- Bomb expert Jay Ly criticizes a bomb disposal scene in SWAT for its inaccuracy, mentioning the unrealistic countdown timer and the trope of hot wires versus cold.
- Ly explains that in reality, bomb mechanisms are mainly safe-and-arm types, not ticking clocks that count down to detonation, and the warm wire versus cold wire trope is completely false.
- Ly also points out that the tools and equipment used by the bomb expert in the scene are unrealistic, as professionals would carry limited tools in a Special Operations Forces environment, not briefcases and backpacks full of tools.
The CBS show SWAT gets dismantled by a bomb expert, who calls out a litany of inaccuracies. Created by Shawn Ryan, who is known for dramas like The Shield and The Night Agent, the Shemar Moore action procedural has been a big hit since its debut in 2017. The show, which follows Los Angeles Police Department Sergeant Hondo (Moore) and his unit, received greater attention with its availability on Netflix in the United States. SWAT has been renewed for season 7, which will be its last.
In a video for Insider, Master EOD Technician Jay Ly takes SWAT to task for the bomb disposal scene in the season 5 episode “Short Fuse,” where a character triggers a pressure plate by sitting down in a car. Ly specifically calls out the fact that there’s a huge countdown timer, explaining why that wouldn’t happen at all. The expert also addresses the trope of hot wires versus cold and the focus on the color of the wires, which isn’t reflective of reality at all. Ultimately, Ly gives SWAT just 2 out of 10 when rating its accuracy. In the video below, the segment begins at 2:43, and Ly’s explanation is as follows:
This is already hokey because he sat down and it’s now armed. And there’s a timer. In movies and TV, they often incorporate these big timers where it’s counting down to the detonation, but in all reality, it’s mainly a safe-and-arm type mechanism. If I’m in place there, I need to be able to emplace it and then safely get away. You’re not going to see this giant clock like—you have five minutes before you die. The warm wire versus cold wires. You can make a circuit with the proper resistance so that none of the wires are warm. So like the movie tropes of the warm wire or the colors of the wires is a total farce. I can go to Home Depot, Lowe’s, whichever hardware store, your hardware store of choice, get any color wire I want.
That kit probably looked like something I would pull tools from in a soft Special Operations Forces environment. From my experience in Afghanistan, it was all Special Operations Forces or Naval Special Warfare. We flew in helicopters somewhere, landed and ran to a target, or walked a great distance to get to a target. You really want to limit what you have on your body. So yeah, we’re not going to be carrying around briefcases and backpacks full of tools.
I don’t want to get into that specifically in detail because that is how we attack certain things. But yeah, those clamps are very split there for a very specific purpose for multiple detonators. And you would need another item that he doesn’t have there to do diagnostics, diagnostic work, on that type of device. You would need a little bit more time. I mean, a lot more training than just him saying, “oh, yeah, clamp it on the warm wire.” There’s a lot of testing you have to do before you can cut a wire. But yeah, the whole—him sitting down in it, arming it, and then like, having this opportunity to render it safe. Yeah, you wish. So yeah, we’ll give them a two.
Why Professionals Need To Correct Shows Like SWAT
On the surface, the appeal of an expert video might appear to be watching an expert criticize popular shows and movies. While that’s part of the charm, there’s value in correcting the record. For the vast majority of people watching an action movie or a police procedural, they won’t know the ins and outs of the scenes. In a lot of cases, they’re generally accepting what they’re seeing at face value, even though they recognize the obviously dramatized details.
This can have real consequences. In the early 2000s, because of CSI‘s success, there came to be what was known as the “CSI effect.” In practice, this meant that jurors were surprised to learn that forensic evidence (things like DNA tests, blood tests, and ballistics) aren’t as reliable as they are shown to be on hit series like CSI and others. This could be manipulated, leading to verdicts that are reached because of largely false beliefs.
A show such as SWAT and CSI should be entertaining and relatively easy to follow. However, those goals often run counter to accuracy, which is why the reactions of professionals in the field can serve as a healthy and even necessary counterbalance to adjust false perceptions. The entertainment factor is important, but keeping reality in mind is also very useful.
- Release Date:
- shemar moore, Alex Russell, Kenny Johnson, Jay Harrington, Stephanie Sigman, Rochelle Aytes, Patrick St. Esprit
- Action, Crime, Adventure
- Story By:
- Robert Hammer, Rick Husky
- Shawn Ryan, Aaron Rahsaan Thomas
- Billy Gierhart
- Shawn Ryan, Aaron Rahsaan Thomas