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Criminal Minds - Ghost - Review: “Blast from the Past”

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Hope you all enjoyed the team’s day off last episode (or at least, what little of it some of them got)! Because this one threw the BAU right back into the danger, to the point where we had two team members fighting to survive once again. ‘Cause, y’know, it has been a few weeks since a team member was put in peril, after all, that’s totally enough time for them to get a breather, right?

Initially, the case the team works this episode looks like an echo from the past, which is particularly interesting considering most of the current team members weren’t even around for the original case in question. But then before we know it, the case, and the episode as a whole, took a hard turn into something entirely different. I appreciate a show doing the unexpected, but in this particular instance, I’m not sure it worked all that well. It felt like the episode was split into two different stories, and as a result, the case didn’t seem to come together quite the way it should’ve.

Because I’m a positive sort, though, I will also say that there were some good moments throughout. The callbacks to the original case in question were interesting and a good little nod to the longtime viewers. And it was fun to see the two team members who were in danger this episode work together as they did, too.

So let’s check in and see how this blast from the past played out.

The Case:

Two guys are playing basketball on the court at a park. The game’s going pretty well, they’re teasing each other good-naturedly, all that sort of thing.

Suddenly, one of them falls to the ground. His friend checks on him, thinking he may have just exhausted himself or is joking or something, but the red stain on his shirt indicates that’s not the case. Before he can react, though, he’s down, too. In the process, he drops the basketball, and we get a lovely shot of it bouncing away, all covered in blood.

From there we cut to Luke and Matt having their own basketball game. Matt ultimately beats Luke with a nice slam dunk, and as they’re cooing down afterward, they get to talking about how Matt’s handling the new changes around his house, and how that affects potential alone time with Kristy. Luke then challenges him to a rematch, this time in a boxing ring.

Their game is the talk of the bullpen the next day, as Tara teases Luke about how Matt’s now being called the “Bus Driver”, because, as she notes, he “took Luke to school”. I’ve always enjoyed the snarky banter between Tara and Luke. Luke tries to defend himself by talking about how Matt’s doing better because he’s had the last month off and a lot of rest, unlike himself, but JJ is instantly doubtful of that claim. Because, um, yeah, with a new baby in a house that’s already that crowded, no way is anyone in the Simmons family getting any proper sleep. Reid backs JJ up by citing statistics about the amount of sleep new parents lose, because of course he does.

“I know it’s in your noggin, and what is in your noggin is correct to be in your noggin.”

This friendly chat is interrupted then when Garcia calls them in for their case, and it’s one that seems to have some eerie familiarity for a few particular members of the team. Those two men at the beginning (who, Garcia notes, tragically died) weren’t the only ones shot recently. A couple days prior, another man was also murdered in a parking lot.

And the town where both that lot and the park are located? Des Plaines, Illinois. If that name rings a bell, it should – waaaaay back in season one, that’s where Philip Dowd, aka an L.D.S.K. (Long Distance Serial Killer), went on a shooting spree. He would wound his victims, then try and save their lives at the hospital. He suffered with a hero homicide complex. His reign of terror was ultimately ended when, during a hostage situation, Reid shot him dead. And if you need any further reminder of just how much things have changed over the course of this show’s run, this is the first five of the eight team members at that table have heard about the Dowd case, or Reid killing him. Only Garcia, JJ, and Reid from the current team worked that case.

Naturally, because of the specter of Dowd, the team assumes they’re working with a potential copycat shooter here. A copycat at this stage would seem rather odd, as most copycat criminals don’t wait fifteen years to recreate the original criminal’s spree. But still, it’s an obvious angle to consider. And they’ll need to get moving, too, as three more people are shot in that park shortly after. Thankfully this time, at least, there’s a witness to call 911.

Garcia tells the team about the latest shooting as they fly out to Illinois. Two of the victims, a couple, are thankfully going to survive their wounds. The other, a groundskeeper, unfortunately didn’t make it. So far the copycat theory seems to be panning out, as this shooter is following a similar victimology as Dowd. There’s two main differences, however. First off, Dowd’s spree lasted over the span of a couple weeks. These current shootings are happening over the span of a few days.

The second difference is that this shooter’s killed a few of his victims. Dowd injured most of his. The only person he actually killed was a cop, and that was because he was angry people assumed said cop was responsible for the shootings. The team fears this unsub might try and target the cops again, so they’re keeping extra close watch, and luckily, the chief from the Dowd case is here to help out.

At the park, Luke and Matt talk to the witness who called 911, a woman named Diane. She mentions hearing the groundskeeper say hi to somebody walking by, and that when she next looked up, he was lying on the ground, bleeding. But she doesn’t recall seeing the shooter. No other witnesses saw him, either.

Luke and Matt find it interesting that Diane managed to hear the groundskeeper talking over the sound of the lawnmower he had going at the time, but didn’t hear any gunshots. They also notice that the area where the shots likely came from doesn’t look to be the greatest hiding spot. Dowd hid in the trunk of his car while targeting his victims. The distance to shoot these victims is pretty small, too, which goes against the whole point of being an L.D.S.K. Maybe they’re not looking for a copycat after all?

Indeed, as Reid, Rossi, and Tara soon learn when visiting the morgue, their unsub is actually a short range killer, and doesn’t seem to be working off the hero homicide model. And to make matters worse, there were multiple weapons used, thus indicating there may be multiple shooters. Emily talks to the brother of one of the men from the basketball court who was killed, and he claims that there was nobody with any sort of personal grudge against his brother. A witness to the shooting of the couple, meanwhile, that the couple who were shot weren’t from the area, and didn’t know anyone. They also claim that the shootings happened simultaneously.

This confirms the “multiple unsubs” theory. Basically, the team theorizes, what really happened here was that these unsubs copied Dowd’s M.O. in an attempt to lure the local police out and make them vulnerable. Their main target looks to be the local police force. At this point, they get word of an anonymous tip about some suspicious men heading towards the area where Dowd used to live, so they head out along with the local police to investigate.

While all this is going on, a group of men in biker outfits are all meeting up in what looks to be some kind of garage or warehouse or something. They all either hop on motorcycles or get into vans and drive off, catching up to the team and the local police. Next thing the team knows, they’re being blindsided by these men.

Or at least, three of them in particular are. Tara, Luke, and Matt are in one vehicle, and theirs is the one the men go after. They run it off the road, they start busting the windows, and things get crazy really fast from there.

When the smoke clears (literally – the men threw a flash grenade into the SUV), Tara stumbles out of the vehicle. She’s woozy, and nearly pulls her gun on who she thinks is her potential attacker, only for JJ to assure her that it’s just her. She’s shaken up and clearly hurt, and JJ gets her into the nearest ambulance and they head for the hospital.

Luke and Matt, meanwhile? They’re nowhere to be found. Tara, despite her wooziness, insists on doing a cognitive with JJ. She recalls the unsubs’ van cutting in front of theirs, the windows breaking, and two motorcycles either side of them. She also mentions that whomever attacked them drugged Luke and Matt, and one of them specifically said, “Not her, Alvez and Simmons” when another tried to take Tara. She couldn’t see the unsubs’ faces, but she remembers the black leather, and recalls one of them having a tattoo on his hand. She tries to draw it as best she can for JJ, and they send a picture of it to a now panicked Garcia in the hopes that she might be able to get an identification off of it.

So these unsubs weren’t planning to lure out and target the local police with the copycat crimes. Their focus was on the FBI. More specifically, Luke and Matt. That anonymous tip was a false alarm to trap them. But the team can’t think of any cases Luke and Matt worked during their time in the BAU that warranted this kind of revenge, so they ask Garcia to look back even further. Perhaps these unsubs have some connection to Luke and/or Matt’s previous work in the Fugitive Task Force and the International Response Team, respectively.

While the team continues to investigate, we see what’s become of Luke and Matt, and it ain’t good. They’re chained to a pole in a warehouse somewhere, with two guys, one of whom is apparently named Fleabag, talking about their plans for a delivery that night. Before they do that, though, Fleabag says they’ll need to get rid of Luke and Matt. Or, as he prefers to describe it, “burn these pigs”.

At this point, Luke and Matt come to, and the head of the operation begins taunting them. He asks them if they can remember who he is, and his face isn’t ringing a bell. So the creep decides to try and “make” them remember by smacking them around and kicking them.

Luckily, Garcia’s search proves fruitful, as she discovers a case that does connect both Luke’s prior job and Matt’s. Apparently there was a man named Louis Chaycon who was the enforcer in a mob that was based in Chicago. He was a ruthless killer (Matt had likened him to the serial killer Israel Keyes). After each hit, he would flee the country for a time, heading to Europe to try and stay under the radar. Matt had been tracking him through the IRT, but Louis managed to escape back to the States, and hid out with his brother Bobby.

Since he was on the run as a fugitive, however, that eventually brought him into contact with Luke during his FTF days. Louis was caught and sent to prison for thirty years, while Bobby was sent to prison for ten, for harboring a fugitive. But then Louis was extradited to Italy, where he faced murder charges, and while there, he managed to escape custody again. So he’s naturally angry with Luke and Matt for hunting him, but is there more to it than that?

Back at the warehouse, it’s all coming back to Matt now, and he’s rewarded for this realization with a cigarette burn to his chest. Man. These guys are brutal. Louis finally explains his real reason why he’s got a beef with these two, and it goes well beyond just being put in jail. Apparently he blames them for the death of Bobby.

As the team soon learns, while Louis and Bobby were in prison, they found themselves moved into general population at one point, and as a result, ran into some nasty gang members. Bobby got in a scuffle with a couple of the gang members, and they murdered him, going so far as to rip his tongue out in the process. Yeesh. And Jacon was witness to every last gruesome moment. So now he wants Luke and Matt to suffer the way his brother suffered, because they made Bobby cooperate with law enforcement, thus making him a snitch. Had that not happened, Louis theorizes, Bobby might still be alive.

While the unsubs are working out their plans, Luke and Matt, who’ve managed to stand up at this point, are forging their own. Luke suggests they pit the unsubs against each other as a means of distraction, and Matt agrees. He then offers to claim he’s the reason Louis’ brother Bobby is dead, that he told the warden to put them in the general population. Matt’s concerned about him taking that risk, but Luke’s persistent. The focus on Luke keeps them from their main plans.

They put their plan into action when Louis and one of the other men (who we learn is called Fleabag) return. Matt adds a new wrinkle, though, by telling Louis that Bobby had confessed all the mob’s crimes to him, and that somebody within the mob overheard Bobby had confessed to Matt and told on him. That person who supposedly ratted him out? Fleabag. Matt says Bobby was really afraid of him.

Louis is surprised by this news and starts confronting Fleabag, who denies it. Luke gets into the act, goading the two men on, mocking Fleabag’s faux denial. As Luke keeps them occupied, Matt continues to struggle to get himself free from his chains. Eventually, however, Louis and Fleabag’s fight ends when Louis shoots him dead.

Elsewhere, Garcia’s finally managed to track down some info regarding the tattoo. It’s an image used by a biker group that’s an offshoot of an outlaw biker gang known as the Rolling Devils. The group that split off, the one that formed into the gang we see this episode, was apparently a little more intense than the Rolling Devils were. Rossi and Emily head out to a bar frequented by another biker group known as the Righteous Bandits, flanked by the chief and another cop. When Emily tells the bar patrons that they’re there to talk to them to get some information on the Devils, one guy makes a break for it.

“I’ve got two agents. They’re like my sons, and they’re in trouble.”

Rossi eventually catches up with him in the bathroom, and asks him what he knows about this offshoot gang. The guy’s reluctant to speak – he’s working undercover and about to bust a huge drug ring, and he’s afraid of his cover being blown. Rossi manages to persuade him soon enough, however, and he tells them about the gang’s warehouse. He doesn’t have a specific address, but he gives them the general district, which helps narrow things down more. Before they leave the bathroom, the guy asks Rossi to rough him up a little to “make it look good” and keep his cover intact, and Rossi gives him a pretty good punch in the face. With the warehouse information, the team heads out to rescue Luke and Matt.

At the warehouse, Louis continues to taunt the guys, bringing Lisa and Kristy into his nasty comments. This angers them, obviously, and Louis and his gang soon come to regret taking these two particular members of the BAU captive. Because Matt does ultimately free himself, and he. Goes. OFF. He tackles Louis, and the two start in on one hell of a fistfight, with the other gang members joining in. Luke also manages to get free, and he joins in the fray. Punches are thrown, people are shoving each other, there’s chokeholds galore, shots fired, gang members dropping like’s a complete and total madhouse.

The chaotic scene swiftly ends, however, when somebody shoots the final gang member dead. It’s Rossi, who’s crept in from behind. All the gang members have now fallen, and it’s just Luke and Matt left standing. The team comes to check on them. Matt’s got some blood on the side of his face, and they’re both no doubt sporting some bruises that’ll turn into pretty good shiners. But otherwise, they’re all right.

“Anything for my brother.”

And fortunately, so is Tara, as we see on the plane ride home. The entire team is gathered together and sharing drinks, and Emily orders Luke, Matt, and Tara to get better. At one point, Luke heads towards the back of the jet for another drink, and Matt joins him. They share a hug and thanks for saving each other, and discuss the importance of never leaving a man behind. Matt also reveals that Fleabag had never actually ratted on Bobby. Sneaky, sneaky, Matt! They then rejoin the others, and all is calm and peaceful.

So I’ll say this for the case – I certainly didn’t expect it to go in this direction, so points for unpredictability, at least. And I really liked the way Luke and Matt worked together, and the initial callbacks to such a notable case from the very early days were a nice touch, too. The transition from those guys playing basketball on the court to Luke and Matt playing basketball was a neat echo of the beginning of “L.D.S.K.”, where it flipped back and forth between the sniper targeting the people at the park and Hotch helping Reid learn to shoot a gun. I also liked the park being named after McCarty, the officer Dowd killed, and it was a nice surprise to see the chief from that case working this one as well.

And I liked the idea of this copycat case not being quite what it initially seemed, and the concept of tying Luke and Matt’s prior jobs together in and of itself.

I just...don’t know that this is the exact route I would’ve taken were I writing this episode? It seems really bizarre to me that a mob based out of Chicago would use a shooting spree from a small Illinois town as their way to get the BAU’s attention. They’re the mob, after all, surely they can think a little bigger than that, something that might better fit their M.O. And the introduction to this gang just felt so abrupt. It would’ve made more sense to have the copycat be a killer from that area the team might’ve tangoed with before (whether we actually saw that case or not). Maybe they could’ve had this killer have some connection to the Chameleon, who knows.

And while I liked seeing Luke and Matt work together, given the impact the original Dowd case had on the three team members who’d worked it back then, Reid especially, I would’ve liked more focus on the memories this would’ve dredged up for them. Maybe have a moment with them talking with one of the other team members who weren’t around then, discussing their experience working that case, and letting the team at large get a better idea of those early days. I think that would’ve made for a fascinating compare/contrast, and with only five episodes left to go before the show ends, this would’ve been the perfect opportunity for some reflection on the past.

Ultimately, I would’ve preferred they just kept the focus on a potential copycat, and not brought in all this mob business. It just seemed too much and too shoehorned in to really fit with the initial events of the episode. Even the attempt to connect Luke and Matt’s previous jobs felt rather thin. Hopefully, if and when the show harkens back to any other past cases and experiences in these final few episodes, they get the proper focus they deserve.

No personal stores of note this week, unless you count that discussion between Luke and Matt at the start. I am surprised that Matt would be taking risks of the sort he did here, given he’s got a new baby at home, but then again, if four prior children didn’t stop him from jumping into the fray, well…

So this is it. We’re now down to the final five episodes of the series as a whole. Hard to believe. It looks to be another double episode night with the next two, so no doubt there’ll be plenty to talk about!

What did you think of this episode? Did you enjoy the (initial) nod to a case from the past? What did you think of the turn the case took? Did you enjoy seeing seeing Luke and Matt team up? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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