30.11.19

Criminal Minds 1005: Boxed In

The episode opens in a pumpkin patch where a Halloween-season carnival is being held! Which makes this the Halloween episode, which I'm guessing is - tragically - not being directed by Matt Gubler, because it's daytime and everything looks flat.

Point is, it's Halloween, so maybe the team finally battles a werewolf?

Suddenly a mother notices that her son is missing, but then finds him almost immediately! That's right, it was a reversal - the kid wasn't missing, he just found a corpse! Then, another twist! It's just a child in a skeleton costume, who starts screaming about being let out as he awakens! Halloween kidnapping, I guess?

Then it's over to Quantico, which is introduced with an establishing shot of the actual marine base, showing that hey, every now and then they're willing to put in the effort! Greg is rushing out of work on Halloween night - which, if this is the same day, it means that lady and her son waited way, way, way too long to buy a pumpkin - but where's he going in such a hurry? To a psychic shop run by a friend of Penelope's - this episode is getting stranger all the time!

Actually, it's just sweet - he's picking up his son's Halloween getup, which Penelope's friend got from a relative out in Hollywood! Man, this had better not be Halloween, because the sun obviously set a while before Greg left work, and since the sun sets around 6PM at that time of year, he would be egregiously late with the outfit.

Greg rushes home to show off the costume to his son and his dead wife's sister, who I guess is like a full-time nanny at this point? He's never home, is what I'm saying. What's the costume that was so hard to get? A kid-sized Darth Vader outfit, with light-up buttons and a voice changer and everything! Now that's what an incredible cultural force Star Wars is - Criminal Minds is on a rival network, and they're still plugging Disney!

Jack goes off to try the costume out, but Greg gets a call from Garcia, which means the kid is in for yet another disappointment. Seriously, it's not enough that his mother gets murdered, Greg's going to miss every single one of his milestones too, isn't he?

I'm hoping that the team can wrap this up in time for Greg to take the kid trick or treating, but given that it's the day before Halloween, and they haven't even traveled to the crime scene yet, that would require them wrapping the case up in like six hours, which would be quick, even for them.

Here's the case: the boy was abducted on Halloween the previous year - one day after another boy re-appeared after a year-long post-Halloween captivity! Wow, that was a convoluted sentence to write. That boy died, BTW, and the supposed killer - a notorious paedophile, is already in the slammer for the crime. So what's the connection to this new villain? Did they get the wrong guy? Was it a partner? An evil spirit who jumps bodies after being caught by the police?

Also, will San Diego cancel Halloween? When one kid was abducted on Halloween and dropped off a year later in terrible shape, you might not think there was necessarily anything to worry about, but when another kid was Halloween-nabbed the next day, and dropped off on Devil's Night a year later, it's impossible to avoid the connection. Seems like the safest thing to do would be to just postpone Halloween until they catch the guy, right?

Oh, in Criminal Minds stupidity news, Reid is surprised that the kid who turned up wasn't on the list of missing children in all of America that he has perfect recall of (sigh). Greg explains that the kid was a 'chronic runaway' who wasn't thought to be abducted. Except it's not a list of 'abducted' children, it's a list of missing children. So why wouldn't he be on it? Also, when he disappeared on Halloween night, wouldn't the cops have assumed it was the same guy from the previous case? I mean, they would have dismissed the idea a little while later when they caught the supposed kidnapper and found no evidence of the second boy, but I feel like there's no way that the second kid's name didn't come up in that investigation.

Over at the killer's hideout, a young man jumps into a hole, scrubs the place out with cleaners, leaves a water bottle and makeshift chamber pot, and locks the hole up! He's getting ready for the next victim!

But is this young man the real killer, or another one of his victims? Or both, in that he's carrying on the work of whoever grabbed him years ago? Only time will tell! After the credits, obviously.

We get a few paltry details of the previous victim on the plane. It seems that in addition to being severely malnourished (that's what killed him), he had terrible muscle loss from being held in a box for a year. They also puzzle at why he was covered in splinters - was he beaten with boards or something? Of course, we know that it was from trying to shove his way out of the box, but they're completely puzzled. Although that's the kind of thing you'd imagine a coroner could noodle out - after all, if the splinters are exclusively on his hands and shoulders, it would suggest punching and shoving, rather than an assault.

Also, they mention that the kid wasn't sexual assaulted in any way that they could detect - although that doesn't mean much, since they're only discussing physical damage. Obviously the kid could have been horribly molested for a whole year without leaving scars and the doctors would have no way of knowing, since he didn't get a chance to tell anyone what happened to him.

JJ and Reid check in with the new boy's doctor, who tells them that all he's been able to say is 'let me out' over and over again. Fortuitously, this is all it takes to get them to the 'buried alive for a year' conclusion! Interestingly, this kid was much better taken care of than the previous victim, given vitamins and fed more carefully, so there's little to no chance of him dying like the previous victim!

Let's take our wins where we can get them, people.

Greg and Joe set up the evidence board and chat with a local detective. They're under the impression that the jailed paedophile wasn't involved in the kidnapping, since it was so obviously the same kidnapper in both cases. They're very dismissive of the idea that it could be a copycat or partner, either. Which makes it a complete coincidence that the paedophile had been taking pictures of the dead victim! But why did he confess, then?

It's up to Derek and Jennifer to get to the bottom of that one! They see that he obviously doesn't recognize the latest victim, and figure that means he wasn't involved at all! Unless, you know, his partner had grabbed this one and he hadn't gotten around to seeing the kid before being grabbed.

Naturally that's not the case, and the guy continues proclaiming his guilt even as Jennifer and Derek leave the room. I'm not sure why, exactly. I guess he's suffering from such severe guilt about abusing children that he was seeking out a severe punishment? Oh, and they announce that he's going to get moved out of protective custody so that he can be raped and murdered in general population. Which is kind of a dark way to end the scene.

"Oh, you lied about killing a child? Enjoy getting your intestines punctured and dying a slow painful death!"

Our heroes, people.

Back at the police station, they decide that the jailed paedophile was claiming responsibility for the crimes just because he loved attention, which is just so dumb I'd shake my head if it was possible to do that in text. Oh, wait, I just learned something- *SMH*

There we go. That's better.

Then it's over to a house, where a young boy is anxious to go trick-or-treating! Well, mostly the trick part, since he grabs a carton of eggs from the fridge. But the family is so busy with the aftermath of dinner that they miss Greg's broadcast telling people to only trick or treat in large groups or accompanied by an adult!

So in case you were wondering, yes, San Diego let Halloween happen even though there's a serial killer out there kidnapping boys on Halloween. I hope this family sues the police department. I really do.

He and his punk friends egg some houses, but then the owner of one of them drives up, scattering the group, leaving our star kid hiding in some bushes! In what can best be described as a startling coincidence, the killer is also there, waiting to abduct him the minute the homeowner goes inside! Also, even though the kid sees a creep in a hoodie and skull mask chasing him:
He doesn't call out for help or scream bloody murder!

I'm guessing they don't teach self-preservation at his school?

Greg and Jennifer drop by the victim's house to get yelled at by the boy's parents. Eventually, they find out who he was out with, so they're going to get to the abduction site quickly, one hopes.

Time for a check-in with the killer, who drags the boy out of the trunk of his car and throws him into the pit, telling him that he'll have to stay down there to 'learn his lesson'. Which suggests that the killer is recreating some kind of abuse that he suffered, because that's absolutely how abusive parents talk.

We also learn how he keeps the boys hidden - he puts a plate over the pit and then parks his car on top, so no one dropping by would see anything strange!

So, this was written right after someone saw Prisoners, right? Because this is just what happened in Prisoners, and it came out in... let me check... 2013. So yeah, they're just ripping off Prisoners.

Joe goes to interview the owner of the egged house, who claims that he didn't see anything after running the kids off. He's weirdly a dick about it, but that's just to give Joe a chance to put him in his place, so we'll excuse the completely unbelievable way the man behaves.

Then we get a moment of Reid's photographic memory kind of coming in handy! In that he's able to recall the exact text of the interview with the previous victim's mother! Which he recites to them, for no reason. He could have just said, the kid was going out to toilet paper houses, but instead he does a not-dramatic reading of the Q&A because it takes more time while impressing no one!

The conclusion? The killer must be targeting bad kids to 'teach them a lesson'. Which seems like it would be pretty hard to do, since the kind of kids who do Halloween-night vandalism tend to A: do it in packs, and B: not do it when there's a guy sitting in a car watching them. Trying to drive around looking for a lone kid throwing eggs seems like it wouldn't go very well. Heck, he only caught this particular kid because the homeowner returned, scattering the group. Did he get similarly lucky every single time?

Also, if the police completely dismissed the previous mother's belief that her son was abducted, as we're expected to believe they did, why was the police interview so incredibly detailed that it managed to include 'missing toilet paper' as an item worth writing down? I mean, you already established in an earlier scene that the kid's abduction wasn't taken seriously by the cops because he was a bad kid who acted out all the time - couldn't the team have just extrapolated that he was out committing vandalism on Halloween, because that's what bad kids do?

They give out the profile to the public - a probably religiously fundamentalist creep who hates Halloween! So like a Grinch, but for Halloween. Wait, Halloween was Grinch Night, wasn't it?

The killer watches Greg's press conference, which he's doing because he's the only one of the team with a calming, authoritative presence other than JJ, but I suppose she doesn't want to appear in front of the camera much any more lest people start assuming she's going back to her old job. Hey, what time is this press conference happening? The kid was supposed to be back home at 9PM - how long would his parents wait before calling the police? Half an hour? An hour? Let's say 10PM. The cops have to get there, confirm that he's missing, call the team, the team has to track down the friends, find out from them the last place they saw the kid, and go there to start interviewing people about the egging incident, which leads to the vandalism detail, and finally the profile.

So this is - at the earliest - midnight, right? I hope they're re-running this in the morning, because wow, did no one in the public see their profile.

Yet, amazingly, enough people did see it that the tip line is flooded with calls, and a woman is able to show up and announce that she saw the broadcast, and thinks that her brother is the killer!

The sister has a pretty good case to make. Horrifically abusive father who punished the killer by locking him in a trunk. Then, after the dad left, or was possibly killed by the mother, we'd hope, the killer took on the role of abuser, locking his baby sister in closets, and suffocating small animals for fun. I feel like someone should have dropped the dime on this kid ages ago. Like, in the 1950s when kids were allowed to run around, basically feral, it's kind of understood that some animals got killed as part of normal maturation and testing of boundaries. And also serial killers learning their trade, obviously. But the killer is like 25. He was born around 1989, and started killing animals in the mid-90s. I feel like by then people knew this was a big enough problem to look at seriously when it happened.

Garcia tracks down all of the brother's information, and it's a litany of behavioural problems and general failures. Three years ago his fiancée left him, and they assume that was the trigger that drove him to start killing kids, or at least abducting them and not caring if they died. Also, they note that the father and mother never officially got divorced, and Garcia can't find any record of the dad since the night of the incident, so yeah, I guess the mom probably did kill him.

We also learn that the incident was 12 years ago, meaning that the killer was murdering animals in a major city post-2000. Wow, should social services have gotten involved. Although they do mention that when the mother called the cops on her son she always then told them to go away, so maybe she's a little to blame for all this as well.

Joe, JJ, and Greg go to talk to the mother, asking for a lead on the kid. Joe's pitch: have her go back to the night of the incident, looking for clues that might help them solve the crime! I'm not sure what she could possibly tell them about the night that would help. I mean, all they need to know to solve the crime is 'where would the killer take the child', and something that happened a dozen years ago has no possible bearing on that. Unless, you know, the father said 'I should lock you in this trunk for a year but also drag it to my remote hunting cabin that's not listed in my name anywhere, but here's the address.' Which seems like a stretch to me.

She doesn't want to take part in Joe's stupid exercise, though, which Greg decides means she's hiding something. A murder, perhaps? Did she do it, or did the son like kill him with a bat and the mother help cover it up, forever warping him?

Weirdly, they act like it's Joe's memory technique that's moving the scene along, because he urges her to try and focus on the events of that night, and the actress goes all in on closing her eyes and pretending she's there. Except, you know, she doesn't need to do that. She remembers beating her abusive husband to death with a fireplace poker. That's not something you'd forget.

Having admitted to the totally justifiable murder, the mom is finally ready to reveal what she's known all along - the killer is at his grandfather's old cabin, where they buried the dad a dozen years earlier. So... something Garcia should have immediately picked up with a records search, then?

Over at said cabin, the killer gets sick of hearing the kid yelling for help, so he opens the trapdoor and viciously beats him! Then we go to a commercial, and when we come back, he's in the same place, covering the trapdoor with a car again. So has he buried the kid alive during the break?

No, he's just under the car, like in Prisoners, and since they didn't bring bloodhounds like they obviously should have, we're supposed to think it's tense that they might not find him.

They do, of course, by having his mother come in and ask him to do the right thing. Which works immediately! That's still like a half-hour they lost by not bringing the dogs, but hey, at least the kid is fine, right!

As the kid is being wheeled into the ambulance, his parents show up to coddle him!



I guess the sister was too busy with her friends to join them? More importantly, though, really bad idea bringing the parents out to the crime scene, team - what if the kid had been dead? You've just made it a bunch worse by letting the parents watch their kid's body getting pulled out of a hole in the ground!

THE END

Oh, and the kid in the hospital stops being catatonic, and his parents are there! Damn, is that kid going to need just so much therapy.

And Greg goes to see Jack, who slept on a couch in his Darth Vader costume! Cute!

Also, I guess I never noticed that they live in an apartment building? I mean, I know they weren't going back to the murder house, but doesn't it seem like in Greg's desperation to provide Jack with as much of a normal life as possible, he'd want a new house?

Actually, maybe it's sweet, and he moved the kid literally as close to the base as possible, to minimize commute time and maximize his time with his son!

That's what I'm going to believe!

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

Kind of? I mean, giving the profile did get the crime solved, but you didn't need the team for that. Like, at all.

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

Sure. I mean, it was solved when Greg went on TV and said 'a jerk hates Halloween, and every year he kidnaps a young boy and shuts him up in a box'. The sister definitely would have come forward and boom - crime immediately solved. Maybe even faster than it was!

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

3/10

Literally the second they knew the killer's name, Garcia should have had all of the property records and they would have been searching those locations immediately. There was no reason to even check in with the mother. I expect better from you, Garcia.

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