Criminal Minds 1201: The Crimson King

The Season opens near Tempe, Arizona, deep in the Sonoran Desert! There we find a man in stocks wandering through the sand, his shirt covered in blood! He falls to his knees, exhausted, but then notices that he's just a hundred yards from a highway! Lucky break, dude! He stumbles over to it, walks out into the middle of the road for some reason, and almost gets flattened by a truck! The driver is obviously confused, so much so that he runs back to his cab for water when the man asks, rather than first taking off the stocks which are connected with wite!

Then it's over to the hospital, where the cops debate whether they should call the FBI, since this exact thing already happened three years ago! They decide that they should. The sheriff is played by Bob Vance, from The Office!

Then we cut over to the desert outside El Paso, where Eric from CSI Miami is waiting to meet someone. He's the killer or he's replacing Derek, there's no way someone who was second-lead on a long-running CBS show is leading off this episode for a bit part. His contact shows up and pulls a gun on him - she wants a file containing her fake documents so that she can hide in Mexico!

Eric asks for his money, but it's a double-cross! The woman's partner is waiting in the trunk of his car! They demand that he show them 'the rest', which turns out to be a tunnel to Mexcio! They want him to come with them, but he balks, because he doesn't want to get murdered. The woman goes into the tunnel first, where the cops grab her! Then Eric overpowers the guy - I guess he's part of the task force dealing with the prison escapees, some of whom are tying to get to Mexico?

So yeah, I guess he's replacing Derek.

Joe comes out to talk to him, and we discover that over the summer, 8 of the 13 serial killers have already been caught, which really makes it feel like the show decided to dump out of a storyline.

Especially since the show is so ineptly produced that they have Joe announce that the killers escaped 'in May'. No, the episode aired in May. Every single person working on this show seems to have forgotten the 6-month timejump while Derek was recuperating.

Eric says he doesn't want to join the team full time, which means he will by the end of the episode. It seems the stocks killer is another one of the fugitives, and Eric's going to help Joe catch him! That's got to be some powerful psychosis if the guy's first move after escaping prison is to go back to the same place where he was killing previously. It's like he wanted to get caught!

Greg and Aisha go to see the victim - in a twist, he's got the letters 'BAU' carved into his stomach, which doesn't make a lot of sense, since we're told that the Phoenix office captured this guy, and he's not a killer from a previous episode. So what does he care about Greg's team?

Unless the beardo from the opening turns out to be a character I don't remember, this is two serial killers this week with no connection to the team! Hopefully Mr. Scratch will show up at some point to explain his larger plan. Not that he should have one, he's killed everyone he wanted to.

Now, the more important question: is Aisha Tyler finally in the opening credits?

Wow, they're not even going to pretend that Eric isn't joining the cast - he's already in the opening credits! Along with Aisha, of course.

Just in case you were wondering if Criminal Minds was going to get it together this season and start doing a good job, the answer is no - they introduce Quantico with one of their classic 'Congress/National Mall' establishing shots.

Even thought with Beltway traffic that's like a two hour drive away from where they work.

In the office, Reid is talking about his trip to Paris with Jane Lynch, which happened over the summer! Then they establish Eric's character, army guy and whatnot, we all know what to expect from this kind of character. Then they wonder how Garcia is dealing with new Derek?

Before I can get to that scene, though, I have to pause because my mind was just blown. A name popped up in the credits that I recognized instantly. Bobby Ray Shafer, who I will always know as Psycho Cop, the low-budget Maniac Cop.

I immediately turned to IMDB to find out what he's been up to since Psycho Cop, and discovered that he IS Bob Vance from The Office.

All of those years of watching The Office, I had no idea that Bob Vance was Psycho Cop! This is amazing!

Anyway, back to the show!

Garcia talks with Eric on the elevator, but doesn't want to get too close, for fear of being hurt like she was when Derek left! Naturally, she can't pretend not to be a motor-mouthed gossip for more than three seconds, leading to her talking about her boyfriend, the tall guy that I guess she's still dating?

For some reason only Greg and Aisha went to Tempe, so they have to teleconference with everyone else to discuss the latest clue - something they noticed in the photo! Before we get to that, though, we learn about Eric's history with the latest killer! Apparently he's the one who arrested the guy three years ago, and they make an oblique reference to Eric's partner going 'undercover' and the killer getting 'caught in the act' - is this another Emily situation where bad planning set someone up to be killed, or at least mutilated, by the killer?

Can I just say that the idea you could set up someone as 'bait' for a serial killer is kind of ridiculous? You'd have to know so much about the killer's method of selecting victims that you'd have to already know who they were.
Now, on to the evidence! Based on the fact that the cuts are shallow and inexperienced, and the victim was a random guy, rather than someone being 'punished' for a 'sin' - and, you know, the message to the team - they come to the conclusion that this must be a copycat, probably someone who was in jail with the escapee. But who could it be? Was Mr. Scratch in the same prison? Another killer we've heard of?

At least they've got a short list of suspects to work from - whoever was in jail with the killer and then escaped, and also has a previous history with Greg's team.

Aisha goes to interview the victim. He remembers being knocked out when he came home from work, and then when he woke up, he had a gas mask on! The killer used a tank to pump white smoke into the gas mask, so I guess it was Mr. Scratch, after all?

The guy remembers that the gas smelled like bubblegum, which is all the team need to believe that Mr. Scratch is behind the crime! Even though his gas famously smelled like burning sage. That was a big detail which factored into the 'demonic possession' themes of the episode.

Reid then says that because Mr. Scratch was a math genius, he operates based on facts, rather than compulsion. Really? Because he set out to trick a bunch of people into murdering their loved ones because he was so upset that - at age 3 - they told the police that his child molesting father molested them. Which, again, he definitely did, because look at what a mess Mr. Scratch turned into. The guy is obviously acting on compulsion, and the idea that he would only release a guy with a message cut into his chest is if he was sure that the team could find him is a weak assumption, considering that the team already found him once, and now the whole country knows his face.

Also, aren't the drugs he uses to mess with people's minds hard to get? Did he buy them? Were they stolen? They have plenty of leads already!

Garcia finds that the 911 center received a prank call about the team, and then left the cell phone inside a house so that they can track him to it! Greg and Aisha go to check out the trap, because obviously they have to, but at least they bring some backup for once! Although not like, robots and wire cameras and drones to look for bombs, the way they should.

Inside, they find a woman with 'Hotch' carved into his forehead, who's obsessively saying that name over and over again! She's going to need just a whole bunch of therapy. Aisha tries to figure out how Mr. Scratch has targeted the new victims, since they weren't involved in Satanic Panic false accusations the way the other kids were!

Just a reminder - the satanism stuff was a lie, but those kids were actually molested by Mr. Scratch's dad.

The latest victim has a number of PTSD drugs on her counter, and when they talk to her therapist, it turns out that she suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder! And it turns out the previous victim does as well! There was a treatment center for kids with MPD in the area, you see, and a bunch of them stayed. They come to the conclusion that Mr. Scratch must have abducted one of the MPD people, extensively drugged them into taking on his crusade against the team, perhaps even into thinking that they were him, and then set them loose!

This is kind of a crazy assumption to make. Their assumption is based on the idea that Mr. Scratch hadn't killed people himself in the past. But no one has died this time either, and his lack of practice with knives could easily explain the hesitant and amateurish cuts on the people.

Still, they go with their theory - although it would be interesting if the guy Mr. Scratch is forcing into being his assistant is actually the killer they're looking for, and he's just been forced to employ his love of carving to non-fatal ends, which is why he's so wobbly about it.

Aisha goes to talk to the first victim, and demands to know what the identity of his other personalities were, because that will help her with the investigation! I can't imagine how it would, but okay. Once he's told her, she moves on to asking him if he remembers the names of any other kids at the treatment facility while he was there - Mr. Scratch's two victims were there at the same time, so it's possible that if Scratch has created a copycat out of one of the kids, he's targeting people that he remembers from the facility!

I don't know why they're asking him about it, though. Can't they just check the facility's records?

Greg and Eric have a chat, and Eric wants to know if Greg plans to kill Scratch when they catch him, the way he wants to kill the guy who cut up his partner. Non-fatally, though, so that's a plus! I still don't know how you can set someone up as bait for a serial killer, but the show wants us to believe that this is something that can happen, so I'll just move on. Greg would rather people spend their lives in prison as failures than go out in a blaze of glory, killed at the scene of the crime, but then again, he did kill The Reaper, so...

Eric points out that Scratch specifically brought them all to the town for a reason, and they have to figure out what that is! Just then, a cop is reading off the list of the kids from camp to the victim to see who he remembers! Why isn't Aisha doing this, the way she should? Because the show needs the victim to be programmed to attack anyone who reads a name the victim recognizes to him. Then he cuts a 'Bye' into the cop's forehead and leaves without anyone noticing. Somehow.

The team goes over their failure, and talks about how Scratch pulled off something neat in making an already crazy person think that he was a different crazy person! Still no real explanation for why, but okay. Then Eric points out that Scratch made a mistake - the original killer used bondage equipment that he hand-crafted, but the one that the victim/killer turned up in was machine-made. So where did he order it from?

The victim goes to see Scratch somewhere in the suburbs - in an earlier scene, they talk about how Scratch never talked to anyone in prison or communicated with anyone outside, which suggested that he had a safehouse and resources squirreled away in case he managed to escape. This raises the question of how long he's planned this specific spree of murders. It couldn't have been before he was locked up, and it seems kind of preposterous to think of Scratch going over the list of escapees and then discovering them that one of them happened to have committed his crimes in a city with a nationally famous home for sufferers of MPD.

At the office, Aisha seems sad when she sees the family of the cop she got killed by not doing her job. I have to assume that it's a performance for the other people in the room, though, since she's got psychopathic tendencies of her own.

JJ and Aisha talk to the victim's parents, and it turns out that they adopted him - he'd been brutally tortured in the foster care system, and developed MPD in order to cope. Aisha wants to know what his other personalities said to him, in hopes of finding some kind of a mantra they can use to calm him down when they meet him, to keep from having to shoot the guy!

At the same time, Reid and Eric go to sex shops, looking for a lead on Scratch! It turns out he ordered the stocks using Reid's name and a fake driver's license! This means that Scratch likely has biographical information on all of them, and no one is safe! While Reid and Eric rush to the local address listed on the driver's license, Eric says that the way the bars were constructed was so similar to the original killer that Scratch must have gotten the info from him! Is he in town as well?

He is! Scratch set him up to be murdered by the victim! When the team arrives, they find the victim cutting into the original killer, but Aisha and JJ do the manta thing until he calms down! The victim surrenders, but Scratch is 'in the wind' as the kids say. Oh, and all of the local cops blame the victim, and are lined up outside. Aisha says she'll ride with the guy back downtown. Well, yeah, then they're going home, and leaving the guy in a prison staffed by cops who want him dead. It would not shock me if the guy ended up 'committing suicide' in his cell that night.


In the house, Eric tries to confront the original killer, but Scratch has made him forget his identity with hypnosis and drugs! This proves an unsatisfying experience for Eric. So he agrees to join the team to help catch Scratch! Then he banters more with Garcia to try and establish him further as Derek's replacement.

Then we see Scratch working from the list of MPD kids, backing up the team's theory that this whole Tempe thing was a trial run, and that Scratch is going to grab other MPD people and transform them into murderers, possibly copycatting famous killers! Except... the team already has that list, and knows he has it as well. Won't they be expecting Scratch to go after those people, and either use them as bait or put them in protective custody? How can this go well for him?

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

Well, they didn't solve the crime or catch the killer, so no.

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

If the cops had just taken the stocks to local sex shops and asked who ordered it, they would have gotten to Scratch much faster, and perhaps even caught him in the act!

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

0/10 - Not a great start to the season, team. I'm also super-unclear on what Scratch's plan was, here. We're told that he needed the team to arrive to get the list of MPD sufferers, so he brainwashed a local man to attack whoever had that list and bring it to him.

Except he'd have no reason to think that the victim would be able to get away with that. You'd have to be a spectacularly inept cop to let the victim murder you and take your phone - and since the crime was committed in the middle of a busy hospital, the odds of him escaping with the phone are near zero.

Why did Scratch need the phone at all? If all he wanted was a list of patients from the facility, couldn't he have just gotten it from the facility? He's one of the greatest hackers on earth. We're told that he can't get into the FBI's servers any more, but there's no reason to suspect a random medical care facility in Tempe has anything like that level of security!

So why do any of this? If it was to piss off Greg, then fine, I get it. But they act like it was a necessary step as part of an overall plan, and it just wasn't.

Also, how did the kidnap he original murderer? The guy just shows up tied in a closet. How did that happen?

The biggest problem, though, is the idea that they didn't have the amnesiac in restraints and under severe guard. Every other time that Scratch has hypnotized someone, he's had them murder someone or hurt themselves. Yet with this guy, the team is all 'I'm sure that Scratch hypnotized this guy for no reason at all, and he should be fine left alone for hours at a time!


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