Criminal Minds

Season 4 Episode 19

House on Fire

Aired Wednesday Mar 25, 2009 on CBS

Episode Recap

The Blob, a classic film starring Steve McQueen, is showing in a cinema in Royal, Indiana. A man pours gasoline around the entrances and starts a fire. The moviegoers try to escape through the fire exit only to find out that it is stuck. Fire engulfs the ceiling and the people are screaming as smoke slowly envelops them. Back at the BAU, JJ discusses with the team how the local police didn't realize the arsonist could kill the 19 people in the movie theater and there are 12 more victims in a local recreation center. There had been previous fires with no victims. Hotch says arsonists are not normally killers. Once they start, however, they can't stop. Tennessee Williams said, "We all live in a house on fire. No fire department to call, no way out." The team discusses the profile of the arsonist in the BAU jet on the way to Indiana. The unsub would be a local male, between the ages of 17-30. He doesn't have a hero-homicide complex because he didn't leave anyone to save. Arsonists like to watch the fires they start. He might've stage-practiced far enough away to avoid suspicion. In Royal's social hall, Hotch and JJ meet with Chief Carlson. There are so many victims there wasn't enough room in the hospital for the bodies. Dr. Rawlings briefs the two about the grieving families of the victims. The relatives are ordered to go home because such gatherings might attract the unsub to ignite another fire. In the movie theater, Prentiss and Morgan learned more gasoline had been poured in the lobby and the sprinklers had been turned off to ensure that even if the fire department got there on time, the firefighters couldn't save the people trapped inside. Rossi talks to two fire department volunteers and tells them the unsub's rage could have been building through the years. In the FBI Command Center in Royal, Garcia reports all she can find about the locals. Hotch asks her to dig deeper and she explains she is not a profiler. The team attends the funeral of two of the victims when another fire alarm is sounded. Pop's Place, a local bar, was burned and the front and back doors were locked to ensure that no one got out. This is a detail that is different from the previous fires and it seems this arson was the most important to him. Tina, the fire volunteer to whom Rossi spoken earlier, begins to cry because she knows her husband, the owner of the bar, was killed in this fire. The team gives the profile of the arsonist/killer: He is a revenge arsonist, targets the community as a whole, most likely is a local who is bearing a grudge, and the fires give him a sense of power over the community. The third fire in the bar indicates he is no longer targeting the community and had focused on specific victims in the most recent fire. Hotch and Rossi visits one of the badly burned bartenders in the hospital. Prentiss notices one man keeps switching seats. She suspects he is most likely the unsub who once lived in Royal and that's why he was familiar with the movie theater, but could have left since he needed to study the bar. Garcia finds out that Jason Elliott, the bar owner who had died, was married to Tina Wheeler. Tina had a brother named Tommy. He was emotionally disturbed and was rumored to have an incestuous relationship with his sister. He was almost beaten to death by local adult men because of the rumor. He was sent to a boarding school and a juvenile center. And he bought a lot of gasoline before he went off the grid. Tommy knocks on Tina's door. He takes her to the local community center to reminisce about a local dance they used to go when they were younger. He soaks the floor with gasoline and threatens to set it off. The FBI arrives in time and stops him before he can do any more harm. "I have loved to the point of madness; that which is called madness, that which to me, is the only sensible way to love." Françoise Sagan
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