18.1.16

Crminal Minds 805: The Good Earth

Somewhere in the woods of Oregon, a woman is running from something or someone. Luckily, and in quite a departure for this show, she's actually dressed for it!

Then, in a completely expected twist, it turns out that the reason she was looking back, super-concerned as she ran was that she's personal training a guy, and she was worried about how far behind he'd fallen. So sweet of her. Her client drives off in a station wagon (they still have those? Neat!), but immediately runs off the road into a farmer's field.

Are there lots of forest running/hiking trails right next to farmland in Oregon? This seems weird to me, but then again, I only know the state from being confused and thinking that's where Twin Peaks was set.

Moments after stumbling out of his car, the client is accosted by a guy who loped his way over from a pickup truck with a camper shell - the second choice for serial killers right after windowless vans! For the full list of popular serial killer vehicles, check the end of this review!

So how did the killer arrange for him to have a fainting episode inside his car? Did the trainer or someone else drug his water? Was the exhaust rewired into the vents so he started blacking out as soon as he turned over the engine? Could it have been my personal favorite, quick-acting absorbed-through-the-skin toxin smeared all over the steering wheel?

Hopefully we'll find out soon!

Back at Quantico, JJ, Garcia and Joe are talking about how JJ's son is scared of Halloween because he thinks monsters are real. This is resonant because, as his mother well knows, there are monsters literally everywhere all the time. In the world of Criminal Minds, you are never more than 50 meters away from a serial killer.

Time to break down the case! Dudes are disappearing from a small Oregon town. In six weeks, four of them have driven off, never to be seen again! Here's a map listing each of the victims and the last place they were seen - although, weirdly, not what order they disappeared in, which it seems would be pretty useful information to put on there.

Here's a fun fact - we already know something the team doesn't! Terry, the latest victim, wasn't last seen at a supermarket, but rather out at the forest track by that farm where his personal trainer was leading him through a workout! What does it mean that this information isn't in their files?

Then things get a little weird, as the team starts talking like they're pretty sure all four guys are still alive, just because they haven't found any bodies. Which is a super-weird thing to do, considering you've had an absence of bodies plenty of times, but still didn't assume victims were still out there. Sure, you often suspect that a victim will still be alive hours and even days after the abduction, but it's quite a leap to immediately start trying to figure out how one killer is controlling four adult men. When Garrett Dillahunt and his evil brother Mongo were grabbing drug addicts from the mean streets of Detroit and spiriting them away to the arid desert wasteland of Windsor, Ontario, the lack of bodies didn't force the team to assume that they were keeping fifty victims alive.

This is one of my favorite types of bad writing - when it seems like the characters have read ahead in the script and know what kind of a story they're in before they have anywhere near enough information to make those kinds of judgments.

Of course, it turns out that they're right, and the four guys are being kept chained-up in a barn by some weird farmer lady. I mean, I don't know it's a woman, I'm just making a guess based on A:

The figure Terry looked up at seeming to have long hair, and 2:

Those looking a lot like tapered lady's legs in tight jeans going into the work boots the killer is wearing. There's a C as well, but the fact that the killer is wearing super-bulky gloves doesn't make for a visual worth screen-capping, and doesn't suggest much.

Then again, this could be me reading way too much into a blurry image and a reflection, as I am wont to do.

So all we know for sure is that the killer is holding a bunch of dudes hostage in a barn - but why, and for what reason?

Let's find out together, after the opening credits!

Quick word about those opening credits. While they've embarrassingly decided to keep the fake muzzle flash and sound effect atop a shot of Greg pointedly not firing his pistol, I'm happy to report that the contrived 'exploding diner facade that weirdly happens to be situated between two garages in the warehouse district' has been replaced with the much more impressive exploding bank from last season!

Bravo, editors! You've accomplished making this show seem much more action-packed than it is in a way that a shot of JJ doing some kind of a spinning karate move doesn't!

On the jet it's revealed that Terry, the running guy from the beginning, stands out from the other victims because his past is shady and he lives in a cabin in the woods without electricity or running water. Which is weird, because if he's not participating in society and just moved to town, how did the killer even target him? Then they decide to split up and check with A: the victims' families, B: the creepy cabin Terry lives in, and 3: the doctor who's analyzing the vomit that was found at Terry's abduction site.

Yes, I know that last one was super-gross, but you've got to understand - these episodes are written from a very strict template, and part of the first act after the teaser revelation of a piece of evidence found in the latest corpse that helps them in their chase. Since there's no corpse yet this week, the writers are forced to contrive a pool of vomit at the crime scene which can be used by the medical examiner can use to determine how Terry was incapacitated.

Joe and Greg head out to the abduction site where the sheriff is waiting for them, along with two other police officers. I have no idea why they bothered coming out here. It's a literally just a piece of farm. The victim's car has already been moved, and the only piece of evidence of any note was the set of tire tracks that the other car left, which the local police are already investigating. Seems kind of like a wasted trip to me. Two things though, they strangely don't mention boot prints leading to and from the victim's position on the ground. Given the softness of the dirt that we see it seems like they would have to be there, and their depth would be able to give the authorities a pretty good estimate of the killer's weight in addition to shoe size, and relative strength level, based on how hard it was to drag Terry's unconscious body back to the pickup truck.

Also, Greg ponders whether the killer was simply following the victim or actually ran them off the road. This seems like a weird question, since if they'd run him off the road, there would be evidence of that, like the station wagon being smashed up in some way, which it absolutely isn't.

Over at the police station, Derek and Jeanne are interviewing the wife of one of the victims, but she doesn't seem to have any useful information, so let's move on.

To Garcia naturally, who has the vomit report we've been waiting for! Surprising no one, Terry was dragged. All the groceries in the back of his car were still sealed from his trip to the grocery store, so everyone's at a loss to figure out what the drugs might of been hidden in. Also, why is no one asking where Terry was going when he was abducted? He apparently went to buy the groceries after his personal training session, which means he went to the grocery store, then was headed somewhere else, possibly back to his house, when he collapsed behind the wheel. This is the only order in which things make sense, since no one would buy groceries and then leave them in a hot car when they went to a personal training session for an hour to. So how and when was he drugged at the killer could ensure that he would be isolated when the drugs finally worked?

 That's over to Terry's cabin where we get a hilarious bit of looping



It turns out the producers of the show were just as confused as I was by the fact that on the plane Terry was made to sound like a mountain man living in a shack, but then when we get there. It turns out his perfectly well appointed cabin has both electricity and running water. Hence, a line of dialogue inserted to reconcile the two things we've been told.

Not a lot of help in the cabin, though, they just find out that Terry was worried about the environment, really liked pot. Perhaps that's how he was drugged?

At the police station, we learn that the pickup trucks tires are so common that they're not going to be much help at this stage in the investigation and look over a map charting the roots that the various victims took on the day of their disappearances. Par for the course on the show, the map isn't very well designed. It's meant to show that all of the men were living completely separate lives in didn't have anything in common, Greg even says that none of the lines intersect. Now let's look at the map!
That's right, both the orange and green lines and the blue and red lines have points and roots in common. While that might not be super useful information, Greg is just flat out wrong about what he's saying. Oh, and apparently Joe did check in with a personal trainer who has zero insights to offer about Terry's life. Odd that we didn't show that scene since they've already paid for an actress, well, whatever.

Derek's surprise at the existence of the personal trainer leads to the Prentiss award-winning line of the night:



He did have indoor plumbing. We saw it in literally the last scene. I know Derek wasn't there for that, but still, it's a weird conclusion to jump to based on your absolute lack of information about the guy. And, if I'm being perfectly honest, it's probably just that this scene was shot before they had the 'cabin' set ready, so the producers actually didn't know that Derek was going to look like an idiot in this scene.

Now let's check in with the villain, who's feeding her victims via a syringe full of mush pushed through a hose that goes straight from their nose to their stomach! Disgusting!

Garcia called in with more information – she's found one of the other victims as cars! Apparently it was towed three weeks earlier from a rural road that the victim had no reason to be on, and has been sitting in the city impound lot. Ever since! Why did it take Garcia to find this car? For three weeks. The police have been actively investigating this case, and presumably looking for any sign of their victims. No one bothered to run the license plate and find out if the car had turned up anywhere? Yikes, no wonder they needed to call the FBI.

Another weird note about Terry – he bought the EB food at the supermarket, but there was no sign of a baby anywhere in his shack. What is all this leading up to?

Terry's body then shows up in a River outside of town, so Greg, Derek and Joe rush over to check it out. Taking a cursory glance at the half-clothed figure lying on a stretcher. They decide he hasn't been tortured, and therefore a woman must be there culprit. Yes, it's a jump, but I made the same jump based on leg shape, so it's just let them have it and move on.

To the killer, a blonde lady who's chopping wood next to her murder barn. Her daughter runs up looking for food, and the killer reminds her to never go in the murder barn. So at least she's an attentive mother. Once your daughters out of sight, she turns on a wood chipper and walks into the barn to look menacingly at her three remaining victims. I'm not sure what the wood chipper is for exactly. She can at turn the logs into woodchips? They seem like perfectly good fireplace logs to me, but maybe she has a desperate need for woodchips and doesn't have any branches or brush available? I mean, she's obviously not going to feed a person into a wood chipper in the middle of the broad daylight with her daughter 100 feet away. Is she? If that was the kind of thing she did, how did Terry end up drowned in a River?

Garcia calls to report that she hasn't found out what Terry was doing between leaving Rhode Island five months earlier, and turning up in Oregon. That's it. She called to tell them that she doesn't have any information. Thanks, Garcia. She does mention that he was behind on his child support payments, which could have given him a good motive to flee the state, but I feel like that would of been in their original file on him, what with it being a criminal offense and a matter of public record.

Time for the profile! The team lines up the police department to let them know their killers a woman between 30 and 40 years of age, who, because she's only abducted men who had children, is probably doing this to find a breeder, and weeding out unfit specimens as they fail her insane standards. Naturally, none of this information is useful to the people trying to catch this woman, so it kind of feels like a huge waste of time to pull all the cops off the streets and make them attend this seminar. Also, and I can't stress this enough, this is an insane theory for them to have come to. I wouldn't be surprised if it's right, but just like their assumption that the killer was keeping her victims alive for a month at the beginning of the episode, this is not a conclusion anyone could believably jump to based on the information at hand.

During the profile, we get shots of her washing blood off of the axe and wood chipper, so yeah, I guess she did chop a guy up and then shred him. Why she only started this now, I have no idea, but it doesn't make the most sense.

Now for another scene with the killer and her daughter -  they're working in her tomato garden when she notices horrible welts all over her arms. An allergic reaction? No, a trip to the emergency room proves that she's just a crazy person who had a skin disease after husband died and now constantly thinks it's coming back. Whenever she gets stressed. She's been referred to a psychologist, but refuses to go, presumably because it would cut into her murdering time.

The baby food finally gets some explanation as Reid notices a number of items on Terry's grocery list are used to boost the immune system. Both baby food marijuana are commonly used by chemotherapy patients to help avoid stomach distress, so perhaps Terry was recovering from chemotherapy. Which would also explain why there's no trace of him in America over the past five months, he could've been doing it out of the country. Kind of weird that he wouldn't have mentioned it to anyone, and since we know Garcia can immediately and illegally break into anyone's medical history, it seems like that diagnosis would've been in their, but I'm sure this will all be explained later on.

The ME reveals that Terry was drugged with a weirdly natural form of sedative, which suggests the killer might be into holistic medicine, since it's really not that hard to buy drugs that would make people drowsy. Derek even points out that using this herb cocktail would be super unreliable, but the only conclusion they draw from this is that the killer might have had health issues of her own. Or she could just be a holistic medicine, not. One is just as likely as the other.

We also learn for medical examiner that Terry had cancer, and was kept in a place that had pine sawdust all around. Not a huge help. Yet, but it could come in handy later.

Meanwhile, the killer kidnaps a pregnant lady on her way home from a baby shower. How she managed to get the woman to pull over and abduct her on the outskirts of town is left unexplained. That night, she cuts the baby out of the woman and crudely stitches her back up before dropping mother and child off in a parking lot. Okay, that's just weird. Is she practicing for some kind of a home, C-section situation? Or did she just not like the looks of the baby that came out of the lady?

Luckily mother and child wind up being fine, and the doctor in charge points out that the killer must've had some sort of experience with surgery and stitching to be able to do such a serviceable job with basic tools. While this is a decent lead to follow the team is more interested in why the killer immediately discarded her victims after the "birth". Does she want her own baby is she trying to kidnap a new baby, what is this woman up to?

Over at the murder barn, the killer's daughter goes investigating an almost stumbles on the other two victims before her mother intervenes. Dammit! So close!

Then a call from the hospital reveals that the pregnant lady's placenta was missing, and Reid points out that there animals that eat placental is in the wild, because they're rich in nutrients. Naturally, this is what the killer is doing, and she believes that accomplishing this task has cured her disgusting skin condition. Her daughter refuses to share the meal, however, and so mom starts projecting her own psychoses onto the kid.

The team finally manages to find a connection between two of the abductions – they were both near a farmer's market which sets up across the street one day out of the week. This gives them a supposedly plausible sequence of events to track – victim shows up, killer decides he's demographically suitable for whatever the hell it is she wants, cells him of vegetable smoothie full of knockout drugs, problem solved.

Except for a couple of things. First off, the other two victims didn't go to the farmers market before disappearing, second and way more importantly, the killer would have no idea who their victim is what they were planning to do after going to the farmers market or how long the drugs would take to affect them. Which means she would have to drug a person, wait until they walked away, immediately close down her stand and chase after them, first on foot through the farmers market and then in a pickup truck, hoping that her victim just happened to fall unconscious in a completely isolated area.

So yeah, her plan could never have worked in a million years. Where are all the guys who fell asleep at the barber? Or out in front of their kids' school waiting to pick them up? Or sitting on the couch at home? Or at a stop sign, causing them to roll forward into the intersection, causing a minor accident? How could this have worked at all, let along perfectly, four times?

Derek and Jeanne get a list of all the people who had booths at the farmer's market on the days in question and sends it to Garcia, but neither one thinks to interview the locals. Which is kind of a huge oversight - after all, just asking 'hey, did anyone suspiciously abandon their booth around the time of these abductions, and then only come back to pack things up later that night?' would get the case solved really quick. ( I'm assuming it takes like four hours to get someone squared away)  I feel like that's something the people in her her neighbouring stalls would have noticed, especially since it happened more than once.

More results from the ME! Man, that guy's doing a lot of work this week. It turns out that she's feeding her victims soil additives so that their bodies will be full of the nutrients necessary to help plants grow! Yup, she's mulching the people to turn them into fertilizer for her tomatoes. So... ick. If that's the case, though, why would she keep four of them on hand over six weeks, then kill them all at the same time? If there's some amount of time needed to get these guys ready, why wouldn't it be standardized? Chickens born weeks apart aren't all ready for slaughter on the same day, after all.

So the killer murders another one of her victims and then drugs her daughter for a nefarious purpose in the hopes of 'making her beautiful again'. Hey, I just realized that this the second Criminal Minds episode about a crazy murderer killing people to help with their daughter's skin condition! Well, second if you count Suspect Behaviour, which apparently only I do.

Then Garcia chimes in to report another failure to do her job - and the second-stupidest thing said all episode!



Nope. Just nope. It's a farmer's market, it's not a stand you set up at the side of the road on your own property. Everyone selling things at that market has to register and pay for the space, there are absolutely firm records of who was there on which days. Don't try to play me like that Garcia, you're only going to lose!

Greg asks the question the team should have gotten to ages ago - is there something like a farmer's market near the intersection point of the other two victims? Turns out that yes, there's a food co-op nearby! Yay! Now it's just a question of comparing two lists of names, which shouldn't take too long. It doesn't! Only one name is on both lists! Yay!

And time is of the essence, since the killer is burying her daughter alive, convinced that the flesh-enriched soil will heal her! Oh, and there's one victim she hasn't killed yet, but will they get there in time to rescue him?

Of course they will. They race out to the murderbarn and then find her in the nearby tomato patch, draining the last guy's blood into the dirt next to her daughter. Again, ick. Instead of just shooting her before she can stab the guy to death, Jeanne tries to talk her down by playing into her psychosis. Which is an incredibly dangerous thing to do, since you're just as likely to turn a person murderous as you are to get them to collapse into a pile of sobs. Naturally it works, but wow, would shooting her have been the smarter choice.

It's at this moment that I realize that Jeanne basically didn't speak at all this episode. I know that's not completely accurate, but there's so little to her character at this point I didn't even notice which lines of pointless exposition had been assigned to her.

THE END

Except for a scene where JJ's kid goes out trick-or-treating dressed as Reid. Which just serves to remind everyone that Reid dresses completely inappropriately for his job, and is impossible to take seriously as a result.

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

Barely - while their method for figuring out the killer was a woman was total nonsense, they made a pretty believable leap from 'strange organic ingredients in victim's body' to 'probably farm-connected'.

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

They figured out where two of the victims had been, and then cross-referenced it with where two of the other victims had been, and found that only one name appeared on both lists of workers. I'm kind of amazed it took them as long as it did, though - the moment they arrived they had all of the information they needed to figure out what location their victims had in common. Just investigating the farmer's market would have sorted this one out pretty fast.

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

1

I was going to give the team a slightly higher score due to the borderline plausibility of their vegetable-related intuition - but I can't reward the writers for doing such a terrible job. Their profile was based entirely on being able to examine the body of one of the victims - but they should not, realistically, have had a body to examine!

We're dealing with a killer who had square kilometers of land all to herself - she could have buried the body literally anywhere it it would have never been found, whether it was whole or mulched. Hell, she could have just dumped it in a ditch and left it for birds and other scavengers and no one would have ever been the wiser. Instead, she put it in a truck, drove off her own property, and dropped it in a river where anyone could find it, solely so the team would have a lead.

Seriously, though, I can't stress enough how little sense this episode made. It's super-unbelievable that she would have been able to snatch any of these men, even if her ridiculous drugging plan had worked - and the whole interlude of her kidnapping a pregnant woman made absolutely no sense on any level.

Oh, and Jeanne's linguistic skills didn't help at all this week.

Now, as promised, here's that list of most-popular serial killer conveyances!

1 - Van
2 - Pickup with Camper Shell
3 - Refrigerated Tractor-Trailer Rig
4 - Tow Truck
5 - Police Car
6 - Ice Cream Truck
7 - Taxi
8 - Fake Police Car
9 - RV
10 - Caddy

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

OMG YAY YOU'RE BACK!!!

I stopped watching a few episodes ahead of this one, because I couldn't sit through it anymore, not without your commentary to pull me through.

I'm so happy you're doing this again. I look forward to the next one!

pernoctator said...

I really missed these, as well.

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