The timeline of MANHUNT: UNABOMBER bounces back and forth between Fitz’s investigation of the manifesto and his attempts to get Ted to make a guilty plea in prison. Both show a cat and mouse game of one man trying to outsmart the other, but with Ted clearly being a genius, how will Fitz ultimately tie the bombs and the manifesto to him?
Fitz continues to do a deep dive into the manifesto looking for spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, and any word anomalies or dialect that could help pinpoint a regional locale for the mysterious Unabomber. Despite coming up with some wonderful directions to take the investigation, he’s still being written off by his superiors. Stan Cole is so against anything Fitz comes up with, that at times his narrow-mindedness seems ridiculous and comical. I’d like to see his character given a little more dimensionalism, since I doubt the real life Cole was a cardboard cutout asshole in the manner Manhunt: Unabomber portrays him. A little more depth of character would go a long way to making his interactions with Fitz more believable and interesting. If he’s close-minded all of the time, the audience already knows what his reaction is going to be in each and every circumstance. Ackerman gives Fitz’s ideas a little more deference, but only so far as letting Fitz follow his whims on the manifesto. When presented with evidence, he’s only slightly less closed down on new ideas than Cole is. Clearly Fitz is the man whose vision will lead the FBI to arrest Ted Kaczynski, with or without his superior’s help.
Forward in time, Fitz and Ted continue to meet in prison. Fitz’s superiors push him hard to get Ted to confess to being the Unabomber, in part because they’re afraid a trial will not go their way. These meetings are a battle of wills between two men who share some of the same character traits. Fitz won the battle when he led the FBI to arrest Ted, but to win the war he’s got to get him to incriminate himself, and Ted is not about to do that. The amount of evidence acquired and gathered from Ted’s cabin is incredibly damning, in fact the case appears to be a slam-dunk. There’s one problem though, and this is where Ted may still be released without being convicted. The title of the episode is “Fruit From the Poisonous Tree” and what it means is that if Ted can prove that the search warrant taken out to arrest him and search his cabin was granted without the proper evidence that’s usually needed, everything discovered and all of the evidence taken won’t be admissible in court even though it proves a link between Ted and the Unabomber. If that happens, there’s no way Ted would be caught again. Once he was set free, he’d disappear into the ether, making his capture and conviction nearly impossible.
The technicality Ted aims at is the fact Fitz has come up with an entirely new investigative discipline that has never been tested before. By delving into the manifesto to look for errors or tells that’ll help Fitz narrow down who the man behind the bombings is, he’s started something he calls Forensic Linguistics. If Ted can punch enough holes in the validity of this new field, the way it was applied, or Fitz’s ability and credentials when it comes to this methodology, he can get the warrant thrown out for lack of probable cause. This revelation to Fitz during one of their discussions throws everything Fitz and his bosses have been working on for all those years in jeopardy. Without a confession the FBI has everything to lose, and Ted has everything to gain.
When Fitz first starts really combing through the manifesto, he gathers together a room full of academics to help sift through the document and present any ideas they may have as to the authorship of the work. The meeting quickly descends into chaos, with bickering and a total lack of agreement, except for one woman in the room the others don’t take seriously. Her name is Natalie Rogers, and she’s a PHD student in linguistics. She can see what Fitz is doing, and is excited by the fact linguistic analysis could help catch a killer. She’s able to see things Fitz can’t, and once the two start working together on the document, some aspects of the author become clear. The manifesto is written in an outdated graduate student thesis style only former PHD candidates would know, and the spelling anomalies are straight out of a handbook of the Chicago Herald’s in house writing style. They now have a clear set of dates the thesis style was used during, as well as Chicago as the focus of where this man spent time. Natalie and Fitz share an enthusiasm for this work, but there’s something else there as well. A spark between these two may end up turning serious and ruin Fitz’s marriage.
Even with this wonderful lead, Cole and Ackerman won’t open themselves to what Fitz has to say about the Unabomber. Cole attempts to bend Fitz’s findings to suit his needs, but it ends up going against the very evidence Fitz has accumulated on the Unabomber. A battle of wills between Fitz and his superiors breaks out in front of everyone on the team, jeopardizing Fitz’s role in the investigation. What will it take for his superiors to take him seriously? We know he’s the reason Ted is arrested in connection with the Unabomber’s crimes, but how does Fitz find Ted? Now that they’ve arrested Ted, how will they protect their warrant, keep the evidence, and finally convict Ted Kaczynski?
Season 1, Episode 3 (S01E03)
Manhunt: Unabomber airs Tuesdays at 8PM on The Discovery Channel
For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates.
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Jeff Iblings | Contributor