Criminal Minds

Season 3 Episode 16

Elephant's Memory

Aired Wednesday Apr 16, 2008 on CBS

Episode Recap

The Dodge pick-up truck drives through the dark town of West Bune, Texas, not even pausing at the stop sign outside the Sheriff's office. Rod Norris pulls up outside of his small house, gets out of the truck, and drops his spent cigarette to the ground before reaching into his shirt pocket for another one. He looks up into a tall tree creaking in the sharp wind and threatens to take a chainsaw to it if it keeps him awake again tonight. Lighting his cigarette, Rod opens the back door and closes it behind him. In a burst of sound and flame, the entire back wall of his home is burst open. Wooden splinters and household items are still blazing on the ground when the sheriff's car pulls up. Officer Byron Letts moves around the smoking and burning remnants of the home taking pictures on his cell phone as Deputy Lou Savage radios for help. He calls for EMS, Fire, and everyone else to come and help as he notices the body of Rod Norris has been thrust up into the tree he was chiding earlier. Automatic gunfire cuts the deputy off, and cuts into the two officers' bodies, throwing them to the ground among the embers. A black-coated figure steps up beside Deputy Savage, holds out his rifle and puts one more round through the deputy's face.

SSA Spencer Reid stands self-consciously in front of a crowd of law enforcement officers. "Hi, my name is Spencer and I'm...I don't really know what I am." He admits that it is his first meeting, and the others welcome him warmly to the "Beltway Clean Cops" meeting. Reid admits that he had a problem with Dilaudid, but that he stopped, and has been clean for ten months. For about a month, he continues, he has had a craving to go back to the drugs, triggered when he watched a teen-aged suspect killed right in front of him. He thought he could save the youth, but he couldn't, and, although he'd seen that type of thing before, this young man's face is "stuck in his brain." As he speaks, wanting desperately to get his story out among this group of men who understand, who nod in empathy as he talks, his phone buzzes. Again and again he reaches into his pocket to silence his phone as he tries to relate how much he wants to forget, and to escape again. Looking again at his phone he apologizes and walks out.

As Reid hurries down the sidewalk, an older man wearing a suit and tie calls after him. Reid hesitates, but is stopped completely when the man says, "Places to go, people to profile?" He turns and immediately recognizes the man, shaken to know that this man – this man who knows who he is and where he works, and whom he calls "sir" now knows a secret about him that could cost him his job. Stammering, Reid says he didn't expect to see a man of his position "here" but John reassures him. He is just "John" at the meeting, not "sir," and he knows that this isn't something they can discuss at the office – especially their office. As Reid's phone rings again, and he excuses himself, John reaches into his pocket and hands his one year medallion to the young profiler. He tells Reid that, even though he hasn't left home without it in thirteen years, and it is his most prized possession, he wants Reid to have it. Reid doesn't understand: he's only been clean for ten months. John tells him that, in a few months, when he gets his own one year medallion, he can give it back. Walking away, John assures him that he will understand, then.

JJ is already briefing the team in the conference room when Reid hurries in with apologies for being late. Rossi and Morgan begin to tease him about being with a girl, but Reid tells them he was at the movies. Hotchner quickly brings everyone's attention back to the case – they have two dead officers. JJ holds up pictures of Rod Norris and his 16-year-old daughter, Jordan. Norris' body was recovered, but Jordan's remains were so damaged that she must have been inside the house very close to the source of the explosion. Reid comments that it is a well-known terrorist tactic to lure officers to a crime scene in order to target them. Morgan questions why terrorists would be attacking West Bune, Texas, and, although she agrees to some extent, JJ advises him that the Border States' terror alert level was just raised. Rossi believes that, if the criminals were willing to target a young girl and two officers, no one in that town is safe. Hotchner agrees, and adds that the locals are going to want revenge. "Can you blame them?" asks Rossi.

"A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ." John Steinbeck.

The still smoldering Norris home is being investigated by numerous deputies and other officers when the BAU arrives. JJ introduces the team to Sheriff Hallum and Hotchner tells the sheriff that they will start with the victims. Rod Norris was a manager at a local chemical plant, his wife left him ten years ago also leaving behind her daughter, Jordan. The sheriff describes Jordan as a sweet girl, but a bit slow. JJ asks the sheriff to direct all of his officers back to the office so that she can brief them together – Hallum agrees but insists on remaining at the crime scene himself. Rossi, Reid, and Prentiss find the source of the blast was in the kitchen, which had been sealed off from the rest of the house with duct tape. More than a dozen canisters of cordite were found by the back door. Whoever set the bomb intentionally focused the blast on whoever came through the back door – he blew out the pilot light in the stove and sealed the room, trapping all of the natural gas inside until Rod Norris entered with a lit cigarette. The criminal knew that Rod Norris would enter through the back door and be smoking when he did.

Pools of blood marked off with yellow crime scene tape are sad reminders of the deaths of two West Bune officers outside the Norris home. Morgan, Hotchner, and Sheriff Hallum stand nearby and discuss the shootings: the rifle was on full-auto, and a single burst with tight groupings took each officer down. The killer knew what he was doing. He also walked past the critically injured Letts to put one round into the face of the already dead Savage. Sheriff Hallum is surprised to hear that the killer knew both Norris and Savage – he knew how Norris would enter his home, and he knew which officers would respond to the scene. This is not a terrorist – this is a killer who shot Deputy Savage point blank in the face – it was personal. Rod Norris and Lou Savage were specifically targeted for this attack. Now that he isn't looking for a terrorist, Sheriff Hallum immediately suspects the deputy's son, Owen. Owen Savage was dating Jordan Norris – he ties the two victims together.

Sheriff Hallum escorts Hotchner, Morgan, and Reid to the Savage home to look for Owen, and to look for clues. The sheriff explains that he knew Lou Savage all his life, and that his wife, Hope, died in a drunk-driving accident six years ago when Savage, a Marine, was in Afghanistan. Reid notices a photograph of Savage in his dress blues on the wall, and draws one finger across the spotless frame, muttering, "Semper Fi." Savage had been in the Marines for twelve years, and was discharged so that he could raise Owen. "Is that why he resented them?" Reid asks, abruptly. The sheriff is defensive – insisting that Savage was a good man. Reid continues to observe that this "good man" didn't have a single picture of his wife or son in his entire house. Hotchner quickly intervenes, quietly telling the sheriff that, while this is hard, they don't have time to be sensitive. Sheriff Hallum sighs and tells the BAU team that Hope Savage was the drunk driver in the accident. Reid walks off to check Owen's room and Hotchner advises the sheriff to start trying family birthdays for the combination of the Savages' gun safe. After Morgan shows him Savage's dress blues still preserved in plastic, Hotchner suggests that the combination might be 11-10-75 – the Marine Corps birthday. The safe opens – it is empty. The sight of the empty gun safe tells Sheriff Hallum that the situation is very bad – Savage had a collection of automatic weapons and hand guns which, apparently, he taught Owen to shoot.

Owen's bedroom is painted black, and is decorated with punk rock posters. Morgan notices a poster of the wrecked Porsche James Dean was driving when he died, which he does not consider a good sign. Reid continues to make sarcastic comments about Owen's father's non-involvement with his life and Morgan tells him to "check himself." The two find that all of Owen's clothes are black – just like the man whose picture hangs over Owen's computer: Johnny Cash. Morgan sees all of this pointing to the profile of a misunderstood loner. Reid confronts Morgan with his own room decorating choices when he was in high school: posters of black sports heroes and trophies. Morgan agrees, but adds "the sexy ladies of the Sports' Illustrated Swimsuit Issue." Looking in Owen's closet, Reid finds that he has painted his mirror black – he clearly didn't like what he saw. Loud voices from the front yard send the profilers outside to find Byron Letts' wife demanding to know if it was "Lou's freak son" who shot her husband. Sheriff Hallum tries to calm her, but Sarah Letts tells him to send the FBI away – he knows what should be done with the "little bastard." Morgan stays behind to work the house while Reid and Hotchner head over to the high school for more insight into Owen's behavior. Sheriff Hallum stops the two as they are coming down the porch steps: they've found Owen's car out by the interstate beside victim number five.

Outside Sanchez' Liquor Store, Prentiss and Rossi find that Owen's truck has been completely cleaned out. The victim, again, shot in the face, was Kyle Borden, a 19-year-old who worked the register. His car is missing. If Owen stopped here to pick up supplies on the way to the interstate, he didn't have to kill Kyle, but he made a point to shoot him. Sheriff Hallum tells the two that Owen probably knew the dead boy from school. When the sheriff turns away to take a phone call, Prentiss whispers to Rossi that Owen didn't just "know" Kyle – he hated him. Inside the store, Rossi finds that Owen stole milk, frozen pizzas, and cold cuts – not the type of food you would take on a road trip. Owen didn't leave town. When the two profilers tell the sheriff he has a surprise of his own: the medical examiner's office has identified the remains that they assumed were of Jordan Norris – three hams and two rib eyes were stuffed into Jordan's blue jeans. "You tell me," Sheriff Hallum asks, "is she a hostage or an accomplice?"

Owen wears a brown-checked flannel shirt as he pulls a canvas tarp over the stolen car outside a deserted house. He pulls a large knife from a sheath on his belt and studies it. Inside the house, Jordan Norris lies in bed, just waking up. She notices that Owen is gone and wanders from room to room to search for him. The home is furnished comfortably, and she passes tables holding family photographs as she edges nervously through the house. Suddenly, Owen is there, holding out a bouquet of daisies and wildflowers. Jordan is startled, but she is happy to have found Owen. At breakfast, Owen tells Jordan that old man Stratman doesn't usually come home until "the first" so they can stay at his home until then. "Our dads will have stopped searching for us by then," Owen adds, and the two can slip away and go wherever they'd like. Jordan is afraid that her daddy will find them and kill Owen, but Owen assures her that he will never hurt her again.

At the West Bune High School, Reid and Hotchner ask Counselor Paul Barter about Owen Savage's relationship with Jordan Norris. Barter says that they met when Owen was moved into Special Ed. He was sent to Special Ed in his junior year because he did not apply himself and had an attitude problem. Reid looks through Owen's file as the three head into Barter's office. He explains that Owen's problem wasn't his attitude or effort – his file tells a different story. Owen got very high marks in Math and Science, telling them he was very smart, even gifted. His low grades in English, History, and Geometry are evidence of a learning disability. Barter argues, saying that Owen's standardized test scores don't support that claim, but Reid is adamant – Owen had a spatial relations disability which affects hand/eye coordination and would not allow him to fill in the test's answer bubbles. This was also the reason Owen avoided sports, which annoyed his father according to Barter. Owen did try out for the Wrestling Team in his freshman year, just to appease his father, but "it didn't work out."

After many tries, Morgan is still unable to figure out Owen's password to access his computer. He sits before the screen which shows a picture of Owen's mother, Hope, and tries again. No. The password is not "Johnny Cash." Staring at the screen, Morgan notices that, in the picture, Hope is pointing to a necklace she is wearing – her name spelled out in cursive letters. Morgan has figured it out – "Hope" is the password.

Barter has excused himself to take a phone call, and Reid is fuming. He cannot believe that the Texas school has forced Owen into Special Ed when he was probably "the smartest kid in the grade." Hotchner tries to reason with him, telling him that each small school cannot cater to the specific need of every child, but Reid will not hear him. "He gives it everything he's got over and over again and continues to fail, and the whole time – the whole time – they tell him that it's his fault!" He makes perfect sense to him. Hotchner counters – this level of violence does not make sense unless there was a history of emotional abuse. When Hotchner's phone rings, it is Morgan, telling him that he found an MPEG file on Owen's computer that he needs to see.

Jordan's best friend, Eileen Bechtold, explains to Prentiss and JJ that Jordan is a very gentle girl. Her father thought she was dumb, and physically abused her, but Jordan thought she deserved it until Owen came along. Eileen was quite sure that Owen and Jordan are in love. When Jordan's father took her phone away, Owen bought her a PDA and paid for her to keep it so they could email each other. Owen took good care of Jordan; he'd stick up for her when people took advantage of Jordan. When she was a freshman, a senior boy "took advantage" of her and told everyone about it. Eileen became her friend then, and tried to look out for her. The boy who raped Jordan was Kyle Borden.

Morgan has forwarded the video file to Barter's computer at school and the three watch the most horrible moment in Owen's life unfold before them. Standing in the boys' locker room, clutching a towel around his waist, Owen is begging the people out of range of the camera to allow him to leave. They tell him that the only way to be on the wrestling team is if he masturbates in the shower. He says he doesn't know if he can do it with the other boys watching him, but that he'll try. He didn't know that he was being filmed. "Did anyone tell you about this?" demands Reid. "They didn't have to," replies Barter, "it was posted on the school's social networking site." When Owen quit the wrestling team his father found out about the video and blamed Owen for it. Even though Owen identified the boys responsible, they could not identify them from the video and it was "his word against theirs." Reid is outraged into speechlessness as Barter goes on, talking about how parents would have been involved, it would have gotten into the news and that wouldn't have helped Owen if the school had punished the boys. Barter told Owen that "dealing with bullies is part of growing up." At that remark, Reid finds his voice, finding Barter's attitude all too familiar. Owen has chosen to "deal" with these bullies with an assault rifle. Hotchner speaks sharply to Reid who throws the file down on the floor and stalks out. Hotchner apologizes, but tells Barter that they've heard those words so many times before from the mouths of school shooters. Suddenly, Prentiss enters the room to tell Hotchner that Owen killed Kyle Borden as revenge on behalf of Jordan. Barter quickly checks on the boys that made the video and finds that none of them showed up for school that day.

Over the computer link, Garcia tells the team that Owen deleted everything from his computer except for the video file – he is a tech-savvy kid, but she knows she is "tech-savvier." Rossi quips that Jordan and Owen were made for each other; both kids are alienated and had dysfunctional families containing an absent mother and domineering father. Prentiss is just remarking that nothing in Jordan's profile points to violent behavior when Garcia calls back: another video has just been uploaded to the school's social networking site and it is very disturbing. Garcia posts the video: three teen-age boys are kneeling in their underwear beside a river with their hands on top of their heads as the Johnny Cash song, "The Man Comes Around" plays in the background. The boys are pleading with someone, telling him that "it was three years ago" and "no one remembers." Owen's voice is heard saying "I do" and automatic gunfire rips through the bodies of the three boys. Garcia has found that the MPEG was sent from Jordan's PDA, but Owen hacked the SIM card and she cannot determine the location of the device.

Sheriff Hallum recognizes the location of the latest murders, and Reid, Rossi, and Hotchner examine the scene. Reid quotes the Johnny Cash song to the other two – they all know that Owen is acting out a revenge fantasy. Owen is collecting injustices.

The BAU profilers attempt to give the officers of the West Bune Sheriff's Office the profile, but they are met with resistance and anger. Some officers want to knock on doors – they know who they are looking for. Hotchner explains that would not be a good idea because Owen is watching. Right now Owen believes he is safe, but if they begin an all-out search, he will find out that they are looking for him. JJ stridently advises that the officers listen to the BAU as they are trying to capture Owen with minimum loss of life. Reid explains that Owen is a type of school shooter known as a "Justice Collector." He is trying to avenge perceived wrongs. The only reason he hasn't gone on a violent and ultimately suicidal rampage is because of Jordan – she gives him a reason to live. Reid cannot help but berate the men standing in front of him with the details of Owen's life, how his teachers gave up on him, he was bullied by his schoolmates and his father blamed him for everything and exposed him to guns. Hotchner grits his teeth as Reid goes on to say that, putting all of this together, the people of West Bune have been quite fortunate. "You could have prevented it," says Reid.

His face set, Hotchner pulls Reid out of the profile briefing and into another room. He tells Reid that blaming the townspeople is dangerous, that no one recognizes the signs of potential future violent offenders from adolescent behavior because all adolescents act in a somewhat sociopathic manner. He tells Reid that, since he knows Owen better than anyone, he is to go back to Owen's room and find something they can use. As Reid storms out through the sheriff's office, JJ apologizes to Sheriff Hallum and asks for permission to publicize the MPEG. They feel that, showing Owen that he is being heard might stall his search for revenge. Hotchner joins the discussion to try to persuade the sheriff that bringing in Owen without further loss of life is the right thing to do. Sheriff Hallum seems unconvinced. The sheriff says that, after the funerals the next day, he won't have a choice.

Jordan and Owen are enjoying a candlelit dinner at the Stratman home, talking about the future. Owen awkwardly pulls a cork from a bottle of wine and hands it to Jordan, telling her that she has to smell it. She smiles and tells him that it smells like grapes to her. They hear a car pull up outside, and Jordan is afraid. Owen tells her to go into the bedroom and he'll check it out. Outside, Mr. Stratman has come home early. He asks Owen what he's doing there, and Owen pulls out his knife. Thrusting the knife into Stratman's chest, Owen apologizes, telling Mr. Stratman that he wasn't supposed to be home until the first week in May. Owen's face is twisted in grief as he watches Mr. Stratman die. After hiding the body, Owen goes inside to comfort Jordan. He calls for her, explaining that "they left," but he can't find her. He finally spots Jordan hiding behind an end table. She thought it was her dad coming to find her. Owen tells her that it was some Mexican kids looking for the interstate and everything is fine.

Garcia has restored Owen's emails, and Reid sits at his desk going through them as Morgan paces behind him in the darkened bedroom. Sitting on Owen's bed, Morgan tells Reid that he isn't the only one who identifies with Owen. Reid is startled, and turns around, listening to Morgan's story. When he started high school Morgan was 5'3", 120 pounds and he "got his ass kicked every day." The following summer he started weight training and grew six inches, but it wasn't about vanity - it was about survival. Reid haltingly begins to open up to Morgan. One day he was in the library and a student told him Alexa Lisbon – the prettiest girl in school – wanted to meet him behind the Field House. When he got there, Alexa wasn't alone – the entire football team was there. They stripped him naked and tied him to a goal post. "So many kids were there, just watching." He begged them to stop them, but no one would help. The other kids finally got bored and left, and Reid managed to free himself and got home about midnight. His mother, in the middle of one of her "episodes" didn't even notice that he had been gone. He never told anyone, hoping that he would forget, but he remembers it as if it was yesterday. "You know, we forget half of what they teach us in school," Morgan commiserates, "but when it comes to the torment and the people who inflicted it, we've all got an elephant's memory." Reid understands that Owen just wants to forget. Looking past the strained face of the young profiler, Morgan comments that Owen is making a big deal about saying goodbye to Jordan in each of his emails, and Reid realizes that Owen's biggest fear is abandonment – he never got to say goodbye to his mother.

Back at the sheriff's office, Reid and Morgan explain to the team about Owen's abandonments issues, and how he felt that Jordan would never leave him. If they can get Jordan away from him, they will take away his reason to live and he will take his own life. They might get Jordan to leave him if they tell her about the murders. Prentiss believes that the only person that Jordan may listen to is her friend Eileen. She and JJ try to convince Eileen that by contacting Jordan she will be saving her friend's life, but Eileen is stubborn, and doesn't believe that Owen would hurt her. Prentiss explains that Jordan is liable to be caught in the crossfire when Owen is caught. She tells the girl that this is her last chance to protect Jordan. Eileen begins text-messaging Jordan, telling her that the FBI wants to talk with her.

Jordan is awakened by her PDA. She looks at Eileen's text message, confused. Now Reid is typing on Eileen's computer, sending Jordan the news footage of the murders, and explaining that the FBI knows she was not involved. Jordan calls them liars. Reid sends her the MPEG of the shooting, and tells her that when the police come Owen will kill her. Jordan still doesn't believe it and turns the PDA off. Hoping that they've planted a seed of doubt, the profilers wait.

Jordan goes to find Owen, and, peering out the kitchen door she sees a horrible sight: Owen is burying the body of Mr. Stratman. Jordan hurries back to the bedroom and turns the PDA on. "You were right. What do I do?" she asks. Jordan won't tell the profilers where they are, but she will try to get away. She races out of the house. Owen hears the engine of the car start to crank, but the car won't start. He runs from his improvised grave to stop her.

In Eileen's bedroom, Reid sees that the PDA has been turned on again. The words of the text message are ominous: "You turned her against me." It isn't Jordan.

It is heartbreaking to Prentiss and JJ - that doing the right thing may have led to Jordan's death. The door to the sheriff's office opens slowly, and Jordan Norris walks in, scared and tearful. She tells them of her escape, and how Owen tried to stop her, but she just kept driving. She still doesn't want to tell them where Owen is, afraid they will hurt him, but Prentiss tells her that Owen is likely to hurt himself if they don't stop him. Jordan confesses that Owen is at Stratman's ranch. The team and local officers descend on the farm, but the only things they find are Stratman's body and a note from Owen that says, "I'm going to return my mom's necklace." Hotchner tells Sheriff Hallum to go to the Savage home, as the necklace might be there. He and his team will head to the cemetery where his mother is buried. Reid moves aside and begins removing his vest. Hotchner stops to speak with him as the rest of the team gets into the car. Reid tells Hotchner that Owen will force them to kill him. They don't need him for that, and he won't be a part of it. Hotchner tells him to meet him at the station – they need to talk.

When the team arrives, the cemetery is deserted.

Reid rushes through the sheriff's office and grasps the picture of Owen's mom from the bulletin board. He shows the picture to Jordan and asks her if Owen gave it to her. She puts her hand up to her neck and tells Reid that she left it at the ranch. Reid turns and walks toward the exit, telling Prentiss and JJ that Owen is coming there – he knew Owen wasn't going to the cemetery. JJ calls Hotchner to tell him as Prentiss follows Reid into the street.

"Something's wrong." Hotchner, Rossi, and Morgan should have found Owen at his mother's grave. JJ's call confirms what Hotchner already knew – Reid knew that Owen would head to the sheriff's office. The three men sprint to the car.

Owen, dressed again all in black, combs his hair before he takes his mother's necklace and an assault rifle and starts down the street to the sheriff's office. Reid and Prentiss stand outside the door and watch. When Reid sees Owen approaching, he hands his gun to Prentiss and tells her to cover him, but "do not shoot." Reid walks out into the street with his hands out to his sides. He tells Owen his name, that he is with the FBI, and that he's there to help him. Owen raises his weapon and threatens Reid just as the rest of the team pulls up in their black SUV. As he gradually moves forward, Reid starts talking with Owen, telling him that he knows about Owen's life, about his desire to please his father, his torment at the hand of the wrestling team, and how he always wanted to protect Jordan. Owen, his eyes darting from Reid to the other FBI agents, listens, transfixed by Reid's words. Reid is talking quickly, almost out of breath, trying desperately to get through to Owen before it is too late. Glancing behind him, he moves until he is standing directly between Owen and any shot the team might have. He tells Owen that he knows he wants to escape and forget: "Believe me when I say that I know exactly how it feels." He tells Owen that he doesn't have to die, but Owen tells Reid that it feels as if he is already dead. Reid tells him that, if he dies, he'll be leaving Jordan just has his mother left him. Owen is angry, upset, but he knows that Reid is right. He asks him to bring Jordan outside, but Reid explains that he can't do that, but if he puts the gun down, no one will hurt him and he will take Owen to her to say goodbye. Owen looks around, trying to control his emotions, and nods his head, abruptly pulling the strap of the rifle from beneath his coat. He lays down the gun and hands Reid the necklace before the rest of the team races over to take him into custody. As Morgan places handcuffs on Owen, Reid turns to Hotchner, a look of entreaty on his face. Reid and Morgan escort Owen into the sheriff's station and Reid takes him down the hallway to Jordan. Reid places the necklace into her hand, and Jordan and Owen look at each other without saying a word.

"We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of a smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered." Tom Stoppard

Most of the BAU team members are asleep on the jet ride home, but Hotchner has unfinished business with Agent Reid, and Reid is expecting it. Hotchner tells Reid he should be fired: he knowingly jeopardized his life and the lives of others. He may be smart, but his feelings are not the only ones to be considered. If it ever happens again, Hotchner will fire him. After Reid apologizes and assures Hotchner that it will never happen again, Hotchner asks him why he did it. Reid explains that Owen would have been the second kid to die in front of him and it was his turn to save one. It may not work like that, but it should. Hotchner tells him that, when they get back to Quantico, Reid should go back and "catch the rest of that movie." As Hotchner walks off, Reid fingers the one-year medallion that John handed him, a slight smile on his face. [recap written by Finnegan77]
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