Criminal Minds 1214: Collision Course

We pick up soon after the end of the last episode! So no, I wasn't forced to watch Beyond Borders, thank heavens! Reid's in jail, and they're hoping a fresh drug test will prove that Mr. Scratch drugged him with his custom brainwashing cocktail in Mexico!

While Emily is looking after Reid, the rest of the team has a new case to work! So I guess this 'Reid in jail' thing is going to last a little while? Off-brand for them, but I'm interested to see where it goes! The new case? Someone is making self-driving cars run over pedestrians in Florida! Both of them at the exact same stretch of road!

We see footage of people getting hit, and it's kind of weird, because neither of them checked for oncoming traffic before stepping off the sidewalk. Really, I'm saying this is kind of on them. Joe announces that Garcia is coming along with them to run the tech angle locally, and then once more butchers the catchphrase, announcing that they'll have 'wheels up in 20'. Which, again, is not possible, you stupid, stupid people.

Like, maybe they changed it to keep from disrespecting the memory of Aaron? If so, just make it a bigger number, and stop making fools of yourselves. Even Forrest Whitaker said 'Wheels up in 40', which was a delusional statement, given that he was in central DC when he said it.

In Jail, Reid gets a visit from Emily! They're letting him wear a cardigan instead of prison clothes! That's nice of them. Reid's mad at himself for 'falling into Scratch's trap', which he should be, what with him only falling into it because he did zero due diligence on the drugs he was giving to his mother. Was he hoping that she'd be poisoned with arsenic or something?

Emily then asks if she can send a lawyer friend of hers to defend Reid, and Reid is worried that helping him will damage her reputation in the FBI. Here's the thing, though - the FBI is in the business of avoiding embarrassment whenever possible. If a lawyer can prove that Reid is innocent, that's a huge win for them - and if they don't have to stick their neck out to get that result, that's even better from their POV!

On the plane, the team goes over the casefile. In a silly moment, they wonder if the pedestrians could have been the killer's targets. That's the two people who it couldn't have been. The killer is murdering people by running them over with a remote-controlled car. That means their ability to kill is based entirely on who happens to be walking across the street when one of the hackable cars is driving up to the intersection. It would be impossible to target a specific person that way.

So the target is either the drivers, or the concept of auto-pilot enabled cars.

In DC, Emily meets with her lawyer friend, who worries that the prosecution has a fairly decent case! Of course, what goes unmentioned is that the team has like a year to come up with evidence of who the real killer is, since there's no way a case this weird is getting into court any time soon.

At the crime scene, they look around to attempt to figure out how the killer was watching the crosswalk - after all, he must have been, how else could he have timed the attacks! Garcia points out that there's a traffic camera on the corner, which the killer probably hacked into. The local investigator explains that the city has traffic cameras like that anywhere, which for some reason doesn't raise a vital question in the team's mind - why this intersection? After all, if the whole city is on camera, and the killer can hack cars from wherever, it must be vitally important that the kills take place at the intersection. Hopefully it won't take them long to get there...

Aisha interviews one of the drivers to see if she has any strange memories about the day that stick out! She remembers driving home from work, but the radio mysteriously shifted to 98.2, and then all of the other electricals freaked out as well! Then the car full-on started driving itself towards the murder site! She remembers trying to scream to get the guy to notice her coming, but she doesn't remember honking the horn, which is like, the first thing you would do.

Unless the hacker turned off the horn, somehow.

Aisha reassures the woman that she did nothing wrong. I feel like not honking and forgetting the emergency brake exists are both wrong things. Still, it's a nice sentiment.

In jail, Reid meets his new lawyer! He professes ignorance of what happened in Mexico, and basically the whole scene is just rehashing last week's plot, so let's move on.

In Florida, the hacker takes over another car, and once again the guy doesn't try to turn it off or hit the emergency brake! We get one new piece of information, though - the killer is specifically changing the radio station to 98.2 - it's not just a byproduct of the hack!

We also have it reinforced that people in this city are TERRIBLE at looking both ways before crossing the street. By which I mean he hits another lady. The driver manages to hit the horn as he's doing it, though - just think, if you'd been hitting the horn the whole time, she wouldn't have walked out into the road!

True story - I was once driving in ice rain, going just 20KPH - a hundred meters ahead, I saw a couple press a crosswalk button and start across the street. I hit the brake and the car didn't slow down at all - it just kept sliding at exactly the same speed (the road has a slight downward grade). The moment I noticed I wasn't stopping, I jammed my hand on the horn and kept it there until they'd moved back. Then, as I slid past the crosswalk, I yelled apologies out the window I'd immediately opened.

What I'm saying is, this guy doesn't have much of an excuse for sloppy emergency driving.

JJ and Joe go to the new crime scene, and notice that a new car was involved! Also, there are no cameras around, so the driver must be watching through the car's dashboard camera! The NTSB cop walks over with news - the car swerved around one possible victim before hitting the next! JJ thinks this means he's narrowing his targets - there must be a reason he wanted to hit an 'attractive, dark-haired woman'. Weird that you'd use that first descriptor - he was driving at night, using a dashboard camera. There's no way he would have been able to identify the woman as 'attractive'.

JJ has Garcia check on the victim's background to see if she was the target. Again, she couldn't be, because it would be impossible to time that. Garcia says there isn't anything special about her that might attract the attention of a killer. Also she had no connection to the latest driver. Hearing this inspires JJ to win yet another Prentiss Award with this line:

No, JJ, he's also been consistent about running people down at crosswalks. Just think - he's got complete control of a car. He could run it into a tree. He could run it into an oncoming car. He could drive it through a restaurant's patio and in through the front window. But he doesn't - each time he kills someone at a crosswalk. That's not just consistent, it's so consistent that it must be critical! Why is no one focusing on this?!

In DC, Reid is offered a deal: go to jail for 2-5 years by pleading to involuntary manslaughter and he'll get to avoid a trial! Of course, that would mean confessing to a crime he doesn't remember committing! Obviously he doesn't plead guilty.

Time for the profile, which is just packed full of nonsense. I'll focus on the biggest one - they think he's selecting drivers based on them having dash cams and smartphones mounted on the dashboard. People will be safe if they just remove those from their cars! Except the first two cars weren't attacked that way. So, couldn't he just go back to his first method of control and murder?

Also, they still haven't noticed the radio station's importance, and they announce that the killer's next victim will be a dark-haired woman he has a connection to! That seems like a stretch, considering that he has to operate the cars from his computer setup, and it would be impossible to time killing a specific person. Maybe the dark-haired lady will be the next driver, though.

Joe ends the profile with a dickish 'okay, that's it', as if they've given the cops actionable information. No, the only involvement they want from the local police is to have them tell the whole city to take down their dash cams!

Bad news from Jack (remember? From last episode? That guy?) - they've found the murder weapon in Reid's case with his blood and fingerprints all over it. Yikes!

Oh, and then another car is hijacked to hit a woman unloading groceries from her minivan! Again, the guy starts honking his horn way too late!

Emily and the lawyer go to talk to Reid about the bloody knife! They warn him again that he could go to jail for life if he loses at trial! They don't mention that the year he'll have to wait for the trial is plenty of time to find Scratch, though, which seems like it should be factored into their decision-making.

At the newest crime scene, we discover that both parties have been killed! But did the killer really take over this car? I mean, it's so old that it has a tape deck in it instead of a CD player! There's nothing within that car that could be hijacked remotely - so has the killer attached a camera and elaborate set of remote control devices into the transmission and steering column? Finally they talk about the radio station, but still don't address its possible significance. Or, again, the significance of the school crosswalk from the first two murders.

Emily tries to talk Reid into taking the plea, because it's not worth risking life in prison! Reid is such a shattered, broken person that he full-on says that if he can't be in the FBI - which he couldn't, with a felony plea - then he might as well be in jail. Yikes. Totally believable, but wow, this guy is troubled.

Eric and Garcia check out the latest victim's bio - assuming that because she was targeted at her home, she might have been the real target all along! Although, and I can't stress this enough, it would be impossible to time a car arriving to be hijacked when she was getting groceries out of the trunk. I mean, maybe it's possible that the killer hired the dead guy to follow her home from the grocery store, and then lucked out on the moment? Of course, he'd have to luck out even more with the driver being killed, since there's no way to predict that would happen.

So yeah, the latest victim proves to be key - she was being cyber-stalked by a weirdo who used to work at the radio station that's been showing up on all of the car radios! Hey, wouldn't have been interesting if they'd gone to the radio station two murders ago and said 'did you recently let any creepy people go?' It might not have gone anywhere, but it's the kind of basic investigation techniques you'd think someone would be involved in.

Garcia finds the other woman that the assumed killer has been stalking, and Eric tells her to come along on the raid! Which... why would you do that? It's not like there's going to be a scene where she tries to interfere with the hack, is there?

I guess not, because the killer has given up on the car nonsense, and just showed up to grab her in person. Just abandoning the theme there, huh? Eric and Garcia arrive at the scene, and then she has to hop on her computer and use a portable router to connect with cellular internet so that she can look up the killer's car! You know, she'd be much more efficient doing this if Eric hadn't dragged her out of the office. Just saying.

Actually, there's literally nothing about this case so far that she couldn't have handled from DC. Apparently the killer has 'hacked the DMV' and gotten rid of his car registration? And the show acts like it was incredibly easy? Wow, this show vastly overestimates what hackers can accomplish. Like... all the time.

The team assumes that he'd be driving the same car that he first learned how to hack, because it was the vehicle he would have been able to practice on! They then say that it will be the only one without a listed owner! Because I guess he's enough of an idiot that when he was erasing his name he didn't put in a fake one? Also, the custom license plate is the call letters for the radio station he worked at. Yeah, they definitely would have remembered this guy over there.

Garcia tries to hack into the car to take it over and save the day! Except... does she know how to do that? Is that something she's able to do just off the top of her head? Everyone was scratching their heads at the start of the episode, and they're not even clear on how it was done, but now Garcia's just immediately clicking through to the car? She's doesn't succeed, but it's weird that she was even able to try.

She does locate the woman's phone, however - and finds that the car is on a road in the middle of the city headed north way too fast! Of course, when we see footage of it it's on a highway in rural California, but that's not worth complaining about.

Anyhoo, Garcia stops the car and the killer is arrested without incident.


Reid gets Jane on the phone to apologize for not being home! Also, JJ's going to visit her for a while! Also, maybe get her into that care facility now? The rest of the team shows up at the courthouse to provide moral support, but Eric does so in a plaid shirt with the top two buttons undone, which is a really bad look for court, dude.

The judge decides to deny bail because Reid ran away from the crime scene in Mexico while high on drugs! Also, the fact that he tried to hide the fact that he was going to Mexico once a month from the FBI, which he really shouldn't have done. I understand why he wouldn't get bail.

Maybe Steven should up his game a little on the subject of Scratch. Seriously, how long have you been working on this with no leads, dude?

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

Nope. They had not idea what to do until the killer murdered a woman he had been stalking. Then they knew who it was immediately.

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

The killer was obsessed with a radio station. They're always talking about how losing a job can be a stressor that leads to murder. Yet no one went to the radio station to say 'hey - did you guys recently fire the creepiest guy in the world?' Real cops would have solved this thing two murders earlier.

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

1/10 - They never explained the hijacking, why the killer was targeting that school, how he hijacked a non-computerized car from 1994, or why no one in Bradenton looks both ways before crossing the street. Seriously, this episode made almost no sense.

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