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Out Of Every Plot Twist On Criminal Minds, This One Stands Above The Rest

A series doesn't run for 15 seasons on network television unless, somewhere along the way, it cracked the elusive and intangible recipe for "great TV." With over 300 episodes and legions of dedicated fans, it's clear that "Criminal Minds" had the ingredients audiences craved. Episode after episode offered viewers wicked unknown subjects, fast-paced investigations, shoot outs and foot chases, and of course the diverse members of the Behavioral Analysis Unit, whose personal lives were often as compelling as the cases they worked.

The creative talent behind "Criminal Minds" also made sure to occasionally spice things up by throwing in a plot twist that few saw coming. Some twists, like David Rossi's (Joe Mantegna) discovery of a daughter he never knew existed, warmed our hearts. While others, like the revelation of Derek Morgan's (Shemar Moore) childhood trauma, brought forth tears. However, it was the plot twist in Season 4, Episode 18, "Omnivore" that, while perhaps not the most famous twist, had massive repercussions for the team in later episodes and seasons.

Omnivore introduces a killer that will haunt the BAU

"Omnivore" begins with BAU Unit Chief Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson) arriving at the home of retired Boston detective Tom Shaunessy (James Handy). Upon his arrival, Hotch is informed that Shaunessy is very ill and not expected to survive the night. As the men converse, we learn that the two worked a case together a decade earlier when Hotch had just become a lead profiler.

In the mid-1990s, Shaunessey called in the BAU for help catching a prolific serial killer dubbed the Boston Reaper (based on the real-life Zodiac Killer). In the present day, the dying Shaunessey confesses to Hotch that he dismissed the BAU's help after six weeks because he had secretly made a deal with the Reaper. In exchange for ending the investigation, the Reaper promised to stop "hunting" until either he or Shaunessey died. 

As the retired detective explains, he accepted the deal because the case had reached a dead end and he didn't want any more people to die. He also tells Hotch that he knows the Reaper is watching and waiting for Shaunessey to die, at which point he'd start killing again. After Hotch leaves, the detective dies by suicide, and the Reaper resumes his reign of terror.

After a 10 year break, the Reaper returns to stalk at night

Shaunessey's prediction proved correct. With two new murders in Boston, the BAU begin their investigation. While they work, details of the old investigation from the nineties are revealed in flashbacks and stories. During the Reaper's previous 21 murders, he removed a personal item from each victim to place on the next. The sick chain broke when victim #9 survived the Reaper's attack. George Foyet (C. Thomas Howell) spent months in the hospital recuperating from his nearly fatal wounds. After his discharge, Foyet, the only person alive who has seen the Reaper's face, disappeared, removing all traces of himself from the Internet and public records.

Hotch tracks down Foyet, who appears to have numerous health issues, including a fear of being in public for too long. Through a flashback, Foyet recalls the night he and his girlfriend were attacked. The Reaper approached them in their parked car, stabbing Foyet in the chest, leaving him bleeding and dying as he watched his girlfriend get stabbed 67 times. Foyet tells Hotch and Rossi that he's so terrified that the Reaper will return that he now uses multiple aliases and different residences, occupying each for a time and moving to another to ensure the Reaper can't find him.

Only George Foyet survived an attack by the Reaper

Later, Hotch gets a call from the Reaper, who offers the same deal Shaunessey accepted years earlier: the Reaper will stop killing if Hotch stops looking for him. Hotch immediately rejects the offer and says one of his most famous lines in the series, "I don't make deals. I'm the guy who hunts guys like you." Before the call ends, the Reaper warns Hotch that he'll regret turning down the deal. The next scene shows the Reaper stepping into a city bus, killing the driver and his six passengers.

At the bus crime scene, the BAU finds a numeric code left by the Reaper. They soon realize that the numbers match the addresses of Foyet's homes. The team divides into three, racing to each address to keep the Reaper from finishing what he started years before. At one of the locations, Morgan and a Boston police officer are ambushed by the Reaper, who kills the officer and knocks out Morgan.

While Morgan has his wounds tended to, the team searches the home and finds a large blood stain smeared in a line across the kitchen. It's clear no human could survive such a massive loss of blood, and Rossi pities Foyet who had hid for a decade only for the Reaper to find and kill him.

The BAU wonders why the Reaper is so fixated on Foyet

The team begins to wonder why the Reaper was so fixated on Foyet. Though he survived the first attack, Foyet was clearly not a threat to the Reaper. In fact, Foyet was a mere shell of his former self, cowering and hiding in fear for a decade. Why was the Reaper so fixated on Foyet? To answer that, the BAU turns to Penelope "Baby Girl" Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) to work her hacking magic. And what she discovers is a twist no one saw coming.

A search of Foyet's known aliases reveals that he previously worked as a teacher and was fired from one school due to inappropriate conduct with a female student. Garcia also discovers that Foyet's murdered girlfriend, who he claimed he was going to propose to on the night of they were attacked, had only known Foyet for less than a month. 

It's then that Hotch knows the truth: George Foyet is the Reaper.

The Omnivore plot twist led to the BAU's future heartbreak

Not only did the plot twist of "victim as killer" make for a strong episode, it set in motion a multi-episode story arc that played out over two seasons. George Foyet — who, at the end of "Omnivore," managed to escape from custody — would soon return, this time with his sights fixed solely on Hotch. 

Foyet's threats are so severe that Hotch's son, Jack, and ex-wife, Haley, are forced into protective custody while the BAU hunts him. Tragically, as dedicated fans know, Foyet goes on to murder Haley while Hotch listens on the phone in an incredibly poignant scene. Foyet finally meets his end when Hotch beats him to death, seeking vengeance over Haley's murder. 

Above all, after Foyet's reign comes to its final end, Hotch and the entire BAU are irrevocably changed ... and it all began with that plot twist in "Omnivore."

Given the impact of "Omnivore" on the series' storyline, it's no wonder that it ranks high with fans. On IMDb, the episode's rating ties it at 7th place, making it one of the best reviewed on the website. Screen Rant ranks "Omnivore" as one of the best episodes featuring an unsub based on a real-life killer. The episode also remains popular because it introduced George Foyet, a fan-favorite unsub. TV Guide named the Reaper as the series' most memorable unsub. On Reddit, there are entire threads dedicated to discussing both the Reaper and his debut episode. In fact, some on Reddit have admitted that during "Omnivore" re-watches, they find themselves shouting at the screen, in a futile attempt to warn Hotch about Foyet. With high critical praise and strong fan support, it's clear that the plot twist in "Omnivore" stands above the rest.