7.1.20

Criminal Minds 1415: Truth or Dare

A red truck drives up to a small Mexican fast food place, and the driver heads inside. Watching him is a bedraggled man in a black plaid shirt. I mention this only because I've never understood black plaid. Using black as a colour in plaid? Sure, go nuts - but a shirt that's just black and grey? You're being extravagantly emo at that point.

The waitress notices that Black Plaid hasn't eaten any of his food, so presumably she'll be able to identify him later on. Unless he shoots the place up, or something. Happily, he doesn't, instead waiting for Red Truck Guy to leave and then following out into the street!

Over at Quantico, Eric and Reid walk into the briefing room, with Eric busy chatting about Reid's amazing shooting skills! I've already pointed out how weird it is the way they're trying to butch up Reid which seems redundant, given that they've already got two hunks on the show, and the cast doesn't need to be any more generic than it is, but it's especially disquieting to see that the way they've chosen to make Reid more manly is to say 'he's better at killing now'. Um... do you not see the bad psychological path that takes you down, show about the psychology of serial killers?

It turns out that they haven't had a case in a couple of days, so they're just hanging out and playing cards! Um... isn't there something more important they could be doing? Writing up psychological profiles of nonserial killers for police departments across the country? Giving lectures? Nope, they're going to get paid to play cards, because they're all a little on the terrible side. Just a little, though.

Once again it's pointed out that Reid has been banned from Vegas casinos, and he gives a little spiel about math being the basis of all card games - which is true, but not relevant to the situation. Everyone knows that card games are just math, knowing that didn't get you kicked out of casinos. Your memory did, because you were counting cards at 21. If the team was going to be playing blackjack or chemin de fer, then you would have an advantage, but this is draw poker, where it's just luck and bluffing - no math skills are needed. Math only comes up in games like hold 'em, and even then, everyone knows the math, so it doesn't give anyone an advantage.

Back in crimetown, Black Plaid T-bones the red truck and then gets out and shoots the driver a few times! Also, he doesn't seem psyched to be doing it. Is someone forcing him to commit the crime? It's not like it's personal - the show is good enough to give us a shot of the driver seeing Black Plaid and not recognizing him before getting shot.

At the poker game, JJ wins, despite the fact that Reid says she has a tell proving that it's a bluff! This leads JJ winning one more Prentiss Award before the season ends-

No, JJ, this has nothing to do with lying. You weren't bluffing. You actually did have an unbeatable hand. There was nothing dishonest about anything you did.

How are you this bad at such basic concepts?

Time for the case! Two people have been crashed into and shot in the past two days! Obviously it's a serial killer! Emily humiliates herself by referring to police's initial belief that it was a 'road rage incident gone wrong'. Um... road rage is something that - by definition - has gone wrong. It cannot go right. What you mean is that it was road rage that escalated to murder.

They spend some time wondering if it's a guy who's aroused by car accidents, but we already know that it's someone who's being forced to murder people, so let's skip all of that and check in with Joe, who's checking out the wedding venue with Crystal! This seems like a weird time to do it, since the wedding is in two days, but the whole thing has been pretty last-minute, so why not?

Then Joe gets a call and has to go with the rest of the team to LA for the case - so he's gotten out of dealing with caterers and florists. Great work, Joe! He promises to be back before the wedding, though.

More with Black Plaid - this is a long teaser, huh? He goes to steal a third car, which is modern enough that it has an alarm that goes off when he breaks the window. He's not great at this, huh? The owner rushes out to see what's happening with the alarm, and Black Plaid demands the keys at gunpoint!

So yeah, he's being forced into this. Which makes this episode a remake of Death By A Thousand Cuts, the final episode of Suspect Behaviour! So, which member of the team is going to get kidnapped to force another member of the team to shoot someone? Joe, since it's his wedding in two days? One of the women, because that's just how this show is?

Let's find out after the credits?

On the plane, the team goes over the bios of the victims. Could they be connected? One is a public defender, the other a construction worker. Garcia goes hunting for digital links, and the team tries to figure him out based on the MO. Crashing cars into people and then shooting them while they're incapacitated seems especially cruel - could this be about personal revenge? That seems like a bit of a leap - you deal with people who commit far more monstrous murders that have no connection to the victims whatsoever.

The far more interesting part of the MO is that the killer makes zero attempts to hide his identity, and leaves fingerprints all over the cars he steals. This means that the killer has no interest in getting away with the crimes for long - strange that wouldn't come up in their preliminary profile...

At the police station, the cop says it's nice to see the team again, but it's not anyone I recognize. Maybe he was the cop for the vigilante episode back in season 10? The waitress and the guy whose car was stolen have both come forward, so there should be a solid sketch of the guy fairly quickly!

Eric and Joe talk with a witness to the latest shooting, and discover that Black Plaid hesitated before shooting the victim. So they've got that to add to their deliberations. At the library, where the car was stolen, the librarian backs up the assessment of the guy as jittery - he also says that the guy was wandering around in the stacks before heading out to steal the car. I'd assumed he was just stealing the car, but I guess the killer left instructions about the next victim in the library or something like that?

Matt and Aisha wonder why the guy thought it was important enough to go into the library when he was risking exposing himself. Except, you know, he wasn't, really - there's still no APB out with his description, and I guess he knows that his fingerprints aren't on file, so what's he got to be afraid of? It was dumb grabbing the car from outside a building that was open, though, seems like he could have found one in a parking lot or something.

We see Black Plaid in his car, looking over a piece of paper - presumably the orders - he hears a police siren and grabs his gun, but they drive past, so he doesn't have to get in a gunfight.

At the police station, the team discusses how their profile is being shaken up by Black Plaid's weird behaviour, and then Garcia calls with some juicy info - the first victim called the second a week ago! And because this show is always just a little off, the phone records show the call being billed to her data plan, rather than her minutes:
Was it a Skype call? Anyhoo, they apparently didn't talk long, and have no other known contacts, but Garcia's going to keep searching! Then the local detective comes in and announces that there's a new lead! They've found the car, and are going to rush over there to stop the next murder!

At the scene of the upcoming murder, we get a look at the note, and it's not a picture of the person the way I thought it would be.
That's just an address and the description of a car. Couldn't you have just told him that over the phone? I mean, presumably the killer called Black Plaid to tell him to go to the library, right? I figured that was because he needed to give him a picture of the person he needed to kill. Although, in this day and age, you can just send pictures from one untraceable cell phone to the next, so why wasn't he doing that? I'm baffled by this whole library interlude, is my point.

Black Plaid then looks at a picture of a lady - presumably the person who has been kidnapped to ensure that he commits these crimes - and startled from his reverie by the arrival of the fuzz!

They point guns at him, and he explains that his wife is at a given address, and that she'll be killed if he doesn't shoot the third person on his list! Then he reaches for the picture of his wife and the cops shoot him to death! Weird choice, dude - I mean, I know you're frantic right now, but how is agitating cops going to achieve anything?

At Black Plaid's house, they find the wife dead - but quite recently! Wait, how did the killer know to shoot her? He can't have been watching Black Plaid, since he was on the other side of town. If Black Plaid had been livestreaming the killings, and he saw the cops drive up, that would be one thing, but this is just weird.

Also, valuable lesson time - if someone kidnaps your family to get you to do something, just go to the cops immediately. There's no reason to believe that you're going to get your family back, so just take your chances with the cops. Unless it's corrupt cops who've kidnapped your family. Then you're basically screwed, I guess. Sorry I couldn't be of more help.

Emily and Matt go over what they know, and figure that Black Plaid probably wasn't selected randomly - the killer probably had a bone to pick with him as well as the victims. Thankfully, it turns out there was a photo of the latest would-be victim along with the note, so that makes the library a little more justified. Although, again, you can text this info.

Weird of the killer to hold Black Plaid's wife in his house. So... at any point in the last two days Black Plaid could have just sent the cops to his house and this all would have turned out fine? Why wasn't she being held in an undisclosed location, and then the body turned up after Black Plaid was killed? Wouldn't that have given the killer way more leverage?

While the team fills in the detective on what we already know, the killer grabs a waitress and throws her in the trunk of a car! She's not tied up at all, though, so the moment that the car stops at a light she can just open up the trunk and drive off - all trunks have an escape lever, you know.

In a strange moment, the team talks about how they have to figure out what the three victims have in common with the killer and Black Plaid, but don't mention what the third victim told them. Maybe they'll interview him later on?

Okay, I was getting ahead of myself, that's the next scene. The guy was a witness in a hit-and-run case that happened out front of a bar where he worked. The killer was the public defender's client, and when he was sentenced to jail he threatened to kill everyone involved in the case. So... was the construction guy another witness? A jury member? Did she call him to give him a heads up about the killer escaping from or being released from prison? That can't be the case, though, can it? Because if she'd been concerned enough about the death threats of a client to call someone else about it, then she'd definitely have told the people in her life about it, and when she was gunned down in the street that would have been the first thing they would have mentioned, wouldn't it?

Anyhoo, the killer killed 4 people in the accident. The guy's story was that he had been playing truth or dare with someone to impress a woman, and the last dare was to play chicken with oncoming traffic. Weirdly he tried to claim it was an 'accident', which is just crazy. I mean, yes, you didn't mean to hit them, but you did drive your car straight at them hoping to get them to swerve. That's not an accident by any stretch of the imagination. No wonder he was convicted.

The team assumes that Black Plaid was the guy playing truth or dare with the killer, and the killer was mad because he didn't come forward to back up the killer's story. Which is a little weird, because what would that have accomplished? Being dared to commit a crime isn't a defense against having committed that crime. Like... you did it. Having been dared to do it doesn't mitigate your responsibility at all, dude.

Should he be out of jail already? I know it wasn't an extreme crime, but four people are dead, and it's only been 8 years... that said, I have no idea how California sentencing works, so who knows?

Okay, I just looked up the federal sentencing table, and considering the fact that the guy has plenty of priors, and the offense was committed with a vehicle, he should have gotten 4-5 years per dead person. So unless California's sentencing guildlines are drastically different, he should not be out yet.

According to the witness, the construction worker was, in fact, the jury foreman - JJ explains that jury records are sealed in California, which is why they didn't find the connection. Except there's no such thing as sealed records in the world of Criminal Minds, so that's a crazy thing to say. Also, this means that the lawyer called the jury foreman, which means she was worried about being murdered, which means she told a bunch of people, so they should have been on to the killer immediately. Like... that second.

So who's next, the prosecutor or the judge?

The judge, as we learn in the next scene! The killer calls her and sends a picture of her daughter tied up in the trunk of a car - so he can do that? What was the library about, then?

JJ and Reid go looking for the judge, and we get some history - apparently she 'threw the book at him' because she felt he wasn't taking responsibility for his actions. Except he got out of jail after just 8 years. He killed 4 people. How is that 'throwing the book'?

They're able to follow the judge's phone GPS to where her car is parked by a sidewalk. Apparently the killer has just jumped into it and put a gun to the judge's head! When he sees the cops, he demands she drive off, and she does! But they immediately get blocked in by a garbage truck and he drags her out so they can flee on foot!

Wow, so I guess a team member isn't getting kidnapped this week while the other has to kill someone to save their life! So it's not a complete rip-off, then.

Things get bonkers inside the pawn shop that the killer drags the judge into. He grabs a hostage and puts a gun to her head, but then when Reid and JJ run in, he points the gun at them instead. Um... now you're free to just shoot him in the head, team. What are you doing?

The killer orders the judge to take his second gun and aim it at the team. And she... does? Um... just put the gun to the guy's head. Or shoot his hand. Or just push his hand into the air so the team can subdue him! He has no ability to hurt your daughter - he's in the room with you. Also, your daughter is probably like one block away. You think she's in the trunk of a car, and you just picked him up at a line of parked cars. Isn't she probably in one of those?

Anyhoo, Reid and JJ, being idiots, put their guns down instead of shooting the guy in the face. What's wrong with you people?

The killer has the hostage lock up the building, and then announces that he wasn't to play a game!

We cut to a couple of hours later - it's night, and the team is trying to figure out how to get into the building. Have they found the daughter yet? With all the cops around, I'd have to imagine someone banging on the trunk of a car wouldn't be missed for long.

Inside the store, it turns out it isn't hours later, because the judge is just then taping Reid's hands behind his back. So the producers just hoped they could cut to night during a commercial break and no one would notice? Oy, this show.

The killer then chats to the judge - he claims that he was forced to kill those people, so he's not responsible! Um... how? Did the guy dare you to kill four people? No, he just dared you to play chicken, and you sucked at it? Damn, this guy is the worst.

He gives the judge a gun and says to kill the hostage or her daughter dies, and no one mentions that he has no capability to kill the daughter. They're all locked in a small room, surrounded by cops, and the daughter isn't in there. This is a weak plan, killer.

JJ tells the killer to leave the hostage out of the situation, since she wasn't involved in the case, which motivates the killer to toss the hostage aside angrily, which leads to a mirror getting broken next to Reid. I guess he'll use the glass to cut his taped hands and shoot the guy, perhaps with an ankle gun?

The team goes looking for the daughter while the killer tries to get the judge to kill one of the team - for some reason, they still don't mention that he has no capability to kill the daughter - how are they not noticing this?

The killer won't answer the phone from the police, so JJ tries to play into his madness by offering to play truth or dare with him! For some reason she thinks that will work, since he's played it before - but the last time he did, he went to jail for 8 years, and his modern crimes have nothing to do with truth or dare. So why would this work?

It does work, of course, and the killer starts to menace JJ instead of the judge. Reid tries to build rapport by saying that he was also jailed for a crime he didn't commit. Which is a bit of a stretch, since the killer did, in fact, commit the crime he went to jail for.

JJ immediately loses the game! The killer asks her if she's enjoyed shooting people, and she says no! He shoots in Reid's general direction to prove that he doesn't believe her, and he shouldn't! When she was PTSDing pretty hard back in season 10 she completely murdered the defenseless frostbite killer, and seemed really psyched to be doing it.

You're a liar, JJ, in addition to being a murderer.

So she asks the killer what it will take for them all to leave alive, and he says he'll die before going back to prison!

Then it's JJ's turn again, and she's asked to say something she's never told anyone! She hems and haws - getting the judge shot in the leg, thanks for that JJ - before finally admitting that she's in love with Reid, and always has been!

Oh, screw you, show.

I mean, I know I called this a couple of episodes ago, but screw you, Criminal Minds. Jr. is the second-best person to have ever been on the show, and it's absolutely despicable how you've treated him. This is just the icing on the awful cake.

Honestly, at this point JJ and Reid are both so horrible that they deserve each other.

Then Reid uses the ankle gun to shoot the Killer.

THE END

The waitress is found in a trunk just up the street, and there's lots of awkward looks!

Then it's over to DC, where Joe's daughter has turned up for one more episode! I guess her new show doesn't keep her so busy that she couldn't be on the show one more time! At the ceremony, we get lots of meaningful looks between JJ and Reid, and damn it, you two, Jr. is right over there! How is the show expecting us to be happy about this new marriage when love is dying right in front of our eyes? You're all the worst.

Johnny Mathis is there, as the best man! Does he know Joe Mantegna or something?

In other news, Matt and his wife are expecting yet another child! Wow, that's a big family.

Then we get a little more with JJ and Reid, where he tries to badger her into saying that she's really in love with him, and it wasn't just something to distract the killer. But they're interrupted, and the season ends!

Screw you, show.

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

Nope. The killer had publicly threatened his victims.

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

A killer threatened a courtroom full of people that he would kill everyone involved in his case. 8 years later he got out of jail, and his lawyer was notified that he had been released from prison. A few weeks later, she was gunned down in the street. Yes, they would have caught him almost immediately.

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

1/10 - A cop saw a stolen car. That's what solved the case this week. Had the cops been better about notifying victims and their families, he would have been caught even faster, because the minute Black Plaid tried to kill the second person, he'd have been caught, and the killer would have been arrested.

They had better not kill of Jr. so that JJ and Reid can run off together in the last episode. Those two creeps deserve each other, but man, should Jr. leave JJ and take the kids. I mean, based on the amount she works, it's not like they even know what she looks like. He'll be a much better single father for a brief amount of time, and have no trouble finding a second wife.

That would be the only possible happy ending that this show could offer me going into the last season, and I have no confidence that it has the show is capable of offering it.

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