Criminal Minds: Corazón

In Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood, three people are found murdered with their hands cut off and shells placed over their eyes and mouths. Because Allapattah is heavily populated by practitioners of Afro-Caribbean religions such as Santeria, the BAU team suspects the unsub might be using religious rituals as a cover for his pathology.

Meanwhile, Reid keeps experiencing hallucinations and painful headaches, which make him terribly sensitive to light and require him to go around wearing dark glasses while looking glamorous and anguished. Naturally, he doesn’t tell his teammates about any of this, opting instead to act nervous and jittery while rubbing his eyes and clutching his head at random intervals while the rest of the team furrow their brows and shoot each other meaningful looks behind his back. You’d think Reid would have figured out by now that it’s simply not worth trying to hide anything from a pack of snoopy FBI profilers. If I worked for the BAU, I’d hand everyone a weekly memo of what was going on in my personal life, just to cut all the silent speculation and worried glances off at the pass.

In Miami, Reid and Morgan head to a local soup kitchen and interview Jimmy Mercado, a friend of one of the victims. Shortly thereafter, Mercado is found decapitated, his brain removed and his head arrayed on some kind of altar, with his severed tongue placed in a dish beside it.

Lovely.

Morgan and Reid consult with Professor Walker, a local expert on Afro-Caribbean religions. Walker examines the crime scene photos and identifies elements of Santeria rituals as well as those of a darker syncretic religion called Palo Mayombe, which involves harvesting the spirits of the dead. Since the hands were removed from the bodies, Walker speculates the unsub is building a shrine to the Devil, which would require the finger bones from seven corpses.

Since the victims were all soup kitchen patrons, Reid and Morgan pay a visit to the proprietor, Julio (Hakeem Kae-Kazim). Julio (whom they interrupt right when he’s smack in the middle of sacrificing a chicken) is at first unwilling to talk to the FBI, but after exchanging some meaningful eye contact with a headache-plagued Reid, he agrees to come with them for questioning.

There’s a whole lot of meaningful eye contact in this episode. Not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, just pointing it out.

Reid takes the lead in interrogating Julio, who has no recent criminal history, though he was a member of a violent machete-wielding street gang in his youth. Julio denies any involvement with the murders, claiming his saints don’t require human sacrifice. He examines the crime scene photos and points out elements -- such as the tongue in a dish -- that have no link to any known religious ritual and are thus part of the unsub’s particular kink.

Mid-interrogation, Julio slips into a frenzied trance and starts chanting in a foreign tongue. When he returns to himself, Julio claims he was occupied by Eleggua, the god of the crossroads, who believes the Eggun -- the ghosts of the dead -- are causing Reid’s headaches.

Rossi, Seaver and Prentiss search the soup kitchen. In Julio’s assistant Elian’s bedroom, they find bloody shoes, severed fingers, part of a brain, and sale-weight heroin. All of this seems pretty damning, but Julio insists Elian has no connection to the murders. After being released from custody, he goes searching for Elian on his own… and promptly gets nabbed by the real unsub, Professor Walker, who has also captured Elian.

Reid, meanwhile, is struck by another crippling headache. While hallucinating, he blindly wanders off by himself, and ends up stumbling into the abandoned house where Professor Walker is holding Julio and Elian. Even while suffering from near-incapacitating pain, Reid manages to knock out Walker and rescue his captives.

Denouement: Julio gives Reid a talisman to protect him from the ghosts that are ostensibly causing his head pain. Reid’s doctor informs him his brain scans are perfectly normal and thus his headaches might be entirely psychosomatic. Worried that his genetic predisposition toward schizophrenia might be rearing its ugly head, Reid gets shirty with the doctor and storms off.

A mixed bag with this episode. I appreciate the attempt to do something different with the Afro-Caribbean religion angle; the plots of too many Criminal Minds episodes tend to run together into one big messy glop in my brain -- “Hey, it’s the episode where that guy rapes and stabs all those women!” -- so it’s always nice when they do something off the beaten path. Alas, it looks like we might be stuck with this “Reid worries about his headaches” business for a bit, and while I’m as fond of a good Reid-centered plotline as the next viewer, having him clutch his head and fret a lot is maybe not the most exciting use of everyone’s favorite smart little guy. We’ll see where it goes from here.

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