Criminal Minds 1304: Killer App

The episode opens in Silicon Valley, where people at some kind of tech office are partying, because that's the culture of SV - ping-pong, not unions! Two of the guys are planning to head back to work, but then they notice the pretty lady masseuses that the company keeps on staff, and head over to harrass them!

Before they can get there, someone is machinegunned in the lobby! Everyone ducks, and then the security guard gets machinegunned as well! Then a couple of other people, including one of the introductory characters!

Over at Quantico, Emily brings Eric in to talk about how he murdered Scratch! He confesses to the whole thing, and Emily says that he followed protocol - had he tried to grab Scratch, Scratch would have pulled him down as well. Apparently it's the FBI's policy to let people die if they're dangling from roofs. Good to know!

As the scene ends, they get work about the mass shooting, but it's hard to care because the company is named Ori-Gamey, and I can't focus on anything but that. The team is scrambled to respond! Wouldn't it be hilarious if the killer was already shot to death by the cops right after they took off, and then they have to decide whether it's worth going to San Francisco since all they'll be doing is going through his creepy hand-written manifesto?

Also, Emily offers her most ridiculous Wheels Up moment yet. She claims they'll be going in 10! Of course you won't.

I've already explained the whole 'distance' thing, but this is so much worse. When Aaron said 'Wheels up in 30' it's because they were already planning on leaving. Five minutes ago Emily didn't know they were going to California. No one was planning on flying today. They have to get the pilot to go to the airport, do a full check of the plane, and then file a flight plan before they can get in the air.

It's going to be at least an hour, silly.

Then, back in SV, we see the killer watching footage of the massacre's news coverage while reloading his assault weapon!

On the plane, we learn that the introductory character was, in fact, the last person shot, and that there were only three victims! We also hear that the video cameras were 'jammed' so there's no footage of the shooter.

What? How? These aren't wireless cameras - this is a place of work, you can't just 'jam' them. If the security computers were tampered with, that's a lead, because it had to be someone with access to the building - or if those computers are hooked up to the network, then the hacking would have left traces.

Also, when did the 'jamming' start, and when did it end? Not to mention that this is Silicon Valley, so there are cameras simply everywhere. How could there be zero footage of the killer?

This is some sloppy writing, show.

Then we get a look at the bodies, and Garcia wanrs everyone to prepare themselves, because the victims were hit with 10-20 bullets each! Only we know that's not true, each one was shot by a very short burst of 3-4 bullets. Which apparently didn't even go through their bodies, leaving the corpses looking surprisingly clean! Feels like someone could have edited the script when the makeup people decided they weren't going to bother doing hugely messed-up corpses.

The first victim was a Pakistani Muslim - could this be hate crime oriented? The fact that the killer shot two other people of different races and then left without incident suggests that it probably isn't.

At the crime scene, Emily is puzzled to learn that the security guard was shot in the front without returning fire. If he'd been ambushed, that would be one thing, but why didn't he get a shot off? They act like this is a mystery, and perhaps the security guard recognized the shooter, causing him to hesitate. Or, you know, the security guard was at a huge tactical advantage, since he didn't know who he was looking for, and the killer was free to just shoot anyone. The moment the guard takes to try to assess a threat would be fatal if the killer was already aiming a gun at him.

Eric talks to a woman who thought she saw the shooter in the opening sequence, but as we saw when playing the scene in slow-motion (okay, maybe only I did that), it was just a guy in a black shirt, running for a fire exit. Then one of the masseurs tells Reid that the killer told everyone to get down, and ran to the conference room. She specifically said that she didn't see him, so why would you assume the person trying to help people find cover was the shooter?

Matt confirms that the masseur was wrong, but strangely, they have it be a woman who yelled 'get down' and ran into the conference room. Feels like the masseur, even while panicked, couldn't have made that mistake.

Emily and Eric notice that the guard and final victim were shot from strange angles for one person to have done it - perhaps there were multiple shooters? Otherwise the killer would have had to have been running through an open space, and someone doubtless would have seen him! Then again, that's just supposition - since we didn't see anything clearly in the opening sequence, and there's no reliable trajectory information or timing on the shots, this guesswork is all based on very little.

Garcia digs up a possible suspect - he was fired recently, and complained online about foreigners getting work permits and stealing jobs from Americans! Not only that, but he was at the office that day! They put out an APB on him, and with the entirety of Silicon Valley's police forces searching for the car, in what can only be describe as an absurd coincidence, it's Matt and JJ - who last we saw were still at the crime scene - who happen to see his vehicle and give chase! What are the odds?

That's right - they have to give chase. The guy sees the cops following him, and he goes on the run! Is he guilty? That would be weirdly easy - although workplace shooters often post about it online before committing the crime, so it wouldn't be unrealistic.

So, I haven't mentioned it here in the reviews, but I've been keeping a record of all of the license plates that are attached to the front of the SUVs that the team uses. They're obviously the same real-life vehicles every week, but since the episodes are taking place in different plates, there should be a constant cycle of new plates - it's just another way I'm testing how good a job the production staff is doing.

Apparently they've given up on that part of their job, though, because starting this year, the two times I've seen the front of the team's SUVs, they haven't had front license plates.

While it's legal for cars to not have front license plates in 19 states, federal vehicles should always have them. Still, from here on out, I'll just be cataloging whether it's actually illegal for the team to be driving around in unmarked SUVs. Since this episode is set in California, it is illegal.

They pull the man over, and he announces that he's completely innocent, only fled because he was panicked, and has a small daughter in the back seat of his car! Oof. But then he explains that he scratched his boss' car on the way out of the premises, and that's why he panicked and fled. So yeah, the guy's just really, really, stupid.

Strangely, he doesn't ask why the FBI is pulling him over. Actually, it's not that strange - he probably would have heard about the mass shooting by now. Although you'd think that knowing that would make him more likely to pull over, rather than less, since he'd have to assume he was a suspect.

Back at the field office, the team goes over what they can glean from the crime scene, since they have no witnesses, and apparently camera footage is no longer a thing. Weirdly, no one talks about the possibility of tracing a weapon, since this is America, and automatic weapons grow on trees there.

That night, another video game company is shot up! They try to play cute with the premise, by having various workers getting shot in sequence without knowing anything is going on because they're all listening to music on headphones while they work. This is a scene conceived of by someone who has never been anywhere near a rifle going off. They are jackhammer-loud, and no matter how noise-cancel-y your headphones are, you're going to hear them firing.

When the team arrives, they find no evidence of a break-in at the crime scene, and there's a broken window 12 feet in the air! Reid comes to the conclusion that the killer must be flying a drone with an assault rifle strapped to it!

Oh, dear lord, did this just get stupid.

So, first off, you wouldn't need to figure this out based on the lack of entry through the front door - there would be a pile of shell casings outside next to the broken window. More importantly, though - drones are really, really, loud. If a drone large enough to carry an assault rifle (which weighs over 10 pounds, remember) were flying around inside of a building, it would be impossible not to hear it.

Then there's the issue of recoil. Rifles have a lot of it. A drone that fires single shots from a rifle and then auto-stabilizes is entirely plausible. The idea of a drone firing a dozen rounds in two seconds without 11 of those bullets flying wildly in all directions, and the drone crashing moments later, is completely impossible.

We're told that, once again, the security cameras at the house where the coders were working had been 'jammed'. Explain what you mean by that, show!

The team is operating on the assumption that the two first victims (not the security guard, he was just there) were specifically targeted, but apparently that wouldn't be possible with this group - the four people shot all worked for a company that allowed people to set their own hours, so it would be impossible to predict who would be working that night. Unless, of course, you had access to the work schedule, which would be another lead, but if the guy is targeting specific people, why kill all four workers, the odds of all of them being on a kill list is astonomical.

While the team offers the profile, we get clips of the killer reloading his drone weapon. Hilariously, the drone they use is barely able to fly steadily with the weight of the rifle hanging under it. There's no way this thing could fire more that a single bullet at a time with any accuracy. It's also quite noisy! More importantly, it's like two feet tall, with the gun attached, and would be impossible to miss. Especially if the killer actually is targeting specific people. What did the drone do - fly in the front door, then hang out in a corner near the roof until both people it was looking for wandered into the main room?

If so, how did it fly out again afterwards?

Oh, and the profile is 'a guy is using a drone to kill people who work for videogame companies, we don't have any idea who he is, or why he's doing it'. Great use of those cops' time, team.

Then we're treated so some information which suggests that there is a specific kill list that everyone was on, as preposterous as that may seem. All of the tech victims (again, not the security guard) were unemployed during the same 3-month stretch the previous year! A concrete connection between them! Which, again, makes the whole 'all four victims were in one place' thing kind of super-preposterous.

A woman in a car is talking on the phone with someone about the fact that four coders from a certain project are all dead, and it can't be a coincidence. The killer shoots up her car, but miraculously leaves her unarmed so that he can talk with her! This is all happening in a parking lot in broad daylight, mind you. How has he not already been caught?

The team arrives and we learn that the kidnapped woman works for fake Blackwater, and Eric says that they'd been working on militarizing drones for a while! The homeland security guy asks Emily to take over the case. Emily thinks that it's because he's afraid of pissing off a well-connected military corporation. Shouldn't Emily be more afraid of that, though? There's a republican in the white house, and those people love their mercenaries. It's not like the white house would side with the FBI over mercenaries who donate to the RNC.

It seems that the project that the killer was working on was to develop a drone control HUD that made piloting a drone look and feel more like a video game, so that pilots would be pre-desensitized to the murders they were being asked to commit, in order to save money later on burnout and PTSD treatment! That's actually a pretty good plan! So why is someone killing over the program?

We learn that all six victims worked on a specific drone project that resulted in the mercenary drone operator killing 300 people! Well, no wonder he's upset! How did he find out who the coders who worked on his project were? It's not like the people developing the software he used would have ever come into contact with him, is it?

We get some exposition from the killer! He explains that he's been unable to cope with murdering hundreds of civilians, including plenty of children! He found the dehumanizing language of the soldiers he worked with incredibly troubling, since all of them were fully down to commit war crimes, but he wasn't! The woman claims not to know what he's talking about.

Emily asks the HomeSec guy to pull some strings and find out who the drone operator is. He says he has no idea, since only Blackwater has that information. Can that be true, though? Blackwater's American employees fly under US passports on US planes to war zones. The government would have to know who all of them are, even if they didn't know what specific job each of them was doing. Couldn't they already be searching for all of the people that flew over to Afghanistan in the window when they know this program was operational, and checking to see who's in Silicon Valley now?

The killer talks some more with the woman. Apparently when he was mustered out of Blackwater they sent him a letter congratulating him on the total number of people he'd killed. Which is just a crazy thing to do, and I hope this is just a writer's obscene flight of fancy. He was traumatized because the 'insurgent training camp' he blew up was actually... we don't find out what, because the hostage grabs his gun, shoots him, and runs off. I'm going to guess... boarding school for war orphans?

Emily goes to see the guy who runs Blackwater, and it's Wallace Langham! Okay, so that explains why in the parking lot scene there was a black van with the giant words "CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION" on it. Nice shout-out, show!

Emily asks about the killer, and Wallace refuses to help! He then explains that all of their employees are sent bodycount letters to prepare them for seeing news reports about the war crimes they committed. So... yeah, this is just madness. No company would do this with no attached counseling or formal debriefing. The idea of a company sending out a letter that says 'you killed 1200 people... good job!' is just ridiculous. All of the missions they do should be treated as secret - even from the people involved.

Then we cut to the hostage, who's running outside of the house, no longer holding the gun for some reason! Seriously, why would she drop that?

The team goes to visit the hostage at the hospital, and she turns over his name and address. Instead of just rushing out to get him, they ask about the casualty letters. She denies hearing anything about the letters, because she's covering for the company! It's weird, the show is acting like if the team can prove that the guy was motivated to go on a shooting rampage by the letter, then they'll be able to 'get' Blackwater, but that's just not the case. You can't charge a company for affecting a guy's mental state in this way. As inappropriate as the letters obviously are, the man signed a contract agreeing to go to Afghanistan and murder people for money - the fact that he felt guilty about those murders later is not the company's responsibility.

When the team gets to the killer's house, they find that he's dead, lying in a pool of blood!

But he's been shot a bunch! But she only fired once... the drone is also on the floor, so I guess Blackwater's goons hacked into it and executed him to keep him from talking? That's why the hostage kept looking at the blinking green light on top of the drone? Kind of weird that she would know what that meant, considering that this homemade gun platform has zero connection to the kind of work she was doing at Blackwater.

Garcia tracks down some information about the killer's death count, and yes, it turns out he blew up an elementary school. Unfortunately, it's at this point that the episode ceases making any sense at all. The team intuits that Blackwater didn't call the cops when the woman was kidnapped because they wanted to kill the guy without revealing that he was involved in the school bombing, which they tried to cover up - lest it screw up their government contracts.

Here's the thing, though - how could the government not already know about Blackwater's involvement? They know that the school had a bomb dropped on it. PMCs don't have air forces that are allowed to drop bombs. Only the US government does, and, for the purposes of this episode's plot, they were letting Blackwater do a test program where they used drones as well. If the US army knows that it didn't blow up the school, that only leaves one suspect, doesn't it?

But hey, let's say that Blackwater was able to keep the US government from finding out about the bomb being dropped, because they knew that it could cost them their contracts. Wouldn't covering up the existence of that mission be of the utmost priority? Like, if the bombing mission went so badly that you shut down the entire drone program after it, and now you're willing to kill people to keep it from coming out that this bombing ever happened, why did you send out a letter congratulating that guy on murdering nearly 400 children? Shouldn't editing that letter have been part of the cover up?

Wow, this episode got dumb, huh?

Anyhoo, they assume that Blackwater is going to kill the hostage to keep her quiet. Although I don't know why they would, since she's kept quiet this long. Instead of a hitman, shouldn't they have just sent an army of lawyers down to the hospital?

Oh, and by the way, the hitman's plan was to dress as a cop, relieve the officer on guard duty, and then shoot the woman with an unsilenced pistol. Yes, they're inside a room, but it's a busy floor and the door is opened. Also, his face has been on like a hundred different cameras.

I know 'dumbest episode of Criminal Minds ever' is a really high bar, but this is getting close.


The hostage confesses to knowing about the coverup, and so the team arrests her! I don't know for what, though - setting up a program that resulted in the deaths of 400 Afghan children isn't a crime in America. Maybe signing her name to some kind of fraudulent incident report for the mission? Yeah, she figured out who the killer was and she didn't call the cops, but I don't think she had a legal duty to report. So what, exactly, is she being arrested for?

They also arrest Wallance Langham, but wow, is this not going to stick.

Except this show doesn't know how anything works, so at the end of the episode Eric walks in to Emily's office to tell her that the US government has cut all ties to Blackwater and is charging Wallace with murder and attempted murder!

Yes. The US government is doing that. The same US government that does all it can to cover up war crimes, to the point that it just used as much of its weight as possible to ensure that a special forces operator who made sport of murdering civilians was cleared by a military tribunal, even though he was so bad that a bunch of other SEALs actually reported him and testified against him.

A government led by a president who went on to pardon a bunch of other war criminals accused of similar crimes.

That American government.

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

No! A woman escaped and told them who the killer was.

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

Realistically, this crime wouldn't have happened, and if it did, Blackwater would have dealt with it internally.

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

0/10 - The hostage killed the killer. I can't give the team credit for the stupid nonsense that happened after that.

Seriously, every part of this episode was madness. The killer would have started out by targeting Blackwater, whose offices would definitely not be in Silicon Valley. There's no way the killer would have had access to the names of the coders who built his drone software. A giant noisy gun drone can't fly into a workplace without being noticed. The idea that four of the coders were coincidentally in the same place at the same time is absurd. Blackwater wouldn't have given an employee proof of a war crime they were actively trying to cover up. If everything else happened exactly the same right up until the hostage escaped, they definitely wouldn't have sent a hitman to deal with it, they would have sent lawyers with a check for 750K and a stack of NDAs.

This is as dumb an episode as Criminal Minds has ever done.

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