As tends to be the case when something’s going on with even one of the team members, the investigation takes a backseat, and yes, that does happen in this episode of Criminal Minds — and if you care about any of the details of the investigation after Barnes’ announcements at the end of “Annihilator,” you’re probably the only one.
Yes, four people are brutally murdered, and yes, lives are in danger, but does any of that really matter in the world of Criminal Minds when Barnes is so clearly trying to divide the BAU? Not only does she pick the case because she thinks it’ll make the FBI look good, but she also does nothing really to help solve it. In fact, she just makes things worse, both in the field and back in the office.
There’s a New Boss in Town, and No One Likes Her
J.J. knows that Barnes is going to try to pick them apart one by one, and while Reid standing up for Prentiss and defending her leadership to the assistant director is something I like to see, he declares that if Barnes goes into the field, he doesn’t. So, he stays behind and gives Linda ammunition.
Four roommates were brutally stabbed to death in St. Louis in what looks like a robbery-turned-homicide, and according to Barnes, it’ll be quick and easy to clear. The public can emotionally invest in the victims, and it’ll look good for the FBI. What’s not to love? (Barnes’ involvement and the way she treats the local law enforcement, for one.)
As Garcia discovers, three other people lived in the house, but were not present at the time of the murders. Corinne’s a flight attendant and was overseas. Rachel was at her sister’s. Larry, they learn, has a history of violent behavior and was kicked out following a fight with one of the victims, Ray.
At the crime scene, they learn that the murder weapon was actually Ray’s knife, which he kept under his bed, and the window was broken out from the inside. The break-in was staged, and the UnSub knew them well enough to know where the knife was. For Barnes, it’s easy: Larry’s the UnSub.
She even wants Tara to essentially put those words into Rachel’s mouth when she talks to her, but Tara refuses. Rachel defends Larry, and they learn the two were secretly dating (relationships in the house was against the rules). She tells them where he was staying, but they’re too late. The UnSub killed him.
The UnSub also stages the scene to make it look like a suicide, with a note and the drugs he supposedly used, but his tox screen comes back clean. That was poor planning. But it is someone who knows the roommates well.
Going through the roommates’ belongings reveals that they were like a family, with Ray the father figure. The UnSub is a family annihilator, who was rejected by the roommates. When they go in to see if Rachel knows anyone who fits that profile, Barnes refuses to let Tara tell her Larry’s dead. (After, Tara makes it clear that she is never to order her to do something like that again.)
Rachel can’t think of anyone, but when they suggest someone who appears harmless, she tells them about Justin. He’s only nice on the surface. He posts inflammatory comments online. He doesn’t want the world to see his rage. And it’s likely that he’ll go after Rachel and Corinne next.
J.J. goes over her strategy to talk Justin down over the phone with Prentiss and Reid, and they all agree validation is the way to go.
However, it’s at his home address that Rossi and Simmons put the pieces together. His clothes are an exact match to Ray’s, like he wants to become him. Then why not just kill him and replace him in the “family?” The only one Justin knew wouldn’t be there that night was Corinne since she was overseas. Rachel decided to stay at her sister’s last minute, while Larry was just kicked out. Justin wants Corinne for himself, and the others were an obstacle. Why mirror Ray? Maybe he and Corinne were dating or Justin thought they were.
They clear the garage at the airport where Corinne’s car is parked and safely escort Corinne from the plane to safety. Luke and Tara confront Justin where he waits at her car, using J.J.’s validation strategy. But when it’s taking too long for Barnes’ liking, she decides to do what Justin wants and brings Corinne to him, even though J.J. tries to tell her that he’ll just shoot her.
J.J.’s right, and Justin does shoot Corinne, forcing Luke to shoot him back. It’s a good thing Corinne was wearing a vest. She’ll be okay, but Barnes really screwed up.
But Barnes then tries to place the blame on the BAU. J.J. won’t stand for it and points out that Linda’s the one who went rogue and risked a young woman’s life. And even if she does succeed in trying to take the BAU down, J.J. makes one thing clear: they’ll make sure they take her down, too. (That has to be one of J.J.’s best moments of the series, right?)
They Fight for Each Other
Meanwhile, Reid stays behind and finds Prentiss packing her apartment. Interpol left the door open, so she’s thinking about returning to London. If she leaves, she thinks Barnes will leave the team alone. She’s not even sure if she wants to fight her.
That’s because Prentiss thinks she lost the privilege to run the team when she deleted that recording in Mexico, crossing a line and holding he team above the laws they’re supposed to uphold.
However, Reid points out that she just did what the team does for each other. She saved him, just like Hotch and J.J. saved her when they faked her death. She saves lives, and there are seven more people who need her to do just that: the members of the team. She kept them together after Hotch left, and he needs her to stay and fight for them. She agrees to do just that.
She Tries to Divide the Team and …
No one can argue with results, Rossi tells J.J. at the beginning of the episode. They just have to do their jobs. And they should be fine, right?
Not only does Barnes mess up the case, but she also spends her time in the field obviously trying to divide the team and put them in the roles she wants for them.
With Rossi, she not so casually brings up retirement, but he tells her that he’ll let her know when it’s time for him to retire.
With Luke, she tells him that letting Scratch fall was the best thing he could have done and suggests that he may prefer to be let off his leash again, rather than continue to be the person he’s become at the BAU. “I belong here,” he says.
Barnes asks Simmons if the team’s always edgy and combative, and he tells her it’s because of her. They’re not going to let her do to the BAU what she did to the IRT.
And after J.J. went all Mama Bear on Barnes, the team’s feeling pretty good and planning to get drinks, Prentiss (who’s at the office as Reid’s visitor) included. Then Barnes walks in and declares that the BAU is the crown jewel of behavioral profiling and just needs some restructuring — and the Director, her friend, is on her side about what just happened in St. Louis.
Prentiss’ suspension is lifted. She and Tara will be reassigned within the FBI.
Reid is going to be a full-time professor.
Rossi’s being forced into retirement.
Simmons and Luke will remain where they are.
Garcia’s too loyal to the team, so she’ll be sent to another department.
J.J. will be the conditional unit chief of the BAU, and while Barnes will not be going into the field, J.J. will run every decision, big and small, by her.
“This can’t be the end. Can it?” Garcia asks.
Were you shocked by Barnes’ announcements at the end of the episode? How long do you think it will take the team to take her down?
Criminal Minds season 13 airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on CBS. Want more news? Like our Criminal Minds Facebook page.
(Image courtesy of CBS)