Criminal Minds 803: Through the Looking Glass

Things jump off in a hurry this week, as an evil scarecrow watches some road workers gather pylons from a freshly-maintained stretch of the highway.
Scarecrow tells the two men that 'something awful happened' by the trailhead, and 'someone's been a real bad boy'. Oh, and he's covered in blood. Instead of immediately calling the cops to deal with the situation, they go down to check on it themselves, and find three bodies, along with the gun that presumably killed them. It's only then that they decide to call the police and secure the scarecrow, who they left at the side of the road. Wouldn't you know it, though - he's nowhere to be found.

How is a blood-covered guy turning up spouting gibberish not reason enough to call the cops? You know, had the guy not had blood on him, these guys' actions would seem less insane.

Then it's over to DC, where Greg is coaching his son at soccer, when his girlfriend drops by! They have to talk about a 'thing' tonight, but Greg has to go off and solve a murder, so she'll have to give him the news now - she's got a job offer in New York! Could this be the end of their relationship?

At the meeting, we discover that the three bodies were members of a missing family - could this be a standard family annihilator? All signs point to no - the gunpowder residue was on the dad's wrong hand, the youngest son is missing... most importantly, why bring your family out into the woods to shoot them, when you could just kill them in their beds while they slept? Garcia also mentions that the gun was 'unregistered', but I'm not sure what she means by that. Whether or not they live in a state where you have to register handguns (it's Kansas, and I have no idea what things are like there), the gun still must have a serial number, and therefore its purchase record should be relatively easy to track down.

Greg gets a call - a second family matching the first one's demographics (mother, father, teen daughter, young son) has just disappeared! We then cut away to said family, and discover that the killer's M.O. is to contain them in a old-timey rec room basement before killing them!

Before you ask, no, that window isn't cemented over, so I don't know why they aren't already smashing the hell out of it.

On the plane, Garcia drops more background - the families are of a similar class, and both sons are shy and isolated, which could make them prime targets for molesters! Also, she's already referring to the new family in the past tense, which isn't cool, Penelope.

Greg and JJ check with the closest relatives of the missing families, and both are sure that they were innocent. The first father didn't kill his family, and the second family isn't running from bad debts. Now, this is something that the team was already assuming, so I'm not super-sure why it was necessary to show us, but let's move on.

Back to the captive folks, who have now been searching for 'hours' looking for a way out! This includes the dad pushing at the edges of the window, but not hitting it over and over again with something metal. I'm not sure why. The daughter tries to drink some flavour-aid, but the mother warns that it might be poison. Finally the dad breaks the window (an idea that took him 'hours', apparently), and discovers that behind the window is a not-very-sturdy metal grate-

So now it's just a matter of rocking it back and forth until it comes loose, right? Two quick questions: 1 - If the previous family was in this basement until just yesterday, why was the window intact? Did the killer have it replaced in the six-hour window between killing one family and abducting another? 2 - Couldn't the writer have just had the mother announce that she heard a car driving away, and that's the reason they didn't try breaking the window until now?

The team checks out both houses, and finds evidence of abduction in both. There's a scene of Joe playing devil's advocate for way too long, suggesting that the broken coffee cup and melted ice cream that were left out could all be an elaborate ruse for people faking their own disappearance. Derek points out, quite sensibly, that if you wanted to do that, you'd probably have broken a window or kicked in a door to sell the story more effectively - but in both cases the killer snuck in. Joe also suggests the existence of multiple killers - how else could you control four people so easily?

With a gun, idiot. There's actually a much better case for multiple killers, though - in both cases, the killer took the family's car and used it to transport them to wherever they were being held. So how did the killer get to the family's house? You can't take a cab to the neighbourhood where you're going to kidnap people, and driving there would mean you had to leave your car on the street until you had time to return for it. Much simpler if there are two people, one for each car.

Then, upon hearing that the son was grabbed first in the other case, Joe and Derek go over a scenario under which one person could control the whole family. How did he manage it in their estimation? By having a gun. Wow. I see why you need six of these people working your case. The scene ends with Joe winning tonight's Prentiss Award-

According to your theory of the crime, not only were no shots fired, but no one even yelled, Joe - even if the neighbouring houses were just a few meters away, nothing would have been heard.

While the captive family freaks out in the basement, the killer is busy painting models upstairs while the little boy watches. The killer offers a deal - if the son can guess why his family has been taken, they go free! If he fails, they die! I have to assume the son, despite being like ten, is way too smart to take that bet.

Some small amount of time late the first family's little boy turns up dead, wrapped in a carpet at a construction site. He hadn't been molested or tortured, so the team has no idea why he was separated out from the rest of his family. Greg then embarrasses himself with the following statement-

So, to paraphrase, "The dad was made to look like a killer for reasons. We don't know what they are. I guess there was no reason to bring this up, since it tells us nothing." It seems like they can dismiss an attempt to frame the dad, though, since the son's body was dumped after the rest were killed, meaning the killer couldn't possibly hope that the ruse would work for long.

Then Garcia jumps in with a huge potential lead - the two families each vacationed at the same local resort over the past year! She's ordered to look into anyone who was there at the same time as both families.

Down in the cellar, Dad is having no luck prying the grate loose, and Mom demands that he stop, since if something doesn't work in the first half hour, you should always give up, especially when your life is on the line! Then it's time for evil games - the killer reveals that he's taken the autistic son's tutor hostage as well, and wants Dad to admit that he and the young woman are having an affair! When the father refuses, the killer shoots the tutor to death. Then the killer threatens to kill the son if Dad doesn't confess, and he finally does. So great work getting that lady killed, Dad. The killer lets the family know that it's their own fault that they're in captivity, then signs off.

Up at the camp, Reid and Alex interview the guy who runs the camp. The cowboy in charge thinks he's helping families by getting them away from the hustle and bustle of modern life, but the two threatened families were in terrible shape. Naturally this leads Reid and Alex to accuse the guy of mass murder, which he denies. Great plan, team.

Over at HQ, JJ and Garcia focus on the families' online presence simultaneously, noticing that each has an aggressively positive website or facebook page. Garcia ferrets out a user named 'alleyes' who had been stalking both families online until the day each one disappeared. And since the disappearances weren't publicly reported right away, he pretty much has to be the killer. Oh, and the dad in the first family had mysterious offshore accounts, so obviously he had something to hide as well.

Then the local cop arrives, announcing that they've found the evil scarecrow from the start of the episode - he's a drifter who was suspected of murder ten years ago! He's a rambling headcase who's obviously not guilty, but happened to witness the bodies being dumped from a minivan. How do we know about the minivan? Simple - he drifter uses the term 'base camp of pleasure', which Alex points out was name used by Japanese Companies in the 90s to describe minivans!

Okay, but why would the drifter, a random white guy, A: know that, or B: use that term at all? Or are we supposed to believe that he heard the killer use the term? "Now corpses, if you'll just allow me to drag you out of my base camp of pleasure?" Just weird. But Greg says it's time for the profile, so let's move on!

Then we cut over to the killer, who's busy painting samurais. I guess he's interested in Japanese culture? He talks about samurai, the code of bushido, and honour. So somebody is being punished for not protecting something? Oh, and the son made two of his three guesses to try and free his family. They weren't right.

Here's the profile - the killer probably identifies with the son, and wants revenge on a similar family for things that happened to him in his own childhood. Also, he drives a dark minivan, possibly with restraints in it to hold victims. So wait, now they're saying the family's cars were left at their houses? Then how could the cops have possibly thought that one of the families had just run off? How does an entire family escape their debts by leaving on foot with no possessions? That's just crazy. Noticeably, nothing in this profile can possibly be of use to the local police, unless they were to cross-reference every registered dark minivan against every mid-40s driver in the area. That's the age they're assuming the killer is, based on nothing.

Some gossip has turned up about the teen daughter, however - she's got a scumbag drug-dealing boyfriend! Perhaps this is another connection, since the father of the first family had mysterious withdrawls from an offshore account. Maybe he was into drugs as well! It's off to interview scumbag!

But first, let's check in with the captured family, who are fighting about the affair. They mention in passing that the execution of the tutor happened 'yesterday', which means the team has been in town for more that 24 hours. Wow, is this show not good at making the passage of time clear. Next embarrassing reveal - teen daughter stole painkillers from her mom, and blamed it on the housekeeper! She confesses without any threat, which is nice of her.

Hey, how come no one noticed that the tutor was kidnapped and murdered? Doesn't she have friends and family? Since this family being abducted has presumably been on the news, why hasn't anyone made any connection to someone who worked for them also being abducted?

Joe and JJ head over to the payday loan place where scumbag works, and discover that he missed his shift! Also they learn that Mom borrowed five thousand dollars the previous week, and hasn't paid it back yet. The guy working the window seems annoyed by this, as if people paying 'short-term' loans back promptly was their business model. The entire point of his job is to keep that person paying interest for as long as possible.

Joe then gets a call about the tutor's body turning up! So while it's still weird that no one noticed her missing, at least she'll still provide a lead.

Then, sometime after the sun goes down (so the team has been there 36 hours?) son takes advantage of being left alone in the hobby room to grab some of the painting tools, pick a few locks, and flee the house, running off into the night. Good work, kid!

The corner reports that the tutor fought her assailant, and had sex at some recent point before her death. Also, her phone records show that she received a text message from Dad's brother, inviting her to a meeting at a motel. Uncle claims that he was just doing this as a favor to Dad, seeing as Mom is so controlling he probably searches her phone. Greg immediately accuses Uncle of being the killer, which seems counterproductive at this point.

No one notices the big problem in this sequence of events - on the night of the abduction, Uncle sent a message to tutor to meet Dad at a motel the next morning at 10AM. According to her roommate, the tutor went to the motel meeting, and was never seen again. How did the killer know about the planned meeting? Has he tapped Uncle's cell phone? Tutor's? Did he grab her from the motel? If so, is her car still there? Did the security cameras catch sight of him or his vehicle?

These are scads of good leads and you're wasting time accusing the brother - but for him to be the killer, every single part of your profile would have to be wrong, other than the age, which you pulled out of nowhere. Then the detective interrupts the interview, to reveal that the DNA of the semen discovered in the tutor matches Dad, whose DNA they randomly collected from the house. Which means they got a DNA match in something like six hours. Incredible.

The fighting continues in the basement as the family tries to figure out why they're locked up. Then the killer reveals that he's also taken scumbag hostage. Which you'd think the team would already be looking into, since one person connected to the family had already been abducted and murdered, and another one didn't show up for work.

Seriously, though, how is this guy abducting all these people in such a short timeline without being noticed? With the family it's explained that he went after them late at night in an isolated suburban neighbourhood, but the tutor was seemingly grabbed in public at a motel, and scumbag definitely lives downtown.

The team finally catches onto the connection, and decides to check if anyone in the first family's life was mysteriously murdered during the window of their abduction. Yay! Although presumably the dead person would have to be pretty far on the periphery of the family for the connection to not already be made.

Then it's back to the basement, where the killer offers Mom a choice - she can have a stack of money, or she can save scumbag's life. She - without any hesitation - chooses the money. Asked to explain herself, she says that she blames scumbag for her daughter's drug use, but let's face it, she went for that money way too fast. I'm now completely fine with Dad cheating on this horrible person.

The team goes to search the two houses, hoping for some clue to help them figure out how the killer knew so much about his victims' lives, and they notice that each house was remodeled. There's a supposedly funny beat in which Reid is asked by Alex if the house's interior has been remodeled, and he starts listing various features of different ages - but the ceilings have recessed lighting-

Which is really all the information you need. Anyone can recognize that as a super-recent trend. There are cameras in the fixtures, obviously.

Now for a quick glimpse back at the son, who's running for a house at the edge of a field when he's surprised by someone following him in a pickup truck. Could this be the killer? Probably not, since that guy drives a minivan, and has been so busy torturing people for the past couple of hours he can't have even noticed the son is missing, let alone what direction he ran off in.

The team asks Garcia to check on who might have worked on both houses, and it turns out the electrical contractor was the same for both. And he's also one of the guys who found the first son's dead body outside of that construction site! Yeah, it seems they didn't look into the guys calling them with information, even thought that's job one in serial killer cases.

Anyhow, we're back over to the killer's house, where Mom is demanding the sweet, sweet cash she was promised for sentencing that guy to death. Yikes, she's horrible. Then it turns out the son is strapped to a chair in the torture room, because the killer was able to find him against all reason and logic. He then demands that the family all kill themselves in order to save the son. Which is just ludicrous. First off, that's three lives for one, which is the worst deal imaginable, and secondly, there's no reason to believe a crazed killer would keep his word, since he's already broken it by asking Mom if she'd trade scumbag's life for money, then pulling a switcheroo and saying that what she really meant was that she'd trade her own son's life for money. So he's, you know, a liar and a dick in addition to being a murderer.

Oh, by the way, the team has found out the killer's backstory. His father was abusive, so he obsessed about the happy family across the street, and when it turned out that family's dad was cheating on his wife, the killer went nuts, and he's been obsessed with punishing bad families ever since. But he took thirty years of just hanging out before acting on this obsession, apparently.

In the basement Mom actually thinks that they should all die to save the son, and tries to convince Dad to go through with it, which just makes me hate her more than I already did. Meanwhile the cops are rolling up to the house at roughly the same time - and it's kind of odd that the family can't hear their sirens, what with the downstairs window being broken and all.

The team rushes in just as Mom shoots herself - but then it turns out the gun was loaded with blanks, and the killer just wanted to see if people were willing to shoot themselves to prove their worth! Then the killer would have killed them anyways, of course, but that doesn't matter.


Except for a coda in which Garcia gives everyone drinks as they arrive home, so the team knows that they're appreciated. And then Greg's girlfriend leaves for New York because of a great job opportunity. He thinks they can make a long-distance relationship work, what with him already having a job that takes him out of town for days at a time every week.

Yes, because that worked so well for your marriage.

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

Dear lord, no. They made some good guesses, but those guesses were wholly irrelevant to catching the killer.

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

They looked for things that the families had in common. It turned out that the same person who did electrical work for both of them also happened to find one of the corpses. Of course he did it.

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


You know, we got to the end of the episode without the show ever managing to establish how the killer was able to grab two tertiary victims in broad daylight, or how he even knew that the tutor was going to that motel at that time.

Also, nice message, show - the tutor deserved to die because she was sleeping with a married man, but the scumbag drug dealer who provided an underaged girl with illicit substances gets to live? Fantastic takeaway, guys.

This is the second episode in a row where Alex's linguistic abilities had no impact on the case. Did she drop the Japanese name for minivans? Absolutely! But not only did it have no bearing on the case, but there's no way the drifter could have heard it/would have said it!

1 comment:

Tim said...

Gonna have to disagree with you on the point about the drifter, since we don't know what his history is. He might have lived in Japan during the 90's before went off the deep end.