Paget Brewster returns to Criminal Minds in “Tribute,” and she needs her former teammates’ help in catching an international serial killer, one that has already copied famous killers from Russia and London before touching down stateside.

Meanwhile, the team is also dealing with Morgan’s departure, and everyone misses him. (Reid’s even staring at his empty seat on the jet instead of reading his book.) While Prentiss chooses not to mention him because she thinks it’s still raw that he just left, she also can offer his perspective. She was heartbroken when she left the team, but she thinks Morgan will be okay. He’s with his family, and he’s Morgan, after all.

Criminal Minds Recap: The Team Says Goodbye to One of Its Own>>>

Prentiss Returns to the States

Prentiss chases someone through an abandoned building, stopping when she finds a woman, Louise, injured on a mattress. As she assures her that help is on the way, the person she was chasing appears and she shoots him, but it does nothing. And then she wakes from the nightmare, in bed with Mark — and it’s clearly not the first time. She insists that she’ll be fine, but this is clearly haunting her. Then she gets into her office and an alert pops up that the copycat has struck again.

Prentiss then tries to convince Hotch that the serial killer she’s after is stateside. People get shot in New York every day, he argues, but she’s certain it’s her guy. He’s been copying the classics: Chikatilo in Russia, Jack the Ripper in London, the Boston Strangler and now, the Son of Sam.

While Berkowitz may have only shot two victims in the first Son of Sam murder and this UnSub has only killed one, she points out it’s the same neighborhood and same weapon. The Boston strangler copycat murder occurred one block from the first murder in 1962. “Good people died trying to catch this guy,” she says, and she needs their help. They’ll meet her in New York.

Andrei Chikatilo’s first victim in Russia, in 1978, was a nine-year-old girl whose body was found sexually assaulted, strangled and mutilated. He took eyeballs as trophies and ate some victims’ organs. He confessed to 56 murders between 1978 and 1990. A 10-year-old girl’s body was found two years ago roughly a mile away and in much of the same conditions.

Last year in London, three women were found within a month, eviscerated a la Jack. The third was in Scotland Yard, when Prentiss almost got him in an undercover operation. What matters with this copycat is geography and M.O. He’s criminally and forensically sophisticated, as well as highly intelligent and likely multilingual since he’s evaded capture in three countries. He also has to have money to be able to travel.

After the team reunites with Prentiss and Tara meets her, she heads to the latest crime scene with Rossi and J.J. There, Prentiss notices a blood spatter shadow in the passenger seat, suggesting someone else was there, which would match the Son of Sam’s M.O. She finds blood confirming that the second victim got away.

Somewhere, the UnSub puts a bullet in his mouth before loading his revolver.

Regrouping at the police station, they note that the UnSub kills between March and September, and when Garcia’s passport search comes up empty, Prentiss suggests looking into those part of a diplomatic envoy. They’d have money to travel and be able to speak multiple languages. The only result she gets right away doesn’t fit.

They do get a hit on a woman who was shot in the leg in the area at the right time, but she claims she was mugged. After Prentiss explains to Monica what she does and that she’s tracking a serial killer (and they promise that her father doesn’t have to know) she admits that she sometimes works as an escort. The UnSub had texted her to be in a threesome with his girlfriend, and while she refused, he offered her $300 just to show up. He shot her and then walked away. The most important thing she tells them? He’s an American.

A police squad thinks they spot someone matching his description near a warehouse in Queens, but when they search the building, it’s empty. A block away, however, there are two more dead in a car.

So Close…

The latest victims are a corporate lawyer and an ad exec, survived by their two daughters. Both were shot. He was shot seven times and she at least six. This means that the UnSub had to reload twice since his weapon, a .44 Bulldog revolver, only holds five rounds. Berkowitz was a misogynist, and the only man he shot was one with long hair that he thought was a woman, meaning this is a sign the UnSub is out of control. What about these two made him lose it? Is he figuring out what he really likes? And why did he leave a watch in the man’s mouth?

They profile him as a narcissistic copycat, atypically full of confidence. He’s brazenly replicating high-profile murders globally, and he has to be doing something the rest of the year to bankroll his kills. He’s extremely mobile, so they need to keep an eye on airports and train and bus stations. His fascination with serial crime is embedded in his psyche and is what drives him. He was exposed to it from a young age, but he could have been a victim or related to one or connected to a perpetrator. He will strike again.

Having had similar dreams, Rossi offers Prentiss some advice about her nightmares: surrender to it to control it. Face the fact that she may not catch him, and don’t blame herself for it.

Just as Reid discerns how far the UnSub could have gone and they correctly figure out he’s headed to Chicago, the UnSub’s bus pulls up to the bus depot there. On the way, he talks to a kid sitting across the aisle about his family life (dad is not completely in the picture) and, most concerning, gives the boy a bullet, calling it lucky because it doesn’t have his name on it.

The UnSub then heads to Northeast State University, where he introduces himself as a professor and notices a student’s jewelry. (Wealth alert! Next victim alert!)

Criminal Minds: How the BAU Team Has Handled the Aftermath of Being Targets >>>

Can Prentiss Close This Case?

The next time Prentiss has the nightmare, she sees J.J. in Louise’s place, and when J.J. wakes her, she admits to the team that she was the one who suggested Louise go undercover. She told her it would be good for her career and even went above the Chief Inspector’s head.

Still, J.J. can tell that Prentiss is holding something back, and she admits that the UnSub had her that night in London, but he walked away and let her live. Why? J.J. suggests that it’s about the thrill for him. He gets off on the adrenaline.

That’s what helps them ultimately ID the UnSub. If he’s a thrill-seeker, he has to find some way to satisfy that craving in his “off-season.” When Prentiss remembers details about his knife, one used by fishermen, Garcia adds that to her search. Crab season is from October to February, the months he doesn’t kill, and it’s the perfect kind of job for someone like him. In fact, that is what he does, as Garcia gets a hit: Michael Lee Peterson, from Illinois. He’s back in his hometown. He worked as a deckhand on a crab fishing vessel. He was raised by his mother, who died of a stroke 10 years ago. His father was an armed robber, who spent time in a prison where notable serial killers did as well, and he died two years ago, right around the time of the first murder. There’s his trigger.

But are they going to be too late? Just as Megan’s friend alerts her to the FBI warning about the killer and she calls the hotline after recognizing the guy as “Mike,” he enters her room and tells her to put the phone down. He then forces her and her friend at gunpoint to get another girl to open her door and let them inside her room.

It turns out that Michael’s mother visited his father in prison, so it’s likely Michael saw what prison life was like. His father had agreed to testify against his former partner and was almost stabbed to death. Snitches are seen as pretty low in the prison system, but serial killers, on the other hand, are at the top of the chain. Michael idolizes killers because of that.

Just as the FBI arrives on scene, having gotten the alert about the 911 hang-up, they hear a gunshot. Michael killed the third girl, and by the time they get inside, Megan has grabbed a pair of scissors and tries to fight back when he goes for her friend. Her friend runs out into the hall, allowing the team to see which room he’s in, and Michael takes Megan hostage. Michael is all about the fame, delighting in the fact that Prentiss followed him from London, in all the police outside, in the books that he thinks will be written about him. But the moment she has the shot, Prentiss takes it. Megan is safe.

Family Dinner

With the case over, Garcia expected Prentiss to just fly home, which is why she can surprise her in Morgan’s old office. Prentiss gets to see how Sergio is doing (he has gray whiskers), and they get to enjoy the tequila that Morgan left behind from the Halloween bet. Once J.J. joins them, they’re ready to have a girls’ night before Prentiss leaves, but with Rossi and Reid in, it becomes a family dinner by the time they join Hotch and Tara.

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.