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Criminal Minds: Episode 15

Tensions grow among our kidnapping victims as a seed of doubt sprouts amongst them and feeds off their suspicions. An insignificant event in one person’s life can be a devastating one for another, and it’s our profilers’ job to find the trivial string of fate that weaves all the pieces together. As the heroes dig deeper into the case, they experience the depths of human failure, selfishness, and indifference as past sins come to destroy the lives of the present.

 
EPISODE 15 RECAP

The NCI team is briefed on the kidnapping case of the three female competitive swimmers (Hye-in, Yoo-jin, and Song-yi) and the discovery of their vandalized bags in a vacant lot. The culprit’s deliberate choice to leave behind evidence in an open place signals to that the location must hold special meaning. There’s no sign of resistance at the pool, which prompts two scenario possibilities: Either the culprit threatened the victims and they lost their motivation to resist, or the culprit built up trust with the girls.

It’s clear the kidnapper planned this thoroughly and must have observed the girls for some time. Min-young wonders if the girls are already dead, but Ki-hyung firmly tells the group that the victims are alive since the text messages sent to the parents specifically mention Friday. That gives the team two days to find the kidnapper, and Ki-hyung orders the team to bring the parents to the police station and prepare the profile.

Still trapped in the empty room wearing only their underclothes, Hye-in looks through the vent while Yoo-jin and Song-yi huddle together on the floor. Yoo-jin, who’s fending off a fever, says that she’s cold, and Hye-in lashes out at her for complaining. Song-yi takes issue with Hye-in’s attitude, and the two begin to argue until Yoo-jin begs them to stop fighting.

However, the damage is already done, and Song-yi mutters to Yoo-jin that it’s Hye-in’s fault they’re in this predicament in the first place. Hye-in runs towards the vent again and screams at the kidnapper to let them go. Song-yi tells her to conserve her energy, but Hye-in warns that they’ll die here if they don’t do something.

Hye-in’s lawyer dad arrives at the police station, and Min-young takes him outside to fill him in while Hyun-joon begins his presentation of the criminal’s profile to the police. The team speculates that the girls are likely alive since the culprit’s main motive was kidnapping rather than murder, and that the kidnapper’s D-day is probably Friday.

The team also thinks that the kidnapper is acquainted with the victims, knows the town well, and likely holds a grudge against the girls or their parents. As the team goes over the culprit’s profile, a mysterious man (seemingly our kidnapper) stands in front of a wall containing information about the victims. Hyun-joon tells the officers to gather any information of past incidents related to the girls and to search nearby storage facilities or unused buildings.

Nana calls Hyun-joon and informs him about the vacant lot where the bags were found. It’s currently in litigation, but Yoo-jin’s grandfather owned it until last year. There was also an old shopping center on the lot that was torn down last year, and Hyun-joon asks her to investigate the previous tenants.

Min-young rushes into the room and tells the group that Hye-in’s dad suddenly left while threatening to kill someone. That someone is the swim coach—who despicably tells the remaining swimmers that this could be their chance to win—and Hye-in’s dad flies in from nowhere with a right hook.

He grabs the swim coach by his lapels, demanding to know where his daughter is, and threatens to kill him as he lifts a heavy weight above his head. Hyun-joon arrives just then with the police, and grabs Hye-in’s dad before he can throw the weight. As the police apprehend him, Hye-in’s dad continues to shout that he’ll kill the coach.

Still locked in the room, sick Yoo-jin grows drowsy, but Song-yi forces her to stay awake, reminding her of their race last year. Frustrated Hye-in snaps at them for acting so carefree, and says that there must be some way to lure the kidnapper out. Yoo-jin asks how, and Hye-in yells at her for asking a dumb question, accusing her of always complaining and expecting others to solve things. Yoo-jin whispers to Song-yi that Hye-in is scaring her.

As a motel employee walks to work, he spots a conspicuous bag outside the entrance, but reels back in horror as he discovers bloodstained clothes. Once Hyun-joon and Han arrive at the scene, they show the man pictures of the victims’ parents, asking if anyone looks familiar, and the man points at Hye-in’s dad.

Sun-woo interrogates the swim coach and throws down pictures they found on his personal computer. They’re images of women clearly taken from hidden cameras, but the swim coach has the audacity to accuse Sun-woo of invading his privacy and claims that he’s innocent.

In another room, Min-young interrogates Hye-in’s dad, and asks him why he’s so sure the coach is the culprit. He tells Min-young that the coach is a sexual offender, and explains how he helped the coach once when he was being sued for sexual assault.

However, Hyun-joon interrupts their conversation to state that the coach has a solid alibi, and begins to question the dad’s alibi. He informs Dad that the girls’ clothes were found outside a motel near the fishing site he’d visited, and asks who Dad was with these past three days. Hye-in’s dad admits that he was with a customer, but insists that’s just his private business and begs them to keep it a secret.

Ki-hyung arrives at the police station, and Min-young informs him of the developments. Staring at the monitors of Hye-in’s dad and the coach, Ki-hyung says that neither man fits their profile. Min-young wonders if they’re headed in the wrong direction regarding the grudge, but Han says that they might be missing a tiny commonality that only the culprit thinks is important.

Turning to the squad chief, Ki-hyung asks him to reveal the information about the case to the parents little by little, explaining that they must be doubting each other right now. Using their fragile psychological state to their advantage, Ki-hyung plans to figure out what happened in the past.

Hye-in tries to convince Song-yi to listen to the kidnapper’s demands—only two will escape alive—and sacrifice Yoo-jin since she’s already sick. Song-yi refuses, reminding Hye-in that they’re best friends, but once Hye-in mentions her poor mother, Song-yi’s resolve wavers. Hye-in argues that this is their only option to go home, and Song-yi finally nods, telling herself that they’d only be shortening Yoo-jin’s time since she’s dying anyway.

Hye-in rushes to the vent, telling the kidnapper that they made their decision. A small gap slides open and the kidnapper drops two hammers. Yoo-jin wakes up from the noise, but Hye-in reassures her that they’ll sort everything out. Eek!

Song-yi’s mom cries about her daughter and the upcoming competition, and Yoo-jin’s mom scoffs at her for thinking about a competition in this situation. Song-yi’s mom accuses Yoo-jin’s parents of only caring about money, and Yoo-jin’s parents call the other two girls bad influences on their daughter.

An officer stops their fight, and Hye-in’s dad rejoins the rest of the parents. This time the two fathers start bickering, asking each other why the evidence was found at the lot or the motel, and the NCI team watches them fight through the surveillance camera. Hyun-joon comments on how they’ve started to blame each other, and Ki-hyung says that this is what the culprit wants.

A man in a blue jacket opens the door locking in the girls, and two girls walk out, covered in blankets. As the man leads them down a rocky path, we see that there’s blood spattered across Song-yi’s face.

Still arguing, Hye-in’s dad tells Song-yi’s parents that everyone in town talks about them behind their backs, and the two men start hurling insults and grabbing each other. Hyun-joon orders them to stop.

The two girls enter a van, and Song-yi sits in a silent daze while the other girl cries.

Hyun-joon explains that the culprit wants the parents to blame and attack one another, which is why they should stop. Sun-woo says that culprit knows them, but Hyun-joon adds that they may not know the culprit.

Ki-hyung recalls the comment about people not liking Song-yi’s parents, and tells Min-young to see if Hye-in’s dad took any cases concerning Yoo-jin’s parents’ properties.

The kidnapper drives the van to the police station, then parks. He hands Song-yi a cell phone, then leaves.

As Hyun-joon urges the parents to remember someone they might all know, even someone trivial, Nana calls to inform him that Song-yi’s phone just turned on nearby.

The NCI team all rush out, and from down the street, the two girls walk towards them. Immediately realizing something’s wrong, Ki-hyung orders Hyun-joon to stop the parents from coming out, and approaches the girls. And when the profilers draw near, we see that the second survivor is Yoo-jin, not Hye-in.

Ki-hyung and Min-young sit with Song-yi, but she sits numbly and refuses to answer any questions. Meanwhile, Sun-woo coaxes Yoo-jin into talking by assuring her that whatever happened while they were kidnapped wasn’t her fault. That breaks through to her, and Yoo-jin looks up almost hopefully and asks if that’s true. In a shaking voice, she says that the kidnapper made them choose.

Ki-hyung leaves Min-young in charge of questioning Song-yi, advising her to start slowly with everyday questions. The squad chief explains to Ki-hyung what they’ve found regarding the van the girls arrived in, and Nana calls him about the lawsuits she found.

The group looks over Nana’s files, but Hyun-joon says that no one on the list has the right motive. He wonders why the girls were released early, and Ki-hyung mentions how some criminals expose themselves in hopes of being recognized.

Ki-hyung has Song-yi’s mom brought over, and asks if she recognizes anyone from their list. She does know a couple of them, but only because they live in a small town.

Nana calls, and tells the group over speakerphone that a man named Ji Soo-chul sued Yoo-jin’s parents, though he dropped the charges, and currently lives in a different city. He used to live on the empty lot before the buildings were demolished, and had a daughter who went to the same high school as the victims. Song-yi’s mom instantly recognizes Ji, but says that he can’t be the culprit since he’s a gentle person. However, she suddenly pauses, remembering an old event.

Song-yi’s mom had witnessed Yoo-jin’s landlord parents berating Ji for the poor condition of his restaurant. Ji had pleaded with them to be lenient, unable to fix the backed-up sewage himself, but they’d coldly told him to leave. Ji’s daughter had seen them belittling her father, and ran to his defense, pushing Yoo-jin’s dad. In response, Yoo-jin’s dad slapped Ji’s daughter, causing her to bump into a machine which then fell onto her.

Ki-hyung asks if Song-yi’s mom refused Ji’s request to be a witness, and she admits that she wanted to avoid confrontation. Having found a suspect, Ki-hyung orders Nana to find out Ji’s location and any possible places he could lock up victims.

Min-young tries to make a connection with the nonresponsive Song-yi, explaining how she’d also run track in middle school, like Song-yi did before choosing swimming. She explains how Song-yi’s mom didn’t eat or sleep for two days while they were kidnapped. Crying, Song-yi finally speaks, telling Min-young that she was cold, thirsty, and hungry.

Turning back the clock, we see that Hye-in confronted Song-yi about using the hammer, warning her friend to not chicken out. She insisted that the situation was forcing their hand, but suddenly, Hye-in gasped and slumped to the ground. Behind her, Yoo-jin held a bloody hammer—she was the one who struck first.

After hearing Yoo-jin’s confession, Sun-woo asks if she killed Hye-in, but Yoo-jin says that she was going to be killed first—should she have just died instead? Hyun-joon barges in to show Yoo-jin a picture of Ji, and she cowers after seeing the photo.

Nana tells Hyun-joon that Ji’s daughter was a talented swimmer, but after the accident, she quit because of her injury. She also missed a major competition because of the accident—which had also been a Friday, explaining the kidnapper’s obsession with the day.

The NCI team learn of an abandoned pomegranate storage facility in the area, and head to the location. They arrive with their guns at the ready, but find Ji waiting for them solemnly, in the room where Hye-in’s dead body lies on the ground. With his arms up, he tells the group that he didn’t kill her—in fact, all he did was show the world the girls’ true nature.

Flashing back, Ji had confronted Song-yi’s mom about testifying, but she remained silent. Later, Ji watched his daughter work at a convenience store, and as three girls walked by, he’d imagined Yoo-jin, Song-yi, and Hye-in laughing together and scowled.

While the police take him away, Ji tells the NCI team that those girls killed their friend in the end, and that humans are selfish beings. After Hye-in’s body is bagged, the team returns to the police station, and Min-young interrogates the parents one last time.

When asked about the incident with Ji, Hye-in’s dad says that he was only trying to help Ji, Yoo-jin’s dad claims that everything was an accident, and Song-yi’s mom admits that she thought if Ji’s daughter was gone, then Song-yi would have a chance on the team.

As the case comes to a close, Min-young shares a quote from Bunyan: “One leak will sink a ship: and one sin will destroy a sinner.”

At the NCI headquarters, Nana cheerfully asks the team if they want to hang out tomorrow, but everyone already has plans. Depressed, Nana goes to the bar by herself, and laments how everyone is alone in life. Then a familiar voice calls out to her—and in comes the NCI team, singing happy birthday and holding a cake and presents.

Sun-woo hands her a bouquet from Ki-hyung, and she tears up as she reads his note. In it, Ki-hyung writes about how he’s always thankful for her, and reminds her that he’s always got her back. Hyun-joon tells Nana to blow out the candles, and the others cheer as the celebration begins.

In a small apartment, a man holds his head while shaking violently. He slams the table and starts tapping while staring at a photo. His fidgeting stops, and the man gets up to leave. Outside, he watches a row of taxis and repeatedly mumbles something intelligible as he taps his fingers on his legs.

After getting in a taxi, the driver attempts to engage the hooded man in some small talk, but his passenger only mumbles to himself. The taxi driver arrives at the destination, and the man audibly repeats the mantra he kept mumbling: “Only public law shall be like water, and justice shall flow like sewage.” He lunges forward, stabbing the driver in the neck, and blood spurts onto the windshield.

Min-young reports the gruesome murder to the NCI team, and the coroner points out something strange to everyone: There’s a rock in the victim’s ear. They guess the killer attached a sharpened rock to the broken handle found at the crime scene, using both a knife and makeshift weapon for the murder. Ki-hyung says that something else is odd about this case, since the victim’s eyes are covered.

Min-young shows two similar murders that occurred before the taxi driver case, and the NCI team note how the killer used the same pattern but chose different locations and victims. Unfortunately, the local police haven’t found any evidence, and Ki-hyung calls the murderer a ghost. With no witnesses, security footage, or commonalities between victims, the NCI team faces a difficult challenge.

The group splits up with Hyun-joon and Sun-woo going to the other victims’ homes while the rest check out the most recent crime scene. As they drive to their new locations, both teams discuss the murderer, and realize that though the murders seem spontaneous, they were actually planned methodically. Ki-hyung continues to wonder why the eyes were covered, and Han says that the killer could either be unsure of his deed or want to hide his identity.

Arriving at the crime scene, Ki-hyung looks inside the taxi, and tells the officers in charge that the killer covered the victim’s eyes after the murder, indicating a sense of guilt. Min-young searches the victim’s phone, and finds the place he picked up the murderer, which the officer explains is where a famous drivers’ restaurant is located.

At the female victim’s home, Hyun-joon and Sun-woo imagine the murder taking place, and how she ran away, fell, and was caught. An officer asks them why the killer bothered to stab the victim in the ear if he already sliced her throat, and Hyun-joon offers a couple of possibilities. The killer could have wanted to make sure the woman was dead, which would also explain the broken handle (the victim would have no way to pull out the knife).

The other officer asks what the other possibilities are, and we jump back to the taxi crime scene where Han explains that the killer could be copying two famous serial killers from the U.S. However, Ki-hyung tells the officers that they can’t make any claims yet, except that the killer’s profile is complex.

Frustrated, the younger officer asks if profiling really works, and the screen jumps back to Sun-woo, who answers: “Profiling is only the beginning to cut down the list of suspects.” Their job is to open up new possibilities. Hyun-joon adds that although the natural tendency would be to assume a strong man as the killer, they actually think the culprit probably suffers physical problems.

Returning to Ki-hyung’s group, the young officer asks what conclusions their profiling offers, and Ki-hyung tells him that deducing the culprit will require a lot of time. But for the meantime, Ki-hyung is sure that the murder was meticulously planned and controlled.

Jumping back and forth, the members of the NCI team contribute a fact about the murderer: He killed his victims like an execution, has a unique signature, kills to satisfy his inner desire, and won’t stop until he’s captured. Min-young advises the officers to keep everything an absolute secret, and Ki-hyung asks for their cooperation.

As a final note, Hyun-joon shares his grim thoughts about the culprit: “If we’ve profiled correctly, the murderer will instill much more fear than your average serial killer story.”

 
COMMENTS

For the most part, the kidnapping arc was interesting because of the moral dilemma it raised. It was a rather static case, with most of the action happening in the interrogation rooms, and there weren’t any big twists or revelations. The NCI team diligently looked for clues, trying to find the missing connection that linked all the parents together, so the ultimate reveal and capture weren’t too abrupt. The show utilizes an episodic type of storytelling, and despite the odd mid-episode cuts, it’s a tried-and-true formula that works for most shows of this nature. Though I’d appreciate more closure to cases, it makes sense why the creators would choose to leave arcs with neat endings because the task of the NCI team is to assist the local police instead of taking over a case. As a result, the audience sees up to the point where the team acts, which often leaves questions unanswered and deliberately challenges the audience to ponder.

On that note, I appreciate the way the creators use narrative bookends for the arcs, which also makes the cases feel like vignettes. For the kidnapping arc, the show started with the three daughters and then ended with three parents. It was interesting to see how, at the end, the kidnapper’s claims that humans are self-centered creatures was true, as we saw the two dads claim innocence for their actions while the mother’s inaction was revealed to be an act of selfishness all along.

It’s another bittersweet ending even though the kidnapper was caught, because the culprit ultimately fulfilled his agenda: to show the world the girls’ (and by default the parents’) true nature. Though I find the criminal culpable in Hye-in’s death, despite his protests that he didn’t even step foot into the storage room, Yoo-jin’s question still haunts me because I can’t say for certain what is “right.” The best scenario would have been to wait since the NCI team could have found the storage building in time, but in that situation, should Yoo-jin have let herself potentially die? It’s a tough question that also clearly left our heroes wavering, but life isn’t always clear-cut, as we’ve learned from the show so far.

As usual, a new case emerges as soon as the old one wraps up, and it’s another serial killer on the loose. Though serial killers are obviously scary and incite terror, I must admit that I didn’t see all the hullabaloo surrounding the newest one in comparison to the other serial killers the show has produced (e.g., the Reaper). I felt a disconnect because there was such (over)emphasis placed on the epic scale of this killer, with repeated statements of how this was going to be an extremely difficult task, plus Hyun-joon’s final statement at the end of the episode. With only a quick glimpse at the killer and one actual murder occurring onscreen, there’s not much for the viewer to draw upon, so it doesn’t feel epic for the viewer. Also, I thought it was an odd choice for the creators to suddenly have the NCI team defend their profession and explain what profiling is. You would think that fifteen episodes in, the show would have already covered this, but then again, the final scene was just a verbal regurgitation of their current profile that relied on them telling the story rather than showing it. The back and forth made the information dump somewhat dynamic, but in essence it was still largely static.

Though it was only a tiny scene put in as a breather between cases, I loved seeing the team gather to celebrate Nana’s birthday. In the beginning, I thought the scene was being used to show the difference in impact the cases made on the individual team members, especially between the members who actively interact with the victims and criminals versus Nana who takes a more support-based role (though without her, I doubt the NCI team would run at all). But in the end, it was just a fluffy scene, and I enjoyed it for what it was. It was sweet to see the team surprise Nana because that meant they knew it was her birthday and planned an event for her accordingly. Ki-hyung’s note was also adorable, and I loved Nana’s teary response to it.

While I was surprised at first that he didn’t physically show up, it makes sense with his character since he’s their boss and usually doesn’t “hang out” with them at the bar (too informal for our stoic leader). Thus, the sweet and short note, telling Nana that he’ll always be her support as well, was the perfect way to capture Ki-hyung’s bond with the team while also emphasizing his separation from the group. Although a lot of the members go to Ki-hyung when they need support, as the leader, Ki-hyung seems to not allow himself the same comfort. He doesn’t confide with the others when he has problems, choosing instead to bottle things up and solve issues by himself. Part of it is due to the nature of his position, but I also think it’s his personality. Though Ki-hyung gladly accepts the responsibilities of being a leader, he doesn’t let others shoulder the burdens he carries. But if Hyun-joon can change and learn how to open up to the team he once despised, maybe there’s hope that Ki-hyung will also learn that he’s not alone in this fight and can lean on his team for support.

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