Criminal Minds 1210: Seek and Destroy

At a nice house somewhere, a group of sexy teens are having a raucous party! Well, maybe it's not teens - with Hollywood casting it's almost impossible to tell the intended age of any actors under 25. Point is, they various youths begin wrecking the place, while their leader watches passively, enjoying the violence! Later, when everyone is passed out, he goes to the room where the house's owners are tied up, and murders them for no reason!

In Quantico, at dawn - which is introduced by a whole new set of establishing shots of Washington DC - Steven gets into work first and enjoys some alone time working on his Mr. Scratch file! Will he ever be able to catch that guy? Will we get filled in on the methods he's using before they do another Scratch episode, or is this it? Then he gets a phone call about the home invasion murder!

The team goes over the case, talking some nonsense about group dynamics, and wondering why they're killing instead of just robbing. No one mentions the fact that the crooks' DNA and fingerprints are definitely all over the crime scene, since only the leader was wearing gloves. They also don't mention why no one reported or noticed a raucous party with loud, blaring music and the whole house getting wrecked with crowbars and spraypaint. Also the strange vehicle that all of the killers must have arrived in. Which you'd think would stand out in the so-called upper-class San Diego neighbourhood.

While the team is flying out to California, we see the three female killers knocking on doors, pretending that they're raising money for cancer treatments for a sibling with cancer! Naturally, this is a ruse so that they can get inside to case the joints! Only one gets inside, while the lady of the house goes to get her chequebook. Based on her flashbacks, she can't wait to get back to murdering!

On the plane, Garcia lets the team know that the victims had no dirty laundry, and nothing in common beyond being well-to-do! Still no mention of fingerprints, though, even though traces of cocaine and meth were found all over the place. Seriously, how is a group of drug-addled reavers getting in and out of these neighbourhoods without anyone noticing? Given how upper-class people are, why aren't the cops being called on the girls asking for donations for their sick brother?

We see the scout go back to the vehicle that her gang is waiting in, and it's a VW van painted pale lime! Yeah, that would stick out like a sore thumb in this neighbourhood, especially if someone connected it to the women walking around begging for money.

Eric and Joe go to the morgue and look at the victims - they assume that the leader of the gang had to be completely sober, because no drug-addled person could possibly have the self-control necessary to execute someone by pushing a gun into their forehead and pulling the trigger. Seriously, that's their rationale.

While JJ and Emily walk around the crime scene, trying to gauge group dynamics based on the kind of damage done, we keep getting shots of all of the bottles and cans in the foreground that definitely have all of the killers' fingerprints and DNA on them. Come on, show, at least tell us that they're not in the system - that wouldn't be believable, but you should have said it already!

Then Emily and JJ wonder why the killer is using a silencer when he's killing people in a back room, where the sound wouldn't travel outside the house! The only conclusion? The rest of the killers must not know about the murders! Which wouldn't be too hard to keep a secret, so long as he's able to keep them away from the news for a little while.

Can the ballistics people really tell that a silencer was used, though? I looked it up, and while early silencers and home-made models would frequently leave marks on bullets, the kind of professionally made, machined to precision silencer the killer is using almost certainly wouldn't, so this is a piece of evidence the team shouldn't have.

We'll call it a mistake by the propmakers, though, and just move on.

As JJ and Emily walk out of the house, talking about how the killers might have gotten into the house, we get a look at the neighbourhood and find out that the nearest house is like thirty feet from the death house, so yeah, there's no way they wouldn't have heard the blaring music and house-wrecking. JJ's idea is that because many houses have 'no soliciting' signs, that suggest that there's soliciting in the area, which might be how the killers are finding their victims. Except, you know, the kind of people who put up those signs are the kind of people who call the cops on girls walking door-to-door and ringing strangers' doorbells, so how could this possibly have not led to them already being caught?

What, no one noticed the VW van in the area during the post-murder canvas of the neighbourhood?

Emily thinks that the door-to-door thing could work if the killers looked young and innocent enough, and they'd have plenty of time to scope out the house if they were let inside! Except they wouldn't be let inside. Even if you felt sorry for someone and wanted to give them some money, who in this kind of neighbourhood is letting anyone inside their house? Emily says she'll call the police and have them re-canvas both areas, specifically asking about people going door-to-door in the neighbourhood! Would she really have to do that, though? Like, when the cops went to every house already and asked if anything out of the ordinary happened on the day of the murders, why would they not have already mentioned the lady who came the house, begging for money? Most people slammed the door in their faces, so it's not like they'd be too sentimental to mention it to the cops - and it's such a weird thing to have happen in the suburbs that they couldn't possibly forget it, either!

In the next scene we learn that the canvassing did turn up mention of the beggars, but we don't have a great physical description yet. Did none of the houses have security cameras? That's a little weird in such a rich area. Then Steven comes in and announces that the first woman who was murdered came back from vacation the day before she was murdered. First they talk about how that means the killers wanted someone to be home before attacking - which is a crazy thing to say, because you just established that their MO was to knock on doors and attack people who let them inside. It's not like they were specifically targeting the first woman, and patiently waited for her to get home before starting their spree.

They then assume that the killers must come back multiple times to talk to the people in the house so that they can build a rapport, and convince them to open their door after dark. Except that can't have happened, since the first woman just got back from vacation the previous day. Didn't you just say that like one sentence ago? Anyhoo, Eric goes to check if they killers were stupid enough to cash any cheques they might have gotten. Why does he need to do that? Wouldn't any financial weirdness have been caught by Penelope's background check?

Then we see a family getting murdered! It's the next day, apparently? And the killer comes back - in broad daylight - to knock on the door and ask for her scarf! Then her whole gang charges in through the front door, wearing ski masks! Which means there had to be a gang of youths standing out on a public suburban street, gathered around the front door of a house in broad daylight, for at least a minute. How is no one noticing this?

Hey, if this is 24 hours later, why doesn't this victim know the killers are coming? In the previous scene - set one day ago - we learned that it was the villains' all-but-confirmed MO to go around begging for money for a sick brother, and then come back and murder people sometime later. Shouldn't that have been all over the news, leading to this woman knowing that people were coming? Unless, of course, they didn't bother to put out a press release and demand it go out to everyone in town. Of course, if they were too negligent to do that, then these murders are totally their fault!

After some partying, the other guy wants to leave - both men are wearing gloves, while the three women aren't, but they're also all leaving DNA everywhere - but the killer says no. He has the goon bring out the homeowners so that he can kill them in front of everyone! Two of the three women are understandably not psyched about this, but the head lady is totes into murder!

While stopped in a parking lot, the three non-crazy people discuss whether they should quit the gang, what with mass murdering being a lot harder to get away with than robberies. Insanely, the one who wants to leave says that she'll do it in 'a couple of nights'. What's stopping you from walking away right now? You're about to get into a van with a couple of psychopaths and their weak-willed stooges. Just flee, moron. You can call the cops from anywhere, and they will come and get you immediately.

She gets into the van.

In the murder house, JJ and Joe notice a giant void in the blood spatter on the wall, meaning that the killer murdered people in front of the gang this time! Does it mean that he's losing control, and wants to implicate them further in his madness? Yes, obviously, but will that help you catch them?

Over at a motel, the gang is relaxing in the room, when the leaders confront them about the plan to leave! The leaders give a speech about how they, a group of former homeless drug users, are getting a life for themselves by taking it! The only other option is to wind up back on the street! Or, you know, call the cops and collect the reward, which has got to be pretty huge by now. The leader is too good of a Manson to let that happen, though.

We get a follow-up at the crime scene - someone (probably the lady leader?) burned the faces out of a family photo. I guess someone wants to kill their own family next? Also, they didn't take any cash or electronics this time - which kind of puts the lie to the killer's claim that they're buying their way off the streets. Why didn't skeptical gang member flee while the leaders were having sex in front of everyone in the last scene?

Back at the motel, the killer sends the girls away, then goes to murder the goon because he can't be trusted any more! One of the girls returns unexpectedly, which distracts the killer long enough for a
fight to break out! The goon still gets shot, though.

The next morning, Joe and Emily is already at the motel crime scene, although I'm not sure exactly why. A guy is found shot to death, sure, but is that necessarily involved in their case? There's no evidence at the scene suggesting the murders, and when Eric comes in, he announces that the dead guy is the one who rented the room, saying it was just for him, while the others presumably hid. So why would anyone see this dead guy in a motel and automatically think 'oh, this is definitely one of the Manson Family killers, and the rest of the gang turned on him - better call the FBI!

Seriously, I have no idea why they're the ones doing the first walk-through of this crime scene.

The goon's license is lying around, allowing Garcia to do a background check on him! It turns out to be a fake ID, but Garcia does the facial recognition search, hoping to get lucky! They do - he's an ex-con who's spent a lot of time in the southwest, so Emily asks her to check his known associates against a list of 70s-era vans in the entire southwest! Garcia acts like this is an ordeal, but is it, really? Like, aren't you just checking all vehicle registrations for his known associates and possibly their family members? It's not like you're pulling up a list of every 70s van in the southwest and then manually checking that against his list of his known associates, are you?

Over in said van, the skeptical lady wants to know what happened to the goon! The killer says that he just left without talking to anyone, which she thinks he wouldn't have done. Killer demands she prove her loyalty by finding the next hose for them to go into. At this point, if she gets someone to open a door, shouldn't she just tell them to call 911 and arrest everyone in the van?

Garcia finally comes up with something - which takes longer than it should have, because yes, she really was checking names manually against lists of van owners. This plan almost doesn't work until Eric suggests that she search more than just the handful of states Emily suggested! Why did she need to be told this? Even in this inefficient manner, it's not like she's doing anything manually - just set it to be a nationwide search - that's going to add what, five minutes to the program, maximum?

Of course, just searching 'does anyone who went to jail with goon own a 70s van' would have gotten her the answer instantaneously, so I don't know why they faffed around with all this other nonsense.

Tracking their crimes, the team discovers that there were a string of burglaries after they got out of jail - but no home invasions or murders! So it's only after the killer hooked up with his girlfriend out in Cali that the killings started, suggesting that she's the real mastermind behind the brutality! Which we already suspected, given how turned-on she was by seeing people executed.

Instead of just running away, the skeptical lady leads them to another one of the houses they'd begged at previously, so that the family can be murdered! The woman once again just blithely opens the door, which again suggests that the news hasn't covered this really specific MO at all? Like, every TV channel, newspaper, and local website should have a giant warning reading 'if a lady came to your house begging for money, she's coming back to kill you, don't open the door'.

How is this still working? Is the team really this negligent?

Things get dumb back at the police station, where Steven and JJ talk about how strange it is that two non-violent offenders suddenly turned to mass-murder. The reasonable assumption is that one of the women is behind it! What's so dumb about this? Simple - JJ thinks that the most important follow-up question is 'which one'? Except that's not important at all. You still don't know who any of the three women are. After you've caught them you can worry about which loves murder. Right now that's not in any way relevant to your job.

In the new house, the killer thinks that his girlfriend is enjoying murder to much, and tries to stop her, but then one of the other ladies decides to hold a knife to his throat, because she's suddenly all-in on mass murder, I guess? That came out of nowhere. Then the girlfriend murders the killer, and it turns out that this is her childhood home that they've broken into, and these are her parents! Shocking! Except, you know, not at all.

Amazing coincidence that her parents are the super-gullible type and also home in the middle of the afternoon, huh?

Then we get a weird scene where they try to profile their way into figuring out who the girlfriend is, but the only way they get there is that she OD'd a month back and wrote the killer's real name on her form under 'emergency contact', which put him into the system. So yeah, a records search of his name would have had this an hour ago, allowing them to get to the parents home before the killers arrived, and take everyone down without bloodshed!

Anyhoo, the girlfriend is a bad seed, and she hates her family for no reason! Inside, the skeptical lady grabs the killer's gun, and tries to get the girlfriend to surrender! They trade some shots, and then the team rushes in and arrests the girlfriend without incident.


The girlfriend is dragged away, screaming the whole time, because, remember, she's super-crazy. Then, on the plane home Emily checks in on Steven's progress with Scratch. He's made none. He does say something remarkably stupid, though - that Scratch "waited" more than a year to go after the team, proving that he's patient.

Except, you know, he was in jail for 14 out of those 18 months. We have to assume that the moment he got out of jail he started working intensely on his MPD/Serial Killer Hunting plan and that it took that long to pull off. Then, the moment that plan was over, he immediately went to work setting up Aisha's brother. Seriously, like the next day he started on that. While it took him a while to set up his original crimes, he hasn't been dormant for a moment since getting out of prison.

Then Emily wins herself a Prentiss Award for this line:
Who are you talking about, Emily? I literally can't think of anyone who fits this criteria. Almost no one has ever tried to 'take down' the team specifically. Occasionally someone has tried to 'take down' one of your members for personal reasons, but this is the first time someone has come after the entire team like this.

The closest anyone came to ever targeting the whole 'team' was Mark Hamill - and Joe murdered him. Actually, come to think of it, every time someone has targeted the team members specifically - Ian Doyle, Frank, or Helo – the team killed them. The way they'll presumably kill Scratch at the end of this storyline.

Wait, actually, The Collector did come after the whole team, but she wasn't on it yet, and he committed suicide, so that's one other exception. Still, no one is behind bars, so she keeps the award.

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

Nope! Seriously, not at all.

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

They identified a victim, and heard about a notable van leaving the crime scene. They used the van and the victim to find the killer, which led them directly to the girlfriend. This is all very basic policework.

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

1/10 - It's funny, because the show wants the team to always cut things incredibly close, we can't help but notice that had they just gone one step further with their search about the killer - immediately checking to see if he had any connection to California, they'd have solved this case immediately!

Wait... I just realized something - in the scene where they're finding out who the girlfriend is, they ask why didn't the killers just go after the parents, if she hated them the most - and Garcia says that the parents have been at a work conference for three days.

Except they've been killing people for two weeks at this point, so that's not an answer to the question.

God, this show is terrible.

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