Criminal Minds

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The BAU team, from season 3 to season 6, and now again.

These days, every Police Procedural needs a clever gimmick. Something that separates it from the pack. For Cold Case, it's the pursuit of old, unsolved cases. For Law and Order SVU, it's sex crimes. For CSI, it's solving crimes with magic. For Bones, it's…well, bones. (And magic.)

And for Criminal Minds, it's crazy serial killers. (And magic.)

Criminal Minds centers around a team of FBI profilers who use their knowledge of the human mind to get into the heads of the worst criminals—and catch them. The offenders who on other shows would merit a special event or multi-parter—serial killers who taunt the cops, school shooters, child abductors—are just another Monster of the Week.

Beyond that, Criminal Minds is notable for a mostly gender-equal cast, its standards of realism for the motives of its criminals, who are often fascinating characters (though the mechanics of the crimes aren't always that realistic), and for the sympathy and respect with which it treats the victims of violent crime (and sometimes the perpetrators as well!).

In 2011 it got a spinoff, Criminal Minds Suspect Behavior. This did not last.

Has a character page.

Tropes used in Criminal Minds include:


A-B[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Abusive Parents: Show up often, and aren't limited only to UnSubs.
  • Accidental Aiming Skills: Subverted (deconstructed? averted?) in "L.D.S.K." when Reid claims, after shooting an UnSub in the head, that he was "aiming for his leg." Reid recently failed his gun test, so it would be easy to believe this explanation...except that Reid was lying just a few feet away from the UnSub at the time, and it had been previously established that anything less than a headshot would probably result in the deaths of half the people in the room. Reid was making his first joke of the series, and fittingly, it was a morbid and obscure one.
    • The joke is also a call back to the opening of the episode when Reid was practicing with Hotch for the not yet failed test and aims for the target's head but hits the groin.
  • Actor Allusion: Reid finding Morgan and Rossi watching The Young and The Restless in his hotel room is an allusion to Shemar Moore's tenure on the show.
  • Alliteration: Jennifer Jareau. Lampshaded by her preferred nickname of JJ.
  • Adult Fear: Let's just add "take a shot every time a child is abducted/abused/assaulted/threatened" to the Criminal Minds drinking games.
    • Notable episodes include "Risky Business", "Cradle to Grave", "Seven Seconds", and others.
  • Adventures in Coma Land: After Elle is shot by the Serial Killer of the week she is left unconscious and bleeding to death. Throughout the remainder of the episode while emergency workers attempt to resuscitate her, she is in a dream version of the BAU jet, where she is visited by her police officer father who died when she was a child. During their conversation, Elle's father tells her that the decisions she makes in the plane will make the difference as to whether she lives or dies in real life.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Morgan and Garcia have dozens of these for each other.
    • JJ is also the only person (in the world, apparently), who calls Reid "Spence."
  • Alone with the Psycho: Numerous times. This is a show about serial killers after all.
    • Hotchner, at the end of season 4 and beginning of Season 5. However, Hotchner, stabbed multiple times, is not rescued by his teammates, but rather by the Serial Killer (called the Reaper) who ambushed him. The Reaper even takes Hotchner to the hospital to makes sure that Hotchner survives to suffer more.
    • Reid and JJ at the end of "The Big Game"
    • Reid's entire plot during "Revelations"
    • The entire Hotch and Reid subplot of "Damaged"
    • And the Hotch and Prentiss subplot of "Outfoxed"
    • Reid and Lila Archer during "Somebody's Watching"
    • Reid tries to pull this at the end of "The Fisher King," but Hotch and Morgan don't let him succeed.
    • Sci-fi author and postmodern literature professor Ursula Kent in "Empty Planet"
    • Prentiss at the end of "In Name and Blood".
    • Prentiss and Reid (although Prentiss more so) in "Minimal Loss".
    • JJ in "The Performer".
    • Morgan and Det. Spicer (and, after Spicer is killed, just Morgan) in "Our Darkest Hour".
    • Prentiss in "Lauren".
    • Reid in "Derailed" (much to the team's dismay)
    • Will in "Hit and Run", the two part season seven finale.
  • Always Murder: Well, they are the FBI's Behavior Analysis Unit. But if there were actually that many serial killers out there, no one would ever leave their houses.
    • This may Truth in Television—the FBI estimates that at any given time, there are somewhere between 20 and 50 active serial killers in the United States. Rough calculations suggest they may have either dealt with half of the active serial killers in the US, or considerably less than that depending on how you think the statistics work (ie. new killers replacing the old ones, old ones not getting caught or worst of all patterns not even being noticed). Also, most of the murderers they run into are actually spree killers, not serial killers
      • The team also deals with child abductions, serial rapists, terrorists, and spree killers, none of which are included in the FBI's estimates. Only about half of any given season's cases are actual serial killers. The serious element of unrealism here is that one team would work all of those types of cases; in reality, the BAU has separate units to deal with separate kinds of specialized crime.
      • Other divisions specializing in things like the Mob and child exploitation have shown up occasionally.
    • JJ once said that the BAU picks cases where they believe lives are at stake. In another episode, it was expressed that the BAU gets sent the "weird" cases.
  • Amazing Freaking Grace: "A Real Rain". The Cop of the Week even lampshades how much of an Ear Worm it is, and invokes some Nightmare Fuel when she says anyone who kills cops should have to hear "Amazing Grace" being played for eternity.
  • Anachronic Order: "No Way Out," "100", "It Takes A Village".
  • And I Must Scream:
    • "Uncanny Valley" has the UnSub, a mentally ill woman, kidnap young women, use drugs to paralyze them so she can dress them up as dolls. While all of this is going on, the victims are still alive and can hear, see and presumably feel everything- including the wigs being sewn into their scalps, and the slow deterioration of their body under the influence of the drugs.
    • There's also what Frank did his victims: injecting them with a drug that left them completely paralyzed, but fully conscious, as he very slowly vivisected them. With mirrors in the ceiling.
    • And the Pittsburgh suicides that weren't suicides. The UnSub was using support groups to make friends with grieving parents of a local tragedy, then would follow them home, inject them with a paralyzing drug, and set up the fake suicides, all the while explaining to his fully conscious victims that he was just doing what they wanted him to do.
    • The UnSub from "Proof". Holy shit, the idea of being immobilized, feeling the torture someone's putting you through, getting acid dripped on various parts of you, and having it all videotaped with a running childlike commentary.
  • And Now for Something Completely Different: "Secrets and Lies", "Honor Among Thieves", "Minimal Loss", and "Tabula Rasa".
  • And Starring: Thomas Gibson, after Joe Mantegna joins the cast in season three.
  • Arch Enemy: Frank to Gideon, the Reaper to Hotch, and Doyle to Prentiss.
  • Artistic License History: In "I Love You, Tommy Brown", the titular student in a Teacher-Student Romance Gone Horribly Wrong (well, more wrong) is starting to have doubts (after the teacher in question shoots his classmate / neighbour), tries to calm him down and justify their love by saying that in Medeival times 12 year olds marrying their elders was not unusual- this was only true of the aristocracy, and still wasn't very common; that when Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon she was a much older woman (she was only about 5 years his senior); and that Romeo and Juliet were 13 (true of the play, not of the original story; also, the point of the play is that they are too young and their love is childish; also, its a play). Possibly justified since the teacher is a manipulative, Ax Crazy sociopath trying to control a not-very-smart teenage boy, and of course she doesn't have to know a lot about history / English literature anyway.
    • It's also a common mistaken fact made in most referances to Medeival times. Most people uninterested in that time period would make the same mistake and those who are interested wouldn't really bother to correct them.
  • Art Shift: In "True Night", the UnSub was a comic artist who unknowingly acted out scenes from his own violent comics by murdering gang members. The audience knows in real life, he wears a hooded sweatshirt, but while "on camera" within his delusion, he's wearing a hooded Badass Longcoat that seems to come standard issue from Organization XIII, wielding a pair of scimitars. He moves in slow motion, smooth techno music in the background. The entire scenes are in highly contrasted black and white, with highly sharpened raindrops and super slo-mo splashes when he steps in a puddle or slashes one of the "werewolves" he's fighting, with occasional bright splashes of blue or red. The entire style is deliberately evocative of something directed by Frank Miller, like the film versions of The Spirit or Sin City. Which makes it Fridge Brilliance for those familiar with those movies, as both Frank Miller and the UnSub (in-universe) are both highly successful and revolutionary comic authors.
    • Less fridge when you watch the epilogue of that story and Garcia actually compares the Un-Sub to Frank Miller.
  • Asshole Victim: A few; for instance, in "Pleasure Is My Business" the UnSub is a prostitute killing Corrupt Corporate Executives who are cheating their ex-wives and children out of alimony.
    • Another example is "Elephant's Memory" - the UnSub of the episode is profiled as an "injustice collector," killing people who've caused him or his girlfriend pain: her abusive father, his neglectful father, school bullies etc.
    • A third example are the victims in "True Night" - the UnSub is murdering the gangbangers that were responsible for the murder of his fiancee, who was carrying his baby.
  • Auto Cannibalism: The villain in "Lucky" force feeds a woman several fingers, some of them undoubtedly her own.
    • None of them were her own. The killer fed her the fingers of ten other women so the cops would finally realize he existed.
  • Ax Crazy
  • Awesome By Analysis:
    • Hotchalanches. Wherein Aaron Hotchner is made of awesome, though were this real life the complaint of the defense attorney, especially in pointing how wrong the team's methods often are on specifics, would have been entirely justified.

Defense Attorney: The fact is, behavioral analysis is just intellectual guesswork. You probably can't even tell me the color of the socks I'm wearing with no greater accuracy than a carnival psychic.
Hotchner: Charcoal gray. You match them to the color of your suit to appear taller. ... You also wear lifts and you've had the soles of your shoes replaced. One might think you're frugal, but you're having financial difficulties. You wear a fake Rolex because you pawned the real one to pay your debts, my guess is to a bookie. ... Your vice is horses. Your Blackberry's been buzzing on the table every twenty minutes, which happens to be the average time between posts from Colonial Downs. You're getting race results. And every time you do, it affects your mood in court, and you're not having a very good day. That's because you pick horses the same way you practice law - by always taking the long shot...

  • Backdoor Pilot: The 18th episode of Season 5, "The Fight", featured another BAU team, which starred in a Spin-Off, "Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior". Not really a Poorly-Disguised Pilot... the producers announced this intention right from the beginning. Didn't really pan out, as very little fandom interest plus poor writing got it canceled.
  • The Bad Guy Wins:
    • "North Mammon", essentially. The UnSub's entire plan pretty much went perfectly, and he obviously didn't care that he was caught in the end, and may have even wanted to get caught, since he likely could have gotten away with it if he had bothered to cover his face when letting the remaining two girls go.
    • "Into The Woods", where Shane gets away. Whether he's gotten away for good, however...
    • "Lauren", where Doyle escapes after capturing and stabbing Prentiss. She does survive, but since she must go into hiding, Doyle has arguably made good on his earlier threat to "take the only thing that matters to you: your life". Technically, her life as Emily Prentiss is indeed over.
    • "Out of the Light", where not only does a bad guy get away, the team thinks he's innocent.
    • "3rd Life," sort of, though the Bad Guy who wins isn't the Worst Guy in the episode. The Worst Guy loses big time, mostly due to the Not-as-bad Guy shooting him in the head, but the Not-as-bad Guy is still pretty bad, and gets away with absolutely everything due to being a valuable witness against more Worse Guys.
  • Ballistic Discount: The UnSub in "Hanley Waters" already has the ammo and intends on simply purchasing the corresponding gun, but resorts to this trope when she learns that she can't purchase it today. With the gun still sitting on the counter, the clerk gives her the gun license application and walks off to deal with another customer, giving her time to load before he notices what she's doing.
  • Bank Robbery:
    • The UnSub in "Psychodrama" started out as a simple bank robber, but as the episode progresses he grows steadily more insane.
    • The season seven finale "Hit"/"Run" dealt with bank robbers and a hostage situation.
  • Batter Up: "The Boogeyman", "Paradise", "Reckoner" and "Middle Man".
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty: The trope is referenced by Reid in "What Happens at Home".
  • Beneficial Disease: One of the abducted women "The Uncanny Valley" is diabetic, which somehow allows her to metabolize the paralytic drugs she was given at a faster than usual rate.
  • Berserk Button: There was an episode where a guy who dealt really badly with a breakup went around getting women to "play along" with him as he raped them at gun or knifepoint, killing the boyfriends and then the women after he'd finished with them. When the team eventually tracks the UnSub to his latest victim, who he is kicking and punching, Prentiss pushes him to the ground, points a gun at his temple, and basically tells him he is going to be raped in prison and there is nothing he can do about it, and then she tells him to "play along" for her when this eventually happens. Needless to say, Prentiss and sex abuse cases is like gasoline and fire.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: JJ and Garcia, especially JJ's Boom! Headshot! through a plate-glass window to Garcia's shooter. Played for Laughs with Reid who who takes pranking Up to Eleven.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Prentiss speaks several languages and some of her languages scenes aren't dubbed. However, "Catching Out" becomes an unintentionally funny episode when you hear Prentiss speak Spanish. To Spanish speakers it is blatantly obvious that her pronunciation is atrocious.
  • Blind and the Beast: "The Big Wheel" with the little blind boy and the UnSub of the week, but played with in that it's not anything about the man's appearance that's frightening, but the boy would see him as a monster if he could see, because he would recognise him as his mother's murderer.
  • The Bluebeard: The UnSub from "The Fox" could be seen as a variant.
  • The Book Cipher: "The Fisher King" features an Ottendorf cipher brought to the Behavioral Analysis Unit by the UnSub via Hotch's wife. The cypher is part of a larger puzzle to find a girl who's been missing for two years. The key text is The Collector by John Fowles.
  • Boom! Headshot!: "L.D.S.K.", "Identity", "Penelope", "Lo-Fi".
  • Bottle Episode: All but two scenes of "Seven Seconds" takes place in the same shopping mall.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Poor Reid can't seem to catch a break.
    • After the Reaper case and the events of "Nameless, Faceless", it's only a matter of time before Hotch crosses the Despair Event Horizon... which is confirmed by "100": Hotch beats Foyet to death using his bare hands. Understandable crossing of the Despair Event Horizon, but still a crossing of it.
    • "Lucky"/"Penelope", "House on Fire", "Exit Wounds" and "The Internet is Forever" for Garcia.
    • The Doyle arc (beginning in "The Thirteenth Step" and ending with "Lauren") for Prentiss.
  • Break the Haughty: Rossi gets broken in "Limelight", "Damaged","Zoe's Reprise", "From Childhood's Honor", and "Epilogue".
  • Broken Heel
  • Brother Chuck: Hotch's brother, Sean, and Gideon's son, Stephen. Gideon talks to Stephen on the phone at the end of "Blood Hungry," and Sean actually appears at the beginning and end of "The Tribe", but neither of them are even mentioned again after season one.
    • Though never appearing or heard in the series, Garcia's four brothers mentioned in the Season 2 episode "P911" mysteriously disappeared from existence by the Season 6 episode "Safe Haven," where she says she was an only child. (Though since she has a stepfather—Mr. Garcia—both could arguably be true at once.)
  • Buffy-Speak: Usually averted, what with this being a team of highly intelligent agents, but sometimes...

Morgan: Come on, genius. Do something... genius-like.

  • Burn the Witch: The UnSub in "Heathridge Manor" first tries to drown them (if they're witches they'll revive and if they drown they're innocent) then sews them into poisoned dresses, but before he even finds them he paints creepy portraits of them surrounded by flames.
  • The Butcher: Killed around 20 women 20 years ago then stopped after Rossi got too close. After getting Alzheimer's, he and his approval-seeking son start killing again while he can still do it right.


C-E[edit | hide]

  • California Doubling: Almost every episode. The BAU travels around the country to solve crimes, but filming is limited to LA and surrounding areas. LA has so far passed for New York City, New Orleans, countless small towns in the Midwest and South, and even Mexico, among other places.
  • The Calls Are Coming From Inside the House: "Somebody's Watching." Justified because the caller was using a cell phone.
  • Canada, Eh?: "To Hell..."/"... And Back"
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Gideon deliberately provokes the stuttering Footpath Killer until he gets so angry that he can't talk.
  • Captive Date:
    • One episode focuses on a killer who treats his victims to a romantic evening complete with rose petals, though they're not tied down. He means no harm until they turn him down once they reach the bathtub part of the date. The rest fits to a T though.
    • In another episode, a guy was stalking a woman and ended up kidnapping her. One scene shows them sitting at a table and talking, until the woman raises her hands and it's revealed that she's tied up.
  • Career Killers: "Natural Born Killer", "3rd Life" and "Reckoner".
  • Car Fu: "Roadkill"
  • Casting Gag: The kid who plays a smart-aleck 13-year old sociopathic serial killer from "Safe Haven" played essentially the same character on an episode of Law Order Special Victims Unit.
  • The Cast Showoff: Matthew Gray Gubler does magic tricks in Real Life; they incorporated it into his character on the show. Not to mention his talent for artwork, which has also been used in several episodes.
    • Guest star Forrest Whitaker got to show off his awesome stick-fighting skills.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Played straight with Rossi at the beginning of "Damaged" (waking up from a nightmare involving lots of blood and screaming children) and with the UnSub in "Hanley Waters" (haunted by dreams recalling her son's death). Averted in "The Instincts" with Reid, who wakes up reasonably calm, despite his nightmare being rather creepy.
  • Catch Phrase:
  • Cat Scare: "The Angel Maker"; it even gets lampshaded when the soon-to-be victim actually finds her cat ("Geez Bo, you scared me half to death... such a cliche"). Also, in "Sense Memory", a paranoid Prentiss is startled when her new cat, Sergio, jumps in her lap.
  • Censorship by Spelling: Played for Drama in "100". Hotch is on the phone with his wife Haley after learning that she and their son Jack are held in hostage by George Foyet aka The Reaper.

Hotch: He's just trying to make you angry.
The Reaper: Well she should be! She's gonna (covers Jack's ears and lowers his voice) D-I-E because of your inflated ego!

  • Central Theme: Why do people do terrible things?
  • Character Blog: Garcia's Twitter account. Several of the team members also have Facebook accounts.
  • Character Overlap: The character Penelope Garcia is the technical analyst in both Criminal Minds and, its spin-off, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior.
  • Children Are Innocent: Most of them, but it is subverted at least twice (in "The Boogeymen" and "A Shade of Gray").
    • In "Safe Haven," Nancy thinks this and tries to convince Jeremy of it even though this is a kid who has already killed two whole families, plus a minister in his car, threatened her two kids, and is holding her at knife point in her car, only not killing her because he needs a ride to his mother's house to kill her. In fact, her insistence on it ends up being part of what gets her stabbed before he gets out of her car.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the beginning of "L.D.S.K.",we're shown that Hotch has a gun in an ankle holster. When Reid and Hotch are being held hostage at the end of the episode, Hotch tricks the UnSub into letting him kick Reid around, so Reid can get the gun out and shoot the UnSub.
    • In "Valhalla", Reid notices Prentiss is agitated because she's been picking at her fingernails. In "Lauren", this turns out to be the key to uncovering Prentiss' secret: that it's her hand holding the gun in the photo of Declan Doyle's fake assassination. The reason this actually works well is that Brewster herself apparently has this tendency, so if you go back to earlier seasons, Prentiss can indeed be seen picking at her nails in times of stress--and it's never pointed out.
  • Child Soldiers: Having to kill one was the Start of Darkness for the UnSub in "Distress."
  • Christianity Is Catholic
    • Played straight in "Demonology" and "Public Enemy".
    • Averted in at least one episode, with an appropriate depiction of a protestant Christian survivalist enclave.
  • Chronic Villainy: "The Big Wheel"
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: Played straight as far as the FBI being good of course, but averted the one time the CIA shows up; they're portrayed as just kind of inoffensively shady, and although the UnSub of the episode is a CIA agent he's explicitly a rogue one, with the victim (also CIA) coming across as almost saintly. In the episode that dealt with the Navy SEALS they're portrayed as being pretty awful, however.
  • Click Hello:
    • Rossi pulls one during a Mexican Standoff in "Exit Wounds".
    • Most of the team in "Cradle to Grave" where the UnSub walks out of his bathroom and looks up to discover his kitchen is now full of FBI agents and SWAT pointing guns at him.
    • The UnSub, a former Navy SEAL, pulls one on Rossi, Morgan, JJ, and Reid in "Dorado Falls". In the bullpen at Quantico.
  • Cliff Hanger: At. The. End. Of. Every. Single. Season.
    • Season 1 - Elle walks into her house and lies down on her couch. The UnSub walks over to her with a gun. We hear a gunshot and it fades to black.
    • Season 2 - Strauss tells Prentiss that she's going to help Strauss end Hotch's career or lose her job.
    • Season 3 - Each team member is seen getting into a car. One car blows up.
    • Season 4 - Hotch walks into his house and is greeted by the Reaper with a gun. We hear a gunshot and it fades to black.
    • Season 5 - The Prince of Darkness kidnaps Ellie and leaves Morgan incapacitated and Spicer dead.
    • Season 6 doesn't have a cliffhanger in the same vein as the other seasons- the case is wrapped up in one episode. However, there is some debate whether or not the team will be split up next season.
    • Season 7 - The only season without a major cliffhanger. It ends with the main UnSub getting arrested, JJ and Will's wedding and Prentiss telling Morgan that she wanted to leave the team. Not a surprise for the people who knew that Paget Brewtser was leaving at the end of the season, though.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: This is a show about crazy serial killers. It comes up.
  • Con Man: "Parasite"
  • Consulting a Convicted Killer: Happened twice, once when Mad Bomber Adrian Bale was called upon to help stop a copycat bomber and again when a serial hostage taker was asked to help stop a group of copycats. In the first case, Bale was unable to resist the opportunity to try and trick the team into blowing up a potential victim. Gideon caught on to this and stopped it. In the second, the guy hired the copycats so the BAU would have to consult with him, which gave him an opportunity to escape.
  • Contamination Situation: "Amplified," at the end of season four
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In the season five episode "Exit Wounds", Emily and J.J. are discussing the difficulty of maintaining relationships with their jobs. Emily starts to come around when J.J. says that she and Will make it work, but when they are called into work less than a minute later Emily dejectedly remarks that she should get a cat. In her Ian Doyle story arc in the sixth season, her new cat, Sergio, can be seen wandering around her apartment and even figures into the story a bit. Also, in an early seventh season episode, Hotch calls Emily out on lying to her therapist about Sergio, a wonderful guy she's become involved with. Emily states that he's the perfect man...his qualities include the fact that he doesn't hog the covers and poops in a box.
  • Couldn't Find a Lighter: In "Natural Born Killer," Morgan and Gideon imagine the killer lighting a cigarette with a blowtorch before using it on his victim.
  • Courtroom Episode: "Tabula Rasa"
  • Crazy Prepared: The Reaper/George Foyet. In the ten years he stopped killing, he memorized the schematics of every jail, holding facility and courthouse in Massachusetts so that when he got caught (which was also self-organized), he would escape to taunt and terrorize another day.
    • He also lampshades it when he says to Hotch: "Do you know how much you have to study the human body to stab yourself repeatedly and not die? I don't want to brag, but I'm something of an expert.", referring to the manner in which Foyet faked his own attack and threw the police/FBI off the scent for ten years.
    • More than that: he has his entire season five arc with Hotch planned out to the last, down to the details of getting members of the BAU interviewing Karl Arnold. It's a Batman Gambit with a heavy reliance on Flaw Exploitation, taken to a power of ten.
    • How Frank gets away in "No Way Out".
  • Criminal Mind Games: Done a number of times.
    • In "The Fisher King", by the UnSub of the same name, who mostly just wanted to send them on a quest. Some of the team worked on it like a normal case, some of the team followed the breadcrumbs. The trail of breadcrumbs solved the case, and not following the rules nearly got one of the BAU killed.
    • In "Masterpiece" by Professor Rothschild/Henry Grace, who used clues and a "live video feed" of torture to lead the team into a trap. Luckily, Reid's Good with Numbers combined with Rossi's Out Gambit turned the UnSub's severe OCD around to figure that out.
    • And then there's George Foyet/The Reaper, who stalked the cop who called him off, tried to guilt Hotch into taking the same deal, tortured Hotch, got his family taken away, stalked him for months, and sent the team clues through Karl Arnold, knowing that they would go to him when he got mail about a new string of crimes.
    • Before all those there was "Unfinished Business". The BAU teams up with a retired profiler to track down The Keystone Killer, a serial killer who had started killing again after almost twenty years and whose signature was sending complicated word puzzles to the authorities.
  • Cult: "The Tribe" and "Minimal Loss"
    • Subverted at least once, when it turned out they were atheists who just used the Satanist thing to annoy the conservative locals.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason For Abandoning You: Reid, as well as Jack Hotchner in season five.
    • Reid would disagree. Despite promising to forgive his father in exchange for help on a case, Reid remains (rightfully) unappeased. In "Public Enemy", in response to a case related statement, "There are lots of ways that sons defeat their fathers," he quips bitterly, "I just kept getting Ph.D.s."
    • You could even call Gideon's departure from the team this.
  • Damsel Fight-and-Flight Response: The UnSubs' target during most of "Open Season" starts looking promising at fighting back until she decides two stabs in the back and running away, not taking his weapon either, is enough to stop a serial killer she's already aggravated. For the record, Criminal Minds is good at keeping moments of stupidity from feeling contrived, and it's justifiable in that a few of her screws seemed out of place by the end of the episode.
    • "Reflection of Desire" had a victim break the UnSub's nose and immediately flee for a door...only to discover it's locked. Later in a second escape attempt, she finds out she wouldn't have wanted to go in there anyway.
  • Daylight Horror
  • Dead All Along: May Walden, the actress mom in "Reflection of Desire", is able to belittle and sexually harass her son from beyond the grave.
    • The same goes for Norman Hill's family in "Normal".
  • Dead Guy on Display: The "Art of Dying" chapter from the upcoming PC game.
  • Deal with the Devil: Essentially what keeps the Reaper at bay for ten years.
  • Death by Childbirth:
    • The second UnSub (the first UnSub's lover) in "A Thousand Words".
    • Played with in "Cradle to Grave", where the UnSub and his wife are killing the girls after they give birth, if it's a baby girl.
      • They were allowed to live if they gave birth to a girl, on the rationale that if they'd produced a full-term, healthy baby of the wrong gender, the next one might be a boy; it was the girls who miscarried who were killed.
  • Death by Irony: End of "Paradise", and what happens to the main UnSub in "Minimal Loss."
  • Deceptive Disciple: "Amplification".
  • Despair Speech: Some UnSubs do this while confessing.
  • Development Gag: Gideon was originally going to be named "Jason Donovan". In "Extreme Aggressor" that name appears on the cover of a book Gideon finds in a suspect's room.
  • Directed by Cast Member: Recently Matthew Gray Gubler got to take the directing skills he's honed on other projects and direct episodes of the show ("Mosley Lane", "Lauren").
  • Disappeared Dad: Much of the cast, most notably Reid.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Happens a lot on this show (e.g. "Legacy", "Sex, Birth, Death", "The Last Word"), but subverted in that the prostitutes are treated like people too, and the team takes crimes against them just as seriously.
    • Inverted by "Pleasure is My Business", where the unsub is a prostitute.
  • The Dog Bites Back: "Machismo"
  • Doom Magnet: "Divining Rod": A woman was told that has a knack for "finding the evil in men" by her dowsing (grand?)daddy and two serial killer boy-friends can't be wrong! Super Empowering: The ending implies that she might have been "encouraging" them -- possibly unawares to the first (executed) boyfriend, but when your copycat boyfriend kills four women in one day just to make you a nice wig you may as well embrace your "gift".
  • Double Meaning Title: Several examples.
    • "Derailed" is an episode about a man having a psychotic break...on a stopped train.
    • "Empty Planet" refers to an in-universe science-fiction novel and to what the unsub thinks the world is being turned into, due to the proliferation of machine technology - courtesy of his delusions inspired by the aforementioned book.
    • "Revelations" has an unsub who believes he is living out the Biblical Book of Revelation, and also contains several major, more mundane revelations about Reid's backstory.
    • The Story Arc of Reid's drug use is developed in "Jones"; the title is the name of a bar in New Orleans which is a crime scene, and also a reference to an addict "jonesing" for his next fix.
    • "Open Season" refers both to what the unsub team is doing with the victims, who appear to have little in common, and to the fact that the unsubs are hunters.
    • "In Name and Blood" refers to various fathers or father figures, and their respective tribulations with their sons (or sons-in-spirit): Hotch, who loses his son when Haley leaves him; the unsub, Mister Smith, who is dying of a malignant brain tumor, has been using his son to lure murder victims, and structured his abductions and dumpings around his son's school schedule; and Gideon, a father-figure to Reid ("in name"), who left the team due to his inability to handle the work, but only explained himself to Reid.
    • "About Face", while referring to the UnSub who is sending his victims and the local media "missing persons" fliers with their faces manipulated in and then cut out, is also the episode where we meet Rossi, Gideon's replacement. Rossi's character is an "about-face" (180-degree turn) from Gideon, egotistical and ruthless where Gideon was cerebral and team-oriented.
    • "In Heat" involves an unsub who kills because of his sexual impulses, and takes place in the very warm city of Miami.
    • "Tabula Rasa" refers to both the presumed serial killer's memory, which has been wiped by coma-induced amnesia, and to the fact that, due to time-degraded evidence, the team spends the episode working primarily from the profile.
    • "Cold Comfort" refers to both the cold comfort of false hope, and the cold comfort of necrophilia.
    • "Demonology" refers to both the personal demons faced by Emily Prentiss over the course of the episode, and to demonic exorcism.
    • "Conflicted" refers to both the conflict between Adam Jackson and his alternate personality, Amanda and the fact that Reid is still conflicted about his experiences with Tobias Hankel.
    • "Haunted" refers to the psychological haunting of the unsub by his father's career as an unsub, and of Hotch by the Boston Reaper.
    • "Outfoxed" brings back the serial killer from "The Fox," who reveals at the end of the episode that the Boston Reaper has out-foxed Hotch and is threatening Haley and Jack.
    • "The Slave of Duty" deals in part with Hotch's decision to return to the BAU after the Boston Reaper killed Haley; the title is both a description of Hotch's personality and the alternate title of "The Pirates of Penzance." Hotch met Haley when they were both in a high school production of "Pirates."
    • "Risky Business" refers to and darkly twists certain plot elements of the Tom Cruise movie of the same name - privileged, apparently straight-edge kids get into trouble behind their parents' backs, to hilarity in the film's case and to their deaths in the episode - as well as echoing the notion of a victim being high or low risk, which is brought up several times over the course of the series.
    • "Compromising Positions" refers to the sex the UnSub forces his victims to have before killing them, as well as the swinger's parties he's finding them at. It also refers to Garcia "compromising" both her usual role as technical analyst and taking on JJ's former job as media liaison, and finding it impossible to do both to an acceptable standard.
    • "Safe Haven" refers to what the families who are killed are trying to give the unsub not knowing what he's planning for them as well as being the name of the law that the teenaged unsub was given up by his mother under, precipitating his descent into murder. On top of all that, you also have little Ellie Spicer from "Our Darkest Hour" and "The Longest Night" looking for a safe haven away from her neglectful foster family in California by running away to Virginia to see Morgan.
    • "Profiling 101" refers to both the undergraduate class the team walks through the case in the episode and the unsub's whopping 101 victims.
  • Double Standard Rape (Female on Male)/Female on Female: No, it is not okay. Both either occur or are a concern in "I Love You Tommy Brown", and its treated with as much horror as it deserves.
  • Downer Ending:
    • "100" most notably, since it's where Hotch crosses the Despair Event Horizon.
    • "North Mammon" is also pretty bad, since they don't find the three missing girls before they make the Sadistic Choice offered to them by their kidnapper - kill one and the other two go free.
    • "The Fox". Sure, Karl Arnold is caught and tricked into a confession, but then Hotch finds a little box in which the unsub keeps the wedding rings of the men he kills. There are eight rings, which mean Karl has killed much more people without raising any suspect before being caught.
    • The end of the case (but not the episode) in "Normal"
    • "Honor Among Thieves".
    • "Revelations" - Reid is rescued from his kidnapper... But he's now a drug addict.
    • "A Shade of Gray".
    • "Conflicted".
    • As Hotch himself pointed out in the narration, "To Hell and Back".
    • "The Big Wheel" is a pretty huge downer, although there is some goodness in the fact that the unsub actually did have a breakthrough that enabled him to finally clasp the hand of his friend.
    • "Into the Woods" ("He got away...")
    • "What Happens at Home", because the killer murdered his own wife, while his own daughter begs him to stop. Later he attacks Hotchner, who has no choice except to shoot him, though not before the murderer apologizes to his daughter, leaving her alone.
    • "Lauren" Subverted: Although there are wrenching hospital and funeral scenes, and the team suffers a terrible loss, Prentiss is shown to be alive at the very end.
    • "True Night" "Hey, this is Vicky! I can't come to the phone right now because I'm out living my life!"
    • "Dorado Falls" The UnSub opens his eyes triggering his mental illness, making him want to kill his wife and daughter
    • "From Childhood's Hour" ends with Rossi's first ex-wife telling him she has ALS and asking him to help her commit suicide. The very next episode, Carolyn, the ex-wife kills herself and dies in Rossi's arms. Then he's shown at the cemetery, starting at a headstone that belongs to their son, who died the day he was born. Poor Rossi.
    • "Heathridge Manor"
  • Driven to Suicide: A number of UnSubs kills themselves at the end of their episode.
    • This was actually the original plan for how to write Gideon out, but Mandy Patinkin refused. You can still see echoes of it in "In Birth and Death", particularly in the shot where he contemplates his gun before putting it on the table with his badge instead.
    • Done literally by an UnSub who targets people driving red coupes and runs them over with his pickup, because his wife died from an accident involving a red coupe. When the team discover that the red coupe was her car, and he was driving it when the accident happened and confront the Unsub about why his memories of the tragedy are so vague, he drives off a cliff.
  • Drop the Hammer: "The Angel Maker" and "To Hell and Back".
  • Dueling Hackers: How Garcia and Kevin meet.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Let's count them off, shall we?
    • Morgan was sexually molested from childhood through adolescence by an authority figure, and his father was killed in front of him when he was very young.
    • Prentiss had a neglectful mother and had an abortion at age 15. One should note that the abortion itself is never played for angst, rather the consequences of it - her isolation from the baby's father and the guilt heaped on her by her Catholic upbringing - is. She also went under deep cover to catch Doyle, to the point of feigning a relationship with him. We see that Doyle fell for her, but whether she did or didn't have some feelings for Doyle is unclear. In any case, they wind up trying to kill each other.
    • Rossi has 3 ex-wives as a result of being Married to the Job. He also had the Galen case ("Damaged") and the Butcher case ("Remembrance of Things Past") which haunted him for more than ten years and didn't get solved until he came out of retirement. And in "From Childhood's Hour", his first ex-wife, Carolyn, returns to ask him to help assist in her suicide, not wanting to go through the deterioration of ALS. He turns her down, and she kills herself anyway.
    • Garcia's parents were killed by a drunk driver when she was 18. She "went underground" and became one of the most dangerous hackers in the world. She was forced to join the FBI to avoid prison and was once shot by a narcissistic unsub. She also worries that she's getting desensitized by all the horrible things that she sees.
    • Hotch is trying to raise his son after his ex-wife - his high school sweetheart - was murdered by the Reaper, who made him listen over the phone while she died. Hotch was so grief-stricken that he beat the Reaper to death with his bare hands. Oh, and this was after he got stabbed and possibly raped by the Reaper, and had his son taken into protective custody. And after that time he nearly got blown up by a suicide bomber, lost an old flame in the same attack, and had painful hearing problems for some time afterwards as a result of it shattering his eardrums.
    • J.J. had an older sister who committed suicide and grew up in a stifling small-town environment.
    • Reid? Schizophrenic mother, a dad who walked out on them, drug addiction and social isolation. And his father figure up and left without even saying goodbye in person.
    • Both Gideon and Elle were so messed up by the job - Gideon by the serial killer who killed his girlfriend in his own home (after he'd already had to get over the trauma of losing his previous team to a Mad Bomber); Elle by the serial rapist she went vigilante executioner on - that they up and left the team. Gideon didn't even resign in person, he just left a letter behind for Reid and took off.
    • Seaver's father was a serial killer.
  • Electric Torture: "Charm and Harm", "Limelight", "Remembrance of Things Past", and a variation in "Lauren".
  • Enfant Terrible: "The Boogeyman" and "A Shade of Gray".

Jason Gideon: Why did you hurt those kids?
Jeffrey Charles: Because I wanted to.

    • In "A Shade of Gray" a little boy named Danny kills his younger brother because he broke one of his model planes. When his parents discover what he has done Danny only feigns remorse so he won't get in trouble, secretly content his "annoying" brother is dead.

"He shoved plane parts down his brother's throat."

    • Some of the adult unsubs were also pretty screwed up as children; Mark Gregory from "Charm and Harm" drowned his mother, Floyd Feylinn Ferell from "Lucky" tried to eat his baby sister, Peter Redding from "A Higher Power" slashed his brother's wrists and The Reaper killed his parents and made it look like a car accident.
    • Jeremy, the budding sociopath in "Safe Haven".
  • Enhance Button
  • Mr. Fanservice: Thomas Gibson, Shemar Moore, and Matthew Gray Gubler. If you need to ask, you've never watched the show.
    • Lampshaded in "Legacy":

[after canvasing the area for potential witnesses]
Prentiss: How'd you guys do?
Hotch: Well, Reid got propositioned by every prostitute we talked to, but we didn't find anybody who thinks they'd seen the UnSub.

    • Isn't the joke there supposed to be that Reid is canonically UNATTRACTIVE and looks like a potential John to them?
    • Also in that episode, Morgan flirts with a homeless lady, much like he does with Garcia, to get her to go to a shelter. He uses his hotness for good!
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Fanfiction-wise, writers will do nearly anything to Reid: have him raped, stalked, blown up, become a killer, and even kill him. But you will have a very hard time finding one where he goes back to the drugs. The closest you'll usually find are those that take place during his addiction, or ones where he never got over it.
  • Evil Cripple: "The Fisher King", "Roadkill", "To Hell..."/"... And Back" and "A Family Affair"
  • Evil Laugh: "Lucky" and "Outfoxed".
  • Evil Gloating: Foyet to Hotch in "Nameless, Faceless": "Like my scars? Yours are going to look just like them." He does it again in "100": "I'm going to find that little bastard son of yours and show him your dead bodies and tell him it's all your fault."
  • Evil Versus Evil: Okay, maybe not evil, but the Guantanamo guards detaining the Big Bad in "Lessons Learned" are portrayed as little more than brainless, brutish thugs themselves. This was likely partly due to the perception of the facility in the public eye and partly to contrast them with the protagonists.
  • Executive Meddling: JJ was written out and Prentiss' screen time was reduced for season six, due to budget cuts, leaving Garcia as the only regular female cast member. Naturally, the fans were not pleased. Especially the female fans. And neither is the entire cast and crew, as expressed with, among other things, pointed double-meaning lines in "JJ". It was made worse by bringing in a new female lead to replace JJ (though she doesn't have the same job). Thanks to the fans, they were brought back as regulars for season seven and the Replacement Scrappy went bye-bye.
    • In light of the producer's comments about always intending to bring JJ and Prentiss back, an alternative explanation from industry workers has appeared on several sites. That explanation being that the producers wanted to more heavily focus on Prentiss for at least part of the season and explore her mysterious past. As part of this they needed someone to have the access that JJ's new job gave her for story reasons. However, experts in union contracts say that AJ Cook was cut as a regular because keeping her at that rank would mean paying her for all episodes of the season even if she was not in them, at a huge expense. Same with cutting back Paget Brewster's contracted number of episodes given that they knew she would be missing from several. But they had always left open a way to bring back Emily at any time both in story and contract.
  • Expanded Universe: A trilogy of books (all of which take place mid-Season Three) and an upcoming computer game.
  • Extra Y, Extra Violent: Played with; one killer claims that he's XYY, and that's why he kills. However, Rossi replies that the study linking that condition to criminal behaviour was debunked years ago.
  • Eye Scream: "The Eyes Have It"
    • Particularly squicktastic is a part where Reid mentions that sometimes "enucleators" (eye gougers) eat the eye balls they take. Hard cut to a scene of the unsub eating something small and round and white—and it takes the viewers a couple seconds to realize he's just eating eggs.
    • For a more subdued example, there's the killer's habit of gluing his victims' eyes open in "Plain Sight".
    • "Proof" features a killer who dribbles acid into his victims' eyes. We get to see a lovely view of the corpses' vacant eyesockets.


F-H[edit | hide]

  • The Faceless: The UnSub from "A Thousand Words".
  • Facial Recognition Software: In "Derailed," Garcia uses this, plus her standard Magical Database, to successfully identify every single passenger on a train using grainy security camera footage.
  • Fairy Tale Motifs: "The Fisher King" and "Solitary Man"
  • Fake Guest Star: Kirsten Vangsness, before her Promotion to Opening Titles in the second season.* Fake Kill Scare: Haley's death scene was set up as this in the show's 100th episode. And then it was terribly, horribly averted...
  • Famed in Story: SSA David Rossi, who's made a boatload of money from his books, is one of the founders of the BAU, and apparently has a big following "when Manilow's not in town".
  • The Family That Slays Together: The episode "Bloodline" is about a family (a mother, father, and young son) who kill another family to abduct their daughter as a future mate for the son. Gets very creepy when it turns out that this is how the family continues; they've been doing this for generations. And then at the very end of the episode, it turns out that the family has other branches, and the last shot of the episode is another similar set (mother, father and young son) preparing to kill some other people.
    • "Open Season" had brothers who hunted people for sport, having been taught to so by their uncle, a paranoid psychotic who had died some time before the events of the episode.
    • Two borderline examples are "Mosley Lane" (the first kid abducted by the couple was kept alive, because he developed severe Stockholm Syndrome; the couple treated him sort of like a son, and he even helped them abduct other kids) and "A Thousand Words" (a near example because the father committed suicide, and the mother dies giving birth to their son.)
    • "Remembrance of Things Past" plays with the trope. The unsub had started as a serial killer years before, and only as he'd started to lose his memory due to Alzheimer's Disease did he grudgingly take on his son as a partner.
    • "The Longest Night" also plays with the trope. Billy Flynn is so messed up in the head that, because he left her father alive, he believes himself to be responsible for Ellie Spicer's being born. In fact, he's come to see himself as a grandfather figure to her of sorts, and actively tries to invoke this trope. Needless to say, it doesn't work.
  • Fan Service:
    • We have Garcia's spectacular cleavage and Elle's double gun holsters criss-crossing over very tight t-shirts. Not to mention the time she wore a bikini.
    • Prentiss also gets a chance to flaunt her considerable assets in "JJ." And let's not forget her and Jordan Todd in "52 Pick-up" at the club.
    • Garcia and Prentiss's dresses in "Run" at JJ's wedding seem specifically designed to show off their healthy chests.
    • The episode "Supply & Demand" had a lot of cute brunette women in their underwear.
    • On the male side we have,Reid. Reid. Reid. Reid.
    • Also, Morgan.
    • Hoo boy, yes, Morgan. Most especially : coming out of the shower wearing only a towel in seventh season episode Snake Eyes, with every inch of him showing a sheen of water droplets. A moment that caused many a remote control to wear out and smoke as it was constantly brought back up to the screen...
    • Hello? We're forgetting Hotch.
  • Fatal Family Photo: "Fear and Loathing" and "Our Darkest Hour".
  • Fictional Document: Several examples:
    • David Rossi is the author of several books on criminal psychology; an unsub quotes from them in an interrogation scene in "Masterpiece" and he reads from one in the opening to "Zoe's Reprise".
    • A new book on the Keystone Killer induces the unsub to resume his murderous ways in "Unfinished Business."
      • The spin-off novel Criminal: Killer Profile has another book written by the former profiler featured in the episode - Serial Killers and Mass Murderers: Profiling Why They Kill. Near the end, its discovered the unsub is using it as a guide to his copycat murders.
    • A reporter who wrote a book on the Boston Reaper is a character in "Omnivore."
    • Professor Ursula Kent's SF novel in "Empty Planet."
    • Jonny McHale's comic book Blue in "True Night."
  • Finger in the Mail: The season 1 finale features a variation on this trope; SSA Jason Gideon receives, at his cottage, a baseball card and a head in a box via courier, which sets the BAU's targets on this new case.
  • Five Seven Man Band:
    • The Hero: Hotch
    • The Lancer: Gideon, eventually replaced by Rossi - Neither of them fit the typical "opposite personality of The Hero", but if you view Hotch as The Hero (which the writers certainly do), then they have to fall into The Lancer role.
      • Rossi actually does fit into the "opposite personality" type, more aggressive and quick to judge than Hotch. It works well, since they serve as each other's checks and balances.
    • The Smart Guy: Reid, of course, and maybe Garcia (if you don't see her as one of TheChicks)
    • The Big Guy: Derek Morgan. Not dumb or mute, but 9 times out of 10, he's the one doing the running, beating, shooting, etc, when they come face-to-face with the Unsub.
      • Reid even jokes, in "Nameless, Faceless," that "kicking down doors is Morgan's job."
    • The Chick: Prentiss, Seaver, and JJ. Though this should not be taken as a bad thing, since all play other roles at times (Prentiss is the other BAU member who seems to come face-to-face with the Unsub a lot). But in the sense of the Five-Man Band, this is the role they play most often.
      • Reid has some Chickish qualities, too, especially with his tendency to get in trouble (aka getting kidnapped).
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: Hotch hesitates for several episodes to sign the papers that divorce him from Haley.
  • Foot Focus: A lot of kidnapped females end up barefoot. Apparently a lot of criminals on this show have a foot fetish.
  • Forced to Watch: If the unsub is particularly sadistic. Though a couple go further and force them to participate.
  • For the Evulz: "3rd Life". The three thrill killers from "Hopeless" and the (unrelated) rioters in the same episode.
    • Syd and her husband in "The Thirteenth Step", though they have a reason it's leading up to killing their sexually abusive fathers. Syd's especially, since she's the leader of the two and all but one of the attacks happen in places that remind her of her dad.
  • Freak-Out: Most of the spree killer episodes, most notably "Haunted".
    • Really, any time one of the UnSubs devolves.
  • Funny Background Event: In "Compulsion", a student is telling to Hotch about his physics project and, rhetorically, asks 'Do you know how to solve the Three-Body Problem?' Behind them, Reid nods with a serious look on his face.
  • Gayngst: "In Heat"
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: Fabulous subversion: After JJ's departure, Garcia (normally a Meganekko) tries dropping her usual distinctive style of dress for boring dark dresses, and (in a complete flip of Purely Aesthetic Glasses) gets contacts so that she can look serious when dealing with victims' families and such. When she's starting to lose it, Morgan actually gets her to put the glasses (and her old wardrobe) back on.
  • A God Am I: The original bomber from "Painless".
  • Go Into the Light: In "Epilogue," the Unsub resuscitates his victims so he can find out what they saw and compare it to his own Near-Death Experience. During the investigation, Reid reveals that he saw a bright light before Tobias Hankel resuscitated him; but the trope is subverted for Prentiss, who counters that she flatlined in the ambulance after being impaled by Doyle and only felt cold and darkness.
  • Gollum Made Me Do It: "The Big Game"/"Revelations"
  • Good Cop, Bad Cop: Hotch (Bad Cop) and Prentiss (Good Cop) do a fairly spectacular version in "Bloodlines."
    • Again with Morgan (Bad Cop) and Gideon (Good Cop) in "The Boogeyman", although it should be noted that Morgan had every reason to believe the guy was the Unsub, while Gideon was aware that he was innocent (but covering for the real Unsub) just before he took over the interrogation from Morgan.
    • Rossi (Bad Cop) and Reid (Snarky Good Cop) in "Lauren", against a weaselly mook that Rossi keeps calling a "hood rat".
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Subverted by Emily Prentiss, FBI agent who had an abortion at fifteen and is never shown to have angst over it. She does regret the division it caused among her friends - such as when Matthew's family cut all contact with him because he supported her - and that it's affected her faith and relationship with the Catholic Church. She is never once shown to have been "punished" or seen as "bad" because of her abortion.
    • Also subverted in the episode "The Crossing": it's revealed at one point that a stalking victim had an abortion, but although this causes some problems between her and her boyfriend, it's not connected in any way to the stalking and her abduction is not positioned as narrative punishment for having it. The episode also subtly implies, entirely non-judgmentally, that newly-pregnant JJ has been considering an abortion up until the point where she calls her boyfriend in the final scene.
  • Goth:
    • "The Performer" involves a series of murders seemingly associated with a Goth rock star and his fans' subculture.
    • "Tabula Rasa" tells us that Prentiss was a goth in high school--and there are pictures to prove it.

Prentiss: You obviously altered it in Photoshop or something. That hair?
Garcia: Oh, no, Pussycat. That - that's all you. Garfield High, Class of '89.
Prentiss: You really didn't change anything?
Garcia: I hacked it, as is. You're seriously trying to tell me you don't remember rocking that look?
Reid: Perhaps your lack of recognition stems from a dissociative fugue suffered in adolescence. Say, at a Siouxsie and the Banshees concert?

    • "Doubt" featured a Goth/Emo college student who copycat-killed a dorm-mate so the unsub would be released. She wanted the unsub to kill her because she didn't have the nerve to kill herself.
    • "Risky Business" gives us the Goth kid the team believes runs the "choking game" site. He's actually not the UnSub. His father is.
    • "The Popular Kids" had a group of Goth kids who were viable suspects. They were innocent.
  • Gorn: Mandy Patinkin supposedly left the show due his belief it was becoming something like this.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: One aversion occurs in "Jones", which features a particularly nasty throat slitting.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: What motivated the Unsub, a social pariah, in his Roaring Rampage of Revenge in "Painless". By the grace of God, he stared down the original bomber; by the disgrace of God, he did not get to appear in TV like other survivors did; in fact they not only claimed one of them did it, they didn't even remember him, if they knew who he was in the first place. Worse is that the title refers to the fact that, because of the injuries he incurred from the explosion, he can no longer feel any pain due to brain damage, and is the only one who has any kind of long-term injury like that, so he suffered more than the rest too.
  • Groin Attack: A victim briefly gets away by delivering one to her attacker in "Fear and Loathing". The unsub's rape victims in "Machismo" also castrated him.
    • The sole female victim in "Haunted" gets knifed right below the belt.
  • Guile Hero: Jason Gideon.

Prentiss: When did you know you were going to have to trick him?
Gideon: The first time I talked to him.

  • Hacker Cave: Garcia's workstation.
  • Halloween Episode: "About Face", sort of. It takes place near Halloween and the unsub's MO is fittingly creepy. Also, "Devil's Night".
  • Hannibal Lecture: A militia member and Conspiracy Theorist tries to give Morgan one in "Identity", but it backfires.
    • The Reaper is pretty prone to them as well.
  • Harmful to Minors: A lot. Besides things that happen during the cases themselves, some Harmful to Minors events form various unsubs' backgrounds and Freudian Excuses.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: The original quote is used first as one of the quotes in the pilot, "Extreme Aggressor", though it's shortened. It's used again, this time as the full version, at the beginning of "100." For a reason.
  • Hell Hotel: "Paradise"
  • Hero Insurance: We find out that Prentiss's fake funeral and actual hospital expenses cost the government more than $650,000. Imagine what sort of tab the BAU has run up altogether over the years with their not-quite-by-the-book antics (see Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right, below).
  • Hero Syndrome: The Deputy Sheriff who shoots Garcia. The disorder is identified by name.
    • Precisely the case with the shooter in "L.D.S.K." He's a nurse in the E Rs where the victims were brought, which allowed him to 'heroically' help the victims. Here, it is called "Hero Homicide".
  • Hidden Depths: The hitman in "Reckoner" is portrayed as a brutish thug, but his signature weapon is a gun that he built from scratch and his nickname is cribbed from a relatively obscure 17th century play.
    • Emily Prentiss. A new agent, straight from a desk job, with a relatively comfortable upbringing... but she copes really well with the things the BAU deals with. It stands out enough that both JJ and Hotch remark on it, but that's the only hint we get for quite a while!
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The killer in "Paradise".
  • Holding the Floor: In one episode Hotch and Reid are locked in a room with a serial killer and the guards won't be back for fifteen minutes. Hotch attempts to threaten the guy, but then Reid, true to his nature, starts babbling about all of the possible factors contributing to the killer's sociopathy. For fifteen minutes.

Chester Hardwick: "Is that true? I never had a chance?"
Spencer Reid: "I dunno...maybe." *scurries out the door*

  • Honor Before Reason: Prentiss in "Valhalla" and "Lauren"
  • Hope Spot: "Legacy".
  • Hot Dad: Hotch.
  • Hot Mom: JJ, Haley, Fran Morgan, Sarah Jacobs, assorted victims like Maggie from "Legacy"... really, it'd be easier to list the mothers that don't fit.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: "Open Season", "Rite of Passage" (though to a far lesser extent), "Exit Wounds".
  • Hypocritical Humor: In "The Internet Is Forever" Rossi makes fun of social networking sites like Twitter. Almost every single member of the cast has a prolific Twitter presence.


I-K[edit | hide]

  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Prentiss does this in "Lauren" after being stabbed by Doyle, prompting Morgan to respond, of course, with No One Gets Left Behind.
    • In "Reckoner," the last name on Judge Schuller's hit list is his own.
  • Idiot Ball: Averted HARD. It's rare, if ever, that a member of the cast - serial killer or FBI agent - holds the idiot ball. They are all very competent, and usually remain highly competent. In fact, it's rare among police procedurals these days to have such a consistently competent cast. Everyone but Garcia can shoot well and know how to handle themselves in a crisis situation, and rarely if ever miss anything.
    • Example: When an unsub and a victim he's taken hostage crash into a marsh in a car, and there's no sign of bodies, the team fans out and find him almost immediately, and take him down with a headshot instead of forgetting how to use their guns.
    • Worth pointing out that this applies to the victims, too. In the above example, the victim crashes her car on purpose, runs away, and even when the killer has caught up with her and is drowning her, she grabs the next thing that can serve as a weapon, and fights back. Oh, and the noise from the car crash is what told the nearby police and FBI where to go.
    • The one female victim in "Our Darkest Hour" seems to have gotten an entire season's worth of Idiot Balls - she arrives home in the middle of a blackout, on a night when every news media in the city has been publicizing a home invader, to an open front door and only her young child for company. She takes her child into the home anyway.
    • One could argue that the second-part episodes of "Revelations" and "Penelope" are the results of Reid and Garcia (of all people!) making stupid mistakes in the first parts ("The Big Game" and "Lucky" respectively). In the "The Big Game," while in the midst of chasing Tobias Hankel, Reid decides in the heat of the moment to split up from JJ in order to cover more ground to capture Hankel (which JJ didn't think was a good idea in the first place) and it backfires on Reid as he ends up being kidnapped instead. For "Lucky," since Garcia is the Techno Goddness, you would think that she would have done a background check on her would-be shooter before going out with him? Then again, for Rule of Drama, if Reid and Garcia didn't make the choices they did, those two episodes would never have happened or impacted their Character Development (they do regret them later).
      • And you'd think that after everything that had happened with Hankel, Reid would have learned his lesson about splitting off from the rest of the team on an impulse, but no. He does it again in "Amplification." And again in "Corazon." It's understandable in-character, because Reid, for all of his smarts, does tend to get caught up in the emotion/excitement of it all more than most of the other team members, but still, come on, Reid!
      • If Garcia did a background check on her date, all she would have found (assuming she penetrated the false name he gave her) was that he was a decorated cop. Yes, she might have caught him in the lie of being an attorney (which he didn't bring up until they were already out to dinner) and, of course, the fake name, but she would have already been on the date and in danger. She's not a profiler... his Chronic First Responder Syndrome would not have raised any red flags for her.
    • In "Roadkill," the first victim tried to OUTRUN a truck, when she could moved out of the way or something of the sort.
      • While definitely not the smartest option to take, it seems unlikely that any of her options would have worked out; where could she go that that truck couldn't have followed? The driver was willing to ram it into steel elevator doors when in hot pursuit, and it didn't damage anything but the bumper! It was pretty clearly modded for what he intended to do with it.
    • "Sense Memory". Prentiss, when you know a dangerous international criminal is after you, and you know he's going to want revenge, and you think he's broken into your apartment, you do NOT take the mysterious package he's left inside. Even if it IS only a flower, you call the bomb squad and leave it there.
  • I Have Your Wife: "Retaliation"
    • Also, "100", with Foyet and Haley.
    • Happens to the Cop of the Week played by Eric Close in "Our Darkest Hour", though it's more of a case of "I Have Your Sister and Daughter".
  • I Love the Dead: "The Last Word", "Cold Comfort", and "Reflection of Desire".
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Though this normally applies to villains, Prentiss takes a wooden stake to the gut in her knock-down, drag-out fight with Doyle.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: With his handgun, Hotch once shot a perp who was on top of a moving train from a speeding car. Also, unsub Ian Doyle shot his henchman square on the wrist tattoo, conveniently obscuring it for the sake of plot tension.
  • Improbable Age: Justified by Reid, as yes, he is that young and that accomplished, because he's a genius. Played straight by Hotch, who manages to have been a prosecutor for a while before joining the FBI, worked with the SWAT team and the Seattle field office, joined the BAU, trained under Rossi and Gideon and worked the Reaper case 10 years ago, but made Unit Chief in only 6 or 7 years. Probably a result of Writers Cannot Do Math.
    • As of "The Last Word", Hotch has been with the Bureau since Emily went off to college. Which means at least fourteen years (Emily's been with the Bureau almost ten years).
    • Reid has also been with the Bureau for three years by season one (L.D.S.K.). So, since he graduated from high school at age twelve, he's earned three PhDs by the time he was 20.
    • And there were two birth dates given for Morgan in "Profiler, Profiled."
    • Since the entire cast suffers from Older Than They Look in Real Life, some of these accomplishments are not as improbable as they seem at first. Thomas Gibson is almost 50... it would have been a quick ascension from law school to prosecutor to BAU, but not entirely impossible for a man that age. Shemar Moore and Paget Brewster are both 40+ as well. But damn they look good, don't they?
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Given what he feeds his pigs, the unsub in the episode "To Hell...and Back".
    • Sure, there's that one, though there's never any evidence that he eats any of the victims himself. But there's also the season one unsub who drinks the blood and eats the organs of his victims because he believes they're divine, plus the infamous season three unsub in "Lucky" who not only eats parts of his victims (he has a cookbook!) but also tricks all of the volunteers searching for them into eating them, too.
    • And now there's the UnSub from "Exit Wounds", especially creepy because he's a sixteen year old kid.
    • Plus, there's Gina King, though she only drinks their blood. That still counts, right?
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Appears to be what Brooke is suffering from in North Mammon.
    • A double subversion! For one thing, it's implied that the only reason her cough is 'fatal' is because they're locked in a cellar with no way to treat it; not to mention there's a lot of Protests Too Much going on due to the situation the Un Sub has set up. For another, while the other girls are working each other up to kill her, convincing themselves that she's dead anyway because she's coughing and they have no medicine, she picks up the hammer and kills one of them from behind. So arguably it is a "cough of death"... but the death isn't hers!
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Standard operating procedure.
    • In The Fox, the killer, profiled as probably having OCD, has a minor Freak-Out during questioning when he notices the pictures of his victims are out of order.
    • From "A Real Rain":

Gideon: Is that why you stabbed him in the groin?
Suspect: It's what he deserved.

      • The victim, of course, had been stabbed in the head.
  • Infant Immortality: Subverted painfully on multiple occasions.
    • Played straight in "Our Darkest Hour": the unsub played by Tim Curry doesn't harm children. Well, not physically.
    • Frank also mentioned he had absolutely no interest in harming children. Indirectly harming them, however...
  • Insane Equals Violent: Several unsubs, but the unsub in "With Friends Like These..." stands out.
    • Reid does everything but mention this trope by name in this episode, in fact. He gets quite upset at the implication that all schizophrenic people are violent, and goes to great lengths to point out what a varied condition schizophrenia is, and how peaceful most of the people who suffer from it are. Given that his mother is one of those people, and he himself might be one day, that's pretty understandable.
  • Instant Marksman, Just Squeeze Trigger: In "L.D.S.K.", Reid is trying to pass his firearms qualification test, and Hotch gives him lessons, telling him "front sight, trigger press, follow through". Hotch also mentions the "squeeze, don't pull" advice.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation:
    • Reid's school experience - "Being the smartest kid in class is like being the only kid in class."
    • Prentiss, too—she laments in "Fear and Loathing" that she is a nerd and the guys she dates always find out.
  • Internal Affairs: Erin Strauss, though she's sympathetic to Hotch after Haley dies.
    • Though Straus isn't actually Internal Affairs. She's just the big boss.
  • In the Blood: Subverted in "Birthright"; while it turns out that the killer's father was also a killer, this is not portrayed as being genetic, and rather the result of a teenager who was raised to worship his dead father finding his dad's old journal and deciding to carry on the family tradition. Meanwhile, the father's other son, who's known for years that he was born out of rape, is a perfectly nice guy. In another episode, the unsub claims that he has an inherited chromosomal disorder that makes him predisposed to violent crimes. This is met by Rossi pointing out that the study linking that particular disorder to violent crime had been debunked years ago.
  • Involuntary Battle to the Death: "The Fight"
    • Also, Reid.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: A young boy hums "Pop Goes the Weasel" in "At Childhood's Hour", intercut with footage of his mother being stabbed to death.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Part of Gideon's backstory is a bomber taking out six of his agents this way.
    • It nearly happens a separate time in the episode that reveals this. Two agent have cornered the supposed unsub in a storage room. He throws his gun to them and is about to come out, but then Gideon, in another building, puts all the pieces to the puzzle together, and realizes that the cornered guy is strapped with bombs. He tells the agents to get out, and they do so, right before the bombs strapped to the guy detonate and he becomes paint on the walls.
    • One of the unsubs from "Identity" also pulls this.
    • The Reaper makes an attempt at this at the climax of "100," but Hotch doesn't buy it and beats him to death.
  • It Got Worse: "The Fox", "Open Season", "Lucky", "Omnivore", "Bloodline", "To Hell..."/"...And Back", "Outfoxed," "Our Darkest Hour," "Lauren."
  • It Never Gets Any Easier
  • It's Always Sunny At Funerals: "Fear and Loathing", "100" (although the coffin looks as if it's been rained on), "The Slave of Duty", and "Lauren".
  • It's for a Book: Stated by a school principal when child porn is found on his computer in "P911".
  • It's Personal: In addition to having hot-button issues, each agent has gotten a case which leads to this. Hotch has the Reaper arc; Gideon had Frank; Rossi in "Damaged", "Zoe's Reprise", and "Remembrance of Things Past"; Morgan in "Profiler, Profiled" and "Our Darkest Hour"; Prentiss in "Demonology" and in her Doyle arc; Reid in "Instincts" and "Memoriam"; Elle in "Aftermath"; JJ in "North Mammon" and "Risky Business"; and the entire team in "Penelope", "The Fisher King", "100", "Lauren", and "It Takes a Village".
  • I Want You to Meet An Old Friend of Mine:
    • In "Minimal Loss," the antagonistic Attorney General that Hotch gets into an argument with is Joel Murray, Thomas Gibson's old co-star from Dharma and Greg. Gibson also runs into Mimi Kennedy (another Dharma and Greg co-star) in "Coda".
    • In "JJ", the two UnSubs are played by Michael Welch and Chris Marquette, who played, respectively, Luke Girardi and Adam Rove opposite Joe Mantegna in Joan of Arcadia.
  • Jack the Ripoff:
    • There's a serial killer who is specifically stated to be copying Jack the Ripper's modus operandi. Although, this one is a woman killing men.
      • This is actually one of the more out-there theories about the real Ripper's identity. Since he was never caught, we can never know.
    • Occurs in "Doubt": after the primary suspect is arrested, there is a second killing which seems at first blush to be the work of the unsub. It's the work of a copycat who wants to see the unsub released; the team realizes this because the copycat's modus operandi varies from certain signature details which were withheld by the police.
    • The killer in "Zoe's Reprise" is Jack the Ripoff in human form. His kills are (almost) all recreations of famous serial killers' M.Os.
    • Similar to the killer from "Zoe's Reprise", a villain from the spin-off book series also copied infamous serial killers, though in his case it was for infamy, and near the end he even tried copying spree killers and mass murderers.
  • Just in Time: The team almost always capture the unsub just as they're about to claim their next victim, since arresting them while they're at home watching TV or something would be boring.
    • Subverted in "Cradle to Grave" when they catch the UnSub coming out of the bathroom.
    • And "Zoe's Reprise", where it first looks like the unsub is strangling another victim in a park, only for it to turn out "the victim" is the unsub's girlfriend, and they were just starting a bout of rough sex.
    • "Lauren" plays with this. Morgan is just in time to save Prentiss before she can bleed out, but thanks to Hotch and JJ's plan to fake Emily's death, he's led to believe he wasn't. He later tortures himself with the idea that being sixty seconds earlier could have changed everything.
  • Karmic Death: At the end of "Paradise", the serial killer who murders couples and stages car accidents for cover is run over by a truck.
    • The hitman in "Reckoner" eludes the BAU (and didn't really leave behind any conclusive evidence of his guilt even if they had caught him), but ends up being killed by the protege of a mobster he murdered.
  • Karma Houdini: Consistently averted, even when it initially seems Villain Exit Stage Left has occurred (i.e. "Reckoner"). The only two unsubs to successfully pull this off were Frank and The Reaper, the series' worst of the worst (and even they were eventually brought down in later episodes).
    • Played straight in "Into the Woods", though, where the child killer manages to get away.
    • The fate of the guy from "Secrets and Lies" is also left somewhat ambiguous.
    • Nothing happens to either of the two Papa Wolves from "3rd Life" (though they were, if not exactly sympathetic, certainly understandable), nor do we ever learn the fate of the second killer family from "Bloodlines." None of these were the primary UnSub, though.
    • "Dorado Falls" has another one, although it's not the unsub. It's the person who made the unsub the way he is.
    • The first suspect in "Out of the Light" could qualify. While he isn't guilty of the murders, or (probably) any murder, he's still, at worst, an accessory who knew who had kidnapped the girls and kept silent, and at best a pedophile who decided to conceal evidence and get off on the victim's suffering after the fact. Either way, he gets off scot-free, and the BAU believes he's an innocent man who was framed.
  • Kick the Dog: Sympathetic Murderers are sometimes given an instance of this, especially if the victims so far have been fairly faceless or assholish. Examples include Owen killing the elderly ranch owner in "Elephant's Memory" and Megan killing an executive who was a childless widower in "Pleasure is my Business".
    • Morgan snapping at Garcia in "The Longest Night" because she doesn't have the answers he wants.
    • "The executive branch" does this to the BAU team when it puts forward the decision to transfer JJ out of the BAU, completely disregarding their family.
    • "Reflection of Desire":

Unsub: "No, I think you're an ugly little girl who has nothing to offer the world."

However, if you consider what the episode's unsub did to women he found beautiful...
  • Killer Cop: Jason Clark Battle in "Penelope" and Ronald Boyd in "A Rite of Passage".
  • Kill It with Fire: The UnSubs in "Ashes and Dust" and "Devil's Night".
  • Kill the Poor: The rich and completely insane killer in the episode "Legacy" believed he was doing the world a favor by exterminating street people, who he viewed as completely subhuman garbage, tainting everything they touch. When the detective who watches over the part of the city the killer gets his victims from is actually awarded due to the lower crime rate, the killer is insulted, and sends him a letter saying he should be ashamed for stealing the credit for other people's work. In the end, when the killer is surrounded by the police just as he is about to murder someone else, he actually screams "Just let me do my job!" before being shot.
  • Kneecapping: In the season 6 episode "Today, I do", a self-ascribed motivational speaker turned serial killer shatters the kneecap of her most recent victim with a hammer after the victim refuses to eat the popcorn she made for her. She later turns this into a self-help lesson, by teaching the victim to "walk in the face of adversity".
  • Knife Nut: A number of unsubs, including the ones from "The Big Wheel" and "Public Enemy", as well as the Reaper.
  • Knocking on Heathens' Door: Morgan and Prentiss are briefly mistaken for Jehovah's Witnesses in "Compromising Positions".


L-N[edit | hide]

  • Lampshade Hanging: In Exit Wounds, the victim in the opening scene, upon hearing rustling chains on the "deserted" pier, calls out "Who's there?" and immediately after says "Right, because the homicidal maniac hiding in the shadows is really going to answer you."
    • The show does another one about its own tendency to run with Paranoia Fuel in "Paradise".
  • Last-Name Basis: Everyone but JJ, who is referred to by her nickname.
  • Little Miss Badass: Ellie Spicer in "The Longest Night", who stands up to a serial killer who's just murdered her father in front of her, left her aunt to die, and has been killing in every single state for twenty-six years.
    • Deconstructed in "Remembrance of Things Past," where we find out that the poor thing has developed PTSD and can't sleep without talking to Morgan first.
    • And played straight again in "Safe Haven" when she hijacks her foster mom's credit card, flies cross-country, lies her way past airport security, and talks her way into the BAU to see Morgan (and because her foster brother is perving on her in the shower and no one's taking her seriously). Impressive, for a nine-year-old.
  • Living Doll Collector: "The Uncanny Valley"
  • Loony Fan: "Somebody's Watching" and "The Performer".
  • Lost in the Maize: "Middle Man", and the end of "The Big Game".
  • Lying to the Perp:
    • Rossi is slick like an oil spill. There's a reason why he teaches interrogation at Quantico.
      • Particularly impressive in "Reckoner" when he has not only the UnSub believing he'd slept with the UnSub's wife multiple times, but the entire team believing it, too.
    • General Whitworth in "Amplification"
    • And before Rossi came Gideon, especially memorably in "Lessons Learned".
    • The team tries to trip up the title unsubs of "Soul Mates" by convincing them they're betraying each other while one is incarcerated. The one who's loose doesn't act on it but seems to fall for it, while the captive one isn't fully convinced but eventually does just as the team wants after his partner kidnaps his daughter.
  • Mad Bomber: "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Empty Planet"
  • Mad Mathematician: Ted Bryar in "Derailed."
  • Magical Defibrillator: Used on the little girl in "Seven Seconds". I guess they felt she hadn't been through enough, and badly needed electrocution as well.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything
  • The Mafiya: "Honor Among Thieves"
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: "Paradise"
  • Married to the Job: Pretty much everybody. Led to Hotch's divorce, and implied to have also led to Rossi's three divorces, and possibly Gideon's one, as well.
    • No longer implied; Rossi says he's more married to the team then he's ever been to three wives.
  • Mauve Shirt: SSA Kate Joyner from "Lo-fi"/"Mayhem", Sheriff Ruiz in "Rite of Passage", Detective Spicer in "Our Darkest Hour", and Tsia Mosely in "Valhalla".
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Pondered by Morgan at the end of "Lucky". Rossi tells him not worry about it. Also used in "Cold Comfort", where it's left ambiguous whether or not Stanley Usher was genuinely psychic, in "Demonology", where one line of dialogue suggests that maybe John Cooley actually is possessed and it's only ever a theory that the holy water was poisoned, and in another episode when the possessed Voodoo priest told Reid (who had been experiencing migraines and visions) that he had "ghosts" in his brain (there's no physical problem with his brain and now he's terrified he might be going crazy like his mom). Possibly also "With Friends Like These..." ("Our spirits have always been with you.")
    • Done more subtly in "Revelations": Tobias Hankel calls his Russian Roulette game "God's will". He tries to shoot Reid at least five times and fails, but when Reid steals his revolver he kills Tobias on the first try.
      • Averted in "The Angel Maker" were everything is eventually explained and it was delibrately made to look like the supernatural going on. However it did take the orginal Unsub a long time to die and his death freaked the Doctor out so much he quit excutions.
    • Does the Devil really come for poor Lara at the end of "Heathfield Manor", or is she just as crazy as her brother and mother?
  • Meaningful Name: The name of the General Ripper in "Dorado Falls" who caused the episode's Sympathetic Murderer's Start of Darkness by forcing him to assassinate two innocent children to keep a covert Navy SEALS operation quiet? Milgram.
  • Memetic Badass: This conversation between Reid and Garcia seems to imply that Hotch is an in-universe example.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: If an episode features an unsub who kills both genders indiscriminately, the "main victim" will almost always be female.
  • The Men in Black: They are sometimes perceived as this, which can be detrimental to the case. In "Identity," it causes conflict because they're trying to solve a case in an area with a heavy militia presence, and the FBI aren't very welcome after the events of Waco and Ruby Ridge. It can also work against them if they're trying not to feed the Unsub's fantasies, and attracting the attention of the FBI would do that.
    • Lampshaded by Gideon in "Compulsion":

Gideon: No badges. I don’t want to satisfy the unsub’s need for attention by letting him know the FBI is here. Try not to look official. (looks at the team) Try to look less official.

  • Mind Screw: For a show about crazy serial killers, Criminal Minds is fairly light on the mindscrew.
    • A minor bit is tossed at you in "Normal" but it's foreshadowed, appears internally consistent, and may not even register as such.
    • The opening of "Reflection of Desire", however, is a masterpiece of television mindscrew. And even when you think it's over, it isn't. In fact, they've been mindscrewing you the entire episode. The unsub's mom is dead, despite the fact she seems to appear in public. Of course, if you know what homage the episode is making, you'll have spotted it.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: Lampshaded in "The Last Word" and in "Legacy". Also in "Fear and Loathing"; several black girls are killed and the murders look like hate crimes and, when the BAU gets involved with the investigation, a local preacher claims its only because the latest victim's ex-boyfriend, who was white, was killed alongside her.
  • Mission Control: Penelope Garcia
  • Mommy Issues: The hitman in "Natural Born Killer" got sloppy in the triple murder that opens the episode because one of the victims was a woman and he identified her with his mother.
    • Also a main issue for Frank Breitkopf and Billy Flynn.
    • The insane mother of the unsub in "Heathridge Manor" convinced her son from beyond the grave thanks to "infecting" him with her delusions that he had to destroy "the devil's brides" to save his sister.
  • Monster Fangirl: Several examples, most prominently in "Riding the Lightning" and "The Angel Maker".
  • Monster of the Week: When the perp is more than this, you know that the Unsub in question is really, really deranged. See: Frank, the Boston Reaper, Tobias Hankel, Billy Flynn, Mason and Lucas Turner.
  • Monster Sob Story: The unsub of The Uncanny Valley was sexually abused by her father, who then gave her repeated electric shocks to shut her up about it. It's also a valid Freudian Excuse.
  • Mood Whiplash: The ending of "Proof". We see a father watch a tape of his Psychopathic Manchild brother torturing his own daughter, covering his ears in fear as she screams. The scene then cuts to Rossi cheerfully teaching the team how to cook.
  • More Dakka: "Rite of Passage", where the team breaks out the MP-5s since they're headed into cartel territory and might need heavier firepower if someone objects too strenuously. It comes in handy since the unsub's backup plan included an AR-15 modified for full auto.
    • In "Lauren", Prentiss leaves her badge and Glock in her desk drawer and goes after Doyle's men armed with an MP-5 and flash-bang grenades.
  • Motive Rant
  • Motor Mouth: Reid veers into this territory sometimes, going off on tangents when he's nervous or thinking hard.
    • Garcia, too, when she's upset or excited about something. Or drinking too much coffee:

Garcia: The kid's tech savvy, sir. But fret not. I am tech savvier. Is that a word? That sounds like a word. If it is a word, I'm it.
Prentiss (wearily): D.C. time, Garcia.
Garcia (checks her watch): 11:17 a.m.
Prentiss: D.C. Decaf.

  • Mugging the Monster: "The Big Wheel" (although the unsub doesn't get away uninjured).
  • Murder by Cremation: "Mosley Lane" (well, almost)
  • Murder.Com: "Revelations" and "The Internet is Forever".
  • Murder-Suicide: A number of killers do this rather than be caught.
  • My Card: Hotchner in "Poison", giving his ABA card to the Unsub of the Week. Also by other BAU members, when persons of interest in the Case o' the Week are being squirrely.
    • Used in hilarious fashion by JJ, Garcia and Prentiss to some guy in a bar claiming to be a Bond-esque FBI agent.
    • Used by Reid in "Sex, Birth, Death" when he gives his card to Nathan Harris. At the end of the episode, Harris attempts suicide and leaves the card on the table as a "suicide note". The prostitute he's with uses it to call Reid, saving Harris's life.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The unsub in "Normal," word for word.
  • My Greatest Failure: Prentiss' assumed death was this for Morgan, and he's been slow to get over it.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: Morgan trying to keep the drowning kidnapping victim alive at the end of "Out of the Light" is very similar to his tending to Prentiss in "Lauren." Of course, it's somewhat ironic in that he actually managed to save Prentiss--he just doesn't know it.
  • Name's the Same: Billy Flynn, serial killing tap-dancing lawyer.
  • Neck Snap: "Secrets and Lies" and "Distress".
  • Nerd Glasses: Dr Reid, sometimes.
  • Never Found the Body: Morgan's cousin Cindi. They found a body that Morgan claimed was her body so his family could move on, and later found Cindi alive.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Reid actually says this in "Lauren".
  • Never Suicide: In "A Higher Power" a town has a disturbingly large number of suicides, which turn out to be the work of an Angel of Death serial killer who believes he is putting the townspeople who lost their children in a fire out of their misery. A subversion occurs in the end when its discovered the guy whose death sparked the BAU's involvement in the case wasn't a victim of the killer and did just commit suicide.
    • Also seen in "Risky Business," when JJ refuses to believe that several teens from the same school, with no apparent risk factors, would kill themselves. They didn't, intentionally. All of them were trying to play "The Choking Game," getting high through autoasphyxiation, with an apparent contest going on between their school and another. They took webcam videos of their deaths, which were then were downloaded and backed up on DVD by the unsub who used the game to lure them into killing themselves.
  • New Media Are Evil: "P911", "The Big Game", "Revelations, "Risky Business", and "The Internet Is Forever." You'd think a show featuring tech goddess Penelope Garcia would be better about averting this.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: In "The Popular Kids," Morgan and Reid speak as though the killer is one simply because he was carrying a copy of Thus Spake Zarathustra the first time Reid met him. The killer himself, however, never says anything to indicate that he is one.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: How Hotch kills Foyet. Barehanded.
  • No Kill Like Overkill: See above. In Hotch's defense, though, Foyet did fake his own near-death once by stabbing himself so many times that the police thought he was one of the victims. Hotch was probably right to make sure he was down for the count.
  • Noodle Incident: There's a few of these, mainly involving JJ, which are often lampshaded.
  • No Sell: Hotch's completely badass response to Foyet/the Reaper shooting at him? To not even move as the bullet goes right by his shoulder into the wall behind him.
  • No Social Skills: Dr. Reid has obviously spent a lot of his life in academia, and before that had a rather isolated childhood; as a result he's socially awkward. Lampshaded by Rossi, when he jokes that Reid was found as a baby on the steps of the FBI.
  • Not Proven: The team arrests a man who fits the profile perfectly, and who has no alibis for any of the murders, but as there isn't any definitive evidence to say he did it, the team aren't sure what to do with him. After he is released, the team enact a plan to get him to confess, but it goes horribly wrong and results in his death and the death of someone else, and they still don't have any proof that he did it.
  • Number of the Beast: In that satanic cannibalism episode "Lucky", the unsub's name is "Floyd Feylinn Ferell".
    • The first three digits in the Reaper's mugshot.


O-P[edit | hide]

  • The Obi-Wan: Gideon, who acted as Reid's father and mentor-figure for a couple of seasons before leaving under mysterious circumstances to a place where Reid can never contact him again.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Erin Strauss.
    • Subverted in "100" where she doesn't even try to punish Hotch for killing the Reaper. After spending almost the entire episode playing the Obstructive Bureaucrat role in trying to get all the facts from the team, she actually almost tears up as Hotch finishes his report.
    • Some deleted scenes from "In Name and Blood" also had her showing a softer side (she's actually shown comforting the husband of a victim in one of them).
  • Oh Crap: The expression on the unsub's face before he gets blown up at the end of "Ashes and Dust".
  • Old Master: Jason Gideon. To everyone - (although more specifically, he's The Obi-Wan to Reid).
  • Ominous Mundanity: Some episode titles, like "Mosley Lane", "Hanley Waters" and so on.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: "The Fox" and "The Uncanny Valley".
    • The music in the former is, unfortunately, replaced by a much more generic piece on the DVD release, making a number of scenes far less disturbing and creepy.
    • Strangely, that same music, which is "Illabye" from Tipper came back in "Mosley Lane".
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Reid has PhDs in chemistry, mathematics and engineering, BAs in psychology and sociology, and he is working on a bachelor's degree in philosophy.
    • Joked about in the very first episode, where Hotch introduces Reid as "Doctor Reid, expert in... well, everything".
  • Once an Episode
    • The voiceover quote at the beginning and end of each episode. It was averted, lampshaded and it painted the fourth wall at the end of "... And Back," when Hotchner begins his voiceover with, "Sometimes there are no words, no clever quotes to neatly sum up what's happened that day..."
    • Playful telephone banter between Morgan and Garcia. Used well to show the changed team dynamic after Morgan gets promoted. "Thanks Babyg- Agent Garcia." Also used in "The Longest Night" to show Morgan's stress: he snaps at Garcia for not having an answer for him.
    • Reid going off on a tangent.
    • The briefing where the team delivers the profile.
    • A scene on the jet after the case is concluded.
    • Meeting the local cops. It's entirely possible that there are dozens of police captains out there who think JJ's full name is "Agent Jareauwespokeonthephone."
  • One of Our Own: Reid is in peril almost every week, but it happens to the others sometimes, too. (They spread the love around.)
    • Garcia even got shot.
    • Oh, and half the time, when Reid isn't getting kidnapped or held hostage or infected with anthrax, the case is still hitting him in the gut: nightmares, visions of himself in the victim's shoes, etc.
      • The one time that Reid is held hostage but not the one the Bad Thing happens to, he's guilty about it for the rest of the episode. (In "Minimal Loss", when Emily takes the beating to keep him from getting shot.)
    • Hotch, in ". . . And Back" and "Nameless, Faceless".
    • Prentiss in "Lauren"; Hotch even goes so far as to declare Prentiss the victim and her abductor, Doyle, the UnSub.
  • One of Us: In-universe, Rossi is a hardcore gamer.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted, logically - there have been how many UnSubs called Vincent, again? And how many victims named Katie/Katy? There have also been at least two blonde boys called Michael, and a baby.
    • Uh, is this troper the only one in the entire fandom who notices Aaron Hotchner and Erin Strauss? Although, he was called Eric for a time (probably for this reason), but he seems to have swtiched back to Aaron. Even though the male form can be pronounced "ay-rin", Hotch himself would pronounce it "eh-rin". In short, Hotch and Strauss (used to) have the same name.
  • Only in Florida:

JJ: We got a bad [case].
Morgan: How bad?
JJ: Florida.

Tony: "Hear the joke about the two Irishmen-" (gets shot)

  • Our Vampires Are Different: "The Performer"
  • Outlaw Couple: " The Perfect Storm", "Mosley Lane", " A Thousand Words", "The Thirteenth Step", and the novel Finishing School. "Conflicted" is suspected to be the case, but it is subverted when it turns out to be a case of Split Personality.
  • Paparazzi: "The Performer", "Public Enemy", "Somebody's Watching"
  • Papa Wolf: Hotch. Do not threaten his son. Just... don't.
  • Pater Familicide: "Normal"
  • Playful Hacker: Garcia.
  • Playing Pictionary: Morgan looks at a picture drawn by an autistic kid and can't figure out what it is. Hotch makes a glance, says "It's obviously a dog" and keeps on with what he's doing, leaving Morgan absolutely befuddled.
  • Poisonous Friend / Psycho Sidekick: "The Performer" Dante/Davies's manager is completely loyal to him to the point of manipulating an obsessed, schizophrenic fangirl to murder other fangirls to promote his new album. Needless to say, Dante is horrified.
  • Police Are Useless: Generally averted, as the local police assisting the BAU are generally depicted as helpful and competent within the boundries of their expertise and experience, but simply outmatched by whatever Psycho of The Week they're currently facing. There are a few exceptions, of course, including a remarkably bizarre Lost in Translation moment in "Machismo", and the prejudiced and antagonistic Detective Gordinski in "Profiler, Profiled".
  • Power Born of Madness: "True Night". The guys from "The Big Wheel" and "Reflection of Desire" also had an extremely high tolerance to pain.
  • Power Walk: The team doesn't get as many of these as you might think, but special mention has to go to Hotch, Rossi, and Prentiss's in "Hopeless".
  • Precision F-Strike: A few time but the most notable would be Reid In "Painless" yelling "Son of a bitch!" when his phone's been ringing off the hook for the past two days when Morgan pranks him.
  • Pregnant Hostage: "Derailed", though she was actually on her way to get an abortion when the train was hijacked.
  • Prison Rape: Prentiss openly implies this will happen to the unsub in "Slave of Duty."
  • The Profiler: Obviously.
  • Properly Paranoid: The hitman in "Natural Born Killer," whom the BAU had classified as suffering from paranoid personality disorder, asks Gideon, "Hey, Jason, is it still called 'paranoid' if I'm right?" He says this after a non-BAU agent confirms his suspicions about an undercover cop.
  • Psycho Lesbian: unsub Maggie Lowe in the episode "Somebody's Watching." She stalked Lila Archer for years after falling in love with her in college. She killed people who were either in Lila's way or were competing for her attention.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: The perpetrator of the brutal murder that haunted Rossi for twenty years - built up to an extent as a ruthless, brilliant, homicidal maniac - turned out to be a frightened, mentally ill man who never meant to kill anyone (he followed a little girl he liked from his carnival workplace, broke into the house, and panicked when the parents discovered him and the father, quite understandably not knowing what was going on, attacked the 'intruder' with an axe and fought back with tragic results) and cries helplessly for his daddy when he's arrested. He felt so bad about the murder that he had been sending fluffy toys as presents every year on the anniversary as an apology.
    • The unsub in "To Hell..."/"And Back" was revealed to be an overgrown manchild who was being manipulated into stealing the stem cells of homeless people by his quadriplegic mad scientist older brother..
    • The unsub from "The Uncanny Valley" is probably an example of this as well, as she has the mind of a young child, due to verbal and sexual abuse she suffered from her father. She just wants a pretty set of dolls, the perfect set, to play with.
    • The unsub from "Proof" is an extremely dark one. As a teen he got Seven Minutes in Heaven with the popular girl, only to have her taken by his brother. Many years later, he hears they're having marital problems and starts brutally torturing and killing women after she rejects him again. He ends up kidnapping his niece when she bleaches her hair to look like her mom on prom night and when kidnapped himself he explained what he did in glee. Oh, and he taped every murder.
      • "I like hearing the women scream, it's reminds me of the roller coaster!" Playing Kick the Dog was fun too.
  • Put on a Bus: At the end of the season 5 opener, Hotchner's ex-wife Haley and his son Jack get whisked off into protective custody in order to protect them from the serial killer known as the Reaper, which means that Hotchner will lose all contact with Haley and more importantly, with his young son Jack as long as the Reaper is on the loose. For a Papa Wolf like Hotchner, this is probably a Fate Worse Than Death, which was exactly the Reaper's goal all along.
    • In "JJ", JJ was shuttled off to a new position in the State Department.
    • Gideon, after Frank pushes him over the edge in Season 3.
  • Pyromaniac: "Compulsion", "Ashes and Dust" and "House on Fire"


Q-S[edit | hide]

  • The Quisling: "Bloodline".
  • Rape as Backstory: and not just for the unsubs.
  • Reality Subtext: "JJ". So much it practically bleeds into the context.
  • Real Life Relative: The victim the team is working to save in "3rd Life" is played by Gina Mantegna (who now credits herself as Gia Mantegna), Joe Mantegna's (Agent Rossi's) daughter in Real Life.
    • The two oldest Galen children from the episode "Damaged" are played by real-life twin brother and sister Nicholle Tom and David Tom.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • Actor Matthew Gray Gubler, who plays Reid, injured his knee just before production commenced on the show's fifth season, forcing him to get around on crutches. In the first episode of season five, "Nameless, Faceless", Reid is shot in the leg, and has to use crutches for the next few episodes.
    • Likewise, AJ Cook's real-life pregnancy resulted in a pregnancy being written in for JJ, and the actor took maternity leave at the same time as her character.
    • As well as Mandy Patinkin's dissatisfaction with his role and subsequent leaving requiring rewrites to the beginning of season three, and the casting of Joe Mantegna as his replacement.
      • In his final episode Gideon left a letter for Reid to find for him but also adressed indirectly to the rest of the team, explaing why he was leaving the team and wishing them all well; in Real Life Mandy Patinkin left letters for each his co-stars explaining why he was leaving the show, and wishing all of them well.
    • Morgan's lack of kicking down doors or tackling people in season five so far is because Shemar Moore was hit by a car and broke his foot.
  • Recurring Character: Haley Hotchner (S1-5), Jack Hotchner (S1-present), Erin Strauss (S2-Present), Kevin Lynch (S3-Present).
  • Red Herring: According to the commentary of "The Perfect Storm", the characters set up to be red herrings for the real killers are nicknamed "UnSchmucks".
    • One of their earliest UnSchmucks was in the second episode of the series. The student security guard was apparently there to be a suspect for the serial arson, but his real purpose was to give Gideon a Eureka Moment.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Attempted in "Masterpiece" - Rothchild attempts to kill the entire BAU team except Rossi, who is the object of his rage.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Almost all of their cases are based at least in part on a real-life case, some examples being:
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: "Elephant's Memory", "House on Fire", the appropriately-named "Retaliation", and what Hotch does to Foyet after he targets Hotch's family in "100". Also evident in many other episodes where particular victims are chosen because they have somehow hurt or offended the unsub (or are somehow like someone who has).
    • Also Doyle's killing spree of the people who put him in prison, leaving Emily for last.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: The Dorado Falls Un Sub believes he's on this.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Clara Hayes in "Compulsion."

Morgan: OCD? I'm thinking more like OMG.

    • When they peel back the wallpaper in Tobias's house in "Revelations" its revealed he's covered the entire wall in "Honor thy father"... in Latin.
  • Run for the Border: Subverted in "To Hell ... " in which the Canada/US border is deliberately run into by what is initially presumed to be the unsub, in order to instigate an investigation into the missing persons from Detroit.
    • Played straight in "Rite of Passage".
  • Running Gag:
    • The blank look Reid always gets from local law enforcement everyone whenever he goes on a tangent. Also, the awkward smile-and-wave combo he invariably gives when being introduced.
    • Morgan really seems to like kicking down doors. (Possibly) lampshaded in "Honor Among Thieves", when he's all prepared to take down the door, only to hear the suspect escaping in a car at the front of the house.
      • Lampshaded in the season four gag reel, in which Shemar Moore kicks down a door that the crew has unhinged so that the entire door just falls off.
      • And lampshaded again in the season five opener, where JJ says that Reid's going to be on crutches for a while, but that's okay, "kicking down doors is Morgan's job".
      • From "Psychodrama:"

Elle: (about to enter a suspect's motel room) Key?
Morgan: Nah, I got one (kicks in the door)

      • Lampshaded in "A Higher Power"

Morgan: If I'm not kicking down doors, it's smashing down walls. At the end of the day, they both make me feel like I'm changing something.

    • Morgan and Garcia's telephone banter.
    • The Unsub being impotent. While this is part of the standard personality profile creation, it's practically the first thing out of an agent's mouth Once an Episode and the Unsub never seems to be so.
    • Any configuration of the team getting together outside work—provided it occurs at the beginning of the episode—will always be interrupted by a call (normally to JJ) summoning everyone to the office immediately. Usually they attend the briefing still in their party (or, in one case, funeral) duds.
  • Sadistic Choice: "Psychodrama" and "North Mammon"
  • Samaritan Syndrome: Hotch has this, to a certain extent, and Rossi deconstructs it angrily:

Rossi: It's not your conscience talking, it's your ego.

  • Sanctuary of Solitude: Happens several times:
    • At the end of "Lucky", Morgan, who's been dealing with a crisis of faith, goes to church for the first time in years. Ironically, at that very moment, his 'baby girl' Garcia is shot by her date for the evening, who Morgan had tried to warn her away from. The team can't get a hold of him to tell him because he's turned his phone off in the church. Morgan even lampshades it in the next episode by saying "What are the odds? The first time I step in a church in twenty years, she ends up on the table."
    • Prentiss subverts the trope in "Demonology", when she walks home instead of leaving with the team when Silvano is finally captured. She ends up outside a church (which she hasn't been in since her abortion at fifteen) and while she looks longingly at it, the last shot is of her deciding not to go in.
    • Gideon ends up in a church at some point for himself, but he also follows a young girl into one in "The Popular Kids". She confesses what's really been going on with the murders the BAU is investigating and she blames herself, though Gideon tries to help.
  • Sarcastic Clapping: Done by Morgan at the end of "25 to Life".
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: John Blackwolf in "The Tribe" was able to (among other things) determine that Hotch carried a second gun by noticing that the right instep of his footprints was slightly deeper than the left "and since you don't appear to have a club-foot..."
  • The Schizophrenia Conspiracy: Ted Bryar in "Derailed."
  • Scooby-Doo Hoax: In "The Popular Kids" two bodies (one of them a skeleton) are found in the woods near some strange symbols, suggesting that some kind of Satanic cult may be responsible. A girl is also missing. It turns out the skeleton belonged to a hiker who died when he fell and hit his head, and the other body belonged to a teenage runner; another teenager, who had a thing for the runner's girlfriend, killed the boyfriend to get rid of him as competition, but the girl was out jogging with him. To distract the cops, the kid made the homicide look like some kind of demented ritual killing, and essentially used the hiker skeleton as a prop.
    • In "The Angel Maker", the unsub tries to make it look like a dead serial killer has come back to life/didn't actually die.
  • Scream Discretion Shot
  • Screwed by the Network: JJ and Prentiss leaving and coming back.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Happens a lot, usually culminating in the involvement of Strauss. Lampshaded in "It Takes a Village".
  • Second Episode Introduction: J.J. is neither present nor even mentioned in the first episode.
  • Self-Serving Memory: "Roadkill" has an unsub who believes the reckless driver of a red car was responsible for killing his wife and leaving him paralyzed. Near the end he realizes there was no other driver and that he is responsible for the crash that cost him his legs and wife, as he had fallen asleep at the wheel. He does not take this well at all.
  • Serial Killer: Well, natch.
  • Series Continuity Error: The inconsistencies between Rossi's story in "Birthright" (twenty years ago, three kids witnessed their parents get beaten to death on Christmas Eve) and what's shown in "Damaged" (nineteen years ago, three kids woke up one day in March to find their parents had been hacked up with an axe).
    • In "P911", Garcia recognizes a scout uniform worn by the abducted boy because all four of her brothers were members of the same organization. In "Safe Haven", she mentions she is an only child.
    • Subverted for Prentiss' backstory. In "Revelations", JJ and Hotch marvel at Prentiss' sang froid. Although this seems inconsistent with the later discovery of Prentiss' background as a badass undercover agent, it is conceivable that the rest of the team could have been barred from that info (at least until they're cleared in "Lauren").

JJ: How come none of this gets to you?
Prentiss: What do you mean?
JJ: You came off a desk job. Now suddenly you're in the field, surrounded by mutilated bodies, and you don't even flinch.
Hotch: She's right. You've never blinked.
Prentiss: I guess maybe I compartmentalize better than most people.

      • This does not, however, account for the discrepancy between Prentiss' original season 2 statement that she had then been with the Bureau for ten years and the revelation in "Lauren" that a mere seven years earlier, she was instead working for Interpol and/or the CIA, apparently.
      • Well, the statement was just that, a statement. And since her previous assignment was kind of secretive, you don't blurt it out.
      • Particularly considering that the division of Interpol she was working for was technically non-official and highly classified, its understandable that she would have a mundane backstory backed to the hilt by paperwork. Then her entire approach in her introductory episodes become Fridge Brilliance where the reason she doesn't blink is because she's seen worse.
    • When, exactly, did Hotch "liaise" with Kate Joyner? He married Haley right out of high school, and it would be incredibly out of character for him to cheat. It's not like the episode forgot about Haley, either, as Kate's similarity to her is remarked upon.
      • Nothing in that episode suggested that Hotch and Kate were more than just good friends.
    • The unsub in "Profiling 101," who killed 101 people, is described as the most prolific serial killer the BAU has ever encountered. Apparently, despite the fact that they were very prominent villains, the show forgot about Frank Breitkopf (166 victims) and Billy Flynn (in the neighborhood of 200-400 victims).
  • Shaky POV Cam: "Blood Hungry", "Our Darkest Hour", and (to a lesser extent) "What Fresh Hell?" and "Catching Out".
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: "Distress"
  • Sherlock Scan: Hotchner does this occasionally when someone is skeptical of the team's abilities. The fact it is a completely unrelated skill from profiling always seems to elude these people.
    • Rossi and Gideon have also pulled these in several episodes.
    • Prentiss does it in "Lo-Fi".
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog Story: "No Way Out II" turns "The Fisher King" into one of these, because Frank kills the girl they saved in those episodes.
  • Shout-Out:
    • An episode involving a serial bomber takes place in Florida and is titled "Won't Get Fooled Again"
    • The episode "In Heat," also set in Miami, starts with a Cold Opening that closely mimics a CSI: Miami Cold Opening in its cinematography and editing. At various crime scenes in the episode, several extras in the background are seen wearing "CSI" windbreakers.
    • The hyper-egotistical surgeon in "L.D.S.K." (Gideon calls him "The worst narcissistic personality disorder I've ever seen.") looks and sounds just like Hugh Laurie's character in House.
    • The title of "A Real Rain" refers to Taxi Driver, while the ending is a Shout Out to The Boondock Saints.
    • The unsub's methods in " North Mammon" and "Legacy" are similar to the traps set up by the Jigsaw Killer from the Saw saga.
    • The episode "Legacy" opens with the unsub whistling 'Johanna'
    • The ending of "Damaged" has a sort of a Cold Case feel to it.
    • In "True Night", the scenes where Night kills the victims is shot in dramatic, Sin City-style black-and white. This is appropriate, as the prime suspect is a comic-book artist. Garcia even quotes Frank Miller towards the end.
    • The kidnapping we saw in "The Uncanny Valley" was strangely similar to the one done by another famous fictional serial killer who also predated young girls. Also, the entire plot is suspiciously similar to that of Dollhouse episode "Belle Chose", though the unsub is portrayed far more sympathetically than Terry Karrens is.
      • They are actually both based on Ted Bundy. He used that ruse.
      • Speaking of The Silence of the Lambs series, even in context of Shout Outs, an evil quadriplegic heir to a pig farm named "Mason" was pushing it.
    • The family in the beginning of "Children of the Dark" have an awkward conversation in their house's entryway with two strangers, who admire their lifestyle and golf clubs before torturing and killing them. Sounds familiar, in a funny sort of way.
    • A White Collar conman who's juggling too many aliases is described as a functioning alcoholic.
      • It's probably nothing, but one of his aliases is Alex Ross.
    • Character David Rossi is based on real-life FBI profiler John E. Douglas. However, a certain Forensic Psychology textbook cites not only John E. Douglas, but another FBI profiler named D. Rossi.
    • Garcia swears by using "Frak."
    • Billy Flynn (played by Tim Curry) from "Our Darkest Hour" is dubbed "The Prince of Darkness", the moniker of several characters that he's previously played.
      • Could also be a Chicago shout-out.
    • Its a reference (or also a reference) to the Night Stalker Richard Ramirez, the killer he's based on.
    • Possible shout out in Penelope, Garcia has this piece of dialogue.
    • A brief scene in the Season 4 episode Demonology, shows two priests preparing for an exorcism. Obviously, one of them is old and the other one is young.
    • In "Devil's Night", Garcia calls Kaman, the UnSub, "the Big Bad".
    • "Reflections of Desire" is basically Psycho and Sunset Boulevard thrown in a blender.
    • In "What Happens At Home", we first meet FBI cadet Ashley Seaver when Rossi goes to see her on the FBI academy training course.
    • At the end of "Amplification", the shot of the virus being sealed in a gigantic virus vault refers back to Raiders of the Lost Ark".
    • One of two murdered convenience store clerks on Garcia's computer is Apu N..
    • SF author and blogger Elizabeth Bear is a huge and vocal fan of the series, and someone on the writing staff obviously loves her back; not only was the opening quote in "Lauren" from one of her books, it was from a thematically appropriate one. Doubly appropriate because Bear was one of the first to vocally support Prentiss' addition to the show.
    • In "With Friends Like These", there is a shout out to Supernatural when Ben sees his hallucinatory friends pinned to the ceiling, dripping blood on his face.
    • Perhaps unintentional, but the plot of "Sense Memory" concerns itself with an antisocial man who harvests beautiful young women for their scent.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: J.J. and Detective La Montagne in "In Heat".
  • Siblings in Crime: The unsubs of "Open Season" (formerly The Family That Slays Together) and, in a gut-wrenching variation, "To Hell..."/"...And Back".
  • Sinister Minister: "Demonology"
  • Slasher Smile: The Big Bad in "Lessons Learned" cracks an incredibly creepy one at the thought of Islamic extremists brutally murdering all four billion non-Muslims in the world.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Simultaneously subverted and played straight: Reid is the designated genius of the team, but while good at chess, he isn't exactly world-class, almost invariably losing to Gideon and apparently being out-thought by Prentiss.
    • Played straight in "Compulsion" when his ability at chess is presented as an index of his ability to "think outside the box."
    • And played straight again with Reid in "Uncanny Valley", where Reid says that after Gideon left, he went through every possible chess maneuver (an exponentially high number) as an attempt to figure out a way to beat the system. He's then shown at the end of the episode playing a lightning-fast game of chess with a young chess prodigy.
    • More interestingly, chess (or, rather, the learning of it) is used in that episode as a metaphor for loss, trauma, and closure.
    • "True Genius" had former two chess prodigies, both were over 160 in IQ but one was far more successful than the other.
  • Smug Snake: Professor Rothschild in "Masterpiece.", at least Rossi destroys his master plan of revenge.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Morgan's cousin Cindi fled Chicago over hers and was never seen again. Too bad she had two stalkers, and one of them was more determined and sadistic than the other.
  • Snuff Film: A number of Unsubs ("Hopeless", notably) have a habit of recording their murders, sometimes for... later use. In the book Jump Cut, the unsubs planned on making "the best horror film ever" by using real murders, and were insane enough to believe it will make them rich and famous once they show it at film festivals and the like.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In "Mosley Lane" we can hear Illabye as Anita Roycewood carefully puts a sleeping boy in a cardboard box, smiles to him, hums a lullaby... and then proceeds to burn the boy in a crematorium.
    • "Ashes and Dust" gives us one of the most powerful examples of all time, as Enya's "Boadicea" plays over a family trying to escape their burning house in vain, as the arsonist watches. You can watch it right over here.
  • South of the Border: "Machismo"
  • Spear Carrier: Agent Anderson and Tech Gina Sharp, who have made a number of appearances, but never really do anything that noteworthy. Anderson hasn't even been given a first name.
  • Spiritual Successor: To The Inside, a short-lived Fox series which also revolved around a unit within the FBI tasked with pursuing serial killers (see Expy).
  • Spin-Off: The show, itself, is not a spin-off, but, rather, has a type 3 spin-off, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior. They met the team that is in the spin-off in "The Fight" (season 5, episode 18).
  • Split Personality: Two unsubs. Raphael/Tobias Hankel/Tobias' father in "Revelations," and Adam/Amanda in "Conflicted."
  • Stalker Shrine: "The Crossing"
  • Stalker with a Crush: "Broken Mirror", "Somebody's Watching" and again "The Crossing"
  • The Stoic: Hotch. Many characters remark that they hardly see him smile... but with a job like that, who could blame him?
    • The biggest (only?) smile Hotch gives is when JJ announces that she's pregnant. He's clearly happy for her, but it just doesn't look right on his face.
    • Prentiss becomes this following her return from the dead; she shows very few signs of post-traumatic stress.
    • Not So Stoic: The season 5 episode "100" gives us the Reaper getting hold of Hotch's family. You can feel Hotch's pain throughout the episode.
      • He also loses his composure to a lesser extent back in "Ashes and Dust" when Evan Abbey incinerates himself.
  • Story Arc: Several long arcs have been developed over the course of the series.
    • Hotch's attempt to balance his marriage/family with his career and the consequences of those decisions.
    • The conflict between Gideon and Frank ("No Way Out"/"No Way Out II") and how it leads to Gideon's departure ("Doubt", "In Name and Blood").
    • Greenaway's breakdown (beginning in "The Fisher King" and running through "Aftermath" and "The Boogeyman")
    • Reid's drug addiction ("Revelations", "Jones", "A Higher Power", "Elephant's Memory," "Amplification") and his relationship with his mother and father ("The Fisher King", "The Instincts", "Memoriam")
    • Morgan's history of being abused as a child (hinted at through much of the first season and a half, revealed in "Profiler, Profiled") and his return to religious faith ("Lucky" and "Penelope").
    • The relationship between JJ and William LaMontagne ("Jones", "In Heat", "Memoriam")
    • The continuing conflict between Strauss and Hotchner.
      • As well as Emily's hatred of the former, stemming from her Ten-Minute Retirement situation in the beginning of season three. The echoes of this situation are still in Emily's voice when she talks about Strauss in "JJ," three seasons later.
    • The Boston Reaper arc ("Omnivore," "...And Back," "Nameless, Faceless," "Outfoxed," "100," and "The Slave of Duty")
    • Morgan's relationship with little Ellie Spicer starting in "Our Darkest Hour" through "Safe Haven".
    • Prentiss' history with IRA terrorist Ian Doyle, which spreads across "The Thirteenth Step", "Sense Memory", "Today I Do", "Coda", "Valhalla"/"Lauren", and finally "It Takes a Village".
  • Strictly Formula: Most of the episodes have a highly predictable structure - the team talks about the UNSUB of the week, the team investigates the last murder scene, the team rings up Garcia to get her to hack into a database, the team describe the UNSUB's personality to the police, the team chases the UNSUB, end of episode. However, this actually works for the show - the formula establishes the fact that the team are professionals who know what they're doing, and the UNSUB's stories are always different and unpredictable.
  • Self-Harm: In one episode, on a campus that the team has been investigating a spate of murders, one of the girls there is shown cutting and deliberatly trying to get herself killed by the murderer (like a suicide attempt).
  • Storyboard Body: The first UnSub in "A Thousand Words".
  • Subject 101: The season seven episode where the BAU speaks to a college class about profiling is called "Profiling 101".
  • Substitute Media Liaison: Jordan Todd.
  • Suicide by Cop: About half of the unsubs on the show are not apprehended alive. And almost half of said deaths are during confrontations with police officers or the BAU, many of those being instances of this.
    • The unsubs in "Hopeless" take this route, as Morgan predicts.
    • Also, the unsub in "Parasite".
    • Averted by Will in "Jones" and Reid in "Elephant's Memory."
    • What Billy Flynn forces Morgan to do in "The Longest Night".
    • The unsub in "Lo-Fi" forces Emily into this, too, as part of the plot to make it look like the shooter was dead.
    • The UnSub in "What Happens At Home" pulls this with Hotch.
    • The UnSub in "Penelope" walks into the BAU and, when he realizes they know who he is, intends to go down that way taking as many of them as he can. JJ shoots him from behind before he gets a chance.
    • Under the circumstances, the older unsub's refusal to back down when surrounded at gunpoint in "Open Season" comes across as one part Suicide by Cop and another part being hellbent on taking down the week's damsel in distress. He failed at the latter, but was wildly successful at the former.
  • Suicide Is Painless: Averted by "Risky Business" and the "choking game". The kids think it's a big contest until the UnSub, a paramedic who has also been egging them on via a website, collects them from their houses and makes sure they've succeeded in killing themselves.
  • Super OCD: A handful of unsubs, the most prominent probably being Vincent from "The Big Wheel" and Clara Hayes from "Compulsion".
    • This show deserves points for playing OCD fairly accurately and sympathetically. There's even a case where it helps - in "Legacy", the Kansas City detective's compulsive note-taking was the very reason he noticed that sixty-three homeless people were missing, leading to the discovery that they were being systematically tortured and killed.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: "Distress", "Jones", "True Night", "In Heat", "Elephant's Memory", "Pleasure is My Business", "The Big Wheel", "Uncanny Valley" and undoubtedly more.
    • Any case where the killer is psychotic or forced to commit their crimes through compulsion while they regret their actions. Sociopaths and Psychopaths who torture and kill, however, will be portrayed as the Complete Monsters they are without hesitation.
    • This show also has a couple of rare sympathetic rapist-murderers ("Conflicted" and arguably "The Perfect Storm") and an even rarer sympathetic domestic abuser ("The Performer").
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Even some of the unsubs not listed under sympathetic murderer are quite pitiable. The guy from "Solitary Man" is a good example of a killer who doesn't have a mitigating factor like not knowing what he was doing or killing only bad people, but has a tragic enough backstory that you do feel somewhat bad for him.
    • The song is actually used at the beginning of "Revelations".


T-Z[edit | hide]

  • Take Me Instead!: Prentiss does this for Reid in "Minimal Loss".
  • Take Our Word for It: The more grusome activities the unsubs partake in and their effects on the victims are often only shown through the horrified or disgusted looks on the team's faces.
  • Take That:
    • Upon arriving at a crime scene in Las Vegas, this exchange between Rossi and Prentiss in "The Instincts": "Not exactly a well-preserved crime scene." "It's the crime scene investigators. They all want to play cop instead of being scientists and they end up trampling on everything."
    • "JJ" is an episode-long Take That. JJ's voiceover during the "goodbye montage" makes it quite clear that she, the actress portraying her, and the rest of the cast and crew don't want her to leave, but "people above her pay grade" (the studio) are forcing it.
  • Taking You with Me: The end of "Ashes and Dust".
  • Talking the Monster to Death: In some standoff situations, the BAU manage to talk the unsubs into surrendering. Also occurs literally in one instance where the detective working with the BAU accidentally prompts the unsub to kill himself by breaking his delusion. And at the end of "The 13th Step" the team defuse a hostage situation by pushing the unsub's buttons so that he ends up killing his partner then committing suicide by cop.
  • Tattooed Crook: "A Thousand Words", given attention in "Honor Among Thieves", "Valhalla", and "Lauren".
  • Teacher-Student Romance: in "I love you Tommy Brown" which also brutally Deconstructs the idea that it's okay if its a teenage boy with an attractive woman.
  • Team Pet: Reid.
  • Tear Your Face Off: The victim in "About Face" is killed this way.
  • Television Geography: Often.
    • "Normal" begins with an aerial shot of the Civil Engineer's wet dream that is the Four-Level Interchange, subtitled "Orange County, CA". The Four-Level Interchange is not in Orange County though... it's 20 miles away in Los Angeles. Orange County's freeway interchanges are not nearly as pretty from the air. They look a lot more like a Freeway Full of Crazy.
    • In "Limelight", the UnSub is somehow able to get from police headquarters (which is in downtown Philadelphia) to a house where his next victim is (the design of which can only be found in parts of West Philadelphia), and then deposit her next to what is supposedly the Schuylkill Expressway near Conshohocken (which it's clearly not, considering the complete lack of a river nearby) in what has to be less than an hour. Any Philadelphia native will laugh at that above description. Repeatedly.
  • Ten-Minute Retirement: Hotch and Prentiss, in the beginning of season three. They don't even make it through the episode.
    • Averted with Elle and Gideon.
  • Terms of Endangerment: The killer in "Natural Born Killer" puts himself on a First-Name Basis with Gideon while being interrogated.
  • Terrorist Without a Cause: "Empty Planet"
  • That Man Is Dead: "Identity" and "In Heat".
  • That One Case: Multiple ones, in this show:
    • Gideon had Frank ("No Way Out" and "No Way Out II: The Evilution of Frank")
      • Not to mention the bomber in Boston, which led to his nervous breakdown. He caught the man, but lost 6 agents and a hostage immediately afterwards.
    • Rossi had the Galen case ("Damaged") and the Butcher ("Remembrance of Things Past"). In the latter we briefly see the Butcher case is just one of several old cases he still hasn't solved.
    • Hotch had the Reaper case ("Omnivore", "To Hell..."/"...And Back", "Nameless, Faceless", "100").
    • Reid had Tobias Hankel, the Dissociative Identity Disorder-afflicted killer of "The Big Game" and "Revelations"), who stays with him for two reasons: first, the drug addiction Story Arc that comes from being shot full of Dilaudid three times over the course of "Revelations", is developed in "Fear and Loathing," "Distress," "Jones," and "Ashes and Dust," and comes back for further development in "Elephant's Memory" and "Amplification". Second, even though the alternate personalities of Tobias's father and the archangel Raphael tortured Reid, made him choose someone to save and thus doom others to being new victims, and played Russian roulette with him, Tobias showed him empathy despite also being the one to inject Reid with aforementioned Dilaudid, and, as seen in "Conflicted," gives him the insight to figure out Adam/Amanda's identity as the unsub, but also makes him feel as though he owes something to Tobias and keeps him coming back to try and help Amanda to let Adam's personality resurface.
      • It's more than three times. Look at the track marks on his arm when Charles rolls up his sleeve. There are five or six of them; we just don't see some of the injections onscreen.
    • Reid also has the Riley Jenkins case ("The Instincts", "Memoriam"), from before he even "knew" it was a case.
    • The Prince of Darkness ("Our Darkest Hour" and "The Longest Night") became this for Morgan.
      • Lampshaded by Morgan in "The Longest Night", telling Hotch that he needs to go after Billy Flynn personally:

"We were there for you when you needed us. This one's mine."

    • The Doyle case for Prentiss, haunting her from her previous assignment and coming back to bite her in the ass in a big way.
  • That's What I Would Do: "Elephant's Memory". Reid empathizes with the unsub and says this almost word for word regarding how he figured out the unsub's next move.
    • To further the point, the unsub looks a lot like a younger Reid, right down to the hairstyle.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill
    • The Boston Reaper.
    • Numerous other unsubs: "Natural Born Killer," "True Night," and "Hopeless," for example.
    • In "100," Hotch does this to Foyet. With his bare hands.
    • Unintentionally done in "Normal" after Norman shoots the first victim her car crashes and flips over in an over dramatic way. She still survives albeit in critical condition and paralyzed from the waist down.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Prentiss, word for word, in "52 Pickup."
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Hotch gets this a lot in early season five after Foyet's attack, especially in "Haunted."
  • Title Drop: Happens a lot with episode titles.
  • To Know Him I Must Become Him: Count the times Morgan says "I'm the unsub ... "
    • Also, Reid in "Elephant's Memory".
    • Hotch and Rossi use this to break the case in "Identity".
    • Subverted by JJ in "The Longest Night", when she can't empathize with Billy Flynn, and instead, talks to him about what his mother should have done for him.
    • Morgan and Prentiss play "you're/I'm the UnSub" in "Compromising Positions".
    • At the end of "Open Season" Emily relates to Morgan that the victim asked her how killers can do such things, and she replied that unsubs think differently... But she goes on to say that, actually, they do.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The guy in "Psychodrama" who continually refuses to take his clothes off, even after the unsub starts hitting him and shooting the floor around him.
    • The woman in "Our Darkest Hour" who, despite seeing her door is now wide open even though there is no wind, and after just hearing a news broadcast about a killer who strikes in areas of the city that are blacked out (she happens to live in tonight's area) goes in anyway.
    • While the opening of "Ashes and Dust" is quite powerful... you kind of have to wonder why the family decided to try and crawl to the front door through the inferno, instead of using the large window that was quite plainly visible in the parents' bedroom.
    • The woman who goes to see Vincent in "The Big Wheel". Think before you point out that the guy whose house you're alone in with looks just like that serial killer they're talking about on TV.
    • The victims in "Roadkill". The victim in the garage was especially stupid. He had ample opportunity to escape from the unsub by dodging behind columns or other cars, but instead he tries to outrun the truck. Becomes even more apparent when it is revealed the unsub had no legs and couldn't have caught his victims if they had got away
    • The first thing Hotch tells Agent Seaver is to never go anywhere by herself. Granted, the person she went to see was a grieving father and his young daughter, but he was also a Serial Killer like Seaver's own father. Fortunately the dad was distracted because he needed to know why Seaver mentioned apologizing in the killer's family's place, but she was still chewed out by Hotch
    • An Unsub walking into a tornado in Season 7, as it tears sheds and vehicles off the ground.
    • A victim in "Divining Rod" who fails to notice her full wine glass is now empty and her back door's open.
  • Took a Level In Badass: JJ's at four and counting - shooting the dogs in "The Big Game"; shooting Garcia's attacker in "Penelope"; bashing an UnSub upside the head with a shovel while just having been concussed in "The Performer", and talking Billy Flynn down over the Emergency Broadcast System in "The Longest Night". Pretty damn good for the team's communications specialist.
    • Now she's up another. Apparently, she took some intensive hand-to-hand training courses while doing paper work with the State Department. She charges and beats the ever loving shit out of an armed [UnSub] in Closing Time. It comes out of nowhere.
    • Reid definitely had one between seasons 6 and 7. Just watch the season 7 premiere if you don't believe me.
    • Prentiss took a monumental level in badass during her Doyle arc, especially in "Valhalla" and "Lauren," when she donned a leather jacket, grabbed an MP-5, and led her colleagues to discover that she wasn't quite so much the desk jockey they thought she was in her pre-BAU assignment.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: The unsub in "Lucky" said he stopped killing and devouring prostitutes since most of them were drug users, and they "taste funny."
  • Tonight Someone Dies: "Lo-Fi" It was Kate Joyner
    • And in 100. Haley Hotchner. Also Foyet, but no one really cares about him.
  • Tragic Hero: Elle, Gideon, and Prentiss.
  • Trailers Always Lie: "Snake Eyes'" B-story says that Garcia and her boyfriend have a fight over her flirty friendship with Morgan. Actually Garcia's afraid that she slept with Morgan while drunk. Not only did that not happen, but Garcia's boyfriend completely trusts Morgan (though the next episode has him state he "went through a lot of therapy to figure out their relationship").
  • Traumatic Haircut: Inverted in "Divining Rod": A man kills four women in one day just to make the woman he loves a nice wig, which he lovingly places on her head. It wouldn't have been quite so bad if the last victim hadn't been scalped.
  • True Companions: The Team. Which makes JJ's and Prentiss' departures all the more heartbreaking. It's as though the BAU family is torn apart.
  • Unexpected Genre Change: The comic-based scenes in True Night, featuring someone who looks like Al'tair fighting werewolves. They're actually a metaphorical representation of a comic artist killing gang members who killed his girlfriend; he's unknowingly drawing his crimes.
  • Unflinching Walk: At the end of "Hopeless", where the unsubs decide to commit suicide by cop, and the policemen outside are so frustrated and angry they happily oblige. Knowing that they can do nothing to help, Hotchner, Rossi, and Prentiss walk away, while the hell breaks loose behind their backs.
  • Ungrateful Bastards: In "Painless", this fueled the Unsub's anger, as not only did the media ignore his survival to focus on a top ten list of survivors, but one of them stole his story and took all the credit for his actions.
  • Unholy Matrimony: "The Perfect Storm," "Mosley Lane," and "The Thirteenth Step.". Also possibly "Divining Rod".
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In Compulsion, the unsub is setting fire to buildings all over campus. By the time the episode starts, three buildings have already been destroyed by this psychotic arsonist. And yet, every student continues to go along with their merry lives, worrying more about their homework and relationships than their lives, parents aren't arriving in hordes to take their children home, and the administration is doing little to protect their students other than helping the BAU and pulling the fire alarms.
    • Near the end of "Psychodrama" no one (up until the birthday party scene, and even then it takes a bit) notices the unsub, who is wandering the streets in broad daylight, stoned out of his mind and brandishing a big ass machine gun.
    • In "Mayhem" as well... no one on the streets of New York gives much thought to guys dressed all in black with hoods completely covering their faces, even though the clothing worn by other civilians suggests it is not winter. Even after said Unsubs shoot strangers execution-style in broad daylight, they still manage to get away undetected 6 out of 7 times. Because by the time they round a corner, and put the gun in their pocket, they're don't look all that out of place again.
  • Unreliable Narrator: "Normal." Maybe you figured out before The Reveal that there was no one else in the car, but did you see it coming that every interaction with his family in that episode was a delusion and that he'd killed them before the BAU had even arrived?
    • That is actually a Call Back to the earlier on in the episode when the come to the inevitable conclusion that he was going to kill his family eventually, after killing all those other victims, but they had no idea when. This is further proven when they go into the last room and you can see near-fresh blood stains on the bed sheet.
  • Verbal Tic: Reid's preference for highbrow synonyms: "exceedingly" instead of "extremely", "consume" instead of "eat", etc. Also, his tendency to say "actually..." and then go on a long-winded explanation of something to correct someone.
  • Very Special Episode: More than a few occasions.
  • Vigilante Execution: "A Real Rain" and "Reckoner". Also played with in "True Night", where the unsub is a vigilante getting revenge on gang members for his girlfriend's murder, only without knowing that he is doing so.
    • There are also a few episodes where the unsubs themselves undergo these: "Aftermath", "Brothers In Arms", "Ashes and Dust", and, ironically, "Reckoner".
      • Averted in " Tabula Rasa" and " Exit Wounds."
    • Tim Curry's character's death came across as one part this and one part Suicide by Cop. He wanted Derek to shoot him and was going to shoot the hostage to get him to do so, but Derek seemed a little too eager to give him what he wanted.
  • Villain Episode: "True Night"; other episodes prominently feature the killer, but none of them have the spotlight shine as brightly on them as this one.
    • In the opening of most episodes you see what happens to the victim, and then follow the BAU as they slowly uncover who the killer is and why he kills. In "True Night" this is reversed: You know immediately who the killer is, and over the course of the episode you find out who he killed and why.
    • "The Longest Night" is one for Billy Flynn.
    • "The Big Wheel", though not quite to the same extent as "True Night".
  • Vomiting Cop: "No Way Out", "Valhalla".
  • The Watson: Usually the role of the local cops of the week.
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: Garcia's boyfriend runs a few of these past Morgan, but ultimately proposes in her office while giving her her favorite foods. Sadly, she's not interested in taking things to the next level because she knows terrible things can happen out of nowhere (or the possibility that she might be a doom magnet).
  • Western Terrorists: "Lo-Fi"/"Mayhem", "Amplification", and "Valhalla"/"Lauren".
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: The son of The Butcher, to the point where, at age ten, he knocked out his own mother to help his dad kill her, then repressed it, then started helping his dad go hunting. It didn't help that, even if The Butcher showed approval, he'd just forget it due to his Alzheimer's.
  • Wham! Episode: "Profiler, Profiled", "Lucky", "The Big Game"/"Revelations", "Lo-Fi"/"Mayhem", "...And Back"/"Nameless, Faceless", "100", and "Valhalla"/"Lauren".
  • Wham! Line:
    • "There. Were. Rules!" Randall Garner, right before shooting Elle in her home at the end of "The Fisher King: Part 1".
    • "Hey, Garcia? I've been thinking about doing this all night." ( Jason Battle to Garcia, before shooting her in "Lucky")
    • From "Lucky":

Father Marks: God is in all of us.
Floyd Feylinn Ferrell: So is Tracy Lambert.

    • From "3rd Life":

Reid: When does it end, Jack?...When does it stop?
Jack Vaughan: Tomorrow. *BLAM!*

    • "Don't tell them about your brothers." ( The mother to the young son of a family of killers in "Bloodlines")
    • "Did you get all that?" (Rossi to Garcia in "Masterpiece")
    • "You should've made the deal." ( Foyet to Hotch, in "...And Back")
    • "She never made it off the table." JJ breaks Prentiss' death to the team, in "Lauren"
      • And then, even more so, "Good luck." "(Emily's voice) Thank you."
    • From "Divining Rod":

Executed serial killer's wife: Have you ever read 1001 Arabian Nights?
 now imprisoned Copycat killer: No, what's that? Everyone thought a copycat sent letters quoting the book to the original killer, who died reciting the quote; turns out the letters were from the original's wife who has since decided to embrace her "ability" to amplify serial killing tendencies after the copycat fell in love with her.

  • What Could Have Been: The show was originally going to be called Quantico and Gideon was originally named Jason Donovan. An early version of Hotch was described as a "blond haired, blue eyed Mormon" and Lukas Haas (the guy who played The Footpath Killer) originally auditioned for the part of Reid, and might have even got it if he hadn't begun expressing doubts about doing a series.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Did we ever find out who the target was in the hospital (which the Secret Service had locked down) in "Mayhem"? We're given little context to draw from, and the Secret Service guards many different public figures, not just the President and Vice President. We're clearly supposed to know the individual in surgery is very important, but the writers neglect to name who it is, and leave viewers hanging.
    • To be important enough to cause literal "Mayhem" and be the target of a terrorist attack, it would have to be, most likely, the VP or the President. However, with no hints within the episode besides their political importance, it's difficult to say which of those two it would actually be.
    • "In Name and Blood" the Hotchners' home phone rings, so Hotch picks it up, but after saying "Hello?" once or twice, gets no answer. Immediately after whoever was on the other end hangs up, Haley's personal phone starts ringing, but she doesn't answer it, and after talking to Hotch, leaves with it. What was up with this is never given an explanation.
      • While never explained, it is implied by the suspicious look on Aaron's face and the guilty look on Haley's and her defensive behavior that the phone call is from whomever Haley is having an extra-marital affair with.
      • Or it could be Haley's lawyer, calling her to discuss divorce options and didn't want Hotch to know about it.
    • In "It Takes a Village", the scarification inflicted by Ian Doyle in "Lauren" evidently disappeared without a trace. (But at least we did find out What Happened to the Cat, i.e. Sergio.)
    • In "About Face", one of the victims was abducted while walking her dog. Hotch wonders aloud what happened to the dog; then said dog is never seen or mentioned again.
      • Not true - the victim was holed up in a hotel room with a shotgun after she saw her "missing" flier - the dog was seen carried out of the room by a cop after they arrived on the scene (too late to save the victim).
    • In the episode "Identity", Reid is working on a map that would help narrow down where the unsub lives. Rossi asks how the map is coming along and Reid replies that he's almost finished with it, then it's never mentioned again.
    • In season 1 we meet Hotch's little brother for a single episode- he is never seen nor mentioned again. At the end of the episode it is shown that he has left to become a cook / chef in a New York restaraunt; the team has worked several cases in New York since then, but Hotch still hasn't bothered to drop in.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: All the time, usually as a method of deconstruction.
  • Who's Laughing Now: "Elephant's Memory".
    • And "52 Pickup", only for the first victim.
  • Wire Dilemma: "Won't Get Fooled Again".
  • The Worf Effect: Morgan, usually an unsub-beating machine, has been Worfed in both the sixth and seventh season finales, in the former by The Dragon and in the latter by the Big Bad. He managed to turn the tables on the first, but actually needed Hotch to save him from the second.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: "True Night," "A Real Rain," "The Thirteenth Step," "Pleasure Is My Business," "The Perfect Storm," and especially "The Uncanny Valley."
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Both the unsub from "The Perfect Storm" and The Reaper pull this.
  • Writer Revolt: And actor revolt, and creator revolt... basically, no one is happy with the reduced roles and departures of Prentiss and JJ. You'll notice how "budget issues" and "the higher-ups" tend to get mentioned a lot in season six...
  • X Meets Y: "Reflection of Desire" is Sunset Boulevard meets Psycho right down to the posessive dead mommy, although Norman never cut off another woman's lips to replace his mom's.
  • Xanatos Gambit: "Masterpiece" sounds like one but it fails. "Omnivore" (a successful one).
    • The lead killer in "Children of the Dark" also tries pulling one, and it's just barely averted (the gambit, not the trope).
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: "Secrets and Lies" consists of almost nothing but this.
  • You Bastard: The team is rather disturbed at the public fascination with serial killers. Rossi encounters it more frequently, through his books and author appearances, and still seems baffled every time.
    • Reid might qualify as an exception; he seems to be the only one of the team who is interested in criminal psychology for its own sake rather than just as a means to stop dangerous people. For example, he describes the near-unique psychological traits of the unsub from "The Big Wheel" as "absolutely fascinating".
    • Special mention should go to the unsub's audience in "The Internet Is Forever."
  • You Got Murder: "Won't Get Fooled Again". Played with in "Poison", where the unsub tries to kill his former bosses by poisoning the glue strips of envelopes they are using.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: "Poison", "The Fisher King", "Honor Among Thieves" and "Middle Man".
  • You Look Familiar: Jason Wiles played the unsub in "Psychodrama" and the abducted father in "The Fight".
  • You Would Make a Great Model: This was the tactic of the killer in "Fear and Loathing." Although he doesn't rape his victims. He records their voices as trophies and kills them by drugging and strangling them.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle