Criminal Minds 1208: Scarecrow

Somewhere a woman runs through the night, screaming for help. Which is another version of Criminal Minds' mission statement. She gets to a hoe and bands on the door, looking for help, but no one is awake! The second house has someone awake, and he calls for the cops rather than let her in, while she screams that 'he's crazy'!

Then she runs out into the street, and a car almost runs her over. It doesn't, though, and the driver gets out - but are they there to help, or is it the killer?

In Quantico, Emily is annoyed about the Scratch situation, and hopes that her new recruit to the team will be able to help with the situation! It's someone who's worked for the FBI for 20 years, that she met at Interpol! The rest of the team (other than Aisha, who doesn't socialize) is wondering just as much as I am about the new agent! Who will it be?

Then they get called in for a case before Emily can tell anyone. Not that she would have. It seems five people called the cops over the screaming woman, and then she disappeared! So the car was driven by the killer, after all!

It seems that in addition to abduction, the cops found the remains of two dead women in a nearby creek! One a skeleton from three years ago, and the other a dead woman from three weeks ago! She was a sex worker, which is how the latest victim was described by witnesses!

The team discusses why the killer might have gone dormant for three years - if he, in fact, did - and then Emily says 'Wheels up in 20', because now that Aaron's gone they can get in the air ten minutes faster? What kind of sense does that make?

Over in the killer's torture barn, the woman is tied to the ceiling! We also learn why he wraps his victims in burlap - he's got a scarecrow fetish, and wears a crudely-sown burlap mask!

On the plane, Reid has a crazy theory - perhaps in addition to using the burlap sacks to move bodies, they're a forensic countermeasure! What? Seriously? He is serious, though - because burlap sacks rot quickly when exposed to the elements, maybe the killer was counting on them to degrade, and let the woman inside decompose faster as well!

Except... if he wanted to make sure she was exposed to the elements for faster decomposition, he could have just removed her from the burlap sack, and sped the process along. So no, it couldn't be intended as a forensic countermeasure.

Garcia figures out who the victim is based on a tattoo - she's also a sex worker! Now they know the killer's type, and assume he can't convince other women to go to his torture barn with him! Or, you know, he just doesn't want to get caught. A sex worker is someone who will go with you to a second location without having any existing connection to you, and the cops won't investigate if they disappear. So is might be practical reasons, rather than a specific fetish.

At the police station, Reid, Emily, and Joe wonder how the killer might be finding his victims. Is he cruising the strip, or finding them online? Maybe Garcia can help with that! Although she already should have been, since they've known that the victims were sex workers for most of the flight - shouldn't she already know everything about them? Garcia can't find a website for either woman whose identity they know, so she starts pouring over the online classifieds, hoping to find a matching tattoo or nickname!

It turns out that the bodies were uncovered by a flash flood a few days earlier - since the cops only found them while looking for the missing woman, that suggests that they were dumped near where the woman was running from - considering that she was barefoot, shouldn't they be able to geographically narrow this pretty quickly? Focusing on upriver from where the bodies were found, because that's how floods work. Given that the woman wasn't clad in burlap or barbed wire, they can assume that the killer was just starting with the abduction and murder, which would suggests that he either lives or has a murder hovel somewhere nearby.

This is the one time geographic profiling could actually help - I hope they bring it up!

Over in the murder barn, scarecrow is making something out of burlap while the victim begs for mercy! Notably, he's using olde-timey shears to cut the fabric, making me fairly sure that he's a time traveler.

At the ME's office, JJ and Eric learn that the women were stabbed to death! And also, that the killer wrapped the barbed wire around them while they were still alive! Eric notes that the fact that the recent victim had a broken eye socket while the body from three years ago didn't - could the killer's rage be escalating? That's a bit of a leap. I mean, the first victim could have been brutally beaten over weeks and been black and blue from head to toe, and you wouldn't know it because the body is too decomposed. Likewise, this woman could have broken her eye socket when she tripped while running away from the scarecrow. This is too little information to be making guesses based on.

Reid and Emily go to check with the local sex workers, hoping to find the victim's friend. A group of them scatter when they see 'the cops'. Except the two of them profoundly don't look like cops. Emily is wearing a long-sleeved top and Reid had his standard cardigan on. I'd be scattering because both blandly-dressed strangers are wearing obvious guns on their hips - which plainclothes cops basically never do.

The find the victim's friend, who says that the victim was a great person, who was organizing the sex workers to leave their pimps and make more money looking out for each other! They ask her if she knows about any creepy johns, but she can't help, except to say that she didn't recognize the car that picked the victim up!

Eric and JJ are out in the river, looking for evidence or other corpses! There are three other people searching as well, which doesn't seem like enough, given the kind of ground they have to cover. They immediately find two more bodies! One relatively fresh, the other just a skull. Fun fact - the relatively fresh body is indicated by a hand with bright painted nails poking out of the mud, just like with the cement from a few weeks ago! And the episode of Suspect Behaviour where the cement barrel thing was ripped off of!

Scarecrow returns to menace the victim, but she starts talking about her son, which gives him a flashback to his father doing something involving white robes in a river. Did a baptism go horribly awry or something?

We then check in on the base camp for searching the river, where we discover the paltry turnout with JJ and Eric is because most people were busy with the six other bodies they found! Then we get a shot through the woods, making me wonder if we're supposed to think that the killer is watching them at that moment, or if the director is just getting cute.

I was going to save the 'long island killer' thing for a 'factcheck' at the end of the episode, but Eric just announces that this case is eerily similar to that uncaught serial killer, right down to murdering sex workers and leaving them in rivers, wrapped in burlap. It's weird for the episode to specifically mention the real-life tragedy it's exploiting so obviously

Emily is not making a good case for her continued leadership of the team, folks. When the ME announces that they found a five-year-old skeleton in the mud, Emily is shocked, and announces that she thought the oldest victim was from three years ago!

It was. Until they found this skeleton. Why are you having such trouble keeping up with this, Emily?

Time for the profile! They think that he's wrapping women in burlap and barbed wire as a kind of ersatz hair shirt, to make them uncomfortable before he kills them! The idea is that's mad at them for arousing him, and so thinks they need to be punished! I'm left wondering how no one noticed this guy was killing women. If just a woman or two disappeared per year, then maybe - but we're expected to believe that this guy killed half a dozen women over the past few months, all of whom presumably were last seen getting into the same car, and nobody noticed? That beggars belief.

There's fewer than 100K people in Yakima - how big can the sex worker population be that no one noticed a large number of them missing?

In another good move, the victim asks Scarecrow how his father screwed him up - and it causes another flashback, this time to him stringing barbed wire! Speaking of, it's a little weird that Garcia hasn't tried to track down the barbed wire. I mean, it's not like he's making it himself, so he's got to be buying it from somewhere. Check if anyone unrelated to farming is buying one, and if there aren't any cases like that, focus on the farmers! After all, it's not like barbed wire is something that people encounter very often in their lives, right?

Except for scarecrow, of course, who grabs some to punish himself for questioning his father's will!

In the next scene, Eric thinks that the wire is too common to track down, and Reid agrees, since you can buy it at any garden center. Is that true, though? Like, farm supply store, sure, but are people buying it at any garden center? A quick google search suggested that no, it's not that common an item in any of my local garden centers. The major home hardware stores carry it in theory, but a bunch don't even have any in stock!

So yeah, maybe not as common an item to buy as these guys think.

Emily thinks the barbed wire torture sounds like Opus Dei (you know, from The Da Vinci Code), so she has Garcia track down anyone local who uses barbed wire and burlap to torture themselves! Garcia's search turns up a society of ascetics who, according to their website, do none of those things - so I'm not sure why her search put her there.

At the morgue, the ME is pretty sure that the five-year-old skeleton is the oldest, and she had solid dental work! Which JJ claims is rare in a sex worker. Is that true, though? Like, if she was 25, and brushed her teeth regularly, and didn't smoke meth, would her teeth really be that bad? Also, she was stabbed more than any other of the victims and was buried with a locket, which is presumably important.

Then we get a scene with Aisha, where she thinks that Emily is only adding a new person to the team because she was so unhelpful in the situation with her brother. Joe tells her that's crazy, and there was a new team member coming no matter what! Who is going to be, though? Then we get some real nonsense, as they announce Scratch will be going quiet until his next move against them, and that means they'll be able to use his 'meticulous nature' against him.

How, exactly? Like, you have no leads on where he might be, and no idea how he's going to attack you. How can you use that in your efforts to catch him? Hell, last time you had a huge lead - the list of MPD kids, and then you didn't follow up on it at all - now, with no leads at all, you think you're going to do better?

And, finally, Joe is kind of a dick, as he throws a full coffee cup into a garbage can, which is going to both stink up the place and ruin a janitor's day later on. Great work, Joe!

The show then gives us the dumbest visualization of image matching I've ever seen!

Why is it checking a locket against a human face? Why is it checking pictures of humans that don't have lockets on them? What is happening here? In the most miraculous turn a computer has managed in ages, they actually manage to auto-match the fine details on the locket to a tiny part of a missing persons poster! With the name of the first victim, they can check out her background - she was a local college-aged woman who worked at her parents' feed and supply store!

A feed and supply store, like the kind of place where you buy barbed wire?

Since she was stabbed more brutally than the other victims, they assume that the killer knew her, and was specifically mad at her. Could her parents have any clues about who it was?

Then, in a confusing juxtaposition, we see Joe and Aisha go to leave the office so they can talk to the parents in the daytime, then see the killer sharpening his shears at night, then back to daytime when Joe and Aisha get to the parents' house! Were they driving for 12 hours, or did the editor just move a scene from later in the episode? If the barn rescue happens at night, we'll have our answer.

The mother has no info about jealous boyfriends or creepy stalkers, but does observe that occasionally it seemed like people came buy to buy things just as an excuse to talk to her! Could one of those things be... barbed wire?

Also, do they have any sheep farms in the area? Since they suspect the victims were killed using old-timey shears, wouldn't a sheep farm be the logical place for those to be lying around? Actually, I don't know anything about farms, maybe plenty of them use shears.

Reid gets a rough call from his delusional mother! That's always a hard one to see. Turns out that his mother is in a clinical trial in Houston, and he thinks that she's on the placebo, since she's not getting better. Or, you know, maybe the drug doesn't work. Either way.

Scarecrow comes out to the murder barn and gets ready to kill the victim, but she tells him not to be violent just because his dad was a scumbag! This leads to another flashback, where the teen son was brutally whipped for being caught making out with a girl! Scarecrow has a moment of clarity and takes his mask off! Oh, and the dad made him wear a burlap sack while he was being whipped, and then tied him to a cross in the field - that's what the scarecrow stuff is about.

Garcia looks over the records that Reid provides, and finds three regular customers that stopped coming in after the daughter disappeared. One is 80, one is in jail, and the third is the evil father! Get this - they literally live next door to the feed shop. So it really was the most likely suspect.

In the barn, the victim asks scarecrow to help her atone for her sins, and he's gullible, so he cuts her down and goes to get some barbed wire. This proves to be a mistake, since it gives the victim a chance to grab the shears and stab him in the back, then run off! Ouch - there's a good two and a half inches of blood on the shears when he pulls them out, so there's a chance he's got serious muscle or even lung damage.

On the drive over to the murder barn, the team talks about the killer's psychology! But really, who cares what they think about why he did it once they know he did it?

Speaking of why he did it, while running through the corn, the victim runs into the father's corpse, which has been turned into a scarecrow! The scarecrow then grabs her and holds the shears across her throat, which isn't much of a threat, since that part of them is dull. He drags her back to the barn to drown her, though, which gives the team ample opportunity to rescue her!

The team follows scarecrow into a silo, where he holds the shears to his own throat! Which isn't much of a threat, really. He's also standing next to a giant red lever - maybe he could dump all of the feed onto himself if he wants to die in a less bloody way?

Yeah, that's what he does. It almost buries Emily and Eric alive as well, but Joe helps them push the silo door open in time to save them! Two things - first, why did you let that door close at all? Second, do silo doors really only open inwards? It seems like a poor way to design them, since it would be incredibly easy for them to get stuck.

Then again, I know nothing about farms.


On the plane home, Emily and Reid talk about how he needs to take time off to work more with his mother! This is the second season in a row Matt Gubler took a bunch of episodes off - I hope he's okay. At least this explains why they're adding a new cast member starting next week.

Or, in fact, this week! He's there waiting for everyone when they get back. His name is Steven, and he's no one who's been on the show before, and not a famous person! But Joe already knows him, apparently, so that's good!

Then the show ends with a quote suggesting that we'll all be better off with Reid and Aaron off the show, and two new team members in place!

Yeah, we won't be.

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

Nope. They checked their evidence against missing persons, and then checked into people who saw her all the time. The first person on that list was the killer.

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

I feel like when the daughter disappeared five years ago her parents might have mentioned the next door neighbour boy who was always mooning over her. And when you add into that the fact that his father mysteriously disappeared at exactly the same time, how are they not looking into this guy at the time?

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

1/10 - Psychology helped the victim delay her murder until the team got there, true, but it didn't help the team find the scarecrow, so no points!

I'd do a FactCheck about the Long Island Serial Killer (or LISK!), but since he hasn't been caught, there's nothing I can say about the team's presentation of the case versus the reality! You can watch "The Killing Season", a frustrating documentary about the case if you wish to learn more!


Roxy said...

why do you keep calling Luke Eric? who's Eric?

Gsquared said...
This comment has been removed by the author.