Criminal Minds 911: Bully

Before I press start on the episode, let's just take a moment to notice that Criminal Minds reached the point where it can have an episode whose number is '911'. Will this be a emergency services-themed episode? Are the producers kicking themselves for not shifting 'The Caller' into this slot?

Let's get this thing rolling!

A man walks into a basement which is supposed to be dilapidated - we're shown dripping water and a rat, but there's an almost shocking level of organization displayed on the toolbox visible in one shot. Heck, the the screwdrivers have even been arranged symmetrically! It's a weird situation where the set dresser can't stop themselves from doing a good job of setting up a work bench, even if it shouldn't be that good looking.

Also there's dust cloths over things to protect them from the elements. This is not an ill-cared-for location.

The man opens up a huge chest in the middle of the floor, removing two chains with padlocks. He helps a woman stand up out of it, but just as he's about to start molesting her, he hears a creak on the floorboards above. So he chains her to a pipe so he can focus on the unexpected intruder.

Which, naturally, turns out to be the team, who are busting in and arresting him! Jeanne tries to talk him into dropping his gun because the woman he's hiding behind 'isn't his mother'. Apparently he'd been sending the team taunting letters about his crime?

Then, proving my long-standing point that they should have their fingers on the triggers during tense standoffs like this, the man has plenty of time to move the gun away from the woman's side, aim it at Jeanne, and pull the trigger before any of the FBI Agents get around to shooting him.

They say not to put your finger on the trigger until you're ready to shoot, and their not being ready to shoot just almost got Jeanne killed.

Yes, Jeanne is fine. Just grazed in the arm. Think of how awful it would have been if we didn't have her around to... um... she was supposed to profile linguistics, right? That never really comes up, does it?

Outside, as the killer's body is carted away, Jeanne gets a phone call from her father! Something has happened! Is she going to be getting another character episode? We haven't had one of those since she decided not to quit the team even after her husband stopped being an MSF just to be closer to her!

On the plane, Garcia checks in on the tip Jeanne's father sent - a guy was stripped of his clothes, forced to put on women's underwear, and then beaten to death! Also, a year earlier two teens were beaten to death in an alley, without all the fetish nonsense. Could they be connected? The team is going to go to Kansas City to find out, even though Jeanne's dad isn't actually on the force any more!

While the plane is on the way, we cut over to the presumptive killer, a roided-out nutbag who works on his boxing skills while listening to speed metal! Because sure, why not.

There's some character stuff on the way into town - Jeanne thinks she's better than Missouri, and so doesn't like being back, and also her dad was a cop who got shot in the line of duty and had to retire.

At the police station we meet Jeanne's brother, who doesn't think there's any connection between the crimes, and her father, who's dropped by to say hello!

JJ and Joe go out to the crime scene, and have zero insights that they couldn't have come up with on the plane. According to them, the killer was either targeting the victim because of a prior grudge, or just needed someone to kill and crossed his path. Also he either followed the victim into the woods or laid in wait and ambushed him. Also, he had to be physically fit, because the victim was a triathlete. For some reason no one has mentioned scoping out local MMA and boxing gyms for leads. Just walk in, ask for who's the most psycho, then check the victim for connections to the list of 20 people that each gym gives you.

Time for some family drama! The brother doesn't like Jeanne coming in and stepping on his toes. So it's the normal FBI/local cops beef, but with a familial twist! Neat? Anyhow, the dad says there's definitely a serial killer running around, and tells the siblings to use this opportunity to get more comfortable with each other. Then he leaves, without offering any insight whatsoever to why he thought there was a serial killer on the loose.

I know that on a meta level, this is a story about Jeanne working through some family stuff, but could the characters at least pretend to be interested in solving the crime?

Derek checks in with the ME and finds out that the victim was beaten to death with someone's bare hands. Of course, we already surmised that because we saw the guy hitting a heavy bag, so this is kind of a wasted scene.

Jeanne and her brother interview the guy who found the bodies last year - coincidentally also the male victim's father!

The guy explains that he found the bodies because it was late and he was worried, but then he remembered that he had a friend-finder GPS app on his phone, and so 'a couple of hours later' he found their corpses in an alley.

A couple of hours? So you were worried enough to use a GPS locator on your son, the GPS locator revealed that he was in an alley - not moving, and then... what? Did you sit down and watch a movie before going to check on him? Presumably you called his phone and he didn't answer before checking the GPS. How on earth is it that your son's phone ringing through and finding out that it was laying in an alley somewhere didn't spur you to immediate action?

The brother tries to shut down the interview when the dad says his son didn't have any enemies, so Jeanne takes him out of the room and asks him if he's missed how incredibly shifty the dad has been acting. The brother didn't, of course, he just really doesn't respect what Jeanne does for a living.

And he's not alone.

Jeanne goes back in, and asks the dad if he put his son's clothes back on and changed him out of the pair of panties he was likely wearing. He admits that he tampered with the crime scene to give the kids some dignity. Weird that the CSI people missed his fingerprints being all over the buttons and zippers of their clothes? Or, more likely, his fingerprints aren't in the system, and they've spent a year thinking that they had the killer's prints when they didn't.

More importantly, though, it's weird that the ME didn't notice that they were naked in the alley at some point. Let's assume the killer beat them to death first, then stripped their clothes and put the panties on the boy. That would mean wrestling around with some limp bodies, doubtlessly putting pavement scrapes on their skin. It's not like he would have been careful - hell, I'm surprised he didn't just rip the clothes off. Still, the ME really should have noticed the scrapes all over the parts of their skin that had been covered by clothes.

A smart way to catch the lie would have been to use the time discrepancy that they accidentally put into the script. "You called your son at 1AM, and there was no answer, so you checked the GPS app at 1:02. Then we have you calling 911 from the alley at 1:45. But you only live fifteen minutes away from the alley. What happened in that extra 20 minutes? What are you hiding?" At least then we'd know they were paying attention.

Then it's back to the killer, who's looming outside the house of a couple who are just sitting down to watch a movie! They hear some breaking glass, and debate what it could possibly be. The dog, maybe? Do dogs break a lot of windows?

Apparently it was actually a cat, and there's a broken saucer on the floor. Which I guess is completely unrelated to the killer standing behind the woman in the kitchen? Or maybe he broke the saucer to attract their attention?

So, why has the guy gone from weird serial killer to spree killer? Maybe we'll find out soon, but probably not.

The team arrives at the crime scene and spends some time wondering why these specific people were targeted, which leads to the Prentiss Award-winning line of the night:
Yes, that would be why they were targeted. But it doesn't really address the far more relevant 'how' they were targeted, does it?

Inside, JJ and Derek observe that the killer is 'accelerating', and I have to wonder whether they've ever considered that the acceleration might be their fault? So often these guys don't kill anyone for years at a time, and then the minute the FBI arrives, it's a body every night. Coincidence?

Garcia - doing their job for them, as always - phones up with a connection between the victims! The triathlete was a substitute teacher at the same school the teens went to, and the newest victims had a daughter who went to the same school at the same time, which makes her the probable target, and the killer just didn't know that she was off at college.

The team give out the profile - the women's underwear is about humiliating the victims, which suggests revenge might be involved. Given that all the victims were connected to the same school at the same time, there's a good chance that the killer was either a student or worker there. Also they're pretty sure he's on drugs, but it's not clear why they're assuming - this is just rage-based overkill, which we've seen dozens of times with no chemical enhancement.

This is one case where telling the cops to go out and canvas would get the job done fast. They could have all of the gyms in the city canvassed in a matter of hours. And since the profiling montage features a scene of the killer getting in the face of his gym's manager during a roid rage, I'm pretty sure they could have the killer's name before close of business.

Although, really they could have had the killer's name yesterday if they'd just gone to all of the gyms then. Beating someone to death with your bare hands is such an obvious clue that it's weird that they didn't run down that lead immediately.

Of course, the show doesn't really seem to understand the significance of the boxing thing, or even the mechanics of it. Take a look at the killer's hands -
That's them less than a day after beating a man to death. Not a scratch or bruise anywhere, and these are hands that supposedly broke ribs and crushed a man's face. Ah, Criminal Minds production, is there any part of your job that you can't manage to do badly?

Garcia reports that only one interesting thing happened at the school in the past few years (other than the murdered students, of course) - a senior killed himself by crashing his car! But why? I'm sure we'll find out soon. Did he share any classes with the dead students, college girl, or substitute teacher? Seems like that would be worth checking into.

Jeanne drops a list of former students on her brother's desk, then attempts to apologize for being so absent from her family. Then her brother rushes off to start running down persons of interest in the investigation. Will they never settle things?

That night, the killer has sneaked into a guy's house, and just as he's about to start beating the guy to death, Jeanne's brother shows up at the door! This is one of the leads he's tracking down! And now he's in the house with the killer without even knowing it!

Meanwhile, JJ and Jeanne interview the college girl about her parents' murder, and whether she might have been the target! She breaks down crying, though, which doesn't offer much help.

Then things get weird, because when we cut back to Jeanne's brother, he's interviewing the guy not about the dead teens, and not about the dead teacher or dead parents, but about the car crash suicide. Why? Have the writers forgotten that the brother likely doesn't even know about this? Garcia only discovered it after the profile, and since the profile, the brother's only contact with Jeanne has been to get a list of names to check out.

So he wouldn't know about the suicide, or even if he did, there's no reason to believe that he would have any reason to think that it was related to the case. The team doesn't even think that it's related to the case yet. There's literally no reason for him to be asking these questions of this character.

Except, you know, for the killer to be so angered by the guy lying about being friends with the dead kid that he bursts into the room, knocks out the brother, and then beats the victim to death.

After arriving at the scene, Jeanne checks on her brother, and her father gets there just in time to ride with him to the hospital, so Jeanne can keep working the case. Because that's gone so well so far. They at least mention that the brother and his partner split up to cover the list faster, so I can take a pass on criticizing the show for having him go to meet a potential suspect alone. Turns out he was just an idiot, and it's not necessarily bad writing to portray him as such.

Then the interview proves to be significant, because Jeanne notices that brother underlined the claim that the victim was 'good friends' with the suicide guy. That's something he only did when annoyed with something. But why?

More importantly, this whole part of the story is a wash, because again, there's no way he would have been interviewing the victim about the suicide kid.

Finally JJ gets around to asking the college girl about the victims, and it turns out that what they all had in common was they bullied the suicide kid by stealing his clothes after gym class and making him wear panties! The ringleader was the college girl's boyfriend, which is why she was targeted, and the humiliating situation was broken up by the triathlete and another teacher.

So who's the next target? The other teacher or the ex-boyfriend?

Well, turns out the ex-boyfriend is in the military and out of the country, so obviously the teacher.

Oh, and Garcia has figured out who the killer is, a kid who was tubby at the time, but quit school after the suicide and got way into MMA.

While driving to the school, they call the teacher just as he's getting into his car, so they manage to hear him getting assaulted by the killer! Wow, if only they'd had a closer cop go to check on him, this could have been avoided!

Anyway, the killer brings the teacher to the locker room and strips him down, then berates him for not doing more to stop bullying in the school. Meanwhile the cops are rushing in, and this is the second time in this episode when they're pointing guns at someone while he uses a victim as a human shield. Is that a record?

The killer is asked if he's killed enough. He agrees that he has, and drops his gun.

The end!

Other than a check-in with Jeanne and her brother. She's emotionally closed-off, he's resentful. She can't deal with the town reminding her of her dead brother and mother, and she promises to be a better sibling/daughter! Then the whole team gets together at her father's place for barbecue!

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

Profoundly no. The killer only murdered people who had concrete links to one another, and they didn't even do a good job of figuring out the significance of the killer's naked/underwear signature. The moment they realized that the underwear thing was in both cases, and the three victims were linked by the school, they could have swung by and asked anyone working there about the women's underwear thing, and they would have immediately been told that a kid was bullied into wearing panties and then killed himself a couple of months later.

Also that the substitute teacher was at the bullying incident, and the male teen was one of the bullies. What I'm saying is they could have had this thing wrapped up a couple hours after wheels down had they bothered to follow fairly obvious leads.

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

God, yes. I know I said this already, but just go to every gym in town, ask who the biggest psycho is, and then check those names against the victims. You'll find that one of them went to school with two of the victims and was taught by the third. Job done.

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


I know that a good amount of the episode needed to be set aside for Jeanne's family stuff, but wow, was this a shocklingly easy case to solve. I'm a little surprised it didn't get wrapped up a year ago. When the cops went to the school to ask if anyone wanted the teens dead, did no one say 'well, they bullied this nerd into suicide a couple of years ago, and then the nerd's best friend quit school and turned himself into a roided-out monster'?

If not, why not? I know that the covering up of the panties made the case harder to solve, but not that much harder. I guess we'll just assume that Jeanne's brother and the rest of the Kansas City cops are so lazy that they just didn't bother trying to solve the crime? Or maybe KC is such a crime-ridden hellhole that no one even noticed two high school students getting beaten to death?


Unknown said...

How many of these have you done out of the 299 and counting?

Vardulon said...

Turns out the current count is 203 - although a few are pre-posted!