Criminal Minds: Compromising Positions

In Akron, two married couples are murdered after being forced to have sex with their spouses at gunpoint. Both male victims were traditional alpha males: educated and athletic overachievers with attractive wives. The male victims were shot, while the female victims were stabbed. This, plus the highly sexualized staging of the crimes (the men wore condoms and had Viagra in their systems), suggests to the BAU that the unsub is impotent. While Reid yammers on about the established stabbing-impotency link, Hotch looks glum and refrains from mentioning the time the Reaper gave him a highly personal demonstration about how being stab-happy doesn’t always equal impotent.

(Hey, we’re four episodes into the new season, and nothing soul-wrenchingly awful has happened to Hotch yet! This is a good omen.)

The team jets off to Ohio to investigate. Garcia offers to help them out by taking over J.J.’s former duties. Hotch agrees to this nonsense on a trial basis, though he seems to secretly think it’s a terrible idea. So do I. There’s a galaxy of difference between J.J.’s job (ultra-diplomatic and low-key communication liaison) and Garcia’s job (quirky and emotional tech goddess). By firing A.J. Cook and -- I guess this is a spoiler, though this news has been widely reported and circulated at this point -- announcing plans to phase out Paget Brewster’s role while introducing a new, cute, young female agent to be played by Rachel Nichols, CBS has already established that it considers the female characters disposable and/or replaceable. Handing J.J.’s job duties to Garcia -- who is in many way J.J.’s polar opposite and who possesses an entirely antithetical skills set -- suggests they’re interchangeable as well.

In any case, Garcia ditches her glasses for contacts, tones down her flamboyant wardrobe, and tags along on the flight to Akron. While Rossi and Reid interview the grieving families of the victims, Prentiss and Morgan scope out the crime scene. Garcia shows off her heretofore unseen hyper-organized side and, despite a few hiccups along the way (when a journalist preys on Garcia’s trusting nature by trying to wheedle details about the case out of her under false pretenses, Hotch steps in just long enough to rip his head off before handing the reins back to her), does a pretty kickass job of being the new J.J.

Meanwhile, the unsub attacks another couple. Even with his hands handcuffed behind his back, the husband manages to kickbox the crap out of him. Alas, his ineffectual wife botches the escape attempt by failing to, like, pick up the abandoned gun, and the unsub shoots and kills them both.

Hey, the unsub is played by Craig Sheffer! Outstanding. I’m always sort of happy to see Sheffer pop up in things, though I’d be hard-pressed to explain why. Eighties nostalgia, maybe. Fun fact: Sheffer starred alongside Criminal Minds’ Thomas Gibson in the 1994 independent film Sleep With Me, which I analyzed in one of my classes at USC’s film school; I haven’t seen it since then, and I don’t remember a damn thing about it, apart from: a) I liked it, in a nonspecific kind of way, and b) Gibson was sporting a hit-or-miss English accent. The world is small and strange.

Prentiss and Morgan examine the fresh crime scene. They try to reenact the attack, which ends up being kind of hot. I know plenty of viewers out there have their hopes set high for a future Prentiss/Hotch romance; I’m opposed to this for many reasons, not least of which is the utter lack of potential for a cute portmanteau (Pretch? Protch?), but between this scene and the one a few seasons back where Morgan and Prentiss gush about their mutual love of Vonnegut novels, I’d be willing to give Prentiss/Morgan (Prorgan? Mortiss?) a test drive. Anyway, after groping each other a bit (not enough, sadly) in the service of their investigation, Morgan and Prentiss (somehow) conclude the unsub was part of Akron’s surprisingly active and extensive swingers’ scene.

Meanwhile, the unsub (hi, Craig!) shows up at a swingers’ party, which is hosted by a woman named Leslie (Sarah Buxton), who doesn’t seem thrilled to see him. She’s even less thrilled after he opens fire on her guests, slaughtering eight hapless swingers, all of them male. He even picks the deadbolt of a back bedroom to get to one of the victims, which suggests to the team that he has a background as a locksmith. Considering how he could have simply shot through the lock, it was mighty sporting of him to hand the team this crucial break in their investigation.

Overtaxed with trying to do too much at once, Garcia has a bit of meltdown. Morgan tosses her contact lenses in the trash, hands her back her glasses, and gives her a pep talk about Just Being Herself. The most adorable nonsexual couple on television then exchange a round of I-love-yous (the fierce bond between Morgan and Garcia is one of the few things that give me hope in this crazy, awful world), then Garcia changes into her usual outlandish garb and reverts back to her usual brilliant self to track down the unsub electronically.

The unsub, it seems, is one James Thomas, a locksmith who recently became impotent due to prostate problems. The team raids his home and finds his wife, Maryann (Erin Matthews), who is pregnant even though James is physiologically incapable of being the father. Maryann refuses to believe James could be a murderer. As she seems to be intimidated by alpha males, the team sends in its sole beta male -- sweet, non-threatening Reid -- to talk to her.

Reid randomly babbles on to Maryann about hunter-gatherers for a while, then proves that James murdered the father of her unborn child. Convinced of her husband’s bad-seed nature, Maryann points the team in the direction of James’s favorite local bar, where he’s currently scouting for fresh victims. Since James is armed and dangerous, Prentiss approaches him first in the hopes of distracting him long enough for the rest of the team to move in and take him out without incident.

Pretending to recognize James from the swinger scene, Prentiss flirts broadly with him while Morgan and Hotch move into position. James quickly figures out that she’s lying -- she claims she and her boyfriend had a tryst with him, whereas James and Maryann exclusively limited their swinging to married couples. Before Prentiss can even get her gun out of her purse, James kills himself with a shot to the chest.

Back at Quantico, Hotch decides that, hey, maybe the team’s resident eccentric computer whiz should keep doing tech-related stuff instead of branching out into public-relations duties. Oh, you think? It’s more or less decided that J.J.’s job will be distributed amongst Garcia and the rest of the team, which is an unsatisfying solution to an unsatisfying situation.

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