Criminal Minds can scare you and teach you something at the same time. In “Beyond Borders,” it’s all about what not to do when you go on vacation and find yourself in an airport, needing a shuttle to your resort.
This UnSub has managed to elude both the BAU, (after killing a family in Florida the year before) and the International Unit (after killing a family in Aruba the year before that), but the two teams join forces to prevent him from killing again and getting away with it. Even with the international setting of Barbados, it still has that same Criminal Minds feel to it. The UnSub takes his victims, puts them through hell and grave danger and takes a bullet. The teams in this case look at the abduction site and surrounding area, profile the UnSub, find out who he is, (it all goes back to his childhood), and, at least this time, everyone goes home happy. So it’s the same show, just on an international stage.
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This Family Needs Traveling Safety for Dummies
I know, it’s late at night, they’ve been traveling all day and they’re just happy to be in Barbados. They’re newbie vacationers and, as is later revealed, they just got their first passports. Still, everything the Sullivans do once they step outside of that airport is just asking for trouble. They miss the last scheduled shuttle to their resort, so they easily accept the sketchy looking van with the word “shuttle” written on the side as a substitute. It’s cheap! The driver takes them through back roads! He offers them complimentary water and helpful tips about the area! Why is it not until Colleen notices that her husband, Greg, and kids, Alison and Nick, are passed out (never take a drink from a stranger) that she realizes that something’s not right here whatsoever? “Where are you going?” She demands. No place where you want to go, Colleen. Next time, maybe you should take two cabs.
Meet Jack’s Team and Get to Know the Case
The International Unit is introduced in what seem to be their usual settings. Jack is spending time on the shooting range. Lily is talking international law (and continues to do so throughout the episode, something that differentiates this time from Hotch’s. Jack’s needs this kind of information and needs to do things like talk to ambassadors and coordinate with embassy security officers). Matt is on his way in from time with his family. Monty joins Garcia in her tech kingdom. The two teams greet each other like friends who don’t get to see one another often enough but when they do, it’s easy to catch up and talk about their families.
The Sullivans are the third family (that they know of) to be taken by this UnSub. The first were the Everetts in Aruba two years ago, and the second were the Isaacs in Florida last year. Both families were found 24 hours later, strangled with some sort of leather ligature (the guess is a belt) and dumped in a remote area. The UnSub gets off on hunting American families on vacation who are too tired from traveling to see through his ruse. The month of April seems to hold some sort of significance, and all three times he was wearing some sort of hat. For the first two abductions it was orange. This time it was blue.
When Monty joins her, Garcia learns that he has to do something she doesn’t: talk to the family members stateside. Since the rest of the team is usually out of the country, he’s the only one who can, and that means doing things like making Greg’s parents feel hopeful that their son being a fighter is a good thing when the opposite is the case.
Working Stateside and in Barbados
Kate and Reid stay behind to check out the Sullivans’ house and find no sign that the UnSub could have tracked them from there, meaning that he didn’t target them. Rather, he has a type, as Morgan, JJ and Matt confirm when they check out the airport. He waits for the right family and strikes. He’s an annihilator, and statistically, annihilators are fathers who have lost or killed their own families. (This fact is why I wonder why it comes across as a revelation that the UnSub killed his own family and they were his first victims later on in the episode.)
In Barbados, while looking into the shuttle, Hotch and Lily take a moment to establish a mystery that would obviously be addressed should this spinoff happen: her brother ran into trouble in Thailand and ended up a patsy. There’s enough time for him to offer to look at the case with fresh eyes before they spot a shuttle matching their description and chase after a driver who, like most suspects, knows exactly when to run. But this isn’t their guy; he just has a bag full of cash and cocaine.
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The Boat Ride from Hell
Meanwhile, the UnSub has the Sullivans on a boat amidst flashbacks to abuse during his childhood. He videotapes them as he puts Greg in another room and hits him with a belt, just like his father used to do to him. The UnSub’s father also used to put his son’s head in the sink, even when he protested he couldn’t breathe. Greg has to go through that as well. Just as the team suspects, the UnSub is inserting himself as the first-born child, with the most rage directed towards the father. He’s making Greg go through what he did as a child.
But there’s hope in the form of a lifeboat for the Sullivans. After the UnSub puts the family to work below deck and lashes out as he forces Greg to blow out the candle on a cupcake, just like his father did, Greg manages to free himself and tries to give his family a chance to escape. They manage to untie the lifeboat, but when the UnSub brings Greg out on deck and fires a warning shot into the sky, all they can do is let the boat drift off.
It All Goes Back to the UnSub’s Childhood
The UnSub views these families as surrogates of his own family, and he thrives on the power that gives him the confidence he needs to harm them. Abuse or neglect from his own childhood has made him feel angry or alone. He’s not going to back down. UnSubs on foreign soil are adaptable and therefore more dangerous.
Reid notes that the first kills in Aruba seem less organized and lack the torture from the ones in Florida, suggests that the Florida murders were a statement: punish Americans on American soil. But why? They figure out that he’s using a boat because of the types of water found in the Aruba and Florida fathers’ lungs (freshwater and a mix of freshwater and saltwater), before they find the van. Then, they find the UnSub on security footage from a gas station. From there, the pieces begin to come together.
They’re not finding anything with unsolved cases, so Jack suggests looking into solved cases. Specifically, they need to look into homicides going back to the UnSub’s teen years, as well as countries with blue and orange in flags or sports teams; the hats have to mean something. That’s when they start looking into sons who killed their fathers. Jack notes that the UnSub held his anger in when a car nearly hit him at the airport, but the passive-aggressive gesture he made — tapping the center of his head — means stupid or crazy in Dutch. Rossi then shows off his knowledge of international soccer by noting that the Netherlands’ soccer team’s colors are blue and orange.
Meet the UnSub, Jerry Tidwell. At age 15, in 2004, he massacred his family in a hotel room. He was declared temporarily insane and hospitalized until age 21. His father abused him and videotaped the abuse (hence why the UnSub spends a great deal of time videotaping the Sullivans), but he spared his American stepmother and half-siblings. His father’s birthday was April 9. When he was released, Jerry went to live with his uncle in Aruba, and when his uncle died, he inherited his fishing charter business. All the pieces fit, and it’s just a matter of finding his boat using live satellite images.
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A Successful Partnership
While the two teams are on their way to the boat’s location, Jerry throws Nick overboard. When he moves over to Colleen, Alison manages to free herself, yells at Jerry to leave her alone and then runs away from him. He catches up with her and pulls his gun on her. The flashbacks of his childhood continue. He holds Alison hostage when the FBI arrives, but when he focuses on Hotch in the helicopter above, JJ tells Alison to drop and they take Jerry down. But they’re not done yet. They still have to find Nick, and they do, in the lifeboat that has drifted away a bit.
It’s a job well done for both teams, and all that’s left to do is toast and watch the joy of the Sullivans as they’re reunited with Greg’s parents. And it has to be a success, because why would you even consider watching a new show with a new team if the first time you see them, they fail?
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Criminal Minds season 10 airs Wednesdays at 9pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)