Criminal Minds 1403: Rule 34

The episode opens in downtown Washington, DC, where a package is being delivered to the IRS! It's checked to make sure that it doesn't have bombs or chemicals inside, then delivered to a lady's desk. She opens it, and discovers a freezer box inside, full of what looks like intestines, but it's hard to tell, because it's only on the screen for a second, and I'm sure as heck nit rewinding to get a better look.

Then it's over to Matt's house, where he and his wife have brought his son home from school because he hit another kid. But why? Before they kind find out, Matt is called in to work, so I guess we'll figure that stuff out later. The wife's pretty sure that he's upset because of her PTSD over that whole Die Hard thing last year. How long ago was that, actually? Normally they make a big deal about time jumps over the summer, but this year they went right from the two-parter to going back to regular cases.

The team discovers that six different body part boxes were sent to different locations in the city, and we only got to see the most disgusting one! Head and hands were missing, so there's no easy way to tell who the victim was. Interestingly, all of the boxes were sent to women. The team wonders if one or all of them knew the victim, or if they're all connected to the killer somehow!

Interesting note - the races of the women vary to such a degree that it seems like it would be impossible to accidentally get such a broad mix of targets. Could that be part of the killer's MO? I mean, it's possible that it was completely random - there was no real rhyme or reason when the real guy sent all those body parts around Canada, but still, it seems like a lead worth pursuing.

We then check in on the killer, who is either a woman or a very slight man, watching the news talking about the crimes, and preparing to cut up her next victim!

At the morgue, the ME reveals to Joe and Emily that the six body parts were actually from two different victims! The left half and the right half were each once a separate person. They then assume that the victims were paralyzed with drugs so that they could be tortured while alive without cutting back. Couldn't they have been strapped down, though? Wouldn't that have taken far less medical expertise than you're guessing the killer has? It would be one thing if the ME said 'we found traces of a strong paralytic around these syringe marks on the arms', but they make their guess based on a lack of defensive wounds, which is just silly.

Eric and JJ go to talk to the IRS lady, who says that she's never received personal threats, and doesn't know any of the other women who got body parts. So this sounds like a dead end. And according to JJ and Eric, this woman was the last one on their list of people to talk to - and absolutely no one had any ideas why they would be targeted! That's actually a little strange, though, isn't it? Is it plausible that six random women would have no enemies or scary people in their lives at all, or were they selected because they were unusually boring?

Weirdly, they don't ask her about Porches or Mercedes Benzes, which are the two car types that were mentioned in the notes left with the bodies. Seems like too vital a clue not to run by the women, doesn't it?

At the office, Reid and Aisha wonder how someone goes from being a doctor or medical student to working at a courier company - they're sure the killer has to be involved in the company somehow, because only employees can log boxes into the system. Shouldn't they be open to the possibility that the killer is a foreign national, whose medical license isn't recognized by the American government? That kind of person can wind up working whereever!

Then Matt enters with the name of the person whose employee number was used to route the packages! As they're rushing out of the office to check it out, Garcia comes to them with an emergency - the killer is livestreaming their next murder, from what the IP address suggests is the courier guy's house! The team knows they're on a clock, so instead of calling the DC cops and having them bust in and save the guy's life, they run downstairs to begin the 45-minute drive to the crime scene!

You're all terrible at this. I mean, there's a good chance that the killer is somewhere else and just rerouting the brodcast through the house, but are you people really so desperate for attention that you'll risk a person's life just so you can get all of the glory by kicking down a door?

Of course they are! They search the house, and find blood everywhere, the laptop that the signal is being forwarded through, and the two missing heads sitting on bedposts! I'm assuming one of them is the courier guy, but hey, who knows?

That night, the killer drops off packages at a variety of houses!

The next day the four new boxes have been found, containing a prominent local psychiatrist! Wait, that's a type of doctor, and they're assuming the killer has a medical background. Solid lead! Oh, and the two dead guys have been identified. They were a married gay couple, and based on the lack of a struggle of any kind in their home, the team assumes they must have known their killer!

Now the team just has to figure out what the victims had in common, and where the killer's murder dungeon is, and maybe they'll have something. Also, Garcia goes to try and see if they can track anyone based on the website the video was streamed to! When Eric goes to ask Garcia for a hard copy of the video, we learn that she's watched it a dozen times already, looking for clues about the location! Um... what? Why would she do that? Not only is that profoundly not her job, she's not the kind of person who can take looking at a lot of gore.

This is an incredibly out-of-character moment. Where is it leading?

Also, she found out who owns the website, and Eric sends a federal marshal to pick her up.

While they're giving the profile, which we can safely ignore, we get a bunch of shots of the killer, who is a very spindly man, as it turns out! Why are these shots significant? Because we see him try to log onto the place he posted the stream, only to find out that it's been shut down by the FBI. Why would they do that? You know the guy loves the website, and you know he loves attention - doesn't it stand to reason that he'd be dropping by the website to see what people in his community are saying about him? Isn't that the kind of thing you always search for in these situations?

This is like knowing that the killer frequents a coffee shop, and instead of watching the coffee shop and making a record of everyone who goes into it, you shut down the coffee shop so he can't go there, and just interview the coffee shop owner about the customers. It's idiotic, is what I'm saying.

Aisha and Matt go to talk to the website owner, who used to run a fetish porn studio until she lost it in an acrimonious divorce. Could the killer be a fan or associate of hers from those days? She has no interest in helping them, and claims that she's broken no laws, because she had no idea that the snuff film was real, and took it down when asked to by the government!

That night the killer, who is still driving the doctor's Range Rover, apparently - weird that so nice a car doesn't have GPS - goes to a payphone and makes a call. Are payphones still a thing? He calls his mother to tell her that even though he was supposed to come home after 'getting out' (Jail? Institution?) he's not going to, because he's got a chance to become famous, which is all he wants!

When he comes back from the phone, he finds that cops have finally located the Range Rover! In case you're wondering why the character parked on the street and walked across a parking lot to get to the phone, instead of just parking in front of the phone, it's so this could happen, and he'd have a chance to run away from the phone without being noticed.

Matt checks in with his wife, and he learns that one of his son's friends had a mother who died recently in some kind of accident, so it's triggering all sorts of stuff for the kid!

It turns out that the killer is almost comically easy to identify! Not only was he a patient of the doctor, he used to be the boyfriend of one of the dead guys! Wow, did the team even need to show up this week? The killer was literally the most obvious suspect. Also, there was a most obvious suspect. Backstory - he was a musical prodigy who wanted to be a doctor, but got kicked out of med school for making videos where he stomped on small animals. That's a good person to not let be a doctor, BTW. He beat up the person who turned him in to the university over the videos, and just got out of jail four days ago!

The team assumes that the website owner must have been a full partner in the crime, since two days isn't enough time to set up all of his murder apparatus, but how can they prove the two have been talking to each other? For now, they go to see his mother and try to figure out if there are any other men in the guy's life that he might want to kill who live in the area.

There are, unless the guy who he stuffed into the trunk of a car, brought to his murder dungeon, and strapped to a table is a complete stranger. The team figures out his identity fairly quickly, based on a revelation from the killer's mother! She says that all of the women who got packages were people that had helped the killer out in one way or another - so he really did think of the packages as gifts! Their next step? What would the website owner want - obviously for her ex-husband to get murdered!

Joe confronts her with their information! Now, they're already assuming that her husband is the target, but when Joe says it, she flinches, which is all the confirmation he needs! Will the team get there in time to save him? I'm not sure yet, but we do see the killer strapping the guy to a table, which once again suggests that making an assumption about drugs being used to control victims was a ridiculous overreach.

Garcia looks into the website owner, and we discover that she and her ex-husband are involved in a legal dispute over The Arsenal, an old military building where they used to shoot pornography together. That would be the perfect place for a murderer to kill people! Especially since the snuff film showed the guy strapping his doctor to a bondage table, and those aren't exactly easy to come by. Weird how two times in season 12 when they saw bondage equipment their first instinct was to try to figure out who had bought it and where, but this time when they saw a bondage table, they were like 'ehn, another bondage table, who cares?'

As the team is spending 45 minutes driving to the Arsenal, rather than just calling the local police and telling them about the imminent murder, the killer chats with his victim about how much he loves the fetish website that his ex-wife runs. Apparently he's been a fan of hers for a while! How long have they been planning this, exactly? Because it would have taken a ton of planning, and he's only been out of jail for 96 hours, so most of the planning must have been done by her.

Joe uses his fame to talk the killer down - saying that if he doesn't kill the guy, Joe will interview him and feature him in the next book. If he tries to kill the guy, though, he'll be killed, and not even be mentioned in the acknowledgments! He surrenders without incident.


Back at the office, Joe reminisces about how Mandy thought he shouldn't get into books, since it would help create the culture of fandom around serial killers that they're now living through. He doesn't mention the part about how it's exploiting the pain of victims for personal profit and fame, but we can only expect so much self-awareness from Joe at a time, right?

More with Matt and his family! He's an attentive father, and it's a positive relationship!

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

Nope. The killer had direct, unmissable connections to all of his victims.

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

He was driving around in his victim's car, which definitely had GPS on it. He would have been caught so much faster than the episode suggests.

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

1/10 - I could give them partial points for Joe talking the killer out of attacking his final victim, but because the ex-husband wasn't in danger any more, and the only question was whether the killer would live or die, it's not worth scoring.

Also, I'd really like to know how and when this crime spree was planned. The website owner would have had to have done a ton of work to get ready for this - which means that she had to know the killer was fully on board. How is there no record of their communications? I'm pretty sure inmates can't use the internet to go to the kind of websites that host snuff films.

Speaking of, if someone stable had watched the snuff film a bunch of times, instead of Garcia, do you think they would have noticed the significance of the bondage table way earlier? I feel like they might have.

FACT CHECK: This episode is based on the crimes of one Luka Magnotta, a Canadian murderer! As in the show, he'd previously had trouble with the law for making and uploading videos of him killing small animals. Eventually he upgraded to murdering a man and uploading the video to a website. It was reported immediately, but no one took the video seriously until Luka started mailing body parts to various political party headquarters.

In addition to the video of the packages being mailed, after a torso was found in a suitcase behind Magnotta's building, the police found video of him taking said suitcase outside. They searched his apartment and found blood everywhere, but by the time the police started looking for him he'd already left the country.

Luckily, Interpol are pretty good at their job, so just over a week later he was arrested at a German Internet cafe, where he was reportedly reading new stories about his crime. The next day the final two packages of body parts arrived at their locations.

Overall, it was a weirdly accurate out for the show!

Except for the stuff about the porn website owner - all of that was apparently based on 'kink.com', which runs a porn studio out of an old Armory in San Francisco, and hasn't been linked to any serial killings that I'm aware of.

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