Criminal Minds 1016: Lockdown

The episode opens in a prison or mental hospital in the middle of the night. A guard wonders where one of his fellow workers has disappeared to, but doesn't seem as concerned about it as you'd think he would be. Then the guy finds a trail of blood leading into a closet! He goes to check it out without waiting for backup or turning on the lights in the room. Because he's an idiot, I guess?

The guy finds the missing guard - he's been stabbed in the neck and had a sock stuffed in his mouth. Weird!

The next day Greg and Joe field a call about the crime - this is the second such murder of a guard within three months! Wait, the guy who killed the previous guard wasn't caught? How is that possible? Are there not security cameras all around the place?

Joe asks the question, which, thanks, and the warden doesn't have much of an answer - he says that the first guard was killed during a riot, and the prisoners had briefly shut the cameras off, but that doesn't explain this second murder not being on film.

It seems that the prison is one of those awful private affairs, which is why the cameras weren't working - absolutely everything at the prison is done terribly in the hopes of maximizing profit!

So the team's going to a Texas prison! Hopefully this episode will be the scathing indictment of the prison-industrial complex that the subject deserves!


On the plane, they talk about how it was almost certainly a gang that did the crimes, since the guards were overpowered and went down without any injuries suggesting a fight. A month before the murders a notable gang boss was transferred to the prison... coincidence?

Reid spouts some statistics about how private prisons are a good money-maker, and the company running this particular jail has quadrupled in size in just a couple of decades! Joe's reaction, while it's supposed to be a joke, still wins the Prentiss Award of the night:

Running a private prison is legal, Joe. It really, really, really, shouldn't be, but it is. And you're terrible at jokes. Especially since, you know, you've become a millionaire exclusively by exploiting the victims of crime.

Fun fact, the criminals who work in the prison are being paid just pennies an hour, because slavery is still legal inside of prisons!

At the prison, the team is met by the head of security and the warden. They lock their guns away, and head in to see the crime scene! Suspiciously, the head of security doesn't go with them, claiming he has things to do first. Also, he's played by William Ragsdale, star of best vampire film ever Fright Night and the titular Herman in TV's Herman's Head, the show that inspired Pixar's Inside Out!

They get a rundown of the prison - notably, cell phones don't work there. Too many people were smuggling in phones to the prisoners, so they set up some jammers!

In the morgue, they learn something interesting - in addition to the sock and neck wound, both victims had exactly seven fingers broken! Could that be significant? And why didn't they have any other defensive wounds? JJ goes to find the criminally lazy prison doctor and demand a full autopsy.

Derek and Love point out the lack of security cameras in the hallway leading up to the place where the guard's body was stuffed, and Herman explains to them that the suits in charge of the prison won't spend a dime that isn't essential, and to them, saving the lives of guards isn't essential. Of course, even if the guards don't have a union, this is the kind of massive oversight that multi-million dollar lawsuits are made of, so hopefully the team finds enough evidence to give the families of the dead guards a rock-solid case! After Herman leaves, Derek and Love bring up the previously unspoken possibility that guards could have been involved in both crimes!

Shouldn't this have been a bigger possibility from the start? I don't know about the first murder, but the second crime seems to have taken place after lights out and lockdown - so how could a group of inmates have possibly done it?

Over in the prisoner area two guys are complaining about their situation - the whole place is on lockdown until the guard's killers are caught! The old con who drops off lunches takes a moment to threaten one of the prisoners - don't tell the feds anything, or else. It's more likely that this is a contraband ring than part of the guard murders, but who knows?

Derek and Joe go to talk to the gang leader, who claims ignorance about the murders - but he has details that weren't supposed to be released outside of law enforcement, like the socks in mouths! He implies that the two dead guards were especially brutal, and no one's sad to see them go, and then we get a weird bit from Joe - he says that the gang leader should help them because he's already a snitch, and when he was convicted he turned on his compatriots to get a 'lighter sentence'. Except the guy's in jail for life+30, so he didn't get a lighter sentence, he just avoided the death penalty. So why not say that?

We get a look at the workspace within the prison - there's files stacked all over Reid's table, but I can't imagine what they're of. It's not all of the prisoners, since there's nowhere near 2000 files, but it can't be the guards, since there's way too many for that. Maybe it's every violent incident that happened in the prison in the past couple of years? There's an embarrassing montage of Reid speed-reading, the result of which is there's a prisoner who disappears from the records! Just before the first killing a prisoner stops appearing in files, but he isn't recorded as either dying or being released!

Elsewhere in the prison the threatening old con is somehow alone in the showers, enjoying a relaxing spritz. Suddenly the lights turn off, he has a sock stuffed in his mouth, and has his hands and feet bound with duct tape! So yeah, there's obviously more than one guy doing this. They don't stab him to death, though - instead they lie him under the shower and adjust the temperature behind the wall so that he'll be scalded to death! Which is one hell of an escalation.

Herman has an answer for the missing prisoner - apparently he was transferred to Florida, and record-keeping at the corporation sucks. Oh, alright then. Then they hear about the newest victim, and once again, seven of his fingers are broken! Also, he was the first victim to be raped! The team asks how he was out so late, and he's told that the guy was a snitch, so he had special privileges in the prison. Greg and Reid are forced to face up to the possibility that this newest victim was meant specifically to taunt them!

Over in the guard's locker room, one of the guards finds that a picture of his daughter has been defaced! A threat to keep quiet, no doubt!

Derek heads out of the prison to get on the phone with Garcia - I'd suggest that he should have just used a land line, but since they're prison phones, they'll all be tapped, so this is probably the best choice. She's discovered that the two dead guards had specific matching bank activity before the first one died. One would take out a certain amount of money, and like clockwork, the other would deposit it! Almost as if, she posits, they were paying off debts!

Wow, this is a ridiculous stretch. We're expected to believe that whatever kind of business these guys were doing, gambling or whatever, they always made a point to immediately deposit the money they were given in the bank, and only ever took out the exact amount they had to pay? That's just madness.

Let's say I owed a guy 400 dollars because I'd lost a bet. I'd have to take that money out of the bank, sure, but wouldn't I grab a couple of extra dollars for when I bought lunch or went to a bar? Likewise, wouldn't the other guy, being handed the money, occasionally pick up a pack of smokes and a tank of gas using the cash he was given, rather than heading straight for the bank?

If they paid each other with cheques now and again, you'd notice suspicious transactions, but supposedly most of these were cash, so why would they match up so perfectly?

Also, in a fun note for those who pay too much attention - yes, they're using the bank template I pointed out a couple of episodes ago:

But this time they've actually remembered to give the bank a fake name! They also slightly changed the formatting of the second statement to make the whole template thing less obvious!

The team breaks down the latest info - once again the lights were all turned off, and the cameras avoided. Since you need keys to access the lighting grid and the water room attached to the showers, obvious a guard must be involved. But is it a conspiracy of guards, or just that guy being threatened? Well, since the way the guy was threatened was by someone defacing a photo in a guards-only area, it's probably the conspiracy.

Then we find out that the missing prisoner used to be the cellmate of the latest victim! Also that he'd had no history of violence before coming to the prison, but after he got there he was extensively picked on by the dead guards and frequently sent to the infirmary for fighting-related injuries!

So I guess the guards are running a fight club where they bet on the various prisoners, and the missing guy died, and this is all part of a cover up? Will that be their next guess, or am I right, so they'll play it out a few more scenes?

JJ and Joe go back to the talk to the lazy doctor - apparently the missing con was regularly beaten up, and even raped one time! But he would never tell anyone who was responsible... So the team goes to talk to guys he knew - the first one says he was an alright dude, and the second turns out to be the guy that the latest victim threatened!

It seems the threatened con used to work in the library with the missing con, but he was recently reassigned by the dead guards. Suspicious! He also tells a long story about how the missing con was a great guy - so Joe confronts him with all of the disciplinary reports! Joe asks the threatened con what's really going on in the prison, but he refuses to talk. Part of the problem might be the guard standing right over Joe's shoulder - they're operating under the theory that corrupt guards are involved in the murders, right? So why not go to talk to these guys in private?

The threatened con goes back to his cell and looks at his prized possession - a copy of the Count of Monte Cristo (get it! Because he's a prisoner!) that the missing con smuggled to him from the library! Sweet of him to have done that.

In a nice note, the cover of the book is missing - books that aren't sold can be returned to publishers for a refund, but publishers generally don't want them back, so the deal is, if you tear the front cover off of a paperback and send that, they'll refund your money. As a result, no books can be legally sold without a front cover, and these coverless books are frequently donated to charities and prisons!

The team finally gets around to the possibility that the missing guy was part of a fight club that the guards are running! It's about time!

Meanwhile, Herman has two of his goons toss an inmate's cell. Is this part of a pretext to execute him and frame him for all the murders? No, it's a little more complicated! Herman gets him alone and demands to know who's working with him - so the inmate is trying to get revenge for the missing con? This is seemingly confirmed when the gang boss mentions that Herman was responsible for his disappearance!

Not psyched about having his authority questioned, Herman beats the inmate to death with a nightstick.

The team is not convinced by the setup at all - they find it weirdly convenient that the guy's cell was filled with socks, knives, and duct tape. How could he be the killer when they profiled that it was a group of people!

Except that it wasn't really the 'profile' that said that - they haven't actually done a profile yet. No, it was the fact that victims were obviously restrained by multiple killers, all of whom had access to secure areas of the prison. So how could it have been this guy?

Interestingly, the new dead inmate was in jail for a non-violent offense, and then had his sentenced increased from five years to twenty when he killed someone inside! More sudden turns towards violence - but what, specifically, was the cause?

Reid has a theory - no, more of a guess - the room that Herman was taking the inmate to is isolation cell 34 - could the seven broken fingers be a reference to that cell, since all three times it was three fingers on one hand, four on the other? If that's the case, is there some significance to that cell, which would make it the perfect place for Herman to hold his human cockfights?

Now certain that Herman is involved in a series of crimes, the team has to re-assess its plan, and call in some serious backup, since no one at the jail can be trusted! I'm kidding, of course, that would be the smart thing to do. No, instead, they just plan to keep doing interviews and hope someone talks before too many more people die.

Fantastic plan, guys.

Then we get a scene of Herman threatening to kill the nervous guard's daughter. Because we needed a second one of those to get the point, I suppose?

This encounter has made the guard extra-nervous, so when he goes to talk to Love and Derek, he's practically sweating bullets! They comment on his nervousness and keep badgering with questions, but these supposed masters of human behaviour somehow don't notice that he keeps glancing at the security camera in the corner of the room, through which Herman is watching and listening to the proceedings.

Finally the guy cracks and begs them to protect his daughter. This sends Herman into a rage, and he rushes down to bring a proposition to a convict! But what could it be? Other than getting them to kill the guard, of course.

The nervous guard spills the beans - Herman and his goons were running that fighting club, and when that missing prisoner died, they cremated his body in the building's furnace!

Because the team is terrible at their jobs, while they're getting their confessions, Herman has opened up all of the cell doors in the area next to the interview rooms, which allows the group of hardened criminals to attack the room! They stab the guard non-fatally and take Love and Derek hostage!

Luckily the gang boss from way earlier has a good head on his shoulders, and arrives with his entourage to remind everyone that if they kill FBI Agents, they're all going to get the death penalty. Herman sees all of this and knows the jig is up - so when Joe comes knocking onto the control room door to arrest him, Herman kills himself!

Happy Ending!

Except for a couple of vignettes where they find the burned skull of the missing dead guy, the library convict gets his books back, and Love flees the prison, traumatized by her threatened rape at the hands of the inmates.

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

They never actually got around to doing any profiling. They just asked who did it until an incredibly shifty guy told them.

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

Um... yes? You'd just have to look into who was where at the time of the crimes. It wouldn't be that difficult at all. Of course, in the real world, it wouldn't have gotten that far, since the corrupt guards would have murdered the inmate who was forced to kill his friend the moment one of the corrupt guards turned up dead.

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

1/10 - They literally just asked people who did it until someone told them. They didn't even catch the vast majority of the killers.

Seriously, here's the plot of this week's episode - the guards were running a fight club, and they forced buddies A and B to fight each other. A killed B, and was traumatized by the act. Nervous guard witnessed the crime and felt guilty. Weeks later, nervous guard gave A a set of keys and info about when the worst of the corrupt guards would be alone, and A and his friends - who are never identified - murdered the guard. There was apparently no retaliation from the corrupt guards. Months later, they did it again, bringing in the team, and escalating things until A was murdered by Herman and the whole thing fell apart.

We still have no idea who the other killers were, or what the significance of '34' was. You see, 34 was just one of the cells, and the fight happened in the secure cell hallway, not any one of the cells. So why fixate on that number? Especially when it wound up having nothing to do with how they solved the crime?

And how on earth can the team justify not calling in backup and securing Herman once they were 100% sure that he murdered that guy downstairs to keep him quiet?

Just a weak episode all around, folks.

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