Criminal Minds 811: Perennials

The show opens in a forest, where a woman in a white robe is worshiping nature! Can a human sacrifice be far behind? She gathers some plants and brings them to the altar, which is now covered in maggots! So she's just crazy, I guess?

Then a man shows up, calls her 'Patty', makes her bite down on a stick and clubs her into unconsciousness. What?

Over at Quantico, Jeanne interviews Reid about his date with the mystery lady, and is disappointed to hear that it never actually happened. She tries for more details, but Reid is, as ever, super-private about his personal life.

Okay, turns out the maggots weren't the sign of craziness after all! The killer murdered Patty by hammering a chisel into the back of her neck, and spread maggots all around the crime scene. Just as he had with another victim two days earlier!

That's how Penelope presents the case, by the way. Starts with the pretty white woman who got killed in the opening seconds of the episode, then mentions the black guy who got killed two days earlier. Why would you organize a presentation like this? Shouldn't you start with the earliest crime and move forward? It's almost as if Penelope is framing this all for the benefit of the audience, rather than the people in the room with her!

The team talks about the oddness of making victims lie down before killing them, and suggests that he may know them, and not want to look at their faces during the murder. Which is one hell of a leap. The super-strange method of execution - chisel to the brain stem - it seems like the more relevant reason for them lying down is to make that death possible.

Hey, the team finally realizes that spree killers are a thing, with Jeanne suggesting that the killer is one! JJ shoots down the idea, since the killer is mostly likely targeting specific people and murdering them in an elaborate way, leaving no clear evidence behind. Other than, you know, the identical chisels that he had to have bought somewhere. I'm guessing he also purchased the maggots, since those can be hard to farm in the quantities he needed for his tableaus.

Still, it's nice to see them acknowledging the existence of spree killers, since basically everyone they chase fits that category.

Then it's off to Florida for a check-in with the killer! It seems I was wrong about buying the maggots - the guy travels with a box full of flies and a pot full of rotting meat so that he can have a consistent supply of maggots! I still think his facility is a little small for the absurd volume of maggots he was deploying, but it's nice to see the producers worried about logistics for once.


As always, the briefing continues on the plane, making me wonder why they all don't just meet at the airport, with Penelope offering a little background about the nature cult that Patty (actually a woman named 'Nina' who'd changed her name to 'Floressa') was part of! The team locks onto the religion aspect, since the first victim was a seventh-day adventist, it's possible that the killer is after cultists because he considers himself more purely religious! That seems like a huge stretch, since between the two characters, one was in a cult and completely sequestered herself on its compound, making her difficult to randomly target, while the other guy presumably just happens to be an adventist. I feel like they're going to have to look for a better connection.

On the upside, they come up with a decent lead - a list of people who'd dropped by the nature commune where 'Patty' was killed in the past year!

Greg and JJ check in with head of the Nature cult, who has shockingly little information to offer. She knew nothing about Nina's life before coming to the commune, and she doesn't think 'Patty' would have run into any of the commune's occasional visitors. Good use of jet fuel, there. Maybe a local cop could have gotten this information way faster?

Derek and Joe head over to Gulfport, Mississippi to find out about the first victim, and check if there were any witnesses. Apparently the killer simply walked into the guy's house and murdered him in broad daylight! How did he get inside? This really does point to the 'he must have known his killer' angle, but the guys don't mention it.

Also, how far did they travel after getting off the plane in Alabama? Here's the map we're shown of the two crime scenes-
Which we're told is about a hundred miles. So they get off the plane, get rental vehicles, drive two hours to get to the crime scene, then two hours back to rejoin the team? You're wasting like half your day on travel. Why not drop most of the team off in Alabama and then take the plane the rest of the way? I feel like a twenty-minute extension to the flight is the best use of resources, here.

Okay, back to it - Derek and Joe walk across the street, where a guy is sitting on a couch he has planted in his front yard. He doesn't want to talk to the cops, but then they threaten to bust him for making moonshine, and he admits that a weirdo showed up just before the murders, looking for 'Taylor', which is what he thought Charlie, the first victim's, name was. Weird - he got the first person's name wrong, but she had changed identities. And this time he was looking for a specific person, and described them down to a tee, but was still using the wrong name. What's going on here?

Over at the morgue, Jeanne and Reid find out about the excessive maggots around the crime scene not consistent with decomposition. Which would be a big reveal, except that the maggots that were dumped over the body and in the surrounding area were part of Penelope's original report, and were prominently featured in the photos they were sent. So I'm not sure why they're acting like any of this is new information - show somebody a photo of a body that's only an hour dead but it's covered in maggots, and their first question is going to be 'why did the killer dump maggots all over the body'? Apparently the team is remarkably incurious or unable to make logical connections, though, so Reid is absolutely shocked to learn that the killer brought maggots to the crime scene!

The ME did find some skunk hair, though, so that's something!

We get a quick flash of the killer, pushing a knife against someone's face. But who, and why? One scene later we find out that it's the killer, slashing his own face while looking in a mirror! So he can menace 'Carol', who works in a diner. So this is his third victim with a changed name... fascinating!

The killer stares at her, mentions birthdays as being important, because this 'Carol' presumably has some perceived sin related to a child, but then the waitress just gives the killer some cake and walks off, complaining about 'weirdos' to her co-worker. So... this is strange. She seems to genuinely not know the guy, and he's acting like he's just odd. But the other two characters have changed their names, and her reaction upon hearing the name 'Carol' suggests that she did as well. So why is she not more legitimately alarmed by someone bringing up her past? Especially when that guy reveals that he slashed his own face open just to make himself more memorable to her? How is this not a 'call the police' situation? Unless, of course, she's guilty of something, which, again, should make her a lot more alarmed than she is.

Most of the team meets up at the commune and we find out that there was also animal hair on the first victim - suggesting that the killer is using dead animals to culture his maggots, I suppose. Then they go off on a tangent about a serial killer who made victims bite down on a piece of wood before killing them. Except that guy was a run-of-the-mill rapist who killed prostitutes, and has nothing whatsoever to do with this case. Wow, Reid, it's like your eidetic memory isn't good for anything!

Back at the diner, Carol walks out into a pitch-black parking lot and is shocked to discover that her car is full of maggots! She's murdered a moment later. Really, this is the fault of the Diner's proprietor for not having security lights in the parking lot. I feel a lawsuit coming on. They can make a good case that she would have spotted the killer and the sea of maggots if things hadn't been so preposterously dark.
Joe and Derek show up at the diner first, saying that the rest of the team will be along soon. I don't know if this was intentional, but it kind of makes it feel like they drove to Pensacola from their previous crime scene. It's doable, just another two hours - but again, how could they possibly beat a plane?

Inside the diner, the waitress confirms that the sketch they have of the killer is the guy they're looking for, and updates them about the scar. Too bad that this diner doesn't have a security camera, though. Which seems weird. Pensacola is a big city with plenty of crime, after all...

Derek and Joe learn about the 'Carol' thing and 'Birthday' thing, so that's going to help them make a connection later, hopefully. Meanwhile, the killer grabs an Altoids case full of maggots and heads off to do something small-scale-sinister.

Over at the police station, it's time for some theorizing!

Joe is annoyed that they can't find any 'Russel Smith' wannabes, as if anyone could think that this killer was aping a not-famous serial killer because he made people bite on sticks. Weird thread to pull on, Joe. Reid finally figures out that the killer is culturing the flies with roadkill based on the ME finding engine oil on the fur with the maggots. Whereas we figured that out using common sense - where else are you going to find a dead raccoon, other than the side of the road?

Then it's over to the killer, who clubs a guy named Kyle, while looking for 'Ted'. This is understandably disconcerting to Kyle's wife.

Based on the flies being from the Southwest, two of the three victims being religious, and the maggot thing, Greg suggests that Garcia look for a guy in his late twenties, from that region, who has a familiarity with flies, and a criminal record for vandalizing religious institutions! This seems like a bit of a stretch - especially since the latest victim had no known religious affiliations... We'll see where they go with it.

It turns out that it wasn't Kyle's wife at all! She's 'Ted's' widow! He died of cancer, and Kyle is just renting a room. The killer is freaked out, and demands to know exactly when and where Ted died. Why is it so important? Is he trying to capture souls by having maggots eat the people right after death? More importantly, why is he just now getting names right - or at least running into someone who'll admit that a name is right.

Okay, things just went nuts. Remember how I found it preposterous that they'd make the connection between serial killer Russel Smith because of the least-significant part of the MO? Well, it looks like that's what the episode is about! Russel Smith had a scar on his face just where the killer wounded himself!
Um... that guy's supposed to be 30 in that mugshot. How? I apologize to the actor if he's actually that age, but sir, you do not look 30. Wow.

So, I guess this Killer is Russel Smith's son, and he's trying to pick up where his dad left off? By committing completely unrelated crimes? I figure they have to be completely unrelated, since the guy was killed 25 years earlier, so none of these victims seem like they could have been involved in the original crime scene. Maybe Ted.

Or maybe this is about reincarnation?


So, as I typed the 'maybe this is about reincarnation' line, I thought I was being a little too ridiculous. Then, as the team is giving out their 'let's rehash the plot' profile which is of no use to the cops, it's intercut with scenes of the killer going onto the internet to find a kid who was born at the same time that 'Ted' died in the hospital. Suggesting that he really is looking to kill the spirit of someone. Does he think that his other victims are reincarnations of Russel Smith's victims? Or is that too far even for this show?

No, apparently it's not. The team looks over a list of Smith's various victims, and notices that the names all match the names that the killer has been using. So he's targeting them by finding people who were born at the moment that the victim died, and in close proximity. Huh.

Also, the killer has abducted the reincarnated Ted, and is holding him in the motel room. It's left unclear how he abducted the kid in broad daylight from outside a school in broad daylight. Or what he was planning to do with that Altoids box full of maggots.

And hey, how does this Ted fit in to all of this? Was he the cop that shot Smith to death 25 years ago?

Noodling over the facts, the team concludes that by putting maggots next to the bodies, the killer must be tricking the souls into going into flies, thus ending the cycle of reincarnation. Why would that end the cycle? Wouldn't the soul just move on to another body as the fly dies?

They check who was born right when the serial killer died, and get an ID on the killer!

The killer confesses to 'Ted' that he's been hearing voices his whole life. His grandfather told him that he was born the moment that the serial killer was dying in the next bed, thus explaining how the killer's soul wound up in his body. Also the grandfather beat him up his entire childhood, explaining why he's such an asshole.

The killer then explains that his brakes were cut on his car, which means that one of Russel's victims is trying to kill him - meaning he's got to get all of them first? You know, generic crazy guy stuff. Then the team, searching for other victims in the area, finds out about Ted, and starts looking for a 13-year-old who fits the exactly birth date profile. Or, you know, was recently kidnapped. It seems like a cleaner way to get this plot point out would be to have Ted's widow and Kyle call the police. Or are they dead? The show doesn't explain it.

It also doesn't explain why the killer was referring to him only as 'Ted' rather than by his 'actual' name, the way he did every other victim. Weird. I guess this reincarnated victim didn't have a gender-neutral name?

For his part, the killer is filling up another Altoids box with maggots, suggesting that the show thinks this is how he's preparing for his murders. That is a tiny amount of maggots. For reference, let's check out the number of maggots he's left at other crime scenes.
Where did all of those come from? Also, I feel a tiny bit sorry for the maggots that died in his shirt pocket while he was failing to kill Ted. Poor little things.

The cops rush over to the motel, but the killer sees them coming and runs off. But not before announcing that he'll be back to finish the job in twenty years! Joe immediately knows what this means - as do we all. He's going to kill himself in the maternity ward of the closest hospital! Because he's just that crazy, you see.

He walks into the hospital holding a gun and shoots a nurse who won't tell him where the delivery rooms are. Because he can't just follow the signs on the walls, I guess? Then he shoots a security guard and goes running from room to room, looking for a delivery in progress!

Eventually he finds a likely baby and contrives to get shot to death, but JJ snatches the child away, and too late, he notices that he was closer to the tin full of maggots! Irony!

Of course, the much bigger issue is that two other people already died in the hospital tonight, so even if his crazy theory about souls of the deceased going into newborns in close proximity was true, then wouldn't one of the people he killed have already called dibs on the baby? After all, when Russel was killing prostitutes, he wasn't doing it in a hospital's maternity ward, yet according to his crazy logic, they still ended up in these new people.

Operating on the show's own logic, the killer should have been going out of his way to avoid killing people to prevent someone else stealing his new vessel, shooting people in the legs and the like. But that wouldn't have allowed the show to wallow in bloodlust, so what are you going to do?

Wow, this was a ludicrous episode.

Also, Derek got shot in the vest, and this gives him a chance to show off his abs to Penelope when they get back, reinforcing their reputation for woefully inappropriate workplace behaviour.

Remember the copycat killer who'd aped the Michael Myers murder? He's (she's?) also copycatted the Ray Wise murder, and now the team is going to have to track that person down, in addition to their regular work! Um... maybe make this one a priority over any other cases? If someone is actively killing people because of the cases you've cracked this year, doesn't that mean every new case is a provocation? Shouldn't taking them down be the priority?

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

To a certain extent - figuring out the killer's motive did help them figure out victim selection, which was the key to solving the case. Here's the thing, though - the jump the team made about a branch in the mouth being linked to the most obscure serial killer in the world is such a ridiculous leap, that I can't give them credit for making the connection. Every piece of new information they discover only makes sense looked through the lens of Russel's crimes - but because the M.O. was almost completely different, no one would have ever connected Russel to these new crimes.

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

Well, they knew what the guy looked like, and the area he was operating in. Honestly, had they just surrounded the motel he was in instead of rolling up to the parking area, lights flashing like a bunch of idiots, he would have been caught immediately. Also, and I can't stress this enough, the guy walked around in broad daylight killing people. How were there not fifty times more witnesses?

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


So 'Carol' really didn't know what was going on? Then what was with her weird looks? More importantly, why didn't she call the authorities when a man showed up at her place of work, called her by a strange name, then showed off his self-mutilation as a way to threaten her. How are the cops not being called? How is she not being more careful when leaving work that night?

And how did he find the woman who changed her name and went to live in a nature commune as a forest nun? The kind of research it would have taken to track her down would have doubtless left a trail the team could have followed back to him.

Also, the writers cheated a huge amount this week, by making the black guy's original personality be named 'Taylor', a gender-neutral name. Had she been named 'Cindy' it would have given the game away immediately. And why did he only refer to the last victim as 'Ted' rather than the original victim name?

Why, it's almost as if he only ever publicly used the original victim's names at all as a way to give the team a clue they could follow!

Hey, whatever happened to Kyle and Ted's wife? Weird that they were never mentioned again. Isn't that what crudely-looped dialogue is for?

This was a pretty rough week, all around.


Anonymous said...

“called dibs on the baby”
I don’t know why that cracked me up so much.

Anonymous said...

Ted was actually the same Ted from when Russel was alive, that’s why he didn’t get a different name… he “only” died 13 years before, hence why he kidnapped the boy :) love your analysis!