Season 2 Episode 18

Die Beautiful

Aired Saturday 10:00 PM May 02, 1998 on NBC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

Die Beautiful
VCTF is invited to an on-going investigation on the murder of a teen beauty. She was killed a year ago, and no arrests have been made so far. They find a killer on death row with matching breaking and entering technique, but Sam thinks the convict didn't kill his victims.moreless

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  • Creepy and disturbing, a subtle commentary on child beauty pageants with more than a nod to the JonBenet Ramsey case.

    Throughout most of its run, Profiler has been surprisingly circumspect on matters of sexuality. Rather than delve into the world of sexually deviant killer, the show has tended toward killers who are on a mission or who are simply disturbed. This episode delves into a world of sexual deviancy - voyeurism, allegations of sexual abuse of minors - with a sure and steady hand. Watching this episode, it makes me wish Profiler had explored these issues more often. Die Beautiful begins with a montage of a girl - Melissa Merritt - being born, growing up and moving into the world of child beautify pageants then into teen pageants. The montage is a bit heavy handed - we see the girl smiling broadly, turning away from the cameras her smile turns into a frown. The montage ends with her going to bed, turning and screaming as a hand appears and forces a pillow case over her head. We get a quick shot of newspaper headlines announcing her murder. The teaser fairly screams "virgin sacrifice" and suggests that we're delving into a world of sexuality and murder that is not the normal terrain.

    We learn Melissa dropped out a major pageant shortly before she was killed, hear a rumor that her father was sexually abusing her and then delve into the world of the hard headed local cop (who for a change isn't entirely hardheaded). Sam interviews the parents, while the rest of the team interviews local peeping toms. The interview with the parents is one of the episodes more obvious red-herrings (their attorney refuses to let them answer questions; it becomes a running theme in the episode). It's a scene that the producers go out of their way to fill with hints of misbehavior; the father is portrayed as a slightly creepy, slightly effeminate man. We see the mother as a forced, fragile woman trying to get through a situation wanting to shout her daughter's praises but also unnerved by the events and people around her. The peeping tom interviews are one of the episodes best touches. A series of creepy men saying creepy things about watching women get undressed and sleep. It's downright disturbing; a glimpse of humanity seedy and unappealing side. One man in particular says he likes women with liver spots; it's wonderfully icky.

    A second murder takes place. This time a singer songwriter. We get a good long view of the pillow case, smeared with lipstick, over the victims face. The pillow case with the lipstick smeared smile on it - a broad, exaggerated smile - deepens the sense of creepy sexuality the episode is exploring - not just sexuality but vulnerability and even exploitation of sexuality. The episode gives us a number of powerful images - for instance the scene of the second murder victim with the pillow case and smeared red lipstick, another scene of man standing in a corner, barely able to breathe, watching a woman sleep, another scene of women seen from outside their windows getting undressed going to bed and sleeping. It's an episode in which sexuality is distant, yet powerful, a lodestone that pulls one powerfully toward the object of both one's obsession and one's terror. We also see a paradoxical view of sexuality - the beauty pageant contestants are highly sexualized and yet the are girls not women. They see the contests as purely a means to an end, the sexual component of the contests is seen as purely utilitarian, a way to win. The sexualized component of the pageants is "innocent" - even little girls are dressed and made up and paraded about but we're supposed to understand that they are not sexual beings. It's obviously a not so subtle reference to the voyeur's relationship to sexuality - look don't touch, don't believe what you see.

    A second interview with the parents screams "red herring." Sam receives Melissa's diary from the mother and uses it to profile Melissa. They learn she'd used some of her money to buy a piano and was taking lessons, and had lost interest in the pageants. They discover a series of identical murders from San Diego; one problem, the man who did those crimes is on death row in CA. So they back up - looking for peeping toms who were arrested. Malone interviews the San Diego killer and learns how he snuck into people's houses; they find evidence of the sam method being used in the two NJ murders. Through some relatively ordinary police work, they realize the same piano turner had helped all the victims - NJ and CA.

    What unfolds from here is a straightforward investigation; they identify the guy, search his house, find videotapes of his victims. VCTF folks view the tapes figure out the next victim and rush to save her; John shoots yet another bad guy. Melissa's parents are cleared, the guy in San Diego exonerated to get treatment.

    The b-story involves Sam's daughter Chloe and her quest for tweener popularity. It's basically filler but inoffensive filler. The episode ends with a scene in which the VCTF receives a large box containing an elaborate board game created by Jack. "He's challenging us to a game." Sam says, "Let's play."

    Next: a two part season finale.moreless
Ally Walker

Ally Walker

Dr. Samantha "Sam" Waters

Caitlin Wachs

Caitlin Wachs

Chloe Waters

Dennis Christopher

Dennis Christopher

Jack of All Trades / Albert Newquay

Julian McMahon

Julian McMahon

Det. John Grant

Peter Frechette

Peter Frechette

George Fraley

Robert Davi

Robert Davi

Agent Bailey Malone

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


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