|“||You never appreciated me, none of you. I gave you my life, and you rejected me.||”|
— Curtis in "The Replicator"
John Curtis, a.k.a. "The Replicator", was a "wound collector"-type serial killer, copycat, stalker, abductor, one-time poisoner, bomber, one-time cop killer, and later hacker and proxy killer. He appears in Season Eight of Criminal Minds.
Little is known about Curtis's early years, other than he was an only child to parents who were both killed in a car accident in 1969. Also, according to his FBI records, he had an estimated IQ of 172. During his adult years, he worked as a brilliant but reclusive FBI Special Agent who also specialized in other fields of research, most notably biochemistry. He was eventually shortlisted to take over the FBI field office in New York. As a result, he worked on the Amerithrax case, which Strauss and Blake also investigated. When the case turned south after a wrong suspect was arrested, both he and Blake were demoted, as Strauss managed to put the blame on them, saving herself and her career. As a result, on January 10, 2002, Curtis was demoted from the rank of Supervisory Special Agent to Agent and was transferred to a position in Kansas City, which seemed to be viewed as undesirable to hold. In 2005, he was promoted to Special Agent, and three years later, in 2008, he was transferred to the FBI's field office in Chicago.
Another three years later, he was promoted back to Supervisory Special Agent and transferred to the D.C. field office, where he was assigned to the Department of Justice's Intelligence Oversight Section. Because of his sudden demotion and subsequent professional ruin, Curtis blamed Strauss for his downfall and started stalking her team when he learned that there was going to be an opening in the BAU; Blake was being considered for the position, and he was, once again, being overlooked. Judging by the photos seen in his darkroom in "The Silencer" and the warehouse in "Carbon Copy", Curtis started stalking them sometime after the BAU concluded a hostage situation at a bank in Washington, D.C., on May 16, 2012. That would be the approximate point where Blake was considered as a replacement for SSA Emily Prentiss, who left directly after the aforementioned events.
Sometime prior to the episode, Curtis claimed his first victim, killing her in the style of an unnamed Seattle serial killer a few weeks after the unsub's apprehension by Blake, Hotch, Rossi, Reid, and JJ. He is first seen at the end of the episode, standing in a darkroom and hanging a newly-finished photo of Blake next to the photos of the other members of the team.
After the team solves the prominent case, Hotch receives a phone call from Dallas authorities, announcing the appearance of a copycat of John Myers, a.k.a. The Silencer, who has killed a man and sewed his mouth shut. He and Rossi discuss it, believing that it must be a copycat since Myers is already dead. At the end of the episode, Curtis is seen taking photos of the team during a bureau softball match from his car.
Curtis is next seen at a dinner that Morgan and Garcia attend. As Morgan gives a speech, Curtis takes an empty wine glass at Garcia's table that was previously used by Morgan, puts it in a plastic bag, returns to his residence, and puts it on a table. From that same table, he retrieves a photo of his third victim, whom he killed by severing his right leg in the style of John Nelson, and hangs it next to a photo of his second victim and under a set of photos of the entire team. Off-screen, he murders his fourth victim, severing his right leg and replacing it with the leg of the third victim.
After the BAU conclude the latest case, Hotch and Rossi call the rest of the team into the briefing room. There, they inform them about Curtis' copycat crimes, and Hotch says that the team will be investigating the ongoing case.
Curtis makes a brief appearance in the episode, calling Reid on a payphone from Maeve Donovan's house. He identifies himself as "Adam Worth" and utters the single word, "Zugzwang". At the time, Reid and the BAU believed that it was Maeve's stalker, Diane Turner, who made that call since Maeve and Reid had used names related to Arthur Conan Doyle in their correspondence.
Curtis is seen at the end of the episode, watching live news coverage of the BAU raiding a conversion camp that was using illegal methods. He then views the photos of his victims on his laptop, where it is revealed that he has already killed a woman in the style of Adam Rain. Finally, he views a video of Blake's lecture on linguistics and then looks at the cover of a book written by her.
In the beginning of the episode, Curtis sends JJ a bouquet of flowers with a card reading "Zugzwang". Reid then realizes that it was Curtis who called him on the payphone, not Diane. Throughout the episode, the BAU team assume that Donnie Bidwell is the Replicator, as he was killing women using the M.O. of killer artist Bryan Hughes. Towards the end of the episode, however, the team realizes that Curtis convinced Donnie to commit the Bryan Hughes-based murders while he simultaneously kills a woman in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the style of killing team David Turner and Toby Whitewood. At the end of the episode, the BAU manage to track him down at an abandoned building in Pittsburgh, where they only find the woman's corpse, the hammer used to kill her, a radio playing "Just in Time" by Tony Bennett, and dozens of photos of the team, all surrounded by the word "Zugzwang" written in red.
Brothers Hotchner (Part 1)
Curtis is seen in the episode, taking pictures of Hotch and his brother Sean. He also hacks into Garcia's computer system, disabling it after showing photos of the team on the screens along with the word "Zugzwang" written over and over. His face is finally revealed at the very end of the episode as he looms over a sleeping Strauss in her hotel room.
The Replicator (Part 2)
"Erin Strauss and the Bureau discarded us. We were the forgotten ones."
"They forgot you. I [Blake] did alright."
"But they'll remember me now."
Curtis abducts and slowly kills Strauss by poisoning her with spiked wine on a crowded sidewalk, a murder based on poisoner Larry Feretich, who had been arrested by the BAU a few hours previously. While she is dying, Curtis calls and taunts Hotch about the incident with George Foyet, who killed his wife Haley, referring to the serial killer by name. Curtis leaves the scene before Hotch sees Strauss and flies back to Quantico. Once he returns to Quantico, Curtis directly sends Rossi a letter that has a poison attached to it, even innocently helping Kevin Lynch and Agent Grant Anderson into the meeting room as he does so. The letter is a forged official report of Strauss' autopsy, which reveals that Morgan's DNA is found on a strange 8-shaped marking that was carved onto her wrist (the DNA having come from the glass Curtis took during the dinner in "Magnificent Light"). As a result, Rossi, becomes deluded from the poison that he is exposed to, confronts Morgan with his gun when the agent comes into his office. Overhearing the commotion, Hotch steps into Rossi's office and realizes that he is poisoned. When Rossi lets his guard down after seeing a hallucination of Strauss, Hotch takes the gun from his hands. Rossi is later taken away on a stretcher. The team then deduces that the Replicator was able to learn of the cases he copied by reading FBI case-files. The 8-shaped marking was based on a false statement Strauss wrote in a report about proxy killer Phillip Connor in an apparent attempt to trick Curtis into revealing where he got his information about the BAU's cases.
Using a list of names of people in positions that allow them to view FBI case-files, compiled by Senator Cramer, the BAU deduce that Curtis is the Replicator, and the team flies over to some property owned by his family in helicopters. However, Curtis disables the helicopter that Hotch, Reid, Blake, and a pilot are flying in, and causes it to crash-land.
Using a smoke bomb that knocks them all out, he captures Blake, chaining her to a chair outfitted with a pressure sensor. When she regains consciousness, Curtis explains his rage and his motives to her. He then leaves her to die, along with the rest of the team who would come to rescue her. When Blake is freed, she stands up from the chair, sealing the team inside the room and effectively starting a timer linked to explosives. Garcia manages to delay the timer, but only for a short time. Noticing that the explosion is delayed, Curtis returns to the room he trapped the BAU in, only to learn that they have escaped. He is then confronted by Rossi, who is especially affected by Strauss' death, and has freed his teammates. Sensing defeat, he promptly traps himself and the agent by sitting on the pressure-sensor chair and then getting back up. However, Rossi has blocked the door's locking mechanism by using Strauss' Alcoholics Anonymous coin and is able to escape the room, but not before saying to Curtis, "Zugzwang." Rossi is able to escape the explosion in time, while Curtis is presumably killed.
Curtis was briefly, but prominently, mentioned by Reid in the episode. In this specific reference, he pointed out that the complex, sophisticated device used to hack into the computer systems of a passenger jet, allowing the hacker complete control over the jet, was similar to the device Curtis used during his attack on the helicopter Reid was flying in along with Hotch and Blake.
The unsub is a white male who is aged in his mid 40s, possibly in his late 50s. He is criminally and forensically sophisticated, so he may be an ex-convict or have law enforcement training. He is using his victims as a device with which to antagonize the FBI, particularly the BAU team by copying murder cases that the team have closed all over the country. He has been stalking each member of the team, which means that he is mobile and has the time and means with which to get around and the intelligence to cover his tracks and remain evasive. He is intelligent and organized, but also hellbent on revenge, making him especially dangerous.
He wants the team to know he can take massive risks and still get away with it, which is why he wanted to humiliate and then murder Strauss in public before ensuring she was found before she died. The date and location of when and where he attacked Strauss could be important to him and the photos of her means he was obsessed with her and may have always been his first target. The carving on her wrist may be an infinity symbol acting as a message ("I'll go on forever") or symbolic, since Strauss was the eighth member of the team. His knowledge of George Foyet's murder of Haley Brooks, which was a classified case, indicates he has access to the file, as well as the other files of the cases the team has solved. As such, he would have to work within the FBI, as well as the highest levels of the judicial system. He is also a biochemist, since the poison he used on Strauss was an altered recipe of what Larry Feretich used on his victims.
There is purpose and meaning to everything he does. He chose to copy John Myers, who was imprisoned for years and would sew his victims' mouths shut, which respectively speaks to the unsub's patience and is symbolic of keeping secrets. Because most of the murders occurred on a long weekend, he may have a four-day, forty-hour work schedule and traveled to the states where he killed his victims by car so nobody would have missed him.
The unsub's attack on Rossi was a warning and if he wanted to kill him, he had every chance to do so. He has directly taunted everyone on the team except for Blake, and he replicated the first case she worked in with the team for his first murder, which means she may be part of his endgame, meaning Strauss was as well. He chose to use drugs as part of his final replication, and delivering the poison to Rossi using an envelope references the Amerithrax case, in which Blake suffered a professional setback. The unsub may have experienced one as well but was patient and psychotic enough to get revenge.
When Curtis was finally identified by the BAU, it was revealed that the unsub was actually aged in his early 60s. After learning his background, it was remarked by Hotch that, having no relatives or any family, he took it very badly when he lost his job since he had nothing else to live for. It was also remarked by the team that his continued usage of the alias "Adam Worth" suggests that he identifies himself as a similar master criminal and wants to paint himself out as the worst enemy the team has ever had, being a malignant narcissist.
Curtis used his job at the Justice Department to find the case-files of unsubs the BAU team have captured or killed during the course of Season Eight. Usually operating during the long weekend, he traveled to the same states the original killers were active at, and copied their M.O.s to a near-perfect extent. He also usually acted weeks or months after the original killers were either captured or killed by the BAU.
- The first victim was killed in a manner similar to an unnamed serial killer in Seattle. Little details were revealed about the murder, although considering what was revealed about the original killer, the victim, a woman, was presumably tortured and also lured in by a child. Since not much is specified about this killing, it is unknown if there were any major differences between this and the original killer's murders. It should be noted that he didn't take a photo of this victim, possibly because it was his first murder.
- The second victim was killed the same way John Myers, a.k.a. The Silencer, killed his victims, by fatal asphyxiation after sewing his mouth shut. Major differences to this particular murder were that the victim, a man, was abducted; had his mouth sewn shut with a slightly incorrect pattern; presumably dumped his body (and his car) in a secluded location; and was specifically targeted.
- The third victim was restrained to a table, lost his right leg, and died of blood loss, with the fourth victim losing his right leg as well and having it replaced with the leg of the third victim, later dying of either blood loss or gangrene; this was the same way killer surgeon John Nelson killed his victims. Major differences to these particular murders were that the victims were intentionally killed, neither of the victims' blood were screened prior to their abductions, and they were not sedated with nitrous oxide before they had their legs removed. Also, the fourth victim's body was dumped by the U.S.-Mexico border, while Nelson dumped his first victim's body in Mexico.
- The fifth victim was presumably abducted using a ruse, drugged with ketamine, undressed, put into a Stephanie-like dress and mask, and killed by having her limbs dislocated, followed by a fatal hanging from a marionette device and then disposed of by stuffing into a box, the same way killer puppeteer Adam Rain killed his first two victims. Major differences to this particular murder were that the victim was a woman and that holes didn't seem to have been bored into her hands.
- The sixth victim, also a woman, was abducted from an unspecified location, taken to an abandoned building, apparently tortured with suffocation by placing a plastic bag over her head, and killed by being fatally clubbed with a hammer, the same way killing team David Turner and Toby Whitewood killed their sole mutual victim. Major differences to this particular murder were that the victim was abducted, killed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, while the original victims murdered by both were killed in Miami, Florida; and that she didn't appear to be a prostitute.
- The seventh victim, Strauss, was killed by being poisoned with wine spiked with a combination of methamphetamine and ecstasy, the same way poisoner Larry Feretich killed some of his victims. Major differences to this particular murder were that Strauss was abducted beforehand, the drug recipe didn't have PMMA in it (since it is not sold the U.S. and would have to be imported) and was enhanced to become more potent but not boil the insides of her body like the original victims, her wrist was branded with the number 8 by a piece of glass afterwards (which was actually based on a false report she made on proxy killer Phillip Connor in an apparent attempt to trick Curtis), and Curtis directly called Hotch to taunt him over the phone while Strauss was dying (which was actually based on George Foyet's murder of Haley Brooks, with the fact being referenced by Curtis during the call).
- The proxy victims murdered by Donnie Bidwell were all killed by exsanguination and then their eyelids being removed post-mortem, which was the fully-evolved M.O. of killer artist Bryan Hughes, who used said M.O. to kill two of his victims. Major differences to these particular murders were that the victims were all women who were specifically targeted, stalked beforehand, and worked as nurses (which instead found a basis in Jack Lee Kemper); they weren't dumped around under-appreciated works of art; they all had their eyelids removed post-mortem instead of ante-mortem; their blood wasn't used to make works of art; they were all murdered within a day's time; and the murders instead occurred in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while the original victims were killed in San Francisco, California.
- Until he killed his sixth victim, Curtis's copycat murders were in chronological order to the killings committed by the original killers.
- From the second victim to the fifth victim, Curtis went to largely-populated cities located near the same cities where the original killers committed their murders, likely as clues that point to the first victim, who was the only victim to be killed in the exact same city where the original killer was active, until Strauss's death.
- Another difference between Curtis and the killers he copied is that the former took photos of his victims (with the exception of the first victim, presumably the fourth and sixth victim, and Strauss) after killing them, possibly as trophies and/or a "score-sheet" for the BAU to view later.
- To start off his endgame, Curtis hacked into Garcia's computers, shutting down the system and causing it to repeat the word "Zugzwang" over and over. While it isn't specified in the episode, this may have been an emulation of Randall Garner's first attack on the BAU. If so, it was likely to be deliberate, as Randall was one of the most significant of the BAU's early cases, with Curtis trying to paint himself as the worst the team has faced.
While stalking the BAU, he would give each individual member (with the exception of Blake) a taunt for the past year:
- He called Reid at the payphone while he was waiting for Maeve Donovan's call and gave him the message "Zugzwang".
- He sent JJ flowers with a card message reading "Zugzwang".
- He left a photo of Hotch at the crime scene of one of Donnie Bidwell's victims.
- He hacked into Garcia's computer system with the words "Zugzwang" repeating themselves.
- He left Morgan's DNA on Strauss's body.
- He attacked Rossi by exposing him to a poison attached to a letter sent to him, the same way the Amerithrax killer murdered his victims. A major difference to this particular attack was that the poison was not anthrax, but a different type that caused victims to hallucinate and become delusional; it appeared to be based on the one that killed Strauss. It was suggested by the team that Curtis planned not to kill Rossi since the poison was laced to the paper, preventing it from being absorbed easily.
When he tried to kill the entire BAU team, he hacked into and crashed one of the helicopters they were in at the moment. He then abducted Blake from the scene and chained her to a chair with eight locks (as a reference to the number of members on the BAU team, which officially included Strauss), each lock having a number on it that corresponded with letters on the keys used for said locks that, all together, spelled "Zugzwang". He then used Blake to lure the others into a room elaborately rigged with C-4 explosives, all of them with a timing device, and trapped them in said room, a sliding door within the doorwall being triggered to shut the room by a pressure sensor that activated when Blake would predictably get up from the chair.
Curtis is very similar to prolific Russian serial killer Serhiy Tkach, who may have indirectly provided inspiration. Both were extremely organized and sophisticated serial killers who worked as investigators, being considered highly competent in their jobs by their respective departments; Tkach was even was recommended for admission to an intelligence agency school. Additionally, both had their careers destroyed, despite their fame as brilliant investigators, but continued to serve in a law enforcement position. Tkach once claimed that his primary motive for committing the murders was to mock his former coworkers, similar to how Curtis taunted the team during his killings. Also, both indirectly killed suspects in their murders via suicide.
Curtis: (on the phone with Reid, his voice electronically disguised) Zug...zwang.
Reid: (silent for a moment) I'm sorry, can you please repeat that?
(Curtis hangs up)
(A disoriented Strauss wanders the streets of New York)
Curtis: You really think your team is gonna save you?
Strauss: I know they will.
Curtis: Did you get everything you wanted?
Curtis: In life? Did you?
Strauss: Does anyone?
Curtis: We should. That's the point.
Curtis: Drinking got in your way. Your husband couldn't help, though God knows he tried.
Strauss: You know my husband?
Curtis: And your poor children. Always played second fiddle to your ambition.
Strauss: I can't see. (hallucinates that Curtis is Rossi.) Oh, thank God, David! He was here, you have to find him.
Rossi: I will, I promise.
Strauss: Thank you.
Rossi/Curtis: All the love in the world won't save you.
(Strauss realizes she is talking to Curtis and not Rossi)
Curtis: We're not finished yet.
Hotch: (answering Curtis's call, believing him to be Strauss) Erin!
Curtis: Not quite. Does it ever get confusing? That whole Erin-Aaron thing?
Hotch: Where is she?
Curtis: Closer than you think. But she's not doing do well. She looks a bit pale. Remember the last time you got a call like this? Remember? George Foyet, right? You were too late.
Blake: (recognizing Curtis) What do you want?
Curtis: You're the profiler. You tell me.
Blake: You don't want to know.
Curtis: Reverse-psychology. I'm not going to beg for your analysis.
Blake: You don't have to beg. I already know how desperate you are for it.
Curtis: (motions to punch Blake) I don't remember you being so skittish.
Blake: You know what, you never seen me in chains before?
Curtis: I've seen you with your hands tied, so to speak...
Curtis: You know what I've been wondering? Why did Strauss change her mind about you?
Blake: I kept my head down and I worked hard.
Curtis: We all did. But you got my chance.
(Curtis is confronted by Rossi)
Rossi: Drop the gun.
Curtis: (Drops his weapon and kicks it to Rossi before sitting down) You'd really die for them?
Rossi: It's the oath we all took. To protect our country from people like you, no matter what.
Curtis: You never appreciated me, none of you. I gave you my life. And you rejected me.
Rossi: You can tell me your sob story while walking.
Curtis: (last words, to Rossi) We'll go out as heroes.
Rossi: I'm not so sure about that. (opens the door, holds up Strauss' medallion) Zugzwang.
(Rossi flees and traps a shocked Curtis in the room)
- Much of the cast, including Mark Hamill, have stated that they do not believe Curtis is dead, as a body was never shown by the end of The Replicator. Showrunner Erica Messer even stated once that the intention was to leave Curtis's fate up in the air. However, it can be assumed that Curtis is indeed dead, since his status wasn't given an official update in "The Inspiration" and he has not made even a subtle reappearance since.
- Prior to the BAU referring to Curtis as the Replicator in "Carbon Copy", the staff specifically used this name during interviews. Also, during that time, he was referred to in this wiki as, aptly, "The BAU Stalker", a title that remained prevalent even after Carbon Copy, until Curtis's identity was revealed in The Replicator.
- Curtis seems to be based on at least five unsubs from the show's past:
- Season One
- Vincent Shyer ("Broken Mirror") - Both were killers, stalkers, and abductors with jobs as FBI agents, who stalked and later abducted the targets of their obsessions, then later made unsuccessful attempts on the lives of at least two BAU agents.
- Randall Garner ("The Fisher King, part 1" and "The Fisher King, part 2" - Both were serial killers (budding at least), stalkers, hackers, abductors (once in Garner's case), bombers, and proxy killers (once in Garner's case) who were given nicknames for their crimes, had a similar habit of stalking the BAU team throughout the seasons they first appeared in, including taking photos of them (though Garner wasn't shown until the season finale while the Replicator appeared early in the season and was recurring), had a varying M.O., and attempted to kill at least two BAU team members. Both also died as a result of a bomb explosion in a final attempt to kill the BAU (though Garner's was a suicide bombing, while Curtis was sealed in his own trap by Rossi). It should be noted that Curtis successfully hacked into Garcia's system, disabled it, and left a repetitive message on her computers, being the second unsub to do so, after Garner. Garner also appeared in Season Two.
- Season Four
- Eric Ryan Olson ("Zoe's Reprise") - Both were psychopathic copycat serial killers, had varying M.O.'s as a result of putting the basis of one murder each on a different killer (though Eric based his murders on real-life killers), and killed someone who was connected to Rossi in some way.
- George Foyet ("Omnivore", "To Hell and Back, part 2" and "100") - Both were organized serial killers, stalkers, and one-time cop killers whose parents died in car crashes (though Foyet orchestrated the crash whereas Curtis did not), operated in multiple U.S. cities, had varying M.O.s, made taunting phone calls to Hotch, killed a woman who was close to a member of the BAU, and were both given nicknamed for their crimes. Foyet also appeared in Season Five.
- Daniel Dryden (Killer Profile) - Both were serial killers, copycats, abductors, and one-time cop killers who had a varying M.O. as a result of putting the basis of one murder each on a different killer (Curtis copied killers from the show, while Daniel mostly copied real-life serial killers). They also left behind distinctive differences between their killings and those of the original killers, and also took pictures of their victims.
- Season One
- In a deleted scene of "The Fallen", featured on the Season Eight DVD release, Hotch and Rossi briefly discuss Curtis's Silencer-based copycat murder.
- Curtis is the first of only two unsubs in the show's history who were seen active for several episodes before the BAU investigate his case; he committed crimes in three episodes that go unnoticed until "Perennials". The second is the Human Trafficking Ring, who committed crimes in four episodes without being noticed until The Hunt.
- Curtis currently holds the record for having the most appearances for a single unsub, with eight episodes prominently featuring him.
- Curtis is the first unsub in the series to introduce a leitmotif that occurs throughout an entire season.
- According to his file, Curtis's Social Security number is 968-00-1701.
- Curtis is the third of only unsub in the history of the show to successfully breach the BAU headquarters. The others are:
- Season Eight
- "The Silencer" (uncredited; face was not seen)
- "The Apprenticeship" (uncredited; face was not seen)
- "The Fallen" (mentioned; deleted scene only)
- "Magnificent Light" (uncredited; face was not seen)
- "Perennials" (mentioned)
- "Zugzwang" (voice heard; was not physically seen)
- "Broken" (uncredited; face was not seen)
- "Carbon Copy" (uncredited; face was not seen)
- "The Gathering" (flashbacks)
- "Brothers Hotchner" (uncredited)
- "The Replicator"
- Season Nine
- Season Ten
- Season Eleven
- "The Sandman" (indirectly referenced)
- ↑ September 25, 1951, is actually the birthday of the actor who portrayed Curtis, Mark Hamill; this was either a fact recycled by the writers or a reference to the popular actor
- ↑ Wasn't credited for the role
- ↑ Possibly a reference to the incident with Dr. Steven Jay Hatfill, who was named as a "person of interest" in the case, but was eventually exonerated (though he was never actually arrested)
- ↑ Garcia's screen erroneously writes the year as 2001
- ↑ Adam Worth is said to have been one of the inspirations for Sherlock Holmes's archenemy, Professor Moriarty. Reid's pseudonym was "Dr. Joseph Bell", the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes himself
- ↑ According to the deleted scene of The Fallen
- ↑ Myers targeted men during the latter part of his killings only out of necessity and left their bodies where he killed them
- ↑ Adam didn't kill his sole female victim
- ↑ It may have been committed there since the BAU were in the state at the time
- ↑ This was because of the impending reveal of Curtis's identity at that time, and later due to redundancy after the reveal of the finale episode's title, The Replicator