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Serial-killer confessions (not for the faint of heart)

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“Episode 4”

“Episode 4” unravels two new cases, but perhaps most importantly, it finally sheds some light on Bill’s home life and state of mind.

The Behavioral Science Unit’s own Holmes and Watson had been heading back to Quantico after a visit to the Virginia State Penitentiary when they got T-boned on the road. The accident leaves Bill particularly shaken afterwards, and he clumsily admits to Holden that he’s not okay. And not just because he nearly got them both killed because he didn’t seen the idiot driving 100 miles an hour toward them; at home, he’s been unable to figure out why his adopted son, who’s able to speak, just won’t. It’s led to a fracture in his marriage with his wife Nancy, and though he can’t quite articulate it, he’s feeling inadequate and guilty and disappointed — all of which Holden sees when he picks up Bill for their next trip to Richmond.

Ah right, we have to talk the killer of the week. At the Virginia State Penitentiary, Holden and Bill have decided to interview Monte Rissell, a boyish murderer of five women, all of whom he raped before killing in various methods. Rissell seems amused at the prospect of being interviewed at first, and his smarmy, petulant attitude while telling his story — including an adolescence filled with doctors trying to fix his behavior, making his first kill after losing his girlfriend to someone else, and how he perfected his routine over time — triggers something in Bill, who thinks they should be careful not to buy everything Rissell’s selling. After all, the guy likes lying about as much as he loved Big Red soda.

Dr. Carr sees past either assessment. Listening to the recording of the first interview, she points out that it appears Rissell responded to specific “stressors” during his kills. His girlfriend sending him a Dear John letter made him drive all the way to see her with her new “beau,” as Holden puts it, and more importantly, his first victim’s compliance made him angry, so he felt the need to reassert control. The victims’ actions affected when and how Rissell acted in response. It’s a pattern, but not an exact, meticulously arranged one that Kemper would prefer.

More importantly, Rissell has a completely unexpected attitude toward his killings. During their second interview, he speaks of how his life went wrong from the moment he got dragged across the country with his mother and her new husband, who beat him as he grew up. He imagines a life with his father instead, a life in which he would have found his way.

And it hits Holden and Bill: Rissell sees himself as the victim. Bill worries they’re helping him by giving him a shoulder to cry on. Holden reminds him they’re simply using him, but it’s hard to tell if he’s simply lying to himself.

Besides, they have another case to figure out. After road school in a police precinct in Pennsylvania, a local detective named Ocasek approaches the pair for help with an unsettling murder that’s left him and the force rattled. A well-liked 22-year-old babysitter named Beverly had been murdered and grotesquely mutilated after her death, and then left perched out like a mannequin on top of a pile of trash on the edge of town. Ocasek can barely relay the details without choking up; the cop’s never seen anything like this before in their community, and he’s frightened that something like this could have happened there. “I go to church with these people,” he tells Holden and Bill.

They dive straight into the case — Holden a little too eagerly, perhaps — by visiting the crime scene and probing into the alibi of the man who found her corpse, a shady welder who, it turns out, had a thing for the young blonde along with a shaky story of how he came to spot her body. Despite the holes in his story, though, Holden and Bill hit a dead end when they talk to his wife, who admits her husband’s a creep but solidifies his alibi and says he had been with her all night the night Beverly disappeared. At least the two have yet to interrogate Beverly’s fiancé, who left the town to stay with relatives.

Carr would rather they stay out of town, too. She’s peeved they’ve spent so much time on an ongoing investigation instead of interviewing murderers like Rissell full time. (That said, she’s spent some time outside of work, too; a brief scene finds her bonding with Debbie over drinks with Holden and his much smarter girlfriend.) Rissell’s latest testimonial is bearing fruit — at least when it comes to the taxonomy of their project. She notices that Rissell’s storytelling emphasizes his self-pity, which plays to his audience’s sympathy, yet it’s more layered than that, because underneath, Rissell truly believes he’s been victimized in everything he’s done. He’s the type of killer who doesn’t want to admit to finding pleasure in killing; and yet, he does it again and again because the only people who understand that are, well, dead by his hands.

In other words, Rissell’s nothing like Kemper and everything like Kemper. Carr figures out a way to define the two men as case studies for two modes of serial killing: A Rissell type who kills spontaneously is disorganized, while a Kemper type who plans every kill is organized. Low intelligence yields disorganized kills; high intelligence yields organized. And so on and so forth, until the trio exhaust Kemper’s cards.

They’ll have plenty more cards to play with soon enough. At the end of the hour, the three enter Shepard’s office for a meeting, during which an exasperated Shepard reprimands Carr for talking to her peers about the project and then reveals that their project has earned not just one but two grants totaling nearly $400,000. The team is stunned, and as they return to their B.S. basement, they allow themselves some smiles. But don’t count on them looking happy for too long: Now that they’ve got the attention of these organizations, Congress will be interested in their work, and who knows what that’ll entail.

Most F—ed Up Moment: Rissell’s explanation of why he wanted to rape his first victim: “It’s like the idea of doing it pops in your head like a sneeze, you know what I mean?” No, Monte, I don’t.

Grade: B+

Shirley Li
(Click ahead for episode 5)

/ ( 4 of 10 )

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