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.
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?
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.