24.12.19

Criminal Minds 1219: True North

We open in prison, where everyone is understandably nervous around Reid, since apparently word has gotten around that he killed a bunch of people. Well, we don't know about 'killed' yet, since there's been no dialogue in the prison, but they're definitely worried.

Aisha is back at Quantico! That's right, she took last week off, and no one noticed because this show has too many characters! Did you know the show Renegade had only three main characters? And it worked just fine. How many people were on the Rockford files? Four, tops - although there was a recurring lawyer character. Magnum P.I. - just 4 again. Murder, She Wrote had a single main character. It may feel like she had a large supporting cast, but she didn't - that show went for over 250 episodes, and only something like a quarter of them were set in Cabot Cove.

It used to be that large casts were the domain of sitcoms - the idea being that if a show was going to be set in a single location for a long time, you'd need a huge cast to constantly try out in different combinations and react to things. Shows about solving crimes, on the other hand, would normally just have a couple of people, since the audience is supposed to be paying attention to that week's mystery. At some point - probably the 90s, I'd have to do some research - the trend became to give every show a giant cast, and I feel like genre television has suffered for it.

Where was I? Oh, right - they have a plan to deal with Scratch - he was photographed on a runway in Honduras, and the team is going to try to put him on the international terrorism watchlist! In order to get him there, they feel like they need a new cognitive interview with Reid, hoping to shake loose some proof that Scratch was actually in Mexico!

Why are they acting like it would be this hard to get governments of the world interested in a catching Scratch? Seriously, has the show forgotten who this man is? Setting aside all of the 'escaping from prison and attacking the FBI stuff', this is one of the most talented hackers in the world, who was shockingly highly-placed at the NSA - and has the ability to give US secrets to whomever he wants. He's like if Edward Snowden was a serial killer. Why is catching this guy not the goverment's number 1 priority?

Out in Arizona, an old prospector type finds three corpses that were tied to stakes out in the desert - presumably they were dead when they were put there, because the victims' arms aren't tied at all, and they're held in place by simple straps that can be easily opened.

We get some details about the case! The three people were in vastly different stages of decomposition, and all three had both shock collars and blue silk scarves wrapped around their necks. Those shock collars must have traceable parts, right?

Aisha gets to the prison and waits to meet with Reid! He doesn't want her help, though, because he's too busy wallowing in guilt and self-pity about all those people he murdered! Aisha is able to get him to take part in the interview, though, because really, what else is he going to do with his time?

On the plane, Garcia offers details about the victims - they were all start students who recently returned home from college, and had been featured in the media! So why hadn't the cops already made a connection between their disappearances? Why did they need to find a body to get this moving? Three notable young people with everything to live for mysteriously disappear over the course of a few months, all of them after being discussed on television and in newspapers? That's not weird enough to look into?

At the crime scene, we find that the killer rolled boulders in front of the stakes so that he could sit and watch his victims die! Also, he left water bottles lying around, because he also doesn't care about the environment. Just when you thought you couldn't hate him any more, right?

At the morgue, we don't have a cause of death for any of the victims! Even the one who died less than a week ago. Yeah, all the killings happened in the past month. How was this not noticed? We even hear that all three disappearances were reported to the cops!

Then something weird happens - Steven opines that they may never know what caused the death of the three students. Then the ME talks about how the desert doesn't give up its secrets. Literally two lines earlier, though, the ME talks about how the sun is so bad that a person staked to a pole in it would die of heatstroke and dehydration in hours, not days.

So... is that not what happened to them? If it's not, why mention it, and if it is, why is this being treated like a mystery?

In prison, Aisha goes over the incident in the motel again. We see all of the same footage from last time. There's no new information, which suggests to Aisha that he's blocking whatever happened next that led him to the chase in the desert! Does she have a plan to get him around the blocks?

At the police station, the team tries to figure out what could make someone so angry that they'd kill a bunch of college grads who were trying to do right by their home town. Also, they say they're going to put other recent local celebs in protective custody, just in case. The DNA from the bottles doesn't give them any leads, since the killer is in the system, but at least they've clarified whether it's a man or a woman.

They wonder if the shock collars have some symbolic meaning based in hating higher education - not one bothers to suggest that maybe the shock collars were just a form of torture, used to wake people up when they started to pass out from dehydration, extending their conscious suffering.

Oh, and the killer has just now strapped another person to a pole. It seems that he does, in fact, tie their hands behind their backs, but then takes those bonds off later for no reason!

When Eric and JJ get out to the crime scene - with no explanation for how anyone found it so quickly - Eric discovers that the victim is pointed towards geographic north. What's the significance of that? No word on the killer's vehicle, though. In the previous scene we were told that the killer needed a vehicle to get this far out into the desert with a victim - but we were told that there had been a windstorm the previous day, and any tracks would have been destroyed. What's their excuse today, when they're getting to the victim just hours after he died?

Also, where are the dogs? The killer sat on a boulder in the desert, sweating for hours. That rock must reek of him - a dog could easily lead you either to him or where his car was parked. And let's talk a little more about how these stakes were put into the ground - it's going to take specialized tools to get a pole that big situated deeply in the ground - check on purchases? Also, it's not like he's making the posts himself, shouldn't they be traceable as well?

Over at the killer's house, we see him interacting with his horrible, abusive mother! He's brought her a lei, because she wants to go to Hawaii one day. He's nothing but a disappointment to her, and she happily tells him so! Well, no wonder he's so upset at happy people with futures.

At HQ, we discover that the latest victim was a local stoner! Perhaps the killer is now just picking random people to kill! Joe thinks that will make their job a lot harder, but I don't think that's necessarily true - consider this: When he had all the time in the world to choose victims, he could come up with elaborate plans and grab people from all over the city. But when the cops are on to him, he has to just grab whoever's available to him - this would suggest that the latest victim is the most important one, because, in one way or another, he operates in a similar circle to the killer!

The profile just restates everything we already knew, other than their belief that the fact that the fourth victim was a stoner suggests that he's getting closer to the real target of his rage! Then we get some info about the bottle DNA - none was in the water inside. So what was he doing with the water, if not drinking it? Pouring it out as a way of mocking his victim?

Then the show goes completely off the rails with this scene - I'm giving the whole team a collective Prentiss Award for this one.

Why am I so mad about this one? I'll give you a hint - Eric's theory is in no way based on the evidence. Here's the first three victims:


Note that the three boulders are arranged directly in front of each victim, who are all facing essentially the same direction.


And that's the fourth victim - again, please note that there's but a single boulder, directly in front of him.

I don't know what the writers thought was going on with the body placement sundial stuff, but whatever was mean in the script did not survive the translation to film. Literally nothing Eric says in that scene is accurate to the concrete facts of the case, and yet the team are all going to pretend that it is! Grand!

Outside of a nice restaurant, the killer sees a woman go to her nice car while he watches from a terrible jeep! Has he found is next victim? Is he going to rob her in the hopes of getting money for a trip? Seems like that would have been a better use of his time than the mass-murder stuff.

Aisha does more of the interview with Reid, and finally gets him to the point where he remember stabbing the doctor himself! Which he freaks out about, and Aisha says 'is impossible', but why would you think that? I mean, really, the villain's whole thing is drugging people and making them murder other people. It didn't occur to you until right now that all of the evidence is pointing to Reid because he might actually be the killer? Even if it doesn't wind up being true, this was always well within the realm of possibility!

That night, Emily gets on the phone with Aisha, and they discuss Reid's case! Aisha thinks that Reid has created a 'false narrative' in his head about what happened in the motel room, because he's covering something else up!

Joe, Steven, and JJ get together to talk about the case, and how confusing they find the various details of it! What's going on with the water? The shock collars? The fourth guy who's noting like the other three. All of these elements are just baffling!

Over at the killer's house, he's abducted that woman from the restaurant. Somehow. And he says that they have some history, which she doesn't remember! Are we getting closer to an actual motive?

The team may have found one! All four of the dead students were on scholarship to their various schools, whether they completed their education there or not! Weird that it took them this long to notice the connection - that's pretty surface level stuff.

More with the killer! Apparently his evil mother has had a stroke!

Aisha goes to visit Penelope's office, and we get a rare glimpse of the murder map! 
I can see the one red splotch for Arizona, but what are the East Coast splotches about? Anyhoo, Garcia's search results turn up what the stoner won his scholarship for - a science fair project about sun dials! Seriously? You can get 40K dollars for a science fair win? That seems insane to me.

This leads the team to the conclusion that the killer must harbor a resentment for the stoner because the guy stole what he thought was rightfully his! Also, Steven thinks that the water was used to 'mask the signs of electrocution'. That's right - they're assuming that the killer splashed water on his victims' necks and then zapped them with a cattle prod until they were dead, and the tiny amount of water on their necks kept their skin from burning where the cattle prod was applied!

It was a forensic countermeasure!

Except, of course that wouldn't work. Not only would a cattle prod definitely leave a mark, but why would the killer care about forensic countermeasures? He was leaving corpses out in the desert for people to find. Who cares if the cops know how they were killed?

Oh, and one of the kids at the science fair did a project on shock collars. So I guess the woman he kidnapped is the one who judged the winners of the contest?

Remember how crazy the killer was? He brings the science fair judge out to apologize to the mother for making a mistake! So this is all about his emotional journey! Then he puts the lei around his mother's neck and electrocutes her by putting her feet in a pan of water and electrifying it!

Hey, why did he kill those other three people first? His whole motive was built around murdering a specific person for a specific reason. So why target other people, especially ones who will be difficult to catch and be reported missing immediately? This guy's plans make zero sense.

The team rushes to the killer's mother's trailer and points guns at him. But then they give him ample time to step into a pan of water and both pick up and turn on a space heater. You're free to just shoot him at any point, guys. Also, it's weird that this trailer doesn't have GFIs. When was it built?

Eric tries to talk the killer out of suicide by offering to bring his mother's ashes to Hawaii for him! The killer is skeptical, and while they talk, JJ goes around behind the trailer and cuts the power, so the guy can be arrested without incident!

THE END

Back to Reid! Aisha goes back to talk to Reid some more, and expresses her faith that he's incapable of murdering someone. Reid is like 'I just murdered a whole bunch of people' but he doesn't actually say it, of course. That said, it doesn't matter what Reid is capable of - the whole point of Scratch's powers is that he gets people to stab other people. That's his entire MO. Why would Reid be immune to that?

Aisha's theory - because Reid is guilty about all the shameful stuff he's doing in prison, he's created a fantasy in his head where he's guilty of the stabbing as well! Not a terrible theory, even if it goes against Scratch's MO.

Then it turns out that it wasn't Scratch in the room at all! It was a woman who gave Reid the car keys and told him to chase her! But who, and why?

Hopefully more info next week!

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

Not at all, no. I'd love to give them the sundial observation, but since that was completely in conflict with the actual evidence, I cannot.

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

The fourth victim had a clear reason to inspire jealousy and hatred and others, and the killer left a clue at the crime scene specifically tying him to the science fair contest that he lost. Yes, they could have caught him.

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

1/10 - Seriously, why were those shock collars not traceable? They were clearly professionally made, and the dude bought a bunch of them. Also, the idea that the killer was using water to disguise cattle prod contact points is just insane.

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