29.12.17

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!

Jeanne doesn't start the plane scene well, announcing that 'other than their occupation, there's no connection between these women'. Well, for starters, they're all women. Male nannies exist, but he's only targeting females, so that's something. Three out of five of them are Latin. All but the first are non-white. They're all from California, which isn't a small detail - the killer is hugely mobile, grabbing victims across a five hundred mile stretch. It would have been an easy thing for the killer to go to Nevada or Washington state looking for victims, but he didn't, so there could be some significance there.

An info dump gives us some clues! The first victim was both grabbed and dumped in Griffith Park, where the latest victim was grabbed! And the fact that all the bodies are dropped off on the same day must mean something! Has anyone cross-checked the crime blotter for the past 40 years around that date, and cross-referenced it against Griffith Park specifically, and LA parks generally?

If not, what is Garcia even there for? It's not like the team is any good at solving crimes.

They find out about the latest abduction - apparently this is a huge break in the schedule. Previously the longest he's ever gone between grab and dump is four days!

At the LA Police station, Greg comforts the parents of the latest abducted toddler, telling them that she's sure to be returned. Interestingly, the nanny has been working for the family for an extra-long time - they hired her during the first of two failed pregnancies, so she's been working for them twice as long as the new kid has been alive!

Is that significant?

Probably not.

What's likely significant is that the killer knew the kid's name when attacking the nanny, suggesting that he stalks the nannies before grabbing them!

We check in with the killer, who's torturing the nanny while ignoring the cries of the child, who's suffering from asthma! He talks about how nannies only pretend to care, and we flash back to his traumatic upbringing in the past as a neglected child! It's actually a lot of content for a twenty-second scene.

Hey, is their regular LAPD contact, that Asian cop, going to show up? After the return of the cop that bullied Derek a few episodes ago, that would be a nice callback!

Jeanne tells Greg that a bunch of the kidnapped nannies were long-term live-in help who were considered part of the family. Could that be the most important thing they had in common? That would mean that the killer is stalking them before the kidnapping, which we already knew, but at least the writers are actually having the characters figure things out, rather than just letting them watch the show.

Then Reid and Joe get a scene where nothing of interest happens. Seriously, it's just them wondering if it's significant that two victims have been grabbed from the same park. Well, considering that there are well over a hundred parks in and around Los Angeles and that two of the three women he kidnapped were snatched from the same one, I'd say it's definitely significant.

Although you should already know that, since he both grabbed and dropped his first victim at Griffith Park, dummies.

Up in San Fran, Derek and JJ drop by the survivor's workplace, hoping to get some info from her. They try to talk to her at a table in the restaurant, while a baby cries nearby. How did they think this was a good environment for a conversation about abduction, torture, and attempted murder?

Over at the police station, the team wonders why the child hasn't been returned yet. It's been over 28 hours, and none of the others were held longer than 24! Has it, though? The latest abduction happened while you were on the flight to LA, and all of the scenes we've watched since then have taken place during daylight. When did it become the next day?

This show has never been great about presenting clear timelines, though, so this kind of confusion is to be expected.

Time for a check-in with the killer! He's filled a tub with scalding water and is threatening to dunk the baby in it! Thanks, show.

Then we get a scene of the kid's mother yelling at Greg for not finding her child faster, which isn't helpful, but it is realistic.

Derek and JJ videochat with the survivor's doctor, who has no useful information to offer. They've been working to get her back to normal, she has a job, paints, recently went on a date - but he's afraid she'll backslide if pushed? Perhaps something in the painting is a clue? Does she have nightmares that would include a clue?

Jeanne, Joe, and Reid stand around a table, trying to figure out what the killer hasn't given the baby back. They develop a theory - perhaps the baby is who he's been looking for all along, and it took six tries to find the right one? They even suggest it's the fact that the kid has asthma that might make her worth keeping!

Garcia confirms that none of the other children had medical issues. Because she's able to immediately access the complete medical workups of five children with like fifteen keystrokes. Is there no one whose privacy she won't violate?

We get a bit of the profile - white man, 30s-40s, wants a child. Nothing really actionable, but then they bring out the parents to talk to the news cameras, hoping that the killer's obvious compassion for the children triggers something!

It does trigger something with the survivor, who's coincidentally watching the broadcast at her work in Los Angeles! That's right, a random restaurant in San Francisco has TVs on with the volume up, showing a local LA county Amber alert, and she just happened to be on shift and looking at the TV when it started. Ugh. At least they could have figured out a way to have JJ and Derek get the survivor to watch the news, this is just ridiculous.

The killer is also watching the broadcast, which makes me wonder about something - why did he grab them so early this time? Did he already know that the baby fit some criteria he had for it before the abduction, so he just couldn't wait to grab her? Or did he only go early because the plot required the team to get there at the same time as the latest kidnapping, and they would look negligent if they showed up less then a week before a body was due to drop?

While Derek and JJ are on the plane, the survivor calls, and offers to help. Derek tells JJ that it was a good idea to go national with it, which is a nice attempt to cover up a terrible bit of writing. After all, the press conference was organized over the course of like an hour - co-ordinating a national release of it would take a lot more time and legwork. I'd have found it a lot more plausible if, as I just mentioned, instead of being on the plane, the characters had stayed in San Francisco and purposefully arranged to ensure that the survivor saw the video. It would have made them look like worse people who are willing to risk a woman's emotional health to get the job done, but this makes them look like dopes who got preposterously lucky.

JJ and Derek drag the survivor onto the plane to fly her to LA, bringing her to the most dangerous and triggering location possible before starting the hypnosis treatment that specifically requires her to be relaxed for it to work. Why are they so bad at their jobs?

The hypnosis freaks her out hardcore, which, you know, of course reliving the trauma would, but they learn three things. 1: The killer had a mean black dog. B: The killer claimed that the baby reminded him of his baby sister. 3: She heard a woman calling for help in the other room.

It might be useful, but why did they have to drag her to LA to get it? JJ talks to her about kids, and we learn that Josh still works, and that they also have a nanny! Seriously, Josh, just quit the job. It's too dangerous. Also, there's a serial killer stalking you and your family right now, so maybe just don't leave the kid at home with some lady?

Then it's back to hypnosis! The survivor remembers that there was a blonde lady named Allison kidnapped at the same time! Then we see how she escaped, wriggling out of her bonds and running out the front door of the house. Um... how was this guy not caught? She can describe him, the house's either general or specific location, probably the vehicle that was parked outside... When I heard about the escape, I'd just assumed she'd fled from the van while he was moving her to LA or something, so she had no leads, but this is just crazy.

Garcia is able to track down another woman who went missing on the same day, and match it to a body found buried in Griffith Park! When Joe and Reid check out the corpse in the morgue, they discover that it had a dog bite on its leg! You know, from the big black Rottweiler the killer owns? Wow, the survivor sure sucked at her escaping job. She let her fellow abductee get killed!

Then it's time for another check-in with the killer and victim. She sees him dumping more scalding water into the tub. It seems that he's trying to treat the baby's asthma with steam (a popular home remedy!) but she says that he should just use the medicine from the bag!

The team is back working the case - they assume that the blonde lady (who was in the Navy) tried to intervene in the kidnapping and got grabbed as well. That's the lesson, folks, call for police instead of trying to help on your own! The assume he didn't put her on a bench because she wasn't a nanny, and didn't fit his pattern. That's great and all, but you can only get so far on foot, there are traffic and security cameras everywhere, it shouldn't have been too hard to track her back to a neighbourhood at the very least. Hell, just look at how torn up her bare feet were and guesstimate how many blocks she could have run!

Also Reid has a geographic profile to offer! Apparently the survivor just woke up in an alley after an emotional collapse, and had no idea where she was locked up. The burial site and two of the kidnappings were near dog parks, and the killer has a dog he walks all the time! Maybe someone will remember him!

The killer finally lets the nanny help the child, but then snatches her back right away. He's obsessed with protecting his baby sister, you see, as we learn from these photos he keeps in the bedroom!
So was it his own negligence that got his sister killed while he was acting as a 'nanny', or was there a real nanny he's trying to get revenge on?

After scouring the dog parks, the team comes up with a 'John' who resembles the picture and owns a Rotty. Garcia looks for Rottweilers registered to a John in the area, but find none! So she moves on to illegally searching veterinarian's records for Rott/John combos! She announces that there are huge numbers of vets in the area, and it's going to take a while. It doesn't occur to anyone that she should start near where the survivor was found and work outwards.

More flashbacks from the killer! He remembers being in a hot bath while his sister enjoyed the steam! Did he drown her? Seems like it.

Garcia finally grabs a name, and it turns out the guy lives right next to Griffith Park! Because, you know, we covet what we see every day.

Then more torture and flashbacks. He's trying to torture the nanny into admitting she doesn't care about the child. That family had better give her a raise after this. Also we see that a woman (their nanny?) was busy putting him to bed while his sister drowned in the tub during her bath. Man, that's a bad nanny, why are you bathing a two-year old in a full tub, when like three inches of water will do, whether you're concerned about steam or cleanliness?

Hell, a shower's better for both.

Garcia confirms everything I just wrote in those last few paragraphs - the only final detail is that the neglectful nanny died six years ago, which they think triggered him to start killing other nannies.

Derek and JJ get to the house and bust in without a warrant or backup, even though they know the guy has both a gun and a giant angry dog. What is wrong with them?

The killer jumps out the window and runs away down the street, which, you know, backup probably could have prevented. JJ then shoots him down in the street. Hopefully none of the other gunshots hurt any random people. Seems like pretty reckless behaviour, but hey, the nanny and kid are fine, and the killer is dead, so I guess happy ending?

The End.

Except for a little more PTSD, as the survivor wants to see the killer's corpse. She's also thanked by the mom of the latest baby for helping get her kid back!

Then JJ goes home to hug her sleeping baby. Which has to be happening at like 5AM, considering that they were wrapping up the crime scene well after dark, and it's a five hour flight back to Virginia. Josh is super-fine with being woken up, though, because he's just a great guy all around.

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

Profiling? Not so much. Whether they were right or wrong about their guesses didn't factor at all into how they found the guy, it was all the survivor's information and the location of his first and last grab. I'll give them points for the effective use of counseling and hypnosis techniques, though!

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

The FBI didn't invent hypnosis and counseling techniques. There's no good reason the survivor couldn't have let them know about the dog three years earlier when it would have saved some lives. Also, I still feel like they would have been able to focus on an area and track the guy down - between the first victim being kidnapped/dumped in Griffith Park and her fleeing from his house and winding up close by it's patently obvious that he lived in the area, so they really should have been able to track the guy down, especially since she'd be able to offer at least a rough description of the house.

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

3

I can't express enough how happy I am whenever Josh Stewart shows up on the show. You'd better not kill him off, producers!

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