Well, Criminal Minds may only be eight episodes into the season, but “Awake” earns itself a spot likely near the top of the list of most disturbing UnSubs of the season. What this UnSub does to his victims is awful, but it’s hard not to feel a bit sorry for him because what triggered him is heartbreaking. When two people are abducted, the Phoenix division requests the BAU’s help, and considering what this UnSub does to his victims, it’s the right call.

Meanwhile, Garcia’s life is drastically changing now that they know that she’s the Dirty Dozen and likely a target of that network of hitmen.

Criminal Minds Recap: One Case Uncovers Three Monsters >>>

Hope Taken Away

Five days ago, the first victim’s body was found on a rural road outside the city. Steve was reported missing after he missed several shifts at work. The second victim, Lance, was due home three days ago from a business trip. He’s still missing.

Deep ligature marks and lacerations on Steve’s wrists suggest that he was restrained for an extended period of time, and the repeated burns and contusions on his body are a sign of extreme torture. There are no signs of sexual assault, so it seems that the UnSub gets off on the torture in that it’s an outlet for his aggression. The level of violence also suggests it’s personal. Is the UnSub motivated by revenge?

So where is Lance? The UnSub has him chained up inside what I will be calling his “torture chamber.” He gets free and runs outside, finding himself in an impound lot. He looks up and sees a helicopter and calls for help, but then next thing he knows, the UnSub is shining a flashlight in his face. He’s still chained in his torture chamber. “We’re just getting started,” the UnSub tells him. Thinking you’ve escaped only to realize that you really haven’t? That has to be the worst form of torture.

Once the team gets to Phoenix, JJ talks to Lance’s wife. They had a rule that he wouldn’t be away more than two nights on business, and he never broke that promise in 20 years. Furthermore, he’d been planning a getaway for their anniversary the following weekend. And with that and his wife’s clear devastation, I really hope Lance is found alive … which is how I know he won’t be.

The ME reports that Steve died of cardiac arrest, induced by electric shock. While they wonder if the UnSub could be ex-military because he has knowledge of multiple torture techniques, the ME points out that these days, you can Google anything, so that’s not necessarily true. The UnSub also stapled his victim’s eyelids open at some point (while he was still alive) perhaps as a way of telling him that he couldn’t turn a blind eye to something that affected his killer.

When Lance insists that he doesn’t know where “she” is (and I now have a horrible feeling I know exactly where this is going), the UnSub threatens him with the staple gun.

When Rossi and JJ check out Steve’s apartment, there’s no signs of a struggle or forced entry, and it looks like he left for work like any other morning, which would have been around 1:45 a.m. His car keys are gone, which leads to the question: Where is his car?

When Garcia does some digging and discovers that Lance rented a car since he missed his flight home, that leads to a preliminary theory. The UnSub could be posing as a hitchhiker and preying on the Good Samaritans that stop.

Suddenly and inexplicably (meaning it has to be part of the torture), Lance walks into his home and into his wife’s arms. The delusion doesn’t last for long because she’s asking him about a location and holding a gun to his head. What’s really happening is the UnSub has Lance in the salvage yard, and he begs for his life. He has a family and he pleads, “Don’t do this to them.” He has a daughter, she’s 12, and he’ll do anything. And then the UnSub shoots him. (My theory has been confirmed: the “she” has to be the UnSub’s daughter.)

What Does the UnSub Want?

When Lance’s body is found, they realize that Steve’s death may have been an accident and he died before the UnSub could get the information he wanted. With that new bit of information, it’s time to give the profile.

They’re looking for a sadistic inquisitor, who is aroused sexually and emotionally by causing pain as he tries to elicit information. He gets off on his victims resisting, which just makes him push the torture further. He’s goal-oriented and driven by rage. He may be suffering from PTSD. The work and effort he puts into the torture suggests a personal reason for what he’s doing. His victims, however, are just surrogates. They can’t give him what he wants. They have to figure out what that is to find him.

Meanwhile, the UnSub spies on his next victim, David, and holds a photo of a young girl in his hand. Flashbacks show the girl’s part of a dance recital, with the UnSub in the audience. (Theory officially confirmed: the “she” is the UnSub’s daughter, and these men are surrogates for whoever took her.)

When the UnSub has David chained up like the others, he looks at his hand for a tattoo, insisting that he must have had it removed. David tries to protest that he never had one, but the UnSub begins his torture. Like with Lance, it too involves psychological torture. In this case, David thinks he can get his hands on the UnSub’s gun, but when he shoots at him, nothing happens. That’s because there isn’t really a gun.

It turns out that Lance took the same route home that Steve took every day from work, meaning that stretch of interstate has to mean something to the UnSub.

It’s JJ’s own sleep deprivation from having two kids that leads to her realizing what the UnSub is doing. He’s giving his victims a whole lot of caffeine to force them to stay awake. Caffeine at those kinds of levels can enhance the pain. The torture is a reflection of what he’s going through. He wants them to stay awake. By this time, the BAU finds out about David’s abduction.

While Garcia comes up empty looking for accidents where the driver fell asleep at the wheel on the interstate, she gets a hit on a report citing sleep deprivation. 5-year-old Tatiana Taylor was abducted at a rest stop.

The UnSub takes a break from torturing David to sit in his office, with a music box, and remembers driving with his daughter in the backseat. “You’re my sunshine,” she told him after he sang with her. When he returns to his torture chamber, however, David isn’t chained up. Instead, he attacks the UnSub and runs out when he gets the chance. The UnSub follows.

What Happened to Tatiana?

At this point, the team has an ID on their UnSub: William Taylor, Tatiana’s father. He had worked a double shift at his salvage yard, and while driving home from her dance recital, pulled over because he was sleepy. Though he only intended to close his eyes for a few minutes, he woke up hours later and Tatiana was gone. He believes his victims know what happened to her. Not knowing is his torture.

The only lead on the case is a report from William that a man with a skull tattoo on his hand knocked on his window minutes after he fell asleep to tell him that his taillight was out. However, they think that he just imagined that man because he was sleep deprived. He feels guilty that he didn’t protect his daughter, and he’s forcing his victims to take responsibility for that guilt. He’s forcing them to stay awake because he wishes he had.

However, Tatiana was taken months ago, so that doesn’t explain what triggered him a week ago. Hotch calls with that answer: Her body was found.

Tara and JJ find William threatening to drive his car into David at a fence because he’s so sure that he’s the man with the skull tattoo and has Tatiana. JJ gets him to remember that he was there when they found her body a week ago, not far from the rest stop. He refuses to believe it. Tara tries to get him to think about what Tatiana would have wanted. Unfortunately, he refuses to accept the truth. He is so certain that she’s alive that he starts backing the truck up — towards Tara. They have no choice but to shoot.

On the jet home, Tara asks Hotch what he thinks happened to Tatiana. Since there was no child locks on the car, it’s possible that she just wandered off and couldn’t find her way back. Still, William was adamant that the guy with the skull tattoo existed. Maybe it wasn’t all in his mind?

Well, it wasn’t, because in Jackson, Mississippi, a guy with a skull tattoo on his hand approaches a car on the side of the road. Inside are a mother and daughter on their way to grandmother’s house. He tells the mother that her taillight is out, and as he backs up and stands there in the rain and staring into the car, he’s very, very creepy. William was right.

Garcia Is Put into Witness Protection

Until they have a viable lead, Garcia is in witness protection, or a form of it at least. Hotch convinced them that she’s safer there, so she’s not leaving the state, but there will be an agent assigned to her until further notice and she can’t go home to get her creature comforts. Instead, Anderson will go pick them up, so she has to make a list of what she needs.

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.