31.12.19

Criminal Minds 1309: False Flag

The episode opens with the team already giving a profile! That's weird. They're explaining that since the two victims were likely known by the killer, the team is giving a profile to everyone who knew them in the hope that one of them will find the description of the killer familiar in some way! Strangely, the profile is happening in a gym, during some kind of event - there are silver balloons on the stage behind them.

It turns out they're talking to a society of 'Truthers' in Roswell, NM - and apparently the show has interpreted this to mean that the people literally believe nothing is true? Like, a guy raises his hand to tell Joe that Womb Raider was a patsy? Which is just so many kinds of nuts that I can instantly tell the writer has no respect for these characters.

Then the show takes the dumbest turn in maybe the entire history of the show? A guy reaches into his pocket and finds a fun, and tells the team that they planted it on him! The team all points their guns at him, and he announces the he 'knows a false flag when he sees one' and shoots himself in the head.

Yes. That happened. Wow. You know, I'd been warned that this episode was the dumbest one that Criminal Minds had ever produced, and it's not disappointing so far.

So, as far as I can tell, the guy thinks that the serial killings were done by the government to make the Truther community look bad, and now he thinks he's being turned into a patsy. So his reaction to that is... to commit suicide, so that everyone will think that he was, in fact, the killer? And if he wasn't the killer, how could he not notice a pistol in his pocket? Yes, it's a small pistol, but it must weigh somewhere between 1 and 2 pounds. Take three rolls of pennies and drop them in your pocket. See if it's possible to not notice that they're there.

None of this tracks even slightly from a logical standpoint, and we're only two minutes into the episode.

Aisha goes to talk to a lady and announces that everyone's being held for 24 hours until they can sort this mess out. She asks why the lady, alone among the truthers, hasn't demanded legal representation before speaking. Then things get super-dumb, and the lady asks if Aisha 'knows what a podcast is'. Oof. Who wrote this episode?

Anyhoo, she demands her phone back so that she can record their conversation for her podcast. Aisha has no problem with that, because why would she? Emily thinks it's a bad idea, though, because the audio will doubtless be edited to make her sound bad! Here's a solution to that: make your own recording at the same time. There. Problem solved.

Garcia confirms that the podcaster has a moderately popular conspiracy podcast that focuses on how all mass shootings are faked so the government can steal guns from people! So she's crazy, then. Cool. The point is, Emily doesn't want the FBI to look bad, so she thinks they can't risk appearing on someone's podcast on the moment. Again, why? It's not like Aisha's going to say anything crazy or incriminating. I mean, she's a psychopath, but she's not an idiot.

Joe clears the room and talks to Emily in private - he says they have to risk it, because anything they can do to find the killer will help, since the profile says it's a 'Truther', and if they don't catch the guy, or lady, then the whole community will rise up against the FBI.

As I watch this episode, I can't help but wonder if it was written by someone living in a cave. How do you do this episode in the current political climate? Emily's acting like the FBI has a reputation worth protecting - meanwhile, the real-life president of the United States frequently insults and denigrates the agency she works for. What, exactly, can go wrong in this scenario?

Aisha goes to talk to the podcaster, but doesn't bring her own recording device. Maybe she is a moron after all? She says that she doesn't like conspiracy theories, because she believes in peer review and independently verifiable facts! Aisha says that because truthers will never believe evidence that doesn't back up their pre-existing beliefs, they're not actually interested in the truth, but rather confirmation! Which is a very strong point!

It's only now, at eight minutes in, that we start getting the slightest detail about the murders, with a flashback to the conference room scene! It seems that two men were killed according to the conspiracies they believed in. A fluoridation nut was drowned in a fishtank, and a JFK guy was shot in the throat! This leads to a weird response from JJ-

Couple of things. First - the important part is not that he was shot in the throat, but that he was shot in the throat from the front. According to the Warren commission, a bullet traveling downwards went into his back, then came out up through his throat, then hit Connoly a bunch of times. JFK people think that he was shot from the front and the bullet lodged in his neck - this is according to a statement by the doctor who did the autopsy.

Second, him being hit is not visible on the Zapruder film. Kennedy is unharmed at the start, then he passes out of sight behind a road sign, and when he reappears after like 20 frames, he's already holding his neck because the shot has hit.

Things get funny when we move back to the interview room, because the podcaster knows about Garcia, and claims that she's the one who helps the FBI frame people! Aisha says that the FBI doesn't frame people, and they don't commit crimes.

Well, come on, you all murder unarmed people. And the FBI spent the 10 years after 9/11 framing a bunch of people for terrorism so it could look like they were doing a good job. Also, Garcia commits crimes literally all the time. There's rarely an episode of the show where she doesn't violate people's privacy rights and hack into secure databases.

Also, you people have an average of one search warrant per 100 episodes or show, despite kicking down two doors a week.

The podcaster interrupts the private jet part of the story to point out how ridiculous it is that they have a private jet. Which is a great point that I stopped trying to argue like 200 episodes ago. Anyway, the point of the scene is that the two dead guys were texting like they thought they were on to a criminal, but they don't trust the police enough to call them. Also, there's a joke about how Joe believes the mob killed JFK.

I mean, yeah, they were involved, but it was a CIA thing mostly using Cuban muscle.

The team checks out the crime scene, and discovers that the killer left very little evidence behind - he even picked up the shell casing after shooting the guy in the throat! Also there was no evidence of a break-in, so maybe the victims knew their killer! Or he was really good at lockpicking.

In the gun victim's house, Matt notices that a piece of decoration has recently been used. Under it is a keycard that opens up a secret panel under a table. What's inside? A gun! It's just one of a dozen guns stashed around the house! One of the guns is missing from its display case - it must be the murder weapon! This leads Matt to bizarrely announce that this means that the killer is 'no Mastermind - he's been right under our nose the whole time!' Why would you think that, though? Killing someone with a gun that can only be traced back to the victim is a very smart thing to do. Do you mean that now you're sure the killer is someone the victim knew? You already figured that based on the fact that there was no forced entry.

Damn, these are some very, very dumb quips.

Now that they're sure the killer is a friend of the victim, Emily wants to bring in all of his friends for interviews. Aisha has a different idea - confront all of them simultaneously, so that they'll turn on each other and start pointing fingers.

So, in case you were wondering, it was Aisha who got that guy killed! Well, his terribly-written stupidity helped, but it was her plan.

The podcaster has a great point to make - all of the truthers had to walk through a metal detector to get into the meeting room, so how did the gun get in there? Aisha seems surprised by the reveal - but how could she not have known about the metal detector? It's right inside the front door, and she would have had to walk through it as well. Did she think that it was just turned off for the night?

So, wait, does that mean the Sheriff is the killer? And that's why the two guys think they couldn't go to the cops, not because of generalized paranoia about law enforcement?

The podcaster then dunks on Aisha, and she has every right to, because wow, how did you miss the metal detector thing?

We then see the metal detector being examined, and somehow the team didn't know it was there? No one mentioned it to them, and they didn't notice it on the way in or out of the building? Some cops wheel it out into the middle of a hallway, and then it doesn't go off when people with guns walk through! Wait, it was still plugged in even though it was on a gurney?

So, who tampered with the metal detector? I mean, obviously the killer, but who had access to it?

Aisha says it wasn't tampered with at all - the sheriff is just so incompetent that he didn't bother testing it after wheeling it down from the setting it up at the legion hall. Doesn't tampering seem way more likely? If the guy had been found holding the pistol at the metal detector he would have been immediately subdued - unless that was the killer's real plan all along? To frame the guy?

The podcaster then asks Aisha why we should believe that a guy would have voluntarily walked a gun through a metal detector that he had no reason to believe was broken. Aisha, as always, has no answers for her. Is she really that bad at this, or is pretending to be an idiot her plan to get the podcaster to confess to murder? If so, she's putting on a hell of an act.

Okay, this is weird - Aisha continues telling the story as if we're still in a flashback. But we're not. She says that while they were figuring out the metal detector, Matt and JJ were down at the morgue, looking at the victims. But you literally just walked out of the room to check the metal detector, then walked back in to talk to her. When did you get a comprehensive report from the rest of the team? Did you leave the podcaster alone in the room for an hour?

The ME has an interesting story to tell! The drowned guy had chemical burns from something that was sprayed in his face before he was drowned! So did the killer spray him with something so that he'd try to wash his face in the tank, then drown him while he was vulnerable? Gotta say, even if there's a fishtank nearby, I'm not dunking my face in it if there's a shower or sink less than 20 feet away. Especially if I know that I just poured bleach into the tank.

Oh, and the guy who was shot? The killer dropped a page from 'The Catcher in the Rye' onto his throat wound for some reason. Weird.

The podcaster then gets hostile, and says that she can't trust anything Aisha says, because the CIA uses Catcher in the Rye to brainwash people. And also the fake mass shootings thing.

Aisha is faced with so much stupid that she has to leave the room and scream in another closed office. Then Emily suggests that she either tap out of the interview or change their tactic. Hey, we're 23 minutes into the episode and have met zero other people. Is podcaster the killer? When this episode started I thought we were going to get interviews with a variety of colourful characters as the team tried to put together the pieces of what happened, but instead we're getting this endless scene with a crazy lady and also a podcaster.

Things get real stupid yet again - it turns out that the edition of Catcher in the Rye that was left on the body is one put out by a local conspiracy theory press, in which a crazy guy annotates relevant passages to help truth-seekers understand the text! Cute! The team goes out to visit the local publisher, hoping to prove that the suicider bought a copy, thus tying him to the crime!

The podcaster warns that the publisher is a bomb nut, and hates the FBI, so the team is probably headed into a dangerous situation! Then she warns that the agents can't be called, because there's no cell phone service that far out!

Weirdly, it seems like these scenes are being timeshifted for some reason? Because the podcaster's phone lists the time as 2:30AM, but JJ is acting like the team has already left to go to the guy's place - and the map that Garcia shows pinpoints the place they're going to as seven minutes away from the police station. Yet when we cut to Matt and Joe, it's an hour later, 3:38AM?

Also, you don't need to phone them. They're in a an FBI vehicle. They have a radio.

Matt and Eric approach the publisher's house, noticing a giant stack of industrial explosives he's left lying in the yard. You can just buy that stuff? America is crazy, people.

They get inside the house and discover the Publisher has also been murdered! I mean, I assume they do. they're shocked and then the show goes to commercial, so what else could it be?

Emily then goes to talk to the podcaster - she has new information to offer! Yeah, he wasn't dead. When they busted down the door, Emily and the Sheriff were already inside, talking to them. So the 'oh my god' from the cliffhanger was a complete lie? Because that's not how anyone reacts to people standing in a room, talking.

Apparently Emily flew out there in the police department's helicopter, beating the team! Why weren't the three deputies that came along for the helicopter ride them standing outside the house, waiting for Eric and Matt? Letting the two of them think they were on a raid had the potential to get someone killed. They put the publisher under arrest and ask after the bomb materials, but the publisher claims that he thought the bags of explosives were just fertilizer. Despite the fact that ANFO bags have 'explosives' written all over them.

The publisher claims that he's just a huckster selling vitamins and polemics to idiot conspiracy theorists who will buy anything! That doesn't exactly jibe with the literal 500 pounds of explosives out in his front yard.

They let that drop for some reason, and ask about the new book. The only one in town who bought a copy is the shooting victim! Emily thinks that when he was shot in the throat, he tried to block the blood flow by grabbing a page from the nearest book and shoving it into the wound!

Also, they think the drowning was an accident. The guy had coral in his tank that, when doused with bleach, turns into toxic fumes! The guy was knocked out, and then drowned when the tank filled up.

Emily thinks that the podcaster must be the killer, because the shooter guy bought the book as a gift to her! So why did she keep the fact that they were dating a secret? She says it's because of general paranoia, which isn't a stretch, really.

But Emily believes that they've got her! The go back and remember that the suicider's statement that 'he knew a false flag when he sees one, bitch', wasn't directed at any of the team members, but rather the podcaster! Aisha extrapolate this into thinking that the podcaster was having an affair with the suicider, and the two dead guys were close to figuring out who the other man was - that's what the texts were actually about!

That can't be what the texts were about, of course, because you don't go to the authorities because someone is cheating on you. Oh, and she thinks the podcaster murdered the JFK guy because he confronted her about the cheating. The rest of the team, to their credit, points out that they have no evidence to back up her theory.

Aisha then admits that she's taking this personally because she knows Sandy Hook happened, because she was one of the psychologists there comforting families. So that must be where she learned how to fake grief and anguish! Clever move, you monster.

Then it's back to the interrogation room, where Aisha says that her house is being searched, and they're bound to find some evidence there! The podcaster deletes the part of the tape where she was accused of murder, and then asks for a lawyer! Which is the first smart thing she's done all night!

Now it's time for the team's ludicrous theory of the case - the podcaster killed JFK guy in a fit of anger, and even though she left no trace of herself at the crime scene, instead of disposing of the gun, she planted it on suicider, because she was 100% sure that when the metal detector went off with the gun in it, the cops would freak out and shoot him. Actually, that's my version of the events - the team's version is that he knew that the guy would kill himself rather than surrender, because he believes that the cops would never listen to his story about the gun being planted.

Their theory is dumber than mine. The dumbest part, though, is the killer's plan.

Except the plan gets even dumber. The team is convinced that there must be evidence still out there - they conclude that the podcaster must have saved the bullet and shell casing from the crime scene and given it to another member of the community! The guy who hated Joe's book immediately raises his hand and turns over the evidence. Podcaster is arrested without incident.

THE END

Why is any of this happening? Why would the podcaster have added an accomplice to her crime? They try to explain that by creating her own conspiracy, she's validating her worldview, but that's just complete nonsense - conspiracies are meant to accomplish things. This conspiracy was to tell a person that she was involved in the murder. For no reason.

This may actually be the show's dumbest episode. And I just reviewed the drone episode yesterday.

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

No. Of course not. Shame on you for asking.

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

Absolutely not. This crime would have never been solved. More on that below.

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

0/10 - I hate to punish the team like this again, but this is too dumb to let slide. The podcaster committed the perfect crime, and then added a dozen extra steps, none of which should have worked, and which served only to implicate her in the crime. This is far too stupid to be allowed to stand as a valid hour of television about catching a murderer.

Let's face it - there's no way that this woman doesn't just ditch the gun, shell casing, and bullet, and live out the rest of her life in relative peace. And if she actually was dumb enough to frame the guy, there's no way that he doesn't immediately get caught and tell the cops she framed him, and probably also killed her lover, JFK guy.

It suddenly occurred to me that the thing that makes no sense in this episode is the suicide, and that the first version of the script probably involved the guy aiming the gun at the podcaster and then getting shot by the team, but at some point, it was decided that the team couldn't be allowed to kill an innocent person, so they had to change it. Instead of just making it so jittery local cops pulled the trigger - because again, that would be questioning the authority of police officers - they have the guy nonsensically kill himself, because there's no episode if the guy doesn't die.

Also, what was the team's profile, exactly? They said that they were sure that it was people in the Truther community who killed both people, but they never offered any kind of a reason why they thought that, other than that their deaths slightly coincided with the stuff they were obsessed with. But they were obsessed with that stuff, and talked about it all the time - everyone know about their obsessions, not just ten people in the Roswell truther community. Fairly big oversight.

This is an episode of television so dumb, that in order to create drama they have a scene where texts between two guys talk about going to the police. Later in the episode we're supposed to think that they were talking about a guy's girlfriend cheating on him. And they expected us to forget that the police were mentioned in the texts, because that makes zero sense in retrospect.

This episode was truly terrible, by any definition.

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