30.11.19

Criminal Minds 1018: Rock Creek Park

The episode opens with a woman walking down a tunnel and then disappearing through a door - this becomes security footage, and we're told that the woman is a congressman's wife, and she's been missing for twelve hours! She left lunch with her husband, and then mysterious disappeared!

The congressman shows up, and the show is weirdly coy about announcing what party he's from. When listing his enemies, he says that the oil lobby is after him, as is the NRA and PETA. He describes this as being a 'equal-opportunity offender', which is kind of hilarious. You're obviously a Democrat, dude. They wouldn't let you into the Republic Party if you're against guns or oil. As for PETA, they hate basically every elected politician other than Corey Booker. And that's just a guess because he's vegan. They might hate him too, though. It's hard to tell with them.

Of course, it's doubtful that this is related directly to lobbying interests, because this isn't an episode of Scandal or Damages, people don't get kidnapped and murdered to make sure a bill passes.

Garcia drops in with some info - the Library of Congress' video setup was hacked and the footage set to loop - so someone with expertise had planned her disappearance! Of course, that someone had to have known her exact planned route leaving lunch with her husband, so they'd have to be very close. Was she in on it?

I'm worried that they're going to drop the surveillance angle, though, since they have Garcia say that it 'wouldn't take a lot of brainpower' to get into the DC Metro's surveillance system and loop the video. Which is, of course, ridiculous. You'd have to be incredibly skilled at computer hacking to get into a system like that and make the changes without anyone detecting them as they were happening, and you'd have to be even better to do without leaving a trace for Garcia to follow. I'm guessing the show just doesn't want us to think about that, though, so let's move on.

The news has been tipped off about the kidnapping - but by whom? JJ arrives with the last phone message that the wife left - she was calling a lawyer, and we hear her saying 'what are you doing - let go of me!' Unfortunately they don't let us know when this phone call was made, so we can't easily compare it to when she was last seen.

Also, no one has mentioned the GPS in her phone, and how vital it is to know when and where it was shut off.

CR

The team ponders how a woman could have been abducted from the Library of Congress, although they haven't established that she was, since they gave us no info about the call times. Let's say she was, though, that still makes Reid's comment about it being easier to grab someone from a public place kind of silly. He says that if she was drugged it would just look like family members helping a sick person out of the building.

Except no, it absolutely wouldn't. First off, we heard her yell and struggle on the phone call. Secondly, DC government buildings are swarming with police and security all the time. They've been hyper-vigilant since a certain event involving a plane and a pentagonally-shaped building. If the woman was awake at all, the security forces would have seen her struggling, if she was asleep and being dragged, they would have intervened to get medical attention. This isn't a carnival somewhere - this is the Library of Congress.

The only possible way to get it done is if she's still inside the building - every exit is guarded in a meaningful way, so unless all the guards were in on it, this kidnapping couldn't have happened the way the characters are assuming it was.

Greg goes over the congressman's voting record. Is his opposition to fracking causing the oil companies to turn to kidnapping? Obviously not, that would be insane. They announce they're going to bring his family into protective custody - this includes his mother, and his brother, who has lived with her since he got out of rehab. Oh, a dirtbag brother? Will that come up again, or is it just a red herring?

Joe calls in with a lead from organized crime! Russian mobsters were planning a kidnapping today, but there were no specifics on the wiretaps, so the FBI didn't know who to warn? So, wait, it was large burly Russian guys trying to drag a woman out of the Library of Congress? How would that have been possible?

Also, I just looked up the Library of Congress, and - no surprise - they have no public parking. So how did these guys get the woman out of there? There's no street parking at any time, there are gatehouses with guards, and again - no one would put up with you dragging a lady down thirty steps, then shoving her into a stopped car. None of this could have happened like we're being told.

The team recognizes that the Russian connection is their best lead yet, so Reid goes to talk to the agent they have surveilling the operation. Reid is the natural choice to help out, since he has a good memory and speaks Russian, in fact, the local agent says it's a waste for him to have come if he doesn't, suggesting that all the mobsters speak Russian on the phone to each other all the time - which makes it a little hilarious that we already heard two guys speaking English to each other in thick Russian accents.

You don't care about basic consistency at all, do you, Criminal Minds?

Also, just to be a dick, when Reid finds out that the agent is reading Great Expectations for the first time, he spoils the ending for her. You're the worst, Reid.

Joe goes to check on the congressman, who thinks that if he'd just walked his wife to the car and gotten her a cab, this wouldn't have happened! Joe tells him not to beat himself up, but he's not good at comforting people.

Why is no one asking who knew the wife's schedule? This kidnapping would have had to have been extensively planned. There's no way to follow and grab her in the congressional tunnels, meaning they'd have to know exactly where she was planning to leave and when - this requires a minute-perfect understanding of her movements that a couple of Russian mobsters wouldn't have access to - even if the rest of the plan made sense, which is absolutely doesn't.

JJ takes the mother and brother to a secure room, and the brother is weirdly jittery, announcing that he's got a soup kitchen he's supposed to be volunteering at. Also, he's got massive scars on one side of his face. What's going on with this guy? While the mother talks about what a great marriage the couple has, the brother is a sarcastic dick the entire time, and shows no concern whatsoever about the possibility that his sister-in-law has been kidnapped and possibly murdered. Time to get this guy alone for an interview, I'm guessing.

It's almost comedic how shifty they're making the brother - as if the script said that he wasn't able to meet anyone's gaze, and the actor decided to take that as literally as possible. In almost every shot of the guy he makes a point of turning his face away from someone.

At the deer blind, Reid watches the cleaning lady make a phone call home, and the show does something a little clever! By focusing on Reid, they let us know that we're going into his head, and then the audio fades from an African language to accented English. So when we next hear the mobsters we can assume that they're actually speaking Russian, and Reid is just translating for us. Doesn't explain that first scene, though.

The Russians say that they'll be needed very soon, and have to be ready with a truck to go to the 'office'. Instead of immediately calling their superiors to get them ready to tail the vehicles, Reid and the Agent chat about languages and coffee for a few seconds. Then the show cuts away, making them look terribly unprofessional.

Back at the office, Derek reports that gun lobbyists claim that they don't bother with first-term congressmen like the victim's husband. Which is kind of a crazy thing to say - even if the NRA didn't aggressively go after every anti-gun measure at every level of government all the time, the phrasing makes it sound like the NRA is saying that the guy wasn't important enough to have his wife kidnapped, but they'd totally do it if he was more prominent. Which might not be the best message to be sending, lobbyists. The phrasing is even more hilarious, because Derek says he doubts that they'd use the Russian mob if they were involved - because he figures they could get plenty of local crazies to do it, I suppose?

Do the show's producers realize just how anti-NRA this episode just became?

Things get even dumber, though, when we get this exchange, which we'll have to take on step-by-step:



First off, oil isn't 'slimy'; that suggests a level of viscosity that oil doesn't possess. Moreover, your idea about motive doesn't make sense. The guy is against US domestic oil and gas production. Russia is a major exporter of oil and gas. If they want anything at all, it's for there to be less oil and gas production in America, so that prices will rise and they'll make more money. Yes, Russians have involved themselves in American politics recently, but it's not to get Americans to drill for more oil, it's to remove sanctions so that American Mega-Corporations can help them get more oil out more cheaply and efficiently. An anti-fracking bill covering the west coast would be the best possible thing for Russia.

Just then, a reporter appears, demanding an interview with the congressman in exchange for the ransom video she just received? Greg threatens her, but doesn't just take the video and arrest her, since she's actually committing a crime.

The video is simple - wire 20 Million Dollars to a bank account or she'll be killed at midnight!

The bank routing number is in a Cypriot bank that Russians use to launder money! There's some discussion about why anyone would think that the Congressman has 20 million dollars to turn over - perhaps it's because there was a recent announcement that he has a campaign 'war chest' of 50 million dollars? The team brings up the important point - who would be smart enough to engineer a preposterous kidnapping, but dumb enough to think that a politician can pay ransoms with campaign money? Is there something else going on here?

The Congressman is flustered and has no idea what do to - but Greg has a plan! It's to ask for proof of life and to have the kidnappers phone for purposes of negotiation. So his plan is to do exactly what the kidnapping negotiation handbook tells you to do?

Wow. Much professional. Such FBI.

Then it's over to the interview with the Congressman, who breaks down in his interview with the sleazy reporter.

Over at the deer blind, Garcia calls in with some info - the crook they're watching is a brutal murderer! Yeah, no shock there. Reid asks her to check his communication since he arrived in Washington two years ago - whoever talked to him most and helped him out would likely be the "Uncle" he referred to on the call, since "Uncle" is frequently used as an honorific for any senior member of a crime family.

After the broadcast about the 20 million dollar ransom goes out there's some chatter at the deer blind. It seems the kidnappers - that's right, the Russians were involved, this wasn't a red herring - only thought that the ransom was going to be two million, and they're feeling betrayed! This can't go well for anyone!

Back at the office, Love wins a Prentiss Award for this line:



She's absolutely right, of course. Why am I giving her the Prentiss Award for saying something correct? Because it's so obvious that it shouldn't have had to be said aloud. Anyone with the most basic understanding of the concepts of supply and demand knows this. Yet there she stands, holding a legal pad and pen, as if she's been crunching the numbers and has just proven that if there's less oil and gas on the market, then prices will go up!

Dear god, this show.

The kidnappers call in to demand the money, but when they put the wife on to talk, it's through a voice changer, and she isn't able to answer a simple question about their first date - so is the wife even alive at all? According to Love, the call was routed through Chechnya, so it couldn't be traced!

The team goes over the wording of the note to see if they can glean any info from it. Damn, if only Jeanne hadn't quit the team, she could have solved this in a second! I'm kidding, of course, she was never useful.

They notice that the kidnappers mentioned the Congressman's family, and referred to the original amount as 'pocket change'. Was the scummy brother in on the plan, and that's why he's so shifty all the time? Turns out that the brother recently went to jail for trying to rob the restaurant he worked at - he was going to use the money to pay back Russian drug dealers he owed money to!

This is a good lead, but why didn't they have it yet?

Like, the moment you found out the Congressman's wife had been kidnapped, shouldn't doing a background check on everyone involved have been your first priority?

They go to the brother and demand to know where he got the money to pay off the mob - was it by setting up the kidnapping? At the same time, they confront the mother, and Joe uses the word 'jealous' over and over again when he really means 'envious'. Interestingly, we learn that he got the scar when an upstairs neighbour poured a pan of boiling oil out a window. The kid was five at the time.

Was he growing up in the distant past? Who throws boiling oil out a window? Isn't this family well-to-do? Why did they have neighbours living close enough for that to happen? Is that just a story they tell because he was actually badly burned by a family member? Is his brother a monster, and this is all a plan to embezzle campaign money and disappear?

Okay, that last one's a bit of a stretch, I'll admit.

The brother claims that the Congressman paid off his drug debt, but it wasn't because he's a great guy! He actually did it because the brother threatened to reveal that he'd been cheating on his new wife with an intern, and he's actually a dirtbag!

Garcia tracks the phone call and it turns out that the call came from a warehouse abutting Rock Creek Park - perhaps not coincidentally, that's the same park that the Congressman and his wife went on a walk through on their first date, and the caller claiming to be her failed to mention that?

I guess that's why he didn't just ask her what restaurant they went to, which is a much more rational question - if he'd done that, it wouldn't have been a clue for later! Unless, you know, she was being held in a warehouse across the street from the restaurant.

The team searches the warehouse, and finds nothing but a gift laid out on a table - they wait until it's been checked to see if it's an IED, a term I still hate the sound of people using. Just say bomb. It's more honest. Finally they open it, and find a severed ear inside, with the wife's earring! But is it her ear?

Ears are as unique as fingerprints (meaning a decent amount, but not really that much), so it shouldn't be that hard to check if they've got a picture of the side of her head.

Back at the base, the team wonders what the kidnappers' game is - they could have made the call harder to track, but they wanted the team to find the earring, so they'd know who was in charge! Apparently there are no witnesses around the warehouse, either, but no one mentions the proximity between the warehouse and the park the Congressman mentioned earlier.

The intern is brought in, and before they even start talking to her, Greg and JJ go to the Congressman and accuse him of planning the kidnapping with his mistress! Weird place to jump off of, guys, but okay.

They tell two competing stories - the mistress says that they've carried on their affair for the past year, and that he said his wife would be gone soon, while the Congressman says that the intern is unstable and had been stalking him, and he only saw her the previous night because she threatened to kill herself if he didn't come over. So who's telling the truth? Psychology doesn't seem like it's getting the job done, so I guess they'll have to resort to actually investigating!

Hey, does the intern speak Russian? Just a thought.

At the duck blind, Reid overhears the mobster attempting to rape his maid, and he wants to intervene, but the agent explains that if they do that, they'll never get a lead on the kidnapping or the missile launchers that the Russians are supposedly selling!

More importantly, though, the Russian mentions that the maid doesn't smell like cleaning products as she usually does, but rather like flowers or the woods - could she have been out in the park, taking part in the kidnapping?

Has Reid figured this out? Probably not, since he doesn't know about the park.

The team meets up to look over new evidence, and Garcia has found something juicy! It seems that the Congressman bought bullets with his credit card recently, and shipped them to a post office in Virginia! But why, since no one has been shot so far? Or is it the wife or mistress framing him, since they'd both have access to his credit card information!

Before we move on to him being interviewed about this, I just wanted to say wow, Love's baby is growing fast!

She was wearing a baggy jacket all last week to conceal her stomach, so I didn't realize just how pregnant she was! Is this a situation where Love got pregnant during the season and they quickly had to write it into the show last week? Just a quick check...

Yup, she'd just had a child when she started the job, and got pregnant again during the season! Good for her!

They confront the Congressman about the gun, and he claims that he bought it to protect himself from the intern. The intern says that he's lying, so Love comes up with a plan to figure out the truth! She said that they had unprotected sex the night before, and Love says if she consents to be medically examined,  they can prove it, one way or another!

More at the deer blind - they get a call to get the truck and some ski masks ready! Then they find out that the maid was hiding in the closet, listening in! This is looking bad for her!

It turns out that the intern won't be medically examined, so she might be lying! Joe checks with Reid to see if they have any way to contact the kidnappers, and just as he's doing it, the kidnappers prepare to murder the maid for eavesdropping - Reid wants to run over to attempt to save her, but we hear a gunshot!

Naturally, this was the one Russian shooting the lecherous one - as predicted, the forest smells were a big clue. He confesses to a bunch of stuff and Reid hears it all - they identify that the contact was pissed off about being asked for more money, but they're convinced that she'll pay if the wife is killed!

That's right, the person who hired the Russians is a woman! So is it the crazy stalker or the mother? Where would the stalker get a huge amount of money for a professional murder, and why would the mother want her daughter-in-law dead?

They remember that the Congressman said that his mother was a harsh monster, and they go to interview her. The theory? She thought that the woman wasn't a suitable wife for a future president, so she wanted her executed! Which was apparently going to cost two million dollars and involve a ridiculous kidnapping ruse? Couldn't they have just shot her in a parking lot and stolen her car? It's not like there was a time limit on this crime, was there?

Seriously, what was the whole kidnapping ruse meant to accomplish?

They decide to pressure the mother by threatening to arrest the Congressman. What for? Weapons possession and the intent to murder his wife. Okay, here's the thing, Greg, first off, you don't know where the gun is, so the weapons possession charge will be hard to make stick, and secondly, intending to murder your wife isn't a crime. Like, at all. This is gibberish.

Still, the threat of hurting her son's political career gets her to cave - which is weird, because the wife being kidnapped by the mother will also ruin his political career. I'm not saying she shouldn't talk, I'm just saying the there's three ways this can go - the FBI ruins his career by arresting him on bogus charges, the FBI ruins his career by arresting his mother for an elaborate kidnapping and attempted murder scheme, or they somehow get away with it by saying nothing. Why not just roll the dice and hope you get away with it, since the charges against your son won't stick anyhow?

Anyhoo, they rescue the wife, and yes, her ear was cut off. Ick.

THE END

The next day, everyone is watching the Congressman thank the FBI, and they comment that his approval ratings are up! Could he have a bright political future after all? Probably not, what with the mother going to jail for life in a giant scandal.

Over at the deer blind, Reid and the agent chat some more, and then he asks her out on a date!

There's a final scene with the Congressman, who visits with his mother! He's grateful that her plan had the intended effect of making people love him, and now he wants her help in planning the next steps of his career!

So he really was evil, after all! Are we sure he didn't burn his brother's face off as well?

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

Not really. They just surveilled the Russians until they found out that a woman paid for the kidnapping, and then looked into the two women involved in the case. Only one of them had the means to pay for the crime.

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

They did.

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

1/10 - So, this episode made no sense, huh? It's actually hard to figure out exactly what any part of the plan was. Like, why did the mobsters ask for more money? Were they planning to give the wife back if the Congressman had come up with it? They knew that it was a fake kidnapping, and the mother was going to pay them to kill the wife, so why risk screwing everything up by changing the terms of the deal?

You can say it's greed, but we're told that they changed it because they found out about his campaign money - but the mother didn't have any access to that, and they were working for the mother, not the son.

Also, let's not forget that kidnappings are much harder to get away with than murders - if the whole point of this was to get sympathy, a wife murdered in a carjacking is just as high-profile as one killed by vicious kidnappers - and it gives the cops less to investigate afterwards.

More importantly, why did they do the kidnapping in the most public place, in the most public way? Couldn't you have just grabbed or killed her in a parking lot? Or was there some cachet in kidnapping her in a way that would almost certainly have wound up with the criminals being captured?

Again, why was any of this necessary?

Absolutely nothing in this episode could have happened, and it was just a mess of an episode all around, Criminal Minds.

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