In May, 13 serial killers escaped prison, and while some have been caught, by the time Luke Alvez joins the BAU to help them go after the next fugitive in the Criminal Minds season 12 premiere, there are still five out there.

When news comes in of a victim that looks to be the work of the Crimson King, Alvez is all over it because it’s personal for him. He caught him last time, in the act, after his partner went deep cover. He wants to be the one to put him away again.

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Catch a Fugitive, Get an Offer to Catch Another

Forty miles outside El Paso, Alvez is undercover, meeting up with a man and a woman to help them get out of the country and to Mexico. He leads them right into the FBI’s trap when he directs them to an underground tunnel, and as soon as the man, Earl, is distracted, Alvez takes his gun and identifies himself as a federal agent.

While the two are taken into custody, Rossi takes the time to get Alvez to join the team full-time. But Alvez is a self-proclaimed “man-hunter” and no good to them as a profiler, he insists. He can’t sit around brainstorming about these guys; he needs to be out there chasing them down. But there is one thing that will lure him in to work with the team, at least for now: hunting down Daniel Cullen, the Crimson King. “When do we start?” Alvez wants to know.

Well, This Is a Bit Awkward. And Creepy.

In the desert, 88 miles outside Tempe, a guy walks attached to an arm-spreader, blood on his shirt. When he manages to get to the road, he’s nearly hit by a car and then a truck manages to stop just in front of him. As soon as the police chief sees what’s carved into his skin, he knows it’s time to call in the FBI.

Tara and Hotch are already in the area, and when they go to see Brian, they discover that “BAU” has been carved into his torso. Do they know what it means? Oh, do they. Upon comparing his wounds to those of the previous victims, Hotch and Tara know they have to call the others.

This time, the details are the same except for one difference: the cuts are shallow, showing signs of hesitation. From his first victim, Daniel Cullen was about inflicting as much pain as possible. Prison would have made him meaner. Plus, the BAU had nothing to do with his initial arrest, so did he meet someone in prison who told him about them or, more likely, are they looking for a copycat? Either way, Alvez wants in because it could lead to Cullen.

I am definitely a fan of what Criminal Minds does with Tara in this episode. The psychologist is the one to talk to Brian, to walk her through what happened. When he was 12 and returned home from camp, two of his closest friends had moved away, he tells her. Two days ago, he clocked out from work and went home, but he noticed his door was unlocked. Before he could do anything, he was knocked out and woke up on a table, with a mask over his face. There was white smoke inside the mask. His kidnapper told him to “breathe it in” and then asked him his name, but when he told him, he said he’s not Brian. Brian passed out when he started cutting. The smoke smelled like bubble gum.

As the rest of the team flies out to meet Hotch and Tara, they figure out that the UnSub is Peter Lewis, aka Mr. Scratch. However, Alvez wonders why he hasn’t stayed hidden, and if it is him, why is he copying someone else? Reid points out that Lewis is also a math genius, so he plans for every variable. He wouldn’t release Brian unless he knew they couldn’t catch him. So what’s he up to? They have Garcia look into anything suspicious in Tempe, and she finds a call about a Jennifer Jareau, with the address listed as 54321 Rossi Ave. Wow. He’s really baiting them. The call came from a burner phone, with GPS, so they have an address.

Hotch, Tara and the local police find a woman on a chair in a room muttering Hotch’s name over and over. Oh, and she has “HOTCH” carved into her forehead.

What’s the Team Missing?

The woman is Chelsea, and she’s suffering from a dissociative break. The only connection they can find to Brian is that she’s a year younger, and they’re both too young to be part of the same group of Lewis’ prior victims. What’s he trying to induce?

There’s actually a pretty big connection between the victims as they uncover: both have been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder. The University of Tempe even has a camp that helps those with it. Peter’s not the copycat; someone with DID that he dosed is. He’s telling an alternate identity to cut the victims like the Crimson King. But those with DID are difficult to control, so Lewis would have multiple failures on his hands. Why didn’t Brian go crazy?

Tara returns to Brian in the hospital, and he tells her he hasn’t suffered from a break since he was 12. Yes, the camp he went to was the one at the University, and yes, Chelsea was there. His alternates are two girls, he admits, and they made him feel better when he was stressed out. The friends that moved away? They were them. Can he confirm the names of the other kids at the camp? He can pick out the names from a list of patients, he says.

Alvez takes a moment to check in with Hotch after reading up on the fugitives and finding the team leader’s name as one of Lewis’ victims. Doesn’t he want to kill him? Does Alvez want to kill Cullen, Hotch counters. Yes, the agent admits, revealing that he doesn’t say when he caught him in the act, he was cutting open his partner after figuring out he was FBI. “Try not to flinch” is what he said. Hotch believes that the killers belong in cells, living as failures, not dying, thinking they accomplished something. Alvez isn’t quite there yet. Hotch can tell that he doesn’t agree with something in the profile, but Alvez knows he won’t like it. That means everyone needs to hear it.

They can’t analyze a fugitive’s actions on the outside without taking into account what he did on the inside, Alvez says, but it appears that Lewis was a model prisoner, with no contact with other convicts. Yet, he had to have resources in place. Why did he come to Tempe? For the highest concentration of targets with DID? They know he wouldn’t reveal himself until his plan was foolproof, so what part of the plan worked? “Us,” Alvez tells them.

While most fugitives do everything to stay on the DL, he’s courted their attention from the beginning. When he needed information before, he hacked Quantico. They’re compiling the list he wants, but how will he get it? Brian, they realize — too late, because Garcia has already sent out the list and Officer Dewey is with Brian to go over it.

As the officer reads off names and Brian recognizes one, he has a flashback to Peter telling him what to do when he hears a name he remembers. Brian does just that, asking for a moment, going into the bathroom and then coming out and strangling Dewey as the FBI’s calling him. “Try not to flinch,” he says, taking his knife in hand.

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Does the BAU Catch Mr. Scratch?

“BYE” is carved into Dewey for the BAU, and Brian took his phone, so he has the list. The police chief wants to shoot Brian on sight, but they’d lose the best lead they have on Lewis. He needs to let the agents do their job.

Lewis isn’t just inducing an alternate, he’s creating one. Brian thinks he’s the Crimson King. Lewis mentally tortures his victims, and in this case, he got Brian to cut himself. That’s why the wounds were shallow. Tara thinks that was in Brian’s story and she just didn’t see it. There’s something in Brian’s history that helps explain this, and they need to talk to his parents to find out what they’re missing.

While Brian returns to Lewis with the list and Mr. Scratch puts him back on his table with the mask and tells him to listen closely, Tara asks J.J. to sit in when she talks to his parents to make sure she doesn’t miss anything. She won’t, J.J. assures her.

They adopted him through the church in a closed adoption, and when they got him, he had scars, his parents reveal. The pediatrician said that someone in the foster care system smashed bottles across him and cut him with the jagged glass. He’d cut open his own scars, and then go into a chant. They thought he was self-soothing at first, and then they realized he was talking like girls. They think the girls were in foster care with him and helped him feel better after being hurt.

Alvez takes a look at the arm-spreader that Brian was in and declares that Lewis knew enough to copy the locking mechanism, but the stitches suggest that he ordered it. So it’s up to Garcia to look into leather experts, sex shops and BDSM specialists. When Reid and Alvez find the sex ship from which Lewis bought the arm-spreader, they discover he used Reid’s name — and ordered two.

Not only that, he used Reid’s social security number and changed his address. Alvez thinks that Lewis has Cullen because he copied a specific detail that wasn’t part of the public record.

He’s right; Lewis does have Cullen, but he tells Brian that the other man thinks he’s the Crimson King, so what’s he going to do about that?

By the time the BAU gets to Lewis’ torture house, Mr. Scratch is gone and Brian’s in the middle of carving “IMPOSTER” into Cullen. If he kills him, it’s over, Alvez tells him before recalling his conversation with Hotch. Let him go so he has to live the rest of his life as a failure. When J.J. and Tara join them, they use the words that the two girls from foster care used to say to help Brian calm down: “No one is going to hurt you like that ever again.” It works, and as Tara cuffs him, she tells him it’s for his own protection and she’ll be with him every step of the way.

As for Cullen, Alvez doesn’t buy it when he claims not to remember him or even know his own name. Reid realizes that Lewis must’ve dosed him so he couldn’t tell them anything.

And since they know that Brian was just a test case and Mr. Scratch is going to do it again, Alvez is joining the team full-time to help catch him.

As the episode ends, Hotch opens up Lewis’ file on his desk, while somewhere, Lewis opens up his own files and circles Desmond Holt’s name. “There you are.” And so it will begin again.

The Queen of Nice Becomes the Queen of Ice

Listen, you can’t fault Garcia for having some trouble getting used to the big change at the BAU. And it’s not Alvez’s fault that he’s the one who’s going to take the brunt of her aloofness. When he first joins her in the elevator before the case, she’s very polite and professional. In other words, she’s not very Garcia. However, she does end up blurting out that she spent the weekend getting help from her boyfriend with her fingering techniques — for her clarinet, she quickly clarifies — before escaping and insisting she doesn’t care that he made lasagna.

And when he and Rossi call her to look up information for the case, there’s a very obvious pause before she agrees to do so. It’s going to take time to adjust.

But it seems that Alvez takes delight in letting her know that he’s now part of the team by episode’s end, an SSA-in-Training, at least, and that means that she’s going to have to figure out how to be the Queen of Nice instead of the Queen of Ice around him. He tries to get her to open up to him, asking about her last name and her boyfriend, offering up information about his girl, but that doesn’t stop her from suggesting that he tell his girl to call her when she’s come to her senses about him. It may be a tiny bit of a start. Maybe.  

What did you think of Luke Alvez’s introduction? What do you think of how the CBS drama is handling the escaped convicts? Do you wish they’d saved each one for his (or her) own episode, or do you like that some are already back in custody?

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

(Image courtesy of CBS)