In King's Beach California some graduating high school students are partying on the beach to celebrate the end of classes. A couple wanders off to be alone, and has the bad luck of heading towards the lifeguard shack from which a shadowy figure had been observing the proceedings. As they make out underneath the shack the couple notices blood dripping down through the floorboards. The man of the couple heads in to check out the source alone - because it's not like there's twenty teens armed with cell phones fifty feet away - and discovers a corpse with a mutilated groin, and what might be another two wrapped in plastic. It's kind of hard to tell.
Garcia lays out the details of the case - three dead guys, all shot in the head, genitals removed. And, as we learn in a cutaway, the killer's already murdered number 4! They talk a little about the possibility that the guy is recently out of prison, and that the lifeguard tower wasn't due to open for a month, which may well be important. I think the shack deserves a little more attention - you've got a presumably lone guy going to the trouble of lugging ~200 pound corpses into a small building with absolutely no cover around it. And it's an LA-adjacent beach, meaning that there's no time of day when you can be sure that no one's going to be wandering by. All of this conspires to make a lifeguard shack essentially the worst possible place to hide bodies, meaning they must hold some special significance to the killer. Or, you know, bad writing.
Also, and I know I say this all the time, but couldn't they be doing this on the plane? It's not like they're debating whether or not to go on the trip. Are they just shooting in the conference room so that they can justify the cost of the set?
On the plane the team discusses the victims, who have all been identified. One of the three is known to be gay, so they wonder if that was an important factor in victimology - especially since he was the one left uncovered. I don't know why they're giving so much weight to the fact that one wasn't wrapped in plastic. The same guy was also still bleeding - isn't the most likely explanation that the killer feared discovery and fled before finishing the job? Although he really ought to be wrapping them in plastic in the kill room for easy transit.
The killer shows up at a basketball court, where he gets the attention of a teen. They talk - the killer's having a rough time, and wants to see the teen more often, but the teen suggests that could get him in trouble. Is he an estranged son, or is the relationship more sinister?
Greg and Emily meet with the local FBI agent in charge of the case - he announces that the fourth body has been found in another lifeguard shack. I'm not clear on why the FBI immediately has jurisdiction over this case. Three dead bodies were found around twenty hours ago, then another just recently - shouldn't this still be a local matter with the team helping out?
Greg interviews the latest victim's widow - it seems he had a habit of hanging out on beaches when he was feeling troubled, which he had been since losing his job. Meanwhile Joe and Derek are checking out the guy's corpse. Again he wasn't wrapped in plastic, and this time a blood trail led up to the door. Why wasn't there one of those last time? They call Garcia to make sure she's on top of things, and while she's managed to discover that one of the victims went to a local gym shortly before his death, she doesn't have any other info to offer. Joe and Derek decide that the killer must be a sexual predator, and that he's killing men who reject his advances. But if that were the case, wouldn't there be a little more anger? The guy is executing people with a bullet to the head, and then cutting off their genitals post-mortem. As far as this show goes, that's neither torturous nor sadistic.
Greg and Emily discover that all of the dead men had suffered recent losses - jobs, financial collapse, divorce - but how is the killer finding tourists with specific problems to murder? Reid and JJ check out the gym and find footage of the guy pushing himself incredibly hard while working out - clearly angry. Reid suggests that his loss may have been more than financial in nature! Garcia finally proves useful when she calls to reveal that the gym victim's car has disappeared, and its tracking device from the rental agency had been deactivated! So now they know they're looking for a technically adept killer who has a good method for ridding himself of superfluous cars!
I've got a question - why did Garcia call them with the news? Shouldn't she have been calling Greg or Derek? Yes, Reid and JJ were checking out the gym where the guy went before being murdered, but it' not like the team has divvied up victims between them. Isn't this news for the agent in charge, so that he can keep all information coordinated?
The show lets us know how he's getting rid of the cars - he used to work at a junkyard! The killer wanders through the rows of cars, then gets in a row with the owner (his former business partner). He blames the man - his former best friend - for ruining his life, but the two of them are maddeningly unclear about exactly what happened to drive the killer so insane.
Getting together to discuss the facts, the team tries to figure out how the killer gets the men to the beach and figures out that they're distraught. For once they actually do something logical and simplify their theory - what if he's not hunting them at all, what if he's just waiting for single men who look sad to show up at the beach at night, then killing them! It's actually a pretty solid premise, team! Not that I see it as a particularly useful insight when it comes to finding the guy.
Hey, speaking of the guy, he kills another victim. Which makes two in-show deaths. The next one's probably safe, but the formula is a little less strict with male victims.
The team drops by the hotel that the latest victim was staying at - they find the mini-bar completely drained of booze, and the guy's car in the parking lot. So where did he stumble off to, and how did he end up at the beach? Is the killer finding them because he's a bartender/liquor store owner? That would make sense, since if there's one thing depressed guys love in fiction, it's going for a drink! That whole liquor theory is my two cents - the show just jumps straight to the profile, where the team gives an assembled cops the extremely useful advice that the killer is murdering because of an emasculating loss he suffered. Wow, with that hot tip they'll have him cuffed in no time!
As for the killer, he stops by his ex-wife's house to yell at her about their relationship, and the fact that his son (as I suspected - basketball teen) is unable to see him regularly. Oh, and the business partner is living with the ex-wife. That's what that fight was about.
Garcia calls with still more info - blood tests had shown that all the victims had alcohol in their systems, but none spent money on liquor. How is that possible... unless the killer is a bartender, comping them drinks and listening to their problems! To their credit, Reid and Joe come to this conclusion almost immediately. But will the realization be timely enough to save the life of the black guy the killer currently has his sights set on?
Even though they've got a good lead with the bartender angle - and should really just be doing one of Reid's geographical profiles for bars within sensible distance of where each of the victims was staying/last scene - the team keeps circling around the motive issue, and trying to figure out what all the victims had in common that the killer could have fixated on. The answer? Failed romantic relationships! What's this theory based on? Nothing!
It's right, of course - the bartender dismisses the black guy when he finds out that the woman slightly further down the bar cheated on her significant other, ruining the relationship. That's the one unforgivable sin, according to him. Also, it gives the team a woman to try and rescue, which they're typically more comfortable with. Unless she's going to die (which is actually pretty likely, since there's fifteen minutes left in the episode) and they have to rescue the ex-wife. Which would be super weird, since that would make two weeks in a row.
Well, we're part of the way there, since that certainly is a dead woman tossed in a dumpster, brutally tortured. Two things about this scene. First, Derek gets the Prentiss Award-winning line of the night.
So, Derek, you're surprised that he didn't remove her ovaries? More importantly, how could you tell, if she was cut to pieces? There's a reason we generally just use castration to talk about emasculation, Derek.
Secondly, and this is a big one - how do they know this is the same killer? Here are the details they know about this guy - he shoots men in the head, then cuts off their genitals, then dumps them in lifeguard stations. Here are the facts of this case - a WOMAN was TORTURED TO DEATH WITH A KNIFE then tossed in a DUMPSTER, he genitals UNMUTILATED. Who on earth would make a connection?
You know why I love this scene? Because someone in the production ladder noticed the huge gaping plot hole, and tried to plug it with a single looped line from Joe, awkwardly shoehorning in exposition before what's obviously supposed to be the first line of the scene.
Except that can't have happened. The body is still in pieces, wrapped in a tarp. It hasn't been examined by anyone, let alone a coroner working with magnification equipment. Hell, how would you connect the blade at all? The men were all emasculated simply and efficiently, leaving only cut skin and severed organs. No bones were damaged, and the men weren't stabbed - knife shape and depth being the best ways of matching a weapon. Unless this knife has some kind of a unique and bizarrely shaped blade, even the coroner shouldn't have been able to make a connection between the crimes.
Then the killer heads to the junkyard and murders his ex-partner, so we can finally get close in quickly on the endgame.
The infidelity theory is confirmed by the female victim's significant other, who sobs a sad backstory, but doesn't give them anything even slightly actionable. Then the body in the crusher turns up, and the team is able to connect the owner of the junkyard to the ex-wife of the killer. The team rushes over to her house before anything bad happens to her, and she lets him know about the bar where the killer works. She also reveals the bombshell that set this whole thing off - she'd been cheating on the killer for two decades, and 'his' 'son' was actually the child of the junkyard owner!
So it's off to the school, where the killer grabs basketball teen and tries to drag him out of town. The teen naturally resists, what with his 'father' freaking out, and they get into a fight in the bar. Luckily the team arrives in time to save the day, with JJ beating the killer up, then demanding that the teen put down the gun he'd grabbed in the fracas. Why? Because if he shoots his 'father', then he'll be the one going to jail!
Since when is the FBI so squeamish about covering up 'public service' murders? These guys would not do well on the reservation beat, that's for sure. The crazy part is that they totally covered up for that woman a few episodes back. You remember, the one who killed that guy who spent half a decade repeatedly raping her daughter? She gunned him down and then walked away without being charged. Nor did you charge the autistic boy's mother who gunned down her kidnapper when he was unarmed. Now suddenly covering up for murderers is beneath them? Weak, team.
Except for Greg going on a date with that woman. Happy ending!
1 - Was profiling in any way helpful in solving the crime?
Nope. Yes, they figured out what was going on with the killer's motivation, but that would have been absolutely no help had he not killed someone incredibly close to him. Seriously, if the team had stayed home and the cops went to the house where the junkyard owner lives, the ex-wife would have mentioned the name of the one guy who really hated him, and the location of his bar.
2 - Could the crime have been solved just as easily using conventional police methods given the known facts of the case?
All of the victims had alcohol in their body, but hadn't bought booze. So they were getting free drinks - how hard would it have been to tie all of them to one nearby bar?
So, on a scale of 1 (Dirty Harry) to 10 (Tony Hill), How Useful Was Profiling in Solving the Crime?
1/10 - You know, we never got any idea why he was going to the incredibly risky trouble of carting guys from his bar to lifeguard shacks. Especially when he could have just crushed them into cubes along with their cars. Was it really just so they could have an opening where sexy teens find a corpse?