24.12.19

Criminal Minds 1202: Sick Day

We start already in mid-air, in the aftermath of some kind of a rough mission - JJ's hand is bandaged and she has flashbacks to being in a fiery building! Eric comes to check on her, because he's noticed that she's a wreck! Hey, remember two years ago, when she murdered a guy and then got away with it, and the horrible PTSD she's suffering from? Whatever happened with that?

Then JJ gets home and hears a shower running! She's worried, until she finds out that Jr. has been treating their younger son, 'Mike' (seriously, he's also not named Trip? You're a horrible person, JJ) with sound and steam, because that can calm babies and help with chest infections, which apparently he is suffering from!

JJ starts freaking out, demanding to know why she wasn't told about the illness, but naturally it's just an excuse to cover for her PTSD issues. Jr. recognizes that right away, of course, since he's the best husband in the world. He immediately jumps to the conclusion that the recent case involves dead children, and that's triggered her pretty hard.

Seriously, though, isn't Jr. the best?

So, is this episode going to be about the aftermath of a horrible mission, or are we doing a flashback, and they've wasted what could have been a powerful ending of an episode on a teaser?

The answer is - kind of both! Josh asks her to tell the story of the episode, and she does! The team was on the way back from consulting on a spree killer who was shooting up Seattle with an assault rifle. Is that really something you'd need the whole team on, though? I mean, following reports of gunfire is something the police are traditionally very good at. Weirdly, Greg is not on the plane with the rest of the team.

They get a call about two dead children in a burned out building in LA, and the plane redirects to take them there - Garcia videocalls them with the details. Two years ago two borderline street kids were kidnapped and burned to death! This time he kidnapped two solidly middle-class kids, and burned them together, rather than in separate instances. It's probably the same guy, so Reid suggests looking into known childhood firestarters, since you don't get to be an adult pyromaniac without starting as a child!

This is actually a really good idea - while most adults get away with starting fires, because it's an incredibly difficult crime to prove happened, let alone find evidence of a perpetrator, kids get caught for it all the time because they lack the skills to avoid being noticed. But aren't childhood records like that all sealed? I'm kidding, of course, I'm sure Garcia can get them all the unethical information they need!

Eric, Reid, and JJ look over the crime scene, and note that the victims were chained to two cots next to one another. Perhaps the killer wanted them to see one another as they died? In any event, they make the smart assessment that this MO is so specific that the killer is probably trying to live out a fantasy they've had for a long time, or even recreate something from their past. Only one of those is searchable in national databases, though, so hopefully Garcia can find a similar incident!

For no particular reason, Eric ponders whether or not the killer might have raped the girl while she was in captivity as he searched for a boy to complete the set. Thanks, Eric!

Greg finally appears in the home base scene along with Aisha and Joe - they talk about how the girl victim was badly beaten and burned during her captivity, but before the final burning. No signs of sexual assault, which I hope will relieve Eric some! They feel their might be some significance to the fact that both of the victims had brown hair. Could that be a clue about who they were meant to represent? Maybe, but it's a bit of a leap, since the previous two victims were of different races. It's early to announce that you've got the killer's specific targeting criteria all laid out.

JJ tells Jr. that all of the kids were burned alive, and then doesn't want to say any more! Jr. reminds her that it's always better to get this stuff out than to take it to bed with you, because, once again, he's the best.

JJ continues the story - they worked for days, but couldn't find any leads, or anything connecting the two victims! Wow, this is a first - them actually working for more than one day on a case!

Meanwhile, the killer grabs another victim who he grabs off of a public street in the middle broad daylight! No one notices this happening, of course, and he's able to get away clean! This new victim isn't white like the second two, so I guess they were wrong with their victimology after all! Oh, and JJ flashes back to the victim chained to a bed in a burning building. So I guess JJ failed to save her?

Or maybe she did save the victim, but it was close - why would I figure that? Two reasons - one: if the team failed to save a victim at the end of the episode, it would be extremely off-brand for the show. Two: if JJ watched a girl burn to death, Greg absolutely would have called Jr. to let him know that she was coming home screwed up.

Actually, maybe Greg did do that, and that's why Jr. is insisting on this therapy session.

Anyhoo, back to the scene. JJ goes to check on their ill child, then apologizes to Jr. for being terrible! Nice of her!

We see the team give the profile, which is, naturally, not at all useful for helping catch the killer! They say they haven't found anyone who fits the profile, which seems a little crazy, since their profile is '25-35-year old who burns things'. Yes, they've narrowed it down to 'white', but they shouldn't have. That narrowing down was entirely based on the assumption that the high-risk kids were non-white targets of opportunity that he used to train himself for the actual white targets of his rage, but this latest victim is also non-white, so that part of the profile needs to be thrown out.

Yes, the killer is a white guy, but they can't be assuming that, especially since LA county is incredibly diverse.

JJ then wins the Prentiss Award of this line:

Okay, so you searched all arson arrests in the city as well as CODIS and found zero leads. Two things - 1: Why did you search CODIS? That's a DNA database, and you've got no DNA from the killer. 2: You're telling me that there have been zero arson arrests in the past fifteen-to-twenty years where a white guy started a fire or was suspected of doing so, and now that guy isn't currently in jail? Because if that happened even once, you'd have a lead worth checking out.

JJ talks with Jr. about how hard it is to deal with parents of victims now that she has kids of her own! She talked not only to the mother, but to the victim's brother, who was supposed to walk to school with her that day, but was sick! Perhaps he noticed someone watching them the past couple of days? Maybe the killer had planned to grab both of them!

When they go to talk to the kid, he's reading a comic book called 'Werewolves Out of Time', which makes me crazily happy. I'd be happier if he was reading True Night, but beggars can't be choosers.

JJ goes to talk to the kid, who's obviously reticent to chat. The kid admits that he wasn't sick, he was just faking, and now he blames himself for his sister being kidnapped! Hopefully the killer was planning to abduct both, and in an ironic twist, his faking sick might save her life, because if they'd both been grabbed they would have already been barbecued!

Looking at the map, Reid notices that the killer started out near the Mexico border, but his subsequent crimes have taken him closer and closer to the heart of LA - he probably lives in the area! Greg asks Garcia to look up boys with brown hair who live within fifteen miles of the previous victim! This seems weirdly limiting, because of the killer's five known victims, three of them had black hair.

Joe wonders if the brother might be in danger, but the team thinks that's not so likely, since the other victims had siblings who weren't taken! Um... don't you think that they weren't taken because they weren't with the victim at the time? Spoiler Alert: if you kidnap a child who has a sibling, the sibling will probably get put on lockdown immediately.

Still, Reid thinks the killer must be focused on sibling pairs with an older sister and younger brother, and the killer only didn't grab the siblings because they didn't match that demographic profile. Obviously there's nothing to base this on, so he's probably going to be right!

JJ and Eric get the call to go back to the house since the brother might be a target! They mention that the cops were just 'finishing up' when they left, so the family is probably alone! Wait, why would you leave them alone? What if the killer calls with a ransom demand? This is an active case of a child abduction, and supposedly every resource is being deployed to find this girl, Amber Alert-style. Why would this family be left alone for a second, whether they thought the brother was in danger or not?

Assuming that the kidnapper will reach out to the victim's family is one of the baseline facts of police investigations, and I have no idea why they're not operating under that here.

So yeah, they go back to the house, and find that the mother has been clubbed, and the brother kidnapped. Jr. and JJ talk about their lives for a little while, and these actors have really good chemistry together. They always have, of course, but it's notable that when Josh Stewart made a movie last year, he wrote the part of the wife with AJ Cook in mind, so they could use their great working relationship again.

In the LA office, they have Garcia do a larger search of guys who've worked around fire, been arrested for fire, and have siblings! She immediately finds a guy from Nevada who tries to burn his sister alive a bunch of times. So... why didn't you find this guy a lot earlier? The second he escalated to burning two similar-looking kids together, it would have been fair to say that he was recreating something from his childhood, so look for child arson cases in the region. This shouldn't have taken this long.

Oh, and it turns out that his sister lives in Los Angeles, which is why he's come there to kill people.

Meanwhile the killer is driving the kids to a warehouse in which he'll burn them, but the brother has managed to turn his cell phone on, despite being tied up! Garcia gets an immediate GPS lock on him, and we're left wondering exactly how he managed to bring that with him when he was kidnapped! This guy is terrible at his job.

Anyhoo, JJ and Eric team rushes to the warehouse and rescues the brother and killer's sister from the fire. But the first spreads too quickly, and the sister is killed! JJ blames herself for not doing the job fast enough, and Eric drags her to safety. Earlier, Eric arrested the killer as well, just FYI.

Interestingly, it's kind of JJ's fault that the girl gets killed, because she insists that Eric chase the killer while she frees the kids. Of course, the killer had no weapons, and couldn't have gotten far on foot, so had Eric remained and helped free the victims, everyone would have lived!

God, no wonder she's feeling so guilty. Hopefully Jr. will say something supportive to fix this!

THE END

We get a scene of JJ apologizing to the brother, and telling the mother about the murder, and it's all pretty bleak! Greg gives JJ a week off to deal with the situation, which is a really good move.

Then Jr. does, in fact, comfort her effectively, even though she knows that it was her fault that the sister died because she sent Eric after the killer. Which is something that's going to be rough to live with! Especially because she thinks she saved the little boy only because she has two sons herself!

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

Not at all! Literally the only thing that kept the killer from succeeding at everything was the fact that he let the brother keep his cell phone while being abducted.

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

Considering that the cops probably had someone closer to the crime scene than JJ and Eric, yeah, a police dispatcher probably could have saved everyone.

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

0/10 - They didn't solve anything. The boy turned on his cell phone, and that's what resolved the situation. It's great that they figured out who the killer was, and all, but that didn't effect the outcome one way or the other.

The seriously spent days working around LA and didn't bother to have Garcia check the region for fires that kids set involving children? You could have had this guy in an hour and kept all of these people from being traumatized, and one of them from being killed.

Hell, you didn't even need to know about the sibling thing - just do a nationwide search for arsonists who now live in LA. When you saw the case about the guy trying to burn his older sister, you would have figured this out.

The structure of the episode makes them look even worse than normal!

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