Criminal Minds 1507: Rusty

The episode opens with an establishing shot of Washington DC in the midst of the flowering of the cherry trees! Which puts this episode's setting somewhere in the neighbourhood of mid-March, 2020! This means we're about two months after last episode, and a full seven months since the season started, as the first episode was set in September 2019! I'll say this for the show - they're committed to showing us a full year in these characters' lives even if they just have ten episodes to do it in!

Of course, this does create the impression that the world of Criminal Minds is a place where a known serial killer can walk into a Federal building, murder four agents, and then drive out and go uncaught for more than half a year. Seriously, how is the face/off killer not a priority here?

For some reason Emily is picking Garcia up in DC because her car is in the shop. Which is weird, because Garcia definitely doesn't live in DC. We're pretty sure that Emily does, because of all of that talk about her buying a condo downtown, but there's no reason that Garcia would elect to live a 45 minute drive from work when she didn't have to. Maybe her garage is in DC for some reason?

We then cut to an hour later, as they enter the office, and Garcia is still chatting about a show they both like! Oh, that hyper Garcia, we love you. Emily finds a bouquet of flowers in her office, and for once it's not sinister - they're from her boyfriend Andrew, the FBI guy from that crazy stabber episode! She's not happy to see them, though, and hangs up on him when he calls! Which is kind of cold, since that means he knows he was sent to voicemail, rather than being able to think she was just away from her phone. Cold, Emily.

JJ enters the office to remind Emily about a budget meeting she has that morning, and also ask about the flowers, which Emily is nervous about! I'm more concerned that anyone is hassling them about their budget. These people catch between 10 and 26 serial killers every year - I know that the private jet isn't cheap, but how could the cost not be worth it in PR value the team offers alone?

After the meeting she considers calling Andrew back, giving us time to wonder who this 'Steve' character is who calls her more frequently than her boyfriend but she never answers the phone:
Before she can decide an agent shows up to summon her to a meeting with the director of the FBI! The weird part is that he asks her if she's 'got a second' to go over her numbers. Except the director works 40 minutes away in DC, so a lunch meeting with him is going to take up most of the rest of the day.

Then again, the people making on this show have no idea where the characters work, so this isn't a huge surprise.

Then it's over to a breakfast meeting where a guy is having a meal with Mary-Lynn Rajskub of 24 fame! It seems that she's walking him through the process of adopting his niece, who currently lives with foster parents! I guess the kid's parents are dead? Anyhoo, Mary is attracted to the guy, but he's having none of it! In fact, he seems filled with disgust at the very thought of spending a moment longer with her than necessary! Is this guy a killer? Weird way to introduce him if he is.

Then we see a creepy weirdo watching the guy from a car across the street, and following him down the road in a 50-year-old station wagon! Wow, that is not a good vehicle to tail people in, buddy. It's as close to unforgettable as you can get.

We immediately cut to a dingy room somewhere - the weirdo has killed the guy and cut off his head! That was abrupt! He shows off the head to a camera, and then we pull out to reveal that the team has been watching the footage in the briefing room! Not the kind of stylish transition the show used to be known for, but not terrible, either!

We get some random nonsense from the team trying to establish that they can be sure that he's an organized offender with a specific goal to his killings. Reid also feels that he can detect a 'lack of empathy' in the man's voice. This is preposterous, of course - the entirety of the video message is a guy holding up a severed head and saying 'everything you know is wrong - this proves it'. That's not a message I'd associate with a planner, show. That's more the kind of thing a schizophrenic on a spree might have said.

On the way out of the office, we learn what the stress is with Emily! Andrew has been transferred to Denver, and she's not down with a long-distance relationship! What an amazing coincidence that this new case is taking them to his neck of the woods!

Then we get a look at the mine where the killer is hiding - he enters, carrying the severed head and an axe, and we discover that he's killing people because Baphomet tells him to!
Yup. Just the prototypical organized killer all right.

Seriously, how are you all this bad at your job? Maybe we'll find out after the opening credits?

On the plane we find out that the first victim was a city councilor! Joe suggests that he could have ruffled some feathers in that line of work. I mean, yeah, but he had his head cut off, so, which seems like a stretch as a reaction so a zoning disagreement. Neither of the other two victims have a public-facing job, though, so they dismiss that as a connection.

Everyone takes a break to talk about Emily's love life, which is exactly where their priorities should be at the current moment. It seems Andrew has an ex-wife and daughter in Denver, and he moved there to be closer to his kid! Everyone is worried that Emily isn't doing well, which is understandable.

At the latest victim's house JJ and Reid discover that the killer ransacked the place, and the security cameras inside the building show that he was a twitchy mess. So they're rethinking the whole 'organized' part of the profile - not that they'll admit they were wrong, of course. This makes me wonder how the killer got into the guy's house at all. If he's security conscious enough to have camera everywhere how is a crazy man with an axe getting inside? Oh, and as predicted, a ton of people noticed the sixty-year-old station wagon parked outside the house.

What's the timeline on all of this? There are still cops milling around the crime scene, which suggests that it's recent, but after the guy got beheaded the cops had to find out about it, investigate the crime scene, find the video, decide this was worth involving the FBI, upload the video, and send it to Quantico for the briefing. Is this really all supposed to be happening the same day?

Given the fact that the killer only just brought the head back to his lair, maybe it's supposed to be taking place in the same hour? Also, since he was waiting at the meeting place where his victim had lunch with Mary, was it completely random chance, or is he working for her somehow? That victim scene played very strangely.

Aisha and Eric go to check out the corpse and discover that in addition to being beheaded he has some weird bruising on his chest, as if someone was trying to leave a specific message! They decide to check on the other bodies to see if that's a connection or a coincidence.

We finally get a timeline on the case in the next scene! The victim's coworker lets them know that he was going to adopt his niece because her mother is in jail - and that meeting was yesterday! They're surprised by this news, even though they already knew that the last person to see him alive was a social worker. What did they think that meeting was about? Also, isn't she a bigger priority to meet with rather than his associate at his architecture firm?

Oh, and we're informed that the other two victims were last seen with or near a child, so Emily and Andrew jump to the conclusion that the killer is targeting them that way!

And maybe they're right! We see the killer standing in a park, creepily watching a father and son practice soccer!

The team meets up for a conference, and we learn that the symbols on the chests of the guys are from something called 'Shroedinger's Equation', which is something about Quantum mechanics, which leads everyone to talk about multiple realities. How could that tie in with the killer's motivation, though?

Things get nuts just moments later, as the team goes down a rabbit hole of nonsense! Matt and Aisha share a Prentiss Award!
Okay, where to start? A beheading can't be 'transactional'. When Aisha mentioned that in the ME scene I dismissed it as random nonsense, but I guess it was there to set up this scene, which makes it all the worse. Things only become 'transactional' when you're making an exchange of goods or services. If you have no other information, the fact that someone's head was cut off can never seem 'transactional'. Then Aisha offers some terrible history of serial killers - Bundy and Dahmer didn't have any kind of delusions, and the Son of Sam talking dog thing was a lie that he told to try to get out of paying for his crimes. Also, this phrasing is just weird - he didn't 'think he saw a talking dog'. The dog was a real dog owned by his neighbor. His claim was that an actual dog was talking to him. Which, again, was a lie. But at least get the lie right, Aisha.

So no, you shouldn't be jumping to the conclusion that the killer is cutting off heads to buy admission to another world. That's just... ridiculous. So, again, it's probably right.

That night, the killer murders the guy from the park! Yet another person who didn't find it weird that a person was following him in a 60-year-old vehicle. For a few hours! Baphomet reminds the killer to mark the body, and I take a moment to marvel at what a cheap Halloween costume Baphomet is wearing:

Seriously, it almost looks like you can see the zipper on the front of his fur suit.

The next morning they find a witness to the aftermath of the crime! He saw the killer talking to no one, asking if this was 'enough'. Then he told the witness he needed to 'get back', and the witness left. Apparently it was too dark to see the body or the blood all over the guy's clothes, so he didn't alert the authorities.

Emily and Andrew decide that the killer's getting worse, because he's hallucinating 'now' and doesn't care about witnesses! Except you have no idea about his previous behaviour - he could have been hallucinating this entire time. You have no reason to think he wasn't.

Time for a profile! They decide that 'get back' means that the guy believes he's stuck in the wrong timeline, and has to do something to return to where he belongs! That's right, this week the Mandela effect is the killer!

Hilariously, while trying to explain what the Mandela effect is, JJ gets one of the most famous examples wrong:

No, JJ - Berenstain is the real thing. Berenstein is what people think it is because that sounds more like a real name. They also talk about whether Curious George has a tail or not - he doesn't - before we cut back to the killer, who's told by Baphomet that he's running out of time!

Hey, how was all of that stuff about Mandela supposed to help the local cops find the killer? It wasn't, it was just the team showing off? Good to know.

The team chats about how they've had no luck looking into local academics who would know about Schroedinger, so instead they focus on the fact that father figures are being killed. They decide he's mad at his own father, or possibly at himself! Could he have gotten his child killed, and he's decided he needs to get back to a reality where they're still alive?

Time for Emily and Andrew to chat about their relationship! There's drama!

Garcia phones up with some news - Mary is suspiciously good at her job! She focuses on working with fathers who want custody of their kids, and they always end up getting them! Is she just an amazing advocate, or is she bribing someone? They say they'll 'bring her back in' to talk about her connection to the crime - weird that we didn't see her initial interview. Almost as if they wanted us to be surprised that she was evil!

The killer then murders a guy in a parking lot and abducts his kids. And yes, it really looks like you can see the zipper on the front of Baphomet's suit-

So, is the killer being told to murder specific people? Because just hanging out in a parking lot hoping to see a family is a terrible way to find victims. Also, how have they not found the guy based on his car? How many 60-year-old tan ford station wagons can possibly be left on the road?

More with Joe and Emily! Will she quit the BAU to move to Denver with him? It would be a huge demotion if she did, so she'd better be serious about this relationship!

The killer left a confession video at the latest crime scene, so they have both a face and a confirmation of the motive! Which is good, but it makes them super-irrelevant. Now that they've got the guy's face they discover that his son was killed in a car accident seven years ago - his head was cut off in a car accident! Well, that explains that part!

Oh, and the most direct connection to Mary is that she helped the killer get custody of his son - despite the fact that he loved drunk driving - right before the son got killed! They decide to interview her to find out how deep the connection goes!

Emily looks over Mary's files, and it seems that the various fathers she works with have been paying her to make sure their custody paperwork goes through. They describe this as 'extortion', which isn't exactly right. I mean, she's not the one who decides custody, she just bribes the people who do. Isn't it more likely that she's acting as a middle man here - taking money to pay the bribes to family court judges and keeping a cut for herself? That's a crime, sure, but it's not really 'extortion'. If she was threatening to give worthy people a bad report if they didn't pay her, that's extortion, but because she was taking money to make sure unworthy people's custody requests went through, that's bribery.

I know it's a subtle difference, but these things matter in law enforcement.

And now things get a little nuts! It seems that she helped the killer get custody of his son ten years ago, but talked to him a lot seven years ago - their theory: he was drunk driving on the night his son was killed, and she made up the story about skidding on 'black ice' so people wouldn't notice that she'd made sure a judge overlooked his record of drunk driving when he was applying for custody. Here's the thing, though - cops don't just take social workers' word for it. If a man with a history of drunk driving got his son killed in an accident, the cops are going to assume that he was drunk driving on the night in question. More importantly, the guy was in a coma for a month after the accident - meaning that he wouldn't have been able to object or get a lawyer to keep the cops and doctors from taking a blood sample after the accident. Everyone would have known it was a drunk driving accident that killed his son, and he would have been sent to jail after getting out of the coma.

Which actually makes more sense for the rest of the episode - he could have just gotten out of jail and that was the thing that allowed him to start killing.

Anyhoo, they ask Mary to tell them everything she knows about the killer, and she gives them a heads up about his lair! It's an abandoned gold mine he used to go to with his son all the time!

In the mine, Baphomet tells him to kill the kidnapped kids in order to get his son back! Then he flashes back to when his son's head went flying off in that accident, and it turns out that the son had a red-eyed goat doll, which inspired Baphomet's creation! Also the son was in some kind of a booster seat, despite being 7 years old.
That should be well past booster seat age, shouldn't it? I looked it up, though, and apparently I'm wrong! It seems that until a kid is over 4' 9" they should be using them to ensure that the shoulder strap is aligned correctly! I had no idea about this because when I was a youth back seats only had lap belts, so the minute you were too big for a child seat they'd just strap you in at the waist and call it a day. Kids really are safer now, aren't they?

Also, in the flashback the dad is completely conscious and not meaningfully injured in any way when looking at his headless son - but that could be him remembering things wrong.

The team busts in on the killer just as he's about to murder the kids, and instead of just shooting him, Emily decides to try to link up her story with his, talking about how it's tough being stuck in one way of looking at the world, unable to move forward! Not the time to make this about you, Emily.

She tells him that what he has to do is realize that he's delusional, and that totally works, leading to the big reveal that Baphomet was just him in a cheap fur suit all along!
Wow, this episode ridiculous. Demonstrating the famously reasonable nature of people suffering from psychotic breaks, the killer drops the axe and surrenders. Then, in a final note, we discover that the goat doll was named Rusty! I'm not sure what that has to do with anything.


On the plane back, they talk about alternate realities!

Meanwhile, Emily drops by Andrew's house to meet his daughter finally!

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

No? I mean, they were right about everything, but they had no idea who the killer was until he left a confession note at the latest crime scene.

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

I feel like an APB for the completely unique station wagon 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?

1/10 - Here's an idea, stop me if this sounds crazy - when you find out that the killer is driving around in a 60-year-old station wagon and extrapolate based on the bodies that he's obsessed with physics, maybe do a search for that? There can't be more than a handful of station wagons like that left in Denver, and when you find that one of them is owned by a high school physics teacher with a tragic history, maybe shift that guy to the top of your list of suspects?

Or just start a list of suspects with him on it? Since you didn't have one otherwise?

So, was the killer following Mary, looking for fathers like him? Weird that he would only do that once, finding the third victim. Unless it was a complete coincidence?

I don't know if I'll ever get over Aisha describing someone being beheaded in a 'transactional' fashion.

Do better, show. You have three more chances to do better.


Alvin said...

I guess I'm first to mention the Mandela effect being possibly connected to different timelines was sorta done in an X-files episode (11.4 'The Lost Art Of Forehead Sweat' I had to look it up.), where it's Mulder's idea.

Tom Groleau said...

I thought that it was an unbelievable coincidence that the third victim just happened to be working with the same social worker as the killer and I was laughing at the cheap dog suit on Baphomet.

But... there was one part of the episode that was great. When Prentis and Garcia came out of the elevator they were talking about the blonde on some TV show who was supposed to be dead but survived and was back on work one week later because she had "super-healing powers". I love the writers' self-awareness in making fun of the fact that a) JJ really should be dead and b) if JJ somehow lived, there's no way she'd have recovered this quickly.

Dominick said...

Would certainly you do it the tough means or the simple means? The tough means would certainly be to run to the courthouse or authorities pasco county mugshots, make that understand just how many of phone telephone calls, and also often not also obtain the info you require.

Anonymous said...

I'm 62, cars I rode in as a child required nothing and did not have lap belts, and I know what the requirements for child seats are. Do you not have kids or drive kids around? I realize that's a personal question. It's just that your excuse is weak and you could just sack up and say "I didn't know this." I mean, we're not your mom or your boss.