Criminal Minds 1108: Awake

The episode kicks off with a man chained to a pipe in a dingy basement. Is this another SAW type of situation? We don't find out immediately, because all we see is the guy struggling with the pipe!

JJ comes in on the elevator to work and finally meets Aisha, who is still able to pretend that she's not a psychopath! Good for you, Aisha! Greg and Penelope are having a private meeting about the whole 'League of Assassins' thing. Will she be put into witness protection? I can't imagine why they'd have to do that - again, there's no way that anyone could figure out that she's the one who was looking for the killer.

Unless she did a stupid hacker thing like sign her programs. Actually, this is Garcia, that's almost certainly what she did, isn't it?

Greg lays out the law - Garcia can still work in Quantico, but an agent will be taking her to and from work, and she's going to be living in an FBI safehouse until this is all resolved.

Now for the case! It seems that a guy was found dumped in a ditch five days ago, tortured to death! Then three days ago another man was supposed to leave on a business trip, but never made the plane! Could he have been nabbed by the same killer? I mean, yes, obviously, we saw him in the opening scene, but I'm not sure how the Phoenix FBI is putting these two incidents together so quickly.

Still, if they want to fly down there, I'm not one to judge - it's just weird, since the team almost always waits until there's at least two bodies before investigating a crime. Unless, of course, one of these guys is rich or important, then they'd be on top of it immediately!

Back in the dungeon, the guy has pulled himself loose and he runs through the doors... into a junkyard! He's baffled about how to escape the steel maze, but before he has to try, a helicopter spots him, and immediately knows who they're looking at!

Except that was all a dream. The killer was just shining a light in his face! Wow, Criminal Minds - resorting to dream sequences to suggest that the show might actually do something unexpected! That's just weak.

So, how long is it going to be until Aisha is in the opening credits? Second half of the season? Next year? Or do they catch her for serial killing before she joins the cast?

Oh, and Reid is taking the week off to visit his mother. I hope whatever emergency pulled Matt Gubler away from the show wasn't serious!

On the plane, we learn that Garcia can't find any connection between the two victims. One was single, the other married! One was a security guard, the other ran a business. Greg suggests that she check if one did security work for the other's business - if she hadn't already checked on her own, Greg, you should probably fire her.

They notice some electrical burns on the body - perhaps the killer overpowered them via TASER when kidnapping them? Well, considering that the guy was tortured for days before being killed, it's going to be impossible to judge when those TASER burns happened. Nice idea, though! The scene ends with a final bit of classic CM gibberish - if they can figure out why the men were kidnapped, they'll be one step closer to finding the latest victim?

Yeah, you don't know that at all. If they were kidnapped because they both had similar birthmarks, that won't help you find the guy. If they were kidnapped because they both had matching first and last digits in their license plates, that won't help you catch them. If they were kidnapped because the killer thought that doing so would stop an earthquake from breaking California off into the ocean, finding that out won't help you find them. Unless the killer told his therapist about the delusion.

The wife of the latest victim thinks there's no way he would have just run off! Which is both seemingly accurate, and a little optimistic. Garcia notes that the victim's cell phone last pinged in Tucson, where his planned business meeting was. So the guy kidnapped him from another city? Did he bring him back to Phoenix for the torture, or is he still there?

In the morgue scene, Aisha wins a Prentiss Award for this complete nonsense:

"Stepping up"? As compared to what? This is the only body you have. This doesn't represent an escalation of cruelty, this is the full data set you're working with. Was the script changed really late in the process to cut out a third victim for time, and they just missed this line, or are they just having the characters spout craziness for no reason?

Also, the dead guy's eyelids had been stapled open. Was this a metaphor because the victim had 'looked away' from something that affected the killer, or is it just generically cruel torture?

Over in the torture dungeon, the killer want to know 'where she is', and demands a location. The victim agrees to tell, but it's unclear whether he actually knows something, or is just trying to keep his eyelids from being stapled open. We don't get a chance to find out which it is, because instead of further questioning the victim, the killer just staples his eyelids open.

JJ and Joe go to the first victim's apartment, and figure that he definitely wasn't kidnapped from there, since there's no signs of forced entry or a struggle. Then again, you think the guy is using a TASER, so couldn't he have just knocked, stunned the guy into submission when he opened the door and then carried him away? What 'signs of struggle' would you have found if that was the case?

In any event, they figure that the guy grabbed his victim on the way to work, because his car keys are missing. Raising the question of what happened to that car? Wait, you didn't already know about the missing car? Why wouldn't you have? Also, we see the guy's uniform in his closet - why is it there if he was on his way to work?

Actually, you know what? He probably has a bunch of identical uniforms to make laundry easy. Scratch that last part.

Garcia phones into the office with another piece of info she should have already had - that the missing guy rented a car using his company credit card! After missing his flight, he decided to just drive home and turn in the car in Phoenix! Weird that it took Garcia this long to track this info down. What has she been doing?

The team decides that it's likely that both men were kidnapped while driving somewhere. Could the killer be posing as a hitch-hiker, or guy with a damaged car, and murdering people who pick him up? That would explain why the victims are completely unrelated - they actually were random!

We do another dream sequence with the victim, and then it's back to the torture yard, where the killer executes his victim with a pistol! He pauses when the guy mentions that he has a daughter, though - so maybe the killer is delusionally searching for a missing daughter?

The next morning they find the victim's body at the side of the road, and we see some of the worst forensic work I've ever encountered in fiction! Not only are a dozen cops wandering all over the crime scene, but there are four vehicles driven right up to it as well!

Dear god, people - the killer obviously drove the body out here, and then carried it off the road and dumped it before driving off. This is a dirt road and it hasn't rained, so there were definitely both boot-prints and tire tracks you could have used to help trace your killer. Instead, you destroyed the evidence because, and I can't stress this enough, you're all terrible at your jobs.

Then we cut over to what can only be a flashback, since it's the middle of the night, of the killer driving around in his tow truck. Not a huge shock that he's got one - after all, he does live in a scrapyard.

Their profile: The killer, who I'm just now realizing is Zack from Gilmore Girls, is a guy who's sexually aroused by interrogation! And the fact that he's fixated on torture might suggest that he's a vet with PTSD. The team then continues with their assumption that he has no social skills because he's abducting people at night. Which is just completely nonsense. Given his method for kidnapping people, though, isn't it way more likely that he's attacking people at night because it's less likely for there to be any witnesses around to his crime?

Meanwhile, the killer has abducted a new victim, who he starts his torture jive with! There's no reason to watch it, of course, so let's move ahead!

Garcia gets the GPS for the second victim's rental car, and we discover that, as they guessed, it went along the highway linking Phoenix and Tucson! They point out that this is the same route that the first victim used to go to work! Wait, when did they establish that? Let me check...

Yes, they established that the guy had an hour-long commute to work! Damn, how bad are the job prospects in Phoenix that a guy was driving most of the way to Tucson just to work in a warehouse?

Okay, the premise of the episode just broke down into nonsense - their entire conception of the villain's plan is that he's flagging people down and grabbing them during their commute. Here's the problem, though - they've established that both guys were taking I-10, which is, as the show states, one of the busiest roads in the country, and the entire stretch from Tucson to Phoenix is a 4-lane, limited-access highway. So where exactly was this guy waylaying people that no one noticed it?

Oh, and Aisha thinks that the killer is targeting people on I-10 because it's related to his torture motive, not because abducting people on a highway is the best thing he could think of.

Then it's over to the killer, where we get yet another fantasy sequence! God, why is this episode so damned set on wasting our time?

In the bathroom, JJ is flagging because, as a nursing woman, she can't have caffeine! So she checks with the ME, and yeah, the victims had huge amounts of caffeine in their systems! Wait, why wasn't this already reported? Is the ME not bothering to do standard drug tests on victim's blood? Anyway, even though torturers often use caffeine to help their victims stay awake and make sleep deprivation part of the torture, they decide that the killer must have trouble sleeping as well, and he's reflecting his own experience in the torture!

This, of course, has no basis in almost any real-life torture scenario ever, but it actually comes up a lot on Criminal Minds, like when that guy last season was recreating his father's own abuse of him on Tom Everett Scott.

Then we get more torture, this time with blaring noise through headphones. Later, the team will say that loud noises are significant to the killer.

The team finds out about the newest abduction, and ask the big question - how much of the highway is isolated enough to manage abductions? Her answer is that there's a few gas stations and diners, but not much. That's a lie, of course, I just checked the entire route from Tucson to Phoenix, and between them there is just a single huge rest stop in either direction - and they're near one another. There's a couple of small towns along the way where you can turn off the highway to find a gas station or motel, but there's absolutely nothing like the characters are describing!

They restate that I-10 must be significant to the killer if he's willing to take the risk of grabbing victims from it, I restate the fact that he couldn't have abducted victims the way the episode is suggesting that he is!

So, what, was his daughter abducted from a rest stop on that stretch or something, and he's randomly killing people because he thinks one of them is her murderer? We get no information about that from a flashback that the killer has to driving with his daughter in the back seat of the car. Although, given how much time he spends with his eyes off the road, maybe he just killed her in a car accident?

They give Garcia their nonsense profile, and have her look for sleep deprivation-related car accidents along the stretch of road from 1-2:30AM. That's right, now they think the abduction time is significant, rather than just when he's able to attack people with a minimal number of other drivers around.

Long story short, a keyword search for 'sleep deprivation' gets her the story of an abducted child!

It's back to the torture dungeon, where the guy has freed himself, and uses his chains to choke the killer into submission! This is either another fantasy, or the victim is the dumbest guy in the world, because the victim doesn't either choke the guy to death or grab one of the many nearby tools and use it to crush the killer's skull. This had better be another fantasy, because no one on earth is this stupid.

Garcia explains that the guy went to sleep at a rest stop, and when he woke hours later, his daughter was gone! They ask if there's any leads on the abductor, but I'm not sure why that matters - you can worry about the little girl later, right now you've just identified your mostly likely suspect, why aren't you already arresting him?

They do mention the clue - the killer remembered a guy with a skull tattoo on his hand knocking on his window briefly to tell him about a broken taillight. The team goes on to have a lengthy interchange about how the guy was probably dreaming, and the man with the skull tattoo didn't actually exist - I don't know why they think that, since someone actually did abduct the little girl, and that's as good a lead as any. Instead, they think he's delusional about both that, and the fact that his victims have something to do with the abduction!

That's a pretty weird detail for the guy to have concocted in his subconscious, though, isn't it? Especially since it's completely at odds with the guys he's abducting, none of whom have tattoos.

Over at the junkyard, the victim and killer have a chase and fight! Meanwhile, JJ is wondering why the killer just now started killing! Just then, Greg called with the trigger for his psychotic break - they found his daughter's body a week ago!

How did Garcia not find that when dealing with the kidnapping report? Shouldn't this have all happened in the last scene?

Anyway, the team gets there and reminds the killer that he found his daughter's body last week. He's not happy about this, so he starts backing the truck up, and Aisha shoots him in the back of the head, even though he wasn't endangering her or anyone else. Hell, they already screwed up by not blocking his truck in with their own vehicles. This is just a mess of a bad shooting.


Of course, since the FBI investigates its own shootings, I'm sure Aisha will be cleared. Hopefully Greg talks to her soon about her love of murder, because if she gets one more, it's going to start beinga problem.

On the flight back, JJ doesn't talk to Aisha about the murder she committed, since JJ murdered someone recently, and isn't interested in bringing that back up.

Greg and Aisha do talk a little more on the plane, though - the local cops assume that the little girl wandered off into the field on her own and froze to death overnight, and that there was no man with a skull tattoo!

Again, why would his brain have created that? Although, if there was no evidence of foul play? Maybe.

Of course, there was a skull tattoo man, because in an epilogue, we see him try to abduct another little girl with the same 'broken tail light' ruse!

Will the team ever catch him,

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

I mean, sure? But the profiling they used was so absolutely ludicrous that I can't give them credit for it. Filling people with caffeine means that you recently suffered a tragedy related to sleep deprivation? That's just madness.

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

I-10 is one of the busiest stretches of road in the country. Of course they would have caught him.

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

1/10 - Here's a way more logical train of reasoning to follow - the killer had to get out into the middle of nowhere to do the ruse you're assuming he uses. Ergo, he must have a vehicle - it's unlikely a killer would have a friend drive him out as part of a murder plan.

If he has a vehicle, and the victims' vehicles are disappearing, there's only one kind of vehicle he can logically have - a tow truck.

There. I've fixed it for you.

The craziest part? Had they not ruined the dump site evidence they would have had him hours earlier - tow trucks have a lot of super-wide tires. They would have been able to identify them almost immediately.


Cooper said...

Giving credit where credit is due, this episode breaks my heart every time. They do a fairly good job of separating psychopaths (irredeemable) and psychotic breaks (likely irredeemable but sympathetic).

Cooper said...

That said, I have always wished they spent a little more time with the "story" of the week, then all of the soap opera around the characters. I think that would help with all of the nonsense they spew week after week. I feel I am right on this, because the shows are typically better when a major character is working directly with the psycho/unsub, so there is more story, and less weird speculation that doesn't work logically.