Criminal Minds 703: Dorado Falls

The show begins with a messy house, full of fast-food wrappers and never-opened newspapers. A mildly injured man wakes in a bad state and looks at the sprinklers splashing against the window. He goes out to shut them off, and the camerawork goes wobbly, letting us know that, even as his neighbours greet him, he's deeply psychologically off-balance. When he gets inside he phones someone on his cell, announcing his suspicion that he's being watched by someone. But who, and why? Or is he just paranoid?

The injured man heads into an office and shoots the boss a bunch of times!  Which would be bad enough, but then he somehow manages to kill everyone else in the office without anyone escaping or people in nearby floors hearing the gunshots. How do we know this? Because minutes later a guy drives into work late and gets brutally murdered, somehow not noticing the flood of people who should logically have been fleeing into the parking lot.

At Quantico the team hears about the mass shooting/stabbing, and JJ asks the obvious question - how could no one have heard anything? The response? That the attack was well-planned! Because if one's thing true, it's that planning makes bullets quieter. Moron.

Garcia is able to pull up pictures of all eight victims-
But doesn't have a picture of the one employee who is 'MIA'. This is a ridiculous way to tease the audience. The final employee either is or isn't the killer:

And we'll know soon enough - there's no reason to hide the information from us, since it's something that Garcia would logically have. Hell, that picture should be the focus of their little presentation, since the first conclusion anyone would jump to when hearing that everyone in a workplace is dead except for one guy who's missing is that the missing guy is most likely the killer.

Speaking of the killer, he grabs some SMGs out of storage, clearly hoping to do a lot more damage before getting taken down. Will he succeed? Of course he will! While eight victims is certainly a high enough body count to justify a whole episode's plot, killers on Criminal Minds always commit at least three distinct 'acts', even if those acts are mass shootings. So look forwards to plenty more violence from this guy, who's most famous for being a government murderer on David Mamet's "The Unit", but with blonde hair kind of looks like the poor man's Neal McDonough!

Greg brings JJ, Joe, and Reid to the massacre scene, and takes time to introduce Reid as 'Doctor', even though he's just an agent like the rest of them. It used to be they called him that to explain away his youth, but now that Reid doesn't look particularly youthful anymore, it just makes him stand out as seeming super-insecure. Also making him look super-insecure? The fact that he dresses wholly inappropriately for an FBI agent and wears a revolver at his hip, implicitly threatening everyone he meets, all the time.

I'm guessing he's never the one to go get coffee for the team, since they'd call the cops the moment he walked through the door of any cafe.

Looking over the scene the team tries to interpret motivation based entirely on bloodstains left on the floor. For some reason the bodies have already been taken away. I mention this because the shootings only happened an hour or two ago, and it doesn't seem like enough time to properly secure and document a crime scene before removing the bodies. Besides which, wouldn't the team want the scene as untouched as possible when they got there? Usually they're arriving at the crime scene a day later, so it's not really practical to keep it around, but this crime was right in their backyard - so why were the local cops so quick to clean it up before the team got there?

The team extrapolates that the killer had one target in the office and then killed everyone else to keep them quiet based on the fact that he shot some victims and stabbed others. If he'd planned on killing everyone, why not bring more ammo? It's a good theory, but it doesn't account for the possibility of his gun jamming or misfiring, forcing him to resort to stabbing when people were trying to escape. They also notice that while the boss' office seems to have been ransacked and the files gone through, the only thing they can confirm as missing is a picture frame. Joe can tell this because of a void on the dust-covered table-

Wait, if they moved into this office so recently that they hadn't even gotten around to putting out their own security cameras (kind of a necessity when you're worried about corporate espionage, as internet security consultants must be), why is there so much dust in the guy's office?

Also, this is a modern office block - maybe they're responsible for cameras inside their own office space, but how are there not security cameras at the entrances and in the parking lot? Those are basically omnipresent these days, aren't they?

Reid claims to be able to determine from 'blood spatter overlay patterns' what order people were killed in, but that's patently ridiculous. The locations he points to are all the seats of people who were shot in their cubicles, sitting at least eight feet from each other. Why would their blood spatter have overlaid at all, let alone in such a distinctive pattern that Reid could detect its importance with just a glance? Also, the first guy was dead on the floor with no one near him - so no blood spatter overlaid him at all. How could you tell he was the first guy?

Meanwhile the killer calls his parents to ask if anyone has gotten them on the phone, looking for him. They don't know what he's talking about, but he says he'll explain once he gets to their house. This does not bode well. Then the killer calls a woman and gets a machine, where he leaves a message saying that he wants to make sure they're safe. So this is his wife and daughter? Did he already kill them, and just doesn't know it? No, that would be going right back to the Mitch Pileggi well.

Over at the morgue, the coroner confirms that the killer is extremely skilled at stabbing people, and also informs the team that the boss was clearly the main target, since he was shot 2.5 as many times as everyone else. That's a concrete lead right there!

The killer gets to the house, and is unable to identify his father. So he holds a knife to the 'imposter's' throat, demanding to know if his father has been replaced because of 'the mission'. Put this together with the boss at the company having been a decorated navy officer, and it looks like we're dealing with some kind of special forces-related psychotic break, tied into that thing where you think you're surrounded by robots.

Garcia calls Derek and Emily to tell them that absolutely no one had a problem with the company, and none of the employees have histories of domestic problems. While that's certainly helpful, we're now ten full minutes into their investigation, and still no one has given even a cursory look into the background of the missing employee. It's entirely possible (even likely) that he's not the guy, and the killer was there entirely because of his connection with the boss, but since you know the missing guy's name, why not look at his background just to check if he seems like the type who would be capable of professional-grade murdering?

It's finally addressed in the next scene - the guy was at a Doctor Who convention - but I can't image why it took them so long to bring this up. The team at least knows they should be looking for a military veteran, so that's another decent lead. As for the killer, he ransacks his parents' house, then asks them about 'Dorado Falls' - obviously they have no idea what he's talking about, and suggest that this all has something to do with what happened with 'Jenna'. So then the killer locks them in a closet and machineguns them to death.

The team gets to the parents' house - it seems that a machinegunning is plenty to alert the neighbours - but it's not clear how they immediately connected the shooting with the mass killer that they were looking for, since an entirely different weapon and surrounding MO were involved. Still, now they've got the guy's name and background - separated from his wife, probably suffering from PTSD - so it's time to go to the press with his identity!

The killer arrives at his ex-wife's house, but is too late to keep FBI agents from whisking her and their child off to a safehouse. The cops notice a mysterious unmarked van stopped down the street, watching them, and although they know for a fact that they're guarding the house from a deranged mass-murderer, one of them approaches the van without his gun drawn and simply tells the guy to turn the car around. Sadly the killer's picture only reaches them seconds after he's driven away, so he escapes cleanly. Although now that they know what vehicle and part of town he's in, this has got to be an easy solve from here on out, right?

At Quantico they finally get the news that their killer was a SEAL, which supposedly changes the profile since special forces guys are screened to be comfortable with killing people, and therefore resistant to PTSD. At the same time Emily interviews the killer's family, hoping to find some clues as to what triggered his fractured mental state. The ex-wife explains that they split because she never felt like he was fully committed to the family - in fact, he probably has another identity he can change to in order to flee the country if necessary!

Garcia offers another clue about the killer's mental state - he was in a car accident a few days before the murders - could this all be because of a head injury? Whatever the cause, the killer is getting ready for his next 'assignment', shaving off his beard and dying his hair dark brown. Once the transformation is complete, he heads to a nice house in the suburbs and kidnaps some random general!

Luckily the wife wasn't harmed, so Derek is able to interview her about what the killer said. Basically it's all stuff we knew that they didn't - he's obsessed with a mission called 'Dorado Falls', and believes that his parents were replaced with impostors as part of a gaslighting attempt. This delusion is easily identified as a brain disorder in which people think that everyone around them has been replaced with imposters! It's called Capgras delusion, and one famous sufferer of it is actor Tony Rosato, of SCTV, Diamonds, and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis fame! Isn't it fun when Criminal Minds teaches us things?

The killer has the general tied up in a garage somewhere, and explains that his plan is to trade the man for his family. He also mentions that the 'Dorado Falls' incident was somehow awful/immoral. Over at the Defense Intelligence Agency (that's the Pentagon's spooks) JJ gets a file on the mission - but will it help in time?

Things then get a little stupid, when the general's smartphone rings, and the killer answers it. Why is this stupid? Because Garcia then announces that she has to 'track' the phone's location based on cell towers. As if a phone that modern doesn't have a GPS signal constantly pinging its exact location. Joe talks to the killer, trying to make a deal, while the rest of the team rushes out to the 'warehouse district' that Garcia locates. Didn't we just cover this two weeks ago, team? Aren't there like a hundred SWAT people closer than you are?

Then they get into what 'Dorado Falls' was - the name of a boat that a South African diplomat owned. The guy was somehow evil, but the team dismisses it, and explains that the killer must have just picked a random mission to obsess over. They're going to need to keep him on the phone, though, since the address Garcia found was just a cell phone tower, which for some reason was the closest they could get to his number. Which, again, is constantly broadcasting his exact global position.

So what was so immoral about the mission? The killer was ordered to murder the diplomat's children on the boat! Yikes! Meanwhile, the team finds the general and the cell phone - it seems that he was talking on a radio the whole time, while driving to the FBI offices! How did he know where his family was being held? He must have been able to identify the FBI prefix on the phone. Too bad the FBI doesn't have the technology to make their calls say 'unknown caller', huh? Also, isn't it lucky that he was just a ten minute drive away from FBI headquarters?

While the team attempts to lock the building down the killer murders a guard and takes his uniform, then enters through the front door. The FBI SWAT teams begin searching the building, but it's too late, the killer has already made it to the BAU's offices! Although how he knew what floor they were on and section they were in is something of a mystery. The team tries to explain that he's just got a brain injury, and there aren't any impostors, but he's not convinced until they get his wife on the PA system to tell him things that only the two of them would know.

It's a good plan but Reid does a really bad job of using simple, kind of condescending terms to explain what's going on to the killer. He talks about 'mind playing tricks' when he really ought to just say the name of the mental disorder and then describe its symptoms, trusting that the killer is smart enough to be able to put 2 and 2 together. After all, the show has established that he went from being a SEAL to a job as vice-president of a biotech company - this guy is clearly intelligent enough that you don't have to dumb things down for him, and doing so may only serve to aggravate the situation.

It's a little tense, but the tension is broken somewhat by the fact that neither Derek nor the killer are actually prepared to shoot one another-

What is it with this show and having people keep their fingers off triggers?

Finally the killer surrenders, accepting their completely reasonable explanation of his condition, and closing his eyes until his wife gets into the room. But then things all go to hell when a bunch of trained FBI agents are unable to keep a little girl from rushing into his room, and the arrival of his daughter convinces the killer to open his eyes, which makes him once again think that this is all the work of an impostor-based conspiracy.

Oh well.


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

Not really profiling this week, although psychology did help out. When it comes right down to it the day was saved by simply explaining to a crazy person what was wrong with them.

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

It's not entirely clear - I like to think that the cops outside the ex-wife's house really could have done a better job of watching out for suspicious characters, but maybe that's being overly optimistic.

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

3/10 - I'd score them higher this week if they'd actually figured anything out, rather than had the whole 'impostors' thing just told to them. Likewise once they knew that he was suffering from a mental problem that causes his brain to become incapable of having emotional reactions to visual stimuli, why didn't they immediately try telling him this, rather than having Joe play into his delusion and pretend that there really was a giant government conspiracy?

When the general's phone started ringing I immediately thought that they'd gotten the wife to call him, since they knew that he should still have the normal emotional reactions to auditory things. But instead Joe just made things immeasurably worse, getting an FBI guard killed in the process.

Thanks for that, guy.

The real problem this week, though, was they never established a motive for any of the killer's shooting rampages. Yes, he's become paranoid because of his head injury, that's true enough, but the show goes out of its way to talk about how utterly mentally stable he was, even positing that SEAL training makes these men 'immune' to PTSD (although that's a conversation for another time). This is a man who has been trained to kill people when ordered to do so, or to save his life or those of his teammates. Are we really supposed to believe that when put in a situation where he thinks that his best friend has been replaced as part of a conspiracy, that the first choice he'd make would be to kill that guy - in public - and then murder everyone else in the area? That doesn't sound especially SEAL-y to me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To answer your question about the guys not having their finger on the trigger: military, law enforcement, government agencies all train that way, so as to minimize accidental firings. The only time your finger should be on the trigger is when you're squeezing it to fire. Also, for those in close combat range, having your finger in the trigger guard will result in a broken finger if your opponent is grappling with you for the weapon and manages to twist it away from you. Hope that helps clear up any confusion. :)