'Criminal Minds' Recap: What Motivates This Unsub to Send Footage of His Crimes to Local Media?
'Criminal Minds' Recap: What Motivates This Unsub to Send Footage of His Crimes to Local Media?
Randa Kriss
Randa Kriss
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV


In Criminal Minds season 13 episode 8, entitled "Neon Terror," the BAU team travels to Miami to track down an unsub who is seemingly obsessed with the news coverage of his crimes. As more and more woman are murdered, the team tries to figure out if their unsub is on a spree, or if something else is motivating him. Things get even more complex when a particular news station airs footage of the murders that could have only come from one place...from the unsub himself.

Murders in Miami

A hand signals three, two, one. Rossi is talking to Brian Stoll on TV about his latest book on serial killer Tommy Yates. At the office, Garcia brings a large bowl of popcorn to watch the interview with the rest of the team, minus Tara and Reid. As Rossi talks to Stoll about his book, they're interrupted by breaking news. A robbery-murder has occurred in Miami, the third in recent days. Graphic footage of the latest victim shot dead in her car is shown.

Prentiss and the team get in contact with the Miami P.D. and find out that out of the three recent victims, only the first one was actually robbed. The ballistics of all three victims match; they were shot in the heart by a 44. All the girls look very similar and the team heads to Miami to meet Rossi and take on the case.


In Miami, a man crosses the street with a girl talking to her about the place they've just left. She's on her phone the entire time they're talking. Not really paying attention, she says she should go and the guy, Steven, leans in for a kiss. The girl avoids it and heads to her car. In the car, she calls a friend to talk about the bad date when Steven comes knocking on her window. He's angry but is soon shot by the unsub.

On the jet, the team discusses the information they have on the three victims. None of them present any red flags. By all accounts they were regular, everyday women. Garcia phones in with two ballistics matches for a woman named Natalie and a man named Steven. The team worries that this is the first time that the unsub has killed two people. Additionally, he has killed five victims in one week, and they fear he's on a spree.

In Miami, J.J. and Luke arrive on the scene of the latest crime. They wonder if the unsub is suffering a heartbreak that triggered his spree. They look at Natalie's car and comment that she and Steven were found only two minutes after they were shot. They hypothesize that the unsub wants the attention; he uses a loud gun, attracts a crowd, and that adds to his thrill. J.J. says to think of him more as a fire starter than a spree killer.

Cut to an apartment where a man lights a match and watches the news of the latest killings. Prentiss and Simmons arrive at the police station and reporters swarm them outside. Inside, a detective tells them that she found out information from the families, but is interrupted by another officer before saying what she found out.

Looking at the crime scene photos, Simmons realizes that all of the victims were wearing similar hair clips behind their left ear. Due to the similarities between the clips and their placements, Prentiss and Simmons think they were placed there by the unsub. The clips were placed privately, tucked behind the ear, and the clips are dated looking. Just as they realize this is what the police officer wanted to tell them, they see that the news is talking about the clip connection.

The Neon Terror

At Channel 3 news, the reporters are discussing naming the unsub "the Neon Terror." Rossi and J.J. walk in and advise against naming him. They talk to the news director, Sandra, asking her about where they got the photos that show the clips since you can't see them in the news coverage. She says they received them from a confidential source and won't give it up.

Later, Channel 3 runs their story with the "Neon Terror" nickname. The unsub, meanwhile, is remembering being held as a child while photographers take pictures of him. He scrolls through women's profiles on an online dating site. He finds a particular woman and clicks on her picture.

The woman from the dating site pulls into her garage, listening to loud music. As she parks the car, the unsub shows up at her window, pointing the 44. J.J. and Luke arrive on the scene of this latest victim. This time, the unsub brought his own neon and left the light on the dashboard. J.J. and Luke comment that attacking the woman in her own home is a different MO; he waited to ambush her. They predict that the unsub thinks that a home invasion is his best way to stay relevant.

Reporters arrive on the scene. J.J. and Luke wonder if the unsub isn't a first responder, then perhaps he's someone from the media. If he's part of the media, they postulate, then that would explain why he's not being questioned, why he blends in. They wonder if the unsub is filming his crimes as part of the media. Luke says it's time to deliver the profile.

The team delivers the profile to the Miami Police. They explain the possibility of him being part of the media. Luke tells the police that there are two parts to the unsub. The first part relates to who the unsub is killing. The victims represent a personal loss, possibly a caregiver or maternal figure. The second part relates to his obsession with the media response to his crimes. In this way, the unsub is like an addict and the media is feeding his ego. The unsub, meanwhile, is still watching the news coverage of his crimes on a giant projector screen in his apartment.

None of the media personnel have panned out as potential suspects. J.J. calls Rossi and Simmons to look at a video from Channel 3 of one of the crime scenes. The three notice that there are no cops in the footage and therefore, it would have had to have been taken before the cops arrived. The watermark on the footage tells the team that it was taken by Kal, Channel 3's IT man. It turns out that Kal has been ranting on social media about his ex-girlfriend and she looks suspiciously like the victims.

J.J. and Rossi go to Channel 3 to confront Kal and when they question him, he admits that he didn't film any of the footage. He says a stranger sent it to him, telling him he should post it as his own. The person said he was a cop and always sent the footages edited under the username Quasar22. Garcia tries to hunt down Quasar22 and while she can confirm it is definitely not Kal, she can't trace the unsub's ID or location. Prentiss and Simmons hypothesize that the unsub has a personal connection to Channel 3, as he only sent his footage to Kal and not to any other news stations. Prentiss predicts that the unsub plans to make a snuff film.

Media Obsession

The unsub continues to look at dating profiles, remembering behind held as a child while reporters take his picture. He finds a girl online and approaches her in a parking lot with a camera strapped to his chest. He hits record as he pulls out the 44 and points it at her window.

Sandra, the news director, calls the BAU team with new footage from the unsub. The footage shows the murder from his first-person respective and reveals that there was a child in the backseat when the woman was killed. Using the footage, the team locates five possible parking lots where the car could be and they head out to find the victim and hopefully the child. J.J. and Simmons arrive at the parking lot where they find the woman dead but the child unharmed in the backseat.

The little girl, named Alex, was being babysat by her cousin, Nancy, who was the one murdered. J.J. and Luke realize that the unsub must have picked Nancy on purpose, knowing there would be a child in the car and that he left Alex alive on purpose. As Alex leaves the police station being carried by her father, J.J. remembers a photo she saw on Sandra's "wall of fame" in the newsroom. She thinks there might be a connection to the boy in the photo who was being held by his father. She calls Garcia to look for a similar case around 20 years ago. Garcia finds the story of a boy who survived a carjacking where his babysitter was murdered with a 44.

The boy, Jeffery, was found in the backseat of the car in a shopping mall. His babysitter was wearing the same clips and looks just like the victims. The team also discovers that a year after Jeffery's babysitter was murdered, he did an on-screen interview with Sandra for Channel 3. This was the only interview he did and explains his fixation on Channel 3.

Both of Jeffery's parents recently died and the team figures that Jeffery thinks Sandra is the only person who remembers his story. He sent the footage to Channel 3 to get her attention so that she could tell his story and make him feel important. They realize that Sandra might be his next target and head out to find her.

In his apartment, Jeffery is upset that Sandra isn't showing his latest footage. He starts smashing things and eventually takes his gun and leaves. He shows up in the newsroom at Channel 3, turning off all the lights and looking for Sandra. When he finds her, he asks her why she stopped running their story. Later, Sandra wakes up tied to a chair with a neon light wrapped around her neck. Jeffrey says she doesn't remember him.

He says they were both forgotten about and he's helping them by giving her the new story to tell and footage to run. Sandra says she couldn't show the latest footage of the little girl in the car. Jeffery activates a lifestream footage and puts a gun to Sandra's head. Garcia discovers the stream and alerts the team. Prentiss and Rossi arrive at the newsroom. 

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On the livestream, Jeffery makes Sandra tell the story of what happened when he was a kid. Prentiss and Rossi breach the room but Jeffery won't put down the gun. He wants the world to see Sandra killed so they'll remember him. Garcia manages to cut the feed. Prentiss and Rossi try to talk him down, convincing him that he can get a primetime interview that will make everyone remember him. Jeffery puts down the gun and surrenders.

Afterward, Sandra thanks Rossi for his help as he watches the media outside the station. She says that she always wondered what it felt like to be a victim, but she realized it wasn't terrifying, it was exhilarating. She says she's grateful to Jeffery for what he did and wants Rossi to thank him. Rossi leaves as Sandra is swarmed with interviews from the press.

What did you think of this episode? What did you think of Sandra's final moments? Is she just as crazy as Jeffery? Will this be the subject of Rossi's next book?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Criminal Minds season 13 airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on CBS. Want more news? Like our Criminal Minds Facebook page.

(Image courtesy of CBS)