31.12.19

Criminal Minds 1315: Annihilator

The episode opens with JJ standing uncomfortably in Emily's office! This is a rough hand she's been dealt! JJ starts off the scene by making a strange accidental admission, saying "I don't want to be unit chief, not like this.' So you do want to be unit chief, you just don't like the way it happened. Interesting that you would half-lie like that. Also, she's really not the kind of person you should trust with any power whatsoever, because her first response in this new situation is to wonder how she can use her power to go after Barnes, destroying her before she ruins the team.

Yeah, whatever her motives are, she's only able to go after the team because you so often break the rules and do whatever you want. So it doesn't speak well towards your self-awareness that your initial reaction to being told that you're thought of as loose cannons is to say 'Obviously she's lying, how can we bend or break the rules to ruin her career?'

Joe, for his part, says that they should just do a good job, by the book, so she'll have nothing to use against them. It's a great idea, but weird to hear coming from the sleaziest member of the team.

In St. Louis, a group of young people are hanging out in a house! Someone comes in, ties them all up, and stabs them to death! According to Garcia the next day, the cops think it's a robby gone wrong, which is crazy, because you generally don't see massive amounts of stabbing in situations like that. Also, who's going to rob four young working people?

Barnes then arrives, announcing that they're taking the case because from now on she only wants the team to focus on high-visibility cases that are easy to solve. What do you think they've been doing up until now? They don't get called in on anything other than the most outre crimes, and always wrap them up within 72 hours. There's a guy with a skull tattoo on his hand, driving up and down a major interstate right now, murdering children, and the team doesn't think it's worth their time because it would be hard work to investigate it.

How is her new policy going to change anything?

The team recoils at the possibility of Barnes coming along on the trip because she's not a 'profiler'. As if profilers are the only people who can solve crimes? As if most of their crimes aren't solved when they just ask Garcia who did it? The team is openly insubordinate, and Reid announces that if she's going on the flight, then he's not!

Somehow, he isn't immediately suspended without pay. You know, for a villain, she's not great at using her authority to get what she wants. She's coming after this team for being unprofessional, and now they're being even more unprofessional when they find out their being investigated. Seriously, how does Reid still have a job at this point?

He's already proven himself to be the opposite of indispensable - he was off the team for half of last year, and their clearance rate was completely unaffected.

On the plane, we get some details about the dead housemates. None of them were coupled up, and all were successful. Also, their house was a party hub of some kind! Also, none of them seem to have a significant other of any kind, which is a little weird, since there are four of them.

Garcia tracks down three other people who rented rooms at the house - two have good alibis, and one is completely unaccounted for! Barnes thinks this makes him a prime suspect, and she's right!

On the way to the crime scene, Barnes feels Joe out about whether he's ready to retire, and he gets super-snippy with her. It's like he's forgotten that he already retired once, and they can revoke his badge any time they want to. Also, he's well into normal retirement ago. Seriously, why are all of these people acting so unprofessionally when they're being investigated for not being professional?

At the crime scene, they notice that a window by the front door was broken from the inside - so the break-in was staged! Why would you even bother to do that? Just leave the door ajar, people can draw whatever conclusions they like. They figure that the killer must have had a gun to keep all the victims cowed while they were tied up. But why stab them, then - was it about being quiet, or was stabbing the point all along? Notably - the knife was left at the crime scene, embedded in the final victim.

Upstairs a tech guy finds a knife case under one of the victim's beds! So the killer went there, grabbed the knife, and then returned the empty case to its hiding place. Very strange behaviour! That level of familiarity with the crime scene suggests the killer is definitely someone who knew the victims.

In DC, Reid goes to see Emily, who thinks he shouldn't have thrown a hissy fit that morning! He says he didn't want to go with Barnes and help her dismantle the team. So... he thought that by being incredibly unprofessional, that was going to give her less evidence to use against Emily? Emily makes my point for me - thanks! Then Reid notices that she's packing up her goods and getting ready to leave.

Reid doesn't want her to quit, but Emily says that if she steps down, it'll take off the heat for how badly they botched Roswell.

Wow, should they have shot that guy in Roswell. Not only does it make more sense for the plot of that episode, but if they'd shot an innocent man, then this entire story arc would make so much more sense. Who on earth changed their mind about that plot, and how did they not see that it was going to invalidate all of the plans they'd had for the rest of the season?

Barnes and JJ arrive at the police station, and Barnes is even more of a jerk to the local cops than she is everyone else! She's weirdly abrasive, in a way that you'd think someone who's made it all the way to the top of the FBI would know not to be.

Garcia then calls in with info about their suspect! He's a violent, drunken jerk who was recently thrown out of the house by a vote amongst the residents! Which I guess means he can't be the killer, since he has the most obvious motive and background, and this is a show that loves its twists.

Aisha and Barnes go to talk to one of the housemates who wasn't murdered, and Barnes says they need her to establish motive - but Aisha announces that they don't put words in people's mouths. Um... do you not know how the FBI operates, Aisha? Spending too much time in an ivory tower? They use coerced confessions all the time.

The housemate says that Larry can't be the killer. Also they were secretly dating, because it was against the rules to date within the house. Then she tells them where to find him! It's not fast enough, though, because the killer is able to sneak into Larry's car and kill him by putting a plastic shopping bag over his head.

Yes, seriously. I know that you or I would just pop a hole in the plastic bag and resume breathing with a little bit of difficulty, but Larry is an idiot, and dies immediately.

Well, not immediately, it seems - the killer waited until he was unconscious and then gave him a drug overdose! He also left a fake suicide note in the car. Barnes is ready to call it a day, but then the test results proved that there were no drugs in his system! So I was wrong, and the bag was the murder weapon, and the killer was so dumb that he just injected heroin into a corpse, assuming that no one would be able to tell the difference! Not dealing with a rocket surgeon this week, are they?

Did they even need a toxicology report, though? The guy had a plastic bag pulled tight over his head. There would be large red welts all over his neck from where the killer yanked on it. That alone should have forced them to question the drugs.

Reid asks why Emily is so ready to quit, and she admits about destroying the recording of him confessing to murder! She says she doesn't deserve to run the team, and should just go back to Interpol! None of this is wrong, of course, but let's see if they try to wriggle out of it, nonetheless?

Matt and Joe go through the victims' personal effects. Each one of them has just a single box of those, so the scene won't be too complicated to shoot. They find evidence that all the dead people were good buddies, and Ray, one of the dead guys, was their leader! I wonder how that factors into the murders?

Barnes then talks to Eric, and applauds him for letting Scratch die. She suggests he'd be happier chasing fugitives if he's so happy killing people! Eric says no, he's find being deep in the background of 8-person scenes.

Matt, Aisha, and Barnes go to talk to the housemate, and Barnes tells them not to let her know that the boyfriend is dead. She thinks that this will cause her to shut down before they get their information, which isn't a bad call, really. But Aisha botches the situation by saying that they found Larry, and that he's no longer a suspect, rather than just saying that they're still looking for him, which is less suspicious.

They ask her if anyone hung around the house, never really fitting in, and she immediately thinks of Justin, a loser they know.

When they leave the room, Aisha also snaps at Barnes - how are all of these people still in the FBI if they're this bad at following orders and obeying the chain of command?

Garcia looks into the killer, and finds that he's an internet troll who spends all of his time trying to start fights online! That's not as useful as his address, but thanks? For once, they do the smart thing, and get cops to meet the other possible victim when her plane lands.

More with Emily and Reid! He second-guesses her, and suggests that she shouldn't have buried the evidence against him! If she hadn't, he'd be rotting in a Mexican prison, so I don't know exactly what his point is. Reid says that it doesn't matter how many crimes they commit, so long as they stay together as a family and fight for each other!

You know that this is the exact behaviour and attitude that Barnes is coming after you for, right? Like, you're proving her point over and over again with every word you say?

Despite the obvious flaw in Reid's reasoning, Emily is convinced, and decides to try and keep her job! Because, seriously, what else was she going to do? It's not like Emily has a life outside of her work, the way Aaron does.

While the team preps their attempt to take the killer down, Emily and JJ chat about how best to deal with the killer if they have to talk him down. Their plan? Talk about how awesome he is to get him to lower his guard! So, the thing they do literally all the time. Good note.

In the killer's apartment, they discover that the killer had purchased copies of Ray, the lead victim's, wardrobe! Perhaps he was obsessed with becoming Ray? But why? Could Ray have been sleeping with the other absent housemate, who the killer was in love with, and that's why the killer planned the murder for when she was out of the country working as a flight attendant?

This is all fun theorizing, but it's not super-relevant, since they already know who the killer is.

At the office, Barnes asks Matt why the team seems to be made up entirely of insubordinate assholes, and he says that's a normal response of people when threatened. It isn't if you're a professional, but let's move on - she claims she's not there to tear apart the team, but what else could be motivating this behaviour?

The team finds the killer waiting by the flight attendant's car, and they set up an ambush, gradually moving people out of the area making as little fuss as possible. At the same time, they bring the flight attendant into the garage to their staging area for the takedown. Why would they do that? The killer is like a hundred feet away. Maybe he can't see her, but why take a chance? Shouldn't you have her locked up in the airport's security office?

Aisha and Eric aim their guns at the killer, and he puts a gun to his own head, and says that if he doesn't get to see the flight attendant, he'll kill himself! Who cares if he does that, though?

Apparently Barnes does, so she wants to send the flight attendant in! The first rule of hostage-style situations is that you don't ever send in the person that the gunman wants to see. Because they'll then try to kill the person or they'll kill themselves.

Barnes says that bringing in the wife in Central Park worked a couple of weeks ago, why not try it now? Well, maybe because that was an unarmed man who had no intention of hurting his 'hostage', and he didn't ask to see his wife. Could that be the difference?

Barnes, who turns out to be both an idiot and a psychopath, then grabs the flight attendant and drags her into the parking lot! This leads to the flight attendant immediately getting shot because the team is really, really slow on their trigger fingers. They do kill him, though, a second too late.

THE END

The flight attendant had a bullet-proof vest on, so she's fine, but how on earth did they get the flight attendant to agree to come out and see the killer? Why would she have done that? Did Barnes threaten her or something? This whole scene makes no sense.

On the plane, JJ says that they'll use Barnes' attempt to get the flight attendant killed against her if she keeps coming after the team! But will that dissuade her?

Back at Quantico, the team does some self-congratulating over temporarily defeating Barnes, but will the victory hold?

No, it won't. Barnes shows up, having already gone to the director with her crazy lie about the team screwing up the case. Even though she dragged a woman in front of a crazed killer and then that woman got shot by said crazed killer. So... this show doesn't think much of Chris Wray's intellect, huh?

Anyhoo, Barnes shows up and announces that she's changing things up. Emily, Garcia, and Aisha are reassigned, Joe's forced into retirement, Reid can teach full time if he wants to stay, so the team is now just JJ, Eric, and Matt!

Well, I've been complaining about cast bloat for a while now, but these seems like a drastic overcorrection.

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

Slightly! They were able to judge based on how well the killer knew the house that he doubtlessly was someone all the housemates were familiar with!

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

Interviewing all of the surviving housemates about everyone in their lives would have sussed the guy out pretty quickly, so yes.

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

3/10 - It's shocking how incredibly unprofessional the team was this week. Yes, I know they were under pressure, but instead of quietly doing their best job and letting the results stand for themselves, they each took every opportunity to be as hostile as possible to the person on whose whim their fates depended.

It's weird what a bad job the show did of defending the team - everything Barnes said about the team is completely accurate, but instead of taking a moment to reflect on this, the show just reveals her to be a complete idiot who almost gets a woman killed for no reason.

It's like they're actively trying to avoid having to grapple with some hard truths about the team. Weird.

And once again, I can't help but stress how much better this storyline would have worked if the team had actually shot the conspiracy theorist in Roswell. Make that change and while this isn't necessarily a great storyline, it instantly becomes one that makes perfect sense.

This episode was so terrible I never ever got a chance to once again ding the show for completely misunderstanding the meaning of the term 'family annihilator'.

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