Criminal Minds 821: Nanny Dearest

Still no updates on the whole copycat situation, so with just two episodes left in the season, I guess they're making us wait until the finale, right? Or maybe there'll be a scene next week setting up the finale?

Either way, the episode opens with a screw-up, titling the first scene as '1 YEAR AGO', when really this is the present, and the rest of the episode is one year later. Who taught these people about context?

Anyhow, in a bathroom lit only by candles, a guy in rubber gloves is preparing a scalding-hot tub! Or perhaps it's full of chemicals. I suppose we'll find out when he finishes dragging the gagged and screaming woman into it. No, even after we see the dunking, there's no clear answer as to whether it's actually dangerous, or this was some kind of sick baptism ritual.

There's a solid transition from the murder tub to the one where JJ is bathing her son! The kid asks why she has to go to work, since he'd rather she be around all of the time. She starts to offer the whole 'people need my help' thing, which is crazy, since she hasn't had a clear role or value to the team since Garcia took over picking the cases, but there's no time for her justification to continue, since Josh Stewart walks in, making me immediately happy!

Seriously, that guy is one of my ten favorite actors, and he's not on the show enough. Maybe someone could give him his own show? Wait, maybe someone has!

(one trip to IMDB later)

Apparently he's currently on season two of the show 'Shooter' (presumably playing an evil sniper, although that's based on nothing but his appearance in Dark Knight Rises), as well as a miniseries about Lewis and Clark!

Good for you, Josh!

Where was I? Oh, right Criminal Minds.

JJ heads off to work after handing off parenting duties to Josh, which makes me wonder if he's a full-time dad now. I certainly hope so. Seriously, after you've had a bomb vest strapped to you and survived, it's time to call the whole police thing quits and take early retirement. I'm sure you can get some kind of a stress pension for that, can't you?

At the office we get a breakdown of their new case! Every year a nanny taking care of a child is kidnapped, raped, burned with a circular object, then drowned in a tub. The children are dropped off at a hospital, church, or other safe space, completely unharmed. The killer makes sure that her body his found on a specific day, which is now just two weeks away, so the team is on the case!

Seriously? You waited until it was just two weeks away? Were you so busy with something else that you couldn't be working the case out of California and getting off to your occasional 2-day solves?

The killer murders people up and down California, so there's no way of knowing where he'll strike next! But one of his would-be victims escaped and moved to Seattle, so while most of the team will be heading to LA because it's an easy place to film (also that's where the killer dumps the bodies, and maybe holds the still-living victims, but come on), JJ and Derek will try to get more info out of the escaped victim.

There's also a Prentiss-Award winning line, as Reid, condescending dick that he is, seriously assumes that the rest of the team doesn't know what day of the month it is.
Big help there, Reid.

Over at the Griffith Observatory, the killer has decided to get super-lazy, abducting a nanny who was already in LA! Will the team be able to save her in time (they have at least twelve days, unless he refrigerates bodies), or will the killer start spree killing?

Let's find out after the credits!


Criminal Minds 820: Alchemy

The episode opens as a man in a vest has a staring contest with an owl. This looks as strange as it sounds. Then he hears the yelling of a child from the hallway, and sees a wall bulge outwards as if Jake Busey were hiding behind it. So I guess he's got a mental disorder? Or perhaps this is a dream?

He tears down the wallpaper and finds that behind it is a wall of meat, which promptly swallows his arm-
Well, this is certainly unusual for an episode of Criminal Minds. Are we sure I didn't accidentally turn on an episode of Supernatural? Or did Matthew Gubler just direct two episodes this year?

It turns out to have just been a bad dream, as the man, looking quite different with a flannel shirt and messy hair, wakes up coated in sweat. He rushes to a nearby phone to call for a doctor, and the voice on the phone announces that there's a doctor in room 209. Which seems like a weird thing for an operator to do. Is she just another figment of his imagination?

Then things get still stranger, as the show cuts immediately from him walking through the suspiciously ajar door 209 to a bunch of police officers running through the woods at night with pistols and flashlights. Their dogs lead them to an arm, which proves to have no body attached to it! It does, however have the same ring that its middle finger that the confused man was wearing in the last scene!

There's another hard cut, this one to Reid, who's presenting Joe with his theory of the case - people are being abducted in small towns around Rapid City, South Dakota, and then being cut up and having their body parts strewn about the woods! Apparently local police didn't know about the connection because one of the bodies was dumped inside a reservation, which is a completely different jurisdiction.

Since the brutal reservation murder is and FBI matter it should have been investigated already, but the characters note that the FBI doesn't really care what happens on reservations ever since two FBI agents were murdered in one back in the 70s. Which is true, and kind of super-unprofessional of them.

When listing the things that they 'know', Garcia mentions that there was no evidence of robbery or sexual assault. Um... the two bodies were stripped of their clothes, dismembered, and the pieces dropped in the woods. Did the killer also leave their full-of-cash wallets next to the bodies? It seems like you're basing the 'no robbery' on the fact that one of them was still wearing a single ring, but there's any number of reasons a killer could have left that on. Not the least of which being how singularly weird it looks to see a hand with just one ring on the middle finger.

The team notices that it was strange that the bodies weren't stripped by animals. It seems that they were full of poison, which explain the rough night the guy was having at the start of the episode! There's also strange welts all over the most recent victim's back, which resemble something called 'cupping' from holistic medicine. I'll just take their word for it, since it sounds like something I don't want to look up.

Meanwhile, over in Rapid city, a guy is about to leave a bar when a woman in a creepy old-timey dress asks him to walk her to her car, so as to avoid her abusive ex-boyfriend. Is he the next to be abducted by her evil cult? I don't have any proof that she's a strange cultist of course, but she did go into a bar in this dress-
Wearing minimal makeup and no jewelry but a picture locket. It's weird. Also, considering this episode is set in April in South Dakota, they seem badly underdressed.

She flirts with the guy a little, and notices that he's driving a rental car. She invites him to stay at her motel rather than the dump he's currently at, since that's where all of her murder supplies are. Naturally she doesn't say that part, but we know it's true, since she clearly has the same voice as the woman from the phone.

Over at the lodge she comes on to him while her partner watches through a hole in the wall! Is this going to be an adaptation of that true-life story of the motel owner who built an entire motel just so he could spy on people? Only now he's also a serial killer?

I guess we'll find out after the credits!


Criminal Minds 819: Pay It Forward

Another week, another lack of 'previously on' copycat clips, suggesting a lack of progress on the copycat case. At least with Frank and the fake Zodiac killer you could believe the team would stop chasing them, since they stopped killing once they disappeared. At least until they reappeared. They know for a fact that the copycat is out there scheming for another kill. Erin said he's gone 'dormant', but in serial killer terms that means years without a kill, not weeks.

Although everything is a little skewed in a world where every serial killer is a spree killer, of course.

The episode begins with a Mayor in 'Bronson Springs Colorado' giving a speech about how it's the best town in America, past, present, or future! This scene is set in 1988, 25 years before the episode airs, so presumably we would have heard about Bronson Springs at some point if that were true.

Hey, are they going to seal up a time capsule with a person in it? That would be great.

Literally the next shot was them installing a time capsule. I watch too much television. It's too small to have a body in it, though, so that's a relief. Maybe the killer wrote a confession detailing his plan to kill one person a year over the next twenty-five years?

The workman drag the capsule out in the present day, and it's in pristine condition, as if it's only been underground for three hours! Wink.

They pop it open and find a mummified head inside! This is a lesson - go with your first instincts, people. As the fuss begins, this man-
Walks off into the crowd! Could he be the killer? Why is he so familiar to me?

Then it's over to Quantico, where Garcia is explaining the details of the crime! A young blonde guy had been decapitated years ago, it seems - although it's unclear from her description whether people knew that he'd had his head cut off back when he was first killed, or if he simply disappeared. Seems like that would be important.

Then, just a day after the head was discovered, a retired sheriff's deputy (who - possibly importantly - was already on the job 25 years ago) had his head cut off at the side of the road just outside of town. That's right, there's a Highlander on the loose!

Jeanne points out that it was an unusually long time between kills. Reid suggests that such a long dormancy period isn't unheard of, mentioning that BTK, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Keystone Killer, Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac Killer.

Okay, so let's address those one at a time.

BTK didn't have a long gap between kills - he stopped killing, but then wanted attention again, and got caught when he asked for it. Maybe he was going to kill that next woman, maybe not, there's no real way to know.

Jeffrey Dahmer stopped killing for a couple of years.

The Keystone Killer was the show's version of BTK, so it isn't worth mentioning.

Jack the Ripper should never be brought up, since nothing about the case is useful in the study of modern criminology.

The Zodiac Killer did stop. So Reid is 1/5 for this information dump. Although it's questionable how relevant a guy who stopped killing is in a discussion about a guy who didn't.

They raise the possibility that it could be a copycat, since over a million people saw the video of the severed head rolling out when it was posted to - well, probably not YouTube, given the subject matter, but somewhere online. True, but that wouldn't make much of an episode, would it?

We then drop by the guy from the crowd's garage, and watch him put the cop's severed head in his freezer! Also, I'm pretty sure that he's the evil prison guard from Prison Break, although the fact that we've just seen him in profile twice isn't helping me identify him.



Criminal Minds 818: Restoration

The episode begins with a complete lack of 'previously on Criminal Minds', which means no copycat this week! Seems like an oversight for the team. I mean, don't they understand that every time the team goes out and works another crime they're just giving the copycat an excuse to kill another person? And it's not like they're contributing much to solving these new crimes. Considering that it's Garcia doing all the actual work, couldn't Forrest Whitaker's team go out and work these cases?

Anyhoo, the episode actually starts with a guy closing up his corner store! Before he can close the door two adorable kids ride up on their bikes asking to buy some candy, and this soft-hearted guy lets them into the store. This, naturally, gives the killer a chance to rush up and tackle him when the kids ride off on their bikes and he's turned to lock the door. He drags the owner inside, shuts the security fence, and that's the end of the scene!

One thing, though - his plan revolved around clubbing the owner while the door was still unlocked, then getting him inside before anyone noticed them. So why didn't he attack the first the time the guy was closing the door? He was just as close to locking it when the kids drove up on their bikes, so shouldn't the killer have been attacking then? If the guy had succeeded in locking the door, then the attack turns into a mess. He has to club the guy, grab his keys, unlock the door, and drag him inside - this takes much longer, and gives the victim a huge amount of time to call for help, fight back, and attract attention.

It's not like the killer saw that the kids were coming - they rode in on bikes around the corner just as the door was about to be locked. Seems awfully convenient that he didn't attack that first time, even though it made him considerably more likely to get caught.

Then we cut to one of Derek's properties, which he's busy renovating! Did you remember that Derek owns a large number of rental units? I did, and am a little worried about that, since it never comes up on the show. It's possible I know too much about Criminal Minds.

Joe drops by with some booze, which should prove helpful for a safe work environment. Then agian, Derek is tearing out plaster walls and removing old windows without wearing a mask or safety goggles, so maybe safety isn't a priority of his?

Before they can get drunk Garcia calls with a case - one that's so important they presumably have to run in on a weekend! It's worth noting here, I think, that other than holes in his jeans and work gloves, there is literally zero difference between the way Derek dresses to renovate a house:

  And how he dresses to go to work at the FBI.
Food for thought. Thoroughly unprofessional food.

It seems that the convenience store owner was the second man beaten to death with someone's bare fists! Also the men had their pants and underwear pulled down, but were not sexually assaulted. Not a lot of info there, and considering the ten-day gap between the murders, I'm not sure why the team had to come in on a weekend for this.

I'm kidding, of course, the killer will definitely start killing one person a day from here on out.

JJ mentions that Derek should check in with his family while he's in Chicago, but he announces that he's not going to let them know he's in town until the case is over. Which is kind of a dick move. How often do you get a chance to see your mother or your sisters? Including, you know, the one who was a sex slave for five years until you rescued her? Even when on the road you don't work the cases 24 hours a day, Derek, you can get dinner with your family.

In Chicago, a man shows a woman and her kid out of a store, and the killer notices him placing his hand on the kid's shoulder. It troubles him quite a bit. Is this guy getting revenge on child molesters, or at least people he thinks are child molesters? This could get quite personal for Derek!



Criminal Minds 817: The Gathering

So, this episode probably isn't going to be about profiling Highlanders, despite the title, so I'll put my disappointment aside and get to the show!

We start with another 'previously on', which I guess means they're finally taking this copycat business seriously. Then it's an office scene where the team is wondering where the killer is getting all of his information from, since the press didn't know about key elements to many of the crimes that were recreated by the copycat. Plenty of people in the various police departments did, of course, but who could get to all of them without drawing suspicion on themselves? The FBI or Homeland security, probably.

Joe then wins one of the earliest Prentiss Awards ever, during this exchange:
"Why didn't he help his career out?"

I know that you're a money-grubbing creep who salivates at the idea of turning human tragedy into fat stacks, but there are other motivations, Joe. You're dealing with a guy with a monomaniacal obsession with mocking your efforts and ruining your lives, and you think that he'd try to get ahead in his hypothetical journalism career while also serial killing people? This says more about your priorities than it does the people you're chasing, and the fact that you're bringing them into your profile suggests that you're even worse at your job than I'd thought you were.

The guy probably isn't a real journalist, but Jeanne is half-right. As we learned from Se7en, and, you know, reality, there are plenty of people looking to bribe cops for juicy details about crimes, and plenty of cops happy to take that money. So while the law enforcement connection is more likely, you'd be smart to have each of those jurisdiction's cops check who might have been talking to reporters about the crimes.

Reid then offers a truly stupid observation, that if the killer was learning just by watching them he'd have to be in two places at once, since he was dropping a Ray Wise-copycat corpse in Pheonix while they were investigating the Matthew Lilliard crimes in Miami. Except you have no reason to think that, since the copycat hasn't tried to recreate those crimes. I don't think he's just following them around, of course, but they have no evidence to disprove that yet, despite Reid's assumption.

Update! It was pointed out to me that the dead woman at the end of the last episode was supposed to be a recreation of the Lilliard crimes, and I missed it because the show gave so little care to personalizing that victim. After all, the Lilliard crimes were about soliciting prostitutes, taking them into alleys, and smashing their heads in with hammers. This was a woman - whose identity is still a mystery to us - was brought to a warehouse and used as the centerpiece of a giant stalker evidence orgy. So I think it's understandable that I missed the connection.

Special thanks go to the commenter who pointed this out, because it made me rethink this entire scene, which made me notice something even more preposterous about the scene. This whole debate they're having is focused around 'who could possibly have the inside information about these crimes, when details weren't released to the public?'

The problem is that those details absolutely would have been released to the public, and the team (also the show's writers) should definitely know that. Here's the thing about 'withholding information'. It's done so that during an active investigation the police are able to gauge the veracity of confessions and tips they receive. If a woman is stabbed to death with scissors and a guy comes in and says he slit her throat with a straight razor, then there's a good chance he's not the killer. Details are likewise held back to prevent people from copycatting crimes.

Here's the thing, though - that's only during active investigations. Once the perpetrator has been caught or killed, the case is closed, and the information starts coming out in a great rush. The only reason to keep it secret at that point is to prevent a potential jury pool from being contaminated by the details of the crime. Which is precisely why all of the crime's gruesome details will definitely come out - Prosecutor's offices have an obvious incentive to ensure that potential jurors walk into a courtroom already disgusted with the defendant.

And if the killer is dead, there's flat-out no reason not to start talking about all of the disgusting details immediately.

So really, this entire scene is a giant waste of the team's (and our!) time, and if the show later has them determine who the copycat is based on their access to this 'restricted' information, it will be hilarious.

Conversely, if this whole line of inquiry gets dropped, and the show never again mentions how the copycat found out the details of the crime, I pledge to not criticize them for doing so. Also, if they have the copycat be like 'I just read about all the details on a true crime blog' I will compliment the hell out of them.

Then things get just so dumb, as Garcia offers up a photo from their softball championship game:
 Yes, the show doesn't know how reflections work. Unless, of course, the copycat was taking that shot from about ten feet away. Which would have been hard to miss. Also, if I was the killer and I'd wound up with a photo where my subjects were out of focus but a reflection of me was sharply visible, I probably wouldn't have printed it out. Unless it's all part of leading them into a trap?

Then their boss comes in and tells them to stop working on the copycat case, because he's 'dormant' and there are more important cases to work on. Which is, you know, crazy. A guy is stalking FBI agents, actively recruiting other serial killers, and slaughtering people all over the country, and the FBI's reaction is 'well, he's not a spree killer, so it's not worth our time'? What is wrong with the world of Criminal Minds?

This leads to some amazing looping by Joe, as the producers attempt to justify the team failing to do their job.
Yeah, Joe. That'll cover it.

Then it's over to the land of fake snow, as we see people running out of a bar in Minnesota! A drunken boyfriend tries to accost his girlfriend in a parking lot, when a stranger walks up and punches him, then runs him off. The woman isn't particularly concerned that the stranger knows the boyfriend's name, but gets creeped out when he proves to know her name as well!

Proving that bystanders and security cameras don't exist in this world, the stranger is able to club her into submission and then throw her into her own car. Wow, lucky for him that she's completely alone in a well-lit, highly-trafficked parking lot, huh?

Time for Garcia relationship drama! In a coffee shop in downtown Washington DC (which is like 40 miles from where she works) Penelope runs into a guy she's casually dating! Amazing that the guy turned up at this random coffee shop she goes to during her 90 minute commute to work? You know, half an hour downtown during rush hour for coffee, then an hour to the FBI headquarters, which apparently doesn't have coffee?

I know she calls the coffee shop her 'hood', but isn't the idea of her living in downtown Washington DC even though she works an hour outside of town a little crazy? It's not like she's from there, after all, she was recruited into the FBI for her hacking skills, and she what, decided that two hours of commuting time and a much higher rent to live in a crime-riddled city was a fantastic idea?

Anyhow, Xander is miraculously also there (did they go together? I'm so confused!) and is freaked out to discover that Penelope is dating some guy!

Then it's time for their case briefing! In the past two days two women have been brutally stabbed to death and had their tongues ripped out! The team discusses the possible symbolic importance of the act - were they liars? Did the killer want to silence them? And then it's off to the plane.

Where this briefing could have taken place. Seriously, why not just meet at the airport? It's a half-hour drive from their offices, so aren't they wasting time driving all the way in just to get two minutes of exposition before getting back in their cars?

Then it's over to the killer, who apparently writes books about his murders? Many of which feature hilarious pun titles?
Why is the Nicole one in a different font, and underlined? Does he do a new edition when he's actually killed someone?

Maybe, because he then reads from a book about a woman whose house he broke into through an open window. He killed a guy there, then dragged her off so she could be his forever! I guess this happened a while ago? Because the cops haven't connected it to the two current murders, and, more importantly, no a lot of people are leaving open windows in Minnesota from November through April.