It is safe to say that last week’s Criminal Minds had us reaching for the tissues, and just a week on we are all probably still coming to terms with the reality that our beloved Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore) has moved on. But if there was ever a solution that may dull the ache of our hearts, it comes in the form of Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster), who returned this week as a guest-star. And her return doesn’t mean we forget Morgan altogether, but it did help calm our fears of maybe never seeing him again. Let’s be real, no one ever really “leaves” the BAU. Anyway, this week’s episode titled “Tribute”, was born from Emily’s story and history with a serial killer that up until now she has been unable to stop. The episode begins with Emily scoping out an abandoned warehouse, and it must be said, Paget’s ability to inhabit Emily so smoothly really shows her devotion to the character, the story and the series as a whole. In the abandoned warehouse she comes across a still conscious, bleeding young woman (who she knows), and she tries to stop the bleeding and save the woman a black figure hits her over the head. As she turns, dazed, she fires her gun repeatedly successfully hitting the target. But he doesn’t fall, he doesn’t die, he simply walks away. And it is then that Emily wakes up, she had been having a nightmare.
After, assuring her very English, very handsome boyfriend that she is ok and that he should go back to sleep, Emily stands in the bathroom. She looks at herself in the mirror searching for answers; and it is in this moment we know what the answer is. The badass Prentiss we all know and love was welcomed back even more so, with a montage of shots and images of her at the gun range. Shooting round after round at the target, we can tell she’s tormented by this case. Talk about timing though, as she arrives at her office the next day there has been another murder, this time in New York. This can only mean one thing right?
We meet the team this week flying back from a previous case – Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) is staring at Morgan’s empty seat when JJ (AJ Cook) asks “do you miss him?” and with a simple question like that, each member of the team answer “yes”. Not Hotch (Thomas Gibson) though, as he is on a skype call with Emily who is running him through the current profile and evidence she has for her serial killer. The Unsub has been copying famous serial killers and has been doing so all over the world. As the current murder falls in the United States, Emily thought who better to call than her old team, the crime-fighting soldiers she knows and loves. And with not much convincing needed, Hotch agrees to take the case. The team discuss the case on route to New York, developing theories and ideas that could lead to discovering who this person is. They theorise that he intellectually capable and highly methodical; being able to successfully execute so many murders all over the world is evidence of that.
Prentiss arrives in New York first, followed by newest BAU member Tara Lewis (Aisha Tyler); the two exchange a warm greeting, singing each other’s praises (of course) before the rest of the team arrive. The embraces are warm and the love is absolutely undeniable, but with all the pleasantries aside they get to work. Following leads from the crime scene (with a small exchange about Morgan), JJ, Rossi (Joe Mantegna) and Emily find blood. Not only that, a female victim shows up at a local hospital after having been shot by a gunman in a “robbery”. After questioning the victim, and another two out of character murders, the team give the profile. He is brazen, possibly has a career as a thief or drug dealer and was exposed to serial crime at a very young age.
The Unsub is still on the move, this time on a bus to Chicago, and while he plays nice with a little kid, Prentiss continues to be haunted by the constant near misses of the case. After confiding in Rossi first, it is when she experiences another dream on the plane that the rest of the team is clued in (during this Reid, with this powers of deduction, worked out that Chicago was the next place for the Unsub). Emotionally vulnerable Emily has always been my favourite, and Paget Brewster is so understated in her delivery that it doesn’t overwhelm you but it still cuts. She admits that this time the dream involved JJ as the bleeding woman, and that she in fact knew the woman working undercover, Prentiss had been the one to organise the operation. The guilt that she is holding onto is no more evident than when the tears start to fall and when she admits how responsible she feels for the death of her undercover agent.
With a deep breath and little bit of humour from her girl squad counterpart JJ, the team do one last brainstorm to try, once and for all to name find the identity of the UnSub. Narrowing the parameters, focusing on individuals from the Illinois area who participate in seasonal work, Garcia gets a hit. His name is Michael Lee Peterson, he is a crab fisherman; as the team discovers this information, and Michael has already arrived at his next hit zone, a university. The team work out that he is planning on attacking nursing students, and when three students are held hostage in the dorm room, the team races the clock. As they arrive on campus to a gun shot, we see Michael move the body of a dead girl into the bathroom. The other two students find confidence and fight back, and as the dangerous scuffles ensues Emily and co. arrive just in the nick of time. Doing her best to manipulate Michael into thinking he has won, and that he will forever be remembered as the most famous serial killer to live. Little did he know it was all a ploy, and as he turns to see the so called “audience” Emily shoots, and succeeds.
At the conclusion of the case, a lone Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) is seen at Morgan’s office; we miss Morgan but the space I am sure that is left in Garcia’s baby girl is world’s bigger. Being the only member of the team to have missed out on reuniting with Prentiss, Garcia may also be feeling a little left out but long behold Prentiss has made a detour via Washington D.C. Sneaking up on Garcia, do her very best “Derek Morgan”, two of the infamous Criminal Minds originals are reunited and by golly it’s heart-warming. More heart-warming that Garcia is purely overjoyed as she goes on one of her endearing rambling monologues, Prentiss ensures her that she wasn’t going to leave without seeing her. Checking in on their beloved Sergio – he is doing well – the conversation moves to Morgan, where Garcia retreats back into her colourful self. She misses him, it’s obvious. Do not fear, Emily knows exactly what will help – tequila, hidden in a cabinet in Morgan’s office. With a simple toast to Morgan and all the delicious friends, the mood lifts and as each member of team joins the group the heart-warming reunion continues. Just like old times they enjoy a family dinner (Mexican, of course), with new member Lewis as well, the scene of all seated around the circle table is enough to make any long-term Criminal Minds fan beam. Paget Brewster is a testament, that when you live and portray a character for an extended period of time they become a part of you. Each time she has reappeared her performances have been fluid and the chemistry between her and the entire ensemble is timeless. This is a clear example that in future episodes, if he chooses, Shemar Moore’s Derek Morgan would add just another layer to the long-standing family dynamic of the BAU team.