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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Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (101 Votes)

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



Alcoholics make amends for wrongs done while they were drinking as a part of their 12 step program and Strauss has recently stopped drinking as indicated in previous shows.
I agree that Strauss's comment about "over my dead body" was over the top and I am wondering if that is exactly what will turn up. Her dead body. Rossi also made a reference to Strauss being killed.


I giggled when Det Rizzo told his name. Frank Rizzo was Chief of Police and Mayor of Philadelphia.


One thing that bothered me (don't know why, but it did) is when they were initially on the plane discussing the BAU being stalked by the Replicator, Rossi mentioned the Randall Garner (The Fisher King) case. That was a Gideon-BAU case before Rossi came back on board. Yes, I guess he may have researched it for this investigation, but the way he made the reference made it sound as if he was part of that investigation. Think it would have been better if Reid had brought it up, since it was his mother who identified Garner in the end. It's a minor point, but I'm a stickler on continuity. Otherwise, a chilling episode...can't wait to see where this ends up!


I would hate to see Erin Strauss killed off. There are so many unresolved issues with her character. I am still waiting for the writers to give us more on why Strauss was coming out of the same hotel as Rossi. Why also is her demeanor toward the team changing so dramatically? There is a lot of development for this character and I would feel pretty slighted if she was suddenly killed off.


Seems there should be more to the cop that was so hostile. Scott Grimes killing nurses? After being on ER for years, pretty ironic.
I, too, caught the medication left with the unsub. And would he really have gotten that private a phone call???


three week time period is for college basketball conference tourneys. expect another delay when NCAA tourney starts.


Your right that was funny
What about NCIS then? I did like how thing we though were not part of the Replicator storyline are I like stuff like that. How great was it to see Anderson again I really miss seening him.


I thought this episode was great but there was two glaring plot holes. First Strauss telling them that she'll bit the bullet for them. That is so not like her. Maybe it has something to do with her dying. I could see that happening. It could be part of her arc that leads to her death.But it is just so out of character. The second is the pills. Rossi, Blake and JJ should have known better. It seems to me that the writers did that so Bilden could die and they would be no closer to actually catching the replicator. A very amateur way of handling that problem. Its something I expect from Julie Plec but not these writers who craft amazing stories week after week. I love that this season has a nice overarching story. Unlike season 7. They are bringing it.
Also does anyone think that Zugzwang was just taken from Spencer's girlfriends case or it's exactly what the replicator wanted?


I think maybe the Replicater can be the man Blake and Strauss had arrested and turned out to be the wrong guy. Blake took the fall and that's the reason she and Stauss don't et along. I think it might be him because he did use a fall guy with the same backstory. Also because The Replicator started this when Blake joined the team. If it's not him it could be the photographer from one of the last episodes from season 6. I love this season. Besides Justified, the best show on tv. I also like the fact they can have one long story arc.


Michael, we have to wait three weeks because if a show airs roughly 22 episodes over 36 week or longer tv seasons, math dictates that there will need to be a combined 3 months of breaks. As you know some shows with that many episodes have a couple of long breaks, some have one even longer break, and others do what CBS tends to do with repeats, then new episodes, then repeats, and so on. It is currently time for repeats. I hope that clarifies. It is definitely annoying but there is no fool proof plan.

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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.