Criminal Minds 624: Supply and Demand

It's night, and a guy is driving along a mountain highway. Well, not actually night. Blue-tinted day-for-night shooting. But still. The driver gets frustrated being stuck behind a dump truck on a winding section of road, then tries to dangerously pass it. He picks the exact wrong moment, and has to hit the brakes and then weave out of the way of an oncoming car - that goes well, but then when he tries to pass again he almost hits a minivan, and this swerve takes him right off the road!

Wow. Lot of people out driving at 4AM, huh?

I know that's roughly the time because when Garcia and Xander (yay! It's been like a season, right?) are on their way into the office she complains that she was called in before sunrise. This has to be super bad news. Xander tries to comfort her by reminding her that there are good things about the job. Okay, one good thing - it's where they met. Sweeter than the show normally does!

So, what's the case that's brought everyone in pre-break of dawn? Reid observes that the last time Greg called a meeting this early was because Gideon left - which seems like splitting hairs. I mean, I know for a fact that he's called people in in the middle of the night in a few episodes. Doesn't that count as 'earlier' than 5AM? Or is there some line at which it becomes the next day, and letting people go home at six then calling them back at one doesn't cross it?

Weirdly, it can't be because of the case, because we cut away to paramedics and firemen trying to safely pull the still-living driver from the car. So unless he's a known serial killer, nothing dangerous enough has happened to require the team's presence.

Greg shows up, and announces that he's just arrived from a budget meeting, and they're considering cutting down the unit. He got the news because Strauss roped him into filling in a couple of episodes back. Greg tells the team that each one of them will be given the opportunity to leave the BAU and pursue other opportunities. Greg says Derek will be offered the New York post from season 3 again, and everyone else can expect similar calls. He wants them all to stick around - but it's up to them. Wow, are we about to have another super-meta episode about network interference, like when JJ left?

Also, this doesn't seem like information that couldn't have waited until 9AM. It's not like a meteor made of serial killers is hurtling towards Manhattan. What's gained by not letting them have a good night's sleep?

Greg finally gets a call about this week's case - they popped the trunk of the car, and found two corpses inside. Sadly the driver died before he could offer any information. The dead people are a young man and women, both wearing a uniform of tank top and shorts, and both were tortured before being killed. Their fingerprints are on file, and both are revealed to have been missing since the past winter, from Ohio and Arizona. So they travellled a long way before dying in Virginia, just a quick drive from the FBI's headquarters.

In a weird coincidence, it turns out they were asked to check in on the guy's disappearance back in December. He was a poor student, and it was thought that he'd committed suicide. They ask an odd question: 'why kill them now'? It's strange because they don't have enough information about the killer to find any of his decisions odd yet. At this moment, they have every reason to believe that this is just what he does.

We know better, of course, when it's revealed in the next shot that a whole passel of young people are being held in cages and forced to wear uniforms. Yup, they're clearly being held by the villains from Hostel! This should be a fun week!

It turns out that there's a good deal of physical evidence on the car - mud all over the tires and the female victim's hair - but the road isn't wet anywhere nearby. So where did it rain within reasonable driving distance? There's also a chainsaw in the trunk, and I'd guess that chainsaws probably have serial numbers on there somewhere, although if I'm wrong, it wouldn't be shocking.

Garcia drops by Greg's office to provide a hard copy of the files, and hint that she'd be up for talking about the transfers if he needs to. Also, he reveals that they're pretty sure they're looking for a group, rather than a single (already dead) killer, because it would be impractical for one person to kidnap two people in different states and then hold them for months.

The agent in charge of Slavery swings by to give her two cents. She's been tracking an organization that abducts college students and then trucks them around the country for rich people to torture and murder in two-day events. They've got no solid proof the group exists, since they don't leave easy-to-find bodies, so they're super excited to have both victims and the corpse of a murderer.

Then things turn weird, as the agent announces that she's assembled an 'undercover' unit. But not as criminals to take part, as potential victims. Which makes less then no sense. She says she'll call them to check on their progress, but how could they have made any? After all, this group is grabbing random college students from around the country, and the authorities don't know anyone who's involved - how could you possibly be bait for that?

In the torture warehouse, thugs are bringing a woman to a cage while discussing the fact that the killer disappeared. There's a decent shot of all the trapped people putting their hands through chain-link fences, but not so good that it's worth capturing.

Based on the fuel level in the car's gas tank (which luckily wasn't damaged in the least when the car went of a cliff), Joe and Derek figure that the killer must have fueled up seventy miles ago. Since they know his direction of travel and he's on an isolate road, there's only a few places that could have happened. Then Garcia calls, frustrated that the car's registration went nowhere, and generally unhappy to be working a slavery case. Is she thinking of quitting? Yes! But Derek tries to talk her out of it, thankfully.

The team - along with the slavery expert - go over the known facts to the case. They're assuming that the villains send scouts to various towns to look for students who will be easy to abduct, then grab them later on - but they have no evidence to back up that idea. So basically it's just stuff we already knew, and no new evidence. Thanks for this scene, show.

Then things get unbelievably stupid - so stupid that it plumbs depths of moronism previously unreacheded by a show known primarily for being incredibly terribly written.

A scene shows the thugs rounding up the women for the rape/torture/murder party that's going to start soon. And then the Slavery expert says this.

Missed two check-ins? What? Wouldn't alarm bells ring ten seconds after one check-in was missed? If not, what are they for? Hell, why would she have check-ins at all? Are you seriously saying that it was up to the agent to call you?

Here's the thing, half-wit - she's not infiltrating the mob. This isn't a situation where she has to create a fake persona and get in with a bunch of criminals - the kind of activity where she would have to be out of contact for hours, even days at a time, necessitating a somewhat flexible check-in schedule. She's not investigating these people - she is bait for them. If she does her job correctly, at some point she'll just disappear without any warning whatsoever. How on earth is watching her 24/7 not part of your gameplan? In fact, what was your plan? I would badly like the writer of this episode to explain to me how the Slavery agent's plan would have worked, if executed perfectly.

Seriously, I have no idea how one goes about becoming bait for white slavers when you have no idea how they operate. If you don't know what city they're based in, where they're currently hunting, or what kinds of places they hunt at, how can you be bait for them? This is the equivalent of saying 'I'd like you to catch a bigfoot. I don't know where they are, but I do know they love salt licks. Here are a dozen salt licks. Place them throughout all of America, hoping you'll get one close to where a bigfoot lives. Also, you can only check on the salt licks once every 24 hours, and you're not allowed to electronically monitor or track them in any way, shape, or form.

How well do you think that particular bigfoot hunt would go?

God damn it, show - this is your season ender! You're supposed to be raising the bar, not throwing it into the dirt and then setting it on fire!

When we come back from the commercial break, the Slavery expert is berating her subordinate for not calling her when the first check-in was missed. Which is supposed to cover for her own failures, but it doesn't work at all. She complains that the agent is alone, with no wire and no weapon.

Um, how is this current situation different from the intended plan? You say that no one has heard from her in 34 hours - and that she's missed two check-ins. Let's be kind and assume a twelve-hour cycle, and that we're just two hours from the third missed check-in. Now, had your subordinate done exactly as he was supposed to, what would be different? Instead of being informed that your agent had disappeared sometime between 34 and 22 hours ago, you'd discover that your agent had gone missing sometime in the last twelve hours.

She'd still have no weapon, no wire, and you'd have no idea where she was.

What part of this plan was a good idea?!?!

The rest of their conversation makes even less sense. Greg theorizes that the UC must have asked the wrong person the right question - and Slavery expert says they had no intel that the group was operating in the area, and that the UC must have been working her own leads. Hey, guys? You have no real intel, remember? That's the problem. Also, what kind of lead could she possibly be working? What questions would she have asked? Really, would she be asking questions at all? That's what an investigator does, not someone acting as bait. It's not like these slavers are kidnapping people who are looking into slavery, is it?

I mean, they might be - we know nothing about their methods - but that would be a terrible way to operate, since the disappearance of someone asking a lot of questions about slavery might well seem suspicious.

Joe and Derek head down to the morgue and get some exposition about how well-cared-for the victims were. They're well-fed, groomed, and even given pills to keep them able to have sex. The woman was even given a chemical abortion! Ick. Once again they bring up the question of why - if the slaves are so well-cared-for, would they kill them off?

They keep treating this like it's a giant mystery, and maybe I'm underthinking things, but isn't the answer "because someone paid a lot of money to be allowed to kill them"?

Garcia drops off a bunch of files on missing co-eds. Which is kind of restrictive, since they obviously abduct guys too. Then they talk about the gas stations, and Garcia says there were 42 in the area, and then Reid suggests that she narrow it down somehow. This proves all the impetus she needs - he doesn't offer any ideas. It plays out really strangely.

Garcia: 'I don't know what gas station they stopped at.'
Reid: 'Maybe you could try doing your job?'
Garcia: 'Brilliant! Why didn't I think of that?'
exit Garcia

Also, I really don't believe that there are 42 gas stations within seventy miles travelling in a single direction. That's just not plausible.

Then we get a scene at the UC's apartment - she's got some missing persons flyers in her drawer, and she's scribbled the names of clubs on the back of them - perhaps the locations these people were last seen at? Why hasn't she mentioned any of this to her superiors? They figure she was grabbed while jogging, since her shoes are missing, and then they find a voice mail from her mother on her phone, so that the character can be humanized for the audience.

This also suggests that the FBI agent being used as bait (one of supposedly dozens across the country! You've got dozens of them and don't have them using the buddy system?) left her phone at home when she went jogging. As if any part of that makes sense. Sure, the Slavery expert says she was too careful to run alone, but still, why wouldn't you have your phone?

Garcia has managed to track down the gas station based on the kind of coffee and sandwiches that were found in the car, so now Derek and Joe have to run over there! I'm not sure why they drove back to the office at all. Isn't this the kind of discovery Garcia could have made while they were still in the field?

The gas station attendant isn't hugely helpful, but his surveillance setup is:

 Although the people shooting that footage seem to have forgotten that this scene is taking place an hour before the crash, at something like 4-5AM. Oh well. They do see the guy walk off-camera after paying, heading towards the pay phone!

Garcia checks the records, and finds that the call actually happened at 6AM, and was to a drug store about '3 miles away'. She's not clear on whether she means from Quantico or the gas station, but I'm assuming the latter. Derek guesses - quite appropriately, that this must mean that their base is somewhere nearby, after all, if he were in the middle of a long journey, why would his check-in number be just a few miles away?

Now to just zoom over there and see if the drug store's security cameras picked up anything of note!

Before that can happen, Slavery expert and Greg head back to the office. They've managed to contact the FBI agent's running group, and discover that she was running with a friend of hers, another brunette, who no one can find! They figure she may been abducted as well, and in the next scene, she is in the cell opposite the UC's.

You know, if they think that the group of slavers uses scouts to find fresh meat, why isn't it occurring to anyone that this 'friend' might have been the kidnapper? Hell, I think she's in on it solely because she's wearing way too much eyeshadow for someone who was going jogging.

The UC talks to her 'friend' about the situation, but doesn't reveal that she's an FBI agent. Smart! Although the fact that she's just being held with the other victims suggest that the thugs don't know she was 'asking the right questions', and just randomly kidnapped an FBI agent, meaning the ludicrous 'bait' plan somehow actually worked.

Reid checks on the people in the UC's flyers, and confirms that they went missing from the clubs mentioned. Why not report it? The Slavery expert thinks it's because the UC was a perfectionist, who wanted to find proof before bringing her theories to light. Which is the stupidest thing yet in what's shaping up to be Criminal Mind's second dumbest-ever episode (nothing will ever top Emily's behaviour in her two-parter). Your job isn't to track down slavers, it's to act as bait! Let your superiors investigate! That's what they're for!

Joe and Derek show up at the office (I guess they didn't go to the drug store?) and bring their news about the gas station and the town that they slavers are likely near. You couldn't have called ahead with that info? Do you not understand that you're operating under a tight schedule? Now they just have to find a property large enough so murder parties can be held there, but small enough that it can be rented for cash, no questions asked.

Then we cut over to said property, where the UC's friend is being moved on a freight elevator. Wow, this really is a huge place! She's then revealed to be the person in charge, which is kind of a cheat, since she's escorted by a large man who's grabbing her arm at all times -

Not the way you treat the boss when you're all alone.

There's a group scene at the office where they - again - recap information we already know, only dropping one new piece of information, the last club the UC went to before her abduction. Could the villains have found her there?

Then it's back to the torture barn, which turns out to be way less rural than I'd thought. Here's the first time we saw it-

Creepy farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, right? Now check out the parking lot-

Warehouse in a generic office park. Odd, right? Oh, right, the plot - a thug is viciously beating a guy. When he's done, the other thugs tell the boss that the UC is making a fuss and getting the other victims riled up, so she heads down to check it out.

Okay, now things get weird in the office. They talk about how the slavers wouldn't let anyone into the show who couldn't prove that they weren't a cop - which means commit a crime. Then they immediately move to assuming that it would be a white-collar crime, like money laundering, which is often done through real estate, which leads them to which real estate mogul owns the clubs where people were last seen before being abducted.

So they went through that whole pointless intellectual exercise rigamarole rather than asking the obvious question 'hey - we know where these kids were last seen, let's look into who was connected to those clubs!' Which they should have been doing hours ago.

Turns out the local club owner in DC owns an abandoned factory in Virginia, pretty close to the gas station! Problem solved.

Meanwhile the UC admits she's a cop when the boss pretends to have escaped, then admits that no one is coming to get her, and she's not wearing a wire. She's immediately presented to the villains for purposes of murder. Will the team get there in time to save her?

Of course they will. That's what happens on this show.

The FBI arrives and shoots up the place, rescuing all the victims with no fatalities! Derek has a close call when he's attacked by a thug, but it's really his own fault for going off on his own down a dark hallway when there's a dozen assault rifle guys backing him up.

There's another near-miss when a car tries to drive out of the garage, but the agents manage to shoot the driver. The boss then pretends to be another victim, being held in the back seat. It works for about ten seconds, but then tries to explain why should just be allowed to walk away from the crime scene rather than be interviewed by the police. This is incredibly suspicious behaviour, and no one buys it for a second, so she tries pulling a gun and is immediately shot dead.


Other than the season-ending wrapup! No cliffhanging case this time, I guess.

Or maybe there is. Xander suggests that he and Garcia quit their horribly depressing jobs and move out to a rural area. So, with that scene, they've officially made it possible for any character on the show to be gone at the start of next season. Garcia might retire, Greg might take Strauss' job and only be in a few episodes a year, Reid has his headaches, Derek could go to New York, and no one cares about Rachel, who's made no impression since joining the cast.

Who are the only two people guaranteed to be back next year? Joe, the show's franchise star, and...

JJ? Yup, it seems that Joe's been badgering her to come back to the FBI, and she's agreed to do so!

Which is great and all - I mean, she's always been the most inessential member of the cast, but her firing left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, so at least now we can all be friends again.

But I don't know how if any other departure would be a good idea either... there's going to be an interesting episode in two weeks, that's for sure.

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

In no way I can see. Seriously, they did nothing this week that even slightly involved psychology.

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

They followed concrete clues about people's movements and connections to disappearances until they were led to the crime scene. Nothing at all unconventional about that.

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

1/10 - Terribly written episode to end the season on, guys. Literally nothing about the hunt for those slavers made any sense at all. Yeah, it all turned out great, but that was entirely due to a car accident. Slavery expert's plan was a complete disaster that would have gotten her agent killed if not for that fluke of fate.

Also, they knew that the villains were using clubs as hunting grounds, but never bothered to check into the people who owned those clubs? What is wrong with these people?


Reesa said...

The part that killed me was the part in which they say that can't be an UC because they would have to break laws in order to be a buyer... And then track the buyers through money laundering...

So wait, you're telling me that they have NEVER set up an UC with a law breaking background before? Wait, wha?

This eps was beyond ridiculous.

Unknown said...

Where are you getting the name Greg? That is not the name in the show nor real life?

Reesa said...

The actor that plays Hotch played Greg on the show Dharma and Greg. Before Criminal Minds, it is what he was known for. Greg is a reference to that.

Anonymous said...

Thx explaining why he is called Greg, I was wondering this as well!

Anonymous said...

And thanks for the wonderful summary, I personally watch this tonight and had a few questions in your excellent summary have to answer my questions

Sunshine129 said...

😍😍😍 this was the best summary ever. It was the best thing about this episode. I'm also happy someone is watching criminal minds in 2019