Criminal Minds 1313: Cure

In an office somewhere, stock people are talking about stock things! Riveting television! Then one of them gets told to go home for the day, and finds herself confronted by a masked gunman! He duct tapes her to some furniture, then goes to murder her boss! Which he presumably does, although it's left off camera, so it might have just been a kidnapping?

Back at Quantico, JJ is t the office crazily late when she gets an e-mail from someone named 'Linda Barnes' requesting a meeting! It's super-alarming, but we don't get a clear enough look at the message to understand why! Reid is also still in the office - hey, what's going on with Jane? It's been half a year and she hasn't been mentioned - so he asks her about it. It seems that someone from the National Security part of the FBI needs to talk with her. Is she going to be reassigned again? Let's hope not, that would mean we'd lose the most stable marriage on television, and that's not an acceptable outcome.

Their chat is interrupted by Emily, who is also still there after 9PM! What is wrong with these people? Jr. is a saint. Seriously. Point is, they have to go to a local crime scene!

The team gets there and hears about the masked man who tied up the lady and shot the guy! Interestingly, he was tied up and tortured before being murdered, and his blood was used to draw a sign on the wall - it kind of looks like a caudecus but with only one snake? Strange - not a sign I've seen before!

According to Reid, the real symbol for doctors is a single snake around a crutch, rather than the staff of Hermes, which is normally used. I went to wikipedia to check his facts, and it's pretty obvious the writer of the episode did as well, since the text of the article is essentially Reid's verbatim dialogue.

The cops asks what the symbol could mean, and they offer no theories, other than that it has something to do with the victim. Which is such a dumb thing I can't believe she said it out loud. Here's a concept - maybe the killer thinks he's a doctor, curing something? Maybe the stock guy committed a crime against medicine, like the American insulin industry? Throw some theories out there, guys! What are you here for?

Then we see the killer's lair, where he's picking out his next target from a portfolio of guys in suits! Also, he's a white guy, just FYI.

Then he calls 911 and says he's the staff snake, and that he's going to cure 'the sickness' which is represented by... people?

The next day, the team listens to the tape, and wonders if the killer's use of the term 'we' means it's an actual terrorist organization, or just a guy with delusions of grandeur. They assume that he must see Wall street as evil if he's refer to killing a stock guy as some kind of a cure. They figure it's pretty likely that the killer lost money in stocks, perhaps even with the stock guy's company, and that's why they were targeted!

For some reason, no one thinks it's worthwhile to look into the victim to see why he might have been targeted. Isn't victimology supposed to be one of the major weapons in your arsenal? Figure out why the guy was targeted, and you'll find the person who was targeting him? What was the guy investing in - had he screwed people out of money recently? Look into it!

Eric and Aisha interview the victim about people who might have wanted to kill her boss, and she remembers a single threatening e-mail! It was sent by the son of a client who'd lost some money. Could he have come back for real violent retribution?

At the ME's they discover that the victim has been slashed all to hell! Giant wounds all over the body. It's weird. Matt identifies the blade wounds immediately as being caused by one of those curved fighting knives from 'The Raid'. They try to have the lab assistant be nerdy by saying that the knife looks like a tiny b'atleth. I say try, because, as you can see:

It looks nothing like a b'atleth. B'atleths are held in the middle and have blades at both ends. This looks nothing like one. They suggest that this knife means that the killer probably had some military experience, but it's just as likely that he, too, saw 'The Raid'.

Inside the victim's throat they find a plastic capsule with a pieces of paper inside - the paper has an elaborate code written on it! This killer is going all-out on the crazy serial killer stuff, huh?

At the office, Joe thinks it looks like the Zodiac's letters, when it really doesn't. Those letters were badly drawn with symbols designed to look as strange as possible, where as this letter is written with easily-identifiable characters from ancient alphabets.

They're able to use a computer program to instantly decode the message, which turns out to be a screed against the people who run society, businessmen, lawyers, and religious types, the government, and says that more will die unless the message is published. Reid assumes that only a lone killer would ever put out such an outre communique, which suggests that they're dealing with a narcissist!

Emily's response wins her a Prentiss Award-

Okay, let's think about this for a second, shall we? She seems to think that a narcissist, who wants to feel powerful, wouldn't see any value in making everyone in Washington DC feel afraid of him. What does it matter if he's lying about how many of him there are? Knowing that he's causing terror is the point. Does she even listen to herself speak?

They wonder why the killer wouldn't just publish the manifesto online himself. This leads Joe to end the scene with some ridiculous nonsense:

Okay - serious question: Is this episode of Criminal Minds a prank being played on me, specifically?

Also, did they publish the manifesto or not? Because the next scene is set hours later after dark, where the next victim from the killer's photos is walking out of his workplace. He works in aerospace, BTW.

The killer attacks him at his car and slashers him to death. So... could the team have delayed or prevented this by publishing the note - or did they try and it didn't work?

The next day JJ and Matt are driving out to the crime scene when JJ gets a text about rescheduling that meeting with Barnes. Matt says that Barnes is the one who shut down his unit, and he thinks she did it to consolidate power as part of a ruthless drive to become director of the FBI! Wow, does that sound like a crazy job to be desperate to get in this day and age. Also, she probably doesn't have to work this far. Just tell the president that Christopher Wray called him a fattie and bring him a jar full of amphetamine-laced Starbursts, you'll have the job in a week. So... what could she want with JJ? We're going to have to wait until the end of the episode to find out, natually.

At the crime scene, JJ and Matt discover that the killer disabled the security cameras outside the building an hour before the murder! This suggests that he'd done extensive scouting and lots of planning before the murder! Really, that wasn't already your assumption? The man sent a Zodiac-style cryptogram, of course this is all planned out.

Theyre's a new cryptogram from the latest victim's throat, and the show expects us to believe that Garcia's can take a picture of the note from a bag on her desk, transfer that information to her computer without pressing any buttons, instantly OCR the letter into text that her computer understands - despite it being in ancient alphabets - and then start translating it all within two seconds. There's a level of tech magic I'm willing to accept from Garcia, but this is way beyond it.

Sadly, the translation doesn't work because this one isn't made with a caesar code - in case you didn't know, the idea behind a cesar code is that you shift each letter a certain amount of steps left or right. So if a code was C+2, then A=C, N=P, Z=B, and so on. The interesting thing is, this isn't a ceasar code. It's a substitution code, where each symbol represents a letter of the alphabet. So the idea of testing 'shifts' is meaningless, because you don't know what the symbols mean yet.

That said, caesar codes are every bit as easy as substitution codes to crack, because there are only 26 possible solutions. Even a person without a computer can deal with a message relatively quickly.

I should have mentioned this earlier, since this is the second time this code has come up, but a lot is going on this episode, so I'm clearly a little overwhelmed.

The team suspects that between dressing like a riot cop and carrying a combat knife, maybe the killer is involved in law enforcement or the military, and has turned against the authorities for some reason! That's not a terrible guess - but I'd play up the fact that the guy clearly thinks he's morally justified in his factions, since he left the employee live at the stock firm. You don't do something like that unless you're really convinced that your actions are correct.

Doing a little linguistic profiling, they notice that the manifesto mentioned both 'impotent' and 'infidelity', so is he specifically angry about some sort of sexual betrayal? Hopefully they'll be able to use that to narrow the list when they get back the names of every single person that has a problem with DC police or the FBI! That's going to be a long list, isn't it?

Meanwhile, the killer stalks his next victim as the man leaves his house!

Garcia and Reid continue working on the code, which they think has multiple shifts on it, which are unlockable by using a keyword. Here's the thing, though - you can only start shifting once you've already solved the substitution part of the puzzle. But since the substitution part was done after you did the shifting, that would be all but impossible. Of course, they have a computer, so they can just run their word-based changes against all possible character substitutions - unless he's doing that Zodiac thing where multiple symblos are used for 1 letter a few times. If that's happening, even the computer is going to take a while.

Not Garcia's computer, though, which solves it instantly!

There's more stuff about lechery and sin, but there are two interesting details - first, he says that he only killed the latest victim because they didn't bother publishing his note. So that body's on you, guys. Isn't it weird that the killer made this cipher harder than the last, when the fact that the manifesto wasn't posted suggests at least the possibility that the police didn't solve it? Shouldn't he have dialed this next one back a bit, just in case he was dealing with slow cops?

He also mentions that this was his third victim, not the second as they'd assumed! So Garcia goes looking through DC Metro's list of recent unsolved homicides, hoping to find a linked incident!

Apparently this takes them all day, since the next scene brings us back to new victim, coming home after a long day at work! The killer tackles the new killer and stabs him, but the guy's girlfriend opens the door, calling the cops! The killer sees her, freezes up, and then flees into the night?

Oh, so is that the woman who cheated on him with a business guy, and he lost his cool?

At the hospital we learn that the new victim wasn't a business guy at all, but rather a family court judge! One that recently separated from his wife! So many new avenues to follow for leads!

Reid's not sure that the victim is definitely part of the pattern, despite the fact that he had the exact same wounds, a neighbour saw the clad-clad assailant, and he worked with the judge. Then they find a zodiac letter in the mail, and the theory is confirmed! Obviously the letter has a cipher in it, so Reid does the smart thing and opens it with his bare hands, potentially ruining fingerprint or DNA evidence! Solid move, dude.

Aisha and Eric talk to the judge - whose wife has shown up at the hospital. I suppose adversity has brought them back together? The judge says he has no idea who specifically would want to kill him, but he decided custody of children, so he has plenty of enemies. Then his kids rush in to visit, and he's got an older teenage or early-20s son who could easily be the killer based on his size and the fact that the judge seems to be the focus of this crime.

Matt gets a little backstory from the mistress - the judge and his wife split up, then she got cancer, so they stayed married to avoid complicating insurance, but now she's in remission, and no one's really sure what's going on with anyone. Wow, so it's been an agonizing, multi-year affair with death looming over everyone's heads. This must be what the killer is centered on.

Oh, and she tells Matt that the killer froze when he saw her, so now they can add that to the pile of facts!

Emily rushes into Joe's office with photos of the latest crime scene and asks what's weird about them. Before Joe can answer, Reid and Garcia run in with the first letter from the killer. Apparently it's just a less cleanly-written version of the second cipher. They think that this proves that the killer is doing an ABC murders type thing where he kills random people with a fake MO so that he can then kill the person he wants to without getting caught.

But if the son really wanted to kill his father and get away with it, why would he start out the murders with a guy who worked with his father, thus ensuring that attention would be drawn to those killings?

Oh, and the team agrees with my guess about the son - although it's not much of a leap, since the letter specifically talked about cheating spouses being at fault for everything in society, and we just met a victim who is a cheating spouse. Which they didn't even bother to check into with the other three guys, weirdly. The son also had behaviour problems, went to military school, and then washed out of the army. So yeah. Pretty good suspect.

At this hospital, the son looks on angrily as the judge spends time with his girlfriend. Then the girlfriend leaves to go do something, so the son follows her, planning on taking out his rage on the woman he now blames for everything wrong in his life! So he clonks her on the head and throws her into his car.

Quick Q: Where was her bodyguard? This woman made eye contact with a murderer who almost stabbed her boyfriend to death. She's a material witness to the crime, and the killer knows what she looks like. How is she not in protective custody until the crime has been solved? You people all suck at your jobs.

Now it's time for a chase! Matt and JJ follow based on Garcia's real-time viewing of traffic cameras! Meanwhile, the rest of the team tries to figure out where the killer will take the girlfriend. They assume he's going to try to get away with the crime by sticking to his overall ABC murders plan, and not take her anywhere associated with him, personally! I'm not saying he should just bring her to his garage, but hasn't the 'get away with it' ship sailed pretty definitively? He was seen chasing a woman out of a hospital, then she disappeared and he sped away in a car at the same time. There's no way he's getting away with any of this.

They find the car in a parking lot nearby, and the killer has stuffed himself into the trunk of the car, and smeared the girlfriend's blood on himself! He claims that he was also clubbed by the killer, who appeared out of nowhere and then stole his car for some reason!

Based on the time that his car was out of sight here's a very small number of places he could have stashed the girlfriend's body - or the girlfriend, if she's still alive, somehow. But rather than search the entire area, JJ and Matt think they can get him to confess in an interview!

Their plan? Asking him to talk about his feelings about his parents splitting up. He does, and goes so completely nuts with emotion that he's happy to confess to the crime! That was weirdly easy. They ask where the girlfriend is, hoping to save her, but he's like 'why would you think she'd still be alive? What about my MO suggests that I would not have killed her immediately?'


Except JJ and Emily being sad about the case's outcome. They should be! Do you know how rare it is for the team to not save the third victim? This week, the third victim was saved by the fourth, who only became for fourth because of the team's incompetence!

JJ goes up to meet the national security chief, who lets her know that Emily is being suspended and investigated, so she's now in charge of the team. That's right, the woman who may be the all-time points leader in Prentiss Awards is going to be running things.

What have we become, Criminal Minds?

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

I wish I could say it did, but the ending really messed that up. All the time they spent working on codes and examining crime scenes, it all wound up being useless because the killer tried to stab his father to death, instantly implicating himself in the crime.

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

Let's see, the fourth victim had a rage-filled son who was thrown out of the army. Yeah, that's not a hard solve.

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

1/10 - I'd love to give the team a zero here for botching the case so completely that they got a woman killed, but they technically caught the killer, and his plan wasn't completed, so I can't actually do that. Sigh.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I laughed out loud at “the game is afoot” and by the end of that little speech I was pulling up your review because I knew there was no way you wouldn’t have… thoughts.
Come on, Joe! I don’t know how any of the actors kept a straight face.