Criminal Minds 823: Brothers Hotchner

We're finally there! It's the two-part season finale, where they'll once again look into the whole copycat situation! Although they may not solve it, due to the show's occasional fondness for end-of-season cliffhangers. I guess we'll see!

Not this time though, since this is just part one.

The story starts in a classy New York bar, where Greg's younger brother is tending bar! Wait, wasn't he a chef? Am I remembering that episode from seven years ago incorrectly? A waitress needs a manager's card, but Hotch doesn't have it, and directs her to another staff member, who's busy in the bathroom with a woman!

In the bathroom stall the couple is furiously necking, but then the woman complains about being hot and thirsty - has she taken an overdoes of MDMA? Hotch comes in for the supervisor's card, and in the twenty seconds the guy is distracted, his lady starts bleeding from the eyes and nose! So it was tainted MDMA?

Hotch rushes back in to help, but the woman has already stopped breathing - and the supervisor is too shocked to do anything! Probably worried about having given her tainted MDMA.

Meanwhile in another part of New York, Greg is in bed with his girlfriend, who he and his son are visiting! I'd forgotten she moved to New York. For some reason I'd remembered it as being further away.

Hotch calls Greg's cell phone, asking him to come down to the crime scene. Greg, being a solid G, obviously heads right out. In doing so, he reveals that he was - in an amazing coincidence - already in New York, which is definitely going to cause some friction, because Hotch clearly did not know that.

Hotch fills in Greg on the news. His restaurant didn't work out, so he's a bartender now! The cops think the woman OD'd on MDMA, which is a strange reaction, considering the blood pouring out of her face. Hotch also tells him about a woman who died in a similar circumstance a week earlier. That woman? His girlfriend, who he worked with, and was definitely not on MDMA when she died! I don't want to tell Hotch how to run his life, but your brother is a nationally famous cop, when the local guys didn't believe you about your dead girlfriend and wrote it off as a preposterous OD, maybe give him a call then rather than waiting for another victim?

Now for the big question: Could there be a serial killer poisoning drugs in Manhattan nightclubs?

Probably, or the episode wouldn't have opened this way.

Greg loops Erin, Joe, and Garcia in on the crime - apparently there have been five deaths! The cops think it was bad MDMA, but the cause was actually such a high dose of the stuff that it caused their bodies to boil over! I'm not a scientist, so I won't offer a comment as to whether that's remotely possible.

They compare it to the 'Tylenol Poisoning' of 1986, and suggest that this could be another case where someone is targeting a specific person, but poisoned a huge number of people to cover it up. Kind of unfair to assume that, though, since absolutely no one knows the motive of the Tylenol poisoning, since no one was ever caught for it. Recent theorizing suggests that it might have been the Unabomber!

Erin announces that she's going along on the case - is she going to get murdered? Will the copycat up his war on Jeanne by murdering the woman who ruined her career? Or will Jeanne do it, because she's working with the copycat?

That's right, I haven't let my dumbest theory ever go!

Then we cut to a rave, where a bunch of people are dying from a mass poisoning! Who could be responsible?

Let's find out after the credits!

You know, it's becoming clear that this isn't a two-part season finale at all, but rather two individual episodes that the network elected to air back-to-back at the end of the season. Perhaps we'll get a copycat check-in at the end of the episode with Erin being kidnapped or murdered or something, but for now, we'll just dive back into the poisoner!

Hey, if the killer is really covering up a targeted killing with mass poisoning, is it significant that Hotch's girlfriend wasn't on drugs?

The team discusses the possible motives for mass murder on the plane, but then the focus in on the non-users who still wound up dead, as they probably should. We notably do not get a body count from the rave massacre, which is strange, considering it looked like at least six people were going to die. Were the producers worried that the audience would realize that there would be a gigantic law enforcement response/national media interest if something like that had happened?

Greg gets on the phone with his girlfriend, and apologizes for saddling her with Jack for the entire day while he's off solving crimes. We also get a number on the rave massacre - it actually was six people! Realistically the mayor and probably governor would be all over this case.

After getting off the phone Greg goes to interrogate Hotch about the case. Which is the biggest conflict of interest possible. The rest of the team is going to be there in half an hour Greg, let them talk to your brother. Hotch claims he knows nothing about drugs, Greg accepts that and leaves.

Reid, JJ and Derek are over at the club, talking to the survivors. Apparently the dead people were annoyed that the liquid MDMA they bought was taking too long to kick in, so they doubled their dosage, while a guy who took a single vial ended up fine. The guy also claims that one of the dead people was the dealer, although I don't know how much we can trust the man, he has blue highlights in his hair.

They call up Garcia to ask if there are records of slow-acting MDMA that kills people, and she turns up 'Doctor Death', or PMMA, a drug that's half meth, half MDMA. Apparently people frequently overdose one it because it takes too long to kick in! But I'd have to imagine it would be a pretty good high once it worked, right? Or who would still be buying it?

Again, I know nothing about this drug, but that scene suggested that if you took twice the recommended dosage of PMMA then all your internal organs would melt. That seems excessive.

Then we cut over to a restaurant or bar (perhaps the one where Hotch works?), where the killer is using a syringe to put an overdose of the drug into a wine bottle? Who's his next non-club-kid target?

Erin checks with the DEA, and they say that this is the first time PMMA has been seen in America. Is it being shipped in? Produced locally? They talk about how it's lucky that Hotch was involved, because if he hadn't alerted Greg, they might never have noticed the connection!

Really? You had eleven bodies full of a combination of X and meth drop within two weeks, six at the same time. I think the DEA would have taken notice whether or not Greg's brother put in a call.

Finally remembering the existence of the concept of professionalism, they send Joe in to talk to Hotch. Joe badgers Hotch until he admits that he and his girlfriend broke up over his MDMA use. But he didn't mention it because he claimed he quit, and they were getting back together! Yeah, that definitely needed to be mentioned, Hotch - the lady who convinced you to give up MDMA suspiciously wound up overdosing on it? Once again, time to call Greg.

Speaking of, Greg bursts in the room to yell at his brother about how he shouldn't be doing drugs. Which, you know, fair enough. Hotch reveals that he gets his drugs from his boss - so the British Guy in the opening scene did give her the drugs that killed her! - and Greg points out that he could be a connection to the killer!

Then Jeanne checks in with the sister of the other supposedly clean victim. They never did drugs, but they did drink wine! She drank the red, he drank the white, and that was obviously the spiked bottle! It seems she didn't keep it, though, so it might be a dead end.

Or not, since we then cut to a dinner party where a couple are drinking white wine from the presumably spike bottle! There's also a young daughter there, who gets to watch her parents die horrible deaths! Groovy?

 I'm completely unclear on how much of this drug you have to take before your internal organs explode. There are four glasses of wine in a bottle. Even though they're just starting dinner, the parents have each had one glass already, leaving two full glasses on the table after the refill that emptied the bottle.

So each of these people had a quarter of what the killer injected through the cork. Meaning that he put - at least - four times a fatal dose into the bottle? Doesn't that seem excessive? And even though both parents have completely different body weights and tolerances, and presumably drank wine at different rates, they managed to die at the exact same moment? Come on, show, there's trying to arrange arresting visuals, and then there's nonsense, and this is the latter.

When Joe and Reid arrive at the scene, they notice the half-finished wine and come to the only logical conclusion. I'm just amazed that the parents managed to flop over dead without disturbing the glasses at all.

Gracia tracks the two bottles that were poisoned - I guess the sister did save it, after all? - and finds out the bottles were in a shipment going to the bar where Hotch works! So obviously that's at the center of all this, as we surmised. They question why the killer would use two completely different M.O.s - spked wine and liquid MDMA? Could someone at the bar have been buying the PMMA and using it to kill people, while the rest of them are just actual overdoses?

Also, given the alacrity with which this drug kills, what was Hotch's girlfriend doing right before she died? Was she poisoned with wine as well, or was there another vector? As the team assigns Garcia to figure out how the wine bottles got from the bar into private hands, no one seems to remember the third non club-kid victim. My suggestion for how they got there? The killer placed them on a shelf in a wine store where they sold that brand, Tylenol killer-style?

JJ acknowledges that the club is the key, but doesn't address Hotch's girlfriend more specifically. Whether or not she drank wine and who she was near before her death is a potentially huge clue, people!

Greg then wins a Prentiss Award for the following exchange with Hotch:

Um... no, they couldn't be using it as a date rape drug. The drugs were syringed through corks and then put into the hands of (presumably) random people. Who is looking to date-rape people yet super-concerned that people think he's going to date-rape them, so he has to make sure that the drugs are already inside the wine when it's opened? More importantly, won't it look weird if you open a bottle of wine and pour someone a glass, and then carefully avoid drinking any of it yourself? Doesn't that just make it look more suspicious?

Murder is the only possible motive here. Hotch offers to wear a wire to get info about where the bar owner gets his drugs, but it feels like they could just arrest and grill the guy. He's running a bar whose wine (and/or drugs - we don't know about his lady friend) were used to murder at least four people. Threaten him with jail and financial ruin, I can't imagine he wouldn't talk.

But no, they go with the other solution, because this isn't a show about professionals.

Hotch goes in and starts talking to his boss and the business partner - it's the partner who's in charge of drug dealing at the bar, as we're shown in a montage. Hotch tells them that the cops know about the tainted wine, and both guys look extremely surprised/concerned. Also one of the waitresses looks over significantly when she overhears them talking about dumping the wine just in case.

Is she the killer? If so, why? Was it all to kill Hotch's girlfriend because of a romantic obsession, and the rest have been to cover her tracks?

No, that would be crazy.

The boss asks Hotch to help him dump the wine, and while they head out the waitress comes over to ask the business partner how much Hotch knows! So she's in on it, just not in the way I'd randomly assumed!

Okay, things just got a lot less complicated. Boss starts panicking when he discovers that a case of the white wine is missing. Hotch asks why he's freaking out, because he's the one who poisoned the wine! He thought it was just MDMA, and he was going to play a merry prank on the bargoers! And I guess someone sold off the second case for some quick cash, and that's what caused the other clean kid and random couple to die? So there really isn't a Tylenol poisoner, just a guy making PMMA that's too strong?

So... wait, Hotch told Greg that his boss probably gave the drugs to the blonde woman, killing her, shouldn't they have just brought him in and sweated him until he revealed his drug source? After all, he could have been charged with a serious crime for giving her drugs that killed her, whether he knew they were deadly or not. Couldn't this have been mostly wrapped up fifteen minutes ago? Also, after two people died because he drugged them, why did he continue spiking bottles? The first time could have been a coincidence, but the second time someone died it has to be the drugs, doesn't it?

Finding out that his boss murdered his girlfriend puts Hotch into a murderous rage, and he attacks the guy, which, naturally, leads to his wire being exposed! Greg and Derek bust in to arrest the boss just then, so no harm, no foul.

While the team arrests everyone who works at the club, Hotch pulls a disappearing act, leaving his wire and recording device in the van! But why?

We then cut to the business partner, who seems like he's trying to get while the getting's good. But as he gets into his sedan, he's rammed by someone in an SUV! Does Hotch want revenge, or is the drug cook finally entering the plot?

The team shows up at the crime scene - after being stunned by the car crash, the partner had the PMMA mixture poured down his throat. And the, I guess the guy held him in place for the ten minutes it takes to kick in?

In any event, Derek, Reid, and Greg debate whether Hotch could be the killer. He probably couldn't, is the result. Reid's theory is that the cook, annoyed that someone used his killer drugs to poison wine, is getting revenge on the people responsible for doing so! I guess he knows the partner was involved because that's one of the main people he sold the drugs to?

In an amazingly silly scene, the show intercuts between the boss and the waitress getting the same pitch from two sub-teams. They point out that since the partner was killed for his involvement in the wine-dosing scheme, they're probably next! If they don't spill everything the know about drug sources, the FBI will just let them go, and the cook will doubtlessly have no trouble tracking them down and killing them as well!

I don't know about these two dummies, but I'd take that deal. Joe tries to make the cook sound formidable by suggesting that it was some feat killing the partner. Only the partner was an unarmed guy in an empty parking lot outside of his own building, where he would be easy to find. There's no reason to believe the cook has any significant information, resources, or abilities to find and kill people who don't want to be caught. Hell, the boss definitely has a UK passport, based on his accent. Seriously, kids, take your chances.

But no, both of them cave, demanding protection.

Time for a heart-to-heart with Joe and Greg! It turns out Greg cut Hotch out of his life when he didn't show up for the wife's funeral! Which, yeah, fair enough.

Then Garcia jumps in through a vidscreen with news! Seriously? A vidscreen? Shouldn't she just be calling? She finds out about a 'bodega' (that's what New Yorkers call Depanneurs!) where both of the random victims stopped. That's where the case of wine must have ended up! But who put it there?

More importantly, though, why did they need Garcia to crack this down? Couldn't they have just asked the victims where they bought the win? Yeah, the brother is dead, but his older sister - the one who presumably bought the wine in the first place - could have just told them where she got it, right? And maybe the daughter wasn't there when her parents were buying wine, but obviously two middle-class people could get wine wherever they wanted, so they only bought the wine at the bodega because it was somewhere they regularly stop, right? So the daughter should definitely know about that place, shouldn't she?

It seems that the drug isn't local at all! It was smuggled from Canada on a plane, then brought into the city by a courier! For some reason, only the shipment going to Hotch's bar wound up with PMMA instead of the MDMA they were expecting! At least, that's what they say. Did we ever establish a connection between the club kids in the rave and the boss or partner? Is that where the dead club dealer bought his supply? If not, that's at least one other case where people ended up with the toxic stuff that they should be investigating.

When Derek and Reid get to the bodega owner, he explains that people often bring him stuff they steal from their businesses, which he then sells in his store! He also mentions that the guy who brought the wine over a few weeks early came back the previous night and bought the rest of it at full price. So it's Hotch's fault that those random people died, and that's where he ran off to!

Garcia has more clues to offer! A baggage handler at the airport where the drugs come in died a month ago, but he's continued making cash deposits into his bank account! I don't want to lecture that airport on staffing policy, but isn't the whole point of having zombie workers that you don't have to pay them?

Oh, and Hotch calls Greg to confess about the wine, but Greg says he already knows, and asks him to come in, since he's definitely the killer's next target. Although I'm not really sure that's the case - the killer would have to have some reason to know that it's Hotch's fault the killer wine was dispersed, or just be killing everyone who worked at the bar. We have no reason to believe either possibility is accurate.

The team gathers around to try and figure out what's going on with the baggage handler's regular deposits. Obviously his customers still think he's alive, which means the drops are still being made, and the new courier is the killer! So obviously it had to be someone who worked with or knew the courier, because how else would he know about the drug shipments?

Garcia finds that another handler had a daughter recently die from a MDMA overdoes, and surmise that he must be their guy! But why is he only targeting that one bar? Was that where his daughter got the drugs? No, it turns out it was the other bar that the guy owned. His plan was to attack the guy's other business, so the killings wouldn't be traced back to him!

Which, you know, is a terrible plan. Because the second the guy realizes that his new drug supply is tainted, he's going to go looking up the chain, find out the real courier is dead, and start looking for who delivered the poison. Since the drugs were picked up at the airport as usual, the killer wouldn't have been too hard to track down, whether or not you ever connected him to his dead daughter.

Then, rather than just have state cops drive out the airport and arrest the guy, they have Morgan and Reid drive the three hours out there to do it themselves. How do I know it takes them at least three hours to get there? When they're dispatched, the sun is still up, perhaps a little close to setting. Maybe. Here's when they get to the airport:
Pitch blackness. Someone could have handled this faster, methinks. They arrest him without incident, and during his confession he confirms that yes, he did just want to kill the partner, and had no plans to go after anyone else.

The End.

Epilogue time!

Greg is finally back with his son and girlfriend when there's a knock on the door! It's Hotch! He's come to apologize for being so terrible and stealing the wine! Greg has cops waiting downstairs to arrest him, and he asks for a recommendation for a lawyer. Although I don't know if he'll really need a very good one, he committed petty theft, stealing a hundred dollars' worth of wine from this workplace. Yes, the wine killed three people, but they've already arrested the people responsible for that. Also, what with his bosses being arrested for drug dealing or dead, is there anyone who's going to bother pressing charges for stealing the wine?

I know that Hotch is going to feel guilty for the rest of his life over those three people dying, but I can't imagine he's in any legal jeopardy over their deaths. Hell, did you know that there's a legal statute (in New York, at least) that if you donate extra food to a charity and it turns out to be tainted, so long as there's no reason to believe that you knew it was poisonous, you can't be charged with a crime? It's true, and it, or something close to it obviously applies to Hotch's case.

The episode then ends with Hotch being taken to jail, and I have no earthly idea why. Maybe some statute about selling liquor without a distributor's license?

The copycat then takes a bunch of photos of Greg from across the street, because he's back to following them around! Then it's over to Garcia, whose computer has been hacked! The copycat sends her all of the surveillance photos, along with the 'Zugzwang' message which, as we discussed before, doesn't mean what he thinks it does.

So yeah, they're pulling the trigger on the idea that the copycat needed to have access to the FBI to find out about the cases, even though that concept is obviously ridiculous, as I mentioned a few episodes back. He would, however, need access to the FBI's computers to know where they were going, and when, but since he didn't actually need to stalk them at crime scenes, I don't know how that's relevant.

Also, he wouldn't even need to have access to the FBI - he could have broken into the computer system at the airport they always fly out of. Since their pilot has to file a flight plan, that would likely be the easiest point of access for a hacker looking to stalk the team.

Then it's over to a hotel hallway, where the copycat is putting on gloves (which means he touched a bunch of door on the way into the hallway leaving fingerprints everywhere) as he heads for a room. Presumably Erin's, but I'm willing to be surprised.

He uses a keycard to get into the room (he's a hacker, remember?), then approaches the sleeping Erin. If he kills her, what crime will he copycat? I can't imagine he'll abduct her, because how would he get a grown woman out of the 8th floor of a hotel without anyone noticing?

We've already had dolls, lips sewn shut, amputations, hammer murders... obviously the killer won't make her play a terrible real-life video game or frame her for killing her wife and daughter, and somehow a murder-suicide seems like a stretch... and hotels aren't soundproof, so days of cigarette torture followed by drowning is probably out. Maybe the chisel in the back of the neck murder? Has he gotten to that one yet?

The killer gets to Erin's bedside, and the camera pans up to reveal...

Mark Hamill?!?!?

Okay, that's a twist. I was told that Mark Hamill played a killer on Criminal Minds at some point, and I specifically asked the person who told me not to reveal when, since I wanted to be surprised. This is definitely a surprise, and I'm psyched to find out his crazy motivation next week!

It will have to be then, however, since the show ends before we find out what happens to Erin.

Also, just a note, Mark was not wearing a mask, and he got into whatever high-priced hotel that Erin was staying at, so there's got to be plenty of security footage of him. Unless, I don't know, he both shut down the building's security cameras and somehow did the same for all of the cameras in the buildings around it, on what must be a pretty high-end street?

I'm sure they'll cover all that next week. Wink.

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

Not really. The closest they came was, after tracking down the courier, asking who might have a motive to go after that one bar with the poisoned drugs. But did they really have to? Once the knew who the courier was, and that he was dead before the newest shipment arrived, they'd have to know that it was someone else who worked at the airport, because who else would have access to the drugs? Just question everyone there and you'd find the guy fast enough. Hell, as we learned, he'd just run away the second the cops showed up.

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

The entire crime was solved using normal police methods. Except for the part where they had a guy go in undercover instead of just arresting everyone and grilling them about the drugs, the way they should have.

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


Weak episode, folks. Very, very weak. Hopefully things pick up with the arrival of Mark Hamill next time!

Seriously, why didn't the club owners know something was up the moment that the boss gave Hotch's girlfriend some wine and she died horribly ten minutes later? Did he think that was a coincidence? Even after the cops announced that her autopsy showed her dying of a massive overdose of MDMA+meth, the boss and the partner kept selling the drugs? Why wouldn't their first instinct be that they got a bad batch, and either toss it or demand a refund?

Also, where did the baggage handler get the chemical skills necessary to make murderous MDMA that still looked exactly like the drug it was supposed to be? And why did he make it so it would only kill you if you took too much of it? So much of this episode didn't make sense.

Isn't it an amazing coincidence that the baggage handler worked next to the courier who moved the specific drugs that killed his daughter? I guess she could have found out about the drugs from her dad's co-worker, but then why wouldn't she have gotten the drugs from him, rather than a random bar?

Of, because then her father would just have one target, rather than a bunch. It's a little funny that his method for revenge was 'kill a bunch of random people so that the drug dealer will be blamed', but then he got bored waiting for that to happen and just hit him with a car.

This was not a good episode.


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to tell you that in the most recent episode, the BAU fights a werewolf, just like you suggested. No, I’m not joking, the episode is called “Bad Moon on the Rise”.

Vardulon said...