The Bond” between a mother and a son can be a strong one, as this Criminal Minds episode shows. So strong, in fact, that it includes picking up where one left off in terms of murder.

The BAU has to not only figure out how the UnSub is choosing his victims, but why he’s leaving them in truck stop restrooms — and how it’s all connected to his childhood. And when they do, the case ends with an image you may not forget anytime soon.

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No Matter What?

Randy visits his mother in a home of some kind, 24 years after they took him from her. He shows her the ring he’s planning to use to propose to his girlfriend of three years. She can tell that he’s been having nightmares again, and he admits that they’re getting more frequent. Last night, he took a drive to clear his head, and when he stopped for gas, he saw a homeless man and offered him a ride. Later at a rest stop, Randy ties his victim to a urinal. Randy sits against the wall and hit himself in the head, clearly upset.

Later, when Randy tells his mother that he feels that something is wrong with him, Flora blames it on him being “overwhelmed;” between work and the proposal, he’s stressed. “Mother will love and accept you no matter who you are,” she assures him.

The Atlanta field office reaches out to the BAU after two victims turn up in truck stop restrooms 147.6 miles apart (a John Doe in Tennessee last night, and 61-year-old Claire Westchester in Alabama the day before). Both were stabbed multiple times and posed postmortem, bound to a urinal with rope.

The lack of blood suggests they were killed elsewhere. There are no signs of sexual assault, but the stab wounds suggest systematic torture and that could be what gets the UnSub off. Oh, and he removed their left ears, which could be because he’s felt ignored all his life. There’s no obvious connection between the victims other than their ages (both in their early 60s), so is it just that they were possibly easy targets? Could they be surrogates, perhaps for parental figures (one male, one female)?

Due to the distance between disposal sites, they think they’re looking for a truck driver, and as Reid shares, a 2009 report attributes around 500 murders over the last three decades to serial killers operating as long haul truck drivers. Truckers see long hauling as a lifestyle, but it is a life of solitude and it can get stressful. With the right kind of pressure, the UnSub could have snapped.

Tara talks to Claire’s husband. When he last spoke to her, she was her usual, upbeat self. However, when he got home before her, he knew something was wrong. And when she didn’t answer her phone, he called the school where she worked. They told him that she had been gone for hours. She was loved by her students and made sure each had at least one present on Christmas.

Meanwhile, Garcia looks into the trucking companies with routes near the disposal sites, but comes up empty. There are 12 truck stops between Atlanta and the disposal sites, some non-operational, meaning that the UnSub chose to leave the bodies in public places. The truck stops mean something to him.

The location and time (3 a.m.) a victim was found tells them that the UnSub knew the pattern of the rest stop. It’s not far from a long haul hub, and it’s close enough to Atlanta that most truckers heading in and out of the city would skip the stop. It’s still a high risk, especially since he’s staging the body in a public place, so does he get off on the thrill? Pulling off something this complicated and elaborate speaks to his level of experience, which suggests he’s been killing longer than they thought.

A Major Piece of the Puzzle Falls into Place

Randy’s girlfriend said “yes,” he reveals to his mother. And since there’s a wedding coming up, he wants his entire family to be there — including his biological father. Not happening, Flora tells him. He’s the reason Randy was taken from her. They had a “complicated” relationship, and she hasn’t even spoken to him in years. It’s best to keep the past in the past.

Thanks to his dental records, they’re able to get an ID on the John Doe: Frank Myers. He had been in and out of homeless shelters, but he had some expensive dental work done. The victims’ ears were removed postmortem, and both were stabbed through bags. There are clear hesitation marks, meaning he’s not comfortable killing.

Randy’s fiancee, Chloe, calls him to check on dinner, and he tells her that he’s working late again, finishing up a project (aka killing again). And then he’s supposed to go see his mother. After he hangs up, he approaches the real estate agent he was watching and asks to see the house she was showing. She agrees, and in they go.

How is it possible the UnSub is organized (the disposal sites) and unorganized (the method of killing)? Could he have a partner? This weird dichotomy is also seen in the early stages of becoming a killer, meaning he could have lived with the fantasy of killing for some time, but he’s only just now acting on it.

When Morgan and Tara check out the latest crime scene, he suggests the UnSub could be getting closer to his ideal target: no hesitation marks, no bag used. He’s more confident. Garcia calls to let them know that the five trucking companies she narrowed the search down to all check out. It looks like the UnSub isn’t a trucker, so these truck stops are important for another reason. Is the UnSub connected to someone in the trucking industry?

What Garcia can tell them is that there is a connection between Frank Myers and the latest victim, Linda Calvary: he worked as a public defender before he was homeless, and she used to be a nurse and testified at a number of his cases. They were specifically targeted, meaning the UnSub has a kill list.

Profiling the UnSub

Randy visits his mother again, and this time, she’s upset because he didn’t stop by to see her the night before. He tells her he was with Chloe planning the wedding, which just makes her more upset. They just got engaged, Flora argues, and now she’s trying to take up all his time. She doesn’t respect a woman trying to come between a mother and her child and says she’s just like the others who tore them apart. She tells him to leave. (Sorry, Chloe, you’ve made the list.)

The UnSub is a rectification killer, targeting people he holds responsible for a major trauma in his childhood, the BAU profiles. The victims interacted with the UnSub as a child in family court, and he was removed from his family for his own safety. However, he was too young to know the severity of the situation. His childhood trauma may have a link to truck stops.

Chloe wakes Randy from a dream/flashbacks to his childhood and his mother taking him to a barn. She’s realizes  that he hasn’t been taking his meds (for months), and when he says his mother thought best, she argues that it’s not her place to say what’s best for him. He doesn’t have to spend every waking moment with her. She abandoned him. Oh, Chloe, you’re basically telling him to make you his next victim. Randy lashes out, choking her, and says he thinks his mother was right about her before letting her go. Run, Chloe. Run.

So how is Claire connected to the UnSub? She could’ve been his teacher and reported when she noticed something off at home. But he would’ve been too young to remember the victims’ names, meaning that information has to come from his partner, who is likely his parent. Garcia looks into the school records of male students of Claire’s and gets an ID on the UnSub: Randy, a seemingly model citizen.

His birth mother, on the other hand, is Flora, who was admitted to the hospital after being raped around the time of conception. She was hitchhiking and assaulted by a truck driver in a truck stop restroom. Randy is a product of rape. Furthermore, Flora is in a prison insane asylum — that’s where he’s been visiting her — for the murder of six truckers.

The next time Randy goes to see his mother, he shows her photos of his victims. “Honey, it’s perfect,” she praises him. It’s even better than she could have imagined. O,h boy. And yes, this conversation does go exactly where it seems to be heading: talk of killing Chloe, the woman who has been manipulating him, in Flora’s mind. It’ll make everything better, she assures him.

Fortunately, Chloe’s not stupid and has one foot out the door. She’s packing a bag and on the phone with a friend, staying on the phone when she hears a noise and thinks he’s back. Unfortunately, when she doesn’t see anything, she makes the dumb decision to hang up as she leaves. Randy grabs her at her car.

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Going Back to the Beginning

Morgan and Tara pay Flora a visit, and they’re not buying her “I’ve been locked up for 24 years, I don’t know anything about my son’s actions” since he’s been visiting her every day. Tara thinks that she’s thrilled he picked up where she left off. Upon receiving word that Chloe and Randy are missing, Tara hopes Flora will be more forthcoming if it’s just them. She is, in a way.

Sure, some parents live vicariously through their children, but for her, it’s more than just revenge, Tara knows. It’s a chance to relive her own crimes. Flora reveals that her rapist cut off her ear so that when she looked in a mirror, she’d remember him. So that’s why she started killing. But why did she let herself get caught after six murders? She let the authorities find her in that barn. It’s because she found her rapist, isn’t it? He’s in that barn.

And yes, that barn is where Randy takes Chloe, who does a pretty good job of fighting back and actually getting away from him (though she does enclose herself in the barn, which isn’t the best place to hide from a killer). He doesn’t want to hurt her, Randy calls out to her, a bald-faced lie since he’s taken her there to kill her.

Just as Morgan and Tara arrive at the barn, Randy grabs Chloe and takes her hostage. They know he’s been there before. In fact, his mother not only is using him to do her dirty work now, she did back then too. She forced him to participate in the murder (and burial) of his father. “You do not have to be defined by the sins of your father or your mother,” Morgan tells him, and he surrenders.

But his mother still has a hold on him, even in prison. In their separate cells, they play games and look at the same photo of the two of them. That’s not all; he also cuts off his own left ear. There have been many chilling images over the years on Criminal Minds; Randy holding his ear is definitely one of them.

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.