Review "Wheels on the Bus"
The 8th episode of this season’s Criminal Minds starts with every parent’s worst nightmare; a busload of teens riding the school bus home from a Virginia high school is hi-jacked. Two men using a disabled vehicle as a ruse board the stopped school bus, shoot the driver in the leg and commandeer it. Reminiscent of the kidnapping that happened in Chowchilla, CA 36 years ago, you start to wonder why the kidnappers targeted a school bus. In that real-life case it was for ransom, in this case it was for something much more sinister.
After the team joins the investigation, the bus driver is found dead. While searching the area 14 of the missing students are found safe and sound. However, 10 students are still missing as is the bus monitor that was on board. The captive students are made to wear shock collars all numbered 1 thru 10 as well as ear pieces. They are taken to a different location and held in a caged cell. What are these unsubs after? They want their captives to play human game pieces in a video game that they have decided to bring to life. It is a very real game of life and death where the “winner” is the player whose pawn kills their opponent. The teens are pitted against one another with very real guns and ammo. Kid against kid one kills her schoolmate to save her own life. The unsubs were less important to me than the teens and their will to do whatever necessary to make it out of this situation alive.
Where the story as written by Kim Harrison might seem a little far-fetched, I can actually see it happening. Maybe not to the elaborate set-up that these unsubs had with their laptops, shock collars, headsets and the weapons they used but with all of the violent video games that are played these days, you can see how some people could become desensitized to the reality of ending someone’s life. It has already happened to some degree or another where people playing a game have taken it to a whole other level and it has ended in loss of life. Case in point, it happened in Madrid (Spain), in April 30th, 1994, when a 21 year old and his 17 year old friend decided to bring to life a role-playing game with a strong racist undertone devised by the former. Their initial idea was to find a teenage girl to be their victim, but circumstances made that impossible and in the end, they opted to go after a 52 years old worker that was waiting for the bus to go back home after a long work-night. Hours later a bus driver found him dead after having been stabbed 19 times. The police caught them when they were already looking for their next victim.
This story was well-written and well-acted especially by the young actors playing the teens forced to kill their friends to save their own lives. In that respect it reminded me of the classic CM episode North Mammon. Would you be willing to take the life of your friend to save your own? Let’s hope you and I are never put in that position.