Criminal Minds

Season 5 Episode 22

The Internet Is Forever

Aired Wednesday May 19, 2010 on CBS

Episode Recap

One by one, the lights in a house go off for the night. In a downstairs window is a decal for a home security company. Different camera views show the front entrance hall, the dining room, and the kitchen with dog food and water bowls on the floor. Return to the entrance hall, where a masked intruder now stands. He goes upstairs, enters the master bedroom, and stares at a sleeping woman.

JJ shows the team a picture of Dorris Archer, the third woman to go missing in Boise this year. All three were single and disappeared roughly two months apart. Reid arrives late for the briefing, sporting a new short shaggy haircut that draws double-takes from the team. "What, did you join a boy band?" asks Hotchner. Reid appears to be confused.

The Boise police called BAU because the abduction sites are pristine. The kidnapper left no DNA, there was no sign of forced entry or a struggle, and the victims were missing for two or three days before anyone reported it. JJ asked Garcia to look into the women's personal lives, and she found all three of them were active participants on social networking websites. The last post on each woman's account indicated she was going on vacation, a business trip, or something else similar. However, the posts were made the morning after each victim went missing. These women had posted every intimate detail of their lives on these sites. The unsub must have friended them, and then hacked into their accounts. Besides being a computer wizard, he's also organized enough not to leave any forensic evidence and patient enough to wait two months between kidnappings. Hotchner says at this point, they have to assume these three women are already dead.

In a darkened room, the unsub watches multiple screens showing different videos of his victims' homes, and of himself in their homes.

Hotchner: "The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place." George Bernard Shaw.

On the jet to Idaho, JJ says Boise police detective John Fordham has already investigated and cleared all the victims' online friends as well as other people, such as home repair guys and dog walkers. Hotchner points out the networking sites show how the unsub is finding his victims, but not how he's getting into their houses. The unsub knew the disable code for Archer's security system and that she had a dog which went missing the same night she did. He must have a ruse that lets him get inside and case the houses first.

At the police station, Fordham welcomes JJ, Hotchner, Rossi and Reid. Finding people to interview about the victims was only too easy. "The problem wasn't who to bring in. It was who not to." Rossi interviews Paula Renmar's mother, while Reid talks with Samantha Rush's friend and fellow real estate agent. JJ asks Dorris Archer's boyfriend to look at crime scene photos from Dorris' home for anything that might explain how the unsub beat the home security system. He notices that two framed photos on a bookshelf in the entrance hall have switched positions. Archer had arranged the photos in a certain order so they would tell the story of how the two of them met and fallen in love.

At Archer's house, Morgan finds black residue on the wall behind the photos, as if something had been hung there. At the top of the stairs, Prentiss finds a similar mark on the wall behind a tall plant stand. The unsub had put up cameras.

Outside a house, a man sits in a parked van and studies the online social profile of Allison Kittridge on his laptop. He presses a key and switches to streaming video of Kittridge in her kitchen. After gazing at her front door for a moment, he turns back to his computer and watches another video of Kittridge taking a shower.

Morgan and Prentiss show Hotchner a mini camera, one of five they had found in Archer's house. The cameras can transmit streaming video to anywhere the unsub wants, and he can toggle between them to see everything that is happening in the house. Hotchner notes, however, that the unsub got in the door, but he couldn't have placed all five cameras in one visit. He must have placed the entrance hall camera first, and then watched Archer's comings and goings to determine a safe time to sneak back and plant the others. He probably obtained the security system disable code the same way.

Reid wonders what the unsub does with the video. Voyeurs wouldn't be kidnappers because their thrill comes from spying without the victims knowing they're being watched. Hotchner suggests the unsub may be sharing the footage with other people. Reid takes a photo of Archer from her house for analysis. Originally, they thought there was no facial similarity between the victims, but now he's not so sure.

Garcia finds one of the unsub's videos posted online, but tracing it back to the source will be tougher than usual. The unsub is a computer super-genius, and hides behind not one but dozens of overseas internet proxy servers. As Garcia talks with Hotchner and Rossi, she locates an archived copy of the video the unsub had streamed the night Archer went missing. They watch as a masked intruder enters the house and disables the security system. Archer's dog greets him as a friend; he gives the dog a treat and lets him out the front door. He walks upstairs and looks straight into the stairway camera for a moment, then enters the sleeping Archer's bedroom.

The view changes to that of a camera showing the unsub's point of view. Garcia turns away as he grabs Archer and strangles her to death. When the video ends and Garcia looks again, she finds a line of code indicating the unsub had set up a chat room. He posted the video live, not after the fact. He loves an audience and has fans with whom he shared the murder as it was happening.

Hotchner, Rossi, Prentiss and Fordham watch the video again. The unsub's look into the stairway camera was a tip of the hat to his fans. He must have gotten into his victims' homes as a computer or internet technician despite Fordham's already having checked that angle and found nothing. Rossi wonders why the unsub risks taking his victims' bodies with him afterward. After performing for his fans, what could he be doing to the bodies that's strictly for his eyes only?

Garcia reports the unsub is covering his tracks by using his victims' own wireless Internet connections to get online. Hackers are very loyal to their spoofing techniques. Garcia has flagged the unsub's previously used overseas proxy servers, which he'll use again if he thinks no one's watching. If he uses them in the same order as before, Garcia can nail him in nothing flat. She concedes Hotchner's point that this approach is useful only if the unsub commits another murder.

Hotchner orders JJ to call a press conference to caution people against posting too much personal information online. Reid finds the connection between the victims. When their photos are stripped of individual hair color, eye color and skin tone, leaving only geometric line diagrams, their facial structures are virtually identical. Consciously or unconsciously, the unsub sees his own facial symmetry reflected in those of his victims; when he sees it he has to destroy it. Rossi remembers at the end of the Archer video, the unsub wiped a tear from Archer's eye. A narcissist such as him wouldn't be capable of such compassion. In Greek mythology, Narcissus was so self-absorbed that he fell in love with his own reflection in the water. The unsub stares at his victims' faces after they're dead, but the image he sees reflected is his own.

At a sidewalk café, Allison Kittridge photographs her scone with her cell phone camera and uploads it to her social network account. Sitting at a nearby table, the unsub receives the update and watches Kittridge enjoying her breakfast.

The team describes the unsub to the Boise police. People take the internet for granted and frequently forget things they've posted online. However, the internet never forgets. Once something's out there, it's out there forever. Horrifying murders of journalists and dissidents were immortalized when videos of the killings were posted online. The unsub craves this same immortality, and killing women with facial symmetry similar to his own is his way of saying, "This is what I look like." He takes the bodies with him and preserves them, so he can look into their faces over and over again to feed his ego. He's a computer genius, and every aspect of his life has been constructed around an inflated sense of self. If his self-worth is attacked or damaged, he will lash out.

That evening, the unsub parks outside Allison Kittridge's house and taps into her wireless internet connection. He watches the FBI press conference on the local news now in progress. JJ and Fordham are caught by surprise when several reporters ask questions that clearly indicate the profile was leaked. With his jaw clenched, the unsub closes his laptop and clips a tiny camera to his shirt front.

Hotchner calls Garcia, who reports some of the unsub's proxy servers are just decoys to throw her off. She can write a program to filter those out, which will enable her to find him faster. The unsub suddenly comes online and forces Garcia to filter on the fly. Everyone watches the video while Garcia confronts double the previous number of proxy servers. The unsub storms up the front walk and into the house, totally off-script and clearly enraged. Garcia can't trace him fast enough, and the team can't spot anything in the video to identify the address. They watch helplessly as the unsub attacks Kittridge in the kitchen and strangles her to death.

An infuriated Garcia takes Kittridge's death personally. Unlike other unsubs, this one is in her online turf and "is really good at what he does for really awful reasons." Morgan and Prentiss inspect Kittridge's house. Having lost his cool this time, the unsub must have made a mistake somewhere. They find it in Kittridge's computer setup, which records show has only a basic DSL connection. Morgan spots a fiber-optic internet cable that shouldn't be there.

Somehow the unsub got into his victims' houses and added the extra cable so he could stream large amounts of video and maintain the chat room. Morgan and Prentiss have occasionally received solicitations that offer upgrades to their internet service. The unsub probably knocked on his victims' doors, talked his way inside, installed the fiber-optic cable under cover of a demonstration, and then asked for a glass of water or something so he could plant the first camera. However, this installation never showed up on any of the victims' records.

Fordham traces the company that owns the fiber-optic cable through the identification number on the cable. Garcia finds three local men among the chat room participants who watched Kittridge's murder online. The three are arrested and their computers are seized. One of them is Austin Chapman, owner of an appliance store.

A phone company representative tells JJ and Reid about former employee Mac Jones, who had worked on one of their trucks installing fiber-optic cable with regular phone lines. They had caught him hoarding the cable supposedly for a home project, and then fired him after receiving angry phone calls that he was going door-to-door offering free fiber-optic installation.

The unsub had stolen the real Mac Jones' identity the year before, and had used it for two weeks before moving on. His current name remains a mystery, but his phone company employee photo matches someone named Robert Johnson. He has a prior record for possession of torture videos and spent some time in a halfway house before disappearing. He had posted on a blog, "Next time you won't be able to stop me." He was furious at being caught the first time and reinvented himself as a killer.

Morgan interrogates one of the chat room participants about the illegal pornographic videos on his computer. The man explains the videos were the price of admission. The unsub insists on the participants' sharing the risk he takes; if he goes down for murder, they go down too for possession. The second man gives the unsub's online name as "Watcher 89," and says he sent out a message that "tonight would be the best one yet." He knows the FBI is watching and is planning an extra-special show for its benefit.

Austin Chapman's computers don't contain the pornographic collateral the other men's did. Chapman insists to Rossi that he's a computer illiterate and his grandchildren were visiting him and his wife the night of Kittridge's murder. After being shown Robert Johnson's picture, he remembers Johnson had visited his store awhile back. Johnson said he liked Chapman's website, which Chapman's son designed. They chatted about appliances for a few minutes, during which time Chapman had never gotten the man's name.

Chapman's website is crude and incapable of even taking orders. Garcia locates "Watcher 89" and finds 20 Boise wireless internet connections he has hacked recently. Eight of them belong to single women. Reid analyzes their photos for the appropriate facial symmetry and picks out Lucy Masters. Morgan, Prentiss, and the police go to her house and find her gone. As Morgan and Prentiss stand in front of Masters' computer, it comes on and shows a streaming video of a bound and gagged Masters hanging from a ceiling. A mini-camera atop the computer begins to record the agents. Seated at his computer just feet from Masters, Robert Johnson says, "Welcome to the show."

Garcia can't locate Johnson because he's not logged in as Watcher 89 and he's using a whole new set of proxy servers. In the video, Rossi spots frost on the wall behind Masters; she's in a walk-in freezer. He returns to the interrogation room and unloads on Chapman. It wasn't Chapman's website that Johnson had liked; it was his ability to repair appliances. Chapman didn't have the chat room blackmail pornography on his computers because Johnson had other, better dirt on him. "Now, you're going to jail. But if you don't cooperate with me, I will make sure that the next time your grandchildren Google you, they'll see what a monster Grandpa really is. Now, I will ask you once: where is the freezer?"

Morgan, Prentiss, and the Boise police race to the address Chapman gave them. Now that she has Johnson's physical address, Garcia can locate his computer. As he begins strangling Masters, Garcia knocks out his internet connection. Johnson stops and rages for a moment, then resumes strangling Masters although he no longer has an audience. Moments later, the police storm inside the freezer and stop him. Prentiss looks disbelievingly at the frozen bodies of Johnson's other victims hanging from the ceiling, and asks him, "What do you see when you look at them?" Johnson arrogantly replies, "You'll never understand what I did. But out there, my followers… they understand."

Rossi: "The internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't understand. The largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had." Eric Schmidt.

Rossi takes a laptop into the interrogation room where Austin Chapman still sits. He sets the computer on the table and says, "Just for the record, I didn't do this." He shows Chapman the lead story on the local news, including a photo: "Local Businessman Arrested as Accessory to Internet Killer."
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