Travanti's "The Butcher" turns out to be an old, unrequited case of Rossi's, who's pulled into this one on vacation, not accomplishing much because he's plagued by writer's block. Apropos the writer, this episode of Criminal Minds has both quotes by writer's writers, one by Proust at the beginning and one from Mark Twain at the end. The story here is all about memory - Rossi's and The Butcher's.
For Rossi, the new killings are horrible, but a second chance to finally catch The Butcher. His files on the Butcher, and his recollections, point the team in the right direction - realizing that the new killings are being done by the old Butcher in some way, not just by a copycat.
For the Butcher, he's killing again because he forgot what scared him off of the killings the first time, years ago. That would be Rossi, who came this close to nabbing the Butcher back then. The Alzheimer's that's now afflicting the Butcher also makes him forget each killing that he and his son are doing now. So he repeats the last killing, from years ago, over and over again.
Television these days seems to often address the serial killer with a difference. In Dexter's case, we have a serial killer on the side of good, a serial killer with a conscience. In Travanti's case, we have a serial killer with Alzheimer's. And it's his memory loss that goads him to keep killing.
The Butcher ends this episode in prison. I'm glad he wasn't killed. Not that the monster did not deserve that, but Travanti gave such an indelible, frightening, performance that I wouldn't mind seeing him again. It was certain a performance that will be hard to forget.
See also Criminal Minds in Sixth Season Premiere ... Criminal Minds 6.2: The Meaning of J. J. Leaving
And Criminal Minds 5.22 and the Dark Side of New New Media
And here's a little song I wrote years ago, about time and memory ...
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The Plot to Save Socrates
"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News
"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book