While the BAU chases a pair of young lovers on an interstate killing spree, Prentiss is contacted by an old friend with some bad news.


(as Doug Aarniokoski)


(created by), | 1 more credit »

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Sydney Manning
Ray Donovan
Sean McAllister
Agent Bates
Gary Manning
Karen Manning
Heather Manning
Mr. Donovan


The BAU travel to Montana to investigate a mass murder shooting at a gas station. By witness accounts, a young male/female couple were the shooters. Evidence at the scene suggests that the couple are newlyweds, that the shooting was not planned, but that the shooters' primary need is to please each other. The BAU know that they will kill again. When the unsubs end up having another killing spree at an alcoholics support group meeting, the BAU believe that the unsubs are recovering alcoholics themselves who met at a support group meeting, but who have violated what is known as the thirteenth step of getting involved with another in the program. Piecing together the clues, the team are able to identify the male of the couple as Ray Donovan, and ultimately the female as Sydney Manning. Knowing their identities leads to knowing their next intended hit. That results in a standoff with innocent hostages involved. The team use the knowledge of Ray being a sociopath and Sydney being a ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Release Date:

26 January 2011 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

16:9 HD
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Did You Know?


The name of the episode is "The Thirteenth Step". "Thirteenth-stepping" is a derogatory term for Alcoholics Anonymous members approaching new members for dates or sex. AA's pamphlet on sponsorship suggests that men be sponsored by men and women be sponsored by women. It also happens to be the thirteenth episode of the sixth season. See more »


When Morgan approaches the door of the gas station to deliver alcohol to the unsubs, the male unsub wields his Beretta pistol and an audible click is heard, presumably due to cocking the hammer. In subsequent scenes the pistol is shown uncocked and the safety lever is still on. See more »


Emily Prentiss: [voiceover] William Glasser wrote, "What happened in the past that was painful has a great deal to do with what we are today."
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References The Simpsons (1989) See more »

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User Reviews

A step in the wrong direction for 'Criminal Minds'
15 July 2016 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Even though it became hit and miss in its later seasons, 'Criminal Minds' still is one of my favourite shows, and makes for compulsive viewing at its best.

"The Thirteenth Step" is very much to me a lesser 'Criminal Minds' episode, a contender for the weakest Season 6 episode as well.

As someone who always looks for good things in stuff she dislikes, "The Thirteenth Step" is not a complete travesty. The acting from the regular team is very good with no exceptions (good to not see useless and uninteresting Seaver, my opinion that is, in this episode), there are some stylish moments visually, some haunting and suitably explosive scoring and while it is predictable the scene with Prentiss at the end is quite tense and gives a sense of foreboding as to what would come later on in the season.

However, "The Thirteenth Step" is chiefly hurt by something that dooms other lacking 'Criminal Minds' episodes... it doesn't feel like 'Criminal Minds'. Profiling and psychology take a literal back-seat and we don't see anywhere near enough of the team or the great dynamic or little character moments that add so much to the show's appeal. Instead feeling like an attempt at imitating 'Natural Born Killers' or 'Bonnie and Clyde' but succeeding only as that, a bland and trying-and-failing-for-shock-value imitation with a gross overuse of tasteless and unneeded violence (tame compared to those two films, but too much even for an episode of 'Criminal Minds') and gratuitous and sleazy sex that constantly feels thrown in and misplaced.

As the team are not in it enough, you'd think that a good unsub would help lift it. "The Thirteenth Step" focuses on not one but two unsubs, for a vast majority of the running time, but very little is done to make them interesting or make them characters that one feels scared of or feels sorry for. They are just two people killing for the thrills and not much more, the twisted relationship is not twisted enough, the chemistry between them is bland and when it comes to the acting Jonathan Tucker underplays while Adrianne Palicki is the opposite.

Unfortunately a strong story is not present all that much either. The story meanders all over the place, with a lot of unexplained (missing an opportunity to explain Reid's headaches and hallucinations) and confused scenes that make the episode meandering, underdeveloped and incoherent, and no tension or suspense whatsoever and going overboard on the violence and sex doesn't help matters. The script goes through the motions emotionally and constantly has a sense of awkwardness. While there are some stylish moments, there are some very amateurish-looking and nausea-inducing moments too in the scenes involving the unsubs.

In summary, has moments but is a step in the wrong direction for such a great show overall. 'Criminal Minds' became hit and miss from mid-Season 6 onwards, and "The Thirteenth Steps" is one of the biggest missteps. 4/10 Bethany Cox

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