Criminal Minds: Into the Woods

The bodies of two young boys are found buried along the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. One of the boys disappeared two years ago, the other a year. The kids were evidently murdered several months after their respective disappearances. After the BAU jets up to Pennsylvania to investigate the killings, ten-year-old Robert Brooks (Gattlin Griffith) and his younger sister Ana (Emily Alyn Lind) are kidnapped in the immediate area while camping with their parents. The team members don their coziest fleece pullovers, and a massive search begins for the missing kids.

(As tends to be the case when dealing with hurt and murdered children, this is a spectacularly grim episode. Grim, grim, grim, grim, grim. The only bright spot? The adorable zip-front pullovers that Hotch and Rossi and Prentiss all wear. Seriously, they’re like a walking LL Bean catalogue.)

Reid goes back through records of young boys reported missing along the Appalachian trail and finds twelve possible victims over the past twenty years. The unsub appears to travel the entire length of the trail, from Georgia to Vermont, on a yearly basis. He’s been sticking to a smaller area in recent months, suggesting his ability to move has become somehow limited. He keeps his victims captive over the winter, then murders them in the spring.

The unsub is a grizzled, bearded man named Shane Wyland (Gill Gayle), who stashes Robert and Ana in a cave along the trail. While Shane is occupied with poor Robert (grim, grim, grim), Ana manages to escape. She runs into the search party, but by the time she leads Prentiss and Morgan back to the cave, Shane has already fled, taking Robert with him.

Among Shane’s possessions, Prentiss and Morgan find pain relievers and herbal remedies for swollen joints. Ana confirms that Shane walked with a limp, which indicates he has some kind of degenerative condition.

Shane takes Robert to a flophouse, where they visit his creepy crony Brandon (David Trice), who supplies Shane with more painkillers. As payment for the drugs, Shane gives Robert to Brandon for an hour (grim, grim, grim, grim, grim). Brandon chases Robert around his apartment and accidentally knocks him out. Worried that Shane will be furious with him for hurting the kid, he drags an unconscious Robert down the basement of his building and tries to smother him with a pillow. Er… there’s a flaw in his logic somewhere.

(Wow, I hope the fresh-faced and likeable young actor who played Robert was treated really, really gently and carefully by everyone on the set, because man, this is rough stuff to put a kid through. It’s rough to watch, for that matter.)

While trying to track down Shane, Garcia compiles a list of sex offenders in Pennsylvania in the early 1990s, which is when the abductions first started. She finds that eleven men convicted of abusing minors lived in the same building: the flophouse. This suggests to the team that the sex offenders banded together to form their own protective cluster.

Morgan and Prentiss raid the flophouse and rescue Robert before Brandon can murder him. However, Shane spots the police outside the building and escapes unnoticed. He returns to the Appalachian Trail, presumably to rape and murder more kids. Meanwhile the team flies back to Quantico, nervously reassuring themselves that they can consider the assignment a success, since they at least managed to rescue Robert.

No new episodes for a couple of weeks -- Criminal Minds is going on a brief winter hiatus. I’m planning on spending the time watching lots of bright, fluffy, happy stuff, where absolutely no kids get hurt or raped or murdered. Should be easy enough.


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