9.1.20

Criminal Minds 1501: Under The Skin

Well, here we are! We've got just ten episodes of Criminal Minds left! Fifteen years, 324 episodes, and it's all coming down to this! Will the show try to get JJ and Reid together? Will they kill of Jr. to do it? Will... other things happen? Honestly, I'm not emotionally invested in any other part of the show. I mean, it would be great if Aaron would drop by for one more episode, but I have no expectation that's going to happen, so I'm focusing on the more likely plot threads to get wrapped up.

What do you want to bet they never grab Appalachian Trail child molester or skull hand child murderer? Those are the ones that got away, and only one of them was ever mentioned again!

So, yeah, the episode. Let's get to it.

Things open up with a flashback to the faceoff killer who almost murdered Joe that one time. I maintain that he's not an interesting enough character to build the show's final arc around – and the fact that the actor played the same recurring serial killer role on Castle just leads to distraction. Am I saying that they should have announced that Ian Doyle or the Reaper was secretly still alive and gone with that instead?

Yes. That's exactly what I'm saying.

After the recap we find a guy driving up to a mansion that's suspiciously dark. The guy finds it weird as well, and calls someone on his phone. A man answers and confirms that yes, he really is inside, and encourages the guy to enter the house and grab some wine while he waits for the man to get out of the shower.

The guy enters the house and finds the promised wine waiting for him. It's a red! The room is fully of creepy art suggesting hanging, stabbing, and someone walking on a tightrope. Has this guy walked into a deathtrap?

Yes, he absolutely has. He flips through a photography portfolio left on the piano, and it quickly moves from BDSM photography to pictures of mutilated corpses. Corpses mutilated in the very room he's standing in! The guy tries to flee, but naturally, he's been drugged, and collapses to the ground!

So, we've got another art-themed killer, like the photography tableau guy from the comedy episode that Eric directed back in season 13! Neat?

Over at Matt's house there's a baby shower going on! As you may remember, we found out his wife was pregnant in the season ender, and it's been seven months since then, so now she's ready to pop! Eric and Garcia are there, along with extras who smile politely. One of them looks a lot like Elizabeth Moss!

Then it's over to Aisha and Reid, who are chatting about gifts! I'm immediately concerned about Aisha, because her voice is really ragged. Hopefully she just had a cold that day and it's nothing serious. Matt Also looks quite strange – he's got 5 O'Clock shadow that stands out really oddly from his too-pink face makeup. Did their regular makeup person or cinematographer get another job since this last season was only going to be 10 episodes?

Anyhoo, he gets a text about his mother degrading even further, which makes him wistful about his desire to go back in time and 'do things differently', which is a comment about his love for JJ, but I'd like it to be a realization that he should have escaped his mother's madness.

Then we see Emily and JJ, and find out that Emily is still dating that FBI agent from DC! Also, Jr. is mentioned as existing!

Emily calls Joe to find out where he is – and it turns out he's still looking for faceoff! She's concerned that his obsession with catching the guy is harming his work and life. I'm concerned that they're having this much trouble catching the guy. Like, you know what he looks like, and you can have his face all over the internet at all times. Unless this guy is hiding in the woods somewhere, how is he still on the loose?

And don't give me the 'he's a master of disguise' thing – they can put beards on photos.

Actually, maybe he is hiding in a shack in the woods? Joe is currently meeting a small-town sheriff in the middle of nowhere! Apparently everyone is calling Faceoff 'the Chameleon', everyone except for me, that is.

She shows him to the latest crime scene – it's the victim from the start of the episode! Lying dead on the ground with all of the skin cut off of the front of his torso, just like in the photographs! Wait, why is Joe here? Faceoff murders middle-aged women and cuts their faces off as a way to attack his mother, Sharon Lawrence. How could this be connected?

Oh, okay, the point is that it's not connected, Joe is just reaching because he's so desperate to catch the guy. He's convinced himself that Faceoff has started skinning men because, now that he's on the run, he's 'uncomfortable in his own skin'. This whole speech is so idiotic that it would win a Prentiss Award, but for once the stupidity is intentional – the show is making the point that he's confidently spewing nonsense because he's desperate to find a way to make sense of the world.

Good work, show! If only this made up for all of the times they exclaim nonsense without realizing that's what they're doing! So, how long until Joe is humiliated by just how wrong he's got this? Let's find out after the opening credits!

We're back with Joe in his office, and wow, how have they not already caught this guy?

They've already got pictures of him in all of his standard disguises. Unless this guy had 'black like me' surgery, he should already be in jail. Mr. Scratch had to flee all the way to Central America to keep from getting caught – how is Faceoff managing it?

We cut to Joe and Faceoff's Daughter (FD from here on out), as he tries to convince her that her father isn't worth protecting. It's the conversation they had when she'd been in lockup for just two days, and Joe plays it quite badly. He doesn't even point out that she'll do years in jail for attempting to murder an FBI Agent unless she helps them catch Faceoff. He also doesn't point out that their plan last season made zero sense. Like... she could have just run off into the woods when they realized the cops were coming, and she would have gotten away – the FBI had no idea she existed. Instead, her dad tied her up to delay the FBI, making it easier for him to escape. That's the betrayal you should be harping on, Joe, not some amorphous 'left you behind' stuff.

Also, he tells her that she's going to die in jail if she doesn't co-operate. Which seems like a stretch. They have nothing connecting her to any of her dad's murders. She tried to stab an FBI agent, sure, but that's literally all they have on her, and a decent lawyer would point out that she was raised by a serial killing monster and get her a out in a surprisingly short amount of jailtime.

Emily comes to see Joe to yell at him about using FBI resources to search for the torso-skinner, but before she can really dig in Garcia arrives to announce that he was right! It turns out the photo Joe was looking at was of the previous victim, and they've just found the guy from the teaser! I was confused because the men were almost completely identical – which is pretty common for sexual psychopaths, actually.

Then we get a hilarious scene of the team going over the profile and tearing apart Joe's theory that Faceoff is responsible for the crime. They're nice about it, though! There's only one truly dumb line in the whole scene, with which Matt wins himself a Prentiss Award!

Wow... Matt... did you forget the part where his daughter tried to stab and FBI agent to death, and Faceoff shot at a bunch of FBI agents? He didn't not cut Joe's face off because he was afraid of the FBI, he fled because he heard the team coming. He ran out of time. Also, you should already have the full force of the FBI chasing this guy down – he's an identified serial killer on the loose. I mean, I know half the FBI being interviewed about why they investigated Carter Page, but it feels like they could take a few minutes out to catch this well-known murderer.

Then we see the torso-ripper checking out a fake version of Grindr, looking for his next victim. Wait... he's finding them on Grindr? Unless he owns the app, won't that make him really, really easy to find? I'm sure he's using a fake photo and contact information and all, but it's still very traceable.

Some awkwardness at the crime scene, were JJ slips on some leaves and falls into Reid's arms! Then they look over the crime scene, and I guess my earlier prediction that they were just being kind to Joe was wrong, and they really are going to investigate this murder like they think Faceoff was responsible for it. They spend thirty seconds talking about how strange it is that this is nothing like the rest of the guy's crimes, rather than starting the conversation by simply saying 'so this is obviously not Faceoff, right?' The only point of commonality between the two M.O.s is the removal of skin, and you can't base any kind of a profile on something that minor.

Finally they agree that this is probably a different killer, and they have to start from scratch.

We get a funny scene at the ME's office as Matt and Eric go to talk to the new ME about what a terrible job the previous guy did, while said coroner is still in the room. Apparently the skin was removed so cleanly and expertly that it was likely done with a scalpel! Could the killer be a doctor?

At the office Garcia gets a fingerprint match of the second victim! Apparently he was from Miami? The killer flew him out for murder? So wow, maybe that really is the guy's house? Also, wouldn't a 25-year-old guy have posted all over instagram about being flown to Baltimore?

The team is still humouring Joe's delusion, so we waste more time talking about the psychology of Faceoff and why he might be killing men. I'm confused about all of these scenes – is the audience supposed to think that Faceoff is the killer? How can we? We heard the killer's voice at the start of the episode, and it's nothing like Faceoff's rather distinctive cadence. Oh, it turns out the website isn't fake Grindr at all, but a normal dating site – coincidentally the one Faceoff used to find victims! The latest victim was on the site, so Garcia goes looking for anyone who might have been in touch with him!

Speaking of being in touch, we see the next victim at the killer's house, going through the whole 'drinking poisoned wine' routine! I realize now that I'm being a little too hard on the producers – the killer has such an incredibly affected Frasier Crane-style accent that it's entirely possible that the audience could believe that it was the Faceoff killer – especially if they haven't watch that episode in eight months, which is the likely experience of most fans of the show.

I still think it's crazy obvious, but that might just be me, is my point.

The guy falls over and the killer cuts his skin off in a special room designed for that purpose, but I'd like to point something out – the victim had a few moments of pleasant conversation with the killer before getting killed, and he didn't seem surprised – which suggests that the killer is using his actual picture on the dating site. Weird.

Emily calls Joe into her office the next day, announcing that FD and Sharon are being brought to DC so that he can make a deal with them! Joe doesn't want to, because he thinks he can catch Faceoff without their help, and Emily doesn't have the heart to flat-out say that this new killer obviously isn't Faceoff, so she just suggests he might be blinding himself to some obvious facts. Emily's not a great boss, is what I'm getting at.

Oh, now I'm sad. The producers had no idea that the show wasn't coming backuntil mid-season, so according to this flight record:


-the episode is taking place in September. Wait... that doesn't make sense... Matt's wife had just found out she was pregnant in May, and she's almost ready to have the kid – it's only been five months! Why does this show make no sense?

Okay, my bad, I went and checked, and it turns out the season ender was set in February, rather than May like usual, so the timeline of this pregnancy makes perfect sense! I didn't realize the 15 episode season ended early rather than starting late. Still, it's too bad they didn't know they were coming back in January.

The big takeaway is that the second victim's flight was paid for using victim number 1's credit card. This leads Aisha and Garcia to suggest that maybe the credit card owner could be their first John Doe victim! Wait, why aren't you sure? The first victim was found just hours after being dumped, and his face was completely intact.


Shouldn't you immediately recognize him? Did you not bother looking at the file on the first victim?Why is everyone on this show terrible at their jobs?

Reid and JJ go out to see the latest corpse, and I have to assume that this was shot like five minutes after the previous scene - just long enough for them to go back to a trailer and change their clothes. They waste more time talking about how this probably isn't Faceoff! How are they still having conversations about this?

There is a pretty funny line about how this doesn't feel like a killer who's evolving, it feels like a killer who's figuring out what gets him off – as if that's not what evolving is. God, writers. Stop it. You're basically becoming parodies of yourselves at this point!

Then it's back to the morgue, where they talk about the latest victim, and the blood test results of the first two! It seems they were drugged with a rare sedative that's super-hard to come by! Could the killer be involved in the medical community? This, plus the scalpel, would seem to suggest that's a dead cert! The inept coroner once again tries to throw cold water on the theory, suggesting that there's a black market for everything, and that the killer could have picked up the drugs anywhere. So... is the coroner the killer? It seems like this guy is too bad at his job for it to be realistic. Is he trying to cover up his crimes and doing a terrible job at it, or is he really the worst coroner in the world?

The fact that the coroner makes this face:


Suggests the former.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, it's Eric and Matt at the coroner's office again – they were block shooting a ton of stuff this week, it seems!

At the office the team finally has an intervention with Joe to let him know that it's definitely not Faceoff doing the killing. He doesn't take it well. Emily sends him to talk to FD and Sharon while the rest of the team hunts the coroner. I mean the killer. But maybe...? No, it can't be the coroner. But that would be fun, wouldn't it?

Oh, and we learn that the guy finds men on the dating app, but then contacts them through instant messaging on cloned phones. Which means they should have his messages to the guys. Also, what guy is going to go along with a random person suddenly having their contact information to text them out of the blue? Isn't 'I saw your picture on a dating site, but instead of contacting you through it I used illegal methods to find your contact information and am now texting you out of the blue' kind of a huge red flag?

Then it's over to the killer, who, Ed Gein-style, has made a fake torso for himself to replace his horribly scarred midsection! So he's just all kinds of crazy, isn't he?

We cut to the Coroner and the ME arriving at the ME's house, and it turns out he's the killer! Twist! So why was the coroner looking so guilty?

Back to Joe's office, where he spends more time fixating on that time he almost got killed! Reid comes in to chat about his obsession and the new case! We learn nothing, so let's move on!

Oh, and the killer drugs the coroner, but doesn't kill him yet. He's taken to wearing the face torso, though, so maybe he doesn't need a ton more victims?

Emily, once again, proves to be a terrible boss! The next morning she goes to tell Joe that the ladies are arriving that morning, and that he should talk to them, and when he tries to tell her that he spent all night putting together a list of doctors that fit their profile, she tells him she doesn't want to hear it, and leaves.

How are you still such a terrible boss, Emily? It's been YEARS.

Gracia's got a new lead! Another victim's flight was paid for by a credit card owned by one 'Arthur Terrell', who isn't a doctor, but does live in the fancy house that the killer is apparently squatting in! The team goes to interview him, hoping to find a decent lead! Hilariously, they try to justify their suspicion by saying that he might fit the profile, other than not being a doctor. Except... your profile consists of two major points- 1: He is a doctor. B: He probably has horrible torso scarring that messed him up mentally. You know he doesn't fit 1, and you have no idea if B is accurate. How could this guy possibly fit the profile? Other than being a white guy he has nothing in common with the killer.

In the basement of the house, the killer has the coroner tied to a table. What is he planning, exactly? More surgery, even though his vest is complete? Oh, it seems he's missing a stomach section, so that's what he maps out next!

Out front, the team has arrived to kick in the doors, and for some reason the deputy we've been seeing all episode is there? I'm not sure why, though – she's a Baltimore County Sheriff's department deputy, and the house they're kicking down the door of is in Fredrick County. She has no jurisdiction there. Hopefully this won't cause any legal problems later!

So... did they actually manage to get a warrant this time? The guy's credit card being used is actually a pretty good lead – probably not a 'kick down the door' lead, but still, it's unusual for them to make this solid a connection before breaking into somewhere!

But no, it's a Silence of the Lambs fakeout! Because of course it is, since the killer is just Ed Gein/Buffalo Bill! While the team was busting into the mansion, Joe was going to check on his list of murderous doctors! On his own. Because he's an idiot.

They chat about the killer's psychopathology, and Joe clearly implies that he knows the ME is the killer, which makes me wonder, again, why he came here alone. I guess to regain his manhood after his close call with Faceoff?

Oh, and at the mansion they find that the killer had a picture of himself in his murder art book, so yeah, he was not good at not getting caught.

So... wait... this guy lures men to the mansion, drugs them, kills them, drags them back to his house for surgical skin removal, then drives their bodies out into the woods? Why not just do the surgery at the mansion?

Wait, he had to be doing the surgery at the mansion – there was a photo of a flayed guy there! Did he go back to his own house just so the scene with Joe could happen? God, this show is terrible.

Okay, this just got nuts. The killer was, actually, working with Faceoff! It turns out that the killer almost married Sharon years earlier, and he came to see the doctor for help springing his daughter from prison. The plan? Kill a lawyer so that Faceoff could steal his identity, and then the killer would use his mansion to indulge in his own fetishes!

Here's how Faceoff looks when he comes to get his daughter:


That's right, he's not wearing a disguise of any kind. The most wanted man in America just walked into the prison where his daughter was being held, and no one noticed that it was him.

This is the dumbest show on Earth.

Faceoff then stabs a marshal and gets her gun from the locker right outside the interview room he was waiting in. Because that's a logical place to have a gun lockup. Where the prisoners are. Also it makes sense for the person whose gun it is to have the key. Because hey, it's not like the prisoner could just club the person and take the key, and then they'd have the gun, right?

Wait, that's exactly what happens.

This is like having a visitor's gun locker inside of a prison rather than outside. Wait, no, this isn't like that, this is that. It's also inconceivably stupid.

Well, not as stupid as the line Reid gets, about how Faceoff could get into the building if he was sufficiently well disguised, which he says right before we get another look at Faceoff profoundly not being disguised at all.

People in the building hear Faceoff shooting a bunch of people, and instead of locking the building down, the believe the voice on the radio telling them which way he says he's running. Despite being ordered to lock down the building the security staff doesn't – and it turns out the building's basement parking garage has access tunnels that lead to a bunch of other parking garages in the area, which would allow them to escape easily!

So yes, you heard that right – you can go into the headquarters of the justtice department and – without going through any kind of a security checkpoint – get into another building's parking garage, straight from the holding cells.

Wow... this is terrible.

JJ catches Faceoff and FD in the next door garage, and proves herself to be the most tactically incompetent law enforcement officer in the history of fiction! She has Faceoff kicks his gun over to her, and FD toss her backpack aside, but then, instead of telling them to lie down or waiting for backup to arrive, she bends down to pick up the gun that's sitting at her feet. A gun that is completely out of play.

This gives FD the chance to pull a gun out of her pocket and shoot JJ a bunch of times!

Yeah, JJ? You deserve to die if you're going to be this bad at your job.

Faceoff and FD flee in a van while JJ bleeds in the parking lot! Will he survive the injury? We'll find out in the next episode!

THE END

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

Not in the least!

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

They checked flight records and found a photograph that the killer took of himself!

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

1/10 – So... this was a terrible start to the season, huh? Mostly because the vindication of Joe makes literally no sense. There's literally no reason on earth for anyone to suspect that a guy slicing up the torsos of gay men has anything whatsoever to do with the Faceoff killer, but in the end, it does!

That has to be the single least-plausible prison escape I've ever seen in fiction. The killer they were looking for literally walked in the door asking to see his daughter, and they let him. I don't care that his hair was floppy now, how are they so bad at this?

This does not bode well for the next nine episodes.

Hey, was the incompetent coroner okay? Like, I think he was still alive, but we'd been told that the guy harvests skin from people after he kills them, so maybe he's not? Weird that plot thread went unresolved, huh?

I still have no idea how the killer wasn't caught immediately – all of these guys, not one of them mentioned where they were going to someone? The teaser victim literally made a phone call standing outside the killer's house. He's got a modern phone, so there's probably a GPS record of where he was standing five minutes before he was murdered. How did Garcia not find this guy the moment the victim was identified?

So, are they actually going to kill off JJ? Or is her near-death experience going to make her realize what a fool she's been to fantasize about a messed-up psycho like Reid when she has a perfect man at home?

I'd be happy with either result.

No comments: