Criminal Minds 1015: Scream

The episode opens with a reminder about Love's daughter, and said daughter's online flirtation with what might be a regular pervert, or what might be an operative for the Matchmaker. They show the whole scene with her and her friend, including the ridiculous idea that this guy:

-could be a high school senior. The number 24 is in his screenname, people.

Now it's on to the prologue, where an OCD dude is making his bed just so and setting up his breakfast plate in an incredibly fastidious fashion. Could he be the Matchmaker? We're fifteen episodes in without any real movement on that case - who the hell knows how many female joggers have been abducted in California without anyone noticing?

The guy eats his breakfast while glancing, annoyed, at the front door of his house. We find out why that is as he does the dishes - there's a thump from the door as a paper hits it! He's annoyed that it was late! As if paper delivery people can be counted on to do a minute-perfect job every day.

Also, it's broad daylight outside, shouldn't paper deliveries be done by dawn?

OCD guy heads down into his basement, puts on a bloody butcher's apron, and goes to menace his tied-up victim. Oddly, she's not bloody at all. I guess he kills a lot and doesn't wash the apron much?

The woman's hands are almost out of her zip-ties, so maybe she'll turn the tables on him? Anyhoo, the guy turns on a record player and makes the woman play-act a performance where she's a negligent wife apologizing for not having his dinner ready for him when he gets home from work.

Sounds like he's repeating patterns he saw as a child from an abusive home!

Anyhoo, he smashes her head with a baseball bat, so I guess the loose ties were there for no reason?

Over at Love's house, the daughter asks her and her husband (TV's Greg Grunberg!) if she can go to the mall with male friends after school! Love isn't cool with it, but Chris (that's the character's name, I'm not going to muddle things by adding another Greg) signs off on the plan.

Garcia announces the case - two victims in small-town California. She also badly botches sentence construction in a way that makes me quite sad. The team goes over what they know about the two dead women. There was a three week gap between the first victim and the one found this morning, but the show doesn't even bother pretending that the killer isn't already after his next victim.

So, is this guy grabbing the women himself, or is he buying them from the Matchmaker?

No clues yet, but we do get a shot of the victim bashing his head against a cabinet over and over again while listening to something on a child's tape recorder! Not a stable guy, even by the relatively low standards of serial killers.

On the plane, the team goes over similarities between the victims. They looked the same, were roughly the same age, single, and both had jobs that they only worked part-time, so no one noticed when they were gone for a couple of days before their bodies turned up. They wonder if the killer is luring them in through some sort of dating trap - although I don't know of many women who wouldn't let friends know about a first date they were going on with a stranger.

Who knows, though, maybe that will come up when they talk to the families!

At the police station, the team goes over the map of the area. The killer grabbed women who lived on opposite ends of down, but dumped their bodies just a mile apart - could he live in the area? I mean, probably, but that's not the most useful clue. After all, you were already assuming he lived in the town based on his choice of targets, and since the town itself is less than two miles wide, all your geographic profiling suggests is that he lives inside the town, and is too lazy to drive up the highway and drop the car elsewhere.

JJ and Love go to the morgue and chat with the ME. It turns out that the women were beaten to death, and the slashed throats were just a cosmetic addition post-mortem. They wonder what this could mean - was he trying to silence the women symbolically? Or he's not that experienced at murder, and wanted to make sure they were dead. Or, based on our knowledge, maybe he's trying to recreate something? They couldn't have gotten there, of course, because they didn't see the teaser.

A victim's sister comes to the police station to chat with Derek. It seems that her sister is due for some victim-blaming! The previous year she'd married a guy in Vegas on a whim, and after the breakup she'd moved in with her sister. The sister feels she was always looking for validation from a man, and that's probably why she's ended up dead!

The woman's ex-husband is in Seattle, so he's cleared. Derek talks about how promiscuous she was, then Reid jumps in with a Prentiss Award-winning misunderstanding of how anything works:

No, Reid, they don't want a challenge. Lonely Hearts killers look for vulnerable people, gain their trust, steal from them and murder them. They don't like the thrill of seduction and the hunt. It's just about hitting people at their weakest. Which this guy seems to have done.

With one woman always bouncing from one man to the next, and the other so submissive that she never got a raise at work, the team focuses in on the theory that the killer might be targeting women with low self-esteem! Which is, you know, not helpful at all.

We find our next potential victim, a domestic abuse survivor, at a women's shelter! Her new caseworker? The killer! She tells him that her son witnessed the latest abuse, and he reacts strongly, so yeah, the prediction about him reliving stuff he witnessed as a kid seems accurate. He also asks her exactly what the husband did to her, presumably because that arouses him.

The team goes over what kind of person would attack women with low self-esteem, and they conclude that it would be someone who feels powerless themselves, which is fair. They then come to the natural deduction that you're most likely to feel powerless because of child abuse! Good work, team - but will it help you find the killer?

We then turn to the latest victim, who's packing up her things to stay at a friend's house! When she's finished she goes looking for her son, and finds him in the living room, watching television and sucking on one of the lollipops that the killer had in his office. So, I guess he's punishing weak women because his mother wasn't able to protect him from his father's violence? You know, earlier this season we got a guy who was killing kids because his mother did, in fact, protect him from his abusive father.

Real damned if you do, damned if you don't type of situation here.

Oh, and then the lady notices the killer and he runs at the camera. You know, standard 'cut to commercial' stuff.

The team arrives at the house - the kid is fine, by the way, he went next door and had them call the cops. Things get real dumb, real fast, as we're treated to a ton of terrible information. First, they say that this woman looks like the other two - she doesn't, she's years older than them and blonde, no one would say she's a similar type. Then they announce that this is a change for the guy, rushing into a house and grabbing someone, since normally he abducts them in public - except you don't know that. You assume that because they were last seen at work, but you have no idea how they were abducted. One of them lived alone, and she could have arrived there, been grabbed by a guy waiting in her house, and taken her to another location. Hell, he could have had a well-developed ruse to get them to come to his house without telling anyone.

The point is, you have no idea how the women ended up getting killed, so it's weird to say that this is completely off-model for him.

Oh, and how did this guy get into the woman's house? She just went home to pack up, so they wouldn't have been there long, and it's not like he had time to steal her keys at the shelter.

Then it's time for the profile, and they say all the stuff I did about his motivation and formative influences a couple of paragraphs above. Basically the only thing they don't know about is the child's tape recorder he still uses to drown out the sounds of violence.

They hope that they can bring the latest victim home safe, and they've got a decent chance, since she has a living kid, and her husband is a monster!

The killer does a little speech to his tied-up victim, announce that she's perfect because she's just like his mother! He's a creep, get it?

Back at the station, the team gets a report on the women's stomach contents - it had honey, salt water, and tea, like you'd use to soothe a sore throat. They come to the only possible conclusion - the guy is sexually aroused by abused women screaming!

Thanks for making me type that, Criminal Minds. You're great.

In the torture dungeon, they go through the whole roleplaying thing from the opening, but we cut away before the woman is killed! So was she? They're really making us wait on this one!

The team keeps discussing where the killer could have found his victims - she wasn't registered at any battered women's shelter, so they assume that the killer must be inside the system, and didn't keep any records of her visit! This is a bit of shoddy writing, because it's a huge leap to be sure that she'd gone to a shelter if they have no information pointing that way. There's a much easier way for the characters to get there, of course, since both the cops who arrested her husband the previous night, and the friend she was going to stay with would have both known about her plans to go to a shelter - and the fact that she wasn't registered at one would be all the evidence they'd need to go in this direction. But instead the writers try to make the whole thing a psychological deduction, which simply doesn't make sense.

Then it's time for another OCD killer scene, where he cleans himself up, then gets off by listening to his tape recording of the recreation of his mother's murder.

In a disturbingly realistic obstacle, Garcia announces that there are far too many cases of domestic abuse to possibly find the guy's mother. The team tries to help her narrow it down, by saying that based on the victims, the abused woman would probably have been in her 20s. Which is a bad assumption to make, because while the first two victims were in their 20s, the victim that he clearly fixated on was in her mid-30s. Shouldn't she be the baseline for your search?

They have her instead search for women with frequent ER visits for 'accidents', who had a job like one of the victims. They turn up a teacher whose husband beat her regularly, until one day he cut her throat and shot himself. At least that's what the police report says - it's slightly possible that the son killed the mother to 'save' her, and then the husband killed himself when he saw the horror of what had happened.

They now know the name of the killer, but don't have any biographical information on him after he left the foster care system. They assume this is because it's a small town, and he wanted to avoid the notoriety of such a high profile crime. Of course, name changing is a thing you have to do with the government, so there would be a computer record of that happening. So I don't know why Garcia isn't able to find it out. The guy works as a social worker, you can't get that kind of a job without a background check, and he'd need a valid social security number with his current name - which you can only get via governmental procedure, which Garcia is supposed to be the master of tracking down.

Anyhoo, they find out that the same cop worked a bunch of the abuse cases, and decide that he might now what happened to the guy!

It's kind of crazy that the assumption underlying all of these scenes is that the killer has lived his whole life in this one small town. Like, if he'd just decided to leave town when he turned 18 - and who could blame him - would the team have never caught the guy?

Time for another scene with the killer! He yells at the woman for not doing a good enough job of replicating the situation with his mother, and she tries to squeeze her hands out of the zip-ties.

At the police station, Love talks to the old-time cop (Martin Kove!) about the case. He's sad that he could never get the mother to press charges. So he bought the kid the cassette recorder he still uses to this day! He wanted the kid to record the abuse so that they'd have evidence and could charge the guy without her testimony, but instead it inspired him to murder women! Irony!

Love suspects that since Martin was the only strong role model in the kid's life, he might have changed his last name to match that of the cop! A great theory, but again, there should be records of all of this, so this lead is meaningless.

Over at the killer's house, he has a flashback to the time he taped his mother's murder and his dad's suicide! So yeah, they're implying it was Martin's fault, since the kid only witnessed his mother's murder because he went to record the abuse, rather than hiding in his room like he usually did. That said, if the father had not been so shocked by the appearance of his son that he immediately killed himself, he might have done the family annihilator thing and murdered his son so that he never found out about the dead mother. While that would have been sad, two women would be alive today, so maybe it would have been the best outcome?

Garcia finds the killer's name, and discovers that a few months ago there was a fire in his house, in which the recording of his mother's murder was destroyed! That's why he's started killing women, to replace the tape! Because voice actors are just so hard to hire, you know?

Down in the basement, the woman escapes her bonds and grabs the baseball bat, then hides! The killer stalks around, looking for her. While she's fighting with him, the team arrives, and for some reason JJ goes into the basement alone and gets beaten up! Before the guy can kill her, Love shoots him in the back, but I can't imagine getting brutally beaten is going to do wonders for JJ's PTSD.

In any event, the guy's dead or close to it, and the lady is rescued!


Except for a chat on the plane between Love and JJ about their difficulty in raising kids!

And a scene with Love's daughter where we learn the truth - she's meeting that internet guy with her friend! I'm not saying this girl deserves to die, but even if she wasn't an idiot about online stuff, she thinks she's meeting an 18-year-old. She's 13. That's insane. Run away, little girl.

The creep - who, in case I didn't mention it earlier, is an obese 40-something freak - starts heading towards their outdoor table, and I can't imagine what ruse he could possibly use to get these two girls out of a public place. Seriously, they're surrounded by a throng of shoppers and diners, and they're expecting a high-school student. How did they think this was going to go?

Before we can find out, Chris shows up to spoil his fun, and the girls are very annoyed by his life-saving presence. Because they don't know it's lifesaving. You get the point.

The creep goes back to the van and texts the girls that he left because they were talking to Chris, which really makes him seem like a scumbag, since what exactly did he have planned for them that they couldn't have an adult they knew within 100 meters? This annoys the daughter, and she gets mad at Chris - which she shouldn't because the creep has a bag full of chains he was going to use to tie them up with once they were back in his van!

Which, again, I have no idea how he hoped to accomplish.

So, is this guy just a standard murderer, or is there a connection to the matchmaker I'm just not seeing?

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

A decent amount! Their guestimations about the womens' personas tracked with the killer's motive, but it didn't have much to do with how they caught him - the guy basically exposed himself by kidnapping someone he had a direct connection to.

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

A woman disappears right after going to a battered women's shelter. The cops talk to the patrol officer who arrested her husband, and the friend she was going to stay with, both of whom told them about the battered women's shelter. They go to the shelter and show the picture, and are told that she came in and talked to the killer. Also, for some reason, the killer didn't put her into the system, and also he hasn't shown up for work today. Killer is arrested. Probably faster than the team managed it.

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

4/10 - Huge plot problems in this episode. How was the killer able to find and abduct the first two women? They didn't spend any time at a battered women's shelter. He's an OCD sufferer who has trouble dealing with people outside of very small proscribed interactions - how did he approach and abduct these women? Hell, how did he find them in the first place?

Then there's the legal impossibility of secretly changing your name. That literally can't happen.

Also, the lack of forward momentum on the Matchmaker storyline is starting to annoy me. We've checked in with Love's daughter twice in 14 episodes, and both times there's no clear connection. What about the spate of female joggers being grabbed in broad daylight up and down the California coast? What about that, team?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was a really weird episode for a reason you previously mentioned, "Nobody's Asian in the Movies!"

In real life, everyone is Asian in Diamond Bar, CA. Several good friends of mine graduated from Diamond Bar High School, which is fully 68% Asian American, and the school district publishes student welfare forms in English & Chinese, rather than English & Spanish. Aaaaand not a single person (even the random extras milling around the DV shelter) are Asian.

WTF, Criminal Minds? Diamond Bar is a suburb of Los Angeles too, so to the extent that the staff are aware of Diamond Bar as a city at all, they really should have no excuse not to know this basic fact!

(Oh, Diamond Bar also doesn't have it's own police department, they contract with Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, but I'm willing to hand wave that.)