Criminal Minds 1014: Hero Worship

We open with a 'previously on' letting us know that people are still going to be sad about Mandy this week. And why wouldn't they? But will there be any follow-up about Joe and JJ murdering people in recent weeks? I'm guessing not.

Also, am I forgetting someone, or is Reid the only core team member that's never murdered anyone? Derek set up his molester to get killed, Greg crushed the Reaper's skull with his bare hands, Joe's got two bodies to his name, and JJ murdered that rando two weeks ago. Garcia's basically never in the field, so she doesn't count. I'm thinking everyone but Reid has killed someone in cold blood.

This is not a stable team, nor is it a particularly good place to work, I'm thinking.

On his way out of the office one night, Joe notices that Reid is still fiddling with a chess board, perhaps trying to game out how his and Mandy's final game might have gone. Which is kind of sad, especially because he stopped playing chess because he missed Mandy.

Again, he could have gone over the guy's cabin at literally any time and just played a game of chess, but I'm not going to pretend that this isn't touching.

Joe points out that Reid is working too late, and Reid explains that he likes to wait until rush hour is over so the subways won't be crowded. Joe points out that it's 10PM, and Reid has lost track of time, but I'd like to focus on something else: Do the writers of the show think that these people work in Washington DC?

I always joke about their stupidity in using an establishing shot of the capitol building to suggest Quantico, when that's an hour away, but this suggests to me something beyond laziness... do the people working on the show actually not know where Quantico is?

Where do they think Reid lives? Because the closest subway station to Reid's workplace is two hours away - and you have to take a train and two buses to get there. It's only a 40 minute drive, apparently, but why would he have a car just to take him from the subway station to work and back? Do they think he's commuting from downtown DC out to Quantico every day?

To be fair to the people working on the show, there actually is an FBI building in the middle of downtown DC. It's the headquarters. Fun fact: because it's old and insufficient for the Bureau's needs, it was going to be torn down and the lot turned into a luxury hotel, but then Donald Trump became president, and he had them cancel the plans because he didn't want another hotel near the White House competing with his own!

So I get why a person just throwing a script together might get confused about which FBI building the team works in, but that's what editors are for. The show was developed under the title 'Quantico'. They have an airstrip on the premises. How could anyone not realize that they work out of the training facility in Quantico?

Anyhoo, Reid spends all night staring at the chessboard.

The next morning, in Indianapolis, we find a busy diner where a demanding crowd is being served by a single overworked waiter! Based on the arrangement of the door at the corner of the building, I'm wondering if this is just a redressed version of the bar that suicide kid shot up a while back. I'll try to remember to check later!

The diner might not be important, though, since it's a building across the street that explodes! Making me wonder why we just spent a minute inside the diner. Is one of the characters involved in the explosion, or was the production just psyched about throwing money away?

It would be hilarious if they thought they were making a misdirect, and tricking the audience into believing that it was going to be an episode about a harried waiter who shoots his impatient customers.

The team gets word about the bombing - it was in a coffee shop, and six people were killed! The week before, a custodian found a bomb planted in a school and was blown up! Tragic way to go, but he's kind of a hero, since if he hadn't found the bomb during his overnight shift, there's a chance plenty of other people could have been killed during school hours!

Then JJ says this, and I'm forced to just shake my head all over again:

Fundamental groups. They couldn't do another take of that so she could say the right word? Or did the person writing the script make the mistake, and everyone was in such a rush to get the episode out that no one noticed? It's 'fundamentalist', Criminal Minds. Jesus.

Reid mentions that bombs are relatively easy to make, and namechecks the Anarchist's Cookbook - which it seems like the killer is working from when we cut over to Indianapolis. He's got a workstation all set up and opened to the page about Nitroglycerine-based explosives! On his wall, there's a list of targets - museums, landmarks, war memorials, all targeting the basements for some reason! Does he want to hit a gas main, or is he actually trying to minimize damage to the structures?

Oh, and in case you're wondering how much they're going to focus on calling this terrorism, the killer is white, so I'm guessing not a ton. Despite white right-wing people being the largest cohort of terrorists in American history.

The team discusses the possibility that no one was supposed to be killed at the school, and the guy only died because he was working on an emergency fix to the building's power after hours. No one mentions my theory that he caused the bomb to be detonated prematurely.

Then Joe both throws shade on JJ by correctly saying 'Fundamentalist', but then looks like an idiot when he calls the dead at the coffee shop 'collateral damage'. No, Joe, collateral damage are the things that are destroyed and the people killed while you try to achieve a goal. For example, if you want to blow up an embassy, that's your target, and the dead people inside were your targets. All of the people walking by the building when the bomb explodes are collateral damage.

You're operating under the assumption that he was trying to kill innocent people - a mass-casualty attack was his design, then, rather than a by-product of his greater goal. As far as you know.

In the hospital hallway, Reid is asked by a guy if he can locate his father, who was caught in the blast. Reid says he'll try, because his own father figure was recently killed. Sadly, so was this guy's, leaving Reid in even more of a funk.

JJ and Love go to talk to a guy who ran into the building after the explosion, and dragged a pregnant woman out to safety. He asks if it was a terrorist attack, and Love says they're not ready to call it that, because they're not sure brown people are responsible. The second half of the statement is subtextual, of course.

He reports that the back wall of the building went from being on fire to exploding, so maybe this is gas main related? Love then notices that the guy's wife was a soldier killed in Afghanistan, and this hero married his buddy's widow! Does that make him extra suspicious? I don't know why it would, but she certainly brings it up!

JJ and Love then distract the news people out front, letting the hero and his wife leave in a car to pick up their child. Notably, JJ and Love both introduce themselves as SSA, which generally stands for 'Supervisory Special Agent', which neither of them are, since they don't have teams of their own. I guess they could mean 'Senior Special Agent', but that's a weird thing to identify yourself as.

Over at the police lab, a tech explains that the bomb was under the toilet, and it's possible that it was just coincidental that it ruptured a gas line. How on earth did the pregnant lady survive the blast when she was in bathroom when the whole wall exploded?

They announce that the soldering work on the bomb was amateurish, and Derek decides that means they can rule out terrorism. I'm not sure how he can do that, since terrorism is violence designed to make people feel unsafe to achieve political ends, and absolutely nothing about the information they have so far points towards or away from that motive. The lab tech announces that she's trying to determine who made the TNT based on chemical composition.

Of course, we know that it was home-made, but here's another fun fact - they would know that immediately as well, if it wasn't for republican lawmakers! Back in the 70s, there was a federal law that stated explosives had to have microscopic plastic serial numbers packed in alongside all of the explosive material. That way, if someone ever used a bomb in a crime, you'd just have to look at the confetti around the blast site and you'd know exactly who bought the explosives and when. It helped solve one murder, then Republicans in Congress repealed the law, because they hate it when crimes are solved.

Additional fun fact - TASERs are legally required to put the same kind of confetti in each charge, so you always know exactly who fired a TASER based on the serial number of the charge. The technology exists to do this with bullets and firing pins as well, but again, Republicans hate it when crimes are solved, so they've blocked every attempt to make a law mandating the technology's adoption!

Joe goes to check on Reid, who's obviously been up all night, based on the fact that he's wearing the same shirt as yesterday. Which he's covered with the cardigan from his 'go-bag' in the hopes that no one would notice. Why didn't he just change his shirt to the one from the go-bag?

He suggests that Reid take some time off, what with his surrogate father getting murdered like that, but Reid prefers to lose himself in his work. Which is one of the reasons he's such a deeply unhappy person!

Joe and Reid talk about what motivates bombers - could they just want attention? If so, would the attention that the coffee shop hero is getting cause him to lash out even more violently? I don't think so, because the coffee shop hero's attention is entirely contained within his own.

The show feels differently, however, and we immediately cut to the husband and wife in bed, chatting about the day! The daughter/step-daughter comes in and announces that she thought she heard someone in the house. They're not concerned at all, despite the day's events.

So, is the guy the killer? And he wanted to turn himself into a hero because he's worried that he'll never live up to the reputation of the martyred husband/father? That's going to be rough if it's the case.

The mother goes to take her daughter back to bed, and the hero heads out for something from the store. If his car gets blown up, I'm going to get crazy annoyed, since the cops should have been keeping an eye on him.

Nope, he's just gone to the car to read about the bombing on his tablet. And start crying. Oh, then his car does blow up.

Kidding! No, he just notices that there's a bomb attached to his brake pedal. He's got it stuck halfway down, so he's locked in place, like in Lethal Weapon 2, which was name-checked earlier, or that episode from Season 2 where this exact thing happened.

Reid and Derek arrive at the scene well before the bomb squad, and Derek gets a chance to use his seldom-employed bomb-disarming skills! No, he doesn't just freeze the bomb with liquid nitrogen like an actual bomb tech would, he goes through the whole 'slicing the wires' thing. Obviously Derek and Reid aren't getting killed, so it goes great.

The team wastes a little time going over the standard bomber MO - he loves attention, he'll attack public places, we've heard this all before. They do go out of their way to say he's in his late 30s-40s, based on the fact that he's working with nitroglycerine. This, of course, is gibberish. The killer is just following steps from a manual - anyone at any relatively mature age could manage that, it's not like 20-somethings have characteristically shaky hands that would keep them from being able to handle nitro.

Reid and Derek look over the truck scene the next day, and think that it's preposterous that the guy would have noticed the wire. He must be the killer, for the reasons I explained above! Except we saw the actor be surprised by the wire, so that can't be the truth.

Also, the scene starts with Reid and the lab tech looking over the bomb, which is still attached to the bottom of the car, and announcing that it's 92%  Nitroglycerine and 8% Nitrocellulose. Which is an amazing thing for Reid to be able to announce, considering that all of the explosives are still tightly wrapped inside of black plastic, and only the detonator and wires are visible. Is he psychic? Does he have X-Ray vision?

While looking into the hero's background to find proof that he's the killer! He's depressed, in marriage counseling, and has no clear training that would help ready him for the job of mass-murder. Not that he would need it, this is all coming out of a book.

Is this going to become a Richard Jewell situation, where they destroy a man's life by claiming he was the Olympic Park Bomber, but really he was just a guy who was on the scene and helped out? Fun fact, the real Richard Jewell got a hefty cash settlement for his trouble!

Oh, and Garcia turns up that the wife's dead army husband was a SEAL with a specialty in explosives! Then they find the navy explosive manuals in the back of the guy's pickup, so it looks open and shut! Of course, we know that it's not, so who could the culprit be? The wife?

Now we get a scene where they try to cracker the innocent man, while in the next room they talk to the wife. She claims that the hero was reading the explosive manuals after the bombing to try and figure out what happened to him, and that she hid them in the truck before the FBI got there to avoid suspicion!

Wait, did she create the explosives to try to turn him into a hero? No, that would be ridiculous.

Anyhoo, they insult the hero until he confesses, but then they all think he confessed way too quickly. I guess what they're saying is that he planted the first two bombs, for the contrived reasons mentioned about, but then someone else planted the third one?

They go back to talk to the hero, and they're convinced that he wasn't involved in the truck bombing, which means there's another bomber out there. He claims not to have an accomplice, which leads them to the conclusion that he's a copycat - when he heard about the first bombing, he decided to go and build a bomb himself to become a hero, then everything went horribly awry!

If that was the motive, though, why a coffee shop? The first bombing was at a school - this is a much more public and dangerous place. Also, what's the timeline on this? A week went by between the two bombings? Is that really enough time to gather the bomb materials and learn how to make a bomb? Seems like a bit of a stretch.

Meanwhile, the real killer is working on his next bomb!

The team huddles to try and figure out a route to finding the real killer, when they discover that the press has found out about the truck bomb! People want a public celebration for the hero - and this gives Greg an idea... Publicly lavish attention on the hero so that the killer will target him again!

I'm not sure why the killer targeted him in the first place, though - I know they want to say that the attention he was getting made the killer envious, but isn't the fact that there's another bomber out there a more pressing concern for the guy? It's not like he knew the hero and the copycat were the same person, after all.

They plan out a fake ceremony to attract the bomber's attention, and he takes the bait, loading a van up with vats of explosives and a timer!

While the team is waiting for the bomber to arrive, Garcia solves the crime! A school board official was fired for having sex with a student. Shortly after, a fire was set at the ethanol plant where the assignation had occurred, and a week later the student's school was the site of the first bombing!

According to the fake newspaper article, the student was 18, so no statutory rape charges could be filed! Fun fact, the Indiana age of consent is 16, which the writers of the episode didn't bother to look up! Or maybe they did, and they didn't want to say charges couldn't be filed because the girl was 16, because people watching nationwide would immediately be disgusted by Indiana?

Also, why were they having sex in an ethanol plant? That they were charged with trespassing in - that's how people found out about the affair. Such a weird place for a romantic rendez-vous.

The team stops a van driving up to the event, but it's just a random guy who was driving a van weirdly fast towards a roadblock, as one does. It's more puzzling when we discover that it actually was the bomb! I guess he was paid by the killer to do it? It doesn't end up mattering, though, since the guy's bad at building bombs, and this one doesn't go off.

Actually, no - Derek confirms that it's a decoy, with no explosives anywhere inside of it!

The bomber has taken his bomb down to the basement of city hall, hoping to blow up the building! JJ and Reid come in and tell him that he doesn't want to kill himself, and he agrees, and surrenders. Again, they talk about the girl being '18, so he didn't do anything illegal'. Indiana's screwed up, is my point.


Except for everybody getting locked up.

On the flight back to Quantico, Reid is still obsessing over his game. Joe offers to help him finish the chess game, so he can let the memory of Mandy go!

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

Well, one of them, yes. Although it's a bit of a stretch how they got there - assuming that a guy who would run into a fire was definitely a coward who actually thought he was safe. Basically their entire suspicion of the guy was based on the fact that he was 'less of a man' than his wife's previous husband, so obviously he'd want to set a bomb.

It turned out they were right, but it was based on some crazy nonsense.

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

It's weird that they didn't already solve the first case - two cases of sabotage, both in locations linked to a high-profile scandal just a short while earlier? How did the cops not already pick this guy up?

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

3/10 - It's weird to me that the team's response to seeing a shlubby guy running towards danger to help people is 'he doesn't look like a hero, so he must be the killer! It's funny because that's exactly why the FBI and media focused on Richard Jewell - they assumed stuff about him based on the fact that he was a shlubby security guard who they found pathetic and contemptible. Meanwhile, the real bomber, Eric Rudolph, was free to drive around the South, blowing up abortion clinics and a gay bar.

The message of this episode is - seriously - that the FBI was right to judge a book by its cover, and persecute Richard Jewell, because the story would have been better if he'd been the killer.

Rather than, you know, an anti-abortion, gay-bashing white supremacist military veteran.

One last fun fact: As I'm writing this review, we're exactly one week past Clint Eastwood's announcement that his next film is going to be about Richard Jewell's ordeal at the hands of the media and FBI! Nice coincidence, that.

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