|“||You're so pretty.||”|
Samantha lived in Atlantic City and sewn for her whole life. When she was ten years old, her mother died of unknown causes. Her father, Dr. Arthur Malcolm, then began molesting her, later buying dolls as an apology. The sexual abuse caused her to suffer from depression which, in turn, drove her to cut herself. Her father taught her to never reveal the abuse, punishing her with electroshock therapy when she got her story wrong. The "therapy" permanently warped her mind. At some point in her life, she participated in a competition held by a local toy company to put together a doll and write an essay about its persona; the winner would have her doll produced in the next line. This did not turn out well, as having children recreate events with dolls is a common child's psychology tool. The result was that some entries contained thinly veiled references to physical and sexual abuse. The bad publicity ended the competition prematurely after the company turned the essays into police. Samantha's essay for her entry, which referenced "the room with the lightning", was among those passed on to the authorities, but Malcolm explained that the electroshock treatment was meant for her to deal with the loss of her mother and was let go. Samantha then kept receiving a treatment of antipsychotic drugs from him at his own treatment facility, "New Lives", which he also used as a source for more young girls to victimize. He later declared her legally incompetent and made himself the legal guardian of her property. As an adult, Samantha became a seamstress. A few months prior to "The Uncanny Valley", she saw her father give her old dolls to another girl. This became the stressor that caused her to begin her abductions.
The Uncanny Valley
In the episode, the BAU are brought in to help catch the unsub after two of the three women she abducted consecutively died as a result of the drugs she used to sedate them. She is seen abducting Bethany Wallace (having eventually lost the third original victim as well) by pretending to be having trouble pushing a wheel-chair into her van. She then tasers her to knock her out and tells her she's pretty. She is then seen dressing up a victim. After taking one of her dresses to a professional tailor, JJ learns that a stitch pattern used to sew silk handkerchiefs by hand was used, suggesting that the maker is a master at sewing, even an artist, and has been at it for a long time. After that, the BAU learn that Bethany Wallace is a diabetic and will die within 24 hours if she isn't treated. Rossi consults with a doctor to ask about the matter. He explains that she probably died minutes after being dosed, but, on the other hand, her condition may also cause her to break down the drugs faster, which would result in her regaining control of her body sooner. When Reid and Morgan visit a professional doll maker, they learn about the competition.
Meanwhile, Bethany has managed to regain some control over her arm, being able to push down a teacup from the table. While going through the doll entries and reading the essays, the BAU find a doll whose dress had the same stitch patterns as the victims' dresses. Going through Samantha's past, they deduce that she is the unsub. In the meantime, Samantha heads for work and leaves her abductees alone. Bethany then uses her limited control over herself to remove her IV and declares to the others, "We're leaving." Dragging herself across the floor, she gets to a phone but finds it to be non-functioning. She then removes Maxine Wynan's IV before passing out. When visiting Dr. Malcolm's office, Rossi and Reid realize from Dr. Malcolm's collection of toys that he kept in his office that he had molested a number of his female patients. They promise to have some of them testify and bring him down but offer to tell the district attorney that he cooperated in exchange for Samantha's address. Shortly after Samantha comes home and notices that things are out of place, Reid enters the house and gives her back her old dolls. After he promises her that she can take her dolls with her, she surrenders and is arrested.
Samantha targeted small women in their late 20s, abducting them all in a week-long span. She would lure them in with a ruse before incapacitating them with a taser and putting them in her van. She would then take her victims to her home and sedate them using neural inhibitors and muscle relaxants such as atracurium and doxacurium chloride, and also keep them well-fed intravenously. Her signature was putting them inside chiffon dresses that she sewed herself, which matched her dolls' clothing. She also polished their nails and gave them hair extensions (though her third victim Mary Newsome had a wig sewn into her scalp, which she presumably also did with her sixth victim Bethany Wallace). She would always make sure that she had three victims at one time in order to fulfill the picture of a tea party for four (her being the fourth) and that each victim had certain physical traits that matched those of dolls she liked (one would have blonde hair, another would have red hair, and the third would be African-American). While having a full "collection", she would pretend they were real dolls and play with them.
After being paralyzed by the drugs for two months, the victims' brains would stroke out because of the lack of stimulus and motor function, consequently leading to their deaths via stroke or brain hemorrhaging. Samantha would then place their bodies in areas associated with childhood and innocence (such as swings or a merry-go-round) at night out of remorse. Within just one or two days, she would then abduct another woman as a "replacement" for her deceased victim.
The unsub is a woman in her mid-to late-20s and an offender known as a "collector", a psychopathology similar to that of a hoarder. This type of offender is antisocial, extremely introverted, and has developed an obsession for certain objects. She will have attached a part of herself to her obsession, and if her fantasy is interrupted, she will respond very violently, even psychotically. These offenders suffer damage to their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain which regulates Freudian fantasy realities, but are still able to lead normal day lives, excelling at goal-oriented tasks, such as sewing or even the details of abduction. Their ability to differ the living from the dead is irreparably destroyed. It is believed that the unsub is collecting dolls and, having recently lost her original collection, which most likely served as her stressor, and is now abducting women as similar to them as possible and turning them into surrogates. The drugging and paralysis is a way for her to preserve her fantasy, by placing them in a state where they cannot talk back, so she can fetishize them like objects she has lost.
The intent is not violence, but to create a collection which helps her feel in control of her life, probably in order to overcome some past trauma in her life. She only feels that control when the collection is complete, which is why she is repeating an abduction pattern with live victims; if she loses a woman who represents a doll, she has to replace it. She would work alone, have medical training, and is likely a nurse or an orderly who has been fired because of a lack of social grace, being unable to fake a bedside manner. She now likely works as a tailor or seamstress.
In a 2016 interview with Breen Frazier, Frazier revealed Samantha's case was inspired by Homer and Langley Collyer, two New York brothers infamous for their bizarre natures, compulsive hoarding, and seclusive lifestyles. Further inspiration for the case came from research about "collectors" (a subset of hoarders capable of violent and psychotic tendencies), and women who lost their babies and subsequently bought lifelike dolls as replacements to help them cope with their losses.
Samantha's method of abducting Bethany Wallace, in which she pretended to need help in lifting an object into her car and then incapacitating her immediately afterwards, bears some resemblance to Ted Bundy, who feigned a disability in order to lure in and abduct his victims. Her history of being abused as a child and playing "tea parties" with her propped-up victims is also similar to Colombian serial killer Pedro López.
Note: The dates denote when the victims were abducted
- November 4: Rita Stuart (second fatality; died of a stroke on January 11; left her body on a merry-go-round)
- November 9: Stacia Jackson (first fatality; died of a brain hemorrhage on January 6; left her body on a swing)
- November 11: Mary Newsome (third fatality; died of an unspecified cause on January 13; left her body on a bench; sewed a wig into her scalp instead of adding hair extensions)
- January 6: Cindy Amundson (abducted after Stacia's death; was rescued along with the two below on January 14)
- January 11: Maxine Wynan (abducted after Rita's death)
- January 13: Bethany Wallace (abducted after Mary's death; presumably sewed a wig into her scalp)
- Samantha appears similar to Season Four serial killer Roderick Gless. Both targeted a specific type(s) of woman that reminded them of their objects of affection; Roderick abducted blue-eyed and blonde-haired females that reminded him of his nanny, whereas Samantha abducted physically small women that reminded her of her childhood dolls. Additionally, both attempted to turn their victims into said objects of affection; Roderick embalmed his victims to remind him of a freshly preserved corpse, while Samantha sedated them to make them look like dolls. Lastly, both dressed their victims in clothing that the objects of their affection wore.