Criminal Minds

Season 3 Episode 19

Tabula Rasa

Aired Wednesday 10:00 PM May 14, 2008 on CBS

Episode Recap

Roanoke, Virginia (2004): A SWAT team led by Hotchner and Morgan makes its way silently through the hallways of an apartment building. A man wearing IPod headphones steps out of his door and his eyes widen in fear as he takes in the black-clad figures with high-powered weapons walking past. Morgan places one hand on the man's chest and motions for silence as the team goes by. At the next door, the men take their positions and Hotchner cries out: "Brian Matloff this is the FBI! We have a warrant for your arrest!" A nod from Hotchner and a SWAT member breaks the door in. They spread out, covering every inch of the apartment. In the kitchen a half-eaten sandwich reveals that Matloff has not been gone long. The dreamcatcher in the bedroom captures Morgan's attention for a moment, its movement drawing his attention to the breeze from open window nearby - the suspect is on the fire escape heading for the roof. With Morgan only a few yards behind, Matloff knows he is trapped - the roof is small and the building next door seems a million miles away. He has no choice. He races towards the gap between the buildings and jumps, his body slamming against the brick parapet and his hands scrabbling for purchase. Matloff grits his teeth, straining to hold on, but his grip is weakening. Morgan races full out, his athlete's body stretching that extra few inches to land awkwardly on the other roof. Grimacing in pain he scrambles towards Matloff, determined, intent, but, just as he thrusts one hand out to reach him, Matloff falls. The descent towards the pavement four stories below seems to take a lifetime, and vivid memories pour through Matloff's mind: a sparkling waterfall in a lush wilderness, graduation caps flying into a blue sky, eight candles on a chocolate birthday cake, his smiling mother leaning over his crib. His body is broken and bleeding but he is still alive when officers bend over him. Morgan and Hotchner stare across the divide separating them. Quantico, Virginia (2008): On the phone in his office, Hotchner cannot hear Reid and Garcia discussing a very disturbing photo in the bullpen below while Prentiss glares. Prentiss is sure that Garcia has done something to her high school yearbook picture - a picture showing a very Goth Prentiss in black lipstick and a fishnet sweater - but Garcia claims it is just as she found it. Prentiss grabs the picture from the two chuckling teammates as Reid straight-facedly suggests that she might be suffering from memory loss due to a dissociative fugue in her adolescence. "Weird. It's like some other life," Prentiss mutters. As Hotchner approaches she flips the photo over, and asks about his phone call. The call was to inform the team that Brian Matloff, aka the "Blue Ridge Strangler," has just woken up from a four-year coma. DA CeCe Hillenbrand is waiting for Hotchner at the Roanoke Convalescent Home. Her plan is to "try him and fry him," but Hotchner cautions her that the case will likely be in a shambles after so much time. He is concerned that people will have moved on and that evidence will have degraded - he has seen it happen too frequently in the past as a Federal Prosecutor. CeCe insists that time will not have changed the fact that Matloff killed three people, maybe more. As the two approach Matloff's bed, his doctor turns to them with startling news: Matloff has amnesia. It's not just that he can't remember the murders; he cannot even remember his own name. "All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." Anatole France. Brian Matloff now wears an orange jumpsuit. He looks around in confusion as a guard wheels him into a small, dark prison cell. In the district attorney's office, Hotchner and Rossi are taking another look at the evidence from the Matloff case. Rossi gazes down at a table full of photos of the victims and notices that Matloff "had a type:" all of his victims were young and brunette and were jogging when they disappeared. DA Hillenbrand has more bad news - the prime witness against Matloff died two years ago from an overdose. The warrant and indictment against Matloff were made largely on the witness testimony placing Matloff at the park with Darcy Corbett, the third victim. The only evidence they have is circumstantial, and that might be enough if the case weren't being tried in the 23rd Circuit – the "Rocket Docket" where the DA has only half the time to prepare. Hotchner agrees to stay with the DA to prepare the case while Rossi heads off to check the investigating detective's case records to see if there are any cold leads to follow. Roanoke, Virginia (2004): A young woman lies face down in a shallow grave. It is Darcy Corbett, and the local investigators are waiting for the arrival of BAU profilers Aaron Hotchner, Derek Morgan, and newest agent, Dr. Spencer Reid. Detective Jarvis comments on Reid's youth, but Reid explains that crime scenes and other graphic images have no more affect on him than on older agents as the brain processing speed reaches its peak around age fifteen. Hotchner calls Reid to his side and asks him what he observes about the victim. Reid notes the matching ligature marks around the woman's neck and the tan line around her wrist where she'd worn a watch - the method of strangulation is the same as the other victims and the killer takes trophies. She may be buried face down because the killer feels remorse. The killer is opportunistic, picking these women because they were accessible to him. As Reid and Hotchner stand, they notice that Darcy Corbett's father is approaching his daughter's grave. Det. Jarvis asks the team if they want to do "Rochambeau" for the duty of speaking with the victim's father, but Reid immediately volunteers and walks towards the devastated man. Reid takes Corbett by the arm and leads him gently away from the gravesite, explaining that, if it is his daughter, this is not a memory he wants to have of her. The two walk off through the park near a sparkling waterfall. Quantico, Virginia (2008): Morgan and Reid are discussing their memories of the case with the other agents, explaining that, after the raid on Matloff's apartment they found that he had another area of interest: Native American mythology. In one mythos, burying one's victim face down trapped the soul so that it could not come after the killer. Prentiss notes that, with only three victims, there did not appear to be a learning curve or escalation, and JJ wonders if there were earlier victims that were never found. Morgan admits they considered that possibility. Matloff worked for the forestry service and had access to all parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway area. JJ has another question - since Matloff was raised Polish Catholic, how did he become enamored of Native American lore? The original investigation never found out, and also never found any physical evidence at his apartment to tie him to the crimes. These items that Matloff took from his victims must be found, Hotchner insists, entering the conference room, since the star witness is dead. Frowning in thought, Reid suggests another way. Before the Judge, DA Hillenbrand moves that Defendant Brian Matloff be required to undergo a process called "Brain Fingerprinting," showing whether or not memories of these crimes are present in his mind. Hotchner listens carefully at the prosecutor's table - as does Reid in the spectator gallery - as Matloff's defense attorney, Lester Serling, objects. DA Hillenbrand brings up the precedent of Iowa v. Terry Herrington and Dover v. Merrill where the results of this test were admitted as scientific fact. Serling insists that his client is in a "fragile mental state," but Hotchner explains that the test is not invasive and is perfectly safe. Serling continues to object strenuously, but Brian Matloff cuts him off, blurting out that he wants to do it. Standing with the help of a cane, he tells the judge that he wakes up every day with the nightmare of not knowing what or who he is. He has to do it. Reid walks down the courthouse hallway and hears his name. Turning, he sees that it is Mr. Corbett - Dana's father. Corbett is hoping that nobody is "buying this amnesia thing," and Reid assures him that they are trying to figure that out. Corbett is still very traumatized by his daughter's death, even tearing up when Reid mentions that it has been four years since they last spoke. "You always hear about closure, but you never really know what that means. Maybe now I can get on with things," Corbett hopes. When Reid asks about his wife, Corbett admits that they split up. The "Brain Fingerprinting" procedure is beginning, and a technician is fitting Matloff with a headpiece wired to a computer. A female deputy stands in the background, her eyes taking in the entire scene, as Matloff asks Hotchner if he ever had any doubts about his guilt. "No," is Hotchner's reply. Matloff watches as photos of the murdered women, in life and in death, are flashed before him on a computer screen. He searches the pictures - the smiling eyes, the dirt-covered bodies - in seeming confusion as the technician watches the readings on the screen. JJ calls with some information she picked up at Matloff's convalescent center: a woman came to visit him once every six months while he was there - Nina Moore. That name doesn't appear anywhere in the case file. After the testing is complete, the technician tells DA Hillenbrand and Agent Hotchner that she saw no MERMERs - no indication that Matloff showed any familiarity with the images. Either he really has amnesia or Matloff is the wrong guy. Rossi and Hotchner are arguing about the use of technology as they walk through the BAU bullpen. Hotchner explains that the defense will surely require access to the failed test on discovery and Rossi tells him that he always distrusts technology. Reid explains that the damage to Matloff's parietal lobe must be very extensive - this brain injury could have deleted his memories. Entering the area, Rossi insists that it doesn't matter if Matloff remembers his actions; they can still put him away. Prentiss questions whether it is fair to prosecute Matloff if he truly doesn't remember - it is almost as if he is a different person. Morgan and Rossi don't see a problem with it, even as Reid argues that this dilemma speaks to some core beliefs about identity. He brings up the "causal dependence" theory that argues that the psychological connection to the past plays a key role in defining the psyche. Prentiss tends to agree, stating that one might presume that Matloff is no longer a danger to himself or society. Rossi bluntly disagrees, asking her what happens when he does get his memory back. Morgan is even more forceful, insisting that Matloff has to pay for his crimes whether he remembers them or not. Hotchner cuts the discussion off before it can escalate, reminding his team that their job is not to determine to what extent someone should be punished. He asks JJ if she's tracked down Nina Moore, but she and Prentiss, after speaking with 71 women, found no one who visited Matloff. Since Matloff was a paranoid loner with no meaningful relationships, to have someone dedicated enough to visit him - a multi-murderer coma patient - is very surprising. She might have known the truth about him, or she might have been a fan. Their next step must be to interview the hospital staff to try to profile the woman. The eyes are haunting him. In face after face they stare, and screams echo in his mind. The images come more and more quickly, dead faces, living faces, until Brian Matloff jerks awake, perspiration running down his face. The female deputy comes to the door of his cell to check on him, but he tells her it was just a dream - he is anxious with the trial starting the next day. She assures him that he has a good chance since he passed the brain test. He asks for some paper and something to write with - the doctors say it might help him remember. Sniffing the air, Matloff asks the woman about the smell. Another deputy was popping popcorn on his break, she admits, and Matloff wonders aloud if he ever liked the taste. The trial has begun, and Hotchner and the team know they have little time to find any solid evidence to convict Brian Matloff. In front of the jury, DA Hillenbrand and Defense Attorney Serling present their opening statements. As they offer two very different views of Brian Matloff - the first that of a cold-blooded murderer who must be punished for what he did to three young women and their families, and the second that of a wounded man unjustly accused of crimes he cannot possibly refute because of his brain injury - the team is hard at work. And Mr. Corbett is watching. The district attorney has just finished leading SSA Hotchner through his testimony concerning the profile of the Blue Ridge Killer. Hotchner explains the process of identifying unknown subjects based on behavior and analysis. He remembers the discussion in the BAU bullpen in 2004 with Reid and Morgan, and how they determined that the killer must be an employee of the forestry service to exert the needed control over his victims initially, and control over their remains he buried in the park so that he would have access to them whenever he wanted. They then narrowed down the parameters from the 1,718 park employees, eliminated new hires, and focused on people who inserted themselves into the investigation. Noticing the new technical analyst out of the corner of this eye, Morgan, unsure of her name, calls out: "Hey, baby girl." Penelope Garcia freezes and turns and a friendship is born. On the stand, Hotchner explains that Garcia found only one name that fit the profile - Brian Matloff. Speaking to Reid on the phone, Rossi is not surprised that Hotchner's testimony went so well, claiming to have taught Hotchner everything he knows. He tells Reid to call back after the defense has "had a go at him." JJ and Prentiss enter his office to tell Rossi that they have more information about the woman who visited Matloff: she is between 40 and 50, nervous but increasingly at home, she read to him, and was concerned with his pain. "Sounds almost maternal," suggests Rossi. Prentiss thought so, too, but after interviewing Mr. and Mrs. Matloff she found out that Brian Matloff was adopted. The woman could be his birth mother. The nurses at the hospital described the woman as a brunette with darker skin, and Rossi wonders if she is Native American - Matloff's obsession with Native American mythos might have been an attempt to get in touch with his roots. Defense Attorney Serling is openly skeptical about the use of profiling as a means of investigation. He suggests that Matloff fled when the FBI broke down his door because of an outstanding charge of hit-and-run driving. Reid watches with concern. The woman at the adoption agency is not being very cooperative with Garcia, and Garcia is out of patience. She hacks into the woman's computer and retrieves Matloff's birth mother's information, getting access to Nina Genesee's social security number. Garcia tells JJ that Nina Genesee married and changed her name to Moore and now lives in Madison Heights, Virginia. JJ looks through her list and finds that she spoke with this women and she claimed that she had never been to Roanoke. Hotchner is calm and cool on the stand, answering Serling's questions clearly and explaining that behavioral analysis was one factor of the investigation that led the team to Brian Matloff. Serling brings up the case of the Olympic Park bombing, when behavioral analysis led the FBI to suspect Richard Jewell, an innocent man. Even though the DA objects, the judge allows Serling to bring up facts that "speak to" the credibility of the science of profiling. Hotchner explains that, when the actual bomber, Eric Rudolph, was caught, the profile was found to be correct. Serling looks over his notes and demands answers about profiles that have been horribly wrong, such as the Baton Rouge killer and the BTK killer. "The fact is, behavioral analysis is just intellectual guesswork. You probably couldn't tell me the color of my socks with any greater accuracy than a carnival psychic," snaps Serling. Hotchner, a slight smile on his face, can not only tell him that his socks are gray to match his suit so that he appears taller, but also that he is having financial difficulties, pawned his Rolex, bets on horses and is getting race results on his Blackberry every twenty minutes. Now Serling is nervous, claiming that Hotchner is just telling a story, but Reid's knowing grin from the spectator gallery is confident. Hotchner suggests they just wait a few moments, as the results of the next race should be coming in at any moment. Serling's Blackberry buzzes on the defense table and the attorney is at a loss for words. "Nothing further," Serling says. Reid hurries after Corbett in the courthouse hallway to assure him that the cross examination didn't go as badly as it appeared. Corbett smiles - he has a better understanding of things now. He explains that he has been going to a therapist who helped him grasp that there would always be things in life that he couldn't control. He smiles at Reid, calling him "Spencer," and tells him that he realizes he has no control over what goes on in the courtroom. Reid is surprised by his attitude. Corbett walks out to his car and sits behind the wheel, his face set, sweat on his brow. He reaches into the glove compartment and picks up a gun. "Why didn't you come forward?" Rossi asks Nina Moore at her home in Virginia. She explains that her family doesn't know about her first child, and she wanted to protect them. She only met with Brian once before he was injured, five years ago, long before the killings began. He called her one day, having found her through an investigator, and wanted to meet. They spoke about her family and children - Brian seemed to want to connect with her, to call occasionally and meet over the holidays but she couldn't agree to it. She rejected him and she feels responsible for what he did. She visited him at the hospital because it was safe and no one would know. Nina's husband arrives unexpectedly and she has some explaining to do. Rossi believes that Nina's rejection of Matloff was the stressor that sent him off to kill. He interrupts Nina's discussion with her husband to ask about anything Brian might have sent her in the mail. She pulls out a box full of trinkets - the reason they never found Matloff's "trophies" is that he sent them to Nina Moore. The dead women accuse him with their eyes. They sit up in the graves and turn their faces from the dirt to stare at him. Matloff jerks awake in the transport van. The deputy is sympathetic, and pulls out a bag of popcorn for him - he said he wondered if he liked it. "So, uh, do you remember?" she asks when he takes a bite. "I think I'm starting to," he answers, turning back to the window. The deputy helps Matloff out of the Roanoke City Sheriff's van in the courthouse parking lot. Corbett is waiting. He walks towards the prisoner, one hand fumbling in his blazer pocket, his eyes intent. The deputy leads Matloff towards the courthouse, but Corbett is closing the distance between them, fixed on his goal. A hand reaches out, grasping Corbett's gun hand. Reid steps in close to the grieving father, holding him still, and holding the gun. He whispers that Corbett should be thinking about Darcy, and how she would react if she knew that her father was going to ruin his life this way. He keeps his grip on Corbett as Corbett watches his target move away, towards justice and away from vengeance. Reid is passionate, explaining that, if he shot Matloff, Matloff would be dead, and Corbett would be the one to suffer in prison. "I'm already in prison," Corbett mutters, but he takes his hand out of his pocket and allows Reid to take the gun. "How did you know?" he asks the young agent. Profiling works - Corbett's aspect, attitude and words in the courthouse yesterday told Reid everything he needed to know. Nina Moore is on the stand, explaining her relationship with Brian Matloff. Matloff watches intently as she describes her meeting with him five years ago, and that she felt she had no choice but to reject his wishes for a relationship with her. She tearfully testifies that turning him away was the hardest thing she ever had to do, but "a person can't live two lives." She tells Matloff that she is sorry, and he covers his eyes. Nina continues, telling the court about the necklaces and watch she received from Brian later. The DA enters the jewelry into evidence, showing the jury that the watch matches the watch victim Darcy Corbett wore. The judge adjourns the court. As the deputy leads the defendant out, Hotchner stands and walks over to the defense table. A single tear has fallen on Matloff's notebook. The deputy takes Matloff to a holding room so that he can change from his suit back into his orange jumpsuit. She begins to take off his cuffs. Hotchner approaches DA Hillenbrand and tells her that Matloff is getting his memory back - he wouldn't be crying if he didn't feel an emotional connection with his mother. Matloff seems withdrawn, reacting to Nina Moore's words on the stand. He asks the deputy if she thinks his mother was right - that a person has to choose which life to lead. Guards and deputies run past Hotchner and Hillenbrand, and Hotchner follows them to the holding room. The deputy is holding a cloth to her bloody head: Matloff is gone and he has her gun. Outside in the parking lot, an officer tells Hotchner and Reid that Matloff pulled a woman from her car and drove off, but they are setting up roadblocks and a state-wide APB. They can't tell where Matloff is likely to go until they understand "who he is." Hotchner sees Serling walking past and demands to know if Serling was aware of Matloff's returning memory. Reid inserts himself between the two men, telling Hotchner that Matloff was a paranoid personality and certainly wouldn't confide in his lawyer. Hotchner orders Reid to the prison to see if he can find anything in Matloff's cell to give them an insight into his thinking. Talking to Hotchner on his cell, Morgan suggests that Matloff's first stop would be his birth mother - she is the focus of his stress, and the ideal for his choice of victims. Since she is protected at the courthouse, Rossi believes that he will either run or go on a spree. Prentiss is concerned that their insistence on the brain test jogged these memories to the foreground - any future crimes Matloff commits will be on their heads. Reid is tearing through Matloff's cell, checking every corner and every crack. He tosses aside the sheets and blanket from the bed, and then throws off the mattress to reveal pages of notes and drawings scribbled on yellow legal paper. He flips through the papers and sees a detailed drawing of a waterfall. Reid calls Hotchner to tell him where Brian Matloff is going. Matloff walks through the Blue Ridge Park and glances at the waterfall nearby. As he walks along the trail he is struck by images and memories: a dark-haired girl asking a question, a woman jogger, a quick move with a belt to snap it around her neck, struggling limbs, a woman's voice begging for help. Hearing a noise he sees a woman jogger coming towards him along the trail and quickly ducks behind a tree. When Reid arrives in the park, Hotchner and a Virginia officer are checking a map of the area. Reid slaps the picture of the waterfall onto the hood of the car, telling them that Darcy Corbett's body was found near a waterfall. The officer immediately identifies it as Linville Falls. He wonders why an escaping murderer would come back to the park and Hotchner explains that Matloff is looking for something - he's looking for himself. The agents and officers hurry through the park, and Hotchner is the first to spot Matloff. He sits on the grass with his back to the officers and holds a motionless young woman. Hotchner advises the officer to get his "shooters high and wide," while Hotchner approaches Matloff himself. Reid follows Hotchner, a few yards behind, as Hotchner walks slowly towards Matloff, his gun drawn. Matloff can only see a woman's face, begging him to let her go. Hotchner tells Matloff to show him his hands, but Matloff tells him to stop. When he gets a few feet closer, Hotchner can see that the woman Matloff is holding in his arms is long dead - a decayed corpse - and Hotchner asks Matloff who she is. "She was my first," he tearfully responds. He remembers everything - every feeling, every tiny detail - but it's like the memories belong to someone else. He holds the gun beside his head, saying that, if he is to be put to death, he may as well do it himself. Hotchner tells Matloff that the court may show him mercy if he proves that he is a different person by doing the right thing. Matloff throws the gun away. Packing up the case files in DA Hillenbrand's office, Hotchner and Reid are relieved to hear that Matloff is pleading out and the case is over. CeCe Hillenbrand offers to buy the agents drinks to celebrate, but Hotchner begs off, telling her that they have a long drive ahead of them. The attractive blonde DA hopes she and Hotchner can try another time. After she leaves, Reid tells Hotchner about Darcy Corbett's father and the scene in the courthouse parking lot. Hotchner wonders if Matloff's conviction will help bring closure and peace to Mr. Corbett, but Reid doesn't think one event could have that kind of an effect. Later that night, Corbett opens his door and is surprised to find Agent Reid on his doorstep. Reid wanted to come by to tell Corbett about Matloff's plea, and that he will be spending the rest of his life in prison without parole. Corbett seems uncomfortable, uneasy about his behavior earlier that day, but Reid merely smiles and hands something to Darcy's father: it is the watch that Darcy was wearing when she was killed. Reid asks Corbett about an inscription on the back, "Glory in the flower." Fingering this last symbol of his daughter, Corbett explains that Darcy and her grandmother loved poetry, and that the line is from Wordsworth. Tears flooding his eyes, he cannot finish the line of poetry, but quietly thanks Reid before softly closing his door. "What though the radiance that was once so bright be now forever taken from thy sight, though nothing can bring back the hour of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; we will grieve not, but rather find strength in what remains behind." [recap written by Finnegan77]