Last year I was home sick with the chicken pox. Yes, adult-onset chicken pox is as bad as you were told, and I was basically bed-ridden for a month with flu-like symptoms and overall weakness. In and out of consciousness, I was streaming consecutive episodes of a few TV series over the Internet, day and night. I slept through a lot of it, so I really could not distinguish episodes or even seasons. There was a two day period during which I watched Criminal Minds, and then I never watched it again, until recently.

Even though I couldn’t follow the overall story arcs or character development, just the general aura of the show was so creepy, it started to freak me out. If I fell asleep with a show playing, it would seep into my subconscious and leave me feeling unsettled and jumpy. The darkness of the antagonists and the descriptions of their brutality got to be too much for me, and I found that a stream of How I Met Your Mother episodes to watch instead throughout much of my convalescence.

It’s a year later, and now I’ve watched almost every episode of Criminal Minds, and for some reason, I just don’t seem to be as affected by its brutality as I was then. Maybe it is because I have watched the series from the beginning and have developed a connection with the characters that makes me care enough to watch them. Maybe it is because watching the series in order I can see the story development, how it changed as it became more popular, more polished, more commercial, more formulaic.

The latter is an important point. As a child of television I pretty much get every pop culture reference Seth MacFarland and the best of them can dish out. Having worked in television and advertising, I know the formulas, and the generic character development that script writers follow. It is rare that I find a program that can offer me something I have not seen before, or something truly unexpected. I never considered Criminal Minds to be outside of the basic cop show formula, but I did like the characters and found some of the dialog to be engaging, entertaining enough to watch seven seasons.

Recently, though, while the formula may have desensitized me to the stories, I find myself seeing suspicious situations everywhere I go. If I am walking home from the grocery store and someone approaches, it just might be an unsub — “or unknown subject,” as the BAU calls them — getting ready to cause chaos. I saw a motorcyclist talking to a motorist stopped at a red light yesterday and thought that the situation looked suspicious.

Now that Criminal Minds is in its 8th season, I do think there are some general truths people can take away from the series, circumstances under which there should always be enhanced caution.

If you say any of the following, you might be dealing with an unsub:

  1. Honey, did you leave the front door/back door open?
  2. I wasn’t expecting you home so early.
  3. Gee, I don’t remember leaving the window open.
  4. Didn’t you pay the electricity bill?
  5. What was that noise? Oh it’s just the cat, you bad boy.

If someone comes up to you saying: “I can’t find my kid/wife/dog, can you help me?”

If you find yourself in a taxi cab or public park.

If you are a woman.

Happy profiling.