S1:E15 – Unfinished Business

Content notes: strangulation, suffocation, violence against women


We open on Washington, DC, where a thin white older man is giving a talk in a bookstore about the “The Keystone Killer,” who strangled women in Philadelphia and used to send word searches to the cops to taunt them.  We learn that 18 years ago, he just stopped killing, and nobody knows why, though there are several theories — maybe he moved, maybe he was in prison for something else, maybe he died.  Gideon scowls in the back of the room.  Just scowling away scowlingly.  s1e15 scowly mandy

After the talk, Gideon tries to get the guy to come to the BAU to give a guest lecture, but he demurs, saying he is retired.  Gideon accurately points out that writing a huge book on “the one who got away” isn’t exactly a relaxing retirement.  They chitchat some more, and a security guard comes over to hand the author, Max, an envelope.  Woah, it’s a word search just like the Keystone Killer used to send!  In the envelope are two Pennsylvania driver’s licenses — one from his last victim and one new one.  “Lock this place down!” he shouts, and we go to credits.

Norman McClaine on how we should know those we love or something.

The team walks into the BAU late at night, discussing Max Ryan and his many accomplishments.  Hotch says he’s intense, and good at his job, but has “no bedside manner.”  I am not totally sure but I guess Max is supposed to be a retired profiler?  It sounded during the book lecture that he was a local detective or something, but I guess not.  We cut to the word search so that Reid can identify the quote on it and find all the words because he’s a genius. Max and Gideon update the team on what happened at the bookstore, and we learn that the Philly PD went to the address from the driver’s license and found the woman suffocated with a plastic bag.  This is a different MO (drink!) than the Keystone Killer’s previous victims, who were strangled.

JJ comes in and asks Gideon to turn on the TV, where another astonishingly well-timed news report is on regarding the resurfacing of the Keystone Killer.  Hotch tells the team to be on the plane in 30 (drink!), and Max tells them he’s coming with them.  On the plane, Garcia updates them on what the Philly PD know — an older victim than previous, and another change in MO (drink!), where the victim was bound with plastic flex cuffs and not rope.  It’s unusual for serial killers to change their victimology (drink!) like that, and the changes in MO are weird.

Morgan asks Hotch and Gideon how they’re supposed to work with this guy.  I read this as another time when Morgan distrusts what he perceives as mental weakness/illness — Max is too obsessed with the Keystone Killer and can’t be trusted in the field.  It’s an interesting bit of characterization, and I can’t remember whether it goes anywhere or not, or relates to what we later find out about Morgan’s childhood.

In Philly, Gideon, Max, and Elle arrive at the crime scene.  Max is snappish at Elle, which I’m sure she’s gonna just love.  She rolls her eyes at him and goes off to check the rear window.  Gideon reminds Max of the advice he gave him on his first day — not to get too personally involved.  Max grunts.  Meanwhile, JJ gives a press conference to some aggressive reporters while Reid and Hotch check out the rest of the house.  They find another note and show it to the rest of the team.  The note has a quote from Max’s book, which of course Reid remembers the page number of because the writers just kinda throw whatever they can imagine someone on the autism spectrum being like at Reid, and we learn that there will be another victim in two days.

The team delivers the profile to the Philly PD, and are particularly focused on the change in the age of his victims.  They suggest he could be “de-evolving” into a “frenzy,” so that doesn’t sound super good.  Gideon asks Max to give them his original profile from when he investigated the case all those years ago.  Max says “no,” and then stalks off.  Gideon talks to him in a conference room about how different things are in the BAU nowadays.  Max is upset that the killer used the quote from his book.  I don’t understand why he’s so upset and surprised.  If I was a serial killer, I’d read a book about myself!

The team continues to brainstorm about the changes in MO (we should def stop drinking at this, because we will all get alcohol poisoning if we don’t).  Reid notices a name, “S. Harbin,” in the word search.  Max lectures at them angrily about how it’s not him, and when Morgan says he’s going to have Garcia check into it anyway, Max yells at him, which Morgan looks pretty pissed about, rightfully so.  Hotch asks Gideon whether Max wants to catch the killer or prove he’s right, which is a totally valid question I think. Anyway, Garcia tells Morgan that Harbin was paroled and missed his last check in, so they SWAT up his house.  Many aspects of his house match the profile, but Gideon and Max think something isn’t quite right.  Elle fucks with Harbin a bit about how he’s a coward who can’t deal with women who aren’t afraid of him in a nice little bit of camera work.

s1e15 elle

Hotch and Morgan look around his bedroom for any recordings of his crimes while Gideon checks in with Elle to make sure she’s ok because she “got a little hot.”  Elle is all like “WTF I’m fine asshole.”  Morgan and Hotch find a secret compartment under the bed that has a woman tied up in it!  Yikes!  Morgan yells for an ambulance while Hotch unties the woman.

Outside the house, the team finds another note!  This time there’s no word search, just a note taunting Max.

s1e15 note

Back at the PD, the team is still frustrated by the changes in MO and the long time gap between victims.  Serial killers have specific routines and victim types, since they are kind of compulsively committing the same murder over and over again (for e.g., killing their mom or their ex).  Max finally comes up with something useful instead of just know-it-all anger when he says “he wouldn’t have changed all this unless he had to,” he didn’t purposely change his MO.  Maybe an injury or stroke.  They get Garcia hunting through medical records while JJ gives another press conference to the really angry, hostile reporters.  The most recent victim’s brother is there and wants some answers, damnit!

Elle and Max chat, discussing the press conference, his estranged family, etc.  You know, basic BAU “we’re all workaholics who drive away everyone close to them” kinda stuff.  Elle looks Super Serious and I wonder if we’re supposed to be thinking that she is having second thoughts about being part of the team, between this and her earlier outburst.

We cut to an over-the-shoulder shot of a woman teaching kindergarten interspersed with some black and white grainy footage of surveillance photos of her.  She looks up and smiles and waves at the person standing at the window.

Back at the PD, Reid explains strokes to Morgan because there isn’t anything he doesn’t know everything about!  His hair is still kinda lank and tucked back behind his ears but it’s a little floppier than it has been.  It’s fine I guess.  His facial expression here is adorable though.

s1e15 reid morgan

Gideon and Max talk some more about how hard life in the BAU is and how you can’t take things too personally or whatever.  The writing in this show really is pretty repetitive, you know?  Gideon smirks all insufferably as Max gets angry again, and tries to get Max to work with the team a little more.

Max finally sits down with the team to try to figure out how to narrow down the pool of potential suspects, since just “someone with some kind of injury” isn’t helping too much.  Reid thinks maybe an auto accident, since they’re so common, which to me is not narrowing things down all that much?  Anyway, they get Garcia to try to cross-reference injuries with the type of car they profiled him driving.  Garcia’s lip color is really terrific.

s1e15 lip color

Garcia and Morgan realize that one of the car accident victims was picked up outside the latest victim’s house back in the 80s!  He installed home alarms so he had a way to get into the houses with no forced entry, and used to work with the Harbin guy!  They got him!  Max is happy, and they race racingly out of the PD.

They go to the suspect’s house but the guy isn’t there.  We cut back to the kindergarten teacher and an older, nerdy kinda bald white guy arriving at her house.  She welcomes him in and shuts the door behind him as he makes a creepy face.  Back at the suspect’s house, a woman answers the door and Gideon and Max ask her about her husband’s habits and demeanor.  Back with the kindergarten teacher, nerdy bald guy has pulled out a gun and has her put the plastic cuffs on her own hand, then hits her with his gun.  Max and Gideon ask the wife about an area in the house that is off-limits, and ask her some very leading questions about his behavior and recent mood changes.  She realizes something is up with her husband and shows them where his darkroom is, which is chock-full of information about the investigation, press clippings, photos, a scrapbook of photos of his murders, etc.

Reid remembers that the recent communications with the killer have been about “unfinished business,” and that his car accident was in the neighborhood of his most recent victim.  That’s why the victims are older!  Because they were picked out 20 years ago and the killer needs to kill these particular women!  He’s  perfectionist and needs to finish what he started all those years ago.  They look through the photos and scrapbooks to try to figure out who the next victim is.  They apparently locate him pretty quick because the next shot is a SWAT team and the BAU team outside a house in a nice residential neighborhood.

SWAT and the BAU move in, rescuing the kindergarten teacher just in time!  Gideon lets Max do the honors of handcuffing him, and Max has kind of a bittersweet look on his face.  His hunt is over but now what will he do with his life?  The killer tells Max that he’s enjoyed the ride, ew.

Plane quote from Abe Lincoln about the life in your years and not the years in your life, sheesh.

The team jokes around on the plane and Max tells a story about pranking Gideon by planting the director of the FBI’s schedule in a bomber’s car, which is kinda funny but pretty mean because Gideon understandably interrupted a high-level meeting between the director and the attorney general when he found it.  I mean, how was he supposed to know??  Ugh I hate pranks.

Elle talks to Hotch about how lonely life at the BAU is, and wants to know how Hotch can do this job and still have a wife and new baby.  Hotch says basically he tries to compartmentalize really well, which is maybe not a great strategy.  Elle says she doesn’t want her life to pass her by while she’s out chasing monsters.  So I guess we are seeing the beginning of Elle’s issues with the BAU here, which actually is a pretty decent long-term story arc with an actual resolution instead of one that just fizzles out because the writers forgot about it.

Overall a kinda meh episode.  I felt like the repetitive writing was pretty bad in this one, between the “why did the killer change his victims and MO,” and “life in the BAU is hard you guys.”  Reid’s hair was only ok, and his “genius” about absolutely every single thing anyone mentioned was pretty one-dimensional.  Meh.  At least these early episodes are somewhat light on the Garcia-Morgan shit.


Reid’s hair floppiness rating: 3 out of 10 this time.


1 Comment

  1. I honestly don’t even remember this one, which is a shame because it seems like the beginning of a good idea – an interrupted unsub finishing up what he had started, even though his original plans don’t fit the new context. It’s just that there’s no there, there for this episode. I know I saw it, but I don’t remember it at all.


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