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!


On the plane they continue working the case, referring to the men as 'medium-risk victims', which seems like a stretch, considering that both were apparently boring family men with no criminal histories or risky behaviours. Crucially, both were white, and lived in a mostly black neighbourhood, and the killer we saw was black! But Derek's sure that the nudity makes it a sexual crime, rather than a racial one.

Jeanne and Derek look over the crime scene, and discover that the victim put up quite a struggle. Turns out he was involved in an over-50 MMA league! Then the show makes it look like Jeanne is clever for checking the store's surveillance camera setup and discovering the discs are missing. Isn't that the first thing the cops would have checked after securing the scene? Wouldn't it be hilarious if the cops had already bagged the DVDs as evidence, but because the team is so uninterested in the opinions of local police, they never find out that there's perfectly good video footage of the killer?

This also leads to the Prentiss Award-winning line of the night, as Jeanne badly misuses a profiling term!
No, Jeanne, 'mission-oriented' means that they're trying to accomplish a specific goal with their killing. It has zero to do with how hard they're trying to not get caught. All you can tell from the missing DVDs is that the killer is rational enough to understand how cameras work.

Greg and Reid arrive at the police station and run into the cop who worked with them on the case that brought up all of Derek's horrible child molestation memories! He's a Captain now!

Also, he lets them know that the killer has struck again, beating a man to death outside a diner in broad daylight while they were flying into town. So I guess the killer immediately attacked that guy right before the credits? How has he been caught? Was there no one on the street in downtown Chicago at 10AM?

Okay, when we get there it turns out the details were a little fuzzy - he was actually killed in the alley behind the diner. And he wasn't the diner owner, he was just the father of that kid he patted on the shoulder as he was sending the kid and his wife off somewhere. We're told that the owner saw a guy lying in the alley and thought it was a homeless guy, then called the cops when he realized it was a corpse.

What's puzzling me about the scene is that the alley he was beaten to death in is directly behind the diner. Like, ten feet from the rear entrance. How does the guy go from eating in the diner and saying goodbye to his family to getting beaten to death out back without the diner's proprietor noticing? I guess he had to go back out there to meet the killer for some reason, but wouldn't the owner have seen him heading out? Does he normally let people leave through the alley behind the diner?

It's not like the victim would have walked out the front door of the diner, walked to the end of the block, turned the corner, walked to the large alley, and then headed down it to the rear of the diner, right?

In the alley they notice the words 'look up to the sky' spray painted on a dumpster. When Derek hears about it he's chilled, and pulls down the store's security gate, finding the same message painted there. He then announces that he has to go somewhere!

Is this about Derek's background again? Is the killer another one of the victims of the minister that molested him, who's now getting revenge on all men of a certain age?

Yup, that's it - Derek heads into the police station and tells Greg that 'look up to the sky' was the villain's molesting catchphrase. Looks like Derek's going to have to face down his abuser again, this time to get the names of all the kids he molested!

Meanwhile, the killer is murdering yet another person, making it a total of three within a 24-hour period! Because, as is the case in the world of Criminal Minds, all killers are spree killers.

Derek then recaps his molestation story, but I'll skip ahead, since we already covered it in the episode that was about that.

The team wonders why the killer went from killing white men to a black guy - they also assume that the killer targeted the victims in a rage because he saw them interacting with kids, but the first guy was beaten to death while jogging, and they have no information about what he was doing right before he was killed, so that's not a safe assumption. Also, they don't know about the kids in the convenience store.

Come to think of it, of the four victims (three that they know about), the team only knows about the dad saying goodbye to his son. Not enough to make an assumption based on. I know what you're going to say - Derek and Jeanne discovered that the last things stolen were candy and soda, and extrapolated that kids bought them. Of course, that's not a safe assumption. People of all ages buy candy and soda. It's a completely normal thing to buy at a corner store. Also because they have no witnesses or security footage, they have zero idea of how close that last sale - even if it was to kids - was to the guy getting killed.

This is another example of the writers forgetting that the characters don't have access to the information they do, and turning them into psychics because of it.

Speaking of, Joe says 'the killer switched from white victims to African-Americas'. They don't know about the fourth dead guy yet, so he shouldn't be using the plural. Such sloppy script editing this year.

Greg then asks Garcia to find the name of everyone the coach coached in soccer, which will be a good place to start narrowing down a list of victims! Then it's time for a profile! Although I'm not sure why that's necessary - can't you just give the cops the list and then go to each person, find out if they have an alibi, and get photographs of their hands?

Spoiler Alert: if the guy punched three people to death in the past 24 hours, his knuckles are going to be ragged AF.

There's both good and bad stuff in the profile, and almost none of it is actionable. They say that he's intelligent because he perfectly timed his murders, but that seems like a stretch - he just wandered around and punched guys to death when he saw them interact with kids. Although, again, they don't actually have any evidence of that.

More importantly, though, they say 'we believe that he's armed' just as the editor shows us a clip of the guy grabbing his gun. Of course, there's no reason to believe he's armed. He hasn't used a weapon in any of the crimes, and none of the victims have been moved to a second location in a way that suggests that he forced them to with a gun. You can say 'we suspect he may be armed, because this is Chicago and he's a psycho so of course he'd buy a gun', but you've got no evidence-based reason to think he's got a gun.

We're never going to find out how that father ended up in the alley getting beaten to death, are we?

Garcia - for once - can't help with the case, since the community center where the coach worked kept paper files! So it's up to Reid and JJ to check that out personally (he's a speed-reader, remember) while Derek tracks down the one other victim he knows about! Will that victim be the killer? The odds are long, but maybe?

He's not the killer, luckily, but I'm not sure why they're immediately sure of that. The guy they're talking to is college-aged, and Derek assures him he's not a suspect, and asks if the coach ever mentioned any 'special' victims closer to Derek's age. Considering the fact that they're basing their age-profile of the victim on absolutely nothing - the coach molested kids for like 30 years, any one of them could be the killer - this seems like a weird way to narrow down their list.

The college guy announces that he's 'no snitch', and won't give them any names. Because he's a friend of Derek's, they don't threaten him the way they normally would with any other witness.

Back at the police station, the characters finally admit that they too know where this is obviously going, Derek's going to have to go and confront the coach in prison. I wish it didn't have to be this way either, folks, but this is a show about exploiting human tragedy for hollow thrills, so here we are.

They at least pretend to try and save him the torment, though - JJ tries to hypnotize Derek into remembering other people the coach molested, but he's resolute that he thought he was the only victim. Then the captain comes in and announces that they've found the fourth victim, making it 'four in two weeks'.

Um... no. It's one victim 11 days ago, and three victims in the past 24 hours. This is far more serious than your behaviour would suggest. Why isn't the news media all over this spree killing? Greg only agrees to let Derek go to the prison if he comes along, because, let's face it, Greg is one of the best TV dads, even if this is maybe the strangest place to find one.

During the drive, we get some flashbacks to the scene where Derek confronted the coach, and I'm reminded of just how powerful that scene was, and how great Shemar Moore's performance was. It's too bad he never gets to really act on the show, since he's probably the best actor in the cast, but then again, this isn't the kind of show where people get to do a lot of acting.

I don't want to be too hard on the Reid, but they keep giving Reid storylines and he just can't deliver emotions in a compelling way. They should really give the ball to Derek a hell of a lot more than they do.

We get the big confrontation scene, and once again Derek does a great job. It's not particularly well written, and the coach plays it pretty broad, but Shemar sells it, even as the script doesn't back him up.

How terribly written is the scene? Shemar gives the coach a pencil and paper, demanding the names of all of the kids he molested. What does he offer in return? Immunity from prosecution for all of the molestation charges that may arise from the list he gives them!

Is there a way to do 'facepalm' emojis in Blogger?

This is seriously what Derek just said - "Tell us about all the crimes you committed, and we won't charge you with them. But if you don't tell us all of them, then we'll charge you with all of them, even though we won't know that you haven't told us about them, since by definition, they're crimes we don't know about." Aside from that, the statute of limitations on child molestation is definitely up for the vast majority of his crimes.

Also, he's already doing life in prison for murder.

What is wrong with these writers?

Finally Derek gets around to his threat - the coach is a Muslim now, and if he doesn't co-operate, Derek will let the word get out that he's a child molester! See, now that's a good threat! Why didn't you start with that?

Coach wants one thing in exchange for the list of names - a handshake, or a 'gentleman's agreement' as he calls it. Although it's in no way clear what is being agreed to, since this is a terribly-written episode of television. He could mean that Derek is agreeing not to tell on him to the Nation of Islam guys, but that's not really explicit.

On his way out of the prison, Derek announces that he's going to use 'the head', so he can splash some water on his face and generally feel sick. Was Derek in the Navy? I guess he must have been, since there's no other reason to call a bathroom that.

It's another powerful moment from Shemar Moore, undercut only by the preposterous mood lighting we're asked to believe would be allowed in a prison bathroom:
Going through the list of victims, Garcia finds one guy who lives in the middle of the area where all the killings are taking place, and has a history of violently assaulting people. A perfect place to start! Although, really, 30 names isn't that many, and with thousands of cops available, it would be simple to just bring all of the guys into the station, examine their hands, check their alibis, and then release 29 of them.

As the team speeds up to the building and rushes in guns drawn, I'm curious about two things. 1: How did they get an arrest warrant with their total lack of evidence that this guy is the killer? And B: Do you think the black SUV that they drive every week has some distinguishing mark somewhere on it so that we, the discerning viewer, would be able to notice that it's the exact same vehicle no matter where the team is across the country?

As the team busts through the door the killer jumps out the window and hurries down the fire escape, forcing Derek to chase him, because they're too stupid to have placed people at the other exits. Once Derek tosses him into the garbage we get a good look at his face, and realize that it's not the killer we've been seeing this whole time.

For some reason the team immediately knows that he's not the killer as well, even though he hasn't provided them with an alibi or shown that his hands are free of bruises and damaged knuckles. So that's, what, three instances of them just writing the show like the team is getting to see all of the scenes we watch?

Between last episode feeling like they threw away the script and started from scratch after half the episode was filmed, and this one feeling like the characters are watching the show they're in, this has been a particularly bad run of episodes.

Derek immediately tries to come to an understanding with the suspect, asking if there are any names of victims he knows who aren't on the list. As if they've already cleared the 30-odd people on the list and need new leads. I mean, I'm sure they're going to turn out to be right, since this is a bad episode, but they're acting like they've already investigated the list and found it to be worthless, when that couldn't be further from the truth.

Luckily the suspect does have a name 'Rodney Harris', a tough-luck kid from Cabrini Green, where coach used to live. Also Candyman used to live there, but that's not strictly relevant to the proceedings. Rodney was the coach's favorite, and had likely had the most trouble dealing with his molestation.

Okay, this episode just got so much dumber than it had been up to this point. Like, I can't even begin to explain how stupid the next part of what I'm going to have to synopsize is. So please, bear with me, and let me assure you: This is not hyperbole, this really is as stupid as it sounds.

Okay, so Rodney was a prominent drug dealer up until six years ago. They suggest that coach was letting him deal drugs near the community center in exchange for him keeping quiet about the molestation.

Fair enough.

So why's he killing people? Get ready, here it comes, straight from Garcia: remember the first white guy who got killed while jogging? And I was confused because they'd never established that he was near a kid before getting beaten to death, but the team acted like they knew that he was?

Well it turns out that they were definitely stupid to make that assumption. The jogger was - in his part time - also a swim coach. And a little while ago he has molested Rodney's son, and his ex-wife had made a big public fuss about it.

Take a moment to let that sink in.

The first victim was found beaten to death. Shortly before being beaten to death, the public became aware of the fact that he had molested a prominent criminal's child. How was this a mystery at all? Did the Chicago cops not work the case in any way shape or form? Here's how long it would have taken to solve - one day to go by his office and make sure no one there wanted to kill him. One day to drop by the pool where he coached swimming to find out that he was publicly accused of molesting a prominent drug dealer's son.

The end.

My god, this couldn't be a worse episode. Season eight is proving to be a challenge because they keep resetting the bar for 'worst-written episode'.

The theory the team goes with is that after he'd killed someone in revenge for molestation he started PTSDing pretty hard about his own molestation, and started looking for revenge wherever he could find it.

The team tracks Rodney's cell phone to the ex-wife's house, where Rodney has taken his wife, son, and the wife's boyfriend hostage. Derek goes in to commiserate with Rodney about their shared trauma, revealing his own tragic past. He manages to convince Rodney to stop threatening his family by pointing out that if he doesn't provide a better example, his own recently-molested son will wind up just a screwed up as he is. Which is a great point, actually.

Rodney surrenders, and the day is saved!

The End.

Except for an epilogue, where the racist captain from six seasons ago comes up to Derek and apologizes for all of the bad assumptions he made about the neighbourhood kids, and how he ruined their lives by treating them like criminals, rather than allowing for the possibility that they were victims. Which is another nice sentiment! I mean, it doesn't get any of those kids out of jail or get them their lives back, but still. Nice sentiment.

The captain even gives a speech to the reporters about how coach destroyed a community with his child molestation! Derek then joins in to tell the reporters about his own molestation, telling them that the vast majority of sex abuse victims don't go on to become criminals, which is true. It also has the knock-on effect of letting the Nation of Islam guys in prison know that coach is a child molester, which leads to him getting murdered in jail! So now we know what a deal with Derek is worth.

Although, as I said, the coach didn't really make it clear exactly what they were agreeing to with the handshake.

We also cut over to coach's other victims. Will they turn their lives around? Who can say? Well, in the case of Rodney we can say he won't, since he'll be in jail forever for three of those four murders.

On the flight back Derek finds out that coach was stabbed to death in jail, and everyone's shocked, like they didn't see it coming. Even though Derek specifically threatened coach with putting a hit out him by publicly saying he was a child molester. And then he put a hit out him by publicly saying that he was a child molester.

What other result could there possibly have been? If you drop an egg, you don't get to act surprised when it lands on the floor, Derek. And you don't get to pretend that it's not your fault that it's broken.

Then we get a final shot of him fixing up his rental property!

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

Uh, no. The killer left a message that one of the team was instantly able to decipher, but only because he was one of like 50 people who'd heard the message. It has nothing to do with psychology or law enforcement experience, it was a complete coincidence. I'd love to give them partial credit for talking down Rodney, but again, it was just a confession of their shared life experience that got the job done.

You know what? I'll give them a point for Shemar Moore's performance, and pretend that it's psychology that made him realize that the best course of action would be to admit to his own molestation.

Then I'll take a point away because Derek used his position to get someone murdered in jail, and no one said boo about it. They kicked Elle off the team for essentially the same thing.

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

Dear god, yes. The first guy was killed just weeks after he was publicly accused of molesting the child of a well-known criminal. There's no way on earth Rodney wouldn't have been pulled in immediately. Hell, even if he was innocent the cops probably would have framed him for the crime because he'd be such an easy sell to a jury. They could have even gotten him to confess by promising him minimal jail time since the dead guy was the one who molested his son.

Seriously, there's no way Rodney gets the chance to become a spree killer. I literally have no idea how this crime wasn't already solved. Was St. Patricks' Day two weeks long this year, and all of the cops were marching in a really extended parade?

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


We never did find out how the Rodney managed to get that dad into the back alley to beat him to death. I think it's safe to say that, at the script stage, he just attacked and killed the guy on the street outside the diner, but then someone realized that he would have obviously been caught immediately, and said they should move the murder to a back alley, even though it makes no sense for the dad character to be out there.

You know, Derek really should have adopted Eric Close's daughter after the Tim Curry episodes. He's by far the most relatable character on the show, and Shemar Moore is the best actor - having an adopted daughter to play off of and have character moments with a couple of times a year would have been a great storyline for him, especially since his own father was a murdered cop. Just a huge missed opportunity there.

Final note - since there was no talk about the copycat this week, let me just jump in with a fun theory that won't turn out to be correct: wouldn't it be great if Jeanne was in on the murders?

We already know that they're somehow centered around her, since the copycat only started committing crimes once she joined the team, but what if she's more involved than she knows? What if she's harbored a grudge against Erin for all these years, and specifically joined the team as a way to destroy Erin's profiling program from within, humiliating her in public?

I don't know how she would have found and groomed an accomplice, although she's a university professor, so I'm sure she has access to plenty of emotionally vulnerable young people.

This definitely won't be the reveal, of course, but I'd very much like it to be.


Anonymous said...

Can’t wait to see your review of the next episode. It’s a doozy.

Tom from Detroit said...

CV wrote:
Then again, 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?

Good eye, CV! But then mere hazards like lead paint and asbestos will just bounce off Derek's battle hardened body!

Ignoring rules on working on old buildings, well, I'm sure the building inspectors are just fine with that.

It's a dreary start for the episode.
-Tom from Detroit