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Recap / Criminal Minds S 5 E 12 The Uncanny Valley

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The Uncanny Valley

Directed by Anna Foerstar
Written by Breen Frazier
Reid: Mildred Lisette Norman wrote, "Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness, possesses you. And in this materialistic age, a great many of us are possessed by our possessions."
The corpse of a woman turns up on a merry-go-round, dressed up and made-up like a doll. Another is discovered on a playground. The BAU determine they're from a line of dolls that the BAU assume is from the killer's childhood. The killer kidnaps and drugs the women to be immobile but awake so she can have tea parties with them, since her abusive father threw away the dolls she originally used to deal with the trauma of him molesting her as a child.

This episode features examples of:

  • And I Must Scream: The victims are kept for up to two months paralyzed, but conscious. Reid says thanks to the drugs, they would be able to move their eyes and think. Bethany is only able to overcome it thanks to her diabetic condition breaking down the drugs sooner.
  • Anti-Villain: Samantha just wants her dolls back, and feels extremely guilty when one of her human "dolls" dies.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: A seamstress does this on the clothing sample that J.J. shows to her. She identifies the stitch on it as a lockstitch, which was traditionally done on silk handkerchiefs. It has to be hand-sewn because it's so old.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Samantha is taken into custody, but she's crying Tears of Joy because Reid got her real dolls back and promises that no one will ever take them away again. Meanwhile, her recent round of victims is saved and get medical treatment, and her pedophile father is arrested.
  • Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: Thanks to her mental illness and the abuse from her father, Samantha has trouble distinguishing her real dolls from actual people. While she knows they can move and want to leave, she seems to think her friends have come to life.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Subverted. Due to one of the victims, Bethany, being diabetic, the paralyzing drug doesn't work as well on her and she's able to regain some control over her body. While her captor is out of the house, she successfully removes the IV keeping her sedated and tries to call for help, only to find out the only phone nearby is disconnected. She manages to remove the IV from another victim but is forced to re-sedate the both of them and return to where she was posed at the table when Samantha comes home early.
  • Didn't Think This Through: A toy company local to the area apparently had a competition where participants could create their own doll and write an essay about them. The company had not considered the fact that dolls are often used as tools to help children explain abuse happening to them. This got the company a load of essays with thinly veiled metaphors to their writers' abuse, and the bad publicity caused them to shut things down before they could take off.
  • Dramatic Irony: The mother of one Samantha’s victims calls her a monster for killing her daughter. But as the episode progresses, you realize that it’s Samantha’s father who is the real monster.
  • Freudian Excuse: Samantha was sexually abused by her father, who then gave her repeated electric shocks to shut her up about it.
  • Hidden Depths: It's revealed that Samantha is an accomplished seamstress; that's how she was able to make accurate costumes and wigs for the dolls. When the FBI consults another seamstress, she says that whoever made the embroidery on the clothing they gave her to analyze is a pro because it's a lockstitch that can't even be done on a machine.
  • Living Doll Collector: Samantha is doing this: kidnapping women, drugging them, dressing them in very specific homemade dresses, and posing them. However, her actions are not out of deliberate maliciousness; Samantha was raped and given ECT by her pedophile psychiatrist father, and kidnapped the women to recreate the only doll playset she'd ever owned, which said father had taken from her and given to his next unfortunate victim after his daughter got too old for him.
  • Lonely Doll Girl: Samantha was molested and abused by her father, leading to a sad, lonely life. She used to have tea parties with her favorite dolls before her father took them away from her, forcing her to kidnap women, drug them and dress them up as surrogates for the dolls at her tea party. She does eventually get the dolls back at the end.
  • Manly Tears: Rita's husband breaks down when he's shown a photo of Rita's body in the carousel.
  • Obliviously Evil: Samantha doesn't realize that what she's doing is technically kidnapping and murder. She just wants her friends back. When Reid brings her original dolls, she surrenders immediately and cries Tears of Joy.
  • Oh, Crap!: One victim has this expression in her eyes during her "makeover".
  • Parental Incest: Samantha's father sexually abused her.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: Samantha asks this of the one doll she realizes isn't paralyzed.
  • Psychopathic Womanchild: Samantha paralyzes women and plays house with them, but she's very sympathetic: her psychiatrist dad repeatedly gave her shock treatments to make her forget his sexual abuse and kept her dolls as trophies, along with all his other trophies. Give her some actual dolls and she's perfectly safe.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Dr. Malcolm's child molesting ways end up driving his daughter — who, yes, was one of his victims — to unintentionally kill people. He was a children's therapist who used electroshock treatment to torture his victims into submission.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The sheriff in charge of the Atlantic City is a little skeptical that the abductions have to do with dolls, but he listens. Later, he follows Reid's advice to take in Samantha quietly and with sympathy.
  • Red Shirt: Mentioned by Garcia.
    Garcia: Oh my god [the killer] was doomed, like Emily Bronte doomed, like Shakespeare doomed, like Red-Shirted Ensign in Star Trek doomed.
  • Shear Menace: Samantha arms herself with a pair of scissors when she notices the mess Bethany made when she tried to call for help, though she only actually threatens her with them after Reid confronts her. Fortunately, he talks her down.
  • Shout-Out: Garcia says Samantha was doomed like the characters in Emily Brontë novels, William Shakespeare's plays, and Star Trek.
  • Skewed Priorities: Samantha's father knows where she is; on hearing that she's been kidnapping women to resemble her dolls, his only concern is for his reputation. Reid has to threaten him to get a location.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: The team has this when Samantha immediately surrenders, only asking no one takes away her dolls. They just move her to an ambulance, with expressions of pity and sympathy, and let her take the suitcase of toys with her.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Reid manages to reassure Samantha that he got her "friends" back and shows her the suitcase with the dolls. He gets her to put down the scissors and get into an ambulance.
  • Tranquil Fury: Reid is not happy when he figures out that Samantha's father sexually abused her, used electroshock therapy to keep her in line, and then confiscated her dolls as punishment when she said too much. He never raises his voice when threatening her father by bringing his former patients on the stand and questioning if he also raped them, unless he says where Samantha is.
  • Uncanny Valley: Invoked, considering the title. The killer keeps victims paralyzed and turns them into extremely realistic living dolls for months.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Samantha abducts other women, injects them with a paralyzing drug that will eventually kill them, and plays with them like dolls... because she walked in on her pedophilic, psychiatrist father giving away her favorite toys (given to her to keep her quiet while he was abusing her) to his latest patient/victim.

Reid: Isaac Asimov wrote, "In life, unlike chess, the game continues after checkmate."