What happened in Mexico cannot stay in Mexico, and in this Criminal Minds episode, the team is even more determined to have Reid remember just what happened and get Mr. Scratch, so Tara and Prentiss both sit out the case to do what they have to to help their teammate.

Meanwhile, Rossi, J.J., Luke and Stephen head to Arizona in “True North” to investigate when three bodies are found tied to stakes in the desert. If the case does just one thing, it teaches that science fair competition can be killer.

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Even Reid’s Mind Can Play Tricks on Him

Mr. Scratch has been spotted in Honduras, and it’s very possible he passed through Mexico at some point. They need Reid to remember what happened in that motel room because if he can, Stephen has a contact at the NSA who’s on board with putting Scratch on the high-priority watch list.

While Prentiss goes to London to talk to her former colleagues at Interpol, Tara visits Reid in prison to conduct another cognitive interview. But Reid’s not exactly in the right frame of mind at the moment and even tells Tara that it’s better for everyone to stay away from him.

Tara has Reid go through what he remembers, but it’s what he already told Prentiss. He’s still psychologically blocking whatever happened. After a short break, Tara has him start again, focusing on Nadie’s reaction when the door opens. They were both surprised, he says. It happened so fast. He can’t make out the person’s features. Tara then has him go back to when he was blocked, and Reid can feel someone behind him. But then he remembers stabbing Nadie. “I killed her,” he says, but Tara knows that’s not possible.

Reid’s brain is constructing a false narrative, Tara tells Prentiss when she updates her on the visit. He was under more stress than he’s ever been even before all this happened, and that combined with what happened in Mexico makes reconstructing more difficult. They can get there, but it will take more work.

But if Reid can swear under oath that he saw Scratch in that motel room, Stephen’s contact will put him on the terrorist watch list. It’s up to Tara to make some progress with him.

And she does with her next visit. His brain is playing tricks on him, she says, and she knows he knows that. She knows that he’s had to do things in prison to survive that he wouldn’t have thought of doing on the outside, things that make him feel guilty or ashamed. (He did, after all, go by the infirmary and see Malcolm before his first meeting with Tara.) His brain has to process that guilt and spreads it around to places it doesn’t belong, like Nadie’s murder.

So they start again. He moves the knife to get to Nadie. That’s how he cuts his hand. There’s a noise and a spraying sound and he feels a mist over his shoulder. He turns and the image comes into focus. It’s Scratch drugging him. “It’s time,” Reid hears him saying. “Time to go.” He’s holding out keys. Then she walked out, Reid tells Tara, like she wanted him to chase her. Hold on, “her?” Scratch didn’t frame him. A woman did. (This may be the perfect time to check that Cat Adams is still behind bars, just to be safe.)

Baking in the Sun

The case is full of “awfulness so awful that it made me temporarily forget about the whole Reid awfulness,” as Garcia puts it. The three bodies were found within 50 feet of each other, shock collars around their necks and a blue silky fabric over their shoulders.

They were killed one by one over time (a month ago, two weeks ago and less than a week ago) and positioned facing one direction, with boulders moved in front of each and water bottles found near the rocks. (The same DNA is found on the outside of all the water bottles, but it’s not present in the water itself, meaning the UnSub isn’t drinking it. So what’s he doing with it?) The UnSub appears to be savoring it as he watches his victims bake to death. The cause of death is likely dehydration.

The three victims all returned to the area after attending college out of state and were at the top of their classes and featured in local media. Shock collars are used to train dogs, so it could be about making a statement about conformity and obedience, that cookie-cutter universities churn out cookie-cutter students. The blue fabric could be mocking the valedictorian sash. The UnSub could be disapproving, envious, or both, but what made him turn to murder?

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The next victim deviates from what they know of the victimology. Joey, who too is found facing true north, which is geographically accurate, flunked out of college and spent his time playing video games and smoking weed. Did the BAU’s presence disrupt the UnSub’s routine and force him to be less selective?

The UnSub brings his mother a lei that he made for her and tries to talk to her about taking a trip to Hawaii one day, but she refuses to let him talk about the future because it just won’t happen. To her, the future is living and dying in the hellhole they live in. She throws out the lei.

According to the profile, they’re looking for a physically fit male in his early to mid 20s who’s intelligent and criminally sophisticated. He works a menial job below his abilities. The shift in victimology could be a sign that he’s refining his mission and inching closer to the true target of his rage.

Luke figures out that the UnSub built a life-size sundial, with the boulders counting off the hours. The first victim was represented by 4 o’clock. The UnSub is counting down and approaching his endgame. But Rossi, J.J. and Stephen are each bothered by different details: Victimology (Joey has to be connected to the others somehow), the shock collars (a regular collar would also symbolize control and obedience) and the water bottles (does he empty the water into the sand as his victims watch?).

Talk About Killing the Competition

It turns out that all four victims received scholarships, but since Joey was a below-average student in high school, how’d he get one? He won a science fair competition with a crowd pleaser on sundials. The cloth on the victims symbolize blue-ribbon winners. And Stephen figures out the purpose of the water: if used as a conductor, it masks burns associated with electrocution. It’s a forensic countermeasure. One of the other finalists’ project was on shock collars and how to make them more humane. Ben Davis is their UnSub.

And Ben has kidnapped someone else, but this time, he brings the woman home with him. She may not remember him, but as he informs her, he remembers her. And after he finds his mother lying on the ground, her chair tipped over and clearly dying, he forces the woman to sit down on the couch next to her and tell his mother that she made a mistake and Ben should have won the science fair scholarship. If he had, Ben tells his mother, he could’ve gotten his degree, had a better job and taken her to Hawaii like she dreamed about.

The woman can then only watch as Ben puts his mother’s feet in a bin, fills it with water, puts the lei on his mother and drops a fan in the water, electrocuting and killing her. “She’s at peace now,” Ben tells his next victim. “You won’t be so lucky.”

Fortunately for this woman, who was the judge at the science fair, Garcia gets the team Ben’s address. When J.J. and Luke burst in, Ben makes a move to kill himself, stepping in the water and holding a portable heater, but as Luke tries to talk him down, even suggesting that his mother’s ashes be taken to Hawaii and spread in the ocean, J.J. turns off the power. Ben is arrested.

Who do you think the woman in Mexico was?

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

(Image courtesy of CBS)

Meredith Jacobs

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

If it’s on TV — especially if it’s a procedural or superhero show — chances are Meredith watches it. She has a love for all things fiction, starting from a young age with ER and The X-Files on the small screen and the Nancy Drew books. Arrow kicked off the Arrowverse and her true passion for all things heroes. She’s enjoyed getting into the minds of serial killers since Criminal Minds, so it should be no surprise that her latest obsession is Prodigal Son.