Criminal Minds 1405: The Tall Man

In the darkest woods some teen girls are going ghost hunting! Is this a halloween episode? They're looking for Slenderman out in the woods! Or 'Tall Man' as they call him, but we know what they mean. One of the girls goes on ahead, and the other two conspire about something they have planned. Are they going to stab the third girl, like the Slenderman crime, or is the show planning to use our knowledge of that crime against us?

It would be weird if there was a teenaged killer in two episodes in a row, though.

The next day, some campers in the woods are packing up, and the lead girl stumbles out of the woods, scratches all over her face, yelling that 'the tall man' has taken her friends!

It's breakfast time at the JJ household! These two boys are so incredibly blonde. They have to be JJ's real-life sons, right? And hey, Jr. is there, because of course he is! That guy's the best. Then JJ gets a call - the two girls are missing in a place called 'Dead Man's Conservatory Park'. They have to get there immediately!

JJ's upset, because that's in her home town, where her sister committed suicide! She doesn't want to go back, but then she sees the place they went missing, and remembers the stories about Slenderman from her own childhood!

We get a breakdown of the case - Slenderman's deal is that he grabs you and cuts you until you reveal all of your secrets! Oh, could the other two girls have been planning to torture the lead girl in some way, and it all went horribly awry? I'm sure we'll find out when they get to the park in question!

JJ flashes back to her childhood, when her sister scolded her for stealing a necklace from her room! But then the sister gives her the necklace, as part of the 'giving your stuff away before you kill yourself' thing.

In the hospital, a nurse comes to scrape under the lead girl (Ally)'s nails, and she has a traumatic memory of being attacked by Slenderman! Or is it just a delusion? Presumably we'll find out after the credits!

Garcia calls them on the plane with some news - Ally wasn't scratched at all, and it wasn't her blood on her! Also, she finds a text message between the other two girls planning to do -something- to ally that night in the woods. But what? The team decides to get to the bottom of the case, any way they can! In an amazing coincidence, the father of one of the missing girls dated JJ's sister in high school, so she'll be the one to go talk to him, because it's guaranteed that won't cause any awkwardness for anyone!

Eric and Aisha go to talk to Ally, and ask her what happened in the woods. Apparently the other two girls confronted her about something, but all she remembers after that is fainting and being attacked by Slenderman. Could she have had a psychotic break and attacked her friends? It would be weird if she didn't at this point.

She remembers the friends being tied to a chair, and Slenderman asking them 'where is it' before slashing them with a razor! What was he talking about? Ally explains that he wanted 'secrets', but that would be a 'what is it' question, rather than 'where'. Your story's not adding up, girl who is still in shock. Also, she says that they look like Slenderman, because they don't have faces! So she's just super-crazy, then.

Hey, what did the dogs find when they took them out to the campsite and gave them some of Ally's clothes so they could follow the scent into the woods. Do you think we'll ever find out?

Back at the base, we learn that Ally has early onset schizophrenia, and her parents decided not to medicate her, because they don't care about the life of their daughter or anyone else? They wonder if she could have attacked her friends, and decide they need to figure out what they were going to confront her about. Weirdly, we discover that the friends knew she was mentally ill, so why would you think confronting her with something in the middle of the woods in the middle of the night would be a good idea? Unless they really are villains?

JJ goes to talk to the father of one of the girls, and - who could have predicted this - it's more awkward and slower because she has a personal history with him! How has this team forgotten literally everything they're supposed to know about how to run an interview? The father explains that the girls were planning to confront Ally about her worsening mental condition, and how she should get better psychiatric help, possibly including drugs. JJ asks the obvious question - why would you confront a girl about being psychotic in the woods during a midnight ghost hunt?

The father claims to have no idea why they would have done that. Is he covering for his daughter in some way? Also, he finds it weird that JJ is in town working on this case - wouldn't she want to stay as far away from this awfulness as possible? It's this exact kind of distraction that's avoided by not sending people involved with case participants to interview them in an official capacity. If JJ wants to reach out to the guy when the case is over, that's fine, but come on, team, this is ridiculous.

Then we cut over to the teen girls, who are, in fact, tied to a chair in a hovel somewhere. Is Slenderman real, or is this just a crazy man who likes cutting girls with a razor? Opinions differ amongst the girls on that subject. We then get a look at the guy, and it's a person wearing a Slenderman mask, so I guess he's obsessed with the urban legend and is trying to make it real? He does, in fact, say 'Where is it', as Ally said, which again suggests that he's looking for a thing, and not a secret, as they'd guessed.

Garcia phones them up with a strange reveal - all of the girls were knocked out because someone had spread a drug over their phone screens. Of course, if that's the case, it had to be one of the three girls in the woods who was responsible, because if you didn't wait until they were in the woods to drug the phones, then you'd have no idea when the girls were going to get knocked out. Also, the team assumes that if one or two of the girls was involved, they'd have to have a partner to move all three unconscious people. Then again, if one of the teens was responsible for the drugging, she'd know not to touch her phone, so there's that.

Hey, how and where did the police find the phone? This seems pretty important, since they'd be able to use that to narrow their search. Not that they'd have to narrow the search that much - I looked up the size of Dead Man's Hollow conservation area, and it's like 4 square kilometers. So unless the Slenderman has taken them out of the forest, which seems like it would be hard to do, since you'd have to move them to a vehicle, they probably should have been found by searchers already.

Eventually they notice that 'where is it' isn't a question you'd ask about secrets, and assuming that Ally's memories were accurate, they go digging into the missing girls' backstory at their high school!

JJ learns from one student that one of the missing girls has a secret boyfriend! Is it someone older, and he wants to track down evidence of the affair to keep from being exposed? This also triggers JJ's memories of her older sister's own secret boyfriend - could drama about that have triggered her suicide?

We basically get confirmation that my theory from last paragraph is happening, as the girl says that Bethany got jewelry from her secret boyfriend, and Chelsea stole it and tried to use it to figure out who the boyfriend was. So... is this whole Slenderman thing a way for Bethany and the boyfriend to cover up their affair?

Emily recaps the jewelry theory - hey, is the secret boyfriend the guidance counselor at the school, literally the only local character we've met other than Chelsea's father? - and then she notices that JJ is too distracted by her own drama to focus on the case. Emily thinks they should talk about it, rather than saying 'yeah, of course you are, that's why you shouldn't have come along on this case'. Wait, was the guidance counselor also her sister's secret boyfriend, 30 years ago, and he's kind of responsible for the sister's suicide?

Aisha and Eric go to interview Ally, hoping to find out more details! They bring a metronome to help distract her for easier hypnosis, like in Hannibal! She remembers that the place she was held had weird tinsel stars all over the walls, and pink stars on the ceiling. JJ recognizes it as the place where high school kids used to get drunk when she was a teen. Apparently it hasn't changed at all in over twenty years! It's weird, when JJ talked about being from a small, dead-end town, I didn't realize that she was talking about a suburb of Pittsburgh. I really imagined someplace small and out of the way. But she grew up really close to a major city. Huh.

As the team and associated cops rush towards the rail car, we check in on the teens. Chelsea admits that she knows what Slenderman wants - the necklace she stole from her! This confession makes Bethany figure it's time to stop pretending she's tied up, and stab her friend! Wait... what was the plan, exactly? Why go through all of this to find out where the necklace is, if you're just going to stab her before she tells you where the necklace is?

Luckily, the team arrives in time to save Chelsea, and then Eric wins a Prentiss Award for this line:
I know they want to have the team figure out that Bethany was in on it, but by definition, after you've untied a rope, it's impossible to tell what kind of knot it used to be. Since Bethany's gone, there's no way you'd be able to tell how she was tied up.

On the way into the hospital, JJ stops Chelsea to ask who the boyfriend was - risking her life by delaying her trip to surgey, BTW - and Chelsea responds by pointing to JJ's necklace. So I guess the sister's necklace was given to her by her secret boyfriend, and he's continued giving the exact same one to high school girls all this time! Wow. That's convenient!

The team tries to figure out who could be the older man giving out these necklaces. Their first guess? Chelsea's father! Of course, this is nonsense, but let's skim the interrogation scene anyway! He denies knowing anything, so JJ angrily confronts him with the necklace, and he still doesn't know anything! So it must be someone else!

We then cut to Bethany, who's at the school, looking for the necklace - apparently Chelsea told her where the necklace was off-camera, and the show didn't make that clear at all! Thanks, show! She goes into a locker room to find it, then hears someone coming! Is it Slenderman, coming to fake a suicide with her in order to cover up his involvement in the attempted murder? Almost certainly!

Back at the office, Joe checks in on JJ, and asks who she remembers that paid extra attention to her older sister. Joe thinks that if Slenderman was in the sister's life, he was in JJ's as well, but that's by no means a given. The sister was like 8 years older than JJ, and JJ would have had only a tangential awareness of her sister's friends, and zero awareness of any adults in her life.

JJ then remembers that when her sister gave her the necklace, she said it would keep bad men away from her! Joe assumes this means that the counselor would see JJ wearing the necklace and know not to mess with her! Hey, JJ's sister? Here's a better plan - you're going to kill yourself anyway, why not leave a note mentioning that you were molested by a teacher at your school, and that's why you killed yourself! Isn't that a way better method for protecting your sister than giving her the necklace that the molester gave you?

Anyhoo, JJ remembers the guidance counselor being freaked out by the necklace at the sister's wake, so he must be the killer! They bring him in, and JJ wants to be the one to interview him, assuming that she'll be able to get the truth out of the guy! She says that they've already looked at his computer, and have evidence of his molesting her sister! Since he's been caught, he admits that Bethany is at the school! Instead of just asking him where she is, specifically, they just run over there and search the crawlspaces at random!

He'd already confessed, just ask where she is, dummies.

They find her stuffed into a service panel, suffering from a fentanyl patch overdose. Even though they knew that Slenderman used Fentanyl in his crimes, they didn't bring any of the antidote with them, so JJ just tries CPR on the girl! And it works!


We then see Ally and Chelsea in the hospital, and everyone's happy! Then it's back to Virginia, where JJ checks on her family! And since Jr. heard about her beloved necklace being a paedophile's trophy, he's got a new necklace waiting for her, a locket with the kids' photos in it!

I'm just going to say it - Jr. is a better husband and partner than JJ deserves, as proven by the fact that neither of their sons are named William Lamontagne III.

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

No. They solved the crime because a member of their team knew everyone involved.

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

Yes - dogs would have easily led them back to where the girls were being held. Also, they had a witness tell them that the girls were held indoors - since there's practically zero structures inside the park, it would have taken almost no time to find the girls before any stabbing happened.

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

1/10 - Kind of weird that this week the real villain was JJ's sister, who could have prevented all of this heartache years ago. I'm not saying 'she should have been stronger and be able to keep herself from committing suicide', I'm just saying, had she planned on committing suicide anyway, there's literally no reason to dime her molester out. Especially since she was specifically thinking of ways to protect her sister from that selfsame molester.

Turns out that this was a Matt Gubler episode! There's absolutely no sign of that other than the way he shot the scenes of Slenderman, and the use of some dramatic high-angle photography. Have we reached the point in the show's history where even Gubler isn't putting in the necessary effort?

FACTCHECK: Just watch the documentary 'Beware the Slenderman'. It's pretty good!

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