31.12.19

Criminal Minds 1408: Ashley

A minivan pulls into a driveway at night. A man walks into the house, seemingly up to no good. I assume this because he turns no lights on, and wears his shoes as he goes upstairs. If he lives there, he must be an animal.

He doesn't, of course, and shoots the parents while they sleep! We cut to a little girl in another part of the house. She's awoken by the screams and gunshots, and darts under her bed! Somehow she thinks this will work - I guess because she's so tiny? It doesn't, and the killer drags her away!

At Quantico, Reid is prepping his next course! Weirdly, they say that Emily has to arrange for him to take a sabbatical to teach it. Um... are you still not on the restricted duty that Tuvok gave you last year? Do you really have any choice in whether you teach or not? It's going to be another terrible class, though - that's for sure!

Then Eric goes to see Emily, who lets him back on the team because he was able to follow orders, and played an integral role in solving the last case! Only he really, really, didn't. The man just followed a trail of blood. The other two cops with him could have done that even if he wasn't there. Still, this isn't a show about making people suffer consequences for their actions (see previous paragraph for example), so he's back on the team!

Then Garcia - just the worst person, overall, confronts Joe with the fact that he's planning to propose to Crystal loudly in the middle of the office. She feels betrayed that he didn't tell her this was happening!Naturally, Crystal is in the room for comedic purposes! Crystal isn't sure about getting married, but before they can talk further, the case comes in!

We get a rundown of the case - dead parents, abducted girl, you know the drill. Then Emily humiliates herself with the worst Wheels Up yet.

You know you're not on the plane right now, don't you? Like, you're aware of that fact? Because unless you're actually on the plane, the wheels can't go up. If the wheels go up now, that means the plane is leaving without you, moron. How hilarious would it be if the pilot had been on a conference call with them and took her statement seriously, then they get to the runway in twenty minutes and the plane is already a hundred miles away?

Speaking of, if I ever got the chance to pitch a Criminal Minds spinoff, it would be the lives of the two pilots who fly these people around the country. What do they do all day when they're in all of those cities, waiting for the team to need to go home? And they've got to have plenty of free time most weeks, since the plane has to be available whenever the team needs it. Those pilots are on staff, making a decent living just waiting around to ferry people to a place where serial killings are happening. And sometimes they don't work for a month.

That's an interesting story.

You know what would be the best episode for the last season, though? If someone noticed a pattern of 230+ murders over the past fifteen years, each one while the team was in the city, and Reid is briefly suspected of having murdered all those people, until they realize that their pilot had been a serial killer this whole time!

Okay, we've reached the point where I'm pitching Criminal Minds episodes, so let's move on.

Before the credits roll, we get a glimpse of the killer doing a bad job of washing bloodstains out of the little girl's clothes!

On the plane, they discuss having pre-cleared everyone close to the family - barring Garcia digging up dirt, of course - and then talk about how this doesn't profile like a paedophile, since they generally don't kill whole families to abduct children. That's true, but isn't it weird that the team never leans on their own experiences with similar cases? They've tracked down a lot of abducted kids, and I almost feel like their first question in this case should be 'Hey, maybe those killer gypsies are back!'

Remember, 10 years ago, when they chased down Andrew Divoff's family of killer Gypsies, and it was the most racist thing the show has ever done, and the end of the episode suggested there were other murderous Gypsies out there? This crime profiles exactly the same way - other than shooting instead of throat slashing, although that would be a good way for the killers to evolve their MO to avoid being connected to the crimes the rest of their family was committing.

I just think it warrants a mention, is all.

Joe and Reid look over the bodies, and are startled by how clean and precise the executions were. The team is assuming that the killer knows the family, so he'd have to be a complete psychopath to be able to shoot them with hesitation in their sleep. Of course, this is all based on the statistical probability that children are abducted by people who know them, not any information.

As Emily goes into the child's bedroom and looks under the bed, the show tries to get a little cute with this-

It's supposed to be her fingerprints leaving trails in the dust. But she'd crawled flat all the way under the bed, so all of that dust would have already been disturbed by her body.

Then, in the master bedroom's walk-in closet, they see the evidence of the wife's shopping addiction. Apparently it had cause a serious amount of debt to pile up! Could that be relevant to the double murder and child abduction? Probably not! Garcia and Eric confirm this - they had mortgages and loans, but there's no evidence of borrowing money from shady people. Then Aisha wins herself a Prentiss Award for this line-

So, first off, it's a town of 7K people, so no, you didn't check the interviews of everyone in it. Also, maybe no one had the motive, but you're telling me not one single person in this town owns a gun and didn't have an alibi for the murder? That's just idiocy.

Emily decides that a stranger may have killed the family after all - and since the house wasn't obviously broken into, they probably did a ton a prep work, stalking the family! This leads to a plan - go through the family's life with a fine-toothed comb and see if they turn up anyone paying too close attention!

Joe and Emily go to a coffee shop that the wife frequented, and as they're interviewing the proprietor, the girl turns up behind them, wearing a red dress! Her message? "You're my mommy now!" What a weird thing to say to Emily. Also, she would not make a great mother.

Outside, they discuss the strange motivation of the killer. So, does he really think he's rescuing children from bad families? Also, they think that the girl was saying that the coffee shop owner was the new Mommy - I put this down to slightly awkward angles chosen during the edit.

That night, the killer murders another family and kidnaps another little girl!

At the hospital, we see that the coffee shop owner is hanging out with Ruby - there's multiple little girls, so I'm going to have to start using names, I guess. The new one is Naomi! Aisha thinks the coffee shop owner can help catch the killer, but Emily wants all of their focus to be on finding Naomi. Except, you know, according to the pattern she's just going to turn up again later today, so shouldn't identifying the killer be your bigger priority? Anyhoo, she uses the smell of gingerbread men to help wake Ruby out of her shocked state.

At base, Reid has a plan - genetic! The daughters both have different eye colours and blood types than than their parents, so they must have been adopted! Apparently Garcia just missed that, because she's terrible at her job now? Now that they know the killer is focusing on 8-year-old adopted girls, they feel like they can deliver the profile!

I wonder, is the profile going to be 'we can all relax now, this is a tiny town, so there definitely aren't any other adopted girls of that age!'. Probably not. Hopefully they'll laser in on who could have known about the adoptions. Social worker? Religious figure?

The team estimates an age nonsensically, like the always do, and assume the killer is lamenting the loss of his own daughter to bad adoptive parents - presumably that's what the red dresses are about. Their plan? Check out the adoption community in town, but don't tell the press what's going on.

Hopefully they'll at least warn all of the other adoptive parents in town so they can be on guard tonight.

We check in with Ruby - she doesn't remember what the killer looks like!

JJ talks to the social worker who cleared the family. She asks him if he knows any killers, and he says no, but doesn't ask him for a list of every single person who has access to the adoption files. Which is the list they're supposed to be getting and working through. Maybe that happened off-camera?

Matt and JJ look over the living room, and see that the husband was sleeping on the couch! Could the killer have known about marital troubles, and that's how he decided to move in? Matt observes that social workers wouldn't know about marital troubles or big debts - so the killer must be extensively stalking them once he identifies a girl he wants to protect! Isn't that what you'd already been assuming? That the guy followed the family around a bunch and figured out how to break into their houses?

Emily has Garcia search for other dead adoptive parents in the nearby area, thinking the killer might have murdered the people who adopted his daughter. Then they see a news story where people try to get an interview with the coffee shop owner! She doesn't answer any questions about the case, but the team thinks that this will make the killer believe that she hasn't adopted Ruby, and he will immediately kill Naomi! That seems like a stretch - the coffee shop owner spent a good portion of the day in the hospital with Ruby. Why would briefly going back to the coffee shop to close up for the day make him think she wasn't looking after Ruby?

Emily and Joe talk about the Crystal situation, then Matt grabs them - Garcia found the other dead parents! They were shot in their car one state over! Turns out the adopted daughter died of a heart defect a year ago, and the killer then went nuts and started looking for other neglectful parents to execute! Apparently there was no listing of the father's name on the adoption certificate - Matt says the adoption agency head is coming to town to answer their questions, but weirdly no one mentions the possibility of just asking the mother. Strange.

The killer brings Naomi into a corner store to get some snacks for their drive to... somewhere, and they do that scene we see all of the time where the guy at the counter sees a broadcast about the abduction just as they get up to the counter! So the guy gets murdered, and the killer flees!

The adoption agency guy doesn't know who the father is - the mother said that he was dead, so JJ goes to check the birth certificate! Which Garcia should have already done! What is going on with her this week? Is having Eric there helping her out keeping her from getting any work done?

Then the guy reveals how the killer was casing the houses - families who want to adopt often put together pictorial guides to their lives! Could the killer work for the company that makes those? Turns out it's not even a company - there's just one guy who makes all of them.

The team hears about the murder at the gas station, and sees footage of Naomi dressed up to look like the killer's daughter. Their assumption? He's going to want to put his family back together, and go to see the mother of the original child!

Who should already be in protective custody. They've known for hours about the dead girl, and Garcia could have found out the mother's identity and called her immediately to both find out the killer's identity, and warn her that the guy is now killing people. She didn't do that, though.

So now we get a scene of the killer showing up at the woman's house!

On the way over to the house, Emily has a plan for distracting the killer - take over the woman's TV and play the edited video of his daughter's life that her adoptive parents made!

They bust into the house and point guns at the killer, then show him the video to distract him. It works, and he surrenders without incident!

THE END

Back at Quantico, Joe prepares a romantic proposal for Crystal, and she agrees to marry him! This can only go well for everyone.

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

Yes! Noticing that the killer likely lost a daughter of his own helped them narrow down the suspect pool. That said, they didn't use that information to find out his identity or warn the mother, so I can't really give them points for that.

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

Both families had hired the same adoption house photographer. No, it wouldn't have taken long.

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

2/10 - You know, I still don't understand why seeing the coffee shop lady on telelvision made him swap out his whole MO. That just wasn't clear.

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