Criminal Minds 1302: To A Better Place

The episode opens with two bicyclists chatting on a beach! Will there be a corpse in the sand? Yes, of course they will be. Unpleasantly, it's been stuffed into a suitcase!

Then it's over to Quantico, where Reid is training to be good at shooting, finally! He's still using his ridiculous tiny revolver, though, so he has to reload during the shooting course, which costs him valuable seconds in his overall performance ranking. Also, one of the cardboard attackers is a clown, because the show thought that would be cute!

The instructor tells Reid that he did great on the course, which is weirdly condescending. I mean, he stopped for ten seconds to reload a revolver when he should have a professional weapon instead. He might be accurate, but he's not ready for a real gunfight.

Also, he probably likes murdering people too much.

Reid then goes up to meet with Tuvok, the psychologist in charge of clearing him to return to work! Now, we know that Reid doesn't respect psychologists, and has been faking his way through counseling, but the good news is - it worked! He's back on the team, with one caveat. But what is it? Are they going to make him carry a sensible gun in a normal holster? Force him to shave his ridiculous stubble Van Dyke, and get an professional haircut?

Emily and Aisha chat about their time off. Then Matt enters with boxes full of all the serial killer cases he's been working while the team was away! It's four file boxes. Which is a huge number, for a team that mostly works with digital information. Did Matt consult on a hundred different serial killer cases?

Then the whole team together to celebrate Reid being back at work and Steven joining the team! Emily then says that IRT's loss is their gain, but last week Matt said there wasn't an IRT any more. Can the writers seriously not keep basic facts about the world straight over just two weeks?

We find out about the case - two women killed and then stuffed into suitcases. One hasn't been identified yet, the other was attacked in her home while making a dinner for two! Could the killer have insinuated himself into her life, or did someone get called in to work and miss a dinner date?

Meanwhile, down in Florida, the killer drops another suitcase off, this one at a bus stop!

On the plane, they talk about the possible meanings of the suitcases, and land on the idea that it's probably a guy angry that he was left by a woman. Then they find out about the third suitcase!

Joe and JJ go to the crime scene, where they learn that the women were all choked to death! At least the two which weren't so decomposed that you couldn't tell. Also, the two latest victims had the same lipstick put on their faces, and the lingerie the last victim was wearing suggests that she, too, was going on a date with her killer!

Emily and Reid chat about his reinstatement, and we learn what the condition was! He needs to take a month off of work after every three months on the job. Which is really the least he could do. He rankles at the idea, of course, because he's incredibly arrogant, so Emily has to try to convince him that it's a good idea for him to take a month off now and again and focus on teaching.

Wow, can you imagine what a terrible teacher Reid would be? There's few things worse than a teacher with an arrogant need to constantly remind people that he's smarter than them.

Reid asks Emily if he's ready to go back in the field. He did want to murder Mr. Scratch after all, so mightn't that be disqualifying? Jeez, Reid. You murdered that guy torturing Derek. You poisoned those people in jail, doubtless killing at least one of them. Emily used to murder people for the state department. Joe and JJ have both murdered unarmed suspects. Despite the fact that the show forgot about it, Aisha is a psychopath. Eric actually did kill Scratch. The only person I'm not certain is too damaged to do the job is Matt, but as I keep saying, I haven't seen Beyond Borders, maybe he's as awful as the rest of you.

Eric returns from the bus stop, and announces that no one saw the killer, and there are no videocameras in the area! I know that they're obsessives who can't delegate, but couldn't the cops have just told them that? They did get some blood off the suitcase, which belongs to either the killer or the bleeding body inside the bag. We all know which is more likely, but let's hope they get lucky!

At a coffee shop, the killer flirts with a barista! We assume he's the killer because he has a bloody bandage wrapped one hand, and we were just told he might have injured himself. Barista 2 tells barista 1 to go on a date with the killer - he works with them, and it's meaningful that he came in on his day off just to flirt with her! Hopefully he hasn't reached the decompensating portion of his spree where he doesn't care about getting caught, because if that's the case, she's very, very dead.

Emily, Matt, and JJ go over some guesses about the killer's MO. How is he getting close to these women? Obviously by asking them out on dates. JJ thinks it's a little more elaborate, though - the killer must be using a ruse, like Ted Bundy did with his fake broken arm! She says that women are too savvy to fall for that now - because she has no memory of any of the cases she's worked, I guess - and it would have be more developed, like the guy pretends to have a broken heart!

This, naturally, comes from absolutely nowhere, which means it will definitely be right. Guesses this out of the bar are possible only when the characters have access to the writer's full knowledge of the story.

More flirting with the killer and the barista. She has a dead father, his only family is an ailing grandmother. The exposition might be important, but this is some terrible flirting.

Although the team hasn't identified the first victim yet (could that be the killer's 'ailing grandmother'? Probably not, since no matter how decomposed the flesh was, the ME would be able to tell approximate age just by the bones), Reid does have a decent lead - the lipstick on the women hasn't been sold in 30 years!

More importantly, was this whole episode inspired by the ending of "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer"? Henry killed his mother in the backstory of that, right?

The killer goes home to tell his grandmother about the nice girl he met, but she tells him that the girl is a just a whore who'll leave him, just like his mother left! Then his grandmother immediately disappears, because the show is doing psycho again, as well as the Henry stuff.

While trying to figure out where the killer met his victims, JJ and Matt notice that one volunteered with dying people, and the other just had a friend drown out in California! Could he be meeting them in some kind of grief support group? Aisha then tries to make a connection to Ted Bundy, which is such a crazy stretch. Especially since Ted Bundy faked injuries to make himself seem non-threatening, whereas this guy literally is a grief-stricken basket case.

Back in the crazy house, the killer agrees to murder the barista!

We get the profile scene, and it's amazing the extent to which the team is guessing based on zero information. They announce that the killer isn't charming or seducing victims, but rather acting pathetically so that they'll want to take care of him! What are you basing this on, though? All you know is that one victim was depressed about a dead relative, and the other had a stressful job working with the dying. How on earth can you extrapolate that to 'the killer made sad puppy face near them until they wanted to sleep with him'? Couldn't he have presented as a strong person who wanted to take care of them and help them deal with their stress and depression?

This whole profile is based on nothing more than a few off-handed comments about Ted Bundy.

Also, since it seems that it definitely was the grandmother in that first suitcase, I want to reiterate that there's no way the ME wouldn't have known how old the bones were.

The killer's hallucination tells him to murder the barista, but he won't do it! Yet.

JJ, Emily, and Eric try to think of ways that the killer could have met his victims. They see nothing obvious - the one woman's support group had no connection to the other's palliative care facility! It's weird that neither woman mentioned that there were seeing a man to anyone. Were they both intensely private people? The team assumes that there would have previously been some kind of long-term courtship ritual with the guy's victims, but now that the police are on to him, he'll probably just start clubbing women over the head, Bundy-style.

Then again, why couldn't he have a couple of other victims on the go? Do they really think he just stalks and plans to kill a single woman at a time?

The killer then follows a woman into her house in broad daylight and strangles her to death! Somehow, no one notices this.

There's some fun looping back at the police station as Aisha has to dub in the name of the first victim, who they've just identified! I guess the name they used when they shot it didn't clear? The woman was a well-to-do diletante who apparently wasn't close enough to anyone that anyone noticed she's disappeared for a month!

Joe and JJ go to the new victim's house and look over the body. Apparently he raped her corpse after she was already dead! Thanks for that, show. The team notice the connection because of the lipstick, and assume that because he put zero effort into this crime that he must be crumbling. Which is a fair assumption to make!

The killer then talks to his hallucination some more, and we do a flashback to his mother filling up an old suitcase to escape an abusive situation. But did she really leave, or did the evil grandmother murder her? Hopefully she left.

Matt and Aisha check out the first victim's house, hoping to find a lead that connects her to the other victims. What do they find? A closet full of kitchenware - enough that she could cater a small function! Did she hire the killer to work on a job and he went nuts and murdered her? Garcia tracks down her home-based catering business, and doesn't find any connection to the other victims, but maybe she'll dig up some of the woman's employees?

Also, I'm not sure why they didn't know about the catering stuff immediately. This episode is set in 2017 - how on earth is this woman running a catering business without a huge social media footprint advertising that business? All Garcia would have had to do is look her up on Instagram and she'd have known everything. Which I guess she didn't bother to do?

The killer asks out the barista - will the team be able to save her in time?

At the police station, Red, Eric, and JJ decide that the killer must be in love with his ultimate target, which is why he so brutally attacked the latest victim - he was trying to sublimate his violent urges so they didn't spill out in his relationship with the barista! I can't stress the extent to which this is coming from nowhere. There's no reason to think this is anything but standard decompensation - at a certain point, Ted Bundy abandoned ruses and just started smashing people with branches.

On their date, the killer wants to start things out by taking the barista to meet his grandmother! Bad at flirting, and terrible at date planning! How did this guy ever get any victim to invite him over to her place? He's just not handsome enough to make up for his bevvy of personality defects.

Garcia then solves the case for the team! The caterer did the grandmother's funeral. Also the grandmother had been at the palliative care facility where the nurse worked. Then the killer got grief counseling at the same community center where the other victim's group met! So here's a guy with a concrete connection to all three victims - how could he not be the killer. He was obviously their guy even before Garcia got into his lifetime of abuse and self-harm.

At the grandmother's house, the barista is creeped-out that the grandmother isn't there, and asks to leave. The killer immediately pulls a knife on her, because he's extremely fragile.

Matt and Aisha go to the killer's workplace, and find out about him taking the barista out on a date! Now they can just track their cellphones! Or at least make an excuse for why they can't.

Oh, and it looks like the mother was, in fact, killed as well - Reid says that the mother was reported missing by a friend, not the grandmother, and she was surprisingly attentive towards her son! Joe goes to talk to the mother's friend to see if that can give them any leads. I don't know how it could, though. Maybe they'll be able to tell the killer that his grandmother killed his mother, and that will make him let the barista go?

When they can't find him anywhere else, the team heads over to the grandmother's house, where the killer is napping while the barista huddles in the corner of the room, unharmed (so far)! Eventually he starts talking to his hallucination, which freaks the barista out further! His hallucination convinces him to kill the barista!

Joe then calls Reid with a report - the mother was planning to move out of grandma's house when she disappeared, so that she could better take care of her son. She even left one of the son's toys there, which Joe takes, although I'm not sure why he does that. Reid, for his part, is still driving to the grandmother's house alone, because he doesn't care about basic security protocols. You were in a building full of police officers - grab one of them and bring some backup along if the team isn't nearby.

As the killer threatens the barista with a box cutter, Reid rushes in and aims a gun at him. He could just shoot the killer at this point - he's not using the barista as a shield, and the box cutter is literally no threat to her. Nevertheless, Reid decides to explain his theory that grandma killed the mother and stuffed her in a suitcase, and that's what's been driving him all these years! The killer has some flashbacks confirming the theory, and surrenders without incident!


On the plane back, the team tries to offer a bunch of exposition to help the episode make sense, and it doesn't go great. They announce that the grandmother's husband abandoned her for a nurse, creating a fixation for the killer that the show never established as being a fact, and Joe assumes that the nurse wore the important lipstick! But why would the killer be obsessed with that lipstick. Did the grandmother talk about it all the time, and stockpile it? Because it was out of production before the killer was born, so he couldn't have had a personal connection with it.

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

Not at all! They spend most of the episode toying around with Ted Bundy theories which get them nowhere, but it's not until Garcia finds a link between the victims that they have their killer.

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

Finding links between victims is all the police are for.

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

1/10 - Just a weak episode all over. Why did they even think the victim was between 20-25? Seems like that was also based on nothing. And why did the killer want the bodies found? If this was all about a mother who packed a suitcase and then disappeared one day, why is he going through pains to make sure that the bodies are getting found very quickly?

I cannot stress how out-of-nowhere all of the Ted Bundy stuff was, and how little it had to do with the actual details of the case. I found it especially troubling that the show was completely incapable of demonstrating the killer's supposed MO of getting women to pity him until they wanted to sleep with him. All we see him do is finally ask out a woman who already liked him, almost entirely based on his looks, rather than any qualities that made her pity him and want to take care of him.

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