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.


Joe and Derek get to the ditch and chat about the crime with the officer in charge. He's exclaiming that he's never seen anything like this before, which seems a little weird. I looked it up, and Austin has dozens of murders a year and hundreds of rapes. So a lady getting raped and stabbed isn't like bigfoot, is it?

They do make a good observation, though - since the frat guy had his head smashed in with a rock, rather than being stabbed, it was probably an impulsive crime, so the killer might be someone he knew! Or, just spitballing here, that murder might have nothing whatsoever to do with the guy who stabs women because he can't get an erection, considering that the crimes have essentially zero in common.

I'm sure it'll be the same guy, of course, but they're making that assumption based on zero evidence at this point.

At the police station Jeanne brings Greg some crime scene photos - the new victim was also stripped completely out of her clothes, leaving only her watch!

A watch that's definitely not hers. Seriously, look at this thing:
She was going out to party with her best friend wearing a small red dress and carrying a tiny purse, and we're expected to believe that she'd wear a giant chunky watch with an olive drab strap. Okay, I'm going to rewind and check the first scene.
Yup. No watch. So I guess the killer is buying watches in bulk and putting them on his victims? I feel like Jeanne should have already figured out that it's not her watch.

Hilariously, the page to the left of the photo is an outline of the case supposedly written by someone in Quantico, full of generic nonsense like "It is important to note that in analyzing what has happened here, it was (something) to consider the mind-set of the UnSub at the time and place of occurrence, in order to place (something) of the crime in its proper context."

That's what you write when you have two minutes to finish making a prop.

Then, at the bottom of the page something weird happens when discussing the unsub's intelligence: "He has construction skills. Extensive knowledge of machinery and electronics."

What? Maybe that's going to come up later in the show, but as of right now you're dealing with a guy who strips women and stabs them in the groin. What does that have to do with industrial expertise?

Okay, they figure out the watch right away, asking the bride-to-be about it. So at least they were on top of that clue.

Over at the morgue, JJ and Reid find out something interesting - the frat guy had bruises all over his chest, but no damage to his clothes! Could he have been shirtless when attacked, and then the killer redressed him when he was dead? That could mean that he was remorseful, and new the frat guy really well! Or that he wanted to make sure that people didn't think he was gay.

More importantly, though, the writers really screw up here, having the characters puzzled as to how the guy could have had extensive bruising when his jacket and shirt weren't torn. Uh... that's not hard at all. Punches don't tear shirts. Slamming into the ground doesn't tear shirts. Hell, even getting hit by a car might not tear a shirt.

You had to have the characters notice (or the doctor point out, really) that the skin was covered in lacerations from where it ground against asphalt during his attack. That's something that can't happen through an undamaged shirt.

I'm a little sad I only have one Prentiss Award to offer. This episode is just loaded with nonsense.

Jeanne goes to see frat guy's roommate, who's super-cagey about what they did the night of the murder. Then she notices that he's already packed up all the guy's stuff, and makes the inference that there was probably something that he didn't want his parents to see. He was secretly gay!

JJ, Reid, and Derek videochat with Garcia, trying to figure out what the significance of the watch might be. Is it a statement that they're out of time? A warning about when the next abduction is going to be? The watch is set to 6:22, and it's already 6:44! Could he have already grabbed someone?

Probably not. I mean, if your strategy is all about talking people into isolated locations and then abducting them, it would be nearly impossible to call your shots. How could you be guaranteed to find a likely target at a specific time? If he was a sniper, or someone running people over in his truck, the time thing could work, but this is just a bad theory.

But will it turn out to be true anyhow?

Some time later we find people hanging at an outdoor patio! Must be nice to be in Texas in February, right? Also, everyone seems to be out for a regular night on the town, despite the fact that it's Valentine's day in this scene. Is that significant, or did they just not think about it?

A guy and a woman are at the table when they're joined by two other guys! The first guy is wearing a blue plaid shirt over a white t-shirt, which is a stereotypical cowboy outfit, so I guess he could be the killer? We'll see!

Jeanne and Greg talk the details of the case over with the cop. Try to understand the significance of the killer feeling remorse for killing the gay guy - who it turns out disappeared from a gay bar, rather than a frat party. Is there a gay bar really close to where the frat party was, or did the killer drive the guy to campus and dump the body there for no reason? I mean, it's not like he could have known that his victim's roommate would hide where he was grabbed from, right?

So, is the guy mad that he's gay, and both killing the men he's attracted to, and the women who fail to arouse him?

It seems that way, because in the next scene, 'Paul', the killer, has just had sex with the guy he met at the patio, who works with one of his friends! So he probably won't be able to kill him, since a bunch of people who know both of them saw them together.

Paul tries to run his lover off because of his self-hating nonsense, but the lover is super-helpful, attempting to talk him through his crisis. Sadly, the guy's attempt to comfort him makes Paul flash back to when he was a teenager and an adult woman molested him! Well, no wonder he's killing people, really.

So, yeah, he kills his lover, which sets a pretty definite timeline on his capture. Yeah, the guy's new in town, but he has a job, so... best case scenario, this is Friday night, and he doesn't get noticed for two days, when he doesn't show up at work and people start asking around, Paul is done.

And since Valentine's day was a Thursday that year, I guess Paul doesn't even have that going for him.

Derek and Reid discuss the new body, and the fact that all of the watches are off. This leads to a weird scene where Reid does a bunch of math to figure out that the watches were all set to 6:22 when the bodies were dumped. Well, he pretends to do math, anyhow. Really you can just ask 'what time is the watch now, and what time was the body dumped?' But the show has to pretend that Reid is smart, so he does a bunch of pointless math on 3X5 cards.

Then it's back to the morgue, where they find out that the dead guy was genitally mutilated as well! So the self-hatred is getting super-intense! They're also told that he had sex, so the team is finally getting to the 'self-hating sexually abused gay guy' conclusion.

All of this is irrelevant, of course, since they can just call the dead guy's workplace, find out where he was the night before, and find out who the killer is. But they have to pretend they're working to earn their paychecks, so maybe it's time for a profile?

Yup. They go through all of the stuff I've been writing about for the whole episode, so let's just skip ahead.

The big reveal? We get a flashback in which it turns out that Paul confessed that he was gay to his father, who tried to cure him of his gayness by getting a lady to teach him sex! Hopefully not his mother. Seriously, I'm praying not his mother.

Paul's friend drops by his apartment to make sure he's safe. He's heard that the lover was murdered, and was worried about him! Obviously Paul is going to have to kill him as well to cover up the crime, which is going to get him caught even faster! Since, you know, two people dead from the same office who went out to the same place the night before? Yikes.

Also, this scene is kind of preposterous, since we're asked to believe that when the lover didn't show up at work the friend immediately went driving over to his apartment to find him, but then when he saw the cops there, instead of talking to them, he immediately drove over to Paul's house to check if he's okay? Um... don't you think the police should do that? This is the Brad Dourif episode all over again, but worse.

If you think there's the slightest possibility that Paul is in danger, you tell the cops, because they can help. If you think there's the slightest possibility that Paul is the killer, you tell the cops because it's their job to stop him.

The only reason to rush over their alone without talking to anyone is if you're in on the crime, which this guy absolutely isn't. So yeah, nonsense. Especially because he must have talked to the cops - after all, when he arrives at Paul's he knows that the lover is dead. Which means he got to the apartment and saw cops, then talked to them and found out that the lover was dead. I guess they're the most incurious cops in history, since they didn't immediately start asking him how he knows the victim and what leads he might have.

The team wastes a bunch of time looking into the significance of '6:22', before finally realizing that it's '18:22', a reference to the Leviticus anti-gay passage! I'm almost willing to give Reid a memory award for noticing that, except for the fact that it's basically the second-most-famous numbered bible passage after Austin 3:16.

Then the message of the episode comes into focus! They're going to blame a gay conversion program for driving Paul to murder! Which, yeah, that's probably fair.

Back at Paul's house, his friend has found the blood! Paul blames the gay conversion people for driving him to murder, but his friend says that's a step too far, after all, they met in the gay conversion camp, and only one of them has turned to murder!

So Paul pulls a gun and won't let his friend leave. But will he kill him?

Then there's a trip to the conversion camp, which is just as creepy as you'd think it would be. Evil cult atmosphere, torture for people who break the rules. You know, general camp stuff.

Garcia is put onto the task of checking the list, so it's only a matter of time before they discover that the friend went to the camp and worked with the latest victim. Had they just gone to the victim's workplace and asked around they'd have been here already, but whatever. Got to pad out the running time, I suppose.

I suppose it's important from a character standpoint that we do these scenes, though, because JJ's very determined to get a warrant so they can uncover the camp's torture and get them shut down. Which I'm in favour of in theory, of course, but in the scene she basically announces that she wants to manufacture evidence to get the job done.

What else can 'let's find some probable cause' mean, really?

Paul's friend tries to talk him into confessing, but he says he can't, because in addition to the gay-bashing he also killed the women who reminded him of 'her'.

I mean, I don't want to tell you how to live, Paul, but maybe if you're trying to not be gay any more, don't go out of your way to come on to women with the same hair and skin colour as your molester? Just a thought.

Okay, whew, it's not an incest thing, thank god. Garcia breaks into everyone's financial records without a warrant, and discovers that the families of some of the boys at camp were paying a prostitute to set their sons on the right path! Wow, America's messed-up, huh? I mean, not just America, all super-religious 'people of the book' countries, but today we're just talking about America.

Conveniently the sex worker in question is already in jail, so Greg is able to go and have a chat with her! Greg then goes through an elaborate series of theories to convince himself that the lady was having sex with the boys with their parents in the room. Which is just extra-creepy, and also kind of a stretch. Greg then walks out triumphantly as if he's obtained some kind of proof of something. Yes, he's got a theory, but no one to testify to it, and no more evidence than he had before walking into the room.

They already had financial evidence that the camp was involved in prostitution, which should get them their warrants. Although the financial evidence was uncovered illegally, so maybe not?

Did they do this scene just to show a sex worker getting yelled at for molesting children? I guess I'm fine with that, but they shouldn't pretend that something useful happened.

More with Paul and his friend! The friend is trying to talk him into help! But Paul is so screwed up by his experiences with his father and the sex worker that he feels like the only way to fix himself is to murder his father?

Which, again, fair enough.

Then Greg asks Garcia to find the killer by checking who was at the camp with the friend whose parents also paid for the sex worker. Paul is the only candidate, so they have their killer! Why are they so sure the friend isn't the killer, though? They're 100 percent sure he's not involved, which is crazy.

Here's the facts as they know them. The friend was at work. Then, when people noticed the lover was missing, he immediately left to 'look for him', and hasn't been seen since. How is the guy not a suspect? Maybe he wasn't one of the ones who was molested, but he still went through gay conversion torture, and could be massively unhinged.

Also, can't they just track his cell phone to find out where he is? One more civil rights violation shouldn't matter at this point, should it?

Paul drags the friend over to his father's house, so that he can teach his dad a lesson by raping him into being gay! Pretty far past the deep end at this point, huh?

The friend won't go along with it, though, and while he and Paul are fighting dad grabs for the gun and accidentally shoots the friend! Understandably angry, Paul shoots his father a bunch just as the team arrives! He wants to kill himself, but the team talks him into not doing it, so that his trial can expose the evils of the gay conversion camp!

So... happy ending?

Except for the part where the team just assumed that the friend was dead because he was unresponsive and had been shot in the chest. They don't even bother doing CPR or calling an ambulance. Really cold, guys.

Oh, and in the secret treatment room at the camp the guys were drugged and made to watch pornography.

The end.

Except for a check in with the season's second stalker! He's going through photos of his copycat crimes, which apparently include a doll-woman he murdered!

Which is off-brand, since Brad Dourif neither killed the doll lady, nor had any clear intention to. I guess a doll-man body wasn't upsetting enough?

Then we find out why the episode started in Jeanne's class! The killer is the guy who asked a question in class!

Although that's just a guess based on the fact that both he and the killer were filming from the left side of the room. It could actually be any of them. Hell, it could be a guy who hacked into a laptop camera or just paid a student to film the class.

Then the stalker looks at Jeanne's book! Was this stalking all about her, all along? That would certainly explain why he only started this copycatting thing once she joined the team on the Michael Myers case.

Seriously, why isn't the team looking into this yet?

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

Sort of! They extrapolated the self-hating gay thing into a motive, but really only found the clues because the killer left them those watches with the 18:22 on it. So they only get partial marks, because if the killer hadn't been holding their hands, the assumptions about his motives wouldn't have gotten them anywhere.

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

Of course. There's no plausible way it wouldn't have been solved in the real world. The second the friend talks to the cops, the first thing they ask is 'when did you last see him?' and the friend answers 'he drove off with Paul'. Boom. Paul's busted. The only way that doesn't happen is preposterous writing.

Even if actual cops wouldn't have figured the gay bashing was related to the dead women, they still would have caught the guy faster than the team did.

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

4/10 - Definitely a good showing on the psychology front, even if the rest of the episode was incredibly shoddy!

How shoddy was it? Remember the camp obsessed with 18:22 that led him to leaving the watch clues? I finally got a clear look at the logo. Check it out:
That clock's hands aren't well drawn enough that you can tell which is supposed to be which, but it's either pointing to 5:44 (17:44) or 8:29 (20:29). How does a graphic designer get it that wrong, especially when they're specifically told to put the numbers 18:22 on the clock face as well?

Come on people, you've got to do better than this.


woodchuck2004 said...

I read your review as I rewatched the episode. I agree with pretty much everything. There are the glaringly large plot holes and mistakes, but this episode did use quite a bit of psychological profiling-not to catch Paul, but to stop him from killing himself once they did. I don't think any deadbeat cop would be able to save his life like that.

Vardulon said...

The cop probably wouldn't have been able to keep him from killing himself, but then again, cops would have gone with the buddy to check on his friend, so the whole situation never would have escalated to that point.