There’s this TV show called Criminal Minds, all about a crack FBI unit that flies in on their Gulfstream to hunt down serial killers. My wife and I watch from time to time, and we just laugh and laugh; it’s our favorite sitcom. Every show proceeds in exactly the same order. First, we see some terrified young woman being skinned and dismembered while still alive, screaming until her throat is cut all the way through to the nape of her neck. Cut to grim faces in the unit’s posh conference room. Hotch, the stone-faced Agent in Charge, says “wheels up in ten.”
We see their sleek white Gulfstream dashing to the rescue while one of the stars captions the whole show with a trenchant quote by some wise man you probably never heard of: “The great actuary Percy Hamhock said, ‘The quality of mercy is not strained. It is sliced, diced, ground to a bloody paste, and tossed from a bucket into a bleak fetid swamp.'”
Inside the plane (Da Plane!), grim faced profilers shake their heads at maps of their destination, some backwater they’ve never heard of before, like Des Moines, Omaha, or Baton Rouge, while Dr. Spencer Reid — on hiatus from his male modeling career — amuses himself by reciting Moby Dick word for word, or the complete works of Kant.
The rest of the episode proceeds in series of Big Moments. Big Moment 1. They descend on the local tobacco chewing constabulary, whose chief suspect is a homeless man conveniently in their drunk tank. Hotch, moving his lips as nimbly as Clutch Cargo, informs the hicks that his team is only there to assist. “And by the way, the correct term is not ‘suspect.’ It is ‘UnSub’.” This goes over about as well as you might expect.
Having appropriated the entire police station, the team fans out in different directions. Bestselling profiler Rossi and the ponytailed ninja babe-mom JJ go check out the latest dismembered and half eaten victim. Impossible cool black dude Derek gets on the phone with the country’s most talented hacker, a Minnie Pearl lookalike down to the price tag on her ludicrous hat, and after the usual creepy pleasantries about her lust for him and his “love” for her get down to the business of applying computer technology to the crime. Derek wants the name, address, and phone number of everyone in the known universe who has ever dismembered, parboiled, and eaten at least 10 percent of a woman. Garcia says, “No problem, my ebony Adonis. As you know, I can do anything in a minute and a half, except stroke your perfect body.” She’s telling the truth. Her laptop supercomputer can access every database in every universe, known and unknown, and cross reference every item,to every other item while Garcia noisily chews gum.
Meanwhile, Hotch subsides into his normal granite immanence as Reid amuses the local gendarmerie with a recitation of the death rate from mouth cancer, by year, of overweight white men who chew tobacco.
Big Moment 2. When the team has reassembled, Hotch comes to like a crocodile opening his eyes on the riverbank and announces that “it is time to deliver our profile.” They line up like high school debaters in front of the hicks and take turns handing down their wisdom: “The UnSub is a white male between the ages of 25 and 35,” says one. Says another, “he is a loner with profound sexual insecurities.” And so it goes. “He may have been abused in childhood.” “From the Skittles wrapper we just found at the scene, we conclude that the UnSub likes Skittles.” “In all likelihood, this is a very damaged individual who likes to dismember, parboil, and eat at least part of the women he abducts.” The profile is invariably followed by stunned silence.
Big Moment 3. Derek’s phone rings. It is Garcia. After more creepy flirting, she announces, “I’ve located him. His name is Hiram Billabong. He’s a 56 year old electrician, originally from the Australian Outback. His address is 186 Dumbass Street, right there in town.” The team nod approvingly at one another.
Big Moment 4. (Our absolute favorite part) The full dress FBI Raid!!! They’ve got the big log thing they use to bash in the door. They’ve got the FBI SWAT guys with their assault rifles, full body armor, and helmets with plexiglass face shield. They’ve got Derek and JJ and Spencer Reid, helmetless, of course (hair, you know), and armed with 9mm pistols. Lots of yelling as they move from room to room. Clear! Clear! Clear! Clear! Meaning there’s nobody there.
The team reassembles crestfallen in the driveway. Rossi is still on the phone with his publisher in the big black SUV at the curb. Derek scowls. Hotch glowers. JJ angrily flings her ponytail around. Reid recites verbatim the year by year statistics of the FBI’s 0% success rate at first raids since the bureau’s inception. Everyone tells him to shut it. The SWAT guys melt away as if they had never been there.
Hotch has to phone the director. JJ has to call home me check on the sitter. Reid has yet another appointment with his hairdresser. Rossi makes a world weary grimace and returns to the SUV, where his literary agent is on hold.
Which means it’s time for Derek to go solo. HE gets Garcia on the phone, making it clear he has no time for sexual innuendo. She gets serious. She has used GPS and a Skype session with the guy who used to play the math genius on Numb3rs to determine the exact location where the next killing is happening right NOW.
Big Moment 5. So Derek “borrows” a local cop car, drives to the specified location in a town he knows nothing whatsoever about, and just as the UnSub is about to very very very slowly begin the dismembering of his living victim by threatening her little finger with a machete, Derek shows up and shoots him dead.
Back on the plane, everybody looks as world weary as Rossi. Except Reid, who points out in excruciating detail, with exact dates and episode numbers, the teams unbroken record of finding serial killers in an average of a single day, which compares pretty well with the years and years it usually takes law enforcement personnel to hunt down these vicious but cunning predators. He makes one of his faces.
There might or might not be another quote. Gulfstream banks away and dissolves to credits.