that a 'little girl' was putting them up around the parking lot, which really ought to set the mom's nerves on end. After all, are we really to believe that a child would put a set of her own missing persons fliers outside of the very church that her mother was inside without making some attempt to contact literally anyone?

Still, the mom's critical thinking faculties have atrophied to the point that she immediately agrees to the stranger's suggestion that she get into his car to search for her little girl, even though she has a vehicle of her own. One would think that two cars would be able to search for a little girl far faster than one, but if she'd thought of that, how would the killer have so easily abducted her? Also, how could the killer have known that she wouldn't have immediately called the police - sure, the letter said not to, but then he said the daughter was running around with a man. Wouldn't mom assume that her best chance for the police to rescue her is when they're out in the open?

Anyhoo, with mom now missing, it's up to Garcia to realize the game is afoot, which she does by noticing that mom's car is sitting empty in the parking lot. She does the smart thing and immediately calls for backup. It's no wonder she solves all the cases, is it?

Okay, this is strange - when I first saw the mom read the letter, it looked like she was surprised to find it in her car. Its sudden appearance, along with the flyers, could logically stun her enough that she wouldn't notice how incredibly creepy the kidnapper seemed. When we cut back to them, however, the kidnapper announces himself, and suggests that she's read the letter hundreds of times since receiving it yesterday.

So if she's had the letter for over 24-hours, how could she not know the kidnapper was circling her? And why wouldn't she be incredibly suspicious of the solicitous man who showed up, claiming to have seen her daughter? No wonder the actress played the letter-finding scene so surprised-

She was trying to fill in a plot hole.

Back at the parking lot the cops don't believe Garcia's stories of abduction, but luckily Derek shows up to take over the investigation. It seems the abduction was five years earlier, and Garcia doesn't believe that she'd just run off after surviving the anniversary. It seems that when the mom found out about the flyers and ran off with the kidnapper she left her daughter's letter lying in the car - convenient for Garcia, since it immediately proves her theory correct, but psychologically nonsensical. Wouldn't mom have clutched that one piece of her daughter closer when hope was suddenly reignited?

Seriously, I'm going to try to go easy on puns this week, but it's going to be a challenge.

Over at kidnapper central, the villain announces that he wants to recreate the film 'The Vanishing' by taking the mom on a tour of his backstory, while announcing that if she calls the cops she'll never see her daughter again. Notably he doesn't promise that if she follows him on his narcissistic wankfest she WILL see the daughter again, so he may be honest, at least semantically speaking.

In a depressing turn, we learn that the daughter was pretty young when she was abducted-

And that letter clearly wasn't written by a teen, so like The Vanishing (spoiler alert for a twenty-year-old-movie-so-I-don't-know-why-I'm-bothering) it's possible that Hope is dead, and he's just been holding onto the letter for use at an opportune moment.

Mom agrees to come along on the kidnapper's gloatfest 2011 tour, and since she didn't have the presence of mind to grab her cell phone when fleeing her car, she can't even dial 911 and let the cops listen in on their conversation. Half-wit.

Oh, and the kidnapper finally gets around to claiming that Hope is still alive, which would be de rigeur for the show, which never kills children we've met - but do flashbacks count? Probably not.

The team assembles for a briefing, and we learn that the abduction was actually seven years ago - Garcia has only known mom for five, which is where I got the number - and Hope was eight at the time. So yeah, old letter.

Discussing the letter, Reid wins the night's Prentiss Award by comparing this situation to maybe the least-appropriate real-life example ever.

He's not an 'unsub' if you know his name, moron. More importantly, why would you make the tenuous connection to a case that was never solved, rather than the previous two times this EXACT THING happened on a case you personally investigated? Okay, maybe 'Broken Mirror' was a few years back, but it involved a killer calling the family after the kidnapping, looking to grab another victim. Then there was that time just a few weeks ago that the killer kidnapped a child and murdered the mother. Why not give a shout-out to the real-life version of the Broken Mirror case, Larry Gene Bell (star of an upcoming FactCheck!)?

The team goes along with Gracia's abduction theory, and announces that they'll be checking the letter for forensic evidence. Also noteworthy? The fact that Hope drew a butterfly next to her name. Could that be related to her capture site, somehow? For some reason no one bothers to mention that A) This is not a 15-year-old's handwriting, or 2) that contradiction inherent in the fact that a letter supposedly being written in secret was hand-delivered by the killer.

More with the killer. He refers to her as a butterfly, which he apparently collects-

Giving this episode even more of a 'The Collector' vibe than the previous 'The Collector' episode had. This conversation takes place across the street from the mom's old house, and her neighbour walks out to say hi, despite it being the middle of the night. That's going to be one heck of a lead for the team!

Joe and Emily figure out that the killer must have abducted the mom in public for a reason, since she left a spare key to her apartment under the mat, meaning she was vulnerable all the time! Likewise the rest of the team figure out that the gas station is important, since they immediately are able to get footage of the couple entering, not buying anything, and then leaving. Because if there's one thing that's networked to the FBI servers, it's random gas station security cameras.

While the kidnapper is careful not to put his face on camera, no one makes a big enough deal about the fact that they now know exactly what kind of truck he's driving (a red one!). Also, don't gas stations have angled cameras to catch license plates, so as to better catch gas thieves? What's going on with that?

Oh, and Reid thinks the letter may have been written by the killer, since it clearly wasn't written by a 15-year-old girl. I've got to concur - my guess was based on glancing the fluid printing and use of the word 'Mommy'. But one of the lines is 'I long for the day that we are reunited'. How did that not raise all kinds of alarms with the woman reading it?

The kidnapper takes mom to his home, and shows off all the pictures he has of the child growing up. We don't see any current ones. Mom winds up locked in her daughter's old bedroom.

Now that the team has found out about the killer's visit with mom to the old crime scene - as well as the fact that the letter was delivered to the old house a week prior (what if the guy had opened it - or not known how to contact the mom?), they're pretty much settled in the idea that the killer is walking mom through the abduction steps so that he can grab her to replace his previous victim. You know, like in The Vanishing. Which is what I assume their profile is based on.

Then mom gets a look at what the killer claims is current video of her daughter! So maybe there's still hope? It's like I can't stop myself. At Quantico Reid delivers one of his worst geographic profiles ever, announcing that the killer must live at some point within a circle made up by all the coloured tabs at the top of the map.

Here's the thing, though - the gas station is the purple tab at the bottom, and he's announcing that it was an important part of the profile. Three of the other tabs are - mom's apartment, mom's old house, the community center she was abducted from. I don't know what the fourth coloured tab is - Reid is implying that it's the gas station, since he mentions it while pointing at the cluster, but that's not the case - the previous scene established that the purple tab was the gas station by mentioning that they drove 'clear across town' to get to it.

Since they're operating under the (coincidentally correct) theory that the gas station was where the kidnapper first targeted his victim, wouldn't that be the location more likely to be in his 'comfort area'. After all, these kinds of killers hunt for victims of opportunity in their comfort zones - the girl was just such a victim. Mom isn't one of those. The kidnapper would drive as far as he needed to in order to get to her.

Yes, the kidnapper does live a couple of blocks away from the mom's apartment, but there's no reason that he should be, according to the show's own geographic profiling logic.

Going over the case files, they find examples of another girl the kidnapper stalked, but didn't pull the trigger on, as well as butterfly jewelry and a note that he left for the girl who was with Hope around the time of the abduction. What's with the butterfly obsession?

More mind games with the kidnapper and mom. Yawn. He wants to play hide and seek. Want to bet that the mom doesn't just get a cudgel, club him into submission with it, and then call the cops and have them resolve the situation? Yeah, I wouldn't take that bet either.

JJ and Emily goes to talk to Hope's friend, who's now a teen with pink streaks in her hair. Emily profiles this as survivor's guilt, with the friend using them to remind herself of how much she looked like Hope. Who, for the record, did not have pink streaks in her hair. I seriously have no idea how this conclusion was jumped to. Anyhoo, she volunteers that she felt guilty about the abduction because the killer had asked to play hide-and-go-seek with them, and she agreed, after being mollified with a jar of butterflies. Hopefully there's something useful in among all that personal stuff - maybe the fact that she remembers the guy's voice really well?

Speaking of guilt, Garcia's worried that she's not doing enough to help! You know what else won't help? The profile that they're about to give to the local cops.

So, with the profile a waste of time, we're treated to more bleak mom stuff, as she uses her free run of the house to find her daughter's body. Which, you know, duh. He claims the daughter killed herself, as if that's somehow it's not her fault.

With absolutely no viable leads to follow, the team finally makes a useful guess - maybe since the killer was stalking mom, he might have infiltrated her support group? They don't just ask if anyone in the group has a red truck, though, they make Garcia go through a memory exercise. Did anyone seem unduly interested in her? It was a guy who claimed to have lost his pregnant wife - and he followed her out of the meeting!

Isn't it lucky that Garcia knows the full name of the killer? Oh, and he had a background of criminality in which he tried to abduct a 14-year-old girl. So yeah, he abducted a younger one this time so she could age into his fetish and then he could impregnate her. All the ick. And the team is guessing that he wants to impregnate the mom so he can replace Hope with a new model!

Hey, isn't it super-lucky that the guy used his real name at the support group? And since it's Garcia's support group, shouldn't she have remembered that one of the members drove a truck like the one they have video of? You're really dropping the ball this week, Penelope.

Okay, she picks it back up again by asking the computer where the killer lives, and then going with Derek to one of the guy's two addresses! Joe and Greg go to the other one, but it's obvious where she's actually going to end up being. Obviously no mention of warrants is made, but I can't help but wonder how they got two, since they've identified the killer based entirely on the memory of a member of their team, who obviously has a conflict of interest in this case.

They arrive as the killer is planning to rape or kill his victim - the decision is based on her reactions to his advances, of course. Garcia calls him on the phone, and luckily he still has one of those answering machines that plays the voice out loud, since he's obviously not going to answer it while he's busily attacking mom. The killer opens the door and offers to let Garcia in to talk in person, which she does, after confirming that Derek and his gunmen have made it inside the house.  Garcia parrots the killer's support-group blather back at him, keeping him long enough for the team to surround him with their guns drawn, but fingers in no way on the triggers.

Sadly, the killer surrenders without incident. Then the mom grabs his gun and executes him.


Other than all the emotional scars left on his victim, of course. Which are resolved when she lets a butterfly go at the end of a makeshift funeral ceremony. Then, in a final bizarre note, when Penelope gives this episode-ending quote, she announces that it's from her "favorite author", Joseph Campbell. As weird as it is to hear someone calling a historian and literary critic their favorite author, it makes absolutely zero sense that such a figure would be this character's favorite writer.

Can anyone seriously believe that this character, who loves her games and comics and genre fiction would, when asked to name her favorite writer, come up with that mythologist who listed the key things that stories tend to have in common? Of course not. So who wrote that line, and how was Garcia able to read it with a straight face?

Or who knows - it was voice over, maybe she didn't have a straight face. I wouldn't've.

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

Nope. Sure, they spent a lot of time guessing at his motives, but that didn't really play into identifying the bad guy. Garcia gets partial credit for using her role as the guy's counselor to distract him long enough for the mom to be able to shoot the guy, though.

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

Here's how this case would have logically broken down. "Oh, a woman is missing? Let's talk to the people who saw her last. (ten minutes later) We can't get this one guy on the phone. I wonder why? (two minutes later) He's a guy with a history of trying to kidnap children, and the missing woman's daughter was kidnapped? Let's go get that guy." Total time elapsed? Sixteen minutes.

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

2/10 - This is why I'll never quite get the whole captivity syndrome thing. The daughter had access to sharp enough implements and enough freedom of movement that she was able to slash her wrists - wouldn't the killer's throat have been a better target?


yeah, I don't know - the guy who kidnapped the girl and kept her locked in a backyard shed, raping her for over a decade? I'm too disgusted by the whole episode to bother looking for his name or details of the case. Instead, just check out the two movies that the show was plot-checking this week, The Vanishing and The Collector.


pernoctator said...

Regarding Campbell: he might not have been my first choice for Garcia but it does make sense (kind of...).

One, there's the direct SF connection with him being mentioned repeatedly by Lucas as an influence on his Star Wars outline (I've been told that, for a while, he had an almost Žižek-like cult following esp. in the SF community. Can't attest to it, though - before my time).

Two, in CM reality, profilers are the closest thing to heroes (apart from soldiers and 'good' cops) there are. Complete with monomyth conforming adventures, villains and character arcs. Although, that really only justifies the choice for the show, not for Garcia as a character.

And I can't really see her as a Joyceophile. I bet Ulysses would bore her to death.

So yeah. Maybe not so fitting after all, apart from the pro forma nerd cred.

Anonymous said...

Love your reviews, but I've started to wonder if you've got so bored with CM, you're only half watching. It was obvious the abductor was the man who comforted her in the support group, and not a stranger - and he said it was a young woman putting out fliers, not a little girl (though as we later found out she'd been missing for 7 years, that could admittedly still imply it was the daughter). I also didn't get the impression she'd just found the letter.

I agree with you, however, re. the geographical profile. Why was the mother's apartment even included? She didn't live there when the daughter was abducted, so it's irrelevant. And I think the girl was dyeing her hair to remove the similarity? Maybe...

Anonymous said...

Funny review as always :)! Thanks!

One thing bothers me though, the comment about the hair! I believe the point was that she had pink in her hair to not look like "hope" (most ridiculous name ever btw). So just a way to distance her from it.

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