Criminal Minds 1121: Devil's Backbone

At the mail sorting facility in a Virgina prison, two guards find a bloody garment inside of a package! But why, and for what reason? It turns out the clothes belonged to two boys who disappeared two years ago! Everyone thought it was a runaway and a parental abduction, until the bloody clothes turned up last night! They were being mailed to a lady serial killer who was a social worker that used her position to lure and murder teenagers! She'd been killing along with her live-in lover, who shot himself in the head when the cops turned up!

There were nine bodies in the basement, so that was an understandable choice. This was fifteen years ago, so maybe one of their victims is old enough to have turned to killing as well? The team decides to operate under the theory that the victims are still alive, because there's no good reason not to. Could the serial killer be arranging this crime from behind bars?

Then we cut over to the cell where the killer is waiting! She talks to the warden, and reveals that she knows about the package of clothes, and wants to make a deal for information!

Greg and JJ arrive at the prison, ready to chat about the package - but the killer will only see one of them at a time! Naturally, Greg goes. She won't talk to him, though, and just throws a balled-up piece of paper to him with the 'all work and no play' jive on it. Luckily, she was writing something on the previous page when he walked into the room, so they decide to Manhunter the impression on the page to see what that was!

Or, you know, you could have just had the guards go in and take her notepad. She's a prison. She has no privacy rights.

Joe has a scene with one of the victim's mothers, and it's a rough look at what grief does to people! She still wants to hope, but she doesn't know exactly what for! Damn.

JJ goes back to talk to the killer, and I'm left wondering why she didn't do that already. Instead, she and Greg drove all the way back to Quantico, talked about how maybe she would rather talk to a woman, and then had JJ drive all the way to the prison again. Doesn't that seem like a huge waste of time?

The killer tries to do a Hannibal Lektor thing with JJ, and it's kind of silly to watch. Especially since she suggests that JJ isn't taken seriously because of her looks, and she's obviously smart enough to be in charge of the team rather than Greg. Which, you know, is one hell of a reach. Greg's not into murder and suffering from terrible PTSD the way JJ is. Then again, no one ever accused this serial killer of being a good judge of character.

In exchange for a information about the person who sent the clothes - who might be a woman, given the way she scoffs when JJ suggests that a man sent them - the killer wants a transfer back to her home state of Kentucky! JJ says that it's impossible, but I assume that's just a bargaining position. I mean, they have Federal Penitentiaries in Kentucky, don't they? Where did everyone on Justified keep getting sent?

Back at base, the team immediately assumes that the transfer is an escape attempt - she's tried before, and someone recently sent her a road map! Garcia announces that the killer gets plenty of mail, but hasn't ever sent anything back to one of her fans! Joe points out that prison guards tend to be pretty corrupt, so maybe she was smuggling letters out? Then they get word that the letter impression is ready to go!

The letter is obviously a code, because they're obviously doing Manhunter again, but Reid can't break it without talking to her first! So he goes to see her, and she does more Manhunter stuff, and gives Reid the initials of who he's looking for. She also says that the boys are still alive. But for how long!

We check in on them in small kennel somewhere. One is ill, and the other is taking care of him! There's a large man with big dogs outside, so that scoff was a misdirect, I suppose. The guy brings them some dog food, and then leaves! Ick!

Reid tries to puzzle out what CH - the initials - could have meant, when there's no one in the list of visitors or correspondents with those initials! Could it be the cipher key for the letter? If so, how?

They get some background on the killer's last victim - he and another boy were held by her together! He escaped, and she killed the other boy before the cops could arrive based on the escapee's call! Could he have grown into the killer, warped by his experiences at her hands?

Garcia gets the team the name of the guard who spends the most time with the serial killer, and Reid goes to talk to him. He admits that he's been sending the mail for the serial killer. Reid assumes that it's because he wants to protect another inmate in the prison, who the serial killer's goons would attack if she asked them to! The guard admits all of that, but doesn't have the real name of the recipient of the last letter she sent, just 'John Smith'. I'm sure he has an address, though.

Joe and Aisha go to visit the serial killer. They taunt her by saying that her lover was the one responsible for all the killings, and she was just a patsy! This makes her immediately prideful, and wants to prove them wrong! She always needs to be the dominant one in every situation, you see!

Back at base, they go over the serial killer's past crimes, and note that he accomplice was completely subservient to her, so she'd need a partner who was every bit as passive now. Like a former victim, for example? Garcia says 'John Smith' is a dead end, but Joe suggests that she look for loners who work in detail-oriented fields named John Smith. Maybe they'll get a hit!

More Manhunter stuff with Aisha! For some reason, Aisha lies to her about a story from her childhood. Maybe it's just so she can make the killer feel smart by spotting the lie and demanding the truth? It was a story about her being bullied, but that seems false - she seems way more like a bully than a victim.

At the office, they get the clothes back from the lab! It was dog blood on them, and relatively fresh - what is the killer trying to accomplish by setting off this furor now? Also, Reid has broken the code - the message the killer wrote wasn't CH, but C++, the programming language. When you run the sentence that she specified by underlining the date through that, you get a message about atoning on the full moon!

Atone for turning her in all those years ago?

Seriously, when am I going to give this up?

They do yet another Lektor scene, putting the killer on a plane to Kentucky! Joe and Reid discuss the oddness of this creepy weirdo wanting to go home to Kentucky. Could it be that she wants to witness the murders in person, and all of this has been her plan to get just a little bit more blood on her hands? Or is this just a an excuse to turn this from a Manhunter rip-off to a Silence of the Lambs rip-off?

This causes the team to suspect that the killer has some connection to Kentucky. They're puzzled for a moment, as if it's impossible to understand how someone could have mailed something from Roanoke if they lived in Kentucky. The conclusion they come to is that he moved there to be close to her. Here's an alternate theory - he drove there as a forensic countermeasure? It's a five-hour drive. Not really such an ordeal. I mean, I'm sure they're right, but it's an assumption they shouldn't be making.

Oh, and on the plane, the serial killer has noticed that Aisha is a psychopath, which honestly makes the team look kind of bad for not picking up on ot.

Thankfully, the killer isn't the escapee after all! No, he's just one of her patients, who moved from Kentucky to Virginia to be close to her, and tried repeatedly to visit her under assumed names! Wow, how did you not find this obsessive a fan way sooner? JJ goes to his Roanoke house to look for clues!

Meanwhile, on the plane, the killer wants her handcuffs taken off, or she won't offer any further info! So they take them off. Ugh, these people.

We see the fan take the kids out of the van - but where are they? The killer says they're out in the woods, but Greg says they're at the clinic where the killer first treated the fan - which has been abandoned for years! Who should they believe, a mass-murderer or Greg?

The continue into the woods and find the van, along with one kid, who's locked in a shed! They demand the killer lead them to where she would take the fan on walks, and she says she will! They find the fan by a lake that I feel like we've seen on the show before, and he demands to see the serial killer! Does she want to cause his death? Is that what all this was about?

Yup. She tells him to kill himself, and he does it! We don't hear what she said, though.


Then they don't transfer the killer, and Aisha says she won't tell her the truth the way she promised to! Greg goes to visit the killer, and says he wants to know why she triggered the whole mishegoss with the killer.

Greg has figured it all out - when she was 14 she missed school for a year, and a 15-year-old neighbour was killed in a hunting accident! So I guess she was impregnated, and her father the minister killed the neighbour and forced her to have the baby in secret? Was the fan her son?

No! The child is her final disciple, and she says that they're going to be coming soon in order to wreck everything! No gender of the child is given, so we're left wondering who's going to be cast in the part!

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

Nope. They just did what the killer wanted at every point, and they got the kids back. Everything happened exactly the way she wanted it to.

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

As long as they followed her rules as well, sure!

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

1/10 - So I guess this is setting up the cliffhanger next week? They can't resolve a setup like this in a single week, can they?

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