Criminal Minds 1204: Keeper

The episode starts in a country store, where the proprietor is talking to a cop about the homeless woods man who's been coming in and stealing dog food! The cop heads up the trail to look for a sign of the homeless man, and finds his camp under a log! It's even got a tarp stretched out over it to keep the rain out, but he forgot to use a stick in the middle to ensure the rain doesn't pool overhead.

As the cop starts searching through the belongings, the mountain man peers out from behind a tree! Then the cop finds a bag with blood dripping from it! Has the mountain man killed someone, or is it an animal? The cop is horrified when he looks in the bad, but I don't know why yet!

Yeah, it's body parts. The killbilly runs down the trail, hurling body parts out of his bag to lighten his load!

In Quantico, we learn that Reid's mother is getting into a promising Alzheimer's trial! Which is great for him! They all head to the briefing room for a rundown of the gruesome murder, and on the way in Joe says he talked to Aaron, and he'll be available for telephone consulting, but that's it.

Why are you taunting us, show?

We discover that the case is on the Appalachian Trail, which makes everyone think about that paedophile they never caught back in Season... five, I want to say? Maybe six? Weird that you guys never followed up on that, since you were able to put his picture out to every waystation on the route.

Then we get maybe the dumbest exchange in the history of the show. When all is said and done, this may wind up being the ultimate Prentiss Award. Let's watch the video!

So much to unpack there. Eric asks a reasonable question. Then Emily says complete nonsense - keeping body parts in your home is the literal opposite of a forensic countermeasure. It's a forensic measure designed to ensure that you're convicted incredibly fast if the cops ever find you. Then, as the amazing capper, JJ restates what Eric said, but phrases it as if she thinks she's saying something different. This is madness.

If there's ever a worse Prentiss Award-winning line, I'll be shocked at how far this show has fallen. Especially since, you know, JJ could have just repeated her cannibalism theory from last scene?

Turns out the body parts were from four different people, so it's probably not a guy who's so crazy that when he found a body in pieces he just kept it, as Aisha suggests. Then Joe divides up the team's work, and it makes me deeply uncomfortable to see him doing Aaron's job. Not the least because Joe is a reckless, uneven, overly emotional person who doesn't exude authority the way Aaron does. Is he just going to be in charge now? Ugh.

Meanwhile, the killbilly returns to a guy tied up in a ditch, with a strange bondage facemask strapped over his mouth! So is killbilly the actual killer, or just a deranged associate of his?

Joe and Aisha go to the killbilly's hovel, and find more bondage masks - which may be muzzles? They discuss how difficult it is to find anyone out in the woods, and tell the sheriff that their job right now is to keep people off the trail until the guy is caught. Interestingly, no one has been reported missing in the area, so it's possible that all the victims are hikers who were early enough in their trips that no one has noticed they're done!

There's video footage of the shoplifting, so they have a grainy image of the killer! The store owner asks why the guy didn't steal any food for himself, and JJ suggests that's because he's probably a cannibal!

At the morgue, we find out that the bodies were crudely hacked apart, which is rough. Also that they were from people killed over the past year, with the pace accelerating until the last victim was just a week ago! Wait, if the last person was killed a weak ago, why was fresh red blood seeping out the bag? I'd assumed that someone was killed like ten minutes ago based on that scene.

I take back what I said about it being believable that they didn't have any leads on their victims. People tell other people before they go hiking, and if guys have been dead for five to eight months, there's no way the authorities haven't been informed that they're missing on the trail. Garcia should already have a list of names to check their biometric details against.

Eric brings some dogs out to the crime scene, and explains that they're 'cadaver dogs', because the guy probably smells like a corpse, from all the corpse parts he's been carrying around! I'm the furthest thing from an expert on this subject, but wouldn't the guy smell the strongest of the woman he recently butchered, whose blood was literally all over his campsite? Wouldn't that be the quickest way to get to him, rather than dogs that could get distracted and turn up the rotting body parts he's left all over the trail?

I'm not saying that I'm a genius or anything, but that's exactly what happens - the dogs get distracted by the huge number of corpse parts lying around.

JJ and Joe are at the mobile state police tent base, and Joe says that since the nearest police station is twenty minutes away, they'll be working on the fly from the tents, 'like we used to'. What are you talking about? You started working with this woman 9 years ago, and I've seen every case you've worked together since. In those nearly 200 cases, there have been a handful of times you've worked from a table in a field or the woods, and only when the crime was so remote that it demanded you do so. This isn't something you 'used to do' a lot - you're not a pair of people who met when they were state troopers, and gradually moved into roles as detectives where you started working indoors, and now this case is reminding you of 'the old days'. You're an ex-marine turned fame-whore and JJ's a government lifer.

Who wrote this episode?

JJ notices the leash in the crime scene, and wonders if the killer's dog is still running around in the woods. Based on the muzzle we saw on that living guy, I guess we should surmise that the killer doesn't have a dog, and is instead treating people like dogs, and feeding them dog food as part of his fetish? The team doesn't have that information, though, and so they check with Garcia to see if any stray dogs have turned up!

Garcia chimes in with the fact that she has no idea if anyone's gone missing, and the list of people who've hiked the trail in the past year is like 3 million people! It's amazing that, 12 years in, sometimes she forgets how to do her job. Obviously you know approximately when the people died, so look for people who got permits before those dates, and have no digital footprints after leaving on the trail. Is that so hard?

JJ has a pitch of her own - focus on people who buy the pass to hike the entire trail, and check with rangers to see if anyone has been reported missing? As for the rangers, if that wasn't all y'alls first step, you all need to be fired. As for the 'through passes', what are you basing that on? It seems like you're limiting your search for absolutely no reason.

Then JJ gets even worse, announcing that it would take a huge amount of 'skill and sophistication' to abduct, kill, and dispose of eight people, and the man on the video looked like he was barely functional. What are you talking about, JJ? Here are the facts - people have been chopped into pieces. A man was hording their body parts. Why do you think anyone was 'abducted'? The facts suggest that this killer have been living in a tent, then every month or two he goes out, hits someone with a hatchet, drags the body into the woods, and then chops them into pieces. Then he doesn't get caught because he returns to a tent in the woods.

What about that requires anything but brute strength and basic animal cunning? I'm checking who wrote this episode later. Because wow.

Still, they want us to believe that there's a chance the homeless man is just a guy who stumbled onto a bunch of bodies and grabbed all of the parts he could for some reason.

Out in the woods, Aisha and Eric turn up a backpack with the initials JF on it! It's probably the woman's! Eric wonders why the guy suddenly disposed of his souvenirs by throwing them everywhere! Aisha says it's because he knows where he can get more - but isn't it just as likely that he was trying to make it harder to chase him by confusing the dogs? Which was absolutely the exact effect it had?

Speaking of the killer, he finds the guy from the opening, now dead on the ground, and looks disappointed that he has to chop him up with an axe. So maybe the hobo really does just dispose of bodies for the actual killer? Strange!

They find a lead in the hobo's camp - a wrapper from a fast food place just two miles away! Could the killbilly be hiding out in town because the woods have gotten too hot? The team goes to check!

Garcia and Emily are sitting around waiting for the search to complete, and act like it's taking a WHILE. Which winds up looking pretty ridiculous when they find that a young woman was reported missing to the rangers less than a week ago by her parents. You found a dead woman's body on the trail, and it looks like she's been killed something like a week ago, took you THIS LONG to find out that a woman was reported missing six days ago?

What have you been doing at that computer, woman?

The woman texted her mother to say that she accidentally saw something creepy on the trail, but didn't say what it was. Was the 'accidentally' really necessary? I'm pretty sure that's a given. People generally don't hike trails in the hopes of seeing creepy things.

Somehow they don't have the GPS of where the woman was when the last text message was sent, even though they absolutely would have that. If not that, at least tell us the cell tower it connected to, and make a guesstimation about where she was when she sent the message! This isn't that hard!

Then Emily ends the scene on another terrible line, that they've 'dammed the river, but the unsub will fish somewhere else'. Oof. This might be their single worst script ever.

Speaking of, a guy walks to his car from a convenience store and he's hit over the heard with a shovel in broad daylight, because the killer doesn't care! I didn't say killbilly, because the hobo was last seen cutting up a body, so this is probably someone else, especially considering the change of weapon to shovel. Although who knows? The show has never cared about timelines in the past!

Since all of the victims other than the woman were white guys in their 40s, the team starts to assume that the lady just stumbled on a crime in progress, and was a witness that had to be silenced! Although if she'd have actually stumbled on a murder in progress you'd think she would have dialed 911, rather than texting her mother about 'something creepy'.

Yeah, the killbilly isn't the killer. When Aisha and Eric are walking towards town through the woods, Aisha finds the dog food can, and the food that's been left out on a paper plate! The hobo immediately tackles her, because Eric has walked off on his own for some reason. Somehow the guy has almost no blood on him, despite having cut up a body with an axe like an hour ago.

The whole team assumes that they've got the killer, because that's a pretty logical deduction at this point. It's wrong of course, the killer has his latest victim tied up in a barn!

Back at home base in, they're talking to the hobo, but all he'll say is that he was leaving the dog food out in the hopes of luring back his dog, which had wandered off. He won't say anything about his obvious connection to the killings! Emily goes in to try to talk to him, and asks for his dog's name - I can't make out what the guy says, it's something like 'Cormac'. Emily points out that this is a super-strange name for a dog, and the guy claims not to have named him. So who did?

The hobo refers to the dog as 'younger than me'. Is it actually a person? That's a weird way to refer to a dog. Then again, the hobo is obviously crazy, so...

Joe, JJ, and Reid are at the site of the latest abduction, which they say is just a couple of hundred from the treeline, and the killer could have just dragged the guy into the woods! They don't show us the woods, of course, since this scene was obviously shot in an alley in Los Angeles.

Since they know the killer doesn't have a vehicle, it's weird that they're not already using a map to look for any place in the woods within easy dragging/walking distance. Then Reid gets a call about his mother, who was found wandering around a casino, disoriented. Has her rapid turn for the worse disqualified her from the medical trial he'd gotten her in to? Joe and JJ tell him to fly out to Vegas to look after her! Is Reid going to take another couple of weeks off?

Eric brings his dog in from home to test the guy - it turns out that he hates dogs! Emily and Eric then jump to the conclusion that Cormac is actually a person, and presumably the killer! Garcia looks for people named Todd and Cormac, and find a set of brothers living in the area! Whose house has been abandoned for more than a year!

It seems the house is quite far from the site where the kidnapping happened, so it's unlikely the killer could have gotten there without a vehicle. But they send a team to check it out anyway, in the hopes of finding evidence!

Then we get a scene at the ME's office, where Reid looks over the woman's file and we're given precious little information, other than that two of the victims were killed a month or so ago!

Garcia turns up with some useful information! The two brothers had a monstrously abusive father, and when he died a year ago, the younger brother moved back to town and went nuts, and is now killing men that remind him of his dad! Also his brother thinks he's a dog for some reason.

Joe calls up Reid and asks him to look for DNA on the first victim, who was killed around the time that Cormac returned to town! Could he have been the hobo's first victim? Probably not, since the ME says the bones are from a 40-50 year old, and Cormac is in his 20s. The age of the victims is one of the first things we learned. How are they forgetting it so quickly?

Then we get a look at the murder barn, where the victim has torn his mask off, and is now working on the rope on his wrists! Good for him!

Reid brings some evidence from the ME's office to Emily for her to use in confronting the hobo. Which turns out to be one of the muzzles? Why was that in the morgue at all? You've set up a mobile lab, swab it for DNA, shove it in a plastic bag, and file it away. What was the ME going to do with it?

Or maybe it was just sent from the crime lab to the ME's office because the show didn't want to pay for a second location, which would be stupid, but understandable from a budget standpoint.

The sight of the muzzle makes the hobo flash back to the way his father treated him and his brother like digs! So that's where the fetish came from! He'd put them in a pig pen and muzzle them, threatneing to slaughter them like pigs!

Joe and Aisha talk to the local hoboes in the nearby town where the killer lived until recently, and discover that when the hobo lived in their area, he went to the same place every day, as if he'd had a job! Joe and Aisha surmise that the hobo was going to watch over his brother every day, which is why he left town at the same time as his brother!

Then more trauma from the kids - the father made them get rid of a beloved dog, and that 'changed him'. Apparently more than all of the savage beatings and psychological torture.

Over to the murder barn, where the killer is planning to murder his victim. That's the whole scene.

Now the team has to track down where the kill site might be - and it takes like ten seconds. A cousin of the father owned a pig farm which is currently not in operation. Again, how did they not know about this already? Once you had an ID on the two brothers, wouldn't you immediately do a search for any property they might have had access to?

We spend some time with the killer, who thinks that the victim is his dad, because he's crazy! But then the team comes in and points guns at him. He surrenders without incident.


Emily tells the hobo that his brother is finally safe, because there's no reason to torment the guy any further! Garcia chats with Reid about when he's leaving, and as she walks away, he gets a call! More bad news? Yup. His mother's slot in the trail was revoked. Reid wants to cancel his trip so he can find another trail to get her into, but Joe says not to bother - just accept that his mother's going to die soon, and spend some time with her! His face is the best medicine there is!

Um... why not do both? If Reid's mother has no ability to live and independent life, why hasn't Reid long-since moved her to an assisted living facility in DC so he can visit her whenever? Unless, of course, his screwed-up relationship with his mother has made him not want to spend time with her...

Suggesting my theory is the right one, once Joe is out of earshot, Reid immediately calls a local doctor to get an appointment for the next day so he can talk about his mother's case!

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

It's kind of tough to say - the suspect literally tackled them, and then they chatted with him about his childhood until he revealed that his brother was a psycho.

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

Oh, yes. Especially since that barn had to be within easy dragging distance of the place where the guy was shoveled. A cop would have looked at a map, and taken the dogs out to track them through the woods. Why didn't they do that again?

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

2/10 - It's weird that it took them so long to figure out that there was a second killer - the timelines didn't match up at all. They think that the guy fled the scene, throwing body parts everywhere, then ran 2-3 miles to club someone with a shovel, did something with victim, and then ran the 2 miles back to check on the dog food he left out?

It should have been clear he didn't have time to to all of that. And again, since they had dogs that could smell both the hobo and the victim, why not send them into the woods to do some tracking?

Because there's no episode if they do the most basic things to solve the crime, right, I'd forgotten about that.

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