“Green Birds” (Episode 102)
October 2, 2018
Episode two of FBI kept the pace, drama and character development, all well establishing in the Pilot, going at a nice clip without ever feeling forced.
If you missed my recap of the Pilot, check it out here. Otherwise, let’s get on to tonight’s new episode of FBI, “Green Birds” … after the jump (BEWARE OF SPOILERS)!
People are having lunch outside at the plaza on Liberty and Nassau, discussing work. Roman complains to his co-worker Valerie as they eat their food.
Suddenly, someone across from them collapses to the ground, coughing.
When Valerie turns back, Roman is convulsing. Shocked, Valerie stands up screaming for help.
All around Valerie, another woman drops where she stands. A man falls out of his chair to the ground. Another man starts choking and collapses, his salad scattering to the ground.
“Now it’s eight and counting.”
Maggie and OA arrive. NYPD and Detective Burns are already on scene. Hazmat responders tape off entry to the plaza as they examine the bodies.
Maggie asks if it was six dead
Burns reports six dropped in the plaza, a few more on the sidewalk, another fourteen hospitalized; all within an eight-block radius. The doctors still don’t know what it is.
Maggie asks what the symptoms are. Burns lists them: seizures, respiratory issues, paralysis, dizziness, numbness, abdominal pain
“It attacks the human body every way it can,” Maggie summarizes.
Maggie wonders out loud how it is random people dropped and yet everyone else is okay. OA thinks it means it isn’t an airborne biological toxin. Maggie crosses the red tape. Someone in a hazmat suit tries to stop her but Maggie points out she’s only three yards from the tape. “Is right here really that different from back there?” Maggie asks if the responders can see if there is a sticker or receipt for the salad next to the victim. Meanwhile, OA is still behind the tape.
“Living dangerously, Agent Bell.”
“I don’t like wasting time.”
The hazmat responders find a receipt among the food on the ground. It is for a deli on Church, three blocks north of the plaza.
At the deli, hazmat responders go in and out of plastic barriers. Maggie and OA are with the stunned deli owner across the street. Maggie tells the owner at least five of the victims brought their lunch from the salad bar of the Korean Deli.
The owner says they never had any health code violations or problems with anyone. The food didn’t come from new suppliers. They are the cleanest in the city. They’ve been here thirty-seven years and are a part of the community.
“The best, the brightest, the most powerful people in the country work around here,” the owner tells the agents.
“Maybe that’s why you were targeted,” says OA.
One of the tech teams in a hazmat suit retrieves the surveillance footage from the deli. The agents go to view the footage on a laptop. There are multiple camera views in the surveillance footage. It is the third angle that catches the front half of the bar. OA asks to pull that camera into full screen. The agents watch intently. Maggie notices at 1:18 a girl is standing by the bar. She doesn’t take any food or a container. However, this is the only angle they have. Maggie asks the tech if he could zoom in on the reflection off a metal pot to the girl’s left. The tech zooms in with fancy software (super resolution-based reconstruction algorithm) and catches the girl spraying the food in the salad bar.
“Turns out salad isn’t always the healthy choice. “
Jubal updates the team in the ERT bullpen. The labs have identified the toxin as TTX (tetrodotoxin). Jubal says it’s “Not contagious—yay, but that is where the good news ends.”
The poison is odorless, flavorless and deadly. The CDC rep informs the team one milligram can be fatal and not everyone reacts the same way; more people could die in the next few hours.
Jubal says they need to try to ID and contact everyone from the surveillance footage; some may not know they’re poisoned. OA assumes TTX isn’t something anyone can pick up at Duane Reade [Ed. Note: This is one of my favorite New York-centric shoutouts]. The girl is either brilliant in chemistry or shopping on the dark web.
Maggie asks if they’re able to pull facial recognition of the girl. They couldn’t; most teenagers in New York don’t drive. There is nothing in DMV.
Kristen reports agents are canvassing the area around the deli. She pulls all camera footage and tracks the girl until she loses her in Brooklyn Skate Park. However, Kristen catches the girl coming out of an abandoned lot, her clothing different and her backpack gone.
Jubal is thrilled and announces “some lucky ERT member gets to go dumpster diving. I vote Dave ‘cause he had the last half n half.”
As the bullpen bursts with activity, a woman enters. She points out the girl on the screen is wearing a t-shirt with a logo from a red anarchist black metal band.
“Who’s the new headbanger?”
Jubal introduces the agents to the new SAC, Dana Mosier (Sela Ward).
Mosier tells the agents her daughter once received a letter from her school warning about anarchist metal. They are intensely aggressive and political. They’re not about music, though. Mosier calls them a movement. “Imagine activists screaming at the top of their lungs for the destruction of American capitalism.“
Maggie wonders would that inspire the girl to poison people she didn’t know. OA thinks it could be a statement; most of the victims worked in the Financial district. Mosier agrees. The attack would put the movement on the map. Maggie promises Mosier they’ll let her know as soon as they have anything solid. Mosier corrects Maggie: let her know as soon as they have anything. Mosier follows with her hearing good things about Maggie and OA. She has high expectations for them.
Jubal informs Maggie and OA that Mosier is a brilliant profiler who “took down the Bayou Butcher in New Orleans without leaving her desk.”
Just then, Jubal gets an alert on his phone. Mount Sinai has a patient, Caroline Subotic (Rebecca Gruss), with possible TTX poisoning. She is fifteen, five feet one with dirty blonde hair; she fits the suspect’s description.
“She walked in the door, and she couldn’t even speak.”
Caroline’s mother talks to the agents, her daughter intubated and unconscious behind them in a hospital room. The mother tells them she took Caroline into the hospital right away. However, the doctors aren’t sure if Caroline would even wake up. Mrs. Subotic is confused. She’s unsure why Caroline was even at the deli; they never go down “to that part of Manhattan.”
Maggie and OA exchange a look. They choose not to tell Mrs. Subotic about Caroline yet. Maggie asks the mother if she has any idea why her daughter was down in lower Manhattan? The mother thinks maybe a friend invited her. When Maggie asks for a list of Caroline’s friends, the mother tells them most of Caroline’s friends are online. She’s not sure why this is important, though.
OA jumps in, saying they’re looking at all the victims. They don’t know yet if they were targeted. Maggie asks if Caroline has any issues in school. The mother admits her daughter had trouble fitting in.
“Kids her age can be cruel.”
Caroline had to transfer twice in the past two years due to bullying. Mrs. Subotic explains to the agents Caroline had problems since her father left five years ago. “Packed a bag and just … disappeared from our lives.” Caroline started having emotional meltdowns and burning old clothes and photos in her room.
Maggie comments sympathetically Caroline must have been hurting. Mrs. Subotic says it made Caroline a target which in turn made her act out more. OA asks if Caroline ever mention red anarchist black metal? The mother makes a face, “that terrible screaming music?” She used to hear Caroline listen to it a lot but not lately because she asked Caroline to use headphones.
OA also asks if Caroline has her laptop and phone. Her laptop is among the things the mother took with them to the hospital. The agents take the laptop from Caroline’s backpack.
Back in the Bureau, OA says Jubal is obtaining a warrant for Caroline’s home and school locker. Maggie notes it won’t be long before the mother learns her daughter was not a victim, but the culprit.
The agents pass along the laptop to Kristen. She tells them how she found reports of trouble with teachers and students. A guidance counselor found a secret online poll that even voted Caroline as “Most likely to be a School Shooter.” OA comments that is dark. Also inaccurate, Kristen adds. Girls don’t shoot up with guns. They use poison, OA finishes, but he isn’t sure what anarchists prefer.
As Kristen searches Caroline’s laptop for any evidence of the anarchist movement or if she shopped for TTX, Maggie gets a call from their lab. ERT found Caroline’s purse with a sprayer inside.
In the lab, the tech finds a good set of prints. Maggie guesses there is something more; this is something they could have just called her about it.
Sure enough, the tech demonstrates the olive oil sprayer they found. At the fifth press, a poison-tipped needle pops out, that must have injected TTX into Caroline. She was set up to poison the salad bar and then poisoned herself so she wouldn’t talk.
Back in the bullpen, Mosier informs the agents Caroline has just died. Maggie tells Mosier this wasn’t what Caroline planned. She didn’t try to kill herself. Caroline is also a victim. Mosier says the profile makes more sense now if Caroline was coerced. OA observes the news the anarchists must be happy with the chaos it causes.
Kristen enters the office. She tells them about a browser hidden in Caroline’s laptop. It leads to a private forum with a graphic written in Arabic. OA quickly scans the screen and grimly translates it: Dark Jihad. Everyone realizes anarchists didn’t recruit Caroline. ISIS recruited her.
“Now you’re saying she’s a terrorist?”
The agents reveal to Caroline’s mother that her daughter may have been working with ISIS. The mother is in disbelief.
OA prods the mother about Caroline acting out after her father left. He carefully asks if the father’s name was Mahmad. He is quick to assure her he’s asking as a Muslim, not making assumptions. Mrs. Subotic tells them Mahmad wasn’t a radical. And when Caroline asked her about Islam a few months ago, she told her daughter to look it up herself on the internet. She realizes now she perhaps didn’t know much about her daughter after all.
Back in the Bureau, the team tries to connect the dots about Caroline, her Muslim father and terrorists. Mosier profiles Caroline as isolated. She thinks someone took advantage of her loneliness when she went looking online. Jubal confirms ISIS is taking credit for the attack. NSA sees chatter occurring before the attack. The team discusses how ISIS has always supported the idea of poisoning grocery chains; food supply is a soft target.
Mosier points out the attack strikes fear at the primal level. She asks if this is a one-off or the start of something. OA replies it depends on how many girls did they recruited.
Kristen and other techs are in the conference room working on the Dark Jihad website. She tries to trace the Dark Jihad site, but an anonymous offshore server hosts Dark Jihad. They’re having trouble trying to get access. OA thinks the website is only a first step. Kristen agrees; any potential recruits would move to an encrypted messaging app where their chats are private. Maggie asks if Caroline ever made contact through her social media accounts, but it looks like Caroline didn’t have a lot of friends online and she kept her posts vague.
Kristen notes, however, it didn’t mean the radicals didn’t try to contact Caroline. She pulls up the last post Caroline made before the attack.
CarolineSays16 posted that, “Today should be fun.”
Kristen scrolls through the responses. Most are very cruel cyber-bullying.
“The souls of martyrs are within the bellies of green birds in paradise.”
OA notices further down, however, someone by the name Cloudcover33 posted a green bird. The user is not a bully. Someone was trying to reach out to Caroline. OA tells them jihadists refer to green birds all the time. The bird is an icon to them. “Who’s Cloudcover33 ?”
Maggie and OA are in Queens talking to Mr. Siagas who tells them he’s in a rush. He has to get his daughter to school. OA tells Mr. Siagas they’re here to talk to his daughter Tara, not him. But they need him to be present when they speak to her. Tara comes out of the house. She slows down when she spots the agents. Maggie kindly greets her and asks if Tara knows Caroline Subotic?
Tara admits she knows Caroline. She’s stunned to hear Caroline is dead.
Back inside the house, Tara’s father looms over her, demanding how Tara knows Caroline and how she got mixed up with ISIS? Tara’s father keeps interrupting and OA has to push him back as the father denies Tara knows anything about the Dark Jihad site or anything else. OA warns the father this is an FBI investigation. The father can observe but not interfere.
At first, Tara is reluctant to speak. Slowly, she tells them about Caroline. Maggie tells Tara there was no point lying to them. The FBI is investigating Dark Jihad already. Tara confesses Caroline found Dark Jihad first and then showed it to Tara. They liked the online community and how they seem to understand Tara and Caroline. They talk about how clothing is made to make them feel bad and how fashion lumps them together as either sluts or prudes.
Maggie sympathizes how Tara can’t win. Tara says it’s different over there where all the women were the same. No one cares what they wear if it’s all the same. “You mean if all women wear burqas,” OA translates.
Tara’s father jumps in, arguing this wasn’t what Tara meant. In a flash of defiance, Tara interjects: it is precisely what she meant. She joined Dark Jihad and started studying in preparation of traveling to the Middle East. When you become an ISIS bride, OA clarifies. Tara nods. She was going to go over there with Caroline.
Tara’s father shouts at her for wanting to run away to terrorists and storms away in disgust.
Maggie asks Tara who was initially going to take them to the Middle East. At first, Tara hesitates but OA reminds her that the person who did this killed Caroline and a lot of innocent people. Tara tells the agents about a man named Greenbird. He was going to take them. He and Caroline met online and Caroline was going to help with his plan before going over there to be with him. Tara says she also spoke with Greenbird. They talked about everything.
OA asks if Greenbird ever admits he has feelings for Tara?
Tara says yes. She defends Greenbird; he doesn’t even know what she looks like because he’s not allowed to see her face until he proposes marriage. However, Greenbird has sent Tara photos of himself. Tara shows the agents a picture of a good looking man.
As they leave the house, Maggie searches for “sexy ISIS” and is appalled.
“I just typed in “sexy ISIS” in Google Images. Greenbird came up in 30 seconds.”
OA is not surprised. He tells Maggie it’s the Jihadi method of recruiting. “Sex sells.”
Maggie still doesn’t get it. She argues she remembers being a teenager. She understands girls wanting to do something because a boy is giving her attention or wishing to belong. But Maggie doesn’t get why girls like Caroline and Tara would be attracted to ISIS.
“You probably had good grades and friends and made the track team and had a good relationship with your father,” OA points out.
“I understand vulnerability,” Maggie shoots back.
“You don’t have to mansplain the female teenage brain to me.”
OA tells Maggie about his time undercover; he witnessed his faith weaponized all the time. Terrorists like ISIS would find people who felt like their worlds are incredibly chaotic. The terrorists use that to promise people a sense of order. Maggie struggles to understand. It is a huge difference between wanting to wear a burqa and wanting to poison innocent people.
OA says it’s a process. They convince them that there’s a better way. Maggie relents; she understands wanting a sense of order. But she still doesn’t understand what these girls are getting out of it in the end. OA explains they promise girls like Caroline and Tara respect and an exalted position in society. Going over there is paradise. Maggie points out Caroline and Tara are just teenagers.
“They’re just trying to figure out who they are.”
Maggie hates that teenagers like Caroline and Tara are getting exploited. OA sadly agrees.
Back in the Bureau, Maggie and OA put Tara and her dad in the conference room. Tara gives them her password and sign-in, which Maggie and OA pass along to Kristen. It’s time to reach out to Tara’s recruiter. OA reports the recruiter’s screen name is Greenbird; he’s the one behind the deli attack, not Caroline.
Mosier joins them. She advises Kristen to try and find out his methods and how many girls did he recruit. Also, Mosier adds, how was Greenbird getting them TTX?
Kristen asks what Tara would say to Greenbird. Mosier suggests trying a “gentle confrontation” about Caroline. She thinks if Greenbird might lose Tara, he’ll move faster.
Mosier informs Maggie and OA that the intelligence department has been going over ISIS communications to find any reference to Dark Jihad. There are two they found so far in emails that also involves Khalid Barham.
OA is unsettled. Maggie is perplexed. OA explains Barham is a chemical weapons expert. Barham is the one responsible for attacks in Syria, Iraq.
“And now poison in New York,” Maggie adds to the list.
“Barham is a ghost but a very prolific one.”
Mosier says the last known photo of Barham is from 2011. OA theorizes if Greenbird is working for Barham then the attack isn’t merely one deli. Maggie, noticing how upset OA is, asks if he’s run up against Barham’s network before. Before OA could (or would) answer, a chime rings out; Greenbird makes contact. The agents, Kristen and Mosier move the chat into the conference room where they can all see. They split the chat into two larger screens. The left is Greenbird; the right is Tara.
“She was not supposed to die, but that is the highest form of martyrdom.”
Kristen reads Greenbird’s response out loud. OA scoffs. Greenbird has no clue on how martyrdom works. Kristen asks how she should reply. Maggie reminds everyone Tara’s a teenager; she would be frightened. Mosier points out Tara, however, has come far with Greenbird. They need to convince Greenbird she’s still willing. OA suggests “I believe there is so much I can offer you, if I can get overseas. But I’m afraid to die.”
Kristen types it out. They wait. Time stretches as they wait for Greenbird’s reply. Finally, Greenbird answers, “If you want to take the next step, you have to trust me.” Mosier says Greenbird is testing Tara. He needs reassurance. “I trust you,” Kristen types. “Tell me what the next step is,” OA adds.
Kristen hesitates. She wonders if that isn’t too forward?
OA thinks Greenbird still needs Tara; he isn’t done with her. OA stares at the screens; Maggie glances over, visibly concerned. Kristen goes ahead and types what OA suggested. Greenbird responds: “Meet me at Lighthouse Park. Waterfront. Noon.”
The team is stunned. Their overseas Jihadi is in New York.
OA declares if any of Barham’s guys are here in America it is bad news. Kristen types, asking Greenbird how Tara will know it’s him. After a long pause, Greenbird replies “I’ll find you.” Greenbird then posts Tara’s photo in the chat. Maggie and OA exchange a look.
“You lied to us.”
Maggie storms ahead of OA into the room where Tara and her father have been waiting. She interrupts the father’s demands on why they were left here so long. Maggie accuses Tara of lying; Tara sent photos of herself to Greenbird. Tara stammers she didn’t know the rules about Islam then; she was still studying. OA tells Tara it isn’t about the rules.
Tara’s father doesn’t understand what Tara did.
Maggie tells Tara that Greenbird is not “the dreamy soldier” Tara thought from the photo. Despite how upset Tara looks at the truth, Maggie pushes on. All of it was fake. Tara made contact with an actual terrorist. The FBI has to catch him. But because Tara gave Greenbird her photo, now Tara has to be the one to meet him.
“Let’s make this thing happen.”
Agents swarm the park in civilian dress. The operations leader and OA survey the park. Ops report the perimeter’s set and surveillance cameras are ready. There are also two snipers in position: one high and one low. This close by the water, it is all they can do. OA asks how many undercover agents they have out? The ops leader says they have everyone who was available on short notice. They have eight, but they are “light on females.” Ops tells OA everyone is ready to start the sting operation. Is Tara?
OA hesitates. He looks over to a construction trailer set up for the operation. He tells the ops leader they’re working on it. Inside the trailer, Tara is by the corner looking scared. Tara’s father is pacing and nervous about his daughter meeting a known terrorist. He wants to know how the FBI is going to protect Tara out there and keep her safe. Maggie assures Tara and her father they will be listening and watching Tara the entire time. She shows them earrings that are microphones. Tara still looks nervous. Maggie apologizes for being so angry with Tara before. Maggie is upset thinking about how Greenbird preyed on Caroline and then killed her.
Tara admits it’s why she’s scared.
OA understands; he points out this is a chance for Tara to do something really important. They’re not discounting Tara’s fear; the fear is real. But OA knows Tara will regret not doing anything to stop him.
“And I’m sure you’re feeling pulled in a million different directions right now.”
Maggie knows Tara is feeling conflicted: she’s scared and yet she also wants to help. Tara is the only person who can get justice for Caroline. Tara is the only one who can stop Greenbird from doing this to someone else. Maggie wholeheartedly believes Tara can do this.
Outside, Maggie pretends she’s a jogger, designated Charlie One. She stops by a tree and acts like she’s stretching as she watches Tara walking to the waterfront.
Inside the trailer, OA and Tara’s father watches the surveillance. Tara’s father asks how long his daughter has to wait for Greenbird. Until Greenbird arrives, OA replies as he watches the monitors.
In the Bureau, Kristen, Jubal and Mosier are also watching while they are monitoring the Dark Jihad website. Greenbird hasn’t been online since the chat.
Maggie spots someone coming from the south towards Tara. However, it’s a woman in a hijab. Inside the trailer, seeing this, Tara’s father asks OA; he thought Greenbird was a man. In the Bureau, Kristen wonders if this is a more extreme catfishing case than they first thought. Or, Jubal suggests, Greenbird sent someone in his place.
Maggie observes the young woman stopping in front of Tara. She tenses; this is it. The woman smiles at Tara. She explains it isn’t safe for Greenbird to come himself. However, he’s inspired by Tara’s loyalty.
In the trailer, Tara’s father points out the woman must be the recruiter. He demands they arrest her right now, but OA says he needs to wait for word from his bosses.
The woman asks Tara if she is ready to help. Tara takes a long time before she answers she is. Mosier tells everyone to hold off in the arrest. She wants to see if Tara can get details from the woman first. Maggie steps away from the tree. She stares anxiously at the two women. The woman asks Tara to promise to be faithful. She needs Tara to follow her directions exactly.
Tara doesn’t say anything.
Maggie starts to walk towards them. The woman, still trying to convince Tara, tells Tara that Greenbird is counting on her. Before she finishes, Tara cuts in and says she promises. Maggie hangs back. OA and Tara’s father apprehensively waits.
Pleased, the woman tells Tara there is a dumpster behind the parking garage on 134th and 7th in Harlem. There is a backpack taped behind it with everything Tara needs.
And this is everything the FBI needs. Mosier tells everyone to move in now.
Two undercover agents who stroll by jump into action; one of them grabs Tara and pulls her away to safety as other agents surround the woman. Maggie runs to Tara to check on her. She tells Tara she did great.
Mosier looks both relieved and victorious. In the trailer, OA pats a relieved father on the back.
Jubal reads out her profile to the team. The arrested woman is Nita Kayali from Pakistan, but grew up in Connecticut. She is alone: no parents, no siblings and no spouse. Last known address was the Upper East Side where she lived as she finished her MBA. Maggie wonders about the possibility Nita is the real mastermind and Greenbird was her persona to recruit young girls. Kristen speaks up; she had the same thought, but Greenbird is still active since Nita’s arrest.
Jubal reports ERT found the backpack Nita told Tara about; the only skin cells on it were male. Inside the backpack is a card listing the target. There is also the same rigged sprayer that would have killed Tara if she used it.
Maggie asks if they were able to match Nita’s name, face, or voice to any of the ISIS intel intercepts. One of the other agents reports NSA only has mentions of Dark Jihad. No one else, not even CIA or DIA. Agents canvassing also spoke with Nita’s classmates and neighbors. No one expected this.
OA points out they now have access to the Dark Jihad site; couldn’t they track down Greenbird’s IP address and obtain his location? Kristen nixes the idea, explaining in a lot of technical jargon to a lot of blank faces. Jubal quips he would ask, too, because he’s not a nerd. Chuckling, Jubal translates: it means Greenbird is untraceable.
Maggie thinks maybe Nita knows something about Greenbird.
Mosier reminds Maggie and OA about the hierarchy. Nita Kayali is older than any of the girls she met. She was most likely an early recruit. The seniority gives her a false sense of power. Like the others, Greenbird tapped into her need to feel important. It is how Greenbird gains her loyalty.
In Interrogation, Nita tells Maggie and OA she is much more than a messenger for Greenbird. Maggie points out Greenbird is the one who obtains the TTX, plans the attacks and then convinces girls like Caroline and Tara to act on his plans. “What do you do?,” challenges Maggie.
OA asks Nita if she’s Muslim. Nita says of course she is.
“Some of the recruits think they’re Muslim, too, but they’ve just been sold a phony Islam express ticket.”
OA test Nita on her Quran. Since she is a leader, she should know it well. He quizzes Nita on the fifth oath, Surah An-Nur.
“And the fifth oath is that the curse of Allah be upon him should he be among the liars,” Nita confidently replies.
Nita passes. OA reminds her that the oath means it doesn’t end well for liars. He shows her the photo Tara previously showed them. He comments the picture is a good lure and “probably pushed a few girls over the edge.” He asks Nita whether the idea was hers or his. Nita smirks and stays silent. OA shrugs. He tells her it doesn’t matter. Nita is going to get the credit for all of it.
Maggie jumps in. Greenbird used Nita to meet the other girls so he would never be exposed. Nita is going to be blamed for everything. The FBI has enough to charge Nita with a list of terrorism-related offenses. OA adds including conspiracy to commit mass murder. That’s life in prison. Maggie warns Nita that if she doesn’t cooperate, Nita is looking at seventy years in prison, trapped in a cell twenty-three hours a day.
“For a husband you’ve never even met.” OA finishes.
Nita wavers, but then she denies it with a shake of her head. She is his partner; this is meant to be. OA notes Greenbird made Nita a lot of promises. Maggie lists there was a promise to take Nita to Nangarhar Province by the end of winter. There is growing resurgence there, and Nita is needed there.
“There will be competition for your attention, but he knows you’ll be true to him.”
Nita is stunned. She demands how they knew what she and Greenbird spoke about in their chats. Maggie reveals these are the same things he promised Tara. Nita is still in denial. She’s starting to look shaken. OA tells Nita Greenbird promised the same thing to every single girl.
“This was all a manipulation,” Maggie says.
OA advises Nita her cooperation would help her later on. Nita finally accepts she was tricked just like the others. But, she admits, “I can’t cooperate.” Maggie guesses that like Caroline and Tara, Nita’s entire relationship is online. Nita doesn’t know Greenbird’s name, location, anything at all. She looks resigned she is going to take the fall for everything after all. Maggie and OA mull over Nita’s words. Maggie pulls out her notepad and tells Nita she can still help. Nita can say to them who else did she recruited.
“We have three more girls who already have TTX and assignments.”
Maggie and OA return to the bullpen. They don’t have names, but Nita keeps all their photos sent to Greenbird in an administrator folder within the Dark Jihad website. They also now have Nita’s login. When Kristen types in Nita’s login, though, it doesn’t work. Kristen reports the website was replaced. There is only a page with a new picture and video. The video invites all to Jihad to “feel the happiness we are feeling.” It continues stating achieving martyrdom and “the pleasure of your lord.”
“Is this how you want to die?”
There is a spate of gunfire, the words ‘Hello FBI’ stamped over the graphic of a group of masked terrorists. A series of clips are spliced together to say, “You cannot stop what has already been started. You will die by the hands of your own children.”
The team grimly looks on as the video ends its taunt with another burst of gunfire.
“Any idea who might’ve cut this little video for us?”
The NSA rep tells Jubal they’ll compare the video to other ISIS videos. They still don’t know who is behind Barham’s website. They are looking into Barham’s network to see who is capable. “Those three girls Kayali told us about, those are the future attacks this video promises,” Maggie thinks. OA thinks Nita knows more. Maggie and OA return to Interrogation where an agent is swapping Nita for DNA. Maggie tells Nita that Dark Jihad is down. OA adds they can’t get the photos of the other recruits.
Nita has no idea who runs the website.
OA asks if Nita met the other girls in the same waterfront. The waterfront has poor camera coverage, Maggie points out. But if they can get dates and times for the meetings, they can compare them with the cameras by the entrance.
Nita asks worriedly would it help if she gives them the dates and times? “We can only help you with sentencing,” Maggie tells Nita. She asks Nita to give physical descriptions of each girl.
Maggie, OA and Kristen are scanning footage based on the dates Nita gave them. They’re working on the last one: a Nigerian in a green sweatshirt, hijab and black purse on Wednesday, 3:00 pm.
Mosier walks in, asking for updates. And Maggie reports they now have all the faces for the recruits. Kristen is sending them to every high school in the five boroughs. Mosier is pleased; they’re getting close on Greenbird. They also have the propaganda video trace back to Ali Kara, an ISIS website administrator in Libya.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the phrase ‘ISIS website administrator,'” Maggie mutters. “They have a whole media department,” OA says. At Maggie’s look, he adds “Terrorism in the modern age.”
A call from a burner phone in Manhattan was made after Nita’s arrest. The NSA has tapped the administrator’s phones and just sent over its contents. Mosier asks for the call to play. The conversation is in Arabic.
“The academy is compromised,” OA translates, “Close it down and post the message.” Another asks if another website should be created. “No, wait for me. I need to pick the next city,” OA finishes translating. Maggie says it sounds like New York was just the beginning. Greenbird plans to poison across America.
“A scared city’s one thing, but can you imagine the damage if an entire country’s afraid to eat?”
Mosier notes the damage this could create.
Meanwhile, Jubal has his team pulling voice printing: an advanced algorithm forming “audio DNA” to track down possible matches. Jubal tells them it’s “faster than Google search.” After a few moments, the system pulls up a familiar photo: Barham. Maggie looks over at OA.
OA stares, clearly upset, at the photo while behind him, Jubal and Mosier realize somehow, despite double confirmations, Barham has managed to find his way into American soil. Mosier declares they can not let Barham escape again. Jubal springs into action. He wants his ERT team to pass Barham’s photo to every law enforcement officer. He wants everything covered since Barham sounds like he is on the move: bridges, tunnels, tolls.
Kristen reports two of the recruits showed up for school. Agents are on their way to get them. However the third, Hakima Bassy of Queens, was marked absent. Hakima’s mother hasn’t seen her since this morning.
Jubal puts a BOLO to NYPD for Hakima Bassy: Nigerian, 18-years-old, 5’2″, 114 pounds. Maggie and OA head out to Hakima’s home.
As OA drives them to Hakima’s house, Maggie prods OA about Barham and whether he’s encountered Barham himself.
“You come up against Barham before?”
OA describes to Maggie about an apartment building in Mosul. Barham bombed it with chlorine gas. His unit responded, but it was too late: thirty-nine people suffocated. He continues with the morbid details of how the bodies look. It’s clear it still bothers OA to this day. Maggie studies OA. She wants to say something but before she could, her cell phone rings. She puts it on speaker. It’s Kristen. They have a blip from Hakima’s Metro card. It indicates her getting on a northbound 4 train. Later, cameras caught her leaving Borough Hall Station.
OA asks if there is a farmers market still there. Kristen confirms yes. Three days a week. Today is one of them. OA yanks the steering around to head to the farmers market.
Maggie and OA arrive at the market. There are a lot of people around. They run through the market, shouting for everyone to don’t touch or eat any of the food.
“Don’t touch the food!”
Some stop, looking confused, but not backing away from the stalls. Maggie and OA go around trying to get people to drop what they’re holding. There’s just too many people. Suddenly, there is a cry for help. Someone is on the ground. He can’t breathe. As Maggie runs to the fallen victim, OA shouts out the food has been poisoned! Everyone needs to stay away from it. He tells the crowds of increasingly nervous bystanders medical help is on the way.
EMTs arrive. Maggie reports people are already experiencing symptoms. They don’t know who else has been exposed. OA reports Kristen is going through CCTV. Hakima sprayed at least eight of the food stands. After, it appeared to look like she was headed north before she got lost in the crowd. Maggie guesses since she took the subway to the market, she would take it out. OA tells Maggie there is a station’s at the other end of the park.
Maggie and OA scan the park before Maggie spots Hakima at 12:00 o’clock. She shouts out for Hakima to stop and lower her backpack. A young woman in a blue shirt and hijab halts and gets down on her knees. Around them, NYPD clears the area. Maggie says Hakima is going to need medical attention. OA gestures for an EMT to come forward. He approaches Hakima. He examines her hands. There’s no blood. EMT confirms there are no signs of any puncture wounds. Hakima’s backpack still has the TTX sprayer along with clothes, shoes and toiletries.
“Like maybe she was planning to go on a trip?” OA guesses. Hakima was going to meet Barham. The sprayer isn’t rigged because Barham wants her alive.
“She’s the only one he wasn’t lying to.”
OA demands to know where Hakima was going to meet Barham. Hakima replies, “within the belly of a green bird in paradise.”
Maggie keeps searching the backpack and finds a flyer for the farmers market which OA dismisses as “old news” but then Maggie also finds a schedule pamphlet for the ferries.
The agents head for the ferries after Maggie tells Jubal to hold the ferries and get back up over there.
At the ferry terminals, everything is cordoned off. The terminals are secured; the ferries are all docked. Nothing is getting in or out.
OA asks if there is any sign of Barham. The NYPD officer reports they’re looking, but nothing yet. It will have helped if they have a better photo they can work with.
The agents split up to search. Maggie takes the right. OA checks every face of the people milling about the pier. He spies a lone man, his back to OA, leaning on a pillar. OA quietly radios in he thinks he spots Barham at the end of the pier. The man straightens up from the pillar and starts walking away casually. OA follows. After a few steps though, Barham senses he’s been made. He abruptly drops his duffel bag, spins around and grabs a nearby woman. He traps her behind his arm and puts a shiv to her throat.
People panic. People flee. Maggie reaches the scene, her gun ready at Barham, but he has a hostage.
OA approaches carefully towards Barham. He points out the scarring on Barham’s face. The chemist sounds proud; OA is familiar with his work.
“Your scar. Experiment gone wrong? Maybe in Mosul?”
“I saw it with my own eyes,” OA tells Barham. Barham dismisses his scars.
“Sometimes one has to make mistake on the path to glory.”
“Your path isn’t to glory,” OA replies.
“I’ve been cleansing the world,” Barham declares, “doing Allah’s work.”
“Guys like you shouldn’t get to say Allah’s name!” OA shouts. He taunts Barham for hiding behind women all day. There is nowhere left to go. He asks Barham to give up and take credit for everything.
Barham sneers. He tells OA, “that’s not how this ends.” OA shoots Barham in the head. As the hostage makes a break for it, OA stands over Barham for a beat. He pivots around and walks away from the body, at peace with what he did.
Back in the Bureau, Mosier lets Maggie and OA know she spoke with the AUSA. They’ll take Nita’s help into consideration when the time comes for sentencing. Maggie asks about Hakima. Mosier says she killed two people at the farmers market. Because Hakima turned eighteen last week, she will be tried as an adult.
“And now Barham’s an actual ghost,” Jubal says. The chemist can’t kill any more innocents. “Sometimes bad days end with good news,” Mosier adds before they walk away. Maggie is thoughtful. She looks up and tells OA it was a good shot. OA knows but he would have preferred to have put Barham in jail. “Killing him, they’re just gonna call him a martyr,” OA explains. Nevertheless, OA is going to sleep better tonight knowing a monster like Barham is dead. Maggie confesses she can’t stop thinking the girls who were recruited, when they “decided it was even an option.”
OA reminds Maggie that ISIS knows how to manipulate themselves to look appealing. Maggie returns she isn’t just bothered by that. She can’t imagine being a teenager in that much pain, they were willing to turn to ISIS. OA doesn’t know what to say. Maggie turns back towards her computer. OA gets up to leave. He asks if Maggie is coming, but she tells him she still has work to do. She’ll see him tomorrow.
Alone in the bullpen, Maggie starts an email, hesitates and then continues:
If you ever need to talk, I am here for you. I want you to know that you are not alone.
You mattered today and you matter always.
Maggie sends the email.
There’s always an ounce of apprehension whether a show can continue on the heels of their pilot. I’m happy to say episode two of FBI, “Green Birds,” surpassed its own high.
The format of ripped-from-the-headlines was still present, but revved up. The pace was fast; how could you not feel anxious as Maggie and OA barreled through the farmers market? And the team coordinated flawlessly with the agents. The case relied eerily on the what-ifs; this made me second guess going to my neighborhood salad bar.
We also got a new SAC, our talented and lovely Sela Ward. Her character, Dana Mosier, was off to a running start with the poison attack and showed off her profiling prowess in the episode.
Many shows, when introducing a new character, often try to sell up the character to justify his/her presence. And usually it’s just all talk. Not in the case of Mosier. She proves to be a capable boss, allows her agents some latitude and offers her profiling experience graciously, not shove it down everyone’s throats to show how brilliant she is.
“Green Birds” utilized OA Zidan to the fullest extent. Rather than using his Muslim upbringing as a trope for conflict, the show used his experiences and skills as an advantage. His best moments were when he was with Tara and Nita. He was apparently upset at how these women were deceived and how his religion was distorted to manipulate. Yet he was the more understanding of the pair to the girls’ situations and how well ISIS twisted things around.
Maggie presented a naiveté about ISIS I thought was a bit extreme. She was unable to envision such desperation. Luckily, OA did nothing more than explain rather than take offense or chide her. I get the episode needed to show Maggie emotional and confused to contrast with OA’s war-weary reasoning about the misinterpretations of his religion, but it rang a tad overkill. I thought Maggie could have reined it in a little, especially with her exasperated, “don’t try to mansplain it to me” scene. It bordered going cliché. Luckily, OA was quick to pull back and explain things to her about ISIS. Maggie was not a rookie, she’s not new to the world of evil, her reactions felt exaggerated.
The end scene with Maggie’s email, though, was a great moment as well as hinting on Maggie’s deep well of empathy. The entire episode also sang a sorrowful song about cyber-bullying; Caroline, Tara and so many out there suffered to the point of desperation. The episode gave a sympathetic viewpoint: of course, the girls were easily lured by ISIS. See what we have pushed them to?
And ultimately, that’s what I loved about this episode. This easily could have been an episode of stereotypes, misconceptions and clichés. Oh look at how dumb these girls are to fall for that. Or twist the idea of a Muslim as an agent chasing down his fellow ‘brother.’ There are a thousand ways the episode could have devolved into something we’ve seen too many times before.
However, the team doesn’t even blink when OA jumped in to translate, or talked to Nita about the Quran. It wasn’t an issue. No one even brought up a hint of being an issue. It was naturally accepted: of course OA can jump in there. Who he is wasn’t an issue; it was an asset.
Acceptance also circled back to Caroline and Tara. They shouldn’t have been made to feel like outcasts. Unlike OA, they felt alienated, different and left drowning on their own self-loathing. While the episode was about terrorism, it was also about the unspoken victims of bullying.
“Green Birds” gets top marks. We get pieces about Maggie and OA that I enjoyed. We always want to know about our characters, but it’s unnecessary to core dump their backgrounds either. As we build our own profiles on Maggie and OA, their characters get increasingly intriguing. This second episode was both satisfying and left me wanting to know more. So I’m definitely tuning in next week.