Criminal Minds 1117: The Sandman

This episode picks up SIX MONTHS after the last one, so I guess it's August? The previous episode was explicitly set a couple of months into the new year, since Derek mentions that he decided to propose to DRGF (now Doctor Fiancee, or DRFI) at the end of last year, and that was a couple of months ago.

Weird that they wouldn't do a couple of episodes without Derek, only checking in on his recovery. I mean, Reid took a bunch of episodes off this year, couldn't Derek have as well? Or does CBS know full well that no one's tuning in to the show if Shemar Moore isn't on it?

Actually, that's not a silly thing to believe.
On his way into the office, Derek checks out the photo of Erin on the wall, and thinks about how he was almost right up there next to her!

Then he starts setting up his office again - turns out that he married DRFI during the time off, making her DRMRS!

Derek goes over his list of League leads. It mentions all of the killers from scarface's group. Hilariously, we learn that the obviously Asian chemist killer was named 'Barry Plyman'. Awesomely unexpected, how.

The second page of his notes is kind of hilarious-

Yeah, that's not how Venn diagrams work, Derek. Like, at all. I could spend half an hour just talking about what nonsense this is, but instead let's be impressed at what amazing freehand circles Derek was able to draw (I choose to believe this was freehand), and move on.

To wondering why there hasn't been any movement in this case in six months! Were they taking time off of it because they knew Derek felt super-strongly about handling it on his own? Also, why are they so sure that the League and the Darknet are involved in all of this? Like, do they have a single lead connecting his kidnapping to their work on those cases?

I mean, why would they target Derek at all? He wasn't the lead on any aspect of the investigation, other than interviewing Scarface, and he's not after them in any way, shape, or form. They shut down a drug ring that used the darknet, and took down the League that also used it. Is there s secret boss of the darknet who doesn't like people messing with the criminals that use his service? Spoiler Alert - the whole point of a Darknet is anonymity. Going after the FBI serves to rob you of that.

I mean, whoever the players are, they didn't know that Reid would murder their mercenary - setting him on Derek could have ruined everything, and for what? Is this going to be another Love situation, where a killer targeted an agent for no reason, other than to ensure that they would be caught?

Seriously, though, how has no one been working on this case? The FBI was attacked by an unkown entity, and our look at the investigation is Derek's nonsense notes scribbled on a piece of paper. What are you doing, show?

In a rural farmhouse, a couple is sleeping in bed. The killer enters, drops some liquid on the woman's face, sprinkles some sand over her, then heads into the kid's room. Is he a sandman-themed killer?

When the mother hears her child screaming for help she gets up to look for him, but the eyedrops have rendered her vision so blurry that she can't make her way through the house! Oh, and her husband has been murdered. The scene ends with the killer looming towards her out of the darkness!

The next morning, Joe tries to invite Derek to his weekly poker game as a way of re-socializing him to the job! How nice! Then, he gets really shifty when Derek says that he needs to get into the conference room. It's a surprise party!

It's all happy for everyone! Oh, and Aisha is back! Greg isn't at the party, because he's getting a call about the double murder and child abduction! JJ's not happy to hear that they're canceling the party, but Greg proves to be the best boss in the world, as he decides to let them party for a few minutes while he calls the plane and helps organize the Amber Alert people.

Then we get a glimpse at the killer in his workshop. He's spooning white grains into his murder bag - I guess it wasn't sand! Then he walks past a kiln, where he's in the middle of incinerating a skull!

In a hilarious non-sequitor, Reid mentions In Cold Blood, as if a robbery gone wrong has anything to do with a killer who glues sand into peoples eyes, stabs them to death, and then kidnaps their child. Joe points out that it's nonsense, but he shouldn't have said it in the first place.

Reid points out that it's just as likely for the Sandman to be a malevolent figure as a kindly one in mythology. Again, great use of our time!

At the local police station, the Sheriff gets out a map and lets us see where checkpoints have been set up as part of the Amber Alert! Spoiler: It's madness. Let's take a look.
So, I went to check, and according to her map, they've set up a checkpoint at the cloverleaf where the 235 and the 400 meet, at the 235 meets the 96 to head out of town, and, for some unknown reason, the 400/135 junction in the dead center of town.

Not only are all of these bizarre places to put checkpoints (hint - you want to put them well past junctions, so killers don't have a chance to see them and turn away without making a fuss), but you've left 7 major ways out of the city completely uncovered.

Also, where exactly was this crime committed? We were told that it's on the 'outskirts' of Wichita - was it west of town? If so, shouldn't you be blocking off all the ways into town, not focusing on the town itself? And set up some roadblocks heading even further away from the city, in case the guy's not coming to Wichita, which you have no reason to believe that he is!

I know this is a lot of thought to put into a map prop that's on screen for less than a second, just wanted to remind everyone how little work goes into every episode of Criminal Minds.

On the upside, a local worker noticed a grey car driving away from the scene of the crime! On the downside, the people making the show were so inept that when deciding on what angle to shoot the farmhouse from, they decided on one that showcased the Angeles Crest Mountains in the background.
How are you so bad at everything, Criminal Minds? Kansas, while only the 7th-flattest state in America, is thought of both by people who live there and visitors as being flat as a pancake. There are no mountains. There are barely hills. How hard could it have been to frame those things out?

You can't say the director and cinematographer didn't know where this was set - the prop car has Wichita written right on the side!

Arriving at the crime scene, JJ and Joe talk about how the victims probably never even locked their doors! Joe, naturally, uses this fact to blame them for their own deaths! Classy guy, that Joe. Looking at the bloody bed, JJ hopes aloud that some of the blood is the killer's, and they can get DNA! Why do you think it would be, though? It's just a pool of blood under where the father's throat was slashed. There's no sign of a struggle or indication that the parents fought back, so why even mention the remote possibility that the killer's blood is there?

They notice that the killer moved a table in front of the staircase so that the wife didn't accidentally fall down the stairs while blind. Why could he have done this, they wonder? Because he enjoyed watching her flailing around, desperately trying to save her son, and only when he got bored of her did he finally kill her? I don't think you have to go too far to find the motivation for the action - you guess should be wildly guessing at the psychological causes for this strange fetish!

The ME has some interesting news for Reid - the husband's eyes were glued and sanded when he was already dead! They also note that it's strange for a killer to stab one victim and bludgeon another! Most interesting of all: They bring back the ME from the tornado Frankenstein episode! It's so nice when we see returning characters, especially since it almost never happens! Seriously, they go back to the same cities over and over again, but almost never work with the same cops.

At the office, Derek and Greg discuss the case - Derek offers a confusing line reading, where he says 'Garcia's not coming up with much, the Brewer family had no enemies' - these are supposed to be separate thoughts, by he phrases it as if Garcia was checking on whether the family was well-liked, which is pretty darn far from her job. You find that out by talking to neighbours and asking around town - Garcia can only tell you if someone is actively suing them.

Then the sheriff comes in - they've found a body of a young boy! Could it be the missing child?

In the killer's lair, he looks from the news report of the body being discovered over to a locked trunk, so no, it's probably a different body. No, wait, he is dead! That was a strange shot. Anyhoo, they assume that the killer is going to immediately go after his next family, because every killer on this show is a spree killer.

We cut over to a little girl sitting on a fence, texting. When he mother comes out to get her neither of them notices the suspicious grey car watching them from fifty meters away. Which is odd, since they live in a rural area, and seeing a car stopped at the side of the road on the edge of your property is an inherently unnerving thing. Especially, you know, when a guy in that kind of car brutally murdered a family last night.

Back at HQ, we find out some interesting stuff! The husband's eyes were glued shut an hour before the killer left the house! Why was he hanging around for an hour with the rest of the family?

We then get a glimpse of the new victim family getting ready for bed, and they seem oddly blase about the whole thing. No checking locks, no mention of the brutal unsolved murder the night before in the area. Doesn't this seem strange to anyone else?

At the office, Reid explains that they can't trace the skin glue, because you can buy it at any drug store, but that the sand is from a river in upstate New York! Well, that seems like an interesting lead, doesn't it? Derek's too distracted thinking about the dead child to focus on the case! That's right, now that he's got a kid on the way, and took six months off, he's desensitized to horror!

I think it's telling that before he admits why he was freaked out, Reid assumes that it had to do with PTSD over his torture, as if Reid can only really imagine stuff that happened to you personally having this kind of effect on you. Reid's a screwed-up person, is my point.

While they're talking about family stuff, the second family is getting murdered! Well, just the dad is. The mother survives, and is hospitalized, too unconscious to offer any help! The daughter is kidnapped, though. Greg and Aisha go to the scene, and talk about how the killer probably isn't a sex offender, since they usually have a type! You'd think that they already would have leaped to this when the first child wasn't sexually assaulted, but I guess they don't care about facts all that much until they become so overwhelming as to be impossible to ignore.

The team gives the profile, which is typically useless, but does lead to two funny moments. The first is where they announce that the mother's survival could either cause the killer to lie low out of caution, or enrage him, causing him to go after another target immediately! So, basically you used two sentences to say nothing. Then Greg lets the cops know that they should tell people living in rural areas to be guarded since this killer is on the loose.

Yeah, if you'd done that yesterday, this second family wouldn't have been attacked.

Back to the killer's workshop! Where he's grinding teeth for some reason.

Derek and Aisha wonder why the daughter's dead body hasn't turned up yet. Could at be that in order to sate his evil desires, the killer has to murder the family in a specific order? And he can't kill the daughter until the mother is dead? They decide to add more security at the hospital.

Not that they should have to - they have no reason to believe that the killer knows the mother is alive. He clubbed her head just like in the first case, then left her bleeding on the floor. He killed the first child hours before his body was found, likely before he'd seen any news reports of the first family's murder. Why would he wait around for a bunch of extra hours this time?

Reid notices something strange - there's an hourglass in the newest victim's house that wasn't there in a Christmas photo of the same location! Could the killer have brought it with him, hence the sand and the hour spent in the house in both cases?

Of course, 'hourglass' is just a name, and the tiny kind that the killer brought lasts just a few minutes. Maybe he times an hour by flipping it over twenty times?

Greg and JJ go to talk the mother. She describes the killer wearing heavy goggles, but couldn't make out any features! He led her around the house using her daughter's screams, then said '11' before clubbing her. What could it mean? Greg shows her photo of the hourglass taken from the house as evidence, and just in case you were wondering if anyone working on the production side of the show takes their job at all seriously, check this out
The 'evidence number' under it is how you write BOOBS on a calculator.

Given the extent to which people are phoning in their jobs, it's crazy to think that there are four more seasons of Criminal Minds after this one.

Joe and Derek call Garcia, who hasn't been able to trace the hourglasses - they seem to be custom-made by a master craftsman! Derek makes the assumption that the killer must be using sand from upstate New York because that's where he was abducted and tortured as a child. It seems like Garcia already should have been checking on all people who moved from upstate New York to Wichita, rather than just in the past year, but if it takes Derek's extra criteria to get her to broaden her search, then that's fine.

Reid comes in to talk about the hourglasses - he says that they were perfectly engineered to last exactly an hour, but we saw how small they were, and that's just not possible. It's nice that they're trying to cover, though. Then the sheriff comes in to announce that the hourglasses were made with sand from a local river, tooth enamel, and human bone!

Then it's over to the killer's workshop, where he has literally dozens of hourglasses and hourglass-themed art. Strange that he's not selling these, he could be making a tidy profit. The girl is still alive, and asks not to be murdered! I think she's got a good chance, given that there's only fifteen minutes left in the episode, which means there isn't enough time to set up another victim to be rescued.

Garcia then wins a Prentiss Award when talking about sending Reid all of the child abuse records from upstate New York for him to speed read.
All printer paper is recyclable, Garcia. How do you not know that? Also, did she even bother doing a keyword search for terms like 'glue, sand, hourglass, glass blowing, furnace' and the like? Hopefully the case isn't that easy to track down.

Oh, we then see the killer lock the girl in a dungeon and go back to his hourglasses. He takes a unique, wire-framed one that he presumably uses to time when he should kill a child, and flips it over!

Greg finally notices what I thought had been an obvious element of the crime - that the stairs were blocked at the first house to keep the woman from falling down the stairs. They change their assumption from the killer clonking the woman on the head to instead assume that she fell and accidentally died- maybe the killer doesn't want the mothers dead at all, and that's why he killed the boy the first time, because the mother wasn't alive for the next part of his plan!

Again, they made it sound like he was killed well before the media would have reported the mother's death, but let's just let them have this one.

Yeah, it turns out that Reid didn't have to print out the files and speed-read them at all. A simple keyword search would have revealed a case from the 90s where a boy was abducted while his mother was sleeping off a drunk in the car outside. The rapist would force the kid to stare at an hourglass while he was being raped, and obviously this has led to the construction of his criminal MO.

So had Garcia just typed the word 'hourglass' in to the search bar, she'd have found this in .0003 of a second, and they wouldn't have had to waste all of that time on printing and reading files. And the girl would have been rescued that much sooner.

Again, you're all terrible at your jobs.

It seems the rapist held the killer for exactly 11 hours, and they assume that the mother was told '11' because that's how long she had to save the child before she would be murdered. It's really all an attack on negligent single mothers!

Wait, then why isn't he targeting single mothers? It's not like they're hard to find. I guess he could just be lazy, but it's weird to ascribe that description to the world's most talented and industrious hourglass maker.

JJ asks the mother to make a video apologizing for letting her child down. They assume that this will fulfill the killer's need for emotional catharsis, and he might let the daughter go!

Meanwhile, Garcia is trying to figure out how to trace a guy who moved from upstate New York to Wichita a couple of months ago. Um... here's an idea - you know that he's making the hourglasses locally, since they're filled with local river sand. Glass blowing requires a huge amount of very specialized equipment, which he either had transported from New York, or is buying/renting here locally. According to Google there are just a handful of glass shops in Wichita, so it's not like you'll be looking for one fish in the ocean.

I've written all of this before we get to Garcia's actual scene, but even if Garcia does everything I just said, it's still not an excuse - they knew that the hourglasses were being made locally hours ago, so this is a lead they already should have been following up on.

No, instead, she just searches for where the killer's mother is. Turns out she lives in Wichita, and died six weeks ago, triggering this whole massacre. Why does the scene act like this is a brilliant revelation of hers? Once you know the killer's name, isn't tracking down all close relatives and asking where the guy is literally the first thing you do?

Now for the scene in the hospital, where the mother's confession is being broadcast from a tiny Sony handicam, for some reason.
Does the news station not have better cameras than that?

They give the mother a script where she talks about how if her child would just come to her, she'd be able to explain shy she failed them! The idea is that this will trick the delusional killer into going to the morgue where his mother's body is still laying, unclaimed! How can you possibly think that this would actually happen?

This is a terrible plan, team, even if it works.

Of course, this whole plan was put into place without bothering to check where the body was - when Aisha goes to look for it, it turns out that it's been stolen! You people are terrible at planning. That certainly explains the skull in the kiln.

Also, when they found out about the dead mother, shouldn't they have already put 2+2 together concerning the bone and teeth fragments in the hourglasses? I mean, I didn't but I'm watching these episodes at double-speed, so...

The killer brings a cell phone to the little girl and tells her to call her mother! Luckily the mother's cell phone is in the hospital room with her! She keeps doing the 'apologize to the killer' thing, and demanding that the killer 'come back to me'.

The team drives around the neighbourhood where the cell phone call came from and they find the grey sedan! Hilariously, this is only that difficult because Garcia 'didn't have time to trace the call'. But that's not how cell signals work. Either the phone has GPS, or it doesn't. Once he called, you have his number, and that information. If the call doesn't have GPS, then all you'll ever know is what tower he came from. If it does, you'll have an approximate location. Doing the 'keep him on the call' thing is a ridiculous narrative holdover from old technologies that's completely irrelevant today.

Anyhoo, they rescue the girl and shoot the killer.


Seriously, the guy had nearly a hundred hourglasses in his shop. You would absolutely have been able to trace the materials he was using to make these things. This guy should have been in cuffs hours ago.

Then we drop by the poker game, which apparently is attended by Joe Walsh, and a bunch of other famous people I don't recognize!

Weird that I recognized Joe Walsh, though, even before they use a lyric of his to close out the show.

Then we get a scene of Derek picking up DRMRS at her job, and as they talk about whether Garcia should be godmother to their child, we see them through a sniper scope, and hear a gunshot!

But who was shot?

I guess we'll have to find out next week!

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

Yes, actually! They used psychology to convince the killer to call them, which gave them a chance to trace his call! Bravo! I mean, they were counting on the killer being so delusional that he'd make that call, but as gambles go, it worked out!

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

I can't stress how easy it would have been to trace that huge amount of glass-blowing equipment.

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

6/10 - The fathers were killed just to add body count and confuse the profilers. This guy has put a huge amount of work and planning into his crime, and given his fixation, I can't believe that he wouldn't have gone out of his way to find single mothers to be his targets - presumably ones that resembled his mother.

In Sedgewick county, where Wichita is located, a full 1/3rd of children live in single-parent households. He'd have had plenty to choose from.

1 comment:

Franci said...

I love the part where they showed the hourglass obsessed killer playing with a Galileo thermometer. Hahaha! I guess the writers and cinematographers are a big old fail on research. Don’t get me started on how the Wichita PD look straight out of Mayberry. Even back in the 80s when BTK was active, Wichita PD detectives didn’t dress that way. I know since Wichita is my hometown and my brother-in-law was a Wichita PD detective who worked the BTK case, heh. The shot of the mountains behind the rural farmhouse crime scene just made me laugh. Reminded me of MASH, and I know they filmed that in Ojai, CA, lol.