Criminal Minds 1603 - Moose

 It seems that Garcia’s fears about activating the trackers causing problems in the investigation was fairly overblown, because the episode opens with the team chasing a killer through the woods – their quarry carrying a serial killer starter kit as he flees. Those things are bulky as hell and kind of heavy. Maybe just ditch it?

I’m guessing they were able to track him down because, like three of the four killers we’ve seen so far, he just kept the kit in his house, meaning they have a map to a dozen serial killers’ residences? I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.

The killer runs to a car on a nearby access road and climbs in – the show goes out of its way to let us see this logo on the case-

Which I’m wondering if I just missed on the other cases, or if this is a new thing. So I went back and checked, and yup, it's there! Either way, using a traceable case is a really bad idea for this kind of thing. You know, what with it being a serial killer toolkit. Losing a little respect for the Mastermind here. First he forgets to tell the spine slayer to kill his victim, and now he’s using traceable cases? Weak, dude.

Anyway, keep an eye out for the name ‘HAEBERLIN’, it might be important later.

The killer gets maybe ten feet in his car before he’s boxed in by squad cars. The team tells them to let him run – they need to take him alive! They think that if he feels like he’s about to be captured he’ll shoot himself in the head, which is exactly what happens.

Got to ask, though – what exactly was the team’s plan? Let him keep shooting at people until he ran out of bullets and then hope he didn’t have a knife to stab himself with? Spoiler alert – there’s almost certainly a knife in that starter’s kit. If these guys really are this determined to kill themselves, once you blew the element of surprise, he was dead. Just be happy that’s one less serial killer on your list – 11 more to go!

Then, over in Seattle, MM is trying to teach his daughter to play basketball! Is it weird that they didn’t tell us where the first scene was taking place, so we could cross it off the map, which is something I’ve just now decided I want to do?

MM is decent a pretending to do good parenting stuff by tutoring his daughter in basketball, but the minute his daughter is out of sight he drops all pretense of being a happy person – even sinking a free throw bring him no joy. Which is just shocking. Will he soon visit that cashier he has locked up somewhere, or was that a terrible prediction on my part?

More cute family stuff with his wife and two daughters, and then MM hops on a computer to pay his bills – which he’s unable to do because there’s no money in his accounts! That’s what happens when you spend all of your time running a non-profit serial killer mentoring program instead of actually having a network security company. Although I guess this kills my theory that he’s independently wealthy and connected to SOAR as an investor! He’s also not doing anything for profit the way the last two serial killer rings were!

A teen and his dad show up at the door selling magazines to help fundraise for the school, and we learn that MM’s name is Mr. Voit – which I feel like was the name of the 2005 killer from the first scene of the first episode, although that could be the subtitles getting confused again, like they did with the Josh/Steve situation last week. Provisionally we’re going to guess that MM is maybe the original killer’s son?

Anyhoo, MM fantasizes about killing the dad of the teen, then heads into his garage to check on his own starter kit, which yes, does have that same super-prominent logo on it. A little embarrassed to have missed that the last two weeks! Also MM is getting worse and worse at this, it seems.

He takes out his phone and checks out his surveillance camera – it seems that it’s not the cashier he kidnapped, but rather the dog! Who he decides to torture by playing music super-loud! This dude is compellingly weird. Did he murder the cashier and take the dog to remind him of her, or was this a straight-up dognapping?

After the ‘credits’ the episode proper starts up in the evidence hangar, where Joe and JJ are shocked at the sheer size of MM’s murder frat. That said, they’re making excellent progress – check out this image:

That’s ten cases we can see in the shot. 1 from the container, 1 from the spine slayer, 1 from RJ, and presumably 1 from the guy who just killed himself. This implies that since last week they’ve either caught or gotten significant leads on seven serial killers, counting the guy from the intro. Which is maybe their biggest week ever? I know we’re supposed to be terrified of MM’s serial killing frat, but it kind of seems like all he’s done is gather up a bunch of killers and put radio tags on them like you would a goose whose migration patterns you were tracking?

Is MM the most effective serial killer hunter the show has ever presented?

We get a scene of Tara and her girlfriend in the elevator, and the dialogue is about how great the commute to Quantico is from Tara’s place, where she slept the previous night. She comments on how much more convenient it is than fighting Beltway traffic – although that suggests she literally lives inside the beltway, and if that’s true, taking the 395 or the 1 is a way better route out of the city, and should have almost zero traffic, since everyone else is trying to drive into the city at that hour.

I’m repeating myself, of course, because I’m fairly sure Emily once complained about the same thing, so let’s move on, because this is really just Tara’s GF’s way of hinting that they should move in together. Tara is, of course, afraid of commitment – let’s not forget that the character was introduced breaking up with her fiancée because she was more interested in chatting with serial killers than her future husband. Of course, the real reason that she doesn’t want the GF to move in is that having another person around all the time will put a crimp in her own serial killing plans, but that’s just a theory that I believe with every fibre of my being.

Seriously, though, how great would it be if the end-of-season cliffhanger hook was that Tara had a starter kit of her own?

When she gets off the elevator, a woman walks up to Tara and asks for information about the ‘Sicarius’ case – so I guess that name went wide, even though there’s no way it ever would? She’s annoyed that all of the families of victims from the containers have been gathered in a single room for hours without any information.

I’m mad about this too – I guess I was assuming all of the victims were from the Washington State area – did the FBI fly them across the country? Maybe Bailey is right to question how they’re spending their money at the BAU.

In a clunky bit of exposition, we see JJ asking Garcia about the fact that she was sent all the transponder codes by some guy. How does she not already know about this already? She’s been criss-crossing the country for the past week based on those codes, there’s no way she doesn’t know where they come from. Maybe she could have just asked if there’s any leads on who sent the codes?

There’s a cute line by Garcia about how she shouldn’t assume the leaker’s gender – but the modulated voice from last week was either male, or designed to make someone sound stereotypically male, so it’s fine to accept their presentation at face value for the moment.

In a super-cute meta-moment, Joe doesn’t want to say Sicarius, because he suddenly cares about nicknames (but you know that he’s going to write a book called “Sicarius” the moment the case is over”), and only calls the head of the organization ‘Fuckhead’. Despite the fact that this is a streaming show, Garcia is in no way comfortable swearing, which is delightful.

Garcia has found the site where the killers communicate, which should be pretty helpful, but instead of focusing on concrete leads like IP addresses of people they haven’t caught yet, the team starts rambling about how MM is finding the killers to recruit. They have no good theories – although they do wonder how he’s got people to join a suicide cult so effective that every single killer they’ve come close to catching has offed themselves.

Which seems a little odd – no one was like ‘sure, take me in, for better prison conditions I’ll rat out this serial killer cult I’m in’ – what does he have on them, exactly?

It seems that the container victims were from as much as a thousand miles away, and all were ‘low-risk’ targets, which is what they call people whose lifestyles make them easy to kidnap and kill without anyone realizing their missing.


I legit can’t believe we’re 16 years into this show and they’re still getting this backwards. The risk in this statement refers to the lifestyle of the victim, not the chance of the killer getting caught. These are all HIGH-RISK victims. Then again, they recently mentioned a cooling-off period, which is a term that shouldn’t exist in Criminal Minds, where every killer is a spree killer, so it’s not like this is a complete surprise.

Tara’s idea for a lead – she and Luke will track down who’s making the starter kits. Which they should have been doing already, but whatever. The funny part of this line? She suggests that this is going to help them figure out where the network is going to ‘strike next’. Which it absolutely cannot do. MM has been seeding them all around the country, so knowing where the kits are coming from has no conceivable way of giving you a lead on where or when a killer will strike.

That said, it could certainly help you figure out who’s running the frat, which is way more useful information that tracking down a single killer.

‘Strike next’. Come on, Tara, you’re supposed to be better than this. Okay, I don’t know what I’m basing that on.

Okay, turns out things are going less well than I’d hoped – we see Emily talking to Bailey, and it turns out all of the cases with transponders in them were still buried except for three? And those three were only dug up between the alarms going off and the cops arriving to find them? So… spine slayer was literally the only active killer that the source gave them a lead on? That’s… odd.

Bailey is happy the kits are being snatched up, and sanguine about the idea of serial killers offing themselves before being caught – but Emily points out that if they keep doing that, the team will never get any leads on MM! Bailey points out that since this is a domestic terror cell, the anti-terrorism task force should be brought in, but Emily thinks that’s a bad idea since doing so would let MM know what methods the government is using to track him?

I have no idea why she thinks this, or what she’s talking about. Does Emily think that the FBI talks loudly and publicly about all of the stuff it’s doing to catch domestic terrorists? Because, spoiler alert… that’s not a thing. It’s kind of assumed in every fringe organization – from eco-terrorists to hardcore neo-nazis – that FBI informers are everywhere, at all times. But they think that because of the COINTELPRO files that were stolen by that church group, not because the FBI tells people that’s what they’re doing. Officially the FBI doesn’t admit COINTELPRO exists.

Bailey makes it clear that he doesn’t think the BAU can handle this on their own, and Emily snarks behind his back as he leaves, because she’s 12, I guess?

Back at MM’s house, it turns out his older daughter has gotten into private school – which MM is stressed about, because they absolutely do not have the money to pay for that! He points out that quarantine ate up all of their savings, which is both something that happened to a lot of people, and something that makes zero sense for what this character seems to be. What I mean is, during quarantine, huge numbers of people got laid off, yes, but an enormous number of people started working from home, which, despite the overall negative effects on the global economy, actually created MORE work for network specialists. I know some people who work in IT, and they spent 2020-2022 busier than they’d been when they were actually going into offices.

That said, it could be that this is a John List situation, and MM’s personality problems make him unhireable and he just pretended that the plague was causing him to not have work, because that makes more sense than a network security specialist – which he actually seems to be pretty good at – going broke during the pandemic.

I mean, I know he was probably spending all of his time and money setting up the frat, but how out of touch is his wife that she wouldn’t see how weird it was that they weren’t making money for those two years?

Garcia and JJ talk more about the messaging app – basically MM built 4chan for serial killers, or, to put it another way, 4chan.

I’ve been playing a bunch of ‘The Devil In Me’ so when I saw Gethungry1893’s name I immediately assumed it was connected to HH Holmes’ mythical reign of terror, although it’s almost certainly not.

Apparently the forum has over half a million members, so it seems that MM created a safe space for the worst people on the internet to congregate, and then read through their posts until he found a few guys who seemed like they were ready to go live. That’s a reference to the original screenplay that was turned into terrible movie suspect zero, which is essentially a 100 page version of this entire season of television. More importantly, just as it was a completely believable way to encourage serial killers in that story, it makes perfect sense here. These sites radicalize people into mass murder in the real world, so it feels really accurate to have them encouraging serial killers on the show.

In what’s the most baffling goof I’ve seen in ages, Garcia literally goes from saying that she’s identified two people they’ve seen before to saying ‘here are the three guys we know about’. Weird. Although this could be an editing thing, and they weren’t supposed to catch the third guy until later in the episode, and they couldn’t reshoot the intro?

I think it’s safe to say there’s a minor continuity error in the image here, because they’ve got the bull killer asking if anyone knows about a paralytic he can use for his murders. But the way they identified him is that he used the same drugs he was treating his own back injury with to drug people. Although maybe he’s such a dummy that he needed to be told he could do that? He didn’t seem like a particularly bright guy, after all.

It turns out they all talked with MM, who goes by user45125, which, fun fact, is the zip code for part of Cincinnati, Ohio! Probably not relevant.

In addition to being riddled with typos, his bio states that he wasn’t born this way, and that someone showed him how to be a Beast. Presumably he’s talking about container guy here, who was the original killer.

Garcia gets a list of everyone MM has been chatting with – it’s over 17 thousand people, but at least it’s somewhere to start!

Also, can I just say how amazing it is that we’re over a third of the way into this episode without dealing with a specific ongoing murder? This is almost completely uncharted waters for the episode – they’ve only done this twice before… like… ever. I’m counting flashback episodes as ‘ongoing crimes’ for the purposes of this list I’m making, BTW.

It’s back to Elias Voit, which we learn is MM’s real name, getting fired by his boss – and he has to return the company car! The boss points out that business isn’t coming back the way they thought it would. Although, as a great sales engineer, the boss is sure he’ll be able to find work. So I guess he’s not an IT security specialist? Sales engineers are basically salesmen who understand the in-depth technical aspects of a product that they’re marketing. Everything about this guy confuses me.

Outside the daughter is talking to the magazine kid about how he should also apply to a better school, but the father doesn’t think it’s a good idea. He’s like a cartoon of what people think a right-wing scumbag is, saying she only got into the school because of a need for diversity. Which, you know, if they wanted to go this way, maybe cast the daughter as mixed-race and the wife as literally anything but white? The dad is literally the type of person who would unironically say ‘beta cuck’, so at this point the show is literally trying to get us to root for MM to kill him? Weird play, show, but I’m interested to see where this is going.

MM gets on the phone with Benjamin, another killer who’s part of the frat. Apparently MM charges them money for helping them figure out how to commit crimes without getting caught? So this really is a franchise situation, as I talked about on the podcast last week. Neat.

Ben wants to kill someone right away with the new tools he’s got, but MM says that someone else gets to do a kill first – also, apparently he’s shutting down the network and moving things to a new system because the FBI is on to them. Which is pretty smart, actually.

Okay, things get super-confusing, as JJ and Garcia think they have a lead on MM – they think he’s burying the starter kits well in advance, and then choosing killers based on what’s in the kit? Like he’ll have a kit prepped for breaking into houses, and he’ll wait for someone who wants to do that, and then tell that person about that kit? This seems like a terrible way to operate, because you’ve got to pick a guy who both has a specific fetish and also lives in the part of the country where you buried that starter kit? Doesn’t it make WAY more sense to recruit a specific person and THEN bury the kit for them so that the two of you never meet IRL?

Also, the show tries to backfill the plot hole I just noticed, by saying that the Matador (get it? He kills BULLS. How are they not calling him this?) used a special paralytic IN ADDITION to the pills he got for his back. I see what you’re doing, Criminal Minds.

Okay, this is AMAZING – they’re assuming that the starter kits are all based on the ‘how to kill people’ methods that the container killer was experimenting with, so the idea is, and follow along with me, because this is CRAZY – each kit has tools for a different method of killing in it, and they figure that if they can find out which methods of killing are missing from the kits they have, then cross-reference that against the fantasies of the people that MM is talking to, they can come up with the three owners of the missing cases.

Why do I find this so hilarious? Largely because one of the ways he established killing people was putting poison spiders down their throat, thus suggesting that one of the cases they already have is full of spider eggs.

So they identify the ‘types of murder’ that came up in container guy’s diaries that aren’t represented in the ten cases they have – and they are, drumroll, please…. acid, strangulation, and fire. Here’s the thing about that, though – every kit we’ve seen has had rope in it, so how can you say people aren’t ready to strangle? And you don’t need something from a kit for fire, you need a can of lighter fluid, which you can get literally anywhere. Every one of the kits is a potential strangulation or fire kit.

The acid is a decent observation, though, I’ll give them that! And since Garcia literally just mentioned someone talking about dissolving a body in acid, maybe that’s going to be relevant?

Back to MM, who’s frustrated about the guy who insulted him in front of his daughter. But he can’t just kill the guy, can he? Of course he can, or at least that’s what the episode is suggesting – because he got sent the twenty thousand dollars he wanted, and told the guy where his kit was, even giving him a specific target to kill. Well… that’s new!

Oh, and the kit is for making remote controlled firebombs. But will they actually burn the neighbour to death, or is this all a misdirect?

In Quantico, Garcia has found a guy who loves burning people, and talks about waiting for a ‘customer’ to burn to death. Joe says that means he’s a military vet with PTSD. His basis for this? He doesn’t say – hopefully that comes up later, because it seems like a reach. Maybe it’s military lingo that the people you drop bombs on or fire mortars at are called ‘customers’?

In a twist, Garcia isn’t able to illegally hack into the department of defense, so Tara has to call her GF for a favor! I should probably learn this character’s name if she’s going to keep showing up. Great piece of acting by Aisha Tyler, who realizes that all the favors she keeps asking for means that she’s going to have to get closer to her GF, which she is very reticent to do.

GF drops by with their killer’s file – apparently the people who spot drone strikes call the CIA or DoD ‘customers’ because they’re the ones hiring them to kill people! Long story short, a guy who the military hired to kill people went off the deep end and started putting videos of the aftermaths of bombings online! So he must be the killer!

Meanwhile MM has flown to DC, which is where the firebomber is! So he is not killing the neighbour! Phew.

Bailey wants to bring in antiterrorism, which is, you know, a completely reasonable thing to do, because they’ve got a mad bomber in the nation’s capital. Joe is reticent, because…?

The bomber heads towards his target, and texts MM that he’s going to want to see the explosion. I’ll say this about MM – he is not good at staying hands off about this whole thing. The FBI has already spotted the bomber, and even have a sniper ready to shoot him if he tries to set off the bomb! The team isn’t worried about innocent people getting killed, they just want him alive so he can lead them to MM! But can he? All he can say is that he paid money to a bank account and picked up a starter kit. And all of that information will be on his computer and phone whether he’s alive or dead, so I’m not seeing the issue.

There’s a strange scene where the domestic terrorism people don’t want to arrest the guy for no clear reason, so JJ and Luke simply tackle him before he can set off his bomb, and MM walks away, sad because he didn’t see anyone die.

That night Bailey gives a press conference telling everyone about the frat because he wants the attention – I don’t actually think this is unbelievable, the FBI and DoJ do hugely unethical things for PR reasons all the time, and this is right in line with that. What I don’t understand is why the BAU thinks this will hurt their case. They’re saying that the frat will go underground if they know the FBI knows about them – but A: They’re already underground, and B: they already know the FBI is onto them. Remember last week when you turned on all the transponders, dug up all the cases, and got one of the guys to kill himself? Yeah, they know you’re on to them. How could they not?

Bailey takes Joe out of the lead position in the BAU because he had Tara ask Rebecca (that’s the GF name) to illegally use DOJ info to catch their suspect! So Emily puts herself in charge of the BAU, because we knew that was going to happen eventually. Emily than insults Bailey because he’s never shot anyone on the job. To which I’m like… uh… what do you think the FBI is? They almost never shoot anyone. The vast majority of FBI agents are lawyer and accountants. Yes, everyone needs to know how to shoot, but the kind of work the FBI does rarely involves high-speed chases and running gun battles. I feel like your experiences have given you a very warped view of your own job.

Then there’s a nice scene where Tara asks Rebecca to move in! Hopefully she’s okay with all those people tied up in the basement.

Here’s the twist- the mad bomber wasn’t a killer at all! He was trying to lure MM into the park so that he could find out who was behind the frat! Yes, he paid the money and bought a bomb, but then he poured the explosives down a drain and filled the container up with dish soap! That’s right, everything the team did just ruined the work of a guy who was literally seconds away from catching MM! Also, they’re holding him for having a bag full of soap, so that’s going to be a lawsuit!

It turns out the guy’s sister was killed by the container guy 15 years ago, and he’s been looking for the killer ever since. But also he murdered people for the government and posted corpse photos online. Dude went hardcore to get a lead on the killer! But, of course, none of that other stuff can be in any way related to hunting MM, since he didn’t start the website until a couple of years ago.

I’m confused. Oh, and he’s the informant who reached out to Garcia. How did he breach the network, I wonder?

Then it’s over to MM, who’s complaining about how people can’t follow instructions! He’s tied up a guy who looks like his neighbour, and has Moose, the adorable pupper, murder him – apparently he’s been training the dog to attack when the music plays! So that’s a nice end to the episode! They got us to a point where we’re on the killer’s side in wanting him to kill the neighbour, but then reminded us that he’s a bad guy by having him kill a stranger!

I was skeptical about spending so much time with the killer this year, but it’s actually working really well so far!


So, how useful was profiling at solving the crime this week?


Yes, I know that they reverse-engineered the idea that the killer would use fire in an attempt to narrow their suspect pool, which is neat, but they weren’t hunting a killer, and actually screwed up the bomber’s (whose name is Green, for when we meet him next week) plans to catch and kill MM.

Although that wasn’t a great plan either, since why on earth would MM, after building up a giant apparatus for killing people by proxy, suddenly show up to watch a bombing in person?

Baffling. Unless he suspected that Green was the mole, and he was actually travelling to DC to see if he actually firebombed the target, and kill him if he didn’t? That would make sense, actually, so let’s assume that’s what they’re going with.

See you next week!

Oh, one more thing -

Is Elias Voit Moose? What I mean is, we're introduced to Moose when the woman says that he's a harmless cutie who wouldn't hurt a fly. Now, an episode later, MM has turned him into a vicious attack dog. Remember, his bio on the website said that he didn't start out a monster, someone turned him into one - and we still have the question of the container killer from the first scene of the season. The team thinks that's who's burying the cases and running the frat - but we know it's actually MM.

So is this a situation where Container Guy kidnapped Voit and locked him away, torturing him until he was ready to start killing people, and he's recreating his own trauma in his treatment of Moose?

Or am I, as usual, reading way too much into things?

Maybe we'll find out in episode 4!

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