Criminal Minds 1411: Night Lights

In bed, a woman is awoken by her smartwatch! It warns her that the motion sensors outside the house are detecting someone. Her husband assures her that it's just the cat, and they should go back to sleep. Why even have an alarm system?

Then they hear someone banging on the door downstairs and screaming! So naturally they check the door camera and call the security office, who are already sending a car!

The couple debates whether to open the door, and decide not to - but it woudn't have mattered, because the killer comes and grabs the guy less then 30 seconds after they turned on the camera. So by the time they got downstairs and opened the door, he would have been there, killing them. I'm not saying that this guy is an idiot, but if you're ever in this position, running away from a killer in a suburban neighbourhood, here's what you do - run across lawns, screaming for the police, and every time to pass a house, smash every window you can without slowing down. A dozen families waking up at once is the kind of thing that gets the police super-mobilized, and might even scare off a killer.

At Quantico, the team is talking about the fact that DRGF is planning a housewarming party so that she can meet the whole team. Eric is hesitant about it for no good reason!

Time for the case! It seems that a week ago a couple was wound with duct tape and killed in their home. Last night a man with duct tape on was banging on a door, screaming about how someone was going to kill 'us'. That suggests another couple has been attacked! Although the victim hasn't been identified yet. Despite Garcia's access to Portland's DMV, and the fact that they have a high-resolution image of the man's face from the door camera. Garcia explains that 'nothing's come up' on the guy. So what, he doesn't have a driver's license?

Then it's over to the killer's lair, where the couple are tied down with nowhere near enough duct tape. Seriously, there's just a single piece over the guy's forehead and neck, he could easily sit up with no trouble at all. They talk about how scared they are, and then the killer arrives with a blow torch and night vision goggles, even though it's super-bright in the room! Apparently the killer's thing is to burn people's eyes out with blowtorches? Disgusting!

On the plane, they get more details about the first victims! The tips of their corneas were burned, and no other part of them. Then they were stabbed to death! Ick. On the video, they spot a similiar burn on one of the victim's eyes!

At the police station, the team notes that the suburban neighbourhood borders a bit of forest. Could the victim have run all the way through it? Probably not - if he did, how could the killer have tracked him in the vehicle he used to take the guy away? He'd have to have known where the guy came out of the woods, which would be impossible to predict. This seems fairly implausible already.

Also, despite the fact that they only have two data points - the dead family, and the guy who banged on the door - there's three spots marked on the city map. Speaking of, I just checked the map, and while the bound guy would have had to have run anywhere from 500 meters to 1km based on where he was being held - we can assume that he was being held somewhere bordering on the woods, because he ran straight through them instead of looking for help closer - the killer would have had to have drive somewhere between 2.5 and 3 miles to reach the same location in a vehicle.

This means that it would have taken the killer and his victim roughly the same amount of time to get to the place they ended up - the problem is, the victim had to get to literally any house, while the killer had no idea where his victim would come out of the woods. For all he knew, the victim could have waited in the woods until he sped away, then doubled back and called the police from a closer building.

The only way any of this was possible at all is if the killer has a partner, who followed the victim on foot while the killer used GPS to track their movements. Which isn't all that likely.

Eric thinks it's significant that had the victim just turned right after leaving the woods he would have stumbled onto a community police station. They assume that means that these victims might not be from Portland. Except, you know, people only know about the community policing stations in their own neighbourhood. In my town there are dozens of community policing stations. But I can only tell you about two places to find cops - the station just down the street from me, and the headquarters downtown. I can't imagine that it's different for people in Portland, a city only slightly smaller than the one I live in.

JJ heads off to the murder house, and they transition to that location by doing the 'zoom in on a picture' that was the show's trademark visual for the first season and was largely abandoned after! Nice callback, episode!

The first victims' son walks JJ through the house, trying to find any clues. She gets a juicy one - the killer turned off all of the power to the house, making it was pitch black when he killed his victims. No light, blinding victims - it seems like someone's a little focused on taking away sight, isn't it? JJ goes to talk to Reid and Matt, and her first statement questions whether the son might be the killer. Why? Because he didn't tell the cops about the power being out! But then he told you right away, silly. Why would the killer have done that?

They find fingerprints all over the floor - the killer must have blinded the couple, then let them move around the room, sightless, so he could enjoy watching them suffer until they died! They have a new assumption - the killer must have let the victim go last night with one good eye, just so he could hunt him down again! Gosh, that killer is a moron, because there's no way he would have been able to catch the guy. Again, unless there were two of them.

More with the victims, who are still tied up, reminisce about their lives together! The guy is blinded, the woman has not been.

The killer comes back and unties the man, giving him a chance to run! But how far will he make it with no ability to see?

At the police station, the team asks the important question - why would the killer turn all the lights off in the house if he was going to blind the people anyway? What's the point of night vision goggles when you're chasing blind people around? You could just turn the lights on. They have no idea, of course, and wonder if it has a symbolic meaning, rather than an obvious on, like, for example, maybe the killer has something wrong with his eyes?

Garcia finds video footage of the guy running, and he's moving incredibly fast with great form! Could he be a runner in town for a marathon? They check the registrants of that weekend's race, and find the guy immediately!

We see that the guy ran past three houses, which is a little weird - like I said, if you're ever in this situation, break windows. Also maybe go to back yards? You'll be harder to catch if the guy can't see you from the street.

Oh, and the couple was staying at an AirBNB - which Matt points out is a great way to get targeted by a serial killer!

We intercut the couple trying to escape with the team rushing towards the rental house. Will they be inside, or will this be yet another riff on that scene from Silence of the Lambs? The guy offers to untie his wife, but she says that the killer will be back soon, and there's no time. Her plan? Guide him out by describing where the stairs out of the room are!

Great plan, lady. Except, when you get to the bottom of the stairs, he's still going to be blind, and you won't be able to guide him any more. So... maybe just let him untie you? It's not going to be hard, duct tape is very fragile.

And yes, it's yet another Silence of the Lambs thing, and the guy gets stabbed as soon as he gets to the front door. Seriously, what was going on with this plan? If you'd set your wife free, the two of you could have laid a trap for this guy. Are you people morons who hate being alive? Couldn't the production staff have just chained her up to explain why he wouldn't be able to save her?

They find no clues at the house, but Eric gets some info from a neighbour kid! Proving that the show is garbage at keeping a timeline, Eric asks about anything strange happening 'last night', and the kid tells him about the abduction. But, of course, the abduction was two night ago. How is the show so bad at this?

Anyway, the kid next door saw the killer wearing strange sunglasses at night. What could they have been? Eric shows him a picture of some, and the kid immediately identifies them as the kind of glasses that help nearly-blind people see! Time for the profile! They think it's a blind guy who hates sighted people, and wants to get revenge on them for being able to see! Great insight, there. Maybe focus on illegally searching medical records?

Up in the attic, the lady finds out that her husband has been killed, and freaks out. Then she asks the guy what happened to his eyes, and he whispers the story to her!

Garcia digs up that the first dead couple included a doctor who did exposure therapy - forcing children to confront their phobias in order to overcome them. One of his patients jumped off a bridge, and he shut down the program. JJ believes that the son withheld the detail about the power being off in the house because he subconsciously knew that these murders had to do with a shameful secret in his family's past!

Except no, obviously he didn't, that's just a crazy thing to say. Also, he did report the thing about the breakers. He reported it to you. Don't you think it's way more likely that when he was first in shock after finding his parents' bodies he didn't remember every detail, but a week later, talking to you, he knew more? Isn't that the more logical answer?

The son shows Reid and Emily where his dad kept the files from his research, and two super-dumb things happen right on top of one another. First, Reid observes that the files have been anonymized, so there's no names attached to them. He says this before opening the boxes, so how would he know? And why would the doctor do this with his own personal records?

Even dumber, JJ opens her first box and the first file she pulls out is a kid who was scared of the dark - it must be the killer! That's right - there were two closets stacked full of boxes, and literally the first file from the first box is the guy they're looking for. Ugh.

In the killer's lair, he lets the lady go with just her hands tied. She offers to help him, if she can, and he sends her off!

Every now and then I get to a scene in Criminal Minds where I just wind up staring blankly at the screen, straining to understand what's happening. This is such a moment. They need to find the identity of one of the anonymized patients, #20411. Reid thinks that the number is a code that can be cracked. Why would it be, though? Isn't the whole point of anonymizing files to give them arbitrary numbers that you just look up in a ledge somewhere?

This leads to Reid winning a Prentiss Award for the next scene-

That's right, Reid has had them print up a hundred number cards so he can lay out all of the possible arrangements of those five numbers. Why? How much information can you plausibly hide in five numbers? This is insane, and if it somehow works, I'm going to be furious.

Also, and I can't stress this enough, since they know what year the study was done, and the file would say what age the kid was, and they know what city he lives in, shouldn't they just check male children of that who are blind now? How long could that possibly take? It's not like he's not seeing a doctor for his condition - he has special glasses.

Hey, remember when, earlier in the episode, they tried to figure out why the killer target the jogging couple, and wondered if it was about the house they were staying in? I guess they never looked into the history of the house, and then forgot about that line of inquiry, because in this scene JJ brings that concept up like it's a new idea!

Serious question: Is anyone reading these scripts before they're shot?

The team talks to the person who runs the AirBNB, and show her a photo of the killer from the surveillance footage. She claims not to know him! She does know what 20411 means, though! Back in high school, she was assaulted by the killer during a party in the woods, and didn't tell the cops about it! The 20411 was the street address of his house.

Then it turns out that the guy was a scumbag criminal who's been in jail for a decade, and now he's out, looking for revenge. So, you're telling me that if the moment they'd found out that the guy ways blind Garcia had just searched for 'violent criminals who are also blind' they'd have had him immediately? Wow.

The killer takes the lady down to see the corpses of all of his victims! She blinds him with a lamp and then runs back upstairs! The guy turns off the lights, obvs, and we get a chase scene! Not much of one, though, since the lady breaks the window to yell for the team's help, and they stop to talk to her rather than the SWAT guys continuing to charge in, which gives the killer a chance to stab her in the back! What, lady, you've never heard of closing a door behind you?

They find the killer in the attic, and Matt shoots him to death!


Hey, remember when that lady got stabbed in the back? We see her get put into the back of an ambulance, but get no word about how she's doing! Thanks for that, show!

We then see see the housewarming party that was threatened at the start of the episode!

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

No. At this point, are we really expecting it to, though?

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

Dogs would have solved the crime almost immediately, so yes.

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

1/10 - So, yeah, this episode couldn't have happened at all. A couple was found brutally murdered in their home with the eyes burned out of their heads. A quick google search of the dead guy would have revealed that the dead guy was a doctor who had gotten a patient to kill themselves through a risky psychological procedure. They would have looked into his patients, and found the killer fairly quickly.

Really, though, the doctor shouldn't have gotten killed at all. The killer murdered his parents a week earlier. These parents obviously have people in their lives who talk to them. And I'd have to imagine that couple would have been nervous about their murderously violent blind son getting out of jail, and talked to people about it.

When those people never heard from their friends again, the cops would have gotten a call, and this guy would have been locked up.


Cooper said...

Unless I missed something (and that is not impossible), there seems to be three stupid things in a row. The number comment, the first file found, and then the leap to the parents continuing the therapy. What gets me about this comment is that it is assumed to be true, she even looks angry at the parents for being so brutal. There is no proof that it happened, at all. This is very common in the last three or so seasons. Statements of possibilities, became statements of probability, became statements of certainty without proof. This seems to have coincided with the enlarged cast and the slow dumbing down of Garcia. The less I say about the duct tape the better, but jesus I felt like I was watching a bad wannabe student director film.

Cooper said...

(sorry, to be clear the statements of certainty are ALWAYS right, which is why I find them stupid. One of the charms of the Gideon character and the first season of the show was when they got something wrong or off and refined their profile. Now they have to be right, all the time. (Reid never would have used cards in the past either...)