MANHUNT: UNABOMBER Review: “Lincoln”

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Now that they know Ted Kaczynski is behind the terror campaign on , the FBI needs to get a warrant signed by a judge, which is not an easy task. Will a man with a penchant for explosives just simply allow himself to be arrested without incident?

Most of the time, in order to get a warrant, you have to show probable cause, or physical proof connecting an individual to a crime. This is a problem for the FBI in the case of the Unabomber, because the only physical proof they have that can tie Ted Kaczynski to the Unabomber are his letters and writings. There are no fingerprints, DNA, or other proofs which point squarely at Ted. There’s only his language foibles, which match in letters he’s written to friends, family, and newspapers as well as those found in the manifesto. It’s an unprecedented form of evidence, and the FBI is asking both the Justice Department and a judge to sign off on something that’s never been precedent for a warrant before.

Since the Forensic Linguistics route is Fitz’s baby, all of the pressure is on his shoulders to come up with enough evidence to appease the Justice Department representative. The FBI has a team in place in Lincoln, Montana ready to move on Ted and his cabin. They’re only waiting for Fitz to come through with the warrant. Usually in situations like this you’re able to take your time to gather all of the evidence you need so you can present a thorough and complete case, but Ackerman has been confronted by a CBS reporter about the Unabomber. They know through leaks and chatter the FBI are in Montana ready to pounce on man named Ted whose last name ends in ski, and they’re going to go on air with what they know in 24 hours. What was a smooth surveillance mission watching and documenting Ted’s movements gears up overnight to take Ted down before word gets out. In a worst case scenario Ted either runs for it, or another Waco situation unfolds.

We know Fitz doesn’t play well with others. If he’d had the time to compile all of the evidence on his own before they took Ted, he’d have come up with a far better case, but he’s stuck divvying out the work to a group of individuals he’s unfamiliar with. They’re there to help him document all of the similarities between Ted’s letters and the writings of the Unabomber. He’s frustrated, under an intense deadline and pressure from his superiors, and constantly being sent back by the Justice Department’s representative for not having enough evidence. Fitz snaps, lashes out at others, and complains that the people working for him aren’t taking things seriously enough. In short, he really wins no friends even though the work he’s doing is brilliant. A combination of personality and finesse are his biggest stumbling blocks to being appreciated and recognized for his work.

Once Fitz gets both the Justice Department and a judge to sign off on the warrant, the real hard part begins. Ted is a complete mystery to the FBI. This is a man who’s been living in the woods for twenty years mailing out written venom and explosives. He has no friends or real associates to help the FBI understand him, so for all they know Ted’s land and cabin could be booby-trapped. They know he has guns, but not much else can be corroborated, so they need to approach Ted with extreme caution. On the day of the execution of the warrant, the FBI has sniper teams surround Ted’s cabin as a precaution and as cover for the more delicate tactic of approaching Ted.

A woodsman will have seen the local Forestry Ranger before, so seeing one out in the woods may not raise any red flags. The plan is for Cole and another local law enforcement agent to act as surveyors looking for boundary markers on Kaczynski’s land, with the Forestry Ranger acting as their guide. All three men are a ball of nerves, unsure of what to expect when they encounter Ted. The plan is for the Forestry Ranger to get close enough to Ted to pull him out of the cabin away from his explosives and weapons long enough for Cole and the other man to arrest him so they can exercise the warrant.

They encounter a skeptical Ted who pokes his head out of the door of the cabin, and as he turns to head back inside, the Forestry Ranger grabs his arm and pulls him outside where Cole puts him in handcuffs. The easy part is over, and now a special bomb-detecting robot is sent in to the cabin to assure it’s safe for investigators to enter without fear off being blown up. They find the bomb under Ted’s bed that he constructed in the last episode and successfully explode it. Now they have access to all the evidence they’ll need to put Ted away for the Unabomber’s crimes.

Ted isn’t an idiot though, in fact even though they’ve gotten the warrant and found the evidence they were hoping for, they still have to defend the basis for the warrant in court, or the whole case topples. When he’s arrested, Ted isn’t panicked, in fact he’s cool and collected. He wants to read the warrant for himself, and refuses to speak about anything to anyone until he has a lawyer present. If anyone is going to find a way to poke holes in the case the FBI has against him, it’s going to be Ted. He has the time and the mental acumen to raise enough doubts over the probable cause involved in the warrant to worry the FBI that their case is falling apart.

Fitz drives all the way from San Francisco to Montana to be a part of the celebrations and to see Ted’s cabin for himself. This entire season Fitz has had a relationship with others much like Ted, where he’s underappreciated for his genius and not recognized for it. When he gets to the bar to celebrate, all of the joy he feels in helping capture the Unabomber quickly dissipates as Janet Reno names his superiors for their role in taking Ted down. One of these superiors even takes credit for both coming up with Forensic Linguistics and for noticing the, “you can’t eat your cake and have it to” phrase that really solidifies the case against Ted. It makes sense Fitz would go Ted’s cabin to see how the man lived, and when he shuts himself inside during the last shot of Fitz, it’s clear he’s going to also attempt to shut the world out just like Ted did.

TB-TV-Grade-B+

Season 1, Episode 7 (S01E07)
Manhunt: Unabomber airs Tuesdays at 8PM on The Discovery Channel

Read all of our reviews of Manhunt: Unabomber here. 
Read our reviews of more of your favorite shows here.


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.
Follow Jeff on Twitter: @OfSoundnVision
Keep up with all of Jeff’s reviews here.

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Still quiet here.sas

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