There’s a woman going around, brutally killing people and cleaning up after herself in this week’s Criminal Minds, “Fate.” But Joe Mantegna somehow makes it hard to even remember all that with his performance in the final scene.
The BAU investigates after three bodies — two men and one woman, meaning gender isn’t important — are found brutally stabbed, posed and dressed in clean clothes, and it’s local enough that they don’t have to go anywhere. That means that Rossi can deal with the woman following him, only to find out that she’s not the “fangirl” she appears to be.
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Can Rossi Make up for the Past?
After Rossi notices a woman following him for a couple of days, he confronts her, with a cup of coffee, and notices the file she has on him. “It’s a long story,” she tells him and practically jumps at the chance to use his suggestion that she’s a P.I. Even without the promos showing her saying, “I’m your daughter,” I don’t buy that cover for one moment. Rossi too is suspicious and has Garcia look into her, and she and Kate are the only ones aware of this woman throughout the episode. But who is she? Well, if you hadn’t seen the promos, there are enough clues sprinkled throughout, from Rossi’s comment about not getting remarried to being better off living alone.
When Garcia identifies the woman as Joy, a TV crime reporter from San Francisco who writes her own blog and self-published a book on the Zodiac Killer, Joy is labeled a “fangirl.” “It’s a psycho fan who thinks I’m Comic-Con,” Rossi thinks, but he’s in for a shock when he sees her in the FBI building with a press badge and refuses to listen to her and calls for security to escort her out. She’s really left with no choice but to blurt out why she’s really there: “I’m your daughter!” Nothing quite stops a man in his tracks like that.
Joy explains that Rossi married her mother, Hayden Montgomery, in Paris, but he argues that she would’ve told him she was pregnant. She says she came clean after her stepfather told her the truth when he was dying, but Rossi has trouble coming to terms with it, but after the case is over, Garcia reports that Joy has a plane ticket home, and he hurries to the airport to stop her, all while remembering how he and Hayden ended, with him not wanting to stay in Paris.
At the airport, in a highly emotional scene that allows Mantegna to steal the entire episode, Rossi admits to Joy that his relationship with her mother was “complicated.” While he was moving up in the FBI and wanted to take over the world, Hayden was a diplomat and already doing just that. He couldn’t handle it, and so he pushed her away. He was in no position to have a family back then, and she knew it. When Joy asks if he would’ve stayed if he had known about her, he admits that he can’t speak for the David Rossi of 30 years ago, even if he likes to think he would have. What he can say, is that he’s here now and wants her to stay longer. She can’t, because her son is running a fever. Yes, Rossi has a grandchild. He wants to get to know her, get to know her family, and so he asks if he can join her for the weekend. Is that maybe a bit too soon? Maybe, but she says yes and calls him “Dad,” and they’ve missed out on enough time together. Rossi lucks out that the flight’s not completely full. (Since this is TV, his seat is also probably next to hers.)
Don’t Make Her Mad
Oh, right, there’s a case too, and it’s a bloody one. But fortunately, this UnSub is nice enough to clean up the body and dress her victims in clean clothes (and wash the bloody ones and fold them and put them back in the victims’ closets). That’s how they realize they’re looking for a woman, but cleaning like that points to signs of remorse, while the way she kills her victims — brutal stabbings — is a sign of overkill and rage.
The UnSub, Ellen, is clearly remorseful, as she comes home after killing her third victim and runs upstairs while her daughter, Sky, notes that she’s been acting weird. Michael says that she’s been through a lot, but he should probably listen to his daughter since his wife is upstairs washing blood off a knife.
While the profilers realize that she could be going after anyone with whom she had a bad interaction as retaliation, Ellen’s boss, Sarah, accepts the credit for her work in a meeting, and after, when Ellen confronts her in the bathroom, Sarah doesn’t seem to care, telling her, “My job is to manage. Sometimes I remember who says what, and sometimes I don’t.” She also reminds her that she covered for her after her accident. Essentially, she signs her own death certificate with that exchange.
On the drive over to kill Sarah, Ellen tries to tell herself that she doesn’t have to do this, only to then switch to, “Yes, you do. You hate her.” Sarah is in for an awful surprise when she goes into the kitchen thinking her boyfriend just wants to have sex in there and be spontaneous, only to find him dead. She tries to run, but Ellen kills her and then calls 911 and hangs up.
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After finding hair at each of the crime scenes, JJ suggests the UnSub is pulling out her own hair. After finding Sarah’s body, they’re ready to give their profile. Their UnSub is suffering from intermittent explosive disorder, which happens after a traumatic event. She acts in a way that is disproportionate to the situation, with angry outbursts, but she’ll appear rational at times. She’s pulling out her own hair to relieve stress.
The morning after killing Sarah, Ellen is in a wonderful mood, so much so that her husband doesn’t exactly do a great job of hiding his surprise. When she goes to work and sees Sarah’s photo on display, however, she returns home only to find Michael waiting to talk. While she says she’s fine, he knows she’s not and confronts her about the bloody shirt he found in her closet and asks if she killed her boss. He tells her he can’t help if she’s not honest with him, and she breaks down crying and confesses to all the murders. When he goes to call the police, she kills him, and her daughter comes home while she’s cleaning up. She grabs a knife and forces her daughter to drive her to Abby Benson’s house.
What Triggered the UnSub?
But who’s Abby? While the profilers initially think their UnSub could be suffering from a mental illness or a drug problem, they finally ID her by looking into women who suffered frontal lobe damage from a head injury (which affects impulse control and explains her disorder). Ellen was in a car accident 10 months ago after her car collided with two teenage girls, and she was released a month before she started killing. Abby was one of those girls, and Ellen tells her she destroyed her life.
Abby and her mother argue that it’s the other way around, that Ellen was responsible for the accident that put Abby in a wheelchair and killed her friend. When the team arrives at Abby’s house (fortunately, Ellen had a photo of her in her office at home, so they had an idea of her endgame), Rossi is the one who gets through to her and explains her brain is tricking her and she doesn’t want to hurt her daughter, whom she takes hostage. It works, and she drops the knife.
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Criminal Minds season 10 airs Wednesdays at 9pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)