28.1.16

Criminal Minds 806: The Apprenticeship

It's Miami this week, a city of latin beats and fancy cars! At least according to the opening montage designed to convince viewers that the backlot locations they'll be using for the rest of the hour are actually located in Florida!

Anyhoo, we immediately take a trip away from recognizably Miami locations to an utterly generic 'bad part of town' where this guy gets off a bus, looking to kill a prostitute!

Obviously that's supposed to be a bit of a surprise, but come on, Criminal Minds, you've got a dorky-looking guy in a t-shirt and backpack riding a bus. heading to a bad part of town to look for a prostitute to help him lose his virginity. Never once in the nearly 200 episodes I've seen have you put this much effort into characterizing a pre-credits victim.

So Opie hires the prostitute, who pauses to ask him how old he is, because in the script he's supposed to look super-young despite claiming to be 18, but the actor doesn't look underage, so I guess we're supposed to give them a pass on that one, since it's not like Pavel Chekovs just grow on trees. When he reveals that he doesn't have a car she leads him to a vacant lot nearby, where he knocks her out and then suffocates her with a plastic bag.

Already this guy's plan has a bunch of holes in it. Yes, prostitutes are easy targets, but your plan was to go to a part of town where you'll stick out like a sore thumb - no, scratch that - you'll stick out like a dorky white guy with a backpack, which is way more visible and memorable than a sore thumb. Also you took a bus to get there, and don't most buses have security cameras these days? Maybe not in Miami, but it's a legitimate threat. The whole point of killing prostitutes is that they're easy to get to a second location with relative anonymity - but Opie has done it in such a way there a canvassing of the location will no doubt reveal a dozen witnesses who can offer a description. Unless he pulls down a zipper from the back of his neck and reveals himself to be a black rastafarian in an incredible disguise, this is one of the least stealthy murders the show has ever featured.

And sometimes villains just walk into banks and start shooting people.

Now time for some fun character-building as Derek tries to teach Reid to play softball. He does it using a pitching machine for some reason I can't fathom. I understand that if Derek wanted to do some batting practice, it would be better for Reid to feed balls into a machine than to try pitching them - he whines about never being good at sports in the scene, after all - but once it's Reid's turn to practice batting, wouldn't it be far more helpful for Derek to just throw the balls himself? That way he could guarantee soft lobs right into the strike zone, which is exactly what a first-time batter would need. It's just strange.

Then Reid, who turned up to learn softball wearing a tie and cardigan, because apparently hanging out with normal people 60 hours a week for a decade hasn't changed him in the least, is rescued from having to do any more physical activity by a phone call - they've got a case!

Which puzzles me almost as much - is this the weekend? If not, why aren't they in the office, doing the massive amount of paperwork that their job consists of? If so, what is it about this particular case that's worth dragging them in on one of their few days off? No matter how gruesome or repetitive this prostitute's murder was, aren't prostitute killings generally something that can wait until Monday?

Then it's over to home base, where we have no clue about whether it's the weekend or not, so thanks for that, guys. The team goes over the case - brutal beating death, suffocation, sexual assault, pretty much everything we saw in the opening sequence. The team wants to know what could possible create all of the rage that drove the killer to be so brutal. Hopefully some scenes of his home life will tip us off!

Then we discover that this was Opie's first murder, which raises the question of why the team is being called in at all. Does the team get called in every time a prostitute is murdered in America? Don't get me wrong, I'm not against that idea - taking the murders of prostitutes more seriously is absolutely a priority they should be pursuing, and not just because that would stop a lot of serial killers before their counts got into the double digits, but because it would create a cultural impression that the lives of sex workers are valuable, which has only upsides. I just feel that if this was something the team was prioritizing then they'd be a lot busier than they seem to be.

To be fair, the show does try to justify the team being called in by offering this nonsensical clue, which I'll just put here in video form because there's so much stupid to unpack.



Okay, let's break that down. So Opie killed six puppies in the past month, and his DNA was found at 'all' of the crime scenes. How? What was he doing to those puppies that left so much of his DNA lying around that they found a trace of it at every crime scene? Far more importantly, are you trying to tell me that the Miami police department was so worried about puppy murders that they spent the tens of thousands of dollars it takes to send out a CSI team, comb the scene for evidence, isolate and collect possible DNA samples, and then test all of them? Six times? For puppies?

Christ, show, you could have just said you found the same fingerprints at all six crime scenes. After all, here's a picture of Opie using his bare, sweat-and-oil covered fingers to grip the bag he's about to suffocate that prostitute with.

His fingerprints are definitely all over it. Why not just say the bag strangulation was the same at all crime scenes, and so were his fingerprints? Wouldn't that have made far more sense?

You know who I really feel sorry for in that scene, though? JJ. At some point one of the producers realized that she hadn't had a line in the scene yet, and so they had her say something completely meaningless. You might not get an ID? Well, no, but if the sample is in CODIS you probably will, since that's what it's for, and even if you don't, you would have found another crime your killer is responsible for, which is an incredibly valuable clue. But thanks for the nonsense, seriously.

Dear producers of Criminal Minds - if you find yourself just throwing nonsense into characters' mouths because you realize that you're underserving one of your 7 characters who all have interchangeable skillsets and opinions (okay, six of them are interchangeable, Reid does geographical profiling), perhaps it's time to consider pruning that tree back a bit? Do you really need six whole people to think and say the exact same things?

Remember when JJ went on maternity leave, and they did a whole episode about how difficult her job was, because she had to figure out whose prayers got answered so that the team would show up, definitely solving their case, versus whose prayers would come to nothing, damning their town to suffer under the heel of a nefarious killer forevermore? That episode made a decent case for why JJ mattered, and what her role was in the show. Now that she's just one of the profilers, I don't know what she's for anymore. When they briefly fired her, Garcia took over presenting the cases, but I don't think she's supposed to be the one picking them, so now it's not even clear how the cases are getting chosen.

I understand that the producers liked JJ, and wanted to give her her job back, but they absolutely need to figure out what she's there for, because right now she's just taking up space.

Okay, that was a lot of digression - back to the story!

Opie is in his house, wearing a blue vest that suggests he works at Wal-Mart, when his phone beeps - it's a message from someone who was watching him kill that prostitute! And they videoed the crime! That's right, when the show depicted part of the scene from a handheld camera, peeking around a piece of debris at their encounter, it wasn't just a stylistic flight of fancy, it was someone's POV! But whose?

Probably someone Opie knows, I'd guess, based on the fact that he has Opie's cell phone number to send that creepy message and video. Even if he followed Opie home and found out where he lived, Opie lives with his mother, so it's not a simple thing to track that back to Opie's cell phone information, especially since it's only been like twelve hours since the crime was committed!

Yes, I know what you're thinking - this couldn't possibly be just twelve hours later, what with the Miami police having gotten DNA samples and compared them to their open crime database to confirm that Opie was the dogslayer, but it's true. Garcia said that the victim was killed 'last night', and when Opie's mother drops by his room unannounced, it's to invite him to breakfast.

Hopefully this will be cleared up later. Because right now it makes no sense at all. But hey, a voyeur is stalking Opie! Things just got interesting! By which I mean we're about to watch an adaptation of hugely entertaining but also terrible film Mr. Brooks!

Credits!

In the plane on the way to Miami, the team goes over some facts about the case - since he just started killing, he's probably in his 20s, which is a fair guess. Although a couple of members of the team do my job for me and point out that a number of serial killers have started in their 30s and 40s. They also note that while the dogs were killed in the middle-class neighbourhood where he presumably lives, the woman was killed in a slum. Then Joe makes the completely unsupportable statement that because Opie killed dogs every couple of days, he's developed a taste for murder, and will doubtless kill humans at the same rate.

Nope, Joe. Nope to every part of that. His reactions to killing animals are in no way predictive of how he'll be with humans, nor should you think they would be. Although it's possible that Joe is just remembering that in the world of Criminal Minds all killers are spree killers, and theorizing based on that utterly unrealistic truism.

JJ and Greg arrive at the police station, where the local detective announces that he would have liked to have called them weeks ago about the dogs, since they were an obvious precursor to serial killing, but the upper brass wouldn't let him. They wouldn't let him make a phone call to the FBI? How could they have stopped him? Yeah, it might have been against protocol, but you could have at least gone to them for advice, couldn't you? Is this murder your fault?

Then I immediately have to take back everything I said about one of the seven characters having unique practical skills, because JJ and Greg take one look at a map with the human and dog killings tagged on it and immediately start geographic profiling! That's right, not even Reid has mission-specific skills any more! Damn it, show, that was the one thing you were doing right.

Looking at the map for less than ten seconds, Greg notices that there's a bus route that goes from the general area of the dog killings to the general area of the human killing. Which means the killer must not have access to a car! Nope. Under zero circumstances can you assume that. Right now you have two pieces of information - dogs were killed in a cluster, probably within half a kilometer of where the killer lives. A woman was killed in the slums, probably a couple of miles from where the killer lives. The fact that she was killed four blocks from a bus stop should not suggest this information to you. Every victim you've ever found in an urban setting has died within four blocks of a bus stop. That's what buses are for. They're for making the city accessible to people who don't have cars. You've never once used this as proof that killers are using buses, and there's no reason you would start now.

I know the producers need the characters to get this information, but this is just a preposterous way for it to happen. Especially when the far more logical method - a witness saw a completely out-of-his-element white kid get off a bus and start looking for a prostitute - is right there in the palm of their hands. It's almost as if the producers think that canvassing for witnesses - one of the key ways that police actually solve crimes - is somehow beneath the characters on the show. Of course, we could just have them getting the information from the police officers who actually went around doing the legwork, but then these guys wouldn't be solving it entirely on their own, would they?

Also, and I can't stress this enough, how hilarious is it that - as they're first walking into the investigation chamber - there's already a Miami City Transit map up next to the regular city map?

Why it's almost like someone wanted them to be able to make the bus conclusion immediately, not even giving us the moment of having Greg say 'I have an idea - can I get a transit map?' Then rolling it out onto the desk while a low-angle camera watches them work. Maybe even do one of those shots where you're looking up at a glass table and the map gets rolled out over it, then we pedestal up and tilt down, watching them go to work.

That's not just bad writing, Criminal Minds, that's bad craft.

Over at the Morgue, Joe and Jeanne hear that the victim was beaten to death with the Opie's bare hands - yet she's still TV-presentable.

Not that I wanted to see a crushed face on television, I'm just saying. More importantly, though, Joe lets us know that the killer was either fit or on drugs, because it takes strength to punch someone to nearly to death. I'd file that under 'goes without saying', but I'm not in the FBI. They figure, based on hand marks on the victim's throat, that the killer isn't very large, and Joe and Jeanne agree that he's probably young, given that he was so rash as to kill someone in a high-traffic area, risking getting caught.

I think the bigger clue that he's relatively young is the fact that he just now graduated from killing dogs to people, but that goes unmentioned.

Then we get a look at Opie at work - a pet store, happily enough - he's playing with dogs, ogling a cute fellow employee (and future victim, no doubt), just having an average day... until his anonymous friend texts him again! This time he sends pictures of the dead prostitute, letting Opie know that he's got the whole thing on film! Opie freaks out a little and forgets how phones work, so he quickly glances around the store, assuming that his stalker must necessarily be in there with him.

Then he decides to skip out on the rest of the day's work, claiming that he's getting the flu, which is a weird choice. It's not like the stalker has asked him to do anything, and leaving his job is just going to attract attention when he most needs to be blending in. He's really, really bad at this.

Now the show loses track of its own exposition, with Derek and Reid heading to a park where the last dog was found. Derek claims that the rest of the dogs were found in a nearby park, and Reid points out that one other was found in an alley a mile away.

Beg to differ guys, but, ahem-

Six dead dogs, six completely different locations, all radiating around a couple of blocks where your killer almost certainly lives. How did you get this one so completely wrong? And don't tell me that's where the dogs were abducted from, and they were dropped, dead, somewhere else - because if there were two sets of data they'd be listed on the map.

Then Derek points out two teens making out and ponders about the kinds of places teens are comfortable hanging out - coffee shops, malls, and parks! They even passed two coffee shops on the way to the dog-dumping scene, so the killer must be a teenager!

Wow, is that a leap. Are they seriously implying that the killer dumped the dogs in parks because, as a teen, he feels comfortable there? And that the park corpse-dump is a useful piece of data? Isn't the far more likely explanation that a park is a place where you can throw something away at night with a good chance of being spotted?

When Kathy Baker and William Russ were dropping the corpses of the women that their parapalegic son murdered in parks I didn't hear anyone talking about how that must be because the killer was a teenager.

This is now two scenes of super-preposterous reasoning being used to allow the team to guess that a teen is involved, when they could have just asked one of the other prostitutes on the street that night. Oy. Anyhoo, they ask Garcia to check into violent youths in the area - and since the area they're searching is something like six square blocks, they should have this guy pretty fast.

So, back to Opie, who leaves work only to find Matthew Lillard waiting for him in the rear parking lot!

This is why I try not to watch the opening credits - pleasant surprises!

So Matt and Opie get into the car, and it seems we're not having a Mr. Brooks type of situation at all - it's more Apt Pupil! Matt's been coaching the killer on how to more effectively serial kill!

Wow, must this kid have a neglectful home life - how was his mother not incredibly alarmed by the state of his knuckles?

Why didn't someone at his job say something? They look terrible!

The team is chilling at the police department, talking about Reid's athletic failures, when they get the call - there's been another murder already!

This prostitute was dumped far from downtown, but she's got a plastic bag over her head, just like the previous night's victim, so they assume there's a connection! The M.O. is different, however - killed with a blow to the head with a weapon rather than fists and suffocation, and lots of bite marks on the body - really weird ones, too-

Lengthwise? Isn't that a really hard way to bite someone's arm? I mean, I'm no expert, but don't dogs normally go around the arm horizontally for a reason? Also, is that supposed to be a cigarette burn? Because if so, ugh.

The team makes the completely logical leap that this is two killers working together, and then Derek graces us with the Prentiss Award-winning line of the night-



They killed two women inside of sixteen hours, Derek. It's already a spree.

Then in the next scene we get to three, with Matt picking up a woman in an alley, luring her into his truck, and then Opie wraps a rope around her neck from the back seat! Oh, poor prostitute. You're the third victim, but you're not going to get saved, because this isn't that kind of episode.

The team goes to check out the latest body the next morning, and discovers that she was once again killed with a hammer blow to the head. They come to the conclusion that Matt must be teaching Opie, because the second two murders have a different, more refined M.O. than the first. This is a good bit of reasoning, although I'm not sure if it's super-useful in catching anyone.

Over to Matt and Opie! Matt is driving Opie blindfolded to a secret location - what could be waiting for them? Wild guess? More people to kill. Although I've been wrong before. It turns out they're stopped outside a Home Depot for Opie's 'graduation', and he's as baffled by the ceremony as I am. Maybe they're getting him his own hammer? Or will he pick his own signature tool? Or murder a sales associate? Two out of three?

Profile time! The team goes over everything we already know for the assembled cops. I remain baffled by this scene's survival into the eighth season. Do the producers really think that their audience needs to be reminded of the episode's plot? Again, if the cops ever helped catch someone based on these profiles, it would be one thing, but they don't, so let's summarize and move on. It's an older/younger killer team! They're assuming the older one is in his late 30s to mid 40s based on no information! They say it's based on sophistication, but he's done nothing sophisticated. He picks up women in his truck, beats them to death with a hammer, then drops them in a dumpster or field. Taking no forensic countermeasures that we've seen.

Over at the hardware store, Matt buys Opie his own kill kit, featuring rope, plastic ties, a tarp, and a hammer of his very own! So they can continue spree killing indefinitely, one would imagine! There's actually something about the hammer that I found hilarious-

That's Matt telling Opie not to buy a fancy titanium framing hammer, since it's so traceable by the cops, but rather he should be purchasing a cheap five dollar hammer that's available everywhere. It's funny because there's no way the cops are going to get forensically identifiable information off of a hammer blow to the head. And even if enough material flaked off to figure out what the hammer was made of, they're obviously paying cash, and it could never be traced back to them.

It's even funnier to me specifically, because I once wrote a parody of Criminal Minds where I suggested that all hammers had invisible-to-the-naked-eye bar codes laser-etched into their heads, so that if anyone ever killed someone with one a simple bar code reader could identify the culprit immediately. So it's nice to see that they've caught up with my attempts to mock them!

Garcia can't offer much help from her end - she can't find any hammer/biting M.O. cases in South Florida - so they tell her to widen the search. You'd think she'd have done that on her own, but I look forward to her popping up later with some crucial info! The way they tell her to expand the search is pretty preposterous, though-



See what they did there? They tried to take an unsubstantiated leap and use it as the basis for another conclusion. "This late in his life"? You have no idea how hold he is, Joe! What do we know about serial killers? They usually start in their mid-20s. Give him a year or two to figure out the brilliant, Kasperovian strategy of "Hit woman with hammer and throw her in dumpster", and this guy could be as young as 27. And don't say they're assuming he's in his 40s because the younger killer looks up to him and takes instruction from him - ten years age difference is plenty enough to establish a mentor/mentee relationship.

They're basing their entire profile on the age difference between Lee Boyd Malvo and John Mohammed, the Beltway Snipers, who they namechecked in the profile. That's incredibly bad profiling, and it's making them limit themselves when they should absolutely be doing the opposite.

Derek then walks in, announcing that he didn't have much luck with juvenile offenders in the dead-dog neighbourhoood. There's one bad kid he's bringing in, though - not because he's a suspect, but because he recently went to the hospital, reporting that someone attacked him with a hammer! What, did Matt see this kid bullying Opie, and then attack him with a hammer, leading Opie to idolize him?

When the tough kid arrives, Reid gives a completely wrongheaded speech about not trusting first impressions - here it is, so you can enjoy it with me.



We shouldn't trust snap judgements? Seriously? How can Reid, of all people, be saying this, when everything you guess about him when you first look at him is completely accurate?

One look at him and you see someone with an obvious superiority complex - the refusal to cut or comb his hair says that he believes that other people's opinion of him doesn't matter. Someone with such a fragile sense of self that he's afraid that putting on any kind of uniform will make him disappear, so while he agrees to wear the tie required by his profession, he rebels by wearing it loose over an open collar. They'd also notice that he compensates for the perceived lack of masculinity associated with his slight frame by carrying a unique gun more associated with the hard men of yesteryear than the generic semi-autos that his compatriots carry.

And that's not even getting into his voice or mannerisms. For instance, the second you heard him talking about any topic whatsoever, you'd think 'hey, this is definitely a guy who is into Doctor Who'. And again, you'd be right.

Every first thought you'd have about Reid is dead-on, which is why he's the worst possible person to give this speech. Have Greg say it and there's some meaning behind it, since no, there really aren't a lot of visual cues to warn about what's going on inside Black Flannel Suit's head.

While Reid asks the tough guy to try and visualize everything leading up to his attack, we get a scene of another stressor in Opie's life! It seems he's been late to work a lot because of all the serial killing, so his boss fires him! Yikes, she did not pick a good day to do that! But I'll keep my fingers crossed for her.

Wow, I was pretty close to right about the tough kid's story! He wasn't bullying Opie, he just happened to be walking by a culvert while Opie was torturing a dog in broad daylight! Then when he attacked Opie to intervene, Matt hammered him!

Gosh, isn't it incredibly lucky that this intervening kid happened to be on the list of youths with violent backstories? It's almost unbelievably contrived, you might say! Wouldn't it have been way more logical - and something they should have absolutely done anyway - for them to put out a call to hospitals and police for anyone who reported being attacked with a hammer?

This isn't even one of those places where they're having them violate police procedure to make the team look smart - this is just bad writing for the love of bad writing.

So while they put the tough kid together with a sketch artist, Opie returns to the store after closing and attacks his boss with a hammer! So he just wants to get caught, at this point, I guess. One thing's for sure - Matt's gonna be pissed!

Now for some more profiling - the team tries to figure out what it could mean that the two killers were already hanging out months ago. Did Matt just stumble upon Opie that day, or did they meet earlier, and the dogs were part of his training? As usual, there's no particular points of view expressed in this scene, and all of the insights seem to be assigned at random, based on a set number of lines that each actor needs to speak. They also talk about how murdering teams break up eventually, when the mentee learns all the mentor can teach them.

I don't know if that's necessarily true, though. There are plenty of serial killing teams where they killed together until they were caught - Lake and Ng, Hillside Stranglers, Beltway Snipers, those guys with the van whose name I can never remember - but off the top of my head, I can't think of any stories about a guy dragging another guy into serial killing, and then the second guy striking out on his own to make his own name once he's gotten good at it.

Maybe such a case exists and I'm not familiar with it, but really, this seems more like the characters guessing the plot of the episode, rather than anything that has to do with psychology or human nature.

Oh, and Opie hasn't killed his manager yet, just locked her in the trunk of his car. So let's keep hope alive!

Garcia comes back with some neat info - the biting+hammer is the M.O. of a recently deceased serial killer who'd been in jail from some time! So now the team assumes he taught his skillset to Matt, and Matt is passing the trade along! Hopefully she'll be able to find Matt's identity quickly enough to save the manager!

Speaking of, Matt is understandably upset that Opie is looking to kill someone he knows, who he has motive to hate, in his own neighbourhood, and is driving around in her car without a license. Got to say, I don't like what he does, but Matt and I are 1000% agreed on this front - Opie is a terrible serial murderer.

As predicted, Garcia checked out people who were in jail and/or corresponded with the original hammerman, and comes up with Matt's details. It seems that Matt was in jail for beating up a young male prostitute, which is presumably why there haven't been any bite/hammer murders aimed at women leading up to this new spate - as a gay man, Matt has been looking for male victims! The team splits up to track Matt down, forgetting, somehow, that Miami has literally tens of thousands of police officers who could do that faster and more efficiently!

Maybe I've said this before - in fact I'm almost certain that I have - but I'm occasionally chilled by how easy it is for this team to get no-knock warrants. Right now all of the information they have is that Matt was a prison buddy/pen pal of a murderer with a similar M.O. to the current killings. That's certainly enough to have him pulled in for questioning, but is it really enough evidence to justify the legal sanction to kick in his door in the middle of the night and start trashing the place?

Mid-trashing, they come across Matt's laptop, so Garcia starts work on it!

Back to the killers, who have driven to a Marina, because Matt presumably wants to make this new victim disappear, keeping distance between Opie and the crime. Good luck with that, we're 31 minutes into the episode, and I don't see this ending well for you two.

The blatantly illegal search has turned up Matt's photo album of him hanging out with Opie, along with plenty of dog toys that he bought at Opie's work place, despite not having a dog. So he was stalking Opie because of a sexual obsession, and then saw that the kid wanted to start murdering, and decided that was his 'in'? Creepy!

Naturally, since they've got Matt's computer and phone records, they're easily able to figure out who he's been in contact with - now it's just a race to Opie's house and work, hoping to find a clue to lead them to the marina!

The Marina where Matt and Opie are currently getting into a fight over Matt's disapproval. The fight comes to blows - specifically Opie hitting Matt with a hammer repeatedly. Anyhoo, it turns out the marina was owned by Matt's now-dead father, so the team rushes over their code-3, despite the fact that Matt and Opie could be literally anywhere at the moment, the team has no idea that they've kidnapped a woman whose life hangs in the balance.

I mean, Garcia eventually finds out that the woman was reported missing, but that only happens after they're zooming towards the Ocean.

Anyhoo, Opie torments his manager for a while, but it turns out Matt wasn't dead yet, so he sneaks up and starts throttling the kid! How great would it be if they were both dead when the fuzz gets there?

What? Okay, I'd put a video clip in here, but yikes, no one should have to watch what I just saw. It seems Opie loves murder because a couple of years earlier his older sister and he were carjacked, driven to a remote area, and then the sister was raped and beaten to death. Opie didn't run away because he was aroused by the sight.

Yikes. Also, arrest the mother or father, whoever so completely screwed that kid up to cause him to have such an insane reaction.

The team rushes in just as Matt is planning to club the woman to death, and he announces that he doesn't want to go back to jail, so Derek shoots him in the head.

Happy Ending!

Except for a dire scene when they're flying back on their private jet. It seems that a new victim has turned up with their mouth sewn shut, just like The Silencer! Joe immediately points out that it has to be a copycat, what with them shooting that guy to death five episodes earlier. Gregg's worried, though, as you can see based on his portentous gaze out the window-

Not concerned enough to immediately turn the plane towards Dallas so that the only team who ever solves anything could go to work on the case, however.

Then it's over to the softball field, where the FBI are up against the secret service! Reid isn't very good at first, but then Derek uses psychology to give him a pep talk! Which winds up winning them the game because inspiration is more import than skill and training! Seriously, though, how wonderful would it have been if he'd struck out, but no one was mad at him for it? Realistic and bittersweet failure  trumps preposterous cloying triumph, Criminal Minds.

Oh, and remember that woman who Reid's been talking to, and who has covert photos of the team? Well, she's back taking more of those, it would seem.

Those two people are the same character, right? Did we find that out, or am I just making assumptions and remembering wrong? I watched the previous episodes over a year ago, so my memory is a little fuzzy. In any event, I'm sure they're connected somehow, along with the copycat.

Who isn't going to turn out to be Hannibal, because the world is not constructed of my dreams.

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

Sort of - understanding the importance of signature as unique and worth investigating definitely falls under psychology. Although I'm not clear why it didn't turn up any of Matt's victims... did they search for hammer+bite marks-male? In any event, it was a good catch, which led them straight to their copycat, and his copycat.

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

Absolutely. There were plenty of people who would have noticed the kid on the bus, and on the street in the bad part of town. Maybe even video camera footage from the bus. So really, there's a pretty good chance they would have nabbed Opie quickly enough. That being said, operating under the show's spree-kill timeline, this traditional police work may not have flushed him out in time to rescue his last victim, so that's one point for profiling!

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

4!

Yup, I'm giving them a higher score this time - most of their conclusions and assumptions were complete nonsense, but the fundamental important of signature and M.O. is legitimate insight which got the job done. Bravo, team!

One question, though - if going downtown and killing a lady was part of Opie's training, why didn't Matt give him a ride, rather than having him take the bus, where he'd be super-conspicuous? And if it wasn't part of his training, how did Matt follow a bus and find parking and then find the murder site? That all seems pretty preposterous in retrospect.

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