This week's compelling Criminal Minds episode dealt with an unsub who had severe sexual identity issues. It took some time for the BAU to puzzle out his motives and when they discovered what was driving him, their focus enlarged to include a "conversion camp."
The unsub first murdered a man he had sex with because he was so ashamed at doing what he'd been conditioned to think was "wrong." Then, when he attempted to have intercourse with women - only to suffer shame at not being able to obtain an erection - he murdered them.
In each case, he left a watch on his victims, set to 6:22 p.m. - which in military time is 18:22. This signaled his conditioning and self-loathing, which was built on the Bible verse Leviticus 18:22, a verse that condemns homosexuality. As the story progressed, we learned about the abuse his parents gave him: they forced him to have sex with a prostitute and then later on sent him to a conversion camp to try and make him straight. His love interest was also sent to the same camp.
The writing for this episode was deep, managing to tackle the sensitive topic of sexual identity and abuse with a certain amount of finesse and candor.
Seems so ironic that the name of the repressive and even torturous conversion camp would be named "Camp Willing." After Blake and JJ paid a visit to interview the camp director, JJ's disgust became quickly apparent. Especially when the camp director refused to come clean on how "problem residents" were being handled. Blake wanted to know what was behind the padlocked door and based upon other conversion camps that had been recently shut down, their imaginations completed the picture:
JJ: We need to go back with a warrant.
Hotch: We're going to need probable cause.
JJ: Well let's find some. Because there is more going on at that camp than they're letting on. | permalink
In their anger at the idea of anyone trying to force someone to try to change their sexuality, Rossi was quick to point out that religions - whether they condemn homosexuality or not - tend not to cross the line into abusing gays. Reid then offered up a theory about the unsub:
Reid: Maybe the Unsub suffered abuse at the hands of someone citing God's will that he should change.
Rossi: It wouldn't be the first time took the Good Book and twisted it for their own agenda. | permalink
I thought this was handled so well. Just as much effort went into what the story was trying to say, as much as it was trying not to say.
Although it's a stretch to think that anyone coming from such a repressive and abused childhood would ever be triggered into murdering anyone, the dynamics involved sure seem to ring true: parents and friends who ostracize and abuse those considered different should not be surprised when they grow up to appear "Broken," as the title of this episode indicates.
One of the particularly compelling scenes was Hotch visiting the female child abuser in prison, trying to find out more information about the unsub with whom she was paid to have sex. Hotch's takedown of her was brilliant. Sometimes you forget that these characters have been trained to profile people on the spot. We've seen other episodes where they've displayed this unique skill, much to the consternation of those who doubt them initially.
When Reid and Morgan were puzzling out the dynamics about the watches, Reid's hyper-focus on the watch settings - to the exclusion of the bigger picture about the messages the watch times were meant to indicate - was reminiscent of Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory:
Reid: So stupid. It was literally staring me in the face the who time. I don't know how I missed it.
Morgan: Come on Reid, stop. You're the only person who can realize all of this. So what does 6:22 mean?
Reid: I have no idea.
Reid: All I know is what it says. I don't know what it means. | permalink
Morgan's logical talk-down of the suicidal unsub was just as important as the final scene's raid of Camp Willing: the abuse and torture needed to stop, and they needed the unsub's help to make sure that happened.
What an amazing song they chose when the camp was raided: "Madness" by Muse.
The final scene increased the tension again, as we learned that the BAU's stalker was still out there, this time having sat in on one of Dr. Blake's linguistic lectures, and filming her.
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.