Criminal Minds Review: Pawns and Eyelids

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Finally, the Criminal Minds episode we were waiting for most of the season to witness.

"Carbon Copy" brought the BAU's stalker back to the forefront and this time the team was determined to focus solely on him - especially after JJ received an ominous bouquet of flowers with a one-word note: Zugzwang.  

That's the chess term that refers to a condition in which a player whose turn it is to go can only make a move that will worsen his situation. Generally, it means the player is irrevocably destined to be checkmated. Uh-oh.

The Replicator Returns

Man, what an intriguing story. About the only true dynamic at work was the notion that nothing was as it seemed. The BAU was so sure that it had its stalker - after taking him down only half way through the show - that it didn't collaboratively see the writing on the wall. JJ did, though, and so did Morgan, both at different times. Possibly every one of them did, but never at the same time. 

The main Unsub was angry over the way his life turned out after being wrongly accused of the murder of four nurses 15 years ago. After his reputation was muddied, a man in a bar recognized him from the news and beat him severely, which resulted in him getting a seizure disorder that required him to take medication. 

What the BAU didn't realize was that his targeting of the nurses was just another chess move by the as-yet unidentified true Replicator.  Ronnie Bidwell - this episode's Unsub - was merely a pawn for the BAU's mysterious stalker, carrying out the murders as a way of expressing his outrage at the BAU. 

It seemed obvious that they got the wrong guy - even though he was guilty of the murders of the nurses - when they took him by surprise in his home. The fact that the Replicator had enough money to closely stalk the BAU didn't mesh well with the fact that Bidwell couldn't hold a job and had worked at 12 different places over the last ten years. 

Hotch remarked on the messiness of his house, which didn't satisfy the profile they'd created of the stalker, who the BAU saw as an organized and highly detailed murderer.  

We had a little bit of foretelling when, after they tracked down the Replicator's cell phone, we heard:

Morgan: Guys. I don't like this. It feels like we're going exactly where he wants us to. | permalink

In other words, the BAU was a chess piece being moved on The Replicator's board. 

Rossi and Blake saw it, too.

Rossi: Something's not right. This is his crowning moment. All that work he did to replicate the murders. He should be singing like a canary.
Blake: Especially if he's a narcissist. | permalink

And that leads us to a plot hole: why would the BAU make the mistake of leaving a nearly full bottle of pills with Bidwell? It doesn't make sense. That's like allowing prisoners to keep their shoelaces and belts. Regardless, the story is compelling enough that we can ignore that one.

The other subplot revolved around Strauss and Blake. It was clear that Blake retained her disgust of Strauss, despite the fact that Strauss didn't just want to apologize for her scummy treatment of Blake years ago... she wanted to "make amends." And that gave us an opportunity to see JJ's inner brat, as we discovered in one of this episode's funnier Criminal Minds quotes:

JJ: I think Blake could take her. What do you think?
Reid: Their body language hardly seems adversarial. Blake's making direct eye contact, and the tilt of her head suggests she's willingly engaged in the conversation. | permalink

Seems like Blake is actually overcompensating for her abysmal behavior too. After discussing the Replicator's targeting of the BAU and learning that they wanted to remain on the case, despite the reservations of senior management, we heard this:

Strauss: All right. Well. I'll tell the director if he takes you off the case it's either with my resignation or over my dead body. | permalink

Slightly over the top, wouldn't you say?

As for The Replicator, it looks like we'll have to wait for at least three weeks before we learn more. I have one final thought: we met Detective Rizzo in this episode, a man who had a grudge against federal agents generally (or so he told Morgan), because his partner was killed when working with the feds a few years ago. 

Near the end of the hour, he thanked Morgan for saving his life and it seemed all was well with him. I can't help thinking that TV shows tend not to introduce props or relationships without a compelling reason. So what's the basis for Rizzo here? Is he meant to represent a clue to The Replicator? Or does he serve as a red herring; a distraction?  Whoever he is, the Replicator appears to be highly intelligent and able to manipulate people well. This can't bode well for the team - especially after he keeps hammering home that now-loathsome word: Zugzwang.

I enjoyed the story-telling in this episode and applaud Virgil Williams' skills in the writing of it. Leaving the viewers hanging, as the BAU stared at their own profile pictures in that room with yet another dead body, was brilliant. I'm looking forward to seeing the next episode.

What did you think? Do you have any ideas about who The Replicator might be? How do you see Strauss making amends with Blake?


Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (101 Votes)

Douglas Wolfe is a staff writer for TV Fanatic Follow him on Twitter



I have this feeling, that it might be something to do with Alex Blake. So she was like one of the first who knew about the phonecalls, good with words so could've talked Diane into saying the word. She helped Reid figure out who Diane was. We know next to nothing about her past, apart from that she has beef with Streus. Obviously not her doing the killings and stuff, but I think she has something to do with it. I hope not though, cause I like her alot.


I don't think it's Gideon the actor is on another show and the actor said that the show was too dark for him. I was thinking it was Kevin Garcia ex boyfriend but I could be wrong it could be someone else


@SirYorick-intriguing idea-Gideon losing it to this degree. However, I find it hard to swallow-Gideon was one we could always count on to do the "right" thing. I guess we'll see.....


It seems to me the Replicator should be the photographer from season 6 where we were left with th BAU considering him to be framed by the unsub in that episode. He had bodies buried in his yard and, to my knowledge, they never really investigated this man much even though they thought him at first to be the unsub. It was left undone. And, of course, he is a photographer who develops pictures in a darkroom. If he is not the one, he sure could be. The BAU was not very nice to him.


@Douglas Wolfe
Yes that what I am saying everyone act like oh that does not happen in the real world but it does @SirYorick
I though about that too and was notices that as well because of all the talk of him and I wonder if that was the plan before the actor went and attack the show.


I think that The Replicator is going to be Jason Gideon. The markings are on the wall. He used to play chess with his pupil Reid a lot and considering Zugzwang is a chessterm and Reid was the first to get the call. Who says the girl that killed Reids girlfriend wasn't manipulated either. And on top of that didn't Frank Breitkopf had a conversation with Gideon about them being much alike. Only that Gideon set his mind on catching the purps rather than to be one. I think it's no coincedence that they bring the origin point of the Replicator back to the Gideon days......Think on that for a second;)


Lisa is right. Something was going on at the park!!!!!!!!!!!


Strauss is the replicator


the detective didnt sit well with me


@Michael: what do you mean? Do you mean he would have found another means to kill himself or....?

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Criminal Minds Season 8 Episode 16 Quotes

Why would you set a time if you're not going to stick to it? You know how I hate that. It's inconsiderate, never mind rude.....Okay, you're right. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Thank you for calling me back.


Rossi: Something's not right. This is his crowning moment. All that work he did to replicate the murders. He should be singing like a canary.
Blake: Especially if he's a narcissist.