Criminal Minds 1303: Blue Angel

As the episode begins, a station wagon drives down a dirt road with overgrowth all around. For some reason I'm reminded of the way the team never bothered looking into the skull-tattooed man who was abducting and killing children from rest stops. Why are you so bad at your job, team?

This doesn't have anything to do with that, BTW - instead it's a hooded man who finds a shed and breaks into a shed with some bolt cutters. Turns out the shed is a serial killer's torture dungeon, one that's gone all cobwebby with lack of use! How did this guy find out about it? More importantly, is the show taking another stab at the toolbox killer?

In addition to all of the murder tools, there are some tiny videotapes left on a counter, documenting the crimes. Interesting! For the audience, anyhow. The hooded guy is more interested in grabbing a victim from the trunk of his car, and dragging him into the torture shed to be killed.

Next we find Matt at home! I wonder if this is a first for the character, or if the wife and kids he talked about in the backdoor pilot had already appeared on BB?

At the office, Reid, Garcia, and Eric talk about a thought experiment that Reid wants his class to do! It's terrible, and kind of pointless, so it's exactly the kind of thing I'd expect from professor Reid.

During the scene, I notice JJ's desk is in the background-

There's no reason for her to change her name, of course, but it's at this moment that I realized that 'Lamontagne' is a way better last name than Jarreau, and she should have taken it when she married Jr.

We get a breakdown of the case. Two men have been extensively tortured, had their genitals removed, and then been hung from meat hooks in public-adjacent spaces where the bodies were obviously meant to be found. Matt thinks the torture is similar to the kind of damage done by a Detroit drug gang that was recently taken down. Could one of their buttonmen have decided to go freelance?

Then we get a scene of the killer videotaping his latest victim, with the kind of tiny videocamera that one would assume the mini tapes fit inside!

On the plane, they go over the victimology! While there's no clear connection between the two victims - one was a DJ, the other a defense attorney - they both took large amounts of money out of the bank each week, presumably because they were buying something illicit in cash. But what was it?

Matt, Reid, and Emily go to the police station, where they meet Matt's buddy, the detective in charge of the case! He tells them that there's a video of the torture and murder of the lawyer and DJ! I'm not super clear whether that was the footage we watched before the opening credits, or if there's a third victim already, but I'm sure we'll find out.

The tapes were delivered by hand to the victims' residences, but the victims' friends and families couldn't play the tapes for obvious reasons, so why not just send them straight to the cops? We get no information about whether anyone saw the person who dropped the tapes off, leaving just to wonder if the Detroit police even bothered canvassing the area.

Reid thinks the mini-tapes might be a forensic countermeasure, because digital videos are incredibly traceable, but mini-tapes from 20 years ago aren't.

Is that true, though? While the raw video format a modern digital camera records in might be easy to link to a type of camera, the killer could easily re-encode the videos before burning them to a disc, severing that link. As for the video tapes - wouldn't they be much easier to trace? These are tiny tapes that never really caught on as a huge recording medium. How many of them are left around? Did they killer buy them somewhere? Who's selling them? What about purchase or repair records for the types of cameras that use them?

It seems like these tapes are a fairly promising lead, so it's weird to hear about them being dismissed like that.

Matt and Emily go to talk to the lawyer's widow. She claims ignorance of the DJ's identity, and when shown the bank listings of her husband's suspicious withdrawls, she immediately freaks out and runs to the bathroom. What did she suspect was going on? Does her husband have a mistress? Is that what the sexual mutilation was about?

The team thinks it might be sex workers - considering that they were spending something in the neighbourhood of 150K a year, it feels like it would probably be either drugs or sex, right? Maybe blackmail, but the amounts constantly go up and down, so that's unlikely. Actually, why would the amounts go massively up and down with sex workers... hmm... hopefully this gets explained later.

The team looks over some crime scene photos, trying to figure out how a killer this practiced could have stayed completely under the radar - there's nothing about his MO anywhere in VICAP! Which makes my theory that the killer is recreating the crimes of an earlier psychopath (hence the disused torture dungeon) a lot less plausible.

Then Garcia calls in with some info! Both men regularly met with the same woman they met on a 'sugar daddy' website, where sex workers look to set up long-term relationships! Again, it's weird that this didn't come up when Garcia was initially snooping through their emails, but whatever. Garcia discovers that the sex worker was mostly likely the last person to see either victim alive, since they each disappeared around the time that she had a date scheduled!

Garcia somehow can't track the sex worker's email to her real identity - geez, Garcia, just check their e-mail service and find out what IP address has been accessing that account. This isn't that difficult. Since she didn't come through, the team decides that they're going to visit the offices of the 'dating' website in the hopes of threatening some names out of them!

Maybe they'll do that tomorrow? Because the next scene is set at night, with the killer having dragged another victim to his lair! Before he kills the person, he plays a tape of someone making a speech about how torturing people to death is his 'purpose'. The tape is played on a olde-timey boom box, so once again, it's really seeming like this guy is copycatting someone else's crimes, probably from more than a decade ago.

The next day, Eric and JJ go to see the people who own the website! The address is a sorority house, of all things! The two sisters who run the site don't want to help initially, but then they're threatened with being named publicly as accessories to multiple murders, and they cave right away!

By scouring the videotape, the team is able to identify the exact manufacturer of the specific cargo container that was used as the torture shed! That should be a decent lead! Then Emily comes in and announces they've got another victim - this one's body was hung in a less public place, for some reason. Is there a meaningful pattern to it all?

Emily and Matt go to see the sex worker, who seems surprised that the guys were both killed after seeing her! Then they get the name of the third victim, and she confirms that he was another one of her frequent dates!

The moment she does that Emily and Matt leave her house, announcing that a police protective detail is on the way. Here's an idea: maybe wait for the cops to get there, so you're sure she's safe?

Here's a better idea - extensively question her about every single person she's met on the website and also in real life! You've just found very good evidence that all of the murders are centered around this woman. The men she's been sleeping with are being unmanned and left to bleed to death. This couldn't seem more like it was about her. Yet they make no effort to either interview her about potential suspects, or get a list of the rest of her partners, all of whom are potential targets.

Hey, here's a thought - what if she's the killer? She slept with three guys and each one died a couple of hours later. Do you have any reason to believe that she's not the killer? I'm not saying it's particularly likely, but why would you have already dismissed it as a possibility?

Why aren't you questioning this woman for hours? What is wrong with both of you? She was the last person to see three victims alive, and you don't suspect her of killing them because she's a woman? Even if you didn't think she was physically capable of hoisting men into rafters on hooks, why would you dismiss the possibility that she could have an accomplice in the killings? This is some terrible investigating, team.

Eventually they do get the list of names from the sex worker, and weirdly the team starts by assuming that the killer might be among the club members. Isn't it more likely that those are potential victims? I guess she could have jilted one of them... Then they talk about how the sex worker's list is incomplete - what about her father and brother?

Um... do you know that she has a living father and brother? If so, how could you know nothing about them? When Garcia looked into this woman, wouldn't she have immediately checked into her immediate family as well, the way she always does?

So, wait, was the father the original killer, and the son is recreating his dad's crimes on men who sleep with his sister? That would be a gordian knot of creepiness!

At the sex worker's house, Matt has decided to take the overnight security detail. They didn't accomplish much today, did they? Matt calls his wife at home, and they chat for a little while! Then, after he gets off the phone, the sex worker comes on to him, and he profiles her as pathologically lonely. Why is there only a single person providing security? More importantly, why isn't it being handled by people on the night shift? Matt worked all day, and now he's going to spend all night sitting in this house? Is he taking tomorrow off?

Meanwhile, Eric and JJ are talking to the sex worker's mother - Gypsy from Gilmore Girls! They ask her if the sex worker has any siblings. No! And her father died when she was 5! Wait, did she later find out about his torture shed and see all of his tapes, and now she's become obsessed with him, and she's the killer?

It really does make the team look back that they had to ask Gypsy about the extended family. This is the kind of public records jive you should have on lock before you go to interview someone. Seriously, it's only after they walk out of the house that they decide to call Garcia and ask if the mother was lying to them. You should have known all this walking in the door!

Back at the police station, the local cops come up with a lead for the first time in ages! Their tech person has isolated the sound of a plane either taking off or landing somewhere near the torture shed! Then Reid winds himself a Prentiss Award for the first time in a while!

No, that's not what a geographic profile is. A Georgraphic Profile is an assessment of kidnapping and dumping sites looked at with an eye towards establishing a criminal's 'zone of comfort'. This killer needs isolation because he's torturing people to death.

Also, two of the airports on Emily's list are in Canada, which can be dismissed immediately, and probably should have been on there at all, because smuggling people across a national border is a hassle. Unless you've got a small fishing boat. Callback!

They decide which airports to check out based on how much wilderness is around, since you'd need that to hide a cargo container. Unless you owned the land, and then you wouldn't have to hide it. You can just plop a cargo container on land you own, and you'll be fine. No matter what's inside of it.

Speaking of the cargo container, the killer is there as the cops arrive to check on it! The killer quickly douses the place in gasoline, ignites it, and then flees! You'd think seeing fire suddenly explode out of a cargo container fifty feet away would convince the cops to close down the roads and bring in search helicopters, but no, the killer just escapes without incident.

Just a quick note, the killer is clearly a man, so while the daughter can't be the actual killer, the team still should have treated her more seriously as a suspect.

In the burned goods, Reid and Luke find a poster with a logo for the crime family that they theorized the killer must have worked for! They wonder why the killer was able to stop between the shutdown of the crime family and the start of these killings! A better question would be - what is the sex worker's connection to the mob? She's got to have one, right, or do they think the fact that her clients were killed is a total coincidence?

Behind the shed they find a shallow grave, where a woman's skill is buried. It was shot in the back of the head - who could this be, and why is it so different from his other victims?

Garcia calls the team with news about the sex worker's family. She's got no male relatives! Also, Gypsy is using an assumed name, although they don't explain to what extent. Does she have a fake social security number, or is she just not going by her real name? Oh, and the sex worker doesn't have a birth certificate! So, what, the uncle or whoever had to kill a lady with a baby, and he turned the baby over to his sister to look after, and then years later the sex worker got into shady business?

Hey, wouldn't this information have been a useful thing to have BEFORE you went to talk to Gypsy? Because now, instead of being able to just ask her about her shady family history, they return to find the place has been broken into and Gypsy is missing. Did you not leave officers there? Your theory is that the woman's daughter is the focus of a serial killer's attention, and you didn't think the woman might end up on the killer's list?

Oh, and Matt is with them on the raid, for unclear reasons.

Well, not completely unclear, I guess - it's so the killer can come into the house and murder the cop there without Matt being endangered!

Garcia then lays out the whole plot - the sex worker is the daughter of a mob murderer. At some point he killed his wife, who was then listed as missing (they identified the skull), and turned the daughter over to his sister, Gyspy, to raise. Now that he's out of jail, he's upset that his daughter is a sex worker, and is killing her clients!

The sex worker wakes to find that Gypsy is there - she's confused about what's going on until the killer arrives to announce that they're in her old room! That's right, he's brought them back to the easiest place on earth where they could be found!

At the sex worker's house, Emily enters with a strange line, announcing that a BOLO (the vehicle version of an APB) has been put out of a station wagon, and then she ends the statement by saying that it has an expired registration with the killer's name on it! So wait, how did you find out about the car - was there a witness to the abduction, or did you just look up the killer's car from when he went to jail? This is so confusing!

The killer explains the sex worker's backstory to her, and lays out his plan - kill all of the johns, and then they start over as a happy family! So... he went nuts in jail, huh?

Reid calls Garcia for help in figuring out where the killer is. They go through a listing of the properties prviously owned by the mob, and they find a house that's still sitting there, empty. In an amazing coincidence, that house is exactly one block away from where the sex worker currently lives! I don't know why they added that bit of trivia, but what are you going to do?

At the house in question, the sex worker tries to escape, so the killer grabs her. Gypsy take the opportunity to stab him in the back! As the sex worker flees outside, we discover that the house they're staying in is that creepy LA house I'm obsessed with, with the columns and the chain-link fence around it!

The team runs upstairs to check on Gypsy, who's fine, because I guess the killer really means the things he says? She announces that she heard glass break and thinks he jumped out a window. Weird that they didn't hear it - breaking glass is loud. Absurdly, Matt chases after the killer with no backup, which leads to a fight, but Matt overpowers the killer without too much trouble and arrests him.


When Matt goes to talk to the sex worker, which leads to this absurd exchange-

"Our profile told us." Come on, Matt. You found her mother's head in the dirt beside a torture shed. Up until that point you had no idea what was going on.

Then Matt flies back home and checks in on his wife! It's sweet! She asks if he's hurt, but the make up people forgot to make the mark on his face in any way noticeable!

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


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

I have to feel like the real cops would have said 'Hey, Gypsy - can you think of any brutal murderers with a connection to your daughter?' and Gypsy would have said 'yes. This mob hitman who's her real father.' And the story would have been over.

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

1/10 - This episode was dire. For the plot to happen the team had to neglect to do even the most basic research into their only lead. Think about how little time it would have taken to solve this case?

Step 1 - All the victims had a woman in common.
Step 2 - The woman has no birth certificate, and her mother doesn't exist as a person.
Step 3 - Ask the mother what's going on.
Or, if you don't want to leave the computer:
Step 3 - Search for missing children with the same name and birthdate as the woman. If you have to, expand it to family members with the same name as the fake mother.

There's no need for half of this episode to have happened.

Check it out! We got a Matt-themed episode! Just three episodes into him joining the show. Eric's been hear over a year and there's been no sign of an episode for him! Although that's probably because Reid sucked up all the oxygen in the room last year.

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