Oh, it is so good to have Dr. Spencer Reid back on Criminal Minds in the season’s best episode so far, “Entropy.” (I know it’s only been a few episodes, but still.) And he takes center stage as the BAU, following up on the breakthrough they had in the winter finale, puts a plan in motion to take down the Dirty Dozen hitmen ring.

Seemingly beginning as an online date, what unfolds is a deadly battle of wits, a game of cat and mouse the likes of which you could only see on a show like this, between a profiler and their prey. Aubrey Plaza guest stars as Cat, Reid’s date, and it’s because she and Matthew Gray Gubler play so well off one another that it works quite well.

During the give-and-take, Reid is forced to admit the whole truth about why his recent time off work, and that offers an update on his mother, surprises his teammates and has startling implications for his future. Criminal Minds doesn’t often have the time to explore an emotional storyline like this throughout an episode. Usually, it’s pushed aside for the case and handled for the most part at the beginning and end of an episode. With “Entropy,” it’s nicely interwoven with Reid and Cat’s interactions.

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An Awkward First Date or … ?

It begins with Reid meeting his date, Cat, at a restaurant. A rose is placed on the table to identify himself. First, there’s the awkward small talk. Yes, this is his first time doing this. She switched the restaurant at the last minute to one nicer because of the rose. Yes, he has three PhDs. No, he doesn’t have a favorite book from last year. Yes, let’s talk about his pregnant wife he wants her to kill —

Yes, that’s what’s going on here. JJ’s at the bar. Rossi’s not too far away at a table. Hotch and Garcia are watching from her office. He’s been married four years, Reid tells Cat, but when she looks at his ring, it’s too new. With her gun aimed at him under the table, she wants to know why they’re here. Because she’s part of the network of hitmen operating in the shadows of the internet that they’ve been hunting for months.

They’re the only ones to get close to them, she acknowledges before reminding him, they’ve gotten close to them too and greets Penelope over the microphone he’s wearing. She’s good at what she does, Cat says, because she thinks through every outcome and plans accordingly. She didn’t walk into his trap. He walked into hers.

Let’s Play a Game!

As she takes his gun, Cat asks where his head is. Entropy, the thermodynamic measure of the degradation of matter and energy in the universe. She easily spots JJ at the bar, forcing the other agent to retreat to the kitchen. “Tell me about me,” she tells Reid.

Cat is a black widow hitwoman who specializes in seduction. She’s patient, and she learns everything (physically, psychologically and emotionally) she can about her targets so they’re in as compromising a position as possible and they don’t see it coming when she pulls the trigger. And if she’s really good, she chimes in, they pull the trigger themselves.

To maintain control over the situation, she takes his phone and sets a timer. She gives him 30 minutes to answer every question she asks — and she’ll know if he lies. She’s spent the past 10 years studying men and their lies before killing them. If he wins, he drags her out in cuffs. If she wins, he escorts her out to make sure she exits safely. Considering what she put Garcia and everyone through, he warns her, she’ll have to shoot him in the face before she walks out of there. Oh, how I’ve missed Reid. Game on.

How’d they find her? The big break he found out about upon returning from his time off. (Three days ago, he briefly stopped to watch kids on the swings in a park before heading to Morgan’s. Savannah gave him updated stats on something he called her about, but when Morgan asked about it, they brushed it aside as just shoptalk.) Why did he take time off? When Reid refuses to tell her, Cat wonders if it’s her he doesn’t want to tell or his team listening in.

In exchange for a deal, Cochran told them all about the network. He couldn’t give them the hitmen’s names, but he could tell them about their areas of expertise. They already knew Montolo. There’s the Sniper, who’s responsible for shooting Graff and can make a T-zone shot from over 2000 meters. There’s the Chemist, who works with poison and specializes in hits that don’t leave a trace. (He’s scarily impressive in the way he leaves poison on the handle of a briefcase and switches it with his victim’s.) There’s the Bomber, who has been trained by Mossad. And then there’s the fourth, the one with the highest body count: Cat.

Considering that all came from information handed to them, Cat wonders if they’re just lucky. Here’s some real profiling, she tells him, trying to guess the reason Reid took time off. Same girl who broke his heart? No. Death of a parent? No. But his hesitation tells her she’s getting close.

Finding an Important Piece of the Puzzle

The team knew the network had to be centralized — how they got jobs, paid, etc. — and she realizes they found the Snowman, the network’s IT expert. He had been kidnapped and was being held in a safe house by the hitmen. Thanks to Cochran’s flash drive that gave them access to their area of the dark net, Garcia was able to locate that safe house.

During a shift change (so they could take down two of the hitmen), Garcia popped up on the Snowman’s (aka high school-aged Barry Winslow) screen and let him know they were coming. They killed the Sniper, the Chemist took his own life and Barry was rescued.

Again, Cat inquires about his time off, and again, Reid refuses to answer. When the situation escalates, Hotch directs Rossi to go over, but Cat has Reid tell him to back down or she’ll start shooting. Rossi too is sent to “the locker room,” aka the kitchen.

Reid gives Cat just enough information about his mother (her schizophrenia and a change in meds) to calm her down, but she knows he’s holding something back. To punish him, she adds 10 minutes to the clock. She also thinks she flushed out his backup, but she doesn’t know that Morgan and Tara are at a table nearby.

Barry was able to tell them a bit more about the network and give them access to their bank accounts. The hitmen worked as independent contractors, and he coordinated their online traffic, something they could fake to keep the others from finding out what happened. However, they (especially the Bomber) also used back channels he didn’t have access to. The Bomber never showed up at the safe house. Their best chance was to lure in the black widow with a target.

Enter Reid as the man who wanted his pregnant wife dead. Looking at the record of her kills, they figured out she went after men who wanted to kill their wives. She double-crossed her client because it was personal for her.

Cat boasts that she’s been in control since the beginning, but why did she show up if she knew it was a trap? She calls Reid’s explanation — that she can’t get to the man she really wants, so she hurts substitutes — just “boilerplate psychology.” But how hard did she look for her father? How disappointed was she when she realized she’d never find him? She needed another outlet for her rage, but in the end, it tripped her up. “Everything eventually falls apart,” he lets her in on the secret. “The trick is accepting when it’s over.”

She has a secret of her own: he’s fallen victim to his own gender bias. Their entire strategy is based on one faulty detail — that they work alone. She’s not alone, and her partner is the Bomber. Yes, there’s a bomb in the building, as Rossi and JJ find, connected to the gas lines, and it can take out the whole block.

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Who’s Really in Control?

The bomb has a cell phone trigger, and since they haven’t seen a phone on Cat, the Bomber is holding it. Tara has the restaurant staff start to clear the restaurant, and Hotch tells Reid to let Cat go. He hesitates before doing so and then informing her she won’t leave. He found her father, and he knows she won’t detonate the bomb because then she won’t learn anything. He too thinks through every outcome. She stays.

Reid learned everything he could about her, he revealed. Since she went by Cat in her emails, he figured it’s short for Catherine. After that, it was just a matter of Garcia finding her using the following criteria: mother died suspiciously, father put away for manslaughter, accidental deaths of foster dads and multiple abuse complaints. Hello, Catherine Adams. Her father, Daniel, hasn’t been able to stay sober, is in D.C. and homeless. When Reid found him, he didn’t recognize Cat and insisted he had the wrong man.

Alcoholism shredded his brain, Reid explains to Cat. She doesn’t buy his “I’m sorry” — it’s what people say when they don’t understand — until she really looks at him. Again, she wants to know about his mother. When he looked at her chart, it didn’t make any sense that the new medications weren’t helping her, he shares. When he went to see her, he saw it. For three seconds, she didn’t know who he was. He had her tested: early onset of dementia, most likely Alzheimer’s. Reid thought he dodged a bullet when he didn’t have a schizophrenic break at 30, but this is bigger and scarier because he can see it happening, all the memories they shared dying, he admits, and he can’t stop it. All he can do is find people he can help.

When the bomb is armed, Morgan and Tara realize the Bomber is in the restaurant, and after Cat’s comment about gender bias, Tara figures out the Bomber is a woman. They find the woman with her phone out, watching Reid and Cat, and stop her. But then Cat takes Reid hostage.

In turn, Morgan aims his gun at Cat and tells her there’s one thing they haven’t shared. Reid protests as his teammate explains Reid thought he needed every bargaining chip he could get to convince her to do the right thing. That’s why her father’s outside. There’s no statute of limitation on murder, so she can testify against him. She wanted to hurt the man who really deserved it, deserved it the most, right? Cat surrenders, under the condition that Spencer escorts her out.

Outside, however, Cat discovers that it was all a ruse to get her to give up. Her father isn’t there. He really did look for him, Reid says, but he couldn’t find him. Yes, he made it all up. Not all, she argues. You don’t pull a story about a parent losing her memory out of nowhere. She still wins, because she’ll get out of there, however many years it takes, and she’ll remember his name. But he won’t remember hers.

Reid’s Uncertain Future

With the case over and the network dismantled, Garcia can celebrate her freedom with lots of alcohol and love for everyone.

As for Reid’s revelation, Morgan asks if he’s going to get himself tested. That’s where the research from Savannah comes in; he’s too young to display the chromosomal signs, so he has to live with not knowing. “Can I tell you something?” Morgan asks before hugging him. “I just, um … You know?” “I know, I know,” Reid assures him and hugs him back. “Good, because I mean it.” It’s an emotional moment, one rarely seen on Criminal Minds, and I love it.

The episode ends with Reid sitting on a swing in the park and the quote from Vaclav Havel, “Just as the constant increase of entropy is the basic law of the universe, so it is the basic law of life to struggle against entropy.”

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.