15.1.23

Criminal Minds 1606 – True Conviction

We’re back for the second half of season sixteen – now for the real question: are they going to let us know what happened with the explosion immediately, or jerk us around a while first? Let’s find out by pressing play on the episode!

Although the bodycams were disconnected in the explosion, Garcia is able to quickly reestablish the uplink, and it turns out that JJ is fine! Whew – that’s a relief! No news on Luke yet, so that’s a really bad sign. Emily gathers everyone to rush off to Whitfield county in their new jet! Which gives her a chance to say “Wheels Up”, which I know is important for the fans, but again, this is gibberish. Wheels up is supposed to mean something, and she’s transformed it into a catchphrase attached to nothing but the idea that they’re going to be going somewhere at some point in the future.

Am I being petty about this? You’d better believe it!

On the plane Joe, Emily, and Tara stare into the distance, stressing over the situation. I’m not sure why, though – the uplink to JJ has been connected, they could be talking to her and finding out what’s going on right now.

Speaking of what’s going on, JJ finds Luke as the ambulances and fire engines turn up, and he’s still alive! So it’s fair to say that show misled us quite a bit about exactly when that bomb went off – the editing suggested that they were still in the container when it happened, but given how far both of them are afield of the hillside, it’s fair to say they got a good distance away before the blast knocked them down.

Meanwhile MM watches the emergency vehicles drive by – the killer from last episode is nowhere in sight, although I’m sure we’ll learn of his fate soon enough. Is this a situation where they were really misleading us about timelines and his body was already in the container? MM calls his wife to let her know he’s going to be gone a few extra days on his current job, then he searches out routes from his location in Keith, GA, to Falls Lake.

So, two things about this route search…

1: Keith, GA is NOT in Whitfield Country.

2: Those routes and distances are super-weird. Ranging from 460 miles to 810? That’s nearly twice the distance. What app is he using, and why does it hate its users? I ran this through google maps, and the three routes it offered three routes, ranging from 425 to 467 miles – weirdly all of them predicted the trip would take exactly the same amount of time, give or take a single minute.

The point is, none of these suggested routes encouraged the driver to drive South through Atlanta and Colombia on the way North to Falls Lake.

While he’s trying to decide which route to take MM flashes back to his childhood, when he was running through the woods being pursued by someone. The predator turns out to be Haywire from Prison Break, who we remember from last time where he appeared to MM in a vision, revealing himself as the guy who taught MM how to serial kill. Haywire knocks MiniM out and tosses him in the bed of a pickup truck. So was he a kidnapping victim who was shown the ropes by his abductor, or is this a family business type of thing? Given what happened to Moose, the former seems more likely. A quick glance at the license plate reveals that this is a North Carolina truck, suggesting that MM is going ‘home’!

We then get a quick montage of MiniM being locked in a closet with a dead cat for a long period of time, only being fed pieces of toast shoved in when the door is opened a crack. Then MiniM wakes in bed, as his period of punishment for attempting to flee has ended. Haywire comes into the room and we learn that he’s a relation of the kid’s parents, and since they’re dead, he has custody of MiniM! So it’s actually kind of both a kidnapping and a family thing!

12.1.23

Criminal Minds 1605 - Oedipus Wrecks

 Okay everyone, we made it to the half-season ender! Which, honestly, is a weird thing to call it, since we’re taking just two weeks off? When I hear ‘mid-season ender’ my mind goes to a months-long wait to find out what happens next. Like on Better Call Saul. “Oh look, Lalo’s alive. See you in two months!” But this is just them taking a couple of weeks off for the Holiday Break. Not that I’m complaining – more Criminal Minds sooner is always a good thing!

As the episode opens a young woman is led into a fancy house by a guy who tells her that another man will be ready for a moment. This is all scored to the song ‘At Last’, which for me is inextricably linked to the show “Andy Richter Controls the Universe’ which starred… Paget Brewster! Is this something the production staff was thinking of? I can’t imagine how it could be.

Hey, is this the same house that the torso thief was using in episode 1501? Let’s check!

No, it’s just got a similar layout! Completely different in every meaningful way!

The woman – Rose – is there to meet a guy who claims to be the son of a super-fancy lady that everyone knows! More details about that later, I’m sure. She gives up her phone due to a need for ‘discretion’. The characters are nice enough to point out that you even need to do that at comedy clubs these days, so it doesn’t seem too serial killer-y.

The killer starts ask Rose about her recently deceased mother, and Rose starts to wobble from drinking drugged wine. So this actually is pretty close to the opening of 1501! She wakes up tied to a table in a wine cellar, and the killer arrives, wearing metal dentures that he’s planning to use to bite her to death! So… probably not connected to the frat this time? Unless, you know, there was a Jaws-themed case buried somewhere in America.

That’s Jaws the James Bond villain, not the shark.

Now we’re in Quantico, or the environs, as we hear the quote ‘A man start cutting his wisdom teeth the moment he first bites off more than he can chew’. Of course, this is likely the first time anyone has ever heard that quote, because it’s from Herb Caen – and who's gonna read Herb Caen?

And if you got that reference, bravo!

We check in with JJ and Jr, who are at the doctor’s office confirming that he doesn’t have any growths in his lungs – but the tests still suggest it could be cancer! But where? Maybe bone marrow? That’s famously hard to detect! JJ’s understandably annoyed that Jr already checked in with a doctor about this a couple of months ago and didn’t tell her. Which both contradicts last episode and makes more sense – that episode was set over like 16 hours, no way is that enough time for him to get a blood test and hear back about the results.

Back at the office, Penelope complains about having to work with Green on finding out MM’s communications, and then Bailey shows up to oversee the new investigation – we don’t know exactly what the investigation is yet, I guess a bit-to-death corpse showed up? So was the victim significant, or do they already know it’s a rich kid doing the killing?

No, it’s more interesting than that – both the victims, who were bitten and then strangled, so maybe there’s a connection given the outstanding starter kit – were on an app for people dating in DC who work in the government. It turns out Bailey wants in on the case because he dated one of the victims, and wants to make sure his name is kept out of it! I’m not sure that it’s such a huge scandal that a single guy is on a dating app in the year 2022. Then again, maybe he’s married? I’ll look for a ring in his next scene.

Emily agrees to keep his involvement a secret if he backs off of the BAU, and he agrees. Ah, Emily, you do so love using people’s weaknesses to exploit them! The team talks a little about how the bite marks don’t look human – hopefully forensics can get them a lead on that! Also they mention that no, Bailey isn’t married, so again, I’m not sure what the scandal is. If he was worried about being connected to the murder, I get it – but they’re acting like being on an app is in and of itself scandalous.

Also, in ‘this was written by upper class people in LA who don’t know how the rest of the world works’ news, Emily refers to the app as ‘Raya for inside the Beltway’. Now, if you haven’t heard of ‘Raya’, there’s a reason for that. It’s the dating app that just for rich and famous people so that A: they can avoid stalkers, and B: not risk breeding with the poors. Would Emily use it as a point of reference? Probably not. But obviously the writers would, because they all live in LA, where it’s pretty huge.

Green comes in to work with Penelope, and Joe offers to knock his sentence down to ‘time served’ if he helps them catch MM. I remain confused about what crime he’s supposed to have committed, beyond sending tens of thousands of dollars to an offshore account. Which might not actually be a crime. Penelope is a huge jerk to him, bragging about how she doesn’t need his help to get into the MM chat logs, but then she immediately runs into a trap. It’s cute!

At the morgue, we find out that the dentures are razor-tipped, which they say explains all of the damage – this is in direct conflict with the images we saw of the wounds, which don’t look at all like someone was tearing at the flesh.


See? These are all pretty discrete bite marks. It turns out each victim also had their hair bleached – Tara and Luke immediately jump to the assumption that the killer is obsessed with a previous victim – or one that got away, perhaps? They immediately call JJ and tell her to look for another bitten and strangled woman, alive or dead – blonde or otherwise. It’s a weird jump to make – it’s just as likely that the changing of the appearance is meant to connect the victim to someone that he wants to kill, but can’t for whatever reason. They’ve encountered that more than once. I mean, we the audience know that it’s about his blonde-haired mother from the painting in the first scene, but even without that, it’s a possibility worth considering.

They immediately find a sex worker who was brutally bitten, but she won’t tell them who her client was because he’s so powerful. She points out that the guy’s assistant – who brought Rose to the house at the start – was already at the hospital when she arrived, offering 50K and an NDA. So she refuses to cooperate because the killer’s reach extends everywhere. Weirdly JJ doesn’t threaten her in order to get her cooperation, which is something they do a lot. Why pull back now? Oh, and just FYI, the woman has dark brown hair – this is before the bleaching fetish got going.

They then get a mock-up of the dentures that the lab sent over – they’re spiky, and the team assumes no legit dentist would have made them, which is probably true. But since he could pay almost anyone online to make them, it’s not much of a lead. They talk a little about the ‘remaking’ women, and suggest that the killer is probably trying to turn the victims into his mother or grandmother, who either gave him too much or not enough attention as a child. Also that he never passed the ‘oral’ stage of psychosexual development, which is why he loves biting so much. This is just a series of huge jumps in a row, but let’s just let them have them and move on.

Now we cut over to the killer, who’s busy bleaching the hair on Rose’s body!

Then it’s another scene with Green and Garcia – she finally asks him why he came to her for help when there’s a million hackers in the world. We still don’t get an answer. David interrupts to go over one of the chat logs, in which MM was giving people the psychopath test to see if they’re potential killers! Garcia mentions that Reid told her about it – which is the first time he’s been mentioned since episode 1!

Rose’s body then turns up – Luke and Emily go to check out the dump site. Now that they have three of those, they can map out the killer’s comfort zone – but how will they manage that without Reid, whose job it was to draw three circles on the map?

Emily then makes the dumbest leap yet this season, when she announces that the killer must have a personal connection to the empty fields in which the bodies are being dumped. After all, it’s not like someone would drive hundreds of miles to leave a body in a random place to ensure that they had not possible connection to him, is it? What’s that? It’s entirely plausible that a killer with resources would do that because they didn’t want to get caught? Excellent point, me. But I’m sure they’re going to be right.

Whew! Jr shows up at this office and it seems that he has a thyroid disorder which is causing the massively increased white blood cell count! He and JJ promise to communicate better with one another, and it’s incredibly sweet! I don’t know where they’re going with this, but it feels like something bad is coming, and I’m very uneasy!

It turns out that all of the dump sites were tobacco farms owned by a Senator from Virginia, and that Senator has a son with a history of assaulting women! Bailey hears this and freaks out – he doesn’t want the political hassle of investigating someone rich and powerful – but he will let them investigate the son’s staff! I was about to suggest they check if there was security footage of the guy who bribed the sex worker, but that would have been so long ago the hospital wouldn’t have kept it, I’m sure.

At the killer’s house, the assistance lets him know that the FBI is looking into him. How did he find that out? Only the team and Bailey know at this point. Unless the sex worker called him? Given how scared she was, that actually makes a ton of sense! The killer is unconcerned and tells him to ‘handle’ it, which he points out that he absolutely is not qualified to do. Then the senator shows up and tells the killer that he’s going to start doing fundraising events to help her. He doesn’t want to, so she exerts creepy control over him making it immediately clear that she’s been molesting him his whole life! Very creepy scene!

Another Garcia and Green scene, where Joe seems to think that MM must have known that Green was after him because he asked too many questions – it was all a trap! Then Green points out that he picked Garcia because, unlike most other hackers, she was super-easy to manipulate because she cares too much about people. Which, you know, good point. Then they act like Garcia turning on the transponders was the only way he got a starter kit – since losing the rest made MM desperate enough for money to sell him one. That’s a hell of a stretch, though – since how could he possibly know about MM’s financial situation?

The assistant then goes into the FBI office and implies that he was involved in the killings. This isn’t entirely plausible, because he literally could not get to where they are. You can drive up to the FBI building in DC and ask questions, but their offices are in Quantico, which is on the grounds of a Marine base – there’s no way to drive your car in there unless it’s expected, and it’s not the first place you’d go.

They find the teeth in his trunk, but he doesn’t admit to anything, and asks for a lawyer – the team realizes that he must be distracting them in order to give the killer time to do something more important. So they call up the sex worker to tell her to get somewhere safe, as she’s the only living witness to his biting-themed crimes.

Unfortunately the killer is already with her, pointing a gun at her head, demanding to know who she talked to. Guess she didn’t call the assistant after all! Oh well. Luckily the team arrives in time to keep him from shooting her. This is incredibly preposterous because, as previously mentioned, they’re in an office building in a marine base near Quantico, VA. If the parking lot the sex worker is in is anywhere other than Quantico, it would take a half an hour to get there. Even if it’s in Quantico it would take ten minutes. So this is kind of a stretch – then again, geography has never been the show’s strong suit.

Bailey is not psyched that they arrested a Senator’s son, and wants him released. Even though he was pointing a gun at a woman and his assistant has the metal teeth. Also he funded the app that he’s using to find victims. She asks Bailey what kind of woman the victim he knew was, and Bailey explains that she was driven and brilliant – so he’s looking for women like his mother! Which… I feel like they already could have assumed?

Anyway, Emily goes in there trying to act controlling and cruel like his mother would, hoping to get a confession. She taunts him and he starts revealing details of some of the early MM victims from the container. Emily counters that he could have had those leaked – if he wants to impress her, he’ll need to offer new information! So he talks about buried treasure in Whitfield, Georgia, which I’m guessing is the container that MM rigged to blow? The point is, all of this information means that the killer is the likely the person who bankrolled the frat – or at least one of them. Is he the one who was demanding to ‘go next’ while MM was dealing with Green? Or was that still someone else? In any event, he sucks at following rules, since he dumped the women in a way that was designed to get his mother’s attention.

The assistant won’t talk – he points out that America is run by the rich who control everything, so what use is a promise from the justice department when he works for a rich family? So at least he gets it.

We’re told that local cops are searching Whitfield, and then Emily sends Luke and JJ down there to supervise. Uh-oh. Did they do all of that stuff with Jr. so we’d be completely misdirected when JJ gets blown up by the firebomb in the container at the end of this episode? If so, that’s a NASTY trick, show. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, hard.

Joe goes to check in with Green, hoping that he can dig up chats between MM and the killer. When told that the killer is into cannibalism, Green remembers that there was a rich guy who helped bankroll the organization, and MM made him something to help with an ‘overbite’. Green explains that there was a private forum just for the funders and MM – but he doesn’t know where it is. Which means he’ll have to make nice with Garcia to find it!

I’m going to be 100% honest here – I’m loving the interplay between Green and Garcia. It started rough, but it’s really working in this episode. Green goes to talk to her with a peace offering – a kitten! Which is a terrible bribe, as Garcia points out. Also, Green claims that there’s a cat rescue down the street, and, I can’t believe I have to keep saying this, but for the record… YOU ARE IN AN OFFICE BUILDING THAT IS PART OF A MARINE CORPS TRAINING FACILITY. THERE IS A FIRING RANGE BETWEEN YOU AND THE INTERSTATE. THE CITY ‘QUANTICO’ IS A FIFTEEN MINUTE DRIVE AWAY. THAT’S WHY HOTCH ALWAYS SAID ‘WHEELS UP IN 30’. 10 MINUTES TO GET YOUR STUFF TOGETHER AND GET DOWNSTAIRS. 15 MINUTES TO DRIVE TO THE MARINE BASE AIR FIELD. 5 MINUTES TO GET SITUATED ON THE PLANE. THERE IS NOT A CAT RESCUE ‘DOWN THE STREET’.

Okay, glad that’s out of my system. Back to the show.

The Senator comes to see Emily and Bailey. She says that if they don’t let her son go, she’ll have the BAU destroyed by the senate judiciary committee! Emily says it’s up to Bailey and walks out. You know, for someone who’s used to playing dirty, Emily is weirdly hesitant to bring up the possibility of public humiliation here. Wouldn’t the press love to know about a sitting Senator pulling strings to get their serial killing son out of jail?

When the Senator and her son get home, MM is there waiting – they had a special code: if he ever dials 911, MM comes running to start the endgame in which the mother gets killed. Yikes!

After the commercial break, we see the mother’s dead body lying on the ground, her face torn apart in the way we were told was done with the razor teeth, but didn’t actually see. Wonder why the mistake was made there, and not here? Since, you know, he didn’t have the teeth here.

By the team the team gets out to the Senator’s house the family plane is already in the air – hopefully the killer or MM knows how to fly it, since that’s another dead body if they don’t. They’re headed to Whitfield! Which the killer is going along with, even though he already told the team about it? Also, now that they know that the killer was funding the frat, they dig into the code of the dating app he also funded, and find MM’s secret forum!

Over in Whitfield, the killer says they can head to a country with no extradition (I’m guessing Ecuador?), but MM explains he’s got something they need to do first. Meanwhile JJ and Luke have arrived at the container – apparently a satellite managed to find two doors sticking out of the ground? Obviously there’s no way that could have ever happened, but again, we’re getting close to the end, so let’s just let them have this one.

Oh, come on show, why are you doing this to me? In the scene were it turned out Jr was fine they promised to be better about communicating with one another, right down to calling before they do anything dangerous. And then Luke and JJ decide to check out the bunker without backup, so she calls Jr  to say she loves him. God damn it show, WHY.

The team watches JJ and Luke go in via their bodycams, and then they see the firebomb that’s ready to detonate – Emily orders them out, but then the bomb activates and the cameras go dead.

THE END

GOD DAMN YOU, SHOW. Like, we all saw this coming, but damn, is that a cliffhanger. Are they really killing someone off? JJ was closer to the exit than Luke, so maybe she got out?

On the upside, we only have two weeks to wait?

That is not much of an upside.

So, how useful was profiling in catching this week’s killer?

1/10 – Yes, they didn’t technically catch him, but that’s only because his mother helped him escape. They identified and almost caught him, though! Can’t really credit profiling, though. The killer dropped bodies in places that were designed to humiliate his mother and lead the cops to him. He wanted to get caught, and led the team right to him. The psychology even makes sense, because only by giving himself no other option could he work up the guts to finally kill his mother.

Bad profiling – great episode!

Let’s start the countdown until new episodes now, shall we?

I just checked the calendar – they’re not back until January 13. I was wrong, this is going to be a LONG four weeks.

10.12.22

Criminal Minds 1604 - Pay Per View

The episode opens with the Mastermind (MM, Elias Voit), cleaning up after allowing adorable pupper Moose to snack down on a guy just because the man looked like MM's horrible neighbour. Like, I get you were angry, but your whole thing is elaborate planning – maybe put up some plastic sheeting to minimize cleanup time after the chomping is complete?

While cleaning up a pool of blood in the least efficient way possible – for the record, you use something absorbent like a big sponge or paper towels to get most of the blood, then only bring out the bleach and scrubber when dealing with stains – MM has a vision of someone named Cyrus (based on the subtitles) in the pool. This leads to a fantasy of Cyrus talking to him, and explaining that it's his rules that MM's serial killing revolves around, which is why he's able to keep from getting caught. Cyrus is played by that actor from Grim, Prison Break and a hundred other things whose name I'll look up if you'll wait a second-

Silas Mitchell is his name! This is not the character from the container in the first episode, but these are his rules – so what is that guy's involvement? I'm going to go ahead and assume that my inability to recognize faces has foiled me yet again, and it was, in fact, MM in that first scene of the first episode – which is kind of puzzling, since if that's the case, he looked older in that scene than he does in the main show, which is set 17 years later.

Then, as if we didn't have enough reason to hate this guy, we then see him load up a syringe with Pentobarbitol, which is what vets use to put down animals, and murder Moose with it! You monster.

Over at Quantico Tara and Emily are debating about how to approach Green, the guy who was trying to kill MM because he thinks that MM was responsible for the death of his sister. Although that's just conjecture at this point, since his sister disappeared from DC back in 2007, and MM was working out of the Pacific Northwest at that time. They also wonder how Green found out about the murder frat, and why he thinks MM killed his sister. Answers I'm sure we'll get an answer to soon!

Also they mention that he worked in PsyOps, which is weird, since last week I could have sworn he was a special forces guy who spotted for drones, which is how Joe identified him via the lingo he was using. They send in Garcia to talk to Green, since her specialty was always talking to the families of victims! Actually, no, that was JJ's specialty, but the show's long since forgotten that, but it does remember that Garcia was briefly involved in a support group, so here we are.

More importantly, though – Garcia is who Green reached out to, and when face to face, he says that he feels betrayed that she gave the info to the FBI. What was she supposed to do with it, though? Garcia's response is that she works for the FBI, so why wouldn't she do that? Except no, Garcia, you didn't at the time he sent the files. In fact, you were very adamant about the fact that you wanted zero association with the FBI. Lying to a guy first thing is not a great way to build trust.

Garcia brings up his sister, which causes Green to shut down – she is very bad at strategic interviews! Then she suggests that the only way he won't spend the rest of his life in jail is if he helps them. For what, exactly, would he be jailed? Like... it might be a federal crime of some kind to buy a bomb online, but you didn't catch him with a bomb, so I don't know how you'd prove that's what he was doing. Green refuses to talk, so Garcia gives up immediately.

Over at the LaMontagne house, Jr and JJ are chatting about the kids and breakfast and it's all quite cute. Josh Steward remains the most natural actor I've ever seen. They start to kiss but are interrupted by a life insurance salesman from Walmart Financial, which is as awkward a bit of product integration as I've ever seen. And... now that we know that Walmart paid money to be mentioned on the show, does that mean they were paying money to have characters talking about serial killers using their parking lots to dump cars? Interesting marketing technique!

Emily and Joe chat about the aftermath about last week – it seems that the bomb kit was buried for five years! Wow, firebomb materials that still work after five years? I wonder what kind it was – a ton of flammable materials break down super-fast. Then things get weird, as they announce there were no 'persons of interest' captured on the CCTV at the park, but assume that just means that MM knew how to avoid them. Except... how are they defining persons of interest here? And weren't there cameras all over that street, given that this is DC? They have no idea what MM looks like, so how can they say he's not on camera?

They jump to the conclusion that it was all a setup, and MM wanted Green to get caught by the cops since he'd figured out Green was the mole – but there's a flaw in their reasoning: why would MM go to DC if that was the case? He's done all of this starter kit stuff to separate himself out from the murders, and suddenly he's traveling to the site of a bombing? If he was going there to kill the mole, and the team interrupted his plan, that would make sense, but if he was setting the guy up to get caught – which there's zero evidence to suggest – why would he put himself in the same Time Zone as the FBI?

Joe points out that there are still two outstanding kits – one in Indio, California, the other in Rockville, Maryland – which is close to Rock Creek Park, which was the title of that terrible Criminal Minds episode about the lady who had his son's wife kidnapped to help his political career? Oof, that was a rough one.

I'm still not entirely clear why they're having trouble finding these cases – if they hadn't been picked up yet, they should have been in the ground. If they had, they should have been in places connected to the would-be killers. So shouldn't they have leads? Oh, and in case anyone forgot, the cases are for acid and strangulation – so let's see how that plays out!

Then it's over to Miami, where a couple checks into a nice hotel, only to get notified that their remote cameras have been turned on! The killers – there's two of them, and they use face-blurring technology of some kind – have a strange theme: they break into the house of people who are away, bringing a victim with them – in this case a guy in a uniform – and kill the victim while the homeowners watch.

You know, this reminds me of a terrible Rogers ad from years ago, which pointed out that their home-monitoring cameras used the wireless cell phone network, so even if lines were down you could still check out what's going on in your house. Perfectly good message, but the way they decided to get it across was to show a cable line that had been manually cut on the outside of house, and then pan across to let us see a little girl running in through the front door without unlocking it. The homeowner seemed happy to see that the camera still worked without an internet connection, but was strangely unconcerned about the likelihood that a criminal had broken into the house just before the child god home.

Luke drops by Garcia's lab to talk about Green's backstory. He was apparently the last person to see his sister alive, and only has fuzzy memories of the day in question. But we just heard that she was last seen leaving her apartment with her boyfriend, a man named 'Lewis or Lee' – so is he the one who saw her? And he's seen her killer, which he believes is MM? Also, the sister had a two year old son when she disappeared, and he just graduated from high school based on the photos they show!

The team gets a briefing on the case – the uniformed guy that got killed was from the security company – apparently the killers took control of the house's system to get an officer out to check on the house before triggering the remote camera alarms. Because this happened in Germantown, which is near Rockville, the team thinks it might be related to MM's frat! Although last week they were looking for people based on kits related specific kill methods, and this wasn't about acid or strangulation, it was just about defeating home security systems, which is what the kit from the first episode was about.

This is all very confusing.

Garcia yells at Green until he agrees to do a cognitive interview in the hopes of remembering something important about the last time he saw his sister. She's wearing cat ears the entire time, which is hideously unprofessional, but I love it. No one has yet asked him what he hoped to achieve by sending Garcia the transponder codes.

Also, his sister's DNA is not in the container anywhere, so maybe she's still alive! Which would be more encouraging had there been ANY DNA in the trailer. Other than the actual bodies the whole placed was sanitized to an absurd degree, remember? Maybe just say she wasn't one of the bodies?

JJ is at her desk when Jr calls to mention that he loves her. They had better not be setting us up for tragedy, because this is a shockingly healthy relationship they have.

Then it's over to the killers, who are breaking into another house to prepare for their next murder broadcast! They prepare the house for murder, but discover that the couple's flight has been canceled! The dominant member of the pair says that's fine, he doesn't mind abandoning their entire theme at the drop of the hat! Or maybe they won't? We're shown that the house has a safe room, so maybe they're going to get the couple to hide in there, and then make them watch a security guard get killed through their in-room camera feed?

We see the interview – apparently he was, in fact, the last person to see her alive. He was there to babysit, but then MM freaked out when he saw that another person was at the apartment, presumably because he hates witnesses, and stormed out. The sister then asked Green to meet her and MM at the restaurant they were going to, but he flaked out, and later that night got an accidental call from her on his phone. Did she want him there as backup when she broke up with MM? We may never know!

Now that he remembers everything, Green announces that he just 'stumbled' onto MM's network during the lockdown, and heard MM bragging out killing his sister! Then he announces that remembering is worse than not, and wants to be locked up. Again, not sure you actually committed a crime there, buddy.

That night, two more guards are lured out to the panic room couple's home, and as predicted, the killers murder them while the couple watches from their hiding place! Oh, and they're wearing face paint that confuses digital cameras-

I wonder if Penelope will be able to decode that?

I feel like the security guards should have been way more cautious – they mention things being dangerous, but they're not acknowledging just how dangerous. Literally one day earlier someone in their area lured security guards out to be murdered while manipulating the the security systems. Yet the minute they arrive at the house they split up so that they can be more effectively killed, which is exactly what happens.

The team arrives at the house just before SWAT breaks in, which creates a problem. We're told that SWAT arrived three minutes after a 911 call – but Germantown is 20 minutes north of DC, and Quantico is 20 minutes south – no matter how many traffic laws they broke, it would have taken JJ and Tara at least half an hour to get to the scene. Were SWAT just hanging around outside until then?

They secure the house and discover the killers are long gone, having left the security guards in the panic room, and presumably kidnapped the owners, although we never actually saw them in the house.

Tara, JJ and Joe talk over the details of the case – Tara mentions the face paint that fools cameras, so that's neatly explained! Although, I've got to ask – wouldn't that only work on low-resolution black and white cameras meant for surveying large areas with fisheye lenses? Wouldn't home cameras be much higher resolution and likely in colour? I'm far from an expert in this area, of course, so this could be 100% accurate.

They make a strange statement, announcing that since the killers were performing the same acts both nights, the choreographed killings must be recreations of something that happened to them. Now, I haven't checked the numbers, but something along the lines of 70% of the killers you caught performed the same choreographed actions over and over again, and in maybe three of those cases it was because they were recreations of something that happened to them. So this is a hell of a leap.

The team gives their profile – it's probably two brothers in their twenties who suffered a trauma related to home invasion! At the same time the killers are waiting for people to leave a house before breatking in to menace a sleeping woman inside!

The killers are quickly identified – a house was broken into 10 years ago, and the father of the family dragged one of the sons inside with him before locking the door. Two murderers threatened to kill the mother and other son if they didn't open the door and bring out the money hidden inside, but the father refused and the mother was killed. So presumably the guy who left just now is the father and the woman who's going to be threatened is the new wife?

Yes, that's exactly what's happening, but the team gets there in time to arrest one brother and shoot the other. Interestingly the guy who doesn't get shot threatens to cut his own throat, but can't go through with it. So I guess MM wasn't that great at picking out suicidal people after all!

So... we never got an answer about what happened to the couple that canceled their flight. Seems like a weird thing to never mention again.

Joe talks to the surviving brother, who claims to know nothing about the frat! So despite there being a missing starter kit within twenty kilometers of where this murder happened, this had nothing to do with MM!

Now we check back in on Luke and Green who have apparently been hanging out this entire time? Luke wasn't anywhere near the case of the week – never even stopping by to help out with the profile, which is a little strange. Green backed up all of his communications with MM, and he offers to turn them over so long as Garcia is kept out of the case – he can't trust her. Still waiting to hear what you wanted her to do with the transponders, Green.

Now it's back to Jr and JJ, and we're following up on the insurance agent scene – he did a physical and may have cancer! While I feel personally betrayed by this, I'm blown away by Josh Stewart's performance in this scene. Just a master at work.

THE END

So, how useful was profiling helpful in solving the crime this week?

4/10

We finally got a positive number this year! That said, the idea that they could have made the assumption that the killers were recreating something that actually happened to them was a crazy reach – and since a search for similar crimes would have led them directly to the killers much faster, I can't only appreciate the team's work so much.


Seriously, though, what happened to the couple whose flight was canceled? Given that the killers' entire motivation was about people hiding in panic rooms while their loved ones were murdered outside, how did that not come up in the episode?

Also, why did the killers attack a second set of security guards? I understand doing a single test run to make sure that the plan would work, but why not go straight to your actual target after the first killing? It's almost like the killers knew how Criminal Minds episodes are structured!

Hopefully we'll get back to MM next week, in what might be the mid-season finale!

Criminal Minds 1603 - Moose

 It seems that Garcia’s fears about activating the trackers causing problems in the investigation was fairly overblown, because the episode opens with the team chasing a killer through the woods – their quarry carrying a serial killer starter kit as he flees. Those things are bulky as hell and kind of heavy. Maybe just ditch it?

I’m guessing they were able to track him down because, like three of the four killers we’ve seen so far, he just kept the kit in his house, meaning they have a map to a dozen serial killers’ residences? I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.

The killer runs to a car on a nearby access road and climbs in – the show goes out of its way to let us see this logo on the case-


Which I’m wondering if I just missed on the other cases, or if this is a new thing. So I went back and checked, and yup, it's there! Either way, using a traceable case is a really bad idea for this kind of thing. You know, what with it being a serial killer toolkit. Losing a little respect for the Mastermind here. First he forgets to tell the spine slayer to kill his victim, and now he’s using traceable cases? Weak, dude.

Anyway, keep an eye out for the name ‘HAEBERLIN’, it might be important later.

The killer gets maybe ten feet in his car before he’s boxed in by squad cars. The team tells them to let him run – they need to take him alive! They think that if he feels like he’s about to be captured he’ll shoot himself in the head, which is exactly what happens.

Got to ask, though – what exactly was the team’s plan? Let him keep shooting at people until he ran out of bullets and then hope he didn’t have a knife to stab himself with? Spoiler alert – there’s almost certainly a knife in that starter’s kit. If these guys really are this determined to kill themselves, once you blew the element of surprise, he was dead. Just be happy that’s one less serial killer on your list – 11 more to go!

Then, over in Seattle, MM is trying to teach his daughter to play basketball! Is it weird that they didn’t tell us where the first scene was taking place, so we could cross it off the map, which is something I’ve just now decided I want to do?

MM is decent a pretending to do good parenting stuff by tutoring his daughter in basketball, but the minute his daughter is out of sight he drops all pretense of being a happy person – even sinking a free throw bring him no joy. Which is just shocking. Will he soon visit that cashier he has locked up somewhere, or was that a terrible prediction on my part?

More cute family stuff with his wife and two daughters, and then MM hops on a computer to pay his bills – which he’s unable to do because there’s no money in his accounts! That’s what happens when you spend all of your time running a non-profit serial killer mentoring program instead of actually having a network security company. Although I guess this kills my theory that he’s independently wealthy and connected to SOAR as an investor! He’s also not doing anything for profit the way the last two serial killer rings were!

A teen and his dad show up at the door selling magazines to help fundraise for the school, and we learn that MM’s name is Mr. Voit – which I feel like was the name of the 2005 killer from the first scene of the first episode, although that could be the subtitles getting confused again, like they did with the Josh/Steve situation last week. Provisionally we’re going to guess that MM is maybe the original killer’s son?

Anyhoo, MM fantasizes about killing the dad of the teen, then heads into his garage to check on his own starter kit, which yes, does have that same super-prominent logo on it. A little embarrassed to have missed that the last two weeks! Also MM is getting worse and worse at this, it seems.

He takes out his phone and checks out his surveillance camera – it seems that it’s not the cashier he kidnapped, but rather the dog! Who he decides to torture by playing music super-loud! This dude is compellingly weird. Did he murder the cashier and take the dog to remind him of her, or was this a straight-up dognapping?

After the ‘credits’ the episode proper starts up in the evidence hangar, where Joe and JJ are shocked at the sheer size of MM’s murder frat. That said, they’re making excellent progress – check out this image:


That’s ten cases we can see in the shot. 1 from the container, 1 from the spine slayer, 1 from RJ, and presumably 1 from the guy who just killed himself. This implies that since last week they’ve either caught or gotten significant leads on seven serial killers, counting the guy from the intro. Which is maybe their biggest week ever? I know we’re supposed to be terrified of MM’s serial killing frat, but it kind of seems like all he’s done is gather up a bunch of killers and put radio tags on them like you would a goose whose migration patterns you were tracking?

Is MM the most effective serial killer hunter the show has ever presented?

We get a scene of Tara and her girlfriend in the elevator, and the dialogue is about how great the commute to Quantico is from Tara’s place, where she slept the previous night. She comments on how much more convenient it is than fighting Beltway traffic – although that suggests she literally lives inside the beltway, and if that’s true, taking the 395 or the 1 is a way better route out of the city, and should have almost zero traffic, since everyone else is trying to drive into the city at that hour.

I’m repeating myself, of course, because I’m fairly sure Emily once complained about the same thing, so let’s move on, because this is really just Tara’s GF’s way of hinting that they should move in together. Tara is, of course, afraid of commitment – let’s not forget that the character was introduced breaking up with her fiancĂ©e because she was more interested in chatting with serial killers than her future husband. Of course, the real reason that she doesn’t want the GF to move in is that having another person around all the time will put a crimp in her own serial killing plans, but that’s just a theory that I believe with every fibre of my being.

Seriously, though, how great would it be if the end-of-season cliffhanger hook was that Tara had a starter kit of her own?

When she gets off the elevator, a woman walks up to Tara and asks for information about the ‘Sicarius’ case – so I guess that name went wide, even though there’s no way it ever would? She’s annoyed that all of the families of victims from the containers have been gathered in a single room for hours without any information.

I’m mad about this too – I guess I was assuming all of the victims were from the Washington State area – did the FBI fly them across the country? Maybe Bailey is right to question how they’re spending their money at the BAU.

In a clunky bit of exposition, we see JJ asking Garcia about the fact that she was sent all the transponder codes by some guy. How does she not already know about this already? She’s been criss-crossing the country for the past week based on those codes, there’s no way she doesn’t know where they come from. Maybe she could have just asked if there’s any leads on who sent the codes?

There’s a cute line by Garcia about how she shouldn’t assume the leaker’s gender – but the modulated voice from last week was either male, or designed to make someone sound stereotypically male, so it’s fine to accept their presentation at face value for the moment.

In a super-cute meta-moment, Joe doesn’t want to say Sicarius, because he suddenly cares about nicknames (but you know that he’s going to write a book called “Sicarius” the moment the case is over”), and only calls the head of the organization ‘Fuckhead’. Despite the fact that this is a streaming show, Garcia is in no way comfortable swearing, which is delightful.

Garcia has found the site where the killers communicate, which should be pretty helpful, but instead of focusing on concrete leads like IP addresses of people they haven’t caught yet, the team starts rambling about how MM is finding the killers to recruit. They have no good theories – although they do wonder how he’s got people to join a suicide cult so effective that every single killer they’ve come close to catching has offed themselves.

Which seems a little odd – no one was like ‘sure, take me in, for better prison conditions I’ll rat out this serial killer cult I’m in’ – what does he have on them, exactly?

It seems that the container victims were from as much as a thousand miles away, and all were ‘low-risk’ targets, which is what they call people whose lifestyles make them easy to kidnap and kill without anyone realizing their missing.

(EXAGGERATED SIGH)

I legit can’t believe we’re 16 years into this show and they’re still getting this backwards. The risk in this statement refers to the lifestyle of the victim, not the chance of the killer getting caught. These are all HIGH-RISK victims. Then again, they recently mentioned a cooling-off period, which is a term that shouldn’t exist in Criminal Minds, where every killer is a spree killer, so it’s not like this is a complete surprise.

Tara’s idea for a lead – she and Luke will track down who’s making the starter kits. Which they should have been doing already, but whatever. The funny part of this line? She suggests that this is going to help them figure out where the network is going to ‘strike next’. Which it absolutely cannot do. MM has been seeding them all around the country, so knowing where the kits are coming from has no conceivable way of giving you a lead on where or when a killer will strike.

That said, it could certainly help you figure out who’s running the frat, which is way more useful information that tracking down a single killer.

‘Strike next’. Come on, Tara, you’re supposed to be better than this. Okay, I don’t know what I’m basing that on.

Okay, turns out things are going less well than I’d hoped – we see Emily talking to Bailey, and it turns out all of the cases with transponders in them were still buried except for three? And those three were only dug up between the alarms going off and the cops arriving to find them? So… spine slayer was literally the only active killer that the source gave them a lead on? That’s… odd.

Bailey is happy the kits are being snatched up, and sanguine about the idea of serial killers offing themselves before being caught – but Emily points out that if they keep doing that, the team will never get any leads on MM! Bailey points out that since this is a domestic terror cell, the anti-terrorism task force should be brought in, but Emily thinks that’s a bad idea since doing so would let MM know what methods the government is using to track him?

I have no idea why she thinks this, or what she’s talking about. Does Emily think that the FBI talks loudly and publicly about all of the stuff it’s doing to catch domestic terrorists? Because, spoiler alert… that’s not a thing. It’s kind of assumed in every fringe organization – from eco-terrorists to hardcore neo-nazis – that FBI informers are everywhere, at all times. But they think that because of the COINTELPRO files that were stolen by that church group, not because the FBI tells people that’s what they’re doing. Officially the FBI doesn’t admit COINTELPRO exists.

Bailey makes it clear that he doesn’t think the BAU can handle this on their own, and Emily snarks behind his back as he leaves, because she’s 12, I guess?

Back at MM’s house, it turns out his older daughter has gotten into private school – which MM is stressed about, because they absolutely do not have the money to pay for that! He points out that quarantine ate up all of their savings, which is both something that happened to a lot of people, and something that makes zero sense for what this character seems to be. What I mean is, during quarantine, huge numbers of people got laid off, yes, but an enormous number of people started working from home, which, despite the overall negative effects on the global economy, actually created MORE work for network specialists. I know some people who work in IT, and they spent 2020-2022 busier than they’d been when they were actually going into offices.

That said, it could be that this is a John List situation, and MM’s personality problems make him unhireable and he just pretended that the plague was causing him to not have work, because that makes more sense than a network security specialist – which he actually seems to be pretty good at – going broke during the pandemic.

I mean, I know he was probably spending all of his time and money setting up the frat, but how out of touch is his wife that she wouldn’t see how weird it was that they weren’t making money for those two years?

Garcia and JJ talk more about the messaging app – basically MM built 4chan for serial killers, or, to put it another way, 4chan.


I’ve been playing a bunch of ‘The Devil In Me’ so when I saw Gethungry1893’s name I immediately assumed it was connected to HH Holmes’ mythical reign of terror, although it’s almost certainly not.

Apparently the forum has over half a million members, so it seems that MM created a safe space for the worst people on the internet to congregate, and then read through their posts until he found a few guys who seemed like they were ready to go live. That’s a reference to the original screenplay that was turned into terrible movie suspect zero, which is essentially a 100 page version of this entire season of television. More importantly, just as it was a completely believable way to encourage serial killers in that story, it makes perfect sense here. These sites radicalize people into mass murder in the real world, so it feels really accurate to have them encouraging serial killers on the show.

In what’s the most baffling goof I’ve seen in ages, Garcia literally goes from saying that she’s identified two people they’ve seen before to saying ‘here are the three guys we know about’. Weird. Although this could be an editing thing, and they weren’t supposed to catch the third guy until later in the episode, and they couldn’t reshoot the intro?


I think it’s safe to say there’s a minor continuity error in the image here, because they’ve got the bull killer asking if anyone knows about a paralytic he can use for his murders. But the way they identified him is that he used the same drugs he was treating his own back injury with to drug people. Although maybe he’s such a dummy that he needed to be told he could do that? He didn’t seem like a particularly bright guy, after all.

It turns out they all talked with MM, who goes by user45125, which, fun fact, is the zip code for part of Cincinnati, Ohio! Probably not relevant.

In addition to being riddled with typos, his bio states that he wasn’t born this way, and that someone showed him how to be a Beast. Presumably he’s talking about container guy here, who was the original killer.

Garcia gets a list of everyone MM has been chatting with – it’s over 17 thousand people, but at least it’s somewhere to start!

Also, can I just say how amazing it is that we’re over a third of the way into this episode without dealing with a specific ongoing murder? This is almost completely uncharted waters for the episode – they’ve only done this twice before… like… ever. I’m counting flashback episodes as ‘ongoing crimes’ for the purposes of this list I’m making, BTW.

It’s back to Elias Voit, which we learn is MM’s real name, getting fired by his boss – and he has to return the company car! The boss points out that business isn’t coming back the way they thought it would. Although, as a great sales engineer, the boss is sure he’ll be able to find work. So I guess he’s not an IT security specialist? Sales engineers are basically salesmen who understand the in-depth technical aspects of a product that they’re marketing. Everything about this guy confuses me.

Outside the daughter is talking to the magazine kid about how he should also apply to a better school, but the father doesn’t think it’s a good idea. He’s like a cartoon of what people think a right-wing scumbag is, saying she only got into the school because of a need for diversity. Which, you know, if they wanted to go this way, maybe cast the daughter as mixed-race and the wife as literally anything but white? The dad is literally the type of person who would unironically say ‘beta cuck’, so at this point the show is literally trying to get us to root for MM to kill him? Weird play, show, but I’m interested to see where this is going.

MM gets on the phone with Benjamin, another killer who’s part of the frat. Apparently MM charges them money for helping them figure out how to commit crimes without getting caught? So this really is a franchise situation, as I talked about on the podcast last week. Neat.

Ben wants to kill someone right away with the new tools he’s got, but MM says that someone else gets to do a kill first – also, apparently he’s shutting down the network and moving things to a new system because the FBI is on to them. Which is pretty smart, actually.

Okay, things get super-confusing, as JJ and Garcia think they have a lead on MM – they think he’s burying the starter kits well in advance, and then choosing killers based on what’s in the kit? Like he’ll have a kit prepped for breaking into houses, and he’ll wait for someone who wants to do that, and then tell that person about that kit? This seems like a terrible way to operate, because you’ve got to pick a guy who both has a specific fetish and also lives in the part of the country where you buried that starter kit? Doesn’t it make WAY more sense to recruit a specific person and THEN bury the kit for them so that the two of you never meet IRL?

Also, the show tries to backfill the plot hole I just noticed, by saying that the Matador (get it? He kills BULLS. How are they not calling him this?) used a special paralytic IN ADDITION to the pills he got for his back. I see what you’re doing, Criminal Minds.

Okay, this is AMAZING – they’re assuming that the starter kits are all based on the ‘how to kill people’ methods that the container killer was experimenting with, so the idea is, and follow along with me, because this is CRAZY – each kit has tools for a different method of killing in it, and they figure that if they can find out which methods of killing are missing from the kits they have, then cross-reference that against the fantasies of the people that MM is talking to, they can come up with the three owners of the missing cases.

Why do I find this so hilarious? Largely because one of the ways he established killing people was putting poison spiders down their throat, thus suggesting that one of the cases they already have is full of spider eggs.

So they identify the ‘types of murder’ that came up in container guy’s diaries that aren’t represented in the ten cases they have – and they are, drumroll, please…. acid, strangulation, and fire. Here’s the thing about that, though – every kit we’ve seen has had rope in it, so how can you say people aren’t ready to strangle? And you don’t need something from a kit for fire, you need a can of lighter fluid, which you can get literally anywhere. Every one of the kits is a potential strangulation or fire kit.

The acid is a decent observation, though, I’ll give them that! And since Garcia literally just mentioned someone talking about dissolving a body in acid, maybe that’s going to be relevant?

Back to MM, who’s frustrated about the guy who insulted him in front of his daughter. But he can’t just kill the guy, can he? Of course he can, or at least that’s what the episode is suggesting – because he got sent the twenty thousand dollars he wanted, and told the guy where his kit was, even giving him a specific target to kill. Well… that’s new!


Oh, and the kit is for making remote controlled firebombs. But will they actually burn the neighbour to death, or is this all a misdirect?

In Quantico, Garcia has found a guy who loves burning people, and talks about waiting for a ‘customer’ to burn to death. Joe says that means he’s a military vet with PTSD. His basis for this? He doesn’t say – hopefully that comes up later, because it seems like a reach. Maybe it’s military lingo that the people you drop bombs on or fire mortars at are called ‘customers’?

In a twist, Garcia isn’t able to illegally hack into the department of defense, so Tara has to call her GF for a favor! I should probably learn this character’s name if she’s going to keep showing up. Great piece of acting by Aisha Tyler, who realizes that all the favors she keeps asking for means that she’s going to have to get closer to her GF, which she is very reticent to do.

GF drops by with their killer’s file – apparently the people who spot drone strikes call the CIA or DoD ‘customers’ because they’re the ones hiring them to kill people! Long story short, a guy who the military hired to kill people went off the deep end and started putting videos of the aftermaths of bombings online! So he must be the killer!

Meanwhile MM has flown to DC, which is where the firebomber is! So he is not killing the neighbour! Phew.

Bailey wants to bring in antiterrorism, which is, you know, a completely reasonable thing to do, because they’ve got a mad bomber in the nation’s capital. Joe is reticent, because…?

The bomber heads towards his target, and texts MM that he’s going to want to see the explosion. I’ll say this about MM – he is not good at staying hands off about this whole thing. The FBI has already spotted the bomber, and even have a sniper ready to shoot him if he tries to set off the bomb! The team isn’t worried about innocent people getting killed, they just want him alive so he can lead them to MM! But can he? All he can say is that he paid money to a bank account and picked up a starter kit. And all of that information will be on his computer and phone whether he’s alive or dead, so I’m not seeing the issue.

There’s a strange scene where the domestic terrorism people don’t want to arrest the guy for no clear reason, so JJ and Luke simply tackle him before he can set off his bomb, and MM walks away, sad because he didn’t see anyone die.

That night Bailey gives a press conference telling everyone about the frat because he wants the attention – I don’t actually think this is unbelievable, the FBI and DoJ do hugely unethical things for PR reasons all the time, and this is right in line with that. What I don’t understand is why the BAU thinks this will hurt their case. They’re saying that the frat will go underground if they know the FBI knows about them – but A: They’re already underground, and B: they already know the FBI is onto them. Remember last week when you turned on all the transponders, dug up all the cases, and got one of the guys to kill himself? Yeah, they know you’re on to them. How could they not?

Bailey takes Joe out of the lead position in the BAU because he had Tara ask Rebecca (that’s the GF name) to illegally use DOJ info to catch their suspect! So Emily puts herself in charge of the BAU, because we knew that was going to happen eventually. Emily than insults Bailey because he’s never shot anyone on the job. To which I’m like… uh… what do you think the FBI is? They almost never shoot anyone. The vast majority of FBI agents are lawyer and accountants. Yes, everyone needs to know how to shoot, but the kind of work the FBI does rarely involves high-speed chases and running gun battles. I feel like your experiences have given you a very warped view of your own job.

Then there’s a nice scene where Tara asks Rebecca to move in! Hopefully she’s okay with all those people tied up in the basement.

Here’s the twist- the mad bomber wasn’t a killer at all! He was trying to lure MM into the park so that he could find out who was behind the frat! Yes, he paid the money and bought a bomb, but then he poured the explosives down a drain and filled the container up with dish soap! That’s right, everything the team did just ruined the work of a guy who was literally seconds away from catching MM! Also, they’re holding him for having a bag full of soap, so that’s going to be a lawsuit!

It turns out the guy’s sister was killed by the container guy 15 years ago, and he’s been looking for the killer ever since. But also he murdered people for the government and posted corpse photos online. Dude went hardcore to get a lead on the killer! But, of course, none of that other stuff can be in any way related to hunting MM, since he didn’t start the website until a couple of years ago.

I’m confused. Oh, and he’s the informant who reached out to Garcia. How did he breach the network, I wonder?

Then it’s over to MM, who’s complaining about how people can’t follow instructions! He’s tied up a guy who looks like his neighbour, and has Moose, the adorable pupper, murder him – apparently he’s been training the dog to attack when the music plays! So that’s a nice end to the episode! They got us to a point where we’re on the killer’s side in wanting him to kill the neighbour, but then reminded us that he’s a bad guy by having him kill a stranger!

I was skeptical about spending so much time with the killer this year, but it’s actually working really well so far!

THE END

So, how useful was profiling at solving the crime this week?

0/10

Yes, I know that they reverse-engineered the idea that the killer would use fire in an attempt to narrow their suspect pool, which is neat, but they weren’t hunting a killer, and actually screwed up the bomber’s (whose name is Green, for when we meet him next week) plans to catch and kill MM.

Although that wasn’t a great plan either, since why on earth would MM, after building up a giant apparatus for killing people by proxy, suddenly show up to watch a bombing in person?

Baffling. Unless he suspected that Green was the mole, and he was actually travelling to DC to see if he actually firebombed the target, and kill him if he didn’t? That would make sense, actually, so let’s assume that’s what they’re going with.

See you next week!

Oh, one more thing -

Is Elias Voit Moose? What I mean is, we're introduced to Moose when the woman says that he's a harmless cutie who wouldn't hurt a fly. Now, an episode later, MM has turned him into a vicious attack dog. Remember, his bio on the website said that he didn't start out a monster, someone turned him into one - and we still have the question of the container killer from the first scene of the season. The team thinks that's who's burying the cases and running the frat - but we know it's actually MM.

So is this a situation where Container Guy kidnapped Voit and locked him away, torturing him until he was ready to start killing people, and he's recreating his own trauma in his treatment of Moose?

Or am I, as usual, reading way too much into things?

Maybe we'll find out in episode 4!

1.12.22

Criminal Minds 1602 – Sicarius

 And we are back for episode two of season 16! It's called Sicarius, which is either a reference to the Latin word for Assassin, or a kind of spider! Thanks, Google!

Things start in a hospital type setting, where a killer has a guy named 'Josh', according to the subtitles, lying on a gurney. Weird that he has a name – is he not getting killed during this scene? Anyhoo, the killer – who is wearing a black tank top, abandoning the whole 'doctor' vibe, the Todd notwithstanding – flips Josh over and cuts off his shirt with a pair of clothing shears. He's got a whole tray full of recently sterilized instruments ready to go, in fact! At least, I hope they're sterilized, it's not like he's wearing gloves or anything, so who knows?

The killer puts a cameraphone down in front of Josh's face to record his reactions and the experience – and we see that he's sliced open Josh's back, revealing that his spine has been revealed by cutting the skin and flesh back. The killer tells Josh that he has a choice to make – presumably it's 'die or live paralyzed from the neck down', but that's just a guess.

Continuing the trend of showing us how team members start their day, we start with Penelope's morning – which is a sharp contrast to watching Joe stumbling around, trying to shake off a hangover. Penelope starts with a workout, makes herself a breakfast smoothie, and then tries to decide which glasses she wants to wear today. She picks one that's perfect for her outfit, and she's good to go! Weirdly, I'd always thought she started with the glasses and built the outfit around them. Who knew?

She then gets on a skype call with some people who work at her social networking site SOAR – MM is not one of them, but that doesn't mean my theory that he's involved is wrong with it just yet!

Then it's over to JJ, who's forgotten that she and Jr. had a date night planned! And instead of letting things fester, Jr. reminds her that she needs to put in work on their relationship. Because he's an adult, and that's why we love him. Also, he's still working as a cop, and they just got back from Louisiana – that was not a long assignment for her!

At the office Joe stumbles in, obviously hung over once more – it seems that his revelation that he needs help last week hasn't exactly borne fruit just yet. In a nice touch, the case they're working on was actually mentioned last week, when JJ talked about a body with a severed spinal column being dumped at a rest stop! I'd forgotten that until she mentioned the dump site here, which means I'm going to have to start upping my game – it seems that Criminal Minds is now interested in setups and payoffs in the week to week episodes, not just relating to the overall plot!

Although the spinecutter will probably also be related to the overall plot.

Luke points out how weird it is that the victims are good looking men in their mid-30s, which isn't a common victimology. Joe says that it's more frequently the profile of the killers – which I'm choosing to interpret as a hilarious in-joke, because almost no serial killers are good looking men in their 30s in the real world, but basically all of the serial killers on the show are.

No one mentions that the two guys look uncannily similar.

JJ mentions that the two men had something in common – they both were on dating apps listed as 'bulls', men who will have sex with a guy's wife to satisfy a cuckolding fantasy. JJ's jumping the gun by suggesting that they were 'targeted' because of this – although that suggests, as Joe brings up, that it could be a man wanting revenge for his wife cheating on him! Or it could just be a convenient way to lure a guy to a secondary location so you can kill him. That said, in this kind of kink community, you think that they'd have to meet at a neutral location first to check that everything was on the up and up. Or maybe not? I have no idea what dating apps are like.

Now things get a little weird, as JJ says this might have a connection to last week's case, because both unsubs switched cars in Walmart parking lots – Luke suggests that this week's killer could be Rory's theoretical partner. Here's my question – how do we know about the 'car switch'? One man was dumped in a rest stop, the other in a field next to a fence somewhere. Are they saying that the victims' cars were dumped in a Walmart parking lot? Because if that's what you mean, say that.

More importantly, though – dumping a car in a Walmart parking lot is not enough of a connection to suggest a linkage between these two cases. That's just a good parking lot to use, because it's so crowded you're guaranteed not to be noticed. Now, if those Walmart Parking Lots had also had their security cameras disabled by MM's serial killer starter kit device, that would be a good connection. But again, if you mean that, say that.

This is like when Joe was all 'a man was dumped in the woods with pieces of his skin cut off! It must be the work of the serial killer who dates middle-aged women, cuts their faces off, and then burns down houses to cover up his crimes!' The crazy part is, he was wrong, it wasn't that killer – it was his BEST FRIEND.

Next we see that the shipping container has arrived in Quantico – Tara talks Emily through their plans to scour it inch by inch, looking for any of the killer's DNA – and also identifying the victims! Wait... they left the victims in the trailer when they moved it? You know there were bones in there, right, and there's no way to move a container across the country without shaking it a LOT? Maybe take all of the corpses out first, then secure and ship them separately?

Also, now that it's been moved, we can see that there was dirt piled up around the sides of the container to help conceal it – but again, it was by no means 'buried' – at best you could say it was 'sunken' into the hill. Buried means the only thing visible is the door that you use to get in. And a strict definition would mean that door would have to be at the top.

The terrible deputy director shows up – I guess we're going to be seeing a ton of him, so we'll use his name 'Bailey' from now on. He's not psyched about Emily taking the case – and when she points out how absurd that is, he doesn't have a good answer. The question is again raised – incompetent or evil?

If he's this bad at his job or corrupt, how has there not been a joke yet about how he was appointed by Trump?

Then it's over to Whitfield County Georgia, where MM is showing us what it looks like when you actually have a BURIED LAIR.

Now that's what I'm TALKING ABOUT! BURIED FTW!

MM gets a call from someone on his encrypted phone – yes, it's the same encryption software as RJ's phone that he destroyed last time. Someone sends him a video from DC – it's the snuff film from the previous night, and as predicted, the guy's choice was quadriplegic or death, and he chose death. Which is a real dumb move. It's 2022, dude, and we're getting closer to nerve growth and spinal reattachment every day. Then again, he does live in America, and may not have insurance.

MM confirms that the killer did everything according to the 'rules' for getting away with serial killing, then gets back to work!

So it looks like MM is running a serial killer fraternity, where he teaches dudes to be serial killers, and then they send him snuff films of their crimes to show off. Which is why RJ from last week had body cam footage of the parents' murders, even though that's obviously not something he was into.

Then we get a look at MM's bunker-

Which bears a striking similarity to 2005's guy's setup, right down to the body shelves. Did he set up that guy's bunker when he was like 20 years old, or was that guy the original killer that inspired MM? Did he try to kill MM, and MM wound up recruiting him?

JJ, Luke, and Joe go over the case – there's no overlap between the women that the men had sex with, so it's not likely that it's an angry husband looking for direct revenge, but they're going to investigate one of the women anyway, because they have no other leads – the woman in question? A real estate agent who's married to a DC city councilor!

Penelope has something mysterious going on! She gets an anonymous message saying that they know how SOAR was compromised, and send a block of code to be Penelope's 'REVENGE'. This is the first we're hearing about any of this. The only person we know of who compromised SOAR was Penelope herself, last week when she let the FBI read members' private emails.

Hey, where is SOAR's money coming from? Are the teens paying for it? Penelope's ethical stand suggests she's not harvesting marketing information from them. Is MM putting up the cash, like I suggested last time?

Penelope scans the code, and it turns out to be GPS coordinates – two sets! The first: 38.9847, -77.0947 is a women's clothing store in Bethesda, MD, the second: 39.1456, -76.4908, is the backyard of 7732 Bowen Rd, Pasadena, MD. I hope the show got everyone's permission to use their addresses!

Nope! Penelope searches for them, and it turns out that one is supposedly the address in Alexandria, Virginia where the parents were murdered last week, and the other is the hotel where that lady who's married to the city counsellor had sex with their latest victim!

One question, though – why do their faces turn up when she searches that address?

The reason I ask is – I get why RJ's photo and the newspaper article about the killings shows up when you put in the first address – it was heavily covered in the news. But the only people who've connected the husband and wife to that hotel are the FBI – it's not a public story yet, so why do their faces come up when Penelope searches the hotel's address?

I'm sure the answer is 'they wanted the audience to know that this was related immediately', but the implication is that Penelope is searching the FBI's database for anything connected to those GPS co-ordinates, which is hugely illegal. Also, it's a nice hotel in DC – I can't imagine that this is the only news that would come up that was related to it.

The team interviews the husband and wife – he wanted her to cheat and send videos because it arouses him! But last night the killer sent him a video of the murder instead! And they didn't go to the cops, because they didn't want to screw up the guy's political career. Can't trust politicians, people. The politician tries to withhold the video because it will damage his career, but JJ points out that he's covering up for a serial killer, which is a worse thing to show up in the news than you enjoy your wife cheating on you.

Then it's over to Emily and Tara, who find out from Bailey that the cost of moving the shipping container is coming out of the BAU's budget, which they're shocked and offended by. Um... why? The BAU demanded the case, and the BAU ordered it would be moved – where did they think the hours and money was going to come from? Nonetheless, they think something is up with Bailey persecuting their unit, so Emily asks Tara to call her friend at the Justice Department and find out what's going on with him!

We drop by the container, which proves to have zero of the offenders' DNA in it – apparently he bleached everything, all the time. In one interesting note, he never killed people the same way twice – it's almost as if he was experimenting with every way you could kill a person to find the best one! Including pouring Sicarius spiders down someone's throat! So the title WAS about the spider! Neat!

So, I was wondering if there was a third victim, because I didn't get a clear look at the guy who got killed at the start, and while the characters call the corpse Steve, the subtitles call him Josh. So hopefully my confusion makes sense. They finally get a link to RJ and the container when the video shows the starter kit on the guy's shelf!

This is a problem the show has – this should have been the reveal that there's a connection. It's a perfect moment in the show for this to happen. We're a third of the way through the story, the characters are all working on different cases, and then BOOM – they find a clue that forces them all to come together as they realize that they're working on the same case! The problem is that the producers seem to be afraid to show the characters being surprised by anything. It's like they always want them to know what's going on, and that just kills drama. There was no reason for them – or us - to assume that this spinal slayer was connected to a guy who kidnapped a teen last week, so it would have a nice reveal for us when we see MM getting the video, and for them when they see the starter kit. But we get robbed of that reveal by having the characters just announce there's a connection based on no evidence – it's as if they think that because the audience knows about the connection, they're going to be annoyed at the characters for not already knowing everything that they know.

When, you know, that's the heart of good drama – what's a scarier situation – having a character walk down a hallway and then have a guy with a knife jump out and make a loud sound, or having a guy with a knife standing behind a doorway, and we watch as the person slowly walks down the hallway towards them?

Alright, enough structural criticism, let's move on to Joe's assumption that the pandemic created the network of killers, because they were frustrated that they couldn't go out and hunt! Okay, again, there weren't actually any lockdowns for more than a couple of weeks, and none that really would have impacted serial killers, but let's give them this one, before addressing the bigger issue... how? That's the real question – how did MM let potential serial killers know that he was organizing a web of murderers with him at the center?

Get it? That's what the title of the episode means. Also the literal spiders.

There's a genuinely chilling scene of MM going over all of the photos his proteges are sending him, and there's so many of them that it seems impossible that they'll all be caught by the end of the season. Just so long as we don't end up with an ending like the CSI trilogy, where they spent three episodes building up a human trafficking cartel so huge and powerful that entire governments trembled in fear of it – and then they arrested a single pimp (played by Morgan Sheppard!) who coincidentally knew the names of and had evidence on every single member of the cartel, allowing the whole thing to be taken down off camera over the course of like two text messages.

How am I still angry about that terrible set of episodes?

Gotta say, though, MM doesn't seem like he's putting together a super-professional organization here. He's supposed to be training people to get away with crimes, but the two cases we know about so far are an emotional cripple who immediately abandoned the frat and killed himself, and a dude who sends snuff films to friends of his victims that show off his kill room.

It's worth noting that the protege scene is essentially a carbon copy of the 'bidding' scene from Season 10, episode 1, where we're introduced to the serial killer victim procurement ring – which turned out to just be three people in a van?

I'm super-happy that they're actually going through with that story this time, and doing it right!

At the office, Joe and Emily talk about what might motivate the person making and distributing the kits, who they assume is the guy from the container – given the show's established reticence with letting the characters know less than the audience, is this the rare instance where the characters are saying something incorrect, or does MM have a boss, the killer from the teaser in the first episode?

Tara then arrives with her friend from the Justice Department. Apparently Bailey is best known for cutting staff and saving money, then blaming everyone else when things go wrong. So a pretty generic corporate goon. He thinks that this is his fast-track to becoming the attorney general! Which seems like aiming low. That's a political position that lasts, at most, eight years, and then you can't really get another job afterwards outside of joining a prestigious law firm or something along those lines. Now Director of the FBI – that's a sweet job. You have to do surprisingly little, and you get to blame the AG for everything that goes wrong!

Tara's friend agrees to ask around in the hopes of finding out what Bailey's specific problem with the BSU is – they generate a lot of good PR for the Bureau, so why does he specifically have it in for them?

Oh, and Tara is dating the lady from Justice. Who I guess doesn't mind being in a relationship with a psychopath?

Then we shift over to MM on his Johnny Murderseed expedition, headed into Tennessee! He gets a call from the spine slayer, who wants permission to continue killing – but MM tells him to hold off until he's sorted something out. MM says that someone took something of his, and he has to make sure that doesn't happen again. Who could that have been? Was RJ using a stolen case? Is this a computer thing? Also, MM's frustration at dealing with the spine slayer's neediness is wonderful. You can tell that while he's loving all the snuff films, he's hugely regretting having to spend all of his time managing emotionally unstable people.

Oh, and I should have mentioned – in a cute note, the spine slayer's kill room is decorated like it's supposed to be a chiropractor's office, which is a really nice touch.

MM buys a bunch of duct tape and wiring, then starts chatting with the cashier, a girl named Tawny. She has enough lines that we'll almost certainly be seeing him come after her later! Maybe in this episode? He refers to working in 'network security', and with the breach into SOAR just having been mentioned earlier this episode, the plotlines are converging more quickly. Oh, and Tawny has a German Shepherd named 'Moose', who she says is too friendly to be a useful security system. Why did you say that to the serial killer, Tawny?

The team talks about the possibility that MM is a computer expert on Garcia's level, because he was able to get the city councilor's phone number, and he knew where and when the women were meeting their lovers. Except... did he? We've seen zero evidence that the killer stalked them at their rendezvous', and we still don't know how and when he abducted his victims. And it's not that hard to get someone's cell phone number.

They adapt their theory about the spine slayer a little – while talking nonsense about 'alpha' and 'beta' males just to prove they know extremely little about psychology. They point out that since the men often send porn to the husbands as part of the domination kink, the killer's sending the video to the councilor's phone could be seen as an act of domination – does he see himself as a 'bull' as well? They'll have to go to the websites and start profiling the victims' contemporaries!

Penelope then calls Joe and he rushes over to get the data – she explains that there's 13 more encrypted sets of coordinates in there, which suggests 13 more victims, possibly unidentified ones! Joe confusingly says that this must be partially about Garcia – which isn't the confusing part, the confusing part is that he says that 'they' have pulled her in twice. Um... it was you guys that pulled her in the last time. But her getting sent the files the moment the team learned about MM's web of killers is definitely too suspicious to be coincidental.

They don't address the big unanswered question, though – if that's the case, how did the web KNOW that the team had identified their network of serial killers? It hasn't been reported in the press – so only people in the BSU and their direct supervisors know what they're working on...

Penelope confronts Joe about his need for therapy – and they talk about Crystal's diagnosis, so maybe it was cancer? He's resistant to getting therapy, because all of these damaged fools are, but Garcia talks about how much it's helped her, and honestly delves into how much psychic damage is caused by the work they do!

Fantastic scene, no notes.

Now the spine slayer breaks MM's rules and kidnaps a woman he lured to a parking lot! The team gives us some info in the next scene that's just baffling - we're told that he dumped her car in a Costco parking lot... but why would he do that? He was already in a secluded parking lot with her. Why not just put her in his car and drive off? Why drive her car all the way to a costco, transfer an unconscious person from one car to another in a super-public place, and then leave the car there? Also, how is he getting to the abduction sites? Does he park his car in a box store parking lot and take a cab to the place he's going to grab someone? A bus? That's just asking to be spotted and remembered. You're adding extra steps to an abduction and gaining nothing by doing so. It's not like you're disguising the abduction site – there are text messages on the woman's phone, telling her where to go.

Also, are we supposed to believe that he was transferring the unconscious men from car to car in Walmart parking lots as well? That's INSANE.

Especially when we learn their next theory – the drug he's using as a paralytic is employed, in smaller doses, to treat pain from back injuries! What if the killer is spine-obsessed because he had a spinal injury, and lugging all of these huge men around is messing up his back, so now he had to grab a much lighter woman instead? Joe points out that back injuries can cause erectile dysfunction – and if the spine slayer defined himself only be the sex he was having, he could now be filled with rage if he can't perform! He suggests they bring in the woman's husband and describe who the killer might be – he's sure they must know him somehow!

The husband immediately identifies their guy – a 'bull' who recently had a motorcycle accident and couldn't work any more!

Then it's over to Garcia, who's meditating, just like she told Joe she'd recently gotten into! She gets a request for security help on her work laptop, and doesn't want to do it, but can't help herself, because, in a way, she's just as obsessed as the rest of them.

She picks it up and opens a chat with the guy who sent the coordinates. She said that she gave them to the FBI, and the voice is annoyed, saying that she was the only one who could help, but now people are going to die because she went to the authorities.

Um... dude? If you don't want her to go to the authorities, tell her that. If the stakes are life and death, TELL HER THAT. This is on you, pal.

Sadly, Penelope doesn't say any of that to the guy, she just looks worried. Which I get.

Oh, and the killer has brought the latest victim to his office. Will the team save her in time? Usually they do, but this is on streaming now, so who knows?

Penelope goes into the office and we get a cute little montage of her unlocking the other 13 locations! Then they cut to a diagram of the shipping container:

Which is kind of hilarious in a couple of ways:

1 – We were told that there were 16 bodies, not counting the box of bones, but there's clearly 17.

2 – there's a typo: “asoriginally”

3 – Why would you note that it wasn't used as originally intended? It's a container for storing things. That's what it's doing.

4 – They say it's 'retrofit for survival', which I guess is a reference to it being weatherproofed so that it could survive years in a field, but that's not super clear.

Things then get a little funny when Tara hears a beeping inside the trailer – the starter kit proves to have a tracking device set in it under the foam! We were told that they scoured every millimeter of the trailer for DNA... and they didn't bother checking under the foam in a box? Or even removing the murder supplies from said box? Come on, team, get your act together.

It seems that the codes Garcia put in are the transponders on the starter kits that people use to find and dig them up! The guy on the internet could have been clearer – the first two codes were, I guess, proof that he knew about the murders, and the rest were the locations of cases? So is that what was stolen from MM? The transponder codes for all of the cases?

We get a look at MM's project – setting a bomb to blow up his lair and destroy all of the evidence inside. Then he gets an alert on the Spine Slayer – real name Robert Harris – and he's obviously troubled that the guy wasn't following his directions.

He phones up Robert and tells him that he got sloppy – not killing at a secondary location or pausing when told to. I'm not sure how he knows Bob isn't at a secondary location – he says that it's because of the beeping, but that's just the transponder in the kit being active, there's no reason he couldn't have the kit at a secondary location. In fact, he should – keeping a serial killer starter kit in your own house is a great way to get caught. MM tells Bob that he knows what he has to do, but Bob says he can't do it – MM says he'll walk him through the process.

So is part of the deal with joining the frat that you have to kill yourself if compromised? It seems so, because the team rushes in and finds Bob on the ground with his throat slashed. And his victim, Michelle, is still alive? That's weird. Now there's a witness to MM phoning Bob and telling him to kill himself. Super-sloppy there, MM.

Back at the office, they report that Bob killed himself, and says that there was nothing in his profile that made it seem like he was suicidal – just like RJ.

Point of order – RJ's suicide was absolutely predictable. He was an abused kid living in a fantasy world, full of guilt and self-hatred, faced with the realization that the girl he loved thought he was a monster. Also, he killed himself BEFORE he knew the cops were on to him. You suck at profiling, guys.

They do correctly guess that it's part of the frat deal that you kill yourself rather than getting caught – but Joe's not worried, because they know the location of 12 other cases! Penelope then comes out and tells Joe that 'this is bad'.

Before we can find out what she means by that, we see Tawny and her pupper sitting on a couch at home, while MM lurks in the bushes outside!

Turns out the 'this is bad' is the transponders going offline. I don't know why they're surprised that this is happening – you turned on a signal that made all of the cases loudly beep, did you think the killers were just going to let that keep happening? Spoiler alert: eventually people just take the batteries out of the smoke detector.

Penelope asks if she just made things worse, which is silly – now you have a lead – 12 cities with killers in them. You didn't have that this morning. Interestingly, the cases he's been hiding in Georgia and Tennessee are not on the map:




So did he stop using the transponders at some point, or did the deep throat-style character just not have all of the info?

Now that she sees how bad the situation is, Penelope realizes she's going to have to come back to work, and Joe doesn't have the guts to just straight out ask her. Another beautifully written and acted scene between them!

Then Joe calls his hotel and says he'll be checking out. Time to get serious about his life. Which is a nice touch. Garcia finds a post-it she left for the next person to use the office – which turns out to have been her! No idea what it says, yet.

MM drives home to Seattle, dumps things in his own starter kit, and we're horrified to learn that one of those things is the collar from Moose, Tawny's beloved dog! There wasn't a transponder signal from Seattle, so it's safe to say he didn't mark his own case, because why would he?

Then we meet MM's wife and find out he's got daughters! So yes, this is inspired by the Israel Keys story that was mentioned earlier in the episode. He was a serial killer who lived in Alaska and only killed people after flying to the lower 48 and driving far enough that there was no possible connection between his flight and the place he robbed or people he killed. It's been hugely adapted, of course, but the idea of a guy having a basically normal home life and then heading out of state to kill is cribbed from that real-life true crime tale.

We get another scene with JJ and Jr, where she makes an effort to put their relationship first! Yay! And they're directly tying in the relationship issues with both the case of the week and what the killer's got going on in his own life! This is great work by the episode!

Then we find out what's going on – Bailey wants to shut down the BAU and reorganize it to focus on domestic terrorism! Given the right-wing's plan for a violent fascist takeover of America, this seems like a really good thing, actually, and I'm not sure if I'm on the team's side vis a vis chasing serial killers. Like, obviously they're a problem, but Trump being made god-emperor and all of congress being publicly executed seems like the bigger issue, don't you think?

Oh, and Penelope's back working at the FBI! Yay!

How useful was profiling at solving the crime:

0/10

The killer kidnapped someone he knew, and brought her back to his house. Not exactly a brain-teaser. Yes, they were able to describe the killer's likely injuries to the husband to help him figure out who the killer was – but even if they'd just said to the guy 'do you know anyone from the cuckolding community who might have a grudge against you and other bulls?', the husband would have immediately said 'our old bull was injured in a motorcycle accident and had to stop working'. So they would have gotten to him either way.

Wait, but if they used profiling, why did it get a zero? Simple: the guy killed himself based on the source sending Garcia the tracking information, and him getting a call from MM. If the team hadn't ever talked to the husband, here's what would have happened – Bob would have killed himself, the drugs would have worn off, and the wife would have called the cops to come and get her.

Two zeros in a row, Criminal Minds – that's weird... right?