Writers for “Criminal Minds” are known for bringing us a glimpse of a previous episode that has bearing on the current show. In the case of “Carbon Copy” which aired on CBS on Feb. 27, they tempted us by opening with bits of several cases – Magnum Opus, Zugzwang, The Lesson. We also see flowers being delivered to JJ, and the card bears one word: Zugzwang. How will all that be tied in?
The latest unsub is copying murders from past investigations, and since each has no apparent connection to the other, the team deduces that he is tracking everything the BAU does.
Several of the murders involved exsanguination (draining the blood from a person’s body) and all victims were nurses. The bodies were wrapped in plastic and eyelids cut off, just as they were by the killer in “Magnum Opus”, the man who used human blood to paint pictures. The latest victims had photos of Agent Hotchner (Thomas Gibson) displayed on the body when found.
The message is now more clear; the unsub is not just taunting the team, but targeting and torturing them. For revenge? Since all victims were nurses, Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) digs for clues in old homicide cases that involved nurses. They recover a case where the killer was stabbing nurses in Pittsburgh, but the man convicted of those crimes, Jack Lee Kemper, was killed by lethal injection 5 months prior.
We see the unsub in a basement, looking at a photo of his wife and two young girls. His phone rings. He answers angrily, then quickly turns contrite. “Where have you been? You were supposed to call me hours ago. Ok, you’re right. I’m sorry. Thank you for calling me back.” We see a pail of blood in the scene.
Going through the files of the old investigation, Agent Rossi (Joe Mantegna) comes across a photo and the name Donnie Bidwell, who was a primary suspect until they caught Kemper. Bidwell’s name was somehow leaked to the press as soon as he was picked up, and he was held for several weeks before he was cleared. Garcia’s search for more info on Bidwell reveals that he has been arrested for assault, lewd behavior, and he’s the recently divorced father of two. He’s had 12 jobs in the last two years, and suffered a nervous breakdown because of the accusations in the murder investigation.
Spying the FBI on his property, Bidwell first hides in a closet then is caught outside after attempting to flee. He has the shakes, and we learn that he is on anticonvulsant medication; after being recognized in a bar years prior after he was accused in the nurse killings, someone knocked him out, resulting in a head injury that made him prone to seizures.
In interrogation, Rossi says he doesn’t blame Bidwell for what he did, as the FBI made an erroneous accusation all those years ago. Bidwell gets irate, upset that the ruination of his life is summed up as a simple mistake. Dave admits they were wrong the first time, and asks Bidwell doesn’t he want to make sure they get it right this time? He says he’ll give him a few minutes, and walks away, winking at Bidwell, leaving him alone.
Rejoining the team outside interrogation, Rossi puzzles over what just happened. “Something’s not right. This is his crowning moment. All that work he did to replicate, he should be singing like a canary, especially if he’s a narcissist.”
JJ says she wants to try something, so she and Blake enter interrogation. She suggests he take his meds, and Bidwell does. The two female agents talk about his little girls, bringing the conversation to a personal level, getting him to talk about how the mistaken accusation 15 years ago cost him his life, including his wife and children.
Back at Bidwell’s house Reid finds a box under the bed with more photos, some of Hotch and the crime scenes. In a manila envelope, he finds eyelids that were cut from the victims.
Agents show those photos to Bidwell, and he appears surprised, and immediately says he wants his lawyer and his phone call.
The team is confused that he just admitted to killing the nurses, but immediately lawyered up when the copycat killings were mentioned.
Although they have more than enough information to prove he’s the replicator, they realize that he would have to be very detailed and organized to accomplish what he did, and nothing in his house reflected that.
A phone is brought in and Bidwell is left alone to make his call in privacy. “Hello, it’s me. I’ve been arrested. You .. you” (pauses, shaking).
The local detective approaches the team, tells that Bidwell is seizing. Entering interrogation, they see that he has taken all of his medication, and call paramedics. He died en route to the hospital.
Reflecting, the BAU says they didn’t profile him as a suicide, but wonder if that’s the ultimate payback, that he takes his own life so that they couldn’t put him in prison, even though he was guilty this time.
Checking phone records, they find that the call he made was to a prepaid cell so it cannot be traced. Was it to a partner? He didn’t know about the other copycat murders, so he wouldn’t be a partner to them, so was he a pawn? Garcia pores over Bidwell’s phone records and social media contacts again. She finds numerous emails and phone calls to his wife, calls to his mother in Florida, and many to random businesses with no apparent ties to the case.
Checking incoming phone records, something caught Garcia’s eye – a call that came in at the same time and same day, except once, all from an unknown number of a prepaid cellphone. She is able to track it to credit card records in Pittsburgh, the card used to purchase the flowers we saw being delivered to JJ. They now have an address.
The team departs for Pittsburgh and meets up with local law enforcement and, prepared for a possible ambush, they enter a warehouse. Music is playing, but they find the building empty except for another victim — a woman lying dead on a mattress with a plastic bag over her head, a bloody hammer nearby.
Elsewhere in the space are large bulletin boards strewn with photos — of every member of the BAU team. Hotch … Blake … Morgan. Random strokes of blood appear over them all. And one word, also written in blood.