Elsewhere in the episode, Stephen Walker continues to settle in to the BAU and uses his free time to catch up on Mr. Scratch, who has been quiet since terrorizing Tara and her family. But smarter men have tried to take down the team and failed, as Prentiss tells the newest team member.
There's Fun and Then There's Murder
At first, everything seems normal. There's some crazy partying going on in a house. Alcohol. Drugs. Hooking up. And then the really crazy stuff begins, as the gang of five -- two guys and three girls -- begins destroying the house: smashing windows, glasses and picture frames, spray painting the couch, writing on mirrors, etc. One of the guys mostly sits back and watches, until he goes into the laundry room and, after he puts a silencer on his gun, shoots the homeowners.
Stephen's friend brings the case of home invasions in upscale neighborhoods to his attention, and after he presents it to Prentiss, she agrees that it could be something. A woman was killed in the same manner as the couple. Often, people join gangs for a sense of belonging and family, and gangs have a hierarchy: an alpha, the muscle, the devoted right-hand and the soldiers. They're experienced enough to grab what sells (cash and electronics) and leave what doesn't (jewelry and art) and how to get in and out without witnesses to trigger any alarms. Why not wait until the house is empty? Are they thrill seekers? Are their victims random or do they have a list?
As the team flies out to San Diego, the girls from the group knock on houses with a sob story asking for donations for a sick brother. Some people say no, but one woman lets one of them, Bea, inside while she goes to get her checkbook. When she returns to the others, they have their next target: Claire Vendl.
The only commonalities that Garcia can find between the victims are that both families are childless and rich and live in the same area. What's motivating the gang? Murder? Theft? Both? Is the alpha using drugs to control the others? While some gang leaders don't like to get their hands dirty, it looks like this one is willing to do just that. One of them has to stay sober to pull off these coordinated attacks, and it looks to be the shooter. He's clear-headed and on the hunt, while the others are on a drug-fueled party binge.
When JJ and Prentiss check out the latest crime scene, they note the damage done, suggesting that the muscle's rage is easy to set off but also easily managed. The devoted right-hand is an unwavering extension of the alpha and provides unconditional support. The soldiers are likely the ones who vandalized the house and the youngest. But why did he kill the couple away from the others? They might not know about the murders.
The Truth Comes Out and It Ends Bloody
Since there's nothing to suggest that the victims were targeted, they think the gang is using a ruse. After the local police canvas the area, their theory is proven to be correct. They're using the ruse to determine victim vulnerability, get inside a house, case it and then report back.
Bea returns to Claire's for the scarf she left behind, and once Claire opens the door, the gang bursts inside the house. They're surrounding and taunting her when her husband walks into the room, and the shooter, Zeke, pulls out his gun. Bea licks the husband's face. It's time for them to have fun. However, when the muscle of the group thinks it's time to bail, Zeke looks to Bea before bringing out Claire and her husband and shooting them in front of the others. The others are shocked, but Bea just kisses him. There's no way that relationship is going to end well.
One of the other girls, Kay, wants to leave -- they steal, they party, but they're not killers, she argues -- and while Germ, the muscle, isn't so sure, he comes around pretty quickly. However, the other girl, Viv, argues that Zeke knows what he's doing. But Bea liked it, Kay knows, having seen her face after Zeke shot the couple. When they stop at a motel room for the night, Zeke reveals that he knows they want to leave.
Bea immediately defends him and reminds the others that he saved them: Kay would've died on the streets without him. Zeke gave Germ, who had nowhere to go, purpose. And Viv doesn't have to turn to tricks for cash anymore. He brought them together and made them a family.
Zeke will give them a future, he promises, and that seems to be the end of that. Well, until Zeke sends the girls out, confronts Germ because he's gone soft and kills him in the ensuing struggle.
Home Sweet ... Guns?!
The latest crime scene suggests that the gang is becoming unglued faster than predicted. The shooter is devolving since he killed the couple in front of the others. It could have also been a demand for their attention and respect. He could be losing control and seeking a way to reassert his dominance.
Not only did the gang not steal anything, but the faces are also burned out of a family photo, which is more emotional than the murders. This is anger directed at the nuclear family. One of the gang members has issues with their family, and if the alpha is responsible, his family could live in the area. But why not go to them first? They could be out of town.
When they find Germ's body, showing that the gang is turning on each other as predicted, they also find a driver's license and learn they're in a green van. While Germ's license is fake, Garcia puts his photo through facial recognition and identifies him as Michael Sale. His dad died when he was 16 and his mother drank herself to death soon after. He and his brothers raised themselves, and he did a stint in prison for drug possession. A few searches later and they've also identified the green van, Zeke (no dad, mom an addict and raised by abusive relatives) and a few robberies across state lines that match the gang's MO.
When Kay asks about Germ, Zeke claims that he bolted and didn't say where he was going. While Kay plays her part in getting the owner of the next house to open the door, she stands back as the others burst in and doesn't join them around the next target.
The gang had been heading east across Georgia two weeks ago, only to change directions and head west. Something triggered them, and since it likely affected the alpha the most, they realize they're wrong about Zeke being the alpha because he has no ties there. Plus, nothing in his history suggests he could lead a gang. He may not have realized he was manipulated into it. Since the muscle is dead, one of the women is the alpha. But which one?
Bea kicks Michelle Adams, even as Zeke tells her to stop. When Michelle's husband, Paul, joins them, Bea pulls out a gun and orders him to his knees. Zeke then pulls his gun on her and reminds her that he's in charge, but Viv pulls a knife on him. "Girl's gotta know when to cut bait," Bea explains before shooting and killing Zeke. She throws his gun across the room, turns to the couple and greets her parents. Bea brought the gang to her home.
Garcia's next search is for the real alpha, someone from the area and money, with an accidental overdose or injury in her hospital records. Last month, Bea, with Zeke as her emergency contact, spent the night in a hospital in Mississippi after an accidental oxy overdose. She was expelled from five different prep schools; her parents kept making financial contributions to get her into the next. Her parents are normal, loving and indulgent, but Paul just updated his Facebook family photo to one without her. Two weeks ago, right before the first murder, her younger sister was promoted at the family real estate firm. Michelle and Paul were out of town until that morning.
Viv tries to plea with Bea to get her to stop, but when that doesn't work, she and Kay make a break for the front door, only for Bea to take Viv hostage. She refuses to let them screw it up for her. Kay manages to get Zeke's gun and pulls it on Bea.
The FBI arrives on scene in time to hear gunshots from inside, and when they move in, Stephen disarms Bea and cuffs her, and Viv and Kay are taken out by EMTs. Bea screams and rages at her parents as she's walked past them and even as the police car she's in drives off. That is one angry girl.
Did you think Bea was going to end up killing Zeke? How do you think Stephen Walker is fitting in with the team? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Criminal Minds season 12 airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS. Want more news? Like our Criminal Minds Facebook page.