At first, this episode of Criminal Minds seems to be all about inducing a fear of clowns, but it’s actually a story about two brothers and how their childhood fears still affect them even as adults. The BAU heads to Oklahoma to investigate disturbing murders after the UnSub crosses state lines, and it’s not long before they realize they’re not just looking for one person.
“The Capilanos” was directed by Matthew Gray Gubler, so of course it has its jump moments. (You’ll probably decide against getting up for a midnight snack after the creepy clown hiding under the bed and behind the refrigerator door, but once the episode gets past those, the clown surprises aren’t quite so scary anymore. Instead, you’re left feeling bad for one of the UnSubs and wondering what this trauma is going to do to the kids left behind when they become adults.
He’s Already in the House
The UnSub has already struck once when he hides underneath the bed of Mark Wilson and adds him to his victim list. Mark’s seven-year-old son, Dylan, sees the entire thing. Both Mark and the first victim, Sam Franklin, were strong, married men with kids.
They were beaten to death and the sides of their mouths cut to make it look like they were smiling. Since the latter was done postmortem, it wasn’t about inflicting pain. The UnSub was compelled to do it and is showing patricidal tendencies.
Mark was killed around midnight, but Dylan didn’t call 911 until sunrise. He was in the house with his father’s dead body for hours, so it’s not surprising that he’s not talking. He claims that the killer is a clown, but is he just projecting something he fears? Based on the detail of the drawing he does for Reid, no. The detail in the costume suggests something precise, and since the M.E. found grease paint under the latest victim’s nails, the UnSub’s face is hand-painted.
Garcia finds robberies in Colorado linked by a bizarre smiley face carved into the doors, likely the work of their UnSub. The homeowners weren’t home, but were these just targets of opportunity? And why did the UnSub evolve to murder? His first victim, Sam, did tell his wife that he was almost T-boned on his way home and the driver lost it. Did that chance encounter lead to murder?
The UnSub does appear to have one line he won’t cross: hurting children. He leaves Dylan alive and doesn’t kill the kids of his next victims either. After surprising a father in the kitchen, he kills the mother as well, perhaps because she tried to stop him.
Does the UnSub have abandonment issues? Or could there be a submissive partner that’s the influence keeping the kids alive? The UnSub could be killing strong male figures to prove his dominance, but why cut their mouths? Could he have a similar one?
The submissive partner pulls the van over before a road block, worried that they’ll be caught, and this is when he sees the blood on the other man’s clothes. He thought no one was getting hurt, and his partner brushes off his concerns.
The Life They’ve Always Known
While Reid looks through clown drawings to find one that looks like Dylan’s, Mia Wilson admits that she doesn’t know how she’s going to get her son through this. Reid brings up that split second of peace, when you wake up and don’t remember what’s happened. She just needs to find a way to help Dylan hold onto that moment and make sure he knows that it’ll take time for him to heal.
Dylan will talk when he’s ready, Reid assures Mia, and the seven-year-old does, telling the agent that the clown was wearing a denim shirt and smelled like horses.
Just after the team’s given their profile to the local law enforcement, two men are spotted matching their description. However, these two men are just two guys who dress up as clowns to get them the attention they don’t get in their daily lives.
The submissive UnSub, Tony, joins his wife, Dina, and son, Mikey, in a motel room. They have enough to continue on their way to Florida. However, when the news reports the recent murders, he realizes what his partner has done and confronts him. The other man, Sal, admits that he’s killed four people and has lost all their money gambling. But he has a plan: they just need to rob a rich ranch owner.
However, when they get to the ranch, things don’t go as planned, and the owner has a shotgun. Sal fights back, and the owner ends up with a gunshot wound to his shoulder. The two men then fled, but thanks to a security system, they now know what they look like.
Most clowns believe that it’s who they are, and with circuses going out of business, they need to find other work. They did, at rodeos, both in Colorado and now in Oklahoma. At one rodeo, J.J. and Simmons learn that the Capilano brothers were fired after Sal got into a fight, and they were also fired in Colorado. Since their names are no longer good in the area since owners talk, they’d have to give underground rodeos a try to make money.
The brothers continue to disagree about their methods and part ways, but not before we learn that Sal lets their father beat him and cut the side of his mouth so he wouldn’t hurt Tony. To make money for his family, Tony heads to one of the underground rodeos and manages to talk his way in to make gas money.
But Sal’s not far behind, and he drags Dina out of the van while she waits outside the rodeo. He blames her for taking Tony from him, and the only thing that stops him from choking her is Mikey waking up in the back of the van. Sal then runs off into the rodeo.
As the team learns, the brothers have only known the circus life and lost their jobs a few months ago, which was like losing their identities and their stressor. Their father was an abusive drunk and killed their mother, and they were orphans just like the victims’ children. Sal was a daredevil wannabe, and he’s still chasing that adrenaline rush as he kills surrogates for their father.
Is There a Happy Ending to This (Freaky) Story?
After Sal shoots the guy running the rodeo in the leg and grabs the key to his safe, Tony tries to stop him and threatens to call the police. He’ll be put away too, his brother warns him and then dares to make a lewd comment about his wife. The brothers get into it, and Tony ends up holding the gun. That’s when J.J. and Simmons show up, and she talks Tony down even as Sal taunts him. He doesn’t have to be like his brother or his father, and Tony drops the gun and surrenders. Sal laughs as the brothers are taken away in handcuffs.
At the police station, Tony tries to convince Dina to stick to their plan and take Mikey to Florida. He could be in prison for up to 10 years, and he doesn’t want his son to see him like that.
As for the kids, Dylan’s talking again, and he even invites Mikey over to draw with him and then gives him a drawing as their mothers and the team watch.
What did you think of the case?
Criminal Minds season 13 airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on CBS. Want more news? Like our Criminal Minds Facebook page.
(Image courtesy of CBS)