Criminal Minds 901: The Inspiration

And we're back for season nine! The episode opens with Derek and JJ involved in a high-speed chase, which is basically the opposite of their jobs, but whatever, it's the first episode of the season - old writers leave, new writers join, some of whom probably used to work at NCIS, so I'll try to give them a break. I wonder if this 'In Medis Res' stuff means we're going to be jumping back in time to find out how this crazy situation got started?

Derek finally uses a pursuit interruption technique to stop the sedan they're chasing, but they wind up in the middle of the road - with a huge truck bearing down on the passenger side of the SUV! Is JJ about to be killed?

I guess we'll find out in two days, because yeah, they jumped back in time.

A couple are hanging out in their apartment, annoyed that their upstairs neighbour seems to be hammering well into the night. Of course, it's not hammering at all, but rather a tied-up woman kicking the floor, desperately trying to call for help! Dark!

The annoyed lady heads upstairs to yell at her inconsiderate neighbour, but before she can realize there's a kidnapped woman inside, the killer shows up in the hallway behind her!

I feel like that's the guy from the Mentalist who pretended to be mentally disabled so he could get away with crimes, but I'll have to check to be sure.

The killer assures the neighbour that it's just his annoying roommate, and offers to put a stop to the noise. So yeah, no last-minute rescues here, I guess.

Then it's over to Quantico, where everyone is complaining about their plans for the weekend being interrupted by a call into work! Hey, who's running the place now that Erin's dead? Also, how did Reid manage to find an even more unprofessional haircut? I didn't think that was possible?

Also, get a semi-auto and wear it at your hip, you ridiculous poseur.

We get an answer about Erin presently - Greg's taken over all her duties on a temporary basis, and now he's been offered the job full-time! Which would mean leaving the show, so I guess that's not happening.

The case rundown begins, and Greg and Derek start off the night with some truly terrible analysis, pointing out that the brutal rape and murder can't possibly be about robbery, since the victims' jewelry was left on their bodies.

Um... Is it ever about robbery? Has it been about robbery once? If it was about robbery, would they have called in the FBI in the middle of the night, idiot? Even the time you were chasing bank robbers it wasn't about robbery, it was a sick sex game between two serial killers who robbed banks and killed people to get aroused. Do you even watch your own show?

Also, why are they here in the middle of the night? Yes, there have been two bodies in the last three days, because every killer is a spree killer (hereafter EKIASK - I'm starting season nine with a dedication to streamlining things!), but that's the case every single week. Has the killer kidnapped a senator's daughter or something? Could this not wait until Monday? Or at least Saturday morning? What is gained by asking their pilot to fly across the country to Arizona on zero sleep?

Instead of explaining why this case was so important, they just all head for the plane! Which seems really, really odd.

Then we move back to the killer, who's leading the woman into a park for his execution ritual. I've got a question about this - was that his apartment, or hers? The woman from downstairs didn't really seem to recognize him, but that means nothing, they live on different floors. If it was her apartment, why did he leave to go get tools? Shouldn't he have had them with him when he broke in? Also, what tools was he going to get - he brandished a cleaver, but his thing is raping women, then leading them to a park, having them kneel on a cross, and shoot them in the heart. What was the cleaver for?

But if it was his apartment, has he done this to all the women? Isn't it incredibly risky to bring a victim back to your home, where you'll have to walk her up a staircase, past dozens of potential witnesses? I'm so baffled by this. Hopefully explanations are coming soon.

Then the killer shoots his newest victim, and we cut to the credits!

JJ dumbs it up immediately on the plane. Greg points out that the woman were physically similar, and also both single with professional careers. Her response? "Other than appearance, the women had nothing in common." Because marital status, employment, lack of a criminal history (I'm assuming), and social status aren't points of commonality? How are you so bad at this, writers?

The team banters about for a few seconds about the possible symbolism of the parks and the prayer pose, but since it's just them wildly guessing, it's wholly unimportant.

Over at a mall, the killer (who works there) tries to ask a barrista out on a date, but is rejected! She has brown hair, though, and is considerably younger than his other victims. So maybe she's safe? Although the actress did have a line, though, so who knows? As the barrista walks off, a voice in the killer's head taunts him about his desires, and he tells it to leave him alone, but he does it out loud. Luckily for him, no one notices.

Is the ghost of his mother taunting him and driving him to kill, Psycho-style? That would be a different thing for them to rip off!

At the police station, Reid points out to the cop in charge of the case that this kind of ritualized behaviour usually leads to a rapid series of kills. Which is nonsense, of course, but is actually pretty accurate to the bizarre dystopian  in which the characters reside, a monstrous hellscape packed to the gills with serial killers who are mostly free to kill with impunity, since there's only seven people on earth who can catch them, and those people usually take weekends off.

The cop then suggests a press conference to let people know that the killer is out there, but Greg explains that they don't want to do that this week, because it might interfere with their analysis! Because... asking the public if they saw any weird vehicles around the parks could lead to them getting leads? Which would be bad?

It's not like you're investigating in secret - the killer knows you're looking for him. He's dropping bodies in public places - 3 in 4 days, so the media must be all over this. What could a press conference possibly hurt?

Then Reid just makes me sad with this groaner.

That's not how math works, like - at all. Can I just take a moment to explain this?

First off, the first two women were found in the same park, which is crazy, because how did no one notice him bringing the second victim there two days after killing the first woman? How big are these parks? But let's just allow them to have that one and move onto the radius part.

Geographic profiling works like this - it suggests that a killer will have a distance they like to drive before they feel safe hunting for a victim or dumping a body. The idea being that you don't want to attract attention by killing where you live. That part makes sense. Now, a proper geographic profile would include where the women lived, worked, and places they regularly visited, because where the killer likely spotted them would factor into the calculations. But let's stick to the dump sites, since that's a concrete thing they know.

It's reasonable to assume that the guy drove a certain distance to kill the first two women in the park, then drove a similar amount of distance to kill the third. If the parks are two miles apart, and you also assume that the points represent the far opposite edges of the zone in which he lives - because if you assume anything else, this entire exercise becomes pointless, the result is a Map that looks like this:

In a perfect world, the killer would live at the center of that circle, at the corner of McMunn Ave and Elmwood St. The important thing, however, is that the killer most likely lives somewhere inside the circle - a circle with a diameter of the two miles that separates the kill sites. And if it has a two-mile diameter, that means it has a one-mile radius.

The only way to get a three-mile radius is to assume that the body dump sites represent something like 5 and 7 O'clock on a circle, like this:

Of course, if you start making assumptions like that, then geographic profiling becomes wholly useless, rather than just largely useless. Yes, there are other calculations that can factor in, but remember, Reid is basing his guess solely on the fact that the two dumpsites are two miles apart. Also, not for nothing, but a circle with a three-mile radius would contain basically the entire city of Glendale, Arizona.

It occurs to me that I just spent four paragraphs and made two images to express the point "The Criminal Minds writers suck at math", which is both true, and proof that I suck at brevity.

Derek and Joe arrive at the new crime scene, and are baffled to discover that the current victim was married - but her ring was tossed aside either just before or just after her murder! Also, despite the fact that we saw the killer walking her into the woods and shooting her, now it seems that her body presentation site is something like ten feet away from a road. Weird presentation, show.

JJ and Reid talk to the husband of the victim. They were separated, and she was having an affair! Could that be linked to why she was targeted by the killer? Were all of the women cheaters? They ask Garcia to find out who the lover is, but Garcia draws a blank, because apparently the victim never phoned or texted the man she was having an affair with. Which is kind of crazy, right?

I mean, if you're married, and having a secret affair, I guess the lack of contact makes sense, but she and her husband aren't living together. It's a formal separation. It's not even really an affair, she's just dating. So why no contact? Does he live next door to her, so there's never any need?

Then we cut over to the killer that night (night? So the team did absolutely nothing worth showing us all day, other than looking at a body and talking to a victim's husband? That's really strange, show.) breaking into the barrista's house! Well, we're led to believe that it's the barrista's house, because we see him creeping around, and see her getting out of the shower because she heard a noise, but as someone who's seen Silence of the Lambs, I have to assume this is editing deception, and he's actually preparing to kill someone else.

Also, he's got that cleaver again, which is weird, since he doesn't cut the women up. It's not like he needs it to scare them, he has a gun for that.

Nope, I was totally wrong. He just uses the cleaver to chop down the door and attacks her in the bathroom. Well, this is moving along quickly, isn't it?

Then we cut over to the morgue, and find out that the last victim had a human tooth in her stomach! It seems that the killer is carrying around the severed head of his first victim, and feeding her, piece by piece, to his new victims?

Seems like a preposterously disgusting way to start off the season, but sure, let's see where they go with it. So long as the trail ends with this guy getting shot a bunch.

Then it's over to the barrista's crime scene, where it turns out she failed to eat a tongue before being murdered! So... thanks for that, show.

The team gives a profile - as usual, it's pretty generic. He's religiously obsessed because of the prayer pose, maybe he was hurt emotionally by someone because of the shot to the heart. Perhaps he thinks the women are guilty of something, also because of the prayer pose. Not really a lot to go one. Maybe when they talk to the barrista's partner in the mall she'll mention the creepy guy who works there and was always hanging around her?

Oh, and the killer buys a baby rattlesnake because he's crazy.

There's a hilarious line as we cut back to the police station, where Reid offers a straight line that immediately leads to Jeanne and Derek sharing a Prentiss Award!

You know, you can't survive losing your heart or lungs either, Jeanne. Also, what the hell does Derek mean 'you two keep working on that'? Keep working on what? The half-assed idea that he wants them to eat a woman's face because heads are important? That's not a lead, it's just a thought too stupid to be worth expressing.

Then they wonder a little more if Greg is leaving the team, but of course he's not, so who cares? Okay, maybe he'll go off for a couple of episodes or something like that, but he's not going to leave the team until Thomas Gibson gets fired in a couple of seasons. I'm not sure how many, so it's going to be a nasty surprise when it happens.

Then the cop walks in and announces they've got a parolee who 'fits the profile'. Which, once again, is 'early-30s sadist who likes religion and recently had his heart broken'. Setting aside that they had no reason to say 'early 30s', since most of his victims are in their mid-20s, and they know literally nothing about him other than that he owns a gun, what kind of files does the parole board have on people that they've got someone with a religious fixation and history of romantic trouble?

This guy was obviously stalking the women, why aren't you talking to the people in their lives to see if a creep was hanging around?

The killer is in his kitchen, talking to the severed head 'Heather', when he hears someone banging on the door? Could it be the police and the team, based on the last scene? No, of course not, although they're not even bothering to do the Silence of the Lambs misdirect I was talking about earlier. These people are really half-assing, aren't they?

It's just the killer's mother, Camryn Manheim, from the Practice! She's concerned because she heard at the hairdressers that Heather is missing! And she assumes that the killer has something to do with it, which is very well observed on her part. Good job. He denies it, of course, and then demands that his mother leave.

So... for the record, her son had some bad history with Heather, and then Heather disappeared, and now the son is acting incredibly squirrely and obviously seeing things. Will she call the police on him? Also, why haven't the police already been to see him about Heather disappearing? It was long enough ago that her face has rotted. Or was their bad history a complete secret?

Then we come back to JJ and Reid for more conversation about how they feel about the idea that Greg might leave, and more importantly, an opportunity for JJ to look super unprofessional!

Where is your gun, woman? Did you just leave it on a desk in the police station? Yeah, Reid's wearing his in an unsafe and unprofessional manner, but at least he's armed!

Okay, the episode just went nuts. Reid, out of nowhere, has decided that the killer is obsessed with praying mantises. Because female praying mantises occasionally eat their sexual partner's heads during copulation, he thinks the whole 'raping women and feeding them pieces of a head' is a recreation of that act. Because he sees all women as treacherous mantises, and wants to kill them before they kill him.

God, this show may be terrible, but at least it's occasionally crazy.

And yes, Reid is proven to be right, since the killer feeds the baby snake to his pet mantis, who immediately eats it. Which is a thing they can do, apparently.

More with the killer, who's being haunted by Heather's ghost, or his own psychosis, depending on your religious beliefs.

Then the team finally gets a lead - they find a missing woman (Heather) who used to live in the area, and disappeared a short time ago. Right after it was announced in the news that she'd gotten engaged! So that's the hearbreak that drove him to this deeply stupid obsession! Luckily there's a DNA sample on file that her mother had given to test against a random body the cops found, in the hopes that it was her daughter.

More ghost attacks in the killer's apartment, which causes him to make enough noise to attract that blonde neighbour lady's attention! So now we've got our third victim who they can rescue, hopefully. Also, that confirms that he did bring the married lady to his apartment for the rape and cannibalism torture, which just makes no sense whatsoever. Not just because of the mechanics of getting her there and out, but why did he have to go somewhere to get the bag with the cleaver and severed head in it? He keeps the severed head in his fridge.

Unless.... he took the kit with him in his car, planning to grab a woman and kill her at her house, but for some reason brought her back home? But why would he do that when it's insanely risky? Also, are they saying he's using the cleaver to cut pieces off the head to eat? Because that's the worst possible tool to do something like that. You'd need a carving knife, idiot.

Anyhow, the killer threatens the neighbour who complained about the sound, and runs her off. A brief reprieve! Except he's obviously holding a cleaver in his hands, and he threatens to kill her if she complains about the sound again. I mean, I know the woman is busy with exams, but a spree killer raped and murdered four women in the past five days, all in her general area, and her crazy neighbour just brandished a knife and threatened to kill her. Maybe it's time to get the cops involved?

Once the team has identified that Heather is, in fact, the person who's face is being eaten, they look into her background and immediately discover that the killer was arrested for destroying her car with a baseball bat when she broke up with him in high school. Wow, this was an easy solve, huh? There was a victim who wasn't hard to find and had one enemy in the world, one who's been in and ount of institutions because of delusions for the past fifteen years! Convenient!

Also, is the episode going to end with him in jail, being forever haunted by Heather's ghost? Because that's almost as good as him getting shot to death, I suppose.

The team rushes to arrest him, but finds that his apartment is empty! He's already left for work! And for some reason, he brought the severed head with him? Oh, it's so he can feed pieces of it to everyone. Thanks again, show.

All the people in the restaurant notice the teeth and flesh in their meals - it's a bridal shower he's feeding, so it's full of women for him to hold hostage and torment! Which is exactly what he does. Of course, there's no need for us to wallow in human misery just because the producers of this show are paid to create it, so let's skip ahead!

He wanders around the room seeing Heather everywhere until a security guard arrives and points a gun at him. Then he manages to shoot the guy and run away? Even though his gun was at his side and the security guard was already aiming at his head?

What? How bad is that guy at his job?

Now it's time for the car chase that started the show. So let's get back to that - they run him off the road, a truck's about to hit JJ, when... Derek backs up and it doesn't hit them. Well, that was worth waiting thirty-five minutes for.

The killer is arrested, and then we hop onto the plane for the ride home, where Greg has a decision to make! Meanwhile, Derek and JJ are haunted by how weird the killer was after he was arrested. When he was holding the women hostage, he freaked out all over the place, but once he was at the station he was eerily calm.

Why the change?

Because it wasn't him they caught, but rather his identical twin brother! Who they didn't know about, for some reason? How could they not know he had an identical twin brother? I mean, I get why the twin didn't speak up, since he's probably a horrible person as well, and wanted to give his brother as much of a head start as he could, but wow, how on earth could they miss this?

Also, how did they already get back into the plane? The cops in Arizona find out within a matter of hours that his fingerprints don't match those at the hostage-taking scene. Three, tops. So are we expected to believe that the team arrested the guy, handed him over to the cops, and then what, raced to their motel, packed all their bags, raced to the airport, and took off?

What about paperwork?

What about interrogating the suspect, the way they always do? Seriously, when do they ever pass up a chance to interrogate a suspect?

Also, why did his brother flee from the cops? I'm so confused about that. Did he know that his brother was murdering women, or not? And when they arrested him, was no one worried about the lack of a gun or severed head in his car? Did no one find it confusing that his wallet had a different person's driver's license in it, and the car that they were chasing was registered to their target's identical twin brother?

Seriously, the amount of terrible decisions they had to make in order to get the team back onto the plane for the reveal is just astounding.

What a weak setup for a cliffhanger.

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

God, no. Reid's hilarious praying mantis leap had nothing at all to do with how they caught him.

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

It was! They found human remains in the various victims, confirmed that they were from the same person, then checked who had it in for that person. Easy as pie.

Hell, he never should have gotten the chance to kill a second person - the moment Heather mysteriously disappeared, her parents (who thought she was dead - that's why they had the DNA record on file) would have been asked if she had any enemies, and she would have responded "Yes, when she was a teenager a mental patient became violently obsessed with her. Maybe check on that guy." The cops would have done so, and the fact that her head was in his fridge would have led to him being put in jail forever.

It's like the boxing/child molestation murder from last season - how was this guy not already in jail?

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

1 - This is a prime example of how the team serves no purpose at all. What did they bring to the situation that in any way sped up the capture of the guy? And they're so bad at their job they didn't even find out what kind of a car is registered to the killer, and block off the exits to the mall parking lot when they were going to arrest him?

I wonder if they can screw up even worse next week?


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you started up again! I just started watching the show a couple years ago and am making my way thru the seasons. I got to season nine a couple weeks ago. It's so much more enjoyable with your comments!

Vardulon said...

I'm glad you're enjoying the reviews!

I've pre-posted a good amount of season 9, so there shouldn't be any weekly interruptions!

Unknown said...

I feel like you're in the room with me as I scream obscenities at my tv screen. I love this show but oh man the writing...

Unknown said...

Sometimes, you sound stupid when you're trying to call them out on their stupidity. When you comment that we can't survive without heart or lungs either, technically you're right. However, Alex said that the human head is the only body part that you cannot survive without, she didn't say body organ. There is a difference between the two. She meant that you can live without a hand or a leg, but not without a head. So, they were not wrong to say that, but you are.