Criminal Minds 1019: Beyond Borders

A family gets off a plane somewhere, excited about their vacation! The father is somewhat famous actor Tom Everett Scott! The miss the last shuttle to the resort of the night, but just after it leaves a mysterious man in an unlicensed shuttle shows up! This wouldn't bode well, even if this wasn't an episode of Criminal Minds.

The driver gives them all some drugged water, and they promptly fall asleep! It turns out they were from DC originally, and that's why the team will be involved!

Okay, it turns out that this is the backdoor pilot for the Gary Sinese spin-off, because the next shot is him training in the FBI's famous shooting range. No, not the Hogan's Alley thing, just a regular shooting range.

He gets a text on his phone - the Aruba killer has returned! Gary and Esai (who we haven't seen in AGES) go to talk with Greg and Joe about helping out with the case in the Barbados!

Then we meet Lambert (Breaking Bad's Anna Gunn!), the woman in charge of Gary's team - it seems to be her job to deal with the thorny legal issues of the FBI working abroad! They call Matt, the team's Asian guy - specialty yet to be announced, and tell him to meet them at the airstrip! It's all hands on deck, people! Some of the team will search the house in Virginia to see if there's evidence that he's stalking them before they go on vacation, the rest will go to Barbados! They've got two full teams, isn't it worth also double-checking that there isn't more evidence at the sites of his other murders, Florida and Aruba?

Also, you don't need an excuse for Love to stay in DC. We know she's not going on a plane to Barbados, she's five months pregnant. Just have her work the phones on something. Especially since this family couldn't have been pre-targeted. They were only grabbed by complete chance when they were too late out of the airport to catch the official resort shuttle - something the killer couldn't have possibly arranged or planned on.

That's the killer's MO - he kidnaps American families on vacation, kills them, and dumps their bodies! But why, and for what reason?

Oh, and Garcia asks if 'Monty' will be on the case, since she's going to need some help! Wow, they listened to the people who complained about how putting her on the previous spin-off made the show feel too much like a second hour of Criminal Minds every week, and actually got them their own tech person?

Wait, did they listen to me? No, I'm sure everyone made that exact same complaint.

Sucks that Xander couldn't pick up that job, though.

Down in Barbados, the family is being held in a garage somewhere! The father is dragged off by the killer!

Speaking of Barbados, that's a Caribbean island, which makes it weird that at the start of the episode the father promised a mile-long lazy river and 'roaring rapids'. I checked, and there's no hotels with the kind of giant water parks on the island like the one he's describing. Also, Barbados has a giant international airport that huge planes land on, it's not a tiny regional airport as suggested by the show.

Also, all of the resorts are on the southern shore, near the airport, and there's no possible reason to have to drive through a forest to get to any of them. Gosh, this episode is getting everything about Barbados wrong! I wonder if it's going to get better from here?

Let's find out together, after the credits!

The two teams meet on the tarmac and hop onto a plane. Time for adventure! They on the plane they wonder how the killer controls his victims - there were no drugs in their systems when they were killed just a day after being kidnapped! Could it have been rohypnol, they wonder? I don't know anything about how rohypnol works, but I've got to imagine that if they were given such a huge dose that they fell asleep literally five seconds after taking just a sip of water, it would have had to have left some trace, right?

Well, looking it up, I learn that it should be completely out of the system in 12 hours, so that tracks. Of course, this also says it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to work, and an overdose can kill, so I'm guessing rohypnol was not the drug being used in this case.

On the plane, Gary thinks he's come up with an important clue - in the first two kidnappings, the killer wore an orange baseball cap to hide his face from the cameras. This time, he wore a blue one! You keep chasing that lead, Gary. Let me know how it goes.

Then the show gets really xenophobic, really fast. They talk about how the family was on their first out-of-country vacation ever, which leads to a long aside about how people can be alienated and confused when they arrive in a new country. Strange sights and sounds, a language barrier - it makes people ripe for exploitation!

Except this is Barbados. An island nation in the British Commonwealth that's built entirely around North American tourism. They don't even have a country code - the island is area code 246 - if you live in North America you can dial it like any other long distance number. Everything about the place is built specifically to seem as non-threatening and familiar as possible. Matt then theorizes that this is the greatest danger of all - people see ATMs and chain restaurants, and it causes them to forget they're not in America any more, and let their guard down!

For the record, in the year this episode was set, America had 17K murders, while Barbados had 30. Now, that's massively skewed by the populations, of course - Barbados actually had 100 murders per million people, while America had just 5, but it's still just 30 murders, and the likelihood of you getting killed while on vacation there is vanishingly small.

Back in Quantico, Monty shows up at Garcia's office, and we learn that because his team flies all over the world, it's his job to interview and comfort the families who are worried about their loved ones! Um... you should maybe hire another guy for that job? You need your tech guy to be in the office, doing tech things, not interviewing family members. Also, do they only work on cases where the family members live in the DC area? Because otherwise how could he be the point man on talking to families? I mean, it's not like you have to travel to DC to report your family members missing in a foreign country.

Speaking of, who reported this family missing? Did the resort call the cops when they didn't show up? Because the FBI is on this pretty darn quickly.

At the house, Reid and Love find no evidence that the killer has been inside, which, again, you should have dismissed outright. They move on to assuming that he was hanging out in Barbados, and just showing up at the airport every night, waiting for a family that matches his specific template of victims.

Reid then drops some nonsense, announcing that 'annihilators are fathers who've lost or killed their own families and are trying to replace their role in the unit.' Except no, you're just describing the Fox, who did a whole thing to roleplay as a father before killing everybody. This guy is just killing whole families and you have no idea why. You'd think that dealing with the OutFox would have taught you to not attempt to quickly categorize these people! Super-sloppy, Reid!

Love thinks that the autopsy report will tell them 'what kind of father' the guy wants to be. Which is, you know, also gibberish. We do see an autopsy sketch that gives us some information, though. In addition to the marks from the bound hands and feet, and the strangulation, the victims had scrapes all over their bodies! But why?

The teams arrive in Barbados, and meet the local head of security, Sterling K. Brown! Gary explains that Greg's team is there because they're experts at family annihilator cases, but of course, that's not true, and psychology didn't help them solve either of those crimes.

More creepy xenophobia as they talk about how ten thousand Americans are victimized abroad every year, but no one talks about it because they don't want to risk tourism dollars. Or, you know, because that's a miniscule fraction of the number of Americans that go out of the country each year, and your 'victimization' statistics include things as small as stolen jewelry or wallets.

They split up, with Derek, JJ, and Matt heading to the abduction site - which is a little funny, because they were already at the abduction site, and then they drove ten minutes to the embassy (which, in real life is a regular office building in the middle of a city, not a mansion overlooking the ocean), and are now driving back. Couldn't you have just left a couple of people at the airport and had this non-conversation later?

We're also told that plenty of Americans work the winters in Barbados, and since they're not required to register at the embassy, there's no way to track who's on the island! Except, you know, you have to have a passport and return ticket if you want to fly to Barbados, so they'd just have to check guys who came to the country sometime after the murders in Florida, who either didn't use their ticket to go home, or have a return ticket for sometime in the future. That's going to cut down your list of possibles fast, especially when you cross-reference it against Aruba, which has the same visa requirements.

I can't imagine there are that many Americans who were on both Aruba and Barbados during the window of the crimes, and in the US for the Florida murder. All you have to do is take that relatively short list of names and check it against the physical description of the killer that you have from the three times he was caught on camera.

I'm not saying it would be easy to find where he's got this family, but wow, shouldn’t they already have the killer's name and photograph.

Then it's over to the killer's shack, where he takes videos of the family and has a flashback about his abusive father! So he beats Tom with a belt to recreate his own abuse. Vicious cycle, people.

We see Monty and Garcia talking to the grandparents, and the old folks ask about the case about the family being murdered the previous April in Florida. Could it be the same killer? Okay, so, yeah, no one would ask this. There's absolutely no reason that anyone outside of law enforcement would make this connection, unless it was massively publicized that there was a serial killer murdering whole families every April.

Actually, why wasn't that heavily publicized? Seems like something TripAdvisor would want to know about, right?

Monty explains that serial killers aren't monsters, but humans, and because their teams know the difference, they're great at tracking them! Which is one of those things that sounds smart, but really means nothing whatsoever. Since, you know, understanding how children are abused into become psychopaths doesn't ever help the team catch anyone, spending time comparing US, Barbadian, and Aruban passport records does, and that's what the two of you should be doing.

Monty then asks if the grandparents have any info that could be useful in helping to find the family, and of course they don't, because how could they?

Matt, JJ, and Derek go to the airport, and say a lot of things we already know - that the family couldn't have been targeted specifically, so the killer must have been there every night. It's a 40 second scene that could have been replaced with 'let's check the surveillance video for any sign of the guy for the last few weeks'. Really, they shouldn't have even had to say that, since Garcia already should have been doing it. But, you know, there were grandparents to meet, so...

Greg and Lambert go to talk to the people who run shuttle services, but no one has seen the killer. Then it's time for backstory corner, where we establish character storylines that are going to turn up in the spin-off! Naturally, the story is xenophobic and a little racist! After Lambert and Greg chat about how if they could, they'd lock their families away from the non-American world because it's so dangerous. Which is funny coming from Greg, who literally tracks down a spree killer every single week, and knows full well that America is far more dangerous than most first-world countries.

It seems that Lambert's brother was either killed or disappeared in Thailand - the dialogue is maddeningly unclear - and she's mad at him for being so naive as to believe that his passport made him safe! This is going to be an entire show based around the concept that Taken and Hostel were documentaries, isn't it?

Right as the conversation ends, Greg and Lambert spot the killer! Which leads to a foot chase through the packed market streets! But then it turns out it wasn't the killer at all, just a white guy in a blue hat driving a van identical to the killer's! He ran from them because he's a drug dealer. Which he might get away with, because he was chased and tackled by someone with no probable cause who didn't identify themselves as a law enforcement agent, and has no real jurisdiction on the island. Now, I'm not familiar with Barbadian law, so he might get jailed anyway, but this was far from a good search.

More torture at the killer's lair, but who cares?

Joe and Gary work together to figure out who the killer might be - Garcia and Monty have come up with a thousand people who were in Aruba, Barbados, and America during the kill windows! Yeah, there's no way the number is that high, but let's move on. To it getting worse, with Joe asking if they can check visas, and Gary saying people don't need a visa to enter Barbados! That doesn't make things harder, though - you still need a passport, and the return ticket information is a great lead! Even if the number were that high, once you've done a demographic sweep and then checked those people from criminal records/histories of abuse, you'd winnow it down incredibly quickly.

Their plan on searching for the killer on the island isn't going to go great, however, since we learn that he's keeping the family on a boat!

The team gets info about the torture, and finds that the fathers were probably whipped with a belt, which convinces them that he's not trying to replace the father, but rather trying to avenge abuse! So why kill the rest of the family?

The team tries to explain this in the profiling scene, announcing that he's mad at his own father for abusing him, so he murders the families in front of the father because... reasons. Also, we learn that we can expect Americans murdering people abroad to be super-talented and hard to catch, because it takes a huge amount of skills to be able to blend in and work in a foreign country.

Again, this is Barbados. Everyone speaks English. Their currency is called the dollar, and its value is permanently fixed to the American dollar at a 2:1 ratio. Relax.

Garcia and Monty finally come up with a decent lead - every day the killer is there he uses a different license plate on his truck. Where is he getting all of them? Then, in the family's house, where Reid and Love still are, for what must be a reason other than they wanted to film all of this week's scenes in a single morning, although I can't imagine what that is.

Anyhoo, Reid thinks that the fact that the violence escalated in the Florida murder because the killer wanted to make a statement by punishing Americans on American soil. Could his own abuse have happened in America? Well, he's American, Reid, and it probably happened when he was a kid, so... yes? He also thinks the guy might be from Florida, because the fathers were repeatedly near-drowned, meaning there's a connection to water they can't explain!

I mean, we saw that the killer's father used to drown him as punishment in the sink at home, but whatever, let's go with your theory, Reid.

Looking at the map of Florida, the team tries to figure out how the killer could have gotten both salt and fresh water into the victim's lungs - somehow they're forgetting that Florida is one big beach, with easy access to sea water everywhere? Ah, but there's a combination of fresh and sea water in the lungs, suggesting that he was drowned in the Everglades, meaning that the killer loaded the family on to a boat, drove it all the way down to the everglades, drowned the father, then drove all the way back up to Orlando to dump the bodies in a field. Why on earth would he have done that? That's so much extra body moving for no reason. You've already got them on a boat. The ocean is right there. This isn't complicated, murderer.

Oh, and on the boat, the killer hasn't been paying attention, and Tom is trying to cut his zip-ties off with a knife his wife managed to grab. He cuts his family loose and starts a fight with the killer, giving the rest of the family a chance to get to the escape on the dinghy at the back of the boat! They don't manage it of course, because that's how this show works.

Over at the embassy, we get more xenophobic nonsense, as Lambert explains that the killer would likely be working just outside the legal jurisdiction of Barbadian waters, so that he wouldn't be able to be prosecuted for the crimes he committed there! JJ thinks that sounds like madness, but Lambert assures her that boats at sea are only bound by the law of the country whose flag they're flying, and he'd have picked one that doesn't have the resources to track him down and prosecute him.

This, of course, is madness. He's an American citizen, who's killed American citizens. He can be prosecuted for that in America, where ever he committed the crime. Also, he kidnapped people in Barbados, and kidnapping is every bit as serious a crime as murder. As a legal countermeasure, this is idiocy.

The team finds the killer's van parked at a marina near the airport, and since it has a full tank of gas, they figure he must have filled it up the night of the murders. Then Garcia calls with the information that most of the license plates were stolen from the same gas station, which is also near the airport - could that be where he filled up? It is!

Wait, stealing license plates takes a couple of minutes, and I'm sure you could get away with it, but was he really going back to the same place over and over again and stealing plates, rather than doing it around the island, under the cover of darkness? And then he was also getting his gas at the same place? Is this guy a moron?

Anyhoo, now they've got the video of the guy's face, which gives them something to search against a photo ID database. They announce it's going to take a while, which I guess means that they're not checking it against the relatively short list of names for people who were on both Aruba and Barbados at the time of the murders? Why have you abandoned that list?

Do the producers think that was just a list of people who flew into the islands? Yeah, people on boats go through the same exact passport control as everyone else, Criminal Minds.

The show goes full police state in the next scene, as Garcia and Monty can't find any unsolved cases 'involving water' that the killer might have been attached to. So they try looking for 'solved' cases where the killer wasn't prosecuted for some reason. Now it's time for the twist - they notice that the killer taps his forehead when he's saying someone is stupid, which is something that only Dutch people do - and blue and orange are the colours of their national soccer team!

Wait, you thought there was a secret message in his hat colour? Isn't it more likely that those were just hats for that team?

What's so police state about all of this? Lambert explains that when Natalee Holloway was murdered, the killer wasn't arrested 'despite our profile', and he was free to kill again in Peru years later! So, according to Lambert, even if there's no evidence pointing to guilt other than your profile, people should be locked up? Should juries just take your word for it?

Anyhoo, they're looking for a Dutch guy now, which should hurry things along.

They find a guy who murdered his family while they were on vacation in Florida. His Dutch father brutally beat him, but didn't do anything to his American second wife and his half-siblings! So he killed all of them in a rage!

Does that explain why the father didn't have an accent in the flashbacks, and he doesn't have one now? Of course not, that was just the show lying to us!

Now that they've got the guy's name, they locate his boat and fly out to arrest him. They end up shooting him, and rescuing the son, who was thrown overboard.


Back in Quantico, which is introduced by the standard stupidly inaccurate DC establishing shot, Gary and Joe chat about their lives. You know, more stuff to establish the spin-off! It seems Gary's son just joined the FBI - that should lead to some drama!

The last line? A joke about how Joe keeps writing books to earn money off of the suffering of real people! Charming!

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

I guess? It's really hard to tell, honestly. Like, they had just so much footage of the guy, I can't imagine why it took as long as it did to get a facial recognition hit. The fact that he was Dutch came in really late in the proceedings and didn't really affect anything, especially since he had an American family and was presumably traveling under an American passport.

Also, the guy spoke without an accent, both in the past and the present day. It was all pretty baffling, truth be told.

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

His face was on so many cameras, people. Of course he'd be caught.

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

2/10 - I also can't quite explain the biggest flaw in the episode - a huge amount of their profiling was based around the autopsies. But why didn't the killer just toss the bodies overboard? He was killing them on the open water. It's far more dangerous to bring them ashore than it is to just drop the bodies in the water. I can't see any reason he did, other than so the case could be solved.

Seriously, if you have to go through that much work just to help the police capture you, why are you even killing people? The last guy who drugged families and murdered them on charter boats at least tried to cover his tracks.

It's weird, this week I fell into the same accidental assumption the team did, guessing that the guy was American just because he was white. Of course, my assumption was partially based on his American accent, and they were just being closed-minded.

Still, we ended up in the same wrong place!

Hey, is it a little weird that the FBI had no legal right to operate in Barbados without the consent of the government and local police, but literally the only Barbadian character in the episode who had a line was the guy who ran a cab stand! This episode's contempt for non-Americans is just bracing!

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