Criminal Minds 103: Won't Get Fooled Again

Synopsis – On a sunny florida morning, a man is blown up by a package in plain brown wrapping. Miraculously, he isn’t killed, just horrificially injured. Another similar bombs have gone off in the area so the team is called in to deal with the terrifying prospect of a serial bomber working the sunshine state. Making matters worse, when a third bomb goes off in the background of a live news broadcast, the team has to deal with the possibility of a public panic over the possibility of a terrorist attack.

On the plane to Florida, Greg outlines the case – three people were bombed: An old lady, the guy from the opening, and the woman who lived across the street. I say ‘lived’ because the guy from the beginning was the only survivor. Doing the smart thing, the team has already checked out connections between the victims. It turns out the guy was a partner in a failed real-estate scheme in which the old lady had invested. The woman across the street had no connection.

When they arrive at the scene, the team marvels at how the bombed guy could have gotten the bomb, with its vibration-sensitive trigger, all the way to his car without blowing himself up. This leads them to investigate the possibility of him being the bomber. A search of his house reveals many potential bomb-making materials, but then he’s ruled out as a suspect when they turn out to be the property of an explosion-loving nephew who had stayed with them over the summer. It’s not clear whether they enter the nephew’s name into some kind of a system, given that a childhood predilection for arson is one of the likely indicators for serial killing later in life.

Weird fun thing:

Was the cover art of ‘Anarchist’s Cookbook’ copyrighted? If so, does anyone else have a problem with that idea?

Mandy dismisses the idea that the guy could be the bomb-maker because he doesn’t fit the profile of a mad bomber: he shows empathy, has a sense of humor, has a hobby that isn’t related to bomb-making. The fact that another bomb killed one of his investors doesn’t come up as an important part of the conversation.

Back at Quantico, black agent is putting the pieces of the bomb back together, and is shocked when the design of the bomb is unusually familiar to him. Finally it hits him – the bomb looks exactly like those built by Adrian Bale, the man who blew up six FBI agents in Boston. Of course, he couldn’t have committed the crime, since he’s in a federal pen. Mandy agrees to go and talk to Bale, which leads to some amazing dramatic possibilities, since losing those agents is the tragic incident that defines his character.

So Mandy goes to see the bomber that haunts his nightmares at the Federal Pen in Georgia. Where he’s in jail, despite the fact that he killed all those FBI Agents in Boston. Finally we get some details on Mandy’s tragic past, and they’re a little ridiculous. Bale taunts Mandy about the fact that he managed to beat him the last time they went up against one another. Here’s the situation – Bale had some a hostage hidden in a warehouse that was full of bombs. He surrendered himself to Mandy and walked out. Then Mandy sent the agents into the warehouse to rescue the hostage without securing Bale in any way, shape, or form, or waiting for the bomb squad to show up so that they could ensure that the bombs were deactivated before it was safe to move the hostage out. Bale took this opportunity to use a hidden detonator to blow up the warehouse, killing everyone.

Three episodes in, we learn that Mandy’s big breakdown was caused by the fact that, as an FBI Agent, he’s utterly terrible at his job. While he might be a decent psychologist (that remains to be seen), he flat-out admits in this scene that the only reason he sent the agents in was because he felt he knew Bale well enough to say that he didn’t have the guts to actually kill anyone. Whether that’s true or not (it isn’t), it doesn’t change the fact that Mandy would have lost nothing by being safe and both securing Bale and letting a bomb squad deal with the warehouse. The show failed to even establish that there was any kind of a ticking clock with the bombs in the warehouse, so there was no possible reason for Mandy to send the agents in before the bombs had been disarmed and Bale was far away in custody, other than rank arrogance and stupidity.

Bale even goes so far as to tell Mandy that, because he’s a serial killer, Mandy should have known that, given the opportunity to kill someone, he’d always take it, because no deal he could cut in court by letting the hostage go could be better than the thrill of murdering someone. This is the second episode in a row where they’re really hitting the point that Mandy is just awful at his job.

Meanwhile another bomb has turned up on a doorstep, but because it’s a little girl that found it, we know that she’ll be fine, rendering the scene of the bomb squad showing up to rescue her omewhat anti-climactic.

Back at the field office, Elle (the new girl!) discovers that the old lady was having some trouble with a few coins she was trying to have insured. Her insurance company announced that they were counterfeit, and the old lady was challenging it. This leads them to a coin dealer named Walker, who Elle visits immeditately. Coincidentally, Bale was using an internet message board inform people how to build his bombs, and left a message for that same David Walker that suggested he commit suicide rather than allow himself to be captured. When Elle arrives, Walker speeds out of his garage in his car and runs over his wife before escaping.

In the FBI building, they’re discussing the case – it seems that Walker was making forgeries and selling them, and when the old lady found out, he blew her up, then blew up a bunch of other people to make it look like the work of a mad bomber. Of course, this creates a bit of a plot hole, since we’re left wondering if the fact that he blew up the person in charge of the old lady’s land deal on purpose, or if it was just an amazing coincidence that served to mislead the FBI for a little while.

Just then a man shows up at the FBI office with a bomb attached to his neck on a timer. He announces that Walker will only give them the disarm procedure if he’s given a way out of the coutnry. The FBI refuses, so Walker blows himself up. This leaves the man with the bomb necklace in a world of trouble. The team’s only option? Fly Bale down to the building and have him guide the bomb disarming procedure, since the necklace is based on one of his designs.

After cutting a deal to move him to an insane asylum after he saves the man's life, Bale is brought to the scene, and gets them to the point, which appears in every bomb-related fiction, where there are two wires to cut – one will disarm the bomb, the other will detonate it. Bale tells them to cut the red wire, so Mandy tells the bomb squad member to cut the blue wire instead. The timer stops, the bomb is disarmed, and everyone goes home happy!

Except for Bale, who’s sent back to the Federal Pen.

“The Palm Beach Bomber/Adrian Bale”

1 - Was profiling in any way helpful in solving the crime?

Nope. As in the last episode, instead of having to go through the trouble of profiling a bomber (which is incredibly hard to do), this time they’re looking for a murderer who uses bombs as their weapon of choice. They spend most of the episode going over the psychology of bombers, but it has nothing to do with the way they finally arrest Walker. As for Adrian Bale, one could make the argument that it was Mandy’s keen knowledge of human behaviour that allowed him to judge that Bale was trying to grab two more kills at the end, but it doesn’t really hold together. After all, in the earlier scene Bale flat-out tells Mandy that, if given the opportunity to kill someone, he would always take it. That removes quite a bit of the mystique from Mandy’s profiling. Once someone has told you they’re a liar, not believing them doesn’t mean you’re clever, it just means you’re awake.

2 - If so, was the profiling plausible, or was it more magical and out of left field in the way it helped?

It was passably solid this time out. They made some broad pronouncements based on the way that ‘all bombers are’ that were never shown to be correct or incorrect, but since the profile was utterly irrelevant to solving the crime, it’s not worth getting into.

3 - Could the crime have been solved just as easily using conventional police methods given the known facts of the case?

Yes – in fact, this time around Profiling had no involvement in solving the crime. They found the suspect in two separate ways, neither of which had anything to do with psychology. Checking into victims gave them a motive (the old woman’s counterfeit coins), which produced a suspect, and by following the known bomber’s internet usage, they were able to discover that Walker had been in contact with Bale. Those two utterly normal bits of policework would have been enough to secure a warrant to search his house, had he not rendered questions of quilt or innocence moot by running over his wife while fleeing authorities.

So, on a scale of 1 (Dirty Harry) to 10 (Tony Hill), How Useful Was Profiling in Solving the Crime?

1/10 – In a first for this show, there wasn’t even a pretense of psychological involvement in the solving of tonight’s crime. No, it was solved with absolutely normal policework, of the type you’d see on any cop show. Really the whole thing seemed like a huge waste of the Behavioral Sciences Unit’s time.

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