Hotch and Jack are in New York to visit Beth and to see the City's sites when Hotch gets a phone call from his brother, Sean, who also lives in NY. Sean is now a bartender at a trendy club and has just had a female patron die in his arms, bleeding out of her eyes. The local police think that she overdosed on ecstasy; Sean tells his brother that another girl (who happened to be Sean's girlfriend) died the same way the previous week—and asks for help. The NY Medical Examiner identifies three more victims who have died the same way: by boiling from the inside out (which is unlike a 'normal' overdose) and the rest of the BAU team head to NY.
Meanwhile, there is another incident amongst some drug takers, but this time there is a survivor. Reid, Morgan and JJ are able to learn that the survivor lived because he took less of the drug than his friends. The profilers also learn that the higher the dose, the higher the heat created in the body and faster the death. Garcia is then able to identify that a more lethal version of ecstasy is being used: “PMMA” and more disturbingly, that this is the first time it has been identified on U.S. soil. The hunt widens and tension mounts.
At the local station, Hotch has Rossi interview Sean while he watches from behind one-way glass. During the interview, we find out that Sean had been a drug addict, but been clean for 2 months. Hotch is livid and storms into the interview, asking where his brother got his drugs and what else his brother has been hiding. Sean admits that his current boss, a man named Thane, got him the job and the drugs.
While all of this is going on, Blake interviews the sister of one of the victims. She is insistent that her brother was not a drug taker. On the night her brother died, they had been drinking wine; he had had white, she had red.
Next, we see a family about to eat dinner. The parents both sip their (white) wine and their poor daughter witnesses their deaths, blood streaming out of their eyes. At the crime scene, Rossi and Reid discover that the victims are seemingly random and that they ingest the drug through tainted wine. Unfortunately,the motive is still unclear.
From another profiling and investigating session, JJ, Blake and Garcia find that wine has been shipped to the 'Edinburgh Club', the Club where Sean works.
Eager to prove himself to his brother and to help the investigation, the younger Hotchner volunteers to go under cover at the Edinburgh and see what information he can get from his boss, Thane. Sean meets Thane in the Club's store room, where Thane asks for his help in dumping some wine; when they discover a missing case of wine Thane panics. Eventually, he admits to spiking wine with drugs but is adamant that he had no idea it was PMMA. But Sean is thinking of his dead girlfriend and loses his temper. He fights with Thane, exposing his wire but Hotch and Morgan come to his rescue and arrest Thane and a young woman who is also an employee of the Club. During the arrest, Sean disappears, much to Hotch's frustration. This frustration only grows when Thane's boss, Club owner Jim Peters, is found dead after his car is rammed by another vehicle, leaving Sean as an obvious suspect. The death is enough to scare Thane into divulging the drug/wine distribution chain to the BAU team.
Rossi tries to sympathize with Hotch, knowing that the brothers' relationship deteriorated following Sean being a no-show at Haley's funeral. Hotch doesn't know why Sean didn't show up, but felt he couldn't make Sean a priority after that, wondering when his brother would stop making self-destructive choices.
Further examination of the distribution chain brings the profilers to identify an airport baggage handler who had a strong, drug-related motive against Jim Peters. Morgan and Reid head to the airport, where after a quick chase, are able to bring down and arrest the unsub. At the station, the remaining team members begin to pack up. Strauss announces that she is heading back to the hotel (with a sly look at Rossi) but before he can open his mouth, Blake has offered to give her a ride, which she accepts. The two women leave and JJ takes the opportunity to tease Rossi about his supposed 'secret' relationship with Strauss.
Finally, we are taken to Beth's apartment, where Sean is introduced to Beth, reintroduced to Jack and the brothers vow to do better. But it isn't quite a happy ending. Although Sean has been exonerated from murder, he still must face up to his involvement with the Club's activities and so the episode ends with Hotch accompanying him downstairs to an awaiting police car, where he gets in and is driven away.
Except that this wasn't quite the end! As Hotch watches the car pull away, he is captured in a black and white photo so we know he is being photographed. The scene then changes to Garcia's lair, where her computer screens are suddenly overrun with “ZUGZWANG”. And lastly, we are taken to Strauss' hotel room. The Section Chief is sleeping but is not alone,... The Replicator has arrived!
What I was disappointed with:
- Lack of any kind of explanation for Sean's lack of contact with Jack (hadn't seen him in 4 years) or for his missing Haley's funeral.
- Lack of any kind of emotion from Jack when he hears from his dad that their original plans have changed.
- Sean's phone call to Hotch after disappearing. What was the point? Sure, we learn that Hotch believes his brother's innocence but why did phone in the first place?
- Hotch's background as a “screw up”... I don't see this in his character at all. The opposite, if anything.
- Hotch not going with his brother to the station at the end of the episode. Sure, he made a few phone calls but you would think that if he wanted to “do better”, he would have gone along.
What I liked:
- Thomas/Hotch — Thomas gave an outstanding performance; it was nice to see him finally get a chance to shine. It was also great to see him smile and relax a little!
- Overall story — interesting case; great job, Rick!
- Strauss (yep, surprised me too!) — I enjoyed her somewhat surprising support of the team, especially her line “this team tends to go rogue when loved ones are involved.” I am going to miss her.
- Rossi/Sean/Hotch interview — I really loved Rossi’s calm and seeming indifference contrasted with Hotch's intensity and the underlying tension between the Hotchner brothers.
- Garcia — I thought she had some great lines throughout the episode and gave me a giggle when I needed it. :)
- Hotch/Rossi moment when Rossi shows concern for his friend and Hotch opens up a little about his past — A nice scene, even if I don't buy the actual storyline of Hotch's past.
- Reid's use of 'force' in bringing down the unsub!
- Short but funny Rossi/JJ scene regarding Rossi's relationship with Erin Strauss.
I'd give Episode 8.23 a solid 8/10. Good story, lots of Hotch (essential for this Knight), some Jack and plenty of great, subtle team interactions. Hope we don't have to wait so long for the next brothers Hotchner reunion.
NOTE: All the images can be seen full size clicking over them.