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Criminal Minds – Drive – Review: “Killer Drive”

After the sheer intensity that was last week’s “Entropy”, it’s not too surprising that the show would settle back into a more routine setting to give us a bit of a breather. This week’s episode definitely fit that bill. Despite some unique and unusual elements to the case, it was, overall, a much more typical and routine outing for the BAU.

It was also a rather predictable case, too. The writer responsible for this episode, Karen Maser, also wrote this season’s “’Til Death Do Us Part”, and both episodes suffered from the predictable nature of the cases. Which is a bit of a shame, both because of the unpredictable nature of “Entropy”, and because the unique, unusual elements that were in this episode could’ve lent themselves to a pretty inventive and interesting case, had they been fleshed out and expanded upon a little further. Still, there was enough interesting stuff here to touch on, so let’s dive in.

The Case:

Aw, a couple’s coming home from a date. Guy walks her to her door, there’s the seemingly awkward, “Will he kiss me?” moment. Everything’s all nice and innocent, so you know something’s about to go very wrong.

Thing is, though, the girl seems a little unnerved that he’s still hanging around there, which is odd if this is indeed intended to be a date. He starts going on about how she likes champagne, and has expensive taste. This freaks her out, but as she’s trying to get him to leave, he tases her.

Unfortunately, that’s only the beginning for her night of terror. A short time later, we see her being held captive in what looks like the unsub’s basement (it’s always the basement). To our horror, we see her head sticking out of a very familiar device: a guillotine. She’s pleading with the unsub to let her go, saying something like, “I won’t ever do it again”. What “it” is, though, we don’t know, because shortly after that, she’s a goner.

“This case is not for the faint of heart, so if I faint, that’s why.”

This poor woman appears to be the latest in a string of women who’ve suffered a similar tragic fate. Lily Chang, a chemistry major who tutored children in an after-school program, and Denise Wagner, a banker, have also been beheaded. That’s bad enough, but it gets much worse: their headless bodies have been set out in public places. There’s a rather macabre photo of one body sitting on a bench that flashes across the screen at one point.

Nothing’s been stolen from the victims except for their cell phones, and the locations where their bodies have been dumped are completely at random. Their heads have yet to be found as well. To add to the team’s difficulty, the media is running wild with the story and making “cutesy” headlines (er…no pun intended) about it all. Looks like the BAU has quite the tough case ahead of them.

The team soon learns the name of the most recent victim, aka date girl. She’s Amy Gibb, and just like poor Lily and Denise, her body has also been dumped in a public spot. The time between each of the murders is getting significantly shorter, too, which only adds to the team’s urgency to solve this case. They also try and discuss what sorts of reasons one would have for beheading victims, which leads Reid to share a mini-history lesson on the topic of beheadings. Such charming discussions these guys have on the plane ride sometimes. He also mentions in passing what Jeffrey Dahmer did with the heads of his victims, and I am very thankful he didn’t go into much detail about that, ‘cause ew.

Upon arriving in Boston, Reid and Morgan investigate the latest crime scene as they try and purposefully ignore the heavy media presence. They discover that Amy has heavy bruising on her body, as well as taser burns. This matches the sorts of injuries Lily and Denise had, which JJ and Rossi learn about during their visit to the morgue. We get to see Lily’s bloodied, bruised, and mangled knuckles here, which was squirm-inducing, and poor Denise’s beheading was particularly gruesome in comparison to the others. Why? She was the unsub’s first victim, and therefore he was “experimenting” with her as he tried to find a proper cutting method. Lovely.

Just when we think things can’t get any more disturbing, however, the coroner has another piece of information to share with JJ and Rossi. None of the women were drugged or sedated when being held captive. This means they were alive both while being tortured and while the guillotine was coming down on them. And this is the point where I want to cover my ears and tell the coroner to stop talking ‘cause I’m going to have nightmares.

Rossi also interviews Amy’s bereaved father. He last talked to her the previous night, around midnight. According to him, Amy was a good person, but he also admits she was a little lost and depressed after her mom died. That’s not anything unusual, but her general demeanor of late could point to a possible reason for her coming in contact with the unsub, as people in lost, depressed states of mind can make rash and bad decisions.

The team also learns some unusual information about the cell phone aspect of the case. All the victims were on their phones shortly before being abducted, and their travel timelines seem a little off. A little more deduction, and the team soon realizes they may be looking for an unsub who drives a taxi. Amy wasn’t on a date. Rather, she was getting a taxi ride home, and the unsub seriously overstepped the bounds of what a normal taxi driver would do by walking her to her door. No wonder she was so freaked out. But of course, now the question is, how did he know about her “expensive taste” in drinks?

Well, it turns out that there may well be a connection between all three victims that could explain a potential motive for the unsub. Not only was Amy emotionally struggling, but she was also getting into criminal activity of late. She recently got in trouble for shoplifting. Denise wasn’t squeaky clean, either – her assets were recently frozen due to accusations of insider trading. And Lily was on academic probation, and very close to flunking out of school. All of them have committed some sort of crime, or failed at something.

As a result of this latest information, Reid’s starting to think these murders have a much more old-fashioned basis behind them, hence the use of an old-fashioned weapon like the guillotine. His theory is that since this unsub wants to punish and shame these people for the crimes they’ve committed. However, since public beheadings kind of aren’t a thing anymore, the unsub figures displaying their headless bodies in public is the next best thing. Interesting…

When the team asks how exactly one would get a hold of a guillotine in this day and age, Reid explains that it’s actually quite easy to make one. Between that comment and the history lesson about beheadings on the jet, if it were anyone other than Reid sharing this information, I’d be side-eying them heavily right about now. But it is always good to see Reid’s unusual and random knowledge being put to such important use like this.

“Of all the cars you could’ve got into, you got into mine.”

While all this investigating is going on, a man flags down said unsub’s taxi, begging for a quick ride home. His other taxi is still ten minutes away and he just can’t wait that long. Reluctantly, the unsub agrees, and while he’s driving the guy to his destination, he overhears him making a phone call to somebody. Apparently this guy is having an affair with a woman named Tonya, and he’s laughing about the idea that his wife has no clue what’s going on. Yep, this ain’t gonna end well for him.

Meanwhile, Morgan and Tara interview a local ridesharing service that all these victims used, but they don’t really get anywhere with them. According to the head of the company, the drivers are independent contractors, and at that point it’s out of the company’s hands what they do or who they pick up. That’s comforting. So then Morgan and Tara start bouncing around other possible theories. Maybe the unsub hacked the company’s system? Maybe he’s just posing as a taxi driver? More avenues to investigate.

Shortly thereafter, Tara and JJ interview a woman who claims her husband Anthony was taken by the unsub. He’s been missing since the previous evening. She claimed he was having dinner in Chinatown when she last talked with him, but the problem is, that’s far away from the area where all the other victims have been taken. Plus, all the unsub’s victims thus far have been females, which suggests a pattern. Still, the team agrees to look into this woman’s claims anyway, just in case.

Curious thing, though – when Garcia investigates this missing man’s history a little more, she learns he was not in Chinatown, like he told his wife. He was at a hotel in the same area where all the other victims had been abducted, and looked to be setting up quite a romantic evening for himself and someone else there. Considering the man who was recently kidnapped by the unsub was bragging about an affair, it looks like we’ve just learned a little more about our latest victim. Garcia’s searching also reveals that his phone usage followed that of all the other victims: hire a service only to cancel it, and phone service cuts off abruptly not long after as well. This woman’s fears are legit.

The female victims continue to look a lot more shady, too, as more information is revealed about them. Lily’s students were trying to buy an answer sheet for an upcoming test, Denise was setting up an offshore account and siphoning funds from her company, and Amy’s best friend said that Amy had invited her over to drink a bottle of champagne that she’d stolen from where she worked. Ahhhhhh, champagne. Just what the unsub mentioned when he dropped her off at home. It’s all coming together.

In the meantime, Anthony is suffering at the unsub’s hand. The man berates him for his sin of committing adultery and demands to know who this “Tonya” is that Anthony spent time with. Thing is, though, Anthony’s swearing up and down that he’s innocent, that it’s all a horrible misunderstanding. Could he be telling the truth? The unsub’s not sure, but he’s willing to do a little test to find out. He calls Tonya’s number, but all he gets is her voicemail. So he makes a deal with Anthony. Tonya’s got ten minutes to return his call and explain what’s going on. If she doesn’t, then it’s bye-bye, Anthony.

Back at the station, Rossi does another interview, this time with a friend of Anthony’s named Curtis. Curtis was his AA sponsor, and he’d heard Anthony talking about an affair, but he’s unsure of whether or not Anthony was being serious about that. Even still, he warned him against an affair anyway, in case that is indeed what Anthony was involved in, because of the negative effects it would have on his sobriety. This whole thing of “moral sins” leads Rossi to theorize that this unsub’s murders may have a religious motive to them.

“Religion and bruised knuckles. Anyone else besides me getting an image of nuns hitting students on the back of their hand with a ruler?”

Garcia does a search for any religious scandals in the area of late, and stumbles across a news story about a principal at a private school. Publically, he was preaching corporal punishment and prayer in schools, but privately, he was committing the hideous sin of pedophilia. Ick. He also abused the students at the school, whipping them and shaming them publically for their bad behavior. Before he could be properly prosecuted for his crimes, however, he killed himself. And shortly afterward, surprise, surprise, the beheadings started. So now the team starts thinking that perhaps their unsub was a student at that school. Garcia continues to narrow down the list, and a man named James O’Neill is looking pretty good. He got bad reviews as a taxi driver and was recently let go as a result, and apparently threatened a priest once. And when he was a kid, he also attended that private school. Off the team goes to find James!

Speaking of James, he finally hears back from this Tonya person. We don’t hear her side of the conversation at all, but judging from the way James talks to her, and the way he ends the conversation by saying, “I think he’ll be found very soon, too”, my guess is he was very unhappy with her answers. This does not sound promising for Anthony.

Anthony realizes the jig is up at this point. He tearfully confesses to an affair, begging once more for his life to be spared. But James isn’t willing to show him any mercy. He tells him “it’s time to join the others”, and reveals just what he means by that. You see, the principal at his school had a wall of shame for any students he’d felt had sinned.

So, it seems, does James. His version is much more twisted, though. He opens up a fridge…

…and the heads of all his recent victims are staring back at us, and poor Anthony. And I’ve officially lost count of how many times I’ve said, “Ewwwwwww” in regards to this case. The revelation of his “fridge of shame” makes Reid’s reference to Dahmer at the beginning of the episode unsettlingly prescient.

Fortunately, though, before James can drop the blade on poor Anthony and put his head in that fridge of terror, Hotch and Morgan arrive. There’s a brief standoff between them, but Morgan tackles James and Hotch catches the blade before it hits Anthony. Physically, he’s okay, but mentally, I suspect Anthony’s going to be pretty damn traumatized for a while.

I have some mixed feelings about this episode. On the one hand, the use of the guillotine was an inspired, albeit gruesome, means of method, and I was particularly interested in the idea of James wanting to do a modernized version of public beheadings. The show’s had many unsubs over the years who’ve been motivated by vigilantism and justice crusades, of course, but most of them don’t reach back to extremely old methods of murder to commit their crimes.

The abusive past has been a common theme with many unsubs, too. Initially I thought they would go the abusive parent route, so having James’ rage being based on an abusive principal’s sins instead was an interesting angle, as was the idea of the principal’s extreme methods of punishment influencing him, but not in the way the principal had intended. And I always like stories that touch on people’s reactions to someone who publically goes on a moral crusade while privately committing horrible crimes of their own.

I just…wish the episode had expanded on all of that a lot more. Maybe show a scene of James putting one of the bodies out in public, analyzing where the best spot would be that would allow for the most people to stumble upon it. Or maybe he could’ve had a little message next to the victims when he laid their bodies out, something that nodded to the crimes they’d committed, given he was trying to publically shame them for the bad things they did.

And perhaps they could’ve delved more into James’ fascination with the guillotine. Did he study something at school that started a creepy fascination with various methods of beheading? Was it something he studied on his own time? Did he like ancient literature that touched on that kind of moral message, and it stuck with him? Also, since they were going all out with the creepy and gruesome setup here, they could’ve extended that to the creepy use of the taxi service. Remember the old urban legend about the haunted ride that foretells people’s deaths? It would’ve been spooky to play on that legend a little, and tie it into the old-fashioned killing methods somehow. Add to the old-fashioned, creepy feel a bit.

And while we got a brief glimpse into James’ childhood towards the end, with the flashbacks to the principal, I felt that was very quickly thrown in. It might’ve worked better if those flashbacks had been hinted at in perhaps one or two very fleeting flashbacks, or a voice he heard in his head. It would’ve kept some of the mystery about his backstory and motive, but still allowed us to be more invested in learning about that stuff as the episode went on. Plus, there was the fact that James was horrified by the principal’s crimes while still trying to emulate his various beliefs and punishments. That’s an interesting contradiction, and I would’ve liked it if the episode explored how he wrestled with and reconciled that conflicted line of thinking a little more.

Then there was the storyline with Anthony and Tonya, which I was genuinely finding quite intriguing. Thanks to everything Curtis had shared about Anthony, as well as Anthony’s constant protests that he was innocent, I was really into the possibility that James might’ve kidnapped a man whom he thought was guilty of some moral sin, only to be sorely mistaken. The wait to hear from this mysterious Tonya was a well-done bit of tension and buildup, and I was eager to see what she may or may not have revealed.

And if Anthony was involved in something that James would’ve frowned upon, there were so many options as to what it could’ve been. Maybe Tonya wasn’t a “Tonya” at all. Maybe the supposed affair was a cover for some other shady business Anthony was involved in. Maybe he was having a night with a prostitute. Maybe he was actually meeting a man, and keeping his sexuality a secret from his wife. There were so many possible avenues that story could’ve wound up going, and I was honestly anxious to see how it’d play out. The case had been going along fairly predictably thus far, but here was a chance for the story to veer in a completely unexpected direction, and maybe give us a good little twist ending on top of it all.

Sadly, that didn’t happen. Anthony confessed and Hotch and Morgan showed up and caught the unsub and…that was it. The end of the case was so rushed and wrapped up so neatly, and all the mystery of the man’s captivity just fizzled out. Which was rather disappointing. I wanted Anthony to be saved, of course, but I think that ending should’ve had a lot more to it than what we got. It just felt like they were short on time and had to figure out a quick ending.

That said, however, the fact that I did like certain elements of the case setup in and of themselves made this episode more interesting to me than the other episode I mentioned at the start of this review, “‘Til Death Do Us Part”. I think Maser’s slowly getting there in crafting a strong case, it’s just a matter of tweaking a few elements here and there.

Meanwhile, on the personal front…:

Considering all the crazy stuff happening in the team’s private lives this season (protective custody, sick mothers, new babies), things were pretty quiet and uneventful on this end this week. Basically, Rossi and Tara bonded over their love of cars. That’s honestly about it. Rossi was looking for an original antenna knob for his car, and fortunately, since Tara’s dad owns an auto shop, she was able to find one for him through her dad’s workplace. She also brought the two of them some coffee, and Rossi took her for a spin in his newly revved up car, Sinatra playing as they drove away.

A slight side story, perhaps, but I still enjoyed the scenes between these two regardless. I’ve quite liked their interaction throughout the season in general, what with them connecting over the struggles of their respective jobs, and Rossi opening up to Tara about his visits to Thomas Yates. So it was nice to see them finding a much lighter interest to have in common. Also, considering Rossi likes Sinatra, Martin, and Bennett, and Tara likes Hendrix, the Doors, and Led Zeppelin, I would’ve honestly loved to be a fly on the wall for that ride. I’m more than fine with them continuing to have adorable interactions like this in the future.

What did you think of this episode? Did the case creep you out? Did you find it predictable, or was there enough there to pique your interest? Did you enjoy Rossi and Tara’s bonding moments throughout? Share your thoughts in the comments!

About the Author - Angela
Angela resides in the state of Iowa, in the town that was the inspiration for the Music Man. She is a bookseller at a local bookstore, loves to read and write, and enjoys a wide variety of music. She also enjoys various TV shows, including Criminal Minds, Community, Sleepy Hollow, Bates Motel, How to Get Away with Murder, as well as older series like Frasier and The Twilight Zone. She will be reviewing Criminal Minds for SpoilerTV.
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