Criminal Minds 1308: Neon Terror

The episode opens with Joe on a talk show, plugging his new book! Because for all of his talk about it being immoral to seek fame and fortune for hunting serial killers, he sure does do it a lot! He's written a whole book about the... ugh... 'Womb Raider' and is now on a tour promoting it nationwide!

The team comes in to watch the interview together, and they wonder when Joe has time to write books. Well, I'm guessing the man doesn't do a ton of paperwork, so I'd imagine he wrote it at the office. Then something truly bizarre happens, as the show host announces they're pausing book talk to jump to a breaking story about a local serial killer!

Wait, is this a news show? They don't cut into talk shows in order to put up footage of dead bodies, live from a crime scene, even if Joe is on their show promoting a book. This has never, and would never happen.

The team immediately gets a call about the case - three peoople have been shot in their cars! The cops thought it was a robbery-homicide spree, but only the first person was robbed. Then Eric wins a Prentiss Award for this groaner-

It's weird that this team has no idea what a forensic countermeasure is. A guy is going around shooting people in their cars, all using the same gun, why would taking the wallet of one of them keep the cops from seeing a connection? As always, I'm going to suggest that if you have nothing useful to say, maybe just don't open your mouth?

Oh, and all the victims are women who look alike. Somehow Garcia already has a picture of the third victim, even though the crime was literally just reported moments ago, and they shouldn't even have her name yet.

Then Emily again fails to understand how either driving or planes work, and says 'wheels up in 10'. It's like 8PM and you've all stayed at work late to watch a TV show, Emily. Your pilot has long since gone home. It's going to be HOURS before you can get the plane off the ground. How can you be so bad at this?

We see a bad date ending! The woman is not at all interested in the guy, and texts while they're walking in the general direction of her car! She calls her friend from the car, and then the creep appears at her window and starts yelling at her! He's not the killer though - the killer shoots him in the back, then shoots her!

Wait, that's two shootings in one night? Pretty bold. Also, this multiple shooting happened twenty feet from a busy street full of people, so I'm guessing there are a lot of witnesses. This should be wrapped up quickly!

On the plane, the team finds out about the latest two victims. They refer to there being five victims in a week, and two in the last 12 hours, but isn't it two in the last three hours? There had just been a shooting when Joe was on the talk show at 8-ish, and then we're told that the next two shootings happened at 9:30. That's a crazy-quick escalation, isn't it?

Eric and JJ go to the crime scene, and when they hear that the bodies were found almost immediately, they wonder how no one could have seen the killer. Is he blending in with the crowds of onlookers after the crimes? They consider that he could be one of the first responders, but that would be a stretch, since he'd have to run off to get to a vehicle and then drive up, which people would have seen. Luckily there's plenty of news footage of all the crowds, so if he was at more than one, he should be spottable almost immediately!

Then it's over to the killer's lair! He lights incense, and paws at a wall where he's projecting the news footage of the aftermath of one of this crimes! If he's obsessed with the news coverage, it's a little weird that he would kill two women the same night - that would mean he's out of his house, missing the news coverage while he's committing the second crime. I'm sure he's recording it, but is that really the same?

Emily and Matt go to the police station, and the lead detective is about to tell them a clue based on interviews with the victim's families, but then she gets distracted by a file and walks away. What? What could be more important that a clue about the killer's identity? If it is somehow more important, why are you not involving the FBI in it right away - is this an unrelated case? You've got a Son of Sam copycat running around the city, shooting women, how could anything be more important than that?

On the pictures of the victims, Matt notices that all of them have hair clips on! They figure that's what the detective almost said to them. If it was that simple, though, why not just say it? "None of them wore hair clips, but the bodies had hair clips on." There. That took three seconds to say.

They weirdly state that the hairclips are 'out of the way' and hard to see, which makes it a strange signature. Except they're not out of the way or hard to see at all. Each one is clipped right above and behind the women's left ear, to keep their hair from falling forwards. Like all hairclips. I don't know what the writers mean with this concept, but it leads to the kind of ludicrous moment that you have to pity the actor for being forced to say:

He's not hiding anything. You're pointing at a prominent, colourful clip that's impossible to miss.

On the upside, the team thinks they've got something they can use to exclude false confessions, since no one knows about the hair clips but the police! But then the hairclips are shown on the news! We cut over to the news director of the local TV station, who's brainstorming about what to name the killer! JJ and Joe walk in, announcing that naming the killer is a bad idea, since it feeds his desire for fame. Luckily JJ is the one who says that, since it would be incredibly hypocritical coming from Joe's mouth.

Joe and JJ ask where the news director got the photos of the hair clips, and she says it's a protected source! They point out that the hair clips could only be seen in the official crime scene photos, so either the killer reached out, or they got them from the police! The woman won't give up her source, and the agents immediately back down, not even asking for copies of the photos they were using.

Here's the thing about the four pictures they have of the hair clips - they're not the crime scene photos we've seen. They were clearly taken from extremely close up, with the hair clip being the only point of focus in the image. Wouldn't it be a little weird for the crime scene photographer to have done that, if they had no reason to believe that the hair clips were in any way suspicious? Like, when they find a dead woman with a pony-tail, do the crime scene photographers go out of their way to get closeups of the elastic? Probably not.

At the very least, they should get copies of the photos to check against their own records - these were either taken by the killer, or someone on the police force leaked them. Having copies of the newspaper's photos would help them figure out which it was.

They just leave, though, because they're bad at their jobs.

On the way out the door, JJ and Joe lament that the news director is using this crime to get more famous and improve her station. I wonder if Joe will consider the irony of that attitude later, when he's sipping fine wine in the mansion he bought by exploiting the victims of crime for personal profit.

Then it's back to the killer, who looks over women on a dating site, searching for his next victim! Is this how he found all of his victims? Seems like Garcia would have known about that if it was the case. Also, he has a flashback to when he was a child, and being carried by someone while flashbulbs went off all around. So I guess he was involved in a famous crime somehow?

The lady he was planning to kill drives home, and he shoots her in her garage.

Eric and JJ go to the crime scene, and not that the killer brought a neon light to his crime scene, because the press is calling him the 'Neon Terror'. Apparently the crime was called in right away because a neighbour out walking a dog heard the shot and immediately dialed 911. So how did the guy disappear if there was someone watching from just down the street. He didn't break into the house and go out the back door, so presumably he had to have left through the garage - how did the witness not see that?

Then JJ, Eric and the local cop talk about how the killer must have moved on to home invasion in order to 'stay relevant' to the media, which is just a crazy thing to say. There's no way the press in Miami is talking about anything other than this. A madman is running around the streets, shooting people in public - there's no way he could get more press than he's already getting.

Speaking of, the team thinks that the killer might be a reported, because then they'd be able to get a front row seat to the media circus without drawing attention to themselves! This is just an insane leap, but sure, why not.

It's time for the profile! The team announces that the killer is probably someone in the media, who can appear at the crime scene without drawing any suspicion to themselves! Except you don't have any reason to believe that the killer is sticking around the crime scenes. So this entire profile is based on nothing other than how strange it is that no one has seen the killer fleeing. Well no, they haven't but they also haven't seen any media people hanging out by the victims before the cops arrive, so why are you making this leap?

While the profile is going on, we see the killer once again fawning over news footage of a dead body. This time it's a close up of the latest victim's face! Wait, how on earth did the media get that footage? The dead body was in a garage, and the media arrived well after the police did. In order to get this video:

Someone would have had to have walked right up to the car's window and stuck a camera in there. There's no way the police would have allowed that - so the footage had to have come from the killer. Hopefully the team will notice this immediately. If not, they're impossibly bad at their jobs.

Then again, we haven't heard any follow up about the hair clip photos, so maybe they are terrible at their jobs?

That night, Matt and Joe are chatting about how everyone in the Miami media has alibis for the murders - could the killer just be a fan? If so, how is get getting in and out of the crime scenes without being noticed!

JJ finally notices that the latest footage was taken from inside the garage! Good for her! You should have been on top of this from the hair clip photos, but it's nice that you got there eventually! The footage was apparently shot by a guy from the news station's IT department!

Wait, the news director didn't find that suspicious? Like, I know that this episode is a rip-off of the movie Nightcrawler, and corrupt media was part of that story, but what news director is going to get handed footage of a serial killer's crime scene from before the police arrived, and not think for a moment 'hey - maybe the guy who gave me the footage might be the killer?'

Oh, and he passed the background check of 'all media in Miami' because they only looked at on-air people and cameraman. For no reason.

They go to talk to the IT credited with the footage, and ask how he was at all the crime scenes before the police were. He claims that he was driving around with the scanners on, and just got lucky! Four times? Two of which the police were at almost immediately? That's obviously absurd, and they accuse him of being the killer.

He immediately caves, and says that the killer has been sending him the footage, and he's been claiming it as his own, assuming that it was a cop sending it!

Garcia can't trace the origin of the footage that was sent in, so Emily tells her to look into anyone with a connection to the station - the odds of the killer sending footage to the IT guy completely at random is something of a stretch. Weird that they're not interviewing the IT guy, since it could well be someone he knows. After all, there are hundreds of reporters the killer could have sent the footage to, but instead chose someone who works at the station but works IT? Why? There has to be a reason for that.

Matt then says something truly nuts-
How do you know that? You've only got one crime scene video. Why do you think that the killer waited a longer time before filming in the earlier cases? And by 'converge' I have to assume you mean 'make a snuff film', but why do you think he's not already doing that? The IT guy specifically says that the video he was sent was already edited, and he has no idea how long the full clip was. What makes you think he didn't already film the murder and then just send over the news-type-stuff?

No, Emily and Matt assume that he's going to escalate to a snuff film, based on - once again - nothing at all. Given his obsession with the media showing his crimes, isn't it more likely that he's just cutting the snuff parts out of his video? After all, the media would never air a snuff film like this, so there's no reason to suspect that he's planning to send them one.

Then it's over to the killer, who's once again stalking women on the same dating site! How have the cops not made the connection yet? Also, how is he finding out the addresses of the women from the website so he can stalk and kill them? So little of this episode makes sense!

So he kills the next lady on his list later that night!

The news station gets sent the footage, and they discover that whoops, there was a little girl belted into the back seat of the car that the killer didn't know about when he attacked! Still, the killer sent the footage over, allowing them to figure out that the shooting took place in a mall parking lot. They rush to all the mall parking lots in the area, and find the little girl unharmed!

Despite the fact that the team was at either the police station or news station, JJ and Matt manage to get to the crime scene before one of the hundreds of cops who are out at night, scouring the neighbourhood for the shooter.

At the police station, JJ and Eric talk about why the woman stopped in a mall parking lot with a kid she was babysitting in the back seat. For some reason they don't ask the little girl for this information. Apparently the babysitter was texting a guy she was planning to meet? Could that be the killer? Finally the team realizes that these killings aren't random, and specific women are being targeted.

It's weird that it took them so long to figure this out, since the only way he could have sneaked into the previous victim's garage was if he was already outside of her house, waiting for her - meaning that by definition, she had to have been targeted by him.

They also wonder why he didn't kill the little girl, since he's 'shown no moral compass' up until that point. But why would he kill the little girl? As far as you've seen, he only wants to kill women of a very specific type. The one time he killed a man it's because he was standing directly in front of the woman he wanted to kill. So why would he start killing children now?

Then JJ sees the child being carried out of the police station by her father, and notices the cameras taking pictures of them. She remembers that in the channel 3 news chief's wall of fame there was a picture like that of a little boy whose babysitter was killed in a carjacking gone awry!

The team decides that the killer has become obsessed with the news coverage that he received as a child, and is now trying to recreate it! That's an incredibly thin motive, show! They also worry that since the news chief covered both stories, he might turn his rage against her next! Well... um... obviously? Wasn't she already being watched? If not, you're terrible at this.

We check in on the killer, who's mad that his snuff film isn't being played on the news. Why would he think that it would be? Has he seen a lot of snuff films on the news before? For a guy obsessed with the media, he sure seems to know nothing about it!

The killer goes into the news station and starts shooting the place up! He points a gun at the news editor and demands to know why the story isn't being covered!

How has this been allowed to happen? Seriously, last night you were at the news station that the killer is fixated on, watching a snuff film that the news station agreed not to use in any form. Your entire profile was based on the idea that the guy was feeding on the news coverage, and yet it didn't occur to you that he might be aggravated by the sudden lack of news coverage? How are you all so bad at this?

The news director explains that they didn't use the news footage because there was a little girl in it, who might have been killed. Um... also it was a snuff film, and the news doesn't air snuff films? Isn't that a little more relevant?

Anyhoo, the killer wants to stream the news director's murder live on the internet! Garcia manages to cut off the feed, though, which upsets him. Emily and Joe offer media coverage and an interview with Diane Sawyer, and he surrenders!


Wow, after the killer is led away, Joe talks to the news director. She's exhilarated because she survived the assault, and can tell the biggest story of her career! Joe is disappointed in her. That's right, they're redoing the end of "Limelight", one of the worst episodes of Criminal Minds ever. Right down to the fact that it's Joe arguing against media exploitation.

Has the episode forgotten that the episode literally began with Joe exploiting murder for personal fame and fortune?

How are the writers so bad at this?

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

Not really! I'd like to give them credit for JJ's memory of the photograph, but if they'd have been any good at all about checking MO, they'd have searched for crimes involving women of that appearance shot in a car and found the case from the late 90s almost immediately. Just a shoddy effort this week.

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

The guy was committing crimes in public. I don't know how he wasn't already caught.

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

1/10 - Hey, remember how the episode was built around the central mystery of how the killer was getting away when he was killing women in public places and crowds formed almost immediately? So they think it's because he was a first responder who blended in, then they think he was a media figure who blended it, and then it turns out that the killer was neither, and then the show forgets to ever explain the mystery that the entire first half of the episode was built around?

What I'm saying is, this episode was trash. Worthless trash that ripped off one of their worst episodes ever.

You're trash, Criminal Minds.

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