Criminal Minds 1317: The Capilanos

The episode opens with an old station wagon driving up to a farmhouse where a party was recently thrown. At least we can assume that, because there's a balloon person floating above the mailbox on the way in. The car's radio is playing a twangy bit of cowboy music, so I'm going to go ahead and assume this is a Matt Gubler episode, since this is the first song I've heard used in anything but a sad montage in ages.

The driver takes a child out of the back seat of the car and carefully carries him into the house. Maybe the party was somewhere else, and he's coming home from it? The guy makes the mistake of closing the door without locking it, almost as if he thinks he lives in a safe part of America, or something! Fool, this is Criminal Minds - no part of America is safe! The guy puts the kid to bed, but then he's woken up by a noise from his closet!

The kid runs into his dad's bedroom to hide from the closet monster, which doesn't bother the father at all! So he turns off the light and goes to bed. Then a killer clown slides out from under the bed and looks at the camera!

No, seriously. That happens.

So yeah, this has to be a Matt Gubler episode. It's weird, but for a show about serial killers, he's the only one who cares at all about horror movies.

Garcia has facts to offer! The killer clown has killed two guys in two states (apparently the kid is fine), and after beating both men to death, he sliced open their cheeks to give them permanent smiles, Joker-style!

Then we get the report from the kid - his dad was killed by a clown! But the kid is only like five, so they're not ready to take that literally just yet.

We skip the flight scene, which is a little weird, and head straight to Oklahoma where the last crime was committed! I hope the guy hasn't already moved on to another state, the way he did after the last murder, or this is going to be a waste of fuel!

Reid and Emily go to check in with the sheriff, and learn that he was the one who found the kid hiding in his room! That's going to be a rough one to get over. Hopefully they're not chasing this kid down in fifteen years. More importantly, the credits finally get to director, and yes, it's a Matt Gubler episode, as if we needed that confirmed.

Reid goes to talk to the boy, hoping to get some details about the attacker! The boy flashes back to the father being murdered with a tire iron, and then tries to draw a picture of it!

At the crime scene, JJ and Aisha notice that the garage door has been 'jimmied' open, although it's not clear what they mean by that. Aren't garages normally locked using a central handle that you have to turn to retract bars from slots at the side? I'd believe one could be easily picked, but the idea that you could use a pry bar to force a garage door open seems like a stretch.

Garcia has found a good lead! The killer robbed three houses before the murders started, carving clown faces into the front doors as a signature to let people know he'd been there! He stopped carving doors when he started carving faces, it seems. Then, we get as bad a production error as the show has ever featured. Check this out:

No, you're not seeing things - the map that Garcia features a double murder that hasn't happened yet in the plot, as well as an additional address that might be important later! How does one even make a mistake this huge? I know I joke about everyone working on this show phoning it in, but wow, this is just ridiculous!

Also, there's a conflict with the dialogue, which states that the crimes all took place along Interstate 385, until the killer headed east after entering Oklahoma, but the map on the wall behind them-

Shows the first murder taking place not in Campo, which is just a wide spot in the road on I385, but rather in Kim, Colorado which is more than an hour away.

Just unbelievably sloppy work all around, people.

Speaking of maps, the killer has one as well! He's drawn clown faces on all the places where he's committed crimes! Also, he's got a list of tour dates for a circus! Probably not a circus he's currently associated with, because all of the dates we see are in July, and this episode is set in February. I can't imagine many circuses touring Colorado in the dead of winter.

That's right, this is the second killer clown in the show's history! I don't know if the first one technically counts, though, since it was supposed to be a killer santa.

We get some facts about the first murder - just before being killed, the man was nearly in a car accident, and the driver of the other vehicle freaked out and started screaming at him. Could this have triggered the clown's violent rage? He didn't mention a clown, but it's not like he'd have to dress like that 24/7.

The team gets ahold of the kid's drawing of the killer, and it's a clown! They act like this is confirmation that the kid wasn't just talking about a figurative killer clown. Which they somehow thought was a possibility, even though the victim had white greasepaint on his fingers from when he fought the clown.

That night, a family comes home late, and since Garcia's map from the future already told us that the mother and father will be killed and the children left alone, let's move on!

When walking out of the crime scene, JJ and Matt observe that the mother must have been collateral damage when she tried to save her husband. It's weird that she would think that, though, since in both previous cases of murder, the fathers were the only parents around, so you have no data on which to base the idea that he doesn't want to kill the mothers.

They talk a little about love maps, and the possibility that the killer is reflecting his own scarred face on the fathers, but then some real evidence turns up, in the form of a neighbour who saw a clown run out of the house and get into a van driving by another person! See what happens when you investigate instead of brainstorm?

We head over to the killers, who discover that they're trapped in the town by a roadblock! The driver is annoyed that the decision to stay in the same town is likely going to get them caught, while the clown does have the scarred face that JJ predicted! Also, the driver doesn't know about the murders, he just thinks they're doing home invasions. Neither character is played by a recognizable genre celebrity, which is weird for a Gubler episode.

At the hospital, Reid tries to offer some grief counseling info to the mother about how to help the boy, but it boils down to 'live in denial as long as possible', so it's probably not great advice.

The team offers the profile, but as usual, it's just a rehash of things they've already said - other than the accurate age guess, which is based on zero information. Then they get word that someone reported seeing the killers' van, and the team rushes out there to go searching for it!

Weirdly, we then cut to three kids breaking into a graveyard for some reason! I know kids like to do late night adventures, but this is a very small city, and there was a brutal murder last night, so it seems like parents would be better at maintaining curfews. Also, it's way past these kids' bedtimes. The murdered family only got home after ten PM, and this is at least two hours later - so it's after midnight on a school night, and kids are running around in a graveyard? That seems fairly ridiculous!

Hey, remember when I used to point out that episodes set in places like Oklahoma and Colorado in February had shockingly small amounts of snow in them? Good times.

Anyhoo, the kids see a balloon in the graveyard, and they're attacked by two clowns! But it turns out it was just kid prank clowns, not the killers. Back at the station, Matt asks the prank clown if he knows anything about the murders, but he claims not to know anything. This was a useful diversion!

Then we see the driver with his family in a motel! Wait, they're staying in a motel? Presumably with the van parked outside? How have they not been caught yet? There are only ten motels in the entire city, 8 of them on a short stretch of road along the interstate. It would take an hour for the police to check all of them and find the van they're looking for.

The point of the scene is that the driver sees a bit of news footage about the dead families, and realizes that he's been working with a murderer! But what is he going to do about it? Probably go and talk to the killer, which is maybe the dumbest thing you could do in that situation.

He does, in fact, go out to see the clown, whose van is parked in the motel lot. Seriously, how have they not been caught yet? The driver demands that they stop being criminal partners, and asks for his half of the money. The killer says that he lost it all gambling, but they can get even with a big score tonight! He also promises not to kill anyone else. This is not a believable promise.

We get a brief check-in at the hospital, where the kid remembers that the clown was wearing denim, then it's off to the new house, which the killers attempt to rob in broad daylight! Obviously the homeowner is there, and pulls a shotgun, which winds up being used against him!

In the next scene we find out he wasn't killed, though - just injured, and the killers ran off. I guess this is why Garcia's future map listed just this address, and not the name of a person who was killed there.

Okay, something amazing happens now. I want to make it clear that, within the narrative of the show, we are currently 48 hours past finding out that the killer was clown-themed. It's only at this point, when Eric shows up and announces that the greasepaint was high-quality stage makeup that they consider the possibility that the killers are dressing up as clowns because that's their profession, and have Garcia start looking for circus work in the area around the murders.

I don't want to harp on this too much, but how was their first guess not 'look into people who work in the clowning field during the summers'? That's still not the search they do, however - instead Emily asks Garcia to check if there are any traveling Carnivals near where the murders were, assuming that the killers were working at them. I mean, obviously the answer is no, it's February, but let's see what she manages to come up with!

Then it's back to the motel, where the killers still haven't been caught somehow! The cops know that they've only gotten to town three days ago, and can assume that they don't live in the area, and now there's even video footage of them from the last house they attacked. Yet they haven't been arrested. Oy.

The killers have a falling-out! It turns out they're brothers, and that's why the driver feels like he has to look out for his psycho clown partner!

Thankfully, Garcia isn't able to find any carnivals in the area, but then Emily remembers that the kid said the killer smelled like horses, and they realize that rodeo clowns are also a thing! There's a rodeo that night, so JJ and Matt head to the fairgrounds to look for their killers! Matt worries that it's going to take forever, because rodeos employ hundreds of people. Sure, Matt, that's true, but how many clowns do they employ?

The Rodeo Owner immediately recognizes the killers, giving the team their names and everything! He says they've been banned because the killer is a psycho who keeps trying to slash people's faces, but maybe they're working at a dangerous, unregulated rodeo!

That's exactly what they're doing, as we learn when we see the driver and his wife headed out into the middle of nowhere! He just wants to pick up a few dollars so he can head to Florida and get away from it all! Obviously that's not going to go well.

While the driver is working at the rodeo, the killer comes to attack his wife, who's waiting out in the van! Then the son sees him, so he stops the attack, because he doesn't want to be thought of as a bad person!

The team rushes out to the ranch where the rodeo is being held, just as the killer pulls a gun on the owner and tries to rob him! The driver stops him, grabs his gun, and prepares to shoot the killer, but then the team talks him out of it.


Then we get a scene at the police station, where the driver's son colours pictures with the dead guy's son! Hey, what about the two kids of the next family? They're never mentioned again, obvs.

Then we get a scene where the driver tells his family to go to Florida without him, because he's going to be in jail for a decade, and it'll ruin their lives if they stick around. Good call, dude! About time you made one!

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

Nope. No way to put a good spin on this. It wasn't.

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

They knew that the killers were transients getting around town in a van. They could have found that van at the motel with no trouble at all.

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

1/10 - Such a weak outing, enlivened only by Matt Gubler's love of staging horror setpieces! He only did two of them, and the episode was largely a drama about stupid criminals being bad at their jobs, but still, his passion for the genre shone through!

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