Criminal Minds

Season 3 Episode 10

True Night

10
Aired Wednesday 10:00 PM Nov 28, 2007 on CBS

Episode Recap

It's night in Los Angeles, California, and the colorful lights of the city deny the true darkness hidden within. The drawings plastered all over the walls of the seamy one-room apartment illustrate the urban blood and violence as seen through the eyes of the graphic novelist. One figure – red-eyed – peers from beneath his black cloak and hood from the pages. Standing in a pool of blood, he holds a naked sword, and from the thin red film that drips from the point it is clear that the weapon has been used this night. This is "True Night."

Graphic novelist Jonny McHale sits at his drawing table while the driving rain falls against his window. His table is cluttered with pages depicting his character – "True Night" – a shadowy figure who is drawn almost entirely in black and white. The only other color that can be seen is the red splashed glaringly across the pages. The character stands in the pouring rain, a gleaming sword held in each hand, and – suddenly – the figure merges into the real world, into an alley in the city. He moves, as if listening, and hears the snarling of the wolf creatures in the darkness. Turning, he swings his swords in practiced moves, readying himself for combat. The two wolf creatures move to attack, their faces snarling to reveal long, pointed teeth. The swords flash through the blinding rain and one finds its mark, leaving a trail of red across the neck of one of the creatures. The other creature lashes out with one clawed hand and rips across the figure's unprotected back. He dives and rolls, sending cascades of blue water up from the street's surface. Rising quickly, he brings both blades down on the wolf creature's arm, severing the clawlike hand from its body before whirling to bring the death strokes across the creature's chest. The figure stops to stand immobile within the bloody tableau, allowing the rain to wash the gore from his gleaming swords as he is drawn back onto the artist's pages, two-dimensional once again. Exhausted, Jonny McHale lies just as immobile on his narrow bed.

Along a rain-soaked alley, a tattooed, dismembered hand lies in the gutter.

In the BAU conference room, JJ turns from the screen which shows the dismembered hand and explains the current case to the team. They are looking at crime scene photos of victims 6 and 7 in a two week killing spree – all of the victims were killed with a bladed weapon. The first 5 victims were alone when attacked, and the killings are getting more vicious. Hotchner asks JJ to notify the LA police that the team will arrive by 9:30.

Morgan escorts Garcia into her office for the first time since her injury and she is appalled by what she finds there. The interim technical analyst, Kevin Lynch, has left trash everywhere, has moved her monitors and generally messed up her very carefully worked out system. A very protective Morgan quickly moves to clean up the mess, and Garcia gets a hold of herself and urges Morgan to get going – the rest of the team needs him. Morgan volunteers to stay behind and help her get re-settled, but she insists that he go, letting him know that his energetic attempts to "fix" things would probably annoy her even more. Still unsure, it isn't until Garcia begins showing him her "full range of motion," that he agrees to go with the team to Los Angeles.

The BAU jet flies through the early morning sky.

"Superman is, after all, an alien life form. He's simply the acceptable face of invading realities." Author Clive Barker.

Young Jonny McHale is still deeply asleep. He's dreaming of a silly conversation he once had with his girlfriend, Vickie. He sits on the couch with this beautiful blonde woman, while she puzzles over what to leave as her message on her cell phone voice mail. He tries to tell her that it is not a big deal, and that she should just say her name, but she wants something fun. "You're a writer," she complains, "you promised to help." Finally he suggests she say that she can't answer the phone because she's out living her life. She loves the idea, and records the message. He quickly moves in to claim a prize for his help, but is pulled out of the dream by an anxious pounding at his apartment door. A man demands entry, banging on the door and shouting that he knows Jonny is in there. Throwing open the door, Jonny finds his agent, Bobby Kim, who is horrified at Jonny's unkempt appearance. Kim reminds Jonny that he has a book signing in an hour and that they already have an advance from the publisher.

Jonny does not want to go, and advises Kim to give back the advance. Kim tells Jonny that his fans waited in line all night in the pouring rain just to get a chance to meet him and Jonny gives in. Kim picks up the drawings of "True Night" and asks Jonny about them - he was supposed to be working on "Blue" #6, and it is due in two weeks. Jonny explains that he is working on something new, and that he isn't "feeling" the other story anymore. Bobby Kim doesn't like the sound of that – Jonny is a professional with commitments, and, it looks like this new story is full of blood and violence – nothing like his usual work. Finally, Kim agrees to call the publisher and the two head out.

In Kim's limo, Jonny complains of a headache while Kim shouts angrily at the driver to hurry up. Looking at the pages he's brought from Jonny's apartment, Kim admires his artwork, but wonders about the name of the character. He suggests he should name it "True Knight" – with a "K", but Jonny angrily refuses. When Kim reminds Jonny that they work together, Jonny disagrees – Kim is just leeching from Jonny's talent. Jonny is acting totally out of character.

Jonny closes his eyes and is taken back to another memory of his girlfriend. Even though it is midnight, and Jonny is working on a drawing, Vickie wants to go out for teriyaki jerky. He gazes lovingly at her as she slips on her jeans. Kim's grating voice telling the driver to hurry up pulls him from his reverie just as the limo drives past the FBI crime scene and Reid and Morgan exit their black SUV.

Reid admonishes Morgan for not listening to him about what route to take from the airport and Morgan threatens to smack Reid if he doesn't let it go. Det. Brady from the LAPD introduces himself to the two agents and tells them that the bodies were discovered about 3:30 AM in the alley by a cleaning crew. Although they don't have a positive ID on either body, they feel that the victimology of all seven victims is consistent. Reid explains that it is almost certainly one unsub because of the level of overkill – he's most likely experiencing a psychotic break.

At a local comic store, fans are lined up inside and outside, impatient to meet Jonny McHale. One fan is listening to a police scanner, and tells the other that it is likely Jonny was held up in traffic because of the police activity – two bodies were found nearby. Milo, the first man in line, is irate and threatens to take his business elsewhere. Gus, the comic store owner, tells him to be his guest. Jonny and Bobby Kim enter the store through the rear and the fans go wild, snapping pictures with digital cameras and cell phones, and calling out to Jonny. Jonny seems confused by the noises and flashing lights – he gets frightened and races out the back door. Milo and the other fans are in an uproar.

Bobby Kim follows Jonny into the alley behind the store, but can't find him. Jonny turns a corner and leans against a building, out of breath and confused. He seems to hear a woman's voice, and he takes his cell phone out of his pocket and tries to call Vickie. All he hears is the voice mail message, and he begs her to call him, telling her he's sorry. He turns and races down the street, slamming into other pedestrians, and dodging around objects. He darts into the street and right into the path of an oncoming car. The driver slams on the brakes, but can't avoid hitting Jonny. He bounces off the windshield and is thrown to the pavement. The driver and his female passenger get out to check on him, but when the driver leans over him, Jonny reaches up and grabs him by the throat, choking him. The woman tries to pull Jonny away from him, and Jonny finally pushes the man over and releases him. The woman screams at Jonny that the whole situation is his fault. Shocked by her anger and accusations, Jonny limps away.

At the crime scene, Morgan is on the phone with Hotchner, telling him that the level of violence of the unsub is extremely high. Reid compares the destructive ability of someone in a violent psychotic break with the ecological disaster of a domestic cat in a normal neighborhood – "They'll kill anything they can: bugs, rodents, birds, other cats, small dogs if possible, anything." This unsub will be worse.

Jonny darts through the streets, his knees torn and bloody, with the voice of the woman from the car pounding in his ears: "It was your fault!"

Limping even worse from his injury, Jonny runs down the street hearing the sounds of sirens all around him. He runs right into a uniformed policeman who keeps him from running through the FBI crime scene of the two murders. Jonny seems to come to his senses, and walks carefully around the yellow tape, his eyes drawn to the scene of the violence. Rossi stops him and asks him if he hurt himself, pointing to the blood on his ripped jeans, but Jonny doesn't seem to have any memory of the accident. JJ and Prentiss are taking pictures of the crowd as Reid scans the area. Jonny asks Rossi if he's sure that the victims are dead as they are being wheeled into waiting ambulances in body bags. Rossi is intrigued, and introduces himself to Jonny, who gives Rossi his name. At that moment Bobby Kim finally catches up with Jonny and leads him away from the scene.

Back in the limo with Kim, Jonny is agitated because he's afraid that "she's mad" at him. He explains that he's left her scores of messages, but she won't call him back. When Kim doesn't understand, Jonny blurts out that he's talking about Vickie, and that he has to tell her that he's sorry. Kim seems very concerned and advises Jonny to just rest. Jonny tries Vickie's cell phone again, but gets the same message. He closes his eyes and goes back to the same night in his memory. He and Vickie are walking down a dark city street, arm in arm, and she's eating jerky out of the bag. Vickie stops and tells Jonny that she's pregnant, and Jonny is elated.

Back at Jonny's apartment, Bobby Kim suggests Jonny see a his therapist, admitting that she's helped him through some dark times, but Jonny just lies down on his bed and tells Kim to go away. Kim tries again, but when Jonny says "no" he drops it, telling Jonny they can go to the comic store another day. Jonny tells Kim that it isn't going to happen and then abruptly fires him, screaming at him to get out. Kim reluctantly leaves.

Lying back in his bed, pictures flash through Jonny's mind – of him and Vickie on the dark street, of his accident that afternoon, of him running, and of shadowed figures confronting him and Vickie. He sits up and tries Vickie's cell phone one more time. When he gets her voice mail message, he reacts violently, picking up a hand weight that was lying nearby and throwing it through the screen of his television set. Just before the television explodes, a BAU news conference is being shown, and JJ's face is on the screen.

Bobby Kim leaves Jonny's building and gets into the back of the limo. He picks up Jonny's new drawings and quickly pages through them before telling the driver to take him home. As the limo drives past, Rossi, JJ and Hotchner are getting out of their car. They have determined that Jonny's neighborhood is the geographical center of the crime scenes, and the LAPD are going to help them canvass those three blocks. Since most of the buildings have apartments with single room occupancy, there will be close to 3000 people to interview. JJ mentions that the press conference went well and it should be showing on local affiliate stations by that point. Hotchner hopes that will help thin out the suspect list.

Jonny cannot control himself. He stands in the middle of his apartment, spinning in circles and holding his head. He sees visions of the wolf creatures snarling at him. He goes to his drawing table and hurriedly begins to sketch.

It's dark, and the hooded and cloaked figure out of Jonny's drawings crouches behind a parked car outside a house that is flooded with light. The figure rushes towards the house and leaps onto the front porch, instantly aware of the snarling wolf creatures waiting there. His sword finds the throat of his first victim, spraying red into the night as he twirls and cuts the other creature from navel to neck. He opens the door and walks inside, carefully closing the door behind him. Bloodcurdling howls and the sound of steel resound from the blazing house which gradually fades into reality – an average home on an average street. A postal carrier walks towards the mailbox and sees the dead man on the patio and begins to scream.

Jonny is asleep at the drawing table, his head resting on his arm. In his dream he sees Vickie's beautiful face as she tells him she is pregnant that dark night. Jonny embraces her, holding her close to him and telling her how much he loves her. He suddenly puts her at arms' length and gets down on one knee and asks her to marry him. She is distracted by something in the alley behind him, her face reflecting her fear. Jonny gets up and turns around. The sound of Vickie's scream follows Jonny out of his dream and back into reality at his drawing table. There is a blood stain on Jonny's undershirt under his left arm. He walks through the small apartment and calls for Vickie. He stops at the mirror over the sink and looks at his face, and then notices the wound under his arm. Hearing sirens, he goes to the window and sees the black FBI SUVs go past his building.

Morgan is on the phone with Det. Brady. The detective tells Morgan that all the new victims were also gangbangers, just like all of the previous victims. Det. Benson from the Violent Gang Task Force stands next to Brady at the current crime scene and mentions that all of these guys "had it coming." Brady describes the scene to Hotchner: the bodies were found at the home of the gang leader – Glen Hill, street name "Reaper". There are six dead – four inside and two outside – no survivors. Brady actually is starting to feel sorry for these gangbangers. Inside the SUV, the BAU team discusses the crimes – that all of the victims were gang members, and all previous victims were killed on the streets. Rossi compares the unsub to Bernie Goetz – someone who rode the subways with a gun, waiting for someone to confront him. The difference with this crime, Hotchner notes, is that their unsub is now seeking his victims out. It is only a matter of time before the unsub becomes a danger to those close to him.

Jonny hears Vickie's screams again, and sees a shadow go past his window. He walks onto the fire escape and follows it down a flight. He opens a window and walks into Helen Trestle's apartment, asking her where Vickie is. His neighbor recognizes him and asks him if he hurt himself. Jonny demands to know where Vickie went – he saw her on the fire escape. Mrs. Trestle tells him that her cat, Cecil was just out there. Jonny insists she is lying to him, and begins to see flashes of Vickie's face, the wolf creatures, and a sword. The screaming gets louder.

At the crime scene at Glen Hill's house, the team finds the walls inside the house covered with graffiti and blood spray. The graffiti identifies the gang as "T.S.K.", the 23rd Street Killers. Not even Benson has ever seen anything like this level of violence performed by one man. The BAU team explains to Det. Brady that an unsub in a violent psychotic rage stands out. Based on the information the public has been given through their press conferences, someone is going to recognize the description of the unsub's profile. Prentiss calls Hotchner into another room to see something.

Jonny's violent agitation is increasing. His flashes are becoming more rapid, and he now sees the dark figure from his drawings wielding his sword. The wolf creatures snarl as Jonny thrashes about in his apartment, knocking over furniture, and tearing at his drawings. He sees Vickie's face, and throws himself into a corner.

Officers and workers at the LAPD office are taking dozens of phone calls on the bureau tip-line. As JJ begins to answer a call an officer asks her to speak to some people who have come down to the station after seeing her press conference.

Jonny is lying on the floor when the BAU break into his apartment, guns drawn. They pin him to the floor and handcuff him as he moans, "What did I do? What did I do?"

Det. Brady and Agent Morgan guide Jonny through a crowd of bystanders and reporters and into the LAPD offices. As he is led through the office, Jonny sees the profile of the unsub written out on the white board, as well as the photographs of the victims. Sitting throughout the room are the people Jonny has interacted with over the past few days – Bobby Kim - his agent, the comic book fans, the driver and passenger from the car that hit him, and the comic book store owner. Jonny seems confused about why he is there, insisting that he hasn't done anything.

Morgan leads Jonny into an interview room and handcuffs him to the table. Morgan is quiet but firm with Jonny, reminding him that he has read him his rights. Jonny tells him that he understands his rights and doesn't want a lawyer. Outside in the LAPD bullpen, Hotchner and Rossi bring in file boxes full of evidence from Jonny's apartment. They did not find the murder weapon, but did find Jonny's drawings – drawings that are perfect replicas of each of the crime scenes. Hotchner sends Prentiss off for a mug shot of Glen Hill. Bobby Kim is talking with JJ, telling her that Jonny isn't a bad person, he's just sick. He hadn't been to check on Jonny in a few months because he was busy.

Hotchner, Prentiss, Det. Brady and Rossi enter the interview room with Glen Hill's picture and a file box. Jonny doesn't understand why they think he might know where Glen Hill is. They explain that, six months ago, Glen Hill and his gang victimized Jonny and his girlfriend Vickie on the street. Jonny denies that anything like that has ever happened to him. Brady reminds him that he was knifed in the stomach, and that, when he got out of the hospital Jonny couldn't identify any of his attackers.

Garcia calls Morgan and admits to being mortified that she is a big fan of Jonny McHale's artwork. Holding drawings of the wolf creatures, Morgan tells Garcia what Jonny thought his victims looked like before he killed them.

In the interview room, Hotchner explains that Jonny is suffering from a psychotic break brought about by Post Traumatic Stress. Showing him one of his drawings, the team shows him that his drawing is exactly the same as the real crime scene. They tell him that they saw him at the crime scene, and that Rossi remembers talking to him there. Jonny can't believe the crime scene is real. They also show him a photograph of Glen Hill's house and explain that six men were killed there last night. Prentiss puts a drawing of the same house on the table – they found it on his drawing table when they arrested him. Jonny continues to deny everything. Hotchner tells Jonny that there was a blood trail leading out the back door of the house and that they believe Jonny took Glen Hill with him when he left.

Reid finds Jonny's cell phone in one of the file boxes. He sees that all of the calls Jonny makes are to one number and he dials it. They can hear the phone ringing from another file box. Inside, Morgan finds Vickie's cell phone and hears her voice mail message. JJ recognizes Vickie's name as Jonny's girlfriend and sadly remarks that sometimes an unsub's actions actually make sense.

Rossi tells Jonny that it isn't unusual for victims of violent crimes to suffer from PTSD, but Jonny still can't believe this is true. Jonny doesn't remember any attack or being in the hospital until Rossi begins describing his injuries, and actually lifts up his shirt to show him the scar on his stomach. When Rossi tells him that it was a miracle that he lived, Jonny finally breaks through to the memories. Even as the team asks him where he left Glen Hill, showing him one of his drawings of an eviscerated body tied to a chair, Jonny is back in his memories. He jerks the handcuffs loose from the table, shouting and struggling to escape but they subdue him. The team treats Jonny gently, holding him but not hurting him, as he relives the horrible memories of that night in the alley. He remembers that Glen Hill and his gang came out of the shadows and threatened them. Jonny offered them money, but they took Vickie into the alley and made him watch as they raped her, Glen Hill whispering that Jonny wouldn't "want to miss this." Jonny remembers taking Glen Hill the night before, and tying him to a chair and repeating his own words, "You're not going to want to miss this," before using his sword.

Prentiss and Morgan find Hill's body exactly where Jonny put it, massive amounts of blood congealing on the walls of the small warehouse space.

In the BAU jet on the way home, Morgan jokes with Garcia on his cell phone as Reid pages through one of Jonny McHale's graphic novels. He tells JJ that they left both cell phones with Jonny – it was his only remaining tie to Vickie. Rossi notices that Prentiss is staring into space and asks her about it. She admits that this case has really affected her – this was the first case she has worked where the unsub wasn't a "bad guy." She is horrified that Jonny could go from successful artist and writer to brutal killer in six months. She understands that he suffered a tragedy, but she wonders if everyone is capable of becoming something like that.

Morgan has managed to re-adjust Garcia's office chair to exactly the right height and she sits in it with a happy sigh. When he denies being "her hero," as she calls him, Garcia tells Morgan about something graphic novelist Frank Miller once said. "The noir hero is a knight in blood-caked armor. He's dirty, and he does his best to deny the fact that he is a hero the whole time."

Jonny McHale's prison hospital room is covered with drawings of Vickie – tacked up on the walls, or drawn directly on them, or scattered on the floor. He sits in the corner and dials her cell phone, listening to her voice over and over again.

[recap written by Finnegan77]
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