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Major spoilers below for the most recent pair of Criminal Minds episodes, so be warned!
With so few installments left to go in Criminal Minds’ final season, what better time is there for the long-running CBS drama to ramp things up in the romantic lives of its main characters? Following a week of extremely close calls for certain agents, Criminal Minds dropped a double-episode airing that added a shocking extra chapter to Spencer Reid’s burgeoning relationship, and also took a small step forward with Emily Prentiss’ own slowly expanding love life. And all with the help of returning actors Aubrey Plaza and Stephen Bishop (though none of the season's big bad).
Below, we’ll break down how the Criminal Minds episodes “Date Night” and “Rusty” expanded upon Reid and Prentiss’ romances, for better and for worse. (For anyone who may have missed out on how the show put an end to Reid and J.J.’s once-promising chances, read up!)
Spencer Reid + Cat Adams + Maxine
Just when it seemed safe for Matthew Gray Gubler’s Spender Reid to even begin to approach the starting line for any complicated feelings for Rachel Leigh Cook’s Maxine, Criminal Minds brought back a familiar face that was fully invested in burning it all down. Fans got to welcome back Aubrey Plaza in what can easily be assumed is her final guest-starring role as the “Black Widow killer,” Catherine Adams, and it was a doozy.
With this delightfully wicked return, Aubrey Plaza definitely cemented her spot among the best Criminal Minds guest stars, in part because she still managed to eke some empathy out of Reid and viewers during her devious scheme. Everything seemed simple enough from the outset (at least for this show's plots), with Cat on death row and a semi-formal date with Reid as her final request. Naturally, that request came coupled with a man and his daughter getting kidnapped by one of Cat's sycophants.
Despite his every primal instinct, Reid was basically forced into the date with Cat while other members of the BAU squad went to work figuring out what the wild card was in the kidnappings, which initially seemed to connect back to Cat's tragic upbringing. For my money, the best part of the season so far was the reveal of the lighted "Cat + Spencie 4-Evr!!!" sign. I kinda want LEGO to get behind making that for one of their big sets, with little Reid and Cat figurines on roller skates. (Get on that, someone.)
On the opposite end of Catherine's fun and games was the all-too-serious situation involving the kidnapped man and his daughter, who were eventually revealed to be the father and sister of Reid's new romantic interest Maxine, as portrayed by Rachael Leigh Cook. And lo, the most awkwardly diluted conversation in Criminal Minds history took place, with Reid, Cat and Maxine all unburdening themselves of some heavy "truths" in the throes of panic, improvisation or sadistic infatuation, depending on who you were listening to.
That cringe-heavy situation started after Reid's humbly confessed that Cat still clouds his thoughts, and the to-be-executed killer convinced him to give her a passionate kiss. A kiss that Maxine OBVIOUSLY witnessed and interrupted. As explanations tumbled out, Cat revealed her prior pregnancy (as seen in a previous appearance) ended in a miscarriage. She tried pinning Reid as a monster, since he'd physically roughed her up during that encounter, and that accusation made for some seriously uncomfortable moments between the three of them. Thankfully (I guess?), we later found out Cat's legitimate miscarriage came months later and had nothing to do with Reid.
As well, we found out that Maxine was working with Prentiss and Rossi during that whole conversation, and that she learned the truth about Cat's miscarriage as soon as Garcia looked up the medical records. Her confession of abuse, which was Cat-nip to the husband-killer, was merely an improvisation, but I can't be alone in thinking that Maxine filed that story as more of a fantasy than anything else. She leaned into that bit pret-ty, pret-ty, pret-ty hard.
I also can't be alone in thinking this "Date Night" exchange between Rossi and Prentiss deserves a gold-plated poster.
Prentiss: Abusive men. This all comes back to abusive men.
Rossi: We’d be out of work if it didn’t.
In the end, even though Maxine has made it abundantly clear that Reid is not her boyfriend, the path forward looks ripe with opportunity for dates that don't require prison releases and hyper-plotting. Although Maxine certainly has more acceptance hurdles to jump over when it comes to Reid's world, at least from what we know so far.
Where Will Prentiss And Mendoza's Future Take Themd?
To be clear right up front on this one, the episode "Rusty" was far more of an Unsub-of-the-week episode than the kind of character-driven installment that "Date Night" was, so the romantic drama that went down between Prentiss and Stephen Bishop's Andrew Mendoza was far more bumper cars than emotional roller coaster. Still, Prentiss was having a hard time dealing with some recent adjustments, despite her talk of bigger fish to fry.
Prentiss' dismissal of Mendoza's calls and flowers stemmed from his relocating to Denver to run the field office there, as the long-distance relationship is taking its toll. She'd recently cancelled a trip to visit him for the weekend to meet his daughter, and her excuses aren't worth the trouble.
Of course, Rossi gets it out of Prentiss (with barely any prodding): Mendoza had asked Prentiss three months prior to move to Denver with him, and she was having major concerns about that idea. It's understandable, sure, but Prentiss' hang-ups seemed to be more with the very notion that she hadn't ever planned for a relatively sudden trip across the country in the name of romance...which isn't exactly the kind of thing one can spend years planning for.
All Prentiss needed was a guiding light to tell her just to be honest with Mendoza about how she was feeling, and that it was perfectly fine and human if she did end up moving to Denver with Mendoza. What is love, after all, if not an emotion that's powerful enough to get people to uproot their lives? What is love if not something to make you marry your third ex-wife a second time?
After getting that refreshing slice of life advice, Prentiss make things far less awkward with Mendoza and met his adorable daughter. And though she wasn't bringing up any plans to move all her things to Colorado in the near future, Prentiss at least seemed content with the current status quo, with the possibility of upheaval down the road.
Which means that Criminal Minds might end with Emily Prentiss leaving all of her BAU compadres to go to Colorado! Not that it would stop her from working with them, since Denver is going to continue having wacko killers, no matter how legal weed gets there. Is that something you guys would be interested in seeing?
Criminal Minds only has two weeks left on CBS, so be sure to tune in on the next two Wednesdays on CBS at 9:00 p.m. ET.