Criminal Minds 1109: Internal Affairs

The episode opens with a peppy lady arriving to talk to a down-on-her luck lady in a bar! At first she starts talking to the woman about a 'sponsor', making me think of AA, but then she talks about how rough lady hasn't be recruiting enough people. So I guess this episode is about a murderer involved in multi-level marketing? She full on threatens to hurt the rough lady if she doesn't do a better job of recruitment!

Peppy lady calls up 'George', and reports in about the rough lady, then gets instructions on what to do next! Will it be sinister? Obviously yes!

Back in DC, Greg gets stopped by a government official and handed a note, then invited into a limo! What's this nonsense? He's taken to a secret building to meet someone! It probes to be a gentleman's club. Where Greg is meeting an official to talk about the Silk Road investigation - you know, how the League of Assassins were being hired in the first episode of the season?

Anyhoo, the investigation isn't going well, and a DEA agent is dead, and two others are missing.

Wow. A whole lot of people are about to get shot in the head in Mexico. Let's just say that, historically, the DEA does not screw around.

While American goons are shooting up Mexico, though, the government wants Greg's team to investigate the crime! The G-Man thinks that an assistant director in the DEA gave up the undercover agents! So he can't trust anyone inside the DEA!

Oh, and the G-Man reminds Greg that he owes him a favour, and it's only then that I recognize him as the NSA guy who turned over the Mr. Scratch killer last year.

Greg, of course, says yes. So, is this related to the MLM lady? Was that actually the episode being cute about drug dealing, the way that stupid episode of Iron Fist was? Or is this an overarching plot?

Right now Greg thinks the mole hunt part of the investigation is too sensitive to trust the whole team with, so he only brings in Joe! Everyone else is just working the Silk Road angle. He's hoping they can find independent proof of the DEA's involvement, I guess?

Oh, and the dead guy was found with a face on top of his face! Ugh.

Here's the important part - we see pictures of the two other missing agents, and the female one is the rough lady from the opening scene! And the local Silk Road office is run by the 'George' that the peppy lady from the opening scene!

We then see the two DEA agents locked in a barn! A villain comes in and forces them to drink salt water! So two torture episodes in a row, huh? Thanks, Criminal Minds!

Okay, so, now that we know what was going on in that scene, their decision to stage it like a scumbag MLM operation makes zero sense. The whole point of Silk Road is that you can buy illegal things over the internet without anyone knowing who you are. Bitcoin some money to people, and the drugs show up by courier. MLMs, by comparison, require you to constantly be recruiting new people in order to make money - much like traditional drug dealers have to have guys out on the corner, making hand-to-hand deals. Why would you have people doing that if you were operating through Silk Road? Like, I get that you'd need a supply of drugs coming through Mexico, and people doing the packaging and mailing, but you don't need salespeople - salespeople are the ones who get caught, and therefore put your operation at risk.

This kind of drug network is hard to bust because it lacks any of that. Wait, is this a case of the writers doing an episode about Silk Road when they had no idea what that is?

Damn. Embarrassing.

Wow, on the plane they try to explain why a Silk Road drug kingpin would also want a ground operation, and the answer is - they got too greedy! Except, you know, of course that wouldn't happen. Operating entirely online you not only aren't at risk from law enforcement, you're also not at risk from the various other drug kingpins who are already in the area, and will shoot you or cut off your head if you cross them. Who is stupid enough to try to make a little more money in exchange for the much bigger chance of jail and brutal torture?

Oh, and the DEA agent's corpse was found 'near' a mass grave of the cartel's. Was it put there to throw suspicion on them? More importantly, why not just drop the body in the mass grave? Whether it's actually the cartel or someone trying to frame them, what's accomplished by putting the body anywhere but with the other bodies?

At the DEA, Greg meets Graff, the possible traitor, and then sees agent Mitchell arguing with a confidential informant who thinks he's being targeted for murder. It seems he's the one that told the DEA that Silk Road had an IRL component!

It's weird that the Drug Enforcement Administration has a cyber crime division, but I don't see anything particularly unbelievable about that. What I do have trouble with is the people who seriously signed off on this being made:

That's right. No one working on the show bothered to google what DEA stood for. Again, I know that basically no one working on the show cares about doing anything above the absolute minimum, but this is just shameful. You saved three seconds, and as a result, humiliated themselves.

As Greg gets set up, Graff and Mitchell wonder why he's actually there!

At the local field office, the DEA guy explains to them that the Silk Road ground operation is basically an MLM - users get a discount if they recruit other buyers! Brilliant plan! Get a huge number of junkies out there desperately trying to recruit buyers, there's no way that could backfire by attracting a huge amount of attention to your operation, right?

This makes it incredibly easy for the cops to roll up an entire organization, since they just have to arrest and flip their way up the pyramid! Which is the entire problem Silk Road was created to solve!

This is seriously an episode whose genesis was that someone read an article about Silk Road, and said 'what if the Criminal Minds team had to take on Silk Road', and then when they sat down to write it, they realized that they weren't smart enough to figure out a way for the team to do that, so after six grueling hours, they just said 'screw it, what if they were normal drug dealers as well'?

Two crazy parts about the MLM scheme - 1) trying to push drugs will get you caught. You don't have to push drugs. People wants drugs. They will come to you. 2) Why was the DEA agent having such trouble coming up with additional salespeople? Like, perky lady's not going to ask to meet them. You're going to find out more about the organization by doing well in it, so just get some extra buy money, say you've recruited seven people, and look like a star!

That's how people do it in actual MLMs - they just buy the product themselves and pretend they're doing well until they run out of money. Which woudn't have been an issue for the DEA agent, since she's got a government account behind her.

Okay, back to the madness - the rough lady dialed her husband on their anniversary and then just hung up the phone, so it wouldn't technically be a violation. That's going to lead them to the bar from the opening! Also, they're doing all of this to find 'George Washington', the only one who knows the internet people! We discover that Ben Franklin, the perky lady, is the only one who can contact George. Which effectively makes her the second in command, and that's whose identity the squirrely CI knows.

Here's the problem - if she's the second in command of the whole organization, why is she meeting a lowest-level druggie who can't even get five clients together? None of this makes sense!

Over at the morgue, we discover that the killer strangled the DEA agent with his bare hands, then glued a bunch of tacks to the guy's face so that he could stick the woman's face onto the corpse! No luck identifying the woman, BTW.

Wouldn't it be crazy if this was just a guy who hated drug users, and had nothing to do with the cartel? I mean, it's not that, but it would be funny, right?

Wait, is George Washington Graff or Mitchell? If so, then all of this makes even less sense. But we'll cross that bridge if they're stupid enough to build it.

JJ and Aisha go to the bar, and threaten to shut it down unless the owner identifies the rough lady. He mentions perky lady, so that's a lead!

We get a scene with the two captured agents, which serves only to make everything more unpleasant. This type of scene is the cornerstone of what makes this show such a wrenching chore to watch. We're already on the side of the DEA agents, but the show wants to spend time watching them suffer, so that people can get a voyeuristic thrill out of it. We'll already be sad when the guy gets murdered, show - the way you luxuriate in the agony of the victims is what makes it cross the line into torture porn.

By comparison, Hannibal, a far more bloody show, would never have spent this much time focusing on the suffering of characters it was going to kill off. It had more dignity and class.

Hannibal would have eaten Criminal Minds.

Greg interviews Graff about his life, and we find out that he's second-generation DEA! So that's two wasted lives! Graff agrees with me here, talking openly about how nothing they do matters, and there's always more drugs and criminals coming down the line.

Everything he's saying is 100% true - he's just not going far enough, in point of fact, the drug war was always a fake war, designed only to oppress poor and minority people. He probably doesn't feel comfortable saying that to Greg, however.

Anyhoo, I guess he's not the mole? I feel like someone who was betraying his government for tons of cash wouldn't be so open about how much he hates his job. Then again, this is a fairly badly written show, so who knows?

Then it's back to the barn, where the male agent is dragged away to be strangled and have a face pinned to his face. Yay.

Actually, no, he just has his face cut off, and they toss the body. We find that out at the dump site! Time for a profile! They think it's likely an American serial killer who's either a member of the cartel, or who the cartel sends the names of victims to! They also try to cover their bad writing, by suggesting that the DEA agents could have been found out because they weren't able to recruit enough people!

Which is, you know, why they would have recruited fake people. This isn't complicated, show.

Joe calls up Greg to tell him that the first DEA agent was probably killed because he'd figured out who George Washington was. Did a scene get cut? Because they did not say that anywhere within the episode. I mean, I'll go back and check, but they definitely didn't.

Okay, it was just poorly worded in this scene - they're actually talking about Ben Franklin, who the first guy might have met. Although, given the pyramid structure, I'm not sure how that's possible in any way, shape, or form.

At the DEA headquarters, it seems Graff knows about the League! Then Mitchell runs up and says their CI was blown up in his car on his way to meet her!

Then the killer puts on the guy's face to taunt the remaining DEA agent! Because, again, this show loves torture porn.

They've identified the first victim - who was a man, not a woman, and generic druggie as well. Could he have known the killer, and pissed him off, and that's why he wound up faceless? Garcia lets them know that she found a bunch of people with missing faces in Juarez - but interestingly, there were no victims like that north of the border until the file was sent to the El Paso police department! Wait, does that mean the new face stealer is a copycat?

Back in DC, Greg gets a call from Graff to meet him in a hotel bar for a secret conversation! Greg considers taking his car, but then realizes he doesn't want to get blown up again, so he uses a remote car starter to turn it on. Hope it's not a pressure-based bomb, or one attached to the pedals, or Mitchell standing near by with a cell phone! All of those bombs have happened on the show - I don't know if there's ever been a 'wired to the ignition' bomb, though.

It's Graff who gets killed! Shot in the head when he gets into his car! Which is parked in an unguarded lot, somehow? Like, you're one of the heads of the DEA guy, how do you not have a better parking space?

Greg's NSA friend shows up to say that it looks like suicide. But Graff's secret USB drive is missing! Greg, naturally, doesn't believe the situation. He goes to see Mitchell, who says that she and Graff thought Greg was the mole! Because he has such easy access to the identities of undercover DEA agents? Anyway, she's got the thumb drive, and says Graff gave it to her for safe keeping. Just what a killer would say!

Or an innocent person. But still.

Greg finds evidence that someone in the NSA requested the face/off killer's file! So, what, the NSA guy is the villain, and the serial killer is his operative?

On the drugged-out loser's phone they find perky woman's information, and since she matches the description of the person that was meeting rough lady, they rush out to grab her! She claims to know nothing, even when confronted with plenty of evidence! She's a rich white lady with a lawyer husband, of course she's not going to confess!

Greg goes to see his NSA buddy, and accuses him of being George Washington! The guy has proof he was out of the country when the face/off file was requested, so Greg asks where the tip about Graff came from! It was the NSA guy's boss!

More with perky lady. They threaten to tell her husband what she's been up to, and she immediately caves! Wow. That wasn't difficult. She tells them everything she knows without asking for a deal of any kind! Because she's an idiot, I guess?

Seriously, lady, they got you to talk by threatening to tell your husband on you. You don't think he's going to find out when you get arrested for accessory to serial murder?

Derek and Aisha go out to the bus stop where victims are sent to be murdered and go looking around. Derek wants to know who owns the store at the end of the line, since that would be a great place to abduct someone from. But Garcia keeps cutting in and out, because they have bad cell reception.

There's an FBI SUV ten feet away, moron. Call her on the radio in that. But no, the morons split up, with Derek driving up a hill to get a cell signal, while Aisha starts knocking on doors so she can be attacked by the killer.

Derek finally gets the call through and talks to Garcia, who reports that the store owner is a creep who loves killing animals! Derek drives back to help out Aisha in her confrontation with the killer!

They don't call for backup.

The killer TASERs Aisha, then Derek has a foot chase, ending with him shooting the killer to death! They rescue the DEA agent!


Except for a scene where the head of the DEA comes to meet with Greg! Greg accuses him of being the head of the cartel, and announces that the pen he's got on him is actually a USB drive that has the connection codes for all of Silk Road!

Wait, what? He'd just keep that on him?

So did Greg get the right guy, or was this just a brilliant setup by NSA Guy?

There's a wry joke about how shutting down Silk Road accomplished nothing because other cartels moved in immediately, then Greg checks in on Garcia! Turns out she's not living in a safe house, she's actually sleeping in the building!

Greg decides to hang out with her for dinner because she's super sad! He's the best, isn't he?

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

Well, what do you mean by 'helpful'? They did a search for similar murders, and then found that an NSA guy had requested the file so as to create a copycat. They checked a dead guy's phone and he talked to a woman who knew where the killer lived. Not exactly heavy lifting this week.

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

Everything was conventional this week. Everything.

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

1/10 - I have so many questions left about the episode.

Who thought having a ground-based drug operation was a good idea?
Why make it look like people were being killed by a serial killer instead of just burying the bodies?
Why are high-level cartel members meeting with street dealers?
How did Graff's killer get his gun away from him to fake a suicide when he was shot the moment he sat down?
Here's the big one - why did three different DEA Agents go to a suspicious meeting in the middle of nowhere without telling anyone? This couldn't possibly have happened. Yes, the DEA agents normally checked in via making chalk marks on a wall every three days, but there's no way they wouldn't have gotten backup and surveillance before meeting someone out in the middle of the desert. Since the killer didn't know that the kidnapees were DEA agents, he would have faffed around torturing the first one for days like he did, and he would have been caught immediately.

Seriously, this DEA operation couldn't have been worse run. We're expected to believe that two different people had meetings set up with the second-in-command of a drug cartel, and neither made any arrangements to have the locations of those meets watched, to identify the woman?

How did they even get the DEA agents to come to the meeting out in the desert? What could they have possibly been told that would be worth going? They've already met the highest-ranking person in the region, what, she called them and said 'meet me a second time, only in a more isolated location'? Why would they go along with that, rather than just arresting her immediately?

This might be the worst episode of the year. I seriously don't know how they can get more inept than this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great analysis you honestly bring up some great points about the operations and general writing! The only thing throwing me off is why is every character (off the top of my head) called the correct name but Aaron Hotchner is referred to as Greg?