Criminal Minds

Season 4 Episode 4


Aired Wednesday 10:00 PM Oct 22, 2008 on CBS

Episode Recap

The blacktop is slick with rain, and the windshield wipers on the 18-wheeler are barely making a dent in the downpour. The weather report on the radio doesn't give the trucker any good news - just more rain expected in Northern California and Central Nevada. He flips the dial back to a hard rock station and glances up to see a car stalled across the road ahead. He stands on the brakes and downshifts, panic is on his face as the truck begins to jackknife on the wet pavement. He hauls on the wheel, but knows a crash is inevitable. Smashing into it broadside, the truck hurls the car into the air, turning it over and over again until both vehicles come to a stop. Wiping the sweat from his face, the trucker grabs the microphone of his CB radio and calls for help. "Hit a four wheeler - a sitting duck," he says. Shining a flashlight in the windows he sees that there are two passengers in the car, a man and a woman, and both staring straight ahead with dead, empty eyes.

In the bullpen of the Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico, Virginia, Agents Morgan, Prentiss and Reid are finally packing up to leave for the night when JJ hurries towards them. She's been in touch with a sheriff near Reno, Nevada, who is concerned about a series of suspicious accidents, and she doesn't think it can wait until morning. The team puts their plans on hold and congregates in the conference room to hear JJ's briefing. She reviews the odd facts about the last accident - although a tractor-trailer had hit a car and both people were killed, there was no blood spatter inside the car, no lacerations from airbags, and no seatbelt burns. The autopsy had confirmed the man and woman were dead before the accident from blunt-force head trauma, and the woman had been raped and tortured. Garcia found two similar accidents in the area within the past two weeks. They all disappeared for 48 hours prior to the accident. This was far more than a coincidence.

Abby Corbin has been asleep in the car ever since she and her husband left Reno. Her husband, Ian, is also tired, and rubs his eyes wearily. Abby looks up to see that they've drifted into the other lane - a tractor trailer is coming right at them, sounding his horn. Ian swerves at the last moment and pulls off the road. They both agree that they should stop for the night, and Ian pulls into a motel on a small back road. Ian hurries into the manager's office while Abby stays in the car to check in with the kids. Unfortunately, her cell phone has no service, and even the radio won't pick up any stations. Sitting alone in the dark, she begins to hear sounds from the dark woods around her - small crackling of the underbrush, a night bird. Turning in her seat she shrieks when she catches a glimpse of someone's face pressed up against the car window. It's Ian, and she laughs. He holds up the key to their cabin and tells her, "It's time to get your second wind - we've got this little paradise all to ourselves." They walk arm in arm to their cabin, not even stopping to get their luggage from the minivan. A few moments later the "No Vacancy" sign is turned on at the Crest Cottages.

"Thomas Fuller wrote, 'A fool's paradise is a wise man's hell.'"

On the BAU jet, JJ places headphones on her pregnant tummy to drown out the agents' discussion. Her baby is listening to Beethoven, and Dr. Reid reminds her that amniotic fluid can amplify sound so she should limit his exposure to one hour per day. She pats his arm in mock gratitude as the other agents roll their eyes. The accidents had taken place outside of Carson City, Reno, and Lake Tahoe, Nevada. The transient population gives the killer a large pool of victims to choose from. The killer would need time and privacy to torture his victims, and succeeds in keeping them secreted from the public. Since the local media doesn't yet have any information about a link between these "accidents," the team has an advantage over the unsub - he doesn't know they're investigating. He could change his MO or leave the area to hunt elsewhere if he does find out.

The rustic cabin at the Crest Cottages motel is filled with light as Abby wakes and cuddles up against her husband's back. The couple's clothes are strewn across the cabin floor. Ian pleads that she let him sleep, but she wants banana pancakes. She pokes his cheek playfully as someone watches through a hole in the cabin wall.

JJ and Sheriff Bruner explain to his small department that it is imperative that their investigation be kept quiet. The killer needs to believe he is getting away with murder. Behind them, Reid begins hanging up photos on a bulletin board in the corner of the squad room, while Rossi asks the sheriff's permission to visit the accident scenes. When Rossi asks for aerial photos of the scenes the sheriff is embarrassed to tell him they did not think to get any. Rossi shrugs, claiming that their technical analyst can pull up what he needs from NSA satellites.

Hotch and JJ work with Reid, noting the locations of each of the accidents along small highways off of various interstates in the area. Each couple was staying in the area without prior reservations, and the latest credit card receipts were from gas stations hundreds of miles away. The unsub may have been targeting people just because their movements were not easy to trace.

The truck driver is very relieved to learn that he did not kill the young couple he had found dead in the car after his accident, and is anxious to go home and tell his wife. Unfortunately, Prentiss, Rossi and Morgan advise him that he can't do just that - the public must not find out that they are investigating these deaths as murders and not just accidents. Sheriff Bruner wonders why the killer had left the bodies in cars parked across secondary highways instead of burying them or leaving them beside the road. "This behavior tell us that the risk of leaving the bodies where he kills them is greater than the risk he takes staging these accidents," Rossi tells him. Checking the aerial photos, the team sees that each of the cars was left on a blind curve, and near either fire roads or trails for off-road vehicles. "He plans his escapes in advance," says Rossi.

Harold Sanders, the father of one of the female victims, has come to identify his daughter's body. SSA Hotchner gently takes him aside to ask him some questions. Sanders is angry - determined to sue the truck driver and his hauling company for the death of his his daughter and son-in-law. Hotch explains that they were murdered and their deaths actually happened before the accident. Mr. Sanders drops onto the couch, disbelief and denial in his eyes as he listens to the agent tell him about the previous murders. "Who would want to kill my baby?" he begs. Hotchner tries to be gentle, asking about their favorite campgrounds or hiking trails, but Mr. Sanders cannot concentrate, blinking tears from his eyes. He does remember that his son-in-law brought his daughter donuts from Flo's Diner.

The crowd at Flo's Diner doesn't seem to care that it isn't lunch time, and Morgan and Prentiss are lucky to find two empty seats at the counter when they arrive. Betty, the waitress, pours them each a cup of coffee and smirks at Morgan's question about a couple who might have been in a few days ago. "Darlin," she tells him, "I've waited on 87 folks since we opened this morning. Somebody'd have to come in here doing cartwheels on fire for me to remember." Prentiss lays down pictures of the two recent accident victims and Betty takes a look. She does remember them; the woman had left her a $10 tip two days in a row.

Abby drags herself out of bed and pulls on her husband's shirt. Searching through the clothes on the floor she can't find her panties. A knock on the cabin door sends her scurrying into the bathroom. After checking through the peep-hole, Ian opens the door and a man hands in a tray of breakfast. Pleasantly surprised, Ian puts the tray on a low table and flops into a loveseat nearby. Abby attempts to move a wooden chair over to the table but finds that it is bolted to the floor. Taking one of the containers, Abby is delighted to find that her husband did order her banana pancakes. Sitting up, Ian denies it, and the look of alarm on his face confirms that he is telling the truth. Abby is confused, but Ian insists that it is time to go.

At the sheriff's department, Hotchner strides to the map, circling the town of Sherwood, Nevada, where the victims were seen at the diner. Dialing quickly, Reid asks Garcia for information about the small town and she replies that it is famous for having over 300 motels, hotels, and resorts. She sends the information to Hotchner's PDA, and signs off from her "fine furry friends." Hotchner mutters about having her drug tested in the near future. They have no choice but to try to interview people at each of the local motels for any information about the victims.

Hurrying back into the cabin and closing the door, Ian Corbin tells his wife that the car is running. He begins to make one final check of the cabin as she goes to the door, but she cannot turn the knob. "You've gotta just jiggle the handle," he explains. Ian tugs on the handle, trying again and again to open it, but the door knob comes off in his hand. At the window Abby sees someone outside the cabin and she yells, calling for help. A metal shutter is dropped over the window. The couple runs to another window, but that one is also shuttered, and then the next one. They are trapped.

The discarded Chinese food containers on the conference table make JJ's sensitive stomach rebel as the team gathers early the next morning. She received a missing persons report about Abby and Ian Corbin - they were supposed to be returning home to San Luis Obispo from Reno yesterday, but they never arrived. Reid notices that their route would probably have taken them straight through Sherwood, Nevada. JJ and Sheriff Bruner begin to clear off the table, and he laughs when she mutters about how disgusting the leftover kung pao chicken is. "The smell of Chinese food makes you sick but you don't even flinch when you look at those pictures," the Sheriff observes. JJ just shrugs, but Reid comes to her defense: "She's pretty tough."

The Corbins have tried everything, have worked all night long, but they can't find a way out of the cabin. Abby is frustrated, and chides her husband for wasting his time trying to pry up the carpeting. When the carpet glue finally gives way, Ian finds only a solid slab of cement. A loud, irritating alarm fills the air momentarily, and then bangs and thuds are heard from outside the cabin. The sounds are coming from every direction - on the roof, outside the shuttered windows, and Ian tries to shield Abby with his body, turning to face each threat. Finally they stop, and Ian moves to the cabin door, peering through the peep hole to try to catch a glimpse of their foe. Leaning closer to get a larger view, Ian suddenly reels back in pain - someone has jabbed a knife through the peephole and sliced a deep gash beside his eye.

Briefing the other agents and the sheriff's department, Hotchner explains that the Corbins have already been missing for 24 hours, so they must find the couple as soon as possible. Since the couple were not using credit cards, and were not traveling the main highway, they may be looking for someone who works the nightshift at a back-road motel. Since abducting couples is an ambitious task, Reid believes the unsub is in his mid to late thirties - he's had some time to perfect his skill. He is a violent anger-excitation rapist and women particularly take a terrible beating from him. Rossi believes that he forces one member of the couple to watch him abuse the other, psychologically torturing his victims. His own psyche was formed around a hatred for a female figure in his childhood who was relentless in her psychological and physical abuse of the child. He may be able to hide his aversion to women until they are completely in his power, but he may also have several prior offenses towards women on his record. The property where he keeps his victims may back up onto an off-road trail.

Abby looks up to find that the shutter on the bathroom window has been lifted. She approaches it cautiously, screaming when a distorted face pops up outside the textured glass. Ian runs in and pounds on the glass, but he cannot break it. When he stops, his wife hits her fists against the window and Ian barks at her that clearly the glass will not break and that she is always second-guessing him. The couple begins to argue, each blaming the other for stopping, for drinking too much and being hung-over. The unsub watches closely through a vent as Ian stalks out of the bathroom and Abby leans over the sink. She tries to turn on the water, but nothing comes out. Suddenly she notices an object in the bottom of the sink - it is a bloody tooth.

The team is spread thinly, trying to interview employees at hundreds of motels in order to find Abby and Ian Corbin before it is too late. The men are rough, some defensive, others clearly hiding something.

Leaning against the cabin door, Ian opens the metal latch on the peephole, being careful to stay out of range but desperate for some fresh air. Abby immediately rebukes him, and the two begin to argue again, as the watcher lurks outside.

Hotchner rings the desk bell at a small motel, and a bearded man hurries from a back room. He introduces himself as Wayne Dryden, the manager, and asks what terrible thing the couple in the photograph did to bring the FBI way out into the country. After hearing that they are missing, Dryden explains that the motel is run by him and his "old lady" who is at the mall at a Hummel figurine expo. He smiles and adds that "she's got those things taking over my office, they are everywhere in there." Hotchner leaves his card with a copy of the photographs and hurries out as a tall black man enters, asking about possible vacancies. Dryden tells the man that they are "full up" and when he asks for a recommendation to another motel, Dryden snaps: "Sure, you can drive back down the road, and if you turn left there are about 200 places, and if you turn right, it's about 199." He ushers the man out of the office and locks the door after him.

It's dusk, and the team has barely made it to half of the motels in the area. Hotchner is ready to head out again - it is possible that the unsub isn't in a remote motel, but one in a more well-traveled area. Before he can leave, Prentiss hurries in with a possible lead - Garcia found a connection between one victim, Rebecca Gallen, and a motel handyman. That lead itself petered out, but she was able to put together a strange coincidence among the female victims: when they were placed in the cars they each were not wearing panties. She believes that the accidents were the final act of rape: a violent collision of metal against flesh.

Abby sits on the floor, tears running down her face as she fingers pictures of her children. "What's going to happen to them?" she whispers. The lights go out and the two grope for each other in the dark. A moment later the lights are back on, then off, then on again. A dark figure is silhouetted against the bathroom window for an instant as the lights flicker. A pair of woman's underwear now hangs on the wooden chair, but they are not Abby's.

Based on Prentiss' newest observations, the team believes that the unsub would have escalated his violent behavior towards women throughout his life. An underwear fetish usually begins in adolescence with peeping, and moves on to petty burglary when the unsub steals underwear from his neighbors' homes. Their confidence increases, and the attacks now focus on the women, instead of their clothing. Garcia has been researching other crimes with similar MOs and has found that a man was recently convicted of five rapes that happened 30 miles away. What is interesting about his last victim was that she was beaten in exactly the same way as the current victims, and hers was the only underwear that was stolen. She was also the only victim who died. The other rape victims described their attacker as a man who wanted to know about his performance - a power-reassurance rapist. Clearly, the last victim wasn't his: it was the first victim of their current unsub.

Ian's hand is bloody from his attempts to break the window and Abby begs him to stop. He frantically searches for the way their attacker got into the cabin, knocking Abby over has he races through the cabin. He kneels down next to her, apologizing, but it doesn't matter - she just wants to find a way out. Ian knows the entrance must be in the bathroom, and he checks the walls as Abby watches from the other room. A man's arm reaches out and slams the bathroom door shut, trapping Ian in the room with the unsub. Abby can hear the fight, and places her hands over her mouth in horror. She bends over, trying to get a glimpse under the door, but the door flies open and Wayne Dryden stands over her holding a baseball bat. The last thing she sees before he hits her is her husband's unconscious body lying on the bathroom floor.

In the previous rape case, law enforcement interviewed approximately twenty men before making their arrest, and the team may be able to find their current unsub among that group. JJ leaves to cross-reference names on the list with name associated with motels in Sherwood. They will look for a man who is angry and hostile towards his victims, but he must also be fairly intelligent: he was able to use the MO of another rapist to throw suspicion off of himself. "He's in here somewhere," says Hotchner.

Tied to the bed, Abby pleads with Dryden, claiming that people are waiting for them. Dryden stands beside her unconscious husband - he's secured Ian to the wooden chair where he will have full view of everything he does to Abby. He leans over her body, menacingly, and asks her if she's ever wondered what it was like to be with a real man.

Hotchner is reading suspects' names from files for Garcia. The current file is for Floyd Hansen, a Sherwood native who was recently released from jail for attempted rape and stealing woman's underwear. His last known address is for Crest Cottages - Hotchner remembers interviewing the manager there, Wayne Dryden, but JJ checks the records and notes that Wayne Dryden was fired six months ago. The only employee now is the owner, Floyd Hansen.

Bruised and battered, Abby lies unmoving on the cabin bed when Ian wakes up.

Infuriated that he was taken in by the unsub; Hotchner leads the team to the cars.

Abby begins to moan, and twists her head. Ian whispers to her that he'll get them out of there, but Abby won't open her eyes. "He said he'll be back," she whimpers.

In the SUV, Hotchner criticizes himself - he was face to face with the unsub and did not recognize him. Rossi knows that it could have happened to any of them. Speaking to Garcia on his cell phone, Reid asks about Hansen's family. She explains his father had remarried when he was two, his step-mother was a prostitute, and his father had died six months before, leaving Floyd the Crest Cottages motel. The signal cuts out abruptly. Hansen apparently left jail, and, when his father died, inherited all of the privacy and control he would need at the motel.

Ian struggles to loosen the bolts holding the chair to the cabin floor. He continues to talk to Abby, encouraging her to not give up, promising to get them away, but Abby won't look at him. Floyd Hansen appears at the door and informs Ian that someone always gives up, and no one ever gets away from him. He walks over to the bedside and picks up the bat, running it up and down Abby's leg. "You know, I understand you're not a morning person," he says to Ian, "but what kind of man turns that down?" Ian throws himself against his bonds, swearing at Hansen, but he is unaffected. Hansen walks calmly back to Ian and slams the bat cruelly into his ribs.

When the BAU team arrives, Hotchner explains that there are ten cabins on ten acres, and there are also garages, sheds and stables to search. The BAU agents and sheriff's deputies head out while Reid and Rossi search the motel office. Reid finds clippings from numerous so-called accidents and Rossi uncovers a plastic bag filled of woman's underwear.

Hansen flicks open his knife and cuts the duct tape that secures Abby's ankles together. "Don't worry," he advises her husband, "when I'm done with her it'll take the fight right out of you." He slides Abby's dress up over her hips as Ian lunges back and forth, freeing the chair from the floor. He rushes for Hansen and pins him against the wall. Outside, Hotchner hears the sounds and calls for back-up. Hansen pushes Ian to the ground and beats him with the bat as Morgan arrives with a pry-bar and throws open the cabin door. Hansen flees through the vent in the bathroom with Hotchner and Morgan in pursuit. Prentiss cuts Abby's bonds and radios for an ambulance.

Hansen runs through the woods, throwing down the bat as Morgan and Hotchner close the gap. Rushing on, he risks one look over his shoulder as he stumbles out onto the road. The brights of an oncoming tractor trailer outline him for a moment before the truck hits him and tosses him underneath the wheels.

"Well, roadside motels definitely go on my list of things to never do again," Prentiss notes to Reid and Rossi as the EMTs work on the Corbins. Rossi approaches Hotchner who is standing some distance from the group, arms crossed defensively over his chest. "I was here. I talked to him and didn't see it." Rossi does not have much sympathy, claiming that it happens to the best of them. "Welcome to the club," Rossi retorts.

"Roman poet Phaedrus wrote, 'Things are not always what they seem. The first appearance deceives many. The intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.'"

[Recap written by Finnegan77]