Prison can be like Criminal University for bad guys. They can pick up new skills and make new friends, and if they get out, they can go back to raising hell. Such is the case in Criminal Minds‘ “Outlaw.”

The BAU travels to Las Vegas — New Mexico, not Nevada — for a case that is eerily similar to one from six years ago: the murders of teenagers in a restaurant. However, as they figure out during the investigation, one important thing has changed.

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This isn’t the Fun Las Vegas

Three restaurant workers were murdered after closing the night before during a robbery/homicide. Just like six years ago, the girl was sexually assaulted, all victims were shot execution style, and the place was burned to the ground. Six years ago, they profiled that they were looking for two or more criminally experienced UnSubs, under the influence of a narcotic. But while the case went cold, are the same UnSubs back or are they dealing with copycats?

At the local police department, the Chief, Raul Montoya, is drinking on the job when Brooks comes in and asks why he didn’t call him. “It’s them, isn’t it?” He asks. “Same ones as before.” As Brooks tells Rossi once the BAU arrives, his daughter was one of the victims from six years ago. He wants them to catch those responsible and make them pay.

Thanks to a voicemail the female victim, Renee, left her mother this time, they know that they are dealing with two UnSubs, and a trip to the morgue confirms that they’re looking at the same guys from six years ago. Renee was restrained with her own underwear, a fact that wasn’t released to the press. These can’t be copycats.

But there is something different, as Reid realizes while looking over the boards for the two cases. (I love watching his mind work, don’t you?) Six years ago, the UnSubs separated the victims by gender and kept them in separate rooms. This time, they made the men watch Renee being sexually assaulted and made her watch them kill her coworkers. Why has this changed? Because only one of the UnSubs was involved six year ago. He has a new partner.

The Beginning of the End of This Partnership

While one of the UnSubs is more concerned with doing drugs, the other goes off on his own, to see an old girlfriend, the reason he came back to Las Vegas. Didn’t she miss him while he was in prison? No, no, she did not, and as is always the case in situations like this, her son who just so happens to be the right age walks over to the door and the UnSub realizes that her son is his kid. The girlfriend pushes him out of her house.

Meanwhile, the other UnSub heads to a pharmacy, gets himself meth, and kills both pharmacists. He positions them to face each other before killing them, but he doesn’t assault the woman. When he returns to the motel, he assures his partner that the cops had no idea he was responsible, but hey, look, he scored them some drugs. Already the cracks in this partnership are showing, with Lester all about the high and Duke not liking his comments about his “booty call.”

Garcia’s nationwide ViCAP search of criminals who like to make their victims watch them commit violent crimes, narrowed down with some help from Morgan and Tara, helps identify one of the UnSubs: Lester Turner, the one who robbed the pharmacy. When he was 16, he raped a 15-year-old girl, and he made her 12-year-old brother watch and beat him up. He was released from prison last year, and since he was locked up during the first robbery/homicide, he’s the new partner.

A background search reveals that he shared a cell block with Benjamin Wade and William Duke Mason, meth addict bikers who were arrested five years ago for armed robbery. Duke spent time in Las Vegas — he’s the other UnSub — and those two were responsible for the first robbery/homicide. Wade is still in prison, and while he doesn’t want to cop to his role in the first case at first, he eventually tells them that Duke and Lester are thick as thieves and Lester is stone cold crazy, but loyal. He thinks that Lester’s sweet on Duke, and he won’t let them take him alive, or anyone else hurt his partner.

According to the profile, there’s a lot of criminal ego at play here. These are two alpha males somehow co-existing, with some kind of respect keeping them together, but a rift will grow. When it does, they’ll make a mistake.

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Can the BAU Rely on the Chief?

When Rossi and Morgan notice the chief spilling his “coffee” on himself, Rossi pulls him aside to warn him that if his judgement is compromised, it won’t do them any good. He may be feeling the pressure and responsible for not being able to keep his community safe, but the last thing the town needs is the chief being caught drinking on the job. The best thing he can do, Rossi tells him, is to go home, drink real coffee, dry up and come back fresh.

When Duke and Lester stop to get gas, the clerk recognizes Duke. Lester, comes in and shoots the clerk. However, surprisingly, Morgan and Reid find two witnesses left alive: a father and a kid. According to the father, Duke wouldn’t let his partner shoot him. It’s a sign that their partnership is dissolving.

When Lester and Duke pull over on the side of the road, the final nail is put in that coffin. Duke says he’s not killing kids and a boy needs his father. Lester wonders if there are any other new developments he should know, and that’s when Duke declares it’s time for them to split up. So much for their plans to open up a bike shop in Mexico. Duke doesn’t take too kindly to Lester’s comments about the woman he knows is responsible for his partner’s change of heart, but as Lester wisely points out, being a fugitive makes “living happily ever after” with a family kind of difficult. And how does he even know that the kid is his? Duke takes offense as Lester goes on about how the kid could be anyone’s, punches him and drives off.

Chief Montoya returns to work with a lead: the name of the woman that Duke got pregnant. Tammy listed her son’s father as “unknown” on the birth certificate, and the BAU realizes that she’s why Duke came back to Las Vegas. The Chief insists he’s good to go to help — and they need him to be, because by the time they get to Tammy’s, Duke has taken her and their son, and the Chief is the one who has a pretty good idea where he took them: a campground.

They are at the campground, where Duke insists that he can take care of his son and wants to know what changed between him and Tammy. “You did,” she tells him. He was always tweaked out and angry, had sketchy friends and only cared about getting high. She realizes he was responsible for the robbery/homicide six years ago and killed kids, but he counters her by insisting that he can be a good father and be there for her. Enter Lester and the FBI and the police. Lester refuses to go back to jail and starts shooting, as does Duke. Fortunately, Tammy and her son are able to get to safety with the police. It’s a good thing Rossi offered the Chief that advice because they need him to make two important shots, which he does. Duke and Lester are down, and now, the town can mourn.

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.