16.3.18

Criminal Minds 905: Route 66

The episode opens with two teens making out in a classic car parked out in a field. Because it's the past? Seriously, can't they find someplace better for this? Or is it a fetish? We haven't seen a lover's lane murder since those '60s cosplayers got killed at the start of the Leopold and Loeb Zodiac tribute episode, or if we have, I don't remember. Let's see how this goes for them!

The boy gets a little fresh, and the girl starts screaming - luckily her father is there to immediately smash the guy up with a crowbar! Like, really immediately. As if he'd been hanging out five feet away, waiting for screaming to start. Otherwise his arrival was an incredible coincidence.

Over at the office, Greg is napping on his couch, a file in hand. You work too much, Greg. He phones home to tell 'Jessica' that he'll be there soon. So I guess that's his nanny? Because his girlfirend lives in New York still, right? Also I don't remember her name.

Then he gets a plot-convenient amber alert through an app on his phone-

The girl from the beginning is missing! In Kansas. I don't know how Amber Alerts work, since we don't have them where I live, but don't apps like that normally curate the alerts to where you are? Why is he getting an alert from halfway across the country? If he was browsing facebook and a friend of a friend posted it, that would make sense, but this seems strange.

Then the camera pans down to show off his jacket and nametag, as if they're introducing this character for the first time-

That's just odd. Also Greg calls home to say that he's pulling an all-nighter. Maybe he knows this girl, and you can set up an app to prioritize the kidnapping of people you know, whereever they live?

Greg brings everyone in for a chat about the crime, and they're understandably confused about why they're working a parental abduction case. So am I. Greg offers that because the father is an ex-con and he beat the boyfriend nearly to death it's worth looking into, but this is so profoundly not their kind of case that I'm still not clear why he even heard about it. I checked the Amber Alert statistics, and it seems to generally be a statewide thing, rather than a national one. Also in 2013, when this episode is set, there were nearly 200 Amber Alerts does Greg personally look into all of them?

Oh, then Greg faints. Is he working too hard, or is something else going on?

Hopefully we'll find out after the credits!

While the team is on the plane, Joe facetimes with them to let them know about the situation. Greg's got internal bleeding from the time the other fake zodiac killer stabbed him a bunch! Apparently the scar tissue is a continuing medical issue. So Penelope is going to stay with him while the rest of the team works on the case!

Although I'm still not sure why the FBI is necessary for this kind of thing. Can't state cops set up roadblocks and run down friends and family of the dad?

Speaking of the dad, he and the daughter have already driven all the way to Texas! Fun fact, that's where most Amber Alerts happen! Daughter is annoyed that he just showed up and spirited her away without calling, but he reminds her that she's the one who wanted out of Wichita. He's trying to get her down South before the cops catch up with them! Mexico, perhaps? Whereever they're going, she's down with the trip. The brutally beaten boyfriend goes unmentioned, because he was an attempted rapist.

Derek and JJ go to see the mother, and learn that the dad was a longtime dirtbag, and she's tried to keep the daughter away from him because they were too similar, and she would doubtless be pulled into a life of crime and n'er-do-wellery! Which was a good call.

Then it's back to Greg, and I'm starting to think we're going to be spending a bunch of the episode with him, and that's why they have such a nothing case this week.

Over on the road trip, dad doesn't think they have time to stop and do touristy things, because he has a job that starts in two days. A crime job? It certainly seems that way, since he pulls a gun when he notices a cop in the rear-view mirror. The daughter is suspicious, but not as suspicious as she should be.

Over at the abduction scene - which they went to, despite there being no conceivable reason to do so, everyone convenes and goes over what Garcia learned, apparently from using hospital computers? Dad and his cellmate robbed a jewelry store. A clerk and customer were killed, and then his partner was shot eight times! Reid refers to that as emptying the clip, but since they don't know what kind of gun was used, that's jumping to conclusions. Also, the partner was mobbed-up, so the dad is on the run from cops and crooks alike!

The team suggests that it was a 'double cross', and possibly the dad's plan all along, but even the most basic reading of the circumstances suggests completely different motives. If the two other victims were shot just once or twice or even executed, and the third was shot a whole bunch, the third suggests anger. Like, the other robber was bad at his job and killed the bystanders, and the dad blew him away because he was pissed-off?

The dad gets spotted at a gas station while he's filling up, and the proprietor calls the cops, because apparently they've been all over the news! Dad sends daughter over to the diner down the road, then walks around the side of the gas station so that he can break in and attack the owner. The owner, for his part, does the smart thing and stays on the phone with the cops, right until dad cuts the phone line. But then the dad walks into the station, and it turns out that he hadn't locked the door when he spotted the wanted kidnapper. Idiot.

So the station owner grabs for a shotgun under the counter and gets shot for his trouble. Seriously, people, when you see a criminal, lock the door. The worst thing that can happen is they figure out that they've been made and drive off like a minute sooner than they would have otherwise. Which is the police's problem, not yours.

In a puzzling move, just before dying, the owner announces that the dad's purchases come to 'six dollars even', based on what he'd thrown on the counter. What about all the gasoline?

Now it's apparently time for a psychic journey of self-discovery! The surgery team talks about how weird it is that Greg's injuries were caused by the fake Zodiac, which triggers a vision quest that has Greg, still in a hospital gown, walk into an old-timey movie theatre!

He quickly changes into a tuxedo, and meets his dead wife in the theatre! Does she want him to stay dead with her?

The team tries to figure out why the dad killed the clerk since the police had already been called. I'm more concerned about why the dad hasn't been caught already. The guy called the cops and told them a wanted man was at his gas station - then the guy wasted a minute or two walking into the store and killing him, before driving down the street and picking up his daughter, interrupting her trip to the local diner. That's got to be another minute or two. Which means the cops must have taken more than five minutes to get there. What were they doing?

Also, they try to suggest that the dad must have shot the guy because he's killing anything that feels like a threat. Which isn't really accurate - the guy had already called the police, he was no longer a threat, and staying any longer just puts him and his daughter in more danger of being caught. So unless the dad is a complete psychopath who just loves murder, it seems like he only killed the guy so the story would have another death.

So, about that psychic journey of self-discovery. They watch a movie of scenes from the show featuring Greg's son and his new girlfriend, but not many, since Greg's personal life never gets much screentime.

The team offers a profile to the local cops, but the information boils down to 'if you spot him, call for backup, since he loves murder'. It was probably a waste gathering them all into a field for that, rather than just putting it out over the radio. They do point out that because dad was a car thief, he'll likely switch vehicles, but that can't help much, since being in a different vehicle doesn't help you get around a road block. It actually makes it harder, since you're driving a vehicle you don't have any papers for.

Reid and Derek are hanging out at one of the roadblocks, annoyed that they haven't arrived yet. They suggest that he's not heading for Mexico, and that the roadblock may be a waste. Um... you only set up roadblocks in one direction? The whole state is looking for the guy, and the state police knew what down he was in while he was killing someone - why didn't they just block off the road in both directions? Also, where are the helicopters and surveillance planes?

The daughter turns on the phone in their motel room, and when her dad arrives she asks if it's true that he killed a bunch of people in Chicago. He, obviously does not want to talk about it. Finally when in the car he confirms my suspicion, that the evil partner killed people and he had to put the partner down, although that doesn't explain why he murdered someone else for no reason a couple of hours ago. Then he hears about the roadblocks on a stolen CB, and decides to change his plans.

Wait, he was heading south? Well, shouldn't they have him pretty well boxed in, then? They know the last town he was in, so it's just a matter of covering the roads going south from there. I know Texas is big, but there aren't so many roads that this would be impossible, especially since they were just a couple of hours from the border.

The dad goes to steal another car, but gets attacked by the owner, and during the scuffle, he pulls a gun from nowhere and shoots the guy! Seriously, from nowhere - here's the back of his pants

And here's the front:
Obviously no gun tucked into his belt. How do you make a prop mistake like this? Why not just give the guy the plastic gun? Do they really care so little about continuity?

The daughter is understandably upset, but still goes along with him, even getting into the driver's seat because he's been so badly beaten! Okay, now I understand why he shot this latest guy - he was being beaten up, he was going to go to jail, that makes sense. The gas station remains baffling.

Things get weird inside Greg's head - the Reaper shows up to ogle his girlfriend's video clips, and then shoot his wife yet again! Oh, that Reaper, even in death you still return to bedevil Greg. Also, he's going into cardiac arrest, which explains the traumatic turn this fantasy has taken.

The team - still waiting for something to do - gets video from the robbery! Not only did the partner kill the bystanders, he also tried to execute the dad, but his gun jammed! So yeah, he was completely justified in killing that guy. I kind of love that a team of trained criminal psychologists needed a video to show them what any amateur could have guessed based on the facts of the case. They then get a report about the new killing, giving them an update on his location!

Then they turn up at the newest murder site - which, again, seems like a waste of time given that there's nothing they can learn from going to the crime scene that they can't find out from talking to the cops. They find out some of dad's backstory - his mother died in childbirth, and his father killed himself when he was 5. The kid wound up stuck in a house with the body for two days! All of this happened in Los Angeles, which is where Reid thinks they're now heading!

Now it's time for Greg's story to get resolved before he wakes up - his wife tells him he has to let go of her and move forward, and the Reaper is super-upbeat in a way that's genuinely entertaining and strange. The scene exists to give Greg permission to get married again, and to let Thomas Gibson show off some of the range he rarely gets to use in the show! So this ended up being a pretty good use of our time!

Dad and daughter have made it to Los Angeles, but the cops are on their tail! They pull him over, and he holds a gun to his daughter's head, which is kind of a dick move.

Greg then wakes up, and Garcia explains that he's fine. He wants to see his son, obviously, and also at some point earlier on we learned that his son was home with the wife's sister, not a nanny.

Out in LA, the team corners dad in a surf shop, and JJ gets on the phone with him, explaining that she knows what his life is like - her sister committed suicide (did we know about that?) and it screwed her up. She says that dad went to LA to give the daughter one nice memory before he kills himself. Which is basically his only option at this point, since the mob wants him dead, so he might not do well in jail.

So Dad sends his daughter over to the cops, fully expecting to die moments later! But daughter is having none of it, and goes back to talk him out of committing suicide! Which is nice of her to try, even if her dad is a scumbag murderer!

It even works, and he turns himself over to the police!

Happy Ending! Because, you know, she didn't have to see her dad get killed.

Then we see Greg hugging his son, wrapping that story up as well!

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

Kind of? Like, they managed to combine the fact that he was heading west with his childhood trauma to guess he was heading to LA, but then again, they knew what car he was driving and the direction he was going in, so that's not much of an accomplishment.

I'd give them credit for talking him out of killing himself, but it was actually his daughter who did that, so while it's certainly psychology-related, it had nothing to do with the team. So very partial credit this time.

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

I have no earthly idea how they made it more than ten minutes away from the gas station. He was still driving the same car hours later, making it completely unbelievable. Honestly, that whole part of the episode seems to have been added in order to make the dad seem less sympathetic, no matter how much it transformed the plot into nonsense.

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

2/10

No more to say about this episode, but can we just take a moment to consider how crazy it was that Criminal Minds did a Leopold and Loeb episode that was also a 'return of the Zodiac Killer' episode? This show is such a mess.

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