Criminal Minds 1017: Breath Play

The episode opens with a woman jogging! Is this finally a return to the Matchmaker storyline? Maybe not, because she successfully makes it home after her jog.  While she's showering, a creep sneaks into her bedroom and grabs her underwear - but how did he get into the house?

The same way every killer on Criminal Minds does? Magic?

The lady goes to bed, unaware that the killer is in the room with her! He puts on some night-vision goggles and poses with the sleeping woman, then takes out the rope he'll be using to do something to her!

We don't find out what, because we immediately cut to the next day, where Love is dealing with the continuing adventures of having a daughter who's growing up too quickly in this crazy modern world! This time, the girl has tried to do a bellybutton piercing herself, and it's causing problems! Luckily Derek's girlfriend was able to see her immediately, because she works at a hospital that takes the FBI's insurance!

Love heads out to work a case, and her daughter is left with Derek's girlfriend. Yes, girlfriend, because he somehow still hasn't proposed. Derek. Ugh. The doctor offers to counsel the daughter on how hard it is to have a loved one who's always traveling and fighting crime! What a sweet gesture!

At the office, Derek and Love talk about the trials of parenting, where Love complains that her daughter has never been 13, and she's never parented a teenager, so she doesn't know what to do! Echoing Ron Howard, Derek points out that there are literally thousands of books on parenting, but I'd go a little farther, and remind Love that she's already been a 13-year-old girl, so she should at least be able to empathize with what's happening here.

Also, it turns out that Love is pregnant, and they think that's why her daughter was piercing her bellybutton! Wow, way to make everything about you, Love.

Garcia goes over the details of the case - in the past two weeks, three women have been tied to their beds, raped, and strangled to death! That's right, the woman last night knew that two women who lived within a mile of her had been brutalized inside their own homes by a serial killer who was on the loose, yet she was still out jogging alone.

Because no one in the world of Criminal Minds takes even basic steps towards self-preservation.

The team goes over their usual wild guesses about the crime, then we gut over to the killer, who's smelling a souvenir elastic from his victims, before he's interrupted by his daughter, who needs a ride to school! He adds the elastic to the others hung around his rear-view mirror, and then they head off to face the day!

Fun fact: This episode is set in March, in Wisconsin, but all of the trees are covered in leaves!

On the plane, the team goes over what they know about the victims - all were professional women in their 20s and early 30s, the first two were single, but the third was married! The team interprets this as possibly signaling that the killer is gradually working his way up to attacking a specific kind of woman, or moving closer to his intended target. They don't mention that the third victim being married suggests that the killer has access to intimate details of the victim's life - after all, how would he know when she was likely to be alone otherwise?

Aaron and JJ go to the police station to talk to the friends and family of the victims. It turns out that one of them was socially active and dated online, while the other was a homebody who only went out for church-related activities. How could the killer have possibly selected them?

Just spitballing here - he goes to church with one victim, and found the other one online? It's not like this is impossible, after all.

Love and Derek go to talk to the most recent woman's widower, and we still don't find out where he was at the time of the murder! The big question to answer - how did the killer get past the alarm system? Everyone in the family was supposed to have it memorized instead of writing it down, so there's no way it could have been stolen!

They try to do a scene where Love notices that the widower is nervous when the word 'phone' is mentioned, and she focuses on that, but the actor is pretty fidgety and morose for the whole scene, so there's nothing for her to visually pick up on. And since they were going to ask him if he had any leads on his wife's killer anyhow, the fact that she had mysterious sexts with a stranger was going to come up in conversation.

Garcia discovers that all of the women had been sending sexual photos and sexts with the killer before they were killed - weird that it took this husband's letting them know about the sexts before she would look into these women's lives. Isn't checking on people's communication and online activity in the weeks leading up to their murders the first thing you do in a situation like this? What has Garcia been doing this whole time?

Then we check in with the killer's family! He's got a bunch of daughters and a wife who's either a doctor or nurse, based on her scrubs. We find out that he's a physical therapist of some kind, and feeling a lot of pressure to become a doctor! Oh, and his wife looks a lot like the last victim, as they theorized.

Joe and Reid go to talk to the ME, who lets them know that the women were bound and tortured for hours before being killed. The ropes around their necks were tightened and loosened many times before they were finally killed. Is the killer someone who has tricked women into consensual 'breath play' as a way to set them up for his own fetish, which is strangling them to death?

More with the killer - his oldest daughter wants to spend more time with him, but he's so busy killing women that he's neglecting her! We then see him on the phone with his next victim, prepping for the crime!

The team goes over the alarm record for the house - it turns out the latest victim didn't set it on the night she was murdered. It was consensual breath play gone horribly awry, just was we thought!

Joe and JJ go to look at this newest crime scene, and note that the latest victim was married as well! JJ mentions that according to 'Ashley Madison', married people prefer to cheat with other married people. I don't know if they're the best source to go to for that information, though, since according to the Ashley Madison hack, the site was something like 90% men and 10% bots pretending to be women, and no one had ever actually made any kind of sexual connection on it. Basically the whole site existed only to steal money from sad men.

Insert joke about the entire internet here.

Oh, and they find a copy of the show's fake version of 50 Shades of Grey on the floor next to the bed, which explains why the women were tied up with silk scarves. The killer is exploiting the zeitgeist’s obsession with BDSM in the wake of that book coming out! Garcia confirms this - all of the women either bought the book or took it out of the library. Also, the texts explain that he met the women at the gym, coffee shop, on a message board, and on Ashley Madison.

Wow, so that's just a glut of ways to trace the guy. I mean, between the cell towers for the phones, IP addresses for the web browsing, and the location of the gym and coffee shop, you've got to know basically exactly where this guy lives, right? Also, gyms definitely have security cameras, because you need to have a visual record for insurance purposes if anyone gets injured.

That probably won't be useful in this case, however, since I doubt they keep more than a week of footage, and we don't yet know how long ago he picked up the woman in the gym.

The profile is pretty bare-bones. They're assuming that the guy is sexually frustrated, and so he's cheating on his wife. Um... yeah... obviously... but where does the love of murder come from? Like, the footage of the killer in this scene shows him trying to come on to his wife, but then they hear the baby, and the guy's like 'ugh, this again', and we're supposed to understand what motivates him. We don't, though, because he could just cheat on his wife quite easily without murdering people. There's got to be another layer to this that they're not bringing up.

Love goes to a private room to talk to her daughter - who's named Meg, which I'll start using, since I guess we're going to see a bunch more of her between this storyline and her being stalked by that creepy guy who may or may not know the Matchmaker.

There's a bit of drama - they talk about how Meg is acting out because of the baby, and Love thinks that Meg will feel like she doesn't have a place in the family any more once there's a 'real' baby. I feel like she's a little old to be worrying about this, really. Like, you're almost in high school - a baby isn't going to be replacing your role in the family. Love agrees with my take on things, but Meg doesn't seem to find it convincing.

I'm also with Love on the '13 is too young to have a body piercing' front, so maybe I'm just a fogey about everything?

Over at the killer's house, he notices that the kids' nanny is also reading 50 Shades, and immediately starts fantasizing about raping and murdering her! He tries to come on to her, but she doesn't notice. Seriously, though, why is this guy so immediately self-destructive? Now he's going to kill a woman who literally works for him? This is a strange spiral to go down.

Back at the station, Reid, Joe and the detective talk about how charming the guy must be to get women to go past their 'hard limit', and try out breath play - which isn't mentioned in the book at all. Of course it wouldn't be, people die doing that all the time, and putting it in a mass-market romance novel will lead to lawsuits!

I don't know if this is a good reading of the killer, however, since there's no evidence that the women consented to breath play at all. In fact, there's good reason to suggest that they didn't - the women have clear signs that they struggled against their bonds, which would imply that once the guy got them tied up, which is a fairly tame level of BDSM - it's literally what the first letter stands for - he was able to do whatever he wanted to them.

Despite all of their random misreading of the situation, they do come to a reasonable pitch for what to do next - check in with the local BDSM community! Weird that they hadn't already, but whatever.

Hey, when is this guy finding the time to have all of these affairs? Is he not going to his job?  I ask because there's no way these women are down with making their first encounter with a guy 'he sneaks into my house and ties me up while I'm sleeping'. So obviously he's got to be having dates and sexual encounters with them before ratcheting things up to this level - so again, where is he finding the time to court these women?

Joe and Love drop by the BDSM meeting, and they're told by the woman in charge that she wouldn't know anything about the victims or killer, since they're not actual lifestyle BDSM people, they're just women who were aroused by a book and wanted to roleplay it.

Leaving, Joe and Love ponder why they didn't see some early experimentation with sex workers before the killer moved on to his real targets. Perhaps they should expand their search to outside of the city?

You didn't already do that? What is Garcia doing? How have you not searched state, or even nationwide for unsolved crimes where women are tied up and strangled - it's not like this is women being stabbed and left in a ditch, which happens all of the time, everywhere - this is such a specific MO that it would be incredibly easy to search for!

Over at the nanny's house, the killer sneaks in to rape and murder her, but she gets a phone call, and he flees! This fleeing happens at the unluckiest possible time, since his daughter is biking down the street at that exact moment, and jumps to the immediate conclusion that he's sleeping with the nanny!

Garcia finds the strangled women - there were three in the past fifteen years, one each time one of his daughters was born! Of course the team doesn't know about that yet - although they get there pretty quickly, assuming that the killer's ability to have sex with his wife was interrupted by childbirth, and his frustration turned to murder! So they tell Garcia to search for men in the area who have three children born in the years the women were killed!

Back to the killer's house, where the daughter tries to talk to her mother about the nanny situation, but she chickens out, and says she's going to the nanny's house to get a schoolbook. Is she going to confront the nanny?

Garcia tracks down the killer based on the age of his children, and it turns out that when he was a peeping 12-year-old he saw his neighbour accidentally murder his wife during breath play, and he's been obsessed with it ever since! They also surmise that the popularity of 50 Shades has made him think it's acceptable to go around killing women, since apparently they're into that now!

Of course, that's ridiculous, and it's kind of crazy that this guy hadn't already been part of a community around this kind of extreme BDSM - if he'd reached the point that he was killing prostitutes to get off, there's no doubt he'd be looking for a safer outlet.

The team kicks down his door, but he's off attempting to murder the nanny, so he's not available to be arrested. The team asks his wife about the book, and she mentions that the nanny had a copy, so they immediately realize what must be happening! Which is just a crazy leap, really. There's no reason to believe that the nanny is in danger, since she doesn't match the age or method of selection of his earlier victims.

Anyhoo, the daughter gets to the nanny's house first, which leads to some hilarious awkwardness! That awkwardness winds up saving the nanny's life, though, so it's all okay! The killer apologizes to his daughter, then tries to flee, giving Derek his first chance to have a foot chase in ages! Obviously he gets caught right away.


Back in Virginia home, Love goes to talk to Meg, but she's asleep!

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

A decent amount, although it's kind of a stretch, since they get to the pregnancy by a leap of faith. It's based on their profiling that the killer is a married man, and that interruption of his sex life would only be caused by his wife giving birth - but they have no reason to believe that he's married, and there's plenty of other things that could cause an interruption in his sex life even if he was. It's a bad leap for them to have made.

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

He left digital and real-life paper trails connecting him with the victims. Yes, he would have been caught relatively easily.

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

3/10 - The real problem this week is that the show never really establishes a good reason for the killer to go on a spree now, other than that the show has a format. This guy has been strangling women and getting away with it for literally decades, and suddenly he's decided to amp it up to one woman per night and kill people that are easy to trace to him? What's causing the huge shift in personality?

Yes, 50 Shades coming out caused more people to be willing to experiment with BDSM, but that doesn't make it easier to get away with crimes - the show seems to suggest that the slightest public approval for BDSM would drive him to become a spree killer, but it does nothing to earn or justify that assumption!

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