Criminal Minds 923: Angels

Somewhere on a back road, a woman pleads for her life from the back seat of a car! Who is the driver? We're not shown... just yet! Once they've reached a suitably woody patch, the killer drags her out of the car and shoots her in the back of the head as she tries to crawl away!

Well, that's certainly a dramatic opening.

At Quantico - which gets a proper establishing shot this week - everyone has gathered in the middle of the night to hear about an emergency case. Also, Esai is there! I was wondering what had happened to him - it was starting to feel like the team didn't have a boss again.

The show seems to understand how weird it's been, and hangs a lantern on it, having Esai announce that the team is so good at their jobs they don't need supervision! Ugh.

Here's the rundown! A killer murdered two prostitutes by cutting strange symbols into their backs with a razor, then shooting them in the back of the head! Also he killed a guy and dumped him outside of a spot where hookers are known to congregate.

The interesting thing? Each of the murders happened six months-ish apart! The first killing was 11 months ago, the second six, and the victim from the opening was last night. Which brings me to my point - why is this a 'middle of the night' kind of case? Did people really need to be dragged out of bed and have their schedules interrupted for this one? The pattern suggests you have at least 149 days until the guy takes his next victim. Maybe just brief the team when they come in to work tomorrow?

Also, the team agrees that it was probably a 'forensic countermeasure' that the bodies were dumped in different counties. Although if you're looking to have people not know that the bodies are connected, maybe just don't dump the bodies in public? And if you're going to dump the bodies in public, maybe don't have the super-specific M.O. of slicing open the small of their back with a razor while doing no other damage.

In Texas, a group of sex workers doesn't want to go out, since two of their number have been killed! Their madam is having none of this talk of 'worker safety', and threatens to harm them if they don't make money for her!

I don't know why they're so worried - the guy has a months-long cooling-off period, after all!

I'm kidding, of course, this is Criminal Minds, where even if every killer doesn't start out as a spree killer, they magically transform into one the moment the team gets on the case, whether they know they're being hunted or not. It's like a Quantum Entanglement phenomenon, where the killers instinctively know to go into overdrive the minute the team finds out they exist.

So yeah, the killer drives by the very women who didn't want to go out working! Will they survive? Hopefully we'll find out after the credits!

On the plane, the team discusses how little they know - it's quite a bit of nothing - with the one interesting observation being that the killer put more razor slashes on each subsequent victim, and deep cuts at that! Is he becoming more sadistic, or do the number of slashes - 5,8,12 have some mythic significance?

Reid and Derek head to the only bar in town, where both of the deceased sex workers plied their trade, and check in with the madam, who's not at all helpful, and doesn't admit that the most recent victim worked for her! The frightened sex worker from the night before has info, though! She says the sex worker called her last john "Mack The Knife", because she's a big fan of classic musicals or Bobby Darrin, I guess?

The sex worker is terrified to talk in front of the Madam, so Derek slips her a card in hopes that they can chat more about the possible suspect later! Reid questions the madam about all of the victims, but while she says the guy looks familiar, she won't admit to knowing the other sex worker. So a pretty unhelpful visit all around, but maybe the card will pay off!

JJ interviews the latest victim's sister, who reports a strange phone call. Apparently the woman wanted to apologize for everything she'd done wrong in her life. It was her last chance to do so, because 'they' were coming to get her! So is there one killer, or is it a gang of murderers?

Greg then wins a Prentiss Award when JJ brings him the info:

Do you people not know what 'crime scenes' are? You don't have any. You have disposal sites. "The cuts are too specific"? What? If there are two guys, and the same guy is doing the cutting every time, they would be. All you have is corpses left on streets or in dumpsters, and while you say that there's nothing to suggest multiple subjects, what about that method of disposal tends to rule them out?

A preacher drops by the station with some info - the male victim was a sex worker, not a john - the DA just agreed to charge him that way to spare his family some small-town embarrassment! So that's a 'change in the target' set aside. Then the preacher asks the team to describe the guy's wounds - he'd heard that they were 'very deep' and wants that confirmed. Greg does confirm it, but of course that's a lie, since the first victim had tentative scratches, and not many of them. Greg's got to keep that close to the vest, and all.

With all that stuff JJ heard about confession, could the preacher be involved? On the way out of the police station he runs into the sex worker's sister, and she proves to attend his services, so perhaps he encouraged the sex worker to make things right with her family?

At the morgue, the M.E. turns out to be a moron who knows nothing about medicine, because Medical Examiner is an elected position in that area. He didn't order drug tests or anything to explain why the victims could have such clean cuts on their body - if they were tortured, wouldn't them thrashing around have led to odd-looking wounds?

The team's theory? That the wounds on the back were consensual S&M sessions that the victims were hired for, and then executed at the end of!

Yeah, about that... can we get a look at the wounds?

Yeah, see, those are super-deep and wide wounds. They would have bled profusely. Even if the victim was hired to take cuts, I can't imagine it would still be consensual after the first excruciating slice. There would definitely be the kind of shaking and resisting they described after the torture started. So isn't it far more likely that she was drugged to the point of being nearly unable to feel pain? Wouldn't that explain the lack of jagged cuts far more likely than the crazy idea that she could be paid to have that done to her back and managed to take it without flinching?

I'd go so far as to say that the most likely explanation is that they happened post-mortem, but there's plenty of bruising all around the wounds suggesting that blood was still flowing when she was cut. Then again, this is what her back looked like when she was thrown to the ground:

There's no blood on that shirt, so yeah, let's bet on 'post-mortem slashing'. Then again, there's also no blood on her shirt when her body was found:

Which should have been covered with blood no matter what the circumstances, so maybe this is just me reading way too much into the costuming and makeup people doing a really bad job.

Still, the idea that Jeanne and Joe looked at those horrific wounds and came up with 'consensual S&M' is just absurd.

On a slightly-related note, I'm curious about why the potential killer is called 'Mack the Knife'. That guy saw her the night before all of this happened, and all of her wounds seem to have been made at the same time - so why give him that nickname if he wasn't cutting her?

Unless, you know, he's actually named Mack and she just called him that because it's a thing she remembered. That could be it, too.

Hey, remember the sex worker with info? It turns out she made enough money that night to ensure that the 'man upstairs' remains happy. That concept was also brought up by the madam when talking to her earlier. Is it just metaphor, or is there a pimp in charge? And if there is, does the authority suggested by the title mean that it's the preacher or the sheriff who's running the prostitution ring? Probably the preacher, right, since 'man upstairs' is most literally a religious euphemism?

She throws away Derek's card instead of calling him, then starts to give herself an affirmation about being beautiful and at that point the killer shoots her in the back of the head in such a way that the bullet flies forward splattering blood on the window she was looking in without breaking it.

Come on, Criminal Minds, this isn't even a difficult gag. You know that air-cannon you're using to spray blood on the window? Just drop a ball-bearing down the barrel. Now when you fire it there'll be a bullet hole in the middle of the bloodstain. How are you getting everything wrong?

And don't tell me you didn't want to break the window because you didn't want to risk breaking glass near the actor. Just lock it down and shoot the blood/bullethole afterwards then merge the frames later. She's on the left side of the screen and the blood's on the right, it's not that complicated.

The team gets out to where the sex worker's body has been lashed to a tree, just in time to keep the cops from cutting it down. They're bad at their jobs, you see. Finally the team realizes that the cuts are all post-mortem, although you'd think the lack of blood all over the previous victim's back would have tipped them off, but whatever. Also, the killer put lavender on her legs for some reason!

The sister goes to talk to the preacher about her grief, but the preacher assures sister that the sex worker is in a better place. Just then another sex worker runs in and announces that 'they' are following her, and she's afraid the world is coming to an end! Which seems like a big leap to make. Also, why did she run to the preacher when she found out her friend was dead, and not the FBI? Is he the pimp, after all?

Whether he is or not, he announces that he's taking the sex worker to the cops to get their take on the situation!

The team offers their profile! The killer is a sadist, and possibly also a 'wound collector', the kind of guy who 'collects' grievances and stews on them, then uses them as an excuse to act out violently! They also think he has a truck so that he can move the bodies easily, but this is Texas, everyone has a truck.

Why are they still going for sadist, when their latest victim (really the last two) tended to confirm that the bodies were cut up after they were shot? Doesn't that take the 'wants to experience a victim's suffering as her cuts them' part of the profile off the table?

Okay, Garcia comes up with some info - the latest victim accepted credit cards for her sex work, and the last john she went to meet with was named 'Mack'! Which means the 'the knife' thing couldn't possibly be literal, since why would she agree to go and see the same man who her friend was last seen with, and who was killed via shooting followed by a brutal slashing? Maybe I can see some reason she wouldn't want to tell the cops about the guy, but would she willingly put her life at risk that way? Seems like a stretch.

Yeah, it was based on his name. The primary school principal is name 'MacIntyre', so that basically removes him as a suspect.

Suspicion confirmed in the next scene - turns out the 'the knife' part of his nickname is because he liked to have the sex workers cut him during their sessions! He gives them a list of the names of the sex workers he's been with, and at least one of them - the guy - I recognize as being a previous victim! Just one second...

Yeah, he'd been with all of the dead sex workers - and he gives up one other name, who's presumably the lady who's with the preacher right now.

Hey... given that two of the woman (and the one man) he'd hired to slice him open were killed and brutally slashed, did he not see that he might have been a point of commonality? I'm going to give this guy the benefit of the doubt and assume that the press didn't cover their kinds of wounds, so he didn't know about the connection.

But I guess he's the focus of the killer's obsession, given that the stable of sex workers he frequents are being killed using a method reminiscent of his fetish? Unless that's a coincidence?

Just as Reid is pointing out that lavender foot wash is mentioned in the bible the sister comes in, asking after the preacher and the sex worker he was supposed to be bringing to the police station. He didn't, BTW. They immediately decide that he's the killer, and JJ - hilariously - tries to pretend that he fits their profile, claiming that he's 'morally rigorous and submissive in public'.

Except no. You said 'early 30s', and he's mid-40s. More importantly, though, he's absolutely not submissive in public. In his first scene he barged into the police station, announcing himself with a booming voice, and in your conversation with him he went out of his way to try to dominate the encounter, even though you were FBI agents. That's about as far from publicly submissive as you can get.

What I'm saying is, if he's the killer, the only thing that you got right is that he's white.

The next scene proves that he's not the killer, just the pimp, as we assumed earlier. He goes to the bar and slaps the madam around, demanding to know who's been attacking his girls. Which is a fair question, one you think he'd have gotten on to a little earlier, since this is the fourth corpse.

Garcia finds that the preacher has been stashing away huge sums of money, which leads Jeanne to announce that it's 'sex trafficking'! Which is such a stupid buzzword to use. There's no suggestion that he's kidnapping women or moving them across state or national lines. He's just a pimp. A vicious pimp, sure, but equating what he's doing to slavery seems a little premature.

The preacher demands to know who got violent with the girls, and the madam comes up with a drugged-out weirdo who might have cut one of them a little once. As he rushes off to chase the guy down, I suddenly remember that there was a guy in the first bar scene who talked about how he was too shy to hit on or hire the sex workers, so he just liked to stare at them and buy them drinks. So that's probably the killer, right?

Garcia finds out that in his original pimping days back in Alberta (he's Canadian!) the preacher used to cut women's backs up as a way of marking them! So I guess the killer is fixated on him, and not the principal? That's an amazing coincidence, huh?

BTW, Greg immediately decides the preacher isn't the killer because he didn't try to kill any of his employees back when he was first pimping, because he's a businessman first. But then the guy the preacher goes to roust is the shy guy from the bar, who claims that he's not the killer! Given that he's a legit junkie, he really can't be, since he wouldn't have the skill necessary.

Things get super-dumb in the new mini-profile, as Greg announces that the reason that the sex workers all said 'they' are after them is not because it was a team of killers, but because it was a killer copying the work of a sadist!

Wait, what? What kind of sense does that make? There's no sign that any of the sex workers knew about the preacher's former habit of slicing women as punishment, and even if they did, wouldn't that make them think that it was the preacher doing it? This is a line that makes zero sense. Let's just all listen to it together to make sure I'm not mishearing it, shall we?

Nope. That makes zero sense. You know this episode had three writers? I checked! It takes a lot of hands to make something this sloppy.

The junkie calls the preacher to announce that he's found out who the killer is. But it was actually the killer setting a trap. He then executes the junkie. Also we find out that the killer is this guy:

And I have no idea who that is. I'm going to assume it's one of the deputies, since they're the only other people to have had lines this episode? Wherever he was, he certainly didn't make an impression!

While the team searches in vain for the preacher, the preacher heads to the finer rendez-vous... where the a female deputy from earlier in the episode spots him and calls it in. Everyone's on their way!

Inside the diner are the bodies of the junky and the two other sex workers! Because why not kill them all off, right show? Sex workers are disposable, aren't they?

The preacher gets a call from the killer, who I think is that guy from Battlestar Galactica? You know, Starbuck's husband, Anders? Maybe he wasn't in the episode earlier on, and I just thought he was because the shot was framed as a 'my god, he was the killer all along' kind of reveal. Anyhoo, he encourages the preacher to shoot at the cops, and has even left him some guns to help with that!

Also, we get some interesting information about the relationship between the preacher and the killer - apparently they had some sort of a 'deal'? And the killer is getting revenge because the preacher couldn't keep his sex workers quiet about something? I guess this must be a two-parter, because this ain't getting wrapped up in the next three minutes.

Proving that everyone on this show is an idiot, when the cops roll up they hang out in the parking lot, talking about what they should do. Rather than, you know, just getting on the loudspeaker and announcing that the know the preacher has been set up, which would be the best possible way to gain his trust and settle the situation.

And we know that the team thought of doing that, because Reid was trying to call the preacher the whole way over - so why not immediately start contacting him the moment you're within earshot?

Or hell, since there was already a cop on the scene, why not just have her start broadcasting that information to the preacher the moment she called it in?

What I'm saying is, it's your fault the preacher shoots the sheriff. Also, it's the preacher's fault, for being an idiot who thinks he can win a gunfight with a dozen cops.


Anyhoo, in the melee, Reid gets shot in the neck, and Derek in the chest!



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

N/A because it's the first part of a two-parter.

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


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


I know this is Texas, and the cops might be trigger-happy, but even after the guy fired a shot at the sheriff's vest, wouldn't the smart thing have been to duck behind the cars and yell at the guy to give himself up (while waiting for other cops to circle around the back of the building)?

I know the cops were established as super-dumb, but this is just terrible.

So, what can we predict for next week? Is the killer a Canadian serial killer whose game was ruined by one of the preacher's sex workers talking to the cops, causing him to flee? Or do they have a more complex relationship?

Also, is Anders Canadian? I know a lot of the BSG actors were, since it's cheaper to hire local and the show was shot in Vancouver.

In case you're wondering, and I don't know why you would be, but here it is: Yes, I had to look up Starbuck's husband's name.

This episode was set in Briscoe County, which naturally makes me think of the Bruce Campbell show of the similar name, but the locale creates a question - the town seems to have like a dozen sheriff's deputies - doesn't that seem high, for a town with less than two thousand people? I checked a map, and Silverton, the only real town in the County, has a total of like a hundred and ten blocks, and almost half of them are vacant or industrial. Does it really need that much policing?

1 comment:

Tom from Detroit said...

Hi CV,

You've made a wrong assumption.

A guy that worked for me had a daughter in a Detroit Public High School, one of her classmates took up being a prostitute. A friend of hers asked how it was, she said that it was pretty good and to try it (OK, growing up on Detroit's west side you meet all kinds). Yep, you guessed it, girl A was arrested for trafficking just for making the suggestion. Nobody was coerced, and no one left Wayne County as far as I know. That's why there's such a big increase in Human Trafficking now. The law's reach has expanded. A lot.

-Tom from Detroit