24.12.19

Criminal Minds 1115: A Badge and a Gun

Derek begins the episode in his office, reading a 'we need to talk tonight' message from Doctor Girlfriend. Is she finally sick of waiting for him to propose? They moved in together more than a year ago. It's madness that he hasn't proposed. Joe tells him that he's screwed, and Garcia doubles that, because she arrives with a case file, and unless it's another local kidnapping, that means he's going to have to postpone the need to talk dinner at least one night!

Which will only further annoy DR.GF, as it should.

In Los Angeles, two women have been wrapped up like mummies and suffocated! One in a rug, one in sheets! Presumably the suffocation wasn't related to the wrapping up, because both of those things can be easily breathed through.

There were no signs of struggle inside the house, and no forced entry, so the team is confused about how he's getting in to murder them.

I'm going out on a limb and saying... there was recently a super-popular mainstream erotica book about mummification-play (is that a thing?), and these women were seduced by a handsome doctor who wants to suffocate women in cocoons? Or is that not a well they're willing to go back to so soon?

Things get dumb when Greg warns that if they don't stop him, 'this could turn into a spree'. Um... he killed two women in two days. It's already a spree.

Then we see the killer, who wears a suit and pretends to be a cop as he knocks on a woman's door and asks to interview her about the recent string of murders in the area! She lets him in, despite the fact that she knows nothing.

I guess she's just gullible and uninformed? First off, cops don't go anywhere alone, just as a general rule, and second, never invite a cop into your home. If you call 911, that's fine, but if a cop shows up at your door without a warrant, don't let them inside.

The woman reports seeing a van, and as the cop gets more and more fidgety, she's made uncomfortable and offers to get him some water. Dear god, the man is wearing running shoes on his feet. Why did you let him into your house, woman? Do you care nothing for your personal safety?

Anyway, he strangles the woman into submission, and then presumably murders her off-camera. Oh, and we see that he has a spider-web neck tattoo, and is uncomfortable wearing a tie!

Dude, just get a clip-on. Cops should be wearing clip-ons anyway. It's not safe to wear a full tie.

On the plane, the team talks about whether the killer may be projecting his fetish onto his victims - can they use some kind of a mummification community to help them find him? Then Garcia calls in with news about the next victim, and they're willing to call it a spree!

This leads to a hilarious bit where they talk about how 'spree killers' are always murdering for reasons that are both personal and retaliatory, with an ultimate goal in mind. While that may be true when you're talking about people who shoot up their workplaces or kill their families, this is just a serial killer murdering a woman every day. Which is exactly what all of your other serial killers do.

Based on the facts in evidence, there's absolutely nothing that separates this guy from 90% of the people you chase, so the idea that you should be comparing him to the LA cop spree killer Christopher Dorner is kind of insane. I guess it's supposed to make the team look accidentally clever, because the guy is pretending to be a cop?

It ends up looking like a non-sequitor.

Greg and JJ go to check in with the local FBI office - the woman in charge has identified three known sex offenders who are into extreme bondage. Two had alibis for the murders, but the third still hasn't been contacted! Could he be the killer? Maybe, but they don't show us a photo so that we can be sure.

Derek and Joe go to the latest crime scene and find that although there's a fence with a security gate around the complex, the front door is broken, and anyone could get in! They marvel that the killer went unnoticed when the units are so close together and all face the courtyard. They assume that the killer must be a master planner. Except, you know, he literally just walked up to the victim's door. Anyone could have seen him, and he's incredibly lucky that no one did.

They briefly discuss how the killer has been finding his targets. Could he be following them back to their apartments, and that's how he knows they're alone inside, and ready to be murdered? Not on the timeline this guy's working on. He's killed three people in two days - mostly by knocking on their doors when they're just home from work. I can believe that he's following them home, but how could he possibly know whether they were alone in there?

Or does he just go from door to door fake-interviewing people until he finds a woman who's home alone? No, he couldn't be doing that - the moment the actual cops came to canvas the area people would have mentioned the cop that was there the day of the crime. Does he have a list of possible victims and he's just going after them one at a time, or is he just unbelievably lucky?

Reid drops by the ME's office, and we learn nothing from he scene, other than that the killer kills them by wrapping them while alive, then pushing down on their nose and mouth to cut off their air. Not sure how well that would work with a rug - its rigidity and unevenness suggests that it would be hard to be sure that you had successful cut off your victim's ability to breathe.

Greg, JJ, and the local FBI lady watch the footage from the murder site! The killer always kept his head down while approaching the camera's field of vision, so all they have is his height, skin colour, hair colour and cut, the fact that he held a hand to his neck whenever he passed a camera to keep it from recording a distinguishing feature, and that he used a flip-open badge to identify himself. Which suggests that he's pretending to be an FBI agent, rather than an LAPD officer, because they have large, bulky badges that they generally wear clipped to them!

While the team is watching the tapes, the killer murders another woman! As far as we can tell, his MO is to just ring doorbells until someone answer and lets him in, then kills the woman. So yeah, I guess he's just getting incredibly lucky? Especially since, in a complex like that, it's not unusual for a person to not bother answering a ring if they're not expecting one, but to go and check out a window to see who's doing the ringing.

The team has to consider that the killer might be an actual local FBI Special Agent - which shouldn't be hard to figure out, since all of these murders are happening during the day, and FBI Agents have to account for their time pretty precisely on any given day. And, again, they don't really go anywhere alone - so this guy would stick out like a sore thumb. Of course, we already know about the neck tattoo, and that this is a dead end.

After we see more close-up murdering, it's back to Joe and Local FBI Lady as they fret over the suspect list. They're annoyed that they've only eliminated a quarter of the possible local FBI agents as suspects based on the physical criteria!

Wait, are you telling me that 75% of the LA FBI office's men are between 30-45, 5'6-5'10, under 180 pounds, white, with blonde hair shaved close to the scalp? That can't be true. This list should be down to like 20 guys already.

Garcia finds two FBI men who were in the vicinity of the crime scenes. The problem - while both were in the vicinity at the first crime scene, just one was near the second, and the other at the third! Could they have been working as a team? That would be strange, given how oddly specific the fetish is. Then they get a phone call about the newest victim, and those two guys are eliminated as well, since they've been across town all day!

Cell phone location isn't a great way to track this killer, though - I mean, if they were an FBI agent, why would they bring their cell phone to the crime scene? Also, why do you only have 'cell tower pings' to go on for the agents you suspected? These are FBI-issued phones, and they definitely have GPS that tracks their exact position at every moment. That's just obvious.

If they really did suspect an FBI agent, a good thing to do would be to ask Garcia whose phone stopped moving for the two hours around the murder window. It's incredibly unlikely for an FBI Agent who wasn't in the office or on an official surveillance assignment to remain absolutely still for two hours - which would suggest that the phone had been left somewhere while the Agent wanted to be able to move without being tracked!

They discover that the latest victim was married, and her husband was just out for a window of three hours - is the guy getting reckless, or has he just been lucky up to this point? While talking in the courtyard, they notice a lady peeping through the blinds. just the kind of snoop they're looking for!

The snoop saw the guy leaving the apartment, and noticed the spider web tattoo! Which confirms that the whole FBI thing was a dead end. JJ still thinks it's useful, though, since he knows how to 'copy the FBI'. She thinks that he's been super-accurate in the way he shows his badge and talks to civilians.

Except you don't know that. You saw him flash his badge from behind. And he did it exactly the same as people do on television. You have no idea how he spoke to people, or if it was anything like what you say. More importantly, you're vastly overestimating how much people know about how the FBI operates. For example, not one of the victims found it strange that the killer was alone, and wearing running shoes. He wasn't good at this - they were just uninformed.

They give the profile, but crucially, they don't say that they're going to announce to the public that a guy is going around murdering women in their homes while pretending to be an FBI Agent - they don't say they're putting out the sketch, telling people about the tattoo, or giving them a basic heads-up on the ways in which the FBI operates that are so fundamentally different from this guy's moves.

Then Joe and Derek drop by the second victim's house, which turns out to be this extravagant mansion-
Which makes it odd that they describe the neighbourhood as 'supposed to be up-and-coming'. That's a three-story house with a garage and multiple gates and a decent lawn. It's crazy that the killer thought 'hey, I'll just try to get into this place!'

They notice cops just down the block, and go to check on the ruckus. Turns out there was a home invasion robbery/murder there on the day of the suffocation attack. Could there be any connection? They ask Garcia to get the details!

She starts with the info that she's found 11K paroled prisoners with spiderweb neck tattoos, and thinks that's not going to be a good lead - only they also have hair colour, height, skin colour, approximate age - cut that list down, woman?

Anyhoo, in each suffocation murder there was the rape or murder of another woman one block away a couple of hours before the attack! Wait, how did the LAPD not already make this connection? During the exact time window that they were canvassing the area around the scene of a brutal murder, another woman was killed within the canvassing area, and it didn't occur to them that there might be some linkage? This should not have taken Garcia to notice.

Hell, why wasn't the FBI called in on the guy who's raping and murdering women at the exact same hyper-accelerated rate as the suffocator.

Wait, was his plan to hang outside the apartments while the cops were canvassing, and then pretend to be going back in as an FBI agent after they left? No, that can't be it, because then the people they talked to would have mentioned how weird it was that the killer was in the building just after the cops had left.

Okay, we're now being told that the other murders and rapes were actually unrelated crimes, and the team is assuming that he wasn't committing the first crime, he was just drafting off of the police presence. That still doesn't explain why the people in the buildings he's attacking didn't mention how weird it was that there was a murder right after the cops were by asking about another crime.

The team comes up with a plan - fake a murder, then hang out in the area waiting for him to go and try to break into a house! The plan is weirdly successful - in that the guy doesn't even wait a couple of hours he literally drives half a block past bunch of cop cars and starts looking for victims. He spots a woman walking into a house alone and parks his car, then a cop walks up and asks to see his credentials.

The cop is weirdly casual about it, considering the fact that the guy matches the exact physical description of the man he's looking for, right down to identifying himself as an FBI Agent, and his slow reaction gives the killer a chance to shoot him! The cop returns fire, though, hitting the killer, and sending him stumbling back to his car!

Also, a high-speed chase immediately starts because, again, they're just half a block from a fake crime scene.

He manages to get away, even though LA has multiple police helicopters, at least one of which should have been dispatched for this job, leaving Joe and Reid to interview the cop! He's fine, BTW - bulletproof vest saved him. He tries to explain that he was taken in by the killer's demeanor, but I don't know how he could have been - this was an LAPD operation, there was no reason for an FBI agent to be there, so the moment he identified himself as such, you should have drawn your weapon.

Amazingly - and I say amazingly because you can't see things in the back windows of cars speeding away while you're lying on the ground - the cop managed to see a baseball cap with red and white crossed rifles on it! Joe recognizes the logo immediately: it's from the range at Quantico - the design they used in '88. They assume that the killer placed it there so other cops and FBI agents would think he was authentic! Which is kind of a dumb plan - no cop would recognize that logo, and no FBI agent would believe that he was one of them.

His plan only works if he has no contact with law enforcement. Again, the man is wearing running shoes.

They immediately assume that the guy must have stolen the baseball cap. I don't know, couldn't it have been a relative's or something? Then again, Ebay...

Garcia checks everyone who was at Quantico the year that logo was used, and they discover that a retired agent in LA isn't answering his phone! Also, the audience recognizes his name as the one on the badge, so yeah, he's obviously the killer's first victim in this spree.

Finding the retired agent's body, they're immediately led to the killer. Why? It turns out the guy volunteered with an organization that helps reintegrate cons into society! And a recent guy who went through that program has a spider-web tattoo!

Garcia gives some backstory about a high-school incident that created the killer's fetish, and then they're immediately out after him - since now they know his face, name, and the fact that he's likely driving the FBI agent's car.

Speaking of the killer, he drives up to a roadblock in obvious agony from the gunshot wound in his stomach, and the cops there immediately recognize both him and the car. They're too slow to keep him from taking a hostage, though - which is super-slow, since he had to walk all the way to the car in front of him. Also, the woman in the car in front of him had her doors unlocked. Which is, you know, basically impossible? All modern cars auto-lock the doors when you put them in drive, and she's in an nice, expensive SUV. She would have had to have made the conscious choice to unlock the doors just so that this could happen to her.

On the drive over to the hostage scene, Garcia discovered that the killer is a lifelong psycho, and that he belonged in an asylum. They figure the FBI Agent was talking to the guy in his home, and tried to call a psychologist for him while they were in the same room, and got shot for his trouble!

Why wouldn't you wait for the crazy person to leave before pulling that nonsense?

The team taunts him about his humiliating childhood experiences, and instead of shooting his victim, he throws her away so that he can aim at them! You know, you can aim at them without letting your victim go. It's called using a human shield, and you were already doing it.

They immediately shoot him.

THE END

Then, for a final kick, we get a look at the guy's badge, and see where he glued his face over the actual agent's picture.
Why am I pointing this out? Simple - this whole episode makes zero sense! Yes, you get to keep your badge when you retire from the FBI, but do you know what they do? But a great big RETIRED stamp over both halves of it, so it can't be used as FBI ID any more.

So none of this episode could have happened.

On the flight home, Derek texts DRGF, saying he can't wait to see her, and that he's landing in ten minutes! How late is it, exactly? Like, I know they somehow solved this crime in a single day - which is kind of ridiculous, since it suggests he was trying to kill three women in one day - but they didn't even set up the trap until well after dark, so assume 8PM and they didn't kill the guy until another hour after that, 9PM, and then there's got to be a ton of paperwork because they killed a guy, so Midnight at the absolute earliest, and then they have to drive all the way out to LAX and wait to take off, which let's pretend could be handled in just an hour, and we're at 1AM, then it's a five-hour flight home - the earliest he could possibly be getting to the Quantico airstrip is 9AM EST.

That's the absolute earliest.

Weirdly, DRGF texts him that they don't have to talk any more, he just needs to bring ice cream home. Okay, sure.

Proving that the people running the show have no idea how time works, as Derek is getting out of the grocery store, he calls DRGF and she's just leaving a nighttime yoga class. What? How? What? Again, we're a third of the way into tomorrow.

Derek wants to know what their talk is supposed to be about, but she won't tell him. She's happy, though! Then, the second guy in thirty seconds bumps into Derek, and Derek starts to confront him, but he falls over! He's been drugged! But was it the first or the second guy? Or both?

It wasn't just both! There's two other guys grabbing him as well! He tells DRGF to call Greg, and the episode ends on a cliffhanger!

DAMN!

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

Gosh, no. They just based their search on visual footage of the guy, witness statements, and the fact that it's a crazy coincidence that he was killing women a block away from the other crimes.

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

During the very first investigation the local cops would have realized that the killer was posing as a cop who was part of the canvas, so yeah, he would have been caught quickly.

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

1/10 - Again, this episode couldn't have happened. Government IDs get VOIDed to prevent this exact thing from happening. The problem is that the producers were in a bind - the FBI keeps very good track of active badges, so they'd have known immediately if one was missing. But retired once can't be used. So they had to just pretend that wasn't the case in order to make the episode.

Maybe they shouldn't have made the episode?

Hey, how did the goons know that Derek was flying back that night? Is this someone in the FBI or government targeting him? I feel like this has to be the government, right?

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