Programme 42 (10-December-77)


Alien zoo? Alien casino? Shrunken-down people? Who can say?

Programme 41 (3-December-77)


Ah, monsters who enjoy humans as food. Does a more solid sci-fi premise exist anywhere?

Programme 40 (26-November-77)

I know what the secret of the Microverse is. It’s that it was drawn by Kevin O’Neill. And then ripped off by Marvel.

Thrill 1 – Judge
Dredd (Wagner/Ward/Jacob)

There’s an annual tradition in the future – a deadly Motorcycle race spanning the entire length of the super-sized city. That race? The Mega-City 5000, so called because five thousand bikers take part, vying to deliver honor to their gang for the rest of the year.

The two gangs are led by
Zoot Smiley and Spikes ‘Harvey’ Rotten. Oh, cool – that’s going to be an important name soon. Although he’s going to be drawn differently.

Really, really differently.

The bikers don’t care who they run over or off the road, which means the Judges have to do their best to stop the race by setting up roadblocks. Which the bikers believe they can cut through like it was ‘
Synth-Marge’, which is I guess what they call margarine in the future.

How do they manage it? A rookie judge hopes over the barricade because he’s so excited to beat up some bikers, and winds up knocked unconscious – this leaves his riot shield perched at just the right angle to use as a ramp!

The judges manage to stop a large portion of the bikers, but the leaders and a few of their men make it through – they won’t be stopped until the next installment!

Despite the vicious
clubbings, we don’t actually see Dredd kill anyone, so the kill count remains at 42.

Thrill 2 – Future Shock (Lock/Goring/Knight)

In deep space a group of miners are looking for the rock full of gold or lead that will make them rich enough to retire in luxury. They’
ve got to be careful, though, because old space legends tell of asteroids that turn out to be giant space-eggs!

So guess what they run into just moments after the story opens?
And that’s not the worst of it – the ‘SKRAA’ is the space monster calling for its mother… but does it want its real mother, or has it imprinted on the mining ship?

Find out next time!

Thrill 3 – Invasion (Finley-Day/Dorey/

The boys have been running for weeks, and things are getting desperate. They’ll only be able to stay under the radar for so long before the
Volgs catch up with them. Luckily the exiled Brits have a plan – use the Canadian navy to draw the Nazi fleet away while sending a single warship to pick up the Prince.

Their plan left one thing out of the equation – that there was a
possibility that planes as well as other boats can attack Canadian vessels.

The people in the Nazi jet eject, but that
doesn’t save them, as Savage is waiting below to blast them like clay pigeons. Savage then sends a message back to Canada – he’ll be handling the escape plans from now on.

Ah, the fantastic journey. Although that
doesn’t make a lot of sense – I mean, what, they didn’t understand it was a possibility that the guy could have died during the operation? Isn’t that a planned-for expectation in every surgical procedure?

Thrill 4 – Dan Dare (Finley-Day/Gibbons/Gibbons)

It seems that the Dark Lord we met last time has an incongruous ultimate power (based on the name) – he plans to subdue the uprising on planet
Minia with a ‘Shining Star’, an impossibly bright and hypnotic light that renders resistance fighters unable to defend themselves from the attacking StarSlayers!

Other than Bear, who was still hanging out with the slaves, the rest of Dan’s crew are busy repairing the space fort, well out of the Shining Star’s range. This allows them to beat back the attacking
Starslayers rather easily – they’d assumed that they were going to be dealing with club-wielding miners, not a state-of-the-art attack craft.

Dan and company grab Bear from out of the crowd of hypnotized criminals, then blast off, making good their escape. One problem – they don’t know how the rebellion was stopped so abruptly. Which means their next goal is to figure out why Bear is suddenly an SS-loving zombie, because if they can’t stop the technology, there’ll never be any chance of overthrowing the Empire!

Thrill 5 – MACH 1 (

There’s trouble up in space – American satellites are being shot out of the sky by a mysterious satellite killer! In a seemingly unconnected mystery, John Probe is telling him to be at a
rendez-vous that very afternoon.

When he arrives out in the field it turns out to be a
meeting that only the MACH Man could attend – a helicopter that comes zooming by with its ladder hanging down, and he has to jump into the air to grab on.

It seems that the American Air Force needs Probe’s help. They think the Russians have developed a ‘death ray’ that can fire through vacuum, destroying spacecraft! So why the hush-hush grabbing of Probe? It seems both the CIA and MI6 don’t believe the theory, and don’t want to both with the expense of checking it out. So the RAF and NASA are recruiting the best spy/pilot they can find for the job. And in a cutaway we learn that Sharpe
isn’t at all happy with that particular development.

expresses this displeasure by having an operative drug Probe and his rogue CIA liaison on the way to the shuttle. This doesn’t phase Probe, of course, who’s still aware enough to break a window, sucking the gun out, disarming the agent and putting Probe back in control.
After arriving safely in America Probe climbs into the experimental one-man jet and blasts into low orbit. Up there he finds the satellite wreckage, and it was clearly destroyed by something nastier than a meteorite. But were the Russians responsible? Probe sees a Russian space capsule floating through space, about to be shot by what’s clearly the death ray device! Can he save the day? Let’s find out next week!

Thrill 6 – Inferno (Tully/

Things are going badly for the Washington Wolves. Now that they’
ve been drugged with LSD all the bikers have crashed and the Cave Man is trapped in a killing frenzy. According to the commentators this means that the team is going to have to forfeit.

I’m not sure about that rule –
shouldn’t the fact that half of the team has been drugged lead the refs to stop the game and begin an investigation? Thus voiding all bets on the game?

That’s one of the reasons that people fixing games tend not to poison entire teams.

Apparently rules are stupider in the future, though, and the Wolves have lost the game. The Heroes
aren’t taking it lying down, though – they rush into the locker room area to confront their manager, Charlie Vance with the chewing gum theory. He reacts in a predictable fashion:

Vance rushes out to the parking lot and jumps into his hovercraft, but when he turns it on the ship immediately explodes!

Yeah, because that’s not suspicious at all. Everyone on one team winds up drugged and incapacitated, and their manager is blown up. What bookie on earth would ever pay off that bet?

Of course, there’s still the matter of the five thousand dollars that have been secreted away in the Heroes’ possessions. You know, if Charlie
hadn’t pulled a gun he could have just told the cops that the Heroes spiked the gum – he freaked out because he was confronted with the idea of it being turned over to the cops – but wasn’t his plan to frame them? Shouldn’t he have just had the cops search the place, and let the cops come to their own conclusion?

Which is what happens – so how are the Heroes going to get out of this one?

More importantly, though, why would a single bookie ever pay off a bet made on this game? You know the term ‘All bets are off’? It was invented to deal with situations exactly like this one.

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Judge
Dredd – It was the first appearance of Spikes ‘Harvey’ Rotten. If you don’t know why he’s important right now, believe me, you will soon enough. (Actually I have no idea when the story that features him is going to come up.)

Worst Story: Weirdly, I
didn’t actually have a particular problem with any of this week’s episodes! Great work, 2000AD!


Programme 39 (19-November-77)

Is it just me, or are the SuperCovers quickly becoming the best part of this comic? Not their stories of course, which invariably disappoint, but the covers themselves are just wonderful.

Although I’ve got to ask – just what is that Alien looking at?

Thrill 1 – Judge Dredd (Wagner/McMahon/Jacob)

It’s kind of a big deal when Judge Dredd is moved up to first story status, and on the very first page of this story I can already tell that the placement is entirely justified.

I’m going to present three separate images from the first page that conspire to make it my favorite Dredd story to date:

Dredd has an office. With a glass window and a stencilled name. And a secretary who tells mugs that they can’t go in to see him when he’s busy.

None of those things can possibly be true, and yet there they are.

It’s a story about genetically-engineered gangster monkeys. For the first time I’m really going to question the primacy of Supercovers, because damn, did these guys need to be on the front of the comic.

And, why, may you ask, are they visiting Dredd? Because they want to him to stop a rival gang (of not-apes) from muscling in on their territory. How does Dredd respond to the threat?

He called them Hyper-Hoods. Because he knows that they’re all living in the future, and must be differentiated from the common ‘hoods’ that people a hundred and twenty-two years earlier are more familiar with.

God, this is a great comic.

Now it’s time for a little background. It seems that the ‘Great Holocaust’, which I assume is the nuclear war that wiped out most of America, wiped out all normal animals, leaving only those who were confined to zoos alive. Some years later humans developed the technology to super-evolve animal brains, making them capable of speaking and wearing clothes. This new condition made leaving them in captivity seem barbaric, so all the apes were moved into simian slums, where, naturally, they formed criminal gangs.

You know, I’m suddenly uncomfortable with the fact that this issue seems to be drawing a straight line of comparison between apes and Italians.

Anyhoo, the gang wars naturally followed the formation of gangs-

Yeah, there’s nothing that’s not wonderful about this story. Other than the racism. Which gets worse in the next scene, when Dredd visits Uggie’s mother, hoping to get her to testify against him:

Dredd gets the information somehow, and when the ape gang stages their next raid on the east-side mob, Dredd and a whole passel of Judges are ready and waiting to stop them:

Things don’t go well for the apes, what with them being a gang of simians up against the best-trained law-enforcement officers in the history of the world. Once the gang has been subdued Uggie makes the most insane claim I’ve ever read-

Really? This is a police state. Making a new law is no more complicated then typing a few lines into a computer. We’re expected to believe that the judges would make Apes citizens with all the rights and privileges that entails, but not bother to include them in the legal system? It may be a little stupid, but at least the stupidity is in service of a twist ending:

Yup, the survivng ape criminals are thrown back in the zoo. Ah, irony. We love you so.

Judge Dredd Kill Count (42)+0=42 (Yeah, he killed a few criminals this time, but they were apes, but I’m not counting them, as I won’t kill aliens when Dredd gets around to killing some. I will, however, count Mutants when they appear).

Thrill 2 – Invasion (Finley-Day/Pino/Nuttall)

Bill, Silk, and Prince John are still on the lam, desperately trying to make it out of the country before the Volgs catch them and gain a vital propaganda coup. Ducking through the streets of Dundee they come across a boarding house – at first the old ladies that run the place refuse to let them in, but after noticing the Prince they change their tune.

No sooner have the boys gotten settled into the inn then a group of Volgs turn up, demanding billets for the night. They start pushing around the ‘civillians’ who are already staying there, and the old ladies can’t contain themselves at the sight of their soverign being insulted. A fracas quickly begins, but Silk and Savage manage to dispatch the Volgs quietly, but not before their leader gets a call off to headquarters.

The boys hie to the rooftops, and see the old ladies packed into a van because HQ heard that ‘women’ were somehow involved in the Prince’s escape. Bill decides to make good on the old women’s sacrifice – they dress up in drag and walk up to a checkpoint at the edge of the city, then gun down all the Volgs operating it, then flee into the countryside.

Wait, what about the old women? Ah, well it seems that Bill has thought of that – he assumes that when the Volgs hear that they blew apart the checkpoint in drag, they’ll figure that’s what the ‘women’ comment was related to, and let the old gals go.

Two problems with that logic – A: They killed everyone at the checkpoint, so who’s going to report on how they were dressed, and 2: Since when did the Nazis need an excuse to kill Brits?

But I’m guessing we’re not supposed to be thinking about any of that…


Have I ever told you the story of Rocket Robin Hood? He stole from the Cosmic rich, to give to the Astral poor.

Don’t know what made me think of that just now.

Thrill 3 – Dan Dare (Finley-Day/Gibbons)

It’s step one of Dan’s undercover trip to the heart of the Starslayer empire: Pretend to be slaves, and hope the fact that one of you has a gun for a hand doesn’t tip off your captors that something’s awry. They witness a mining accident, and rush to help out, then see there was no point, when the SS enacts their policy of executing wounded slaves!

They bide their time and wait for night, then Hitman subtly shoots out the floodlights, and they go searching around the compound. Dan is spotted by a guard and attacked, but Dan manages to use science to short-circuit his electro-whip, killing him. Apparently he was the only guard at the entire site, and they’re able to put together all the parts they need to repair their ship.

In addition, the example they set by killing the guard has inspired the Minian miners to join the resistance! Which is news that doesn’t sit to well with the Not-Vader who sits upon his throne on the planet Starslay.

Hold on a minute… the planet StarSlay? That can’t be right, can it?

Thrill 4 – MACH 1 (Hebden/Lozano/Potter)

Mach Man and Mach Woman have arrived at the lab of the Eastern scientists who are perverting the MACH process. They’ve also come across the scientist’s latest creation – MACH Children of the Damned! The Hyper-kids easily take down the two MACH agents, and the scientist begins his gloating.

While the scientist explains his scheme to dissect Tanya in hopes of figuring out why she turned traitor to the cause, one of the MACH-tots loosens his grip on Probe, giving him a chance to get free!

MACH 1 races to the room where Tanya is being held and breaks her chains, then sends her down to the record room to destroy all of the scientist’s research. Meanwhile Probe has to buy her some time… by killing dozens of Hyper-children with a titanium chain!

When Tanya gets back from destroying the tapes she sees that Probe is just moments from being overrun. There’s only one way to save him – by using all her strength to shove a defunct tank into the scientist’s lab, destroying all the machinery that allows him to control the MACHKids!

All of the kids instantly go blank, and MACH Man is saved, but Tanya isn’t so lucky. The force rquired to move the tank burnt her out compeltely and she tragically dies after bidding Probe a tearful farewell.

This pisses off Probe something fierce, and he races back to Sharpe’s office, demanding an explanation for how Sharpe seems to know so much about the enemy’s MACH program… Sharpe refuses to answer, leaving Probe angry, and determined to uncover his secrets, but it will have to wait until next week…

Thrill 5 – Inferno (Tully/Belardinelli/Nuttall)

With half the team tripping on LSD and one of the bikers burned alive, the remaining Wolves (or as we know them, the Harlem Heroes) have their work cut out for them. ‘Moody’ Bloo, the team’s ‘cave-man’ can’t even see the ball to block a shot on goal, and collapses into the cinders a moment later. ‘Junk’, the team leader, who still hasn’t fallen victim to the drugs, calls a time out and has his fallen players replaced.

That doesn’t do much good, though, as the rest of the team continues to fall victim to their poisoning – which allows the Heroes to figure out the common factor. Everyone chewed the gum provided by the manager other than them!

But that’s not the end of Charlie Vance’s (because that’s his name, apparently) plan. No, he proceeds to plant cash into the Heroes’ lockers so it looks like they sabotaged their own team for the cash!

Given their reputations, I don’t see this going well for ‘ol Charlie.

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Judge Dredd – Yeah, this wasn’t merely the best story this week, it might be the best Dredd story ever. If there’s two things I love it’s monkey stories and hilariously over-the-top racism, and this combined the two into a delicious stew of insulting craziness. I wonder how long it’s going to take before they top this one? I’m guessing not until Brian Bolland starts drawing Dredd.

Worst Story: Everything other than Dredd. The apes owned this week. I can barely remember anything else that happened, and I’ve just finished reading the stories.

Programme 38 (12-November-77)

Programme 38 (12-Nov-77)


It’s a rock that’s also a dragon. In space. If you don’t understand why that’s great, then what the hell are you doing here? There aren’t any words you could have mistyped that would have brought you to ‘Vardulon.com’.

Thrill 1 – Inferno (Tully/Belardinelli/Nuttall)

With their first game won, the Washington Wolves, which now officially contains the remnants of the Harlem Heroes, are sharpening their skills in a practice game. The main thrust of the scene is that the Heroes’ love of showing off actually works as a viable tactic in Inferno as well. Far more importantly, though, we finally learn Slim’s last name. It’s Shafto. Slim Shafto.

How did I not know this already?

The manager compliments them on their new strategy, and mentions that they’re now the 20-1 favorites to win the next game! Which is just a crazy number on its face. No matter how well that one game went, this is still a low-ranked team with three key members that have only been playing for a week.

The crazy odds draw the attention of some mysterious figures, who threaten the manager’s life if they don’t cause the Heroes to lose their next game. Wait, the Wolves. I’ve got to get that into my head. The Washington Wolves.

Fearing for his life, the manager agrees to sabotage his own team. Well, at least this time around the motivation makes a little more sense. HH’s Ulysses Cord didn’t really work as a villain – wanted to make Aeroball more vicious? A cabal of evil gamblers looking to fix games, while entirely cliched, can at least be related to by the audience.

So how do they conspire to fix the game? By replacing the team’s medicinal gum with a hallucinogenic substitute!

Yeah, that’s some genuinely creepy stuff right there…

Anyhow, the Heroes aren’t affected, because they enjoy chewing old Heroes medicinal gum for luck. What a happy accident! But with one of their bikers already dead (yes, he was killed in an accident immediately, that’s what happens when you crash a gas vehicle onto a bed of hot coals), can they possibly win the game?

We’ll find out next week!

Thrill 2 – Judge Dredd (Wagner/Gibson/Jacob)

This week we get an interesting look into the mindset of the citizens of Mega-City 1, as a mother warns her child to be good, lest Judge Dredd burst into their home in the dead of night and drag him away. Which, naturally, is what happens a moment later. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though, as everyone learns when Dredd tears the child’s head from his body.

Yes, it seems that this is how industrial espionage works in the future. You kidnap a child and replace them with a robot which then overhears the domestic conversations of high-powered executives. Dredd’s got a plan though – he leaves the headless roboy on the floor of the bedroom, assuming that evil corporate henchmen will show up to repair their spy.

Luckily this is exactly what happens, giving Dredd someone who he can stick a gun in the face of and demand information from. It seems that he’s working for the eccentric trillionaire Hugh Howards! Yup, they’re going after Howard Hughes again. I never get tired of people taking shots at that guy.

Now we get a look inside of Howards’ facility, where, amazingly, the children haven’t been killed.

Although, really, isn’t being fed by a robot a fate worse than death?

Dredd and Giant, the blaxploitation Judge, show up a moment later and shoot the place up. Hugh runs off with Billy, but then trips and stumbles off the edge of a skyscraper, which, sadly, is not how the actual Howard Hughes died. Billy’s saved, though, and the story closes with another family watching the wrapup on the nightly news. And yes, because John Wagner has heard of bookending, the mother threatens the child with the wrath of Dredd is he misbehaves.

Judge Dredd Kill Count (41)+1=42 (Hugh’s death doesn’t count – while Dredd was chasing him, it’s not like he pushed the guy.)

Thrill 3 – Invasion (Finley-Day/Pino/Frame)

Picking right where the last story left off, Prince John is hiding in the mountains, lest the Volgs get a hold of him and score an amazing propaganda coup! Bill Savage is having none of that, though – his plan: smuggle John out of the country without letting anyone know he was ever there.

There’s a hitch, though – there’s yet another traitor in the midst of their resistance gang, and this time he’s an offensive racial charicature! Yup, ‘Gypsy Jake’ knows his way around jewelry, and is able to identify John’s royal ring, which Bill allowed him to continue wearing for some reason.

Naturally this leads to to Bill’s squad being attacked by Volg shock troopers as they flee. As usual there’s a low-tech solution to the problem, in this case axes! The resistance throws them at the shock troopers, miraculously cutting their ropes, sending them plummeting to their deaths.

You know, it might have been easier to just throw the axes at the soldiers themselves. Bigger target, and, last time I checked, axes are just as effective as cutting into flesh as they are slicing through ropes.

The axes, along with a few molotov cocktails, manage to bring down the helicopters, saving the day. Out of the burning wreck crawls Gypsy Jake, who was stupid enough to come on the attack with his Nazi partners. He’s still a little alive, and begs John for a pardon over the whole ‘treason’ thing, but Bill Savage shoots him in the back, mid-conversation. As usual Bill was right to execute the guy, though, since he had a concealed knife that he’d planned to use on Prince John when he got close enough.

Thrill 4 – Dan Dare (?/Gibbons)

Quite recently Dan Dare made the ill-considered decision to wage war on the Starslayer empire. This could cause a few problems because Dan just has the one ship, while the Starslayers have a dozen slave worlds devoted to producing their weapons.

There’s one thing the Starslayers don’t have, though – a pilot who’s a vetran of the ‘Solar Wars’, which I’m sure bore no legal similarities to a cetain series of movies.

Through a series of clever techniques Dan’s ship destroys his two pursuers, then sets down on the closest slave world they can find to do a little recon about the starslayers’ operation. How are they going to do this? By landing their huge space fortress out of sight of the mining facility and covering their stupidly gigantic ship with tarps. Then Dan, Bear, and Hitman strip off their shirts and decide to go undercover as slaves, hoping to pull a Spartacus and destroy the Starslayer Empire from the ground up.

That’s how the Spartacus story ended, right? With him destroying the Roman empire?

Also, didn’t it occur to them that a guy with a gun welded to his hand might not be able to blend seamlessly into a group of slaves?

Actually, rapping your suspiciously long and pointy hand in a rag will actually serve to draw more attention to it.


I know I’ve already chided this comic time and again for its overly-optimistic guesses about the speed at which technology advances, but wow, is this one just ridiculous. Galactic tourism by the late 90s? Compared to that the concept of a giant living space rock monster is entirely believable.

Thrill 5 – MACH 1 (Hebden/Lozano&Canos/Potter)

So MACH Man and MACH Woman are on a train, faced with the worst choice of their lives – jump out of it to the city a hundred feet below, or get shot! Obviously they decide to jump, and it goes amazingly well.

They crash through the roof of a family’s house, destroying both their dinner and shelter. After ruining the family’s chances of surviving the winter, MACH 1 and 2 sprint through the woods towards their objective, the MACH research facility, pausing only to lament the fact that they’re no longer able to sleep. Did we already know this?

The MACHs pole-vault over the fence into the vacility, and it’s here that we finally learn the difference between the two kinds of MACH people:

Yup – they’re exactly as strong as one another, but one uses dashes, while the other employs astrices. Devious.

They beat a few people up and make their way into the surprisingly poorly-guarded facility, only to find that the inner sanctum is protected by a Hyper-hound. While a terrifying concept – a dog with all the power of a MACH Man, it proves to be something of an anti-climax, and is beaten to death with an iron pipe moments after its first appearance.

The defeat of the hound doesn’t phase Doctor Horowitz, who reveals himself as the mastermined of the MACH 2 project. And he’s just developed a new product in the line:

Yikes! Children of the Damned!

Thrill 6 – Future Shock

It’s time for part 2 of Robot Repairs, in which Zak and Daryl, the shirtless leathermen who repair robots for a living, endeavour to sabotage the production of a new line of self-fixing robots. When we last saw them they were being attacked by that selfsame robot. Can they escape this terrible fate?

So, is everybody ready for the big twist?
Yes, the gay mechanics are actually self-repairing robots themselves! And they were so determined to remain the only self-repairing robots in existence that they murdered their own inventor as well!

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Judge Dredd – I’ve got to say, anything that grows the mythology of Dredd’s world is my cup of tea.

Worst Story: Future Shock – Um, what the hell was that? Let’s say the gay robots for some reason wanted to remain the only self-repairing robots in existence. Why did they also become robot repairmen? And why don’t they wear shirts?

To cleanse your palette, here’s a diagram of Dan Dare’s awesome landing craft!


Criminal Minds 924: Demons

Part 2, y'all!

We get a look at the carnage in and around the diner as the gunfight continues. Esai's friend the sheriff was shot in the head! Reid's badly injured, but sees the real killer, Anders, walking calmly along the sidewalk, because the guy's too dumb to worry about stray bullets! Naturally he finds this peculiar, but is he too injured to share his suspicions?

Derek - who was only hit in his vest - shakes off the cobwebs and helps JJ shoot at the preacher. Who runs out the back door of the diner, because no one bothered circling around the building!

Jeanne goes to check on Reid, and notices that he's losing a lot of blood from his neck wound! She tries to hold his attention and convince him to stay awake, but it doesn't work! This might have something to do with the fact that she calls him 'Ethan', which is not his name.

Is that like a pet name that she has for him that I've forgotten about, or is she conflating him with someone else who she lost in a tragedy? Whatever the reason, it's super-weird.

JJ and Derek have a foot chase with the preacher, eventually following him into an abandoned building and killing him! Despite the fact that they're both wearing ear radios and microphones, they don't update the cops on their position as they race through backyards and hovels. Despite this oversight, the cops still manage to rush into the room with them less than ten seconds after they kill the preacher.

In the ambulance Reid start babbling about a tea kettle, but then he loses too much blood pressure and starts to crash. Was he trying to send a message, or was it just rambling?

Also, I'm not a medic, but shouldn't they have cut that vest off of him to ensure better access to the whole wound area, rather than just removing one strap? It's held on with elastic straps and velcro, you could get it off in like three seconds with your clothes scissors.

Notably, when Derek also demands that Reid 'stay with him' he uses Reid's actual last name. Will that prove more effective? Hopefully we'll find out after the credits!


Criminal Minds 923: Angels

Somewhere on a back road, a woman pleads for her life from the back seat of a car! Who is the driver? We're not shown... just yet! Once they've reached a suitably woody patch, the killer drags her out of the car and shoots her in the back of the head as she tries to crawl away!

Well, that's certainly a dramatic opening.

At Quantico - which gets a proper establishing shot this week - everyone has gathered in the middle of the night to hear about an emergency case. Also, Esai is there! I was wondering what had happened to him - it was starting to feel like the team didn't have a boss again.

The show seems to understand how weird it's been, and hangs a lantern on it, having Esai announce that the team is so good at their jobs they don't need supervision! Ugh.

Here's the rundown! A killer murdered two prostitutes by cutting strange symbols into their backs with a razor, then shooting them in the back of the head! Also he killed a guy and dumped him outside of a spot where hookers are known to congregate.

The interesting thing? Each of the murders happened six months-ish apart! The first killing was 11 months ago, the second six, and the victim from the opening was last night. Which brings me to my point - why is this a 'middle of the night' kind of case? Did people really need to be dragged out of bed and have their schedules interrupted for this one? The pattern suggests you have at least 149 days until the guy takes his next victim. Maybe just brief the team when they come in to work tomorrow?

Also, the team agrees that it was probably a 'forensic countermeasure' that the bodies were dumped in different counties. Although if you're looking to have people not know that the bodies are connected, maybe just don't dump the bodies in public? And if you're going to dump the bodies in public, maybe don't have the super-specific M.O. of slicing open the small of their back with a razor while doing no other damage.

In Texas, a group of sex workers doesn't want to go out, since two of their number have been killed! Their madam is having none of this talk of 'worker safety', and threatens to harm them if they don't make money for her!

I don't know why they're so worried - the guy has a months-long cooling-off period, after all!

I'm kidding, of course, this is Criminal Minds, where even if every killer doesn't start out as a spree killer, they magically transform into one the moment the team gets on the case, whether they know they're being hunted or not. It's like a Quantum Entanglement phenomenon, where the killers instinctively know to go into overdrive the minute the team finds out they exist.

So yeah, the killer drives by the very women who didn't want to go out working! Will they survive? Hopefully we'll find out after the credits!


Criminal Minds 922: Fatal

The episode opens with thrilling action, as a man runs into the police station, demanding protection! He's received a note saying that he'll be dead within 24 hours, and there's no way to prevent it! He's obviously a little worried, and when the cop smells booze on his breath, he immediately dismisses the guy's concerns.

Personally, if I got a note like that, I'd rush to a hospital, assuming that I'd been poisoned, but that's only because I saw DOA at a very young age.

After being told to leave, the man vandalizes a trash can, forcing the cops to arrest him, so he'll be safe in a cell overnight! When he's pinned to the ground, I notice that he's got a wedding ring on. Could his wife be the killer?

Probably too early to be making predictions, really.

The next morning the cops go to check on the paranoid guy, only to find him lying in a pool of blood! I guess it was poison, after all!

Over in Quantico - which the show introduces with an establishing shot of Washington D.C.:

Even though that's 50 kilometers away. Because it's Season 9, and no one who works on this show cares even a little.

-Greg is nervous about talking to his son's class about being in the FBI. Due to that one occurrence where a guy murdered the kid's mother because Greg was chasing him. Really, isn't it kind of insensitive to get Greg to give a presentation? I mean, the kid goes to school in Chevy Chase, one of the other parents must have a similarly important DoJ job, right?

Garcia runs down the case: Wayne Campbell (!?!) is the name of the dead guy, and that scene was set in Long Beach, CA. A week earlier a woman had also received a similar note and then died the next day - both of them with lethal levels of arsenic in their bodies! Between poison and notes, they jump to the conclusion that a woman probably did it - although it's a myth that women poison more often than men.

Also, not for nothing, putting in wacky joke character names is another sign that writers have checked out emotionally and are trying to make their own fun.

JJ thinks that it's super-weird to warn victims before killing them, but Reid points out that there was an episode about a killer that made fake 'missing' posters of his victims before killing them. It seems Reid remembers the show even better than I do! Was that the episode where they get one of the victims on the phone, and send the cops to get her, but can't be bothered to stay on the phone with her until the cops arrive, so she gets kidnapped anyways? If so, that was a terrible episode.

Then we head over to an auto-parts store, where the freaked-out proprietor confronts his friend about the murder threat he received! The friend claims to know nothing about the letter, and the proprietor is immediately struck with severe stomach pains. Now that's timing!

The friend leaves before the guy collapses, though, giving his customer a chance to walk in, see that the guy is dying, and then leave a peace of string on the body, because I guess he was the killer!

Also, was that Kevin from The Office? Perhaps we'll find out after the credits!


Criminal Minds 921: What Happens in Mecklinburg

So no, the next episode doesn't start with them catching the Jason from last week, so I guess the team just sucks at their jobs? At least the Jason probably didn't kill that couple - after all, he was oddly directed for a Jason, and only killed people specifically related to the target of his vengeance. Or, you know, cops who were trying to catch him. So, what's up for this week?

It's late at night, and two college students are leaving a grocery store when a car blocks them in - could it be a kidnapper, or are we in in for yet another misdirect?

No misdirect - the killer zaps both of them with a stun gun, and is also wearing a pig mask! Is this because Jigsaw was in last week's episode?

The next morning, Derek and his lady are just waking up when he gets a call - she's disappointed to learn that he's got a case in Memphis! Which is weird for him to already know, since generally their texts just say 'come into the office'. It's almost like Greg gave him more information than usual just to precipitate this specific fight!

The girlfriend is extremely disappointed because her parents are coming into town to meet him, and Derek offers to let her break up with him over it, which she calls out as super passive-agressive. Way to go standing up for yourself, doctor lady!

According to Garcia, the killer has grabbed three people in two nights, all from grocery store parking lots! Turns out that the first two victims were men, one middle-aged, one younger, and of the two college students from last night, he only grabbed one of them, leaving the other woman behind!

Sadly there's no other information in the opening sequence, other than some random theories, because they haven't found any bodies yet. The absence if proof doesn't count as evidence, though, since the victims could either be alive or simply thrown in a ditch somewhere that no one has randomly stumbled across!

While the team might be in the dark, we discover that all of the victims are still alive - also in the dark, as luck would have it, chained to the ceiling in a basement somewhere! The pig-masked killer arrives to menace them, and then it's off to the credits!

At just six minutes, which is also very quick for this show! I wonder why they're changing up their format?


Criminal Minds 920: Blood Relations

For the second episode in a row, we open on a crying woman, stumbling through the woods! I'd ding them for repetition, but the difference this time is that it's the past (1955), and in black and white!


So, is this another Gubler episode, or is another director willing to do something visually interesting?

Anyhoo, a killer in rubber boots walks up behind her, and then we cut to the present, in West Virginia. Which is probably where the B&W sequence was set as well, but the show didn't actually make that clear.

In the present, a low-rent hunter returns to his trailer with a gun and cooler full of varmints, but before he can grab a beer to reward himself for a good night's work, he hears someone lurking around outside. He heads out to check, and winds up with a noose wrapped around his neck - apparently the killer is strong enough to lift him right off his feet, but lithe enough to move around on the roof without making any sound!

Oh, then the killer murders the guy by turning his head a hundred and 180 degrees around. So obviously we're dealing with a Jason situation here. Or at least a Madman Mars.

Then it's right to the briefing, where the characters get confused about basic terms! Joe points out that it's basically impossible to form barbed wire into a noose the way the killer has, because it doesn't have enough tensile strength. Reid thinks that it is possible, as long as the killer is strong enough!

And he's supposed to be the smart one. Seriously, the point here is not that barbed wire is hard to bend - it isn't, the stuff is shipped in coils, after all, but rather the kind of tight winding you have to do in order to make a noose would presumably cause it to snap, irregardless of the killer's strength.

But let's not get sidetracked - the killer also built a bear-trap-launcher that fired a bear trap wrapped in barbed wire from a tree into the face of another hunter.

There's no way the rest of the episode is going to live up to this awesome beginning, is there?

The team immediately head to West Virginia! I wonder if they'll just drive? We, on the other hand, cut over to a shake where our killbilly, a surprisingly slender man for the feats of strength we've seen him accomplish, sits in front of a fire, tearing the head of a doll using barbed wire!

This just gets crazier and crazier, doesn't it? Hopefully it will keep going nuts after the opening credits!


Criminal Minds 919: The Edge of Winter

It's night, it's the woods, and, you guessed it, a woman is screaming for help as she flees for her life! Because, you know, Criminal Minds. A helpful Chyron lets us know that it's 2013, but since I'm not super-clear on when this episode originally aired, I'm going to guess that's fairly recent, like the year before the episode's present day.

Could I find this out in slightly more time than it takes to type this sentence? Sure. But that's not my brand, so...

The lady runs out of the woods, and is immediately hit by a car! Was it a super-effective killer, or just a preposterously-timed accident?

In the present day, we head to an institute for the mentally unstable in New York State! Derek has arrived to help prep the victim before the trial! The doctor working the case is surprised to see a profiler doing that, but he explains that profiling is only 10% of what they do, and trial prep is an important part of the job.

While I'm sure that's closer to true in the real world, if it was a part of the team's job, I'm sure it would have come up more often in the past 200 episodes. We're expected to believe that in addition to solving 25 serial murders a year they're also flying around the country - individually or in groups - to help out local DAs? That seems like a stretch.

The victim is playing solitaire when Derek arrives, and she looks to be in pretty solid shape, so I suppose the truck impact wasn't too severe! Nice to know that someone's obeying the speed limit on a dirt road in the middle of the night.

Derek wants to prep her for cross-examination by going over all of the details of the case, both her experiences, and the things they've turned up in their own investigation over the past year! Wait, are we expected to believe that the team continued investigating the case after catching the guy, because that's absolutely not their MO. Let's just assume he meant 'we' in the 'all law enforcement' sense of the word.

Specifically, they're going to go into more detail about what happened to 'Ben', who she saw being carried out into a field by two goons, beaten to a pulp! Time for a flashback to fill us in on some of that backstory!

He was turned into a human scarecrow. Ick. The victim thinks she should have done more to stop the murder. Was she one of the killers? If not, I'm not sure how she would have.

Then it's over to the team who (in the past) are getting the details of the case! It seems three victims were stabbed to death with farm tools and dumped in public, all within the last ten days. So it's off to New York.

More present day stuff, as the victim sets up another flashback! Wait, whose flashback was that scene in the office? It seems like the show is so desperate to keep to its standard format that they're just throwing out the whole 'Derek coaches a victim' concept whenever they feel like it.

Anyhow, in the victim's flashback, another victim has stolen a key from the killers, and they break out after the villains have gotten drunk. But they make too much noise, and as they flee across a field, the other lady is shot in the back! The victim keeps running, though, because really, what can you do when the killer has a rifle and you don't?

Let's see how the flashbacks continue after the credits!


Criminal Minds 918: Rabid

The episode starts outside a mini-mart in Milwaukee, where a lady is laden down with packages. My first thought is, honestly, "is this the same mini-mart from two episodes ago? I know they reuse locations, but that would be crazy, so probably not." It's night, and she's wearing a short skirt and light jacked, so I guess it's weirdly warm in Wisconsin this April? Wasn't there slush everywhere and people in Parkas just three episodes ago?

The lady hops on a bus, where almost nothing bad ever happens. Except for, you know, a creepy weirdo who won't stop ogling her. Then, when she gets off the bus, he disembarks as well, trailing her down a dark alley! Is this the least amount of mystery ever, or is there about to be a surprising twist as she kills him, or they're both killed by a third party?

Creepiness slightly defused, when it turns out he just got off the bus to give her an item she left on the bus seat! Still creepy, though. Then show then follows the guy down the street, where he's murdered by a hobo! Or perhaps... someone pretending to be a hobo? I mean, we don't see the guy's face, so who knows?

Then it's over to a running track, where Garcia and Reid are training to pass the field fitness test! Which apparently involves an 8-minute mile! Which isn't especially daunting, but they're both extremely out-of-shape, it seems. Which I believe from Garcia, since her job is typing, but it's weird that Reid can't manage this. Garcia points out that the whole thing is pointless, since he's never had to run a mile quickly in the field, which I'm pretty sure isn't true. If he'd been a better runner maybe Van Der Beek wouldn't have caught him and got him hooked on heroin.

That might a low blow.

Time for a briefing! Three bodies were found in the woods by a park ranger, two men and a women, all showing signs that they'd been tied up for long periods of time before being murdered! Not that they'd be able to tell that yet, if at all.

How do I know that for sure? Simple - the bodies were found THIS MORNING. I know I spend a lot of time harping on the ridiculous timelines of this show, but this is just insane. I did some quick research to explain just how crazy this is.

The episode aired on March 12th, and we can assume the episode is set on that day as well, since that's just how Criminal Minds works - it's why we were robbed of that evil Santa episode all those years ago.

On March 12th, sunrise in Milwaukee is at 7:15CST. Garcia received her call about the case at:
Which is 6:09 in Milwaukee - a full hour before sunrise. Of course, she didn't get a call when the bodies were found. She got a call from Greg, after he got a call from the Justice Department, after they got a call from the Milwaukee FBI, after they got a call from the Milwaukee Police Department, after police officers confirmed that there were bodies in the woods, after they were called by the park ranger.

What's the minimum amount of time all of those calls could have taken? Two hours? And an hour for the cops to get out to the dump site in the woods, confirm that the corpses are real, and report back to their superiors. So that's three hours, which puts the time window for the ranger to have found the bodies somewhere around 3AM local time.

Also, the bodies were under a couple of inches of dirt:
Which makes it even more incredible that they were found in the pitch darkness.

I know it's weird that I bring this up every episode, but it's truly strange - what do the writers think they're accomplishing by not having the characters just come into work and finding out that they have a case because a body was found a couple of days ago, and the FBI has decided they should work the case? I say 'The FBI' since they no longer have someone deciding what cases the team works on. Garcia obviously isn't doing it. Is Greg? He's the one calling everyone in, but even he seems to just be getting word that they're working the case from someone else.

Where are these cases coming from? Does anyone even know?

Okay, back to the show - the newest body is of a sex worker who was killed six weeks ago. So maybe the creep was just locked away somewhere, rather than being killed by the hobo?

That theory is confirmed in the next scene, where it turns out that the killer has an actual jail that he keeps people in!
Well, possibly a kennel, but in any event, it's a pretty impressive setup just for keeping people captive! The killer sets up a video camera and sprays the creep with water, telling him to drink so he won't get dehydrated... yet. Is this some kind of a study the killer is performing? Does he want to document the effects of starvation and thirst on humans?

I suppose we'll find out after the credits!


Criminal Minds 917: Persuasion

In a dark room, a woman is crying.

You know, I feel like that sentence is Criminal Minds' entire raison d'etre. That's every episode of the show in just eight words.

A man enters the room, and the woman asks what the doctor wants - she's willing to do anything! His response? To club her with a pipe and drag her into the darkness. Because this is Criminal Minds.

Then we're in a diner in Las Vegas (will Reid's Mom show up?) when a backpacker enters! He asks for a job, but the waitress says they're not hiring! We notice that the waitress seems to be dressed in the same outfit as the woman from the beginning, so that explains why we're here now! The connection is confirmed when the waitress mentions to one of her regulars that 'Frieda' is late for her shift.

The customer heads out to talk to the backpacker, and accuses him of trying to pick the wallet of someone in the diner, and then offers help! It seems the customer is a magician, one with an oddly generic business card!
Will they become some kind of a criminal team? Only time will tell!

Some ATVrs find the corpse of the waitress and another woman dumped in a field, then it's over to Quantico for the briefing! The women haven't been identified, and they were killed via drowning after being tied up and clubbed! There's no leads yet, but as the team points out, Las Vegas is the most surveilled city in America, so hopefully they'll get some evidence soon!

Hey, can you tell that a corpse has been drowned after it's spent nearly a month being turned into a mummy by the sun?
Her soft tissue has all been transformed into jerky, but they already have a cause of death they're sure of? Doesn't that seem like a stretch? Or are they just assuming she was also drowned because she was found near the other body? Wouldn't it be hilarious if it was an unrelated victim of a different killer, and they've just made some bad assumptions?

I don't know a lot about fabrics, but that print looks pretty colourful - am I crazy, or would three weeks in the Nevada sun bleach that pattern out a little? I mean, look what's happened to her skin, wouldn' the pattern on the shirt show a little more wear than that?

Oh, and speaking of Vegas, we cut back there and see people walking happily along the sidewalk while someone - maybe the backpacker, it's hard to tell - screams for help underneath the street's drainage grate, before being dragged away! Was it the pickpocketing backpacker who got killed? Hopefully we'll find out after the credits!


The Lady or the Tiger Has Been Solved

I was reading Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, as one does, and the preamble to one of the stories extensively discussed Frank Stockton's “The Lady or the Tiger”. I had only a passing familiarity with the story – I remembered it ended on a cliffhanger, and it was up to the reader to decide which ending was more likely. According to the preamble, the author had written a sequel, but it was similarly unsatisfying, which had led another author to, many decades later, write a sequel for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine entitled "The Lady and the Tiger", which wrapped up the story in a satisfying fashion. Sadly I was unable to track that story down, but I was able to find the sequel to The Lady or the Tiger, published one year later, a short story called “The Discourager of Hesitancy”. Reading it, I discovered something interesting – not only was it not as unsatisfying as had been reported, but it seemed to provide the ending for “The Lady or the Tiger” that the original story lacked. I believe that Frank Stockton offered a solution to the readers who were desperate for any resolution, and he did it in a manner so brilliantly obscure that I could find no evidence that anyone has come across it.


Criminal Minds 916: Gabby

The episode opens with a few shots of abandoned businesses and rotted out homes to establish that this episode is set amidst an environment of urban squalor. Then they cut to a perfectly nice low-end suburban street, because the show shoots in Los Angeles, and they don't have access to the kind of wrecks you can find in Mississippi there.

A woman is dropping her daughter off to stay with her sister for a week. They offer some exposition about how the mother won a raffle for a week-long cruise, and it's her first real vacation away since the daughter (who's like 5-6, something along those lines) was born! The aunt has prepared a child's playhouse for the front yard, so the visit should go great! Unless a killer shows up, murders her, and steals the daughter. That would be less great.

Later that week, we see the aunt pile the kid into a car to go for a nighttime drive. She explains to the neighbour that going out for rides helps the little girl get to sleep, then as they're driving off, the little girl and the neighbour lady exchange some sign language! Which they know for some reason? Is one of these characters deaf and I somehow didn't notice?

We cut to the aunt sitting in her car at a gas station, waiting for there to be no witnesses before she runs into the store to buy some food. Maybe we're supposed to think that she's waiting for the guy to drive away because she finds him creepy and doesn't want to leave the niece alone in the car with him at the pumps, but then again, the niece is sleeping, lying across the back seats, so there's no reason to think that anyone even knows she's in the car.

So while the aunt is in the store, a minivan drives up, presumably grabs the kid, and then drives off. Did the Aunt sell the child to someone? Because it's kind of crazy to imagine that a kidnapper would have been been following them this whole time and managed to land on this incredibly lucky moment.

Seeing the empty back seat, the aunt starts screaming for help, and the guys inside call 911!

The team immediately jumps on the plane and flies there - like, immediately. Preposterously immediately.
That's the sun just coming up to the front right of the plane - which is a little weird, considering that they're flying west, but whatever, let's just assume that they mean it to be like 7AM when this scene is happening.

Assuming they're almost in Mississippi, that's like a two-hour flight, meaning they had to get on the plane at 5AM. So let's figure the abduction happened around 10PM, that means that the cops showed up, took statements, decided they couldn't handle the case, called the local FBI, who kicked it upstairs to Washington, and someone there decided that the serial killer people should be working on it - even though it's just a missing girl, not a beheaded little girl - and then called Greg and woke him up at like 3AM, and then he told everyone else to get moving, all so they could be on a plane at 5AM.

This is just so far from how the police actually work. Would it have killed the show to have them arriving at noon the next day? A plausible amount of time later?

Oh my god, it's so much worse than I thought. All of that figuring I did above? Yeah, it's even worse - it's been just three hours since the abduction during the plane scene. I don't know how far they are into the flight, but that means the idea that they were all gathered up and put on a plane happened even faster than I'd calculated. Also, how can the sun be coming up? Was that abduction at like 2AM? Damn, this show is crazy.

In their pre-file they point out that the abductor would have had to have been stalking the little girl - and perhaps even gotten the mother sent away on that trip! Although that might be a stretch, since it's my own interjection. Bigger issue, though, is that they talk about having 24 hours to find the girl before it's too late!

Weird that they would still be saying that, since just six episodes they did a story about how that was a meaningless rule of thumb.

We catch up with the minivan driving down a rural road and dumping something body-shaped but wrapped in black plastic into a river! Has he already murdered the little girl? Was the little girl already dead, killed by the aunt (who's actually the girl's cousin, it seems) and this is a friend helping make it look like an abduction/murder? It's not like we actually saw the little girl moving in the back seat during the convenience store scene.

Hopefully we'll find out after the opening credits!