S1:E13 – Poison

Content notes: drug-induced hallucinations, blunt force violence, sexual assault, drug-enabled assault, choking, poisoning, breathing difficulty


There is a brief description of a victim’s recollections of having been assaulted while drugged in this piece, so I’m placing it behind a cut.  I’ve called out the relevant part with notes, too, so you can skip it if you would like.

We open on a car driving down a tree-lined road in New Jersey.  A white man in glasses who looks a little like Jim Gaffigan is driving with his son, talking about a movie they had just seen.  The dad sees a deer in the road and suddenly swerves!  The kid didn’t see any deer at all.  Uh oh, they have a flat tire!  They pull over, and as the dad is changing the tire, we get some music that is very definitely meant to evoke The X Files theme, and we see scary hooded figures coming after the dad!  He beats something with his tire iron and we cut to morning, a cop car pulling up alongside the dad’s car, whose trunk and passenger side door are still open.  The cop knocks on the window and the dad starts beating on the window, absolutely freaking out.  The cop calls for an ambulance and we see the boy bloodied and beaten in the woods!

Cut to the dad in handcuffs and a robe being interrogated on a tv screen while the team watches.  It turns out the dad and an additional six patients were all spiked with extremely high doses of LSD, with one death reported.  Gideon says these people weren’t “spiked,” they were “poisoned.”  You know, I’m not all that sure what the difference is?  Credits.

Plane quote — Roman philosopher Lucretius on what is food to some is poison to others.  Eyeroll.

On the plane, the team reviews the various victims’ stories.  Nobody remembers anything of the day they were poisoned, and the LSD has made getting any other useful information difficult.  Gideon says they need to work with what they know about poisoners, and the team helpfully exposits for us that there are four types that target multiple victims — the true believer, political terrorist/religious cult, extortionist product tamperer, prankster, and the avenger.  They need to figure out ASAP what type he is, because most types of poisoner test their attack out on a small scale before their big show.

Hotch and Gideon arrive in the hospital and meet the local detective.  They speak with the dad who beat his son to try to determine why he became violent, to get some clues about the drug that he received.  I guess they are trying to figure out if the drug had something about it that made him violent, or if it was something about him that was triggered by the drug?  I’m not totally sure about this but I suppose if there was something like PCP in with the LSD that could be useful information?  Anyway, the dad emotionally tells Gideon about his nasty divorce and then starts hitting his head against the wall as he talks about the son.  Gideon thinks the drug “tapped into the rage but didn’t cause it,” and Reid, Elle, and Morgan arrive to tell us about the lab results on the LSD.  No PCP found, meaning the unsub probably didn’t want to cause violence, but there was rohypnol found.  Via the magic of clunky expository dialogue, the team explains the memory loss associated with it and its use as a date rape drug.  That explains why the victims don’t remember how they got poisoned.

Maybe it is a prank after all, they think.  One of the victims was a high school teacher, and Morgan says that “kids use LSD and rohypnol.”  I mean, I find that sentence a little confusing.  Predators use rohypnol to incapacitate their victims in order to abuse them; LSD is used recreationally by people of all ages for fun.  I feel like conflating the two is….gross.

Hotch gets a call saying the locals may have a lead on how the victims got dosed, and they arrive in a coffeeshop where four of the victims were identified.  JJ is worried about the press getting ahold of a “bioterrorism” story, and Hotch and Elle learn that there’s a young busboy who didn’t show up to work that day.  Elle goes off to follow up, and talks to the kid’s girlfriend, who is at home alone.

Triggering material ahead:


Elle notices bruising around her neck, but the girl doesn’t really remember what happened, saying her boyfriend took her somewhere on his motorcycle.  All she remembers is waking up naked and beat up with her boyfriend above her, holding her down.  The phone rings, and it’s the boyfriend.  We hear him making threats to her, asking her who she called, whose car is at her house, and telling her she can’t say anything.  Elle instructs the girl to call 911 and lock all the doors while she calls the team.  She hears a motor and finds the boy on his motorcycle around the corner of the house.  She arrests him and brings him in for questioning, where he denies everything.  He claims that he didn’t beat her up, that after they had sex and fell asleep, she woke up and was was “freaking out like she was on something,” and he was just trying to keep her from hurting herself.

The team point out that if he did want to roofie his girlfriend that giving her LSD would be….inconsistent. I mean, yes, but still, gross.  Reid thinks the kid is telling them the truth based on his voice and mannerisms.


End triggering material.


The team think that the busboy and the girlfriend and the cafe are just an unfortunate coincidence.  Gideon tells the team that the rohypnol is to forget how the victims got dosed, which I thought we already knew.  I feel sometimes like this show can be kind of repetitive at times.  We saw that especially with the kidnapping episode last time, where they kept having the parents having the same freaking conversation over and over.

Anyway, the team discuss more, and they realize they can narrow down the type of poisoner — too organized for a high school prank, no ransom demand so it’s not an extortionist, and there’s no cults or extremist groups in the area so it’s not that.  This leaves the “avenger” type.  The team deliver their profile to the local PD, explaining it’s someone local, may have an accomplice that he has manipulated into helping and will likely get rid of, highly intelligent and competent, the unsub may feel he has been inaccurately perceived by the community, that something “unjust” has happened to him, and that he believes that the victims will know who he is and understand why he is doing it.  The first round of victims aren’t his primary target, though, and there is a larger attack imminent.

JJ comes in and tells the team there’s been a leak.  They turn on the news — it’s so surprising to me how well-timed the news reports and television viewing are on this show — they turn on the news to watch the report, which says there was contaminated food at a local restaurant.  The report won’t name the establishment, which means there are likely going to be LOTS of people with psychosomatic illnesses flooding local hospitals.  Hotch and JJ try to get out ahead of the panic but it’s too late, and the phones suddenly light up at the PD.



JJ and Reid head to the hospital to see if any of the poisonings seem legit, while Elle and Morgan head back to the cafe to see if there’s anything they missed.  At the hospital, Reid and JJ talk to a nurse, who indicates they have one case that is real, and very serious.  The woman tested positive for rohypnol, but that doesn’t explain her other symptoms, such as paralysis and breathing problems.  They ask the doctor to order some tests for biological agents.  Morgan and Elle realize that the cafe is probably not the place the victims got dosed but realize that one of the victims said he went to the bank across the street the day he got dosed.  Wait, I thought nobody remembered anything from the day they were poisoned?  Ok well anyway.  They look at the bank’s security tapes and realize all the victims were there that day!  Hotch sends them a picture of the woman in the hospital and they find her on the security tapes, too, and it looks like she might be the one replacing the candies.  Back at the hospital, we learn she’s been poisoned by an extremely high dose of botulism, and that it’s too late for antitoxin.  The team leaves as the doctor calls a “code blue” and defibrillation happens, which seems like it wouldn’t necessarily help someone who can’t breathe.

We cut to a suspicious-looking fellow in blue coveralls and a blue ball cap walking the halls of A Big Company.  Some older white men wearing backpacks are jovially talking and tell some fellow employees to have a good weekend.  Back at the PD, the team review what they know about the woman in the hospital, and think that she was likely the accomplice, and was killed by the unsub now that she is no longer useful.  They learn she was an employee of a pharmaceutical company that has had a series of layoffs, restructuring, and pay cuts, so they start there, but that leaves a LOT of possible unsubs.  They need to work quickly though because they don’t know when the unsub will hit his “real” target.

Elle goes to talk to the woman’s coworkers at the pharmaceutical company.  She learns the woman was nice if awkward and self-deprecating, single, and was busy working on the corporate retreat coming up.  Morgan and Gideon hunt through the employee records, and get a call from Garcia, who has found an employee who was beat to a patent by the pharma company and who was romantically involved with the victim at the hospital.  Plus, the patent deal had gone through the bank that was attacked.  Garcia gets them the guy’s location and we cut to very exciting music, vans, SWAT team, etc. Zoom!  Screeching tires!  Guys with guns and body armor!  They raid a garage full of suspicious-looking equipment and Morgan finds a middle-aged white guy watching from inside his office.  They bring him into the station while Reid’s hair is doing something VERY VERY BAD:

s1e13 no why

The team discusses how it’s weird that the guy allowed them to take him alive, because killers who attack their workplaces typically don’t.  Reid goes off to try to find some clues to the guy’s ultimate plan in the witness reports and evidence while Hotch and Gideon interrogate him.  The unsub is really super sweaty, which I feel someone should notice.  The guy is angry at the company, they took everything from me, my ideas, my family, etc.  Hotch mentions the guy’s children, and Gideon tells him they can help him if he plays ball.  They use a lot of language about fairness and compensation, to poke him in his particular issues.  The guy says he just wants his sons to know that he created something good, and he tells them about a party at the company this afternoon, and that there’s a punch bowl.

Morgan and Elle arrive at the party with the CDC and antitoxin.  JJ says the punch tested positive for botulinum toxin, but Gideon is still concerned that the guy let them take him alive.  Reid comes back with A Big Problem.  One of the original bank victims was diabetic, and wouldn’t have taken candy (eh, kinda simplistic but ok).  He thinks the candy was a decoy, and that the unsub was actually testing something else — a delivery system for a drug that can be fatal in extremely small doses, such as could be ingested from the glue on a deposit envelope!  But why did he poison the punch?  Because the punch was another decoy!  They look back into the interrogation room, where the unsub is choking to death because DUH he dosed himself with botulinum toxin when they found his lab.  Morgan calls back to Hotch and says he doesn’t understand the victims at the party — they are all lower-level folks, nobody responsible for decision making there.  All the higher-ups are all at a corporate retreat, not at the party.  With no cell phones, of course.

We see the old, mostly white dudes, sitting around outside, filling out some sort of something and putting it into envelopes that they are sealing by licking.  Uh oh!  The team is on their way — they need to get the antitoxin within 4 hours of ingesting the poison but they don’t know where they are within the park.  They finally find them, all collapsing and having trouble breathing, etc. They are just in time!  Reid bends over and looks at one of them, with cheekbones a plenty.

s1e13 cheekbones

Plane quote — Confucius on revenge.

Everyone on the plane is asleep except Hotch and JJ.  JJ asks Hotch why he came to the BAU, and he said as a prosecutor he always felt like he was “too late,” and wanted to stop the bad guys before they got that far.  It’s kind of a nice thought, but he realizes it doesn’t answer her question.  JJ tries to get some sleep while Hotch glares out the window.  It’s a weird exchange?  But ok, whatever, I guess this is characterization.

Overall I really liked this episode.  I like my mystery shows best when there are lots of puzzles to be solved and twists and turns, and this episode gave me lots of that.  Twists, red herrings, decoys, all kindsa good stuff.  Minimal Morgan and Gideon, and although Reid’s hair was AWFUL, his cheekbones brought their A game, so overall, a win.


Reid’s hair floppiness rating: oy this has got to be a 1 out of 10 just for the scene I showed above.



1 Comment

  1. I really liked this one too. The unsub was genuinely clever, with an extremely well-thought out and methodically executed plan, and it felt like a real coup for the team to manage to catch him before there were mass deaths.

    IRL, I suspect someone this clever would get away clean, but that’s why this is FBI fantasy.


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