Crminal Minds 1412: Hamelin

It's night, in Iowa, and a kid is sleeping peacefully in bed. But how long can that last? Like three seconds. Then he hears mysterious whispering and goes to investigate! He heads straight out the front door and heads down the street! We find him next in a playground, where he starts swinging. Then he's joined by more kids doing the same. Is this an episode about some kind of super-swami?

The next day, JJ gets a call from her mother announcing that she's coming to stay while her house is being repaired. For a moment I think this means we're going to have Josh Stewart show up, but no, their house is being painted, so JJ is staying in a hotel for a week while he takes the boys to Florida.

Wait... Florida? Why would he not take them to Louisiana? That's where he's from - shouldn't they get a chance to see their ancestral homeland? And I mean ancestral, they've got a French last name, they've probably been in New Orleans for ever!

Time for a case rundown- three kids went missing! Crazily, the team actually takes a moment to wonder if this is just ten-year-olds spending all night out with friends. Hey, remember when that actually happened last year, the kids were going to spend all night out with friends, and the team went anyway even though there were no signs of foul play?

This time they at least have reason to be weirded out - no clothes or shoes were taken, so the kids must have gone out in the bedclothes. Suspicious!

Then, Emily once again uses 'Wheels Up' as a catchphrase with no unit of time attached to it. When are they supposed to be in the plane, Emily? You're the boss, you should be planning this better, Emily.

Before they can leave, Garcia gets an e-mail from the police - they've got footage of the kids swinging in the park, and then getting into a white panel van, beckoned and dragged by a white guy, based on the hand!

Emily's first line in the episode wins her a Prentiss Award, but again, I find myself wishing that there was a stronger award to give her.

No, it's still a kidnapping, Emily. Even if the guy doesn't want a ransom, it's still a kidnapping. Any time you grab someone, through them in a car, and drive away, it's a kidnapping. It doesn't matter that the kids got in willingly, they were taken without their parents' permission, so they were kidnapped. Emily, if someone says to a kid 'come back to my van, there's candy in the back', then shuts the door on them and drives off, do you not think that's a kidnapping? What is wrong with this woman?

Apparently the kids had no behavioural problems, and no history of running away, so something more sinister must be going on. Then Emily proves that she's the boss by telling the team to split into pairs and visit the parents while she checks with the field agents already working the case.

She doesn't tell them how to pair off, or which families to visit. Just announces that it should happen and makes no further comment. You're terrible at this, Emily.

At the police station Emily runs into the mayor - Doc Potterywood - and he asks what's being done to make sure this doesn't happen again. Emily offers no guarantees, since she has no idea what's going on!

At the first house, Joe and Matt talk with the wound-up mother. She blames the kid's love of his devices for his abduction, assuming that the kid has been grabbed by someone he met online. Also, he likes building things out of paper mache.

Things get super-crazy back at the station, where we're told that none of the kids knew one another, because they all went to different schools! Is that really possible, though? All of the children are the same age - how big is this town that it has three different elementary schools? We saw a map of the routes the kids took to the park, and they all lived within a three-block radius of it. Two of the kids lived just two blocks apart. How could they not have been in the same school?

Oh, and Reid thinks that they've all been hypnotized into walking out to the park in the middle of the night. So it is a Super-Swami situation, after all! Or, I guess, a Pied Piper situation, if you want a better analogy. So how did the swami select these victims?

Then Garcia gives a bizarre speech where she talks about how traumatic it was searching through sex offenders within fifty miles of the town, which suggests that there were a ton of them. But then she says there's just one possible offender - so it couldn't have been that long of a list, right? The point is, he just got out of jail, and owns a white van! Could he be their guy?

Probably not, we're just nine minutes into the episode.

Then it's over to the swami's lair, where we see him near what looks like a sound board and some surveillance equipment. He hears the kids banging on the door of the room he has them locked in, so he kicks it to shut them up! It turns out the kids are probably in a currently-warm meat locker, because there's hooks hanging from the ceiling.

At roughly the same time, the perv is arrested in the park, watching some girls eating lunch at a table. He's immediately arrested.

Then it's over to Quantico, where JJ takes her mother on a tour of the offices! She thinks that she and JJ should go out on a drive to Ocean City, Maryland - they haven't been there since JJ and her sister were little! That's a weird destination for them - I mean, it's not impossible, but doesn't it seem like Ocean City is the kind of place that people from Maryland or Virgiania go on vacation? It's quite a drive from Pittsburgh, is all I'm saying.

Joe and Emily interview the perv, but he has an alibi. They don't like him, though, so they trump up fake charges to get him sent back to prison. I'm not against them doing this, but let's just take a moment to luxuriate in this abuse of power by the same people who said it was immoral to not help a cannibal serial killer get out of an insane asylum.

I'm just looking for a little consistency, people.

Doc comes by the office to ask if this is the guy so they can announce the threat is over, but Matt and Aisha tell him that it definitely isn't. Will there be more abductions that night? It would be weird if there were, since you'd think parents with kids that age would be locking them in their rooms, and the cops would be all over the streets, but let's find out!

Yeah, in the next scene another kids escape their home - by jumping out a window! That's just kooky! Then the van driver picks the kid up and they speed away!

At the police station, the team if baffled - if these kids are just hypnotized, how did the little girl know to jump out a window instead of checking on the front door? What kind of cosmic hypnosis is this? Also, it's a little weird that the family went to the trouble of both locking the front door and pushing a couch in front of it, but didn't bother wiring the daughter's window shut. Then they hear that the swami has left a package at the local newspaper!

Inside the envelope they find the names of the first three victims and a set of nail clippings. This leads Matt to make a fool of himself by referring to them as 'proof of life'. Except, and I hate to be morbid like this, dead bodies also have nails you can clip. Proof of life is talking to someone, or a video of them made after the abduction. It's not a lock of hair. With the clippings is a video where a camera looks at the huddled, frightened children while a voice says 'how does it feel'?

This is all the information they need for the profile - the swami must be trying to get even with the town, possibly over the loss of his own child. He's making the townspeople feel what he did! So now it's just a question of looking for tragic stories in the town's recent history. And, you know, tying your children to their bedposts at night.

We see the swami doing some strange audio work while the profile is given. He records the sounds of acid burning things, plastic crinkling, metal tapping. It's a weird thing to watch. Is this guy hypnotizing children via ASMR? Do children listen to ASMR? I thought it was just a weird fetish thing. Oh, and the guy wears latex gloves while doing all of this. Strange!

More with JJ and her mother! It seems she only be pretended to need a place to stay because she's lonely and wanted to spend time with her daughter! Maybe move closer to DC then, instead of just wallowing in resentment?

At the police station, we discover that the key linking two of the kids is paper mache! Please tell me that the kids were hypnotized by paper mache videos on YouTube. That would be amazing.

Then we check in on another family, as the mother prepares to lock up the house, there's a knock on the door downstairs. Her son goes to answer it, despite there being a maniac on the loose, and when he does, the maniac is there! He recognizes the guy immediately. So now the swami is just grabbing kids from their front doors? How has he not been caught yet?

How big is this town supposed to be that he's able to get around unnoticed? There's definitely been a curfew since the first abduction, with no unapproved cars allowed out on the streets - so how is his guy able to drive his van around without being spotted?

Also, what would he have done if the mother had come to the door and looked through the peephole? How would this guy have explained being out knocking on doors after curfew?

Oh, and it turns out that this was the mayor's house, and while the guy was abducting the son, he smashed in the mother's head! Reid thinks it's too late to save her, even though she's sitting up in a chair looking at him when he takes her pulse. You're not a medical doctor, Reid, you don't make those kinds of assessments.

When the team interviews the mayor, they discover that the son's computer has been locked away for a week because he didn't do his chores. They assume that this means the killer has been contacting the kids over the internet, and when he couldn't get to this one, he just attacked the house! What that doesn't explain is why Garcia hasn't found any trace of this contact - she's had 48 hours to track down these kids' media use, and come up with zero information in all that time?

What's going on with you, Garcia? Ever since you got kidnapped you've been terrible at your job.

Seriously, though, what kid opens the front door after dark during a curfew when there's a killer on the loose? I'm not saying that woman deserved to be murdered for having raised an idiot, but I'm also not saying that, either.

Garcia does come up with a lead - all of the kids went to the same summer activities program the previous year! Weird that it took you that long to find the link, Garcia.

Reid and Emily look over the missing kid's computer, and finds that it contains an ASMR video with whispering atop it! The theory - the kids were hypnotized by the video, and then compelled to do what the voice said!

Dear god, what has this show become? A couple of seasons ago the point of view of the show was that Hypnotism couldn't work unless you drugged someone, and now kids are being hypnotized by internet videos? This is just madness. Seriously, if they fought an actual werewolf it would be less implausible than this.

The show's crazy understanding of how the brain works just gets worse as we learn that the kids were given instructions on where to go by the sound of a creaking swing chain, and the word 'Hamelin' being played over and over backwards. So what, the kids subconsciously understood that they were representative of the kids from the fairy tale and played their part?

Oof. We get to the reveal of the killer, and it's so obvious that I can't believe it didn't come up earlier. The summer program's computer teacher was fired for being inappropriately close to the kids and meeting up with them in random places to 'teach' them things. If any of the missing kids were one of the ones who reported him, this guy should already have been caught. What parent, after their kid disappeared, wouldn't immediately think 'hey, remember last year when that guy was fired for getting creepy with my kid? Maybe that has something to do with it?

And hey, when they searched for everyone with a white van in the state, how did they not notices that one of them was fired from a job in this town for being inappropriate with kids?

Oh, and back at base, we learn that the guy might have killed his son - no one's seen either of them for three weeks, and the kid was having trouble at school because his dad was a suspected child molester. They search his house, and find a noose - evidence that the son killed himself, triggering this violent rampage!

Meanwhile, all of their profiling proves pointless, because the killer just grabs a woman in the park and puts a gun to his head, while yelling about how everyone accused him of being a monster. That was an easy solve!

Matt and Aisha confront him in the park, so he shoots himself, after announcing that the kids will be dead soon! So I guess if the Hamelin thing is true, he's going to drown them? Or maybe he just turned the freezer on finally. Can the team figure out where his torture dungeon is in time?

Yes, and it's not at all difficult! The guy had meat tenderized all over his shoes, so Garcia does a search and finds out there's an abandoned meat packing plant on the edge of town. The team rushes over there and saves the kids without any difficulty.


We get another scene with JJ and her mother, where she admits that she wasn't a good parent! Yeah, we knew that years ago when you guilted JJ about not telling her 10-year-old child about suicide. They also mention that now they know the 'truth' about her sister's suicide she realizes how valuable JJ's life choices have been. But didn't they always know that the sister killed herself because of depression influenced by an inappropriate love affair? That's what the flashbacks in the Slenderman episode suggested.

In Iowa the kids are reunited with their parents! The mayor is happy to see his son, despite the child's idiocy getting his wife killed.

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

They did not solve the crime. Everything went according to the killer's plan.

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

A curfew would have caught this guy almost immediately.

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

0/10 - I just had the most unpleasant thought, and it's one of those things that comes into your head unbidden, and I hope I'm just going crazy. Here's the thing - this episode ends with Reid and JJ chatting about what he thinks the future holds, and he suggests they chat about it sometime. The season opened with a reminder of the time that they almost went on a date 13 years ago before that storyline was abandoned. Are they going to do something incredibly stupid like kill of Jr. and try to get these two together before the show ends?

Because that would be a betrayal of the most severe kind imaginable. I'm sure that writing 1500 pages about Criminal Minds in just a couple of months has sent me around the bend, and now I'm seeing patterns where they aren't there, but wow, would that be the worst choice that the show could possibly make. Not only is their relationship the sole healthy one in the history of the show, but Jr. is literally the best person in the cast of recurring characters. So no, this can't be happening.

Then again, this season opened by Reid sacrificing Theo - the most heroic character in this history of the show - for Garcia, so at this point, who knows to what depths this thing can sink, right?

Normally I use this space to talk about stuff from the episode, but I was so deeply unsettled by the ending that I had to take a moment and just wallow in my own terrible predictions. Sorry about that.

So, this episode was trash, huh?


Dreatine said...

In an interview given after the Season 14 finale with TVLine I believe, Erica Messer said the idea of going down a possible romantic path with JJ and Reid came about after reading the script for this episode specifically the ending conversation of the imagined futures. Prior to that, she was adamantly against it even though other writers wanted it. So, that shows this JJ and Reid romantic path wasn't something planned long term but short term gratification. You and Sheila are right....Messer is a terrible writer.

Cooper said...

Thank you for mentioning the bizarre mother thing. I was like "She's already dead" is very dramatic and all, but that isn't how brain injuries or death work. You didn't mention the woman and the end of the last episode (I don't think) that went from stabbed at least twice in the back, lying in a large pool of blood, to sitting up on a pretty white pillow looking over at JJ. I think that was a continuity error, and they cut JJ talking to the woman after a rescue, because they decided to go for the stabbing drama. If you ever read this, I am wondering what you think.

Quick little critique of your comment...do you really think anyone would have saved a virtual stranger over their close friend of 15 years? Maybe I need to rewatch that scene and see what you mean, but if this was a 50/50 choice, there is no choice. I would save my friend of 10 years over Mother Theresa.