'Criminal Minds' Recap: Another Chapter in Rossi's Unhappy Birthday Tradition with Yates
'Criminal Minds' Recap: Another Chapter in Rossi's Unhappy Birthday Tradition with Yates
Meredith Jacobs
Meredith Jacobs
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Criminal Minds celebrates Rossi's birthday in "Profiling 202" (much like it did several years ago in "Profiling 101") with him leading a profiling course and the presence of Tommy Yates. However, this time Yates isn't behind bars anymore; he's one of the escaped convicts. Because of this, the team is in the middle of an active investigation, one which provides those in the class with on-the-job training.

We also get to see Stephen Walker in action, and it comes at the perfect time, since it was Rossi's profiling course that got him hooked his rookie year. (Prentiss comments that she had to wait until her third year to take it.) And we learn right off the bat that Stephen is one of the most naturally gifted profilers that Rossi has seen. Plus, since he knows Rossi, he also knows what his birthday means, so there's no need to rehash the past with him; that, instead, comes when those in his class try to give him a bottle of scotch as a birthday gift. 

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The first time we see an UnSub in this episode, he has a woman (alive) in a body bag. The situation ends with Rossi taking the shot, the UnSub shooting back and Prentiss end up in the ER.

Thankfully, this scene is just one of the simulations they're using to test the class. They should only take the shot if they're absolutely sure, the agents explain, because even the best can miss and a shootout is a very uncontrollable situation.

The suggestion that they try to speak to his mommy issues ends with the UnSub killing the victim and then himself, so that's another fail. They're regional coordinates with a few years on the job, Rossi reminds the class. It's an advanced training seminar. He expects better. Clark suggests appealing to his narcissistic side as mentioned in the profile, and it works. Relying on their instincts, training and the profile, can save lives and that's why they work so hard to build it.

With the seminar over for the day, the class tries and fails to present Rossi with that scotch, and after he leaves, they learn about the birthday deal with Yates -- and that's it's the first birthday since he escaped.

Don't You Love Birthday Calls from Your Friends, Family ... and Serial Killer Nemesis?

Just because Yates is free doesn't mean he's going to miss their tradition, so he calls up Rossi, sings "Happy Birthday" to him and tells Rossi "her name is Jody Wilson." Yes, is. "I'm back," Tommy says cheerfully. "Feeling like my old self again." Jody is alive, but all he does is tell Rossi where he's going to find her.

It looks like Yates is back to his old tricks, but there are a couple of differences when they find Jody's body: she's low risk (instead of the usual high risk first victim) and he's taunting Rossi.

"How is that new?" Clark wonders when Rossi updates the seminar. The original deal was about power of control, the agent explains. This is about payback, about the rapport and mutual respect that was built up between them over the years. The serial killers aren't monsters; they're just men (and occasionally women). Not respecting them is akin to soldiers not respecting their enemy; that mistake costs lives. Rossi was Yates' only human connection to the world, and Rossi took advantage of that.

Though J.J. and Tara offer to join Rossi when he talks to Jody's mother, he declines their help. He's personally spoken to the parents of every single one of Yates' victims, and that's not going to change now. Mae reveals that her daughter was happy lately, after she met someone, Johnny. When Rossi shows her Yates' photo and tells her they think he took her daughter, Mae recognizes him as "Johnny."

That's also new. Yes, both he and Jody are introverts with limited social skills, but he hates women. Did he try to be normal for once? And when that idealized fantasy failed and he realized he'd never have that, he killed Jody?

Yates calls Rossi again, and this time, he mentions Rossi's family when Rossi asks if he really thought he could have a normal life with Jody. They're the same that way, Tommy insists, and he brings up the saying, "be careful hunting monsters lest you become one." Family is important, the killer continues, so enjoy them while you can because you never know how much time you have left. He gives Rossi the name of his next victim and where she'll be buried before he hangs up.

Reporters show up at the next crime scene, and Rossi knows that Yates likely tipped them off himself, in an attempt to humiliate the agent. But, just like in the 1997 flashback in "Profiling 101," Rossi reminds the press that they named him the Womb Raider and he calls him a murderer.

The latest victim was a prostitute, and though he's usually more surgical, Tommy stabbed her 37 times in her genitalia and abdomen and 10 times in her throat. He had to move fast. She also has defensive wounds, showing that she fought back -- and Yates' blood on her.

After listening to Rossi's conversation with Tommy, Stephen picks up on something: the killer wasn't talking about the agent when he talked about not knowing how much time he had left. He sounded sad. Yates' blood on the victim confirmed the theory: he's dying of cancer.

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Updating the Profile on Tommy Yates

Tommy is also no longer going after victims who are his age because he's just looking for easy targets. He's skipping the holding and starving steps of his process as well; he's sick, so he feels like he's running out of time. He may want to kill as many as he can before he dies. When serial killers know that their death is imminent, they either have the urge to confess or go out with a bang to go down in history. Yates seems to be leaning to the latter, so he may try to do that somehow through Rossi.

Prentiss may be the boss now, but she's still Rossi's friend, and that's how she approaches him when she tries to get him to take a break, even going so far as to use his own sayings against him. When he insists he's fine, she simply asks what he's having for dinner. (While his choice is from a restaurant that doesn't deliver that late, they do for Rossi.)

Yates picks up another victim (another prostitute), Brandi, and again calls Rossi to taunt him. But this time, as the conversation is played in the seminar two days later, he was going to take his time old-school and Rossi would never find her. That meant he was going back to starving his victim like he used to. Telling Rossi this is his sadistic attempt to mentally torture him and to stay connected to him because that relationship validates him. At this point in the investigation, all they can do is have patience and focus. Most of the answers are in their heads; it's why they get into the minds of the killers.

To do that, they each have to have a process. Stephen plays the trombone. Prentiss goes to the shooting range. Rossi cooks, and it's always the same dish, so the process is second nature to him. He sits and eats and even has dinner with the UnSub in his head (going so far as to prepare him a plate). To get the right answers, he must ask the right questions.

So, Rossi has an imaginary dinner with Tommy Yates. He imagines what the killer thinks of the dish, which turns to talking about his grandmother (who abused him) and then his mother (who died when giving birth to him). That hatred feeds his compulsion. He came up with the deal he did in prison because being there meant no more hunting, killing or being one step ahead of the BAU. It was his attempt to get power back. "Tommy" points out that that's old news; what matters is where he is now.

That "conversation" moves outside as Rossi turns to the next part of his process: his fondness for cigars. Why is he focused on Rossi? Obviously, he wants payback because he took away his ritual, stole his power and locked him away, and the irony of it is that Rossi may be the only person in his life who truly made him feel special. There are already bodies out there that Rossi will never find, so why torture him with new ones? He's dying and doesn't want to be forgotten, Rossi knows, so he needs him to remember, but what is Yates going to do next? Where is he going to bury Brandi? Some place he'll never find, but to get to him, where would that place be?

Just How Personal Is Yates Making it for Rossi?

In order to build rapport and earn Yates' trust, Rossi had to tell him certain things (some true, some not) like the name of the place he likes to walk in, but he needed something close. It's as Rossi is leaving his house that it hits him, and, with his gun out, he walks into his backyard. He finds Yates on his property (he has six acres!) getting ready to bury Brandi, and Tommy suggests he let him go die in peace. Not happening. He's not going back to jail because he refuses to die in there, so Rossi has a choice: shoot him and save Brandi, but then he doesn't find out where the other girls are buried, or don't shoot him and he kills Brandi. Rossi chooses, of course, to save Brandi, and takes the shot.

"Some cases end well and you can forget about them. Some become a part of who you are. This job is going to change you and not only that, it's going to show you who you really are. And sometimes that's not easy to see. And that's why not everybody can do this job. and that's why we train like we do. Because lives depend upon it," Rossi says to close out his profiling course before thanking them for the scotch and inviting everyone over for dinner.

After the seminar, however, Clark catches up to Rossi and reveals he's leaving the program. He just got engaged and he can't bring this kind of work home. He doesn't know if he wants to build the kind of skills necessary to deal with cases like Yates' because he can't have this job become his life.

Stephen then finds Rossi and reveals that his first case after Rossi's class went sideways, and they lost three agents working deep cover. His profile had been off, though they did get the cell they were after in Belgium. It was a joint task force with the CIA and kept quiet. He can't blame himself, Rossi tells him, and Stephen says it's because of Rossi that he doesn't: "We save lives, and that's all that matters. Every life we save, it's a win." A lot of people are alive because of Rossi.

What did you think of the conclusion to the Tommy Yates case? What did you think of the first look at Stephen Walker working with the team?

Criminal Minds season 12 airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS. Want more news? Like our Criminal Minds Facebook page.

(Image courtesy of CBS)