Criminal Minds 816: Carbon Copy

Alright, between the title of this episode and the fact that it's starting with a 'previously on' means that it's time to finally get to the copycat killer episode that they've been promising for months! The clips reminded me that the copycat killer went back to the cities that the original murder took place to kill in. I feel like that's going to make them a little easier to catch if they have to criss-cross the country looking for victims.

Also, kidnapping a woman to marionette should have been pretty hard in that tiny town where the Brad Dourif episode took place. You'd think the people would be on edge and observant.

Then we get a flashback to the Reid's Girlfriend's Stalker episodes, which is weird. Are they saying the two stalkers were working together, or did they just want to get the Zugzwang line in there? Fun fact: Despite what the show says, 'Zugzwang' isn't the moment that a player knows that they're going to lose. It's actually a term roughly meaning 'forced move'. It's the moment in chess when it's your turn, and whatever move you make will put you at a disadvantage, but you have to make a move anyway, because there's no 'pass' in chess. It's not a situation that you necessarily can't fight your way back from, but it is dire.

But I'm getting way, way off track. Let's get into the actual episode!

The copycat (I'm assuming) has a woman tied up in a basement and he's planning to fillet her with some knives. She doesn't want to be killed, obviously, and begs for her life, but he's having none of that, and tapes her mouth shut so he can murder in peace.

Over at the office, the boss comes by to apologize to Jeanne for damaging her career some years earlier, and offers to make amends. Jeanne doesn't seem too psyched about it. I look forward to hearing more of this backstory soon!

Or immediately! The very next set of lines involves JJ explaining that a bust went bad and the wrong guy was arrested, and the boss made sure Jeanne took the fall! Is that why the copycat is after her now?

Then JJ gets some flowers with a "ZugZwang" card, and I guess that means he's copycatting something that wasn't really one of their cases now? Was the girl in the basement supposed to be a stand-in for Reid's lady friend? Okay, she can't be, because then the copycat would be committing suicide and killing her at the same time, which wouldn't be much of an ending to this storyline.

Although it would be hilarious.

They address the possibility that the ZugZwang call had been the copycat all along, which makes a lot of sense, while raising a huge number of questions! Also they're calling him 'The Replicator', but I won't, both because 'the copycat' has three fewer keystrokes in it, and because the FBI isn't supposed to be naming serial killers, dummies. Or is it just female agents who aren't allowed to do that, Joe?

We finally get some details on the Dourif copycat killing. It's a woman who was murdered and turned into a 'human marionette'. Except no, her limps were just dislocated and she was stuffed in a dumpster:
Do you think that's the same contortionist/dancer who played the victim in the previous episode? Maybe they just slapped a wig on her and figured that was good enough. I think we can see the edge of her hairnet there in the dumpster shot...

Anyhoo, the boss gives them the go-ahead to fully devote themselves to the copycat case now that he's in contact with them. They immediately find out about a new case! The basement lady has been drained of blood and had her eyelids cut off - but they effectively answer the 'same city' question by letting us know that this death was in Philly, far from San Francisco where those crimes took place. Not for nothing, it's also where the flowers were sent from!

Then it's over to the killer, who's printing more photos of the team! Hopefully we'll find out why after the opening credits!


Criminal Minds 815: Broken

Thankfully the episode opens with a location title, saving me all the research I had to do last week! It seems there's a murderer in Austin, Texas! But who, and why? One thing's for sure - if I want to find out, I'll have to watch more than the first three seconds of the episode.

A bachelorette outing is having a great time! If by 'party' you mean a bride and just one friend. Also, the bride is annoyed that her friend is taking salacious pictures. What if her fiancee finds out that they were drinking before the wedding? Scandalous!

While the bride-to-be heads back into the bar to find the 'friends' who the producers didn't bother finding extras to play, a sinister man in a cowboy hat watches the drunk friend from across the street. She goes over to get a light, and moments later is making out with him in the back seat of his truck. But then he can't get an erection, and she starts getting bored, so he attacks her!

Then it's over to Virginia, where Jeanne is teaching a class on language adaptation! You know, I complete forgot that her specialty was language. I was going to make a point each episode of pointing out that they never bothered to use her specialty, but then the show didn't even pretend that language was useful in solving crimes, so there wasn't even anything to make fun of.

She's teaching her class about how the same language can mean different things in different places, and a good example is raised - French is completely different in Paris than it is in Montreal. Although the student also says that French is 'spoken all over the world', which it absolutely is not. It's basically just France and Quebec. Maybe Senegal. I'd have to look it up.

Then Jeanne gets a call from Penelope telling her that they've got a case! So why bother with this scene? Is this the episode where they finally work her language skills into solving the crime?

On the plane, we get the details of the case, and I'm not entirely clear on how these murders were linked. A guy wandered off from a frat party and had his head smashed in. A day or two later, a woman left a speed-dating event, and was found the next day, naked in an alley, stabbed to death.

Why would the police have connected these two crimes? Different parts of town, different victim genders, different weapons, different MOs... also, they call it a series of 'abductions', when we don't know that the victims didn't go willing with the killer until they were attacked. That's what happened to prologue lady, after all.

They try to get away with some truly absurd logic leaps, as in the Prentiss-award winning line of the night:

Um... how? Wouldn't being able to spirit someone away almost instantaneously suggest more than one person? A person to drug/drag the victim into the car and a second to drive off? How is it not easier for two people to put the bag on someone than one? If he'd said that sexually motivated murders are statistically likely to be lone killers, I'd have signed off on that leap immediately, but the idea that being able to quickly abduct someone means you're working alone is just crazy.

Meanwhile, the lady's body is lying naked in a ditch by the side of the road. Thanks for that, show.



Criminal Minds 814: All That Remains

The episode opens with home video footage, as a teen is getting ready to go out in the least flattering dress I've ever seen. It's a formless mess of layers and frills, all in a red that makes her skin look sickly white in comparison. Maybe the character is hiding a pregnancy? I can't imagine any other reason to wear such a terrible outfit.

This has been the fashion criticism portion of the review, which I will retire, right up until Derek shows up in a T-shirt.

It seems the a guy is coming to pick up the elder daughter for homecoming! A tradition I still don't quite understand. Who is coming home? From where? Why?

Okay, yes, I understand the why - to watch the football game. But I don't get the rest of it.

The video ends and it's two years later - suddenly things get stylistically weird, as text of a 911 call shows up on the screen as the characters read lines. It's weird - the lines actually disappear from the screen once the actors finish speaking, for reasons I don't quite understand. Aren't we watching a preservation of a record, or something like it?
Apparently something like it was right, since the action moves into the assignment room, where the full text of the call is up on a monitor. According to the call, the two daughters disappeared, and the father called the police. And the team are just now getting around to working on the case two years later. Or is the disappearance happening now? This opening is confusing me to no end.

Just want to pause and give the show a compliment here for understanding how to structure these things - in previous episodes we've seen titles like 'six months ago' opening an episode. This is, of course, nonsense, since the first scene sets a timeline and the rest of the episode has to relate back to that first scene. This time they got it right, and I'm happy to see that they're learning.

Okay, then things get even weirder, when the show reveals that the 911 call just came in an hour earlier, and the father was confused, not knowing what day of the week it was. Has he had one of those 'Memento' brain injuries, and he keeps reliving the day his daughters went missing over and over again? That would be depressing!

What I want to know right now, though, is why the team is working on the case. All we've heard so far is that two teen girls are missing, and their dad was confused on a 911 call one hour earlier. Why is this FBI business at this stage?

Ah, the big reveal comes moments later - the mother disappeared the year before, and the father also waited two days before calling the police about that one!

Um... why wouldn't you start with that? It's context that helps you understand the significance of the new call, and makes it clear why you're working this bizarre serial abduction case. You know that you're not trying to surprise the people you work with, don't you, Greg?

Also, who called you to let you know about it? It's been a single hour since the 911 call. Assume 10 minutes for a patrol car to get there, and another 15 for a uniformed officer to assess the situation and call in detectives. Charitably let's assume 15 more minutes for the detectives to arrive, and let's assume they already knew about the wife and immediately understood that this was a super-serious situation. That's still 50 minutes after the 911 call for the detectives to be on the scene, realizing that they need help.

When Greg says the 911 call happened an hour earlier, he's already got the whole team assembled in the briefing room, and Garcia has assembled an audio-visual presentation of the case evidence, including a transcript of the 911 call, and photographs of all the relevant parties.
And we're being asked to believe that all of this happened - a detective calls the FBI, the call goes through to Greg, Greg gets all the details and agrees to take the case, Greg tells Garcia to put a presentation together, Greg tells everyone to assemble in the meeting room, and Greg gets clearance from his superiors to travel to "Salisbury" - all within around ten minutes.

That's just ludicrous, even by Criminal Minds standards.

BTW - I put the town name in quotes, because I don't know where this episode is set - there was no location title over that first scene. I'm just going on what Greg said in the briefing. It's either Salisbury Maryland or North Carolina. When it comes time to make this episode's map listing, maybe I'll just flip a coin?

Anyhoo, I'm sure this will all be explained after the credits!