Friday, April 29, 2016

Everybody Loves Monty

 Tyler James Williams plays Russ "Monty" Montgomery on the new CBS drama Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. If you haven't watched it yet, you really should get on board. Don't let the title mislead you. The show is truly a unique concept from the original Criminal Minds. As you may know, Criminal Minds is a show about the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit. It first became a major hint when criminal profiling was being understood and becoming a hit with the general public. Lately however, the show has descended into a misogynistic, soap opera that rarely focuses on the mind of the criminal.

Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders does not make this error, or rather, it hasn't yet. The CBS website describes the show as follows:

Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, a spinoff of the hit CBS Television Network series “Criminal Minds,” is a drama about the specialized International Division of the FBI tasked with solving crimes and coming to the rescue of Americans who find themselves in danger while abroad. Heading the International Response Unit is Unit Chief Jack Garrett, a seasoned 20-year veteran of the Bureau. The team he trusts with his life includes Clara Seger, a smart, well-traveled and multi-lingual cultural anthropologist, Matthew Simmons, a former military hero with split-second profiling skills he honed on the battlefield, Russ “Monty” Montgomery, the unit’s compassionate, brilliant tech analyst who additionally liaises stateside with the families of those in trouble while his group is far from home, and Mae Jarvis, the team’s fearless and fun medical examiner. These exceptional agents are dedicated to safely returning U.S. residents home by profiling and identifying criminals who are beyond our borders.

Monty is my favorite character on the show. Here's why.

1. He's a true "techie".

One peek inside Monty's workspace and you will see nothing but cutting edge technology. He has several screens, programs and computers running simultaneously. There is always one broadcasting some television show, strictly for entertainment. But otherwise, there is constant data processing in the background. In one episode, one screen was completing facial recognition while one seemed to be searching the Darknet. Another one was searching license plates and Monty was busy on another, breaking into a remote system in the same room as the investigators half a world away.

One of the most annoying things about t.v. "techies" is that they use a keyboard to do everything. Monty has mostly touch screen hardware and only uses a keyboard to type. Ever notice how Penelope Garcia from Criminal Minds does everything by typing? I don't even think she uses a mouse.

2. He's professional.

Nothing more irritating than watching a show where someone has been brutally murdered and having a character behave like a ditzy teenager every time she appears on the screen. Yes, I am speaking again of Penelope Garcia. The whole Baby Girl shtick had long since run its course for me. Derek Morgan would be standing over a dismembered corpse and they are exchanging pet names like Chocolate Thunder. I mean seriously, does Penelope even know how to answer a phone without a rambling monologue?

Monty on the other hand knows when to be fun and when to work. He answers the phone with a simple hello, usually in the language of the land in which the investigators are located. Sometimes he simply says, "Monty" or nothing at all, since, he's almost always on video when they call him. There's no pet names, flirting, gushing, or other excess of useless banter. He also dresses the part. I imagine his closet is filled with patterned collar shirts and vests as that seems to be all he wears. Head to toe he is professionally dressed. This is extremely important considering he is on video and is usually with the victims families in the US. Every time I see Penelope Garcia in stripper heels and a dress so tight she couldn't bend down to pick up a fallen Treasure Troll, I cringe. She's at work, not the club.

3. He's extremely useful.

I know, I know. I'm beating this whole Penelope vs. Monty thing into the ground. But the comparisons are almost unavoidable. Like the uselessness of a once useful character. Ever notice that the BAU asks Penelope questions that they could have asked SIRI? And SIRI wouldn't have sexually harassed them while delivering her answer. Neither would Monty. Penelope has become so useless that Monty appeared on Criminal Minds to help Penelope help her own team. While she gushed and rearranged her Treasure Trolls, he scanned the traffic cameras for images of license plates. He helped break the case by figuring out that the killer was using stolen rentals. The presence of this entire team in the 19th episode of season 10 of Criminal Minds, showed just how far off course the show strayed. I was left wanting more Chief Garrett and Monty from that moment on. When this show premiered, I got my wish. Shortly thereafter, Penelope Garcia showed up on an episode looking for an octopus mug. I found myself wondering, "Is she lost? She needs to go find her somebody to play with. This is a grown folks show."

On Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, when the International Response Unit calls Monty, he delivers. "Monty, we're in the suspect's room. There's a computer here. Can you get us in?" Asks Chief Jack Garrett, played by Gary Sinise. Then someone reads some numbers off of a router. Before the sentence is complete, Monty's face pops up on the computer screen. Usually before the team even asks, he has already performed facial recognition searches using the possible suspects' passport photos, saving the team crucial amounts of time. But his talents aren't just in technology.

Monty is a very compassionate communications liaison. When the families need to provide or receive information, he's not frozen like a deer in headlights. He's adept at extracting and communicating information to the families without compromising the investigation. He's also an artist, a talent that comes in handy when the families need a sketch artist.

4. He's increasing minority interest in technology.

Many black children and young adults recognize Tyler James Williams from original airings or reruns of Everybody Hates Chris. They grew up with him. They also remember him as the most gruesome death to date on AMC's The Walking Dead. They are already invested in him as an actor. Seeing him in a role as an expert in technology is inspiring to them. We don't really see minorities cast in rolls that require technological intelligence. Even though we are in the throws of a generation of tech-dependent Millennials, Hollywood seems to leave minorities out of the "techie" roles.

Seeing Monty on Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders has inspired my own son. He turned 10 years old 5 days ago and has already declared his college major. He wants to create video games for fun, while working for national security in a fully technological capacity. For his birthday, he asked to be enrolled in a college course that teaches source code. I told him he'd have to settle for Minecraft for Xbox 360 instead. Needless to say, he watches Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders On Demand, anxiously awaiting the scenes with his favorite character Monty.

Tune in to CBS and watch Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders on Wednesday nights. Remove any thoughts of the original Criminal Minds from your brain as this show really has nothing to do with it.

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