Criminal Minds 1011: The Forever People

The episode opens with a man and a woman sparring in a gym! Could this be a return to Forrest Whitaker's hideout from Suspect Behaviour? And we'll finally discover what happened after the end of the cliffhanger? Of course not! That would require anyone who worked on the show to care about anything that happened when Bernero was running the place.

During the sparring, the woman has some flashbacks to being tortured, and it's only at this moment that I realize that it's JJ, who's PTSDing about the events of 200!

The team assembles to get the case and worry about JJ's wrapped-up knuckles! There's a dead body they pulled out of the water next to Hoover Dam - is that Lake Mead? I feel like that might be Lake Mead.

Derek wins an early Prentiss Award when he asks this question about the frozen-solid corpse-

Okay, so, first off, you heard that the corpse was frozen solid, right? And since the water it was in wasn't frozen, then by definition, it can't have been the water that froze her. More importantly, though - this person was killed, wrapped in plastic, weighed down, and dropped in a lake. It makes little to no sense to even be open to the possibility that the freezing was unrelated to the rest of the crime.

Love almost wins another, when she announces that 'hitmen usually leave evidence of an efficient kill'. What on earth is that even supposed to mean? Most hitmen just shoot people. That's by far the most popular way for hitmen to commit murder. What is she even talking about?

JJ then notices that the dead woman has an electrical burn on her chest - which somehow everyone else missed, despite the fact that it's a prominent red mark where the rest of her is white. They immediately jump to the conclusion that the victim was killed by freezing them to death, and then the killer tried to prolong the torture by shocking them back awake over and over again.

There hasn't even been an autopsy yet. These are strange conclusions to be jumping to. The killer could have poisoned or electrocuted the woman and then frozen the body later. This theoretical MO is based on little to no evidence, and just reinforces how sloppy these people are at their jobs.

Over in what we have to assume is the killer's town, a man waits at a bus stop - but when the bus arrives, he doesn't get on. Is he waiting until a person gets off alone in the middle of the night in the hopes of targeting them for murder? Or is something less sinister going on here?

Why am I even asking that? This is Criminal Minds!

Wow, it's something far stranger! A guy in a van drives up, puts a bag over the guy's head, zipties his wrists together, and then throws him in the back of the van! The strange part? It's all consensual! It's part of some kind of initiation, where the man has signed away his freedom, and he has to go through the freezing torture to advance to 'level 2'! We watch him being moved into a walk-in freezer, then get a reverse angle which suggests the freezer is in some kind of private residence, then the door shuts and we're off to the credits!

There's some mental gamesmanship on the plane, as the team questions why the body was tossed in the lake - the killer went to a lot of trouble to move it out there on a boat and weigh it down, but then it popped right back up because ice is far less dense than water. So the killer must not have a lot of experience with murder.

The conflict is based on Reid's claim that there are a specific number of boats on Lake Mead (I was right! Yay!), and when Love calls him on it, he claims that he was just estimating based on population in the area. Love accuses him of just guessing, but then Joe looks it up and says that Reid was right!

There's just so much dumb stuff here. There's no fixed, countable number of boats on Lake Mead. How do I know this? Because no one lives on Lake Mead. It's part of a national park. There are marinas, and there are boat ramps if you want to take your boat out for a day on the lake, but anyone boating on Lake Mead is a visitor - ergo, there cannot be a set 'number of boats on Lake Mead'.

You could check how many people own boats in Boulder City, NA, or even Las Vegas, but that wouldn't in any way, shape, or form correlate to a concrete number. Especially when the number Reid quotes: 1,908, is both way too high to be the total boat ownership for Boulder City, and far too low to be how many people own boats whose closest large body of water is Lake Mead. So yeah, utterly meaningless intellectual showoffery.

The captain of the local police points out that it'll be hard to find more bodies because the lake is so huge. Joe suggests that they start at the dump site and radiate outwards, because that's how the Green River Killer operated.

Is it Prentiss Awards all around this week? This is the dumbest thing Joe has said in ages. The Green River Killer didn't dump bodies in a river. He dumped them in the woods around the river. The vast majority of the time, he dumped them fairly close to the roads, because he was lazy, and didn't want to carry the bodies very far. This information is in absolutely no way relevant to the case they're working on, and it makes me think that the person who wrote the line knows nothing about the Green River Killer.

I mean, I know almost nothing about Gary Ridgeway, but it took me literally two minutes to pull up a map of where his victims were found, and prove that Joe was talking absolute gibberish.

Also, irrespective of all of that - you're operating under the theory that the killer dumped the body out of a boat - which means they could have dumped people anywhere out on the lake. There's no earthly reason for someone to drop one body anywhere near another, unless it's a Dexter-type thing and the killer wants to know exactly where the corpses are so he can visit them.

And hey, they mentioned that if they can just figure out who the victim is, they'll be able to find out who the killer is, since the only reason to dispose of a body is if you know that they can be traced to you. Or, perhaps, you'd dispose of a body in a place it won't be found in the hopes that the cops wouldn't know there was a killer running around at all? If you were a killer murdering people with no connection to yourself, what's the better option: leaving the bodies lying around, so the police can start looking for a killer, no matter how hard they are to find, or hiding the bodies away so the cops don't even know there's a killer on the loose?

I wish I didn't have to point this stuff out, but everything everyone says is so completely dumb.

Okay, the show just expects us to believe that everyone working in law enforcement is an idiot. They were stumped that no one had reported the woman missing, but then it turns out that Garcia was only checking for Nevada missing persons! It takes the 'genius' of Derek Morgan to notice that the state line between Nevada and Arizona runs through Lake Mead! How could anyone not have picked up on that?

Why would this even have been just a Nevada missing persons search? Lake Mead is right next to Las Vegas - the seventh-most visited City in America. 40+ Million people go there every year, 4 times the population of Nevada and Arizona combined. Statistically speaking, it's far more likely that the dead body you found is a tourist than a native.

And I won't even get into the fact that it would have taken Garcia no appreciably larger amount of effort to make it a nationwide search rather than a statewide one.

It gets even dumber, when Love mentions that bringing the body to the shore by Nevada is a great forensic countermeasure, since he knows that their search would normally stop at the state line. Even though the guy didn't want the body found at all, and was just too dumb to know that ice floats. That's right - he doesn't know how ice works, but he'd thought through jurisdictional boundaries?

Oh, god, okay. I'm just going to stop watching this episode now. I'm going to take a break. Every line in this scene is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. I'm going to leave the computer, take a swig of vodka, get a good night's sleep, and come at this with fresh eyes tomorrow.

In case it's not clear why I'm so furious, I'll lay out what literally anyone planning to write an episode of television set at Hoover Dam should already have known: Lake Mead is a NATIONAL PARK. It is owned by the NATIONAL PARKS SERVICE. It doesn't matter what side of a line you dropped the body on, dumping the body in a NATIONAL PARK essentially ensures that the FBI is going to be involved. It's the dumbest thing you can possibly do if you want your crime to go under the radar.

I'm too angry right now. Taking that break. God, we're only seven minutes into this thing.

Back! Let's get to it!

The dead woman is a single mother - they mention that her credit cards and cell phone were cut off three years ago, so she's borderline destitute. Despite this, she's been traveling to Boulder City once a month and taking 260 dollars out of her bank account... but why?

Fun side note - they tried to make up a full bank statement with all her various deposits and withdrawals, but they started with the preposterously round balance of 1000$ even, so it still looks fake.

Even funnier side note - her credit card company is called 'Credit Card Services', her telephone company is called 'Telephone Company' and her bank is called 'Bank'.

 Why is this? I'd guess that someone on staff made templates for phone, credit card, and bank statements, then the person responsible for making the graphics this week either forgot, or just didn't bother to make up fake names for the companies. Dumb or lazy, take your pick!

Since I'm frustrated anyhow, let's all take a moment to remember that Garcia figured who this woman was like ten seconds ago, and so couldn't possibly have had time to get a court order for any of this.

Just going to throw this out there - no one shows the slightest bit of concern for where her son might be. She's a super-poor single parent who's been dead for an indeterminate amount of time, but the son isn't mentioned at all by the cold-hearted monsters.

Over at the autopsy, JJ and Reid talk about paradoxical undressing, where cold damage to people's nerves gets so bad that they feel like they're on fire, and tear their clothes off to cool down. This is hilariously incongruous with his earlier statement that freezing was the most peaceful way to die because it was just going to sleep. Then they realize that the electrical burns were probably from attempted resuscitation!

They even talk about how the 'scar tissue' had built up over weeks, meaning she'd gone back time and again for the freezing treatment! Of course, there's no way to know that about the scar tissue - the woman's skin hasn't been closely examined by a scientist. In point of fact, she's still frozen so solid that there's literally ice on her eyebrows-

Yeah, that's not how ice works, show.

Obviously they couldn't be making any of these guesses based on such a superficial examination, but since the producers wanted to save a couple of bucks by not hiring an actor to play the ME this week, this is what we've got.

Reid leaves, but JJ hangs out to wait for the final ME report (even though the woman is still FROZEN SOLID AND HASN'T HAD AN AUTOPSY OH MY GOD THIS EPISODE), which is really an excuse for her to PTSD some more and picture herself on the table. An extra drops off the report and JJ asks if the blood glucose level is accurate, which they couldn't possibly know because they couldn't have drawn blood because the BODY IS FROZEN SOLID.

How much worse can this episode get?

JJ then rushes into the office, proclaiming that she knows what the murder is all about! Is it flatliners? I hope it's flatliners.

Then it's over to the latest victim, who's woken by a shock to the chest, and then applauded by all of the other members of his cult! There's like, a lot of them.

At the woman's house, JJ and Reid talk to a friend of hers, who hadn't spoken to her in ages. It's weird that they're the ones who drove all the way to Arizona - that suggests that they left the morgue, went to the office to report the findings instead of just calling them in, and then drove all the way to Arizona. Shouldn't other team members have been dispatched while they were at the morgue?

Anyhoo, JJ mentions to the friend that the victim's low blood sugar suggests that she was being given an all-protein diet to weaken her mind, suggesting she'd joined a cult! Not sure why they need to give autopsy information to this woman, or even if it's legal to tell this stuff to a non-family member, but whatever.

They deliver the profile of how cults are scummy, and show the cult leader wearing Jim Jones glasses indoors! Classless!

Then we get a bit of cult indoctrination, where they cultists are made to hold trays covered in rocks steady to prove their strength. One guy starts to freak out, and is then dragged away.

At the police station, JJ shows up after having disappeared for half an hour. Reid is concerned about her obvious PTSD symptoms. I guess she didn't get any counseling after all that kidnapping and torture last year. What is it with these people - who are all supposedly trained psychologists - never getting therapy of any kind?

JJ then claims to Reid that what she's feeling is 'bigger than PTSD', because she lost a baby, and Helo betrayed her, and then she got tortured for a day. Which all sounds like standard PTSD stuff, really. It's serious enough to have her collapsing in tears on the anniversary of episode 200, sure, but if she'd been getting therapy this whole time, she would have been in a much more stable position by now. Did she even get any real therapy after the bombing and miscarriage? I'm guessing no.

At the end of her confession, she asks what to call that - and Reid is classy enough to avoid the truth, which is 'you're describing PTSD, and need to be in intensive therapy, not flying across the country, looking at few new mutilated corpses every week'.

Greg then asks Reid if he's got any leads on the boat, but he's too distracted to answer. You were supposed to be looking for the boat this whole time? And you were just sitting in a hallway, waiting for JJ to come out of a bathroom? You could have waited for JJ while making calls about the boat, dude. Be better at this.

Derek and Love head out to talk to the mother of one of the cult's other victims - a guy who was treated for frostbite and then went off the grid. The woman says a law firm provided her with a contract that the son signed, giving consent for the freezing process, and then told her if she talked publicly about the cult, they'd sue her for defamation. Turns out the cult dumped the guy after his frostbite incident, and he's in the house right now - she's been taking care of him, which is why there's no public records!

The guy is still super-crazy! Even though he's been out of the cult for years, he's still trying to prove his worthiness with the rock tray thing!

I don't know where the episode is going to go from here - we're 17 minutes in and they already know about the cult. I guess they just have to prove what happened with the body disposal, and they can charge some people with misdemeanors and go home? Or will they try to trigger a siege?

Okay, I guess they don't know about the cult? They talk to the cultist and try to get some names out of him, but I don't know why they need to. If there was paperwork about the freezing, that paperwork was put together by someone, and there's another party involved. Someone hired the lawyers to threaten the woman in the hospital where her son was injured, and this should all be really easily traceable by Garcia.

Hey, what's with the boat? Was someone trying to attract attention? This cult must have access to a decent-sized bit of land; why not just bury the dead body there? I mean sure, maybe the inner circle are trying to hide the dead bodies from the less involved cultists, but you can bury a body in secret overnight and have a lot less danger than putting it in a car, driving it to Lake Mead, boating out to the middle of the lake, and dumping it.

I was wondering if there was ever going to be a ticking clock in the episode, and it finally turned up! The guy who freaked out in tray-training (trayning?) is freezing in the freezer, when a masked figure comes in to cut his body free with a blowtorch. But then it turns out he's not dead at all! The masked figure isn't happy about that, so they spray the guy with liquid nitrogen!

Why are you wasting perfectly good liquid nitrogen? He's already in a freezer. Just dump some cold water on him and leave, he'll be dead soon enough.

In the very next scene, Love, Reid and Derek are back at the morgue, where the latest victim has turned up! Is this all happening in the same day? They announce that Garcia 'found' this latest body. How? Did the cult, after freezing the guy to death, just drop him in the middle of a town or something? Why are they suddenly so sloppy with body disposal?

Why does nothing about this episode make any sense at all?

Luckily, the newest victim paid the cult's fake charity by cheque, so they finally have a lead!

The team goes to the cult ranch to interview people. Can their Cracker abilities get through to the cultists? JJ talks the guy from the start into taking off his cast, and it turns out he's got some crumpled up paper inside! He's the father of the missing kid, and only joined the cult to try to get his kid back!

In the interview with the cult leader, Greg reveals that they also pulled the latest guy out of Lake Mead! Wait, so somebody drove out there and dropped a body into the water in broad daylight? What is even happening in this episode?

There's a moment where the guy seems surprised that the people are dead, so maybe he's not the one killing them, but it's another fanatic? After all, the latest guy was killed because he wanted to leave, so it's within the realm of possibility that the leader could think they'd just left.

JJ's conversation with the father ends with him offering to help act as eyes inside the cult if they can help him find the kids. Which shouldn't be that difficult. Like, you can just have family services come in and tear the place apart - the government has the legal obligation to look after the welfare of anyone under 18, so they can just show up and shut down the cult and jail everybody until they can prove that the kids are safe and healthy.

It's weird that the show doesn't seem to know this, since that was the plot of the Luke Perry episode way back in season four.

The team comes in for a meeting and discusses their options - they also noticed the cult leader's surprise, so they conclude that there's a psycho in the cult murdering people according to the tenets of the faith. So he's psychopathic, but genuinely into the belief system!

They report that none of the cultists reacted suspiciously to seeing the corpses, but then realize that they never met the cultist who was hiding the children - he could be the killer! Again, you had a legal right to ask to see the children, and arrest everyone for child endangerment if they weren't immediately produced.

The father goes to look for his son in the child trailer, but then he's clubbed by the murderer! Can the team get there in time to save him? Obviously yes.

JJ and Reid go out to the cult compound alone, for no reason I can fathom, and quickly hear about the father being kidnapped by the killer. Then JJ gets into a car and races off without Reid, so she can take the bad guy down alone! Hi, episode! Nothing about you makes sense!

Oh, and she PTSDs some more in the car, proving she shouldn't be in the field. We get some backstory about the killer - when he was a kid, he and his parents got lost in the woods and nearly froze to death, having to do some 'pretty god-awful stuff to stay alive'. I have literally no idea what this means. Did they start a forest fire? Kill and eat a family member? What could have caused this kind of trauma? I'm having trouble thinking of something that could have screwed up the killer this much.

JJ has a showdown with the killer, who's standing in the freezer holding an acetylene torch and a lighter! He claims that the room has filled up with gas, and if JJ shoots, it'll kill them all, and if he sparks the lighter it will kill them all.

This, of course, is gibberish - to get to the correct fuel/oxygen mix to cause an explosion he'd have had to let the torch spew gas for ages, to the point he'd be having trouble breathing in there. Also, gun's muzzle flashes aren't strong enough flames to cause gas explosions. Also, the moment JJ opened the door all of the cold air started rushing out of the freezer and warm air started rushing in, so there's no chance of an explosion happening at all.

JJ doesn't know any of this, of course, so she just asks the temperature, and when he responds, she claims that a room full of acetylene won't ignite at that temperature. Then she shoots him. Which is attempted murder, I guess? Like, she just confirmed that he's not holding a deadly weapon, so neither she nor the victim in the corner are in any danger - there's literally no reason to shoot the guy, other than it makes her feel powerful so she can work through her PTSD.

You're a terrible person, JJ. This is exactly as bad as Joe murdering Mark Hamill that time. Luckily the FBI covers up for agents who commit crimes, so she's got nothing to worry about!


Then the father gets reunited with his son, and we're all happy!

And back in Quantico, JJ still feels rotten, but Reid offers to help! He's called Emily and asked her to send over all the files on the guy who tortured her! I'm not sure why this is potentially healing for her; after all, the guy was just a scumbag functionary who was working for Helo. What does his background have to do with anything? It's not like he was targeting her for anything other than professional reasons.

She goes through the personnel file, and then things get weird! The torturer shows up, and JJ has a conversation with her PTSD (in the form of the torturer) about how it's going to ruin her life! It's kind of weird that the torturer is being focused on so heavily since, once again, he was just a guy in the employ of Helo. Could they not get Helo back? Because I've got to say, I'd be much more interested in hearing the story of how that US Special Forces CIA Guy ended up as an international terrorist than I am in the backstory of a torturer for the Iraqi Republican Guard.

What? He was a scumbag his whole life? SHOCKED!!!!

PTSD makes a solid point, though - JJ was incredibly reckless going off on her own, and she honestly didn't know if the gas would ignite or not. How has Greg not sidelined her yet? She disobeyed orders, put lives at risk, and murdered a man in cold blood.

I know she's not going to jail, but some paid leave is obviously in order!

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

A little! Their knowledge of what cults do to you to weaken your resolve was well-handled! I wish they'd have gotten a description of the dead woman's behaviour from the friend, rather than telling her and expecting her to confirm it. Other than that, not too terrible!

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

The second victim was a known member of the cult. They would have found this cult in no time, and been led to the killer soon after, since the cult leader obviously wouldn't want him sticking around.

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

3/10 - Not terrible, but then again, not terribly useful!

Something to remember for next week - at the end of the episode, JJ had a psychotic break! Will she be in therapy, or will she still be going to work, even though she can't be trusted to do her job?

I can't wait until we find out together!


Anonymous said...

I love all your posts!

Vicendum said...

I rank this and S13.20 "All You Can Eat" as the worst episodes of Criminal Minds. They've laid a lot of rotten eggs, especially in their latter seasons, but these two episodes really hit the bottom of the barrel.