In the season’s 16th episode, “Carbon Copy,” a copy-cat murder in Philadelphia has the team getting closer to the season-long Unsub. This well-plotted, team-inclusive episode is one of the strongest of season 8, but did it live up to your expectations? Read on to find out what the minds behind Criminal Minds have in-store for us this week.

Game Change

The episode begins on a personal note, with Strauss approaching Blake in the hopes of making amends for throwing Blake under the bus on the Amerithrax case all those years ago. This is a nice call-back to the season premiere but Blake’s attitude leaves viewers with the impression that it will take much more time before Blake truly forgives Strauss for deterring her career.

Reid and JJ are observing the Strauss-Blake conversation when Garcia arrives with a bouquet of flowers that have been sent to JJ. Unfortunately, the sender is not JJ’s husband but the season-long Unsub now known as The Replicator. The note attached to the flowers consists of only one word — Zugzwang.

Considering this is the same phrase spoken to Reid shortly before Maeve’s death — and apparently not delivered by Maeve’s stalker — the team realizes that The Replicator was stalking Reid, waiting for the right moment to send a message. When a woman’s body is found in the same city JJ’s flowers were ordered from and she was killed in the same manner as the victims in episode 13, the team boards the jet and heads for Philadelphia.

Strauss Steps Up

After a photograph of Hotch is found on one of the victim’s bodies, everyone realizes that The Replicator is not merely taunting the agents, he is threatening them. Due to these threats, the FBI Director and the Attorney General want to take Hotch’s team off the case and Strauss thinks that might be a good idea.

But the agents are able to convince Strauss that they can still be objective and are, in fact, the best chance the FBI has of catching The Replicator. Strauss says she will get her bosses to back down, even if she has to threaten to resign. Whatever Strauss says works, because the team remains on the case.

I know a lot of fans do not like Strauss and have questioned her handling of the team in the past — and rightly so — but I think she has been backing them fairly well since she returned from rehab. (Perhaps her earlier comments to Blake about making amends were genuine.) I like the idea of Strauss as an ally rather than an antagonist and I hope her days of trying to split up the team are long gone.

Gideon Gets a Shout-Out

During the course of the investigation, the team realizes that all of the Philadelphia victims had once been nurses and this reminds Rossi of a case the BAU worked in Pittsburgh 15 years earlier that involved the murders of several nurses. Though Rossi did not work the case — Gideon did — he remembers a suspect from back then whose life was ruined by unfounded accusations that he was the killer. The team arrests said former suspect on the belief that he might be The Replicator, out for revenge because the BAU destroyed his life.

Unfortunately, it becomes obvious that this man knows nothing about the copy-cat murders committed outside of Philadelphia and is merely being manipulated and set up by the real Replicator. The man confesses to the Philadelphia murders but takes his own life before the team can question him about The Replicator. By episode’s end, the team is no closer to identifying The Replicator, who left behind a BAU shrine and a new victim for the agents to find.

Familiar Faces

All season, fans have wondered if The Replicator might be someone we already know, someone the team has dealt with in the past. If The Replicator is familiar to both the team and the audience, it would put an interesting spin on the investigation. With that in mind, I think this episode presented us with two potential suspects.

During this episode, the agents have to deal with a local detective who is less than thrilled to have them working on his case. In fact, his attitude toward the agents is so bad, I will call him ‘Jerk-Face’. At one point, Jerk-Face almost gets shot, but Morgan saves his life. Jerk-Face, seemingly humbled by his near-death experience, tells Morgan that his partner was killed a few years earlier on a case they worked with the Bureau and he has disliked the FBI ever since. Morgan says he understands and the men part on good terms but was it all an act? Could Jerk-Face be The Replicator?

Another potential suspect could be Agent Anderson. Anderson has been appearing on the show since season 1 but his presence in this episode seems a bit suspicious to me. If Anderson is The Replicator, it would have a huge impact on the team and allow viewers to go back through earlier episodes and look for signs of Anderson’s deceptiveness. However, since Strauss also appears in this episode, it could be that Strauss and Anderson were included because they are extended members of the BAU family and might become targets somewhere down the line.

What do you think? Are Agent Anderson and Jerk-Face potential suspects or red-herrings to keep us guessing? Would it even be possible for anyone with such demanding day-jobs to focus so much attention on the BAU? Hit the comments section and let us know your thoughts.

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(Image courtesy of CBS)

Megan Cole

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV