The FBI: Most Wanted team had a harsh lesson in justice this week.
As the team tracked down who was behind the attack on a judge, new member Kristin Gaines got some shake-ups in her own personal life as she settled into her new job.
A harsh sentence is meted out
Tough Love opened with Judge Stuart Weaver (Phillip Hoffman) sentencing a juvenile delinquent to a harsh sentence as he ran a “zero-tolerance courtroom.” A young man (Maxwell Whittington-Cooper) observed this, who then followed the judge out of the courthouse.
Suddenly, Weaver was shown stripped down in a field with a sign saying “criminal” around his neck and his attacker mimicking his words, “you need to take responsibility for your actions.” He then savagely whipped Weaver while snapping, “this is for Sarah.”
Gaines was shown dropping her daughter, Ingrid (Oriana Bustamante), off with her ex-husband, Nick (Migs Govea), who had custody of their son Jack as well. It was clear things were tense between the pair since their divorce, although he did tell Gaines to be careful.
The team went over Weaver’s murder, figuring it had to be something personal, but Weaver made plenty of enemies as a harsh judge. They soon find a video of the man following the judge.
Barnes and Ortiz went through the judge’s files, noting the harsh sentences Weaver dished out for what amounted to misdemeanors. The mother of one offender notes that her son got into a stupid prank, but thanks to the hard sentence, he later graduated to armed robbery.
Gaines discovered that Weaver’s sentences got harsher after he started receiving secret bank deposits. They deduced he was getting kickbacks from for-profit juvenile centers to give them inmates.
The judge’s killer confronted Molly Kendall (Claudia Severance), a former child psychologist, who identified him as “Luke.” Her nude and whipped body is found in the woods with a sign saying “soul crusher.”
Hunting down the offender
The team finds a link as Kendall had worked for Beech Mountain, a “tough love” boarding school that Weaver sentenced youths to. The school’s dean, Keith Saunders (Eric T. Miller), claimed to know nothing but the school janitor identified the boy as Luke Hadley, who had escaped after being subjected to the school’s methods of denying kids food and treatment that was borderline torture.
Luke was shown talking to someone on the phone as Jess related Luke’s own parents had disowned him. Gaines learned Luke had been close to a girl at Beech Mountain called Sarah who killed herself, setting Luke on his rampage.
Luke had reached out to a Beech Mountain “survivors” group led by Emily Wilton (Emily Hall). She claimed to have never talked to Luke, but they figured she was lying. Gaines got a phone call from her daughter saying they had just lost their rented place and she and Barnes bonded over being mothers.
The team tracked Emily to a market where Luke was, but a paranoid Luke thought she’d set him up and waved a gun to panic the crowd so he and Emily could escape.
The hunt ends tragically
Gaines related how Sarah was subjected to horrible treatment at Beech Mountain while Jess mused that Emily had no idea Luke had been killing people. Ortiz and Barnes found a letter among Sarah’s belongings that was a message for Luke to see her mother.
It started off well, but when Jess and Gaines arrived, they found the woman tied up and told them Luke had vowed to see everyone responsible for Sarah’s death pay.
Jess and Gaines chased Luke, who forced a terrified Emily to aim a gun at them, then pushed her out of the car to slow the agents down, killing her. The team figured Luke was going to burn Beech Mountain down and headed there where Saunders was arrested for bribery.
The team found a photo of Luke standing with a man Saunders identified as Eddie Groff (Richard B. Watson), the school’s owner and thus Luke’s final target.
The agents tracked Luke to Groff’s home where he was literally branding Groff with the word “killer” on his chest. Barnes tried to reach out to Luke to turn himself in, but he declared it was too late and shot himself.
Gaines was with her ex-husband watching news footage of Beech Mountain shut down but saddened by how Luke had fallen too far in his quest for “justice”. Nick told Gaines an apartment had opened up in his building and it would be easier for Ingrid to be close to her dad. While wary, Gaines agreed.
While the final fate of Luke was sad, it appears a door has opened for Gaines and her ex to reconnect more.
FBI: Most Wanted airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on CBS.