Criminal Minds 918: Rabid

The episode starts outside a mini-mart in Milwaukee, where a lady is laden down with packages. My first thought is, honestly, "is this the same mini-mart from two episodes ago? I know they reuse locations, but that would be crazy, so probably not." It's night, and she's wearing a short skirt and light jacked, so I guess it's weirdly warm in Wisconsin this April? Wasn't there slush everywhere and people in Parkas just three episodes ago?

The lady hops on a bus, where almost nothing bad ever happens. Except for, you know, a creepy weirdo who won't stop ogling her. Then, when she gets off the bus, he disembarks as well, trailing her down a dark alley! Is this the least amount of mystery ever, or is there about to be a surprising twist as she kills him, or they're both killed by a third party?

Creepiness slightly defused, when it turns out he just got off the bus to give her an item she left on the bus seat! Still creepy, though. Then show then follows the guy down the street, where he's murdered by a hobo! Or perhaps... someone pretending to be a hobo? I mean, we don't see the guy's face, so who knows?

Then it's over to a running track, where Garcia and Reid are training to pass the field fitness test! Which apparently involves an 8-minute mile! Which isn't especially daunting, but they're both extremely out-of-shape, it seems. Which I believe from Garcia, since her job is typing, but it's weird that Reid can't manage this. Garcia points out that the whole thing is pointless, since he's never had to run a mile quickly in the field, which I'm pretty sure isn't true. If he'd been a better runner maybe Van Der Beek wouldn't have caught him and got him hooked on heroin.

That might a low blow.

Time for a briefing! Three bodies were found in the woods by a park ranger, two men and a women, all showing signs that they'd been tied up for long periods of time before being murdered! Not that they'd be able to tell that yet, if at all.

How do I know that for sure? Simple - the bodies were found THIS MORNING. I know I spend a lot of time harping on the ridiculous timelines of this show, but this is just insane. I did some quick research to explain just how crazy this is.

The episode aired on March 12th, and we can assume the episode is set on that day as well, since that's just how Criminal Minds works - it's why we were robbed of that evil Santa episode all those years ago.

On March 12th, sunrise in Milwaukee is at 7:15CST. Garcia received her call about the case at:
Which is 6:09 in Milwaukee - a full hour before sunrise. Of course, she didn't get a call when the bodies were found. She got a call from Greg, after he got a call from the Justice Department, after they got a call from the Milwaukee FBI, after they got a call from the Milwaukee Police Department, after police officers confirmed that there were bodies in the woods, after they were called by the park ranger.

What's the minimum amount of time all of those calls could have taken? Two hours? And an hour for the cops to get out to the dump site in the woods, confirm that the corpses are real, and report back to their superiors. So that's three hours, which puts the time window for the ranger to have found the bodies somewhere around 3AM local time.

Also, the bodies were under a couple of inches of dirt:
Which makes it even more incredible that they were found in the pitch darkness.

I know it's weird that I bring this up every episode, but it's truly strange - what do the writers think they're accomplishing by not having the characters just come into work and finding out that they have a case because a body was found a couple of days ago, and the FBI has decided they should work the case? I say 'The FBI' since they no longer have someone deciding what cases the team works on. Garcia obviously isn't doing it. Is Greg? He's the one calling everyone in, but even he seems to just be getting word that they're working the case from someone else.

Where are these cases coming from? Does anyone even know?

Okay, back to the show - the newest body is of a sex worker who was killed six weeks ago. So maybe the creep was just locked away somewhere, rather than being killed by the hobo?

That theory is confirmed in the next scene, where it turns out that the killer has an actual jail that he keeps people in!
Well, possibly a kennel, but in any event, it's a pretty impressive setup just for keeping people captive! The killer sets up a video camera and sprays the creep with water, telling him to drink so he won't get dehydrated... yet. Is this some kind of a study the killer is performing? Does he want to document the effects of starvation and thirst on humans?

I suppose we'll find out after the credits!

On the plane, we already have IDs for the two other bodies in the grave (they'd identified the female sex worker already)! I'm confused as to how, though. This is, at most, three hours later, and the bodies have been in the ground for weeks. There's no way they have fingerprints any more, and their faces can't be in good enough shape that they could have used facial recognition software. Did the killer bury them with ID? Why, it's almost as if this should have been set a few days after the bodies were found, so there would have been time to realistically identify those bodies!

I promise I'll stop bringing this up.

The other victims were a homeless guy and an unmarried truck driver, neither of whom were missed right away - could the killer have stalked them, or did he just get lucky? Also, the victims were two men and one woman, two white and one black. What could his lack of preference mean! They have no idea!

JJ and Derek head out to the dump site, which turns out to be two hours away from Milwaukee, making the timeline even more - wait, I just promised, sorry. They also mention that there's no sign of the people being murdered here, so it must just be a dump site!

But how would you know that? At this point you have no idea how they were killed. Who's to say he didn't bring them out here at gunpoint, then strangle or poison or stab them, or whatever? Nevertheless, they assume that the killer was just dragging bodies from his car to the dump site, some 300 yards from the road. Which leads to a very dumb observation from the two of them, with JJ suggesting that they might be super-close to where he's holding the victims, because it would be so risky to drive bodies all the way from Milwaukee.

Would it, though? You're assuming they're dead in the trunk of the car, and so long as the guy obeys the rules of the road, and has current tags and working tail-lights, why would driving from Milwaukee to the dump site be significantly more challenging than driving from a spooky cabin just a few miles away.

Reid and Joe head over to the morgue, where they discover that all three victims died of heart attacks! Which is an amazing thing to be able to determine given that the oldest victim is decomposed to the point that he looks like beef jerky, and the newest one doesn't have a Y-incision, suggesting that an autopsy hasn't been performed yet!
Weird note, the first victim has animal bites, and the second and third victims have human bites! The team wonder if the killer might be a cannibal, but that's only because they don't know the title of the episode, which I guess is literally accurate? The killer got a rabid animal to bite the first victim, then waited until he went zombie and had him bite the second victim, and so forth - and now there's a fourth victim turning rabid and the bus stop guy is in danger, or he's starting over because the sex worker died too soon?

Does rabies literally make people bite other people? I've heard it can make them violent, but isn't the biting thing mostly with animals, because that's mostly how animals attack? Wouldn't a rabid human just attack without all the chomping? This might call for some research!

Now it's time for a check-in with the creep, who hears a woman talking a few cells over - yup, the chain has not been interrupted. When she finds out he's there, she starts threatening to eat him alive! Which suggests that yes, the killer has isolated a strain of rabies that makes people into ghouls!

Reid's ready - as usual - with some completely garbage geographical profiling - I swear I could give each week's Prentiss Award to the geographical profiling scene and it would always deserve it.

The blue marks indicate where the victims were last seen, and the red marks are where they lived - one was homeless, remember? Greg's observation based on Reid's work? The killer must live in the area. What area, Greg? Milwaukee? Because you already figured that out, and the victims literally lived/were last seen across the entire city.

Then there's some chatting about cannibalism, but since we know that's not relevant, we can just move on to the next scene, where the creep is being assaulted by the killer! He begs for his life while the killer drags him into the common area where the ghoul can attack him! Which is what happens. The killer films all of it, because I guess this is science?

Also, the killer leaves the room, and leaves the creep hog-tied on the ground for the ghoul to attack. Presumably this is what he does every time - how can he be sure that the ghoul won't just tear out his throat, ruining the experiment?

Garcia calls the team about the first victim's backstory - he only recently became a truck driver, before that he was an animal control specialist, dealing with dangerous wild animals! That's all Reid needs to figure out that they're dealing with a creep who purposefully infects people with rabies. Which seems like a stretch, but okay, let's just get to the profile!

The profile is, as usual, pretty useless, and for the first time in a long while, especially when they start wondering how the killer could have possibly gotten ahold of rabies. Umm... Don't you think he definitely has some connection to the animal control outfit where the first guy worked? Maybe a disgruntled former co-worker who wanted to get back at him? Doesn't it seem like an inconceivable stretch that the first victim working in the rabies control field is a complete coincidence?

Also, Jeanne gets maybe her first line in the episode when she points out that the word rabies is derived for a word for violence! Thanks, Jeanne! I have no idea why you're here!

In the next scene the team has figured out at least one of the next two victims, because only two people have been reported missing in a ten-mile radius of the hunting ground (so, the entire city of Milwaukee, plus 10 miles) in the past month, which sounds like a stretch, since like half a million people live in Milwaukee, but I have no idea how to search for missing persons incidences, so let's just let them have it. The ghoul is a 43-year-old stay-at-home mom! No one mentions how badly this breaks the profile of seeking out high-risk victims, but I guess he stopped doing that almost right away?

Now, I know what you're thinking - 'Count, you say that every killer is a spree killer on the show, but this guy watches people slowly die of rabies, how can that be the case here?' Don't worry, the show has got you covered! The killer has been taking victims more and more quickly, because he's making sure the victims get bitten closer to the brain, so that the parasite starts working on them more quickly!

I'm not sure how the killer is managing this, since his MO is to let the ghoul attack a tied up person, and it seems like encouraging the ghoul to bite the victim in the neck would make it more likely that they'd just die, but the show wants artificial time pressure, let's give it to them!

I say 'artificial', because the show has already established the actual time pressure of rabies - that you need the vaccine within one day or you're dead - how is increasing how quickly the symptoms set in relevant or at all threatening?

Then it's over to the kennel - this scene confirms that it's a kennel he's keeping them in - where the killer is editing together videos of the second-latest victim transforming from scared lady into ghoul.

As usual, Garcia has solved the case! She found a kid who got rabies fifteen years ago, but was checked out of the hospital and never had a death certificate filed! How is that possible? Does it have something to do with his older brother, who works in pest control? Who, presumably, was one of the people that JJ said they'd checked and cleared in the previous scene, even though, yes, he's the killer.

How exactly did they check out every single person who works in private pest control, public animal control, and veterinarian's offices all between the profile ending and JJ walking into a room? That's like... over a hundred people you'd have to track down, look into the history of, check their alibis. Was she just lying because she didn't want to do the work? I'm not going crazy, right? She did claim to have cleared everyone?

So... is JJ lazy and lying, or is she just terrible at her job? That deserves a Prentiss Award!

The killer goes in to check on his new victim and film him begging for his life. Is there a scientific reason for this? Does he want to find a cure? Is his brother one of the statistically insignificant people who become healthy carriers of rabies, and he thinks there's a way back for the guy?

Once the killer is gone, the ghoul chews her way out of her restraints - which is weirdly easy to do, they're simple buckles, and he's tied her up so that her mouth is within reach of her wrists. Once she's free instead of attacking the creep the ghoul just says they've got to get out, and jumps out a conveniently-placed window inside the cell!

She does this without untying the creep, for no reason I can think of. Like, she's got the presence of mind to not attack him, and to untie herself, and to know she needs to escape, but she can't pull off one of his buckles?

You're the worst, ghoul.

The team busts into the killer's apartment, only to find it empty! Hey, how'd they get a warrant? I know that the team doesn't really deal in warrants, per se, but from a civil rights standpoint, this is pretty horrific - you're literally breaking into a man's home because his brother caught rabies more than a decade ago.

There's a weird transition from 'middle of the night' until daytime, as if it took them six hours to search a two-room apartment. They come across photographic evidence of the little brother dying of rabies at home, and an audio tape that the killer made of the dying process.

Derek explains that the killer was fired from his last two jobs in the pest control field. Possibly for stealing, since he's got plenty of work gear in his closet. Although maybe not, since he's got a website for his own pest control business, maybe he just bought that? But considering that he kept getting fired from jobs in the field, it's looking more and more like JJ did a cartoonishly bad job of clearing people who worked in pest control.

The ghoul wanders into a coffee shop and attacks someone, but I'm not sure how she made it that far without attracting police attention. She's literally covered in blood and foaming at the mouth - nobody wanted to call the cops?

Greg and Joe talk about how the dump site was near where the killer's family camped during his youth - perhaps it was there that he was bitten by a bat? They then suggest that the little brother might even be buried out there! I'm not entirely sure why the parents didn't just report the kid's death to the proper authorities. Were they part of a cult? It's not like they did anything legally wrong, did they? Wisconsin has to be cool with letting people die at home if they were allowed to check their rabies-infected son out of the hospital.

Actually, given how dangerous and virulent rabies is, why wasn't the brother quarantined? Why, it's almost as if the hospital acted incredibly unprofessionally just so the killer could develop a fetish for rabies?

It's not like this was the 40s or something, and the hospital didn't know what they were doing - the little brother died in 1999.

Anyhow, the team manages to grab the ghoul, because somehow they were closer than any of Milwaukee's cops! They figure she could have only walked a couple of miles in this state, which is pretty reasonable, so Garcia looks for large isolated properties where the killer could be holding people! She finds an abandoned animal control facility, and the team is off!

Over at the kennel, the creep asks to use the bathroom, and the killer comes in to give him a bucket - meanwhile, the team is outside, and they decide they can't wait five minutes for a SWAT team to arrive! Why not? You have no idea when the Creep was infected, or even if he has been - what is waiting five minutes going to risk?

Also, not for nothing, did you bring along a series of rabies vaccines? Because getting those into him should be your top priority, team.

They bust in and have a chase and a fight, then subdue the killer!


Except for a trip to the hospital, where the ghoul dies, and the creep survives! Oh, and at some point in the past three hours, someone went out to the dump site with a shovel and miraculously located the little brother's body, so that guess turned out to be right as well!


Then we see Reid and Garcia continuing their training. This time, with Derek's help! Adorable!

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

Not at all! Did their preposterous guess about the killer's rabies motive help them at all? Nope. While it led them to the identity of the killer, that had nothing to do with catching him. It's weird, but in this episode knowing who the killer was had no relevance to resolving the case. They had a picture, address, everything about the guy, but only when a victim turned up in public did they get their first actionable information.

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

Well, the case was solved because they knew the killer had to be holding the victims somewhere, and then one of the victims showed up with rabies, giving people a starting point to search. I can't imagine it would have taken them too long to find the kennel.

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


So, remember how I said that it would be impossibly preposterous if the first victim was coincidentally involved in the rabies field, and that the killer most likely would have targeted him based on a grudge they had when they were working together? Yeah, turns out the writers were dealing in the preposterous.

Seriously, what? We're expected to believe that Reid only got the insight into the killer's MO because he killed someone who - in a complete coincidence, also worked in animal control? Even by this show's incredibly lazy writing standards that's just inexcusable.

How did the killer kidnap the ghoul? Like, we can figure he just clubbed the homeless guy on the street, and presumably there's a version of the script where he knew the first guy and lured him into danger, and the sex worker he just hired, but how did he get the ghoul? The killer is a creepy weirdo and she's a stay-at-home mom who people will instantly miss. What ruse could he have used to grab her? It's not like she would have been walking alone on the street in the middle of the night the way the creep was, right?

Also, why did the killer start killing people? We're given no insight into a particularly horrific upbringing, and the worst thing up until this point we've heard about is him watching his brother die of rabies. So he just hung out for like fourteen years and then one day decided "hey, for no reason at all I'm going to start giving people rabies!"

The closest thing we get to an explanation we get is 'maybe encountering rabies was the trigger!', but he works in animal control. Rabies is a day-to-day fact of life and threat for people in that line of work. What made this particular encounter with it so vital that he decided to become a serial killer out of the blue?

Just awful work, show.


Anonymous said...

To be clear...he works in PEST control. Which is not animal control or vet services. So he wouldn't have been on JJs lists, and he wouldn't have had regular interactions with rabies. Most pest control workers deal with bugs almost exclusively.

The Hidden Object Guru said...

I see your point about pests, but the episode suggests that JJ still did a terrible job, considering the guy's business website specifically shows a picture of a raccoon as one of the things they specialize in dealing with, given the connection between raccoons and rabies, it's negligent to have not looked into all related industries.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Garcia say the killer was a resident of Hawaii? Then she sent them his work and home address, presumably in Hawaii right? Yet, all of a sudden they're kicking in doors in Milwaukee? What happened? Also it seems ridiculous that his ruse was to sit around and act like a homeless guy until someone made the mistake of engaging him, especially given his dog seemed vicious as hell...

Russ said...

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