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We open this episode of Criminal Minds, entitled "A Thin Line," with a couple sleeping and a baby crying, waking up the mother. She looks at the video monitor which suddenly goes blank. She realizes the power is off and gets out of bed to check on the baby. Suddenly, she hears breaking glass. She wakes her husband who runs into their pre-teen daughter's room to get a cell phone. The daughter calls 911 and while giving the details she hears gunshots and then another set with her mother screaming. Suddenly, the girl, who has given her name to the 911 center as Mackenzie, starts screaming and more shots are fired.
Now SSA Derek Morgan is running a training exercise where an agent misses a threat. Morgan gets very upset and dismisses them early. SSA Emily Prentiss is with him and is taken back by Morgan's anger. She approaches him and he doesn't seem to be moved by her sentiment. He thinks he handled it perfectly, Emily disagrees.
In the round table room we learn that in San Bernardino, Calif. families are being burgled and murdered less than a week apart and in the same neighborhood. The families always fight back but are overcome. Their power and phone lines are cut to isolate them. One family had an old alarm system and the other family's system was not in working order, which meant neither triggered the police. They also broke in through a back window. An assailant was also killed in each case. Unit Chief Aaron Hotchner is most concerned about the frequency of the kills.
On the jet the team talks about the families. One father was a war vet and the other a hunter so they owned guns. The dead home invaders are very different. One is a gang member, the other was a nice guy in college. Both of them had high levels of Oxycodone in their system which doesn't really add up.
The team is at the crime scene and Morgan tells SSA David Rossi he does not think anything about the house says "rob me." Rossi doesn't understand why these homes were targeted either. The community is going to be on edge until they are caught.
Meanwhile, Dr. Spencer Reid and Prentiss are looking at terribly bloodied rooms. Reid talks about little Mackenzie and how she didn't have defensive wounds, meaning she was taken care of quickly. Prentiss talks about how the mother shielded her 6-month-old son with her body but both were still murdered. They are trying to figure out how the father was murdered at point blank range. They are very confused as to why his body was moved to look like he died in a gunfight that never occurred. And the bloodied walls only make things more complicated.
Hotch is interviewing the father of one of the assailant victims, asking if he knew his son was troubled. The father said he was always wild and troubled, but not this way. He was more lazy than anything.
SSA JJ Jareau is interviewing the mother of one of the assailant victims. This was the boy who was a college student and seemed on the up and up. JJ asks if he was in a gang and the mother says absolutely not and he didn't do drugs either. JJ tells her that the ME found opiates in his bloodstream. The mother doesn't buy it. He was in college and worked two jobs and he would never have hurt anyone.
Back at the crime scene, Prentiss is walking through the staged murder scene. Reid quickly realizes this wasn't a break-in at all, but a staged crime scene from someone trying to send a message. Morgan catches on and tells them that someone is trying to make it look like black thugs from the hood are killing white families.
A young man is watching a political debate on television. He seems to be mesmerized by one of the politicians named Clark Preston who is going on a rant about Mexicans and illegals and taking back the community. The boy actually stands up and claps when the man is done talking.
That same young man is driving through an area of town where you can pick up help on the road. In this instance it is a Mexican man who is willing to help the boy move for $50. The boy picks up the man and then drives him out to a deserted area and drugs him.
Looks like there is a new crime scene which is two days since the last break-in. That Mexican man named Pedro Mendez is lying dead on the living room floor. The scene is staged to look like the home owner shot the Mexican man who had killed his pregnant wife. It seems the homeowners are always killed humanely yet the fall guys left behind are overkilled. These are obviously hate crimes performed to drive fear.
The profile is given and we are looking for a white man in his late 20s. Reid tells the police about how Charles Manson staged the Tate/LaBianca murders to incite a race war. Hotch explains that Aryans and people of that mindset believe that a race war is not only inevitable but necessary. Prentiss thinks he might be an Aryan or an ex-con. He is obviously a zealot and willing to put himself in harm's way. He is physically fit and he is disciplined. Since he has access to Oxycodone, he might have a nursing license or something similar.
That same young man is making breakfast and brings it up to his bed ridden mother. He is talking very sweetly to her and even feeding her. Clark Preston shows up on television and the man gets very excited, talking back to the television. His mother seems to be having an episode of some sort and he injects her with Oxycodone.
Morgan shows Hotch video of the politician I mentioned earlier, Clark Preston. His preaching about "taking the city back" and "the browning of America" makes Morgan think maybe the unsub is being manipulated by this man. They decide to interview him.
They tell him they think that the unsub is impressionable and what Preston is saying on TV is affecting this man, causing him to kill. The politician isn't really moved by this. He agrees to cut back on media appearances after giving Morgan an odd pep talk about how proud he is of him and how he wishes there were more like him.
We are back at the young man's house and he is obviously having financial issues as he is on the phone with a collector. Clark Preston shows up with flowers for the boy's mother. They obviously know each other and we find out the young man is named Trevor. He also tells him that they need to down shift the campaign and time their moves. He asks the man to trust him. The man isn't convinced but he'll do it.
Morgan's phone rings and Tech Analyst Penelope Garcia is on the line. Apparently the politician is rich, filthy rich to be exact. He shuffles money around on and off shore. Everyone contributing to his campaign is clean though. Morgan still thinks he is involved but Prentiss isn't so sure.
Trevor is sitting outside of a house spying. He sees the lights go out and he heads over there and breaks in, shooting up the house from the inside. He then just casually walks away to his car where he opens his trunk to pull out a man. The man jumps out of the car, fights him and gets away. Needless to say, Trevor is furious and scared.
Hotch and Rossi are walking through the new crime scene and they find a teenage boy sitting upright in a closet shot in the head. They think it is a message but they aren't sure what that message is.
The man from the trunk goes to the police and talks to Prentiss, because she speaks every language in the book. She has him walk through what happened. Just as before, this man was offered $50 for two hours of work, then drove off and then was stabbed with a needle. He had been a drug addict so he thinks maybe his body had a tolerance so he woke up sooner which saved his life. He remembers train tracks and music. This information could possibly help a lot.
Trevor shows up at the politician's office and he is not happy, Preston tells him he'll find him soon but for now he needs to get out and not come back. The young man is very upset.
The team is trying to find out what the loud music could have come from near a set of train tracks, and a bar called The Drunken Dog is all they can find. They call Garcia for more info and she finds that a hedge fund company named First Advantage has purchased the bar. That seems odd so a little more digging shows that Preston sits on the board for this hedge fund.
Trevor is calling Clark and freaking out, telling his answering machine that something went wrong.
The team knows they missed something and they start looking back over DMV records to find anyone in the area whose registration fits the description of the unsub's vehicle. Turns out they find Trevor's mom as a monthly contributor and notice Trevor's car is the unsub's car.
Garcia finds out that 10 years ago Trevor's family had been burglarized, the father and daughter killed, the mother raped and Trevor hid in the closet and lived. Apparently, Clark Preston has been taking care of the family for a long time. The check that is given to his campaign each month is actually his mother's disability. Clark had been planning this all along. He was turning this Trevor into a killer.
The team busts into his house and he is not there. His mother is though, and Reid finds a goodbye letter written to her in Trevor's room.
Another politician that we've been seeing throughout the episode is cooking dinner in her kitchen when her lights go out. Trevor breaks through her door but he can't find her. She is hiding from him but he hears her breathing. He throws her over a desk and they begin fighting.
Prentiss breaks in and immediately gets shot but JJ has her back. Trevor gets away from her and runs upstairs after the politician. He catches her and Morgan begins trying to talk him down. Morgan tells him that Preston actually set up the killing of his family and then bought their house for nothing. It should all make sense, this is what he has had Trevor doing. However, Trevor won't buy it and begins to shoot at Morgan, but Morgan fires first and hits him.
Clark Preston is arrested and continues to plead his innocence.
On the jet, Emily has her arm in a sling and Morgan brings her something to drink. He apologizes to her and she mocks him which is absolutely hysterical. If you follower her on Twitter she often does "Yo Yo I'm Shemar" messages and this must be the voice she uses. Anyway he says he is upset that she got hurt again and she tells him it's the job and not to worry, but then she mocks him yet again. No seriously it was great!