Criminal Minds 1505: Ghost

The episode opens with some one-on-one basketball. They toss some rocks and talk some trash, then one is shot by a sniper! The second guy only has a moment to be puzzled be fore he, too, is felled by a bullet!

A bloody bouncing basketball transitions to a normal basketball in a gym somewhere, where Muscles and Brown Eyes are having a roundball duel of their own! Matt wins, but Eric's good about it! At the office some amount of time later - maybe they were playing before work - the team gets word about the sniper in Illinois!

They start talking about Tim Omundsen back in season 1 - could this sniper be a copycat? Um... no? Like, there have been a couple of snipers since then. Luke Cage, the kid from Suspect Behaviour - since this guy isn't trying to wound people, there's no reason to bring up the sniper from season 1. Of course, this is taking place in the same city as his rampage, so there could be a connection.

The team rushes to the plane, then we cut back to Des Plaines, where I guess word hasn't gotten out about the sniping, because three more people get shot while hanging out in a park! Maybe it's time to shut down the whole city, like they did with DC back in 2002. Or was it 2003?

My question - why are people so comfortable hanging around in public places when they know there's a sniper on the loose? Snipers are pretty famously one of the most alarming types of killers there are for the public. If the first victim in the parking lot two days earlier had been shot in a drive-by, or the cops were simply treating it as a standard murder, that would be one thing - but this is someone killed with a rifle from far away, and nobody heard a shot, suggesting a silencer of some kind was being used. That's the kind of crime that makes everyone ultra-careful until they know that it's been resolved in some meaningful way.

This is something that the show forgets every time - but when compared to real life, the absurdity becomes obvious. Try to imagine a situation where someone is sniping people in a city and the cops do literally anything else but chase that person until they're caught? It basically has never happened. Especially in a city that's already been through this exact thing. Imagine how fast DC would be put on lockdown if another sniper showed up.

So, will Des Plaines be shut down when the team gets there? Let's find out after the credits?

On the plane, they keep talking as if this killer is mimicking the work of Tim, even though the only thing they have in common is that they're shooting people in public places in the same city. Still, focusing on Tim is the only lead they've got!

Garcia reveals that two of the three latest victims survived their shooting! So that's something! Oh, and the park the latest victim was shot in was named after that SWAT captain that the team goaded Tim into shooting. So that's a really solid connection, actually!

Okay, the show just went off the rails when they go to meet Anthony Denison in the park. They talk about how cops are going to be the next target - since this killer has now shot as many people as Tim did before killing a cop, and JJ tries to rewrite history, announcing that Tim attacked the investigation because cops were getting too close.

Except no, that's not what happened. You decided that the SWAT captain was the killer, and you tried to arrest him, and Tim shot him because you were trying to steal credit for his work. It was - entirely - your fault that he died.

While assessing the scene, no one asks the big question - where was the guy shooting from? There's trees everywhere, and no buildings towering over the park. Was the guy just fifty feet away in the bushes? If so, shouldn't finding his sniper's nest be your top priority right now? Ballistics will let you know which direction the shots were coming from, after all.

Matt and Eric talk to the woman who called the cops, and she mentions that she didn't hear any gunshots. Then they finally look over the body placement, and claim something strange - that the killer couldn't have fired from a parking lot, since there were obstacles in the way!
But no, there weren't. As we learned from Jack Reacher, a guy could have stopped his van, fired three shots out the window, and driven away. There's plenty of clean sightlines based on the images we see. Nice try, though!

Anyhoo, they use their complete lack of understanding of how shooting works to offer a bold new theory - maybe the killer wasn't firing from a long distance at all! Wait, what? You think someone got close up with a rifle and no one noticed them? Or were they not shot with rifle bullets? If not, that's information we really, really, really need to have.

Oh, and we see a guy standing in the woods, watching the investigation, wearing a motorcycle helmet. Is he the killer? That would be incredibly dumb, since there must be fifty cops around controlling access to the area. He'd never be able to get away.

At the ME's office we get the news - the three new victims were shot with 9MM pistol rounds! Then the ballistics reports come in - two different guns were used in the park, and both had silencers! Fun fact - a ballistics report couldn't tell you that a silencer was used with any kind of accuracy. It could tell you that different guns were used, and there's a decent chance you could match it to a specific gun, but silencers don't leave lots of telltale marks on bullets.

Also, was the parking lot guy shot with a pistol as well, or was he actually hit with a rifle? I feel like they would have known about it by now if he was shot with a pistol.

The team interviews family members and witnesses of the crimes, but get no leads! They puzzle over why this 'copycat' is killing so much faster than Tim did. Now that we've found out that it's multiple people using pistols, is it really useful to be thinking of these guys as copycats at all?

They get a tip that the killers were seen leaving the park in a grey sedan - just like Tim did! Could this be a plan to lure cops into an ambush? The team mentions that the accelerated timeline could be designed to make cops vulnerable to attack, but that doesn't actually make any sense. If they wanted to kill cops, it's never hard to find or ambush one. Shooting five people in three hours will only serve to put the cops on high alert. But maybe that's what the killers want? A challenge worthy of them? And this is actually a copycat of the cop-hunter from season 4?

As the team sets up a convoy to go to the place where the sedan was last seen - an apartment building close to Tim's old residence - we cut over to a bunch of bikers prepping something in a garage nearby! They've got a van and multiple bikes ready to move - are they going to attack the convoy? That would be a deeply stupid idea, so maybe!

Yup! They throw a flash grenade into an FBI SUV and kidnap Matt and Eric, leaving Aisha behind! The team gets there a minute later, but the bikers are gone! So... wait... do these bikers have a specific problem with team members from the BAU, and they 'copycatted' a crime of theirs to lure them to the city? That's an insane plan.

In the ambulance Aisha wants to be hypnotized so that she can remember details about who attacked them! I don't know how much help she'll be, since everyone was wearing masks, but who knows? Maybe they talked loudly while she was half-conscious?

At the abduction site the team wonders why the MO has switched so drastically. They realize that the team must have been the real targets all along! Twist! Luckily Aisha's hypnotism has worked, and she's able to remember the killer's hand tattoo! Like an idiot, he wasn't wearing motorcycle gloves! Of course, if he had been, the tattoo would have just been on his forearm, so that's not a big problem, really.

Garcia runs down the tattoo and goes over Matt and Eric's bios - they were the targets, so they must have something in common! Could it be from before they were on the BAU? Wait... what would the bikers have done if they weren't both in the same SUV? That's quite a bit of luck!

Then it's back over to the bikers, who are apparently planning on delivering the guys to someone? They were hired to do this? By whom? The head of the bikers does have a history with the two of them, however - and he's annoyed that they don't recognize him! So he beats them up a little, because, again, he's a bad guy.

The whole scene is kind of confusing, because they're talking about 'burning the pigs' and 'making a drop', but it's not clear if the two are related. It would be weird if they weren't, but you never know with a show like this!

Garcia identifies the killer right away! He was a mob hitman that fled to Europe, where Matt chased him down, and then Eric caught him at his brother's house! Which led to the brother being sent to jail for ten years for letting the killer stay with him! That's not enough of a motive for the team, however - getting revenge on two cops can't be what this whole thing is about, so they keep digging for things that the killer could be up to specifically in Des Plaines.

This is one of those weird situations where the characters seem to have read the script. Any other person on earth would look at the facts - a twist psychopath lured the two FBI agents who were responsible for his arrest to a town, then grabbed them - and think 'yup, that must be what's going on here!' It's only these characters who would look at this absolutely preposterous situation and think 'no, there must be another level of madness to it!

There's a more natural way to get to a lead - just looking for any resources or connections the killer has to the city is a totally believable thing for them to be doing without the extra 'we know there must be something bigger at work here' nonsense. Because out all of the other times the team was targeted, only once was something bigger going on. And that was a prison break. A prison break that only failed because they targeted the team.

Yes, I remember the time Mr. Scratch 'used them' to get a list of people with MPD, but zero parts of that story made sense, so I'm not counting it.

At the warehouse, the killer makes a strong argument that it's just a personal thing, since his brother was murdered by a rival gang when they were put in prison! He blames the two men for getting his brother put in the same maximum security lockup where murderers who hated him were located! Which is a pretty good point, actually, since all the brother did was let his on-the-lam brother stay with him for a little while.

He also mentions that the gang cut up his face to remind him of his dead brother, but the makeup artists didn't do much with his face, so that doesn't really land.

Hey, how did Penelope not immediately know the brother was dead? I know it's because they wanted the reveal to be in this scene, but then end the last scene with her looking at the file and being shocked by what she finds, then cutting away before the reveal. But no, they have her find out what happened in the next scene, because she's apparently terrible at her job.

We get some nonsense psychology as the team finds out about the brother's death - apparently his tongue was cut out, so maybe he was talking to the screws inside the prison? The team decides that it's a classic case of transference, and the killer is taking out his anger on Matt and Eric because he can't get back at the people who killed him! This seems like a stretch - as if the show is saying it's unreasonable that he would be angry at the cops who put his brother in jail where he got killed, and he needs extra motivation to hate them. He really doesn't, though.

Matt and Eric try to drive a wedge between the killer and his gang by claiming that the brother was turning state's evidence against him and his lieutenant had the brother killed - which is why the killer was only injured! The killer finds this compelling because they know the lieutenant's name: "Flea". Of course, all the bikers have been talking loudly in the next room, so why would that be strange information for them to have?

Still, it's convincing enough to get the killer to shoot Flea! Which suggests the plan to sow dissent in the ranks might not be as successful as they'd hoped!

Garcia identifies the tattoo as belonging to an outlaw biker gang and Joe calls his biker task force contact to see if they know anything that's going on in the area! Presumably they'll get onto the big deal, which raises an important question - why did the bikers think that having the whole town on high alert because a sniper was on the loose would somehow make it easier for them to make some kind of illicit deal? Wouldn't the cops be suspicious of anyone driving around the city when there's a mass murderer on the loose?

Joe and Emily go to talk to an undercover FBI agent at a local biker bar, and he tells them that the killer's gang is using an abandoned warehouse as a base of operations! Garcia quickly uses CCTV footage to find one that bikes have been going into and out of recently! Wait, couldn't she have been tracking bikers literally the moment they knew it was bikers, six hours ago? Anyhoo, that was easy!

Also, it was kind of unnecessary, since Matt was able to pick his handcuffs with a piece of wood, or maybe a small nail, setting him and Eric free to kill all the bikers! Well, except for one, who gets the drop on Matt at the end and Joe shoots him just in time!


Except for a scene on the plane, where Eric and Matt talk about how the trick about killing Flea gave them the edge they needed! Also the brother wasn't actually talking to the cops, that was just a lie Matt told.

It's a nice attempt to make their psychology skills seem relevant to the case, but did they need to escape? The team was right outside the building, and if Flea was still alive, it wouldn't have affected the timeline in any meaningful way. Still, you've got to pretend, right?

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


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

They found a guy who disliked both Matt and Eric, and he was the killer. Database management solved the case this week.

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

1/10 - Hey, if the bikers just drove the van back to the warehouse, why weren't they able to track that on CCTV? Later on Garcia finds the warehouse in question because there's footage of bikes driving in and out of it - information that takes her five seconds and ten keystrokes to get, BTW - so why not do the same thing for the black van which was driving around on basically empty streets?

Weird how the planned drop never wound up amounting to anything, isn't it?

This wasn't a good episode.

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