Criminal Minds 810: The Lesson

The episode kicks off 'Three Months Ago', which is a kind of a dumb thing to happen in literally the first second of the episode. This is the first scene - 'ago' is therefore a meaningless concept, since you haven't established a 'now' from which we are flashing back. Just put 'three months later' over the next scene, dummies.

Yes, you can make the argument that, as an episodic TV show, each individual episode is meant to be taking place on or around the day it airs (which is why they botched a perfectly good killer Santa episode back in season 3), but I would argue that particular fiction is one that no viewer cares about, or would complain if it were done away with.

Okay, back to the show. A creepy old man is abusing his nurse with insults until the nurse ups his morphine to knock him out (or perhaps kill him? Probably not.), but their drama is interrupted when the coma patient in the next bed suddenly wakes up and starts flailing around. Which he has the strength to do, despite having been in a coma. Maybe he was only there for a couple of days?

Anyhoo, we cut to the present (three months later), and discover that the coma man Brad MFing Dourif! Officially the best actor to have ever appeared on this show! Sorry Tony Todd, but it's true. They took eight years to replace you, though, so that's something.

Hey has Gregg Henry ever been on Criminal Minds? Okay, that's one tangent too far.

A little person runs into the backroom, worried that someone is going to hear the woman that he and Brad have kidnapped. Brad's not concerned, though, because he's super-crazy! Then there's a looped line where Brad asks 'Mr. Conrad' if he agrees, which was presumably dropped in there because they noticed that after the final cut the scene where the little person's name was introduced has been removed.

Okay, Brad Dourif, a little person, a weird flashback opening the episode... did Matthew Grey Gubler direct this one? If so, it's going to be awesome!

Speaking of Reid, he's back on a payphone talking to mystery woman! She announces that she's not being stalked any more! No calls or emails or anything like that, and now she thinks it's finally going to be safe for them to meet! More importantly, though, Reid mentions that stalkers generally stop stalking when they've moved onto another target. Which, to its credit, the episode kind of blows past, since they don't want to shine too bright a light on what's going on. Which is that her stalker is now the team's stalker. Or she's crazy and also the villain.

Now it's time for the briefing! A guy was hanged, had his hair dyed black, then stuffed into a tiny box and left on the side of the road. The box was so tiny that the killers had to break his legs and double him over! Then it happened again, only this time the killers kidnapped a couple, killing the man and keeping the woman, who, naturally, is in the backroom with Brad and Conrad.

Wait a minute, Conrad has black hair, and he would fit neatly into the boxes... are they trying to turn the men they're killing into versions of one of the killers? If so... why?

Also, every single one of the characters says the dead guys had been 'hung', because the writers of this show don't know how the English language works. Which is especially embarrassing considering that they've just added a character who is a DOCTOR OF LANGUAGE.

Back to Brad, who's tormenting his kidnappee by putting a bow in her hair and taking old-timey photos of her as she weeps! Yikes!

Time for the opening credits, meaning we'll get to find out who directed this one soon! Although it may not be Gubler, since there hasn't been any notable music yet, sadly.

During the plane briefing, Reid goes a little nuts, talking about how it's strange that the killers were able to grab three people so easily, since stalking victims are usually incredibly careful about their own safety. He gets a couple of funny looks, but for some reason no one stops the conversation to ask him 'hey - what does stalking have to do with this case?' as any sane person would.

They assume that the woman is still alive, and that the killer needs her for some reason, just as he needs the man to look a certain way. Of course, they don't know what any of that means yet, so they're basically just repeating stuff the audience already knows.

In town, Brad and Conrad are out looking for a replacement male figure for whatever it is they're doing, and spot one almost immediately. Serendipity! Brad interrupts the guy as he's making a bologna sandwich, then asks to be let in to use a phone. The guy agrees, because he's desperate and covered in blood. Despite this being a busy suburban street, no one pays any attention to the screaming blood-covered man on the stoop. Also, the guy with the black hair is pretty young, wouldn't he just come outside with a cell phone rather than letting Brad into his house?

We get a quick scene with the newest body, which had its nails painted red for some reason, then it's back to Brad, who torments the victim some more, explaining that he has to cut her clothes off for the next step of their preparation. During this scene xylophones start appearing on the soundtrack, and I immediately become convinced that this is a Gubler episode even before his name appears on the screen. Side note: watching the complete credits for the first time ever makes me realize that this show has a startlingly large number of co-executive producers. I'm not entirely sure what that means.

Man, this show is moving at a good clip! Derek's already arrived at the newest victim's house, and noticed that there's ketchup on the window, giving him some clue as the kind of ruse used to kidnap people! Although that still doesn't explain how Brad got the drugged victim out to the car.

Over at the morgue, Joe and Reid discover that the two victims were hanged over and over again for hours with different ropes before they were finally killed with a belt hanging. Why would JJ and Jeanne go see the body at the crime scene, and then different people go to the morgue? That's just weird.

Speaking of weird, this is once again a perfect example of Matt Gubler being the only person working at Criminal Minds with a license to be a little strange - the coroner plays the scene like she's super-excited to be dealing with a serial killing, and also kind of aroused by the fact that they were hanged to death. Then she caps off the scene by saying that the killer is sicker than her last girlfriend.

All of which makes her the strangest one-scene character this show has ever featured. Which, admittedly, isn't a very high bar. Criminal Minds doesn't like to confuse its audience, after all.

Then it's back to Brad, for a grotesque sequence of him dislocating both of his victim's arms using a set of stocks and dragging her arms up behind her back until they're over her head. Which is one of the most unpleasant visuals we've ever had on the show. So... thanks, Matt? Brad, as always, does something interesting in the scene, acting super-psyched with his progress in damaging her body.

Reid makes the leap that the victims' arms were presumably stretched with a medieval rack, and they have Penelope do a google search for local S&M suppliers. Since nothing is found, Joe theorizes that Brad might have built his own, which would be a complex undertaking.

Of course, he's wrong about that - let's take a look at the items Brad is using.
So it's stocks (2 pieces of wood with half-circles cut out + plus some fasteners), rope (which you can buy anywhere), a wooden frame with a pulley on it (say five more pieces of wood), and a giant cartoonishly elaborate wooden winch. Out of all of those, the winch is the only thing that would require any specialized ability whatsoever, and honestly, he just made that thing to show off - you could just go to a store and buy/steal a way better winch if he wasn't obsessed with getting the old-timey look right.

Also, can we just applaud the double-jointed stunt performer they got to pop her arms out of their sockets? It's either that or some pretty good makeup. Either way, great job at disgusting us, show!

Derek shows up with some news - not only did Brad abduct the guy in broad daylight by walking in the front door with ketchup on his coat, pretending it was blood, but he'd also cut the feed to the guy's security camera first!

Which, I'm not really sure how you can do without walking right up to the security camera. Don't the cables for those go right in through the wall behind the camera itself? What would be the point of a security camera with a wire that ran along the outside of the house, out of the view of the security camera? Seems kind of like they could have just not have the house be equipped with a security camera, as this raises questions the show can't answer.

Especially since Joe points out that Brad must have cased the house before attacking, which is high-risk behaviour in the middle of the afternoon. Um... walking around the outside of a house with a set of wire snippers is a hell of a lot less high risk than dragging an unconscious man down the front steps, across the yard, out to a car, and throwing him in the trunk. Brad did that, though, so I don't know why scoping out the place would even make it onto your radar.

Over at the torture puppet show/carnival/whatever Brad is doing, the two victims are awake and chatting as Brad comes over to hammer eye-bolts into their wrists for some kind of a hanging-based presentation. I'm not sure you can cleanly hammer the round top of an eye-bolt through someone's wrist and the arm of a chair, but Brad seems to manage it. I've got to say, though, if he'd actually put a handle through the eye bolt and screwed it down through the arm and chair, that would have been a lot creepier and harder to watch. Weird to miss that one, producers.

Or maybe that was where standards and practices drew the line.

The new victim then turns up in a box - once again he's failed the test while the lady has passed. Reid notices that the victim is wearing the exact same jeans and shirt as the previous victim, and suggests that the store they were purchased from could be a lead. A lead they should have gotten to last time, if they'd done the smart thing and just asked what the previous victim was wearing when he disappeared. They'd have found out that his clothes had been changed, and the significance would have been immediately apparent.

Now it's time for the profile!

Based on the holes in the guy's hands and feat, they figure that the killer is attempting a crucifixion, but it's just not working right. They also think that the killer must feel wronged by his victims, since crucifixion was historically reserved as the punishment for the most serious crimes.

Damn, where to even begin with this?

Was crucifixion the punishment for serious crimes under the Romans? Sure! But since then it's taken on a far more spiritual connotation, because of its association with a certain famous Rabbi who I won't mention here, because it's kind of disrespectful to bring him up while talking about criminal minds. Isn't it just as likely that a crucifixion would be thought of as a holy rite by the killer? More importantly, what are you basing the idea that the killer thinks the victims have wronged him on? You're pretty sure that the last victim was killed because of his height and hair colour.

Even within the killer's mind, clearly he's just grabbing human props to serve as substitutes for whoever he really wants to kill.

And, naturally, there's not a single piece of actionable information in the profile that would be worth wasting the collected officers time with. Seriously, they'd have better luck out on the street giving traffic tickets, because at least then they'd have a chance of randomly stopping Brad Dourif.

Over at the murder dungeon, the little person yells at Brad for ruining their game/performance/art installation. Then he hands Brad a gun and tells him to go find a father and son. So it's a family vignette he's trying to build? But with corpses?

Derek and JJ get to the clothing store and ask if the clerk remembers who bought the clothes that the murder victim was wearing. They don't mention that the killer bought the exact same clothes twice, and would therefore be more memorable. Then, puzzlingly, they let the clerk wander off to look for receipts while they chat about Reid's love life.

Um... don't you think that the guy who runs the store could be a suspect? This is your only connection to the killer, and you're not at all suspicious of him? I mean, we know he's not the killer, because it's not Brad Dourif, but they don't. Why did you even tell him it's about a murder? Even if he's not involved, your first move was to tell him 'hey, you sold clothes to a brutal murderer that he used as part of his plan to torture people'. The most innocent person in the world would be worried upon hearing that.

This isn't as bad as the CSI: Miami team's habit of accusing everyone they meet of murder, but it's still a bad interview technique.

He is super-suspicious, though, since he ducks out of the back of the store once he's out of their eyesight, and drives off in a station wagon. Even though they're parked out front of the store, they don't bother giving chase, instead just calling in an APB. Perhaps they spent all their money on Brad Dourif, and couldn't afford a chase scene this week?

Jeanne then checks in with Reid, who's so worried about meeting his phone-only girlfriend that he can't focus on his geographical profiling.

Two things:

A) You suck at your job. A woman's life is on the line, as is the life of whatever guy they grab next, and you're thinking about the crazy lady you've been talking to on the phone?
2) How much focus do you need to draw a couple of circles on the map around the abduction points and dump sites and see where they overlap? Don't you have a computer program that can do this for you?

Jeanne then wins the Prentiss Award for the night, with this groaner.
No. His hair is too long. He's an FBI Agent. He needs to look like an adult. Also, he mentions that he's worried about his looks because his 'tie is crooked'. Yeah, then don't have your tie be crooked. Having a crooked tie is a conscious effort you're making to look like a non-conformist in a futile show of rebellion against the heartless bureaucracy you work for. It takes more effort to have a crooked tie than to have a straight one.

Your two choices are to own up to who you are or dress like an adult to impress a woman. Pick one and stop whining about it.

Also, save this conversation until someone isn't being brutally tortured, maybe?

Over at Brad's art warehouse, he's making a paper mask for the girl and calling her 'Stef'. Then someone shows up at the door - it's the guy from the clothes store! He knew right away that a buddy of his bought 8 sets of the exact same outfit, one of which showed up on that corpse!

So the guy's first instinct was to ditch the FBI (which might be a crime, I'd have to check) and run over to talk to the guy he thinks might be a murderer face to face.

Why on earth would you do this? Is it his brother? His uncle? The guy who gave him a kidney? What could possess you to go and tip this guy off, possibly putting your life at risk? Dear Criminal Minds writers, please explain to me the best case scenario that this guy has imagined could possibly happen.

If Brad Dourif isn't a killer and there's an innocent explanation for the clothes, then ditching the cops serves no purpose except to get yourself into trouble.

If Brad Dourif is a killer, then not only are you helping a murderer avoid justice, but there's a good chance he's going to kill you as well.

The only way this guy's reaction makes sense is if he was personally involved in the killings, and needs to go on the run, but feels some duty to warn Brad Dourif on his way out of town. That's not the case, though, so this scene makes zero sense.

So, I guess JJ and Derek didn't chase him because he would have just led them to the killer, and that would have made their jobs too easy?

Back at the police station, they find out the newest victim had his jaw dislocated as well - which allows Reid to figure out what we kind of guessed ages ago, that the killer is building his own human puppet show, with real live marionettes! Way to immediately invalidate your own profile, guys. Better rush and get all of the cops back in a room so you can give them a new set of pointless information that won't help catch the killer!

Then things get amazing for like 60 seconds, as the dancer/contortionist they hired to play the victim's double does a frankly incredibly job of looking like all of her joints are dislocated while doing a suspended dance to 'Where is my mind' played on a a Xylophone (or something like it). This is the kind of amazing madness we come to Gubler episodes for, and he hasn't disappointed yet!

Although I'm not sure what Brad thinks he's going to accomplish with a second victim, since it's taking all his effort to run just a single marionette - is the little person going to puppeteer the other one?

The team jaws a little nonsense about the history of puppeteering, then find out that Brad has kidnapped a father and son from a parking lot at gunpoint!

Back to the theatre, where Brad is putting on a show, in which the little person is a robber, and the two marionettes (the clothes shop guy is the other one!) have to stop him from killing the father and son! I guess this is another Psychodrama, where he's reenacting something from his life, like back in season two? (Fun fact - that's one of the most-read episode breakdowns, because people are confused at the show's eliding over a forced incestuous performance!)

The team searches through lists of local puppeteers, cross-checking them against names from the clothing store and people released from prison. There's no luck just yet!

We get a little more of Brad's performance - in which he explains that his father was murdered by a robber, and he's trying to create a version of the events where his dad survives. Why he needs a Howdy-Doody and a Raggedy Ann to help with that, I'm not sure.

Maybe those were some dolls he had as a kid, and he wishes he could have saved his father, and the dolls were he outlet, so he's creating a simulation where they saved the day? Or is that too crazy for even this episode?

Apparently not. In the next scene we find out that a famous puppeteer was murdered in front of his son years ago, and his puppets looked just like the simulacra that he's turned his victims into!

In a fun note, this is absolutely not what a newspaper article from the early 60s would look like.
Also, why is there a negative image of the article directly behind the image Penelope is reading?

While the team is rushing out to catch Brad, things get super-weird, as we see him performing his play about his father's murder for a crowd of people gathered in his theatre. Which has to be all in his head, right? Is the little person all in his head as well? Or did he coincidentally find someone just as crazy as he is?

Now it's time for a backstory dump! Brad was in a car accident, and he was the coma guy from the opening scene! When he woke up, he thought he was a child again, and wanted to know where his father was - which somehow led to a murderous obsession!

Seriously, I have no idea how 'car crash+coma+dead dad obsession' could possibly ever = 'let's make human dolls!' Why wouldn't he just make an actual puppet show?

Because there wouldn't be an episode. Gotcha.

Joe and Greg burst in, and we discover that not only is the audience not real, but the little person isn't either - just a crude paper-mache puppet with no articulation! So, I guess half of the episode was just happening inside of Brad's head?

On the upside, however, Brad's performance in the scene is fantastic, because he's a great actor who never phones in a performance, no matter how pointless the material.

He's arrested without incident, when the team explains to him that puppets can't save people, because they're puppets. What they really should have explained was that his father was an idiot who didn't deserve to be remembered fondly, because he chose to value a couple nights' worth of ticket receipts over his own life, and possibly that of his son, since he had no reason to believe that the robber wouldn't kill both of them.

Back at the FBI, everyone makes plans for the weekend - except for Reid, who already has plans! To see his girlfriend!

But those plans are foiled when Reid sees someone watching him from a booth! Is it his lady's stalker? He phones her to tell her to run away, which she does (she was right outside the restaurant at the time). Reid then goes to confront the guy, and it turns out that he was just watching the door, waiting for his friend to arrive.

And that's what you get for sitting with your back to the door, Reid.

Then, in a sweet touch, it turns out Reid's lady dropped off a copy of the same book he was going to give her!

Will these two crazy kids ever get together?

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

Not at all. None of their guesses about the killer were even close. Only when he'd actually damaged a body enough to make it look like a marionette did they make the connection. At a certain point, you're just dealing with a gimmie.

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

Of course. They had a concrete piece of physical evidence in the two sets of identical clothing. They could have easily tracked those to the killer if they hadn't done such a terrible job of interviewing that witness/suspect at the clothing store.

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


I'm still not sure I understand why Brad resorted to murder. He was puppet-obsessed. His dad was a puppeteer. He wanted to use puppetry to resolve his feelings about his dad's death. How on earth do living human pieces factor into things? You could say on some level he needed real people because only they could take action to intervene, but then he turned them into puppets so they couldn't...

The psychology of this episode really doesn't make any sense - even for a Criminal Minds episode.

Also, why was he killing the earlier guys? Because they were too heavy for him to puppeteer? How is that possible? Most of their weight is being held by a torso harness, right? And then you have the arms, legs, and head rigged to move separately? So if a guy was heavy, wouldn't the proper move be to just add another few counterweights to suspend him?

Next time, I hope that Gubler goes all the way with it and just has them fight a werewolf. It wouldn't be any more preposterous than the clothing shop guy's actions in the episode.

Once again, though, props to the stunt lady who did all the disjointed action. Even if her character was completely dehumanized by the story. Seriously, the last we see of her she's dangling from a harness, her face covered with a mask. We don't even see her getting cut down and rescued, let alone find out if she survived her horrific injuries.

Pretty classless, show.

Murder Map!

Winslow, Arizona.


Anonymous said...

When’s the new one coming out?

Vardulon said...

Right now!

Unknown said...

I would just like to point out that Derek in the meeting says that the unsub finds brunette men important, a little strange since the unsub is dying all the men's hair black?

Unknown said...

Wow you're the kind of person who can't find fun in anything huh?