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Recap / Criminal Minds S 1 E 6 Long Distance Serial Killer

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Directed by Ernest Dickerson
Written by Andrew Wilder

An UnSub uses a sniper rifle to shoot random people in the stomach. The BAU profile him as sadistic, since otherwise he'd likely shoot them in the head — unless it's just that he lacks the aim. The realize he must have taken the shots from his car when they discover a fake handicap parking spot far from the building. A surgeon with a ridiculous amout of self-esteem digs the bullet out of a survivor, and the make of the rifle convinces the BAU that this guy was professionally trained and therefore shoots to wound.

This episode provides examples of:

  • Accidental Aiming Skills: Reid, who has consistently failed at the shooting gallery in the beginning of the episode, manages to kill Dowd with a Boom, Headshot!. When asked by Hotch, he claims that he was actually aiming for Dowd's leg. However, this is most likely a lie (or Reid's attempt at a joke) because shooting Dowd anywhere but in the head would have probably lead to the deaths of several innocents.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A literal gun. The fact that Hotch has a backup gun in an ankle holster is a plot point.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: The UnSub is a former Army sniper.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: The UnSub just wants to be remembered for saving his victim's lives.
  • Insistent Terminology: The FBI don't call this type of killer a "sniper", on account of snipers being defined as professional marksmen, not serial killers. As JJ points out, the FBI is also not perceived to have a stellar record concerning snipers. So they call it a long distance serial killer, or LDSK.
  • Ironic Echo: When Reid fails his exam, Morgan gives him a whistle, "to blow if you need our help". After Reid has proven himself during the hostage crisis, he tosses the whistle back to Morgan.
  • Never My Fault: The UnSub refuses to take responsibility for things his fault.
  • Pride: Dr. Lamden is said by Gideon to have "the worst case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder" he'd ever seen. Incidentally, this puts him high on the suspect list, though that's the worst that happens to him as a direct result of his narcissism.
  • Red Herring: Two! And it doesn't end well for one of them.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Based on the Beltway Snipers, obviously. However, the killer turns out to be a nurse with Munchausen Syndrome.
  • Shout-Out: The egotistic surgeon that becomes a suspect at one point is a parody of Gregory House.
  • Tears of Fear: Possibly not, as he'd just been hit over the head, but Reid's eyes are red and there appears to be a tear coming out of one when the UnSub has him at gunpoint.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: One of the points about this UnSub is that all of his coworkers will detest him. It's how the nurse was able to guess it was Philip Dowd.