12.10.12

Criminal Minds 720: The Company


Now that was an unexpected clip package! It seems that we're coming back to Derek's missing cousin? Remember, the one the boat-board killer claimed to have murdered last season, only Derek didn't believe him, but Derek told his aunt she was dead anyhow so that she could have some peace of mind? It seems that story wasn't dead and buried after all - how will it come up this week?

As the episode begins one of Derek's sisters is driving home, stopped at a red light and leaving a message on their mother's answering machine. As she hangs up she notices her missing cousin (the one who disappeared after fleeing an abusive relationship) sitting in the passenger seat of the car next to her! How does she react to this? By trying to yell and get the woman's attention - the driver of that car bolts, and in her attempt to follow them Derek's sister's car gets hit twice! That's why you respect the red light.

Derek rushes to be by his sister's side while she's in the hospital and hears her story about seeing their cousin. Derek assures her that no, the cousin is dead - which is an odd choice, considering he doesn't believe that himself - but sister is firm in her belief. She even remembers the cousin saying 'I'm sorry' before their car made its getaway! Also, and this is the big one - if something weird wasn't going on in that car, why would it have run a red light to escape a random woman saying hello? For some reason she doesn't use that as proof, even though it's really on point.

During a call with Greg Derek comes clean about lying to his family in re: Cousin's disappearance, and Greg offers to bring the team to help look for the missing cousin. Which I suppose they have the right to do, since she was kidnapped, but certainly seems like the kind of thing that Greg would have to check with someone about before committing to be there. Also he kind of misrepresents the events of the boatman episode by saying that Derek 'deduced' that the killer hadn't murdered his cousin. This makes it seem like a feat of detective work or even profiling, when in fact the opposite is the case - it was the killer who read Derek's body language after putting down a picture the killer didn't recognize. The killer made the clever connection that Derek must have had some personal connection to the woman in the picture, and used that information to taunt Derek. By comparison Derek merely observed that unlike all of his other victims, the killer didn't know the cousin's name and personal details. Not exactly a heroic act of investigative logic, was it?

Oh, and Derek's other sister was snooping at the door, and overheard his confession.

There's a quick recap of the case, in which we learn that it was the cousin's co-worker at an investment bank who was stalking her, and that he shot himself after she disappeared. Derek claims that he never believed that the stalker had killed her, since he wasn't 'organized' enough to get rid of a body so permanently. Couldn't he have just abducted her, killed her, and tossed her body in a nearby swamp? It's not like that takes a lot of effort/planning, and she could easily have disappeared forever.

Then Derek's aunt shows up and slaps him when he admits that he lied to her - which seems like an odd thing to do. After all, there's nothing to be gained by coming completely clean here - couldn't Derek have just claimed that the boatman lied to him, and he had a good-faith belief that the guy was telling the truth? Yes, this way he comes clean with his aunt, but the net result of that is he gets to feel like a burden was lifted, and she gets to feel betrayed. Kind of a selfish thing to do, really.

The team goes over the facts of the case - the dead stalker used standard film instead of a digital camera in his stalking, and he killed himself with a .44, which they consider 'overkill'. That seems like an odd thing to focus on, to me - they find it strange enough that he would kill himself with a large pistol that they want to talk to the gun dealer about his state of mind when he bought it. Because if there's one thing that's true about gun dealers, it's that they have a great sense of the mood of people who bought guns from them a decade ago. What's the theory here, anyway, he bought the gun to go on a rampage, then killed himself instead? Or did someone use it on him and the suicide was faked? I feel like they're just flailing at this point.

Derek calls Penelope to chat about his day, because he's feeling so emotionally distraught - which  is a good character moment, since it lets us more into their supportive relationship. Once again, though, Derek comes off a little selfish, since this awful mood that is now keeping two people from working on the case is due not to him telling a lie, but to his coming clean about that lie.

JJ and Joe go to the gun shop, and he has some important information to offer - according to his records, the white stalker didn't buy the gun at all, it was purchased  by a black guy named Malcolm Ford!

The license was issued in '83, and expired in '07? Is that a thing with American licenses, do they always list the original date of issuance on their faces? Because this makes it look like he had a license that was good for 24 years. Also, let's just say, for sake of argument, that this current license was issued roughly five years before the expiration date - that would mean the guy looks exactly the same now as he did a decade ago, right down to the haircut. Weird.

Okay, back to the episode - did Ford sell the gun to the stalker, or did he kill the stalker and make it look like a suicide? Here's a bigger question: how did the police miss this eight years ago? They found a dead body next to a gun. The dead body was a suspect in a stalking, giving at least one person a motive to kill him. So they just assumed it was a suicide? Even if the gun was in his hand, this wouldn't have been that hard of an investigation. Phone call 1: records to check if stalker had a gun license. No he didn't. Phone call 2: call in the serial number to find out who sold/owns the gun. There, case cracked in ten minutes. Are we to believe that the Chicago police are really this incompetent?

In the earlier scene they announced that the gun was traced to a specific dealer all those years ago, and that's how the team knew who to go and talk to - but if the dealer was located all that time ago, why did the cops never bother talking to him about the gun he sold to a guy without a handgun gun license?

Then we cut to Ford and cousin quickly packing up their belongings, burning personal papers in the fireplace, and loading guns, just in case. They have to flee the city just in case the cousin recognized them! Apparently they've lived in their house long enough that their neighbour thinks it's odd to see them packing up their car, and cousin is forced to lie and say they're just headed to the cabin for the weekend. Here's a question I hope is addressed later - if cousin being recognized is so dangerous that they'd have to burn down their lives the moment it happened, why are they living in or around the city where her entire extended family resides? I know this isn't an official witness protection program endeavour, but still, a baseline of competence should be expected.

The team runs down what we know so far, leading to an incredibly puzzling and Prentiss Award-Winning statement



Okay, since Ford's credit card receipts show that he bought the black and white camera found at the 'stalker's' apartment, he certainly planted the black and white photos - but what about all the other evidence against stalker 1? According to their notecards-

2

He left messages for her every hour, sent gifts, and e-mails, all of which were presumably traceable back to him. Did Malcolm set all this up, or did she actually have two stalkers? It seems like the second, guys.

Even more puzzling is one note laid out on Ford's card - there's references to his gun and photography, but then comes this statement:

- Member of "The Company"

What the hell does that mean? Is he in the CIA? Is this a reference to 'Girl in a Box'? What are they basing that statement on? This all needs some explanation - did Ford ingratiate himself with Cindi (the cousin) by killing her too-eager suitor, or does she not even know about that?

The team arrives at the house, they're too late to catch the fleeing couple, but find that some of the papers aren't completely burned in the fireplace. With any luck, this will include a partially-burned copy of Cindi's "Slave Contract" - more on that in the FactCheck below, should it become necessary!

Now things are just getting odd - this officially is Girl in the Box, but with a twist, as Ford and Cindi arrive at a suburban house, the couple who live there are impressed by how well-conditioned Ford's slave his - she won't make eye-contact or speak unless given permission to! She does express surprise when she finds out that friends will be smuggling them into Canada, as she thought this was just a temporary escape. She's even more disturbed when she gets to her room in the suburban couple's home, and discovers that it's a torture dungeon that the wife is kept in!

Now it's time for a profile - hilariously, Derek actually points out that there's no point in giving a profile since they know who the killer is, but the team insists, as they're determined to lay out all they know about 'The Company', which is a S&M fantasy thing. The team explains that vicious abusers tell their victims that there's something called 'The Company' which allows them to trade slaves back and forth, and will murder their families if they try to escape! Of course, it's not entirely a fantasy, since we've seen that Ford had another bondage freak that he could run to. Even if that guy turns out to think it's some kind of a twisted (but consensual) sex game, there's still organization and co-ordination going on.

What does this profile have to do with catching the killer? Nothing! The only useful piece of information is that Cindi is suffering from severe Stockholm Syndrome, and won't easily turn on her captor. Which doesn't require a seminar to get across. Oh, and Derek talks to his aunt, who recognizes Ford as a member of their church! And yes, as predicted, the burned piece of paper in the fireplace was the slave contract-


Which the aunt is disturbed to see. Why did you show her that, Derek? I guess at this point we can just assume that the reference to 'The Company' on the note card in that earlier scene was just a mistake by the prop people that no one caught.

Ford brings Cindi to a parking lot to wait for their contact to arrive, then sends her into a supermarket to get him some dinner. This proves to be a mistake, as he discovers that she brought the gun with her! Ford thwarts her attempt at escape by grabbing her and threatening Derek's life, but then when they try to leave their plan goes awry - Cindi had already grabbed food, but Ford didn't know that, so instead of paying for it they walk out and set off the thievery alarm!


Ford tries to play it off as a mistake, and gives the store manager a five dollar bill to pay for the food, but he's so shifty that the guy phones the police right after Ford and Cindi leave the store.

Are the writers just giving up on any plausibility at this point, or are we expected to believe that a can of microwavable pasta has an alarm attached to it somewhere?

The 911 call leads Derek and Joe to Ford, but it's too late - Ford has already stashed Cindi somewhere! Are they going to have to make a deal with the guy, or can Derek figure out where she went in the ten minutes between the 911 call and the FBI catching Ford?

Derek isn't doing a great job when we next see him walking around the supermarket, and things get more tense when Garcia calls and he's all snippy with her - finally she calls him on being super self-absorbed, but no one mentions the bigger question: why is Derek being allowed to work part of this case solo at all? Don't they realize that he's far too close to this thing to be able to put in his best effort?

Still, he manages to come up with something of a lead, as he's sure that Cindi put the pasta in her purse so it would set off the alarm and attract the police. Again, why on earth would she think that that could possibly happen in a million years?

Ford isn't talking or asking for a lawyer, so the team tries a daring technique - send in two women to ignore and bait him, hoping that he'll reveal something! It immediately works, as he gets frustrated hearing them talking about their lives, and intimates that JJ would be much happier enslaved than working for a living. They point out that they don't care about Cindi, and are just here to talk about the guy he murdered - Ford counters with the fact that if they had anything on him, he'd be under arrest! Actually, why isn't he under arrest? They do have something on him.

Derek goes in to have a chat with Ford, and explains that the pasta she stole was a message to Derek, since that's what they used to eat as children! Ford doesn't believe she'd send a message, but can't offer an explanation as to why Cindi wasn't in the van with him when they were caught just a few blocks from the supermarket twenty minutes after the 911 call. Obviously she's either alive or dead, and hidden in a culvert. Derek thinks she's dead, since Ford makes the mistake of talking about her in the past tense! This leads to Derek getting super-angry, but Greg calls him out of the room because of a twist - Cindi is alive and has hired a lawyer to defend her husband, who she wants to drop all charges against!

Without testimony from Cindi or proof that the gun wasn't stolen as Ford claimed, the team thinks they can't hold their killer. As he and Cindi prepare to leave the police station Derek's aunt arrives and tries to talk to her daughter - but Cindi doesn't want to play ball. Then auntie looks at Cindi's neck, and discovers a giant strangling welt on it. Yet the cops don't immediately arrest Ford. This confuses the hell out of me - because of changes in spousal abuse laws you can arrest the abuser without co-operation of his victim if you have clear evidence of the abuse. Which they do.

Here's another avenue of attack - why didn't they hold both people there while Cindi's mother files a writ to have her declared mentally incompetent? That would leave her unable to hire a lawyer and bail her husband out, and they could get her in a mental institution where they could break this brainwashing thing down. It might be a little legally sketchy, but it would, at very least, buy them the time they need and get her away from her abuser.

Derek has a new theory, though - why would Cindi have been stealing microwaveable pasta for her husband - isn't that kind of thing you get for a child? His basis for this? That it's the same exact brand and label that they had as children, so she's keeping the tradition alive? So it wasn't a message for you, then, Derek? You know, that whole plot point would work better if they weren't constantly holding a plastic microwavable single-serving treat container, of the kind that didn't exist when they were kids.

Still, the child theory is what they're going with, operating under the assumption that she'd only act thsi crazy to protect her offspring.

So Derek goes to talk to Ford's lawyer, who they think arrived far-too-quickly at the scene. He must be connected to 'The Company'! Derek threatens the man by suggesting that he'll bring in the guy's mail-order-bride for questioning about his activities, and the lawyer instantly crumbles, offering to reveal where 'The Company' holds all the children that they use as bartering chips to keep the kidnapped women in line.

What, seriously?

So the FBI gets to the cabin just as Ford is leaving, giving Derek his first chance to have a foot-chase in a while. Derek and Ford have a fistfight as Cindi grabs Derek's fallen gun, then it's unclear for a moment who she's going to shoot, leading to a weird exchange. Derek tries to calm her down by assuring her that 'The Company' isn't real, and Cindi replies that she knows that.

Except it kind of is real. They don't necessarily have the resources necessary to kill FBI agents on a whim, but there really is a huge network of slavers and rapists who operate under the radar, have a lawyer covering for them, and hold something like a dozen kids hostage in order to keep their slaves in line. How are they not 'real'?

THE END

Except for a heartwarming scene of Derek meeting his 'nephew', who's technically his second cousin, but I guess we won't get tied up in nitpickery on that level.

Then there's a family reunion that's equally heartwarming, followed by a scene of Penelope showing up - apparently she hopped a plane the moment that the killer was caught so that she could comfort Derek in person. In a sense, Xander probably had the right idea bailing on this relationship - she is way too obsessed with Derek.

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

The fact that Derek felt the canned pasta must have meant a child was a decent bit of cleverness, but that had so little to do with the solution that it's barely worth mentioning. It also doesn't really hold water since she was grabbing something to alert the police - I don't think she was in a position, psychologically speaking, to come up with a multilayered plan.

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

The killer shot a man with a gun registered under his real name, then left the gun at the scene. How was he not caught eight years ago? Then, in the present day, he was caught because his lawyer folds immediately under questioning. Even if they hadn't talked to the lawyer, though, all they had to do was follow Ford after he left the police station, since he seemingly drove immediately to the cabin where the children were held. Wow, was this not a difficult one to crack.

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

2/10 - And that's a gift!

CRIMINAL MINDS FACTCHECK!

In 1977 Cameron Hooker kidnapped Colleen Stan so that he could use her as a sex slave to live out all the bondage fantasies that his wife wasn't completely down with. The wife was down with the kidnapping and sex slavery, however, although she would later claim that this was only because she was brainwashed by constant abuse, Homolka-style. So I'm not super-confident she was an innocent bystander in the whole thing.

Much like in the show Colleen was given a surprising amount of freedom for a slave, allowed to walk around outside, do gardening, even visit her parents on one occasion. This was all ensured by the constant threat that 'The Company' would kill her family if she tried to escape, and that she would be transferred to a much more brutal master. Like in the episode, she was even forced to sign a 'slave contract', although the one from the true story was crudely made up on a typewriter, and full of typos, making it even less plausible. So she went along with the torture for a few years until Cameron suddenly got far more vicious and confined her in a coffin kept under his and his wife's bed for three years. At the end of that horrible ordeal he felt that it was time to make her a full participant in the family, bringing her out as a second wife, who would get a job and help support them.

While in the episode Cindi was just playing along to protect her child, in the real-life case by all accounts Colleen was just massively cowed by the threat posed by 'The Company' and the mental damage caused by the overwhelming abuse she'd endured. She only escaped after Cameron's wife Janice decided she'd had enough of the situation, and told Colleen that Cameron wasn't actually in 'The Company', so she'd be free to go without fear of repercussion. Minutes later she was on a bus home.

The really interesting part of the story is that she didn't immediately call the police after going home - it took her months to decompress and get back her own sense of identity, and she even talked to Cameron over the phone! Eventually Cameron's wife Janice became fed up with his obsessions and called the police herself, and he was quickly arrested.

So the real story featured no actual Company, and the horrible reality of a woman being kept in a box for years on end, but other than that, it was a fairly decent retelling of the story. Excellent work, Criminal Minds!

5 comments:

Perpetual Beginner said...

Wouldn't the boy technically be Derek's first cousin, once-removed? Second cousins would be any child of Derek's to this kid.

Good review. I rather liked this episode, even as I was rolling my eyes at parts of it.

Durex Jeans Condoms said...

Wonderful story and Good job ...

Sarah Dumphy said...

Yep, I remember when the microwave containers of Chef Boyardee came out...I think it was late 1990's or early 2000's?

Anonymous said...

You need to remember that this show is often as much character driven as plot driven.

Anonymous said...

No more Criminal Minds reviews? It was bad enough when you stopped putting them on the main CM page in season 6, and I thought you'd given up. Don't stop now!