Criminal Minds 1402: Starter Home

A couple is moving into the new house they just bought, and discover that it's an absolute wreck! A sink fully of dirty dishes, dilapidated furniture everywhere. But will there be a corpse buried in the basement, triggering an investigation?

Nope. The corpse is in the wall! mummified and covered in salt to keep it from smelling!

I'm not saying this show goes back to the well too much, but isn't it strange that within four episodes we've had two scenes where a young, pregnant couple is moving into a new house and then drama ensues from tearing open walls? I know it's on the other side of a season break, so it feels far away, but the hum was only three episodes ago.

At the office, Emily complains about her commute, announcing that one should never live anywhere that you'll have to cross a bridge in order to get to work. I can't imagine what she's talking about, though - the marine corps base she works on has its own exit from the I-95, and while and since she definitely lives in a DC suburb, she should be driving against traffic every day. The only way she could have any traffic issues is if she actually lives in downtown Washington DC, which would be a crazy thing for her to do, based on where she works.

This might be my strangest nitpick ever.

Emily finds out about the mummy, but doesn't see how it's relevant to their work. But since Joe is in Georgia visiting Crystal anyway, she asks him to drop by the crime scene on his way home! That's right, they've continued dating, and are both hiding it from their loved ones. This is the third time they've done a story about Joe hiding a relationship, BTW. Just in case you were wondering if the show cared about going back to the well. Oh, and Portia has met a new man - will he also be a psychopath?

Joe arrives at the crime scene and gets some details. One of the previous owners is dead, and the other is in a nursing home. Could they be responsible for the body in the wall? Scratch that - bodies. They bring out a corpse dog, and it barks at literally everything. They pull the walls down, pull up the floorboards, and discover nothing but corpses! Also, some lumber that the props department forgot to age:

You know what? I'll change my guess - that was probably my strangest nitpick.

On the plane, the team gets some info about the previous owners of the house. Apparently they were shut-ins who had no family or friends. There are five corpses in the house so far - all young women. Could they have been killing together? Probably, since it's not like you could hide tearing up floorboards and squirreling corpses away. They also dismiss the idea that wrapping the corpses and covering them in salt could have been a forensic countermeasure, since just throwing them in a swamp would have been a better way to do that.

Except, you know, people find corpses in swamps all the time. It's happened on this show more than once. By comparison, if you bury a victim in your own house, you remove all chance of someone just stumbling across it so long as you liver there. How is that not a better forensic countermeasure? Still, they go ahead an assume that there was some psychological need being met by keeping the corpses around.

Reid and Aisha go to visit the old lady in her mental hospital. Apparently she was found wandering the streets in a daze three months ago, and hasn't been good at communicating since then! She doesn't react to their arrival, but she's startled enough by them talking to her that she stabs herself with the needle from the needlepoint she's doing! Hey, I've never worked in a facility for people with dementia, but do they really let them have super-sharp objects for crafts? Seems like a recipe for disaster!

At the murder house, they've found some watches and keys along with the bodies - maybe that will help them track down the women's families? Weird that we didn't already check in on Garcia and her search for every missing person in the area over the entire length of the time the couple owned that house. The ME gives them a way to narrow down that estimation - she thinks the corpses are all roughly the same vintage, and have been around for twenty years or so.

The corpses mostly have bad teeth, suggesting that they could have been drug addicts - but their clothes had all been carefully mended before they were buried in them. Wait, didn't we just see the old lady doing needlepoint? Coincidence? I think not!

Oh, and there's some way more recent corpses in a root cellar outside. They've been dead less than a year, and presumably no one was feeling up to tearing down walls all over again. Also, this happened after the old man died, so there's a a killer on the loose! Did the couple have a secret, gorked-out son?

Wow, does this scene invalidate that opening sequence. There's no way someone sells a house to people without even bothering to look in the basement. It says something that the show is so desperate to shock and disturb the audience that they have a young family find the corpses completely unrealistically, when it should have been the city authorities who were taking possession of it because the old lady had been put in a home.

Aisha and Reid try to ask the old lady about the new bodies, but her only response is to yell that it won't work, and it's 'not the same'! I guess is a reference to the new way of disposing of bodies? Although we have no confirmation of that, obvs.

Meanwhile, the killer clubs a woman who's putting something in the trunk of her car, then shoves her into the trunk and drives off in the car! So... people finding the corpses has reactivated his love of murder?

At the police station, JJ talks to a woman who thinks her sister is one of the older victims. Dental records should be able to help figure that out! Then Matt arrives and says they have to drive down to Charleston to get more information from the Medical Examiner about the corpses. That's a 90 minute drive. Is there going to be anything that the ME couldn't have just called about? Is this really worth three hours of your investigation?

Oh, and the new victims are women in their 40s who were abducted while running errands. So the killer has an incredibly specific MO. Hey, if two super low-risk women in a town of just 2K mysteriously disappeared, why wouldn't this have been a much bigger deal? That's the kind of case that the team should have already been called in on, since it's a good sign that there's a serial killer just outside their back yard?

Then we cut over to the latest victim, who's tied to a chair in a murder shack! Notably, the killer has torn up the floorboards in the murder shack, presumably looking to keep up the body disposal tradition, but this house doesn't have huge voids in the wooden foundation, which must have been a disappointment to the killer. The killer then enters, and we can't make out any details other than that it's a large man carrying a teddy bear. So probably a weird, gorked-out son, then.

At the medical examiner's office we learn that the original victims were killed between '98 and '08, and all of them were poisoned - although I don't know how she's been able to perform poison tests on mummies within like an hour of them getting back to her office. Then she says something so stupid that I wish I could give her an award for it, but she's not a Federal agent, so I'll just have to put the video here-

'Ranged in age'? What are you talking about? There's only two victims. There's no 'age range'. There's just two ages. God, how are you so bad at this? The latest victims were clubbed viciously about the head, and then entombed while still alive, judging by the insulation in their lungs! What insulation? They were dumped in a root cellar that had a door. This feels like a situation where they changed the production details of the episode, then didn't bother going back and editing the script. Which is a little weird, considering that this is the first episode of the season - that kind of sloppiness normally comes with a time crunch at the end of a year.

Then again, it's possible that everyone working on the show was dispirited that their episode order was cut back to 15 from 22, and they've lost their motivation to put in even a baseline amount of effort.

At the base, the team wonders how two different killers could be using the same MO and dump site. How long will it take them to get to the possibility of a 'secret son', I wonder? More importantly, though, they're operating under the assumption that the old man was the instigator behind the killings, even though the victims were all poisoned, which is traditionally how women serial killers operate, according to the previous scene at the ME's office.

Garcia has found nothing significant about the recent victims that could have led to them being targeted by a killer. Joe wonders aloud why no one noticed two different women mysteriously disappearing from such a small town. I'm wondering that myself, but I'm also suspecting that the show won't have an answer for the question.

Aisha and Reid try to get information about the old lady, but she's not forthcoming. The attendant comes to take her to her medication, and on the way out of the room, she stabs herself in the neck with a fork that someone has left lying around! This is why you don't leave sharp objects in dementia wards, people. This should be Day 1 type stuff.

The old lady dies on the way to the hospital, so the team decides to search her room, hoping that she'd kept a souvenir of the murders tucked away all this time! Inside a vent Aisha locates a bundle of letters! Then we cut to the murder shack, where the killer is writing one of those letters while the victim tries to talk to him! This freaks the killer out, and the victim refocuses on trying to escape. The door isn't locked at the moment, so maybe she can just stand up while still in the chair and run out! Tragically, though, her legs are tied. Maybe hopping?

It turns out that the letters were written by the victims - even addressed to their families! Just never mailed. We don't find out about the contents of them, though. Reid and Emily wonder if the fact that the couple understood the value of family means they had a family of their own! This is a ridiculous leap - of course they understood the value of family. They both came from families. The only reason you should think that they have a secret son is that someone is killing people and disposing of them in the way that the original killers did.

Of course, they didn't need to bother with theories - the autopsy on the old lady showed that she had a kid. So she killed herself to keep from being tricked into testifying against him! JJ then enters with news about another victim in her 40s being abducted while running errands. The team takes a moment to wonder why the victimology is so different between the two different killers. I don't know, perhaps because they're two different people?

Speaking of the killer, he unties the lady and asks her to sing him a song because he's sad. So, does he have a mind of a child, and he's looking for a mother figure, and kills women when they fail to fill that role?

The team finally gets around to reading the letters - all of the dead women talked about spending time with a friendly couple who were helping them put their lives together! Will this be a good clue to help them track down the killer? They go to the press, and ask for anyone who knew the old couple to reach out to them, hoping that someone has a line on the gorked-out son!

Back to the murder shack, where the killer is cooking food while the victim is untying her feet! She's surprised by the killer, who asks her to feed him! So yeah, arrested development is the real villain, here. She wait until his eyes are closed and smashes him over the head with the frying pan, which only stuns him for a moment, ruining her escape. He demands to know why she doesn't love him! It's weird, given the fact that the new victims look like older version of the original victims, I'd think that this guy was actually the son of one of the victims that the killers raised, and he's searching for a replacement real mother - but we've been told that the old lady had a kid, so I guess that's not it.

In the next scene we discover that my guess was right - the old couple's daughter turns up at the police station to talk about her parents, and let the cops know that they didn't have a secret son, but rather a secret daughter! She ran away at 16 and they kept kidnapping girls to replace her! She, for her part, thinks that her parents couldn't have been murderers, because they were too sweet for that!

At the office, Joe thinks that a cloistered woman wouldn't have just run away from home at age 16 for no reason, and there must have been a trigger for it! It turns out that right around the same time, a neighbour of theirs murdered his whole family - including a teenaged son - and then killed himself! Wait, is the gorked-out guy the old couple's grandson? And that's why they were looking for a replacement mother for him?

The team takes one look at the pictures of the dead neighbours, and discovers they were all shot in the back. Um... how could anyone have thought this was a murder-suicide? Just because you leave a gun next to the dad's body that doesn't mean he killed anyone. At least when Hannibelle's teenaged lover was murdered her dad had the sense to make it look like a hunting accident. Also, among the evidence found at the crime scene was a baby bottle, and no one found that suspicious!

So... I guess the local cops were all idiots back then?

They confront the daughter about her secret son, and she confesses immediately! She left her son with the boyfriend's family and fled to get away from her crazy family. Then she never checked up on him at all, which seems kind of cold, really. She's not psyched to hear that her son was raised by crazy murderers, and asks where he's gotten to! Um... have you not already figured that out?

At the murder shack, the victim stabs the killer with a piece of broken plate and then hides in a closet because he can't undo the front door chains in time! Just jump through a window, people. It's dangerous, but in situations like this it's also your best option. Also, in the closet, the victim is surprised by another victim that we didn't know about. Did Garcia not check for other missing people in the area? Weird.

Since all of the letters talked about fishing in a pond, but there's no pond on the family property, Emily asks the daughter where the fishing hole was. She tells them about a shack about fifteen minutes away from their property, and the team rushes over there to find the killer!

Joe and Matt break into the shack and arrest the killer without incident. But the don't see the victim! Luckily they remember that this guy likes to entomb people alive, so they check under the floorboards and find her! I'm kidding, of course, they don't remember anything - they just yell for her and hear her yelling back from under the floorboards. That's right - if she hadn't been awake, they might not have found her before she suffocated! You're terrible at this, team.


Back at the police station, JJ gives the letter to the sister of the dead girl from earlier.

Then, in New York, we see Joe visiting with Crystal and the family! Joe approves of the new boyfriend, which is important to everyone, since the last guy was an obvious psycho. Hopefully Garcia's background check clears this guy!

Oh, and I looked it up - they're doing this whole 'Crystal' storyline likely because the actress who plays Joe's daughter got a steady job on a TV show and was no longer available for guest appearances.

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

Oh, dear lord, no. They knew who the original killer was immediately, and the new killer could have only been a family member, so they asked for help finding that family member and got it immediately.

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

Considering that no one would have seen three people shot in the back and said 'this is a murder/suicide' the first crime realistically would have solved 30 years ago, and none of the other women would have been killed.

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

1/10 - Hey, isn't it weird that we never find out who that last body in the closet was? It's almost like this show doesn't care at all about the victims of these crimes, and just drops more and more corpses onto the pile whenever they need a gruesome shock!

You know, between this and last week, where they killed off Theo and didn't let us know what happened to April or Owen, this show has developed a real sociopathic streak. Or maybe it's always been there and Season 14 is just decompensation!

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