'Criminal Minds' Winter Premiere Recap: A Drought is Connected to Backyard Pool Murders
'Criminal Minds' Winter Premiere Recap: A Drought is Connected to Backyard Pool Murders
Meredith Jacobs
Meredith Jacobs
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
The BAU heads to Ramona, California to investigate a series of backyard pool homicides in this episode of Criminal Minds. But what do they make of the accompanying thefts, especially when the UnSub is taking costume jewelry, bowling trophies and cheap coins?

"Submerged" also features Lou Diamond Phillips guest starring as the local sheriff, and I have to admit, I did wonder if he'd get enough material playing local law enforcement rather than, say, the UnSub. Sheriff Clifford does have a couple nice moments with Rossi, which is more than I expected.

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Something's Not Adding up with the UnSub

The first victim, an 82-year-old widower, Ben, was found at the bottom of his pool, tied to a cinder block, as was the second victim, the divorced Bert, six days later. The latest victims are newlyweds Larry and Wanda Robbins, and while he was killed in the same fashion as the other two men, she was shot once in the chest. Ben's coin collection is missing, as are Bert's bowling trophies and Wanda's costume jewelry.

The only (immediate) connection found is they all had backyard pools. Since only the woman was shot (a quick death), that suggests the men are the UnSub's true targets, the ones who suffer prolonged agonizing deaths.

While the team's on the way to California, the UnSub is in a shack spraying bleach into his... eye?

Once in Ramona, Prentiss and Simmons learn that the town has seen an increase in burglaries and petty thefts lately, due to the drought. (A large chunk of their revenue comes from tourism, specifically outdoor recreation, like fishing and boating, but they had to shut down the marina with everything drying up.) Could there be a connection between the drought and murders as well?

After Ben's silver dollar coin collection is found scattered on the shore of a lake, the team wonders if the stolen items are just a distraction. While at the lake, they witness a body being brought in, and Sheriff Clifford informs them that it's another drowning victim.

The lake was a canyon before it was flooded, and with the drought, drowning victims who got tangled in submerged trees are coming up. (One victim whose body has yet to be found is the sheriff's high school sweetheart; he fears the day it is her because he'd rather remember her like she was, not as a skeleton.)

A kid, Tim, joins the UnSub as he watches the shore through binoculars, and tells him another body was found. He didn't see what it looked like, he says when the UnSub asks. But Tim bets that there are tons of ghosts out there.

The team notes a disconnect with the UnSub: While the crime scenes are organized, suggesting maturity and skill, his thefts show he reverts to immature and impulsive behavior.

They do figure out a pattern: the UnSub kills the day after a drowning victim is pulled from the lake. Since another body was found, he's going to strike again -- and he does. This time, however, he sews his victim into an expensive bedsheet, puts a needle through his nose and dumps him in his pool in his heavy deck chair.

Uncovering Secrets from the Past

Thanks to a call to Reid, they know the stitch through the nose is an ocean burying tradition common among pirates. That leads to the realization of how the UnSub chooses his victims: their pools have diving boards or "planks."

When Tim joins the UnSub again, he notices his eyepatch and comments that he looks like a pirate. That's clearly what the UnSub's going for; he has a pirate flag, with blood on it from a blood oath he made with his friend as they recited the Pirate's Code. In fact, he suggests Tim do it too, but first, he has to prove himself by spending a night by the lake alone.

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They're profiling the UnSub as stuck in his early adolescence, so maybe his trauma occurred before the canyon flooded. Garcia looks into the three families who lived in the canyon, and only resident, Bob Turner, sticks out. He vanished before the new reservoir was created, and that's because he's really Casey Peters, hiding from the US Treasury because he's an embezzler.

Casey's also the one who found the coins on the shore. And when they find him at the dock, he's trying to force a guy dry docking his boat to remove his hat and sunglasses.

He's not their UnSub. Not only does he not fit the profile, but he has an alibi for the first murder -- and Rossi and Prentiss' attempt at "mood adjustment" (as they call their interrogation) doesn't result in any new information, but Garcia discovers that he has a son, Leland, with a long juvie record.

Meanwhile, the UnSub wakes from a nightmare in which someone popped out of the lake and grabbed him and, the next morning, finds Tim waiting outside, having spent the night by the lake.

Prentiss knows that Casey returned to Ramona because he thought Leland was involved in the murders. He reveals that the day they were supposed to leave, his son refused to and ran away. Due to his past, he couldn't file a report with the police. Did his son like to pretend he was a pirate? Yes. After hearing that the connection between the murders and a pirate fantasy, Casey smiles -- because it means his son may be alive.

Sadly, that's not the case. As the UnSub reveals while walking Tim through the blood oath and Pirate's Code, Leland knew the power of the curse that would be inflicted on anyone who didn't defend the pirate's treasure. While Leland went to do that the morning of the flood, the UnSub had been too scared and broke the oath. Leland drowned when the canyon flooded.

When Tim decides that this version of playing pirate just isn't for him, he tries to leave, but the UnSub refuses to let him. He's going to make it right and get Leland to forgive him, and Tim's not escaping his plan to do so.

A Pirate's Life for Him

Once the team comes to the more likely conclusion that Leland is dead (rather than being the UnSub), they look into his friends and Garcia comes up with Jess Carney. His behavior took a violent turn after the canyon flooded. He was institutionalized and prescribed antidepressants at age 14. He's the UnSub.

Tim's parents report him missing and tell the police he spends time at the lake, and Simmons arrives in time to see Jess tying him to a cinder block. Simmons tries to stop him, but Jess shoots him (in the vest, so he's fine) and tosses Tim into the lake before speeding off in the boat. Simmons rescues Tim, but Jess' boat is found drifting, empty, in the middle of the lake. They know they're never going to find him. He's somewhere at the bottom of the lake.

But there is some good news for Ramona. It starts to rain as the BAU leaves. The drought is over.

What did you think of the case? What did you think of Lou Diamond Phillips' guest spot?

Criminal Minds season 13 airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on CBS. Want more news? Like our Criminal Minds Facebook page.

(Image courtesy of CBS)