Criminal Minds 719: Heathridge Manor

The episode opens with a flashback to Heathridge Manor, way back in 1996! Which I guess is sixteen years ago, but I remember it well enough that it doesn't seem like long enough back to be the creepy past. Okay, enough about me - creepy mansion, black truck driving up on rainy night, eerie music... go!

A mother is reading to her child from a badly water-damaged storybook about a white knight battling a wizard who turned out to be the devil.

Oh, it's not water damaged, I guess, it must be a homemade storybook done with watercolours. The men in white from the local institution show up to drag mom off, who leaves the son with an insistence that he look after his sister. She quickly loses her nerve, though, and screams as she's dragged away. Hey, who's the guy who's watching from the sidelines, seated in a chair?

If that's the dad, there was quite an age difference, so I'm guessing grandpa?

Now we move to the present day, where a set of teens are exploring a mental hospital with video cameras, looking for demons - and instead they find a corpse! According to Garcia it's a teacher who went missing some time earlier. She's dressed as an old-timey lady from the storybook, with an elaborate gown and face painted white, so I guess the grown-up son is killing people to recreate the book? They know she was held somewhere else because her nails are mangled and there's limestone under them - did she try to scratch her way free through rock? Never a promising plan. A building old enough to have limestone in it would be a great lead, was the killing not in Salem, Oregon, which has plenty of elderly buildings.

Speaking of limestone, we immediately get a look at the conditions the women are held in - there's a pit in the ground with a contraption over it that dumps water in a little at a time, to torment the woman as they're slowly drowned. Classy guy, this traumatized child.

On the plane they talk about the victim's love of goth culture, but her goth-rock boyfriend has an alibi, so the subject is dropped. Not before the possibility is raised that they could be Satanists, which is weird, since there were absolutely zero indications of satanic ritual in the murder. They elect to check out the Renfaire community, hoping for some clue in the elaborate dress.

But first, guest star! When Greg and Joe arrive at the murder scene they're met by Robert Englund, the local detective working the case! Okay, so there's a storybook about the Devil, Robert Englund guesting, and a creepy abandoned mental institution - yet somehow this ISN'T a Halloween episode. What kind of sense does that make? There's something odd about the scene - a patient bed was dragged into a common area for better display - so the killer probably knew the hospital, since he likely had fantasies about optimal display.

Speaking of the killer, the show then cuts to him, and as an adult he's played by Beaver Casablancas! Sadly the killer has inherited his mother's madness, and is having visions of her as he tries to paint. She talks about the importance of killing the 'wives' (the dead women from that story) to helping their family, but because she's a delusion, the point she's trying to make is extremely vague.

Now it's over to the morgue, where we discover the woman was killed with poisoned clothing! Yup, the gown was soaked in nicotine, and when she was forced into it the toxin seeped through her skin. That is super-elaborate, but nicotine isn't exactly easy to trace. They also discover that she was held in water for an extended period of time! I'm personally wondering why there weren't drag marks all over the body and clothes - Beaver's not exactly a huge guy, and he'd have had to move the woman from his car, across a field, up a couple of stairs and into a building. That cannot have been easy.

Reid and JJ have more luck with the gown - the fabric is custom-made, and the outfit was sewn by hand! Probably small hands, in fact, so the killer could have a teen girl working with him! The sister Beaver's mom mentioned?

She shows up in the next scene, concerned about the fact that her brother sleeps all day and has visions of their mother. There's a little twisted psychohistory - Beaver pulled sis out of school to keep her under his thumb. He tries to explain that it's to protect her from ridicule, since she has a birth defect that's covered by a plastic hand, but Sis remains unconvinced and resistant to his control. Good for her! Also she knows about the killing. That's less good for her.

The show then cuts to base, where they're trying to figure out if one of the women released from the hospital might somehow be involved in the case - but none of the names jumps out as being significant. I suppose they'll get to family and visitors later on. More importantly, Emily notices something in the crime scene photos-

The second name is 'Emma', which is their victim's name! How did no one notice this when they were at the crime scene? More importantly, how did Emily notice looking at this picture-

That the names were even there? In fact, check out the actual scene-

Note that she's not surprised by the Emma reveal - she also doesn't play it like she's just seen a squiggle and she's curious about what it might be - she's asking the guy to magnify so she can confirm something she's pretty sure of. It's a weird choice, given the actual shots on set. They do understand the importance of the subsequent name and blank spaces for more victims, though - the killer probably already has someone, and is looking for more!

The next body turns up in the very next scene, after being successfully drowned into submission by Beaver in his preposterously huge and ornate basement:

Is there a way that could look more like a set? I can't think of one off the top of my head.

It turns out that the drowning is park of Beaver's twist on the old witch-finding trick. Had she died from he drowning that would have meant she was innocent, but since she coughed herself back to consciousness, that means she's a witch who has to be executed! Beaver might have been stacking the deck a little by pulling her up the second she lost consciousness, though.

The next day the victim's body turns up in a building site across the street from a theatre where Hamlet is playing, so the team thinks the elaborate outfit might be a 'costume', and this store was the closest the killer could get to a stage. Which is a nice idea, but how does that jibe with the asylum? What's that? Not at all? Joe also offer the unsupportable theory that because the second victim isn't physically similar to the first (beyond being thin white women with dark hair, of course), they can't possibly be representing anyone. Unless, of course, the two victims are the closest he could get, or represent two different people.

When Garcia has tracked down the other missing women based on the names on the walls Reid notices something peculiar - when the 11s are dropped from either end the the strings of numbers (when read backwards) all represent days just after the victims were abducted - holy days on the Satanic calendar, leading up to the big one, April 30th - Walpurgisnacht!

I'm a little surprised no one thought to consider these might have been dates - all of them had '2102' in them right at the start, which has one pretty obvious interpretation. Also, it's nice to see that this is one episode where they're going to stop the killer way before his evil plan comes close to fruition - the last victim was scheduled to die celebrating the 24th of March, when the episode is presumably set around. If the guy keeps to his schedule the next woman doesn't have to die until around April 6th - two weeks away! And since the crew is only ever in town for 72 hours, tops, there shouldn't even be a third victim!

Just a reminder - according to Criminal Minds, there actually are a surprisingly large number of Satan-themed serial killers running around America.

Speaking of potential new victims, one of Sis' high school friends drops by to talk to Sis, but Beaver escorts her out before anything bad can happen to her! Here's a fun note - we get a look at a photo of their crazy mom, and it's Drusilla from Buffy, a fact I hadn't noticed in any of her scenes until now! Again, this isn't a Halloween episode.

Over at the theatre Emily and Joe discover a prime connection between the killings and the theatre - all of the victims' dresses are copies of costumes from a production the Merry Wives of Windsor! This means someone who had access to the dresses must be involved with the crime, and they'll need a list! Here's a bigger question, though - why aren't they using this opportunity to ask a follow-up question about the fabric? They know it was custom-made, so it was probably custom-made for this theatre company - meaning the killer either stole the fabric from them (good clue) or bought it from the same supplier (great clue!) either way, it's worth pursuing, so, of course, it's not mentioned.

Beaver has another crazy episode where he talks to his mother - she says that since Sis is 16, the Devil will notice her now, and Beaver has to get proactive if he wants to protect his family. Is that a sacrifice kind of protect, or is this going to be their excuse for speeding up the timeline?

Profile time! It's all nonsense that's in no way actionable - no guesses about age, physicality, location - really anything. It does, however, end with a Prentiss Award-Winning line from Greg-

Again, according to the killer's own calendar that he was nice enough to leave on the wall, his next victim shouldn't be kidnapped until April 4th, two days before her execution on the 6th. Since his last victim was kidnapped on the 22nd to be killed yesterday, the 24th, that means this scene is set on April 25th. So Greg should be saying they have some time, since the killer's timeline means he shouldn't grab anyone for another nine days. He doesn't, though, because this is a badly-written show.

Okay, the next scene opens with Garcia clearing all people involved in the theatre production (we're not told how) and ends with them figuring out that this is all an attempt by the killer to murder witches in an attempt to thwart the Devil. How they get there is so preposterous it makes my brain hurt, so let's move on.

Beaver sidles up to his latest victim in a bar and acts super-creepy - but somehow she winds thrown into the basement well anyhow. I'm not sure how this occurs, and the show's not interested in telling us, so let's move on-

To Garcia offering a mea culpa - turns out she didn't clear everyone involved in the production after all - the costumes were donated to the theatre by an actress many years earlier. That actress? Crazy mom! Who died in the fire that shut down the mental hospital. Which she set! Robert Englund goes to check for copies of her patient records to see if there's anything of use contained within, but for some reason no one volunteers to check on her family or the executors of her estate - who else would have access to/knowledge of her dresses?

More creepiness with the killer - Beaver has thrown a prom for his sister, who's missing hers because her brother is crazy. He explains that the threat is almost over, since there's just one more of Satan's brides, and once she's dead, he and his mom can rest. Presumably this is the woman in the basement, unless she drowned, in which case he's going to try to kill his sister. It could easily be the second option, since Beaver is weirdly shifty and quiet when Sis asks if she can go back to her regular life when the murders are done with.

Although that might just be that Beaver is always quiet and shifty.

I can't believe how stupid that line from the profile was - psychologically speaking, the pressure that sis is putting on Beaver is exactly the kind of external stressor that could cause him to accelerate his timeline, surprising the team. But no, the show has to depict them anticipating the killer's moves, even though there's no way they could in this situation.

Next Joe and Derek are at the bar looking over the videotapes - somehow Beaver was there for a full hour without his face ever getting on Camera. Perhaps the parking lot camera got a shot of his weird old car? More importantly, there's some weird cruelty in the scene, as the bartender says that the blonde victim must have loved the attention, and that's why she was so willing to go off with him. Why isn't she used to attention? According to the bartender, it's because she looks like this-

She's pretty and has nothing wrong with her? At the same time, the bartender lets them know that Beaver specifically chose the blonde woman - he's sure, because women were hitting on him the whole time he was there, and he could have had his pick. Why? Again, according to the bartender, he recognized Beaver as a rich, handsome guy-

Okay, this is in no way intended as an insult to the actor playing the part, but he's clearly not who the writers had in mind. When you hear the word handsome, are you picturing Beaver? Even if you are, the bartender wouldn't be. For love of Pete, he's slightly shorter than the blonde woman he was hitting on. If the bartender had explained that his puny creepiness was outweighed by the money he was throwing around, that would be one thing, but he's supposed to be so gorgeous that women can't help but throw themselves at him. And instead, he's-

In the right lighting, makeup, and costuming, I'm sure he looks great - none of those elements are working in his favour in this scene.

So, back to the show, where Joe and Derek are figuring out that the killer must be searching for victims with a super-specific look, and he's willing to travel to find them! Wow, does that mean the geographic profile won't be useful this week? Snicker. Is this going to go anywhere? They've got the killer's mom's name, how is this not solved yet? Also, why haven't they asked the bartender for a better physical description of the killer than what appears on the tape? He seems to remember a suspiciously large amount about the evening...

In the evil torture dungeon Beaver and sister discover that Blonde victim hasn't survived her ordeal - so the threats I assumed were being made were all foreshadowing. Sister doesn't take news that their victim was innocent very well, so she threatens to call the police. Beaver explains that they just need to find the last of the 'Devil's Wives', but sister isn't buying it. She's on to the whole serial killer thing now. Not boding well for her, certainly.

Robert takes Emily and JJ to the mental hospital's off-site storage facility and they quickly find mom's file. She stabbed one of the actresses in the play because of her 'Devil's Wives' psychosis, and chopped off sister's hand to make her a less appealing bride! Yikes! Now that they've figured out the exact motive behind the killings, it's just a matter of figuring out that her son is the killer, and the day is saved!

Hey, the fact that this was all a unique psychosis of the mother's explains why she was reading to Beaver from crudely watercoloured volume - it must have been something she made herself!

Beaver's having a bad time of it, painting haphazardly while his ghost-mother tries to talk him into murdering his sister. Ghost mom is super-persuasive, BTW.

There's a quick scene of the killer being identified, but once again they waste a small amount of time on guesswork - assuming that the picture of Beaver they find kind of looks like the bartender's vague description, rather than simply e-mailing the guy four photos and asking him if any of them look like the killer. You could do it while driving to Heathridge manor, guys - how much effort does it take to be sure?

Beaver can't go through with killing his sister, so instead he has a plan - tie her up as bait for the devil, then kill him when he arrives! Possibly in the form of the FBI. Before setting the trap, though, he takes a moment to kiss his sister, upgrading the incest subplot from sub- to textual.

The team arrives at the mansion and begins searching the ground, splitting up to do so, largely because they're fools. Derek and JJ find the first victim in the family crypt, and  Emily pulls sister out of her poison-soaked clothing, leaving Greg to fight Beaver in the basement. Because they couldn't be bothered to bring along police backup. Or get a warrant.

The fight goes really well for Greg - which isn't a huge surprise, what with him having half a foot and forty pounds on Beaver - and the kid winds up tossed down the well, where his head is dashed open against the stone.


In the aftermath sister survives her poisoning, and the team discusses what will happen to her next. Since the family's rich, she won't end up in the foster system, but will rather have all the help she needs to stay in the murder house!

We then cut some indeterminate amount of time into the future, where the now-happy sister is packing up the killer's clothes for goodwill. She hears the doorbell ring, and when she does to answer it, she discovers, well, just watch it for yourself-

You saw right - she went nuts because no one on the team took measures to ensure that she got treatment for the violent schizophrenia that runs in her family, which would only be exacerbated by being partially raised by a man in the throes of religious mania. Good show, guys!

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

It barely even came up this week! There was idle discussion about motives and victimology, but none of it went anywhere.

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

Beaver was essentially the Riddler this week, leaving them so many clues that they couldn't help but solve the crime. Seriously - it's like he was disappointed that the asylum wasn't a big enough clue, so he sent them to the theatre just to be absolutely sure that they couldn't miss his mother's connection to the crime. Also he kidnapped someone in public in a business full of security cameras. So there's that. One of the most solvable cases ever!

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

1/10 - Noodle this one - Beaver, the star of the new Nightmare on Elm Street movie, and Robert Englund, Freddy from the original series, both starred in this episode, but never shared a scene. Now that's a missed opportunity!

Oh, and in case you're wondering why Reid was barely mentioned in this review (really? you noticed that?), it's because this episode was directed by Matthew Gray Gubler, so he conspired to have as little screen time as possible to free up his schedule for directing!

While this wasn't as good as his last effort, it was once again far more stylish than the average Criminal Minds episode, and its faults were all due to the writing. Frankly, I'm excited to see what he'll do next year! Will it be a third fairytale witch-themed episode, or is he going to branch out to another kind of fantastical monster?


Anonymous said...

I think it's kinda amusing that you tend to hate on Reid, yet you praise the actor when he directs. Frankly, I don't think you mention the acting enough... you always are focused on the writing... Emily and Reid are my favorites, but I think it's more that I like the actors than the characters... Good reviews!

Vardulon said...

You're absolutely right that I give Reid a lot of crap - but that's mostly the writing of the character. Gubler himself seems perfectly engaging as a person (and in real life seems to be uncannily close to the character) and I think his directing has been fantastic in all of his episodes. Frankly, I'm psyched for him to make the jump to directing features, since I think his sensibilities would be fantastic on the big screen.

Anonymous said...

What kind of car was beaver driving?

Anonymous said...

your review is spot on. a thriller made just by connecting some dots after putting the dots..!

Anonymous said...

Brr, this episode was really creepy. Especially the devils appearance at the end.

Anonymous said...

This is my favorite episode, but I'll admit you have a good point. Just wondering, do you still enjoy the show despite your dislike for the writing? There are lots of things that I don't find particularly well-written but that engage me nonetheless. Are you the same way?

Anonymous said...

1962-1964 Studebaker Hawk (GT)

Kate said...

So she saw the devil because of the family illness? I never got the ending but now it does make sense

Anonymous said...

Quick question: Who the hell is Greg?

The Hidden Object Guru said...

Psst, Anonymous! Check the top-right side of the webpage!