31.12.19

Criminal Minds 1322: Believer

The episode opens on Reid's face - that's right, he's finally back! He and some SWAT guys arrive in a creepy brick hallway via an elevator. Absurdly, Reid walks just behind the first SWAT guy with the rest of them following him. Dude, you don't have a helmet, rifle, or flashlight. Hang back.

Inside a storage unit they find a body wrapped in bandages! Reid immediately identifies the body as 'Owen', so maybe we'll get a flashback to figure out what's going on? And the guy's body temperature is apparently really warm, so he just died moments ago!

Then it turns out that the guy isn't dead at all! He springs up in the ambulance and puts a scalpel to someone's throat! Emily and Reid identify him as an FBI Agent, and he snaps out of his fog. He asks what year it is, and when he hears that it's 2018, he tries to kill himself! Luckily, they stop him. I guess he was brainwashed fairly severely? Is someone other than Mr. Scratch going around brainwashing people? Hopefully we'll find out after the opening credits!

At the office, we discover that Owen is a guy who worked in VICAP, and wanted to be a profiler, but couldn't cut it! He thought someone was strangling people up and down the east coast, but when he only found one victim, he started guessing that missing people were also killed by his serial killer. This was based on nothing, and when the missing people turned out to not be dead, he was humiliated! So, what, did he go out and start killing people himself as a way of proving his theories?

The team got involved when Reid was sent a mysterious e-mail with a scan of Owen's badge, announcing that he'll be found in a storage unit! I'm not sure how the killer - or even Owen himself, had the ID badge to scan. They don't let you keep those when you quit the FBI, as he did.

They decide to investigate the unsub the standard way - checking in with Owen's family, tracing the e-mail, and looking into Owen's casefiles. They don't mention it, but I'm guessing they assume Owen can't be the culprit because he was completely bound in bandages, and the locker was shut from the outside with a padlock. Both would be a neat trick for Owen to pull off, but neither is impossible! Here's a hint as to how it could be done: People like being paid money to do things.

JJ goes to talk to Reid, asking him why he called a SWAT team when he got the e-mail, rather than the rest of the team. He says that he needed to know why he was being targeted. Which isn't an answer to the question. Yet JJ acts like he's put all her suspicions to rest, even though he said nothing at all.

Also, he got the SWAT team by phoning Emily and telling her he needed to be given a brief time out from his teaching month, but didn't tell her why. At this point, how does anyone think that Reid deserves the benefit of the doubt? About anything? This guy is super-shady, team, and he causes problems for you. Get the man a leash, already.

Reid goes to talk to Owen. He announces that he's not safe while the Strangler (the killer he was chasing) is still out there! Reid wants to know what evidence he found. Owen says that he hung out in college bars, watching to see where the Strangler might look for a victim - this is almost as bad as the 'find a slaver organization' plan from the end of Season 6. He says that a woman drugged him, and then he woke up in the house that she shared with a man.

We get a low-colour vision of a family in a house, preparing for their day. We've never seen any of the characters before. Then the camera switches around, and Owen is tied up in their living room, for all to see! Once the husband and son are gone, the woman burns off his fingertips with a creme brule torch!

Owen claims that he would slow down his heartbeat and play dead to get them to stop torturing him. Also that the son, Theo, would bring him food, and treat him like a person sometimes! This all seems pretty crazy, even for this show. Is it all a fantasy, or are there really middle-class serial torturers kidnapping FBI agents in this world?

Emily and Joe assume that it's all a lie, but why would he do that? Is he partnered with The Strangler? Was he the strangler himself? They check in with Aisha and Eric, who are examining the crime scene! It was rented two days ago under Owen's name, but no one saw the face of the guy who moved everything in. Everything being the contents of a young woman's bedroom. Weirdly, there's video footage of all of that being moved in, but we hear nothing about there being video footage of Owen himself being brought inside. How is that possible?

In one of the bits of furniture inside the unit, Aisha finds seven hyoid bones, which is that hard thing you can feel in your neck below your jaw. It's often crushed when people are strangled! Which is why it's so weird that the Strangler was able to remove 7 perfectly intact specimens from his victims. Does he not actually strangle them? Has his name been a misdirect all along?

Weirdly, the bones have dates carved into them! Could that be the date that the various people were killed? Eric thinks they should check Owen's whereabouts on those dates, although I don't know how doing that would help. No matter where he was, there's a good chance he could have killed someone there - because the bones have nothing identifying them but the dates, and I'm guessing you haven't turned up other corpses missing that bone, or it would have come up by now!

Matt and JJ go to see Owen's family, and I just noticed how much time these two get paired up. I feel like they spent a weirdly large amount of this season driving places together in SUVs.

They talk to Owen's family. The son is happy to hear that he's fine! The wife thinks he's crazy - he did that thing that profilers do in fiction where they get too deep into the mind of a killer and want to start killing people themselves! She thought she was in danger, and threw him out of the house! The son wants to go and see Owen, though, so they both do!

Back in the interrogation room, Reid is interviewing Owen, trying to get some details about the supposed killer. He claims that he was in a basement for most of the year! The fantasy gets really crazy at this point, as Owen claims that the killers wanted to know how he found them, so they can improve their techniques! Here's a more relevant question – how did the killers find him? Do they work in the government? Then we get an interesting turn - Owen finally comes up with a piece of information that may actually confirm Theo's existence!

Owen claims that Theo would ask questions about his coursework, because he was studying profiling! Reid immediately recognizes the questions because they were from assignments he gave out when teaching. This could be why the killer reached out to him - Theo was one of his students! Or Owen snuck into the hall. Let's hedge our bets, huh?

Reid looks at a list of Theos who were enrolled at the school when he was teaching, and he remembers which one was in his class! The team goes over the two competing theories - 1: Owen is the killer, and for some reason Theo captured him, didn't tell anyone about it, locked him in a storage unit, and e-mailed Reid. All for no reason. 2: Owen's crazy story is in some way true! This looks more likely when we get photos of Theo's parents, and they are, in fact the people from Owen's stories. Then again, if he was framing Theo, they would be!

Matt and Eric raid the family home with a SWAT team, and find the parents dead in the basement - both shot in the head! Based on the shell casing on the ground, they suspect that Owen's weapon was used in the double-killing, but who pulled the trigger?

Joe joins them at the crime scene, and we learn that the bullets that killed the parents match Owen's gun! Yeah, they wouldn't have that information yet. Even if both bullets exited the victims' skulls, they'd still have to find them, bag them, send them to a lab, and have an analysis on them done. That would take HOURS.

Joe is puzzled by how little of the case makes sense. Why would Owen kill these people? Why would Theo lock him up? Why did Owen talk about being choked by the wife's perfume when there was no perfume in the house?

A lady from VICAP drops by with Owen's file. It's shockingly small. Like a photo and three pieces of paper small. She also has information to offer from upstairs! Before we hear it, though, there's more with JJ and Reid, as they try to figure out what was going on with Owen. It seems that Owen quit right after Reid went to prison, and JJ thinks that Reid can't see what's going on because he's too close to it all. Her plan: let Owen talk to his family, because he'll have trouble keeping up an act around them!

So they bring the family in, and when Owen's hands get too close to the son's neck during their reunion hug, the wife drags the kid out of the room. Crucially, Owen calls him 'Theo' as he's being dragged out of the room, confusing the heck out of his son.

Everyone gathers in the briefing room to discuss their theories. Matt thinks Owen's the killer, because he wanted to strangle his wife to 'see how the killer felt'. That's a weird thing to do, but not great evidence. Also, that doesn't explain the Theo problem. Joe points this out, but doesn't have a theory of his own, which is a big brainstorming no-no. Reid points out that Owen called his son Theo - was there some kind a Stockholm thing between them?

Emily takes the team out to talk with Owen's workmates, who feel like they know him well enough to determine that he's not a killer. Then we get something really weird - one of the people suggests that Owen was dead-on about the killer's hunting grounds. Except... did they ever establish that people went missing from those towns, and were killed by the strangler? Like, we've got the bones, sure, but we still haven't connected them to any actual deaths or disappearances, even with the dates etched on them, right? Did I miss a scene or something?

The team decided to zero in on Theo. Owen said he had a girlfriend named April, so they search the school records, and find a woman who took a class with him by that name! Also, she moved out of her apartment the day before everything was put into storage. That's pretty key!

Reid goes to confront Owen about April, and he claims that he was told to kill April because the parents said that Theo was turning out too weak because of her! He says that he only agreed to it because they were going to kill Theo, him, and April if he didn't! But then Theo choked him out before he could kill April! Is this when Theo murdered his parents? Owen says that when he next woke up, he was in the storage unit!

Reid assumes that Theo murdered his parents, and is trying to unwind the whole situation. Who could blame him, really? Then JJ busts in to announce that Theo's dad was in all of the places where Owen thought that people had been abducted, at the time they disappeared! It's weird that we got the confirmation about those abductions in the scene before this one. It's kind of a mess, really.

Then, in the subway, Theo shoots two people! It's weird, he's following a guy talking on an earpiece phone, and then shoots a guy who startles him before killing the phone guy. Maybe he's paranoid and thinks he's being followed?

Okay, things got super weird. It turns out Theo was right to shoot both men, because they were following him! Both had fingertips burned off with acid! I guess his family was part of a network of interrelated super-anonymous serial killers that are now trying to hunt Theo down before he reveals the existence of their organization to the FBI.

In case you were wondering, yes, Criminal Minds just turned into the John Wick-verse. Or maybe the Hostel-verse? Matt thinks that Theo's hard to find not because he's hiding from the FBI, but because he's hiding from the Outfit. Couldn't he just go to FBI headquarters and ask for Reid, though? Or have these people infiltrated the FBI as well?

Reid asks Owen about April, and he says that Theo seemed to genuinely be in love with her. They assume that now they're hiding out somewhere together, and assume that April would have picked the place, because the Outfit knows everything about Theo, but probably doesn't know much about her.

Garcia find a cabin that April's grandfather owns, so the team preps to rush out there - but Reid warns that they have to be careful, because Theo is obviously paranoid at the moment. They don't have to be that paranoid, though. Reid can just show up with a bullhorn, after all - Theo knows and trusts him. Maybe they can bring Owen as well?

Then we cut to the cabin, where April and Theo are hiding out, terrified! The door is kicked in, and Theo spins, gun raised, but it's just Reid and Owen! Wait, why did you kick open the door? Did you want to get shot? You could have just yelled in from outside, dude. Would have been way safer and more effective.

Theo asks if everyone is caught, and Reid says he has no idea what he's talking about. Theo and April explain that his parents weren't serial killers, they just abducted people to hand them over to 'The Messiah', a cult leader who loved killing people in front of his acolytes! They're angry that Reid didn't pick up the clues they left at the storage unit. What clues? Also, if you wanted him to know all of that, you could have just written it down and left it in the storage unit.

Well, at least April and Theo are safe, since the SWAT team can move in to protect them now that the situation has been defused.

Then we cut over to the Messiah's hideout, and I realize that this is going to carry over to next year, because there's only ten minutes left in the episode. Check it! The Messiah is Battlestar Galactica's Michael Hogan! We watch him supervise a man burning his fingerprints off, because he's creepy!

Back at Quantico we learn that 'The Believers' is a super well-known doomsday cult that used to be pacifistic, but has apparently taken a dark turn! The team rushes to a warehouse in DC that the cult owns - inside they find a couple of guys and Michael, all of whom are arrested without incident! Of course, since we saw Michael give instructions to his two henchman and newest acolyte in the previous scene, we know he's got a plan up his sleeve.

With the cult wrapped up, the team is ready to party! They plan to all go to Joe's for drinks! Except for Reid, who wants to check in on Owen and his family. Hey, remember when he had a mother who had dementia? Weird how that didn't come up even once this year, isn't it?

At the party, Emily is bothered by something - if everyone who joins the cult has their fingerprints burned off, then why did they also burn off Owen's fingerprints? Did he secretly join the cult at some point, or was it just conveniently brutal torture? They decide to go and check on Owen to see what's happening with him.

What's happening is that he's in an elevator with Garcia and his VICAP boss! Garcia gets a text, but it's a misdirect! When Reid gets to the elevator, Garcia is missing, and Owen has been shot. His boss is in the cult - that's how they knew to abduct him! She demands Reid free Michael, or she'll have her goons kill Garcia!

I don't want to question this woman's plan-making abilities, but if you wanted Michael to not be in jail, wouldn't the better move to have been to warn him that they were coming to arrest him, rather than planning this extravagant disaster?

Obviously we don't know what Reid does, because the season ends right then, with Reid aiming a gun at the VICAP boss! Get it? The season started and ended the same way - but is Reid actually ready to put his new shooting skills to practice?

I guess we'll find out next year!

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

Nope. Theo left them clues, which they followed.

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

I mean, it would have been easier if Theo had just told them what was going on, and there's no reason he shouldn't have, this would have been wrapped up a lot sooner.

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

1/10 - Because this is a two-parter I'd normally put an N/A here, but they actually solved the whole crime this week, so I'm comfortable scoring it. The real question is what they get up to next week! Or year, I should say.

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