There really is no good time to commit a murder, but as Charlie learns in Criminal Minds‘ “The Witness,” he picks the absolute worst time when he kills someone.
The FBI is called to Los Angeles following a sarin gas attack on a city bus, but as investigate a man who was at the bus depot before the bus left, they discover that there’s more going on than they realized at first.
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A Killer Commute
Charlie sits in his car cleaning his shoes with water at the bus depot, when his wife, Tracy, calls from work, wondering where he is. She’s also his boss, so she can’t show him favoritism just because they’re married. However, by listening in on their conversation, it becomes apparent that there’s much more going on with these two than her being promoted over him. “It was a one-time thing,” she insists, confirming my theory that she had an affair.
The bus pulls away, but when it reaches a stop, it pulls up onto the curb. A man at the stop opens the door and sees that the driver and all of the passengers inside are dead, obviously having been poisoned. He begins coughing himself. Because of the nature of the case, the BAU is on the move ten minutes later.
Traces of sarin, the most volatile nerve agent, are found. With it, death occurs within minutes. There have been some recent threats from terrorists, but it is possible that whoever is responsible for this event used the sarin to target just one person and everyone else is just collateral damage. When Rossi and Reid check out the crime scene, the FBI agent there shows them a time-released device under a seat, which reminds Reid of his automatic fish food feeder. There are multiple slots inside that can be filled, and as it rotates, food (or the sarin in this case) is released at a particular time. His fish food feeder lasted six weeks, so it’s possible that the UnSub left the device on the bus a month and a half ago and just waited.
One of the passengers on the bus was Michael Hoffman, a freelance journalist who previously worked in Syria, but when Garcia looks into him, she doesn’t find anything that would make him a potential target. Next is finding who could have made the sarin, and that means having Garcia look into trained chemists in the area with extremist views.
The Worst Kind of Messages and Phone Calls
When Charlie gets to work, everyone’s focused on the news report about the death bus. A new message pops up on his computer reading, “I KNOW WHAT YOU DID.” When Charlie asks who “Unknown” is, the person replies, “A WITNESS. YOU’RE A MURDERER.” (Anyone else annoyed by the all-caps?) “Unknown” tells Charlie to do something for him and he won’t tell the police. Charlie refuses, but then the UnSub calls him on a phone that was placed in an envelope that was dropped off at his desk. The guy wants Charlie to steal a laptop. When Charlie asks if “Unknown” is crazy, he replies, “Are you really one to judge?” (He has a point.)
Meanwhile, Garcia finds a possible sarin supplier: Johann Geitman, who was fired for online gambling at work and went on a rant on social media saying that his employers would regret it. They have no way to find him, but then they see security footage of Charlie at the bus depot, cleaning his hands and clothes. Washing with soap and water is advised after being exposed to sarin, so it’s time to pay him a visit.
It doesn’t look good for Charlie. He’s a regular commuter who didn’t take the bus that morning and he’s a horrible liar. He claims that he spent the previous night alone at a bar, depressed over his mother’s death because it was her birthday. I don’t have to be a trained profiler, or even need to have seen the events leading up to this for him, to know that something’s up.
When Charlie steals the laptop for the UnSub, he comes across a dead body who happens to be Geitman. At the crime scene, the team discovers that Geitman’s computer is missing, and while he died 36 hours ago, the police found him because of an anonymous tip of the sound of gunfire. Geitman just so happened to work for one of the oldest chemical companies and a supplier of sarin. (With that piece of information and the mention that there’s a gas station 25 miles back where his killer may have stopped, I’ve already put all the pieces together. It takes the BAU a bit longer to get there.)
It turns out that Geitman was in deep financial trouble, so it looks like he sold the sarin for the money. When Garcia first looks into Charlie, she describes him as “beige.” Meaning that he has no criminal record, no traffic tickets and only boring beige social media posts. The only things that stand out are the charges for marriage counseling. But when Garcia looks deeper, she changes his color to a “verdant green.” He ranted on Facebook a month ago about cheating and deleted the post the day before. His search history is all about rage. So clearly he found out about the affair.
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Yes, the man Charlie killed was his wife’s lover, Theo, which the UnSub is all too quick to remind him when he accuses him of linking him to a murder (Geitman’s). The next thing the UnSub has Charlie do is pick up a package with a gas mask and Hazmat suit inside. While Tracy fills Rossi and Reid in on Theo missing for two days and discovers a text she didn’t see from her lover to meet, he’s putting the pieces together himself.
The UnSub is setting him up for the sarin gas attack, so Charlie threatens to go the FBI, certain that the NSA must have their phone conversations recorded somewhere to use as evidence. However, Charlie’s focus soon turns to following a van he thinks his daughter is in, and he follows it right into the FBI parking garage.
It’s around this point that the team is putting everything together as well. The UnSub is Theo’s brother, Mitchell and the brothers, who were part of a cult with vehement anti-government views, were planning the attack together. However, Theo got together with Tracy and changed his mind, and Mitchell was following his brother and therefore saw Charlie kill him. He decided to use him as the patsy. But what’s his next target? That would be the FBI.
Charlie is taken into custody in the garage, while Morgan finds the van he followed, but there’s only a mannequin inside, dressed to deceive Charlie. His car is filled with those time-released devices, and all they can do is evacuate the garage, turn off the ventilators and seal it. But where’s Mitchell? Where he’ll have the best vantage point. While he’s busy watching to see the destruction he think he’s about to cause, Hotch comes up behind him and arrests him.
Criminal Minds season 11 airs Wednesdays at 9pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)