The BAU is hitting dead end after dead end on Criminal Minds when it comes to finding Montolo’s network of hitmen, but the case in “Internal Affairs” may help put them on the right track. No one hopes that’s true more than Garcia.

The team splits up for the case, with Hotch staying behind in DC and the others heading out to El Paso, to investigate the murder of one DEA agent and the disappearances of two others. But is the drug cartel they were investigating responsible, or is something else going on here?

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Sending a Message No One Wants to Receive

A woman, who is later revealed to be Sarah Miles, an undercover DEA agent, meets another woman at a bar and is surprised when she introduces herself as Ben Franklin. They can be anyone they want online, “Ben” says. Sarah needs to do better when it comes to recruiting; she’s only recruited three members in the last couple of months and five is the magic number. After her five recruits recruit five others, she can sit back and relax. Now go get them. After Sarah leaves, “Ben” calls George and, after a short conversation, says she knows what to do before leaving the bar as well.

Tony Axelrod (Remember him from “Mr. Scratch”?) calls in his favor when he turns to Hotch to get his and his team’s help with a joint NSA/DEA operation into the Libertad Cartel, operating both on the ground and online. One undercover DEA agent is dead and two are missing. He suspects that the assistant DEA director in charge of the operation, Bernard Graff, gave up the agents. He keeps a flash drive on his wrist, and Axelrod thinks it has the access codes to the cartel’s servers.

Three weeks ago, Mark Bowers disappeared, and five days ago, his body was found across the Mexican border. He was strangled and had another human face covering his. His body was found 50 yards away from a mass grave filled with enemies of another cartel. Is the cartel sending a message that he was two-faced? Was leaving his body near the grave a forensic countermeasure? The two agents still missing are John Portman, who vanished a week ago, and Sarah, who disappeared yesterday. The cartel is run by someone who goes by George Washington, an identity that can be assumed by different individuals. The UnSub has Sarah and John chained up. He comes in and pours an iodized salt mixture into John’s mouth.

Meanwhile, Hotch stays behind and heads into DEA Cyber Headquarters. After meeting Graff, he sees a confidential informant get into it with another agent; the CI, Simon, alerted them to the hybrid nature of the cartel and knows the identity of the number 2 but won’t give them the name.

In El Paso, Agent Lopez gives the others a rundown of the undercover operation. The cartel is run on a pyramid scheme, and Ben Franklin is the nexus between the ground and online operations. Sarah’s husband received a hang-up call from a bar outside of town, but when JJ and Tara check it out, the bartender claims to have never seen her — until they ask to look at his books and bring up tax violations. Then he can’t talk fast enough. Yes, he saw Sarah, and she was with a “soccer mom.”

According to the ME, the killer took his time cutting off the face he put on top of Mark’s. He secured it to Mark’s postmortem, which leads to me breathing a sigh of relief because if it had been done while he was still alive? Easily would make my list of worst serial killers on Criminal Minds ever.

The Team Begins to Figure Out the Case

Hotch gets a firsthand look at the flash drive that Graff keeps on his wrist in his office. There are multiple dark nets, the DEA agent explains, and it seems likely that Libertad will be one of the operations that jumps from Tor to Hornet. Graff bets that Montolo’s men have already moved as well.

The UnSub returns to Sarah and John. After he pinches her cheeks and pushes back her face — and I know he’s already thinking about removing it — he unchains John and drags him out.

John’s body is the next one found, without his face. He was severely dehydrated, and there’s evidence of electrical burns. There isn’t a mass grave nearby, so the UnSub didn’t employ that forensic countermeasure again. With this latest victim, it’s time for them to deliver the profile.

They’re looking for an American serial killer who is trying to hide his murders in the middle of drug war violence. His postmortem work requires patience and diligence, so he has to be at least in his mid-30s. He may have hunting skills, and it’s likely that he had had prior victims. Someone on the inside of the cartel could be sending the victims his way, perhaps those who have a hard time hitting recruiting numbers. Since he has a face (John’s), their goal is to prevent Sarah from being the one found wearing it.

Back in DC, Graff asks Hotch if he’s tried looking for the Dirty Dozen, and Hotch asks if Axelrod told him about that. Mitchell interrupts to report that Simon is dead; he was coming to meet her.

Sarah thinks that John comes back into the room, only for it to be the UnSub, momentarily wearing his face before dropping it in front of her. He begged him not to hurt her, the UnSub shares, to let her go because she’s a wonderful person, and he tried to feel what John did, but he doesn’t feel a thing. This guy is obviously insane.

The DNA comes back for the face on Bowers’: Arvin Cole, a repeat drug offender, who is a good candidate for Libertad. That’s one victim they know of that wasn’t a DEA agent, so is it possible he knew the UnSub? They get another possible lead when Garcia finds a serial killer investigation among drug cartel chaos from 2011. Four bodies were found over six months with their faces removed. The detective on the case is dead, but he sent his report to the El Paso police department.

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Is Axelrod a Friend or Guilty?

Graff calls Hotch and tells him they have to talk and it’s urgent. He wants to meet at a hotel bar ASAP. As Hotch approaches his car, he’s cautious, unlocking the doors from a distance, carefully opening the car and going inside, but he’s not the one who should be worried. Graff is, as, moments after he gets into his car, he’s dead.

At the crime scene, Axelrod is ready to just call it a suicide. It’s his gun in his hand, and he must have been paranoid that Hotch was onto him. Hotch isn’t so sure, especially considering that call. The flash drive isn’t on Graff, so where is it?

Hotch goes to see Mitchell, and after both agree that Graff didn’t kill himself, she admits that he had been looking for the mole who was running Libertad. At first, they thought it was Hotch. She has the flash drive, on which Graff had been storing evidence against the mole. He had just found out that someone from the NSA had requested the police investigation file from 2011.

Hotch confronts Axelrod since he looks like a pretty good suspect. The evidence is pointing his way, and Hotch warns him that if it is him, he will take him down. However, he has an alibi for when the 2011 file was requested. So the question becomes, who tipped him off about Graff? His boss.

In El Paso, Garcia goes through Arvin’s phone records and finds one outlier from the skeevy and burnouts: Jillian Carter, who looks like a soccer mom. Hey, that’s how the bartender described the woman who was with Sarah, they remember, so they pick her up.

Jillian is pretty good about keeping her “you have to be joking, I don’t look like a drug dealer, you have no proof of anything” facade up for a while, but that changes when they threaten to call her lawyer husband and bring him up to date on what she’s been up to. Yes, she’s the nexus between the ground and online operations, and her contact is George Washington, but she doesn’t know his real name. If she had concerns about someone, she’d send them on a local bus to the last stop. She never went to those meetings.

Morgan and Tara check out that last stop, which looks like the perfect hunting ground for a serial killer. It’s deserted, the shop is closed and there’s no cell service. Sure, there’s a payphone, but when do those ever work? Plus, that’s how the UnSub gets a look at his victims, through a camera he has there, and when the UnSub sees the agents, he tells Sarah she’s about to get some company.

Morgan leaves Tara to look around the area and talk to the neighbors while he drives up the hill to get a signal so he can talk to Garcia, who had only been able to give them the name of the store’s owner: Jacob Dufour. Once he calls her back, she gives him the lowdown on Jacob, and oh yes, he is their UnSub. He has a history of mental illness and animal cruelty since childhood. He cut the heads and pelts off animals and wore them, claiming he wanted to feel what it felt like to be in someone else’s skin (hence what he said to Sarah about John).

Morgan arrives on the scene just after Jacob has tased Tara and chases after him. Though Jacob gets his hands on a shotgun, Morgan does get a shot in and takes him down. Tara finds Sarah, so at least she’ll get to go home to her family.

As for Axelrod’s boss, Director Cochran, Hotch informs him that his team found the serial killer. And they know his partner, the one who put his victims into his hunting zone, is Cochran himself. As for the flash drive they suspected exists with the access codes to the cartel’s server, it’s the one in his pen. Cochran warns Hotch he doesn’t know what he’s doing as he’s arrested, and sure, that’s nothing new, but is anyone else concerned about that warning considering what they’re looking into? 

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The Search for the Ring of Hitmen Goes Nowhere

So, you know how Garcia is in witness protection at the moment? Well, she doesn’t think it’s going to last very long since she hasn’t unpacked yet (though it has been a week already), especially with the new case. Looking into the dark net for this case can lead them to Montolo’s friends, right? She knows if anyone can find answers, it’s this team.

When they come up pretty much empty (though Garcia hopes that Cochran will talk eventually) Garcia has no choice but to accept her fate, namely, that she is stuck at the office in witness protection. So, she’ll add satin sheets to the couch and splashes of color around. Hotch knows it’s hard, but it won’t be forever. And when Garcia invites him to join her for a dinner of vegetarian omelets, he agrees, and their shared love of jalapenos goes a long way to turn her tears into the best she can do for a smile at the moment.

Criminal Minds season 11 airs Wednesdays at 9pm on CBS.

(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.