Criminal Minds 403: Minimal Loss

I'm just going to air the opening seconds of this week's episode, so everyone can share them with me.

A few points here: 1 - I liked the way they got a character to say this week's opening quote within the reality of the show. That's a nice touch. Unless there's another quote after the opening credits, in which case this was just an attempt to make the guy sound as little like an actual reporter covering a siege as possible.

2 - Don't often see loop lines that obvious, huh?

3 - Man, that's one calm and collected cameraman, isn't it? Giant explosion goes off just a few hundred yards away and he doesn't even flinch before zooming in. And such a precise zoom, too...

The show then jumps back three days to let us know that we're covering the Waco story - Reid and Emily are headed in undercover after an anonymous tip let the county know that a crazed religious leader has been molesting the girls at his evil compound. Social workers are supposed to interview the children to investigate the allegations, and for some reason they've called in the FBI to help out. And they're going to need all the help they can get - it turns out the cult leader is Luke Perry!

He's headed back to the Oz well, playing another bible-thumping madman! Although there was a lot more to his Oz character than I'm guessing is going to show up here. Luke allows them to head into the school and interview the potential victim, a creepily pious 15-year-old. She shuts down the whole investigation when she reveals that not only did she not make the phone call, but she's actually married to Luke!

Yeah, her. Ick, right? It seems that it's all legal because her creepy mother gave consent to the marriage! Before we can dig any deeper into the pscyhodrama everyone is rounded up by men with guns - it seems Luke was tipped off by a reporter that the cops were prepping a raid! The cultists immediately start firing on the police - no 'Rules of Engagement'-style open-to-interpretation misunderstandings on this show!

Then, in a move that's so stupid that the woman doing it can't be described as deserving to live any longer, the actual social worker that was covering for Emily and Reid runs up to try and get the cops to stop shooting. By yelling at them. From a room they're currently firing at, and being fired at from. So yeah, she immediately gets hit by a cop's bullet and is killed instantly. Luke gets his men to stop firing so that the police can retreat, proving that he's not all bad, at least.

The main show opens with another quote, which means that yes, the one at the start of the show was just terrible for terribleness' sake. The rest of the team discovers that Emily and Reid are being held hostage by the cult, and rush onto the plane to help out. Which leads to the obvious question: why did the cops blow an FBI sting operation?

JJ tries to offer an explanation for this - it seems that the Colorado AG wanted to run for governor, and thought that busting a cult for firearms violations would be a good way to get his name in the papers. So when the ATF called to find out if there were any open investigations, the AG thought they were trying to steal his bust, and lied to them! Which all sounds good, except for one thing - why, if the FBI was sending people into the cult undercover, did they ask the ATF to go the state government for them and ask in a roundabout way that didn't let the AG know what was going on, but left him suspicious? Why wouldn't they just call directly? Hell, how could the department of child services in Colorado get two FBI Agents to fly out for a simple child-endangerment case without letting the attorney general's office know about it?

What's that? All that happened because the producers couldn't think of a reason that an attorney general would lie to the FBI or order a raid on the same day FBI Agents were trying to solve a child molestation case, so they just hoped we wouldn't notice the nonsense? Oh, okay.

We get a little background on the cult - they started out as libertarians in the 80s, but when Luke took over they because a religious cult! After they get to the compound Greg puts Joe in charge of the negotiation, and they do a much better job of explaining away this obvious conflict of interest than they did the whole ATF/FBI/AG thing two minutes ago.

Speaking of the AG, he shows up at the compound full of bluster, demanding to know why the FBI is keeping him out of the loop. As Greg was threatening him I recognized the actor:

It's Greg's best friend from Dharma and Greg! Once upon a time they were both US Attorneys, now one of them is an AG and the other one leads a team at the FBI! Man, what a difference a couple of years makes, right? After Greg yells at him the AG runs off - I wonder if he's going to have any further use in the episode, or if Greg just got him a cameo for kicks.

Hilariously, while explaining their 'minimal loss' strategy the team demonstrates that cults are organized as a pyramid, with the evil kingpin at the top, true believers in the middle, and 'followers' at the bottom. This isn't bad, but Derek then refers to the followers as 'Women and Children'. As if there are no men who aren't entirely devoted to the cult. And as if a woman or child never picked up a gun to shoot at the police.

Joe starts to build trust with Luke, offering to bring in medical supplies and food for the cultists and their hostages. Everything's laced with microphones, of course - but it's still a nice gesture. He even wears jeans and a tan shirt to remind them that hey, he's just folks, right?

Joe and Luke chat, while the FBI Agent gets an eyeful of the situation. Then, the moment he leaves, Luke gives out some wine, which would almost certainly be poisoned if there weren't another twenty minutes left in the episode. During the killmunion Reid and Emily notice that the child bride seems to worship Luke, and almost certainly wouldn't have called the cops on him. But then who could it have been?

Well, I'm no profiler, but the mother, maybe?

The team notices the vibe as well, but before they can put two and two together, Luke announces that they're all drinking poison! Which makes for a great act break, but obviously isn't true. Yes, it turns out to have been a test - Luke just wanted to know who was going to freak out at the idea of suicide! Amazingly this whole 'test-run-suicide' is something that Jim Jones had done, so Joe was sure that it was all a trick, and manages to stop the tactical troops from storming the chapel.

Meanwhile the former cult leader has arrived at the base - and it's Jeff Fahey! He reveals that Luke had always been molesting children, and that he'd run the 17-year-old version of Luke off the property years earlier. Then he came back and ran Jeff off with a gun, conquering it so that he could freely indulge his own earthly desires! Now that they have his real name, the team is able to discover that Luke is a convicted child molester - and from this they infer that he'd rather commit suicide than face the inevitable torment that short-eyes face behind bars! Before they can use this information, however, the terrible reporter from the opening sequence reveals that, according to the AG's office, there's an undercover FBI Agent in the compound!

Gee, Greg, maybe you shouldn't have humiliated your buddy in front of everyone, huh?

Now armed with the fact that one of the two hostages is an FBI Agent, Luke threatens to shoot both of them if they don't confess - Emily does, and gets a beating for her troubles, winding up locked in a spare bedroom. Luke made a key mistake, though - he used her head to break a mirror, which is TV code for "She grabbed a piece of glass to use to free herself". In an amazingly happy coincidence the cult member who is sent to clean Emily's wounds is the same one who called the police, meaning there's a chance to work on her conscience!

Luke interviews Reid, hoping to see how complicit he was in the charade. Reid plays it cool, even when Luke tries to rationalize away his criminal love of young girls. Then he plays a clever game, convincing Luke to 'test the honesty of the FBI' by asking for the name of the undercover agent in exchange for a baby being released. Naturally they offer it, knowing as they do that the cult is already on to Emily. Luke decides to go one step further in the 'show of good faith' department and exiles everyone who wasn't cool with drinking poison test, then announces that the rest are going to surrender themselves at noon the next day.

Naturally the team recognizes that this means the rest of them are going to kill themselves, so the team preps for an entry at 3AM the night before, hoping to stop the bloodshed. Now all that's left to do is get word to Reid and Emily - with Reid it's simply a matter of putting coded notes in the latest food drop, with Emily they have to get a little more clever. Exploiting the fact that she's alone in her room, the team shines a laser sight in through the window, and gives her simple flashing signals to cue her in. Luckily Emily wasn't gagged, so she can talk to their bugs, and she wasn't tied so severely as to keep her from opening the blinds to let the laser in:

No, you're not seeing things, those are extremely high-heeled shoes that FBI Agent is wearing.


The mom drops by the room and talks to Emily some more, and enlists her help in getting everyone to the escape tunnel when the FBI enters the building. After checking to make sure the suicide is actually going to happen the mom agrees, then moves everyone downstairs along with Emily.

The team rushes the compound at the same time and escorts out everyone but the child-bride, who's so into the whole brainwashing thing that she runs off to warn Luke, who's busy debating Reid on the finer points of theology:

Three things there - first, it's Mathew 10:34, not 24 (thanks, bible that was within arm's reach!), secondly, Jesus was talking about a metaphorical sword there - and not metaphorical in the way that a sword can represent an assault rifle, more in the way a sword represents the strife he's going to create by putting the Word out there in public.

Finally, you just equated yourself with Jesus, which is kind of not cool. Although people do it a lot, so I guess that's not really a mistake.

Now, for the wrapup - the team shoots Luke and company to death, but instead of securing the remote detonation device they just kind of stand around, letting the child bride run over, grab it, and set of the explosions. Emily and Reid make it out, but I'm guessing that the same wasn't true of the FBI agents who were busy trying to disarm the bombs at the time they went off.

There's a little post-script on the plane, with Emily telling Reid not to blame himself for the beating she took. Which I don't see why he would, but I guess he's kind of fragile since the whole drug addict ordeal, and they're still treating him with kid gloves.

Hey, speaking of, is Michael Ironside ever going to show up again? I love that guy!

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

Not really a 'solving' kind of week, but there were two big psychological 'gets' this week - the first was getting someone to turn against Luke, although that really wasn't such a challenge. The big psychological insight was that a mother might not be totally cool with Dylan Walsh railing her underaged daughter. Not something you have to go to grad school to figure out, I'm guessing.

The second one, accurately predicting when the cult was going to commit mass suicide, took a decent amount of insight into cult dynamics, and deserves to be recognized as such. Hell, I liked it enough that I'm not even going to dock them a point for the FBI Agent in high heels!

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

Actually, kind of - standard police technique in these cases is to get listening devices into the building, which they did - Luke was talking pretty openly about getting explosives and attaching detonators, so even without Reid's on-the-spot profiling they still would have know the bombs were about to go off.

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

5/10 - A great showing just three episodes out of the gate! Hopefully this keeps up!

Criminal Minds FactCheck!

As referenced above, this was clearly a David Koresh-themed episode, and while the real case ended far less happily than this one (dozens of people burning to death, rather than one crazy girl blowing herself up), the broad characterization of Koresh/Luke Perry was fairly accurate. Koresh was a child-molesting madman who believed himself to be a prophet of the lord, and eagerly awaited an apocalypse to justify his mania.

I'm not going to go into all of the depressing details of the siege here - if you're interested there are any number of good documentaries on the subject, including Rules of Engagement (http://www.waco93.com/), which confusingly shares a title with a Samuel L. Jackson movie.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

dylan mckay was his name on 90210