The focus returns to Mr. Scratch as he continues to terrorize the BAU in Criminal Minds‘ “Mirror Image,” and with Hotch and Jack in witness protection, another member of the BAU becomes his focus: Tara.

This episode also allows for the opportunity to get to know Dr. Lewis a bit more, as her family is right at the center of the investigation. Her brother is in town, but the two of them don’t have a warm, sibling relationship, and their father hopes that they can begin to patch things up over a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, when a man sits down across from Tara for that meeting, that’s when the trouble begins.

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Also, Prentiss is officially settling in as Unit Chief, but other than some first day jitters, she seems to be doing well; she’s even increased the budget so they can hire a new agent.

“Tara, I Am Your Brother”

The episode begins from the perspective of the victim as Tara, Prentiss and Luke enter a room. Tara tells Gabriel he’s going to be okay and to keep his eyes on her and not look to the side, but then something’s engaging and …

24 hours earlier, it seems like serial killers have taken the day off. (“Maybe they went to therapy,” Garcia speculates.) Tara does the same, and after she leaves, Garcia reveals that she swore her to secrecy. A few seconds later, she spills everything to Prentiss.

As Garcia learned the day before, Tara’s mother died of breast cancer when she was in college, her father was honorably discharged and started an auto repair shop in DC and her brother, Gabriel, who’s as smart as Tara (he scored a 1600 on the SATs and had a free ride to Yale but didn’t go), got involved in “get rich quick” schemes that bordered on fraud. Tara bailed him out of bankruptcy but warned him it that she wouldn’t be doing that again, and he turned his back on her. Their father, Albert, wants them to put the past behind them, and so brother and sister are meeting for coffee.

But then Garcia learns that everyone else (including Luke “New Guy” Alvez) already knew all about this and think Gabriel’s really in town to ask for money, and she had lasted 12 hours in the experiment of seeing how long she could keep a private conversation private. (Prentiss won the bet, with 11 hours.)  

However, the man who sits down across from Tara at the coffee shop and treats her like his sister (teasing her about adding initials to her name with PhD, FBI and BAU, calling her “T” and talking about their father) isn’t Gabriel, even though he has his phone. And he continues to be “Gabriel,” even as she puts him in an interrogation room and J.J. goes in to question him. They have to treat him like an UnSub, after all, and that means making him frustrated and trying to force a mistake by denying him what he wants: Tara.

“Gabriel” gives his full name and social security number. He sees nothing wrong with the picture of his driver’s license. He knows that Tara’s brother didn’t go to Yale. He knows why Gabriel calls her “T” and that it’s not something that’s shared with just anyone. He insists that he’s always on her side, “even now.” “Gabriel” is “good,” showing no signs of hesitation or up-speak and maintaining eye contact, Tara notes.

When her father comes in, Tara learns that her brother has been in town for a month, with a new job as a lobbyist trying to legalize online gambling. It’s an “amazing business opportunity” for Gabriel and his partner. However, the driver’s license photo of his partner, Carl Brubaker, with whom Gabriel has apparently been staying with, shows perfect facial symmetry, Reid realizes, beyond what the human genome can produce. It’s a computer-generated forgery, and they know who can hack the DMV and plant a fake photo: Mr. Scratch.

Upon arriving at “Carl’s” address, Tara and Luke find three photos of Gabriel on display with the numbers 15, 11 and 32 on them and hear him calling Luke’s name. But he’s not there; instead, they see him on a TV, and Peter Lewis puts a gas mask on him, warning him, “Luke can’t help you now.”

Protective details are put on Rossi and J.J.’s families, since they have to assume Mr. Scratch is targeting the team. They think he had Gabriel scream Luke’s name to let them know he knows he’s with them now.

Going along with his evolving MO, it looks like Mr. Scratch took Gabriel, did something to make him spill his life story and planted those memories in the man they have in interrogation. They have to figure out a way to deprogram him safely because he’s their best lead.

As for the photos (which have to be part of a puzzle for them to solve since they’re not in chronological or reverse chronological order) it’s up to Tara to figure it out. “32” is from Gabriel’s birthday party. “11” is from his sixth-grade graduation. But neither she nor her father can recognize “15.” That part of his life was a blur, Albert admits. He tried, but her brother needed something he couldn’t give him.

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A Shared Childhood Tragedy Connects the Brainwashed and the Victim

The team is due some good news, and they get it: a positive ID on the man who thinks he’s Gabriel. The bad news is that while they know he’s Desmond Holt (whose name Mr. Scratch got in the premiere), after his mother died, his stepfather made him play Russian Roulette regularly. When his therapist tried to get him to recognize his other identities, he suffered a dissociative break for six months. If they try to get him to see he’s not Gabriel, they risk doing the same. That means a new plan: give him everything he wants.

That means Tara going in and treating him like he’s her brother. She knows he’s angry, but she tries to keep the conversation focused on the matter at hand, specifically, the “15” photo. However, Desmond is upset for the way she’s been treating him, not showing him the courtesy of recognizing him and hasn’t even apologized, so he’s out — until Prentiss has Luke stop him at the elevator and introduce himself. Tara then comes over and finishes the story about why he calls her “T.”

He looked out for her, even then. “Gabriel, you’re my baby brother,” she tells him. “I am sorry I went psycho on you, and I need you to stay.” After their special handshake — and it’s chilling just how much Desmond knows about Gabriel’s life — he says that means he gets to ask for whatever he wants. And he wants Albert to be there when he explains the photo.

Meanwhile, the video of Gabriel gives them another clue: Mr. Scratch has him tied up with rope used in BDSM bondage. Last time, he used Reid’s name to buy BDSM gear, and this time, he used Carl’s. It leads them to a couple who owns a boutique sex shop and whose daughter knows they tie each other up in their bedroom (in the most awkward scene of the episode; perhaps the season). They shipped “Carl’s” order to a PO Box, and the “other” listed as part of the order is a vise connected to a pressure plate that’s built around a chair. Move weight off the plate, the vise squeezes. Take weight off, it squeezes tight enough to cut off blood flow — or oxygen.

After filling Albert in on what’s going on, Tara instructs him that the best thing he can do is not say anything before they join Desmond. Albert can’t even look at him. When Gabriel was 15, Tara was 18 and at Dartmouth and had him up for family weekend. Their father had two rules: she couldn’t get him drunk and, as Albert recalls, she had to take him to church. Tara remembers taking the photo, but what she doesn’t get is why it’s so significant for Gabriel. It was the last time he felt normal, Desmond explains.

He was a victim of soft bigotry of low expectations, he continues, revealing that Albert used to drown his sorrows in cheap wine. “This is my rifle, this is my gun. This one’s for killing, this one’s for fun,” Albert would sing while marching around the house, his loaded shotgun in hand. After a few bottles, Gabriel would coax it away from him. (Albert remembers the wine.) That’s why Gabriel didn’t go to Yale. Tara was their parents’ dream and nothing could stand in the way of what she could be.

Desmond and Gabriel share hatred for the father figure in their lives. Their mothers died alone and they both needed a protector. But what the team can’t figure out is why Luke’s name didn’t copy over when he introduced himself to Desmond. Is there another Luke in Gabriel’s life? That’s when Tara figures out the pattern with the photos: the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15, verses 11-32.

Back when she took the “15” photo, Tara had commented on the story of the older sibling who griped to the father because the younger brother was a screw-up. She could relate. But the parable of the prodigal son, that was why Gabriel kept that photo. On paper, it’s easy to make assumptions. She’s the successful one, the one who got the degree and the job their father could brag about, but she also never looked back. She never thought Gabriel stayed home to do the hard work like the older son in the parable. “Gabriel, you are not the prodigal,” she tells Desmond. “I am.”

Was it scary for him, with his mother gone and his stepfather with the gun? Yes. That’s when she begins to address him as Desmond and it looks like she’s going to cause a dissociative break. But he stays with her, and Desmond apologizes for what he did. He knows who she is. He did things because Mr. Scratch told him to. Yes, Gabriel is alive, and he had to memorize the address of the warehouse where Peter Lewis has him so he could bring him something from Albert’s house: his gun. “Maybe this is for killing and for fun,” Mr. Scratch speculated when Desmond brought him the box.

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One Trap Triggers a Much Worse One

“I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m getting tired of losing to this rat-faced son of a bitch,” Prentiss tells the others as they head out to rescue Gabriel. “He’s not going to take anyone else away from us. Not on my watch. Am I clear?”

While J.J. and Reid find the power source on the first floor of the warehouse, Prentiss, Tara and Luke find Gabriel strapped into Mr. Scratch’s vise, Albert’s rifle pointed at his head on the second floor. The rope is too heavy for them to remove it without shifting the weight differential and causing the gun to fire. But when the gun engages, Tara steps between her brother and the weapon, only for them to find that it’s not even loaded. It’s just a decoy, meaning that Mr. Scratch must have set up an even bigger trap.

And they find it, after triggering another message: Exodus 8:24, about the plagues and the dense swarms of flies. With no way to stop this trap from going off, they manage to free Gabriel and get him out of the way before nails are shot down into the floor from above. That would’ve been a gruesome death, but fortunately, everyone’s safe. And with that, the Lewis family is reunited.

But Mr. Scratch is still out there, so it’s not an entirely happy ending…

What did you think of Mr. Scratch’s latest return? What did you think of what we learned about Tara’s family?

Criminal Minds season 12 airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS. Want more news? Like our Facebook page.

(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.