Criminal Minds 1310: Submerged

It's night somewhere, and a topless woman floats dead in a pool. A man is tied to a cinderblock at the other end of the pool, and he's pushed into it by the killer! His legs are bound as well, in case you're wondering why he doesn't just walk to the shallow end. Fun fact! A closeup of the cinderblock reveals that it's actually painted wood, because this scene wouldn't be safe to film otherwise.

In Quantico, Joe talks about hanging out with his famous friends, and then they have a case! In the past two weeks, three different men were tied to cinderblocks and drowned. Also, one of them had a wife who was shot (the topless lady). Apparently the local cops think it's a case of several burglaries gone wrong, because valuables were taken from the house!

So... I guess these are the dumbest local cops in the world? The killer obviously brought the rope and cinderblocks with them. Because, you know, people don't generally just have rope and cinderblocks lying around. So obviously this is a fetishized serial killing.

Interestingly, the team say that they know these were planned murders and not failed robberies because a robber would have made sure that the houses were empty before robbing them. Except no they wouldn't. People rob houses with people in them all the time. It's called a 'Home Invasion'. It comes up a lot on this show.

No, what tells us that it was a panned murder is the ridiculous method of killing. And, you know, that the killer brought the murder weapon along.

Meanwhile, the killer is out in his shack, spraying bleach into his eyes! Yeah. He's really, really, crazy.

On the plane, Garcia announces that she's found no links between the victims, or any useful information at all! Why did she even call, then? At least they manage to figure out that the men are the targets, based on the fact that the wife was cleanly shot while the husband was treated to the same horrible drowning as the other victims.

Emily and Matt get to the police station and meet the Sheriff - Lou Diamond Phillips! He lets them know that the town is becoming desperate. The California drought has literally dried up all of their tourism spots, and so burglaries have become a popular crime! So was the killer, who lives in a bait shack, seemingly, triggered by the fact that his business has gone under?

Emily thinks that the murder must be connected to the drought - it's the height of irony to drown someone during a drought, so the killer's motive must revolve around water somehow!

At the latest crime scene, JJ and Joe discover that only costume jewelry was taken in the robbery, the valuable stuff was left behind. This is very bizarre - why would the killer have not taken all of the jewelry? Was the more valuable stuff hidden in a drawer, and the costume stuff on display? They think this means that the robberies were a smoke screen all along to cover up the murders, but it's just as likely that the killer was in a rush to escape after firing a gun outdoors, and grabbed the first jewelry he saw.

More importantly, though, the robberies can't be a smokescreen for the murders, because no one cares about the robberies. They care about the murders. A smokescreen is something you do to conceal an action and misdirect attention. How could stealing some jewelry from a house where you murdered someone distract the police from the fact that you murdered someone, or draw their attention elsewhere?

Also, you already know that the murders were the point, because the killer brought a cinderblock and rope to each crime scene. Robbers don't do that, dunces.

We get a weird update from Lou - one of the victims had a coin collection stolen. And it's been found, tossed on the shore of the lake! Wait, is the killer performing human sacrifices in the hopes of bringing the water back? Drowning people and throwing their valuables to the lake? That would be a strange motive! Is he a pagan?

At the lake, Aisha wins a Prentiss Award for this line-

What trouble did he go to? You've always assumed that the murders were the point in and of themselves. If you're already in someone's house, murdering them, it's not a hassle to then grab a book of silver coins off of a desk or wherever. Do you think that picking up a book full of silver coins is some kind of brilliantly-planned heist?

Somehow the characters are still debating whether or not the killer wanted the police to think that the deaths were home invasion gone awry, and whether the fact that the coins were dumped in an easy-to-find location proves or disproves that theory. Why are you still talking about this? You're the only people who think that this was supposed to look like a robbery. I feel like when they bring this guy in they're going to ask him to explain how things went wrong in the robberies, and why he thought he had to kill all those people, and then he's going to respond 'robbery? What are you talking about - I brought twenty feet of rope and a cinderblock with me. Why would you think this has anything to do with robbery?'

Over at the dock, some deputies pull a skeleton out of the water! Lou explains that they're on a man-made lake, so the floor of it is covered in trees. Drowning victims get tangled in the trees, so their bodies don't get found - now that the water level is falling, the skeletons are turning up!

How, though? Bones are heavier than water, so unless the water level has literally fallen to the absolute floor of the lake, would you ever notice the skeletons? Even if it did, wouldn't the skeletons be covered in a layer of silt? This is gruesome, but weirdly preposterous.

Over at the other side of the lake, the killer watches the body being removed from the lake with binoculars! Because the team hasn't considered the possibility that the killer might have dropped the coins in the lake because he lives next to it, they're not on the lookout for people watching the crime scene, and don't notice he's there. Which is a little weird, since monitoring who's checking out crime scenes is week 1 investigative work stuff, isn't it?

A local kid walks up the beach and chats with the killer. He's disturbed by the killer's burned-out eye, because who wouldn't be? It's strangely well-healed for an injury that presumably happened like twelve hours ago.

The killer wants to know if the kid saw whose body came out of the lake, but the kid didn't see, since it was already in a body bag. Is the killer wondering about his dead, abusive father who disappeared in the lake years earlier?

At the police station, Emily asks Lou how many bodies had been pulled out of the lake. Lou responds that there were four other corpses - in each instance they were pulled out the day before a murder! Looks like they've got a direct connection between the lake and the murders, suggesting that the killer has a strong connection to the bodies in the lake! Time to start checking with next of kin of the people who drowned!

Emily announces that they have to warn everyone with a backyard pool that the killer is going to strike tonight! Of course, they're too late, the killer is already sewing someone into a bag, because he now knows that's how bodies come out of the lake.

It's a little weird that they haven't already contacted people with pools, isn't it? How many people in a town of 20K have to get murdered by a pool before people with pools start to worry? Also, when I was looking up Ramona, CA for that population factoid, I found out that the lake the episode is built around does not exist.

Matt and Aisha head to the newest crime scene - I don't know how the body was found within a few minutes of the guy being drowned, and they're certainly not telling us! This time the guy was just tied to a heavy chair and thrown in - they act like he's devolving and growing more sadistic because he stuck a needle through the guy's nose, but going through the trouble of sewing someone into a shroud before drowning them is a lot more time-consuming and elaborate than simply tying them to a cinderblock. Isn't this more likely a sign that he's evolving as a killer rather than decompensating?

Wow, things get really dumb in the next scene, as Emily and the team try to figure out the significance of the killer's ritual. Reid calls in (he's got the month off, remember?) with the information that pirates used to put needles through noses as part of a burial at sea ritual! This drives Emily to the conclusion that the whole murder is pirate-themed! The killer steals plunder and offers it to the sea, and only kills people with diving boards in their pools, because of an association with 'walking the plank'!

Then it's back to the lake, where the killer is watching the deputies pull a body out of the water from like 50 feet away. How is no one noticing this guy? Then the kid comes up, and observes that the guy's swank new eyepatch makes him look like a pirate, which is clearly what he was going for!

Over at the latest victim's house, Aisha reports about the body being pulled out of the lake, and says that they're keeping it a secret in the hopes the killer doesn't get triggered again! Here's a better idea: Now that you know that pulling bodies from the lake triggers the killer's madness, maybe stop corpse-recovery operations until you've caught the guy? Doesn't that seem like a good solution? It's not like the corpses are causing a public nuisance - they're skeletons at the bottom of a lake. Also, when are you going to look into people connected to the drowning victims? It seems like the killer would have to have a connection to the at least one of the victims if the corpses being pulled up is driving him to murder, right?

Since the killer has a connection to the lake, and it was created just twenty years ago, the team suspects that one of the people who had to move because of it might still bear a grudge! So Garcia tracks down the three people who had to move - two are still near the lake, the third is off the grid! Presumably they're going to at least talk to the ones they already know about, right? And not just assume that off-the-grid guy is the killer?

Joe has a conversation with Lou about the practice of bringing skeletons out of the water. Lou thinks it might be better to let them rest in peace, rather than dredging up skeletons! Then why do you keep dredging up skeletons, Lou?

I think the intent here is that the water is so low that the skeletons are just suddenly becoming visible, but that's not at all true of the lake we're seeing - the water just isn't that low, people can safely boat on it, there are no bits of tree poking out of the surface of the water. And if the people's skeletons were being found on or near the water's edge, why would you need a boat to go and get them? No, the location they've picked for this week's lake makes it seem like the sheriff's department is actively looking for skeletons, which they really shouldn't be.

Over at the killer's shack, he invites the kid to join a pirate club by staying overnight at the lake! Is this kid an idiot? Everything about this guy is a textbook case of stranger danger. Lives in a shack. Has a horribly scarred face. Is obsessed with watching corpses get dragged out of the lake. Get away from this guy, kid!

Garcia tracks down the third guy who had to move! It turns out he was a con man who was hiding at the lake under an assumed name! And they met him earlier, because he was the guy who found the silver coins by the lake's edge! We immediately cut to the con man harassing a guy at the lake who's trying to untie his boat. The conman demands that he take off his hat and sunglasses for some reason. Before we find out why, the team shows up and arrests the conman!

So the guy with the boat was just a guy wanting to go out on the lake? It seems like they should have shut down boating until the lake-related spree killer is caught, doesn't it?

At the station, Lou reports that the conman was in jail one town over when the first victim was killed! Joe's response - was it a happy accident, or an attempt to build an alibi? An alibi for what, Joe? You know he didn't commit the crime. He was in jail when it happened.

Now it's over to the killer - he wades out into the water, and puts a piece of folder paper onto its surface. Perhaps another pirate thing? Then a corpse reaches out and grabs him! It was just a nightmare! But one that tells us that he does have connection to someone who drowned in the lake! Abusive father? Probably an abusive father.

No, it looks like the abusive father is the conman - Garcia turns up evidence that the conman had a son who still lives out on the lake! He's so crazy that he lists his address on public records as the road that was covered up when the flooding happened! Wait, does he just think his father drowned?

That morning, the kid proves that he was able to spend all night at the lake, so the killer says he can join the pirate club!

Emily goes to ask the conman about his missing son. The conman explains that the son ran away from home at age 13, and since he was a wanted felon, he couldn't ask the cops for help! Now he's come back to town because he thinks the murders might be related to his son! I don't know why he would think that, but hey, let's just move on.

The killer and the kid do the 'blood brothers' thing, which triggers a flashback of the killer and his friend doing the same thing decades ago! Is it his friend that drowned in the lake? Then we get the tragic backstory - they had hidden their fake pirate treasure down in the valley, and the friend was standing guard over it on the flooding day! The killer explains that he came back to the lake to add to the treasure, and when the kid wants to leave, he stops him, saying that his dead friend will forgive him if he just sacrifices the kid to the lake!

Wow, that took a crazy turn, huh? Oh, and the killer isn't the conman's son, it's the friend - the conman's son is the one who drowned.

When Garcia can't find any trace of the son, the team asks her to search for the son's friends, assuming that one of them must be the killer! That seems like a tenuous leap, but the episode is almost over, so let's get right to it - one of the kids is a juvenile delinquent and mental patient who just recently moved back to the area!

Over at the lake, we see that he's tied up the kid, and has dragged some cinderblocks down to his boat! Murder/suicide time?

At the police station they've had no luck tracking down the killer, since no one living near the victims had seen him. It takes Lou dropping by to inform them of the missing kid for them to realize that maybe they should check out the lake. The entire MO of this killer has revolved around this lake, but it's only this missing kid that makes the team think they should go and check it out!

Matt gets there just as the killer is starting up the boat - for some reason Matt is alone. The killer shoots at Matt, hitting him in the vest, then drops the kid in the water and takes off on the boat! Matt dives down and rescues the kid.

While looking at the parents taking care of their kid, Joe opines that this is the kind of sight they don't see very often. Joe, you literally rescue one person a week from a serial killer. This isn't strange at all.

It seems the killer's boat was left drifting in the lake, without a second cinderblock on board! The assumption is that he drowned himself, somewhere Joe says they'll 'never find him'. Really? Because all I've been hearing about is how low the water in this lake is, so he'll undoubtedly be easy for divers to find as he floats halfway to the surface, tethered to the cinderblock.

Then it's back to the police station, where Emily gives the conman the bad news that his son died 20 years ago, and the killer was just a crazy person. Then she has him turned over to the custody of the treasury department, because of his crimes. Except his crimes were all financial, and committed more than 20 years ago. The statute of limitations has long since expired on all of them, so I don't know why he's being arrested. Hopefully a lawyer will sort this out fairly quickly.

Then it's over to Joe and Lou, who look at the lake, sadly, thinking about all of the dead people under the water! Then it finally starts raining! I guess killer's sacrifice finally worked!

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

They didn't solve the crime. The killer succeeded in his plan of drowning himself. I'd give them a point here for figuring out the connection between the bodies coming out of lake and the murders, but they then failed to investigate the lake in any meaningful way, so I can't give them any points for that.

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

Honestly? Probably not. The connection to the corpses being pulled out of the lake was a tenuous one at best, and it's likely they wouldn't have made the connection before the guy and the kid drowned.

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

0/10 - It's strange, the big takeaway from this week's episode is that it's not really believable that this guy was killing people at all. There was never a good psychological connection drawn between skeletons coming out of the lake and the guy wanting to murder people, pirate-style. From everything we know about this guy, it seems like his psychosis would have led him to drown himself next to his friend, and no other actions really make a ton of sense.

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