Criminal Minds 1009 - Fate

We open with a woman closing up a shop while complaining about a cheapskate! Tipping just 5 dollars on a hundred? Who does that? I don't know exactly how much they should have tipped, though, since I have no idea what kind of business the woman is running. It's not a restaurant, because she said the line 'a hundred dollar service', and there's nothing in the location to suggest any particular service industry. No foot baths, massage tables, hairdresser's chairs and mirrors. No help at all, show.

It was probably a restaurant in the script, but the location fell through at the last minute, and they were like "it's fine, we'll change the word 'meal' to 'service', no one will notice".

The lady hears something at the front of the shop, and goes to investigate - but hangs up on her friend first! Because that's the natural inclination of everyone: the moment you hear something scary in the dark building you're locked inside, hang up the phone so you can investigate it completely alone.

Okay, update, there's a hair dryer in the back so it's a salon! Also, the woman gets stabbed by someone in black, gloves and all. Giallo adventure, here we come!

The next day (I'm guessing), David is driving to work, while a woman in the car behind him stares intently at the back of his head. But why, and for what reason?

Ooh, she's got a file with his name on it on her passenger seat - she's trying to psyche herself up to talk to him about something. The file number on it has 11 digits, with both letters and numbers! I have no idea if that's somehow significant. David stops at a coffee shop, where the clock lets us know that it's 7:53 - a fact belied by how bright everything is outside the window. This episode is set in December after all, which means that sunrise was only half an hour ago.

David picks up two coffees, one for him, and one for his tail! That's right, he was on to her the whole time! Oh David, you scamp. It seems this is the second day he's been followed by her, so he assumes that she's a private detective. Which makes him a terrible profiler, because she's super-flustered. Then he claims that 'most people' would ask for the coffee back at the end of the interaction, but since he's a gentleman, she can keep it.

Um, David, 'most people' wouldn't spend five dollars on a bit of prop comedy, but of the small subset of people who would, I sincerely doubt any but the tiniest fraction of them would ask for the coffee back once the bit is over. What were you going to do, bring two cups of coffee back to your car, and then carry them both up to the office? Weak, David.

Time for the briefing - three victims, and the lady was, in fact, killed last night, and she's the third in a series. Interestingly, the first two were men, killed in their homes, so this is such a huge departure that I'm guessing only weapon similarities tied them together. Or there's an obvious signature we haven't heard about yet.

The first victim worked in a hardware store, the second in a garage - Reid's first thought is to check 'appointment logs', which suggests that he's never been inside a hardware store. You want to check the credit cards of everyone who spent money at those places, and check for security footage.

There's a little more chatting about the M.O. - the killer strangely stabs the victims, takes off their clothes, and then puts them in fresh ones and poses them in a chair. It's pretty strange, actually. Then they give the standard 'the timeline is accelerating' speech, which has to be crazy for the actors to try to say every week as if it's meaningful. This is literally every single person you chase, team. They're all spree killers.

Time for a check in with a random suburban family! They're eating breakfast, and the kids are concerned about a personality shift in their mother - the dad tries to say she's working through some stuff, but going jogging twice a day is pretty odd. They mention that she's been through a lot - is it PTSD? A brain injury that's turned her into a killer? The mom returns and runs straight to a bathroom with her bag - which is kind of an odd thing to bring jogging. Are her weapons and extra clothes inside? Is she the killer?!?

Yes, she is! At least that's what the show is communicating by having her wearing blood-soaked clothes under her running togs, and pulling a bloody kitchen knife out from her bag. Did she not come home last night, and the father didn't notice/is covering for her, or did she just head out and stab someone else?

I'm sure we'll find out right after the credits!

While driving to the crime scenes, the team goes over the details - no obvious connections between the victims, people pay cash at businesses, so the customer list seems to be a dead end. They're confident that if they can figure out what the victims have in common, they'll be able to track down the killer. Let's hope so!

Hey, was the killer the woman who didn't tip the salon lady the night before? If so, that's two horrible things about her.

We next find the killer at her job, and watch her supervisor steal all of the credit for an energy-friendly building she helped design! The look on her face suggests that she's going to be taking this anger out fairly soon!

The killer goes to confront her boss about stealing the idea, and through an exposition dump we learn that the killer had an accident, and was off work for more than six months. So maybe the 'brain injury creates a killer' thing isn't completely random.

As David arrives at the crime scene, he calls Penelope to ask her to check out the stalker's license plate. Um, David, why didn't you do this when you were in a room with her like ten minutes ago? On the way out the door, just take her aside and hand her a piece of paper with the license plate on it. This isn't more subtle - you made the call directly in front of Love, and you don't have a quiet voice.

Now let's check out a video, and I'll ask the question: Is David lying, or is the propmaster bad at their job?

They go through the salon, looking for the missing clothes, and find them in the washing machine! This convinces Love that the killer must be a woman, because a male unsub would have destroyed clothes to act as a forensic countermeasure, rather than washing them. Or, you know, it's part of the psychosis. You've already got someone who's excessively cleaning up their victims and putting fresh clothes on them - that's a weird obsession for a killer to have, and the cleaning the clothes could easily be attached to the central fixation. No effort was made to clean up the blood on the floor, though, so who knows? In any event, fully washing and drying clothes adds a full hour+ to the amount of time the killer stays in the victim's house/business. That really makes it look more like a signature element than it does proof that a woman is the culprit.

They also take a second to make the locals look incompetent, with the guy saying they'll check the washing machines in the other victim's houses for the cleaned clothes. You didn't already? You knew that the killer stripped the victims down and did something with the stabbed clothing, but you didn't search the house for it? Come on, guys.

David also suggests searching lint traps for evidence of the killer. I don't know what would survive a wash cycle so thorough that it removed all traces of blood from the clothes, but who knows?

Greg talks to the friend from the phone call, who reports that the victim was always really rough with customers whom she felt treated her badly. Reid chimes in that the mechanic was the same way - could bad social interactions be triggering this woman's murderous rage? If so, her manager had better watch out!

JJ and Derek check out the body at the morgue, and discuss the strange cleanliness fixation. I still find it strange that she scrubbed the body and washed the clothes, but not the floor, but whatever. They talk about a fixation on a single thing in the crime scene, and how the killer might have gotten treatment in a psychological facility, so they should look into hyper-obsessives who've recently been released. They also talk about how the cleaning the clothes points at a woman, which is still strange, since it's just as likely that it points at the mental disorder they're discussing.

There's also a long brown hair, which is the first piece of evidence pointing to the killer being a woman! Couldn't they have waited for this info before jumping to that conclusion?

Garcia calls David to tell him that the car was a rental, and the woman is a true-crime junkie who wrote a self-published book about the Zodiac! Presumably she wants to talk to David about a case she's writing about, but David just assumes she's a stalker fan, and wants to avoid her.

Hey, remember when this attitude got Zoe killed like six years ago? David sure doesn't! He instead likens it to a stalker who broke into his house, and is now in jail.

I know you've seen the far ends of the spectrum, David, but you've got to stop assuming the worst about people.

Time to check in on the killer! She's in a car, trying to talk herself out of murdering her manager, and not doing a great job of it! Her husband calls to ask why she's not home yet, and she makes a lousy excuse - she's going to talk to her manager about another project. If the manager turns up dead the next day, hopefully the husband will figure things out right away!

The boss is relaxing in her home with her husband, prepping things for a sexy evening, as the killer sneaks inside. How is she getting into these buildings? Did she work her way through college as a locksmith?

Anyhoo, the couple gets stabbed to death, because the killer is a scumbag! She feels immediately remorseful and dials 911, then flees the house! She didn't have gloves on for the crimes, so presumably she's left fingerprints everywhere. I guess her injury left her without any self-control, so she's incapable of keeping herself from acting on violent impulses? It would be sad, but she's still capable of turning herself in afterwards, and she's not doing that, so this really feels like she's more of a scumbag than a victim.

While driving away from the scene she has a flashback to being removed from a car accident on a back board, so it's looking more and more like we called it and this is a 'brain trauma removes inhibitions' killer. As she arrives home her husband is still awake, but he doesn't confront her, despite the fact that it's 4AM. Then we get a bit of weirdness, because she seems to have super-long hair, but then she takes it off and it's either a wig, or maybe her victim's scalp? It's all pretty hard to track, visually.

At the crime scene, we discover that the killer only washed and redressed the manager, because she's only guilty about her targets, I supposed? Also, they find some hair in the corner of the room, suggesting that she's pulling out her own hair, rather than it being grabbed in a fight. Time for the profile!

The team profiles her as an intermittently violent psycho, they think she's off her meds, so she must have recently gotten out of an institution. They also try to get away with claiming that the victim is a Caucasian Female between the ages of 40-50. They have zero reason to believe this, of course - this kind of delusional violence isn't age-related, the writers just want to get away with having the team be right about something without bothering to think up any evidence that could aim them in that direction.

The killer tries to go into work, but when she sees the picture of the dead boss, she freaks out and goes back to her car. Oh, it's her wig, and she's using it to cover up the scalp that's ravaged by her habit of pulling out her own hair.

The killer returns home and discovers that her husband is waiting for her. He wants to talk about her fragile mental state! And, you know, the blood-covered shirt he found in her closet. Which he's talking to her about, rather than the police.


She confesses to him right away, and he offers to help her as they go to the police! Naturally, she stabs him to death, because she's super crazy! Then her daughter comes home and sees the mess - is she going to get stabbed as well?

Back at Quantico, the team is still pretending that they're valuable, going through possible ways that people might get the kind of psychosis that leads them to super-stab people who frustrate them. Eventually they get to 'brain injury', and suggest that the regimented behaviour of physical rehab might have led to the 'fixate on one thing' syndrome they're seeing at the crime scenes. Although, once again, it's just as likely to be acute remorse/rationalization. Actually it's more likely to be that, since she actually tried to call the cops on herself.

Joe then sees Zoe.0 entering with a press group (she's technically a reporter), and he runs over to threaten her with prosecution if she keeps harassing him! Again, Joe, at least let the woman explain why she's there first! God, you're a jerk. This could be an interesting case, she could be your secret daughter you never knew about - it's literally just five minutes of your life you can put in before making a decision about who this woman is.

How can you possibly be a good profiler if you're always jumping to conclusions like this! Wait, it's because the writers just arrange things so your guesses are right. Gotcha.

In the next line of dialogue after I unpaused the show, it turns out that she was, in fact, his secret daughter.

God, you're an ass, Joe.

Garcia tracks down the killer by looking for people who've had frontal lobe damage and recently been released from rehab. They find her right away, and then Derek earns himself a Prentiss Award!

Yeah, being in charge of what kinds of doors and windows go into a building gives you no special knowledge about how to break into doors and windows without leaving a mark. That's just epically stupid. Why not just say she pried them open with a crowbar? How would that have changed the episode?

What's that? It just would have made it less dumb? Great!

As they rush off, Joe - being a dick - is still harassing his daughter, and disbelieving her claims. You're the worst, Joe.

On the drive out to the killer's house, Joe flashes back to memories of the mother, because he's super-distracted and distraught at the situation. Yet he insisted on driving. Again, you're the worst.

Oh, it turns out the other daughter's fine! The killer is forcing her to drive to some lady's house for an additional murder! Will the team get there in time to save her? Or maybe they don't have to? It turns out the place they're going is the house of the teenage girl whose car she ran into six months ago. That would be a weird person to want to kill, since the accident was your fault, but whatever.

Yeah, the scumbag killer shows up at the house, slashes the woman who answers the door, then confronts the teen - who's in a wheelchair! Apparently she blames the teen for the accident, because she hates taking responsibility for anything!

The team shows up and points their guns at her, demanding that she drop the knife! She does.


JJ goes to comfort the daughter, who blames herself for not being more vocal about her suspicions. JJ says that mother will need a lot of help from here on out, and it'll be up to the daughter to do that. Except no, the mother doesn't need help, she needs to be locked away forever, and the daughter should distance herself as much as possible from the killer. Mental illness may have caused her to commit crimes, but it was her awful personality that caused her to try to get away with them. This isn't someone you should be wasting your time on, teenaged girl.

Then we cut to Love, who wonders if the jury will be sympathetic to the killer. Why should they? She's a terrible person, whether or not she had a brain injury.

Then Greg notices Joe is preoccupied, and asks what's going on. Joe doesn't respond, and just takes an SUV to the airport so he can talk to his daughter before she leaves.

We get a sad driving montage, and a flashback to Joe leaving his wife because he hates Paris, and she doesn't want to leave her job. This is, I guess, when she didn't tell him she was pregnant.

Joe rushes to the airport, and confesses that he was too weak to be married to a strong woman like her mother. Joe gets a nice crying scene, and then they fly off to California so he can meet her husband and son!

Happy ending!

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

Sort of? The fact is, they came to a conclusion about the kind of killer she was based on almost no information. They leap to the idea that someone had an inability to control rage based on either a psychotic break or frontal lobe damage, but that's not actually what was happening. The woman was completely able to control her rage, because she didn't attack the people who made her angry the way someone with rage control issues would. Instead, she went home, got a knife, stalked them extensively, and broke into their homes to kill them.

She's not lacking in impulse control, she's just an asshole.

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

She killed her boss and her husband, and left fingerprints literally everywhere. Obviously she would have been caught. Maybe not in time to save the wheelchair scene, but who knows?

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

1/10 - Yeah, here's the thing - if her impulse control problems were this severe, and based on a physical defect, rather than a chemical one, they absolutely would have been noticed during six months of rehab. Rehab is a frustrating, painful process, and with a complete inability to keep herself from attacking anyone who slightly frustrated her with overwhelming violence, there's no way that wouldn't have come up during treatment.

So yeah, this episode's plot could never have happened!

(Yes, I know that the show tries to get away with this by having the team theorize that her rage was 'triggered by driving again', but that's not how strong emotions work, and this is a woman completely incapable of controlling violent impulses. It would have come up during treatment.)

Also, can we talk about what a terrible job Garcia did with her background check on Joe's secret daughter? For someone who's famous as both super-competent and a snoop, how could she not have turned up that this was the daughter of Joe's first wife? It's ridiculous to think that she wouldn't have. She didn't have to tell Joe, since that's not her place - it's a family thing, but she could have expressed to him that he really should talk to the woman without telling him why.

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