Criminal Minds 812: Zugzwang

The episode begins with a reminder about the whole 'person is stalking Reid's girl' subplot, although they don't mention that the abortive dinner was foiled not by said stalker, but rather Reid's own paranoia. More importantly, though, there's no opening recap about the person recreating the crimes of the people they've caught this year, which, again, should be their absolute top priority.

When the episode proper begins, we find ourselves in a chapel, at least a dream version thereof, wherein Reid is imagining his wedding day. The team is there to support him, Garcia is running the ceremony, but he's unable to imagine what his fiancee's face looks like, because they've only ever talked on the phone!

Then Reid wakes up, and we get what's likely our first-ever look at his apartment!

Which, for some reason, has five lamps that we can see, and four of them are on. If nothing else, you can say Reid's not a guy who worried about wasting power. He also seems to have fallen asleep on the couch in his clothes, which seems weird, because if he was going to do that, I'd expect there to be a book on his chest or the floor next to him, since he's absolutely the kind of guy to fall asleep reading all the time. That can't be the case, though, since, despite the armada of dim lamps, there's no light source anywhere near the couch, so I can't imagine he'd be able to read very well.

Maybe he simply drank himself into a stupor and passed out?

Probably not.

Then it's over to a payphone to talk to his ladylove once more! This might be the last year that this particular plot point would word. Also, why not call her on her cell phone? You had no trouble doing that the other night, did you?

But no, he uses an elaborate keycode to make it so you can call the cellphone back (nice touch!) and then she dials him back. Or does she?!?! There's a computer-altered voice on the line which says 'Zug Zwang' twice, and then hangs up on him. Has the stalker attacker her? Is it her doing a creepy voice because she's crazy? I can't wait to find out!

Reid rushes to Greg and explains the backstory about his relationship. They started corresponding in letters, and only used codenames because she was afraid of her stalker. Also, she's apparently a geneticist! Is the stalker an evil clone she built? Obviously not.

Apparently they share a Sherlock Holmes fascination, and now the stalker has decided to brand himself a cut-rate Moriarty! Also, Zug Zwang is apparently the point in chess where a loss becomes inevitable, and smart people surrender, so it's actually a pretty good thing to try to intimidate someone with.

Greg brings in the rest of the team, who are all dressed-down, because it's a Saturday, I guess, and the FBI building doesn't have a dress code on Saturdays? They all agree to help Reid out... after the credits!

The team sits around the table talking stalker psychobabble until Garcia comes up with actionable intel - a woman with the same name who works as a geneticist and recently went off the grid! The team splits up to check on her various addresses, and even though Garcia comes up with a picture of the woman, Reid doesn't want to look at it.

Okay, I get what this means from a psychological standpoint - Reid doesn't want to think of her as just another victim in one of their cases, so he's not going to have a driver's license photo be the first time he sees her face. Here's the thing, though - nobody else looks at it either. They're all going out looking for a possible kidnapping victim without knowing what she looks like. Which will hamper their plans quite a bit. Even if Garcia messages all of them the photo, unless Reid is going to just hang out in the office with her, he absolutely needs to know what she looks like as well. This is non-optional, guys, unless you want your lack of professionalism to reach newly destructive heights.

JJ and Derek arrive at the victim's new place - a nice walkup that she's had to move to in order to avoid the stalker, who I guess knew about the nice place we'd seen her in previously. Then Derek makes a fool of himself, announcing the apartment has been 'cleared' by walking through the kitchen and living area with his gun out.

So... there's a bedroom and a bathroom right over there, Derek. You maybe want to check them out? She could be lying dead in the tub for all you know.

Also, a glass coffee table has been shattered by the couch. A quick reminder: Don't have glass coffee tables. They both agree something about the scene is funny - if she's got deadbolts on the door, how did the killer attack her without doing any damage on the way in? Who would she open the door for?

Greg talks to the parents, who are pretty sure that Bobby, the fiancee that the victim broke it off with is behind the stalking! Which would actually make a lot of sense, so I guess it can't be him, right?

They rush to the ex-fiancee's apartment, bringing Reid along so that he can gripe about not knowing that his girlfriend had a fiancee. Which is a little weird for him to still be obsessing over. He finds out about the fiancee at exactly the same time Greg does one scene earlier, but this scene is set at least an hour later, as they've had time to get Bobby's vitals, find out where he lives, and round up Derek and Joe to come along on the raid.

Not JJ or Jeanne, though, which is weird. Can't they barge into apartments?

When they get to the door it's opened by-

Dawn! Who I guess is the stalker? I mean, why else would a name actress be there? Up until this point I'd just been assuming that Reid's crazy girlfriend was stalking herself, but now that Dawn is here, that doesn't seem like it could possibly be true.


Then Bobby comes out, and it's the guy from the restaurant! Which Reid immediately freaks out about, causing him to act unprofessionally, forcing Greg to drag him out into the hallway. It's a nice reveal that Reid wasn't just paranoid, and the guy from the restaurant was the stalker, but there's a couple of problems here.

A - what was Bobby's plan? He finds out that they're going to dinner, and he invites a friend along? Why? The only reason to do that is so it won't look weird that you're dining alone, so you can surreptitiously surveil someone without drawing attention. But that plan would have fallen apart if the girlfriend had walked into the restaurant, since she would have recognized her ex-fiancee immediately. So why bring a buddy along at all? To make yourself look natural for about five minutes? Less, if the girlfriend got there before Reid?

More importantly, though, how did Reid not already identify this guy as the restaurant figure? They're on their way to find the guy, they know his first and last name and the place he lives - wouldn't all of these characters have already seen a picture of him? Odd.

Greg and Joe interview Bobby, who explains that Maeve (that's the victim's name!) broke off the engagement because she was being stalked, and had to go into hiding. You'd think she would have mentioned the fact that she was sure it wasn't Bobby to her parents, but whatever. Bobby hired a PI, who found out about the dinner reservation, although I'm not sure how, and then he showed up with a friend, because he was worried that a psycho might be after Maeve.

This all sounds plausible, but I'm not sure how a detective would have found out about the dinner reservation. You don't have to put a credit card down or anything, you just call ahead, so unless the PI tapped Maeve or Reid's phone, how would that have worked? And if he did, he should, you know, go to jail immediately.

Bobby has some photos to back up his story - the stalker (Dawn, obvs) sent him photos of he and Maeve together as part of the threat! I guess when Dawn couldn't find Maeve any more she wormed her way into Bobby's life in the hopes of tracking her down? Not a terrible plan.

Outside the building, Dawn tries to get some info from Reid about the situation, but Derek chases her off without questioning her in any way, shape, or form, even though you'd absolutely want to check her story against Bobby's for inconsistencies.

Of course, the writers want us to be surprised when Dawn is the stalker later on, so they need to get her out of the scene as fast as possible.

I'm going to be pretty embarrassed if I'm wrong about this.

Derek then comforts Reid, and assures him that they'll find Maeve alive. Will they, though?

Back at HQ, JJ and Garcia are looking over the photos, when JJ notices that in one of the pictures Maeve's face has been blacked out with eyeliner! Which means the stalker must be a woman! I'd normally jump all over this logical leap, but since all police work is about playing percentages, I'll just give them this one - the balance of probability is that it's a woman. Specifically, Dawn.

That does also explain why Maeve let Dawn into the apartment! At least they think so, I'm not so sure. A stranger turning up at my door when I'm a shut-in who's being stalked by a crazed person who's threatening to kill me? I don't care if it's a 10-year-old with girl scout cookies, they can push those in through the mail slot.

Wow, they reveal that Dawn is the villain right away! Reid notices that Dawn knew his name when she walked out of the building, but Greg confirms that they never mentioned his name to her! So that's that, embarrassment averted!

Over at their apartment, Dawn shows up in Maeve's clothes and attacks Bobby with a bottle of wine. Not cool, Dawn.

By the time the team gets there, she's already abducted Bobby, despite him being seven inches taller and sixty pounds heavier than she is. Seriously, Dawn is tiny. Then Greg announces that they have to completely redo the profile based on what they've just learned. Well, that shouldn't be much work, since your entire profile up until this point was 'a man'.

Also, do you really think a profile is relevant at this point? Isn't the goal to just figure out places she could have taken him in the like half-hour he's been missing? It's not far.

Seriously, though, Derek could have found out that she wasn't who she said she was by having a ten-minute conversation with her while the rest of the team walk talking to Bobby. Which is the kind of basic professional work ethic that the team is sorely lacking.

Dawn lays out her whole plan - Maeve took something from her, so now she wants to steal Reid away from Maeve! She wants 'what they have'. Which is a months-long correspondence that she knows nothing about. Seriously, Reid is just a guy she was meeting in a restaurant as far as Dawn knows. So, bascially, she's just super-crazy. Let's move on.

Hey, it just this second occurs to me that Dawn must be a completely separate stalker from the person who was taking photos of the team and doing the copycat killing. After all, she only just found out who Reid was two weeks ago. So there are two parallel ongoing stories about people stalking the team or someone close to them? That's... odd.

Seeing as they have no leads, beyond, you know, all having met the stalker, and knowing that she has ­to be within a short driving distance of the apartment, in a place where she can hold two people without risk of discovery - Jeanne and Reid go off to talk about his relationship with Maeve, hoping to remind him of something she said that could lead them to Dawn's true identity!

So, in case you're keeping track, we're eight seasons and twelve episodes in, and Reid's perfect memory is finally going to help solve a case!

Who had episode 812 in the pool? Time to collect your winnings!

Jeanne and Reid hand out at a park chess table, which they must have driven like 20 minutes to get to, since they were in a Marine base in the last scene, and this is a public park. As the scene opens, we get a nice long shot of Jeanne's wedding ring, so that we'll know she's married! It suddenly occurs to me that we're halfway through the season and I know basically nothing about this character.

The scene is intercut with Dawn interrogating Maeve about her relationship with Reid, and I'm not sure why Bobby is here at all - Dawn could have just demanded answers from Maeve at gunpoint, since that's what she ends up doing anyway.

Then it turns out Reid's perfect memory wasn't useful at all, since he and Jeanne realize that Dawn is probably somebody Maeve met through work, like someone who was passed over for a plum job, or whose thesis Maeve wasn't impressed with. So the next logical place to look after relationships. That was a wasted half hour.

And Dawn murders Bobby, but it's hard to care, since we never really met him.

The team has found Dawn's picture in the school records. She was super crazy and doing suicide based research! She believed that the human body stops reproducing cells once someone has decided to kill themselves, thereby making it easier for them to kill themselves. Maeve had dismissed the paper because there's no possible way to test for it, and it was obviously the rantings of a woman who was sad about the fact that her parents had killed themselves.

So, you know, pretty good insight there, Maeve.

Dawn takes Maeve up to the roof to try and get her to kill herself, but Maeve tries to turn the situation around by suggesting that Dawn actually put the work in and do a better job on her thesis to finally earn that PHD.

Meanwhile, the team has found Dawn's apartment, which has a security camera linked to her phone. So Reid makes a sign offering to trade himself for Maeve. Naturally, she accepts. She announces that finding her will be as easy as 'pi', and I'm psyched to find out what that means.

Reid's attempt to explain earns him the Prentiss award of the night!

So... just to be clear, the 'pi' she was referring to was the circle you were supposed to draw around the cell phone tower her call was routed through? Um... was that not something that you were going to do anyway? Was that not something that Garcia had already done while you were driving all the way back from Dawn's apartment?

God, you people are terrible at this.

Anyhow, Garcia finds her by checking to see if Dawn had rented any property within the radius of the cell tower that her phone call came from. It turns out that her dead parents' names are on a lease just a short distance from Maeve's place!

Reid thinks he can go in and talk Dawn down! Which is just a terrible plan. She makes him put on a blindfold, then compliments him on solving the 'riddle'. Um... you mentioned pi. Then they used your cell phone and financial records to track you down. Your nonsense riddle had nothing to do with it and was not solved.

He flatters Dawn by telling her that she's awesome, and that he thinks he thesis was brilliant. He even claims to love Dawn, but then when she kisses him, she discovers that he's a terrible actor, and doesn't believe him for a second! Even though he's not restrained in any way, Reid is unable to overpower the tiny Dawn, making him one of the lease effective FBI agents imaginable, which gives Dawn ample time to grab Maeve and put a gun to her neck. Which is a weird place to aim a gun.

Reid offers to trade his life for Maeve's and Dawn is so sickened by the display of true love that she shoots both herself and Maeve in the head simultaneously.

Hey! This is the episode where it turns out that everyone sucks at their job! All of the team was aiming at Dawn - the second she pulled the gun away from Maeve's neck they could have simultaneously put five bullets in her face. But none of them did anything, and now Maeve is dead.

You all suck, guys. Hard.

That's the end of the episode.

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

Um... no. Here are the facts of the case. Maeve was being stalked. Eyeliner and suspicious 'involve yourself in the investigation' questions revealed that it was Dawn. They looked in Maeve's life until they found her, then went to her rental unit where they failed to catch her.

Not only did profiling not help, they didn't even solve the case - Reid got Maeve killed by playing along with Dawn's game.

Is that harsh? Maybe, but here's the thing - this is the room Maeve and Dawn were in.
Note the window with the slanted roof on the other side. Pretty awesome place for a sniper to set up and kill Dawn, isn't it? Seems like they had ample time to set up and shoot her dead. Hell, Reid could have even walked in to act as a distraction, if he was so desperate to play hero.

Dawn was walking around for five minutes not pointing the gun at anyone. Ample time for a sniper to blast her head apart. Yet despite the fact that there was a sniper downstairs, twiddling his thumbs, the team decided to go with Reid's terrible plan, and Maeve got killed because of it.

What is this show's problem with letting snipers snipe? That's what they're there for.

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

Of course it could have been. Hell, if they'd have checked her bank records and associated accounts thoroughly before busting down the door to her apartment (where she couldn't possibly have been - you don't drag two unwilling hostages into an apartment building without anyone noticing), they would have found out about the rental and taken her by surprise.

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

0 - Yes, it's a rare zero, since they in no way solved the crime.

You guys are the worst.

Oh, and for the record, the pool is still on - Reid's memory didn't help at all.


woodchuck2004 said...

I love reading your reviews of criminal minds-you bring a lot of interesting plotholes/incconsistencies to light. Often times your reviews jog my memories of forgotton episodes. However, this is one episode I remember vividly. All I can say is, I had no idea that "Dawn" would be the stalker. I almost fell off my chair when they revealed it was her. That similar situation has happened to me multiple times throughout watching the series, all the while you claiming that killer was so obvious the moment he/she was introduced. Either A. You've made some very well educated, but lucky guesses, B. You actually had no idea who the killers were until they were revealed, and pretend that you knew who they were immediately, or C. I am a total moron.

Vardulon said...

I guess wrong pretty frequently (as the record will show), but come on - who's going to cast Dawn as 'suspect's girlfriend'?

Glad you're enjoying the reviews, though!

woodchuck2004 said...

Okay, but I had never even heard of Michelle Trachtenberg before this episode. Not everyone knows the names, appearences, and film history of every celebrity in the 21st century.

Vardulon said...

Believe me, I know that - I had to add a post just to explain to people who Greg is!

Paige said...

The Count is right though - if you can recognize semi-well known actors, it's much easier to guess who the culprit is going to be. Not often are they there to be victims or there for one scene!

woodchuck2004 said...

Yes- speaking of this running "Greg" joke, I (and many people), think that it has run its course. You mention that you use this to test the age of the reader because for most millennials, including me (alright I was born in 1998 but who cares?), have not heard of Dharma and Greg. However, you mention all of this in a post that you title "Who is Greg?" Therefore, the idea of using it to "test the age" is redundant- all our confusion can be solved if we just read that post. Also, you cannot guess someones age based solely on whether they have or have not heard of a sitcom that aired 20 years ago. How do you know that one of your readers is not a a person in their thirties or forties who just never heard of "Dharma and Greg" when it was on TV, and therefore will be inclined to ask who "Greg" is. I guarantee you there are plenty of those people around. Judging from your insightful Criminal Minds reviews, you are a very intelligent person. Probably more intelligent than me in many regards. Thus I am now going to do some (ahem!)... profiling!!

I believe you continue to call Hotch "Greg" because for whatever reason you still find it humorous to do this even after reviewing 200 some-odd episodes. You probably watched "Dharma and Greg" as a late teen or young adult. When you first started watching "Criminal Minds", you were clearly amused by seeing Thomas Gibson playing a top-notch FBI agent. This is because you were used to seeing him portraying a young lawyer in a whirlwind romance with a yoga teacher (okay I never watched D&G, I just wikipediaed some general information; I was a toddler when it was on)---> (Also I watched your brief video!) Anyway, back to my profile. You decided, for your very first review, to call Hotch "Greg" because 1. You found and still find it to be highly amusing (have I said that enough now?) and 2. You started watching/posting back in 2007, when most (or definitely more) young readers probably remember "Dharma and Greg" being on TV. However, things have changed. Ten years have passed and many of your readers probably are clueless about "Dharma and Greg", regardless of their age. As I already mentioned, they can always click the link you have explaining the joke. And since you don't have the name and birth date of anyone who reads your posts, this whole "judging the age" thing is even more pointless. In fact are you actually serious in your reasoning? Perhaps it would make more sense just to say, in the link, "I think it is a funny joke and as the owner of my blog, I can do as I see fit when it comes to identifying characters." That, in my opinion, would be far more truthful.

Well, that finishes my profile. Again, as I have constantly reiterated, it would do your readers some good if you just started calling him "Hotch", "Aaron", or even "Thomas." The joke is just not amusing to anyone. Even people who have seen "Dharma and Greg, your joke would probably get a few snickers and giggles, but that's about it. I myself was very confused when I started reading your blog and I actually thought that I was reading a review from the wrong show. I know you like to call different killers or cops their names when they appeared (or starred) in a far more popular show. You did this most recently with "Dawn." Again, this joke is fine for one review and one person who probably will never appear in "Criminal Minds" again. But since "Greg" is in every episode up until very recently, it is best just to call Aaron Hotcher by his actual name.

Vardulon said...

As you say, the Greg thing has changed from how it started out. At first, he was more famous for one thing, so I referred to him thusly - whereas Mandy and Joe are famous for lots of things. I enjoyed being able to guess the relative age of people based on their confusing about Greg, but eventually it just became part of the review format, no different from the scoring system. It's just what the reviews are.

I put up the explainer page as an acknowledgement that the vast majority of the show's viewers think of him only and forever as Hotch - and the age line, at that point, was a reference to how the Greg thing developed - for clarity I could always add a line explaining that it's now just part of the format, but I feel like most people get it. At this point, I'm eight seasons in, so it would be weird to switch it when I've been calling him Greg for more than two-thirds of his appearances on the show. If he was going to be on the show indefinitely, then I'd absolutely consider changing it for clarity's sake, but now that I learn that there's an end point, and it's not far off, why make a change?

woodchuck2004 said...

The end point for hotch is about as 4 seasons away. Thats a couple years worth of reviews assuming you stick to your current schedule.

woodchuck2004 said...

Also, how is the "pool" still on? Reid remembered the unsub calling him "Doctor" despite them never having met. That realization helped them discover it was her.

Vardulon said...

Of course the pool is still on - the point of a photographic memory is that it's far superior to an average memory. The ability to recall the entire text of books, for example, or verbatim conversations held years earlier. Once something like that helps solve a crime (in a situation where someone couldn't have just easily googled the information, of course) there'll be a 'win'. This was him remembering that someone called him 'doctor' an hour earlier. I'd be concerned about the person who wasn't able to remember that.

Unknown said...

Honestly, I thought you were going to bash Reid even more than you did in this particular episode. I guess the years have softened you. ;)

One thing. At the beginning, when he was asleep on his couch, he did have a book on his chest.

You´re right in many aspects of the episode, though. I think the writers just wanted to place Reid in the "Dead love interest club" along with Jason and Aaron, at all costs. They are not known to be kind with his character anyway. However, my "I love CM" side wants to think that there were no other buildings from where they could've had a sniper or the windows were obscured. I want to think that they didn't kill Dianne -Again, a cruel fact to give her a name almost identical as his mother's- because they aim to save both the victims and the criminals lives. I also thought it was cruel to have Reid dreaming of a wedding when they were going to kill the girlfriend off in the end. I think they also changed the ending because it was the "Somebody's watching" 1x18 story line all over again. However, I think the ending is what made this episode memorable, as it showed that everyone can make mistakes, even more so if you are in love. If that was me I would've taken him off the case immediately and make someone not as invested to solve the case, but that doesn't make for good TV drama.

Anonymous said...

I am rewatching CM on Netflix and love to read your reviews after I finish an episode. I love your style and find myself laughing out loud. I think it’s hysterical that you call Hotch “Greg” after all this time! 😃😃

Evan said...

I’ve been reading all of your criminal minds reviews as I rewatch the show, I’m loving it! Never realized how bad the writing was LOL