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The Linda Barnes Decision That Has Criminal Minds Fans Scratching Their Heads

The Behavioral Analysis Unit took on a number of formidable adversaries on "Criminal Minds." There was the exacting serial killer George Foyet (C. Thomas Howell) and Peter Lewis (Bodhi Elfman), who psychologically tormented his subjects under the alias Mr. Scratch. Not all of them were criminals and killers, though. In the show's 13th season, they faced a very serious existential threat thanks to the FBI's Assistant Director of National Security Linda Barnes (Kim Rhodes).

After first appearing on "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders," Barnes came on the scene during Season 13 and wasted no time in making her presence known to the BAU. Between changing policies, inserting herself into investigations, botching operations due to her micromanaging, and, at one point, threatening to disband the squad entirely, she quickly established herself as an enemy to the prosperity of the unit. It was a major victory when they finally got themselves out from under her control by the end of the season.

For all the dastardly moves she pulled, there was one that had some fans of the series confused about her motives and methods. Barnes was a major political power player in the FBI but making JJ Jareau (A.J. Cook) the new Unit Chief of the BAU was one part of her 3D chess game some viewers just couldn't figure out.

Fans couldn't figure out the calculus behind Barnes putting JJ in charge of the BAU

One of Barnes' biggest moves after setting her political sights on the BAU was putting former Unit Chief Emily Prentiss (Emily Prentiss) on administrative leave and appointing JJ as the squad's new leader. This change didn't just baffle the BAU, it also left some viewers wondering what Barnes' play was.

Reddit user u/No_Seesaw_5789 started a thread to try and get to the bottom of it, which they helpfully titled: "Why did Linda Barnes make JJ the unit chief and not Rossi or Reid?" The main confusion for u/No_Seesaw_5789 seems to be why Barnes didn't promote a more experienced agent like Rossi or someone like Reid, who is a literal certified genius.

A few commenters piped up with their ideas about what was behind the decision. User u/hi_claire wrote in and said, "I was wondering about this too because Rossi's older and he's more experienced, but Barnes wanted Rossi to retire so she chose JJ."

User u/mccabebabe was on a similar wavelength. "I think it was because she thought she'd be able to manipulate JJ," they posited. "Her plan was to downsize the team, and getting rid of Rossi and Reid was what she wanted to do, with the built in excuses of retirement (for Rossi) and reassignment to teaching (for Reid) paving the way."

But even with that information, the whole plan still didn't quite come together. "I never understood what her end game was there," wrote u/imSOsalty, "like downsize the BAU so it's ineffective and then close it? And let serial killers run rampant?"

Ultimately, Barnes was undone by her own micromanaging and the team structure was restored. No matter what reason she had for putting a reluctant JJ in charge, it simply wasn't meant to be.