'Criminal Minds': Could the BAU Have Done Anything to Prevent Barnes from Splitting up the Team?
'Criminal Minds': Could the BAU Have Done Anything to Prevent Barnes from Splitting up the Team?
Meredith Jacobs
Meredith Jacobs
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Prentiss was already suspended from active duty before "Annihilator" on Criminal Minds, but that was nothing compared to Assistant Director Linda Barnes' moves by the end of the episode. She may not have been able to disband the BAU like she did the IRT, but she could "help restructure" the "crown jewel of behavioral profiling" -- and she did.

Prentiss and Tara were being reassigned within the FBI. Reid was going to be a full-time professor. Rossi was forced into retirement. Simmons and Luke were to remain at the BAU. Garcia's loyalty to the team was appreciated, but she was getting a fresh start in a new department. J.J. was made conditional unit chief of the BAU, and she'd have to run every single decision by Barnes. 

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There was nothing the BAU could have done to stop this, and I'd argue that would have been true even if they'd been on perfect behavior throughout the episode. This is what Barnes had wanted from the start, and she got it, even though what happened in the field was her mistake, not the team's.

Barnes Had Already Detailed Two of the New Assignments

Barnes already brought up Rossi and Reid's new roles as possibilities in "Miasma" in one of her conversations with Prentiss. She thought Rossi was too busy with his books and family and that Reid was more suited for an academic position. She even tested the waters with talk of retirement with Rossi in "Annihilator," though he made it clear that only he would decide when he was ready for that.

All she needed was the ammunition necessary to get the wheels in motion for her changes, and she got just that with this episode, beginning with Reid's refusal to go into the field with her. The fact that Barnes had already spoken to the Director about what happened and had the new assignments for the team ready to go before any of them even put their bags down upon returning from St. Louis indicates that she had to have all of this planned already. She might not have shown her cards regarding the others' futures as clearly as she did Rossi and Reid's, but she had to know.

Barnes Started off on the Wrong Foot in 'Annihilator' 

She started the episode by barging into the room as the team went over the case and revealed that not only had she chosen the case and called the local police to offer their services, but she was also going to be joining them in the field. Since she had just suspended Prentiss, did she really think that everyone was just going to go along with it without saying anything, especially once she started talking about how they'd had poor leadership in the past?

Considering one of her problems was that Prentiss went too far to protect Reid by deleting the recording in Mexico and she had to know what J.J. and Hotch did when they faked Prentiss' death, she had to know that everyone wouldn't just sit back and let her talk about Emily like that. And Reid didn't.

In fact, Barnes probably wouldn't have minded if someone else had elected to join him in taking a "sick day," as Rossi put it once Reid left. It would've just given her more ammunition and made her job easier, as Prentiss pointed out Reid did with his move.

Barnes Knew How to Push Buttons

She might not be cut out for field work, as shown in how things went down with the UnSub in "Annihilator," but she does know how to handle people. Her conversations with Rossi, Luke and Simmons, as well as her orders for Tara, proved that. She had to know how each would react.

Rossi wasn't going to let someone else tell him when he'd retire. Luke knew better than to think Barnes wasn't up to something when she told him letting Scratch fall was the best thing he could have done and suggested that he'd rather be "let off his leash" like he was on the Fugitive Task Force. Simmons knew exactly what Barnes was capable of since she'd dismantled his previous team. And Tara made her feelings about Barnes' orders regarding talking to Rachel and not telling her her boyfriend was dead very clear.

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These aren't people that Barnes can control. But they are people she can move around like pieces on a chessboard, due to her position in the FBI. And in a way, they made it easier for her, and just like Reid, gave her ammunition in their responses so that, while she might not have been able to pick the team apart, she could have approval to restructure the BAU like she did.

Tara pushed back the hardest (other than Reid), and she was reassigned. It says something that the two newest team members, Luke and Simmons, are the only ones remaining at the BAU. Perhaps Barnes thinks they won't be as loyal to the team? After all, she did cite Garcia's loyalty when she told her she'd be moving to another department.

Like I said above, it seems likely that going into this case and joining the team in the field, Barnes already had the new assignments in mind and she just used these conversations to see if she had to make any changes to those plans.

Barnes Took Advantage of Her Own Mistake

Barnes was the one whose actions led to the death of the UnSub and put an innocent woman's life in danger. (Having Corinne wear a vest does not change that.) She made it clear she planned to place the blame on the team on the jet, but J.J. countered that she'd make sure her report reflected that their strategy was working until Barnes got involved. She also refused to let her take down the BAU like she had the IRT and warned her that even if she did get them, they'd take her down, too.

And maybe things would have turned out differently if J.J. had had a chance to speak to the Director, despite Barnes knowing him for years. But there's no way of knowing since Barnes got him on her side before J.J. could even file her report. (That could be why she made sure to speak to him so quickly.)

For some reason, Barnes' future for the BAU includes J.J. as unit chief. That has been consistent since Linda brought her into her office. So, it's no surprise that J.J. is now the conditional unit chief, and she'll have to run every decision (big and small) by Barnes. J.J. expected to be fired, so the fact that she wasn't suggests that either Barnes couldn't fire her or she thinks that maybe she can use her to benefit her own future, even after what she said on the jet.

One thing is clear: Barnes is using everything that has happened and happens with the BAU to shape the narrative she wants to tell, so right now, it doesn't seem like there's anything the agents can do to change that.

Do you think the BAU could have stopped Barnes from splitting up the team? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Criminal Minds season 13 airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on CBS. Want more news? Like our Criminal Minds Facebook page.

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