24.12.19

Criminal Minds 1102: The Witness


Out in an arid waste somewhere, a guy hurriedly digs at the dry earth, presumably to bury the body lying next to him! He`s doing it with a tiny shovel insuffiecient for the task, so this is presumably not a well-planned crime.

Then it's over to Los Angeles, where Cho from The Mentalist (Tim Kang, looking weirdly doughy, presumably because he's playing a shaken dude), the man who was burying that body earlier, is sitting in a parking lot, looking at a bus! He gets a call from his wife, who's asking where he is! He responds, asking if she's on 'the bus', and she says that she's not, and badgers him to get into work.

They're having trouble because she cheated on him and then got a promotion! Is that her lover that he killed? More importantly, was he planning to blow up that bus, assuming she'd be on it, and now a bunch of people are going to die for no reason at all, rather than just a bad one?

Cho watches the bus leave and at the next stop the bus doesn't, hitting the curb and almost running into the people waiting for it! It seems everyone on the bus is dead, foaming at the mouth! Oh, so Cho put a gas bomb on the bus and then set it to trigger right after his stop for some reason! Weird that he wouldn't set it to trigger at the stop he was waiting at, so he could confirm his wife's death. Or, like, stalk the bus station where she catches the bus, and only trigger it when she saw her get on.

What a terrible plan this was!

Over in Quantico, we see Aisha and Reid talking about weirdos she counseled while trying to understand the criminal mind! Then the team hears about the bus attack, and they rush from the plane. The Om Shinrikio cult is mentioned in passing, because of the subway attacks. What isn't mentioned is why the team is being sent on this case, rather than the FBI's huge counterterrorism organization.

Of course, I didn't point that out during the bus bombings back in season 1, so it looks like I missed my chance!

Cho gets to his desk, and everyone in the office is staring that the wall-mounted TV - the bus poisoning is all over the news! No one thinks Cho is any more nervous and shady than normal, though, so he's not immediately suspected.

Then he gets a text from someone mysterious on his computer - it say "I KNOW WHAT YOU DID" - damn, looks like Cho's in a world of trouble!
Weirdly, Aisha Tyler isn't in the open credits group shot yet. How long is that going to take?

On the plane, we hear that the attack definitely was Sarin, and the team gives us a recap of the Syrian Civil War and the Tokyo subway attack. Although Aisha phrases the Syria line strangely, saying that Sarin 'was used' in Syria near Damascus. Which is a super-strange way to describe a guy using chemical weapons on his own people, the kind of crime that almost certainly has nothing to do with what you're working on. The team immediately jumps to the conclusion that the killer must have been trying to kill a single person, and the rest were just collateral damage to hide the true target.

I'm not saying you shouldn't check into the backgrounds of all of your victims, just that it's weird to start there on a case like this. It's almost like the characters have read the script!

I mean, in your own experiences with mass casualty attacks, there's only a specific target like 30% of the time.

Over at Cho's office, he asks who his chat buddy is, and they reply that they're a witness to the fact that he's a murderer! Of course, he committed both a regular murder and a mass-murder in the past day, so the guy's going to have to be a little more specific. The blackmailer wants Cho to do something for him, and threatens to call the cops if he won't!

Derek, Greg, and Aisha get to the FBI office and get a rundown. Apparently all of the ex-members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult have been accounted for, and their alibis checked out, so we can just drop that theory. Really? The attack was four hours ago and you've already identified, tracked down, and cleared every cultist in southern California - which is where we were told a bunch of them lived?

That seems like a stretch.

Then Aisha suggests the poisoner could have been on the bus, trying to commit suicide, but the local agent explains that there's 'no evidence of that'. What would that evidence look like, though? A suicide note? A gas bomb with fingerprints all over it? If Aisha was right, there's a good chance this scene would look exactly the same, so again, it's not something to dismiss out of hand.

Aisha responds with a line that wins her a first Prentiss Award! That didn't take long-

No, Aisha, in Parlour Room mysteries, the point is that there's a bunch of suspects who all could have done it, and you've gathered them in an accusing parlour, and gradually go over what everyone did before revealing the culprit. This is nothing like that. In this case, all of the people are dead, and you were just told none of them is the killer.

It's possible that you meant 'locked room mystery', but that's not a good comparison either, since in locked room mysteries you don't know how the killer got in and then escaped. Here, you'd just assume that the killer got on, left a gas bomb, then walked off.

It turns out one of the victims - in an amazing coincidence, had actually been a journalist in Syria! That's an ironic twist! More importantly, though, they go to scour the security cameras around the various bus stops along the route, hoping to find footage of the killer! Do LA buses have security cameras? Let's further freak out my google search history by checking!

Turns out it's up in the air - all new buses purchased after 2014 have a security camera setup showing everyone who gets on the bus, and a second one with a continuous shot of the seating area, but only some older buses have been retrofitted.

It turns out the killer trapped the bus by using an air-tight, battery-powered fish food dispenser. Every day at a certain time it clicks to a new open slot, and one of them would have fish food in it! Reid points out that his fish food dispenser has six weeks worth of food, so that's how long ago the killer could have been on the bus!

Except, you know, this isn't your fish feeding machine. Shouldn't you pop open the machine and check how many slots it has before jumping to that conclusion? Also, they keep referring to it as 'homemade', so really you should be making no guesses until you've had a look at the timer mechanism.

A roundtable discussion reveals that Sarin is super-difficult to make, so you'd think only a large organization could manage it, but since no one has claimed responsibility in the six hours since the attack, there's no reason to believe that's what's going on. Could there be a lone chemistry expert planning mass casualty attacks?

Garcia then calls in to call the journalist a coward for leaving Syria when the war started to get hot. Well, was he a war correspondent, or just a guy covering the Arab spring? Seems like a dickish thing to say, Garcia. Point is, he wasn't a big wheel people would want to kill. Oh, and Greg tells her to look for chemists who are having marital trouble. Which is a solid way to narrow that down, profiling!

At work, Cho gets a phone call from a burner in an envelope. The guy wants him to break into a place and get a laptop - or he'll go to jail! What is Cho's deal? Why would this guy think he's a good person to try to commit this crime?

Just then Cho's wife grabs him and apologizes, since almost being on the bus that was killed has freaked her out and reminded her about the value of human life! Aw, isn't it nice when mass murder brings couples together?

At the office, Derek wonders where one might get Sarin gas - supposedly all of it has been destroyed, but Syrian proved that wasn't the case. Also, Garcia has found a chemist who was fired from his job over a gambling addiction, and swore revenge on everyone! That sounds like a pretty good lead, but it's not Cho, who works in a medical supply company. Which would probably give him access to the equipment necessary to build the gas.

Unless Cho really did just kill that one guy, and the show has been edited to completely misdirect us since? That would be weird. I guess the poisoner would have seen Cho kill the guy somehow? No, that's all too preposterous. Then again, this is Criminal Minds, so...

The team has video of Cho in the parking lot doing something strange. He got out of his car, walked over to the bus stop, then came back a few minutes later and washed his hands and feet. I'd assumed that this was because of dirt from the corpse burying, but the team thinks it could be a countermeasure to make sure he's not poisoned! This is actually pretty strange, because we saw him sitting in his car, watching the bus before washing his hands, so he couldn't possibly have planted it just then, since you'd have to believe that the bus was just sitting around for five minutes while he got on, sat down, put something under the seat, and then got back off.

Also, his hands are empty when he's walking to the bus. So it wasn't planted then. Maybe he went over to make sure his wife was on the bus? Actually, that can't be it either, since when she calls him, he assumes that she is. This is all quite puzzling. If nothing else, the fact that he clearly wasn't carrying the bomb should make them skeptical that he's involved.

The team goes to Cho's office to interview him, and we find him still there! He's genuinely surprised to be asked about the Sarin attack, and then super-nervous when they ask him where he was the previous night. While he's claiming to have just gone out for drinks, we discover that Cho had stolen his wife's phone, and when her lover texted it with a meeting place, he drove out there to murder him! Or at least confront him, and it turned to murder.

Cho lies badly to the team about the previous night, and we've entered into a hilarious situation where a guy's fumbling attempts to cover up one murder are implicating him in another!

Leaving the office, Joe and Aisha agree that he looked genuinely surprised about the Sarin attack, but decide to investigate him anyway, since he was so obviously nervous about the events of the previous night. So now they're just wasting time on shift-eyed people when they should be trying to catch a mass murderer who has no obvious connection to Cho?

That night Cho drives out to the house he was told to steal a laptop from, and finds that the window has already been broken, making getting inside a snap! Oh, and there's a dead body inside - a guy who was shot in the head! Cho hears a siren approaching outside, and runs outside, presumably getting caught immediately.

Actually, apparently he wasn't - despite the fact that when we see him drive up to the house it's a wood cabin at the end of a dirt road, meaning there's literally nowhere he could have driven to get away or hidden his car in the 30 seconds he had before the cops arrived, we're just supposed to accept that he escaped.

You know, show, you could have just had him flee when he was understandably freaked out by the corpse. Adding the siren just makes the episode nonsensical.

In the next scene, we get one of the dumbest scenes in recent memory-

If they didn't know this already, why did Reid think they were at the cabin? There's nothing connecting this to the Sarin attack other than the identity of the dead body - it isn't even his cabin! So what did Reid think they were doing during the hour-long drive out into the woods?

The chemist was shot a day and a half earlier, and then someone called in a tip an hour ago - so the killer is trying to frame Cho for the attacks? Weird choice.

Wow, this episode doesn't care about timelines at all, either - the phone call was less than an hour earlier. There's no cabins within an hour of downtown Los Angeles, which is where the team is staying. Even if the team had heard about the dead body immediately, they couldn't be here yet, and realistically they wouldn't have even known to drive out until the cops identified the body and called it in, at which point Garcia's APB would have been notified.

Confusingly, it turns out the guy that Reid and Derek are talking to is not a detective, as I'd assumed because he says that they got an 'anonymous tip about the sound of gunfire', but an 'Agent'. Of what? It can't be the FBI, because people don't call the FBI about gunfire. So maybe he's an investigator with the state police? Which makes this place sound even more remote, and the timeline make even less sense.

They mention that there's a gas station 25 miles back on the only road leading to the cabin, and think that the killer might have stopped there. If they were terrible at planning. Seriously, if you're going out into the woods to commit a crime, fill up your gas tank first, don't just hope you find an open gas station along the way.

It turns out the dead chemist worked for the company that made most of the US government's Sarin gas - and they might have had stockpiles of it left over! Presumably the killer bought some from the chemist, and then executed him to keep him from talking!

Profile time! They think that the gas bomb was, in fact, a terrorist attack, but that the killers are only using ideology as a front, and they really just want to kill people. This is based on no information whatsoever. Literally all they know is that some gas killed people, and the guy the killer got it from is dead. That's it.

We check in with Cho, who's having breakfast with his daughter, while the killer looms in a car outside! The killer calls him, and asks for the laptop, claiming not to have known about the dead body. Well then who called the cops? I mean, Cho doesn't know the body was long cold, but still, their showing up just then was incredibly convenient.

The killer then taunts Cho about murdering the wife's lover, and we see a flashback. They got into a fight, the guy went for a pistol and tried to kill Cho, but Cho turned it around on him! Score! Seriously, why did the guy just have a gun sitting in a bag by the bed? Was he the one who killed the chemist, and that's why the killer was in the parking lot and witnessed Cho's crime? Does the wife know about her lover's crimes? Was she the target all along in the bus attack?

Okay, I'm officially going down a rabbit hole.

Anyhoo, the killer sends Cho the location of another package he needs to grab.

At the office, we find out that the chemist was asking about the super-illegal Sarin stockpile at his job, which seems like a great way to get fired, since the existence of that stockpile is a federal crime. Oh, and the agent from earlier - who turns out to be an FBI special agent (there are no 'agents' in the FBI, just 'Special Agent' and up - FBI agents have very fragile egos) after all, making the cabin scene make even less sense.

Then it turns out that the gas station had footage of Cho! Joe doesn't seem surprised at all, which is strange, because his involvement in the Sarin attack is utterly unexpected and this coincidence defies all probability. But Joe is just 'yup, just as I suspected'.

Ugh.

Cho goes to work and sees that his wife is having a bad day! It seems the lover's brother dropped by to ask if anyone had heard from him! He works at the same company, it seems. Cho wants to point out that she's been lying and that she's still sleeping with her lover, but that would lead to him confessing to murder, so he's in a bit of a bind, really. He then says that his wife can leave him, but she won't get custody. You know, with all the cheating and such.

Joe and Reid go to the office to check with Cho, and on the way Garcia has used his social media history to find out that his wife is cheating on him! Nothing is private from her, unless the script requires it to be! They found out that he'd left for a 'meeting'.

Cho goes to get the package from the storage place, but then the guy keeps him waiting for twenty minutes. When he finally comes back, it's with a mysterious cardboard box that has his name on it! Inside: a gas mask and the haz-mat suit the guy used to make the bombs!

At the office, Joe and Reid are interviewing the wife. She's surprised that her phone was found in Cho's desk - I'm surprised that she didn't notice that her phone was missing for two full days! Anyhow, she confesses about the affair, and they find the text message, so they're able to figure out that Cho went to talk to the lover and ended up killing him. But what does any of that have to do with Sarin?

Joe says that rage against a spouse can make a person do crazy things, but since it can't make you have retroactively planned a massive terrorist attack on the city of Los Angeles, I don't know why he bothered to say it.

Cho gets on the phone with the killer, and accuses him of trying to set him up for the terrorism. Which, you know, duh. Cho mentions that there's a million-dollar reward for the killer's capture, and suggests he should just call it. The killer says he doesn't have that option, because the killer knows he killed the lover.

Except, you know, it was the lover's gun. Cho can just tell the cops that he went to the motel to confront the lover, and the lover pulled a gun and attacked him, and that during the fight, the gun went off. Since that's what actually happened, it'll make for a good story. Yes, burying the body in a ditch doesn't make him look good, but he'll explain that he was panicked and didn't know what to do.

If Cho got more than five years for the crime, I'd be very surprised - spoiler alert, juries often have sympathy for guys who kill their wife's lover, so Prosecutors tend to offer favorable terms to avoid having to go to trail.

Anyhoo, the killer threatens Cho's daughter, and Cho goes racing off after a van that he suspects has the killer in it, because there's a glimpse of a girl in a yellow sweater in the van's window.

Garcia looks up the lover's backstory, and yeah, he was a guy who grew up in a cult, and his half-brother is the killer. So I guess Cho's not going to jail at all? I mean, he murdered a terrorist the night before he was planning on poisoning a huge portion of the city. The guy's basically Batman.

The team immediately figures out the whole plot - that Cho and the killer went to see the lover at the same time, then the killer has been manipulating Cho since. Oh, and yeah, the wife was the target of the bus attack. They go over the killer's views, and he seems super-pissed about Waco and Ruby Ridge, so they figure the FBI office is his target!

We see more of Cho driving, and they're still so bad at filming and editing that it's not clear that he's chasing the van, eventually he sees the van go into a parking lot, and chases them in there, knocking down the wooden arm blocking the entrance.

Okay, I'm not sure why it took me this long to notice that this is their tribute to Arlington Road, but here we are.

More importantly, just like Arlington Road, this episode is set in a bizarre fictional universe where it's possible to simply drive a car into the FBI's parking lot. Spoiler alert - visitor parking is like a hundred meters from the entrance specifically so people can't use bombs on the building. The secure parking area has metal walls that can't be breached by anything short of a tank.

So yeah, the whole end of the episode where he drives a car full of gas bombs in the trunk (they were loading them while he waited for the package) into the parking lot is utter madness.

They use security videos to track the killer's location - he's in the parking lot across the street, watching the building so he can enjoy seeing federal agents die! Except, you know, all of his gas devices are sealed in the trunk of a car. I can't imagine what he'd think was going to happen when they went off. Won't they just fill the trunk of the car with Sarin? How is that going to hurt anyone?

The killer waits for 5PM and takes out his gas mask, expecting things to get good. Then we see a shot of the gas being let out - into the trunk of the car. Cut back to him looking puzzled as to why nothing is happening. Because nothing was ever going to happen, you absolute moron.

Greg arrests him without incident.

THE END

Cho is briefly reunited with his family, then taken away by the cops. Presumably to receive an award from the mayor for murdering that terrorist psychopath? Again, this guy is going to do zero jail time. I'd be surprised if he even ended up having to pick up litter.

On the plane, Reid and Aisha talk about coincidence! It doesn't matter.

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

Nope. They just followed one piece of evidence to the next.

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

Yes, cops can also follow lists of obvious clue.

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

1/10 - Hey, so nothing the killer did made sense this week! How did he think that 'framing' Cho for the crime would accomplish anything? The guy had no history of anti-government activities, or capability to set up and pull off the crimes. Weirdly, the killer only got caught because he involved Cho in his crimes. If he's just murdered Cho in revenge for his brother - or left him completely alone, for that matter - his plan would have gone off without a hitch!

Hid plan was to let a a bunch of Sarin gas sit in a car trunk, without bothering anyone, so I don't know how effective it would have been, but he would have accomplished it!

Seriously, though - why make twenty different time-release bombs if you're just going to put them all in the same place? Nothing about this episode made sense, people. Nothing.

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