Criminal Minds: Safe Haven

Two families -- the Bennetts in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and the Archers across the state line in Omaha -- are found bound and stabbed to death. In the case of one of the families, the father was gruesomely and amateurishly disemboweled after being slaughtered. Suspecting they’re dealing with a dangerous spree killer, the BAU jets off to the Midwest to investigate.

Show of hands: How many viewers want to join the BAU solely so they can zip across the country in that cute little private plane with the big comfy seats and the flattering mood lighting? Just me?

Meanwhile, young Ellie Spicer (Isabella Murad), the kid who was kidnapped by Tim Curry’s character after he murdered her father in last season’s finale, runs away from her neglectful foster family in Los Angeles and seeks refuge with Morgan (there’s been a running subplot over the past several episodes about Morgan keeping in constant touch with Ellie, but frankly, it’s been too dull to warrant a mention before this). He stashes her at Quantico in Garcia’s care while he investigates the murders in Nebraska and Iowa. Not wanting to return Ellie to Child Protective Services, Garcia tries to track down Ellie’s absent mother.

From their investigation of the Iowa crime scene, Reid and Rossi conclude the unsub was someone known to the Bennett family, or at least someone they didn’t perceive as any kind of threat -- he ate dinner and socialized with them prior to the murders.

A kindly reverend picks up a teen hitchhiker, Jeremy. Jeremy seems polite and non-threatening, but since he’s played by Sterling Beaumon, best known as creepy young Ben Linus on Lost, it’s immediately obvious he’s the unsub. Beaumon is a cute, likeable actor, but it must kind of suck to be typecast as a murderer by age fifteen. Jeremy stabs the reverend to death, then, just to be icky, partially dissects his hand. Rossi and Reid, who seem to be doing all the heavy lifting investigation-wise, examine the crime scene and decide that the reckless nature of the crime, combined with the experimental postmortem mutilation, means the unsub is a teenager. Chalk up another hash mark in the “teens suck” column.

Question: Jeremy is a scrawny thirteen-year-old. Even armed with a knife, even with the element of surprise on his side, how likely is he to overpower and slaughter two entire families -- father, mother, children -- without them fighting him off? I could buy that he’d be lucky enough to take out one family entirely by surprise, but two? Without a gun? Really?

Creepy Jeremy moves on to a new target: single mom Nancy Riverton (Mare Winningham) and her two young kids. Jeremy approaches Nancy and claims his bus, which he was taking to visit his mother, left him behind at a rest stop. Soft-hearted Nancy offers to let Jeremy spend the night at her house. When she asks Jeremy for his phone number so she can call his mom and let her know where he is, Jeremy gives her the number for the murdered Archers. Nancy blithely leaves a message on the Archers’ answering machine.

The team assembles a profile of Jeremy: He’s a victim of extreme abuse or neglect, who might’ve been recently abandoned by his parents under Nebraska’s wonky safe-haven law (safe-haven laws give parents the right to legally abandon unharmed newborn infants at designated sites, such as hospitals and police stations; until recently, unclear wording in Nebraska’s version of the law allowed parents to abandon any child under age eighteen). As Monica Archer worked as a nurse in an Omaha hospital, the team suspects she may have brought Jeremy home with her after he was abandoned, instead of turning him over to the custody of the state.

Reid and Rossi (again) head over to the Archer house to see if they can find a clue as to Jeremy’s true identity. While there, they listen to the message Nancy left for the Archers (despite having been crowded out of the market by voicemail, answering machines are still a go-to plot device on television) and realize she’s Jeremy’s next victim.

Prentiss and Morgan raid the Riverton house and find Nancy’s kids unharmed but Jeremy and Nancy missing. Per the kids, Jeremy was using the alias Niko Bellic, which Rossi instantly pegs as the name of a character in Grand Theft Auto IV. (Rossi, in response to his teammates’ incredulous stares: “What? I know things.” Heh. And thank you very much, Mr. Joe Mantegna, for injecting a bit of wry humor into this otherwise drab episode. Your muffin basket is in the mail.)

While driving Jeremy to his mom’s house at knifepoint, Nancy is relentlessly sweet and reasonable (question: has Mare Winningham ever played a character who couldn’t be described as “sweet and reasonable”?), even though he’s a foul little rodent to her. Upon arriving at his home, Jeremy brutally stabs Nancy.

After poring over the juvenile records of Omaha-area teens, Garcia finally identifies the kid as a budding psychopath named Jeremy Sayer, whose mother abandoned him at a local hospital ten days ago after he badly injured his little sister. Morgan and Prentiss burst into Jeremy’s house and find him holding his sister at knifepoint. Morgan gives him a much-needed tongue-lashing, and Jeremy surrenders without incident.

On the plane ride home, the team learns that Nancy Riverton is expected to survive Jeremy’s attack. Garcia finally tracks down Ellie Spicer’s elusive mom, who was wholly unaware of her daughter’s various recent traumas. The remaining ten minutes or so are then sucked up by a tedious reunion scene between Ellie and her mom.

…Okay. On the one hand, I get that the point of this whole Ellie subplot is to drive home how the agents don’t just move on after a case is closed -- they remain connected to the victims of these horrible crimes, sometimes to an extensive and borderline unhealthy degree. Ellie’s young life was shattered by the murders of her father and her aunt, and Morgan feels responsible for helping her find some measure of stability. It also parallels the main plot, which shows the terrible things that can happen to a child without a stable home life. But it’s a little too pat, and not terribly interesting, and it comes across as an attempt to pad out this skimpy and somewhat disappointing episode to the full running time.

Next week: Halloween episode! Fingers crossed for a good one...


Dan Liebke said…
... the Bennetts ... are found bound and stabbed to death.

Morgan Richter said…
Oh, Dan, the Bennett mother was even named Sandra! I really wanted to work in some kind of Heroes joke, but I've flogged that horse beyond death, and anyway, with Li'l Ben Linus running around stabbing people, I didn't think it fit. A shame, though. Seems like I missed an opportunity.
Dan Liebke said…
If any show deserves to be flogged beyond death (and/or manipulated into some kind of uber-Machiavellian death trap by Young Ben Linus) it's certainly Heroes.
Morgan Richter said…
I have to say, I was a little disappointed in Young Ben Linus's relative lack of guile and deviousness here. Sure, he racked up a pretty high body count, but he was kind of dumb about it -- he just kept stabbing away at people, often when it would have been in his best interests to let them live. Sadly, there were no uber-Machiavellian death traps anywhere to be found. Had there been, I'm sure I would have enjoyed this episode more.
girlygirl said…
Does anyone know the name of the actor who played Jeremy?
Morgan Richter said…
girlygirl: Jeremy was played by Sterling Beaumon.

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