Saturday, July 20, 2013

CRIMINAL MINDS | "When Life Imitates Art"

“…It is easier to build strong children 
than to repair broken men.”
 –Frederick Douglass

I saw an episode on CBS’s CRIMINAL MINDS about this Frederick Douglass quote last night. In the episode entitled “The Wheels on the Bus,” this very quote was used near the close of the show. Having great significance to our current world affairs-- surveillance, GITMO, social chaos-- I couldn't help but do a show recap.

INTRO:  Two demented latch key brothers, a product of divorce, waste away their afternoon hours glued to a tattered dark green living room sofa, in front of their tabletop TV set and become masters in playing video games--  The killing kind.  As the brothers sit upon this sofa, the director fast-forwards the viewer through several years of Josh and Matt's incessant game playing-- from young adolescence up until their present day ages -- young adults in high school.  It was unclear if the bothers were enrolled or drop-outs.  They become confrontational within their own competitiveness and at the same time, become bored with their acquired mastery skill set.  Needing to continually ramp up their gaming blood thirst the brothers fall quickly into an abyss, blurring the lines of reality and illusion and proceed to devise their own video game fantasy, but 'in real life.'  

Somewhere on the back roads of rural Virginia these boys use a stalled vehicle as a rouse to ambush a school bus filled with students, their bus monitor and of course the driver— but ultimately kidnap only ten of the students.  What they chose to do with the other students... well, you'll want to watch the full episode (linked below).  Turns out the brothers have been doing some research on their prey and the unfortunate students, the chosen ten have been predetermined by a set of psychological parameters the brothers have concocted in their heads.  I'm sure the most astute forensic psychologist would be impressed by their design.  

Abandoning the bus and the unwanted students in an old barn the chosen ten are driven to an isolated location outfitted like a modern day Rambo-is-king-of-the-camp; housing a slew of big brother high tech surveillance cameras and equipment.  These innocent, doe eyed students become the brother’s game pieces and are held like GITMO prisoners in an inescapable dark, dank and cold community cell, similar to those shown in real life government 'human experiment’ projects.  Contributing to their anxiety is an unfamiliar hostile environment; all the while brothers Josh and Matt have concealed their identity by wearing radioactive gas masks.   The young captives are left to wonder

...why they are there in the first place;
...if they will be killed like their school bus driver; and
...what the hell is really going on. 

In The Game, the player with the most ‘kills’ scores and wins.  But of course!  That’s how it usually works.  So, as these crazy boys peer at their captives through numerous 36" surveillance monitors, they bark directives at the students through blue-tooth technology earpieces affixed to each 'captive', who are psychologically controlled and manipulated into carrying out 'kill or be taser-shocked' directives.  Playbook 101.  Failure on the part off the student to comply will result in a long shock through an electronic necklace, so anchored.  Big brother-type stuff going on here. 

Order/Watch: "The Wheels on the Bus" (Amazon)

These 'captives' are further dehumanized by being called a number rather than by their given names.  Crazy right?  “Number two and number five step forward,” we hear in voice over.  "The game will commence in three, two, one," remarks Matt with a snide.  Cut to commercial!  Gosh I hate it when they cut when the getting's getting good.  Don't you?  

But continuing with my recap, and P.S., I really think Mark Gordon (no relationship to me) and Jeff Davis need to pay me for this critique. --smile--

In a mid-game round we see a female student, Addyson-- preselected by the brothers because of her strong willed persona-- who is being coersed by the more aggressive brother and ultimately, she is forced to kill her male friend Trent, in spite of her strong will.  "They said they'd hurt my family," Addyson screams out into the air after she takes the kill shot.  

Adding insult to injury to Addyson's kill and to the overall pretext of “the game,” the viewer is shown an element of gender bias when the younger brother smirks the following to his older brother. "A girl. Dude, I beat you with a girrrrrlllll,” thereby contributing to his folly.  I could have slapped the smirk off his face right through the teevee.  Ask Jerry, he knows!

Writing + TV + Film | G A Z E L L A

In the end and as with all excellent detective work, my favorite techie guru Penelope (next to Abby on NCIS) works her computer magic, locates the abandoned makeshift GITMO facility and Special Agents Hochner, Rossi and Morgan come in, guns slangin', just in the nick of the skinny.  But not before Agent Morgan levels one center mass, into the chest of cantankerous Josh, who just would not let well enough alone.  THAT brother was indeed a piece of work.  By the way, I just love those crisp white dress shirts Hotchner's wardrobe person dresses him in.  

Got 41 min and 34 sec? Order and Watch: "The Wheels on the Bus" (Amazon) here.  And in a surprising episode end, you'll learn why Penelope learns to drink Scotch!  

My hat goes off to scriptwriter Kimberly Ann Harrison for this episode's story line.  When life imitates art and when man blurs that fine line, we have to wonder just how damaging these fantasy games are to the human psyche. Wonder how many families in real life are adversely affected by the manipulations of outside forces and people with evil agendas?  Brokenness of the mind and spirit.

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