The team investigates a double homicide and discovers that one of the victims was involved in an online relationship with a teenage girl.
Walter, Horatio and Ryan arrive at the crime scene where two people have been shot and killed. Marvin Hill is on a bench, and Rebecca West is behind the wheel of a car. The car hit a fire hydrant, and water is destroying the scene. They work to preserve as much of the crime scene as possible before the water washes it away.
Marvin was shot in the temple, which suggests that he shot himself. The team wonders if this is a murder/suicide, but there’s no obvious connection between the victims. Horatio retrieves a gun that was washed into the drain on the street, and Ryan takes it to Calleigh to compare to the shell casing Natalia found at the scene. Dr Loman retrieves a bullet from Rebecca’s neck, which was stuck beneath the skin. It was a low velocity gunshot. There’s no exit wound on Marvin Hill’s head, so Tom says he’ll look inside to dig out the bullet.
Calleigh confirms that the bullet came from the gun found at the scene, so it’s definitely the murder weapon. Natalia and Eric look at Marvin and Rebecca’s clothes, and they notice that the clothes smell bad. The purple fire hydrant at the scene uses non-potable water, which isn’t fit for human consumption. Natalia finds a black lace thong in the pocket of Marvin’s jeans, and Eric asks Marvin’s widow whether he was having an affair. She doesn’t know anything about a possible affair, and she’s never seen Rebecca before. Marvin told her he was going on his morning walk.
When he analyzes Marvin’s skull, Loman discovers that the entry wound is also the exit wound. The bullet ricocheted in Marvin’s skull and exited his head before traveling over to kill Rebecca as well. Walter re-creates the scene, and he proves that Marvin was killed while standing, and he was shot by a previously unknown third person at the scene. This person shot Marvin, and Rebecca was merely an innocent bystander who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Eric and Ryan talk to Marvin’s wife again, telling her he was the intended target. She admits that he’d been spending a lot of time online, but she tried not to think about it because at least he was coming home instead of spending time with women in motels. Calleigh looks through Marvin’s computer and finds a hidden partition on the hard drive. Marvin created a fake profile and pretended to be a 19 year old Marine named Sean, and he was having an online relationship with a teenage girl named Ashley. They were planning to meet in person in Miami. They find more pictures of Ashley on Marvin’s computer, including a picture of her in a cheerleading uniform that helps them identify the young woman.
Horatio and Eric speak to Ashley Chandler and her parents, but Ashley says she doesn’t know ‘Sean’ and doesn’t chat online because she’s only allowed to use the computer for schoolwork. Ashley’s father Larry gets upset by all of the questioning, so they test him for gunshot residue and find out that he recently fired a gun. The man says he used it to shoot armadillos in the yard. He shows them his guns, but one is missing from the safe.
Larry has an alibi—he was at the DMV all day. However, he has a gun missing, so they need to figure out if he knew about the relationship to establish a motive. They find teen tracking software on the family computer, which kept track of everything Ashley did online. They find a chat log with Sean, where they were planning to meet face to face. After Ashley stopped chatting with Sean, a guy named Justin Carson logged on. He said Sean wasn’t good enough for Ashley and told her she deserved better. He also threatened Sean’s life. Walter tries to set up a meeting with Justin, but the younger man sends a decoy when he realizes it’s a trap. The decoy tells the team that Justin was driving a car with New Mexico plates, which helps them track him down and arrest him.
Justin says he was just trying to protect Ashley. She met up with Marvin already, and she found out he was an old man. He kept harassing her, and she was scared, so Justin took care of it. He doesn’t regret killing two people for a girl he’s never met because he says they’re soulmates, and she told him they could meet in real life once Marvin was out of the picture. Justin says Ashley left her father’s gun in his motel room after he got to Miami, so Walter looks through the surveillance footage and sees Ashley’s mother dropping off the gun. Diana Chandler was the one chatting with Marvin online. She manipulated Justin, and the team arrests her and forces her to face the consequences for what she’s done.
“F-T-F” tackles a serious issue, although it doesn’t take the storyline in the most obvious direction. “To Kill A Predator” during season six centered around grown men preying on teenage girls over the internet, but “F-T-F” takes a different route. The episode deals with two adults who are pretending to be teenagers online and end up finding each other, and things spiral out of control from there. The truth comes out when the team arrests Diana at the end after seeing her on the surveillance footage. She says it was exciting at first, talking to a young man who was interested in her. She eventually knew she had to tell the truth, but she didn’t want to admit who she was on the computer. They agreed to meet “F-T-F”, face to face, and that’s when she learned that she and “Sean” were playing the same game. She was relieved to find out Marvin was also lying, but he was angry. He called and threatened her at all hours, and she couldn’t imagine having her family find out. When Justin offered to help her out, she left him the gun and set up a meeting with Marvin. She was hoping she could go back to her old life, but instead she’s going to spend the rest of her life in prison.
Marvin is the more obvious predator from the beginning, with the underwear in his pocket, the hidden partition on his computer to hide his online activities and the elaborate, fabricated character of “Sean”; in the end, however, we learn that Diana is just as bad. She uses her daughter’s name and appearance to pretend she is a teenager, and then she manipulates a kid into becoming a killer. She even provides Justin with a murder weapon. I want to have at least some small amount of sympathy for her getting in over her head with a lie that took on a life of its own, but I can’t. Her actions destroyed the lives of innocent people.
We don’t know much about Marvin, but it’s obvious that he created the persona of “Sean” specifically to go after young girls. Diana’s motive is less clear. She seems more desperate and lonely, and it may have started with a simple desire to feel young again, but by the time she started sharing pictures of her daughter with strangers on the internet, she’d gone way too far. In fact, by pretending to be Ashley to interact with teenage guys online, Diana actually made her own daughter a target for predators on the other end of the internet connection, like Marvin. If the MDPD can see a picture of her cheerleading uniform and figure out which school she attends, a predator could do the same thing. All they would need are a few casual details tossed out during a chat session, and they’d be able to track her down. Intelligent, resourceful people aren’t always good people. That doesn’t happen in this episode, of course, but it’s easy to see how the situation presented on the show could have a variety of horrible outcomes.
Justin’s reaction to being arrested for murder is disturbing. He doesn’t even seem to understand that his actions are real and have very real consequences. It’s only once he’s confronted with “Ashley’s” true identity that he starts to realize what he’s done. He killed a man and an innocent bystander because he thought he loved a girl he didn’t even know. Not that people can’t form real friendships or relationships online, but the person on the other end of the internet connection could be anyone. There are far too many young people (and older people too, for that matter) in real life who take everything and everyone at face value online, and it’s a dangerous mistake to make. Even if most of the people we chat with on the internet are just average, everyday people like us, predators like Marvin and Diana exist, and we have to be aware of it so we can take simple precautions to protect ourselves. Young people are especially vulnerable, and it’s scary to hear about stories on the nightly news where kids get hurt because they spoke to the wrong person online.
The non-potable water from the purple fire hydrant is certainly an interesting plot device. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, non-potable water is “water that is unsafe or unpalatable to drink because it contains pollutants, contaminants, minerals, or infective agents.” At the start of “F-T-F”, water from the fire hydrant soaks the crime scene, as well as Walter, Ryan and Horatio. It provides a funny moment early on, when Calleigh has to tell Ryan he stinks, but it also provides a key piece of evidence later in the episode. Natalia and the new lab tech, Rachel Brooks, compare diatoms found on Justin’s clothing to diatoms on the victim Marvin Hill to confirm that he was soaked in the same source of non-potable water.
Rachel fills in for longterm recurring character Michael Travers (Christopher Redman) this week. Despite her introduction as the “new girl”, this is Natalie Knepp’s only appearance on the show. Rachel and Natalia share a nice scene when they test for diatoms, and Rachel seems excited to be working with Natalia. They studied her at the academy, Rachel explains, and she says that’s a very good thing. The character seems nice enough, but there isn’t much to make her stand out. Quirky characters are more memorable in such small, easily forgettable roles. Travers has certainly had his quirky moments in the past, and this week we discover that he’s a bit of a player. Rachel’s presence is explained by Travers taking an impromptu romantic weekend with one of his girlfriends.
Several of the regulars have great scenes this week as well. I love Walter and Dr Loman, so any scene where they interact is an automatic plus. I can’t help but laugh when Walter heads into the morgue and is immediately confronted with Loman pulling a boiled skull out of a pot. Walter’s reaction is priceless, and I love that Loman is so excited about his job. He doesn’t even seem to realize how morbid he can be, sometimes—or he’s too eager to care. As he says this week, “It’s way too exciting for etiquette, Walter.” Loman is always a hoot, and Christian Clemenson and Omar Miller make fantastic scene partners.
Frank also has a great scene this week, when he calls around trying to find the rental company used by the killer, Justin. There’s a quick montage of him speaking with various companies without success, and he seems frustrated and incredulous with most of the people who answer the phone. “New Mexico is not a foreign country,” he tells one of them, and he ends another call with “Jiminy Christmas”. When he’s on the line with Odyssey Car Rentals, the man on the other end gives Frank a signal that Justin has approached the counter. Frank urges him to stall long enough for the cops to arrive, and he suggests that the man tell Justin that his credit card won’t go through. The man hands the phone over to Justin, and Frank pretends to work for the credit card company. He tells Justin the computers are acting up, adding, “When those little boogers go down, they go down.” It’s a tense, exciting scene, and it’s nice to see Frank do something a bit different. His last line is classic, though; when the police pull up and move to arrest Justin, he offers a parting phrase over the phone: “We hope you have a good day.” It’s doubtful that Justin can even hear him at that point, but I love it. Rex Linn’s delivery is perfect, and I always look forward to scenes where he’s at the center of the action—even if it’s just over the phone.
See also: “F-T-F” episode guide